How to be a silent movie heroine

Silent movie heroine? You mean those fainting damsels in distress? The ones imperiled by locomotives and buzzsaws?

Guess what, darlings? You’ve been lied to. Silent movie heroines are awesome.

Sure, some silent movies had damsels and fridged women but there were many titles with amazing, empowered heroines. (Could it be connected to the fact that about half the screenwriters were women, as opposed to only 15% today? Naw!)

This post is my contribution to the Things I Learned from the Movies Blogathon hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings.

The films may be silent but they don’t suffer in silence

cat-and-canary-so-and-soFlora Finch in The Cat and the Canary (1927).

And don’t think you can win them over with your mushy old “chivalry”

taming-of-the-shrew-florence-lawrence

Florence Lawrence in The Taming of the Shrew (1908). (This version of the tale cuts most of the sexism in favor of slapstick.)

If any hands need kissing, they will attend to that themselves

merry-jail-1917-kiss-a-gents-handAgda Nilsson in The Merry Jail (1917).

But they are perfectly happy to outsource their murders

carmen-cmon-hon

Geraldine Farrar in Carmen (1915).

If they don’t know something already, they’ll do their research and find out

captain-january-dictionary

Baby Peggy in Captain January (1924).

They’re more than willing to help save the day

captive-silent-movie-damsel-gun

Blanche Sweet in The Captive (1915).

Or take on the villain single-handed

sparrows-pitchfork

Mary Pickford in Sparrows (1926).

And they don’t mind taking the lead in romance

wildcat-kiss

Pola Negri in The Wildcat (1921).

Just don’t get between them and their wine

saturday-night-my-drinkEdith Roberts in Saturday Night (1922).

And they may steal your lunch

wishing-ring-1914-grape-thiefVivian Martin in The Wishing Ring (1914).

They’ll tell you off and look amazing doing it

mantrap-crab-and-fish

Clara Bow in Mantrap (1926)

Damsels? Ha! Here’s to the real heroines of silent film!

woman-in-the-suitcase-good-kickEnid Bennett in The Woman in the Suitcase (1920).

13 Replies to “How to be a silent movie heroine”

  1. Bahaha! I love all the gifs, but especially the last one where she says, “Put a good kick in it, please.” This will be another silent film line I’m “borrowing” to use in my everyday conversation.

    This post is sheer brilliance, Fritzi. What a great introduction to silent film heroines. Today’s films have more damsels than the silents, if you ask me.

    Thanks for joining the blogathon with this must-read look at women in silent film.

  2. Great stuff, on top of being a nice intro/corrective for the misinformed. I have to start cursing as creatively as Flora! Thanks as always for taking part in the blogathon!

  3. Fantastic!
    You know what? I think when we think to ‘damsels in distress’ in old movies, we actually think to the girls that came ‘after’ the 1920s flapper. Gals in the 1920s were determined to show that they were as good as men an anything they did… as you aptly demonstrate in your post 😉
    Thanks for sharing.

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