Announcement of New Feature: Silents in Talkies

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I am pleased to announce another feature for Movies Silently: Silents in Talkies.

What is it? I will be reviewing sound-era films that contain silent movie clips, are set at silent movie studios or that feature characters who are involved in the silent film industry.

I got the idea for this feature by people watching. You see, most modern moviegoers get their ideas about silent films not from actually seeing silent films. Nope. They get them from the portrayals of silent cinema in talking pictures.

Any silent film fan knows that if you mention liking pre-sound movies, the first thing most people will think of is Singin’ in the Rain. Or The Three Amigos. Or Hugo.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing. After all, a very non-silent-loving acquaintance sat through some Melies shorts thanks to Hugo. However, Hollywood handles its own history about as well as it handles everyone else’s: Stereotypes are reinforced, tropes are employed, timelines telescoped and complex issues are ridiculously oversimplified. As a result, even the best-intentioned talking picture has trouble capturing the true flavor of silent films.

Here is my goal for the new feature:

Take a look at how silent films are portrayed in the talkies and highlight what they got wrong… and what they got right!

I will briefly review the film itself and then discuss the way silent films are portrayed and whether this portrayal helped or harmed public’s perception of the silent cinema. Note that is is possible for a very good film to still cause damage.

My first review? Well, it’s the movie everyone in my locality seems to think of when silents are mention.

Look for it soon!

Recommended

Fun Size Review: The Garden of Eden (1928)

Would-be opera singer Corinne Griffith accidentally gets a job in a girly show. Rescued by seamstress Louise Dresser, the pair escape to Monte Carlo. Passing herself off as Louise’s aristocratic daughter, Corinne falls for rich boy Charles Ray. But how long can Louise and Corinne keep up the act? Bubbly, zany and thoroughly Jazz Age, this romantic comedy is a wacky blast of fun. Don’s miss this proto-screwball.
Continue reading “Fun Size Review: The Garden of Eden (1928)”

Blogging awards and what to do about them

If you are new to blogging, you may notice badges on a website’s sidebar. Versatile Blogger, Liebster, Super Sweet Blogging Award… But what are they? Who gives them out? How can you get one? Do you want one at all?

Here is an easy guide with the newcomer in mind.

What are the awards?

They are awards given by bloggers to bloggers. The awards have rules attached that are usually some variation of this:

  • Thank whoever gave you the award and link to their site
  • Answer a certain number of questions and/or share a certain number of personal facts
  • Nominate a certain number of bloggers to receive the award (usually between 10 and 20) and inform them of it by commenting on their latest post
  • Display the award badge on your site

That’s it! You can wear your award!

If I accept, do I have to follow all the conditions?

I guess you are supposed to but most bloggers (myself included) have bent or broken the rules on occasion. Sometimes we just answer the questions and don’t nominate anyone. Sometimes we nominate too many or too few. Remember, this is supposed to be fun!

Who can I nominate?

Some awards have rules as to who can receive the award but most are open to all. I should note, though, that some bloggers do not accept awards.

Why would anyone refuse an award?

Here’s the thing: Blogging awards are quite time-consuming. It may not sound like much but it can really eat into blogging time. Some bloggers just don’t care for the concept, which is fine. Others have received so many that they no longer accept new ones. Don’t worry though. Bloggers who do not accept awards generally know how to graciously decline them.

Three good reasons to accept blogging awards (especially if you are new to blogging)

I absolutely respect the decisions of bloggers who do not accept awards but I am going to list three reasons why newer bloggers should seriously consider participating.

1. It can spike your traffic

You should see a spike in your traffic when you create an award post. Why? Well, the award-giver will probably visit your site, as will their readers. And people just generally like reading about awards. Why do you think the Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy award broadcasts are so popular? Obviously, this is on a smaller scale but you should see a boost in traffic.

2. It can help you network

Giving out awards is a great way to get to know other bloggers. They will appreciate your recognition and support, even if they do not accept the award.

3. It can create links back to your site

When someone accepts an award from you, they will include a link back to your website. This is important for building your search engine ranking (though spammer abuse of links does mean that the ranking rules change once in a while) but it also helps you get more human eyeballs looking at your blog. This makes it all worth it, even if there was no search engine advantage!

(Don’t get too enthusiastic, though. Google does not look kindly on link exchange schemes. Nor should they.)

If you give an award to, say, ten bloggers and three of them write posts on it, you have three posts that are linked directly to your blog. That’s huge for a beginning blogger!

Of course, the most important reason to participate is because it is fun!

Tips on award success

If you have time, write a tiny blurb about the blogs you are nominating. This will make your award page more fun to read and will encourage your readers to visit the nominated sites.

Sample:

Nominee List

Swell Cooking Blog | Mary shares the secrets of her mother’s recipe card box

Swell Book Blog | John blogs about the newest literary fiction releases in reviews of 300 words or less

Swell Movie Blog | Jane reviews classic Japanese film with the newcomer in mind

It is also a good idea to mix up your nominee list once in a while and make sure that you are cycling in new blogs for the award love.

It is also good policy to leave a comment on the blogs of your nominees. Nothing elaborate, just saying that they have been nominated. You may also add a little ending that makes it clear that you do not expect or require them to participate. Synkronicity phrased this very well, I think.

“I hope you will consider this a big thank you and pay it forward to someone who delights you. If you aren’t into this sort of thing, then just know that someone out here admires your work.”

Isn’t that nice?

Well, I hope this helps you deal with the world of blogging awards! Happy blogging!

The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926) A Silent Film Review

Vilma Banky takes on the title role of this Western-set tale of settlers, dams, floods and legal shenanigans. Banky is the prettiest girl in Imperial county. Ronald Colman is the corporate raider from the east who falls for her. A very young Gary Cooper is the local boy who hopes to win her heart. So, just who does win Barbara Worth?
Continue reading “The Winning of Barbara Worth (1926) A Silent Film Review”

Stolen Bravery | Dedicated to the fearless women of silent films

It makes me angry when people reduce the women of silent film down to the image of a damsel tied to the train tracks or threatened by a sawmill. The mere fact that it is a misconception is not what upsets me. What really makes me angry is what this belief takes away from the women of silent movies.

Most people think of this when they hear about silent movies. Never mind that this is from the talkie version of The Perils of Pauline, which was made nearly two decades after the silent era ended.
Most people think of this when they hear about silent movies. Never mind that this is from the talkie version of The Perils of Pauline, which was made nearly two decades after the silent era ended.

You see, women in silent movies are not helpless victims of mustachioed villains.

To me, a silent era women can take pratfalls with the boys, ride motorcycles and do their own stunts.

Mabel Normand on her motorcycle.
Mabel Normand on her motorcycle.

A silent era woman can lead a band of children safely through a gator-infested swamp with a baby on her back.

Mary Pickford in "Sparrows"
Mary Pickford in “Sparrows”

They are mountain girls who are willing to die in battle to defend their king.

Constance Talmadge in "Intolerance"
Constance Talmadge in “Intolerance”

They face their nation’s enemies and take their heads.

Blanche Sweet in "Judith of Bethulia"
Blanche Sweet in “Judith of Bethulia”

And they don’t get mad, they get everything, including the boat.

Clara Bow in "Mantrap"
Clara Bow in “Mantrap”

But stay out of their way if they do get mad.

Pearl White in "Plunder"
Pearl White in “Plunder”

They are spies, thieves, master criminals and criminal masterminds.

Musidora in "Les Vampires"
Musidora in “Les Vampires”

That sawmill scene? Yeah, it’s there. But instead of the hero saving the girl, the girl saves the hero.

Viola Dana in "Blue Jeans"
Viola Dana in “Blue Jeans”

They are able to overcome labels like Spinster or Grass Widow and seek out their own happiness on their own terms.

Lois Wilson in "Miss Lulu Bett"
Lois Wilson in “Miss Lulu Bett”

They stay true to themselves no matter what the pressure. If they seem to weaken, it just means they will come back stronger in the end.

Gloria Swanson in "Sadie Thompson"
Gloria Swanson in “Sadie Thompson”

But they also know when to forgive.

Janet Gaynor in "Sunrise"
Janet Gaynor in “Sunrise”

Or not, as they choose.

Theda Bara in "A Fool There Was"
Theda Bara in “A Fool There Was”

When they want something, they don’t take “no” for an answer.

Leatrice Joy in "Eve's Leaves"
Leatrice Joy in “Eve’s Leaves”

They can beat the men at their own game.

Bebe Daniels in "She's a Sheik"
Bebe Daniels in “She’s a Sheik”

Or they can invent a whole new game.

Pola Negri in "A Woman of the World"
Pola Negri in “A Woman of the World”

To me, this is who the silent era woman is: A lively lady who is ready to take on the world.

Ossi Oswalda in "The Oyster Princess"
Ossi Oswalda in “The Oyster Princess”

But none of these things matter. All because it is easier to think of that hackneyed image of a silent movie heroine tied to the tracks. This misconception has stolen the bravery of silent movie women in the public’s eye. That’s a real crime.

Every era of film has its damsels in distress, unfortunately, and the silent era was no exception. However, these damsels were offset by some very amazing women and the sheer number of independent and intelligent heroines is impressive. Silent era women are in danger of being swallowed up by an exaggerated image of helplessness.

I will repeat the opening image to remind you that this was not always the case.

Helen Holmes lends a hand in "Lass of the Lumberlands"
Helen Holmes lends a hand in “Lass of the Lumberlands”

How to be charming on Twitter

Goodness knows I need these reminders. No one is perfect and I certainly slip more times than I care to admit. Consider these to be a general guide.

I use Twitter for work and to promote my website. Since I blog about silent movies (a fairly obscure subject), getting the word out is especially important for my site traffic. These suggestions are based on mistakes I have made, things that have annoyed me and problems I have seen crop up. On the positive side, there are also tips that have helped to network and (hopefully) amuse people.

Say please and thank you

Remember everything they taught you in kindergarten and you will be fine! Thank people for follows, retweets, #FF (Follow Friday) mentions, etc.

But don’t overdo it!

If you have a fan who often retweets you, it may be a bit creepy to thank them every single time. Use discretion. Perhaps a blanket “thanks for all your support” on occasion would be best.

Don’t be a know-it-all

(explosm.net)

Ok, so you’re on Twitter, you’re excited and then, joy of joys, you find someone tweeting about your very subject of interest. Oh frabjous day! But then you notice that they got an itty bitty detail wrong.

Do you:

a) Immediately correct their foolish error. Ha! You win the internet!

b) Let it slide since it really doesn’t have much to do with the conversation

Look, I’m not saying that you have to ignore glaring errors. But if the conversation is going well, is it really worth it to derail everything by pointing out that the Treaty of Whatsit was signed in June of 1765 rather than May? Good rule of thumb: If you would let it slide in real life, let it slide on Twitter.

(Of course, if the entire conversation is based on the treaty being signed in June vs. May, have at it!)

Samples:

No!

Miss Take: I went to Florida to see my grandparents. I wanted the kids to know them before they passed on. JJ was so excited to see a crocodile!

Mr. Know-it-all: Actually, Florida has alligators. Specifically Alligator Mississippiensis of the family Alligatoridae.

Ok!

Miss Take: Why do they say Florida Gators when they have crocodiles there?

Mr. Know-it-all: Actually, Florida has alligators. Specifically Alligator Mississippiensis of the family Alligatoridae.

See the difference?

Another rule of thumb. Think about what you are typing. If you read it aloud and you sound like Malvin in War Games, consider rephrasing.

If someone know-it-alls you

Smile (digitally) and thank them for their information. They may be a newbie, didn’t think before tweeting or some other issue. That being said, if someone is continually boorish and causes you stress, unfollow them or block them as soon as possible.

DM’s can annoy people

Direct Messages (DM) are a great way to quietly mention something or ask a question. However, if you use this function to solicit site traffic or to try to sell items, you are becoming a telemarketer. DM’s are best reserved for real interactions.

I know some people even request no DM’s in their Twitter profile. I personally do not have a problem with the messages as long as they are from someone who really wants to communicate or ask a question and not just push a product or website. However, I respect the wishes of the users who prefer not to be contacted this way.

Your automated services can annoy people

Be careful with that infernal machine! (allposters.com)

There are a few services that can be good if used properly. And then there are services that annoy most everyone.

HootSuite helps you monitor your social media and it can automatically tweet for you. This can be very useful as it keeps your account active. However, you must be careful not to be spammy and always be sure to check your @ messages to see if anyone has answered you. Also, please mix it up. Some folks on Twitter use HootSuite to send the same 10 messages over and over and over again.

TrueTwit. Oh how I hate TrueTwit. It’s a validation service that checks to see if new followers are spammers. The problem is that you can usually tell that by checking to see if they tweet about diet pills or get rich quick schemes. TrueTwit sends a DM to new followers asking them to confirm their humanity. (Premium users do not have to send DM’s.)

Here is a reenactment of what goes through my head when someone uses TrueTwit:

Me: Ooo, a Twitter account about silent movies! Hurrah! I shall follow!

DM: The Account uses TrueTwit Validation Service. Please click here to validate.

Me: What? But I just want to read tweets about silent movies… (clicks) A Captcha!?!?! What foul deed is this? (closes window, forgets about following the account)

Please, please, please do not use this. Follow me or not as you choose but don’t assume I am a spammer without reading a single tweet. 

I know spam followers are annoying. But if you have them, only you are annoyed. If you use TrueTwit, you will manage to annoy EVERYONE who wants to follow you.

JustUnfollow is another service that I use. It lets you see who has followed or unfollowed you on Twitter. This is incredibly useful for obvious reasons. However, it also allows you to send automated DM’s to folks and these can easily become annoying.

Also, I am not a huge fan of automatically tweeting one’s following and unfollowing activity. I dare say that no one cares that I gained 4 new followers and lost 2. Fortunately, both the DM and the tweeting of stats are opt-in propositions.

Remember to be human

If you have a blog or a business, it is easy to fall into the “read this!” “new product!” rut. Remember, though, that Twitter is social media. Answer questions, retweet (but don’t overdo it), and generally act like a human and not a robot.

Take part in the fun!

Weekly events like Follow Friday, Mention Monday or Writer Wednesday are great ways to network. Basically, you tweet the handles of folks you think others should follow.

Okay, I have to make a confession. The first time I saw my Twitter handle attached to #FF, I wondered if I was being insulted.

Never done it before? Here’s what to do:

Choose who you want to mention. Everyone has a different method. Some do #FF for new followers, some have a set list of folks they tweet about every week. Me? I like to mention folks who have mentioned me, retweeted me or left interesting feedback on my site.

Make your tweet. Start with the hashtag FF, followed by the Twitter handles of your selections. It helps to add a short intro phrase since this makes your tweet more interesting.

Sample:

#FF Great food bloggers! @example1 @example2 @example3

or

#FF Good people to know –> @example1 @example2 @example3

If someone gives you a mention in this way:

Thank them! And also consider retweeting their mention.

Do you have to do this every week? If you want to but it’s not required. It’s just a fun way to network and give a shout-out to deserving users.

A Night in the Show (1915) A Silent Film Review

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”

The Gish Sisters Blogathon!

Greetings! Well, it looks like I am at it again! Another blogathon!

September 9, 2013 is going to mark the 101st anniversary of Lillian and Dorothy Gish’s motion picture debut. I was really excited and wanted to do something special. However, the Gish sisters spent even more time making talkies than they did silents. I needed someone to help me, someone who was an expert on mid-century film…

My wonderful co-hostess is Lindsey of The Motion Pictures! Together, on September 7-9, we are going to celebrate the careers of these amazing women.

We are inviting bloggers to join us in this celebration. The event is open to all!

While they are best remembered for their silent work, Dorothy enjoyed a 51 year career, acting until 1963. Lillian’s 75 year career lasted until 1987! And the versatile sisters made films in every imaginable genre. There is truly something for everyone.

What you can contribute:

  • A review of a film that has one or both of the Gishes
  • Information on their stage work
  • A biography
  • An article on their films, careers, relationships, etc.
  • A pictorial post
  • Get creative! I have seen blogathons feature video slideshows, poetry, works of art and more. If it is Gish-related, please consider submitting it.
  • No film is “taken” so feel free to select a film even if others are already reviewing it.

Participants:

(note: this list has been updated and the latest version can be found here)

Cinemalacrum – A review of The Night of the Hunter (Lillian)

Cinematic Catharsis – A review of Broken Blossoms (Lillian)

Crítica Retrô – A review of Orphans of the Storm (Lillian and Dorothy)

Donald Mania – A video tribute to the sisters and an article on Lillian’s influence on cinema

Don’t Upset Granny Gish – A review of His Double Life (Lillian) and an article on becoming a Gish fan

Falderal – Lillian Gish’s relationship with fellow screen star Mary Pickford

The Film Writer – An article profiling each sister and a video

Films Worth Watching – Reviews of True Heart Susie and The Battle of Elderbush Gulch

Girls Do Film – A review of Romola (Lillian and Dorothy)

The Great Katharine Hepburn – An article on Remodeling Her Husband (Lillian and Dorothy)

The Joy and Agony of Movies – A review of Intolerance (Lillian)

The Last Drive In – The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: The Body in the Barn (Lillian)

MIB’s Instant Headache – A review of The Birth of a Nation Blu-ray (Lillian)

Motion Picture Gems – TBD

The Motion Pictures – Sweet Liberty (Lillian) and The Cardinal (Dorothy) as well as keeping a list of the participants.

Movie Classics – A review of The Scarlet Letter (Lillian)

The Movie Rat – An article on the Lillian and Dorothy’s film careers.

Movies Silently – The Unseen Enemy and Orphans of the Storm (the first and last films that the sisters made with director D.W. Griffith), Gretchen the Greenhorn (Dorothy)

The Nitrate DivaWay Down East (Lillian) and/or Hearts of the World (Lillian and Dorothy)

Nitrate Glow – A review of Broken Blossoms (Lillian) and poetry selections inspired by the film.

Once Upon a Screen – A review of The Musketeers of Pig Alley (Lillian and Dorothy), one of the earliest gangster films, and a pictorial post

Outspoken and Freckled – A review of The Night of the Hunter (Lillian)

The Pneumatic Rolling-Sphere Carrier Delusion – A collection of contemporary newspaper clippings on the sisters

Silent Volume – Reviews of La Boheme, Mothering Heart, Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, and DJ Spooky’s Rebirth of a Nation recut

Silver ScreeningsPortrait of Jennie (Lillian)

The Soul of the PlotDuel in the Sun (Lillian)

Strictly Vintage HollywoodNell Gwynn (Dorothy)

They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To – A review of The Whales of August (Lillian), plus, we get Bette Davis in the bargain! Hurrah!

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear – A review of The Wind (Lillian)

True Classics – Review of La Boheme (Lillian)

Remember, no movie is “taken” so don’t be afraid to pick a title even if it is already listed!

In case you need some inspiration, here is Lillian’s filmography and here is Dorothy’s.

How do I join up?

Contact us and let us know your blog address, what you would like to contribute and the date on which you would like to participate. Here are some ways to get in touch:

  1. Leave a comment

  2. Contact me directly

  3. Tweet me @MoviesSilently or Lindsey @TMPLindsey or both!

Then snag one of the banners we have supplied for the occasion.

Please link back to http://moviessilently.com/tag/gish-sisters-blogathon/

Fun Size Review: Mantrap (1926)

Clara Bow takes on both Ernest Torrence and Percy Marmont in this battle of sexes, classes and generations. City girl Clara has married backwoodsman Torrence in haste and is at the “repenting in leisure” stage. Things perk up when Marmont shows up and Clara shows him just what made her the IT Girl. Sassy, brash and funny as anything, this film is an ideal showcase for Bow, who manages to steal the show from everyone.

Continue reading “Fun Size Review: Mantrap (1926)”

Questions from the Google: Who was the silent era villain who tied women to train tracks?

New feature! I like to read over the search engine queries that bring people to my site. Lately, I have been noticing the same sort of queries cropping up again and again:

Who was the silent era villain who tied women to train tracks?

Snidely Whiplash in silent films?

Silent star tied to train tracks.

I have previously posted about the origins of this cliche but let’s take a look at these search engine queries and see if we can finally put this ridiculous myth to rest.

(Oh, and in the spirit of generosity, let me advise you never, ever to bring this up among silent film fans as a serious topic. You will be ruthlessly mocked for your ignorance and you will deserve it.)

The Questions:

Who was the silent era villain who tied women to train tracks?

No one.

Let me repeat for emphasis.

NO ONE!

No Hollywood executive said “We need that fellow who does the railroad track thing! Get him at once!” There was no such man because the cliche was simply not used that much in motion pictures.

The footage of the train track cliche that usually gets trotted out is from one of two Sennett comedies, Teddy at the Throttle or Barney Oldfield’s Race for Life. Both films were making fun of the cliche, which was seen as dusty, clueless and so last century.

Ahem.
Ahem.

The gentlemen playing the villains in these films were Wallace Beery and Ford Sterling, respectively. However, both men were better known for their other comedic skills. This is not how they regularly spent Saturday night.

The play that originated this trope, Under the Gaslight, was written in 1867. The victim, by the way, was male. There was a real-life copycat incident in 1874. Again, the victim was male.

Snidely Whiplash in silent films?

Dudley Doright
Not a silent movie.

Snidely Whiplash is a send-up of Victorian melodrama villains, the same target that inspired the Sennett comedies. If he is based on a silent era character, it is likely one of these Sennett comedians.

Silent star tied to train tracks.

Again, no silent era studio executive ever said, “That girl who gets tied to the tracks all the time! Fetch her for this film.”

In the films mentioned before, the victims were Gloria Swanson and Mabel Normand. I am going to repeat this one more time: These were comedies! The peril was meant to make fun of the over-the-top melodramas that had been in style a few years before.

In the 1916 serial A Lass of the Lumberlands the hero, Leo Maloney, is tied up and stumbles onto train tracks and then is rescued by Helen Holmes. Not exactly a perfect fit. Pearl White, to the best of my knowledge, was never victimized in this manner and any purported footage of this has yet to turn up. (The trope was used in the ridiculous sound remake of The Perils of Pauline.) Please note too that American serials were not regarded as the pinnacle of fine film writing.

train-tracks

In one of the few examples of this trope presented seriously in a mainstream silent feature film, the leading man of Blue Jeans (which I wrote an article about) was nearly sliced in half in a sawmill before being rescued by leading lady Viola Dana. Contemporary reviews praised the film but noted its old-fashioned source material. The train tracks/sawmill thing was just not something a modern film circa 1917 would use.

Blue-Jeans-Viola-Dana-John-Collins-1917 (2)

I have run across comments that talk about wanting to make a “1920 silent movie where a woman is tied to the train tracks.” I should mention that I have never found an example of this cliche in studios films made after 1919.

So now we know that the trope was rare, that men were just as likely to be victims and that the whole thing died before the twenties let out a single roar, well except for amateur films like this one:

Home videos are totally the same as studio releases! (And, again, the victim is a man.)

This fixation on railroad tracks is especially strange when you consider how long the silent film era lasted. Saying that silent movies (the era stretched between 1895 and 1929) regularly featured women tied to the train tracks would be like looking at the Home Alone movies and their ripoffs and then declaring that all films made in the 1990’s to 2010’s regularly featured small children beating up dimwitted burglars with elaborate booby traps. Avatar? Jurassic Park? Independence Day? The Artist? Men in Black 1-3? They all had that in them, right?

Other film sites have written on this oddly specific misconception but the queries keep on coming in. It’s a myth that really needs to die.

Movies Silently Quarterly Report

Wow! A lot has happened since the last time I posted one of these! Welcome to the second quarter of 2013!

I renamed myself

I decided to take up the pen name of Fritzi. I just feel so much more roaring and twenties and whatnot this way. Plus, a little tribute to Fritz Lang never hurt anyone.

I have been networking!

I was accepted as a member of both the Classic Movie Hub and the Classic Movie Blog Association.

I hosted my very first blogathon.

Twitter followers for Movies Silently topped 1,200.

I topped 2,000 likes on WordPress.

I feel so international

I love seeing all the different parts of the map light up!

The high points and low points

You love your TCM! There is always a spike in traffic for reviews after the film has been shown on the channel.

Here are my top 5 reviews for the quarter:

  1. Judex

2. The Sheik

  1. The Prisoner of Zenda

  2. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

  3. The Indian Tomb

(You also love your German cinema and your Valentino, it seems! You also caught the TCM showing of Judex.)

Bottom five reviews (sniff, snuffle!):

  1. That Certain Thing

  2. The Golden Chance

  3. Little Annie Rooney

  4. The Sea Lion

  5. Captain January

It wasn’t all easy going…

I had to deal with my first true case of plagiarism. As in, someone copied a review and passed it off as their own. Not one word of credit to me or my site and not just a quote or a section, the whole enchilada. Well, except for a small bit they hacked out (so 600 of 700 words) which meant the review no longer flowed or made sense. This somehow made it worse.

And this wasn’t some kid or newbie either, it was a business.

The good news? One cease and desist email was all it took!

All in all, though, a fantastic quarter! Thank you, I couldn’t have done it without you!

Show People (1928) 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”

It’s here! The Funny Lady Blogathon!

I am just marvelously excited! The Funny Lady Blogathon has launched! My fellow bloggers have joined me in celebrating the wonderful funny women of classic film!

Some have contributed reviews, some have contributed articles. I invited my Tumblr friends to make animated GIFs for the occasion and they did themselves proud! Come and see all the wonderful treasures that have been contributed!

A special note to participants:

Thank you so much for making my first blogathon a success! Please give me the URL of your post to make it easier for the readers to find your contribution. You can email, tweet, Tumblr message, anything you like.

I have arbitrarily divided the ladies into three categories covering the time when they did their most famous work. It’s just a guesstimate to keep things tidy so don’t be mad if I put someone in the wrong slot.

Blogs with direct links to the posts will be marked with an *

The Silent Ladies

*Movies Silently | Marion Davies in Show People + sundry GIFs

Comet Over Hollywood | Zasu Pitts

*The World’s Funniest Dissertation | Mabel Normand

*The Movie Rat | Louise Fazenda

*Noir and Chick Flicks | Clara Bow

*Family Friendly Reviews | Mary Pickford in My Best Girl

*A Modern Musketeer | Martha Sleeper

*A Mythical Monkey | Funny Ladies of the Silent Era: A Baker’s Dozen

The Golden Age, Thirties and Forties

*I Started Late and Forgot the Dog | Ginger Rogers

*Crítica Retrô | Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday

*Girls Do Film | Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby

*The Vintage Cameo | Carmen Miranda

*Thrilling Days of Yesteryear | Thelma Todd

*Classic Movie Hub | Kathleen Howard

*I Humbly Suggest… | Irene Dunne

*She Blogged by Night | Margaret Dumont in Duck Soup

*Portraits by Jenni | Claudette Colbert in The Palm Beach Story

*Spoilers | Jean Arthur in The Public Menace

*Stardust | Una Merkel

*Close Ups and Long Shots | Jean Harlow

*Shadows and Satin | Isabel Jewell

*Love Those Classic Movies!!! | Billie Burke

*Film Flare | Barbara Stanwyck

*i luv cinema | Mae West

*Destroy All Fanboys | Betty Hutton The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek

Naughty Librarian | Miriam Hopkins

Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence | Myrna Loy

*Movie Classics | Margaret Rutherford in Blithe Spirit

*Let’s Go to the Movies | Carole Lombard

The Nifty Fifties and Swinging Sixties

*Motion Picture Gems | Marjorie Main

*Silver Scenes | Joan Davis

*Frankly My Dear | Lucille Ball

*The Kitty Packard Pictorial | Shirley MacLaine

*Once Upon a Screen | Gracie Allen

*The Great Katharine Hepburn | When Comedy Was Queen: The Women of the 1950s Sitcom

*Blame Mame | Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

*Oh, Don’t Be Diriculous! | Doris Day

*Caftan Woman | Judy Holliday

*The Motion Pictures | Mary Tyler Moore

*Cindy Bruchman | Maureen O’Hara

*Cinemalacrum | Marilyn Monroe

Fun Size Review: Ella Cinders (1926)

It’s Cinderella for the 1920s! Colleen Moore is a put-upon waif who enters a motion picture beauty contest and wins. She finds fun, fame and fortune in Hollywood but who will be her Prince Charming? Colleen has never been cuter. Features some excellent sight-gags (including the famous and acclaimed eye-crossing scene) and a cameo from Harry Langdon.  Beloved for a reason.

Continue reading “Fun Size Review: Ella Cinders (1926)”

Fun Size Review: The Cheat (1915)

Cecil B. DeMille-helmed tale of sordid revenge. Fannie Ward dips into the Red Cross funds to gamble on the stock market and loses all. Sussue Hayakawa is her platonic pal who will loan her the money if she becomes… less platonic. Things get nasty very fast. Lean and slick with a star-making performance from Hayakawa. Ward, however, emotes egregiously. Not for the easily offended.

Continue reading “Fun Size Review: The Cheat (1915)”

How to grow your blog traffic (at least what worked for me)

Greetings! I have been active on WordPress for 6 months so I thought that now would be a good time to talk about traffic.

First, a little background. My site actually started in 2009 but I started the migration to WordPress in 2012. Life interfered and I did not return to the migration until January of 2013– spurred on by the imminent expiration of my contract with my former host. When I was self-hosted, my traffic was stagnant but I decided that when I launched on WordPress, I would do it in style! Aggressively court traffic, is what I mean.

Here are the most effective methods for me. Keep in mind, though, that I blog about a fairly niche film topic (silent movies) and different methods work for different blogs. I do hope you find some of these techniques useful. Also, some of my techniques are WordPress-centric. What can I say? I am brand loyal.

Also, it goes without saying, but some of these tips just involve being a good, active citizen of the blogosphere.

Follow fellow bloggers and do not assume that you must only follow in your genre

Following other blogs is a powerful way to generate traffic for your own blog.

Start with browsing blogs that write on similar topics to yours. Use the Topic Search in your WordPress reader tab and start looking. For example, I started my search with topics like “movies” “films” and “classic movies” as well as the all-encompassing “entertainment” topic. Don’t just follow willy-nilly. Select the blogs that are interesting, informative and currently updated. After all, why would you want to follow a blog that is boring, dull or no longer maintained? Also, some blogs may be well-written but are just not something you are interested in. That’s fine. Don’t just follow blogs for what you can get as a blogger, follow them because you enjoy them as a reader.

Next, think about your other hobbies and interests, the ones you are not blogging about. For example, I also like to read about crafts and tea. Follow some blogs on those topics as well. Worst case scenario, you get to read more about subjects you already like. There is a good chance, though, that the folks you are reading may have interests that overlap with yours. They may not blog on the topic but they are happy to read about it.

Finally, when you read a particularly good post, check the bottom to see who “liked” it or left a comment. Visit the users’ blogs, if they have them, and see if they are someone you would like to follow. Active bloggers who visit other sites are often a blast to read and can become your loyal readers in turn.

To sum things up, what does following other blogs get you? Followers! If someone follows me, I almost always visit their blogs and I will often follow back.

I cannot emphasize enough, however, that I follow blogs first and foremost to enjoy their posts. The traffic boost is the icing on the cake.

Join up!

When you are first starting out, it is essential that you network if you are serious about driving visitors to your site. If you don’t like to network, fine. Can you still grow? Sure. But it is a whole lot slower.

What should you join? I get a lot of traffic from blogger associations and blogathons.

A blogger association is a club for bloggers who write on the same topic. I currently belong to two movie blogging associations and have applied for a third. The type and number of blogging associations you can join depends on the topic you write about. Most associations maintain a site where member blogs are listed. This in itself will drive traffic to your site and it will also give a to-do list of blogs to visit and network with. Be a good citizen and promote member blogs that you particularly like.

A blogathon is an event that involves numerous bloggers writing posts on a chosen subject during a particular time frame. Blogathons have been very kind to me. They have won me loyal readers, introduced me to wonderful blogs. They also opened me up to writing on topics that I never would have dreamed of covering.

What makes a blogathon so powerful? Well, all of the participating blogs are driving their traffic toward one another. You may read Blog A’s post for the blogathon and then be led to Blogs B, C and D, great blogs you never even heard of before the event!

Most of all, though, blogathons are fun and they allow you to grow as a writer. That’s reward enough, even if you do not get a traffic boost.

Tweet as you have never tweeted before!

Twitter is a powerful traffic driver for my blog. (bloggeritis.net)

Twitter is a very powerful traffic driver. WordPress has a handy tutorial on linking your Twitter account to your blog.

Here are a few tips on using Twitter:

  1. Follow interesting folks, but not too many at once. If you are following 2,000 people and only have 25 followers, you might want to consider cutting back a bit. There are lots of tools that let you monitor new followers, unfollows and non-followers. I use Just Unfollow but there are many, many choices.

  2. Tweet old posts as well as new. Your newer followers may have missed your posts when you first tweeted them. Remember, though, that you can come off as spammy if you are not careful.

  3. Periodically search for new people to follow. Also be sure to see if the blogs you already follow have Twitter accounts. You will also want to check and see if your Twitter followers have blogs.

  4. Be sure that your Twitter profile clearly defines the topic of your blog and that it includes a link to your blog. A shocking number of people forget this important step.

Do not let your blog go inactive

An inactive blog is a very sad place indeed.
An inactive blog is a very sad place indeed.

How often should I post? Is a common query for beginners. A good rule of thumb is at least once a month. More often is better but you need to do what is realistic for you.

How does this drive traffic? Well, when I visit a blog, I often look for the latest post. If it is three months old, how urgent is it for me to return? In a few months or so. Maybe.

But what if I see that the blog is updated monthly, weekly, daily? I am much more likely to return frequently to see what is new.

Updating often also means you will appear in the blogrolls of linking sites and on the reader page of WordPress.

If you like it, say it!

If you like an article, don't stay mum.
If you like an article, don’t stay mum.

If you enjoy a post, leave a comment complimenting the author. It’s a nice thing to do and is universally appreciated. It makes you a good citizen and it will help you make friends with fellow bloggers. A side benefit is getting your own blog’s information in the public eye.

How to compliment a blog post:

  1. Be sincere. Don’t just comment to win followers. You don’t want to be like those spammers who leave hilariously generic comments.

  2. Be specific. Say what you like about the post and why you like it. It will make your comment more interesting to read and will be useful to the blog’s author.

Consider your audience and how to expand it

Is your blog aimed at devotees of your subject? Consider adding posts that will attract a more general audience. Does this mean that you abandon your core followers? No, of course not. But everyone is new once. Adding posts that are aimed at newcomers will make your blog more attractive to dabblers and readers who are unfamiliar with your topic.

Another way to expand your audience is to consider posts that relate to your overall topic in a way that is of interest to a more general audience. For example, my animated GIFs and After the Silents posts are some of my most popular features.

A word of caution though. If you post on too many subjects, your blog may seem unfocused and disorganized. This is fine if your blog is meant to be eclectic but it can turn off your readers if you stray too far from your original purpose. A few off-topic posts are fine but week after week of them will drive away loyal readers. If you are finding a lot of success with your off-topic posts, consider rebranding your blog or launching a new blog that covers those subjects.

Exploit you pet peeves

Probably the most common misconception about silent films… (uverseonline.att.net)

No matter what topic you blog about, there are sure to be misconceptions about it. You know, that annoying question everyone asks every time you mention your hobby or passion.

For me, it was this:

Me: I like silent movies.

Them: Aren’t those the movies where women get tied to railroad tracks?

Me:(hits them with bagel)

So I took my frustrations and wrote a blog post on the subject. It remains one of my most popular posts and pulls in a lot of search engine traffic. I like to think some of this traffic is from smartypants who are trying to win an argument by proving that lots of women were tied to railroad tracks in silent movies. Mwahahaha!

If a lot of people believe a myth, a misconception or a rumor then your post will likely draw in traffic and entertain your readers. Everyone likes a good debunking, the popularity of Snopes proves that.

Work on your craft

Improve your writing by writing even more! (flickr)

All of these tips are worthless if a blogger has poor writing skills. A poorly written blog may get traffic but it will not likely get repeat business. How do you improve? Read, read, read and then write, write, write.

Ideas to improve your blogging:

Join a real world writer’s group and get critiqued. This may seem odd for blogging but it is quite effective. Here are some tips on locating a good writer’s group (they are not all created equal).

Ask a fellow writer to exchange critiques one-on-one.

DON’T think that reading your post to your mom, boyfriend, best friend is the same as a critique. It’s not. Unless one of these people is a ruthless editor. In which case, go ahead.

Grab a copy of Strunk & White.

Read your work out loud. It is amazing how many awkward phrases and repeated words you will catch.

Remember, writing can be technically correct and boring as all get-out. Check for flow, rhythm and be prepared to cut if it seems like there are dull bits.

Check your writing with an outsider (someone with little to no knowledge of your topic) to see if it is understandable to a casual reader.

Well, those are just a few of the things that helped me increase my traffic. I hope you enjoyed the article!

Recommended

The birth of Fritzi

Hello, all. I questioned whether to post on this topic but I feel it will save confusion down the line so here goes:

I have decided to use the name Fritzi in the future. Adopting a pen name was quite a decision but here are some reasons why I decided to take the leap.

1. It’s a tribute

Of all of my family, my German grandmother most personified the 20’s. Her golden Marcel wave was flawless. She was adorable! So the name Fritzi is for her. Fritzi Scheff and Fritz Lang were also on my mind when I chose it.

2. It’s a persona

Some people spill their guts on their blogs. I feel that I very much adopt a persona. My goal is to mimic the freewheeling style of 1920’s entertainment reporters. The new name lets me burrow deeper into that role.

3. It’s cute

The name Fritzi just makes me smile. It’s cute and different but not unrecognizable. It’s easy to pronounce and it has a Z. When I started blogging, I was not exactly sure of what direction to take. I slowly realized that I was most comfortable with cute and I feel the name matches this goal.

So, this is the introduction of Fritzi. Enjoy!

In the Vaults #9: The Song of Love (1923)

Status: 35mm prints held by The Library of Congress and the Czech Film Archive.

The Song of Love is one of those films that is more famous for what went on behind the camera. First, there was drama on the set. Joseph Schildkraut got most of the blame but I think he was just annoyed about being decked out in spit curls and ballet flats.

Anyway, news reports about the Talmadge-Schildkraut collaboration went from this:

song-of-love-norma-talmadge-joseph-schildkraut-2

to this:

song-of-love-norma-talmadge-joseph-schildkraut-1

But I still blame those spit curls.

Don’t worry about Mr. Schildkraut, by the way. He ended up just fine.

He cried all the way to the Oscars.
He cried all the way to the Oscars.

And the film was Frances Marion’s third and final attempt at breaking into directing. Marion was, of course, a popular and successful screenwriter. The first film she directed was The Love Light (which, for the record, I hated), starring Mary Pickford and Marion’s husband Fred Thomson. Marion was hit by a falling arc lamp while making The Song of Love and frequent Norma Talmadge collaborator Chester M. Franklin filled in while she recovered.

The scenario was adapted by Marion as well. Norma Talmadge’s character is named Noorma-hal. Noorma-hal. This is going to hurt, isn’t it? I wonder if any scenarios exist for Poola-hal Negri? Or Doorothy-hal Gish? Or Doouglas-hal Fairbanks?

Okay, I’ll stop.

The plot involves a dancing girl (Talmadge) who falls for an undercover French agent (Schildkraut). When a villainous rebel chieftain (Arthur Edmund Carewe) captures Mr. Schildkraut (spit curls and all), Miss Talmadge must spring into action to save the man she loves. All while (naturally) wearing teensy little costumes. Feminism!

Photoplay was mildly enthusiastic:

song-of-love-norma-talmadge-joseph-schildkraut-4

Norma Talmadge steps slightly out of character one always thinks of her as dignity incarnate to become Noorma-hal, a passionate, lovely dancing girl of the desert. Although a different Norma she is always charming, always warmly sympathetic. Torn between the faith of her ancestors and the love of a man who has confessed to being a spy, the girl is forced to tight a great battle with herself.

Variety less so:

Outside of Miss Talmadge there isn’t an awful lot to “The Song of Love.” It is another of those desert stories, the same type more or less that went out of fashion a little over a year ago as far as the big first-run houses were concerned, at any rate. There is a lot of sand, some of the sheik stuff, some hard riding and gunplay, and above all Norma slips through a dance.

Just because a film was written by a woman, directed by a woman, and starred a woman… well, that doesn’t make it feminist. This is a fact some film historians seem to ignore. However, while it doesn’t work as an empowerment film, it looks like there are other advantages to this movie. Frankly, it looks like a kitschy riot! Here’s hoping we get to see it soon!

How I make animated GIFs

This is probably the number one question that I receive from fellow bloggers so I thought I would do a quick post on the topic.

1. I use Corel WinDVD to capture the GIF.

The software allows you to press a button and capture up to 15 seconds of imagery in GIF form. (It is also what I use for my review screen caps.)

As of this writing, the software has a 30 day free trial period.

2. I edit the GIF in Photoshop

I edit the speed of the GIF, the size and other features using Photoshop. The much-much-cheaper Photoshop Elements is also capable of editing GIFs. I have also heard of folks using GIMP (a freeeware image editor) successfully for their GIFs.

There are tons of tutorials available online for you GIF-makers. I am just a hobbyest so if you have any tech support issues, please contact the software maker. 😉 I am not posting a tutorial because there are already so many fabulous ones already. That’s how I learned. Just click on a link and have fun! (If you need a beginner Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or GIMP tutorial, those are easy to find as well.) I’m not offering tech support, is what I’m saying.

Also note that my GIFs are sized for WordPress, which treats GIFs like any other image file. Tumblr users have to stay under a certain file size (I have heard the limit is either 1MB or 2MB but I have never had a 2MB GIF work well for me.) I repost to Tumblr but size for WordPress.

Is this GIF method the only way? Nah but it works for me and I’m happy.

Naturally, the GIFs and screencaps are used for criticism and commentary.