Leatrice Joy is hell on wheels and in a designer gown. She plays a wild heiress whose naughty ways catch up with her when she accidentally kills a police officer with her reckless driving. Her prosecutor boyfriend throws the book at her and she ends up in prison. Also, Roman orgies. Why yes, Cecil B. DeMille did direct!
Mary Pickford returns to child roles as the princess of the title, a sweet young heiress whose sunny disposition is threatened when she loses her family and is forced to work as a maid. ZaSu Pitts nearly walks off with the picture as Pickford’s slavey pal.
A real murder in nineteenth century Ireland formed the basis for a novel, a play and this motion picture. It’s a darker, more twisted Cinderella variation with the poor girl marrying the rich boy but finding herself caught in a whirlwind of love, lust, ambition and greed. Prime melodrama, in other words.
Baby Peggy stars as a kidnapped tot who ends up performing at the circus. There’s a goofy detective, an ineffectual father, a cute dog and all the other expected silent kiddie comedy tropes.
What do you do if your boyfriend is a hopeless hypochondriac and his father is trying to bankrupt your family’s railroad? Well, you could hire pugilists to kidnap said boyfriend to get him into shape and then blackmail his dad into submission. Yeah, that sounds like a perfect plan for killing two birds with one stone and only a few felonies to commit!
This movie is not actually about the Oregon Trail but a later wave of settlers. Hey, never let accuracy interfere with a great title! The picture stars Art Mix and concerns his attempts to woo a pretty young lady in a covered wagon.
Ivan Mosjoukine wrote, directed and starred in this dramedy about a wealthy playboy whose life is turned upside-down when he discovers a baby boy on his doorstep. We all know where this is going but getting there is all the fun.
Charlie Chaplin, Edna Purviance and company have a grand time in this behind-the-scenes spoof of slapstick comedy. There’s a mad bit of business with a trap door, a gang of arsonists try to blow up the studio and we get a rarity of rarities: a real pie fight!
The prince of a Balkan kingdom decides that royalty is for the birds and so he runs away to San Francisco and falls in love with a barroom singer named Fluffy. As one does. Basically a gender-reversed Roman Holiday, if that’s your cup of tea.
Robert Warwick stars in this biopic of Nathan Hale, which boasts a screenplay by a very young Frances Marion. There are powdered wigs and heroic poses in abundance but, lest things get too stodgy, there are also a surprising number of spicy title cards. Oo-la-la!
Drugs! Norma Talmadge and Tully Marshall star as artistic types who find their best inspiration with a little chemical assistance. This ham-fisted cautionary tale features splendidly over-the-top intertitles and a charming performance from Talmadge.
Douglas Fairbanks plays an artist with more enthusiasm than talent and more charm than cash. When the love of his life dumps him for another, he feels he has nothing left to live for and so he hires the best assassin in New York, Automatic Joe, to help him end it all. But then Doug changes his mind and that’s where the trouble begins.
René Clair’s first film as director, this is a quirky little science fiction comedy about a mad scientist and a special ray that freezes the entire city of Paris. All of it except for the very top of the Eiffel Tower and the night watchman sleeping there. What will he do now that he is the king of a frozen city?
Thought lost for decades, this romantic melodrama of the Balkan Wars is the second and final collaboration between leading lady Blanche Sweet and director Cecil B. DeMille. The production was marred by personality conflicts, illness and a tragic accidental death but the film itself is a scrumptiously sleazy little slice of hokum.
A band of intrepid dreamers design and build a spaceship with the goal of an exploratory mission to Mars. What they discover is a shockingly peaceful culture for a planet named after the god of war. This pacifist film is often called the first space opera.
A group of intrepid explorers blast off for an anthropomorphized moon but find more than they bargained for when they meet the moon’s residents, acrobats and ballerinas. If all of this sounds suspiciously close to Méliès, that’s because it is a ripoff of same by Pathé.
Continue reading “An Excursion to the Moon (1908)”
Jules Verne’s legendary nautical science fiction tale was adapted in grand style by Universal, complete with underwater photography and billed as the “First Submarine Photoplay Ever Filmed” by the proud studio.
Continue reading “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916) A Silent Film Review”
Real-life outlaw Al Jennings claimed the plot of this film was based on one of his exploits. I’ll leave it to the viewer to decide but there is no doubt that this is a valuable piece of film history and a rather rugged western to boot.
Appalachian moonshiners are the focus of this mini documentary. We are shown the life and habits of the folks making up the illicit spirit industry. Hic!
The town of Wausau, Wisconsin was keen to publicist itself what better way to display one’s town than to make a motion picture? Locals play all the roles and we are given the grand tour of Wausau as it was in 1914. A charming time capsule.
Looking for something different in American silent film? How about a film shot in Oklahoma with an all-Kiowa and Comanche cast? Thought lost for decades, The Daughter of Dawn was recently recovered and restored.
Continue reading “The Daughter of Dawn (1920) A Silent Film Review”
This Russian émigré production is a visual feast thanks to gorgeous sets and the location filming in Tunisia. It’s the familiar tale of a certain young woman and her rare talent for creating cliffhangers…
Ivan Mosjoukine steps off the deep end in this genre mishmash. He plays a Tibetan prince who must flee his country and ends up in Paris where he becomes a film star. Speaking of stars, there is also a plot twist that we are most familiar with in Star Wars.
Mary Pickford stars as Radha, a cute kid from… India? Yep. She falls for a British officer, of course, and gets into all sorts of adorable antics, kind of helps an uprising and then come the roast beef jokes. Shoot me.
William S. Hart plays a native Mesoamerican who falls for an Aztec princess. This goes over about as well as you can imagine and our hero soon finds himself marked for sacrifice. A change of pace (obviously) for western star Hart.
There’s something terrible in Rome and he’s sitting on the throne. The nasty Emperor Nero is having trouble with his love life and the clear answer is a bit of arson. This Italian film is an intriguing epic in miniature.
Continue reading “Nero (1909) A Silent Film Review”
Georges Méliès turns his magical creative vision to the famous Tales of the Thousand and One Nights in this ambitious picture. Beautiful sets, elaborate costumes and a relatively large cast blend together to create a rich cinematic environment.
Continue reading “The Palace of the Arabian Nights (1905) A Silent Film Review”
Harry Houdini attempted to parlay his legendary career as an illusionist into a film career and this was his final effort. (He also directs.) Playing the titular secret service agent, Houdini must track down some counterfeiters and rescue a young lady tangled in their web. Par for the pulp course.
Sessue Hayakawa, Tsuru Aoki and Frank Borzage star in an Inceville version of Madame Butterfly (but with, like, a happy ending). If you manage to get through this one without throwing something at the screen, you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.
Lon Chaney stars as Tito, a clown who finds an orphan girl and raises her as his daughter. He falls in love with her (ew!) but she falls for a debauched count, as one does. Everyone ends up in hysterics and it’s a race to see who can off themselves first. Not my favorite. Is it obvious?