Fun Size Review: The Love Flower (1920)

D.W. Griffith offers adventure, romance, exotic climes, a leering camera and Carol Dempster to the viewing public. The viewing public says: “Thanks but no thanks.” Carol is a zany teen determined to save her father from a murder charge in this kitchen sink (as in everything but) caper. Oh, Dad’s guilty, Carol just doesn’t want him arrested. Unlikable characters, an inexperienced leading lady and far too little Richard Barthelmess doom this picture. Dempster is good at the stunts. Acting, not so much.

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Fun Size Review: Captain January (1924)

Hobart Bosworth plays an old lighthouse keeper who has adopted the castaway, Baby Peggy. Local do-gooders are annoyed at his unorthodox parenting but he and little Peggy love one another. However, what will happen when Peggy’s real family comes to claim her? Sweet but never simpering. Heart-warming but never trite. This is family entertainment that the grown-ups can enjoy too. Highly recommended.

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Fun Size Review: Why Change Your Wife? (1920)

Gloria Swanson has a problem. Her husband, Thomas Meighan, has purchased her a negligee! The degenerate! And he listens to fox trot music, if you please! Thomas is soon driven into the waiting arms of Bebe Daniels. Realizing her mistake, Gloria dons designer duds in a bid to win him back. Cecil B. DeMille’s best marital comedy, it is spunky and fast-paced. Excellent performances by all the leads make the film memorable. Worth seeing for Bebe and Gloria’s costumes alone.

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Fun Size Review: That Certain Thing (1928)

Frank Capra’s first film of many for Columbia Pictures and his trademark optimism-amongst-poverty is already in place. Viola Dana is a tenement beauty determined to marry money. Ralph Graves is a rich wastrel who meets Viola, falls for her and marries her the same night. Everything would be fine except that Ralph’s father disinherits him and Viola is back at square one. What to do? Start a business, of course! Capra’s offering delights with charming script and a brisk pace and the leads are engaging.

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Fun Size Review: The Sea Lion (1921)

Hobart Bosworth is (and this may shock you) a sadistic ship captain. Bessie Love is the little castaway who warms his heart and awakens fatherly feelings. But when the captain discovers that poor Bessie just may be the daughter of his enemy, things start to get mean. Love and Bosworth are delightful in their father-daughter relationship and the seafaring scenes are swell but predictable plot prevents this film from being a classic.

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Fun Size Review: Way Down East (1920)

Director D.W. Griffith took a creaky melodrama and… kept it creaky! Lillian Gish is used and tossed aside by a rich creep. She stumbles onto Richard Barthelmess’s farm, where the whole family embraces her with open arms. Then said rich creep shows up. Works surprisingly well thanks to great work from Gish and Barthelmess, as well as one of Griffth’s very best Races to the Rescue™… On  Ice! (On tour this winter!)

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Fun Size Review: Eve’s Leaves (1926)

Raised as a boy aboard ship, Leatrice Joy feels it is high time to get a fella. Armed with magazine relationship advice, she goes ashore and sets her cap at the first man she sees, William Boyd. He is annoyed by the over-eager Leatrice and rebuffs her. Leatrice shanghais him and soon he is beginning to think this kidnapping thing is not so bad. Boyd and Joy are a delight in this breezy adventure-comedy.

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Fun Size Review: The Beloved Rogue (1927)

John Barrymore romps through medieval Paris playing a character best described as Robin Hood + Hobo + Bugs Bunny. His pranks cause him to run afoul of the crown. Conrad Veidt (in his American debut!) plays the king as a superstitious, nose-picking goblin. Oh, this movie is fabulous! It’s a double ham dinner with all the trimmings. Takes a turn for the serious near the end (boo!) but is an utter delight until then. One of silent Hollywood’s stranger offerings. See it.

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Fun Size Review: Carmen (1915)

Famed soprano Geraldine Farrar proves she doesn’t need her pipes to be an impressive Carmen. Wallace Reid, in an uncharacteristically dark role, expands his acting chops as the deranged Don Jose. Director Cecil B. DeMille’s take on the familiar story is sharp, sassy and lean. It looks great and is a blast to watch. Especially fun to show to people who think silent films are so sweet and innocent.

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Fun Size Review: Below the Surface (1920)

Hobart Bosworth is the strong silent type as a deep-sea diver. When he refuses to assist a gang of criminals in a con game, they send in one of their molls to seduce Bosworth’s impressionable son. Big mistake. On the surface it sounds like a classic revenge tale but it also has deeper themes of parental love and self-sacrifice. Bosworth dominates as the macho seaman with a heart of gold.

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Fun Size Review: The Thief of Bagdad (1924)

Douglas Fairbanks is a thief but what he really wants is to marry a princess (Julanne Johnston) and so he sets off on a treasure hunt that will win her hand. But wouldn’t you know it, those dadblasted villains take over Bagdad and it’s up to our thief to take it back. Meltingly gorgeous to behold with stunning sets and splendid effects but the pace slows to a crawl after the first half-hour.

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How does it end? Hover or tap below for a spoiler.

Our thief reforms, gets a few magical artifacts, saves the day and wins his princess.

If it were a dessert it would be:

Patience cake. Full of tasty ingredients but a little too elaborate for its own good.

Read my full-length review here.

Availability:
Released on DVD and Blu-ray. Get the Cohen release, it has a wonderful orchestral score from Carl Davis. So, so good.

Fun Size Review: Bare Knees (1928)

Virginia Lee Corbin is a Charleston-dancing, back-baring, perfume-splashing, lingerie-buying, hair-bobbing, baseball-playing Jazz baby. When she returns home to live with her stodgy sister and equally stodgy brother-in-law, she finds herself causing scandals everywhere she goes. At her heart, though, Virginia is an old-fashioned girl. But her sister has a few secrets (and boyfriends) of her own. Which sister was the wild one again? If you want a movie that captures the spirit of the Jazz Age, this is it.

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Fun Size Review: The Forbidden City (1918)

Norma Talmadge plays a Chinese maiden (hoo boy) who falls for American diplomat Thomas Meighan. The romance ends in tragedy for Miss Talmadge but not before she gives birth to a daughter who grows up to also be Norma Talmadge. The daughter sets out to seek her father and love. Racially clueless, which garbles its feeble plea for racial tolerance. Not Norma’s best.

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Fun Size Review: The White Rose (1923)

D.W. Griffith tried to break his slump by casting Mae Marsh and scrumptious Welsh heartthrob Ivor Novello in this tale of single motherhood and spiritual crisis. Minister-to-be Novello seduces and abandons orphan flapper Marsh, who must face the cruel world, etc. etc. Griffith has done all this before (and better) but his leads try their hardest and almost manage to put it over. Almost. A mixed bag.

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How does it end? Hover or tap below for a spoiler.

Marsh and her baby wander into Novello’s neck of the woods, where he promptly realizes the error of his ways and he makes an honest woman of our heroine on her sickbed. Happy endings for all.

If it were a dessert it would be:

Cheesecake rice pudding. Variation on a very old theme. Tasty enough but hardly earth-shattering.

Read my full-length review here.

Availability: Released on DVD.

Fun Size Review: Two Arabian Knights (1927)

William Boyd and Louis Wolheim are frenemy  POW’s who escape and make for warmer climes. They meet Arabian princess Mary Astor (um…) and decide to save her from an unsavory arranged marriage. Producer Howard Hughes hoarded this film in his vault, the villain. One of the best wartime bromance pictures of the silent era. Nice balance of action, comedy and romance. Worth seeking out.

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How does it end? Hover or tap below for a spoiler.

Boyd and Astor ride off into the sunset in a carriage driven by Wolheim. A trio!

If it were a dessert it would be:

S’mores Brownies. Too much of a good thing is wonderful.

Read my full-length review here.

Availability: Alas, not on DVD but it airs on TCM sometimes.

Fun Size Review: Annabell Lee (1921)

Very (very, very, very, very) loosely based on the poem Anabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe, this film tells the tale of a struggling author and his lady fair who are parted by circumstances. Tries to capture the spirit of Poe without all that, you know, death and stuff. Nothing offensive but not really exciting either. However, the scenery is wonderful.

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How does it end? Hover or tap below for a spoiler.

They live happily ever after. Meh.

If it were a dessert it would be:

Blancmange. A bygone confection that still has appeal but seems bland when compared to the newer recipes.

Read my full-length review here.

Availability: Released on DVD

Fun Size Review: Miss Lulu Bett (1921)

Spinster Lois Wilson is penniless and practically enslaved by her family. She jumps at a chance to get married but must leave when she learns her husband may have another wife. (Oops) Returning home to slander and scorn, Wilson must depend on her inner strength to escape. She even gains the courage to pursue local schoolteacher Milton Sills. Delightful and uplifting but never, ever corny.

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How does it end? Hover or tap below for a spoiler.

Lulu stands up to her horrible family and wins over Mr. Sills in the bargain. Not too shabby, eh?

If it were a dessert it would be:

Root Beer Float Marshmallows. Traditional flavors presented in a whole new way. Light, sweet and memorable.

Read my full-length review here.

Availability: Released on DVD.

Fun Size Review: Hell’s Hinges (1916)

A new preacher arrives at the sinningest town West of the Pecos. William S. Hart is a gunfighter with a homicidal streak determined to run said preacher out of town. One snag: The preacher’s pretty sister. Hart finds humanity and love but that doesn’t stop him from using his gunfighting skills one last time to set the entire town ablaze. One of Hart’s best good-bad men and a splendidly apocalyptic Victorian throwback.

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How does it end? Hover or tap below for a spoiler.

Mr. Hart burns the sinning down to the ground and departs with his lady love. It’s pretty amazing.

If it were a dessert it would be:

Jack Daniel’s Fudge. Old-fashioned and intense with a kick at the end.

Availability: Released on DVD.

Read my full review.

Fun Size Review: The Cat and the Canary (1927)

The Location: Old Dark House. Time: Dark and Stormy Night. The Will: Laura La Plante will inherit a fortune if she can prove she is sane. The Problem: One of the many guests present is determined to drive her insane– and murder anyone who gets in the way! Thrills, chills, laughs, gorgeous cinematography and more character actors than you can shake a femur at. A great introduction to silent films.

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How does it end? Hover or tap below for a spoiler.

The murderer reveals himself and it’s… Cousin Charles! Laura La Plante gets out safe and sane.

If it were a desert it would be: Turtle trifle. Dark, fun and full of nuts.

Ready my full-length review here.

Availability: Released on DVD and via streaming.