What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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busby1959

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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Apr 11, 2017 3:14 pm

Battra92 wrote:I'm currently working on The Movies Begin set from Kino. There's a lot of neat stuff in here and while I've seen most of it before, it's still fun to watch again. I can't wait until my daughter is old enough to appreciate it because I think kids would get a good kick out of the nickelodeon era of movies.



At this time of year? KING OF KINGS!
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Apr 11, 2017 8:49 pm

One of DeMille's best.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSat Apr 15, 2017 12:19 pm

Was scrolling through TCM-recorded movies on my DVR, and what I thought would be the 1940 romantic gender-swapping comedy Turnabout w. Carole Landis turned out to be, in fact, Beatrice Lillie's 1926 screen debut Exit Smiling (and the first of many, many roles for Franklin Pangborn, who also happens to be in Turnabout...which I still haven't seen).

Talk about happy accidents, I'd been wanting to see the Lillie film for some time, and it proved to be a complete delight, with the Toronto-born star paired with another Canuck, Jack Pickford, who, to be honest, doesn't actually get to do a whole lot, but I'm OK with that since it means more screen time for BL. Lots of fine physical and character comedy, with a genuinely touching finale, a real comic gem. Wish she'd done more!
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSat Apr 15, 2017 12:44 pm

Last night I rewatched the original 155-minute 1927 cut of DeMille's KING OF KINGS from Criterion's 2-DVD set (this should really be on Blu-ray, but the DVDs look surprisingly good). Seeing the opening Mary Magdalene leopard/zebras sequence in rich two-color Technicolor is a lot of fun. Compared to the popular 1928 synchronized music/effects version, the roadshow cut includes some nice scenes that deepen the character development, and others that provide bits of comic relief, although parts of the film seem somewhat more dragged out. Still, this Gospel According to DeMille and Jeannie MacPherson remains among the best screen versions of the classic bible story. It was also nice to read Bob Birchard's account of the production in the DVD's enclosed booklet of essays and program notes. Donald Sosin's synth-orchestra score with tasteful choral passages and minimal but carefully-timed sound-effects is effective and fits the film well but is not quite as bombastic as it might be during certain scenes (especially the big earthquake climax). The last time I watched the movie it was the shorter popular-release cut with Criterion's alternate pipe organ score. Next time I'll probably go back to the familiar Photophone release, even though its Technicolor is limited to the resurrection scene.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSat Apr 15, 2017 3:39 pm

Christopher Jacobs wrote:Last night I rewatched the original 155-minute 1927 cut of DeMille's KING OF KINGS from Criterion's 2-DVD set (this should really be on Blu-ray, but the DVDs look surprisingly good). Seeing the opening Mary Magdalene leopard/zebras sequence in rich two-color Technicolor is a lot of fun.


Of interest to those who pay attention to this sort of thing (and I do), Black actor, Noble Johnson is the Charioteer. Seems like whatever the film, when they wanted a black actor to work with the main character, he was the guy. Search his name IMDB and you'll see what I mean.
From the very beginning, when he wasn't acting, he was busy producing black 'race' films as far back as Oscar Micheaux.

From "20,000 LEAGUES..." (1916) to the 1933 King Kong, he was always working in the best films.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSun Apr 16, 2017 12:06 am

One silent western that I will probably never revisit is The Iron Horse (1924). I couldn't even finish it in one sitting: I was that bored by it, and that never happens to me. Perhaps I should have known that something was going to be amiss when Abraham Lincoln had an almost Messiah-like quality as to his presentation near the beginning of the film. I get that he was "The Man of Sorrows;" let's not over do it! I really was waiting for him to levitate or walk on water. Perhaps a halo would have been a nice touch. It's Lincoln for goodness' sake, not the Easter Story.
The most interesting part was seeing the close-up of Fred Kohler's mutilated hand and having that integrated into the storyline, which is not what the takeaway should have been for me! Also, what was with J. Farrell Macdonald's over-done smoky makeup? I've seen nineteenth century prints of Irishmen looking grimy, but saw no point as to why it looked as though he smeared soot on his face, especially later on in the film. Was he standing right over a smokestack for hours on end? "Black Irish," hey?
Not even the photography and scenery could save it; neither George O' Brien nor Madge Bellamy (both of whose work I enjoy). Tedious and a bore. My apologies to Ford fans, but I would rather that a number of his earlier Harry Carey and Hoot Gibson films had survived. I'll take quick and simple over this beast of a film.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSun Apr 16, 2017 3:34 pm

I haven't gone to the Museum of Modern Art as much as I would like. First, there hasn't been that much to see and second, I'm on jury duty until.... goodness only knows. However, they gave us ten days off and, after clearing up two months of stuff I was finally able to get there for the 2PM showing of Batalion from their current showing of old Czech movies.

The first thing you notice is the score, which is pre-recorded. It starts out as a trio, featuring an oboe with the reed in backwards, playing random notes, but the oboist soon gives up and most of the score consists of a duet between a piano, played by shooting snooker in the case, and a microphone taped to someone's belly to record the borborygmus. How the audience did it remains a mystery, but some of us were able to remain asleep during the proceedings; I could not.

Batalion in a dive bar in Prague, where the dregs of society come to get drunk. Among them is Karel Heisler, Doctor of Law and former member of the Parliament, who has gone on the sauce since his wife cheated on him. We get to know the other occupants of the bar, thanks to some one having got his hand on an optical printer. Their poverty, their hopelessness. FInally, Heisler gives one of patrons, just released from hospital with terminal tuberculosis, enough money for a hotel room; the fellow is shot by a cop. Heisler sobers enough to appear in court to accuse the cop, but no one cares. Heisler becomes the hero of the bar.

It's a tract against the evils of the world: alcoholism, official indifference, the ten plagues of modern society. It ends badly, of course. Hectoring rants always do. At the end, after all the important people have officiated at the burial, only the drunks are left to mourn.

And the people who managed to sleep through the score, of course.

Bob
Film is not the art of scholars, but of illiterates.

-- Werner Herzog
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Apr 17, 2017 1:18 am

boblipton wrote:Last, Pickford was going through a phase in which she was playing non-Americans


Well as you know she technically wasn't American...
"It would have been more logical if silent pictures had grown out of the talkies instead of the other way around." - MP
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Apr 17, 2017 4:40 am

BankofAmericasSweetheart wrote:
boblipton wrote:Last, Pickford was going through a phase in which she was playing non-Americans


Well as you know she technically wasn't American...


North Americans, then. My Canadian friends object when I use the word "American" to refer exclusively to this country; my Mexican friends object when I refer to us as the United States (since Mexico is Estadios Unis also. Make up your exclusivist/inclusivist minds!

Bob
Film is not the art of scholars, but of illiterates.

-- Werner Herzog
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Apr 17, 2017 11:27 am

This weekend I found a little bit of time to watch Erotikon. Mauritz Stiller's comedy was certainly interesting at times but unfortunately the score on the DVD was slow and sounded like they never really got into it. As such I found myself becoming distracted and losing interest. I'll have to give it another watch because I know there was good stuff in there; I just couldn't always find it.

Also, the uncle-niece relationship was a bit odd.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Apr 17, 2017 1:27 pm

Battra92 wrote:This weekend I found a little bit of time to watch Erotikon. Mauritz Stiller's comedy was certainly interesting at times but unfortunately the score on the DVD was slow and sounded like they never really got into it.


Was this the Kino version? Who did the score? I can't find it on any website. I ask because I felt exactly the same way when I saw Erotikon at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival a few years back. The band must have seen a mournful Euro-tragedy rather than a sex comedy, because that's the accompaniment they seemed to be giving us. I found it very jarring.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Apr 17, 2017 7:29 pm

Finally watched Ducks and Drakes, DVR'd off TCM, Bebe Daniels was of course a delight for most of the running time, and the poetic paramour posing as an anarchist (while wearing a satin-lapelled smoking jacked and using a cigarette holder) was certainly amusing. I guess Bebe picking names out of the phone book and calling men at random was the silent era version of online dating.

Too bad she had to go and marry boring old Jack Holt, just because the plot required her to.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Apr 18, 2017 6:36 am

Brooksie wrote:
Battra92 wrote:This weekend I found a little bit of time to watch Erotikon. Mauritz Stiller's comedy was certainly interesting at times but unfortunately the score on the DVD was slow and sounded like they never really got into it.


Was this the Kino version? Who did the score? I can't find it on any website. I ask because I felt exactly the same way when I saw Erotikon at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival a few years back. The band must have seen a mournful Euro-tragedy rather than a sex comedy, because that's the accompaniment they seemed to be giving us. I found it very jarring.


It was the Kino version and yes, they played it like it was a tragedy. I'll have to check and see who did it but it was screeching violins that can't find a note and it really slowed the picture down. A lively score would've done a lot to help the experience. In thinking back on it, the film was better than the score let on. Hopefully I can find a way to watch it with a different score some day.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Apr 18, 2017 7:17 am

boblipton wrote:
BankofAmericasSweetheart wrote:
boblipton wrote:Last, Pickford was going through a phase in which she was playing non-Americans


Well as you know she technically wasn't American...


North Americans, then. My Canadian friends object when I use the word "American" to refer exclusively to this country; my Mexican friends object when I refer to us as the United States (since Mexico is Estadios Unis also. Make up your exclusivist/inclusivist minds!

Bob

You know, it's interesting, this: I'm currently finishing the book The Meaning of Everything by Simon Winchester. It's about the writing of the Oxford English Dictionary. James Murray wasn't going to include the word 'American' at first, but relented when he realized that the term was applied by the English in Great Britain to mean those who lived in the United States specifically. He then included other adjectival nouns of country origin that he at first was going not to include. I don't know if he was planning to include 'Canadian' or not...
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Apr 18, 2017 8:13 am

Rewatched Getting Mary Married (1919) for my book project and had forgotten how twisty the plot is. Here are the first glimmers of Marion Davies' comic talent, especially in her scenes with the snooty Mathilda. Amelia Summerville, who plays Mrs. Bussard of Boston, shows up in April Folly as a mannish artist named Clive!

I was able to add Helen Lindroth to the IMDb cast list as Mrs. Winthrop (Norman Kerry's mother in the film). The maid is played by Sophie Marson or Marzon, according to the trades, but I couldn't narrow it down to a specific name. Anyway, fun little film.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Apr 21, 2017 5:26 pm

THe prosecution rested today in the case I am a juror on, so the judge gave us most of the afternoon off. I headed up to the Museum of Modern Art to see one of the silents in the series of early Czech movies, Takový je zivot (1930: Such is Life).

The movie is a week in the life of a poor family, a mother, father and adult daughter, and their neighbors around their tenement their grinding misery. It certainly pulls no punches when it comes to portraying their woebegone prospects, their lack of thought and minor and major disasters. It's very effective.

What I am uncertain of is how much of it is art and how much is the necessity of a new film=-making industry working on the cheap. I have seen two Czech silents, both in the last week, and their have been similar in their subject matter. Was this an artistic choice, based on the assumption that their audience was poor and would appreciate people like them on the screen? Did they feel that the Austrian, Hungarian, German & American films available locally ate up the high end of the market? These movies were preserved in the 1950s. Was the choice of what movies to preserve constrained by the fact that Czechoslovakia was a Warsaw Pact nation, and showing how miserable the lumpenproletariat was before everyone became a good communist was a deciding factor? With a sample of two films, I certainly can't tell.

Bob
Film is not the art of scholars, but of illiterates.

-- Werner Herzog
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSat Apr 22, 2017 8:26 am

I came across a nice HD copy of Carl Dreyer's "Michael" (1924) the other day on YouTube. I'd seen the film years ago so I thought I'd have another look at the lavish, and somewhat confusing story with it's strange premise. It begins and ends with these words, "Now I can die peacefully because I have seen a great love." To the casual viewer they will come away confused how this can be? The Master, Oscar Zoret didn't look at life in the way that most do.
Once I finished, I found myself as confused as ever. There are subplots with duels and deaths of major characters having little to do with the story, but certainly adding to my confusion. A few titles didn't translate well, but the errors were easily seen.

I watched it again carefully over eight hours, reducing the story seen to 12 pages of hand written notes so I would clearly understand who's who in the scenes that confused me. Still somewhat of a mystery, at least I do know who says or does what in the film. The artsy film was photographed in elaborate settings, wonderful to see in such a clear HD copy.

If you like, the scenario offered here while incomplete shares the general story seen in the film.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_(1924_film)
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSat Apr 22, 2017 2:17 pm

I have no clue where or when I got a copy of The Untameable (1923) a Universal drama about split personality and an evil doctor, but after watching All Dolled Up a few weeks ago, I was game for another Gladys Walton film. Here she plays sweet little Joy, who seems to be rich and lives in a big house with a servant (Etta Lee), She takes in a victim of a car crash to recuperate (Malcolm McGregor) after he smashes into a tree on her property. As he floats in and out of consciousness, he thinks he's in heaven with the beautiful Joy. Bud then a wildcat floozy named Edna descends on his sickbed with threats of sex and violence. Eventually he realizes it's the same Walton and flees but he can't get Joy out of his head. After he gets a letter from the servant he realizes she is the victim of the mad doctor who induces her schizo alter ego with the idea of marrying her and destroying the Joy half. He races back to save her, but will he be in time? Walton has a field day as the wildcat Edna. Of course I wondered why Joy thought she had a closet full of trashy outfits in her closet, but logic plays no part in this story. John St. Polis plays the doctor. Directed by Herbert Blache.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Apr 24, 2017 6:48 pm

I just spent a couple of hours looking at the TCM broadcast of Grandma's Boy and Doctor Jack (both 1922). They're both funny movies, with great comedy bits and stories that make sense. Mildred Davis has very little to do.

Bob
Film is not the art of scholars, but of illiterates.

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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostWed Apr 26, 2017 7:51 am

Last night I peeked around Amazon Prime for another silent to watch (I swear they are so much better than Netflix in terms of silent movie choices) and I stumbled across The County Fair (1920.)

The story was old-fashioned and cliche when it was made in 1920. The farm is going to be foreclosed upon unless the money is raised and it's no spoiler to say that it does and everything is hunky dory in the end. It's fluff but it's interesting fluff at least. Heck, the film itself admits that it's a well known story that was produced time and time again for a 20 year run in the late 1800s, early 1900s long before the film came out. The role of Aunt Abigail was played on the stage by Neil Burgess, a man who played the role in drag, which was apparently also quite a big deal because the opening credits pay homage to him as well. My guess is, this film was meant to attract older people nostalgic for seeing the play as a kid. So in a way this is like the 1920 version of the constant remake/reboot/ripoff cycle that we have now. That's not a slight against it, just an observation.

The print looked good but unfortunately it had some splicing issues at times. Reel changes weren't as seamless as I'm used to and at a couple points it was evident that a minute or so of footage may have been missing. There was also a repeat of one shot a couple times. Very strange and could've been easily fixed once someone noticed it.

There are worse ways to spend an hour while waiting for your kid to finally fall asleep. So I'd recommend it.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostThu Apr 27, 2017 7:40 am

Netflix in Canada has no silent films, and probably nothing earlier than the '40s (although I'd love to be proven wrong, but my Netflix searches have proved fruitless).

Thank goodness for TCM, watched my DVR'd copy of The Brides Play with music by Ben Model, and enjoyed a rather sweet love story with Marion Davies charming as all get out as an Irish lass torn between the local laird (or whatever they call them in Ireland) and a caddish poet. I wish she had a bit more comic bits, but it's more of a straight up romance, with a historic flashback in which Davies also plays the role of Enid in an old Irish legend.

Looking forward to When Knighthood Was in Flower!
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostThu Apr 27, 2017 8:42 am

I took a friend to see SUNRISE. She rarely sees silents, but she loved it. She was also thrilled by Ben Model's musical accompaniment. Funny, the next film I took her to was A PLACE IN THE SUN. So now she thinks I have this thing for couples in rowboats. I re-watched STORM OVER ASIA about a month ago.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostThu Apr 27, 2017 9:29 am

LostEmulsion wrote:I took a friend to see SUNRISE. She rarely sees silents, but she loved it. She was also thrilled by Ben Model's musical accompaniment. Funny, the next film I took her to was A PLACE IN THE SUN. So now she thinks I have this thing for couples in rowboats.


Better sell yours, quick.

Jim
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostThu Apr 27, 2017 9:38 am

Jim Roots wrote:
LostEmulsion wrote:I took a friend to see SUNRISE. She rarely sees silents, but she loved it. She was also thrilled by Ben Model's musical accompaniment. Funny, the next film I took her to was A PLACE IN THE SUN. So now she thinks I have this thing for couples in rowboats.

Better sell yours, quick.

Yeah, before she sees Leave Her to Heaven.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostThu Apr 27, 2017 1:35 pm

s.w.a.c. wrote:Netflix in Canada has no silent films, and probably nothing earlier than the '40s (although I'd love to be proven wrong, but my Netflix searches have proved fruitless).


I believe all Netflix US has is Metropolis, Daughter of Dawn and A Trip to the Moon.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostThu Apr 27, 2017 1:59 pm

s.w.a.c. wrote:
Jim Roots wrote:
LostEmulsion wrote:I took a friend to see SUNRISE. She rarely sees silents, but she loved it. She was also thrilled by Ben Model's musical accompaniment. Funny, the next film I took her to was A PLACE IN THE SUN. So now she thinks I have this thing for couples in rowboats.

Better sell yours, quick.

Yeah, before she sees Leave Her to Heaven.


LOL

Rick
“The past is never dead. It's not even past” - Faulkner.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostThu Apr 27, 2017 3:50 pm

I hadn't looked at Capra's goat-glanded The Younger Generation (1929) since the Capra Festival at the Film Forum .... decades ago. Looking at it again, it's based on a Fanny Hurst play. Ricardo Cortez has dragged his family from the Lower East Side to 5th Avenue. Mama is ecstatic, but papa Jean Hersholt and sister Lina Basquet are not. Ricardo has plans, and they don't include sister being hooked up with song plugger Rex Lease, so he frames him for a jewelry store robbery. It's well done for a part-talkie.

Given that the family name in the movie is Goldfish, Cortez' real name was Jacob Krantz and Lina Basquet's troubles with her first husband's brothers, one wonders how much Capra is making fun of the movies' claims to respectability. The important jewelers whom Cortez wants to associate with is named Kahn. Perhaps this refers to the joke that Groucho Marx liked to tell: Otto Kahn, the big banker, is walking down 5th Avenue with Marshall Wilder, a hunchbacked writer. They pass a synagogue and Kahn remarks "You know, Mr. Wilder, I used to be a Jew." "That's a coincidence," said Wilder. "I used to be a hunchback."

Bob
Film is not the art of scholars, but of illiterates.

-- Werner Herzog
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