This towering cinematic achievement is easily one of the greatest examples of silent era hokum that I have ever experienced. Joseph Schildkraut and Norma Talmadge are star-crossed lovers in Northern Africa wearing very silly clothes. I am entranced.
Mabel Normand plays a moviestruck small town girl who leaves the boy she loves (Ralph Graves) for a chance to make it big in Hollywood. Naturally, chaos ensues, especially when she mixes up a Great Dane and a lion…
A jealous husband, a flirtatious wife, a quartet of lusty dinner guests and a shadow puppeteer… This is going to be an eventful evening. The film is a stylized marvel with plenty of the dark stuff we expect in German cinema.
Hal Roach’s Rascals opens a hot dog stand outside a race track but the kids are soon enchanted with the idea of organizing their own derby. Soon, the gang has a track set up and a collection of thoroughbreds (a cow, a mule, two dogs, a kitten, a tricycle, etc.) ready to race for the generous $5 purse.
Snub Pollard plays an orphan who grows up to be… an auctioneer’s assistant? When he inadvertently sells the contents of a house belonging to the chief of police, he must embark on a wild goose chase to buy everything back or spend his not-so-happily-ever-after in prison.
Stage star Lenore Ulric brings her signature role to the screen in this melodrama set in Canada. We have Mounties, trees and bloody revenge. The usual Hollywood Canadian wilderness picture, in other words, but we have the added bonus of a super Mountie and a location shoot in Yosemite.
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?
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.
A prim adaptation of the famous Georgian play. Apparently, the scoundrel of the tale is played by some actor with the remarkable name of Basil Rathbone. I wonder whatever became of him?
Madge Bellamy plays a circus performer who escapes from her evil step-father into the Canadian wilderness by riding away on her slang-talkin’ elephant named Oscar when the big top is blown down in a freak storm. Once free, she is mistaken for the antichrist and subsequently enslaved by a French-speaking café owner who forces her to pluck geese but everything is okay because she falls for a handsome violinist with only one good foot and a pet rabbit named Napoleon. As one does.
Continue reading “The Soul of the Beast (1923) A Silent Film Review”
Marion Davies stars as an impoverished Irishwoman who takes her brother’s identity in order to gain an inheritance in America. Supposedly, the story is about the pioneering commercial steam ship industry but we all know that Marion is the real draw.
A wealthy Polish-American businessman returns to the old country after a long absence. He brings along his spunky daughter (Yiddish stage legend Molly Picon), an irreverent practical joker and amateur pugilist. She wins the heart of a shy, dour Talmudic scholar (Picon’s real-life husband, Jacob Kalich) but when a mock wedding goes too far, they find themselves locked in an uncomfortable match. Will east and west ever find a way to bridge the divide?
Continue reading “East and West (1923) A Silent Film Review”
A behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood, circa 1923. Eleanor Boardman plays a kid with a dream of stardom. The biggest names in the silent film industry serve as her backdrop, everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Erich von Stroheim. The only fly in the ointment is that she kind of married a serial killer a while back. Whoopsy.
Continue reading “Souls for Sale (1923) A Silent Film Review”
What a dramatic title! Is it about Salem witch trials? The horrors of war? Terrors unknown? Nope! It is the wacky tale of a wandering wife called Elle and the mysterious detective known only as Z, who has been charged with returning her affections to her husband. One of the oddest and most stylish films of the silent era and pretty funny to boot.
Continue reading “The Burning Crucible (1923) A Silent Film Review”
The famous tale of Cyrano de Bergerac is lavishly adapted for the silent screen, complete with stencil color. The story has been lifted so many times for romantic comedies that it almost needs no introduction: Cyrano, brilliant but marred by an outlandishly large nose, loves the beautiful Roxane. She, however, loves the handsome but vapid Christian. Can the two men combine to become the perfect lover?
Featuring the famous opening line, “he was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad,” Scaramouche is the tale of Andre-Louis, a young lawyer (Ramon Novarro) who seeks to revenge the murder of his best friend at the hands a heartless aristocrat (Lewis Stone). To further his ends, Andre-Louis becomes an actor, a fencing master and, finally, an architect of the French Revolution.
Continue reading “Scaramouche (1923) A Silent Film Review”
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.