As many of you know, I have been cooking my way through the 1929 edition of the Photoplay Cook Book (two words in those days). I am having a blast but one problem is that many of the big stars from the ‘teens simply are not represented.
I’m excited. Boy, am I excited! Just a few days remain until the Classic Movie History Project Blogathon gets underway.
Last Saturday, over 100 people took part in the Silent Movie Thunderclap. Basically, we all used an app to make a brief post celebrating silent film.
Continue reading “The Silent Move Thunderclap was a success! Thanks, everyone! (Also, news)”
A few days ago, I asked for help getting a silent movie thunderclap going. Well, I am pleased to report that the response has been excellent and we are currently at 103% participation!
I think all silent film fans know how hard it is to discuss pre-sound films with modern viewers. First, we have to hack through layers of misconceptions and then we have to explain why century-old films are still entertaining and informative. Sometimes, we need a morale boost. Thus, the Thunderclap.
You may have noticed that my movie rating system has changed. For a while now, I have been using a percentage system with films scoring between 1% and 100%. A few weeks ago, I switched over to a simpler method.
As some of you may have noticed, during the technical difficulties of last week, comments got eaten. You see, I had to restore my site from an earlier backup and as a few posts got deleted, the comments associated with those posts went kaput as well. And any comments made while the restoration was going on (which took almost two days) were eaten as well. I apologize if something you wrote was deleted in the move.
Now that the site has stabilized, it seems that the comment function is working normally. I have tested it and there seem to be no issues. If you are having trouble commenting, please contact me and let me know exactly what the problem is and share the error message you received (if any).
Thanks so much for reading!
Last Monday, my site went down for half an hour. When it came back up, some things were… weird. Pages not loading. Social media links not working. After pestering my host for days, I was finally informed that they were undergoing a DDoS attack. I was likely not the target (I knew I shouldn’t have tried to write about silent film in North Korea!) but I shared the pain with whoever was on living on the same server.
On Friday, my site went down again, this time for hours, I’m not sure how many. I couldn’t get tech support on the line and when I did, they just told me it was another attack. So, I decided to take the nuclear option and migrate to a new host. As my old host was still undergoing the attack, I couldn’t connect to get my website files.
Fortunately, I had signed up for VaultPress, which is WordPress’s cloud-based backup service. It has a function that allows me to migrate my site from one host to another without having to download anything. I made my move on Saturday, using a clean backup that had been saved just before my site went down on Friday.
(Note: I ended up using a backup from Wednesday as it had sustained less damage.)
And so, I can finally say that the site is alive!
What this means for you:
I redirected my domain to my new host. It would be nice if that was an instant change but, sadly, it is not. Some readers may not be able to view my site for up to 72 hours. I am just as frustrated as you are but all we can do is wait.
I had to restore an earlier backup of my site and my connectivity has been off and on since January 5. This means that if you made a comment between then and now, it may have gotten lost in the move. Some didn’t but I know for a fact that some did. I apologize for that and hope you will comment again.
I was concerned that this move would create issues with my WordPress subscribers but everything seems to have migrated nicely. If you subscribed through your WordPress account, you may have to turn email notifications back on. If you subscribed by entering your email address in my handy box, you should be good to go.
If in doubt, please unsubscribe and then resubscribe to the blog and we all should be right as rain.
In general, social media, commenting and subscriptions will likely be wonky until the whole domain redirection issue calms down. That should be approximately 72 hours from this post’s publication date.
What this means for me:
I decided to take this opportunity to implement some redecoration on the site, something I had wanted to do for a while. I gave the new theme a test drive on Saturday but there are still some kinks to work out (there always are) and some features that I want to ensure import properly. I will be launching my new look soon.
In conclusion, a huge thanks to everyone supporting me during this minor catastrophe. Extra special thanks to Nel of B-Movie Maniacs (@FanForumsTV on Twitter) for sharing WordPress technical expertise during the darker moments.
Well, 2014 is almost gone so it’s time to take a look back at the year and share my plans for the coming year.
All about you:
These are the posts and articles that were most-read by my site’s visitors.
Top 5 Most-Read Articles:
Let’s make 2015 the year when this ridiculous myth dies, hmm?
This one honestly baffles me. What’s with the obsession? (Well, a fair number of visitors for that one are homework cheats.)
Another legend that needs the heave-ho.
My new and improved personality quiz. Who are you?
Another train track query. I want to weep.
Top 5 Reviews:
The kitsch classic tops the list again!
You kids certainly love your cheese, don’t you?
An early hit for Cecil B. DeMille.
A bit of madness seems to be the order of the day.
A triple review of the silent original, the 1937 remake and the 1952 remake of the remake.
Your Favorite Videos:
I started making video reviews this year. As I do not have a ton posted yet, I will just be listing the top 3.
Top 3 Video Reviews
Ha! Pola Negri movies in two of the top slots. Take that, haters!
Top 3 Dear Movies Silently
Your Favorite Recipes:
I started cooking my way through the 1929 edition of Photoplay’s Cook Book and here are the most popular recipes so far.
These are things that I discovered about myself during the year. Please enjoy!
I started 2014 with a fairly negative view of Cecil B. DeMille. I liked a few of his silent films but I generally considered his work to be beneath my notice. However, I saw that the 100th anniversary of his debut was passing unnoticed in the wave of Chaplin tributes (nothing wrong with Chaplin but he was not the only significant debut in 1914) and so I decided to do something about it. At the same time, I began a series of articles covering every single movie DeMille made in 1915. I read biographies, his memoirs, I watched his movies and as a result, I started to get a real handle on the man’s personality.
Long story short, I started to really like him as a person and respect him as a director. Most silent movie personnel… Well, I love their work but they would probably drive me nuts in person. DeMille seems like a guy I could have a great movie conversation with. (Also invited to the party: Conrad Veidt, Lois Wilson, Mary Philbin, King Vidor, William Boyd, Gloria Swanson and Leatrice Joy.) Watching DeMille’s work and its evolution was an eye-opener. Known for religious epics, this is the guy who directed the original Chicago. His moody 1915 cinematography puts a good number of his contemporaries to shame. His marital comedies are a wacky blast. He tackled social issues (corrupt legal system, antisemitism, reform schools) that his contemporaries didn’t dare touch.
So, now I am a full-fledged, card-carrying DeMille fan. Whodathunkit?
Favorite Rabbit Holes:
I think most history fans have fallen down the research rabbit hole at one time or another. You know what I mean, one fact links to another and then another and then another and before you know it, you have twenty-six pages of research for a twenty-minute short film.
This year, I fell down the rabbit hole quite a few times. Here are my favorites.
I think we all can appreciate the sentiment. (See what I mean about Chicago? Bless you, Mr. DeMille!)
Favorite Theme Months:
Without a doubt, the three theme months that gave me the most pleasure were Silent Musicals, my Cecil B. DeMille Centennial Bash and my Russian jaunt. Taking a look at silent films that were famously remade as musicals took me on a happy little jaunt through fun stories, fun direction, fun films. As mentioned before, the DeMille month was a crash course in an underrated filmmaker’s work. The Russian theme month was fun because I decided early on to embrace every aspect of Russia and Russians on film: Czarist, Soviet, in exile and in Hollywood. It was a pleasure to experience the variety.
Heart of Wetona is a hilarious study in so-bad-it’s-good. The unintentionally humorous intertitles are a big part of the fun.
All in all, I was very happy with how 2014 turned out.
On to the new year!
For 2015, here is a small list of goals.
More czarist and exile cinema, more Yiddish film
Silent cinema is an upside-down world. In modern film, dramas are seen as award-worthy, comedies have to fight for respect. Americans love movies but just try and get them to see something foreign/arty. It’s like pulling teeth! Well, with silent films, comedies have all the respect and dramas have to fight to be taken seriously. Foreign art films, particularly from France, Germany and the USSR, make up quite a bit of the “must-see” list for film students. The standard Hollywood crowd-pleaser? Lost in the shuffle. Almost everyone has heard of Nosferatu or Battleship Potemkin. Who remembers Manhandled or Captain January or The Garden of Eden or Eve’s Leaves? A few silent film nerds but not the average film fan. Those are the films I am concerned with promoting. My goal for this site is to emulate the fun-loving spirit of silent era fan magazines.
That being said, I am going to be adding a few more foreign-language goodies to the mix.
I know Soviet cinema is what everyone thinks of when Russian silents are discussed but the country had a film industry under the monarchy as well. Further, many of these same artists fled to France during the Bolshevik revolution and did amazing work there. I loved The Burning Crucible and went absolutely nuts for Michael Strogoff. I have seen many other titles and can’t wait to share.
I will also be drawing more attention to Yiddish cinema. Often low budget, these films more than made up for it with heart and humor. Great stuff.
More After the Silents
I have been getting more and more queries as to whether ANY silent star made it to the talkies. Now I know that YOU know that a lot of the major 1930s talent started in the silents but I think the point needs to be put forward more forcefully. There is still this widespread belief that the talkies emptied the Hollywood studios of silent stars and they were replaced with an entirely new crop. What really happened was that the shift in filmmaking technique combined with the Great Depression changed audience tastes and sent the studios scurrying to cut costs. The flood of stage talent was massive but plenty of silent stars weathered the storm and became even bigger than before.
After the Silents is my series that deals with the performers who were active in both silence and sound. I have covered Bela Lugosi, William Boyd, Myrna Loy and many others.
I questioned whether or not to bring this up. My health is not 100% and the last thing I need is a film geek slap fight on the site. I finally decided to take the plunge for two reasons. First, a lot of my readers have privately told me that they hold this opinion but are afraid to publicly voice it. Second, 1915 is a very significant year in film history and the topic will come up sooner or later.
Please forgive my bluntness but I am tired of being yelled at.
Here goes nothing.
2013-2014 solidified my opinions about D.W. Griffith, who is often unquestioningly called the Father of Film and given passes and excuses that no other director has ever enjoyed. He is regularly handed credit for inventing techniques that had been created years before by someone else. After watching a massive stack of his features, I came to the conclusion that I do not care for the majority of them; his style simply does not appeal to me and I am not alone in this. (His shorts, yes, oh yes. But that’s another story.) I will be making a determined effort to dump Daddy and embrace a few of the step-fathers and mothers of film instead. 2015 is the centennial year for The Birth of a Nation, Griffith’s tedious ode to the KKK. Don’t look for tributes in these parts.
Snarking at racist old David Warke Griffith. Just one more service I offer. (Well, that and I have a bingo card to fill.) Now the majority of silent fans are lovely people but D.W. Griffith inspires a small minority to get just a little excited.
Me: D.W. Griffith’s features are not really for me. I don’t like his style.
Them: But you don’t understand context! His father was a confederate officer! The leader of bad guys in Birth of a Nation was white! Context! Griffith couldn’t be racist, he made a movie with a white guy dressed up as a Chinese guy! Context! Then he made a movie depicting a black soldier as infantile and needing to be taken care of by a white soldier! They totally kissed! How is that racist? Context! Some of his best friends were black! Lillian Gish liked him! Context! He was a pacifist! That’s why he made a movie glorifying antebellum South! Context! It was all a conspiracy, a conspiracy, I tell you! Hey, I said context. That means no one can ever say that anything old is racist. CONTEXT! (faints)
Me: Wow. I wasn’t really bringing any of that up but since you did… Bingo! And, let’s see, that’s one, two, five, seven, eight contexts. I win the bonus round!
Clarification: I have no problem with viewers enjoying Griffith’s work. The ability to consume and even enjoy media while simultaneously understanding and being critical of its viewpoint is an essential skill for serious movie watchers and critics (though even the most dispassionate critic has a breaking point). I simply object to the very strange behavior of some Griffith apologists who seek to bully anyone who dislikes the man and his films into silence.
Needless to say, all comments along those lines will be deleted. Also, no sealioning. By gad, I’m glad we finally have a name for it! Long story short, no pestering, no trying to make me say that Griffith is a deity, no gatekeepers. I don’t need smug explanations of why he is wonderful. If you like him, fine. No one is trying to stop you. Please show the same consideration to others. I know none of my regular readers would resort to such tactics but I mention this for any newcomers.
People have a right to praise the film’s technical and artistic merit (though, frankly, both are overrated, in my opinion) but people also have the right to say that they did not enjoy the film. Just be cool, my dears, let everyone like or dislike silent films as they choose. Chillax, man. Even sea lions manage that.
That’s all the discussion of Birth we will be having. Instead, I will be embracing the talented men and women who directed films in 1914-1920 and giving well-deserved attention to their comparatively neglected legacy. DeMille is invited to the party, of course, as is his brother, William. Also attending: Lois Weber, Alice Guy, Louis Feuillade, Raoul Walsh, Evgeni Bauer, Maurice Tourneur, Marshall Neilan, and many, many others. (I have one Griffith short scheduled for review in February but that should be about it for the year.)
Well, that certainly ended on a dour note! Let’s get happy again!
See you in 2015
Well, that’s it for the year. Thanks so much for reading and I will see you next year! (Ah, grade school jokes never get old.)
Hey everyone. I usually try to keep personal matters out of the blog but some things have come up. I have been dealing with a few health issues for some time and I had a recent flair-up. Yesterday was a bad day and I realized that I needed to slow down my schedule a little. Here’s what all this means in plain English:
The Blogathon: I have stepped down as co-hostess but Janet of Sister Celluloid is still on duty. Please be sure to support her, it’s her first time hosting. Any questions and submissions will be forwarded to her.
The Blog: I have a backlog of GIFs, reviews, recipes and other goodies. I am confident that I will be feeling better before these run out but please be patient if there is a delay in posts.
Videos: I am going to be taking a hiatus from video reviews and the Dear Movies Silently series until after the first of the new year.
Thanks so much for reading and understanding!
(Update: Just to clarify, I write reviews and other posts weeks and sometimes months in advance. For example, my recent Peter Pan review was written in July. Basically, I will try to continue to daily posts with the things I have already written and hope to be better before they run out.)
I did a year end recap in 2013 and I will be doing another one this year but I wanted to add a little something fun. One of my favorite aspects of the year in retrospect is considering the “new to me” films that I discovered. This is where you come in.
I thought it would be enjoyable to include a list of classic films that my readers saw for the first time in 2014. Winter is upon us and I am hoping to compile the best possible to-watch list for those snowy nights ahead. (Yes, it does snow in California.) So, I’m crowd-sourcing the list! Leave me a comment and let me know your favorite pre-1970 discovery this year.
Your discovery doesn’t have to technically be the best, it just has to be the film that you enjoyed the most. So-bad-it’s-good is perfectly acceptable as long as you had a good time. Your choice can be famous or obscure. Again, your enjoyment is the only criteria.
Thanks in advance! I look forward to your wonderful recommendations.
My favorite silent discoveries in 2014
(Click on any title to read my review of the film)
The movie may as well have been made to order, it’s a veritable laundry list of Stuff Fritzi Likes. Russian cast? One that includes Ivan Mosjoukine? Filmed with an entire army (like, literally an army, as in military men) of extras? Elaborate plot? Intrigue? Stencil color? Bliss!
What was in the water back in 1926? So many great movies! This understated drama features some of the best acting of the silent era. It’s about a marriage of convenience in the grain fields of Canada. If you think silent films were all about melodrama, prepare for a shock.
I went in with zero expectations and was utterly charmed by this sweet little film. It’s an old English romance (as directed by a Frenchman in America) with plenty of humor. It is also the single most beautiful movie from the ‘teens that I have ever had the pleasure to experience.
This action-comedy is light as a feather but I have rarely had this much fun at the movies. Harry Carey is a put-upon western sheriff who quickly discovers that no good deed goes unpunished. The intertitles are a riot!
Weird, wild, wonderful. Ivan Mosjoukine makes the list again (as well he should!) with a crazy detective story that he wrote, directed and starred in. At turns surreal, hilarious and bizarre, I can guarantee you have never seen anything like it. I certainly hadn’t.
I haven’t done one of these is while so I thought it would be fun. This coming March, I am going to put the site into the hands of my readers. Your mission: Choose which silent films I will be reviewing during that month.
Here’s how it works: You make your requests. (Check my alphabetic index if you are not sure if your movie has already been covered.) I will sort through them and choose four or five titles to review. How will I made my decisions? Well, I will be looking for variety (so I will not be selecting all comedy or all drama or all anything), a good balance of famous and obscure, and I will certainly favor movies that are available on home media.
If your suggestion is accepted, I will also put a link to your (SFW) blog or website on my theme month page as a way of thanking you. If a movie was requested by more than one reader, I will link to the first two or three people who suggested the film.
You can request any silent film (made in or out of the silent era) and oddball requests are welcome. In addition, please feel free to request films that can be reviewed as After the Silents (the film features one or more silent veterans) or Silents in Talkies (sound films about the silents or silent stars/directors).
(Oh, and I am going to be reviewing The Phantom of the Opera this weekend. It’s one of my most requested films and I am finally taking the plunge. So, if that is on your wishlist, you are about to get it. Hurrah!)
Update: The Phantom review is up!
Valondar requested Daughter of Dawn
Stevie N. requested Double Whoopee, The Show Off and Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em
Dylan K. requested Intolerance
The Vern requested Metropolis and Modern Times
Dulcy F. requested Asta Nielsen’s Hamlet, as well as other films from Nielsen or Milton Sills. In addition, White Fang, Brawn of the North and other Strongheart titles.
Mark D. requested Sunrise, The Phantom Carriage and Alice in Wonderland (1915)
Jan O. requested The Godless Girl (Jan has good timing. I already have it scheduled to review in January.)
John H. requested Strike, The Call of Cthulu and A Trip to the Moon
Bob D. requested The Pilgrim (Chaplin), The Unholy Three and Spies.
Giovanni B. requested The Ten Commandments
George W. requested Pandora’s Box, Greed and The Bat
Isadora requested Anna Boleyn, Madam DuBarry and Flesh and the Devil
Emily requested The Married Virgin, Broken Blossoms and Mr. Wu
Erin requested I Was Born But…
Ronald requested Exit Smiling
Luke B. requested The Show, Exit Smiling and Blancanieves
Barry B. requested The Birth of a Nation, Sherlock Jr. and Silent Movie (I reviewed the last title during my previous Reader Request month. Here it is!)
Christian P. requested The Lodger, J’accuse and The Strong Man
Lea S. requested Long Pants
Maaike requested Asta Nielsen’s Hamlet, Tigre Reale and The Unholy Three
David H. requested The Crowd, The Passion of Joan of Arc and Why Be Good?
Leah requested silent films from Asia, particularly China, Japan and Korea
Alan H. requested The Navigator, A Modern Musketeer and Why Worry? (And here is my review for A Modern Musketeer)
Carter B. requested Man with a Movie Camera, The Ace of Hearts and The Artist
Robert J. requested Cabiria, The Last Days of Pompeii and other early Italian epics
Brad K. requested The Rag Man, HE Who Gets Slapped and The Freshman
Dan N. requested Captain Salvation, The Patsy and Underworld
Chris B. requested Asphalt, The Unknown and The Crowd
Nina S. requested The Affairs of Anatole, The Lodger and Intolerance
It was a wonderful summer at Movies Silently! We have been researching, writing and just generally having a great time celebrating the world of silent film. Here are some highlights:
The awards are mine! All mine!
Well, one of them anyway. I was very honored to win the CiMBA award for Best Classic Movie Event. The winning event was the Classic Movie History Project Blogathon co-hosted by the equally wonderful Ruth of Silver Screenings and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen. We are currently conspiring for an encore in 2015 so stay tuned!
The videos are still coming
My top video review for the quarter is:
And my top video of all time is:
Which leads me to…
In which I get pedantic
I started a series of articles on who you can trust and who deserves to be ignored in the world of silent film research. The three part series included:
Part four is coming soon!
Then, inspired by part three, I went on a major mythbusting expedition. I usually try not to be too much of a stickler (ha ha, I said “try”) but myths that attack perfectly innocent people make me angry. And so, I published a 6,000 word piece (with a tl;dr intro) taking down the idiotic rumor that Florence La Badie was murdered by… Woodrow Wilson?
Top post of the quarter
My new and improved silent movie star personality quiz!
Top & Bottom Reviews
The five most-read reviews for the quarter:
3. The Monster
4. The Sheik
The five least-read reviews (sniff, snuffle, sob):
5. Lorna Doone
My Top 10 got a reshuffle:
My Top 10 Silent Films list got a bit shaken up this quarter. The number one film was replaced and I am showing a marked preference for the movies of France and Russia (or French-Russian co-productions). The film I now reckon as the top silent film I have ever reviewed:
I shall be gone on an extended vacation soon. There should be no lag in posts but there may be a delay in answer comments and queries. Please be patient.
Readers, I am leaving the country. I would say it was because of a secret silent film-related mission, a rescue of rare film or something, but the simple fact is that I am going on an extended vacation.
I have taken vacations before and no one has been any the wiser but since this one is quite lengthy, I felt it only fair to warn you about possible issues. I depart next weekend.
Here’s what it means for the site:
I have a nice backlog of posts all scheduled and ready to go. However! Scheduled posts can have a mind of their own sometimes. Please be patient regarding delayed material.
The WordPress app works pretty well. However! It sometimes “eats” comments and replies. And then there is the wicked spam filter that sometimes flags perfectly innocent comments from longtime readers. I apologize in advance for this. If you feel your comment has been eaten, please let me know.
Social media and emails
There may be some delays in responding to social media and emails. Again, I have apps but they can be a bit fiddly at times. Please be patient. I apologize in advance for any delays.
The Fairy Tale Blogathon was carefully scheduled around my comings and goings. No problem there. However! As I will have trouble fiddling with the roster after this coming week, I strongly recommend that you sign on now. If you sign on while I am gone, you can still participate, there just may be a delay in adding you to the list.
Well, not Frances Marion herself. That would be weird. No, I mean her films. Frances Marion is best remembered today as a pioneering screenwriter but she was also a director during the silent era. While The Love Light has been released on home media, her other directorial efforts, Just Around the Corner (1921) and The Song of Love (1923), have yet to see release. Both films are held by the Library of Congress.
Every year, The National Film Preservation Board selects 25 films to be specially preserved for the ages. You can read the complete nomination requirements here.
Please consider writing in and nominating some Frances Marion titles as both director and screenwriter. Here are my recommended selections but please feel free to include any Marion films that you love:
Stella Maris (1918)
*The Song of Love (1923)
*The Love Light (1921)
*Just Around the Corner (1921)
Dinner at Eight (1933)
The Big House (1930)
The Champ (1931)
(Screenwriter on all titles. Also directed titles marked with *)
What do I do?
Send in your list of nominees to the following email address:
While they give their physical address on their nomination instructions page, they state that email is preferred. They also ask that you number your recommendations and state where you learned about their registry.
If you want more details, please visit the registry’s FAQ page.
Why Frances Marion?
While there were countless numbers of important women in early Hollywood, Frances Marion still has quite a bit of name recognition and respect. She deserves to have her films preserved. (The Wind is already on the registry but it is noted more for the contributions of Lillian Gish and Victor Seastrom.)
Most of all, her movies are important. Her writing is sharp and snappy. Her career as a director is intriguing. Her body of work deserves the honor of inclusion in the National Film Registry. The motion pictures listed, in my opinion, fit the requirement of being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
What if I want to nominate other films?
You are allowed to nominate up to 50 films. Please consider making a Frances Marion title one of that 50.
A big thank you for helping and another big thank you to the wonderful Women in Film & Video. They drew my attention to this important gap in the National Film Registry and inspired me to lend a hand.
It’s been a wild couple of months on the site. (Well, “wild” is a relative term. As wild as things get around here.) Some new features were launched, some old features were brought back and I have been having fun in the kitchen.
The Video Reviews keep coming
I am a little late this month, owing to a flu, but I promise there is a lot of good stuff in the works!
Most watched video review to date: The Sheik
Video that I enjoyed making the most: Barbed Wire (lots of extra research on WWI and the German invasion of Hollywood. Love research!)
I went into major myth-busting mode
I launched a new video series designed to cover basic questions and comments that I hear a lot. All questions answered in under five minutes. Why do silent movies have so many women tied to railroad tracks? Why are silent movies so boring? Things like that.
I also tried to incorporate more cleanup work in my articles and reviews.
Think Buster Keaton made The Frozen North as revenge against William S. Hart? Nope!
Think Ivan Mosjoukine came to America to replace Valentino and had a nose job just before Surrender? Uh uh.
Think The Wind had its original tragic ending replaced by the evil MGM and that the crew endured 120-degree heat while making it? Nope!
These misconceptions have been around for far too long and I will do my level best to kill them.
Some old features returned
After an absence of a few months, I brought back Silents in Talkies, which covers how silent films are portrayed in both classic and modern cinema. Hugo got reviewed from the silent point of view.
Silent Take is one of my all-time most popular features. I take a popular modern film (post 1970s or so) and recast it with silent stars. A poster completes the fantasy. Well, my design duties at work increased enormously and all my creative juice was going to that so I had to take a break from Silent Take.
The feature made a triumphant return with a recasting of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Look for The Empire Strikes Back soon.
I got cookin’
I was able to track down a reasonably-priced copy of Photoplay Magazine’s celebrity cookbook. It contains 150 recipes of the stars and I have been cooking my way through it. Quite an undertaking but fun. The flu also threw me behind schedule on this feature but I have plenty of good stuff lined up, never fear.
Most Read Reviews
Least Read Reviews
Good things are happening! Thank you for reading and for you ongoing support.
After a rousing little discussion of The Canadian (1926), I decided it would be fun to feature some of the newer video/streaming releases that I may not have gotten around to reviewing yet. I will include cover art, a very brief description and a link for purchase.
You may notice a new widget in my sidebar (or at the bottom of the screen if you are reading this on a smaller mobile device), which contains my Video Pick of the Week. The title was, of course, inspired by the Siskel & Ebert feature on their classic review show. Here’s to you, Gene and Roger.
This week’s video pick is, naturally, The Canadian, which was released by Grapevine Video a few weeks back. I will be changing up the pick every Sunday. (Since I posted this mid-week, I will keep it up until the May 11.)
Made the jump to self-hosting– and got a new look
Hosting by WordPress is great but a little limiting and I moved over to a self-hosted site in January. There were some growing pains and a few glitches (like my subscription plugin spamming everyone) but I think the move was the right decision. Armed with a new template and some exciting new review tools, I am ready to take the online silent film community by storm! Or something.
Hosted two blogathons and have launched a third
I started things off with the Classic Movie History Project blogathon, co-hosted by Ruth of Silver Screenings and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen. Great fun!
My next blogathon was hosted solo and focused on the detective and mystery genre. The Sleuthathon was a grand bit of fun for me.
I am going to be hosting the Snoopathon in June, a blogathon of spies.
Started producing silent movie video reviews
This was a big one for me. I had been researching and planning to make video reviews for months before I finally threw my hat in the ring. It’s been an enormous amount of fun and I have enjoyed sharing some of my favorite silent movie scenes. (You can see the review list here.)
So far, I have reviewed The Sheik, Barbed Wire, Hell’s Hinges, The Cat and the Canary and am working on The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
The cream of the crop! (And so many beginning with the letter S.)
3. The Sheik
5. The Cheat
1. Eve’s Leaves (Aw, I love that movie!)
5. The Sea Lion
Things Google taught me:
Actual search query:
On a less disturbing note, I was glad to receive queries about which silent movies work well for beginners and why silent movies are still popular.
Things are going to be fun for the next few months! I have signed up for a long list of amazing blogathons. In fact, I have signed up for so many that I decided I needed to write a post to keep everything straight in my own head. Ready? Let’s go!
I am hosting:
It’s going to be a celebration of classic detectives in movies and television. I will be covering the 1922 version of Sherlock Holmes starring John Barrymore and (gulp!) Carol Dempster. You can read the complete roster here.
And now for the events I will be participating in:
(Listed by date)
Big Stars in the Small Screen Blogathon
All about movie actors on television. Hosted by Aurora of How Sweet it Was on March 20 & 21. I shall be covering one or more of Francis X. Bushman’s Perry Mason appearances.
The Big League Blogathon
This event is all about baseball movies of any era. It’s hosted by Forgotten Films and will be held March 31-April 6. I shall be covering The Busher, a baseball film from 1919 that stars Charles Ray. The supporting cast includes Colleen Moore and John Gilbert, both in their very early twenties!
The Diamonds & Gold Blogathon
Celebrating memorable performances from actors in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond. It is hosted by Caftan Woman and Wide Screen World and will take place on April 12-13. I shall be covering William S. Hart in The Toll Gate.
The Great Villain Blogathon
All about the bad guys. It’s hosted by Speakeasy, Shadows and Satin, and Silver Screenings and will take place on April 20-26. I shall be covering Dr. Mabuse. Yay, finally covering a silent Fritz Lang film for the site!
The Romantic Comedy Blogathon
Just what it sounds like, all things romantic and funny! It is hosted by Carole & Co. and Backlots and will take place on May 1-4. I shall be covering The Merry Jail, one of Ernst Lubitsch’s earliest surviving romantic comedies.
Phew! As you can see, many good things are coming. Looking forward to it!
It’s time for some updates! First, let’s talk about the blogathons.
I am participating in the 31 Days of Oscar Blogathon hosted by Once Upon a Screen, Outspoken & Freckled and Paula’s Cinema Club. I will be covering Underworld, the very first film to win an Academy Award for best writing.
I am back to hosting as well! This time, I am holding the Sleuthathon, a blogathon of classic movie and TV detectives.
The top secret project
[embedvideo id=”v45oG7hEU0M” website=”youtube”]
I have been keeping secrets from you. One secret in particular.
For the last six months, I have been working on creating a series of video reviews. I have been writing, experimenting, doing research, checking copyrights… It’s been busy! I had to decide on tone, write the review (writing for a video is very different from writing a print review) and select appropriate clips.
I know that my announcement is on YouTube but I will be posting my reviews on Vimeo. I know YouTube has a much wider audience but there are enough copyright trolls on the site to make me hesitate. And, frankly, I think Google has quite enough control over my online life, thank you very much.
My videos will be made up of public domain and Creative Commons-licensed content so most video review issues should be sidestepped.
In any case, the first video will launch tomorrow. Look for it!
Well, it has been a week and a half since I made the big switch. I would love some feedback about the new features. Here goes:
What do you think of the new Disqus commenting system?
I switched to Disqus because it had two features that WordPress lacked:
1) The ability to make a specific guest comment avatar for my site.
2) It allows users to up or down-vote other comments.
What do you think? Should I keep the new system or switch back to the WordPress default?
I am still working on the main menu so please be patient with me. I am streamlining my categories and trying to make everything make more sense in general.
Is there anything you don’t like about the new site? Anything that is not functioning properly? I would be very grateful if you let me know.
There are two frustrating things about being a silent movie fan. Lost films are the number one vexation. That is, no known copy exists. Second place goes to the sheer number of films that are stuck in archive vaults and simply not famous enough to ever earn home media release. These “vaulties” may crop up at film festivals now and again but are otherwise completely forgotten.
Now I absolutely do not want to come off as negative toward archivists. They are hard-working professionals and they have a daunting job. I understand that more famous films that will sell thousands of copies are considered higher priority than movies that may sell, say, a hundred or so discs.
That’s why I am so excited about a certain Kickstarter campaign…
Let’s say you want to see a movie. You know it is in the public domain because it was released before 1923. However, the only prints are held by the Library of Congress. The folks at LoC will gladly give you a copy but the cost of the transfer is over $1,000. That’s a lot of money for most people. What to do?
Well, there must be other people who want to see that film. If they gave just $25 each…
Which brings us to Edward Lorusso’s Kickstarter campaign. The target film is Marion Davies’ 1921 romantic comedy Enchantment. The price tag is $1,300 for the Library of Congress to transfer the picture. The incentive? Each person who donates $25 or more will receive a DVD copy of the movie. This means that just 52 silent film fans working together can return a vaultie to the public.
The campaign was funded in just two days and it looks like folks are still donating (the fundraising event is slated to last until February 7, 2014). Documentaries and new movies have been funded through Kickstarter before but, in my opinion, this is a huge game-changer for silent film fans. Instead of bemoaning the lack of film selection (heck I have a whole series on films in vaults) we can take action to get these movies released once more. Yes, $1,300 is a hefty price tag for a single film but I dare say that most silent titles have at least 50 people interested in seeing them. Even without recognizable stars or a famous director, the sheer rarity of some vault treasures will send silent fans racing to donate.
Congratulations to Mr. Lorusso for his brilliant idea and his successful campaign. I hope it is just the first of many film rescues in the silent community.
Goodness, I feel so revolutionary!
Oh, and look for a review of Enchantment once I get my copy!
[dropcap size=dropcap-big]W[/dropcap]ell, here it is. The new site design, I mean. Whatcha think? This has been in the works for a few months and I am thrilled to finally be unveiling it. I am going to go over the main features one at a time but I have something important to say first:
I am really sorry if you got a whole bunch of publication notices yesterday. I moved my site from a hosted WordPress blog to a self-hosted one and it seems that the subscriber setting went nuts. Tech support has been very nice and they are helping me with it but I do apologize for the flurry of old posts.
Now on to the good stuff! The new features are pretty cool, if I do say so myself.
New commenting system
Due to spam issues, I had my old commenting system set to allow only signed-in WordPress users and registered social media accounts the ability comment. Some folks have told me that this method was buggy and they had difficulty commenting. I did my research and decided that Disqus was the solution. It’s a commenting plugin that lets users sign in through Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or a Disqus account. It is simple to use and I hope it makes commenting more enjoyable for everyone.
New review system
One of the reasons I chose this design is its review functionality. Scroll to the bottom of a review (I have just tested it on this one) and you will see ratings bars and an in-a-nutshell description of my overall opinion. I hope you enjoy.
[dropcap size=dropcap]H[/dropcap]ow I love drop caps! Let me count the ways! I feel just so fancy with these curly, oversized letters at the beginning of paragraphs. I am still experimenting with the exact look, color and size that works but I am just thrilled to have them. I like old-fashioned things, in case you hadn’t already noticed.
More is coming!
Thanks to the power of plugins, I will be adding even more fabulous content soon. Keep your eyes skinned and your ears sharp. (Ooo, so violent!)
I reworking my blog so there is going to be some downtime/messy pages over the next few days. The results are going to be amazing (I promise!) but things are going to be a bit disorganized and there may be some outages tonight and tomorrow morning. Bear with me, please!
Tidiness is overrated anyway, don’t you think?
Whew! The last quarter of 2013 was a busy one!
Here are some numbers:
The site now has a total of 641 WordPress followers and over 2,000 Twitter followers.
I participated in four blogathons (not counting ones that I co-hosted)
I have published a total of 635 posts
I launched some new features on the site:
The Silent Life: Vintage articles and excerpts dealing with daily life during the silent era.
I am in the middle of holding my first-ever silent movie tournament. The winners in four categories will be featured in April of 2014.
Here are the countries that visited my site the most in the last quarter:
Here are my top 5 reviews for the quarter:
1. The Sheik
3. The Cheat
4. City Lights
5. The Wind
And the sad bottom 5:
1. Oh Doctor!
3. Only Me
The top 5 articles:
As always, thanks for reading!
I’d like to start by thanking everyone who voted and left feedback. And here are the results of the polls:
What existing series do you like best?
The choices here were Silents in Talkies, After the Silents, The Lost Film Files and In the Vaults.
The first three choices are all neck and neck in popularity with In the Vaults slightly less popular. I had been slacking off on my Lost Film and Vaults posts lately but I will be putting more into the queue. I will also be more diligent about posting After the Silents. Silents in Talkies will be a little more sporadic because I frankly get a little worked up when movies get things wrong and I try not to write angry.
What new series would you like to read?
The choices here were Silent Life (a look at daily life in the silent era), Dress Like a Star! (showcase a fashionable look from a silent film), and So You Want to Make a Silent Movie (vintage tips for would-be filmmakers).
The response was overwhelming. Silent Life got more votes than the other two choices combined. I have already started implementing the series on my site. The other two proposed features will be rolled out sometime in the new year.
Once again, I really appreciate your feedback and hope you enjoy the new features.
Movies Silently is getting a makeover
Over the last year or so, you may have noticed that I have been experimenting with various headers and banners. Well, I finally made up my mind. I will be switching themes and implementing the new look in the next few months. In the meantime, please excuse my mess.
I will be co-hosting the Classic Movie History Project Blogathon on January 12. Be sure to come over for the festivities.
February is a very special month. I will be holding a Cecil B. DeMille Centennial Bash. DeMille’s directing debut, The Squaw Man, was released in February of 1914 and I will be reviewing it (along with other DeMille features). I considered hosting a DeMille blogathon but had a bit too much on my plate already. Don’t write it off, though. Cecil B. and I have a very complicated relationship and it would be a fun event to host sometime in the future.
But that’s not all! February is also the anniversary of Charlie Chaplin’s debut! I will be throwing some Chaplin shorts into the review mix as well. I decided to give the month to DeMille because I think his best work was in the silent era and it is unjustly neglected. However, there was no way I could leave the Little Tramp out entirely.
Lots to do!
I would love to get everyone’s feedback on what features you enjoy the most and what you would like to see more of.
What’s staying the same:
I try to create at least one full-length (1500-3000 word) review once a week. I know everyone likes Silents vs. Talkies and I try to incorporate the feature into the review whenever possible. The schedule works well for me and I will probably keep it up.
The Silent Take series (modern films recast as silents) depends on what inspiration strikes me and how much graphic design juice I use up at work. It will remain an irregular but permanent feature.
Here’s where you come in:
Which series would you like to see more often? Please select the one you prefer.
I am also kicking around some new series ideas. This poll allows multiple choices so click on all the ideas that appeal to you.
I had a great response for my silent movie picture book so I want to make another. What is a silent movie picture book, pray tell?
I take screen grabs from the film, add some snarky dialogue underneath and tell the story of the film.
Here’s a sample from my story book for The Sheik.
(You can read the whole picture book here.)
So, I am ready to make another one of these things and I want your help. Just vote in the poll below and let me know which film YOU would like to see get the picture book treatment.
Thanks for voting!
The Gish Sisters Blogathon is over but what a fun ride it was! The contributors outdid themselves and it was a great pleasure to read their posts.
The blogathon was the culmination of five months of behind-the-scenes work. I began to plan in April, made the banners and invited my co-hostess aboard. The biggest challenge? Keeping the secret until the announcement in July! I like to plan ahead but I hate to keep secrets.
Well, I am keeping more secrets from you, readers. I have a few new features and special events in the pipeline and I fully intend to knock your socks off. In fact, you may want to watch those socks on Sunday because I will be making a huge announcement. You’re going to like it, I promise.
But enough mysterious-type talk! I wanted to give you some details on what is coming up on Movies Silently.
Upcoming Blogathons (that I am not hosting but have joined and feel you should too)
I will be covering The Power of the Press starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and directed by Frank Capra. You can join up by getting in touch with either hostess, Comet Over Hollywood or Lindsay’s Movie Musings.
(As a non-hosting participant, I can’t accept entries to any of these events. Just mentioning. But I will link to each and every host blog and I am sure they would love to have you.)
This is going to be fun! I will be inventing a 60’s-style starring-everyone-famous-in-the-whole-world adventure comedy… in the silent era! Fairbanks or Swanson or Valentino or Pickford or Barrymore? Yes. You can get in touch with Silver Scenes to join up.
Once Upon a Screen, Paula’s Cinema Club and Outspoken & Freckled are co-hosting the second What a Character Blogathon! I will be covering Tully Marshall in a review of the 1929 Technicolor film Redskin.
In other news, I will be continuing my assorted series and I will be getting back into the mini biographies. Haven’t written any of those in a while and I really enjoy making them.
And next month’s theme is Reader Requests! I got an overwhelming list of amazing films but I have narrowed down my selections. It was a challenge to choose only five films but I did it in the end. I will be announcing the final choices in October and, as promised, if I choose your suggestion, I will link to your (SFW) blog or website.
I am in a bit of a quandary and was hoping that my readers would be able to help me out.
I belong to the Classic Movie Blog Association and every year, they have the CiMBA awards to honor members. This is my very first year of membership so I am still finding my way around.
Here’s how it works: There are seven categories. Bloggers may pick up to four of those categories and self-nominate one post per category.
This is where you come in. The self-nominating is a little difficult for me. I wrote this stuff and feel like I need outside opinions. Any help would be enormously appreciated.
Which review should I self-nominate?
The review category is divided into two: Drama or Musical/Comedy. Here are some of the ones I was thinking of:
The Doll (comedy)
Alias Jimmy Valentine (drama)
The Bells (drama)
The Prisoner of Zenda (drama)
Show People (comedy)
Remember, this is based on the review, not how much I love the film. So, these are the reviews that I think I did the best job on. (I am so uncomfortable with this!)
Which article should I self-nominate?
Stolen Bravery (I actually like this review best but I wasn’t sure if an image-based post was in the spirit of the awards)
Which series should I self-nominate?
Silent Take (modern films recast as silent movies)
About Silent Movies (most common questions about silent films answered)
After the Silents (reviews of sound movies with silent veterans in the cast and mini-bios of the performers in question)
Silent Movie Myths (common misconceptions about silent movies debunked)
What you can do
You can offer suggestions in the comments or use this handy form.
Thanks for your help!
PS, the fourth topic I am going to self-nominate is Best Classic Movie Blog Design.