She is Mary Pickford, spunky orphan who is being sent to college by a mysterious benefactor. He is the mysterious philanthropist who reads Mary’s letters but never writes back. But just who is Daddy Long Legs? And why is he so interested in Mary’s romances?
About 73% of the fun in The Volga Boatman comes from the overblown intertitles. In this case, William Boyd (yes, that William Boyd) is leading a Bolshevik uprising (this was back when a Hollywood hero could lead a Bolshevik uprising) and he is calling on his followers to storm the castle. (Have fun with that!)
One thing that I learned from writing this blog is that a lot of people want to get into silent movies but have not been able to for various reasons. Some don’t know where to begin. Some are intimidated by how different silents are from sound films. Some had a bad experience in Film 101 and are understandably wary.
Of course, plenty of folks get into silent films with no trouble at all but I thought it would be fun to write an encouraging post to help the viewers who may need a few tips or recommendations to get started.
Tip #1: Remember that silent films were made for viewers just like you
Popular entertainment was, of course, made for the everyman. However, as time marches on, references become obscure, language shifts, tastes change. As a result, yesteryear’s pop culture is often claimed by today’s academia. Now I have no problem with scholarly work on the silent era, it’s wonderful stuff. But viewers should never lose sight of the fact that these films were meant for the masses. As such, they deal with basic human emotions like love, hate, greed, sorrow and joy.
True, a new viewer to older films may not get every single pop culture reference thrown their way but the basic humanity in silent films means that they are quite accessible to modern audiences. You don’t need to have a degree in film studies to enjoy them.
Tip #2: If at first you don’t succeed…
I have a confession: I didn’t like the first silent movie I saw. I don’t think I’m alone in this. You know what, though? It’s all right not to like a silent film. We modern viewers tend to lump silent movies into one genre but they were extremely varied in content and tone. Romance, comedy, horror, action… It’s all there. Plus, what we call the silent era lasted from 1895 (when the first motion picture was projected before a paying audience) to 1929 (when the last of the silent titles were released by major American studios). That’s 34 years of movies! So if you don’t like a silent movie, try one in a different genre or from a different decade.
Tip #3: Try to watch the highest quality version available
Many silent films are out of copyright, which means they are in the public domain. The downside of this is that there are some very low quality silent movie releases out there. (I wrote a whole article on finding the best available version) If you want to try silent movies for the first time, higher quality versions will give you a much better experience.
Tip #4: You like what you like, don’t let anyone tell you different!
Some silent fans, in their enthusiasm for their favorite star, can sometimes make newcomers doubt their own taste. How do they do this? By suggesting that a particular star or film or director is just not worth the time of a real silent film fan.
Meow! And, while we are at it, la-dee-da!
(If you have never run into this, just know that it exists.)
Am I saying that it is wrong to have a negative opinion about a performer or film? Of course not! My regular readers know that I can savage a turkey with the best of them and that there are certain performers I just cannot bring myself to appreciate. What I object to is attempting to make devotees of a particular artist feel like an inferior sort of silent fan. Not cool.
Plus, the rudeness often backfires. Take the great Chaplin vs. Keaton debate. I like Buster Keaton very much but after a run-in with some particularly venomous Chaplin bashers, it took me a few months to see Keaton films again. I just wasn’t in the mood.
(The Chaplin vs. Keaton thing is probably the most common battleground but the European Art vs. Hollywood Crowdpleaser can also be minefield and there is always the Latin Lover/Great Lover/My Swarthy Heartthrob is Better than Your Swarthy Heartthrob thing.)
Again, nothing wrong with healthy debate and differing opinions make things fun. However, there is no Grand Poobah of the Silents who decides which films and actors must be loved by “real” fans, which is the impression that comes across sometimes.
Popularity is not some kind of limited resource. Love for one actor or film does not mean that there is less love available for another.
If you like Keaton better than Chaplin, fine. If you like Chaplin better than Keaton, fine. If you don’t care for either one and prefer Mabel Normand, fine. If you love them all, fantastic! Enjoy the movies that appeal to you and don’t let anyone tell you different.
These films are titles that I like to show to newcomers to the silents. Some have been recommended by my wonderful readers and some I have discovered through trial and error. The list skews heavily toward comedies as these are generally the most successful gateway films.
I decided to limit this list to films that have only one official version available on home video. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Phantom of the Opera are amazing and popular films but the many, many, many available versions can be confusing to the newcomer.
I live in the U.S. and all copyright information and film availability applies to my neck of the woods only. Copyrights and availability vary from country to country. Also, I will only be covering streaming services with a confirmed track record of legal and legitimate business practices: Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu and Fandor.
City Lights (1931)
This was the first silent film that I loved.
Charlie Chaplin was the last major Hollywood holdout when sound came to the industry and I think City Lights proves that he was right to keep his silence a little longer.
Chaplin is, arguably, the most recognizable and iconic figure of the silent era. City Lights features that blend of comedy and pathos that was his trademark. It works as a Chaplin movie, it works as a silent movie, it works as a movie.
Safety Last! (1923)
That guy hanging from the clock. How many silent movie retrospectives feature the iconic image of Harold Lloyd holding on for dear life? I lost count.
On the practical side of things, Harold Lloyd comedies are fast-paced, breezy affairs. His screen persona was a cheery go-getter who will do whatever it takes to get the job done. As a comedian, Lloyd was second only to Chaplin in box office appeal.
The General (1926)
I am going to make one exception to my “Official Release Only” policy for this post: Buster Keaton.
Often considered Buster Keaton’s masterpiece, this is the story of a man and his true love: a locomotive named The General. Oh, and there’s a girl too… somewhere.
The Oyster Princess (1919)
If you think that German films are dour, heavy affairs, be prepared to be proven wrong in the most charming way possible! I recommend Ernst Lubitsch’s film The Oyster Princess because it is madcap, hilarious and you have probably never seen anything like it. The zany plot, witty intertitles and goofy characters all represent the very best in silent cinema.
Let’s step over into drama for this selection. F.W. Murnau’s 1927 drama was honored with a special Academy Award for “Unique and Artistic Production” and it certainly deserved it. It’s the story of a country husband and wife and one day spent in the city. The love story is beautiful, the setting is beautiful, the set design is beautiful.
I could go on but I think limiting the selections to five is a good way to keep things simple.
Have some beginner-friendly titles to suggest? Leave a comment!
Comedian Lupino Lane plays every last part in this comedy short. The plot? A tipsy, top-hatted fellow and a really horrible child manage to disrupt an evening at the music hall. The material is old but Lane manages to keep things fun.
Continue reading “Only Me (1929) A Silent Film Review”
It’s early Lubitsch but his touch is there, right down to the clever intertitles. After all, this is what every father says when he is sending off his only child, right?
Background: In The Doll, dollmaker Hilarius has just inadvertently sold his daughter to a customer. She was taking the place of a broken model for a demonstration but Hermann Thimig was so pleased that he bought the mechanical woman on the spot. Obviously, chaos ensues.
This is just how it is done. No ifs, ands or buts about it.
Caligari co-star Lil Dagover later said that Conrad Veidt did not break character during the shoot and lurked through the hallways of the studio startling people. He said he did it for a better performance. but you can’t tell me he wasn’t having just a bit of fun playing the ghoul and scaring his friends.
The Arab (1924)
Status: No print existed in American archives until Gosfilmofond (the state film fund of Russia) presented a digital copy to the Library of Congress in 2010.
In the early to mid-1920’s Hollywood was mad to find the next Valentino and the next Sheik. On the surface, The Arab looks like just another attempt to cash in on Valentino’s signature role. Filmed on location in Tunisia (at a time when California doubled for everywhere from India to Alsace), it starred Ramon Novarro (widely considered a rival for Valentino’s Latin Lover crown) and was directed by Rex Ingram, who had helped catapult Valentino to stardom. However, the truth of this film is considerably more complex.
The production was breathlessly followed by fan magazines. Ingram and Novarro were hot commodities after the success of Scaramouche and the novelty of going on location was enough to keep reporters flocking to the set. However, once the film was released, results were mixed.
Photoplay found the whole thing a bit dull:
This latest — and possibly final — directorial effort of Rex Ingram has a fascinating background, the very Sahara itself, but the story limps. The action revolves around a missionary and his daughter, with a young native on the sentimental horizon. In this it is suggestive of “Where the Pavement Ends.” But there the comparison ends.
This mission is a pawn in the hands of the wily Moslems. They plan to send away the government troops, let the desert tribesmen wipe out the Christians and politely disclaim all responsibility. But the dashing dragoman, Jamil, son of a desert chieftain, prevents the tragedy. There is an indefinite ending, with the girl returning to America but promising to come back. All this may sound like a story of considerable action. “The Arab,” however, is turgid. There are few romantic scenes and the sentiment is meager. The Moslem attack is worked up without creating any real suspense. But there is more than a measure of picturesqueness in the role of the dragoman, Jamil, who has politely lied his way in and out of Christianity four times. And there is a distinct pictorial appeal to Mr. Ingram’s production.
Mr. Ingram seems to have fallen down most in his plot development but he has performed something of a miracle with his native players. They seem excellent actors, indeed. There are some finely atmospheric scenes of the East, notably in the Algerian dance halls and in the streets of the Oulad Niles.
Ramon Novarro is the Jamil and the role seems to us to be better played than anything this young actor has yet done. Alice Terry is the missionary’s daughter and Alexandresco, a vivid Russian actress, makes her film debut in the colorful role of an Oulad Nile.
Variety, on the other hand, lavished the film with praise:
This is the finest sheik film of them all. The Arab is a compliment to the screen, a verification of the sterling repute of director Rex Ingram.
As a sheik Ramon Novarro is the acme. Surrounded as he is by genuine men of the desert – for the scenes were shot in Algiers and the mobs are all natives in their natural environments he seems as bona fide as the Arabs themselves.
So, is The Arab a fascinating film or lovely-but-dull? Here’s hoping that we are able to see for ourselves soon!
Lupino Lane is at it again! This time, he is a less-than talented operatic soprano. The zoom effect just cracks me up. This is yet another persona he adopted for the comedy short Only Me.
Lane made a successful talkie transition but his stage work is supposed to be his best. A pity we cannot see it now but this will do nicely.
(He’s a cousin of Ida Lupino, by the way.)
Ossi Oswalda is posing as a mechanical doll and is it ever hungry work! No one can see her eat (she is a doll) which explains her frantic face stuffing.
This GIF is from Ernst Lubitsch’s 1919 charmer The Doll.
I just thought I would have some fun with Photoshop. Here is my idea of The Dark Knight if it had been made in 1926. What’s your take? Who is your silent movie cast for The Dark Knight?
This is wonderfully entertaining film for all the wrong reasons. Here is what we are in for:
Humphrey Bogart plays a zombie doctor who must steal the blood of the living so that he (and his white rabbit!) can survive. Also, he has wire spectacles and a skunk stripe in his hair.
Cleo Ridgely is in the “repent at leisure” stage of her hasty marriage to a ne’er-do-well. Then she gets a chance to play Cinderella when her wealthy employers need a beautiful woman to keep would-be investor Wallace Reid hanging around.
I am pleased to announce another feature for Movies Silently: Silents in Talkies.
What is it? I will be reviewing sound-era films that contain silent movie clips, are set at silent movie studios or that feature characters who are involved in the silent film industry.
I got the idea for this feature by people watching. You see, most modern moviegoers get their ideas about silent films not from actually seeing silent films. Nope. They get them from the portrayals of silent cinema in talking pictures.
Any silent film fan knows that if you mention liking pre-sound movies, the first thing most people will think of is Singin’ in the Rain. Or The Three Amigos. Or Hugo.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing. After all, a very non-silent-loving acquaintance sat through some Melies shorts thanks to Hugo. However, Hollywood handles its own history about as well as it handles everyone else’s: Stereotypes are reinforced, tropes are employed, timelines telescoped and complex issues are ridiculously oversimplified. As a result, even the best-intentioned talking picture has trouble capturing the true flavor of silent films.
Here is my goal for the new feature:
Take a look at how silent films are portrayed in the talkies and highlight what they got wrong… and what they got right!
I will briefly review the film itself and then discuss the way silent films are portrayed and whether this portrayal helped or harmed public’s perception of the silent cinema. Note that is is possible for a very good film to still cause damage.
My first review? Well, it’s the movie everyone in my locality seems to think of when silents are mention.
Look for it soon!
Buster Keaton is the dogsbody at a small theater. In the course of a day, he must impersonate a monkey, obtain a set of Zouave guards, avoid mixing up a pair of identical twins (one of whom he is dating) and manage not to get killed by a strongman. Why doesn’t he quit? What, and leave show business?
Would-be opera singer Corinne Griffith accidentally gets a job in a girly show. Rescued by seamstress Louise Dresser, the pair escape to Monte Carlo. Passing herself off as Louise’s aristocratic daughter, Corinne falls for rich boy Charles Ray. But how long can Louise and Corinne keep up the act? Bubbly, zany and thoroughly Jazz Age, this romantic comedy is a wacky blast of fun. Don’s miss this proto-screwball.
Continue reading “Fun Size Review: The Garden of Eden (1928)”
If you are new to blogging, you may notice badges on a website’s sidebar. Versatile Blogger, Liebster, Super Sweet Blogging Award… But what are they? Who gives them out? How can you get one? Do you want one at all?
Here is an easy guide with the newcomer in mind.
What are the awards?
They are awards given by bloggers to bloggers. The awards have rules attached that are usually some variation of this:
- Thank whoever gave you the award and link to their site
- Answer a certain number of questions and/or share a certain number of personal facts
- Nominate a certain number of bloggers to receive the award (usually between 10 and 20) and inform them of it by commenting on their latest post
- Display the award badge on your site
That’s it! You can wear your award!
If I accept, do I have to follow all the conditions?
I guess you are supposed to but most bloggers (myself included) have bent or broken the rules on occasion. Sometimes we just answer the questions and don’t nominate anyone. Sometimes we nominate too many or too few. Remember, this is supposed to be fun!
Who can I nominate?
Some awards have rules as to who can receive the award but most are open to all. I should note, though, that some bloggers do not accept awards.
Why would anyone refuse an award?
Here’s the thing: Blogging awards are quite time-consuming. It may not sound like much but it can really eat into blogging time. Some bloggers just don’t care for the concept, which is fine. Others have received so many that they no longer accept new ones. Don’t worry though. Bloggers who do not accept awards generally know how to graciously decline them.
Three good reasons to accept blogging awards (especially if you are new to blogging)
I absolutely respect the decisions of bloggers who do not accept awards but I am going to list three reasons why newer bloggers should seriously consider participating.
1. It can spike your traffic
You should see a spike in your traffic when you create an award post. Why? Well, the award-giver will probably visit your site, as will their readers. And people just generally like reading about awards. Why do you think the Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy award broadcasts are so popular? Obviously, this is on a smaller scale but you should see a boost in traffic.
2. It can help you network
Giving out awards is a great way to get to know other bloggers. They will appreciate your recognition and support, even if they do not accept the award.
3. It can create links back to your site
When someone accepts an award from you, they will include a link back to your website. This is important for building your search engine ranking (though spammer abuse of links does mean that the ranking rules change once in a while) but it also helps you get more human eyeballs looking at your blog. This makes it all worth it, even if there was no search engine advantage!
(Don’t get too enthusiastic, though. Google does not look kindly on link exchange schemes. Nor should they.)
If you give an award to, say, ten bloggers and three of them write posts on it, you have three posts that are linked directly to your blog. That’s huge for a beginning blogger!
Of course, the most important reason to participate is because it is fun!
Tips on award success
If you have time, write a tiny blurb about the blogs you are nominating. This will make your award page more fun to read and will encourage your readers to visit the nominated sites.
Swell Cooking Blog | Mary shares the secrets of her mother’s recipe card box
Swell Book Blog | John blogs about the newest literary fiction releases in reviews of 300 words or less
Swell Movie Blog | Jane reviews classic Japanese film with the newcomer in mind
It is also a good idea to mix up your nominee list once in a while and make sure that you are cycling in new blogs for the award love.
It is also good policy to leave a comment on the blogs of your nominees. Nothing elaborate, just saying that they have been nominated. You may also add a little ending that makes it clear that you do not expect or require them to participate. Synkronicity phrased this very well, I think.
“I hope you will consider this a big thank you and pay it forward to someone who delights you. If you aren’t into this sort of thing, then just know that someone out here admires your work.”
Isn’t that nice?
Well, I hope this helps you deal with the world of blogging awards! Happy blogging!
Let’s dust off a pre-Code mad scientist picture. And, as an added bonus, let’s choose one filmed in two strip Technicolor and directed by Michael Curtiz, of Robin Hood, Casablanca and Mildred Pierce fame. Even better, let’s choose one that has horror veteran Lionel Atwill and scream queen Fay Wray.
Vilma Banky takes on the title role of this Western-set tale of settlers, dams, floods and legal shenanigans. Banky is the prettiest girl in Imperial county. Ronald Colman is the corporate raider from the east who falls for her. A very young Gary Cooper is the local boy who hopes to win her heart. So, just who does win Barbara Worth?
Continue reading “The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926) A Silent Film Review”
It makes me angry when people reduce the women of silent film down to the image of a damsel tied to the train tracks or threatened by a sawmill. The mere fact that it is a misconception is not what upsets me. What really makes me angry is what this belief takes away from the women of silent movies.
You see, women in silent movies are not helpless victims of mustachioed villains.
To me, a silent era women can take pratfalls with the boys, ride motorcycles and do their own stunts.
A silent era woman can lead a band of children safely through a gator-infested swamp with a baby on her back.
They are mountain girls who are willing to die in battle to defend their king.
They face their nation’s enemies and take their heads.
And they don’t get mad, they get everything, including the boat.
But stay out of their way if they do get mad.
They are spies, thieves, master criminals and criminal masterminds.
That sawmill scene? Yeah, it’s there. But instead of the hero saving the girl, the girl saves the hero.
They are able to overcome labels like Spinster or Grass Widow and seek out their own happiness on their own terms.
They stay true to themselves no matter what the pressure. If they seem to weaken, it just means they will come back stronger in the end.
But they also know when to forgive.
Or not, as they choose.
When they want something, they don’t take “no” for an answer.
They can beat the men at their own game.
Or they can invent a whole new game.
To me, this is who the silent era woman is: A lively lady who is ready to take on the world.
But none of these things matter. All because it is easier to think of that hackneyed image of a silent movie heroine tied to the tracks. This misconception has stolen the bravery of silent movie women in the public’s eye. That’s a real crime.
Every era of film has its damsels in distress, unfortunately, and the silent era was no exception. However, these damsels were offset by some very amazing women and the sheer number of independent and intelligent heroines is impressive. Silent era women are in danger of being swallowed up by an exaggerated image of helplessness.
I will repeat the opening image to remind you that this was not always the case.
Goodness knows I need these reminders. No one is perfect and I certainly slip more times than I care to admit. Consider these to be a general guide.
I use Twitter for work and to promote my website. Since I blog about silent movies (a fairly obscure subject), getting the word out is especially important for my site traffic. These suggestions are based on mistakes I have made, things that have annoyed me and problems I have seen crop up. On the positive side, there are also tips that have helped to network and (hopefully) amuse people.
Say please and thank you
Remember everything they taught you in kindergarten and you will be fine! Thank people for follows, retweets, #FF (Follow Friday) mentions, etc.
But don’t overdo it!
If you have a fan who often retweets you, it may be a bit creepy to thank them every single time. Use discretion. Perhaps a blanket “thanks for all your support” on occasion would be best.
Don’t be a know-it-all
Ok, so you’re on Twitter, you’re excited and then, joy of joys, you find someone tweeting about your very subject of interest. Oh frabjous day! But then you notice that they got an itty bitty detail wrong.
a) Immediately correct their foolish error. Ha! You win the internet!
b) Let it slide since it really doesn’t have much to do with the conversation
Look, I’m not saying that you have to ignore glaring errors. But if the conversation is going well, is it really worth it to derail everything by pointing out that the Treaty of Whatsit was signed in June of 1765 rather than May? Good rule of thumb: If you would let it slide in real life, let it slide on Twitter.
(Of course, if the entire conversation is based on the treaty being signed in June vs. May, have at it!)
Miss Take: I went to Florida to see my grandparents. I wanted the kids to know them before they passed on. JJ was so excited to see a crocodile!
Mr. Know-it-all: Actually, Florida has alligators. Specifically Alligator Mississippiensis of the family Alligatoridae.
Miss Take: Why do they say Florida Gators when they have crocodiles there?
Mr. Know-it-all: Actually, Florida has alligators. Specifically Alligator Mississippiensis of the family Alligatoridae.
See the difference?
Another rule of thumb. Think about what you are typing. If you read it aloud and you sound like Malvin in War Games, consider rephrasing.
If someone know-it-alls you
Smile (digitally) and thank them for their information. They may be a newbie, didn’t think before tweeting or some other issue. That being said, if someone is continually boorish and causes you stress, unfollow them or block them as soon as possible.
DM’s can annoy people
Direct Messages (DM) are a great way to quietly mention something or ask a question. However, if you use this function to solicit site traffic or to try to sell items, you are becoming a telemarketer. DM’s are best reserved for real interactions.
I know some people even request no DM’s in their Twitter profile. I personally do not have a problem with the messages as long as they are from someone who really wants to communicate or ask a question and not just push a product or website. However, I respect the wishes of the users who prefer not to be contacted this way.
Your automated services can annoy people
There are a few services that can be good if used properly. And then there are services that annoy most everyone.
HootSuite helps you monitor your social media and it can automatically tweet for you. This can be very useful as it keeps your account active. However, you must be careful not to be spammy and always be sure to check your @ messages to see if anyone has answered you. Also, please mix it up. Some folks on Twitter use HootSuite to send the same 10 messages over and over and over again.
TrueTwit. Oh how I hate TrueTwit. It’s a validation service that checks to see if new followers are spammers. The problem is that you can usually tell that by checking to see if they tweet about diet pills or get rich quick schemes. TrueTwit sends a DM to new followers asking them to confirm their humanity. (Premium users do not have to send DM’s.)
Here is a reenactment of what goes through my head when someone uses TrueTwit:
Me: Ooo, a Twitter account about silent movies! Hurrah! I shall follow!
DM: The Account uses TrueTwit Validation Service. Please click here to validate.
Me: What? But I just want to read tweets about silent movies… (clicks) A Captcha!?!?! What foul deed is this? (closes window, forgets about following the account)
Please, please, please do not use this. Follow me or not as you choose but don’t assume I am a spammer without reading a single tweet.
I know spam followers are annoying. But if you have them, only you are annoyed. If you use TrueTwit, you will manage to annoy EVERYONE who wants to follow you.
JustUnfollow is another service that I use. It lets you see who has followed or unfollowed you on Twitter. This is incredibly useful for obvious reasons. However, it also allows you to send automated DM’s to folks and these can easily become annoying.
Also, I am not a huge fan of automatically tweeting one’s following and unfollowing activity. I dare say that no one cares that I gained 4 new followers and lost 2. Fortunately, both the DM and the tweeting of stats are opt-in propositions.
Remember to be human
If you have a blog or a business, it is easy to fall into the “read this!” “new product!” rut. Remember, though, that Twitter is social media. Answer questions, retweet (but don’t overdo it), and generally act like a human and not a robot.
Take part in the fun!
Weekly events like Follow Friday, Mention Monday or Writer Wednesday are great ways to network. Basically, you tweet the handles of folks you think others should follow.
Okay, I have to make a confession. The first time I saw my Twitter handle attached to #FF, I wondered if I was being insulted.
Never done it before? Here’s what to do:
Choose who you want to mention. Everyone has a different method. Some do #FF for new followers, some have a set list of folks they tweet about every week. Me? I like to mention folks who have mentioned me, retweeted me or left interesting feedback on my site.
Make your tweet. Start with the hashtag FF, followed by the Twitter handles of your selections. It helps to add a short intro phrase since this makes your tweet more interesting.
#FF Great food bloggers! @example1 @example2 @example3
#FF Good people to know –> @example1 @example2 @example3
If someone gives you a mention in this way:
Thank them! And also consider retweeting their mention.
Do you have to do this every week? If you want to but it’s not required. It’s just a fun way to network and give a shout-out to deserving users.
Charlie Chaplin was already wildly popular when he made this short for Essanay. Adapted from one of his pre-Hollywood comedy acts, this short has Chaplin play two disruptive and rowdy theater-goers: Mr. Pest, a drunken crumb from the upper crust, and Mr. Rowdy, an equally sloshed rough on the balcony. Between the two of them, they manage to disrupt and outshine the performers on the stage.
Continue reading “A Night in the Show (1915) A Silent Film Review”
Greetings! Well, it looks like I am at it again! Another blogathon!
September 9, 2013 is going to mark the 101st anniversary of Lillian and Dorothy Gish’s motion picture debut. I was really excited and wanted to do something special. However, the Gish sisters spent even more time making talkies than they did silents. I needed someone to help me, someone who was an expert on mid-century film…
My wonderful co-hostess is Lindsey of The Motion Pictures! Together, on September 7-9, we are going to celebrate the careers of these amazing women.
We are inviting bloggers to join us in this celebration. The event is open to all!
While they are best remembered for their silent work, Dorothy enjoyed a 51 year career, acting until 1963. Lillian’s 75 year career lasted until 1987! And the versatile sisters made films in every imaginable genre. There is truly something for everyone.
What you can contribute:
- A review of a film that has one or both of the Gishes
- Information on their stage work
- A biography
- An article on their films, careers, relationships, etc.
- A pictorial post
- Get creative! I have seen blogathons feature video slideshows, poetry, works of art and more. If it is Gish-related, please consider submitting it.
- No film is “taken” so feel free to select a film even if others are already reviewing it.
(note: this list has been updated and the latest version can be found here)
Cinemalacrum – A review of The Night of the Hunter (Lillian)
Cinematic Catharsis – A review of Broken Blossoms (Lillian)
Crítica Retrô – A review of Orphans of the Storm (Lillian and Dorothy)
Donald Mania – A video tribute to the sisters and an article on Lillian’s influence on cinema
Don’t Upset Granny Gish – A review of His Double Life (Lillian) and an article on becoming a Gish fan
Falderal – Lillian Gish’s relationship with fellow screen star Mary Pickford
The Film Writer – An article profiling each sister and a video
Films Worth Watching – Reviews of True Heart Susie and The Battle of Elderbush Gulch
Girls Do Film – A review of Romola (Lillian and Dorothy)
The Great Katharine Hepburn – An article on Remodeling Her Husband (Lillian and Dorothy)
The Joy and Agony of Movies – A review of Intolerance (Lillian)
The Last Drive In – The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: The Body in the Barn (Lillian)
MIB’s Instant Headache – A review of The Birth of a Nation Blu-ray (Lillian)
Motion Picture Gems – TBD
The Motion Pictures – Sweet Liberty (Lillian) and The Cardinal (Dorothy) as well as keeping a list of the participants.
Movie Classics – A review of The Scarlet Letter (Lillian)
The Movie Rat – An article on the Lillian and Dorothy’s film careers.
Movies Silently – The Unseen Enemy and Orphans of the Storm (the first and last films that the sisters made with director D.W. Griffith), Gretchen the Greenhorn (Dorothy)
The Nitrate Diva – Way Down East (Lillian) and/or Hearts of the World (Lillian and Dorothy)
Nitrate Glow – A review of Broken Blossoms (Lillian) and poetry selections inspired by the film.
Once Upon a Screen – A review of The Musketeers of Pig Alley (Lillian and Dorothy), one of the earliest gangster films, and a pictorial post
Outspoken and Freckled – A review of The Night of the Hunter (Lillian)
The Pneumatic Rolling-Sphere Carrier Delusion – A collection of contemporary newspaper clippings on the sisters
Silent Volume – Reviews of La Boheme, Mothering Heart, Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, and DJ Spooky’s Rebirth of a Nation recut
Silver Screenings – Portrait of Jennie (Lillian)
The Soul of the Plot – Duel in the Sun (Lillian)
Strictly Vintage Hollywood – Nell Gwynn (Dorothy)
They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To – A review of The Whales of August (Lillian), plus, we get Bette Davis in the bargain! Hurrah!
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear – A review of The Wind (Lillian)
True Classics – Review of La Boheme (Lillian)
Remember, no movie is “taken” so don’t be afraid to pick a title even if it is already listed!
How do I join up?
Contact us and let us know your blog address, what you would like to contribute and the date on which you would like to participate. Here are some ways to get in touch:
- Leave a comment
Tweet me @MoviesSilently or Lindsey @TMPLindsey or both!
Then snag one of the banners we have supplied for the occasion.
Please link back to http://moviessilently.com/tag/gish-sisters-blogathon/
Clara Bow takes on both Ernest Torrence and Percy Marmont in this battle of sexes, classes and generations. City girl Clara has married backwoodsman Torrence in haste and is at the “repenting in leisure” stage. Things perk up when Marmont shows up and Clara shows him just what made her the IT Girl. Sassy, brash and funny as anything, this film is an ideal showcase for Bow, who manages to steal the show from everyone.
New feature! I like to read over the search engine queries that bring people to my site. Lately, I have been noticing the same sort of queries cropping up again and again:
Who was the silent era villain who tied women to train tracks?
Snidely Whiplash in silent films?
Silent star tied to train tracks.
I have previously posted about the origins of this cliche but let’s take a look at these search engine queries and see if we can finally put this ridiculous myth to rest.
(Oh, and in the spirit of generosity, let me advise you never, ever to bring this up among silent film fans as a serious topic. You will be ruthlessly mocked for your ignorance and you will deserve it.)
Who was the silent era villain who tied women to train tracks?
Let me repeat for emphasis.
No Hollywood executive said “We need that fellow who does the railroad track thing! Get him at once!” There was no such man because the cliche was simply not used that much in motion pictures.
The footage of the train track cliche that usually gets trotted out is from one of two Sennett comedies, Teddy at the Throttle or Barney Oldfield’s Race for Life. Both films were making fun of the cliche, which was seen as dusty, clueless and so last century.
The gentlemen playing the villains in these films were Wallace Beery and Ford Sterling, respectively. However, both men were better known for their other comedic skills. This is not how they regularly spent Saturday night.
The play that originated this trope, Under the Gaslight, was written in 1867. The victim, by the way, was male. There was a real-life copycat incident in 1874. Again, the victim was male.
Snidely Whiplash in silent films?
Snidely Whiplash is a send-up of Victorian melodrama villains, the same target that inspired the Sennett comedies. If he is based on a silent era character, it is likely one of these Sennett comedians.
Silent star tied to train tracks.
Again, no silent era studio executive ever said, “That girl who gets tied to the tracks all the time! Fetch her for this film.”
In the films mentioned before, the victims were Gloria Swanson and Mabel Normand. I am going to repeat this one more time: These were comedies! The peril was meant to make fun of the over-the-top melodramas that had been in style a few years before.
In the 1916 serial A Lass of the Lumberlands the hero, Leo Maloney, is tied up and stumbles onto train tracks and then is rescued by Helen Holmes. Not exactly a perfect fit. Pearl White, to the best of my knowledge, was never victimized in this manner and any purported footage of this has yet to turn up. (The trope was used in the ridiculous sound remake of The Perils of Pauline.) Please note too that American serials were not regarded as the pinnacle of fine film writing.
In one of the few examples of this trope presented seriously in a mainstream silent feature film, the leading man of Blue Jeans (which I wrote an article about) was nearly sliced in half in a sawmill before being rescued by leading lady Viola Dana. Contemporary reviews praised the film but noted its old-fashioned source material. The train tracks/sawmill thing was just not something a modern film circa 1917 would use.
I have run across comments that talk about wanting to make a “1920 silent movie where a woman is tied to the train tracks.” I should mention that I have never found an example of this cliche in studios films made after 1919.
So now we know that the trope was rare, that men were just as likely to be victims and that the whole thing died before the twenties let out a single roar, well except for amateur films like this one:
Home videos are totally the same as studio releases! (And, again, the victim is a man.)
This fixation on railroad tracks is especially strange when you consider how long the silent film era lasted. Saying that silent movies (the era stretched between 1895 and 1929) regularly featured women tied to the train tracks would be like looking at the Home Alone movies and their ripoffs and then declaring that all films made in the 1990’s to 2010’s regularly featured small children beating up dimwitted burglars with elaborate booby traps. Avatar? Jurassic Park? Independence Day? The Artist? Men in Black 1-3? They all had that in them, right?
The theme for this month is Seeing Double. I am going to be reviewing films in which the same actor plays at least two parts.
Wow! A lot has happened since the last time I posted one of these! Welcome to the second quarter of 2013!
I renamed myself
I decided to take up the pen name of Fritzi. I just feel so much more roaring and twenties and whatnot this way. Plus, a little tribute to Fritz Lang never hurt anyone.
I have been networking!
I hosted my very first blogathon.
Twitter followers for Movies Silently topped 1,200.
I topped 2,000 likes on WordPress.
I feel so international
I love seeing all the different parts of the map light up!
The high points and low points
You love your TCM! There is always a spike in traffic for reviews after the film has been shown on the channel.
Here are my top 5 reviews for the quarter:
2. The Sheik
(You also love your German cinema and your Valentino, it seems! You also caught the TCM showing of Judex.)
Bottom five reviews (sniff, snuffle!):
It wasn’t all easy going…
I had to deal with my first true case of plagiarism. As in, someone copied a review and passed it off as their own. Not one word of credit to me or my site and not just a quote or a section, the whole enchilada. Well, except for a small bit they hacked out (so 600 of 700 words) which meant the review no longer flowed or made sense. This somehow made it worse.
And this wasn’t some kid or newbie either, it was a business.
The good news? One cease and desist email was all it took!
All in all, though, a fantastic quarter! Thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you!
Marion Davies knocks ’em dead in this witty comedy about showbiz. In a tale that is a combination of Gloria Swanson’s story and Merton of the Movies, Marion plays a newcomer to Hollywood who wants to make her mark in drama. William Haines, a kindly slapstick comedian, takes her under his wing and her career begins to take off but she soon outgrows him. Will her emerging ego destroy her career or will she realize who her real friends are?
I am just marvelously excited! The Funny Lady Blogathon has launched! My fellow bloggers have joined me in celebrating the wonderful funny women of classic film!
Some have contributed reviews, some have contributed articles. I invited my Tumblr friends to make animated GIFs for the occasion and they did themselves proud! Come and see all the wonderful treasures that have been contributed!
A special note to participants:
Thank you so much for making my first blogathon a success! Please give me the URL of your post to make it easier for the readers to find your contribution. You can email, tweet, Tumblr message, anything you like.
I have arbitrarily divided the ladies into three categories covering the time when they did their most famous work. It’s just a guesstimate to keep things tidy so don’t be mad if I put someone in the wrong slot.
Blogs with direct links to the posts will be marked with an *
The Silent Ladies
*Movies Silently | Marion Davies in Show People + sundry GIFs
Comet Over Hollywood | Zasu Pitts
*The World’s Funniest Dissertation | Mabel Normand
*The Movie Rat | Louise Fazenda
*Noir and Chick Flicks | Clara Bow
*Family Friendly Reviews | Mary Pickford in My Best Girl
*A Modern Musketeer | Martha Sleeper
*A Mythical Monkey | Funny Ladies of the Silent Era: A Baker’s Dozen
The Golden Age, Thirties and Forties
*I Started Late and Forgot the Dog | Ginger Rogers
*Crítica Retrô | Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday
*Girls Do Film | Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby
*The Vintage Cameo | Carmen Miranda
*Thrilling Days of Yesteryear | Thelma Todd
*Classic Movie Hub | Kathleen Howard
*I Humbly Suggest… | Irene Dunne
*She Blogged by Night | Margaret Dumont in Duck Soup
*Portraits by Jenni | Claudette Colbert in The Palm Beach Story
*Spoilers | Jean Arthur in The Public Menace
*Stardust | Una Merkel
*Close Ups and Long Shots | Jean Harlow
*Shadows and Satin | Isabel Jewell
*Love Those Classic Movies!!! | Billie Burke
*Film Flare | Barbara Stanwyck
*i luv cinema | Mae West
*Destroy All Fanboys | Betty Hutton The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
Naughty Librarian | Miriam Hopkins
Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence | Myrna Loy
*Movie Classics | Margaret Rutherford in Blithe Spirit
*Let’s Go to the Movies | Carole Lombard
The Nifty Fifties and Swinging Sixties
*Motion Picture Gems | Marjorie Main
*Silver Scenes | Joan Davis
*Frankly My Dear | Lucille Ball
*The Kitty Packard Pictorial | Shirley MacLaine
*Once Upon a Screen | Gracie Allen
*The Great Katharine Hepburn | When Comedy Was Queen: The Women of the 1950s Sitcom
*Blame Mame | Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
*Oh, Don’t Be Diriculous! | Doris Day
*Caftan Woman | Judy Holliday
*The Motion Pictures | Mary Tyler Moore
*Cindy Bruchman | Maureen O’Hara
*Cinemalacrum | Marilyn Monroe