Just before the dawn of the twentieth century, movie pioneer Georges Méliès tore one of the biggest stories from French headlines and made a series of biographical sketches in support of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer who was framed for treason and exiled to Devil’s Island. The films themselves are as fascinating as their subject and are extraordinarily innovative to boot.Continue reading “The Dreyfus Affair (1899) A Silent Film Review”
Marguerite Clark plays a plucky orphan who runs away from the institution in order to retain custody of the little boy she has raised since infancy. She ends up in the Cabbage Patch, a slum area that is home to the merry Wiggs family.Continue reading “Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (1919) A Silent Film Review”
A study of two young women living in rural Ryazan and how they deal with life, love and the First World War. Breathtaking and breathtakingly underrated, this picture shows that director Olga Preobrazhenskaya deserves to be remembered with the Soviet greats.Continue reading “The Peasant Women of Ryazan (1927) 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”
An early animal-related tearjerker featuring a blind man and his faithful poodle. The French production was exported to the international market.Continue reading “The Faithful Dog; or, True to the End (1907) A Silent Film Review”
Poverty, college, sororities, shoplifting… Those last two topics aren’t often associated with silent film but they are the main subject of this Norma Talmadge short film. Norma’s a poor but well-connected student who can’t keep up with the lavish spending of her sisters. Next step: crime.Continue reading “The Helpful (?) Sisterhood (1914) 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.
Thomas Hardy’s novel comes to the screen with the added prestige of both location shooting and the cooperation of the author himself. A rare look at the work of British director Sidney Morgan.
Rather Dickensian even for Dickens, the grim novel Nicholas Nickleby gets the movie treatment in this two-reel Thanhouser adaptation.
An elderly gentleman will allow his daughter to marry a deep sea diver on one conditions: that he dive for a pirate treasure that was lost decades before.
James Williamson, a Scottish chemist turned motion picture pioneer, adapts Hans Christian Andersen’s tragic fable for the screen and showcases some impressive special effects in the process.
A biopic of the famous German soldier-poet who wrote blood and thunder verses and died in battle before his twenty-second birthday. This is one of the earliest surviving German features available.
A miller loses his livelihood and self-respect when he descends into alcoholism, egged on by his business partner who just happens to own the local bar. A rare chance to see a performance by Charles Gilpin and one of only two films made by the Colored Players Film Corporation of Philadelphia to survive.
An intense and controversial picture that deals with racism, lynching, crime and melodrama, this is the earliest surviving feature film from pioneering director Oscar Micheaux. Not an easy film to watch but a necessary one.
Leatrice Joy plays a woman whose fiancé is more interested in unearthing 5,000-year-old mummies than in dating her. Instead of dumping the dude, she mopes and has historical flashbacks. So there.
A rich fellow goes to Egypt for some sightseeing and ends up with a bride, a tomb curse broken and a deranged stalker. How was your last vacation? Pola Negri and Emil Jannings play some Svengali-meets-Dracula by way of an Egyptian tomb.
The queen of Egypt loves her Romans and so she falls for Mark Antony… What? You mean you know this one? Well, anyway, we’re looking over one of the very first feature-length Cleos with Helen Gardner in the title role.
The Panama Canal’s construction was a cause for celebration in the United States but Colombia had a very different viewpoint and this intriguing film presents it in no uncertain terms.
Bolivia’s only known surviving silent era film is set when the Inca were a force in South America but a prophet warns that violent change is coming. Sure enough, the Spanish conquistadors arrive in search of gold and things get bloody, to put it mildly. And so, it’s rather awkward when an Aymara princess falls for a Spanish capitan.
Charles Ray is a country boy from rural Vermont who gets to attend college thanks to his late mother’s final request. Teased for his unpolished ways, he joins the baseball team as their mascot. But when all the batters are injured at the big game, will our country boy prove himself?
It was the best of times… to make a Dickens adaptation! Movies were getting ever bigger in the 1910s and Fox decided to stage its own version of this literary classic about the French Revolution and far, far better things.
A Russian ballerina sneaks off to Paris and there she find love and (da da DUM) peril. Alice Brady plays a double role as mother and daughter while Montagu Love provides the peril.
Sidney Olcott and Gene Gauntier led an American film troupe to film the life of Christ on location in Egypt and locations throughout the once and future Israel. The result was a hit but the behind-the-scenes story is deserves some attention of its own.
Alice Guy variation on a theme by O. Henry is the story of a small child who tries to save her older sister’s life by prolonging autumn. A lyrical tearjerker and a rare example of Guy’s work from her Solax period.
Jetta Goudal and William Boyd are an aristocratic pair on the outs. Angered by his rejection, Goudal plays a cruel joke on her ex-fiancé—she sets him up with a “lady of the pavements” (Lupe Velez) gussied up as a lady of quality. D.W. Griffith’s final silent film.
Paul Robeson makes his film debut in this Oscar Micheaux melodrama. Robeson plays dual roles: a horrible convict posing as a preacher and his sweet twin brother, a would be inventor. Micheaux’s signature pointed social commentary is on display in this rare surviving film from his silent career.
An oddball melodrama shot on location in Detroit, Eleven P.M. is a rare surviving film from mysterious indie director Richard Maurice. It weaves a tale of gangsters, street musicians, dogs with human heads… Well, you can’t accuse it of being boring.
Sound AND color in 1900? You’d better believe it! This French short showcases cutting edge technology of its day and is also the only know screen appearance of Benoît-Constant Coquelin (known as Coquelin aîné), the man who created the role of Cyrano de Bergerac on the stage.
Leatrice Joy is hell on wheels and in a designer gown. She plays a wild heiress whose naughty ways catch up with her when she accidentally kills a police officer with her reckless driving. Her prosecutor boyfriend throws the book at her and she ends up in prison. Also, Roman orgies. Why yes, Cecil B. DeMille did direct!
Mary Pickford returns to child roles as the princess of the title, a sweet young heiress whose sunny disposition is threatened when she loses her family and is forced to work as a maid. ZaSu Pitts nearly walks off with the picture as Pickford’s slavey pal.