Hats off to Edna Purviance, wicked mimic! Animated GIF

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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.

carmen-bound-by-love

Good stuff!

(You can read my full-length review of Carmen here and my review of Burlesque on Carmen— complete with litigation and backstage gossip– right here.)

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.

Joan the Woman (1916) A Silent Film Review

Cecil B. DeMille’s first historical epic takes on the life of Joan of Arc. An intriguing, uneven and thoroughly entertaining spectacle, the films stars operatic soprano Geraldine Farrar as the doomed Maid of Orleans and the tragic Wallace Reid as her chief antagonist and romancer-in-chief. What’s that? The real Joan didn’t have a romancer-in-chief? La la la la, not listening!
Continue reading “Joan the Woman (1916) A Silent Film Review”

I like him, he’s silly. Animated GIF

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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.