These Were the Cliches, Mistakes and Plot Holes That Annoyed Viewers in January of 1920

Silent era moviegoers were smart, observant and vocal when they saw something in the movies that didn’t seem to quite fit. Photoplay dutifully published these kvetches and it’s fun to read what our 1920 counterparts observed.

The headlines and complaints are original, my remarks are in italics.

Remember, She Was Temperamental

Constance Talmadge, as Billie Billings in “A Temperamental Wife” after having been married to Senator Newton for some weeks, had neither wedding nor engagement ring on, in fact no ring at all.

Henry Abbott, Jr., Concord, Mass.

Unlike many of the films mentioned in these pieces, A Temperamental Wife survives in its entirety so there’s hope we’ll get to see that ring or lack thereof someday. Have you seen this film? Do tell!

Premiums with Each Purchase

In “The Egg-Crate Wallop” Charles Ray goes out and buys a new suit of clothes. He comes home and puts it on. He then discovers that he has been suspected of theft, so he writes a farewell message on the wall, taking a piece of chalk from the pocket of his perfectly new suit!

H. R., New York.

I don’t care who you are, The Egg-Crate Wallop is a fantastic title for a movie. And we’re doing well for ourselves because this picture survives too!

A Reader of The Ladies’ Home Companion

In “Mints of Hell” with William Desmond, the action is supposed to take place in the northern part of Canada. It is said that Vivian Rich, the shero, knows nothing of the outside world except what she read in books. But she had her hair in puffs over her ears and a beautiful marcel.

D. J. S., Detroit.

Our first disappointment as the film is missing and presumed lost. The second disappointment is that Rich’s character is not named Nanette, as one would expect, but Aline. However, this is more than made up for by the fact that she is referred to as the “shero” of the picture.

And Then War Was Declared!

In Douglas Fairbanks’ picture. “His Majesty the American.” Sarzeau, the Minister of War for Alaine, asks his fellow conspirators to sign a paper guaranteeing their support to the father of the Prince of Brizac, who is trying to marry the Countess. This takes place in a room where there is a table around which are seated the parties to the conspiracy. The men file around the table to sign, Duray being the third one in order to affix his signature. But later on in the picture when the document is shown Duray’s name was last on the list of five names.

G. P. Johnson, Roxbury. Mass.

Whew! That’s quite a mouthful but you can check this out for yourself because the picture survives and is on DVD.

Up-To-Date Norma

As “Toy” in “The Forbidden City” Norma Talmadge — brought up in the Chinese Palace — wears high-heeled American shoes! And when she goes to the Philippines she evidently converses in English.
Junita D., Fargo.

I am not keeping formal score but it seems that The Forbidden City is the single most complained about picture on these pages and for good reason. I should note that the main conflict of the plot is due to the Chinese characters objecting to Talmadge’s mother (also played by Talmadge) having anything to do with Americans, so the heels and English language skills are pretty silly in the film’s own racist context. You can read my review here.

He Wanted to Be Sure

In Charles Ray’s “Greased Lightning” the bank robber, McKim, travels past the same scene twice in the get-away. Didn’t he like the way he did it the first time?

J. M., Huntington. W. Va.

Well, I am delighted. This picture survives as well! I’ve done these film mistake pieces for a while and it’s not unusual to have every film but one be missing and presumed lost. To have the opposite be the case is a wonderful way to kick off the year.

You can look up lots of swell clippings like these at the Media History Digital Library.

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