I know this will come as a complete shock but it seems that people are actually wrong about things on the internet. And in print. And then they’re wrong when the internet quotes the in-print errors. Sigh.
How to not make a fool of yourself when writing about silent films:
Check the release date of a picture (year AND day) before proclaiming that one inspired the other or that something was invented by a particular director.
Case Study: Ivan Mosjoukine is the European Valentino
I have heard it again and again that Ivan Mosjoukine was imported to Hollywood because everyone was looking for the next Valentino. Wikipedia certainly buys that story.
The problem? No one actually bothered to look at actual documents from the period. (Oh, and the Valentino copycat craze had been in the early twenties and his staying power was in doubt by the mid-twenties. For example, MGM made a point of not casting Ramon Novarro is Valentino-esque roles so as not to tie their new star to a short-lived fad.)
Rudolph Valentino died suddenly on August 23, 1926. Ivan Mosjoukine’s first Hollywood film was released almost exactly a year later. It would seem to be a safe assumption that one event inspired the other, especially considering that Mosjoukine’s Casanova had been such a hit.
Hold your horses! Casanova was released in France in September of 1927. Surrender, Mosjoukine’s lone Hollywood film, was released in October of the same year. Further, I have this little clipping:
This is from Motion Picture News, a trade publication, announcing that Mosjoukine had been hired by Universal. Note that the magazine is dated August 14, 1926. Recall that Valentino died suddenly on August 23. Now remember that deals of this sort take time to negotiate and the magazine was likely informed only when the ink on the contract had dried.
I’m dropping my mic now.
Check your dates, my darlings, check your dates.
Case Study: Birth of a Nation invented the modern feature film as we know it
This one gets parroted as an excuse to just wuv D.W. Griffith’s cute little KKK recruitment film. The problem is that the first known fiction feature film was released in Australia in 1906, Italians were making epics already and, more to the point, Americans were making feature films too.
For your convenience, here is a list of American feature films released before Birth AND available on DVD. Considering that up to 90% of all silent films are missing and presumed lost and only a small selection of the surviving films are available on home media, we can safely assume this is just a fraction of the American film industry’s feature output. (And some of these titles were directed by Griffith. Just sayin’.)
I made a special section in my aStore for the DVD and Blu-ray releases. Please note that some films are bundled together.
(There’s a point when one has to wonder why some people are SO determined to make Birth the first… anything.)
Look, we all make mistakes and accidentally repeat incorrect information but it would be a pity to fall victim to such a basic blunder. Check those dates and I wish you happy researching!