When I posted my list of ten silent films living in vaults that I was eager to see released, I just had the vague hope that I would get to watch them one day. Not even a year has passed and I have already seen three of them!
Three out of ten may not sound terribly impressive but to a silent film fan, it’s incredible! The Captive and Corporal Kate were both released on home media and a kind reader arranged a private screening of The Cossack Whip. Whoohoo!
Since the last list went so well, here is a brand new selection of ten silent movies that exist in archives but I would love to see released to the general public.
A few quick notes:
Please give me a holler if you know about current or upcoming releases for any of these titles.
Please refrain from using phrases like “held hostage” or demanding that particular people or organizations release films. Remember, home media releases may be held up due to print condition, rights issues, lack of funds or other hassles that we in the public are not privy to.
Always be polite and courteous to archivists and remember that they are rescuing our cinematic history.
I am limiting the list to films that, to my knowledge, have never been available on home media from legitimate sources in any format, be it VHS, Laserdisc, DVD or Bluray.
That’s about it. Let’s dig into these films! (They are listed in chronological order.)
The Eagle’s Mate (1914)
One type of Mary Pickford film we are short on: her dramatic features made circa 1914-1915. This picture particularly grabs my fancy because it features James Kirkwood as both leading man and director. Pickford was quite fond of him and it would be interesting to see him working two jobs.
The novel upon which the film is based is an absolute riot! I recommend it without reservation. The heroine is named Anemone. That’s right. Anemone. The hero is named Lancer (he’s a mountaineer and a moonshiner) and his brother is named Fisher. Ye gods! This is pure, unadulterated hokum! I must imbibe! Pickford was always a good sport in these films and she was partial to backwoods pictures. In short, this is a must-see!
The Stolen Voice (1915)
Take a gander at this plot: Robert Warwick is a singer who is hypnotized into permanent laryngitis but a jealous rival. His career in shambles, our hero turns to the silent cinema where he becomes a star! Come on, you have just got to see that, right?
It’s from the World Film Company, a pretty obscure concern that operated out of Fort Lee and I have been consistently impressed by the quality of their output. This is another hokum pick and I’m sorry but I can’t help it! I love these kinds of pictures!
Lois Weber’s drama has been making the film festival rounds and it is easy to see why. The plot revolves around the effects of grinding poverty and the sacrifices that are made to make ends meet. Weber excelled at these sorts of stories (for example, The Blot is a sensitive look at the daily lives of impoverished educators) and this film is a valuable piece of her filmography. The picture was restored by the EYE Institute.
The Streets of Illusion (1917)
Richard Barthelmess and Gladys Hulette were wonderful in Tol’able David (1921) but did you know they had been paired before? Barthelmess had only been making movies for a year when he was cast as Hulette’s leading man in this WWI melodrama. Hulette plays a sweet young miss and Barthelmess is her wealthy suitor but everything goes wrong when her brother goes AWOL.
This sounds like a proper tearjerker. I would love to see it, particularly since I have watched Hulette’s performances as a child star and as an adult leading lady in the 1920s but her 1910s juvenile roles are as rare as hen’s teeth.
Blue Jeans (1918)
John Collins is regularly praised as one of the most innovative and interesting talents of the 1910s. His early death in the influenza epidemic cut short his career, however, and precious few of his films have made it to home media. I am also a fan of his leading lady and real-life wife, Viola Dana.
This one is an old-fashioned melodrama complete with sawmill scene. And yes, the lady is saving the fella.
The False Road (1920)
I am a huge fan of Enid Bennett but, alas, most of the films available are her later damsel parts. An actress of impressive skill, Bennett’s solo starring roles are pretty rare in archives and even rarer on home media.
How’s this for a plot? Bennett plays half of a pair of women bank robbers. They plan to crack the safe at a bank where a former member of their gang (Lloyd Hughes) works. The ladies succeed in their robbery and Lloyd has to try to get the money back.
Yeah! Crowdpleasing and then some! Plus some rather empowered banditry. I would love to see this as it sounds like a delightful little confection.
Fool’s Paradise (1921)
Mildred Harris is a WWI nurse and the true love of Conrad Nagel’s dashing soldier but then she throws him over for the prince of Siam (as one does) and Nagel in turn falls for a Mexican cantina dancer named (I am not making this up) Poll Patchouli, who blinds him with an exploding cigar in a fit of jealous rage. Again, as one does. It concludes with the prince and Conrad leaping into a pit of crocodiles in order to retrieve Mildred’s glove and thus win her heart.
You know you want to see it.
The Bright Shawl (1923)
This Cuban-themed picture stars Richard Barthelmess but just check out the supporting cast: Dorothy Gish, Mary Astor, Jetta Goudal, William Powell and… Edward G. Robinson! Wow! Who do I have to kill?
The story involves spy vs. spy as Cuba attempts to gain independence from Spain. Astor is the good girl, Goudal is the bad girl and Gish is the good-bad girl. I’m sorry there is not bad-good girl but I think that the presence of Powell and Robinson more than make up for the loss.
You can read further plot details in the AFI catalog. The film is currently in the collection of the UCLA Film and Television Archive.
Stella Maris (1925)
One of Mary Pickford’s finest performances in found in the 1918 version of this story. Seven years later, another Mary (Philbin) tried to prove her acting chops with the same material. Her suitors in the picture were Elliott Dexter and Jason Robards, Sr. Universal claimed that Lon Chaney taught Philbin amazing makeup tricks when they worked together in The Phantom of the Opera. Somehow I doubt this as Philbin never showed further inclination to become the Woman of a Thousand Faces.
I am intrigued by this remake, though. The plot synopsis makes it look as though this version follows the source material a bit more closely and I like both the leading men.
You can read further plot details here. This film is part of the UCLA Film and Television Archive’s collection.
His Captive Woman (1929)
Sills plays a policeman who is sent to arrest and bring in a Roxie Hart-type cabaret dancer (Dorothy Mackaill) who has murdered her sugar daddy. Before you can say “thar she blows!” the pair are caught in a storm and end up on a desert island together. Will the cop and the criminal fall in love? Need we ask? Of course they will!
You can read further plot details in the AFI catalog. The film is currently in the collection of the Library of Congress.