Singed Bottoms, Curly Fonts and Tarzan on a Horse: These Are the Mistakes and Cliches That Annoyed Audiences 100 Years Ago

Photoplay had a regular segment dedicated to readers discovering and sharing errors and cliches in popular films. We modern viewers have nothing on these sharp-eyed viewers from March of 1919!

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“Please Post This in its Original Black and White Form” or, How Tinting, Toning and Hand Color Have Been Lost to Modern Audiences

I recently ran a poll on Twitter to find out which silent era color process people preferred and was somewhat surprised to see how many voters opted for black and white. This led me down a bit of a research rabbit hole and here we are. How did black and white become THE choice for older films even though silent films were awash with tinting, toning, hand-color, stencil color, natural color and assorted other color processes?

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“YOU attend those vulgar moving picture shows?” Cartoon Defenses of Filmgoing from 1911

Movies are a national pastime in the United States but that was not always the case. Motion pictures, especially ones dealing with crime, were considered low, vulgar and harmful. When he launched his first movie theater, Louis B. Mayer had his wife and daughters prominently present to show that films were suitable for women and children.

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Norma Talmadge: How Men Strike Me, or, Hire a Stunt Coordinator for Heaven’s Sake!

One of the things I like best about silent films and particularly silent films of the 1910s is that many cinematic tricks were not yet invented and so real towns were burned, real ships were launched and real locations were used. That being said, this 1919 article credited to Norma Talmadge gave me pause as she talked about being beaten onscreen.

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First-Person Shooter Games… In 1909? Meet “Motographic Target Shooting”

When the concept of projected films took off in the mid-1890s, there was a corresponding boom of inventors who hoped to use the new technology to create everything from virtual reality to shooting games. In the case of “Motographic Target Shooting” the idea was to combine the realism of film with the then-popular shooting gallery.

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Immortal Films: Viewers of 1916 Chose Movies That Would Never Be Forgotten (most are forgotten)

In 1916, Motion Picture Magazine published a fan-sourced list of motion pictures that they “deemed fit to live to a green old age.” Lists like these are always enlightening because they show that viewers living in 1916 or 2019 have absolutely no idea what will last. Some of these movies are indeed still known today, some for the wrong reasons, and some were forgotten soon after this list was made. Let’s see what we can learn.

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A Modern Photoplay for the New Era, as Illustrated in 1914

Both viewers and filmmakers in the 1910s were well aware that movies were turning a corner and becoming THE popular entertainment of the general public. Naturally, many debates as to how to move forward were underway. Probably the most famous and important was the question of censorship but other issues were also controversial.

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The First White House Motion Picture Show? Teddy Roosevelt Rides to the Rescue

When discussing The Birth of a Nation, one defense that sometimes crops up is that the film is significant because it was the first film screened at the White House. The main problem with this claim is that it is demonstrably false. Cabiria was screened for Woodrow Wilson the year before and the circumstances under which he saw Birth are quite shady. (I cover the details in my extensive article.)

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Silent Stars as Archetypes: A 1922 Explanation of the Appeal of Will Rogers, Wallace Reid, Rudolph Valentino and More

I do enjoy classic “scientific” attempts to explain the very subjective appeal of movie stars and Motion Picture Magazine gave it a whirl in 1922. Why do audiences love particular stars? Could is be something… primal?

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Readers of 1925 Debate the Merits of Rudolph Valentino, Ramon Novarro and an Arbuckle Comeback

What is most interesting about fan magazines is how they are divided between forgotten topics and questions that are hotly debate among silent film fans to this day. A 1925 issue of Photoplay printed some reader opinions and they are particularly interesting so I thought I would share them.

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