Sherlock Holmes made his (legal) feature film debut in 1916. William Gillette, who wrote and starred in the popular stage Sherlock, reprises his legendary role here.
Ivan Mosjoukine, one of the greatest actors in silent film, plays Edmund Kean, one of the greatest actors of Regency England. It’s all very stylish and European but perhaps a bit much for first-time silent viewers.
I feel nothing but contempt and disgust for this film. Not only does it lift its finale from my favorite silent film (Michael Strogoff) but people dash around squeaking about how AMAAAAAZING and creative that Cossacks finale is. No, I will not calm down.
This twee early Colleen Moore picture is about an orphan who faws in wuv and tonstant weader fwowed up.
In the mood for a so-bad-it’s-good silent film? Have I got a picture for you! This movie involves a cowpoke trying to find the man responsible for his sister’s death. To do this, he becomes a masked bandit and steals… ashtrays. Yes, you read that right. Ashtrays. No, this is not a comedy.
By all rights, the original (yes, original) 1925 Ben-Hur should have been a disaster but it somehow managed to survive and thrive despite budget woes, fascists, and fired directors, screenwriters and producers.
Dorothy and friends head off to Oz in this truncated and slightly odd adaptation from the Selig film company. All the classic plot points are present but the brief length makes for jerky storytelling.
Marion Wong was just twenty-one when she wrote, directed, produced and designed the costumes for her own feature film. Naturally, some modern historians are trying to find the man who must have helped her. (There is no eyeroll GIF big enough.)
What do you do to set your movie apart in a crowded market? If you worked for Kalem, you went overseas! This film is significant as it is believed to be the first fiction film shot in Ireland. The local color elevates this immigrant melodrama and makes it a must-see for history nerds.
Elmer Booth is a convicted ne’er-do-well who has promised to stick to the straight and narrow upon his release from prison for the sake of his wife, Mary Pickford. The promise lasts all of ten minutes and Booth is soon drinking with a counterfeiter. I’m sure this will end well.
100 years ago, if you wanted to see a movie from a box office powerhouse team, you would watch a film with Francis X. Bushman and Beverly Bayne. Under Royal Patronage is a Ruritanian romance designed to showcase their chemistry and It Screen Couple status.
Pauline Garon stars as a trapeze artist who falls for a rich boy slumming at the circus. And he has a snobby fiancee and an overbearing father! We all know exactly where this is going, right?
It’s a tale of double infidelity and revenge! The twist? All of the characters are played by stop-motion dead insects. The wonderfully weird animated film was created by Ladislas Stravevich, one of the most imaginative and witty animators in the history of film.
A stiff version of Lewis Carroll’s nonsense classic that is nonetheless interesting to see because of its extremely detailed costuming based on the original John Tenniel illustrations. The story is choppy and I doubt anyone unfamiliar with the book would be able to follow the plot but I do appreciate the attention to visual detail.
The problem with movies today is their absolute unwillingness to show slang-talking elephants on the loose in the Canadian wilderness, where they are mistaken for the antichrist. Well, never fear because The Soul of the Beast is here!
Mae Marsh’s career post-1916 is often dismissed as unworthy of study but Polly of the Circus proves this notion to be wrong. A tight little circus melodrama, Polly also delivers some surprisingly deep questions about faith, religious hypocrisy, love and loyalty.
Many people come to this version of Camille to see a young Rudolph Valentino but leading lady Nazimova is the reason to stick around. She absolutely owns the role of the doomed courtesan and her dramatic ability is accented by a charming sense of humor.
A Clara Bow vehicle released during the height of her popularity, “Hula” refers to the main character’s name, as well as a dance. She likes Clive Brook but his pesky estranged wife is in the way. What’s a flapper to do? Fancy a bit of light terrorism?
It was the worst of films, it was the best of films. This Sherlock Holmes adaptation is easily one of the worst-acted silent movies I have ever seen but it is also absolutely hilarious.
Douglas Fairbanks plays a drug-addled detective in this cult classic. He snorts, injects and ingests massive quantities of narcotics during the course of the film and attempts to bust a drug ring (?) with the help of Bessie Love.
Wallace Reid and Harrison Ford (not that one) play road trip buddies who win a fortune in Monte Carlo and then end up getting involved in a Ruritanian revolution. If this sounds fun to you, let me burst your bubble. It’s for your own good.
Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance are just as cute as bugs in this energetic send-up of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1915 version of Carmen. Purviance is particularly charming as the infamous (and goofy) seductress.
A rare chance to see father-son acting dynamos Rudolph and Joseph Schildkraut share the screen in a Hollywood production. Joseph plays a wastrel prince while Rudolph plays his equally dissolute father, the king of a small kingdom in Central Europe.
Mabel Normand and Ford Sterling star in one of the most famous Keystone shorts. He loves her and she loves him until accidentally plants a pie in her face. Enraged, Normand attempts to elope with Sterling’s romantic rival, escaping by boat. But she never counted on Sterling deciding to drain the lake…
Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy get jobs at a posh hotel and chaos ensues. Not the strongest of their silent shorts but this picture has one ace tucked away in its garter: a very young Jean Harlow.
Harold Lloyd and Mildred Davis charm as newlyweds who inherit a mansion that may be… haunted. (Thunderclap, please.)
A well-constructed melodrama made during the craze for “social” pictures in the 1910s, Children of Eve has visual flair to spare and a powerful performance from star Viola Dana.
The swashbuckling genre is not noted for its progressive treatment of women. Even ladies who take up arms must either be damseled by the finale or die in order to make way for a more “proper” love interest. That’s why The Fighting Eagle is such a breath of fresh air.
Think gangster films first came along in the early 1930s? Think again! They were present from the very earliest motion picture days and Regeneration is one of the first gangster features. It was directed by some guy named Raoul Walsh.
Possibly the most iconic film of early cinema, this science fiction epic is beautiful, quirky and shows surprising depth.