Sometimes goofy, sometimes creepy, occasionally romantic but always entertaining. Rudolph Valentino is a sheik who falls for an Englishwoman, Agnes Ayres. What do you do when the lady you love thinks you’re a creep? Kidnap her and confirm all her suspicions, of course! This film reportedly had women fainting in the aisles. Modern women are more likely to be rolling in the aisles with laughter. An amiably clueless kitsch fest.
[toggler title=”How does it end? (click here for a spoiler)” ]Our heroine realizes that kidnapping is okay if the criminal is handsome. Anyway, he’s not really an Arab. Interracial romance averted (yes, people were really worried about that back then), the happy couple is united.[/toggler]
Reginald Denny plays a hypochondriac who is being bilked out of his inheritance by swindlers. Things go awry when Denny falls for his pretty nurse (Mary Astor) and becomes an adrenaline junkie in order to impress her. What if he dies before the swindlers can collect? Hilarious situation comedy and charming lead actors make this a forgotten gem.
John Barrymore is the famous lover who likes his ladies in both quality and quantity. He genuinely falls for Mary Astor’s virginal damsel and ends up incurring the wrath of the Borgias. The costumes are a visual banquet of the gorgeous and the bizarre. The famous duel is worth the price of admission but there is a lot of hamminess and overwrought love-making to get through as well.
It’s the story of an impoverished teen, a kindly minister, gossipy neighbors and a $10 hat. Griffith spins an alluring confection of small town America that both satirizes and celebrates the culture. Lionel Barrymore and Mary Pickford are excellent as the innocent pair who find themselves the subject of slander.
Henry B. Walthall is a slick miner. Mary Pickford is the local lady of the evening. Lionel Barrymore is Henry’s rootin’-tootin’ pal. Both guys like Mary but who will win the day? This is a short subject from D.W. Griffith extolling the virtues of male friendship. Some very fine acting from Mary.
Rex Ingram and company show us the French Revolution in style! Ramon Novarro (in his best-ever performance) is a vengeful lawyer turned actor turned swordsman turned revolutionary. Busy fellow, yes? Lewis Stone is his wily aristocratic opponent. Witty and with atmosphere to spare, one of the finest action epics of the silent era and certainly the most beautiful.
Douglas Fairbanks is a human hurricane in this action-comedy. Obsessed with adventure novels and too wild for his home in Kansas, he finds adventure and romance in Arizona. Villain to vanquish? Check! Damsel in distress? Check! Things to leap from? Check and check! Fairbanks’ stunts are fun and his personality is first rate! The Grand Canyon scenery is an added bonus. Lightweight but well worth the view.
Buckles get swashed in a lavish manner. Lewis Stone plays an Englishman who must take his look-alike cousin’s place in order to save the throne, etc. etc. Ramon Novarro steals the show as a deranged dandy. Has fine passages but also has some incredibly boring stretches. Lavish direction from Rex Ingram and some first-rate performances make this one worth seeing,
If it were a dessert it would be:
Devonshire Splits. Old-fashioned, polite, attractive and ever so slightly dull. Still pretty enjoyable, though.
Textbook Boy meets Girl. Fancy it ain’t but no romantic comedy has been sweeter than this one. Mary Pickford was never spunkier, Budder Rogers was never more adorable. An accomplished supporting cast rounds out this good-natured tale of a shop girl falling for the boss’s son. An ideal silent film for first-timers.
Mary Pickford and Cecil B. DeMille combine forces to make war look like a righteous crusade to save the World’s Sweetheart from the slavering Huns. Uses every propaganda trick in the book and even helps write the book. Hampered by thin characters and some pretty bad performances. Pickford does what she can but there are limits. Everyone involved deserves better.
If it were a dessert it would be:
Candy Cigarettes. Seemed like a cute idea at the time but was possibly harmful and definitely antiquated.
A South Seas vehicle for flapper-in-the-making Clarine Seymour, who died soon after filming was completed. D.W. Griffith makes the most of his scenery and poses some interesting religious and ethical questions but nothing really pays off. Too many reused elements from his earlier films and about 30 minutes too long. See it for the lively Seymour and an uncharacteristically dark turn from Richard Barthelmess.
The plot in one sentence: Daddy, buy me a prince right now!
Ossi Oswalda is a nouveau riche American girl who is determined to marry into German nobility. Harry Liedtke is a penniless prince hounded by creditors. It should be simple but director Ernst Lubitsch has other plans! Slightly naughty but mostly nice, this clever romantic comedy is one of the gems of German cinema.
If you asked me to pick just one movie that perfectly captured the spirit of romanticized rural America, it would be this one. Richard Barthelmess gives the performance of a lifetime as a gentle lad who faces a coldly brutal world and is forced to grow up overnight. Contains violent passages yet it maintains its sweetness. Simple yet packed with symbolism. This one is a classic for a reason.
If it were a dessert it would be:
Maple Glazed Donuts. Thoroughly New World. It may seem like an old hat but it is done so well that it’s a revelation.
William S. Hart hangs up his cowboy hat in this cops-and-robbers tale of post-War San Francisco. Hart is a veteran and ex-crook who comes back from his doughboy stint a changed man. The robber is now a cop and he is forced to investigate his old friends and his own family. Good enough but no classic. Worth it for vintage footage of San Francisco.
If it were a dessert it would be:
Rocky Road Ice Cream. You got your cool stuff, your dark stuff and your fun stuff. An old hat but welcome all the same.
Valentino’s career was revitalized by going… Russian? Yep, this Robin Hood tale turned out to be an ideal vehicle for him. Valentino is heroic, romantic and surprisingly funny (he had an underused gift for comedy). Essentially a dress rehearsal for Son of the Sheik. Vilma Banky was a marvelous leading lady but the show was thoroughly stolen by Louise Dresser as a man-eating Catherine the Great. A film for anyone who thinks they don’t like Rudolph Valentino.
This movie is sick. I’m just getting that out of the way now. Lon Chaney stars, Tod Browning directs. Could it be any other way? Lionel Barrymore steals Chaney’s wife and breaks his back. So Chaney drags himself off to Africa where he plans his revenge for eighteen years or so. It’s a sweaty, grimy and totally un-PC. Chaney is a deranged villain but he also gives one of his most heart-breaking performances. Seek out this twisted little gem if you have the stomach for it. If it were a dessert it would be:
Note to villains: If you want get the hero out of the way by framing him, just make sure he doesn’t get the cell next to the crazy old guy who knows where to find a fabulous treasure. Cuz, you know, he may come back for revenge.
It has a pre-Great Lover John Gilbert and Estelle Taylor playing a good girl for once. It is a little rushed but overall a pretty dern good adaptation.
It’s Cinderella for the 1920s! Colleen Moore is a put-upon waif who enters a motion picture beauty contest and wins. She finds fun, fame and fortune in Hollywood but who will be her Prince Charming? Colleen has never been cuter. Features some excellent sight-gags (including the famous and acclaimed eye-crossing scene) and a cameo from Harry Langdon. Beloved for a reason.
Cecil B. DeMille-helmed tale of sordid revenge. Fannie Ward dips into the Red Cross funds to gamble on the stock market and loses all. Sussue Hayakawa is her platonic pal who will loan her the money if she becomes… less platonic. Things get nasty very fast. Lean and slick with a star-making performance from Hayakawa. Ward, however, emotes egregiously. Not for the easily offended.
John Barrymore is a gentleman crook out to steal a priceless necklace. Frank Morgan (aka, Oz the Great and Powerful) is his best pal Bunny. Yes, Bunny. A shady lady from John’s past threatens to ruin everything but our hero is clever and intrepid. Fun plot and story done in by plodding pace and way too many intertitles. Morgan and Barrymore are the best things in the film but they cannot save it.
Gloria Swanson has a problem. Her husband, Thomas Meighan, has purchased her a negligee! The degenerate! And he listens to fox trot music, if you please! Thomas is soon driven into the waiting arms of Bebe Daniels. Realizing her mistake, Gloria dons designer duds in a bid to win him back. Cecil B. DeMille’s best marital comedy, it is spunky and fast-paced. Excellent performances by all the leads make the film memorable. Worth seeing for Bebe and Gloria’s costumes alone.
Frank Capra’s first film of many for Columbia Pictures and his trademark optimism-amongst-poverty is already in place. Viola Dana is a tenement beauty determined to marry money. Ralph Graves is a rich wastrel who meets Viola, falls for her and marries her the same night. Everything would be fine except that Ralph’s father disinherits him and Viola is back at square one. What to do? Start a business, of course! Capra’s offering delights with charming script and a brisk pace and the leads are engaging.
Hobart Bosworth is (and this may shock you) a sadistic ship captain. Bessie Love is the little castaway who warms his heart and awakens fatherly feelings. But when the captain discovers that poor Bessie just may be the daughter of his enemy, things start to get mean. Love and Bosworth are delightful in their father-daughter relationship and the seafaring scenes are swell but predictable plot prevents this film from being a classic.
D.W. Griffith tried to break his slump by casting Mae Marsh and scrumptious Welsh heartthrob Ivor Novello in this tale of single motherhood and spiritual crisis. Minister-to-be Novello seduces and abandons orphan flapper Marsh, who must face the cruel world, etc. etc. Griffith has done all this before (and better) but his leads try their hardest and almost manage to put it over. Almost. A mixed bag.
How does it end? Hover or tap below for a spoiler.
Marsh and her baby wander into Novello’s neck of the woods, where he promptly realizes the error of his ways and he makes an honest woman of our heroine on her sickbed. Happy endings for all.