100 Years Ago, These Were the Errors, Tropes and Odd Details That Annoyed Viewers

We tend to think of nitpicking at the movies as a modern activity but silent era audiences were smart, alert and they caught things without being able to pause the film or upload hours-long videos to YouTube.

Photoplay had a monthly feature dedicated to these viewer complaints and here is a selection from September of 1920.

As always, the header text and complaint are as-is and my comments are in italics.

Kidnapees Gowned Free Of Charge

In The Knickerbocker Buckaroo with Douglas Fairbanks, when Marjorie Daw is kidnapped by bandits, she is wearing a suit; when we see her again in prison she has on a black dress with a Spanish mantilla over her shoulders. Do western bandits kindly supply kidnapees with complete oufits?

V. H. Vennor, New Jersey.

Douglas Fairbanks has a very high survival rate compared to other major silent stars but this picture is not one of them, so we may never know the answer to this. However, Fairbanks and Daw did star in the surviving film A Modern Musketeer and you can read my review here.

An Educated Arab

In The Auction of Souls a band of Arabs came up to the door of the monastery. A monk looked through a hole in the door. It showed the Arab on the other side and as his lips moved one could see that he spoke, in perfect English, “Open the door.”

George M. Morrissey, Seattle, Washington.

This is a nice illustration of how closely silent era audiences watched the lips of the performers onscreen. While the header and letter in Photoplay refer to the character as Arab, it’s possible that he was actually Turkish. The Auction of Souls was also referred to as Ravished Armenia and was about the Armenian Genocide. It starred author, activist and genocide survivor Aurora Mardiganian. Unfortunately, only fragments of the picture survive.

An Extravagant Heroine

In the fourth episode of Elmo the Fearless, the hero and the girl are climbing down a steep grade. At this time the girl has black stockings on. Next we see a shot of the villain — and then go back to the girl again — and she is wearing white stockings. In still another scene, she has the black ones on again. She must have more hose than Carpentier has shirts.

Ray Couture, Brooklyn, NY

I believes that last line refers to Georges Carpentier, the famous boxer whose arrival in America around the time of this article was breathlessly covered. One of the details was that he had brought along one hundred silk shirts, each with a different color or pattern. Continuity errors make up the bulk of these Photoplay articles, generally. Elmo the Fearless is considered to be a lost film but if you want to see strongman Elmo Lincoln in action, here is my review of Tarzan of the Apes.

Perhaps She Went Back After It

In Below the Surface, Hobart Bosworth literally drags Grace Darmond from the restaurant without her evening wrap. But later, when both are seen on the night boat to Boston, she is holding her wrap about her.

Louise Meredith, Bayonne. NJ

Finally! A surviving film and a rather good one too, wrap errors notwithstanding. (It features a baby, and brunette!, Gladys Georges) Bosworth does indeed drag the young lady outside with great force but she did nearly get his son killed. His anger is illustrated in the GIF above. Here’s my review, I highly recommend the film.


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