Charlie Chaplin was already wildly popular when he made this short for Essanay. Adapted from one of his pre-Hollywood comedy acts, this short has Chaplin play two disruptive and rowdy theater-goers: Mr. Pest, a drunken crumb from the upper crust, and Mr. Rowdy, an equally sloshed rough on the balcony. Between the two of them, they manage to disrupt and outshine the performers on the stage.
Continue reading “A Night in the Show (1915) A Silent Film Review”
Marion Davies knocks ’em dead in this witty comedy about showbiz. In a tale that is a combination of Gloria Swanson’s story and Merton of the Movies, Marion plays a newcomer to Hollywood who wants to make her mark in drama. William Haines, a kindly slapstick comedian, takes her under his wing and her career begins to take off but she soon outgrows him. Will her emerging ego destroy her career or will she realize who her real friends are?
Continue reading “Show People (1928) A Silent Film Review”
Lorna Doone (Madge Bellamy) is a noblewoman who was kidnapped by bandits as a child. John Ridd (John Bowers) is the big-hearted farmer who rescues her. But the Doones are not about to let Lorna go so easily, especially since she is heiress to an enormous fortune. No cookies are forthcoming.
Continue reading “Lorna Doone (1922) A Silent Film Review”
John Barrymore is a sergeant in the Russian army who dreams of winning an officer’s commission. But he hits a snag in the form of Camilla Horn, an imperious princess who seems to stumble him at every turn. Stripped of his rank, John goes a little mad and decides the Bolsheviks kind of have a point. The revolution is on, John is nuts, Camilla smolders and we have some grade-A entertainment.
No Shakespeare for you!
Continue reading “Tempest (1928) A Silent Film Review”
Constance Talmadge is a lovely American heiress who travels to England disguised as a frump in order to ward off fortune-hunting men. Ronald Colman is a penniless aristocrat who falls for Constance and impersonates a physician to get a closer look. Chaos ensues. Of course. It’s a romantic comedy!
Continue reading “Her Night of Romance (1924) A Silent Film Review”
Still in his second year of directing, D.W. Griffith delves into the American Revolution in this early Biograph adventure film. An American courier is trying to deliver an important message to General Washington. He seeks refuge with his family but is soon found out and shot. His family must try to deliver his message and save themselves from the licentious Hessians, who include… Mack Sennett?
Continue reading “The Hessian Renegades (1909) A Silent Film Review”
Lionel Barrymore is Mathias, a kindly Alsatian innkeeper who is being crushed by debt. Unable to deny his friends loans or his loving daughter small luxuries, Mathias is on the edge of destitution. When a rich man stops briefly at the inn (with a fortune in gold on his person), Mathias drunkenly robs and murders him. All his problems are solved. Except for that little thing called a conscience…
Continue reading “The Bells (1926) A Silent Movie Review”
John Barrymore takes on the double role of the kindly doctor and his horrible alter ego. This adaptation is Stevenson with a pinch of Wilde thrown in for good measure. This was the film that finally made Barrymore a movie star to match his acclaim on the stage. And the makeup! The makeup!
Continue reading “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) A Silent Film Review”
One of the most analyzed silent films. One of the most watched silent films. One of the most famous silent films. What else is there to be said about The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari? Well, I’m giving it a shot. We’re going to see if we can unravel the mystery of the film’s meaning. A daunting task? Only slightly.
Continue reading “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) A Silent Film Review”
Pastor Lionel Barrymore receives a strange mission from a parishioner (the wife of the town miser) who has recently passed away: He is to take the money she has left and buy her daughter, Mary Pickford, little luxuries that she has been denied. The Pastor starts by buying Mary a pricey hat from New York. Little does he know that this kindness will start a frenzy of gossip.
Continue reading “The New York Hat (1912) A Silent Film Review”
Reginald Denny stars as a hypochondriac whose condition is being exploited by a trio of loansharks. Mary Astor is the pretty nurse who inspires Denny to try to be healthy– and just may be able to save him from bankruptcy.
Continue reading “Oh, Doctor! (1925) A Silent Film Review”
John Barrymore takes on the role of one of history’s great lovers. Raised to be a libertine, Don Juan romances his way across Europe until he ends up in Rome and runs into something completely different: a nice girl (Mary Astor). Unfortunately, she is promised in marriage to a Borgia. I think a little action is called for.
Continue reading “Don Juan (1926) A Silent Film Review”
D.W. Griffith tackled the Gold Rush and experimented with close-ups in this tidy little drama. Mary Pickford is a shady lady living in a gold rush town. When she gets dumped by her duded-up suitor, Henry B. Walthall, she seeks comfort in the burly arms of Lionel Barrymore. But who will get the girl?
Continue reading “Friends (1912) A Silent Film Review”
Douglas Fairbanks is a nice Kansan who, through a the odd combination of his mother’s prenatal Dumas reading and a cyclone ravaging town as he was born, is a little hyper. All right, a lot hyper. He is also chivalrous to the point of madness (Dumas again). Setting out to find adventure, he happens upon a true damsel in distress. Is this the mission he has been waiting for?
Continue reading “A Modern Musketeer (1917) A Silent Film Review”
Featuring the famous opening line, “he was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad,” Scaramouche is the tale of Andre-Louis, a young lawyer (Ramon Novarro) who seeks to revenge the murder of his best friend at the hands a heartless aristocrat (Lewis Stone). To further his ends, Andre-Louis becomes an actor, a fencing master and, finally, an architect of the French Revolution.
Continue reading “Scaramouche (1923) A Silent Film Review”
Douglas Fairbanks stars in the very first Zorro movie. The tale is familiar: Zorro is a Californian Robin Hood, who robs from the rich, gives to the poor, fights oppression, romances the beautiful Lolita and does battle with the villainous Captain Ramon. And, this being a Fairbanks vehicle, there is quite a lot of leaping about in the bargain!
Continue reading “The Mark of Zorro (1920) A Silent Film Review”
Sir Oliver Tressilian (Milton Sills) is a retired Elizabethan privateer whose life suddenly gets shot to pieces. He is framed for murder by his own brother, dumped by his fiancee, kidnapped, sold into slavery… What I’m saying is this guy has a chip on his shoulder. So he joins up with the Barbary corsairs and becomes the dreaded Sea Hawk. Now for that revenge…
Continue reading “The Sea Hawk (1924) A Silent Film Review”
Rudolf (Lewis Stone) is an Englishman on holiday in the unstable European kingdom of Ruritania. It turns out that he is a dead ringer for the soon-to-be-crowned king (also Lewis Stone). This comes in handy when the king is kidnapped by his evil brother and Rudolf must take his place to save the kingdom. A young Ramon Novarro has a star-making turn as the theatrical (and homicidal) Rupert of Hentzau.
Continue reading “The Prisoner of Zenda (1922) A Silent Film Review”
Pola Negri stars as Rischka, the wildcat of the title. She is the leader of a gang of bandits. Their latest victim is Alexis, a caddish military officer on his way to his new post. Rischka and Alexis embark on a mad courtship leaving chaos in their wake. Director Ernst Lubitsch creates onscreen havoc that has rarely been equaled since.
Continue reading “The Wildcat (1921) A Silent Film Review”
White Almond Flower (Clarine Seymour) is a flapper-ish island girl who just can’t choose between a sickly missionary (Creighton Hale) and an atheist beach bum (Richard Barthelmess). Will WAF be “civilized” or will she be free to continue her moonlight idolatry? D.W. Griffith directs this tale of religion, the nature of civilization and shimmy-shimmy shakes.
Continue reading “The Idol Dancer (1920) A Silent Film Review”
Ossi’s father is the Oyster King of America and she has decided that she deserves nothing less than a European prince. Nucki is the penniless prince in question but a few cases of mistaken identity later, all plans are in shambles. Hidden amongst the the wacky hijinks is some pointed social commentary courtesy of director Ernst Lubitsch.
Continue reading “The Oyster Princess (1919) A Silent Film Review”
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”
Mary Pickford joins the war effort in this collaboration with director Cecil B. DeMille. One woman, two armies, oh dear. Pickford plays Angela, an American girl so patriotic that she contrived to be born on Independence Day. However, she is in favor of outsourcing her love life: her two suitors are French and German respectively. But then that pesky war starts, both men are called up to serve and Angela must choose her side.
Continue reading “The Little American (1917) A Silent Film Review”
William S. Hart trades his Stetson for a blue policeman’s hat in this gangland drama. Hart is a safecracker-turned-cop who finds himself at odds with his larcenous family and targeted by a former business partner. But, as we all know, Hart is not someone to be trifled with.
Continue reading “The Cradle of Courage (1920) A Silent Film Review”
Director D.W. Griffith attempts to showcase his protegee, Carol Dempster, in this ocean-themed crime drama. An accused murderer is hiding out on a South Sea island with his daughter. The long arm of the law is closing in. How far will she go to make sure that her dear old dad stays free?
Continue reading “The Love Flower (1920) A Silent Film Review”
Richard Barthelmess is David, a country boy whose one goal in life is to be considered a man, to prove himself worthy of being allowed into the grown-ups club. When tragedy strikes his family, David finds himself growing up faster than even he had ever wanted.
Continue reading “Tol’able David (1921) 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”
When an innocent romance springs up between a lowly shop girl and an incognito chain-store heir, can it survive interfering parents, a hidden identity, and a secret engagement? This was Mary Pickford’s final silent film and she works opposite her future husband, Buddy Rogers.
Continue reading “My Best Girl (1927) A Silent Film Review”
I am pretty sure we all know the famous Alexandre Duman tale. Nice guy gets framed, finds buried treasure and then he is off for revenge. Tralalala! A very young John Gilbert stars as the vengeful count, determined to destroy the men who sent him to prison on false charges. Gilbert buckles swash (or is it swashes his buckle?) in admirable style.
Continue reading “Monte Cristo (1922) A Silent Film Review”
Lon Chaney at his most grotesque. A delightfully slimy jungle picture that involves Chaney’s quest for revenge against the man who stole his wife and crippled him. Mary Nolan and Lionel Barrymore support. Wonderful but not for all tastes. A slightly warped mind is recommended. Maybe even required.
Continue reading “West of Zanzibar (1928) A Silent Film Review”