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.
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…
The Yellow Ticket
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
The Sea Hawk*
The Lost World
Cyrano de Bergerac
The Beloved Rogue*
The Merry Widow
(Particular favorites marked with an *)
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!
Mary Pickford’s version of the popular tale. Co-stars her then-husband, Owen Moore.
L. Frank Baum produced a series of silent Oz films. This is the first.
A charming and lovely little romance set in old England.
Lest you think all 1914 movies were sweetness and light, here is a rather nasty piece of business from writer-director-star Harry Carey.
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.
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)
Stalking, madness and attempted murder on the English moors. What more could we ask for?
Lon Chaney plays a mad scientist in this camptastic fright fest.
George M. Cohan tries his hand at the movies in the adaptation of his creepy stage hit.
Conrad Veidt plays a jilted magician who just might be dangerous. (You think?)
Harold Lloyd gets in on the fun with this classic “haunted” house comedy.
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.
One of Lubitsch’s earliest surviving films, this is a zany marital romantic comedy. There is madcap intrigue and some rather scheming servants.
This is Normand’s earliest surviving film that features her wearing two hats: star and director.
One of Hayakawa’s finest roles, he plays a mad artist who must struggle with longing, loss and lack of inspiration.
Spies and other nefarious doings during the Great War and Pola must save the day. One of her biggest American hits.
This 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
The famous siblings made their debut together in this suspenseful melodrama.
Review #2: Florence Lawrence
An extremely rare film featuring the woman considered by many to be the first true movie star.
Review #3: Gloria Swanson
Gloria Swanson abandons her beaded gowns and ostrich plumes to play a naive shop girl in this romantic comedy.
Review #4: Clara Bow
Before she hit it big, Clara Bow churned out dozens of potboilers. This one is directed by Louis “Reefer Madness” Gasnier.
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!
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
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
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
Bebe Daniels is a hypochondriac heiress who stumbles on a nest of ruthless bootleggers. I feel sorry for the bootleggers.
The theme for this month is Seeing Double. I am going to be reviewing films in which the same actor plays at least two parts.
Continue reading “Theme Month! July 2013: Seeing Double”
Welcome to the theme for April 2013 here at Movies Silently. It’s time to celebrate the gallant Silent Swashbucklers.
Continue reading “Theme Month! April 2013: Silent Swashbucklers”
Welcome to the very first Theme Month here at Movies, Silently! The theme for March 2013 is “I Loved a German”
Continue reading “Theme Month! March 2013: I Loved a German”