Theme Month! July 2019: Trash

So, I have had to do some rearranging in my schedule. I was going to make July all about revolutions but the films I have chosen are pretty research intensive and I need a bit of a breather after the heavy topics tackled in June.

As a result, I moved Trash up the pipeline and moved Revolutions back to August. The topic of trash was chosen as part of a Twitter poll and is going to be a bit lighter weight. I have some big projects in the works (Patreon patrons are going to be getting a preview of the most secret one soon) and so a month of a topic with which I am intimately familiar will be welcome.

I have long advocated for the release of more silent era programmers and movies with absolutely no social or artistic value. I feel that the focus on slapstick and art films has skewed the perception of the silent era and that can be corrected with some good, old-fashioned trash.

The modern definition of trash, often B-movies and exploitation films, does overlap somewhat with the silent era definition but I spent some time reading through issues of The Educational Screen, which set itself up as an arbiter of the social quality of films, in order to pin down the definition a little better.

Films were expected to have a moral lesson but not beat one over the head with it. (Way Down East was panned.) Films set primarily in the criminal underworld were also considered lowbrow. Westerns quite often were as well, especially if their plots centered around revenge. Slapstick comedies made the list often as well, particularly ones starring women. (Oh boy did they hate Louise Fazenda.) And flapper pictures. THEY HATED FLAPPERS! And also women working outside the home or doing anything other than being a devoted hausfrau.

To sum up:

  • No crime or revenge
  • No faw down go boom
  • No funny ladies
  • No bare knees
  • I haven’t done a proper tally but Fox seemed to have an unusual number of trash designations. Then again, they did spearhead the vamp craze, so…

Otherwise, TRASH!

Oddly enough, films that we now view as trashy were not included on the naughty list. The Sheik, for example. There were caveats but it wasn’t panned like Orphans of the Storm, which was written off as self-indulgent. (I can’t say that I argue with this.) The Unknown was listed as unusual but not condemned for its, er, odd plot.

Here is a small list of films I have reviewed that were listed as utterly lacking decent content and you should NOT attend because, like, downfall of society or something:

Bare Knees (1928): I think the title should give you a hint.

Getting Gertie’s Garter (1927): Again, title’s a dead giveaway, though the film is actually far wilder in the titling than in practice.

Her Sister From Paris (1925): Constance Talmadge poses as her own twin to trick her husband, Ronald Colman. This was remade by Garbo and had even more censorship woes.

The Monster (1925): Mad science is a no-no around here, apparently.

The Merry Widow (1925): No surprise here, though the magazine did praise the artistry of previous von Stroheim productions. Ironically, this is one of his tamer pictures.

The Wizard of Oz (1925): It spoiled a perfectly good book, in their opinion. You know what? I’ll give them this one. They’re absolutely correct. They also published a letter from a mother who walked out on the film because it was so offensively stupid.

So, you can see that the choices were somewhat eclectic and I don’t think you’ll be able to guess the reviews I have in store! I will tell you, though, that the magazine tended to come down harder on star vehicles so some of your favorites are likely to make an appearance this month.


  1. Marie Roget

    Yay, Trash Month is here! Sounds really promising!

    During my wild and frivolous youth such programmer/B films were known as “drive-in movies” due to the huge amount of faw down go boom, crime without punishment, and implied sexy factors. Good only for watching at the drive-in so you could concentrate on….eating popcorn.

  2. Scott Lueck

    Well, the mother that walked out on The Wizard of Oz was absolutely right. That is the only silent movie that I actually stopped watching because it was so bad. If I was the theater manager, I would have given the lady her money back, plus a dollar for pain and suffering.

    I also remember the ‘drive in movie’ days, albeit second hand from watching them on Showtime in the late seventies/early eighties (my hometown theater played mainstream films, and the closest drive in was an hour away). My friends could never figure out how I could watch Dr. Caligari and Motel Hell on the same day and still remain sane.

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