100 Years Ago, These Were the Cliches, Silly Mistakes and Continuity Errors That Annoyed Filmgoers

Silent era audiences were smart, alert and they could catch an onscreen mistake lickety-split without the benefit of pause or rewind. Photoplay collected these complaints and here is a selection from October of 1920.

Here’s Two on D. W. G.

I would like to know where Richard Barthelmess kept his valet. He had quite a beard when falling, dead drunk, on the beach, but when — “The Idol Dancer” — with the beautifully marcelled hair — found him the same morning, he appeared smooth-shaven.

“The Idol Dancer’s” adopted father tosses a dress into her lap. She picks it up and looks at it. The dress tossed into her laps is white with a plaid in it about three inches square. In the close-up, the dress is a dark color with crossed white lines about one-half inch apart.

C. H. A., Jr.
Bridgeport, Conn.

I constantly complain about Griffith’s sloppy continuity and seeming inability to match closeups to other shots in the scene, so I am just sitting back, drinking my tea and letting a 1920 viewer from Connecticut take this one. You can read my review of The Idol Danger here. It’s… something.

Referred to Our Motor Editor

Isn’t it rather peculiar that no matter how long one stays in a house or hotel — when they come out the engine of an automobile is always running? No self-starter is needed, just put it in gear and ride off.

I will admit that “Marriage for Convenience” was a good story but most
all of the picture was taken at night. During the whole time no lights were seen burning on the automobile. Rather a shortage of electricity and an overflow of gasoline, I should say!

Naomi Jaffe,
Birmingham, Ala.

Starting a car was more of a process back in the day but I would call the first complaint a justified break from reality because who wants to watch the entire ignition process every time anybody goes anywhere? The lack of headlines is likely due to the majority of night scenes being taken during the day at the time. The good news is that Marriage for Convenience survives in multiple archives.

In Fact, It Started Another Revolution

In “The World and Its Woman,” some soldiers of (he Russian Red Guard try to enter the apartment of the singer, Marcia Warren, played by Geraldine Farrar. The men batter down the door a second after Gerry has climbed out the window. They enter the room and the door is badly shattered. A moment later, Geraldine meets Lou Tellegen in the hall outside the same
door — which now is quite whole again. I should think those Russian Red Guards — good extras, too, would have felt rather badly about it. But then — Russians are rather used to futility of one sort or other.

Observer, Tacoma

Okay, that’s really funny. And this is another surviving film!

Immaculate Enid

Girls going on their vacation would like to know how Enid Bennett can keep herself so spick and span under all circumstances. In “Part Three,” when she is left in the desert to die of thirst and is wandering about with her hair down, there isn’t a hairpin to be seen. After she finds the old man who lives in the desert, the next morning she is seen with her hair fixed properly and pinned securely with hair-pins. She may have had the foresight to carry her vanity case concealed about her because the old man certainly didn’t own one. Her duster is carefully torn to shreds, but her coat looks as if it had just been pressed.

Another surviving film! The incongruous glamor of movie stars in peril was often remarked upon but beautiful people continue to glamorously wander the desert down to this very day.


You can look up lots of swell clippings like these at the Media History Digital Library.


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