Complaining about mistakes and plot holes was not invented on Twitter and silent era audiences found much to kvetch about in the new releases of the time. Like this selection of complaints and nit-picks from the January 1919 issue of Photoplay.
As always, my comments will be in italics.
No Curfew Here
Last week I went to see Alice Brady in The Better Half. Perhaps if anyone reading this has seen it they probably noticed that at 2:30 in the morning there were about six kids under twelve years old running around in the streets.
G. K. Omaha.
The Better Half seems to be missing and presumed lost but you can see Brady as a silent era leading lady in The Dancer’s Peril.
We Were Puzzled, Too
In His Own Home Town Charles Ray writes a play, based on his own experiences, naming it His Own Home Town; his sweetheart, Carol Landis (played by Catherine MacDonald) induces her manager, who is looking for a suitable play in which to star her, to purchase the above. I fail to see the suitability; in fact the leading role seemed to me to be decidedly a man’s part. If not, why did Charles act in it in the first place?
L. A. R., Sacramento, Cal.
Don’t nobody tell L.A.R. about Sigourney Weaver in Alien! His Own Home Town is also lost but you can see Charles Ray in films like The Pinch Hitter, pictured above.
Some Houses Get So Dusty!
Why is it that in so many pictures the maid is shown dusting and cleaning as late as five o’clock in the evening? You’ll see them dusting about the stairs, tables and chairs in the pictures when their mistresses are serving dinner.
Helen Miller, Manhattan, N. Y.
Hollywood continues to get the actual work of professions wrong all the time, alas.
A Great Ship for Seasick People
His Majesty Bunker Bean was, no doubt, one of the best of the recent releases in spite of a very noticeable slip.
There is supposed to be action on board a trans-Atlantic steamer. In the stateroom occupied by Jack Pickford everything is rolling about and falling over, and even the steward can hardly walk across without losing his balance. But upstairs on deck all is perfectly tranquil. Also, in the dining-room everyone eats with perfect ease and not even a drop of water is spilt! This certainly is the ideal steamer and the Paramount people ought to build them.
H. W., Yale University
His Majesty, Bunker Bean is (you guessed it) missing and presumed lost. I feel this one more keenly than the rest. Not that I am a fan of Jack Pickford, you understand. (My favorite underrated Pickford is Lottie.) No, it’s because it’s an adaptation of Harry Leon Wilson’s Bunker Bean, the 1913 novel that helped popularize the phrase “flapper.” You can see a fine adaptation of a Wilson novel with Oh Doctor, pictured above.
Having read a great deal about the genius of Maurice Tourneur and having seen many of his splendid plays. I was properly impressed as to his wonderful directing ability.
Therefore you can imagine my horror when in A Doll’s House I saw a ukulele gayly adorning one of the walls as innocently as could be. These instruments of torture were scarcely known or heard of in the United States fifteen So I hardly could believe that Ibsen would have used them in his play written about fifty years ago. I even doubt if the girls in Norway and Sweden to-day know how to sit in the moonlight and make the neighbors suffer.
Although I do only possess the grand total of seventeen summers this was almost too much for my sense of humor.
Anne 0. Nimus, Venice, Calif.
Young Nimus does seem a bit of a wet blanket, don’t you think? The Tourneur film mentioned here is, you guessed it, missing and presumed lost. A very bad survival rate in this issue, I must say. Incidentally, the GIF of Harold Lloyd on the uke is from Captain Kidd’s Kids.
(I will not fall down the rabbit hole of researching the history of the ukulele, I will not fall down the rabbit hole of researching the history of the ukulele, I will not fall down the rabbit hole of researching the history of the ukulele, I will not fall down the rabbit hole of researching the history of the ukulele…)
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Love these installments of Why-Do-They-Do-It!!!
“Missing and presumed lost” remains one of the saddest phrases a silents fan ever reads or hears, and we hear it all too frequently.
Re: Ukuleles- when we were buying our current old house (never have lived in anything but old or really old houses my entire life, by the way) I walked into the den. The then-owners called it their Tiki Room (don’t ask). I looked at one darkish corner to see sitting far up on a wall-mounted glass pane flanked by two ceramic palm trees…a green uke with red palms painted on it! So as to falling down that particular rabbit hole…yep, I fell 😀
Ukes are the cutest! I have a Luna acoustic/electric with hibiscus flower mother of pearl inlay. 😀
Looking forward to the history of the ukulele 😉
There is, of course, a 1936 ‘Bunker Bean’ that had Lucille Ball, Jessie Ralph, and Hedda Hopper in the cast.
Harry Leon Wilson stories were screen fixtures until around the 1940s and then *poof* no more. I wish they’d come back, I love them so!
I would think that the biggest error in His Majesty Bunker Bean would be if Jack Pickford gave a believable, realistic performance…
People are sometimes like “YOU DON’T LIKE JACK PICKFORD BECAUSE OF THE RUMORS ABOUT HIM!!!!” and I have to break their hearts and confess that I do not like Jack Pickford because I find him incredibly annoying as a performer.
I’ve seen enough of his work to know that if he weren’t Mary’s brother, he wouldn’t have gotten in the gate at Monogram or PRC, much less doing features at MGM and First National. As a friend of mine said, “As an actor, he couldn’t convey the feeling of falling if you pushed him off a cliff.”
Ha! I have to agree there. I have seen him in numerous films over the years and am always vaguely disappointed when he shows up onscreen. And to make him the object of Beatrice Lillie’s affections in Exit Smiling was sheer madness. Literally any generic handsome guy would have done the trick but she was saddled with professing love to a pile of cold leftover spaghetti.
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