The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 remains one of the most deadly pandemic in recent history. Millions lost their lives and as a precaution, moving picture studios temporarily halted operations.Continue reading “The Lighter Side of a Pandemic: Rube Goldberg, Influenza and the Movies”
Inspired by the discovery of a wonderful Rube Goldberg cartoon about the movies, I have decided to make a Build-Your-Own-Silent-Title thingamee. Let’s have some fun!Continue reading “Generate Your Own Silent Movie Title!”
Well, the annual agony of tax prep is over and I am in a great mood due to this horrendous burden being completed for another year. So, here are some fun GIFs of silent stars feeling joy!Continue reading “Silent Stars Leap for Joy”
With all the talk about whether or not women can open action movies (spoiler: they totally can), I thought it would be fun to tip my hat to the original action ladies of cinema. I mean, of course, the serial queens of the 1910s. What’s your serial queen name and what serial did you star in? Let’s find out!Continue reading “The Serial Queen Name and Title Generator”
Let’s have some fun! I threw together a little name generator designed to produce the kind of names silent actresses sported in the 1910s and 1920s.
You have to excuse my annoyance. Another week, another silent film that people (including academics) have written about without watching. This is a pet peeve of mine so I made a handy chart. Feel free to share, distribute, etc.
I am in the mood to swash some buckles (or is it buckle some swash?) and so I thought I would have a bit of fun and make a handy-dandy Swashbuckler-o-Matic. Have fun!
Even silent movies needed to tidy up once in a while…
Silent movies were like modern films in that there were distinct genres and acting styles that went with them. In the case of melodrama, most audience members understood that it was meant to be over the top. And considering the excesses of modern action films, I don’t think we have any room to talk about realism.
Here’s to you, silent movies! A salute from the major stars of the period. A very literal salute.
In recognition of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s twenty-fifth anniversary, I thought it would be fun to reimagine the show as if it had been made in the silent era. Silent recasting, here we come! (You can catch my original Star Trek recasting here.)
I have been off on another vintage advertising detour and thought I would share a few things that struck me as funny about a lobby card for Harry Houdini’s final motion picture.
Like most silent movie fans, I also enjoy the quirky marketing materials of the era. Posters, lobby cards, ads, etc. I recently ran across a lobby card for The Sheik and a few things struck me as pretty funny. Let’s share!
Today marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek’s network debut and I knew I had to do something to celebrate. What better way than to reimagine it as a silent film? (Don’t answer that!)
Welcome back! I occasionally make posters for modern films reimagined as silents. This time around, I will be seeing what a certain 1980s comedy classic would look like in the silent era.
It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that if The Dark Knight had been made in the 1920s, John Gilbert should have played Batman. Welcome to my fictional world of modern blockbusters in the silent era!
Think that hand kissing is just for knights and posh types? Think again! A well-timed bit of old-fashioned romance can be just the thing for silent movie ladies.
Sometimes, there is just no word for what you want to say. Fortunately, English is something of a linguistic slinky* and so I am going to boldly make up my own words to fit my needs. Naturally, these needs are connected to silent film.
verb | ˈfil-bin
to hire an acclaimed actor, director or other film talent and oblige them to work with a terrible performer who is a box office draw or otherwise in favor with management.
This is named for actress Mary Philbin, a lovely woman who had all the acting talent of a plate of pancakes. She was a friend of Universal head Carl Laemmle’s family and was regularly cast in big roles after her discovery by Erich von Stroheim.
Lon Chaney was philbined in The Phantom of the Opera.** Director E.A. Dupont was philbined with Love Me and the World is Mine. Ivan Mosjoukine was philbined in Surrender.
One of the few performers to escape his philbining relatively unscathed was Conrad Veidt. He and director Paul Leni actually managed to drag something resembling a performance out of her in The Man Who Laughs.
For the record, Miss Philbin actually seemed like a sweet woman and her movie recollections are clear and accurate. I would love to have had a cup of tea with her but I would never, ever have wanted to work with her. The issue actually has more to do with Carl Laemmle than Philbin herself but to “laemmle” someone has many more implications than the narrow definition I require.
*I heard “linguistic slinky” somewhere and don’t remember where. Apologies for no credit for this excellent turn of phrase.
** To double the “n” or not? I didn’t, mainly because the pronunciation “fill-BIND” makes me giggle.
Silent Take is back! This time, I am recasting the iconic Indiana Jones in the world of silent film.
Indiana Jones was based on the classic cliffhanger serials of the thirties and forties but those serials were in turn based on the exciting offerings of the silent era.
Bebe Daniels is a hypochondriac heiress who ends up staying on an island with a gang of bootleggers, who are led by a pre-stardom William Powell. Of course, Bebe is more interested in Richard Arlen, another gangster who seems a bit too nice to be a rum runner. Chaos ensues, obviously, and the film is a real corker in spite of a flabby middle section.
[toggler title=”How does it end? (click here for a spoiler)” ]Bebe ends up saving her fella’s life from the rum runners. Feminism! Romance![/toggler]
If it were a dessert it would be:
Gin & Tonic Sorbet. Anything this fun was probably illegal at some point.
Mabel Normand is determined to make it in the movies. This is her audition scene from Mabel’s Dramatic Career. She demonstrates her dancing abilities (no one could do a zany dance like Mabel) but is in danger of losing her balance. Ford Sterling comes to the rescue (or does he?) but the look on Mabel’s face indicates that he might have gotten a little grabby. Not to worry, though. Their characters wed in the film.
Like most people in my age group, Star Wars was a huge part of my childhood. And like many others my age, I fell out of love with Star Wars around the years 1997-99, when the not-so-special editions and the prequels were being inflicted on us. Around the same time, I was starting to get into silent film. I had never really liked Cecil B. DeMille’s clunky sound epics but I decided to give his early silent work a chance.
When I first saw the 2009 romantic comedy The Proposal, it struck me that it was made a few decades too late. (A woman boss with a male secretary? The lady proposing? And she is older? Oh, I shall surely faint at this daring! But she just wants to be romanced by her young man. Awww.)
This is my contribution to the Great Imaginary Film Blogathon. Be sure to read the other posts for this event!
You know that I love silent films. What you may not know, though, is that I have an enormous weakness for the BIG films of the sixties. Lawrence of Arabia, Zulu, you know the kind. I also love those big, big comedies that seemed to star everyone in the entire world. The Great Race, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, etc.
Well, the concept behind this imaginary film is that one of those “starring everyone” adventure comedies was made in the silent era. An eccentric millionaire decided to finance a film and money was no object. The finest of everything, from stars to sets to Technicolor sequences. This millionaire wanted stars and the stars came, the biggest in the business. The whole thing was fourteen reels long and cost $3 to get in. It was the biggest film of the decade.
Here it is.
The Golden Challenge (1926)
Director: Raoul Walsh
The Plot: The richest man in the world, Jabez Watertoast, passes away without heirs. Instead, he has left an eccentric will: He has buried the majority of his fortune (in emeralds and gold) in a secret place and has left clues as to its location. Four copies of the clues have been sent to four different married couples, all in desperate need of money. These couples must use their resourcefulness to find the treasure. Watertoast wanted his money to go to a bootstrapping pair of go-getters and this race is his way of finding the most worthy recipient.
So, four letters are sent out with strict instructions that the participants tell no one (especially the press!) about their mission.
Dear sir and madam:
You have been selected as a possible recipient of the Watertoast emeralds. Your first instructions are included in this envelope. You will be given an allowance of $50.00 a week to cover your expenses but no more. If you tell anyone about this contest (especially the newspapers) you will be disqualified.
Now it’s time to meet our four couples.
Note: I created a GIF for every main character but if you have a slow internet connection, they may not animated properly. If a GIF seems to be frozen, simply click it and you should be able to see it move.
Ned and Amy Sheffield
Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford
The Sheffields were raised in an orphanage together. They grew up, got married and were able to buy the place with the proceeds from Ned’s wingwalking prize money and Amy’s secret gooseberry pie recipe. However, money is tight and an evil banker (who knows there is oil under the place) may take over if they don’t get enough cash to pay off their debts.
Prince Henri and Sylvia de Guise
Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson
Henri is the heir to the throne of Carolingia, which was impoverished by the Great War. Accompanied by his American wife, Sylvia, Henri hopes to raise enough money to strengthen his army so that his country will not fall to anarchists. A former manicurist to the rich and powerful, Sylvia plans to use her business contacts to try to help her husband.
Robert and Phoebe Merriweather
John Barrymore and Marion Davies
A pair of itinerant entertainers and semi-con artists, Robert and Phoebe are a comedy/illusion duo who pass themselves off as Russian refugees. However, when performing for a gangland audience, they made the dog of the boss’s moll disappear. The problem? It never reappeared. Running for their lives, they want enough money to start a new life far, far away from Chicago.
Erik and Velma Hardt
Conrad Veidt and Pola Negri
Erik and Velma were born into money but have long since spent it. However, they do have one advantage: Velma’s uncle was Jabez Watertoast’s lawyer and he means for his niece to win the money. Erik, meanwhile, is using his shadowy connections to try to trip up the competition. He was a spy during the war, you see, and has connections with the anarchist movement.
The four couples only have the first clue to work with. One clue leads to another and so forth as they race across the world at breakneck speed. On the way, they are met with numerous stars in cameos and character actors. But who will win the big prize?
My cameo ideas:
Clara Bow as one of the older, spunky orphans
Harry Langdon as the Merriweather’s hapless booking agent
Charlie Chaplin as himself, a helpful passerby in Paris
Dorothy Gish as a cab driver in Budapest
Nita Naldi as a tribal chieftainess
William S. Hart as a displaced cowboy in Morocco
Norma Talmadge as the scorekeeper for the treasure hunt
Richard Barthelmess as a country boy who gives the couples a lift in his old cart
Ben Turpin as a foreign legionnaire
Anna May Wong as the Hong Kong-based reporter who wants a scoop
The race will start in New York and then head to Arizona (a little tip of the hat to The Great Race there). From there, the race heads to London, Paris, Budapest, Moscow, Hong Kong and then all the way back to Morocco. The treasure is hidden in the desert and guarded by a fierce tribe of warriors.
And who wins the prize? I’m leaving that up to your imagination.
I have always felt that The Fugitive was a better movie than series. The 1993 version was a fun popcorn flick starring Harrison Ford. My idea for the silent version is a 1923 popcorn flick starring… Harrison Ford! I couldn’t resist. Can you blame me?
James Bond gets the silent treatment!
Of all the reimaginings I have done, I expect this one to be the most controversial (well, as controversial as a post about silent movies can be). You see, James Bond has come in so many flavors over the past 50+ years that it is impossible to get everyone in the room to agree on the ideal Bond.
After completing posters for the silent Nolan Batman trilogy and working on my designs for James Bond and Indiana Jones, I am a burned out on male-led blockbusters. So, how’s about some girl stuff? Enchanted is, of course, a clever 2007 send-up by Disney about Disney. I have to confess that I am not an enormous fan of Disney films in general but I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
Whew! Finished reimagining the Nolan Batman trilogy as silent films. Here is the movie that started it all.
You asked for it and here it is! My idea of what The Dark Knight Rises would have been like if it had been released in 1927. (You can see my poster for The Dark Knight here)
I enjoyed True Grit as a book and I loved the 2010 adaptation. The ‘teens were a golden time for the western film and so I decided to work with the year 1917 in mind.