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

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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Donald Binks

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

PostMon May 29, 2017 5:54 pm

To me the greatest of the silent films are evidenced by the fact that shortly into the film the viewer has no problem with the lack of dialogue. The story and the way in which it is interpreted alone immerse the audience. Such it is with "Behind the Door" (1919). This is a great film in that it makes its points succinctly and in rapid succession, building up to climaxes and never flagging for one minute. Combining that with fine acting performances from nearly all concerned, careful and artful photography, concise care to everything including the art titles; lends to a whole that is a totally satisfactory experience.

Hobart Bosworth, a name long since forgotten, is the leading man even though he was 52 when this film was photographed. He was a well experienced stage actor (as his later talkies will attest) long before cameras started cranking.

He steers this film well as a German-American, who lives a relatively peaceful life as a taxidermist in a sleepy village. He has his eyes set on marrying a young filly (Jane Novak), but she is the daughter of a rich man (J.P. Lockney) who wants her married off to one of his cronies . Soon Bosworth has to contend with mob ill-feeling when America declares war on Germany in 1917. He secretly marries the love of his life and then enlists in the Navy. Her father, on learning of the marriage kicks his daughter out of the family abode and she comes aboard her husband's ship for refuge. He hides her in amongst the nurses he is transporting. The ship is then torpedoed by a German submarine and sunk. Husband and wife are adrift in a lifeboat until the U-boat's captain (Wallace Beery) picks up the wife but not the husband. The husband makes it known that he will seek revenge. He doesn't have all that long to wait for he is soon in charge of another ship and manages to sink Beery's sub. He takes him prisoner and revenge ensues.

Made shortly after the end of the horrid Great War when awful memories would still be raw, it is surprising then that in this picture, it at times it softens the approach towards Germans - especially in the scenes where mob rule is inciting hatred against anything German - even against native born Americans of German descent. Yes, Beery does portray a loathsome individual but we are asked to comment whether the revenge undertaken by a wronged Bosworth was not equally loathsome?

This film has recently been restored and is made up of a number of elements, a lot found in Russia. Although there is a little decomposition damage here and there - it is not so much as to distract and the few brief missing sections of film have been cleverly compensated for by the use of carefully constructed explanatory titles. In the most part, the picture is wonderfully crisp and clear with re-vitalised tonal renderings. Stephen Horne provides a very sympathetic accompaniment - mainly from piano in a score he has written especially.

There may be a few moments in the film where the pantomime is overly-extended as was generally rife in this period, but, for the main part, director, Irvin V. Willat has managed to gain restrained and realistic performances.

I am continually astonished at the continuing availability of films once thought never to be available and the wonderful quality of the restoration work done on the majority of them. I consider myself extremely lucky and thank all those involved in the project who have enabled me to enjoy this film so much.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon May 29, 2017 6:18 pm

"The Lady of the Lake" (1928) is an apparently faithful telling of the tale by Sir Walter Scott, which to me appeared to be a trifle dated and also rather plodding.

It's all to do with two Scottish blokes back in the 12th Century who are at loggerheads with each other, chivalry and all that sort of thing and roaming around the Scottish scenery.

Percy Marmont is one of the tartaned blokes and Lawson Butt the other. Benita Hume is the Lady of the Lake.

The copy of the film I watched is a 1931 re-issue, which was shortened somewhat and given a score by Nat Shilkret. This accompaniment was missing and instead I was treated to a needle-drop where someone had raided the symphony section of his/her gramophone record collection.

I noted that James A. FitzPatrick was the producer/director/writer. Surely not the same fellah what did all them Travelogues? (Hence the focus on scenic backdrops in the picture?)

I would have to say that this is the type of film you should put on if you wish to increase your chances of dropping off to a peaceful slumber. I found it a mite difficult to follow and what I could follow wasn't all that interesting.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon May 29, 2017 6:29 pm

Donald Binks wrote:
The copy of the film I watched is a 1931 re-issue, which was shortened somewhat and given a score by Nat Shilkret. This accompaniment was missing and instead I was treated to a needle-drop where someone had raided the symphony section of his/her gramophone record collection.
.


This version has the Shilkret score, which includes an occasional sound effect. It does come off as a rather inert film, though Percy Marmont is quite dashing. :
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon May 29, 2017 6:35 pm

FrankFay wrote:
Donald Binks wrote:
The copy of the film I watched is a 1931 re-issue, which was shortened somewhat and given a score by Nat Shilkret. This accompaniment was missing and instead I was treated to a needle-drop where someone had raided the symphony section of his/her gramophone record collection.
.


This version has the Shilkret score, which includes an occasional sound effect. It does come off as a rather inert film, though Percy Marmont is quite dashing.

Thanks for this. I may do a cut and paste of the score - if I can get the timing to match up. Shilket's score is far better suited.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue May 30, 2017 1:11 pm

Donald Binks's review of BEHIND THE DOOR is rather mouth-watering, but as there seem to be enough movies floating around in my view to last me about a hundred years, I won't grizzle, especially as one site I have been visiting (BFI Player) is unavailable to many others.

CHRISTMAS EVE (1915) has a poverty-stricken husband and father being driven to theft when his wife is described 'good food and wine' by a rather insensitive doctor. Of course this ensues in his getting the sack, although his wife seem up and about pretty soon. He then seeks revenge on his employer, but... One odd thing about his film is that the windows of the office appear to be permanently open, leaving the place a target for burglars.

Apparently Britain's first public health film, THE STORY OF JOHN M'NEIL (1911) is about the causes and cures for tuberculosis. Beginning in a tenement slum, we see the afflicted mother unthinkingly spreading the disease to her family by drinking from a communal vessel and spitting into the fireplace. The rest of the film shows the home treatment as well as the places where the family are taken to be cured, although the latter part seems rather pedestrian. The fate of the mother seems to be left in the air as she is declared incurable, and just given fresh-air treatment, and the last shot we see is a cheerful family group from which she is conspicuously absent.

TRAGEDY ON THE CORNISH COAST (1912) tells of a fisherman's insane jealousy when a visiting artist wins the heart of the lass he fancies. Kidnap and murder ensue before the artist and the Coastguard set off to the rescue amongst an ever-escalating mountain of corpses. The ending seems to be missing a little, although one can fill in the gaps. As with the films above, a nice copy.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue May 30, 2017 7:40 pm

>Percy Marmont is one of the tartaned blokes<

He looks a bit like Anthony Quayle.

>I noted that James A. FitzPatrick was the producer/director/writer. Surely not the same fellah what did all them Travelogues?<

The very same, I believe.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostWed May 31, 2017 7:00 am

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:One of Paramount's Zane Grey silents, WILD HORSE MESA (1925), is, despite a rather washed-out copy [a shame, with Bert Glennon on camera], a rousing yarn, well acted and paced, and with plenty of sub-plots, so too much of a description would give spoilers.


Heh, I actually just started reading the book. I should check out the movie after I've done.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostWed May 31, 2017 1:38 pm

DVR'd Victor Sjostrom's The Outlaw & His Wife (1918) off TCM recently, and enjoyed this picturesque drama of a couple on the lam in the mountains of Iceland after the husband is discovered to have committed a youthful indiscretion in his past out of starvation. The print used was often murky, with a piss-yellow tint on daylight scenes that was hard on the eyes, but the story and performances remain strong, and the scenic locations are also impressive. Would love to see this again in a worthier transfer.

Sjostrom also plays the titular Outlaw, and it's interesting to compare his younger, robust self to the aging academic he plays decades later in Bergman's masterpiece Wild Strawberries.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostWed May 31, 2017 1:54 pm

Two amateur movies kicked off with COAMINUM (1934), about a couple of enthusiasts who are working on a cheaper fuel for steam engines. There is dirty work afoot though, when the train testing the new fuel is sabotaged...

A BENCH IN THE PARK (1951) has nothing to do with Paul Whiteman, being a Cardiff tramp's methods of getting rid of unwelcome folk preventing him from having a decent kip. A nice copy, and a moderately amusing one-gag film.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Jun 05, 2017 1:46 pm

It would be very interesting to find out whether Jack London ever saw the 1914 film of his MARTIN EDEN, as it is a rewarding experience despite missing the middle two reels and having some severe decomposition in parts.

Clearly autobiographical it tells of a young drifter, often broke, seldom satisfied, and forever going to sea, who eventually gets involved with socialist ideas (a bit vague in this print) as well as getting an itch to write great works. Occasionally confusing and hazy, presumably due to the incompleteness, the film is strikingly shot (by future director George W Hill) and staged, and never loses interest value. Eden (Lawrence Peyton, who was killed in the Great War) is dogged by bad luck and a sense of dissatisfaction when he achieves success following his poet friend's death. One does wonder, however, why he repeatedly turns down the affection of a charming lady friend after the girl he feels for is deterred from seeing him. The ending seems unsatisfactory, but should the missing footage ever turn up we might see how it made sense. With all the faults arising from the film's condition, this is still well worth a look.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Jun 05, 2017 2:44 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:Two amateur movies kicked off with COAMINUM (1934), about a couple of enthusiasts who are working on a cheaper fuel for steam engines. There is dirty work afoot though, when the train testing the new fuel is sabotaged...

A BENCH IN THE PARK (1951) has nothing to do with Paul Whiteman, being a Cardiff tramp's methods of getting rid of unwelcome folk preventing him from having a decent kip. A nice copy, and a moderately amusing one-gag film.


Are these two films silents, or did you place this review in the wrong thread?

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

PostTue Jun 06, 2017 2:22 am

Jim Roots wrote:
earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:Two amateur movies kicked off with COAMINUM (1934), about a couple of enthusiasts who are working on a cheaper fuel for steam engines. There is dirty work afoot though, when the train testing the new fuel is sabotaged...

A BENCH IN THE PARK (1951) has nothing to do with Paul Whiteman, being a Cardiff tramp's methods of getting rid of unwelcome folk preventing him from having a decent kip. A nice copy, and a moderately amusing one-gag film.


Are these two films silents, or did you place this review in the wrong thread?

Jim


Oh yes, they are indeed silents. If you look carefully, I specified that they are amateur films, made by local film societies. I suspect that sound was a good deal more expensive and time-consuming, particularly if the actors fluffed their lines.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Jun 06, 2017 3:53 am

>I suspect that sound was a good deal more expensive and time-consuming<

For sure- and technically more complex to shoot and cut.

>particularly if the actors fluffed their lines.<

But on that score - actors can blow a silent take, too!
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Jun 06, 2017 5:49 am

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:
Jim Roots wrote:
earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:Two amateur movies kicked off with COAMINUM (1934), about a couple of enthusiasts who are working on a cheaper fuel for steam engines. There is dirty work afoot though, when the train testing the new fuel is sabotaged...

A BENCH IN THE PARK (1951) has nothing to do with Paul Whiteman, being a Cardiff tramp's methods of getting rid of unwelcome folk preventing him from having a decent kip. A nice copy, and a moderately amusing one-gag film.


Are these two films silents, or did you place this review in the wrong thread?

Jim


Oh yes, they are indeed silents. If you look carefully, I specified that they are amateur films, made by local film societies. I suspect that sound was a good deal more expensive and time-consuming, particularly if the actors fluffed their lines.


Interesting. If they were amateur movies, one wonders what kind of camera they used. If it was just an 8mm or something like that which they bought in the local camera store, then it would not have had sound capabilities in that era. Home movie-cameras generally (I said generally) didn't have sound until the late 1950s or 1960s unless you bought comparatively expensive ones, or higher gauges such as 16mm.

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

PostTue Jun 06, 2017 8:54 am

I believe there were some early double-sync systems attempts before that, but they were clumsy, and not really trustworthy for something as accuracy-necessary as spoken dialogue.

I do recall stories of camera club-level productions using them for music, sfx, and narration.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Jun 06, 2017 11:58 am

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:It would be very interesting to find out whether Jack London ever saw the 1914 film of his MARTIN EDEN, as it is a rewarding experience despite missing the middle two reels and having some severe decomposition in parts.

Clearly autobiographical it tells of a young drifter, often broke, seldom satisfied, and forever going to sea, who eventually gets involved with socialist ideas (a bit vague in this print) as well as getting an itch to write great works. Occasionally confusing and hazy, presumably due to the incompleteness, the film is strikingly shot (by future director George W Hill) and staged, and never loses interest value. Eden (Lawrence Peyton, who was killed in the Great War) is dogged by bad luck and a sense of dissatisfaction when he achieves success following his poet friend's death. One does wonder, however, why he repeatedly turns down the affection of a charming lady friend after the girl he feels for is deterred from seeing him. The ending seems unsatisfactory, but should the missing footage ever turn up we might see how it made sense. With all the faults arising from the film's condition, this is still well worth a look.


Is this available somewhere? I have read the book--and as for the ending, up until the last couple of pages i refused to believe where it was leading, so perhaps the film had the same effect.

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

PostTue Jun 06, 2017 12:30 pm

greta de groat wrote:
earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:It would be very interesting to find out whether Jack London ever saw the 1914 film of his MARTIN EDEN, as it is a rewarding experience despite missing the middle two reels and having some severe decomposition in parts.

Clearly autobiographical it tells of a young drifter, often broke, seldom satisfied, and forever going to sea, who eventually gets involved with socialist ideas (a bit vague in this print) as well as getting an itch to write great works. Occasionally confusing and hazy, presumably due to the incompleteness, the film is strikingly shot (by future director George W Hill) and staged, and never loses interest value. Eden (Lawrence Peyton, who was killed in the Great War) is dogged by bad luck and a sense of dissatisfaction when he achieves success following his poet friend's death. One does wonder, however, why he repeatedly turns down the affection of a charming lady friend after the girl he feels for is deterred from seeing him. The ending seems unsatisfactory, but should the missing footage ever turn up we might see how it made sense. With all the faults arising from the film's condition, this is still well worth a look.


Is this available somewhere? I have read the book--and as for the ending, up until the last couple of pages i refused to believe where it was leading, so perhaps the film had the same effect. The upload is mute, by the way, but that wasn't a problem at all.

greta


I found this on YT a couple of weeks ago, and put it on my 'to watch' list immediately. The incomplete version runs about 40m, so was able to fit it in quite easily...
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostThu Jun 08, 2017 12:30 pm

Would be interested to know what others on this site made of the YT upload of THE MOLLYCODDLE (1920). Taken from a live presentation at the Darkside Cinema at Corvallis on Feb 28, the film is a good copy, but the accompaniment (improvised?) was to my ears, highly unsuitable, irritating and distracting.

Douglas Fairbanks plays a young (though athletic) layabout in Monte Carlo who makes friends with a touring group led by Wallace Beery, who is in fact a diamond smuggler. Beery thinks Doug is a Secret Service agent, though, and desires to settle his hash, as Doug fancies joining the group and visiting America for the first time since he was a tot... Also his companions feel he needs toughening up a bit, although his ancestors were a hardy lot. Despite some nice touches (the animated sequence, the touring trailer, etc) this Victor Fleming- directed outing is very badly hampered by the music which seems to be constantly competing with the film rather than complementing it.

I seem to recall a similar business with THE REVUE OF REVUES (1927), which was even less comprehensible as the correct music should have been easily to hand. So, hard to evaluate in this presentation, which is a pity.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostThu Jun 08, 2017 12:47 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:Would be interested to know what others on this site made of the YT upload of THE MOLLYCODDLE (1920). Taken from a live presentation at the Darkside Cinema at Corvallis on Feb 28, the film is a good copy, but the accompaniment (improvised?) was to my ears, highly unsuitable, irritating and distracting.

Yikes, that accompaniment is awful (at least to me). The film is really good, however, and the score on the Flicker Alley Fairbanks set is good and a better fit for the film. I'm not sure if you have this set, but it's great.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Jun 09, 2017 12:37 pm

NotSoSilent wrote:
earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:Would be interested to know what others on this site made of the YT upload of THE MOLLYCODDLE (1920). Taken from a live presentation at the Darkside Cinema at Corvallis on Feb 28, the film is a good copy, but the accompaniment (improvised?) was to my ears, highly unsuitable, irritating and distracting.

Yikes, that accompaniment is awful (at least to me). The film is really good, however, and the score on the Flicker Alley Fairbanks set is good and a better fit for the film. I'm not sure if you have this set, but it's great.


The only Fairbanks set I have is the Kino one, with THE BLACK PIRATE, THIEF OF BAGDAD, ROBIN HOOD, although it may be there as an extra. I neither know nor care whether the music on THE MOLLYCODDLE was 'good' or not, it just should have been on a different film...
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostThu Jun 15, 2017 4:38 pm

Little Orphant Annie (1918) is the first starring role of Colleen Moore; the only time Hoosier dialect poet, James Whitcomb Riley ever appeared in a movie; and the last feature produced by Selig Polyscope. It was rotting in film cans, the way so much of our silent heritage is, until Eric Grayson badgered the Library of Congress into letting him have the materials, set up a Kickstarter funding, and roped in people like Bruce Lawton, Ben Model and other silent film nuts, into helping him blend remnants of five prints into something that is a close approximation of the original film. Bravo!

Mae Gaston keels over and dies right before the eyes of her daughter, who is sent to an orphanage. There, she grows up to be Colleen Moore, who likes to tell the other orphans witch stories about what happens to bad children.. She is sent to live with her uncle and aunt, who beat her, but is succored by Tom Santschi, and by Lafe McKee and Eugenie Besserer, who have about a dozen other children.

The movie is bookended by Riley himself, telling the children the story. It's filled out with the images of the witches and gobble-uns, actors in masks and costumes, who are inserted witchily into the film. To the modern eye, these are primitive and obvious effects.In 1918, they were incredibly difficult and startling.

Director Colin Campbell tells the story in a straightforward, slightly stodgy fashion. Miss Moore, although almost unrecognizable without her signature hair-do of the 1920s, is very good. Although the movie is more interesting for its connections than its actual execution, it's good humor makes it very watchable, even today.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Jun 16, 2017 5:44 am

boblipton wrote:The movie is bookended by Riley himself, telling the children the story. It's filled out with the images of the witches and boggle-ins,


You mean gobble-uns.

I'm surprised to learn this film was rotting. I have a very nice VHS tape of it, acquired some time in the 1990s.

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

PostFri Jun 16, 2017 6:26 am

Got to watch the entire WHEN THE CLOUDS ROLL BY (1919) with Doug Fairbanks last night. I'd only seen the "rescue" scene towards the end before. While I understand it's considered one of Doug's better "light comedies" (of his pre-swashbuckler days) I have to admit I was a bit underwhelmed by it, and would be curious to know if anyone else feels the same way. Doug is as fun to watch as always, and there are some sweet and nice (and some quite absurd!) moments of course, but I found the premise frankly not that well-developed, and we hardly get to know any of the characters at all. I also tend to find stories built so heavily around the premise of superstition tedious, although that is a personal reaction, of course. I became more taken as it approached its climax, however, from the train-sequence onwards.

I should add that I watched the film by myself, though, through a watchable but not pristine print.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Jun 16, 2017 2:43 pm

Clara Bow again, in FREE TO LOVE (1922). In this one [a miserable copy] she has just come out of reform school and is out to murder the judge who sent her down unjustly. Not being able to shoot him she becomes his ward. Things seem to improve for Our Clara, including a dashing parson, but then all goes pear-shaped when Clara's old associates turn up and in addition we find the sky pilot's dad is a jewel-obsessed fence.

Despite the poor quality and an undistinguished soundtrack, some fairly lively scenes perk up this yarn which is chiefly worth seeing for the lady herself.

I'd first noticed SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT (1920) in James Card's 'Seductive Cinema'. This DeMille outing concerns a wealthy semi-invalid (Elliott Dexter) who sponsors schoolgirl Gloria Swanson's college education. Upon her return, romance of a kind blossoms and the two get engaged. Swanson immediately regrets this when she re-encounters an old friend played by Monte Blue, who is also able-bodied.

After much indecision the two elope, much to the grief of father Theodore Roberts who declares a desire never to see her again. This wish is speedily granted when he mis-hits a horseshoe in his blacksmith's forge. Meanwhile the two lovers are married and expecting a third family member when more disaster strikes. Swanson returns to have her baby, and things still go rough for everybody as Dexter marries her out of a sense of duty, and Roberts hies off to the poor-farm, stiull not wanting anything to do with his daughter, until...

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT is peppered with a good deal of Christian sentiment, in the form of Dexter's housekeeper, played by Claire McDowell, which is contrasted with Dexter's atheism / agnosticism. However, this does not interfere too much with one's enjoyment of a fairly ripe melodrama of the old school.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Jun 27, 2017 1:13 pm

A sudden appearance of CAPITAL PUNISHMENT (1925) decided my evening film the other night, despite an iffy copy. It starts off with a prologue of a young man facing the electric chair despite protesting his innocence. A deathbed confession by the real killer leads to a will they / won't they race against time, which fails. The scene changes to attorney Elliott Dexter proposing a test in which a man is paid to be framed for a murder which hasn't happened - shades of Lang's BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT thirty years later. A young fellow is chosen for the experiment, which goes horribly wrong when the 'victim' gets bored with hanging around waiting and decides to go walkabout. More trouble is caused by the fact that both lawyer and 'victim' are in love with Margaret Livingston, and that (SPOILER) a fight ensues with the fellow getting killed after all. Dexter would've probably faced the music, but for Livingston, who thinks it ok that the poor fellow should take the rap.

Another reason for watching this movie is Clara Bow, who plays the fall-guy's fiancee, and stays loyal to him, whatever. A slightly unconvincing last reel has the Governor hurtling off to the prison rather than phoning them (which failed the first time), but this is a decent, absorbing little movie which does not let up at all, and is not afraid to have a tragic side to it.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Jun 27, 2017 2:06 pm

Jim Roots wrote:
boblipton wrote:The movie is bookended by Riley himself, telling the children the story. It's filled out with the images of the witches and boggle-ins,


You mean gobble-uns.

I'm surprised to learn this film was rotting. I have a very nice VHS tape of it, acquired some time in the 1990s.

Jim


Grapevine also has a DVD from years ago....
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Battra92

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

PostWed Jun 28, 2017 1:50 pm

In browsing through Amazon Prime streaming I found a film called "The Married Virgin" featuring a pre-fame Rudolph Valentino. The print wasn't horrible, though a couple of close up shots showed some considerable wear. I'm not sure if it was running at the right speed because some of the written text seemed to go by a little fast. People looked to be walking at the right speed, though.

In short, the film was a bit of a bore. It was a trite story and Valentino hadn't yet come into his own. Still, it didn't cost me anything but 70 minutes of my time and half of that was spent folding laundry while I watched it.

I've noticed the film's director, Joseph Maxwell seems to have only one film credit on his IMDB page.. I don't know if this was the only film he directed but honestly, it does feel a little disjointed at times and by 1918 the days of intertitles explaining everything should've been on the decline.
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boblipton

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

PostThu Jun 29, 2017 4:16 pm

There in my mailbox was When Knighthood Was in Flower (1922), Hearst's Super-Production and a gift to its star, Marion Davies. I haven't looked at this in twenty years or so, and my memory was dim, but at the time I thought it was good but not great. Looking at the dvd of the Ben Model-Library of Congress-Jack Theakson-Steven Stanchfield restoration, I am agog at the clarity of the images, the beauty of the tints, and the care taken in the hand-coloring of the torches in the big chase at the end, the stupendous sets by Joseph Urban (who, Lara Gabrielle Fowler notes in the well-written booklet that accompanies the set, actually designed palaces in Europe) and the sumptuous clothing. Ben has added a handsome organ score based on the original offering at the Criterion in Manhattan. Like the original movie, nothing has been omitted to make this less than a landmark restoration.

The story is one of those melodramas of romantic piffle in costume that have long been popular. Marion Davies is Mary Tudor, young sister of Henry VIII, played by a suit seen in a Holbein picture, into which Lyn Harding has been stuffed. He is interested in marrying Marion to whichever ruler will serve his dynastic purposes, but she wants love, and settles on Forrest Stanley. When her engagement to the decrepit Louis XII is announced, she and Stanley try to flee to America; they are caught and Stanley is saved from a cheap and chippy chopper only by Marion's promise to marry Louis and not make a fuss. Unfortunately, the marriage takes its toll on the king, and the new king, played by William Powell, would have his way with her. As Tod Slaughter used to ask, will Heaven protect the working girl?

This sort of suffering-in-ermine story does not appeal to me, as I have made apparent in many another review in Nitrateville. Even worse, for my taste, is the fact that the actors and their performances get lost in the immense sets and sumptuous costumes, so that it sometimes seemed that I was viewing a series of Flemish paintings -- not in the least aided by Robert Vignola's well-this-composition-worked-in-the-last-thirty-setups staging. It was almost an hour into the film, when Marion and Forrest are hiding out at an inn, that some of the clothing comes off and we get to see some acting. Otherwise, the only human moments seem to be the rare close-ups of the actors -- usually Marion in some immense pearl-studded miter -- lending more of an air of a tableau vivante, or even a good waxworks than a fillum.

I know that there is a large contingent of fans who will enjoy this movie just for those things which seem to me a distraction from good story-telling. These are the matters of likes and dislikes that we shrug our shoulders at. It doesn't lessen the amount of work and, indeed, the achievement of the restoration. The amount of labor and cooperation make it clear that, yes, we fans of these old movies can achieve something worthwhile. I can only hope that those of us who like this sort of thing will like it very much, and we can do more of these. Anyone for Dorothy Gish?

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Wed Jul 05, 2017 10:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
To remain ignorant of what occurred before before you were born is to remain forever a child.
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Dean Thompson

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

PostThu Jun 29, 2017 6:59 pm

Bob, my copy of Knighthood hasn't arrived in the mail yet, but you've got me all excited about about seeing it. One question, though:

[quote="boblipton"] As Tod Slaughter used to ask, will Heaven protect the working girl?

I've yet to see any films with Tod Slaughter. But if I'm remembering correctly, didn't Marie Dressler sing a song with that title in her theatrical days?
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earlytalkiebuffRob

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

PostMon Jul 03, 2017 3:02 pm

Francis X Bushman Jr is the lead in MIDNIGHT FACES (1926), which seems to be a very early spoof of the 'old dark house' sub-genre, coming out in the same year as THE BAT, and preceding Paul Leni's THE CAT AND THE CANARY by a year. Bushman plays the heir to a gloomy Florida estate, who has to live in the place in order to inherit. Various stock characters appear within minutes, such as a lurking Chinaman (to use the contemporary expression), a trio of sinister servants (one being in a wheelchair), the terrified black manservant, a couple of unlikely-looking cops, and a mysterious figure who is mistaken for some smoke. Add a damsel in distress, clutching hands and the odd inconsistency / seeming inconsistency [can't explain without spoilers], and you have a rather mixed film which only works in fits and starts, managing to wear out its welcome before the brief running time (53m) is done.
Last edited by earlytalkiebuffRob on Tue Jul 04, 2017 12:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
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