Mary Pickford dusts off her pigtails one last time in her final child role. One of her darkest films, Sparrows tells the tale of a band of orphans who escape from an orphan farm and cross a dangerous gator-infested swamp. A surprisingly moody slice of Southern Gothic from America’s Sweetheart.
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?
A real rarity for Chaney fans: Our beloved monster plays a straightforward leading man. Lon Chaney and Betty Blythe are a pair of Canadian lovebirds who must flee when he is framed for murder. Lewis Stone plays the Mountie charged with bringing Chaney to justice. And he won’t give up because as the Hollywood Mounties say: “We always get our man!”
Enid Bennett and Ramon Novarro play a pair of young lovers who just want to get married. When they are separated in Paris, each begins a slide toward degradation and depravity. Will the unfortunate pair find one another again or are they too damaged to rekindle their love? Heavy stuff.
Clara Bow is a Parisian Apache whose boyfriend is taken away by a do-gooder. Determined to show the goody-two-shoes a lesson, she decides to marry him. Yes, that is the plot they decided to go with. Bow’s frequent co-star, Donald Keith, is the purloined boyfriend.
Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in one of his breakout hits– directed by none other than Frank Capra! Doug plays a cub reporter who is desperate for a scoop. He gets it when he manages to implicate a young lady (Jobyna Ralston) in a scandalous murder. Seeing the damage he has done to innocent Jobyna, Doug sets out to catch the real killer.
A rare surviving Florence Lawrence film concerns a country doctor and his family. When both his daughter and an impoverished neighbor fall ill at the same time, which one will he save? Lawrence is the doctor’s wife. All the melodrama you can stuff into 14 minutes!
Two sisters, an empty house, a dishonest maid and a fortune in the safe. A recipe for a melodrama if I ever saw one! D.W. Griffith directs the Gish sisters in their motion picture debut, with able support from Bobby Harron, Elmer Booth, Harry Carey and a very early appearance from Antonio Moreno!
Continue reading “An Unseen Enemy (1912) 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.
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”
John Barrymore is a sergeant in the Russian army who dreams of winning an officer’s commission. But he hits a snag in the form of Camilla Horn, an imperious princess who seems to stumble him at every turn. Stripped of his rank, John goes a little mad and decides the Bolsheviks kind of have a point. The revolution is on, John is nuts, Camilla smolders and we have some grade-A entertainment.
No Shakespeare for you!
Pastor Lionel Barrymore receives a strange mission from a parishioner (the wife of the town miser) who has recently passed away: He is to take the money she has left and buy her daughter, Mary Pickford, little luxuries that she has been denied. The Pastor starts by buying Mary a pricey hat from New York. Little does he know that this kindness will start a frenzy of gossip.
D.W. Griffith tackled the Gold Rush and experimented with close-ups in this tidy little drama. Mary Pickford is a shady lady living in a gold rush town. When she gets dumped by her duded-up suitor, Henry B. Walthall, she seeks comfort in the burly arms of Lionel Barrymore. But who will get the girl?
Continue reading “Friends (1912) A Silent Film Review”
White Almond Flower (Clarine Seymour) is a flapper-ish island girl who just can’t choose between a sickly missionary (Creighton Hale) and an atheist beach bum (Richard Barthelmess). Will WAF be “civilized” or will she be free to continue her moonlight idolatry? D.W. Griffith directs this tale of religion, the nature of civilization and shimmy-shimmy shakes.
Continue reading “The Idol Dancer (1920) A Silent Film Review”
Richard Barthelmess is David, a country boy whose one goal in life is to be considered a man, to prove himself worthy of being allowed into the grown-ups club. When tragedy strikes his family, David finds himself growing up faster than even he had ever wanted.
Continue reading “Tol’able David (1921) A Silent Film Review”
Lon Chaney at his most grotesque. A delightfully slimy jungle picture that involves Chaney’s quest for revenge against the man who stole his wife and crippled him. Mary Nolan and Lionel Barrymore support. Wonderful but not for all tastes. A slightly warped mind is recommended. Maybe even required.
Continue reading “West of Zanzibar (1928) A Silent Film Review”
Cinderella has ulterior motives in this early DeMille melodrama. Mary Denby is a judge’s daughter who married below her station. With her husband drinking away the household income, she applies for work as a seamstress. The new job puts her in contact with a rich family who decide to use her beauty and charm to their advantage in business dealings. Nice people.
A society woman’s plans to make easy money backfire and she turns to a Burmese businessman for help. He agrees to give her the money she needs… for a price. Excellent melodrama that showcased Sessue Hayakawa’s talents to the world. A major smash hit and the film that really put Cecil B. DeMille on the map as a director of premium entertainment.
Continue reading “The Cheat (1915) A Silent Film Review”
Silent child star Baby Peggy plays the captain of the title, a castaway orphan who is raised by a scruffy lighthouse keeper (Hobart Bosworth). The story is slight but that actually works in the film’s favor as it allows the viewer to focus on what’s really important: the talented Baby Peggy and the peerless Bosworth.
Continue reading “Captain January (1924) A Silent Film Review”
Norma Talmadge and Thomas Meighan play an ill-fated interracial couple. When their secret marriage is discovered, Talmadge is executed by the Emperor of China for daring to marry a white man. Her daughter (also Talmadge) grows up and sets out to discover her American roots. A very, very odd film, full of outdated racial views and a rather icky father-daughter relationship.
Continue reading “The Forbidden City (1918) A Silent Film Review”
Hobart Bosworth stars as a bitter whaling captain who is still angry at his wife for leaving him sixteen years before. Then chance throws the daughter of his unfaithful wife in his path. How far will be go for revenge? Bessie Love adds her usual charm as the innocent daughter and there is much nautical action.
Continue reading “The Sea Lion (1921) A Silent Film Review”
Director D.W. Griffith dives back into country melodrama with this adaptation of a hoary stage smash. Lillian Gish plays Anna, a country girl seduced and abandoned by a rich cad. The resulting baby dies and Anna is alone in the world. She meets the kindly Bartlett family and it seems that her life is taking a turn for the better… that is until her past is exposed.
Carmen may be best known as an opera but it made a successful silent debut for opera diva Geraldine Farrar. An early hit for Cecil B. DeMille, Carmen is a lively, sensual and surprisingly earthy adaptation of a familiar story. Farrar and Wallace Reid ignite the screen and have a grand time in the process.
Lillian Gish plays an innocent girl thrust into the harsh elements of the American West. The unceasing wind batters the landscape and begins to unravel her sanity. Beautiful direction from Victor Seastrom and intense acting from both Gish and Lars Hanson. Silent cinema at its finest. For goodness sake, see it!
Con artists and deep sea divers collide in this Thomas Ince-produced adventure yarn. Hobart Bosworth is a diver trying to save his son from the clutches of a scheming city woman who wants to use his diving abilities to make a fortune in ill-gotten gains. This is one of the best silent dramas you have never heard of.
Based very, very loosely on a poem by Poe, the film tells the tale of lovers torn apart by parental disapproval, a mutiny and a handsome book publisher… Oh, all right. It pretty much has nothing at all to do with Poe and the name of the heroine was just borrowed to add a literary touch.
Lulu is a poor relation, sentenced to a lifetime of drudgery for the crime of spinsterhood. She jumps into a loveless marriage in order to escape her plight. It should have been an escape but it only makes matters worse and Lulu is forced to take matters into her own hands.
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.