Shelfie: Murder, Floating Corpses, Underrated Films and the Talmadge Sisters

I’m back with another glimpse of my embarrassingly engorged silent film collection. If you want to catch up on other “shelfie” posts, you can find them here.

The Charlatan (1929)

This is a darn fine little Agatha Christie-esque mystery from Universal and the cast is excellent. No huge names but Holmes Herbert, Margaret Livingston and Anita Garvin should ring bells with silent fans. The film was originally intended as a Conrad Veidt vehicle (ads with Veidt’s name were even published) but in the chaos of the sound transition, plans changed. I own the 2007 Grapevine release.

Read my review of the film here.

Dangerous Traffic (1926)

Francis X. Bushman, Jr. stars in this story of a reporter on the trail of hijackers. The criminally underrated Mildred Harris is the leading lady and cowboy star Jack Perrin supports. I own the 2009 Grapevine edition and would like to point out that the cheapo Alpha edition has Francis X. Bushman SENIOR on its cover. Yes, I am judging. Judge, judge.

Below the Surface (1920)

The team behind the infamous Behind the Door reassembled for another dark nautical tale. I absolutely love this little potboiler. Hobart Bosworth is excellent and movie buffs will enjoy seeing a very young Gladys George as the innocent heroine. I own the 2005 Grapevine edition.

Read my review here.

The Constance Talmadge Collection

The Talmadge sisters finally received star treatment from a major label. Little sister Constance was the comedienne and this 2010 Kino DVD includes two of her 1920s rom-coms co-starring Ronald Colman. I have to confess to finding her mugging insufferable (she was more subtle and charming in her early 1910s work, in my opinion) but was glad to see her get some respect on the home video front.

Read my review of Her Sister from Paris here and my review of Her Night of Romance here.

The Norma Talmadge Collection

Big sister Norma was the beauty and the tragedienne but this double feature includes Kiki, a comedy that was later remade by Mary Pickford. (Has anyone ever written about Norma and Mary remaking one another’s stuff all the time? I think maybe each wanted the other’s career.) This is the 2010 Kino release.

The Duchess of Buffalo (1926)

Another Constance Talmadge rom-com, this one with a Russian twist. Every star worth their salt made at least one Russian film during the silent era, it was quite the thing. I have the 2005 Grapevine edition.

Norma Talmadge Double Feature: The Social Secretary and The Forbidden City

In The Social Secretary, Norma plays a secretary tired of being sexually harassed at work, so she disguises herself as a plain Jane. In The Forbidden City, she plays kind of a Madame Butterfly and the daughter of the union. This is the 2004 Grapevine edition.

Read my review of The Social Secretary here and my review of The Forbidden City here. I should probably warn you that the latter film has some squicky incestuous undertones, so…

Norma Talmadge Double Feature: Going Straight and Children in the House

A couple of crime melodramas with varying proportions of crime and melodrama. I have the 2006 Grapevine edition.

The Primitive Lover (1922)

Last Talmadge film… for now! (I have more but they’re on a different shelf.) It’s a Constance rom-com with Harrison Ford (not that one) as her hubby but he’s entirely too civilized and Connie dreams of a (say it with me now) Primitive Lover. I own the out-of-print 2004 Unknown Video edition but you can also buy the Alpha release if you want to take the risk.

Tol’able David (1921)

This is a must-see Americana classic. I own the 1999 Image edition, which features a wonderful Robert Israel score. It is now out of print but Flicker Alley has reissued it. Huzzah!

Read my review here.

The Blot (1921)

Lois Weber’s social drama is a real tear-jerker. I own the 2003 Milestone edition with a chamber score by Jim Parker.

Flicker Alley also recently released this film on Bluray as part of their Early Women Filmmakers box set.

Phew! That’s all for today. We’ll be back soon with more discs and, yes, maybe even more Talmadges.


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  1. Scott Lueck

    Wow, great post, as usual, and it was nice to see that there are quite a few Constance Talmadge movies out there. I snagged a copy of the Kino Her Night of Romance/Her Sister from Paris set, and am looking forward to when it finally arrives. I just recently saw A Pair of Silk Stalking with her and Harrison Ford (not that one) and thought it was quite enjoyable, despite the ‘if these people would stop and think for five seconds all this would be resolved’ plot.

    I’d be tempted to pick up The Blot, but, jeez, Milestone Collection films are expensive…

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      I highly recommend springing for the whole Early Women Filmmakers box if you want to see The Blot as you’ll get a massive selection of other great movies in the bargain. Start dropping broad hints 😉

    2. Gene Zonarich

      Milestone has had an annual “Summer Silents” sale since at least 2011. Last August it was $10 each for selected DVDs. I picked up a couple of Mary Pickford titles, “Daddy Long-Legs” and “Heart O’ the Hills.” “The Blot” was included among those on sale.

      1. Scott Lueck

        Thanks! I may have to get a couple of those to replace the Alpha Video Pickford dvd’s in my collection. And that Early Women Filmmakers set looks like a really good deal, I may have to save my pennies and get that one.

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      Yes, there are a surprising number available, given the general lack of buzz now surrounding the sisters. I remain baffled by their relative lack of modern fans.

  2. Gloria Naldi

    I love the Talmadge sisters! Especially Connie! 🙂 too bad there are not too many Talmadge fans these days

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