Do you have what it takes to act in silent films? Fill out this application!

Have you ever wondered if you could make it in silent films? Well, you’re not alone. Thousands of hopefuls streamed to California with ambitions of screen stardom. This vintage checklist was used to screen applicants at the studio gate.

I only have the men’s version, alas, but it should be fairly similar to the application for women. The studio is Famous Players-Lasky, proto-Paramount.

First, you need to include your contact information and a west coast telephone number. Next your physical particulars, including nationality. Then as now, stereotypes were heavily used when casting roles.

Ride: Presumably a horse? But if it’s something other than a horse, one would think that would be a bonus.

Swim: Because they can and will toss you in the drink.

Drive Auto: That’s all well and good but what about a locomotive?

Dance: Especially a sexy tango. Rawr.

Fence: Presumably the act of swordfighting and not the selling of stolen goods.

Specialty: This is where you tell them what your special power is. Mine is the ability to run in stilleto heels. It’s more useful than you might think.

We can presume that the women’s application has a section of avian canoodling.

Wardrobe: Now here is where things get interesting. An extra with their own set of evening clothes would find themselves in demand as background in a society drama. Pictures with more exotic settings would provide extras with wardrobe but films with more common settings (westerns, flapper pictures, comedies) would expect the background personnel to bring their own clothing.

Experience: The famous catch-22 of showbiz. You are less likely to be hired without experience but you can’t get experience unless you’re hired.

Well, now you’re ready to be a movie star! Let me know how it goes.

(Oh, and the gent on the header is original It Boy Antonio Moreno.)

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5 Replies to “Do you have what it takes to act in silent films? Fill out this application!”

  1. I’m certain it asked for women’s measurements and if we knew how to cry and wring our hands. I would make sure to lie and say I have had plenty of experience…didn’t most of them??

  2. What a great post- love all these .gifs!

    Hmmm, let’s see. Got the horseback riding covered, can drive 1920s vehicles (though all the choking, cranking, and varied, sometimes dubious braking systems can prove a challenge). BTW, if you want to build upper body strength try driving a car without power steering for any length of time…

    Specialty (special power)? Still do handstands and cartwheels at my advanced age, and will occasionally on demand. Pretty please, Mr. Sennett, Mr. Roach, can I have just one day’s extra work 😉

      1. As with the “do you have any experience” question, my answer would of course be, “Evening clothes? Why, I’ve got a closet just chock full of ’em!” 😉

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