Yesterday, I posted a little collection of 1918 moviegoers’ complaints about the movies, the mistakes and cliches that drove them crazy. Now it’s your turn.
Pointing out cliches and overused narrative devices was a hobby throughout the silent era and so resurrecting the activity is not only fun, it’s historically accurate! I’ll start.
Bird smooching. What the heck, silent movies? Every time they want to show their heroine to be a virginal miss, they have her cuddle and smooch some poor birdie who was just minding its business.
A cuddling example from Ben-Hur:
And a smoochier one from Way Down East:
Wanna kiss, sweetheart?
Oh sure, kiss the pigeons and the doves but ignore the Marabou Stork. I see how it is.
I don’t know if it still is required reading in the fifth grade or so but we were treated to Mark Twain’s glorious takedown of James Fenimore Cooper and I am thrilled to have an excuse to quote it:
Cooper’s gift in the way of invention was not a rich endowment; but such as it was he liked to work it, he was pleased with the effects, and indeed he did some quite sweet things with it. In his little box of stage-properties he kept six or eight cunning devices, tricks, artifices for his savages and woodsmen to deceive and circumvent each other with, and he was never so happy as when he was working these innocent things and seeing them go. A favorite one was to make a moccasined person tread in the tracks of a moccasined enemy, and thus hide his own trail. Cooper wore out barrels and barrels of moccasins in working that trick. Another stage-property that he pulled out of his box pretty frequently was the broken twig. He prized his broken twig above all the rest of his effects, and worked it the hardest. It is a restful chapter in any book of his when somebody doesn’t step on a dry twig and alarm all the reds and whites for two hundred yards around. Every time a Cooper person is in peril, and absolute silence is worth four dollars a minute, he is sure to step on a dry twig. There may be a hundred other handier things to step on, but that wouldn’t satisfy Cooper. Cooper requires him to turn out and find a dry twig; and if he can’t do it, go and borrow one. In fact, the Leatherstocking Series ought to have been called the Broken Twig Series.
This is all coming from a place of love, it’s affectionate ribbing so please take it in that spirit. I look forward to your insights!
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