Welcome back to another silent movie list! This time, I will be sharing six movies that manage to get both love and humor to fit into the story.
Modern romantic comedies have a bad reputation and, frankly, they deserve a lot of the scorn they receive. They have used the same plot for decades and it’s becoming a bit threadbare. Sure, there are a few great ones but the genre’s glory days are long gone.
No so in the silent era! Silent movies had enough sass, imagination and willingness to step outside the cliches. The result? Some genuinely witty and genuinely romantic films.
As usual, this list is not the BEST silent romantic comedies ever, just the ones that I consider personal favorites. I will also be limiting the list to films I have already reviewed on this site. That way, you will be able to read a longer review if you choose and understand what made these films appeal to me.
For the romantic comedy list, my main concern was the film succeeding in both departments: Is the comedy really funny? Do we want the leads to end up together?
6. Oh Doctor! (1925)
Reginald Denny is not remembered among the top silent era clowns but his everyman comedies are an absolute delight. Oh Doctor! is a little more on the wacky side as Denny plays a hypochondriac convinced that anything stronger than digestive biscuits will kill him. Enter Mary Astor as his beautiful new nurse and Denny soon realizes that there are certain advantages to good health. As cute as a bug.
5. Feel My Pulse (1928)
I hesitated with this picture as it’s not a true romantic comedy so much as an action romantic comedy. You won’t tell anyone, will you? Bebe Daniels specialized in making comedy films that reversed the genders of popular hits. In this case. she takes on the hypochondriac comedy sub-genre (which includes Oh Doctor!) and churns in some bootlegger adventure. The result? A surprisingly empowering and extremely entertaining film. Richard Arlen is the love interest and William Powell is on hand as the villain.
4. My Best Girl (1927)
Mary Pickford’s final silent film is also an absolutely classic romantic comedy. Pickford plays a shopgirl (85% of all romantic comedy heroines were shopgirls in the 1920s) who falls for the new worker on the team, played by future husband Buddy Rogers. What she doesn’t know is that he is the boss’s son working incognito to learn the family business. A sweet script, genuine chemistry and talented supporting players make this a must-see.
3. The Garden of Eden (1928)
Corinne Griffith plays a wannabe opera singer who accidentally takes a job at a naughty cabaret, ends up beating off a lecherous patron with a bouquet of roses, escapes to Monte Carlo accompanied by a bankrupted Russian countess-turned-seamstress and ends up falling for a wealthy bachelor. And that’s just the first act! Lewis Milestone’s energetic direction keeps things peppy and the talented cast does the rest.
2. The Girl with the Hat Box (1927)
Russian comedy chops are often underrated but I hope this charming film will change that. It was directed by Boris Barnet and stars Anna Sten, who is more remembered today for Sam Goldwyn’s campaign to make her a Hollywood star. This film is the story of a hatmaker who decides to take a starving student under her wing and the crazy complications that result, which include a few brawls, a mad railway worker and a winning lottery ticket. The plot has many twists and turns but what really holds it together is the charm of Sten and Ivan Koval-Samborsky. They are just as cute as can be!
1. The Oyster Princess (1919)
This list couldn’t be complete without an Ernst Lubitsch film, right? The movie tells the story of Ossi Oswalda, a spoiled American heiress whose father has made a fortune in the oyster business. Ossi decides that she is ready to get married and only a prince will do. Harry Liedtke plays the penniless prince who is more than willing to marry money but sends his manservant ahead to make sure Ossi is suitably hot. Mistaken identity, chaos and an all-girl boxing match ensue. It’s a delightfully raucous entry into the genre.
I hope you enjoyed! What are some of your favorite silent romantic comedies? Share your picks below!