Dudes in Distress: I dug into silent film history and all I got was nerd points and this t-shirt

I fell down a bit of a research rabbit hole the other day and ended up finding all kinds of examples of distressed dudes tied to train tracks for actual, honest-to-goodness suspense. This amused me no end, of course, and I naturally tweeted about it.

You can read my debunking of the “silent movies were full of women tied to railroad tracks” myth here.

An alert reader also informed me that the brainy British quiz show QI had a short sequence on the trope and… they got it right! So, well done them!

“Not only was it originally the other way around, this railway scene never appeared in mainstream silent dramas. It only appeared in comedy spoofs.”

(h/t: @GregMcCambley)

So, I was in a pretty good mood after my dive into nerdy topics and I celebrated by adding to my RedBubble Store. You can guess the topic. Click on an image to view its page.

Also, RedBubble is having a 25% off apparel flash sale, so if you wanted to buy something else (like, say, something from my bestselling Silent Comedy line) then this is the time.

I don’t take ads so merchandise sales, Patreon supporters and affiliate commissions all help keep the site financed.

Everything is appreciated but I know many of you are students or are otherwise on tight budgets so I also wanted to give away a freebie related one of my favorite empowered women of the silent screen. It’s a card. So you can literally carry the card and be card-carrying. Enjoy!


  1. Katie M

    I think this is awesome. Not that guys were about to be run over by trains, obviously, but that women were the rescuers πŸ˜€

  2. geelw

    Heh, it looks more as if she’s the one tying the guy up and is about to leave him there because he went all “Well, actually…” on the trope and was kinda wrong about it. πŸ˜€

  3. Marie Roget

    Just ordered a Silent Comedy hoodie to fend off the recent onslaught of cold. How to complain about the weather around here though, when they’re experiencing sub-zero in parts north and O Canada.

    Party time soon! Will be watching the game at next-door neighbors’ potluck. Bringing a vat of Worsley 3 Alarm Chili (you know the one I mean, Fritzi). A Happy Super Bowl weekend to all πŸ˜€

  4. George

    I recall an NPR discussion last year about women in movies, where the glib host dismissed silent films that were supposedly full of “damsels in distress like Mary Pickford.” Anyone who’d say that has probably never seen a Pickford film, or many silents at all.

    It was almost as bad as another NPR discussion, where a host claimed the German mountain films of the ’20s were faked in a studio, with styrofoam boulders. Those films were actually shot on location, and people who worked on them often suffered frostbite from below-zero temps.

    You’d think NPR, an organization I respect, would bother with basic fact-checking. But when it comes to movies, apparently not.

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