An opera adaptation starring a ballerina set in Naples but shot in Chicago. The silent era, ladies and gentlemen! Ballet superstar Anna Pavlova made her screen debut in this Universal epic about love, revolution and trunk hose.Continue reading “The Dumb Girl of Portici (1916) A Silent Film Review”
Abortion, birth control and eugenics. Just a few of the light topics covered in this 1916 film directed by Lois Weber. Innocent days of early film? I think not! And, yes, you did read that right. Eugenics.Continue reading “Where Are My Children (1916) A Silent Film Review”
One of only two surviving Theda Bara films made during the height of her vampish fame, this production casts her as the victim of a cad and bounder who persuades her to leave hearth and home. Based on a Victorian drama and stage warhorse.
Norma Talmadge married in haste to Eugene Pallette and now she repents in leisure while he spends his nights with a showgirl and contemplates becoming a bank robber. So, maybe marriage counseling won’t be enough here…
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.
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”
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.
William S. Hart is in his comfort zone as an actor and director when he plays a rough, tough outlaw who takes the job of marshal on a lark and ends up falling for the town beauty (Margery Wilson, actress and director). Resident vamp Louise Glaum is on hand as the villainess and a good time is had by all.
Continue reading “The Return of Draw Egan (1916) A Silent Film Review”
The earliest surviving Chinese-American feature film, this picture is also the only known film of director-writer-actress Marion Wong, the driving force behind its production. It’s the story of a young westernized Chinese couple and their difficulties with their more traditional family. Fascinating stuff!
It’s a new year and we all know what that means! This is when we travel 100 years back in time to discover the top stars of American cinema.
The long-lost screen appearance of the original stage Sherlock Holmes, this 1916 film re-emerged in France after being thought lost for nearly a century. Will William Gillette’s take on Sherlock Holmes live up to its reputation? We’re about to find out!
Continue reading “Sherlock Holmes (1916) A Silent Film Review”
Douglas Fairbanks stars as a dope-addled detective named Coke Ennyday (Get it? Get it?) who must uncover who is smuggling opium into the country. Seems like a conflict of interest but there you have it. Bessie Love co-stars as the young woman in charge of inflating those famous leaping fish. No, none of this makes any more sense in the film itself.
Continue reading “The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (1916) A Silent Film Review”
Antosha (Antoni Fertner) takes his wife’s absence as an opportunity to throw a wild party. How wild is it? Well, at the end, one of the guests leaves behind her corset. The rest of the short concerns Antosha’s attempts to rid himself of the incriminating undergarment before his wife comes home.
Cecil B. DeMille’s first historical epic takes on the life of Joan of Arc. An intriguing, uneven and thoroughly entertaining spectacle, the films stars operatic soprano Geraldine Farrar as the doomed Maid of Orleans and the tragic Wallace Reid as her chief antagonist and romancer-in-chief. What’s that? The real Joan didn’t have a romancer-in-chief? La la la la, not listening!
Continue reading “Joan the Woman (1916) A Silent Film Review”
What was meant to be a light-hearted spoof turned into a protracted legal battle between Charlie Chaplin and the Essanay motion picture studio. However, the behind-the-scenes drama of Burlesque on Carmen does not take away from the fact that it is still extremely funny.
Continue reading “Burlesque on Carmen (1915) A Silent Film Review”
Snow-skinned princesses and dwarfs combine forces once more in the straightforward version of the classic fairy tale. 1910’s favorite Marguerite Clark is the title character, Creighton Hale is the prince and a very young Richard Barthelmess makes an appearance as one of the evil queen’s disguises. Yes, really.
Continue reading “Snow White (1916) A Silent Film Review”
An extremely rare film with Dorothy Gish in the starring role. She is Gretchen, a newly transplanted Dutch maiden who finds romance, adventure and danger in her new home, New York. When she stumbles onto a counterfeiting ring, Gretchen must find a way to save herself and her father from the ruthless criminals.
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.
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”
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.