Dear Movies Silently, Why do silent movies have so many damsels in distress?

Videos are back! Well, one video. One video is back.

This is meant to be a video companion to my pictorial essay Stolen Bravery. You see, the “damsel tied to the train tracks” trope is more than just a stupid misconception. It actually is robbing the bold and brash women of silent film of the respect that is their due. While the era did have its damsels (much like films, TV shows and video games of today), it also had an enormous share of bold heroines and villainesses. Enjoy the clips!

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Dear Movies Silently, How can I make my own silent movie?

This is a common question. There are hundreds of amateur silent films online and more are uploaded every day. What do most of them have in common? They are awful. What’s most irritating is that many of the mistakes that these would-be silent directors make could have been avoided if they had spent a little time studying actual silent films.

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Dear Movies Silently, Who is better? Chaplin or Keaton?

I’ve had this video cooking for a while now and the recent flare-up of Chaplin vs. Keaton emotion makes this a good time to post it. I realize that many of the culprits are eager young fans but the sooner we get them socially housebroken, the better off we all will be. (Though I think there is a 73% chance that someone is not going to watch the video and will skip to the comments to declare their preference while bashing the other party.)

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Video Review: Waxworks (1924)

We’re heading back to Germany with something that often gets described as a carnival nightmare. I’m not sure if I would go so far but it is marvelously creepy and stylish. Paul Leni (The Cat and the Canary) designed and directed this beautiful film, which takes place in a wax museum. Future Hollywood director Wilhelm (William) Dieterle is the leading man, a writer who must come up with creepy tales for the exhibit. Conrad Veidt, Werner Krauss and Emil Jannings play the wax men.

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Video Review: A Woman of the World (1925)

A gender-reversed version of The Taming of the Shrew with feminist overtones and starring Pola Negri? Yes, please! This Roaring Twenties dramedy casts Pola as a chain-smoking, tattoo-getting, couture-wearing countess who takes a tiny mid-west town by storm. She sets her sights on a prim district attorney and the sparks fly. He doesn’t approve of anyone– but particularly women– having a good time. She has to beat some sense into his head. Literally. It doesn’t get more fun than this, people!

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Dear Movies Silently, Why do silent films have such poor picture quality?

When people think of silent movies, they often think of jittery, scratched images flickering across their screen. But why does the image quality of silent films tend to be so poor? We are going to briefly discuss the topic in this video.

Of course, the topic of film preservation is vast so please excuse me if I oversimplify. I try to keep these videos under 5 minutes.

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Dear Movies Silently, Why do silent movie have so many women tied to the railroad tracks?

Welcome to another new series! As you may know, silent movies have a lot of myths attached to them. Why? One of the main reasons is that some so-called experts talk about them and write about them without actually watching very many of them. The tied to the railroad tracks cliche is an excellent example of what I mean. Even normally reliable commentators use it as an example of the corniness and sexism of the silents.

This calls for some debunking! And Women’s History Month seemed to be the perfect time to do it. Let’s make this the year this myth dies.

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Video Review: The Cat and the Canary (1927)

The Cat and the Canary is a tried and true silent crowdpleaser. An old dark house comedy, it follows the adventures of a very eccentric group of people spending the night in, you guessed it, an old dark house. I am going to review the film but also share some background on director Paul Leni and the cast. Plus, I will be discussing the talkie revolution and the myths about silent to sound transition. Lots of good stuff, if I do say so myself.

Enjoy!

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Video Review: Barbed Wire (1927)

Welcome to my second-ever video review! This time, I am sharing Barbed Wire, a beautiful silent drama starring Pola Negri. She’s a French farmer. He’s a German soldier. Her farm has been converted into a POW camp. Not the likeliest setup for a romance but with a war on, we take what we can get.

I also cover the propaganda films of the first world war and talk about German-Americans in Hollywood. I also do a little bit of debunking as a rather odd rumor has attached itself to the film.

I hope you enjoy!

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Video Review: The Sheik (1921) A Silent Movie Review

Here it is! My very first video review. It’s been in the works for six months and I am delighted to be finally unveiling it.

I am covering one of the most famous (and kitschiest) silent films ever made, one that even non-fans have heard about: The Sheik. I discuss the film’s background, the casting of Valentino and then launch into a review of the film itself. And all in just ten minutes? Is such a thing possible?

I hope you enjoy it!

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