A Cinderella story for the 1920s. Colleen Moore plays the Ella of the title, a waif who finds happiness and her prince charming via Hollywood. The picture has some clever and funny camera work and an extremely beguiling performances from Moore, who lends her ready wit and elastic features to the affair.
A society woman’s plans to make easy money backfire and she turns to a Burmese businessman for help. He agrees to give her the money she needs… for a price. Excellent melodrama that showcased Sessue Hayakawa’s talents to the world. A major smash hit and the film that really put Cecil B. DeMille on the map as a director of premium entertainment.
Continue reading “The Cheat (1915) A Silent Film Review”
Silent child star Baby Peggy plays the captain of the title, a castaway orphan who is raised by a scruffy lighthouse keeper (Hobart Bosworth). The story is slight but that actually works in the film’s favor as it allows the viewer to focus on what’s really important: the talented Baby Peggy and the peerless Bosworth.
Continue reading “Captain January (1924) A Silent Film Review”
A historic curio from a strange time when Soviet filmmakers actively sought to create American-style films. This serial, which owes as much to Germany as it does to the U.S.A., involves a plot by capitalists to poison all of Russia. The titular heroine must save the day. Sly commentary is hidden among the action and stunts.
Continue reading “Miss Mend (1926) A Silent Film Review”
Valentino went back to the old Middle East well one more time. Ahmed, the son of the title character of The Sheik, loves a dancer named Yasmin. After coming to believe that she betrayed him to bandits, Ahmed seeks revenge. Valentino-style. Valentino’s final screen appearance is also one of his best.
Continue reading “Son of the Sheik (1926) A Silent Film Review”
Judex, a mysterious caped vigilante, sets out to take revenge against corrupt banker Favraux. His settling of scores is complicated by the sly villainess Diana Monti and her associates. And the fact that Judex is in love with Favraux’s daughter, Jacqueline. A delightful serial in twelve episodes with a prologue.
Mary Pickford is a tenement kid with a cop father and a brother who wants to be a gangster. Mary falls for her brother’s best friend, another would-be gangster, and must clear him of murder. Subtle it ain’t but it still boasts of certain charms, namely a very young Billy Haines as the male lead.
Continue reading “Little Annie Rooney (1925) A Silent Film Review”
It’s Gloria Swanson’s turn to be the offending party in this DeMille marital comedy. She is a lovely young prude who moralizes her husband right into the waiting arms of another woman. Only then does Gloria realize that she has made a mistake and a little romance helps in marriage. Armed with this knowledge- and a wild wardrobe- she sets out to win back her man.
A young author (Wilhelm Dieterle) is hired by the owner of a wax museum to write tales about his most popular figures, Haroun al Raschid, Ivan the Terrible and Jack the Ripper. Entranced by his new boss’s pretty daughter (Olga Belajeff) the author sets to work writing about the wax figures. With each new story, the author and his new friend find themselves pulled inside the progressively nightmarish worlds that he has invented.
Continue reading “Waxworks (1924) A Silent Film Review”
Mayme (Norma Talmadge) can’t keep a job. She’s far too pretty, you see, and the bosses won’t leave her alone. Meanwhile, the de Puyster family can’t keep a secretary. They’re far too pretty and get married. You can see where this one is going. Erich von Stroheim supports as a paparazzo. Light-hearted fun but questionable gender politics.
Continue reading “The Social Secretary (1916) A Silent Film Review”
Norma Talmadge and Thomas Meighan play an ill-fated interracial couple. When their secret marriage is discovered, Talmadge is executed by the Emperor of China for daring to marry a white man. Her daughter (also Talmadge) grows up and sets out to discover her American roots. A very, very odd film, full of outdated racial views and a rather icky father-daughter relationship.
Continue reading “The Forbidden City (1918) A Silent Film Review”
Holmes Herbert stars as Count Merlin, a faux-mystic with a painful past. His wife left him for another man and took their daughter with her. Now, decades later, he has caught up with her. When the unfaithful wife turns up dead, Merlin is the prime suspect. He must use his gifts of disguise and deception to clear his name.
Continue reading “The Charlatan (1929) A Silent Film Review”
Gloria Swanson is a young wife whose husband is, for lack of a better word, a pigpen. Tired of his slovenly ways and uncaring manner, she leaves him for a better groomed, sweet-talking man. But all is not wine and rose and she soon learns that it may not have been a good idea to change her husband after all. DeMille’s dive into marital comedy is a glimpse of good things to come.
Continue reading “Don’t Change Your Husband (1919) A Silent Film Review”
A variation on the popular twenties gold-digger theme in the key of Capra. The delightful Viola Dana dreams of landing a rich husband. Ralph Graves seems to be the man of her dreams but when he is disinherited, it is Viola’s entrepreneurial spirit that saves the day.
Continue reading “That Certain Thing (1928) A Silent Film Review”
Hobart Bosworth stars as a bitter whaling captain who is still angry at his wife for leaving him sixteen years before. Then chance throws the daughter of his unfaithful wife in his path. How far will be go for revenge? Bessie Love adds her usual charm as the innocent daughter and there is much nautical action.
Continue reading “The Sea Lion (1921) 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.
Eve (Leatrice Joy) is a tomboy raised on her father’s ship. She dreams of romance but there are no eligible bachelors around. When chance sends the handsome Bill Stanley (William Boyd) her way, she is determined to land him as a husband, even if it means shanghaiing him first!
Carmen may be best known as an opera but it made a successful silent debut for opera diva Geraldine Farrar. An early hit for Cecil B. DeMille, Carmen is a lively, sensual and surprisingly earthy adaptation of a familiar story. Farrar and Wallace Reid ignite the screen and have a grand time in the process.
Lillian Gish plays an innocent girl thrust into the harsh elements of the American West. The unceasing wind batters the landscape and begins to unravel her sanity. Beautiful direction from Victor Seastrom and intense acting from both Gish and Lars Hanson. Silent cinema at its finest. For goodness sake, see it!
Con artists and deep sea divers collide in this Thomas Ince-produced adventure yarn. Hobart Bosworth is a diver trying to save his son from the clutches of a scheming city woman who wants to use his diving abilities to make a fortune in ill-gotten gains. This is one of the best silent dramas you have never heard of.
John Barrymore plays Francois Villon, the medieval French poet/thief who runs afoul of the eccentric King Louis XI (Conrad Veidt). But when the kingdom is threatened by the Duke of Burgundy, it is up to Villon to save the day. Oh, and there is naturally a lovely damsel. The most fun you can have in the Douglas Fairbanks manner without actually having Douglas Fairbanks participating.
Continue reading “The Beloved Rogue (1927) A Silent Film Review”
What do you do with a kid who just wants to have fun? Virginia Lee Corbin is a madcap, fast-driving, baseball-playing beauty (complete with bare knees, marcelled hair, makeup and lingerie) who gives her square sister fits with her wild, flapper ways. But which one is really wild? It does not get much more twenties than this!
Based very, very loosely on a poem by Poe, the film tells the tale of lovers torn apart by parental disapproval, a mutiny and a handsome book publisher… Oh, all right. It pretty much has nothing at all to do with Poe and the name of the heroine was just borrowed to add a literary touch.
Douglas Fairbanks is the titular thief who uses his burglaring ways to win a princess, defeat the Mongols and generally save the day. Scenery, sets and costumes? Gorgeous. Pace? One may safely describe it as, er, stately. Pluses: An early appearance from Anna May Wong and much Fairbanksian leaping.
Lulu is a poor relation, sentenced to a lifetime of drudgery for the crime of spinsterhood. She jumps into a loveless marriage in order to escape her plight. It should have been an escape but it only makes matters worse and Lulu is forced to take matters into her own hands.
All right, you like silent movies. In fact, you love silent movies. The problem is that your movie nights are, to put it nicely, a rather solitary affair. Let’s face it, we’re in the minority.
“Can anyone take those movies seriously?”
“Did they even make movies back then?”
“How do you know what’s going on?”
Well, no one said being a silent film fan would be easy.
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.
Buddy comedies do not come better. During the Great War, two squabbling soldiers are captured by the Germans. They escape, rescuing an Arabian princess in the process. Cute film with a strong cast and a lively pace. One of the early silents produced by Howard Hughes.
She’s the saintly sister of a debauched minister. He’s a somewhat homicidal gunslinger determined to run the church right out of town. Is that romance in the air? Marvelously apocalyptic western from everyone’s favorite Good Bad Man, William S. Hart.