Silent Movie Rule #2: The key to surviving a peasant uprising? Good skin care.


Life lessons from the people of silent film. Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any consequences you might suffer from actually following this advice.

So you are a princess and the peasants are revolting (and they’re rebelling too! rimshot!). What to do? Well, if you were a smart princess and moisturized properly, you have nothing to worry about. After all, how can the handsome young man sent to shoot you possibly put a bullet through your lovely skin? The movie is not specific, though, as to how nice your skin must be before your life is spared. If your skin is so-so, do you get off with a jail sentence? We may never know.

(This rule comes courtesy of The Volga Boatman. You can read my review here.)

Availability: The Volga Boatman is available on DVD.

Now THAT is how you throw a tantrum! Animated GIF


Tantrums are highly underrated. A correctly timed one can put your point across rather nicely. Of course, a badly timed one will make you look like a nut. Know the difference

Rosemary Theby is teaching Elinor Fair a lesson she won’t soon forget! This is from Kismet, which was based on the play of the same name that inspired the stage musical and its subsequent movie adaptation. There was also a version with Ronald Colman and Marlene Dietrich in the mix. The silent version is all but forgotten but I think it is the best of the lot, that is, if you go in for a bit of Arabian Nights-style entertainment.

It’s a lot of fun and well worth watching, if for no other reason than seeing where The Sheik ripped off title cards. (You can read my review of Kismet here.)


Oh, and I suppose you’re going to pay her chiropractor bill, Mr. Boyd. Animated GIF

volga-boatman-cecil-be-demille-william-boyd-silent-movie-whiplashThe sweeping movie smooch has never held much appeal to me. I keep thinking things like, “Doesn’t that hurt her neck?” or “Aren’t his arms tired?” or “Watch that pistol, sonny, you might shoot yourself.” I’m just not cut out for these overblown romantic gestures, I guess.

That being said, there is something really wonderful about seeing William Boyd do the honors. Maybe it’s because he is best known as Hopalong Cassidy, who, as far as I know, only kissed one girl in his entire onscreen life. Lovely Evelyn Brent was the tough chick who enjoyed the smooch, though she had to die to get it. (The movie in question is Hopalong Cassidy Returns, if you are interested.)

This romantic sweep is from The Volga Boatman and Mr. Boyd’s kissing partner is Elinor Fair, who would soon be the third Mrs. Boyd. He’s a bolshevik and she is a princess. Naturally, they find one another irresistible. It’s all kitschy fun.


The Volga Boatman was released on VHS by Kino. There is also an out-of-print DVD version.

“Curse you and your flawless complexion, tempting me away from my deep-held political beliefs!” Animated GIF


Well, you can’t accuse silent films of being all romance and honey, right? William Boyd has just saved Elinor Fair from being shot (he was supposed to do the shooting). She asks him why he saved her. He is not too happy with the situation so his answer is a bit brusk.

I mean, here he was, minding his own business, starting the Russian Revolution and now he’s stuck with some Czarist dame. See, the problem is that she is just too good at moisturizing and exfoliating and her skin was too nice to put a bullet hole through. It strikes me that perhaps the other Czarists should have considered some mud packs and body butters. It would have saved a whole lot of them from being shot.

(This is from Cecil B. DeMille’s 1926 hit The Volga Boatman.)


Seriously, if anyone did this to me, I would slug them, Animated GIF


Cecil B. DeMille was known to use… odd romantic gestures in his films. In this case, Elinor Fair is groovin’ to some boatman music supplied by William Boyd and her fiance, Victor Varconi, is jealous. So what does he do? Make his hands into earmuffs, of course. And she is fine with it. In fact, she thinks it’s pretty wonderful.

The Volga Boatman is stuffed with moments like this, which is why I love it so.