Fun Size Review: Souls for Sale (1923)

A behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood and how it’s the lovey-bestest place to work in the whole, wide world and no one has any skeletons in their closet, nosirree, they work so gosh-darn hard that they haven’t time! Industry propaganda from a time when scandal threatened the very foundation of American motion pictures. The schizophrenic plot also involves a serial killer, so there’s that. Excellent cast (Richard Dix, Mae Busch, Billy Haines) can’t save this picture from its own wild inconsistencies.

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Fun Size Review: Redskin (1929)

A late silent era gem, this film was shot on location in two-strip Technicolor. A sensitive and surprisingly progressive look at racism against Native Americans, the film tells the story of a Navajo boy who is forced to attend a harsh boarding school designed to strip him of his culture. At college, he endures both overt and subconscious prejudices but he also finds that he no longer fits in with his very traditional father. Powerful stuff. Not perfect but impressive for its era.
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Cooking with the (Silent) Stars: Richard Dix’s “Toad in the Hole”

Cook Header

Welcome back! I am cooking my way through the 1929 Photoplay cookbook (recipes of the stars!) and you are invited to tag along. (I have listed all the recipes I have tested on this dedicated page. Check back often.) Today, we will be testing a recipe from a versatile leading man.

Think silent leading men were all sheiks, comedians and male flappers? Richard Dix probably is not what you had in mind. With his craggy features and intense stare, he specialized in rugged adventures and dramas. Dix also made the jump to sound, starring in The Whistler movie series.

Richard Dix in all his glory.
Richard Dix in all his glory.

Dix’s silent work was diverse. He played one of the men vying for Eleanor Boardman’s love in Souls for Sale, the good son in the original version of The Ten Commandments and a Navajo man battling racism in the provocatively titled Redskin. As mentioned before, sound and Richard Dix got along just fine. He earned his only Oscar nod for the 1930 western, Cimmaron.

(You can read a lot more about Dix’s diverse career over at Immortal Ephemera, which has one of the largest selections of Dix movie reviews on the web.)

A rare shot of Dix's grin.
A rare shot of Dix’s grin.

So, we know that Mr. Dix could act but could he cook?

Like most of the male stars featured in the cookbook, Mr. Dix chose to stay in the meat category. His recipe is for Toad in the Hole, the English version. (Some parts of America use this name for the dish Eggs in the Basket but the recipes have nothing in common.)

Here is the original recipe:


This is where I noticed something odd. Toad in the Hole is generally reckoned to be a sausage dish but here were are with one of the leanest cuts of beef. Further, sausages would add their herbs and spices to the flavor of the dish but this recipe calls for nothing stronger than salt and pepper.

Oh well. Here goes nothing.

Bubble bubble
Bubble bubble
On the plate
On the plate
On the plate (slightly different angle)
On the plate (slightly different angle)
Hulk smash!
Hulk smash!

As you can see, this is a very plain dish. Classic Toad in the Hole is served with gravy but this is just plopped onto a plate, per recipe instructions.

So, how was it?

Surprisingly okay.

Here is my taste test video:

My rating: 3 out of 5. It’s basically just the sum of its parts, no more and no less. The biggest sin of the recipe is attempting to cut down on the fat. However, in a dish with limited ingredients, every single one counts and the biggest contributor of flavor in a meat dish is the fat. If Dix had opted for a fattier cut of meat or the traditional sausages, the recipe would have been far more successful. Photoplay’s twee proclamation of “yum, yum” seems a bit overstated.

That being said, if you cook meat, butter and batter in the oven, you are never going to end up with something inedible. That’s just how food works. So even though this recipe is as bland as they come, it is still not terrible and, anyway, isn’t this what the salt shaker was invented for?

Can it be improved: Yes. Either using a fattier beef cut or the traditional sausages would improve matters greatly. More spice and an onion gravy would take this into the realm of true comfort food. A vegetarian option could easily be obtained by substituting mushrooms for the beef and bumping up the fat content (either with butter or olive oil) to compensate. Alternately, soy sausage could be used but be sure to really oil the pan. Those little suckers are sticky!


Redskin (1929) A Silent Film Review

The surprisingly sympathetic tale of a Navajo man, Wing Foot (Richard Dix), who was taken from his family as a boy and raised in a boarding school. Insulted and referred to as “Redskin” by his college peers, Wing Foot also finds that he no longer fits in with his family, especially his extremely traditional father. Will Wing Foot be able to bridge the gap between the culture of his birth and the culture in which he was raised?
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After the Silents: Silent Stars in William Castle Films

What do you think of when you hear the name William Castle? Classic chillers? Clever marketing gimmicks? If you asked a movie-goer in the forties, though, they would have thought of mysteries.

In the forties, Castle was known as a B director who could get films done on-time and on-budget. His output varied during this decade but two series kept cropping up on his resume: The Whistler and The Crime Doctor. Both were low-budget films series involving amateur sleuths and both featured former silent leading men: Richard Dix and Warner Baxter, respectively.

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