Allow Mr. Valentino to serenade you! (Yes, quite literally, his vocal recordings survive!) Animated GIF

sheik-rudolph-valentino-agnes-ayres-silent-movie-singing-MUSIC

Rudolph Valentino’s early death at the height of his career was a tragedy. It also opened up a floodgate of what-if’s. Would he have survived the transition to sound? Would his career have fizzled even before that?

Me? I think he would have survived. Mr. Valentino had a talent for light comedy, when he was allowed, and he could sing. During the talkie transition, musicals were the absolute rage.

Here is Rudy serenading Agnes Ayres in The Sheik. And, as a special bonus, here is the 1923 recording of him singing the very song quoted in the intertitles, Kashmiri Song.

Hope that brightens your day.

Availability

The Sheik has been released on DVD by Image.

Marion Davies demonstrates the only proper way to register shock at bad news… Animated GIF

show-people-1928-marion-davies-william-haines-king-vidor-silent-movie-bad-news

The wonderful Marion Davies delights in Show People. This time, her character is showing off her acting skills by reading bad news in a letter. It takes a very good actress to pull off playing such a bad actress, I say.

This is basically how I look when I get my phone bill and discover that I have gone over my data plan. Or, I should say, how I used to look in the olden days when you needed a paper bill to monitor your usage.

Recommended

This perfectly captures my mood today. Animated GIF

cheat-sessue-hayakawa-silent-movie-animated-gif-courtroom-scowlSessue Hayakawa deserves a lot of credit for moving film acting away from stagy gestures and toward more natural emotions. In this scene, he filled his mind with anger, acting with his eyes. He is electrifying, especially compared to his overacting co-stars. Even though The Cheat is (and was) an incredibly insensitive film, it is an amazing showcase for Mr. Hayakawa’s astonishing talent.

(The Japanese government successfully pressured Paramount to change Hayakawa’s character from Japanese to Burmese when the film was re-released. No word on what the Burmese government thought of this.)

Availability

The Cheat has been released on DVD as a double feature with Manslaughter.

Don’t be trying to foist off one of your itty-bitty beer glasses on ME, sir! This is America and I demand supersizing! Animated GIF

alias-jimmy-valentine-robert-warwick-1915-silent-movie-dont-give-me-a-tiny-beer

He laughs at the beer glasses in this hick town. Honestly, the nerve of some people!

Alias Jimmy Valentine is a pretty serious movie overall, what with its emphasis on robbery, death and redemption. However, it is not without its little humorous passages.

You can read my full review of the film here.

Availability

Alias Jimmy Valentine is available on DVD as part of a box set.

When sneaking away from an amorous Italian, make sure to wave your arms and scream “AAAAAAH!” Animated GIF

sheik-rudolph-valentino-agnes-ayres-silent-movie-escape1

Okay, okay, just back away slowly. Keep calm. Don’t startle him….

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!

This scene always kind of cracked me up. Agnes Ayres is not exactly clad for escape but then again, Rudolph Valentino isn’t really clad for pursuit. Knee breeches are just impractical in my opinion. Yes, I realize revolutions were fought and won in them but I dare say most gentlemen would prefer longer trousers. On the plus side, I totally love this impractical but stunning dress! Absolutely gorgeous.

A closer look at the dress.
A closer look at the dress.

On a side note, this scene reminded me of Norma Shearer lunging at the camera in the final scene of The Women.

Availability

The Sheik has been released on DVD by Image.

Silent Movie Picture Book: The Sheik (complete set)

I previously posted this in three parts. Here are all the story cards in one easy post.

Why bother to really watch a movie when you have all the tools on hand to pretend that you watched it! Here is the quick and easy guide to The Sheik, Valentino’s signature film (for better or for worse).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The script:

Him: You’re cute.

Her: I am culturally, morally and ethnically superior. (pulls gun)

Him: We can settle this debate in the desert– OF LOVE! (grabs her and carries her off to his tent)

Her: Unhand me, you brute! (starts crying)

Him: You shall be my bride, my little calzone!

Her: No, no, a thousand times no! (continues weeping)

Him: She’s upset? But why? Just for that, I’m picking out all her outfits for a week.

Her: Listen, Coco Chanel, I hate you and your stupid cigarette holder.

Him: But I can sing! La la la la la! And, my best friend is coming for a visit.

Her: That’s the last straw. I’m outta here. Oof! Or not.

Him: Hey, what’s the idea? If you had escaped, you would have gotten away!

Her: Just for that, I’m wearing my ugliest dress.

Him: Don’t be mad! I have a present for you! A gun! (gives her a gun)

Her: Golly, he’s not so bad after all.

Him: (to himself) Why isn’t it any fun to annoy her? I’m usually into that sort of thing.

Her: Help! Help! I’ve been kidnapped by someone less handsome than you!

Him: Unhand her, you brute! (gets bashed on head in the process)

Her: Thanks for saving me. Sorry they bashed you on the head and whatnot…

Him: And I’m not even an Arab really!

Her: Oh, you silly bunny! I knew the whole time you were Italian.

Him: Spanish.

Her: Whatever. (kisses him)

Availability

The Sheik has been released on DVD by Image.

“Curse you and your flawless complexion, tempting me away from my deep-held political beliefs!” Animated GIF

volga-boatman-cecil-be-demille-william-boyd-silent-movie-bullet-through-skin-rework

Well, you can’t accuse silent films of being all romance and honey, right? William Boyd has just saved Elinor Fair from being shot (he was supposed to do the shooting). She asks him why he saved her. He is not too happy with the situation so his answer is a bit brusk.

I mean, here he was, minding his own business, starting the Russian Revolution and now he’s stuck with some Czarist dame. See, the problem is that she is just too good at moisturizing and exfoliating and her skin was too nice to put a bullet hole through. It strikes me that perhaps the other Czarists should have considered some mud packs and body butters. It would have saved a whole lot of them from being shot.

(This is from Cecil B. DeMille’s 1926 hit The Volga Boatman.)

Recommended

How to liven things up at your local Starbucks, Animated GIF

volga-boatman-cecil-be-demille-william-boyd-silent-movie-white-army

Run in and do this, gestures and all! Extra points if you actually wear the kerchief. Even more if you put on a Russian accent. Unless you really are Russian. In which case, carry on.

(The White Army was the Czarist side in the Russian revolution. The Red Army was, of course, the Bolshevik side.)

Disclaimer: Obviously, this is me being goofy. If you actually run into Starbucks and do this, you are on your own. Don’t call me from the funny farm for help, is what I’m saying.

This is a scene from The Volga Boatman.

Recommended

Silent Take: “24” circa 1927

I have branched into television! Action show 24 reimagined as a 1927 serial.

I must ask for more indulgence than usual with this poster. It is highly unlikely that top-tier actors would consent to appear in a serial. This is make-believe so I hope you forgive me. Rugged Milton Sills is just so perfect for the part! The bad guys won’t stand a chance and, best of all, he can act!

Continue reading “Silent Take: “24” circa 1927″

Silent Take: The Princess Bride circa 1928

It’s baaack! Another modern movie re-imagined as a silent. This time, it’s The Princess Bride and it is taking a little trip back to 1928. If you have only seen Mary Astor and William Powell in the talkies, you may be interested to know that in the silents, she was often the dainty princess and he was often a sneering villain. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. did not try his hand at swashbuckling until 1937’s Prisoner of Zenda (Astor was in that one too) but I crave your indulgence because I think he is a perfect Westley.

Continue reading “Silent Take: The Princess Bride circa 1928”

Seriously, if anyone did this to me, I would slug them, Animated GIF

volga-boatman-cecil-be-demille-william-boyd-silent-movie-song-of-love-rework

Cecil B. DeMille was known to use… odd romantic gestures in his films. In this case, Elinor Fair is groovin’ to some boatman music supplied by William Boyd and her fiance, Victor Varconi, is jealous. So what does he do? Make his hands into earmuffs, of course. And she is fine with it. In fact, she thinks it’s pretty wonderful.

The Volga Boatman is stuffed with moments like this, which is why I love it so.

Recommended

Tol’able David meets… The TINGLER!!! Special William Castle Animated GIF

tingler-tolable-david-gif-final

To honor the start of the William Castle Blogathon, I made this GIF from The Tingler. The titular nasty is loose in a silent movie theater that just happens to be playing Tol’able David, one of my favorite movies. This is the iconic scene in which the Tingler crawls in front of the projector. Brrr! Scary puppet!

You can read the roster of entries here and here. And be sure to look for mine on August 2. And you can read my review of Tol’able David here. The Tingler does overcrank it so that everything is a bit manic looking.

Recommended

A bouquet of guns, Animated GIF

volga-boatman-cecil-be-demille-william-boyd-silent-movie-bouquet-of-guns-revised2

About 73% of the fun in The Volga Boatman comes from the overblown intertitles. In this case, William Boyd (yes, that William Boyd) is leading a Bolshevik uprising (this was back when a Hollywood hero could lead a Bolshevik uprising) and he is calling on his followers to storm the castle. (Have fun with that!)

Recommended

“Always dust her well” Animated GIF

doll-ernst-lubitsch-ossi-oswalda-silent-movie-animated-dust-her-well

It’s early Lubitsch but his touch is there, right down to the clever intertitles. After all, this is what every father says when he is sending off his only child, right?

Background: In The Doll, dollmaker Hilarius has just inadvertently sold his daughter to a customer. She was taking the place of a broken model for a demonstration but Hermann Thimig was so pleased that he bought the mechanical woman on the spot. Obviously, chaos ensues.

Availability

Released both digitally and on DVD by Kino-Lorber and available for purchase in the U.S.

Conrad Veidt demonstrates the only proper way to walk down a dark alley in “Caligari” – Animated GIF

cabinet of dr caligari

cabinet-of-dr-cailgari-animated-gif-walk

This is just how it is done. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

Caligari co-star Lil Dagover later said that Conrad Veidt did not break character during the shoot and lurked through the hallways of the studio startling people. He said he did it for a better performance. but you can’t tell me he wasn’t having just a bit of fun playing the ghoul and scaring his friends.

Recommended