Just before the dawn of the twentieth century, movie pioneer Georges Méliès tore one of the biggest stories from French headlines and made a series of biographical sketches in support of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer who was framed for treason and exiled to Devil’s Island. The films themselves are as fascinating as their subject and are extraordinarily innovative to boot.Continue reading “The Dreyfus Affair (1899) A Silent Film Review”
Real footage of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s tragic attempt to reach the South Pole, as well as some of the first moving pictures taken of Antarctica’s wildlife form a rare and fascinating documentary.
Bolivia’s only known surviving silent era film is set when the Inca were a force in South America but a prophet warns that violent change is coming. Sure enough, the Spanish conquistadors arrive in search of gold and things get bloody, to put it mildly. And so, it’s rather awkward when an Aymara princess falls for a Spanish capitan.
Real footage from the legendary Endurance expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton edited into documentary form and released just three years after the crew’s return from their harrowing ordeal.
A teenage Anna May Wong (in Technicolor!) is minding her own business in China when some dope washes up on the shore, induces her into a mock marriage, impregnates and abandons her. He is the good guy. Drippy riff on Madame Butterfly wastes Miss Wong.
A Jewish family living in New York must cope with an empty nest when their two sons leave home, one to be a lawyer and the other, much to his father’s chagrin, to be a boxer. A modernized Jacob and Esau tale, this sensitive film is also one of the finest family dramas to come out of the silent era.
Continue reading “His People (1925) A Silent Film Review”
A behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood, circa 1923. Eleanor Boardman plays a kid with a dream of stardom. The biggest names in the silent film industry serve as her backdrop, everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Erich von Stroheim. The only fly in the ointment is that she kind of married a serial killer a while back. Whoopsy.
Continue reading “Souls for Sale (1923) A Silent Film Review”
Mysterious events are afoot in the tiny town of Danburg. Unexplained accidents, missing persons, an abandoned sanitarium… Our nebbish hero is a would-be detective who is determined to get to the bottom of things. He gets more than he bargained for when he runs into Dr. Ziska, played by none other than Lon Chaney.
Continue reading “The Monster (1925) A Silent Film Review”
Mary Pickford dusts off her pigtails one last time in her final child role. One of her darkest films, Sparrows tells the tale of a band of orphans who escape from an orphan farm and cross a dangerous gator-infested swamp. A surprisingly moody slice of Southern Gothic from America’s Sweetheart.
Jimmy Valentine (Robert Warwick) belongs to a gang of bank-robbers– his job is to crack safes and he is the best in the business. After a stint in Sing Sing, however, Jimmy sees the error of his ways and decides to live an honest life. However, his old nemesis Doyle (Robert Cummings), a surly detective, has a chance to haul Jimmy in on an old charge. Will Jimmy’s life of honesty go to waste? Or will he be able to bluff his way to freedom?
Pola Negri hits it out of the park in this late silent war drama. She is a French farmer whose land is converted into a POW camp during WWI. Her hatred of Germans is slowly melted away by her discovery of common humanity… and by Clive Brook, a handsome prisoner. First class story of love and tolerance.
Continue reading “Barbed Wire (1927) A Silent Film Review”
Rudolph Valentino finally came up with the perfect movie formula in this 1925 hit: Action Lover. Valentino is a fun-loving Cossack who turns down the advances of the Czarina. Forced on the run, he takes the opportunity to seek revenge against his father’s enemy. And wouldntcha know it, that enemy just happens to have a beautiful daughter.
Continue reading “The Eagle (1925) A Silent Film Review”
Director D.W. Griffith dives back into country melodrama with this adaptation of a hoary stage smash. Lillian Gish plays Anna, a country girl seduced and abandoned by a rich cad. The resulting baby dies and Anna is alone in the world. She meets the kindly Bartlett family and it seems that her life is taking a turn for the better… that is until her past is exposed.
Child neglect, single moms, personal crisis… Just another day D.W. Griffith-land. Mae Marsh is Teazie, a young orphan who flirts as way to get much-needed attention. Ivor Novello is Joseph, a freshly ordained minister who mistakes her flirtations for an immoral character. What follows can best be described as Way Down East meets The Scarlet Letter.