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

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSat Dec 31, 2016 11:37 pm

This is a continuation of the thread devoted to silent films watched in 2016. Starting January 1, please post new entries here. The older thread will be locked in a few days.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSun Jan 01, 2017 3:39 pm

Klostret i Sendomir (1920), which is to say The Monastery of Sendomir. Directed by Victor Sjöstrom, and starring Torre Svennberg and Tora Teje. Intense and appropriately dark Swedish film. Though Sjöstrom does not appear, his penchant for strong “punchy” acting does in the powerful performances he elicits from all concerned in this simple tale of unfaithfulness and its consequences for both cheaters and cheated. The visuals are as stark and powerful as the acting. The beautiful Miss Teje’s performance is especially well-modulated and outstanding. The version I have clocks in at 54 minutes; evidently there is also a 78 minute version, which I’m sure would be yet more worthy and enriching. A gem for cinephiles.

The Conquering Power (1921), starring Rudolph Valentino, Alice Terry, and Ralph Lewis. Modern adaptation of Balzac’s novel Eugénie Grandet (“modern” because—the film tells us—costume dramas are out, commercially, the producers feel), directed by Rex Ingram. Tight, well-photographed film never flagging in interest over its 90 minutes, Love being—as I hope will not prove a surprise to anyone—the power conquering over Greed (though Greed gives it a good run). Valentino’s feelings for his half-cousin (?) step-cousin (?)—not too clear on this point—are frustrated by his uncle, who (like the producers, one might point out) is very concerned with the bottom line. Valentino is likeable and well suited to his role, his acting skills rising capably to the admittedly modest demands made on them here. Miss Terry turns in a splendid performance, giving us a rich and subtle rendering of the demure but deep-feeling Eugénie. As her pelf-seeking father, Ralph Lewis’s performance is well-calculated, the initial restraint giving way—in accord with the demands of the plot—to a splendid sequence of chewing up the scenery in one of the eeriest scenes you’ll find on film. All this, and the film has a touch of comic relief, too. A thoroughly enjoyable film.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Jan 02, 2017 9:12 pm

Through the Breakers (1928) was a truly dismal film with a plot that hinged on such a ridiculous coincidence any thoughts of enjoying it were dashed on the rock like so much sea foam. Holmes Herbert goes off to Samoa to manage a plantation and leaves behind his girlfriend (Margaret Livingston) who promises to follow him when she gets her clothes packed in a few weeks. On the island Herbert is tempted by the flirty Taya (Natalie Joyce) but she is promised to Gamboa (Frank Hagney). While Herbert struggles with his racial dilemma (brown skin and white skin etc), his trampy girlfriend has taken a yachting trip. Of course the yacht catches fire and she is set adrift only to wash up on ... you guessed it, Samoa. From there on, the two women (brown and white) fight for the affections of Herbert. Yike. Clyde Cook comes off best as the lazy and loutish overseer who spends his days chasing brown skin under the tropic sun.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Jan 03, 2017 8:16 am

drednm wrote:Through the Breakers (1928) was a truly dismal film with a plot that hinged on such a ridiculous coincidence any thoughts of enjoying it were dashed on the rock like so much sea foam. Holmes Herbert goes off to Samoa to manage a plantation and leaves behind his girlfriend (Margaret Livingston) who promises to follow him when she gets her clothes packed in a few weeks. On the island Herbert is tempted by the flirty Taya (Natalie Joyce) but she is promised to Gamboa (Frank Hagney). While Herbert struggles with his racial dilemma (brown skin and white skin etc), his trampy girlfriend has taken a yachting trip. Of course the yacht catches fire and she is set adrift only to wash up on ... you guessed it, Samoa. From there on, the two women (brown and white) fight for the affections of Herbert. Yike. Clyde Cook comes off best as the lazy and loutish overseer who spends his days chasing brown skin under the tropic sun.

Watched that a couple of years ago. Had basically the same thoughts as you. Liked my print, though, which was tinted rather well in a couple of spots. Otherwise, I always have to remember that people of that generation also went to see such things as "Golden Dawn".
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Jan 03, 2017 8:51 am

R Michael Pyle wrote:
drednm wrote:Through the Breakers (1928) was a truly dismal film with a plot that hinged on such a ridiculous coincidence any thoughts of enjoying it were dashed on the rock like so much sea foam. Holmes Herbert goes off to Samoa to manage a plantation and leaves behind his girlfriend (Margaret Livingston) who promises to follow him when she gets her clothes packed in a few weeks. On the island Herbert is tempted by the flirty Taya (Natalie Joyce) but she is promised to Gamboa (Frank Hagney). While Herbert struggles with his racial dilemma (brown skin and white skin etc), his trampy girlfriend has taken a yachting trip. Of course the yacht catches fire and she is set adrift only to wash up on ... you guessed it, Samoa. From there on, the two women (brown and white) fight for the affections of Herbert. Yike. Clyde Cook comes off best as the lazy and loutish overseer who spends his days chasing brown skin under the tropic sun.

Watched that a couple of years ago. Had basically the same thoughts as you. Liked my print, though, which was tinted rather well in a couple of spots. Otherwise, I always have to remember that people of that generation also went to see such things as "Golden Dawn".


The actors were fine. The story was not.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostThu Jan 05, 2017 9:42 am

Daddies (1924) is one of the last starring roles in an American film for Mae Marsh. The "abridged" version that exists seems to cut out some major plot points. Story has a "bachelors' club" of men shamed into adopting war orphans (this is 1924 and quite late to be worrying about orphans from 1918), so the fools commit to adopting children by looking at photos. One gets a girl when it was supposed to be a boy; one gets triplets when it was supposed to be a boy; one gets more than he bargained for when the adoptee turns out to be Mae Marsh. While this plot may have worked for a two-reeler, it's stretched to the breaking point in a feature. Harry Myers is the male lead. The major problem is that Marsh (30ish at the time and a major film star for a decade) plays an 18-year-old. It just doesn't work. Whether this is truly an abridgement or just has 2 missing reels I cannot say, but I couldn't follow the plot. This was a 7-reel film and about 50 minutes survive.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostThu Jan 05, 2017 1:33 pm

THE VIRGINIAN (1923) was, until recently, very hard to find, and indeed the copy I watched was incomplete. Following the 1914 film pretty closely, this one has Kenneth Harlan in the title role, Florence Vidor as the schoolmarm, and Russell Simpson in an unusual (to me) villainous part in Trampas.

A bit slow to start, and with some irritating music (which either improved, or I got used to it), the film gets more interesting when the cattle-rustling plot comes in, and with Harlan's mixed loyalties between his boss and his pals Steve and Shorty, who have come under the influence of the horrid Trampas. As one who is used to Simpson's sympathetic roles in BILLY THE KID, THE GRAPES OF WRATH, THEY WERE EXPENDABLE, MY DARLING CLEMENTINE and WAGONMASTER, his performance is a revelation, and one wonders how many other bad guys he played. At a few minutes past the hour, THE VIRGINIAN is pretty entertaining, although one doesn't know what is still missing.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Jan 06, 2017 2:56 pm

A fragment - but a fascinating one - was the reconstruction of PATRIA, a serial from 1916/17. The theme here is preparedness - for danger and war - and features Mrs Vernon Castle (Irene Castle, the dancer) as heiress to an enormous fortune, much of which is in cash, stored 'in case of need'. When she is due to come into her fortune, her guardian is found murdered, and a villainous crew of Japanese, led by Warner Oland, out to get their beastly hands on the loot.

Miss Castle is aided by Milton Sills, but still seems more than capable of looking after herself, despite the many attempts on her life. Very soon, she has also organised the factories (another inheritance / responsibility) on military / neo-fascist lines, and the plotting becomes more outlandish by the minute as she and her colleagues combat a Yellow Peril which would make Fu Manchu seem like a very reasonable chap indeed.

Of course it is impossible to judge the work on these remnants, and the latter part is not in such good condition as the earlier scenes. Also, some of the issues remain unresolved at the end. In addition, the cellar containing the stash does not seem to contain enough money, as there are only a few dozen cases containing $25,000, where $25,000,000 in cash is quoted. Despite this, and the unfilled gaps, PATRIA has its fair share of thrills, particularly early on, and is very interesting on a number of counts. Backed up with a lively score, and with a number of production stills to tell us what we're missing. Oh, and Miss Castle plays a dual role as a Follies dancer, so we can see her doing her stuff in that department as well as giving a lively performance as the heroine.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSun Jan 08, 2017 5:04 pm

Ah! So that was what all the fuss was about?" Yesterday I caught up with "The Sheik" (1921). I hadn't seen it for a few years so seeing it again after a while, meant that I had forgotten it sufficiently to have enjoyed it anew. Although it is essentially what you would term "a woman's picture", there was enough boy's own style adventure here and there to sustain my interest throughout. I must say I could not see anything in Rhubarb Vaselino that would make young girls go all gaga, but then I am the male of the species and a woman's mind is foreign to me. All I could see were a series of facial expressions that reminded me a lot of Harpo Marx at times. Not that I am denying Valentino was a good actor - he certainly demonstrated that ability in a few of his films where he got a good chance to demonstrate his skills. Here he is merely having a bit of fun, he is taking us for a ride and we can just sit back and enjoy the romp.

One gets the impression that the Arabian world was not highly thought of in the West, that people of that persuasion were no better than "savages". White supremacy reigns in this picture and one I suppose has to discount the bigotry and let it fall into the ways of the times. The final scenes also reinforce these views by alluding that things are not all they seem as far as the Sheik himself is concerned. (I won't divulge why, as that would spoil things for the first-time viewer of this picture).

The story goes along with the idea that Arabian men have a rather rudimentary grasp on courtship. On seeing a young maiden they fancy, they will just abduct her and cart her off to their tent in order to indulge in their wicked ways. This is about it in a nutshell really. Valentino is the carter off and Agnes Ayres the cartee. He is a real show-off and has wide-opened eyes and a grinning smile showing off his gnashers - constantly. Ms Ayres is portrayed as a bit of a tomboy as we are first introduced to her. She is Lady Diana an independent and feisty Englishwoman, but, she is soon shown to be a "typical woman" who goes all weak at the knees when she is found to be in an adverse situation. Then the story becomes somewhat perverse, for, whilst she is a captive she actually falls in love with her captor. This type of situation happens a lot I am led to believe, but I still find it rather perverse. Anyway, Adophe Menjou is brought in as an European friend of the Sheik - and he of course demonstrates all that is right and proper.

Happily I found that this was not completely a luvvy-duvvy type picture and that there was a little more too it - involving brigands, fighting and lots of chasing over sand dunes on horseback and camels.

One thing that one can't help but notice is the care put into the production. A lot of effort was put in to the detail. The framing of the scenes was carefully thought out and the art direction was very good too. I particularly liked the explanatory titles - how each had suitable artwork adorning them. The dialogue scenes were probably not intended as tongue in cheek, but I couldn't help but get a belly laugh out of a couple - and I mean not in a sense of laughing at them, but laughing with them.

Lady Diana ' Why have you brought me here?"
The Sheik "Are you not woman enough to know?"

I am certain there would have been howls of laughter back in 1921 too.

The full orchestra was in attendance to play the picture although I am not too sure whether it was with real instruments or with syn.., simp..., sin..., synthesisers. Not that it mattered all that much for the score was well in keeping with what was happening on the screen. A lot of the tunes were borrowed from Borodin and Ripyer-Korsets-Off - although I thought "I'm a Strange Looking Parasite" ("Kismet") was probably too well known a tune to have been used. In the picture it alludes to the fact that Amy Woodford-Finden's "Kashmiri Song" is sung - and so that tune pops up continuously.

I always remember my father telling me that he, like a lot of men at the time, took Valentino with a grain of salt. "We went because we were courting a young girl and that was the picture she wanted to see".

All things considered I was quite entertained for ninety minutes or so.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Jan 09, 2017 2:03 pm

'Personally supervised by Mrs Wallace Reid', THE RED KIMONA (1925) is a remarkable movie which is both interesting and entertaining (although that might not be the right word for some of the content). Based on a real case, it tells of a woman (Priscilla Bonner) tricked into a life of prostitution who kills the swine responsible. She is put on trial [SPOILER], found not guilty, and taken under the wing of a lady whose charitable instincts are guided by her social ambitions. When she tires of the girl, she turfs her out, but with the promise of a nursing career. When that goes sour, her life takes on an alarming variety of turns...

I said THE RED KIMONA was based on fact: so closely based that the makers unfortunately used the woman's real name, ending up being sued. In addition, the British censor banned the film, despite its strong content of morality. Occasionally there is a touch of over-emphasis (the 'charitable' lady's behaviour in the courtroom), but on the whole, this movie is a very good blend of melodrama, satire and romance, altering its moods very suddenly that one is often taken by surprise. A splendid movie on several counts which is never less than watchable.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
SPOILER - the film also uses colour tinting in a few scenes. The most effective in my view was when Bonner is looking in the mirror imagining being the bride of this toe-rag, the reflection changes to her in the kimono of the title to both her alarm and mine.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Jan 09, 2017 2:43 pm

Watched The Shakedown (1929) which I thought was excellent. It got me to thinking about James Murray, who had become a star in 1928 with The Crowd. Is he about the last person to become a star in American silent films? Looks like he had 4 or 5 or 6 major roles in silents before the transition.

Can you think of anyone else who finally achieved stardom just as silents were going out?
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Jan 09, 2017 2:47 pm

drednm wrote:Watched The Shakedown (1929) which I thought was excellent. It got me to thinking about James Murray, who had become a star in 1928 with The Crowd. Is he about the last person to become a star in American silent films? Looks like he had 4 or 5 or 6 major roles in silents before the transition.

Can you think of anyone else who finally achieved stardom just as silents were going out?


Agree THE SHAKEDOWN is a very good film indeed. Like Henry King's HELL HARBOR of 1930, it shows a very different Wyler to the one we know.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Jan 09, 2017 3:33 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:
drednm wrote:Watched The Shakedown (1929) which I thought was excellent. It got me to thinking about James Murray, who had become a star in 1928 with The Crowd. Is he about the last person to become a star in American silent films? Looks like he had 4 or 5 or 6 major roles in silents before the transition.

Can you think of anyone else who finally achieved stardom just as silents were going out?


Agree THE SHAKEDOWN is a very good film indeed. Like Henry King's HELL HARBOR of 1930, it shows a very different Wyler to the one we know.


Wyler even appears ... as the ringside photographer. And John Huston is a crowd extra at about the 40-minute mark.

The kid was terrific. Jack Hanlon.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Jan 09, 2017 5:44 pm

"Can you think of anyone else who finally achieved stardom just as silents were going out?"

Maybe Tom Keene? He appeared in a short in 1923 but (AFAIK) did not film again until 1928. I know him only through TIDE OF EMPIRE and THE GODLESS GIRL, though he made a number of Westerns in the years that followed.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Jan 09, 2017 5:56 pm

Other actors who became stars in the late 1920s include Gary Cooper and Joan Crawford.

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

PostMon Jan 09, 2017 8:04 pm

boblipton wrote:Other actors who became stars in the late 1920s include Gary Cooper and Joan Crawford.

Bob


I meant for those who then saw their careers more or lest die with talkies
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Jan 09, 2017 9:37 pm

drednm wrote:
boblipton wrote:Other actors who became stars in the late 1920s include Gary Cooper and Joan Crawford.

Bob


I meant for those who then saw their careers more or lest die with talkies


Anita Page?

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

PostTue Jan 10, 2017 2:36 pm

Believed lost for some eighty years, HELEN OF FOUR GATES (1920) is a rare chance to see one of Cecil Hepworth's features. Set in the rugged and inhospitable Yorkshire landscape of the 1800s. It tells of a man spurned in marriage when a rival suitor tells the beloved that the fellow's family has a streak of insanity. Two years pass by, and the rival is dead and the woman dying, but having given birth to a daughter. The rejected lover agrees to look after the daughter, not telling of his desire to take revenge in the most hateful way...

Alma Taylor plays both mother and daughter, and the fake father is James Carew, who resembles Tod Slaughter at times, particularly when working out his evil schemes, which involve an old crony who is now a tramp. Using the theme of hereditary insanity, the poor girl has no chance... ... for the present.

Hepworth's reputation has taken a bit of a beating in places, unfair when so much of his work is unavailable. HELEN OF FOUR GATES, based on a popular novel, needs few excuses, being a strong dose of melodrama with excellent use of real locations and a good pictorial sense, occasionally echoing Griffith, which perhaps was Hepworth's intention. Perhaps one could fault the fact that the lovers in both parts of the film are too easily put off by the tales of hereditary madness. Despite having no music track, the film is consistently interesting, benefiting from a very nice print, which originally came from Canada. The fellow who plays Helen's beau is George Dewhurst, who became a writer and director, making no fewer than FIVE versions of the play A SISTER TO ASSIST 'ER.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Jan 10, 2017 2:48 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:Believed lost for some eighty years, HELEN OF FOUR GATES (1920) is a rare chance to see one of Cecil Hepworth's features. Set in the rugged and inhospitable Yorkshire landscape of the 1800s. It tells of a man spurned in marriage when a rival suitor tells the beloved that the fellow's family has a streak of insanity. Two years pass by, and the rival is dead and the woman dying, but having given birth to a daughter. The rejected lover agrees to look after the daughter, not telling of his desire to take revenge in the most hateful way...

Alma Taylor plays both mother and daughter, and the fake father is James Carew, who resembles Tod Slaughter at times, particularly when working out his evil schemes, which involve an old crony who is now a tramp. Using the theme of hereditary insanity, the poor girl has no chance... ... for the present.

Hepworth's reputation has taken a bit of a beating in places, unfair when so much of his work is unavailable. HELEN OF FOUR GATES, based on a popular novel, needs few excuses, being a strong dose of melodrama with excellent use of real locations and a good pictorial sense, occasionally echoing Griffith, which perhaps was Hepworth's intention. Perhaps one could fault the fact that the lovers in both parts of the film are too easily put off by the tales of hereditary madness. Despite having no music track, the film is consistently interesting, benefiting from a very nice print, which originally came from Canada. The fellow who plays Helen's beau is George Dewhurst, who became a writer and director, making no fewer than FIVE versions of the play A SISTER TO ASSIST 'ER.


I thought this was a magnificent film.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Jan 10, 2017 3:22 pm

drednm wrote:
earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:Believed lost for some eighty years, HELEN OF FOUR GATES (1920) is a rare chance to see one of Cecil Hepworth's features. Set in the rugged and inhospitable Yorkshire landscape of the 1800s. It tells of a man spurned in marriage when a rival suitor tells the beloved that the fellow's family has a streak of insanity. Two years pass by, and the rival is dead and the woman dying, but having given birth to a daughter. The rejected lover agrees to look after the daughter, not telling of his desire to take revenge in the most hateful way...

Alma Taylor plays both mother and daughter, and the fake father is James Carew, who resembles Tod Slaughter at times, particularly when working out his evil schemes, which involve an old crony who is now a tramp. Using the theme of hereditary insanity, the poor girl has no chance... ... for the present.

Hepworth's reputation has taken a bit of a beating in places, unfair when so much of his work is unavailable. HELEN OF FOUR GATES, based on a popular novel, needs few excuses, being a strong dose of melodrama with excellent use of real locations and a good pictorial sense, occasionally echoing Griffith, which perhaps was Hepworth's intention. Perhaps one could fault the fact that the lovers in both parts of the film are too easily put off by the tales of hereditary madness. Despite having no music track, the film is consistently interesting, benefiting from a very nice print, which originally came from Canada. The fellow who plays Helen's beau is George Dewhurst, who became a writer and director, making no fewer than FIVE versions of the play A SISTER TO ASSIST 'ER.


I thought this was a magnificent film.


Yes, certainly took me by surprise after reading so much about Hepworth's work being 'dull' and 'old-fashioned'. I hadn't realised that HELEN had been a lost film until I looked it up. A good job some of the old British movies are coming back into view, as when I started watching films properly in the early 1970s, the main place to see what was available was the National Film Theatre, although I did see THE LODGER at our local polytechnic and a couple of other silent Hitchcocks at the Everyman, Hampstead Heath. Aside from these places they were damned difficult to see, and one was regarded as crazy to want to see such 'rubbish'. Much as one admires the work of authors such as Rachael Low, it is essential to see the films for oneself. Now where's COMIN' THRO' THE RYE?
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Jan 10, 2017 3:50 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:Now where's COMIN' THRO' THE RYE?

1916 or 1923?
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Jan 10, 2017 4:00 pm

There have been a moderate number of shorts from Hepworth made available recently. The BFI site on YouTube has several. Feeding in "Hepworth silent" on Youtube's search site will get you numerous copies of Rescued by Rover and Explosion of a Motor Car; there are several clips, each running under two minutes, of later features, including Coming Thro the Rye, The Lunatic at Large and The Pipes of Pan. I have not looked at these, because two minutes is not enough to garner an opinion about a two-reeler, let alone a feature.

What I have seen, over the last few years, is several short films, including some propaganda pieces, and these are direct, straightforward and not particularly interesting. My tentative hypothesis is that, while movie techniques were evolving rapidly in the US, the First World War was having a retarding effect in Europe. Younger film makers were in battle; the demand for cheap entertainment made advances in technique unnecessary. Although I don't consider myself more than a dabbler in European movies in this era, I see similar retardation of change in Italian short comedies, in an era during which American film comedy was amazingly experimental.

The print and transfer quality of the Hepworth shorts I have seen is not topnotch -- the denigration of the entire British film industry for half a century by the leftist film critics, who, in the words of a Nitratevillain (whose name I cannot recall at the moment) for not being Russian Academician movies -- makes it difficult to be certain, My impression is that the camerawork is the equal of the American industry, while the production design at Hepworth tends to be cluttered and confusing. Most tellingly, the story telling is unsophisticated, more interested in repeating a point than in butressing it.

After the war? Some non-hostile sources indicate that Hepworth did not keep up with changing public taste, but stuck with the same, sentimental, Victorian style of melodrama that eventually did in Griffith. I am not certain that his story choice destroyed Griffith; I do think that the job of running a movie single-handedly, the way he did, in the face of the factory system instituted by Ince had at least something to do with it. I also think Griffith's willingness to offer a problem without a clear and (for the story) definitive solution, operated against him.

However, the discussion is about Hepworth, not Griffith. His features of the post-War era are hard to view, so I will rely, until I can look at more of them for myself, on the opinions of Nitratevillains who have.

Bob
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drednm

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

PostTue Jan 10, 2017 4:31 pm

boblipton wrote:There have been a moderate number of shorts from Hepworth made available recently. The BFI site on YouTube has several. Feeding in "Hepworth silent" on Youtube's search site will get you numerous copies of Rescued by Rover and Explosion of a Motor Car; there are several clips, each running under two minutes, of later features, including Coming Thro the Rye, The Lunatic at Large and The Pipes of Pan. I have not looked at these, because two minutes is not enough to garner an opinion about a two-reeler, let alone a feature.

What I have seen, over the last few years, is several short films, including some propaganda pieces, and these are direct, straightforward and not particularly interesting. My tentative hypothesis is that, while movie techniques were evolving rapidly in the US, the First World War was having a retarding effect in Europe. Younger film makers were in battle; the demand for cheap entertainment made advances in technique unnecessary. Although I don't consider myself more than a dabbler in European movies in this era, I see similar retardation of change in Italian short comedies, in an era during which American film comedy was amazingly experimental.

The print and transfer quality of the Hepworth shorts I have seen is not topnotch -- the denigration of the entire British film industry for half a century by the leftist film critics, who, in the words of a Nitratevillain (whose name I cannot recall at the moment) for not being Russian Academician movies -- makes it difficult to be certain, My impression is that the camerawork is the equal of the American industry, while the production design at Hepworth tends to be cluttered and confusing. Most tellingly, the story telling is unsophisticated, more interested in repeating a point than in butressing it.

After the war? Some non-hostile sources indicate that Hepworth did not keep up with changing public taste, but stuck with the same, sentimental, Victorian style of melodrama that eventually did in Griffith. I am not certain that his story choice destroyed Griffith; I do think that the job of running a movie single-handedly, the way he did, in the face of the factory system instituted by Ince had at least something to do with it. I also think Griffith's willingness to offer a problem without a clear and (for the story) definitive solution, operated against him.

However, the discussion is about Hepworth, not Griffith. His features of the post-War era are hard to view, so I will rely, until I can look at more of them for myself, on the opinions of Nitratevillains who have.

Bob


The Hepworth shorts I've seen are pretty pedestrian although there are a couple funny ones. The 4 features I've seen, however, are quite a different story. There is a similarity in his work to Grffith's but his use of the English countryside adds a huge amount to the visual appeal. Helen of Four Gates may be the best in that regard. Alma Taylor is the leading lady in the ones I've seen and she's very good. The storylines tend toward older melodrama but there is a certain charm in Hepworth's films that appeals to me (probably not everyone). One of his "hallmarks" is the use of a fadeout before and after each intertitle. There's an odd mix of realism and filmic devices that almost predict Hitchcock. Not sure, but I would assume Hitchcock would have been quite familiar with Hepworth's work. Tansy and Mist in the Valley also exist. Comin' Thro the Rye also exists in a print minus the final reel.
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earlytalkiebuffRob

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

PostWed Jan 11, 2017 3:14 pm

R Michael Pyle wrote:
earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:Now where's COMIN' THRO' THE RYE?

1916 or 1923?


Will gladly settle for the 1923 (I have the novel, with film stills), but considering the cases of TOO MUCH JOHNSON, SHERLOCK HOLMES and HELEN OF FOUR GATES, one cannot rule anything out!
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earlytalkiebuffRob

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

PostWed Jan 11, 2017 3:35 pm

THE LURE OF DRINK (1915) is a half-hour tract telling of a seamstress (Blanche Forsythe) who marries a reformed drunk (Roy Travers). Unfortunately for the pair, his old flame (Flash Kate, played by Maud Yates) decides to get her revenge by getting him back to his old ways. At first resisting, he succumbs after he has suffered a drenching during a fight with an old rival in love...

Despite perhaps being a touch overacted by Travers, and having a small dose of religion, this is an absorbing and vigorous variant on 'The Road to Ruin', with quite a lot of outdoor work and presented here in a nice, clear print. Ones only surprise is that the Old Flame is still attractive after being steeped in the Demon Drink for so long.

Also watched THE MAN WITH THE GLASS EYE (1916), an incomplete drama concerning a crook (Harry Lonsdale) who is a master of disguise and ruthless in his ambitions concerning women and money. The opening scenes when he is on the run from the law are, for some reason, absurdly slow, so that the pursuers would appear to do better by following on foot than in the extremely leisurely motor-cars. A scene where the police are puzzled by the change in number-plate and the occupant's appearance is also ridiculous. Much of this film is in very good condition, but there is also some very bad decomposition, before it simply stops.
Last edited by earlytalkiebuffRob on Mon Jan 16, 2017 1:25 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Little Caesar

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

PostWed Jan 11, 2017 8:31 pm

Through the Back Door (1921) - a weaker but nevertheless charming Mary Pickford vehicle. The plot strains plausibility (the character transformation of the stepfather for instance), and several plot elements are either poorly developed (Pickford's romance) or extraneous (the Belgian war orphans). Yet, Pickford's charm and comic timing make this film well worth watching. The version I watched was accompanied by a fine Robert Israel orchestral score (I don't think I've ever heard a bad score from the gent).
Never cry over spilt milk, because it may have been poisoned. - W.C. Fields
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drednm

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

PostThu Jan 12, 2017 2:26 pm

Little Church Around the Corner (1923) wastes its first 30 minutes in setting up the story of the goody goody orphan in a mining town who becomes a minister and eschews a fancy church in the city to go back to his own people ... just in time for the big mine disaster. The mine scenes are quite interesting (clever set) and generate some energy, but most of the film is pretty soggy what with the mine owner's daughter (Claire Windsor) pining over the minister (Kenneth Harlan). Hobart Bosworth plays the mine owner, Walter Long the nasty ringleader, Pauline Starke plays a mute who finds her voice at just the right moment. The most compelling characters will never be identified. They were the young miner and his blonde wife. I don't think they were even named but they gave striking performances. Jane Darwell is one of the extras. Grapevine release with a very good score.
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wich2

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

PostThu Jan 12, 2017 10:41 pm

Annoying, somewhat ripoff title, and so much disappointed me...

As a member (with George Arliss, and many others) of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, which is homed in the REAL "Little Church Around The Corner," I felt the cheat very strongly!

Not least of which, because the real history of that place would've made a corker of a Silent:

http://littlechurch.org/#/who-we-are

-Craig
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earlytalkiebuffRob

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

PostFri Jan 13, 2017 2:54 pm

Caught up with the 1922 SMILIN' THROUGH, starring Norma Talmadge in a dual role, and directed by Sidney Franklin. Taken from a Dutch print, the subtitles were slightly confusing at first, particularly as the construction was somewhat different to the 1932 version. Wyndham Standing plays an elderly gent who is fiercely opposed to his niece Kathleen from having anything to do with a young man who is a nephew of one he hated. In this telling, the preamble is much longer, and we eventually find out the young man's uncle (Harrison Ford) killed his bride on their wedding day.

I don't know if this is a short version (Wiki lists it at quite a bit longer), but SMILIN' THROUGH is presented here in a handsome tinted print, which goes a long way towards offsetting any dottiness in the story which has the dead bride coming back every so often - unless he is harbouring evil thoughts. Back when this came out, James Agate gave the film a hearty rubbishing, so it's nice to have the chance to watch the film for oneself, and I found it attractive and rather moving at times. It also seems that Gene Lockhart is there as the vicar, but I didn't spot him. Alec B Francis plays the unfortunate bridegroom's loyal friend, a doctor, who sees what his bitterness is doing to him and those around him. Looks like I should revisit the 1932 version, which was also directed by Franklin, as well as Frank Borzage's Technicolor version which I have yet to see.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Jan 13, 2017 8:54 pm

The First two sets of the latest series of CRUEL AND UNUSUAL COMEDY played today at MOMA, and I was there for both shows. I have written for the IMDB reviews for the six that were new to me (marked with an asterisk). Over the next couple of week, there will be about a dozen shows; each will be shown at least twice.

A Noise in the Deep: I haven't seen this listed as on screen since the Arbuckle series about ten years ago. The copy is rough, but there's the earliest thrown pie I've seen (Arbuckle tosses it) and Mabel and Roscoe are always good together.

The Janitor A Hank Mann comedy. Hank was a great technician and there's nothing wrong with his stuff, but his dumb-bell character doesn't appeal to me.

No Danger* Bobby Dunn in a thrill comedy. Nothing amazing, fairly watchable, just like all Bobby Dunn comedies.

A Howling Success* This was the highlight of the day for me: Brownie the Wonder Dog is the most charismatic comedy pooch after Pete the Pup, with an amazing set of tricks. Jack Cooper plays his opera-hatted comic villain.

Fair Warning* Another of the very watchable shorts that Al St. John did for Jack White. Although Stephen Roberts is credited as director, the camera angles make me suspect that Uncle Roscoe helped out.

Just Nuts* I never thought I'd see this first Hal Roach picture; a copy turned up at MOMA and they ran it. It turned out to be one to check off the list, as the construction seems to be "You haven't hit anyone in eight seconds, Harold!" The audience liked it.

Cold Hearts and Hot Flames: Every time I look at a Billy Ritchie picture, I become more convinced that Henry Lehrman hated everyone. Here he tries to burn up the entire cast and when you can't see the lines he uses to fly actors, you can see where they come out of their costumes. Steve Massa called Ritchie lovable. I think that's wrong. The genius bit here is that he's just as hateful as Lehrman so you like it when bad things happen to him too.

Luke's Shattered Sleep: Disgusting. A real Cruel & Unusual Comedy effort.

Camoflage Ball: Ray Hughes isn't the worst Chaplin impersonator -- I've seen Minerva Courtenay in action. He is six foot tall and looks like third place in a Chaplin imitation competition.

Gussle Rivals Jonah* I like Syd Chaplin, but this looks like one they put together in a hurry.

Lonesome Luke's Wild Women * Harold and Snub get stranded on a desert island where Bud is Assistant Sheik and the harem girls are fighting to get their hands on Snub! I'm not fond of the Lonesome Lukes, but this is a good one.

--30 --
The matter is complicated, and I shall proceed to complicate it still more.

-- Avram Davidson
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