Gallows humor wasn’t invented in the sound era. Silent films were more than capable of taking a dark turn, either for a joke or to crank up a scene’s tension.
“So, you go behind my back with a bullfighter?”
That’s not strictly true, Don Jose. Carmen goes with the bullfighter in front of your face as well. So there.
Continue reading “You could have cheated on me with a plumber, a cheese-monger, a politician but a BULL-FIGHTER? Animated GIF”
One of Pola Negri’s earliest collaborations with Ernst Lubitsch and a major critical and commercial hit for them both, this film tells the famous tale of Carmen and her doomed romance. How will our dynamic duo make this story their own? Negri’s signature combination of sexiness, warmth and humor is on full display at this early date but the Lubitsch touch is still in its infancy.
Continue reading “Gypsy Blood (1918) A Silent Film Review”
The ladies of silent comedy do not get nearly enough respect. When it comes to the funny stuff, it’s still very much a stag affair. Things are slowly changing. Marion Davies and Mabel Normand are enjoying revivals and Colleen Moore finally seems poised for a comeback. Since we seem to be in the mood, let’s throw some laurels to Edna Purviance, Charlie Chaplin’s best leading lady. Purviance wasn’t just “the girl” in his comedies. She got in on the funny stuff too and nowhere was it more apparent than in Chaplin’s wicked Burlesque on Carmen.
Above is Purviance doing her stuff. Below is Geraldine Farrar in the 1915 Cecil B. DeMille-directed original.
Availability: You can get both Carmen and Burlesque on Carmen packaged together a double feature from Image, which also includes DeMille’s other 1915 hit, The Cheat. Unfortunately, this disc is out-of-print. There is a standalone disc of Carmen, which is supposed to be very good quality but I have not seen it for myself. Burlesque on Carmen is available in a volume of the Chaplin’s Essanay Comedies series, also out-of-print.
I should also note that some versions of Burlesque are longer than others. This is one case where you need to seek out the shorter version. Essanay took the film from Chaplin and padded it out with rejected footage and completely new characters in order to release it as a short feature. Chaplin was horrified. I detail these shenanigans in my review.
During the middle of the 1910s, there was a stampede of stage stars. Movies were becoming feature length and were starting to be considered respectable entertainment. The easier working conditions and high salaries made the work very attractive to folks in the legitimate theater who may have sniffed at the movies previously.
Of course, breaking into the motion pictures was not as easy as it looked. Star after star discovered that stage popularity did not always translate into strong movie returns. However, there were some notable successes. The Farnum brothers became early heartthrobs, Carlyle Blackwell enjoyed enormous popularity and Fannie Ward packed movie houses. One of the most successful transitions was also one of the most unlikely. Geraldine Farrar was a famed operatic soprano. While lively and attractive, she did not have movie star looks. How would she do without her glorious voice?
Very, very well, as it turns out. Cecil B. DeMille’s saucy take on the opera Carmen proved to be an ideal vehicle for the talented Miss Farrar. Rather than a fiery girl, Farrar’s Carmen is a mature woman who gleefully takes the much younger Don Jose (Wallace Reid, nine years her junior) for the buggy ride of his life. In this case, she is amused at his declarations of eternal love. She only needs you for an afternoon, sonny boy.
(You can read my full-length review here.)
Availability: The film has received a high-quality DVD release from Video Artists International. This release uses a 35mm print and features an orchestral score based on the Bizet opera. There is also the Image release, currently out-of-print, which is of similar quality and pairs the film with another 1915 DeMille hit, The Cheat.
Sometimes during school year, I get search engine queries that are less about silent films and more about “oh no! my report is due tomorrow and I haven’t even read the book/seen the movie/researched the topic!”
Let me just mention one thing before we begin: I have helped students with projects and have answered their questions or directed them to resources. I’m glad to do it. What I object to are queries that are probably intended for the Copy/Paste/Turn In/Pray the Teacher Doesn’t Check For Plagiarism types.
Here are some of the more egregious examples:
Describe Jimmy Valentine with the information from the story. Use these words and expressions and your own ideas.
Do you know how long the original story of Jimmy Valentine is? Eight and a half tiny pages. If you can’t manage to read that, you have a lot more problems than failing a class.
I certainly hope this student’s instructor was using Turnitin or some similar service.
How does Byke try to kill Snorkey?
I dare you to read those names without laughing! It actually refers to the 1867 play Under the Gaslight, which is best remembered for coining the tied-to-the-tracks cliche. In this case, Byke ties Snorkey to the tracks (mwahahaha) but the hapless fellow is saved by a brave young lady.
What are the themes of the Great Train Robbery 1903?
Robbery. Oh, and trains. Great ones.
Why does Don Jose join the smuggler band of gypsies?
I think I will let Charlie Chaplin tell the story.
First, there was this:
And, finally, this:
Tone of the author Anthony Hope in The Prisoner of Zenda?
Well, his stiff collar, waistcoat and wool coat make it impossible to know for sure but he looks pretty fit and toned to me. There seem to be no shirtless pictures of Mr. Hope floating around the internet so I will withhold judgement until they surface. Oh, and I am not sure if this picture was taken when he was writing Zenda.
Famed soprano Geraldine Farrar proves she doesn’t need her pipes to be an impressive Carmen. Wallace Reid, in an uncharacteristically dark role, expands his acting chops as the deranged Don Jose. Director Cecil B. DeMille’s take on the familiar story is sharp, sassy and lean. It looks great and is a blast to watch. Especially fun to show to people who think silent films are so sweet and innocent.
So, what kind of silent movie fan are you? In my experience, they usually come in three varieties: