Fun Size Review: The Garden of Eden (1928)

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.
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Fun Size Review: Mantrap (1926)

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.

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Fun Size Review: Ella Cinders (1926)

It’s Cinderella for the 1920s! Colleen Moore is a put-upon waif who enters a motion picture beauty contest and wins. She finds fun, fame and fortune in Hollywood but who will be her Prince Charming? Colleen has never been cuter. Features some excellent sight-gags (including the famous and acclaimed eye-crossing scene) and a cameo from Harry Langdon.  Beloved for a reason.

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Fun Size Review: The Cheat (1915)

Cecil B. DeMille-helmed tale of sordid revenge. Fannie Ward dips into the Red Cross funds to gamble on the stock market and loses all. Sussue Hayakawa is her platonic pal who will loan her the money if she becomes… less platonic. Things get nasty very fast. Lean and slick with a star-making performance from Hayakawa. Ward, however, emotes egregiously. Not for the easily offended.

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Fun Size Review: Raffles the Amateur Cracksman (1917)

John Barrymore is a gentleman crook out to steal a priceless necklace. Frank Morgan (aka, Oz the Great and Powerful) is his best pal Bunny. Yes, Bunny. A shady lady from John’s past threatens to ruin everything but our hero is clever and intrepid. Fun plot and story done in by plodding pace and way too many intertitles. Morgan and Barrymore are the best things in the film but they cannot save it.

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Fun Size Review: Miss Mend (1926)

Soviet serial in the American style with a dash of German. It’s the tale of four California-born pals who uncover a nefarious plot to attack Russia with poisonous gas. A crazy-quilt of styles. It is a ton of fun to see how the west coast of the USA is portrayed in a film made 100% on Russian soil. Turnabout is fair play, Hollywood has made its share of Russian-set tales. Beautiful, strange and quite often wondrous.

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Fun Size Review: The Son of the Sheik (1926)

Valentino’s swan song and it is a humdinger, let me tell you. Rudy is back as both father and son, Vilma Banky is the leading lady, Karl Dane supports and Montagu Love provides the villainy. Plot stays pretty much the same as the first: Boy loves girl, boy kidnaps girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again. Slicker, sleeker, smarter and more (intentionally) humorous than the first time around (though still not without its controversy). Showcases Valentino to perfection.

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Fun Size Review: Judex (1916)

Have a spare 5 hours? Sure you do! For this you do. Legendary French serial expert Louis Feuillade creates the crazy-addictive tale of a caped crusader, a vamping criminal mastermind and some really cute kids. Judex is a mysterious avenger out to right the wrongs performed by a corrupt banker. It starts with threatening notes and escalates to murder (or does it?). Fast, funny, exciting and highly addictive.

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Fun Size Review: Little Annie Rooney (1925)

Mary Pickford: Tenement kid, daughter of an Irish cop. William Haines: Big brother of her arch-rival and a would-be gangster. Mary loves William. He thinks she’s a kid. However, when he is framed for the murder of Mary’s father, she is the only one who can save him. Haines and Pickford are cute as proverbial bugs (could they be anything else?) but the thin plot does not use them to their full potential.

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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.

white-rose-getting-ready

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.

two-arabian-knights-hows-it-going

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.

annabell-lee-poems

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