Theme Month! February 2015: Women at War

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While war movies are often viewed as the exclusive property of men (with the lover, driver, nurse or waiting wife sometimes thrown into the mix), there were quite a few silent era films that allowed women to get in on the action.

The prerequisite for inclusion? The female lead cannot be passive or in a support role, she must partake in combat. This month, we are going to be looking at women as assassins, generals, doughboys and snipers.

We are also going to be examining the reasons why the filmmakers chose to put women front and center in this genre. The answer is complicated and well worth discussing. As an added bonus, every single one of these films will be directed by a big name of the silent era.

Review #1: Assassin

Judith of Bethulia (1914) – Judith tries to save her village from the Assyrians. All she needs is a sexy dress and a very sharp sword. D.W. Griffith directs.

Review #2: General

Joan the Woman (1916) – The English are running roughshod over the French army. Someone needs to stop them. This looks like woman’s work! Cecil B. DeMille directs.

Review #3: Doughboy

She Goes to War (1929) – A society girl heads to France to support the troops during the First World War. She gets a lot closer to the action when she dons a uniform and goes into battle. Henry King directs.

Review #4: Sniper

The Forty-First (1927) – A Bolshevik sniper with forty kills misses the forty-first. Charged with delivering him to headquarters, things go wrong when they are shipwrecked together and a doomed romance starts. Yakov Protazanov directs.

Theme Month! January 2015: Welcome to America

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Cinema began to cover social issues almost immediately after its invention and few issues were more pressing or controversial than immigration. The Unites States is a nation of immigrants and that reality was reflected in the movers and shakers of the motion picture industry. But how would these realities be portrayed on the screen? This month is all about looking the various ways immigrants were portrayed in silent film.

I will be paying special attention to the Jewish immigration experience and the vibrant world of Yiddish cinema. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here are some films dealing with the topic that I have already reviewed:

The Tong Man (1919) From China to San Francisco

Little Annie Rooney (1925) From Ireland to New York

Gretchen the Greenhorn (1916) From the Netherlands to New York

The Canadian (1926) From England to Canada

Redskin (1929) Um, people, the Navajo guy is not the foreigner. You are.

Needless to say, this is a historical examination and political comments are not welcome.

Review #1: Fresh off the boat

The Immigrant (1917) – The perils, trials and triumphs of new immigrants are lovingly celebrated and kidded with in this classic Chaplin short.

Review #2: The Next Generation

His People (1925) – The sweet story of a Jewish family with the immigrant parents at odds with their very American sons.

Review #3: Those Terrible Neighbors!

The Shamrock and the Rose (1927) – A Jewish family and their Irish neighbors duke it out when their kids fall in love.

Also check out:

Silent Volume has a few reviews on the subject…

Hungry Hearts

The Yellow Ticket

Theme Month! November 2014: Go big or go home

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Silent movies could be small, intimate, delicate affairs. We are not going to talk about those. This month, we are all about the biggest, the most epic and the most popular films of the silent era. Only epics need apply.

To whet everyone’s appetite for the silent movie hugeness to come, here are some past reviews to enjoy:

The Volga Boatman

Michael Strogoff*

The Sea Hawk*

The Lost World

Cyrano de Bergerac

The Beloved Rogue*

The Merry Widow

(Particular favorites marked with an *)

Theme Month! September 2014: One hundred years ago… The films of 1914

This month is all about the films that turn 100 this year. 1914 was an intriguing time in cinema history. The feature film era was dawning and the star system as we know it was starting to solidify. However, the free-wheeling spirit of the early days was still in evidence. Vamps, flappers and sheiks were not yet on the scene but the stage was set.

In many ways, the audiences of 1914 were very similar to the audiences of 2014. Adventure and fantasy ruled at the box office, along with some still-shocking spots of darkness.

Here are some 1914 topics I have already covered:

The Squaw Man (Cecil B. DeMille’s debut)

Won in a Cupboard (Mabel Normand directs)

And the top American stars of 1914 were…

On to the new stuff!

Review #1: Cinderella

Mary Pickford’s version of the popular tale. Co-stars her then-husband, Owen Moore.

Review #2: The Magic Cloak of Oz

L. Frank Baum produced a series of silent Oz films. This is the first.

Review #3: The Wishing Ring

A charming and lovely little romance set in old England.

Review #4: Brute Island

Lest you think all 1914 movies were sweetness and light, here is a rather nasty piece of business from writer-director-star Harry Carey.

Theme Month! August 2014: It was a dark and stormy night

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I do so love a good mystery! This month, I am going to be celebrating a very specific sub-genre, plus some added gems of atmospheric murder. The Old Dark House movie has fallen out of favor but I still love it.

The ingredients:

1 old mansion

6-12 suspicious characters

1 or more murders

Add some stylish direction, some gallows humor and then let ‘er rip! Good stuff.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy beating the dog days of summer with a few cold and foggy evenings of terror and/or laughs. Look for more reviews to be posted throughout the month but in the meantime, please enjoy some of my past reviews.

The Cat and the Canary (print review)

The Cat and the Canary (video review)

The Charlatan

Review #1: A C0ttage on Dartmoor (1929)

Stalking, madness and attempted murder on the English moors. What more could we ask for?

Review #2: The Monster (1925)

Lon Chaney plays a mad scientist in this camptastic fright fest.

Review #3: Seven Keys to Baldpate (1917)

George M. Cohan tries his hand at the movies in the adaptation of his creepy stage hit.

Review #4: The Last Performance (1929)

Conrad Veidt plays a jilted magician who just might be dangerous. (You think?)

Review #5: Haunted Spooks (1920)

Harold Lloyd gets in on the fun with this classic “haunted” house comedy.

Theme Month! May 2014: Tournament Winners

This month is dedicated to the four winners of the silent film tournament that was held earlier this year. The talented people that you picked for the honor:

Ernst Lubitsch (Director)

Pola Negri (Leading Lady)

Sessue Hayakawa (Leading Man)

Mabel Normand (Comedian)

Quite a diverse mix, I must say. I am looking forward to the reviews.

Ernst Lubitsch

The Merry Jail (1917)

One of Lubitsch’s earliest surviving films, this is a zany marital romantic comedy. There is madcap intrigue and some rather scheming servants.

Mabel Normand

Won in a Cupboard (1914)

This is Normand’s earliest surviving film that features her wearing two hats: star and director.

Sessue Hayakawa

The Dragon Painter (1919)

One of Hayakawa’s finest roles, he plays a mad artist who must struggle with longing, loss and lack of inspiration.

Pola Negri

Hotel Imperial (1927)

Spies and other nefarious doings during the Great War and Pola must save the day. One of her biggest American hits.

Theme Month! September 2013: Vamps, Flappers and Superstars, oh my!

2013-09Theme-Month-display-banner-GreenThis month is all about the top female stars of the silent era. These are the ladies who made it into the history books and are remembered to this day as the most popular actresses of their time.

While I am preparing my new reviews for publication, here are some past reviews of superstar films:

Daddy Long Legs: Mary Pickford

The Wind: Lillian Gish

The Social Secretary: Norma Talmadge

Barbed Wire: Pola Negri

Why Change Your Wife?: Gloria Swanson

Mantrap: Clara Bow

Ella Cinders: Colleen Moore

Review #1: The Gish Sisters

An Unseen Enemy (1912)

The famous siblings made their debut together in this suspenseful melodrama.

Review #2: Florence Lawrence

The Country Doctor (1909)

An extremely rare film featuring the woman considered by many to be the first true movie star.

Review #3: Gloria Swanson

Manhandled (1924)

Gloria Swanson abandons her beaded gowns and ostrich plumes to play a naive shop girl in this romantic comedy.

Review #4: Clara Bow

Parisian Love (1925)

Before she hit it big, Clara Bow churned out dozens of potboilers. This one is directed by Louis “Reefer Madness” Gasnier.

Theme Month! August 2013: Crime Inc.

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Gangsters! Petty thieves! Blackmailers! Rum runners! The silent era was a hotbed of crime and if you think that the gangster movie was invented with the talkie, well, prepare to be enlightened!

This month, I will be reviewing silent movies with one thing in common, all of them are about some sort of crime.

In the meantime, here are just a few of my older crime-oriented reviews:

The Bells: Robbery and murder most foul!

Below the Surface: Con games!

Carmen: Banditry and more murder!

The Cradle of Courage: The gangs of ‘Frisco!

Little Annie Rooney: The gangs of New York!

Raffles: Gentlemanly robbery!

The Sheik: Abduction and abduction!

Review #1: Fraud and embezzlement!

The Doll (1919)

In order to avoid marriage (but still claim a hefty dowry) a young man weds a life-size doll. Uproarious comedy from Ernst Lubitsch.

Review #2: Highway robbery and identity theft

A Romance of the Redwoods (1917)

Mary Pickford is a city girl who goes west only to discover that a bandit has stolen the identity of the relative she was to stay with.

Review #3: Safe-cracking

Alias Jimmy Valentine (1915)

A bank robber leaves his life of crime behind after a stint at Sing Sing but the police are not inclined to believe him.

Review #4: Bootlegging

Feel My Pulse (1928)

Bebe Daniels is a hypochondriac heiress who stumbles on a nest of ruthless bootleggers. I feel sorry for the bootleggers.

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