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

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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R Michael Pyle

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

PostMon Dec 25, 2017 2:52 pm

I watched a pretty decent silent Western with Bob Steele, "The Hunted Men" (1930). Also in the cast were Jean Reno, Lew Meehan, Thomas Lingham, and others. Directed by J. P. McGowan, this was a surprise to me, because I thought it was going to be a sound picture. I didn't realize that, of the nine films Steele made in 1930, nearly half were still silent - and - all were directed by J. P. McGowan. He also directed Steele's first sound film, "Near the Rainbow's End", the same year. This one is definitely a typical "B", with all the same tropes you've seen a thousand times. Nevertheless, it's well done, and a very young Steele (my wife kept saying "he's cute") acquits himself well, as do all the others. One thing I found almost humorous, too, was the fact that nearly every scene but about two has Lew Meehan sitting at a desk where he's an accountant/financial man, basically exclusively for Thomas Lingham, playing Steele's father. You'd think, if you put logic to these things, that he sat at that desk in town nearly 24 hours a day without moving. Oh, well, it's the movies... In this one the baddies are bad and the goodies are pretty good, but not perfect - except for Steele and the girl he gets in the end, Jean Reno. Steele's father is also a card shark in this one, and that gives his character some character. Each character in the show is pretty well defined, a tendency not observed in a lot of "B" Westerns. This one is also tinted and toned, and the condition of the print is really wonderful.
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Big Silent Fan

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

PostMon Dec 25, 2017 2:56 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:Pretty anything from Carl Dreyer would seem worth watching (although I did find a couple of his later shorts rather dull), and DIE GEZEICHNETEN / LOVE ONE ANOTHER (1922) is no exception, although it takes a little bit of getting into as the opening scenes have a rather generous dose of intertitles. In addition, I found the film a little confusing in spots at the beginning.


I tried to watch today but half way through, I gave up since I was completely lost.
I didn't give up watching Dreyer and instead discovered, "Der Var Engang" ("Once Upon a Time") also from 1922.

In the fairytale, there's a King and his beautiful, yet spoiled daughter for whom he's been trying to find a suitable mate. She rejects them all, even the handsome Price of Denmark and his faithful companion. The prince becomes determined to win her, if only by trickery.
At the beginning, because of the massive amount of hair on the head of the princess (so much that someone followed behind with a large hook to support it), I was reminded of Rapunzel but suddenly without explaination, she was sporting shorter locks.
Her half dozen, finely dressed ladies in waiting were each equally beautiful and attentive to the spoilt princess.
In this fairytale, the King finally tires of his daughter's selfishness and banishes her from the kingdom where she now finds herself living like a beggar, relying on a potter to have a place to live.
Much of the restored film is missing and like with "Greed," the missing parts were replaced by titles and stills from the film so the story could be kept complete. It even has a happy ending in this familiar story.

Unlike "Love One Another," it was easy to follow and enjoyable.
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boblipton

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

PostMon Dec 25, 2017 3:48 pm

Rob Roy (1922) has just been posted to the BFI's YouTube's site and, despite its lack of a score, is very watchable. All political content about Scots independence has been removed -- was this considered a problem in 1922, or was it a simplification for the sake of converting Sir Walter Scot's novel to a movie? Now the story is one of conflict between Rob Roy MacGregor (David Hawthorne: looking uncannily like John Cleese) and the Duke of Montrose (Simeon Stuart) over pride, money and, of course, the beautiful Helene (Gladys Jennings).

What makes this movie ever so watchable is the beautiful photography. It's hard to say whether the point is show the story or the rough countryside, but there are some lovely dance scenes, and the fight in which Hawthorne fights Tom Morris as Sandy the Biter, throws him into a loch and is acclaimed clan chief remains thrilling. So much for the longstanding claims that British film making was second rate!

Bob
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earlytalkiebuffRob

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

PostTue Dec 26, 2017 5:24 am

My attempt to watch Bunuel's ASCENT TO HEAVEN was abandoned due to the fuzziness of the upload, so I ended up with a bundle of early British shorts from the BFI YouTube site.

LT PIMPLE AND THE STOLEN SUBMARINE (1914) had me laughing out loud several times, much to my-cat-on-my-lap's consternation. In this one, the answer to Lieutenants Rose and Daring is sent to purchase the rights to a new submarine for the enormous sum of £10. Having beaten the inventor down to 23/9d, he sets off to take possession of this remarkable vessel, which seems worth 2/7d at the outside, despite having the attributes of a Tardis. A nearby spy offers to look after this invention, and plenty of merry scrapes ensue, including an amazingly talented messenger-fish and a cracking chase down the Thames (??) with crowds of onlookers watching the spies being pursued by the Royal Navy's finest..

Less amusing was THE MAN WHO NEVER MAKE GOOD (1914) in which a country bumpkin tries his hand at several jobs, failing miserably until he finds his metier as a scarecrow. Some of the humour in this one seemed a bit on the cruel side, as well as nowhere near as funny.

THE MAN WHO CAME BACK (1914) has a touch or the recruiting poster to it, although there is a bit of unlikely business at the end. A body is found with a note on it 'identifying' the poor victim as one Harold Marsh. Despite the likelihood of several hundred fellows of that name being in existence, the correct family are heartbroken. In reality, Marsh is alive and has joined up, as well as earning a V.C. which has been poached by his weak step-brother. Quite a thoughtful little drama, slightly let down by some of the sets.

The War again in NURSE AND MARTYR (1915) an early depiction of Edith Cavell, even though the lady playing her seems a little unsuitable in appearance. Slightly confusing at the beginning (missing footage??), and not really as effective as one would like.

AN ENGAGEMENT OF CONVENIENCE (1914) has a recently engaged chap (presumably a police inspector) decide to pull the wool over his Aunt's eyes when she wants to meet his fiancee and bung some money his way. Luckily, his attractive typist needs to help her brother out. The young idiot owes £150 (perhaps £7,000 now) to a rogue and needs the money quickly. Sister, being offered £200 for the deception agrees, and the inevitable happens. Meanwhile the creditor now threatens to expose her brother for forgery unless she agrees to marry the beastly fellow! A lively drama, better than this outline would indicate and here presented in a very good copy.
Last edited by earlytalkiebuffRob on Tue Dec 26, 2017 8:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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R Michael Pyle

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

PostTue Dec 26, 2017 7:37 am

boblipton wrote:So much for the longstanding claims that British film making was second rate!
Bob


1922's "The Glorious Adventure", same year as "Rob Roy", is simply spectacular! I reviewed it here 18 March 2014. Also first all color (Prizma Color) film feature made in England. As fine an adventure/history film as one could watch from that period. And, having been released 1 January 1922, had to have been made the year before.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Dec 26, 2017 6:41 pm

The copy of A Race for a Bride (1922) that has been posted to the BFI site on YouTube is fifteen minutes in length, despite missing the last few minutes. This is odd, because the IMDb lists it as a one-reeler, about half the length . It's the only known survivor of a series of twelve sporting comedies. In this one, Peggy Carlisle is having tea with Rex Davis and Pat O'Dare and announces she will marry whoever wins the local bicycle race. One imagines she believes that one of the two is a cinch, or possibly she doesn't care, so long as he (or she) can win the Tour de France.

There are minor plot complications, with the sister of Mr. Davis showing up and them being fond, and this being reported as wicked gossip; and Mr. Davis is locked in a woodshed. But the last five minutes is watching the guys bicycle in mid-long shot through the woods. for that athletic/rustic feeling. I suppose it appeals to some people, but it isn't my ideal of a great comedy.

Bob
If no one listens, then it’s just as well. At least I won’t get caught in any lies I tell.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 3:06 am

One wonders whether Hitchcock saw THE CONFESSION (1920) before he directed I CONFESS over thirty years later. This one tells of priest Henry B Walthall's dilemma when his alcoholic brother is accused of murder after a fight. The real culprit has shot the man from a motive of revenge for his sister, then runs to the priest with his guilt. With his brother in line for the big drop, he determines to find the fellow and persuade him to do the right thing.

A potentially interesting theme is hampered somewhat by the poor print quality and its muteness, although there are some nicely done moments, particularly during a fight on a freight train and the race to the rescue at the end. I won't go into the religious side of the film (as folk here might get offended, or the rights and wrongs of keeping the Confessional when an innocent life is is danger, as well as the fact that the Confessional also holds good after death) although I would think any good man's judgement would overrule such considerations, and if he is dismissed from his post or excommunicated, then perhaps he should take that risk.

What did seem rather daft though was (SPOILER) that when the penitent decides to admit his guilt and is in serious danger of handing in his dinner-pail too late, that Walthall decides on a cross-country race against time rather than finding a more convenient local judge / magistrate to witness the confession, and to use methods such as telegraph and telephone communication to halt the innocent fellow's agony. Although this may add to the 'Will they? / Won't they? business, it is not really convincing, although admittedly this had been done in other films. The presentation of this film makes it a bit of a pill to sit through, so one should perhaps reserve judgement until one sees it in a good copy (if possible) with a decent accompaniment, as that may well mitigate some of the flaws in story-telling and even the less convincing and persuasive religious aspects of the film.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 1:19 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:One wonders whether Hitchcock saw THE CONFESSION (1920) before he directed I CONFESS over thirty years later. This one tells of priest Henry B Walthall's dilemma when his alcoholic brother is accused of murder after a fight. The real culprit has shot the man from a motive of revenge for his sister, then runs to the priest with his guilt. With his brother in line for the big drop, he determines to find the fellow and persuade him to do the right thing.
A potentially interesting theme is hampered somewhat by the poor print quality and its muteness....

I couldn't help the image quality, but didn't want to watch mute.
Looking for suitable background music while watching, I decided to try DeMille's "King of Kings" (1927), cueing the film and music both at their beginnings. Certainly not a perfect fit, but it worked perfectly for the opening titles. It was satisfactory up until hearing the Palm Sunday sequence with the "Hosana" choir. It's just a matter of pausing the YouTube video and moving past that part in the DeMille film.
Biggest problem for me was reading the hand held letters that were an important part to the story. They're readable, but just barely. Too bad they didn't repeat them with intertitles, although some of those were difficult to read as well.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Dec 29, 2017 1:54 pm

Big Silent Fan wrote:
earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:One wonders whether Hitchcock saw THE CONFESSION (1920) before he directed I CONFESS over thirty years later. This one tells of priest Henry B Walthall's dilemma when his alcoholic brother is accused of murder after a fight. The real culprit has shot the man from a motive of revenge for his sister, then runs to the priest with his guilt. With his brother in line for the big drop, he determines to find the fellow and persuade him to do the right thing.
A potentially interesting theme is hampered somewhat by the poor print quality and its muteness....

I couldn't help the image quality, but didn't want to watch mute.
Looking for suitable background music while watching, I decided to try DeMille's "King of Kings" (1927), cueing the film and music both at their beginnings. Certainly not a perfect fit, but it worked perfectly for the opening titles. It was satisfactory up until hearing the Palm Sunday sequence with the "Hosana" choir. It's just a matter of pausing the YouTube video and moving past that part in the DeMille film.
Biggest problem for me was reading the hand held letters that were an important part to the story. They're readable, but just barely. Too bad they didn't repeat them with intertitles, although some of those were difficult to read as well.


According to a review on IMDb the copy issued by Alpha is of very good quality, although the writer's views on the film were quite similar to mine...
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSat Dec 30, 2017 7:42 am

Say the name and most people will think of the 2016 animated Disney feature. I just looked at Moana (1926), Robert J. Flaherty's documentary about life in Polynesia; after all that time in the Arctic filming Nanook of the North, a couple of years with his wife and children in warm Samoa must have been a very pleasant working vacation. In the early 1980s, a version was released with a new soundtrack, but I looked at a version with none.

These days our concepts of documentaries are informed by an additional ninety years of development. Documentaries are compiled by interviews and delving into archives and by following the subjects around, waiting for something interesting to happen in a cinema verite way; anthropology is a well-developed discipline. In the 1920s, there were no such standards, everyone was inventing new techniques as they went along, Paramount hoped to recoup the money advanced Flaherty for the project, and Flaherty understood the rhythms and techniques of film -- its poetry, if you will. As a result, to the practiced eye, many of the events of this film were carefully staged and edited. Wait until about a third of the way through the film You'll see a youngster, Moana's younger brother, climb a tall palm, gather coconuts, and bring them down. Not only is the sequence edited, with another member of the family watching, but the camera's vantage shifts dramatically, from watching the youngster climb -- from afar -- to watching him twist the coconuts off the tree -- from a few feet away. Clearly this entire sequence was shot over several days.

On the other hand, there are several bits that clearly preserve actual techniques of the period: Moana and her mother making cloth; hauling a turtle aboard an outrigger; cleaning taro, freshly pulled from the earth.

If there is a message in this movie, it is that these people live closer to the earth and sea than the movie's audience. Even a rural audience in this period would be thoroughly civilized, from farm animals, to guns for hunting, to harvesters, to the movie projectors and screens that showed them this film. There is a message that the riches that these trapping of civilization bring are fine and dandy, but so is a coconut you have climbed the tree to get for your family and yourself.

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

PostSun Dec 31, 2017 4:45 am

I first came across William Desmond Taylor's THE SOUL OF YOUTH (1920) in a mention in an old London Film Festival booklet. Finally watched it last night and was very impressed. Most of the cast was unknown to me (aside from William Collier Jr and Lila Lee), and the lead was taken by the teenage Lewis Sargent, who gives a very natural, unaffected performance.

The film starts with a pregnant mother selling her baby to the mistress of a crooked politician, Pete Morano, intending to pass the child off as their own. When the horrid fellow rejects both baby and mistress, the baby is left at a convent, to eventually be 'brought up' in a dreadful, loveless orphanage which seems more like a prison camp and is seen to stunt any boy's chances at becoming a worthwhile adult. Meanwhile, the male head of the respectable Hamilton family is keen to stop Morano for running for Mayor although as yet nothing can be proven against him...

Best not to reveal more, but THE SOUL OF YOUTH is a very good discovery indeed and comes over as sympathetic and absorbing. The street life of unloved children is well shown as well as the harsh attitudes shown to the boys by some in authority. In addition, there is a documentary element in the presence of real-life Judge Ben Lindsey, who is eager to prevent boys turning into habitual criminals. Admittedly the story is dramatic rather than wholly realistic, as coincidence plays quite a part, but this is all in keeping with this type of movie (THE GODLESS GIRL, THE ROAD TO LIFE, WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD) and is good evidence that Taylor was not just a director who got himself murdered.
Last edited by earlytalkiebuffRob on Sun Dec 31, 2017 2:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSun Dec 31, 2017 9:19 am

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote: [snip] ... and is good evidence that Taylor was not just a director who got himself murdered.


Yeah, but that was a pretty shrewd career move for him, wasn't it?

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

PostSun Dec 31, 2017 12:18 pm

Jim Roots wrote:
earlytalkiebuffRob wrote: [snip] ... and is good evidence that Taylor was not just a director who got himself murdered.


Yeah, but that was a pretty shrewd career move for him, wasn't it?

Jim


I think getting yourself killed is never a good career move. It certainly limits your choices.

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

PostSun Dec 31, 2017 12:42 pm

boblipton wrote:
Jim Roots wrote:
earlytalkiebuffRob wrote: [snip] ... and is good evidence that Taylor was not just a director who got himself murdered.


Yeah, but that was a pretty shrewd career move for him, wasn't it?

Jim


I think getting yourself killed is never a good career move. It certainly limits your choices.

Bob


But it makes you famous forever. Would we be talking much about Taylor if he hadn't "gotten himself murdered"? Would the Taylorology website exist? And if it was all faked, as some alleged, he got out of his debts and his sticky romantic situations and went off scot-free to start all over again under an assumed name. Sweet.

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

PostSun Dec 31, 2017 3:24 pm

Right now I am watching the 1920 film "The Soul of Youth" directed by William Desmond Taylor. Like Raoul Walsh's 1915 film "Regeneration" this film also deals with an orphan becoming a street boy. While "Regeneration" is gloomy, "The Soul of Youth" is light. A great and entertaining film. After watching two mediocre recently made British crime flicks, I had to watch a film that renewed my belief that films are great entertainment.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSun Dec 31, 2017 5:47 pm

I don't think there would be too many on Nitrateville who are not familiar with Garbo in "Anna Christie". It was therefore with some degree of surprise that I came across an earlier silent version of the story from 1923. It was an interesting treatment -and that's all that I will say about the story which would be quite familiar to everyone.

Blanche Sweet doesn't do a bad job as Anna, although she does not possess that certain European mystique with which Garbo was endowed. George F. Marion as the father was inclined to overplay - and Eugene Besserer for once was playing a role other than that of a mother figure. She was quite good as Marthy "a woman of the port" - although of course later overshadowed by Marie Dressler's later portrayal of the role.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSun Dec 31, 2017 5:57 pm

It takes a little while for "Moulin Rouge" (1928) to get going. It travels for quite some time in first gear, before we get to see the start of a story evolve. This is supposed to be an English picture - but it is full of foreigners! :D E.E. Dupont was supposed to be a renowned French director, but I think he got a bit lost with this.

Once the story gets going, it becomes a bit more interesting even if it is now quite dated in substance. Olga Tschechowa is the leading lady and she gives a convincing performance, Eve Gray is the No. 2 feminine lead and she too is good. Jean Bradin plays a milksop of a bloke who doesn't know whether he loves his fiancee or her mother.

There are some good exterior scenes of Paris as it was at the time together with a number of interior scenes photographed at the Casino de Paris. There is also quite a well executed car chase towards the end of the picture.

The orchestra played the film courtesy of a Movietone soundtrack - and it is a good lesson to anyone who wishes to know how to accompany a picture. They got it all completely right, even down to only playing a few bars of something before the mood changed and the music had to change with it. Full marks.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Jan 01, 2018 5:24 am

Difficult to evaluate WHAT 80 MILLION WOMEN WANT / 80 MILLION WOMEN WANT - ? (1913) due to the poor quality of the image which made many of the insets unreadable so adding some confusion to the story. Like THE SOUL OF YOUTH, there is a crooked politician whose aims are set against the Women's Suffrage movement. Interest is added by the presence of Emmeline Pankhurst and Harriot Stanton Blatch, although an element of ambiguity was present in the fact that reference to the women's cause usually had 'cause' in inverted commas. The rest of the plot concerns an ambitious young lawyer in love with a new recruit to the cause*.

The image quality was so poor at times as to make the film rather difficult to watch, were it not for a lively, if not necessarily appropriate score. Interesting as an early example of a feature film attempting a serious theme.

Also watched A KNIGHT IN LONDON (1928) which appears to be a cut-down, and is lacking titles. No idea if the film originally lacked them or whether this is a fault of the copy. Lilian Harvey is in Town with her mother and decides to take a shower at their hotel. What she doesn't realise is that the bathroom opposite has two doors and that instead of returning to the correct room she has slipped into the bed next to a young gentleman who is pleased but confused when he gets a peck on the cheek! Of course being a gentleman, he slides off to the next room for an uncomfortable night's kip. The next morning Harvey finds a ring on her finger, and attempting to return it, delivers the thing to a rather oily-looking foreigner whose pencil moustache suggests an immoral nature, which comes to the fore at a country house party hosted by Harvey's mother and father, where he proves himself to be a beast and a bounder worthy of a thorough horsewhipping. Despite the lack of titles, this film is fairly followable and quite a pleasantly saucy bit of nonsense, though a spot of music would be welcome.

*unless there was missing footage, there did seem a gaffe when the (SPOILER) boss gets shot but is soon seen apparently none the worse for the assault.
Last edited by earlytalkiebuffRob on Mon Jan 01, 2018 12:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Jan 01, 2018 5:27 am

Donald Binks wrote:It takes a little while for "Moulin Rouge" (1928) to get going. It travels for quite some time in first gear, before we get to see the start of a story evolve. This is supposed to be an English picture - but it is full of foreigners! :D E.E. Dupont was supposed to be a renowned French director, but I think he got a bit lost with this.

Once the story gets going, it becomes a bit more interesting even if it is now quite dated in substance. Olga Tschechowa is the leading lady and she gives a convincing performance, Eve Gray is the No. 2 feminine lead and she too is good. Jean Bradin plays a milksop of a bloke who doesn't know whether he loves his fiancee or her mother.

There are some good exterior scenes of Paris as it was at the time together with a number of interior scenes photographed at the Casino de Paris. There is also quite a well executed car chase towards the end of the picture.

The orchestra played the film courtesy of a Movietone soundtrack - and it is a good lesson to anyone who wishes to know how to accompany a picture. They got it all completely right, even down to only playing a few bars of something before the mood changed and the music had to change with it. Full marks.


I, too, thoroughly enjoyed this movie although the copy I saw was a restored one with a new score rather than the synchronised one.
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