Normally, I try (and often fail) to keep this site on the sunny side of things. Unless, of course, we are discussing a certain director whose name begins with a D and ends with a W Griffith. However, there are times when people need to vent and this is one of them.
The single most frustrating thing about being a silent movie fan (aside from an utter lack of funds for film preservation and weird copyright tangles holding back movie releases) is having people who have never seen a silent film explain to you what a silent film is like.
Maybe they took a film history class a few decades back, maybe they saw one of those awful biopics set in the silent era. For whatever reason, we are overrun with so-called experts who don’t seem to know all that much.
So, share your anecdotes, your least favorite articles, those times when you just had to punch the screen. And then you had to buy a new computer. You showed them.
(Clarification: There’s no crime in not knowing much about silent movies. We all have to start somewhere. I am referring to people who know nothing and still set themselves up as experts.)
My story involves a meme. There’s this “History of Film” infographic wending its way through Tumblr that makes some very interesting assertions about silent films vs. talkies. It’s been a while since I have read it so I may get a few details wrong but, hey, they do the same thing with silent films so I feel exactly zero guilt. Here are the claims:
- They claim that gangster films didn’t exist in the silent era. Apparently, audiences had to hear the tough talk and gunshots before the genre became popular. (This must be news to Josef von Sternberg and Raoul Walsh.) Of course, the gangster film has existed almost as long as the movies themselves. The earliest one I have seen is from 1906.
- They claim that comedy was all pie fights and pratfalls before sound came in with witty dialogue. Hmm. Someone has clearly never seen a silent movie. Title card writing is an art and a very clever one.
- They claim that women in movies didn’t get tough until the pre-Code dames. I’m sure Helen Holmes, Mary Pickford, Theda Bara and many, many others would have something to say about that.
Sigh. So much work to do, so little time.
What’s your favorite tale of frustration? Vent here!
PS: Only provide links if you’re pretty sure the site in question is big enough to pay a staff. So linking to NPR, AFI, The Vulture, etc. is okay. Linking over the Chrissy Ann’s Swell Movie Blog should be avoided. I hold people to a higher standard once silver has crossed their palm.