Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: Marion Davies’ Peach Shortcake Tampa

Ready for another taste test of a vintage celebrity recipe? Here we go! This time around, we’re trying a breakfast/brunch dish from Marion Davies. As you may recall, we tried her recipe for cheese patties a while back. (You can catch up on all my past taste tests here.) This recipe is from a 1933 souvenir booklet.

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Fun Size Review: Little Old New York (1923)

A cute concept that collapses under the weight of too many characters (21 in the opening credits!), too many plot threads and too many false climaxes. Marion Davies is utterly charming as an Irish girl who poses as her own brother to claim an inheritance but she is crushed under the leaden story and unimaginative direction. Also, steamships. Go head. Ask me anything about steamships.

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The Marion Davies Acting Academy: Realistic Tears. Animated GIF


It takes a really good actor to play a really bad actor. In this case, Marion Davies plays a kid who just wants to make it big in pictures. Unfortunately, she lacks one important skill: She cannot cry on command. Never one to be deterred, our intrepid heroine starts to get imaginative with her methods.

This is from Show People, her best silent and one of the most effervescent films of the era. It’s a delight.

(Read my full-length review here.)

Availability: Show People was released on DVD by Warner Archive. Unfortunately, it has the original Vitaphone score instead of the delightful Carl Davis score that accompanied the VHS release.

Zander the Great (1925) A Silent Film Review

A sort of orphanage-western-drama-comedy, Zander the Great was one of Marion Davies’ big hits and her first film for the newly-merged MGM. She is an orphan who takes in a small boy and then sets out for Arizona in search of his father, who may or may not be a bootlegger. On the way, she meets Harrison Ford, who really is a bootlegger. A darling bit of fluff from the pen of Frances Marion.

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The Film Rescue Commando Squad

There are two frustrating things about being a silent movie fan. Lost films are the number one vexation. That is, no known copy exists. Second place goes to the sheer number of films that are stuck in archive vaults and simply not famous enough to ever earn home media release. These “vaulties” may crop up at film festivals now and again but are otherwise completely forgotten.

Now I absolutely do not want to come off as negative toward archivists. They are hard-working professionals and they have a daunting job. I understand that more famous films that will sell thousands of copies are considered higher priority than movies that may sell, say, a hundred or so discs.

Up until now, our best hope of seeing more obscure films was either through the venerable Grapevine Video or the wonderful Treasures from (insert country) Film Archives series.

That’s why I am so excited about a certain Kickstarter campaign…

Let’s say you want to see a movie. You know it is in the public domain because it was released before 1923. However, the only prints are held by the Library of Congress. The folks at LoC will gladly give you a copy but the cost of the transfer is over $1,000. That’s a lot of money for most people. What to do?

Well, there must be other people who want to see that film. If they gave just $25 each…

One silent film rescue coming right up!
One silent film rescue coming right up!

Which brings us to Edward Lorusso’s Kickstarter campaign. The target film is Marion Davies’ 1921 romantic comedy Enchantment. The price tag is $1,300 for the Library of Congress to transfer the picture. The incentive? Each person who donates $25 or more will receive a DVD copy of the movie. This means that just 52 silent film fans working together can return a vaultie to the public.

The campaign was funded in just two days and it looks like folks are still donating (the fundraising event is slated to last until February 7, 2014). Documentaries and new movies have been funded through Kickstarter before but, in my opinion, this is a huge game-changer for silent film fans. Instead of bemoaning the lack of film selection (heck I have a whole series on films in vaults) we can take action to get these movies released once more. Yes, $1,300 is a hefty price tag for a single film but I dare say that most silent titles have at least 50 people interested in seeing them. Even without recognizable stars or a famous director, the sheer rarity of some vault treasures will send silent fans racing to donate.

Congratulations to Mr. Lorusso for his brilliant idea and his successful campaign. I hope it is just the first of many film rescues in the silent community.

Goodness, I feel so revolutionary!

Scaramouche, French Revolution Animated GIF

Oh, and look for a review of Enchantment once I get my copy!

Silent Take: “Enchanted” circa 1918

After completing posters for the silent Nolan Batman trilogy and working on my designs for James Bond and Indiana Jones, I am a burned out on male-led blockbusters. So, how’s about some girl stuff? Enchanted is, of course, a clever 2007 send-up by Disney about Disney. I have to confess that I am not an enormous fan of Disney films in general but I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

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Silent Movie Time Capsule: The aftermath of the Fatty Arbuckle scandal


I was reading through 1927 issues of Photoplay magazine (as one does) and I came across a capsule review for the Marion Davies vehicle The Red Mill.

Here is the interesting part of the review:

Here is a fairly amusing comedy with the star giving a cheery performance of the Holland hoyden. Incidentally, the direction is the work of William Goodrich, who is no other than Fatty Arbuckle under his newer megaphone cognomen.

You see, I always had the impression that Arbuckle’s William Goodrich years were an open secret among Hollywood folks but not known to the general public. The scandal that destroyed his career was a doozy (although the poor man was almost surely innocent). However, here is a mainstream entertainment magazine trumpeting the new identity.

You learn something new every day.


Marion Davies demonstrates the only proper way to register shock at bad news… Animated GIF


The wonderful Marion Davies delights in Show People. This time, her character is showing off her acting skills by reading bad news in a letter. It takes a very good actress to pull off playing such a bad actress, I say.

This is basically how I look when I get my phone bill and discover that I have gone over my data plan. Or, I should say, how I used to look in the olden days when you needed a paper bill to monitor your usage.


Show People (1928) A Silent Film Review

Marion Davies knocks ’em dead in this witty comedy about showbiz. In a tale that is a combination of Gloria Swanson’s story and Merton of the Movies, Marion plays a newcomer to Hollywood who wants to make her mark in drama. William Haines, a kindly slapstick comedian, takes her under his wing and her career begins to take off but she soon outgrows him. Will her emerging ego destroy her career or will she realize who her real friends are?

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