News from the Silent Movie Front: Silent Comediennes, Louise Brooks on Bluray & Bessie Coleman

Lots of happenings in the silent film release department. Blurays galore, many of them hotly anticipated, plus some other exciting projects for silent film fans. Let’s get started!

Restored “Beggars of Life” on Home Video!

I know many of you have been waiting for this one! Louise Brooks, Richard Arlen and Wallace Beery star in this hobo drama directed by William Wellman. For years, it has only been available in less-than-pristine condition but this new edition from Kino Lorber will feature a restoration based on 35mm material and a score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

The film will be available on DVD and Bluray on August 22, 2017.

“Variety” (with a new score!)

When a new restoration of the E.A. Dupont melodrama Variety was released in Europe, the nearly universal opinion was that the restoration was gorgeous but the Tiger Lillies score (sung in English!?!?) was a disaster. I generally do not comment heavily on scores as it is such a matter of personal taste but I will make an exception. I am extremely liberal in my silent film score taste and I despised it.

As the late David Shepard commented last year: “This restoration will be released through Kino with a wonderful orchestral score composed as a group project at the Berkelee School of Music. It’s worth waiting. IMHO the current score by Tiger Lillies is a terrible alternative to getting tattooed.”

The wait will be over on August 22, 2017!

How bad is the infamous Tiger Lillies score? Here’s a sample but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Slapstick Divas on the Loose

Despite their prominent place in the film industry, silent movie women have been dismissed as “pieces of fluff” and one major historian stated that “there are no women clowns in circuses.” Sheesh! What’s a girl gotta do for some respect in this joint?

That’s why I am rather pleased by the upcoming release of Slapstick Divas by Steve Massa, a whopping 644-page book with 459 biographies of silent comediennes. A perfect gift for the silent comedy nerd who has everything and an ideal read for anyone interested in restoring these forgotten ladies to their former glory. Looking forward to sinking my teeth into this! The book has a street date of July 1, 2017.

Bessie Coleman Animated Film

Actress Karyn Parsons has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund an animated short film based on the life of pioneering pilot Bessie Coleman.

It’s not silent but Coleman does have a connection to silent film. She was negotiating a film role with Richard Norman just before her death and the notion of a (kinda) aerial adventure resulted in The Flying Ace.

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11 Replies to “News from the Silent Movie Front: Silent Comediennes, Louise Brooks on Bluray & Bessie Coleman”

  1. The recent British Blu-Ray/DVD Eureka Masters of Cinema release has 3 choices of score: Stephen Horne (Piano, accordion, flute, percussion), Johannes Contag (SMP Ensemble, recorded in Wellington, New Zealand for a theatrical screening there) and the indispensable Tiger Lillies (insert irony emoji here) Spoiled for choice.

    I’d be pleased if you could kindly Tweet re ‘Beggars of Life’ after release so I can check Blu-Ray regions. May have to rely on the DVD πŸ™

    One way or the other, great news.

    1. I’ve heard great things about the Stephen Horne score and have enjoyed the preview samples I have heard. It’s lovely that regions 1 & 2 seem to be getting excellent alternatives to the bizarre Tiger Lillies thing.

      Yes, I’ll let you know about the region of Beggars. The Kino Paramount releases so far have been both region all and region A, so I am not sure which this will be in the end.

  2. Wow, that sound track certainly makes me not want to watch that film….. after it comes out, could you rip a clip with the better soundtrack? thanks and thanks for the news

  3. Well, I must be a mlnority of one, here! I love the Tiger Lillies score! For me it has traces of Kurt Weill mixed with the whole inter-war decadent German thing, with a smidge of Zappa thrown in.
    Mind you, I also love opera and organ music, so I’m used to the life on the fringe πŸ˜€

  4. Thanks for the shout out for Steve Massa’s book SLAPSTICK DIVAS. This book, along with his earlier LAME BRAINS AND LUNATICS is amazing in its depth of knowledge and scholarship. Steve’s a good friend and I’m hoping sales of his book really take off – it’s a worthy read !

  5. May I urge everyone to watch “Variety ” anyway, whichever score. It’s a brilliant film!! My set also has the US release, with organ.

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