Here Are the Movie Mistakes Audiences Complained About 100 Years Ago

Movies have a way of infuriating audiences these days, especially if there are perceived errors to pick at (and forcing filmmakers to respond). But movie audiences were perfectly capable of publicly kvetching even before the internet or sound movies. Today, we’re going to be airing some grievances from the January 1918 edition of Photoplay Magazine.

Photoplay had a feature called Why-Do-They-Do-It that invited readers to point out errors in then-current releases. Let’s enjoy a few complaints from the good old days and appreciate that the world has changed a lot but moviegoers are still moviegoers. It’s a good thing these folks didn’t have Twitter!

(My selections will be tilted toward films that survive and are on home video.)

D.C. Dodd reveals that those French maid costumes were nearly as outdated in 1918 as they are today.

A Son of the Hills gets credit for an active heroine but its trouser creasing is a real flaw, so says Verona Uhl. Alas, that particular error has persisted. (By the way, the film is missing and presumed lost. Check attics!)

The reader signed as Bryn Mawr ’16 makes some good points, Mary Pickford did indeed find a smart frock rather quickly considering there was a war on.

You can read my review of The Little American here. It’s available on DVD.

Another complaint about too-tidy clothing! Tsk tsk. By the way, this film is on DVD.

(Also, what is Jno. short for? Chime in if you know!)

Questionable geography is the main complaint from Tacoma, Washington. However, I should point out that Hart may have just wanted a dramatic moment for his beloved pinto, Fritz. The film survives but has not yet been released on home video. (Let me know if you have heard anything!)

Ethelyn is concerned for Polly’s horse and she has a point. What exactly does “having the thumps” mean? Any southerners in the house up for translation?

You can read my review of the film here. It’s available on DVD.

If you’re going for Mary Pickford, you’d best not miss! Obviously, Mary lived to see another day but you can buy this film on DVD if you like.

I hope you enjoyed this little trip back in time!

If you want to read classic movie fan magazines online, please visit the Media History Digital Library.


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  1. Marie Roget

    Wow, some things really don’t change, do they 😉 I certainly share this one: coming in from the wilderness, or even extensive camping, sporting a fresh shave and perfect clothes and hair. Yeesh!

    Speaking of some other silent film beefs that I share, I’m reminded here of reviewer Robert Sherwood’s take on a film with locations (supposedly) in Oh, Canada (Over the Border, 1922, presumed lost, but University of Toronto working on it…checking its extensive attics, maybe?).

    Sherwood’s take: endless view of Canadian Northwest Mounted Policemen trudging through blizzards, and then entering log cabins with flour sprinkled over their mackinaws.

    Great exterior/interior match ups…not.

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      How amusing! Carl Sandburg had similar complaints about heroes traveling through the wilderness for five months and then emerging with a “first class metropolitan haircut”

  2. Dulcy Freeman

    Jno. is short (not by much) for John
    Thumps is equinie hiccups, a serious condition caused by dehydration following exertion.

  3. Stephen Robertson

    “Jno.” was often used as an abbreviation for Jonathan, though I have no idea why the n and the o are in the wrong order.

  4. Elizabeth Gatz

    I’m sorry to inform you, Mr. Bullington, that “one of the oldest inconsistencies known to the film world” in 1918… still happens to this day!
    Moviegoers haven’t changed a bit, and if Internet didn’t exist, Photoplay’s “Why-Do-They-Do-It” would still be a thing today!

    Thanks for the post, Fritzi. It was a fun read!

  5. jennifromrollamo

    Loved this look at complaints. I’ve often had the same complaint as to one minute an actor or actress all soaking wet and in the next scene they look more dry, a lot more dry, than wet. Is Jno. an abbreviation for Jonathon?

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