We’re back with another list of top 10 films as published in the Film Daily. This lists were created by asking top critics to vote on the best films of the year, though strange release dates sometimes mean that years don’t always match. First, we took a look at 1922 and then on to 1923, then 1924, and 1925. It’s time for 1926!
This list has some overlap with 1925 due to the aforementioned weird release dates. The Big Parade was covered on the 1925 list, so we will skip it here. Also, this list was created by an American publication and so it goes by the USA release dates of foreign films. It was not unusual for a European production to wait years to be seen by the public in America, so many famous titles will not be present.
So, with all the caveats in place, here are the films on the 1926 list! The films were listed in most votes to fewest and I will follow the magazine’s original order.
Emil Jannings in a powerhouse performance, combined with Karl Freund’s unchained camera helped change the mood and look of movies. I should note that the version widely seen in America was highly censored but the recent restored release includes both the USA cut and the newly-unearthed uncensored version.
Read my review, in which I extensively discuss the differences between the versions.
The mega production years in the making finally saw the light of day at the very end of 1925. Big in every sense of the word, the film featured real ships, real horses, decadent costumes, color sequences, the works. Makes every other version, including the 1959 one, look just a little puny in comparison.
The Big Parade*
We covered this last time, so…
The Black Pirate
Another whopping production, this one filmed in 100% Technicolor, a highly expensive and difficult process at the time. Douglas Fairbanks took all the best elements of pirate tales and combined them into one massive and popular package.
The oft-filmed tale of brothers taking the blame for a crime and leaving to join the Foreign Legion, as one does. This picture was a major milestone in the career of already-popular Ronald Colman.
Not yet released on home media. Here’s hoping…
A tale of class conflict and maternal love, this film was a showcase for Belle Bennett, an early success for Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and proof that Ronald Colman was having a very, very good year.
The Volga Boatman
Cecil B. DeMille’s independent production company finally scored the hit it needed with this absolutely bonkers romance of the Russian Revolution. It made a star of future Hopalong Cassidy William Boyd. It’s nuts and highly recommended.
What Price Glory
This wasn’t the first war comedy or the first buddy comedy but it did help to solidify the “frenemies in war” trope as a box office success. The lip-reading is extremely… blue.
Not yet available on home media.
The Sea Beast
John Barrymore in a Moby Dick adaptation is a pretty good pitch, I must say. Interesting that this made the list over the splashy Vitaphone release Don Juan, which featured Barrymore in the title role and was proof of concept for the pre-recorded synchronized film score.
Available on DVD before but seems to have vanished…
Another splashy and pricey production from MGM, this showcased John Gilbert and Lillian Gish, plus an impressive roster of supporting players. It cost a fortune, it sold tickets, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, what more could you want?
This list has some pretty obvious omissions. Son of the Sheik, for example, is now considered a classic. Three Bad Men, The Winning of Barbara Worth, Sparrows… Comedies in general did not fare well on Film Daily lists unless they starred Chaplin or Lloyd, so the absence of Buster Keaton is not entirely surprising in this context. 1926 was just a really strong year.
And, of course, my own beloved Michael Strogoff is nowhere to be seen, despite its splashy 1926 premiere spearheaded by Universal.
Which 1926 films do you think were snubbed? Or did this list hit all your happy places as-is? Either way, drop a comment.
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