Well, we’re in the new year and I have lots of clever schemes afoot! Well, at least I think they’re clever. I hope they’re clever. What if they aren’t? What if I accidentally rip a hole in the fabric of space?
Well, we’re going to have to take that risk! Here are my plans for 2016!
(Please excuse any madness, I have a cold. Yes, again. Parents who bring hacking children into public places deserve to be pelted with mud pies. Leave the contagious child at home, people! It’s better for everyone, including the poor kid.)
Keep doing what we’ve been doing
The main goals of this site are to make silent films fun and accessible to newcomers and non-academics and to dig into the massive catalog of mainstream American releases of the silent era to hunt for buried treasure. Along the way, we also cook vintage recipes, giggle over GIFs and generally have a wacky good time. We will definitely keep doing all these things in 2016.
The basic problem with a lot of silent movie information is that it is either aimed at academia or it involves weird slapfights over picayune disputes. Now there is nothing wrong with academic writing but some lighter stuff will help attract new fans. And as for the weird debates about, I don’t know, sprocket holes and Valentino’s love life, the sooner we move past those, the better off we all will be.
But enough about these humorless folks! The silent era was fun, silent movies are fun and talking about silent movies should be fun too! So here’s to another year of celebrating this delightful era of filmmaking and a very special shout-out to the hardworking archivists, preservationists, producers, accompanists and other professionals who are rescuing these films and releasing them back to the public. You are the best!
And now here is the stuff that will be a special focus in 2016:
Begin at the beginning
This year, I hope to include more films from the very dawn of movies as we know them. Films went from peepshow to projector in 1895 and steadily gained popularity through the Nickelodeon (5-cent theater) era, which lasted from about 1905 to the mid-1910s. I want to add more of these intriguing pre-1910 films to my schedule as they provide a valuable glimpse into the very dawn of cinema. Stay tuned for some of these early delights from 1895-1909!
The Harry Files
I have never made a secret of the fact that I adore Harry Langdon. In my opinion, too much is made of how “difficult” it is for modern fans to enjoy his films. You just watch them, people!
However, while I have praised Langdon on social media, I have not covered many of his films on this site. I mean to correct this in 2016 and give Langdon his due as a brilliant and hilarious comedian.
More White, less Red
As you know, I absolutely love Russian cinema from all eras but this year, I want to focus on the most neglected section: pre-Soviet films. I have covered some of these films already but I want to kick things into high gear in 2016.
I also plan to include more coverage of the Russian emigres who fled the revolution and ended up in Paris. In fact, the most famous actor of these emigres, Ivan Mosjoukine, is going to be my special focus in 2016. He deserves more coverage and I plan to do my part in giving it to him. You are invited to tag along!
A bit more Germany, please!
I reviewed a lot of French and Russian films last year, as well as a few British productions. As a result, one of the biggest cinematic powerhouses of the silent era, Germany, was neglected. I mean to remedy that in 2016 by adding a lot more German stuff to the schedule.
As I find that I prefer the forgotten stuff to the famous masterpieces, be prepared for things to take a turn for the obscure. You know, for a change.
In 2016, I will also be showcasing one silent star every month. I will probably steer clear of the obvious choices in favor of actors and actresses who could use some attention.
One last potshot
So my project last year was to kick D.W. Griffith in general and The Birth of a Nation in particular off their pedestals. It will take a lot more than lil’ old me to completely dispel the notion that the film was totally the first everything but we got off to a smashing start and I thank everyone who lent support to the effort.
But you may have noticed a loud hum emanating from Hollywood. Don’t worry about it, it’s just Griffith spinning in his grave. Someone went and showed him a poster of the new Star Wars movie, a film with a cast so diverse that some racist dunderheads threatened a boycott. Which totally worked out for them, mm-hmm. I absolutely love that the runaway blockbuster of Birth‘s centennial year features an ensemble that would make Griffith’s head explode. Happy spinning, David Warke, happy spinning. (Guys, I think we may have discovered the secret to perpetual motion! Better than cats and buttered toast! We’ll line Griffith’s casket with The Force Awakens merchandise!)
Zombie Lillian Gish tries to chime in with her usual nonsense of, “Mr. Griffith loved black people because the villainous mastermind of Birth was biracial! Um, well, a white guy in blackface pretending to be biracial but it counts! And Mr. Griffith was sorry he said mean things about Germans! That totally absolves him of all racism, which he never had anyway!” but then her pinkie rots off and she has to go find it. Zombies are a little ditsy that way.
And, needless to say, Griffith’s study in pomposity, Intolerance, will not be on the review schedule.
“Yes!” to all in the above list, and a hearty affirmation for more Mosjoukine coming our way.
Wishing all who post, thread, and read here a prosperous, peaceful 2016!
Glad that you’re going obscure; there are just so many gems and filmmakers in need of rediscovery. Like we totally need more Sessue Hayakawa, Ivan Mosjoukine, and Lois Weber in our lives.
Thanks! I hope I don’t disappoint 🙂
Looking forward to all of this Fritzi. You always make it fun!
Can’t wait to see all of this coming.
I’m particularly intrigued by German films. I don’t know why, I’m particularly intrigued with anything 1920s Germany 🙂
Yes, there’s a lot of amazing silent German cinema off the beaten path.
I live about 45 minutes away from Hamilton, Ont. where Florence Lawrence was born. I always found her fascinating. I love Lillian Gish but she did drone on about Griffith. I look forward to the film and actors you will discuss since I know little of Russian cinema except for Eisenstein. I am assuming you have seen the PBS series from the 70’s narrated by James Mason called Hollywood? I have never seen a Harry Langdon film but always wanted to. I watch MASH and often felt Larry Linville must have seen some “quirks” of Harry Langdon and used them. This could just be in my own sad little head:). I would love to see films on the tragic Florence LaBadie. I have a great book on Canadian actors which are from the silents. It seems the president of the U.S. had a real thing for her. I wish someone would make a film about this forgotten star
Yes, I love Lillian Gish’s performances but her strange need to deify D.W. Griffith has made serious discussion of his issues with women and non-white men quite challenging.
Florence Lawrence is really fun to watch. So much charisma! It’s easy to see what made her so appealing to audiences of her day.
The idea that Florence La Badie had an affair with a president has been pretty well debunked. The lone source for the information is a book of incredibly poor scholarship (no references, no supporting sources that actually exists, etc.) that simply does not stand up to scrutiny.
Disappoint…judging from all I’ve read here so far, not possible.
Fritzi, this is probably a bit of a non sequitur, but do you know of anywhere where I could find a copy of The Unholy Night (1929) ? From what I’ve read, it’s a campy pleasure, in it’s bizarre awkward-transition-to-sound-ness and weird acting.
No, I’m sorry but I don’t. I’ll leave your comment up in case someone else has an idea where it can be obtained.
Stop debating about sprocket holes? Never! 😉
I don’t know how you manage to write so prolifically but I’m glad that you do! Great roster. I love, love, love the Tsarist cinema and it will be great to see that getting more publicity.
I noted the screencap of Le lion des Mogols – can’t wait to read your review of that one. I liked it, but what a mess of a film. Mosjoukine’s outfits, though!
Thank you! I haven’t delved too deeply into Lion yet (the entire box set is so fascinating) but I really like what I saw on my initial pass. Mosjoukine wrote such nutty scripts and I have a weakness for nutty 😉
Are you familiar with Yevgeniy Bauer’s films from late Imperial Russia? I rented a DVD with I believe three of them some years back, and rather enjoyed them. I’d love to see more, and to see more of Vera Kholodnaya’s surviving films. Another Imperial Russian silent I’d love to see is 1911’s The Defence of Sevastopol, Russia’s first feature-length film. Since I’ve begun spotlighting films with landmark anniversaries in a given year on my blog, that film is one I’m hoping to get a chance to see so I can do a 105th anniversary post or series.
Yes, I am familiar with all of the above and have a few surprises up my sleeve as well. 🙂
Speaking of The Force Awakens, did you ever get to watch it? If so, what did you think?
Yes, I saw it and was quite pleased. There were a few points where the plot seemed choppy but they overall did a great job of righting the ship and introducing women in all levels of the Star Wars universe. Finally, girls don’t have to choose between Princess Leia and Dancing Girl 3454 when they want to play.
Preach it honey! The racial diversity was welcome too.
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