What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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greta de groat

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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSat Jun 16, 2018 2:42 pm

Jim Roots wrote:I've resisted The Test of Donald Norton (1926) for many years because of the lead character's name. Yes, I am that petty. It's a film set in the early days of Canada, when we were nothing but wigwams and Hudson's Bay Company posts amidst the armpit-deep snow of the wilderness (literally: one character swims through snow that engulfs him or her right up to the armpits). And here comes a physically huge, rough-tough, manly man of the forest dressed in plaid shirts and fringed buckskin coats (uhhh, not in Canada, folks: only in the USA West) and corduroy pants, throttling bad guys and run-pacing sled-dogs and tossing 500 pounds of untreated fur pelts over one shoulder, and his name is ... Donald Norton???!!!



Jim


No striped pants or blanket coat this time? Or maybe "Donald Norton" is supposed to not be French and therefore dresses in fringed buckskin? The title does sound more like someone trying to pass the bar exam.

Isn't that Breezy Eason, the serial and second unit director?

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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSat Jun 16, 2018 5:47 pm

The Two Columbines (1914): Christine Rayner decorates a feeble Christmas tree in a bare flat for her daughter and reminisces of the days when she was the leading dancer in in the theater ... until she inured her ankle. Now she is a scrubwoman in the same theater, and Edna Flugrath is the lead dancer, the company's Harlequin her jealous boyfriend. Miss Rayner conceives of a gift for her daughter; after the company is dismissed for the evening, she will sneak her daughter into the theater and dance for her.

Edna Flugrath was not only the First Columbine in this four-reel movie, she became the wife of the director, Harold Shaw, and was the sister of Viola Dana and Shirley Mason. This sad and sentimental Christmas movie may not seem like a feature to modern sensibilities, but it was for 1914, and its short length aided its parallel and intersecting stories in keeping them concise and to the point... an issue which modern blockbusters, which seem to drag on for forty minutes past their welcome (more than an hour, if you stick around for the credits) might do well to note.

Bob
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSun Jun 17, 2018 7:46 am

greta de groat wrote:
Jim Roots wrote:I've resisted The Test of Donald Norton (1926) for many years because of the lead character's name. Yes, I am that petty. It's a film set in the early days of Canada, when we were nothing but wigwams and Hudson's Bay Company posts amidst the armpit-deep snow of the wilderness (literally: one character swims through snow that engulfs him or her right up to the armpits). And here comes a physically huge, rough-tough, manly man of the forest dressed in plaid shirts and fringed buckskin coats (uhhh, not in Canada, folks: only in the USA West) and corduroy pants, throttling bad guys and run-pacing sled-dogs and tossing 500 pounds of untreated fur pelts over one shoulder, and his name is ... Donald Norton???!!!



Jim


No striped pants or blanket coat this time? Or maybe "Donald Norton" is supposed to not be French and therefore dresses in fringed buckskin? The title does sound more like someone trying to pass the bar exam.

Isn't that Breezy Eason, the serial and second unit director?

greta


Yes, it's Breezy Eason. I had to look him up in Katz. He did some directing on Ben-Hur, Charge of the Light Brigade, and even Gone With the Wind, so evidently he was considered an expert in crowd sequences, but not nearly good enough to handle an "A" picture entirely on his own. As The Test of Donald Norton shows, he simply couldn't direct actors to ... you know ... act.

Jim
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostWed Jun 20, 2018 7:43 pm

Big Silent Fan wrote:Thanks again to YouTube's suggestions, I watched C. B. DeMille's Forbidden Fruit (1921), a modern day twist to the Cinderella Story. It's a serious look at the social ills of society with in-your-face intertitles. Two examples:
"There is no Law of God or Man, which forces a wife to stand by a Husband who offers her only degradation---and deny the man who offers her Honor and---Love"

The Law provides healing for the big "wounds" of Matrimony---but none for it's scratches. Yet a Human Being can die of a Pin-Prick!

The film runs a proper 90 minutes and the careful tinting (sometimes in gold) made the characters in this sepia-like print almost look lifelike. It would be another year before Technicolor released it's first full length color film, The Toll of the Sea." This certainly was a great effort as well.

As if that were already more than enough, the fairytale scenes have that over the top DeMille extravagances with costumes and beautiful sets were the floor shined like a mirror.


Forbidden Fruit is a remake of DeMille's stunning The Golden Chance, with a lot of the absolute degradation of
the original version missing -- while in the earlier period, DeMille was occasionally interested in showing the audience the dirt and despair of poverty, here it is attributed to greed and laziness on the part of Agnes Ayres' husband, Clarence Burton, and Theodore Kosloff's butler, who had served many of the best families in New York and two years in Sing-Sing. Yet there is a careless greed among the wealthy: Theodore Roberts, who is only interested in keeping Forrest Stanley around so he can make a business deal, regardless of the truth, and Kathlyn Williams, who really doesn't care a fig for anyone or anything except that Miss Ayres doesn't leave with her jewels. Only Mr. Stanley and Miss Ayres seem touched by any emotion but greed, and this makes this, in many ways, a fairy tale. The sequences in which we see Miss Ayres as Cinderella and Mr. Stanley as Prince Charming seem not to be commentaries on the main body of the movie. If anything, the reverse is true, and the movie seems more an exegesis of the fairy tale for the modern (1921) audience.

The print on YouTube was in glorious condition, with many sections not only tinted, but toned, lending a sumptuous visual element quite alien to the modern view of silent movies. DeMille's movies were Famous Players-Lasky's (later Paramount) prestige movies, and they spared no expense in their presentation. DeMille made an effort to save his early films, and this is a very good one from this period.

Bob
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSat Jun 23, 2018 3:05 pm

It's been a couple of years since Michael Pyle mentioned he saw A Clouded Name (1923) and said it was a decent little movie for the first three quarters of it. Gladden James would be a rich doctor married to Norma Shearer, except his father had been squeezed out of the salt mines around their homes, apparently shot Miss Shearer's mother and disappeared. James had come home and gone to work for the local newspaper. After unwillingly interviewing Miss Shearer, he takes a vacation at a friend's vacation camp, only to find Miss Shearer staying at the mansion on one side, calling on him constantly because of one medical problem or another, while her current beau, Richard Neill, tries to persuade her to marry him. He also encounters and makes friends with little Yvonne Logan and her half-crazed father, Frederick Eckhart. James tries to avoid the former group, find out more about the latter, and gradually....

In many ways this feature reminds me of several Poverty Row silents from the likes of Chesterfield, trying to merge melodrama tropes with more grounded story-telling techniques. The editing by Tom Bret is rambling (there are a couple of shots of a house cat that serve no purpose I can think of, and there's at least one character, Martha Langford's, who serves no function) and the titles are more discursive than suits good film-making.

As a result of these issues, I find this movie's obscurity understandable, as well as its survival: Miss Shearer, after all, would soon wind up at MGM, married to Irving Thalberg, and Queen of the Company -- after her husband's death, she would remain as one of the largest shareholders of Loew's Corporation through her death.

Bob
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSun Jun 24, 2018 6:06 am

boblipton wrote:It's been a couple of years since Michael Pyle mentioned he saw A Clouded Name (1923) and said it was a decent little movie for the first three quarters of it.
Bob

I saw this and thought, "What?" Must not have made much of an impression, because I must admit, I don't remember even watching it. So, I dug out my Alpha DVD of this and put it in. Oh, yeah... Second rate, but it's Norma Shearer - and she's so young...
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSun Jun 24, 2018 1:34 pm

Directed by Oscar Apfel, THE PASSER-BY (1912) was given a nod by Kevin Brownlow in his introduction to another book. It tells of a shabbily-dressed stranger invited to a bachelor party who is invited to tell the story of his life, when all the while his back is turned to a portrait of a lady..

Consistently watchable, the film has at least one startling shot at the beginning when the fellow tells his story, and a similar one at the end. Although one is prepared for the twist ending, the film is well-made and very sympathetic.

From the same year, ONE IS BUSINESS, THE OTHER CRIME, is one of Griffith's best moral parable films, presented here in a really good copy. Two couples,one modest, one wealthy, are married on the same day. The poor couple face destitution when the husband can't find work and the rent is overdue. The rich fellow has accepted a $1,000 bribe against his better judgement. The poor fellow is led into temptation and discovered by the wife, played by Blanche Sweet. When she sees the bribery note, she refuses to hand the fellow over to the law as there is little difference between the deeds. The only way one can fault this gem would be in that the poor husband tries to steal all the money, rather than enough to get him out of trouble, unless this was actually the case but not made clear.

Clarence Brown's THE GOOSE WOMAN (1925) overcomes the rather rough condition of the copy I saw due mainly to the powerful performance of Louise Dresser. She plays a gin-sodden woman running a squalid goose farm who has a chance of fame when a murder is committed nearby and she is seen as a plausible witness - if she can be made presentable. The local D.A. (Gustav von Seyffertitz) recognises her as a once famous opera star who lost her talent when she bore a son - the son (Jack Pickford) whom she blames for her lost voice.

For once the splendid von Seyffertitz seems kindly and sympathetic, but never fear, his motives are none too clean as he is using her to convict Pickford, who seems to be the prime suspect. Well played, and with truly gruesome art direction which shows how far the poor woman has fallen, although the real culprit comes as little surprise...
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSun Jun 24, 2018 5:30 pm

The Temple of Moloch (1914): Tuberculosis is looked upon as a solved problem in the first world, although I came down with it 35 years ago; stress and the New York Subway system were the probable causes. At the time, my doctor told me, to my surprise, it was common in the poorer parts of the City. However, a year's worth of pills seem to have cured me. How much deadlier the malady was in bygone times, when half the heroines of operas died from it, and as recently as 1960, 10,000 Americans died from it every year!

The Edison Film Company was aware of this and among their film catalogue were the occasional social tracts. This one, made in cooperation with the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis. It starts out with a doctor visiting a family where the father is ill with the disease. He demonstrates a few simple techniques for preventing its spread: not letting others drink from his glass, keeping the windows open so fresh air can circulate, and not sweeping to raise dust to induce coughing. these may seem like simple and easily achieved matters, but ignorance in such things was and remains wider spread than we can believe. Neither can it hurt anyone to hear repeated what we already know.

The rest of the movie is a drama about the family that owns the pottery business whose factory is a breeding ground for the disease, shocked and angry to hear it denounced in the papers, until one of their members comes down with the disease. The cast is the Edison stock company of the era, directed by one of their house directors. I't's a competent piece of work, most notable for its strong and practical social utility.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Tue Jun 26, 2018 1:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostMon Jun 25, 2018 10:44 am

I have been watching over time a ten part silent serial, "The Mysterious Airman" (1928) with Walter Miller and Eugenia Gilbert. Also in the cast are Robert Walker (no, not that one), Eugene Burr, Dorothy Tallcot, James A. Fitzgerald, and a few others. What began as a simply marvelous aerial mystery drama about a mysterious "Pilot X" wishing to steal two different new and secret upgrades for planes from Walter Miller's company - I say, what began as such began to fizzle a tad by part 3 and 4. By part 7 I wanted it to be over and done with. Not that the photography (stunningly good!) didn't keep me riveted in its own way, but the storyline kept being the same over and over ad nauseum. The redeeming factor was the fantastic aerial photography! I couldn't get enough of it, and the show kept giving it! Amazing how primitive flying was in 1928. Someone else made a comment like that about that fact, but it's so very true. The planes look as if they're put together with gauze over a frame of simple metal. Now, I've watched serials like this one for years, and most do exactly the same, but this got to me quicker. Nevertheless, the last three episodes were excellent, and it finally finished last night on a very high note for me. What is amazing about this serial (lovingly restored under the aegis and put back together by Richard Roberts) is that for most of it, it seems absolutely pristine, as though it had been made yesterday. The visuals are 35mm stunning. At part 9, the first reel (about 10 minutes or a tad more) has completely deteriorated and is, therefore, missing. An explanation of the reel is inserted for great continuity. The rest of the film is not in the same shape as the very beginning, but it's near perfect. For those who enjoy silent film, this is a must-see, if only for the gorgeous components that remain, and thus to see what silent film looked like when it first came out. Not that other silent films don't exist that do the same, but this one is special! For those who are not familiar with Walter Miller, he's one who goes back to D. W. Griffith short films of the early '10s, and whose career of 263 credits for film acting was still ongoing when he died in 1940 of a heart attack.

The film is available through Amazon from Sprocket Vault. A lovely score by Andrew Simpson accompanies the serial. There's also a running commentary by Richard Roberts if you wish. Also included is a short film, and a very good one at that, called "Flying Cadets" (1928), made by the United States Army Air Corps. Very fine propaganda, and certainly a catalyst for 1929's Frank Capra film, "Flight"!!

Very highly recommended for lovers of silent film. For others, beware of the serial tropes that become just, frankly, tiresome at times.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostMon Jun 25, 2018 11:03 am

R Michael Pyle wrote:Amazing how primitive flying was in 1928. Someone else made a comment like that about that fact, but it's so very true. The planes look as if they're put together with gauze over a frame of simple metal.


Because that's essentially what they were!

And often - the frame wasn't even metal, it was just wood.

Early aero-planes grew from kites.

-Craig
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostTue Jun 26, 2018 1:39 pm

boblipton wrote:The Temple of Moloch (1914): Tuberculosis is looked upon as a solved problem in the first world, although I came down with it 35 years ago; stress and the New York Subway system were the probable causes. At the time, my doctor told me, to my surprise, it was common in the poorer parts of the City. However, a year's worth of pills seem to have cured me. How much deadlier the malady was in bygone times, when half the heroines of operas died from it, and as recently as 1960, 10,000 Americans died from it every year!

The Edison Film Company was aware of this and among their film catalogue were the occasional social tracts. This one, made in cooperation with the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis. It starts out with a doctor visiting a family where the father is ill with the disease. He demonstrates a few simple techniques for preventing its spread: not letting others drink from his glass, keeping the windows open so fresh air can circulate, and not sweeping to raise dust to induce coughing. these may seem like simple and easily achieved matters, but ignorance in such things was and remains wider spread than we can believe. Neither can it hurt anyone to hear repeated what we already know.

The rest of the movie is a drama about the family that owns the pottery business whose factory is a breeding ground for the disease, shocked and anger to hear it denounced in the papers, until one of their members comes down with the disease. The cast is the Edison stock company of the era, directed by one of their house directors. I't's a competent piece of work, most notable for its strong and practical social utility.

Bob


Thanks for the nod on this one, Bob. Watched it on Dear Old YT last night - excellent print. Very similar in some ways to THE STORY OF JOHN M'NEIL, which was made over here in 1911. One has a similar scene of the doctor pointing out thing wrong in the family home, only for them to shut the windows again when the fellow leaves.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostWed Jun 27, 2018 9:47 am

Der Alte Fritz (1928), dir. by Gerhard Lamprecht. Over five hours in two parts about the post-Seven Years War reign of Frederick the Great. Very beautiful art direction and very slow-moving. After a number of back-and-forth emails, I was able to order this and three other titles from Arte using Paypal, even though the Arte site does not appear to allow for shipping to the US.
Not wishing to generate any controversy here I will keep my observations about the political implications of this film and the whole Fridericus genre to myself.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostWed Jun 27, 2018 11:15 am

I watched the wonderful Kino-Lorber Blu-Ray release of "It's the Old Army Game" (1926) with W. C. Fields, Louise Brooks, Blanche Ring, William Gaxton, Mary Foy, Mickey Bennett, Josephine Dunn, and the wonderful Elise Cavanna. Directed by A. Edward Sutherland, this hilarious piece of froth is utterly surreal! It's a silent earlier version of what became "It's A Gift", basically a sound film re-make from 1934. Although it may take some watching for a few who tire of Fields' unending misfortunes in life, I thought this was absolutely laugh-out-loud funny. This rather recent release is absolutely pristine in picture, and it has a wonderful score and organ accompaniment by Ben Model that only heightens the enjoyment for fans of silent pictures. It plays like it might have on a Saturday afternoon showing for the whole family at an old-time theater. Fields in this one is a very important person: he's the local druggist, runs the drug store along with his helper, Louise Brooks. Of course, old time drug stores were also soda fountains and THE place to buy stamps for mailing letters, plus they sold all kinds of other things, too, almost like a small five-and-dime. Nothing, and I mean exactly that, nothing, goes right for Fields. But wait until you see him take the family for a picnic...!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And there's skulduggery in real estate going on, besides...

Extremely highly recommended. Beautiful tinted and toned print with beautiful Louise Brooks to look at with those looks and eyes of hers...
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostThu Jun 28, 2018 6:45 am

boblipton wrote:The Temple of Moloch (1914): Tuberculosis is looked upon as a solved problem in the first world, although I came down with it 35 years ago; stress and the New York Subway system were the probable causes. At the time, my doctor told me, to my surprise, it was common in the poorer parts of the City. However, a year's worth of pills seem to have cured me. How much deadlier the malady was in bygone times, when half the heroines of operas died from it, and as recently as 1960, 10,000 Americans died from it every year!

The Edison Film Company was aware of this and among their film catalogue were the occasional social tracts. This one, made in cooperation with the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis. It starts out with a doctor visiting a family where the father is ill with the disease. He demonstrates a few simple techniques for preventing its spread: not letting others drink from his glass, keeping the windows open so fresh air can circulate, and not sweeping to raise dust to induce coughing. these may seem like simple and easily achieved matters, but ignorance in such things was and remains wider spread than we can believe. Neither can it hurt anyone to hear repeated what we already know.

The rest of the movie is a drama about the family that owns the pottery business whose factory is a breeding ground for the disease, shocked and angry to hear it denounced in the papers, until one of their members comes down with the disease. The cast is the Edison stock company of the era, directed by one of their house directors. I't's a competent piece of work, most notable for its strong and practical social utility.

Bob


My mother-in-law got TB in the 1930s and spent one or two years (I forget which) in a hospital in her home town of Montreal. She was told only poor Black people got it in that city. She responded, "Then what are all these white people doing here?"

Jim
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostThu Jun 28, 2018 4:21 pm

An Interrupted Elopement Eddie Dillon wants to marry Mabel Normand, but her papa, William J. Butler, refuses. On the advice of his friends, Eddie suggests elopement, and Mabel agrees. However, Papa finds the note and speeds to the minister before them in this split-reel comedy directed by Mack Sennett shortly before he left to start Keystone.

It's not much of an advance on Helen's Marriage, released three months earlier, but it does have the charm of burlesquing the "animated text" style of film-making, which was all but gone from Keystone and falling out of favor elsewhere. In that style, the titles told the audience what they were about to see, and then the actors performed. Given the pompous manner in which the performers behave and the way their spur-of-the-moment plans fall apart, it's pretty amusing.

Bob
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostFri Jun 29, 2018 8:40 am

Jim Roots wrote:My mother-in-law got TB in the 1930s and spent one or two years (I forget which) in a hospital in her home town of Montreal. She was told only poor Black people got it in that city. She responded, "Then what are all these white people doing here?"

My great-grandfather was a doctor in Montreal, and my grandmother a nurse, in the 1930s, I wonder what the odds are they crossed paths? He originally practiced in the same township where Mack Sennett was born, but since he was a francophone and Sennett (b. "Sinnott") was of Irish descent, it's hard to say if there was ever any connection, although I recently discovered that my ggf had a first wife of Irish descent who died at a young age before he was married to my French great-grandmother shortly after.

Yesterday I watched my new blu-ray of the Dr. Film-restored Little Orphant Annie (1918), which was a real delight for seeing how utterly charming Colleen Moore was so early in her career, and for the story's fantastic elements that take over whenever Moore's orphan character lets her imagination fly free. The sight of the goblins, elves and devil bats liven up what could have been a fairly run-of-the-mill tale of a downtrodden orphan(t), and the film's visual novelty livens up the melodrama. Also, gotta love that cat.

Really enjoyed Eric's and Glory's commentary on the effort that went into putting the restoration together, using multiple sources to bring it up to its fullest possible length, and the Hoosier history behind the original Riley poem that inspired it. And the credits for this version read like a NitrateVille who's who, another nice bonus.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostFri Jun 29, 2018 12:19 pm

Versus Sledge Hammers (1915) It's dastardly doings in Snakeville as Count Victor Potel shows up with the secret information that Margaret Joslin is heir to two million dollars. He courts her, but the local swain takes afront and is willing to fight it out, with sledge hammers if he can, but with pistols if he must.

Not many of Essanay's Snakeville comedies survive, but this is a pleasant, if violent exception. Most of the gags of any value involve a non-cross-eyed Ben Turpin as the Count's inept valet, who, among other helpful actions, pours kerosene on the Count's top hat (while being worn) and sets fire to it. Turpin had been a comic with Essanay almost from the beginning. A couple of years after this, he would go to work for Mack Sennett, where his unlikely cross-eyed character would make him a popular star until his retirement to nurse his ailing wife.

Bob
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostFri Jun 29, 2018 2:09 pm

A near pristine print of MANTRAP (1926) shows the talents of Victor Fleming and James (Wong) Howe to particular advantage with a clarity which make one feel one is almost in the wilds of Canada. Although Mantrap is the (fictitious?) name of a small settlement in the wilds, I feel that author Sinclair Lewis was also referring to the wiles of his heroine, here played by the lovely Clara Bow.

Percy Marmont plays a divorce lawyer who is getting rather fed up with his work and agrees to hit the wild country with pal Eugene Pallette, with their preparations bringing back memories of MAN'S FAVORITE SPORT? Meanwhile trading post owner Ernest Torrence is getting hungry for a sight of female ankles, and after hilariously trying to put out his blazing dinner, heads for Civilisation, where he meets Miss Bow, who is working as a manicurist. Meanwhile Marmont and Pallette's vacation is turning into a fiasco, which results in a fist fight and separation. Marmont arrives at the settlement in time to meet Torrence and his new lady wife, upon which the sparks begin to fly...

Somewhat different from other fare inspired by Lewis's works, MANTRAP flags slightly in spots, but benefits hugely from the use of locations and the very broad satire. Bow is a treat as usual, though occasionally a tough too restless - perhaps ants in the panties - and is well matched by Torrence, who shows an excellent flair for comedy. Wonderful copy and a nice score - didn't catch the composer.

note: MANTRAP (which apparently was disliked by Lewis) features a 'Miss du Pont' as one of Marmont's clients - presumably the inspiration for one of our fellow Nitratevillians' aliases.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostFri Jun 29, 2018 2:23 pm

boblipton wrote:Versus Sledge Hammers (1915) It's dastardly doings in Snakeville as Count Victor Potel shows up with the secret information that Margaret Joslin is heir to two million dollars. He courts her, but the local swain takes afront and is willing to fight it out, with sledge hammers if he can, but with pistols if he must.

Not many of Essanay's Snakeville comedies survive, but this is a pleasant, if violent exception. Most of the gags of any value involve a non-cross-eyed Ben Turpin as the Count's inept valet, who, among other helpful actions, pours kerosene on the Count's top hat (while being worn) and sets fire to it. Turpin had been a comic with Essanay almost from the beginning. A couple of years after this, he would go to work for Mack Sennett, where his unlikely cross-eyed character would make him a popular star until his retirement to nurse his ailing wife.

Bob


Bob, you're mistaken about "a non-cross-eyed Ben Turpin". His eyes became permanently crossed while he was still a stage performer, before he got into the movies (1907). And if you check out the clip on the "Versus Sledge Hammer" separate thread on this site, you can see quite clearly that his eyes are crossed in this film.

Jim
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostFri Jun 29, 2018 2:28 pm

Jim Roots wrote:
boblipton wrote:Versus Sledge Hammers (1915) It's dastardly doings in Snakeville as Count Victor Potel shows up with the secret information that Margaret Joslin is heir to two million dollars. He courts her, but the local swain takes afront and is willing to fight it out, with sledge hammers if he can, but with pistols if he must.

Not many of Essanay's Snakeville comedies survive, but this is a pleasant, if violent exception. Most of the gags of any value involve a non-cross-eyed Ben Turpin as the Count's inept valet, who, among other helpful actions, pours kerosene on the Count's top hat (while being worn) and sets fire to it. Turpin had been a comic with Essanay almost from the beginning. A couple of years after this, he would go to work for Mack Sennett, where his unlikely cross-eyed character would make him a popular star until his retirement to nurse his ailing wife.

Bob


Bob, you're mistaken about "a non-cross-eyed Ben Turpin". His eyes became permanently crossed while he was still a stage performer, before he got into the movies (1907). And if you check out the clip on the "Versus Sledge Hammer" separate thread on this site, you can see quite clearly that his eyes are crossed in this film.

Jim


Just looked again and while he has a stupid expression on his face, the eyes don't look crossed here.

Bob
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostFri Jun 29, 2018 4:48 pm

The Nihilist (1905): An old man is arrested and dragged from his family. He is whipped and collapses. Despite his family's pleas, he is exiled to Siberia, but dies on the journey. His children become revolutionary Nihilists and take their vengeance.

Directed by "The Old Man" of Biograph, Wallace McCutcheon Sr., this movie is an elaborate and well-presented example of the Illustrated Text style of movie-making at its height. Simple titles, usually no more than half a dozen words, describe what the audience will see, then the action follows, often a shockingly ironic variation on what a polite audience might expect -- but a sad and maddeningly accurate representation to the lower-class and often foreign-born nickelodeon audience.

The camera work is straightforward and primitive, front row center and still, and the sets are clearly painted backdrops. It's not cinematic in the modern sense, but it is clearly a highly effective and politically charged work for the year it was made.

Bob
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostFri Jun 29, 2018 5:10 pm

The Great Jewel Mystery (1905): A gang of thieves plan and execute a clever robbery. One of their number hides in a casket, transported in the same rail car as a casket of expensive jewelry. He exits the coffin, overpowers the guard, steals the jewels and returns with them to the coffin, to be removed by his accomplices. Will their fiendish plot be thwarted?

Not much is known about the personnel of this Biograph film, only the two cameramen: the well-remembered Billy Bitzer and the now-obscure F.A. Dobson. Although the movie is rendered in the Illustrated Text style of film-making that was current, in truth, it depends very little on it. The actions of the players are at all times clear.

It is remarkable for the time in that the studio sets seem to have been built, rather than simply painted as backdrops. The camerawork is simple and primitive, with simple center-front-row camera placement, and no movement during each set-up .... hardly necessary given the carefully directed movements of the players.

The result is a movie that remains watchable, although not cinematic.

Bob
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostFri Jun 29, 2018 5:39 pm

Jim Roots wrote:Bob


Bob, you're mistaken about "a non-cross-eyed Ben Turpin". His eyes became permanently crossed while he was still a stage performer, before he got into the movies (1907). And if you check out the clip on the "Versus Sledge Hammer" separate thread on this site, you can see quite clearly that his eyes are crossed in this film.

Jim[/quote]

Turpin definitely exaggerated the cross as time went by, but when he's relaxed the cross isn't obvious from some angles. It was that chin and neck that took his looks above someone like George Rowe.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSat Jun 30, 2018 5:17 am

The Boy Detective or The Abductors Foiled (1908): Bobby Harron is playing craps with a pal when he notices two men following a lady, so he follows them. Learning of their sinister plans, he justifies the subtitle of this movie.

Although Bobby Harron, who died far too young, is generally thought to have been brought to the fore by D.W. Griffith, his rise to fame had actually begun under the previous administration at Biograph. He's clearly the star of this movie, present in every camera set-up and getting the star close-up at the end -- smoking a cigarette and playing with a revolver!

The movie is a fine example of silent story telling. There's not a single title to explain any of the action. Clearly, Wallace McCutcheon knew that the juvenile audience for this movie understood film grammar as it then existed. His successor, D.W. Griiffith, would build on this to develop the basis of cinema as we understand it today, drawing from many sources.

Bob
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSat Jun 30, 2018 5:41 am

The Silver Wedding A gang of crooks are at their well-equipped headquarters. Some are preparing to beg for money with signs proclaiming they are blind or crippled (despite being neither) while others execute a daring robbery of the gifts at a wedding.

The only credit available for this one-reel movie in six camera set-ups is cameraman F.A. Dobson. There are a couple of interesting shots for the era. The second and fourth shots, showing the room in which the gifts are displayed and stolen, clearly makes use of the soon-to-be-famous Biograph Right Wall, a technique that would simultaneously frame the scene, adjust the composition and add a sense of dimensionality to the movie. The third set-up shows the same scene, but in a medium close-up. Clearly the legend that Griffith had to fight his bosses over the innovation is simply that. George A. Smith had been experimenting with close-ups since the late 1890s in his films, and the uncredited director (or scenarist) of this movie was building on earlier technique.

What, if any moral point, the audience was to take from this movie, is a mystery. We only see wealthy people being robbed, and the audience for this movie was not them. Likely it ws intended to be exciting and nothing more, with the audience not caring who won.

Bob
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSat Jun 30, 2018 7:50 am

The Paymaster (1906): Gene Gauntier works in a New England cloth mill and her boss is getting grabby, not only with her (which earns him a slap in the face from her and a punch from her boyfriend, depending on the occasion), but with the company pay roll, which he steals, and then frames the boy friend for stealing.

The only copies of this early Biograph melodrama available for viewing are in pretty poor shape. Perhaps better copies will be pulled off the Library of Congress' Paper Print collection one of these days, but as things stand, the only worthwhile points are Miss Gauntier's first known screen appearance and what may be some decent location shooting around the rapids and small falls that powered the mills -- again, the poor prints make it impossible to say with certainty, although given that the camera work is credited to Billy Bitzer, I'm granting its excellence.

The pacing of the movie is also poor, with a combination of scenes that could have been written out (the party scene could have been written out and the plot points added to the scene in which the supervisor tries to take liberties with Miss Gauntier; the dog that finds the buried loot fetches people seconds after the villains have buried it). Let it stand that the movie as it exists is a mess and hope that a better copy demonstrates it was not really as bad as all that.

Mr. Hurry-Up aka Mr. Hurry-Up of New York (1907): This film shot by Billy Bitzer, makes uses of Melies-style camera trickery to comic effect. Mr. Hurry-Up is a New Yorker who lives life at a hectic pace, dressing and breakfasting in a hurry, rushing to the office, to the dentist to have an aching tooth pulled, all aided by undercranking the camera. It's only later, after drinking a full bottle of alcohol, that the world slows down and spins.... or rather, Mr. Hurry-Up does.

The use of undercranking and stop-motion to move objects around isn't used just to astonish the viewer, as Melies and his imitators did. Yes, they're used to amuse the audience with their bizarre audacity, but they also make points about the character's life and his mental state. They're becoming embedded as parts of the grammar of cinema. And about time, too.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Wed Jul 11, 2018 5:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSat Jun 30, 2018 11:53 am

Many of Turpin's early films are notable for rendering his appearance somewhat different from the one we know. There are several where his famous moustache was too blond to register on the film stock (the stash was very light-coloured in the early years), or he had periodically shaved it off, or the surviving prints are too washed-out for it to be seen. And without the stash, strange as it may sound, his eyes don't appear to be quite as crossed.

Those early films are also notable for camera placements that fail to show up his eyes. Although I have no evidence to support my suspicions, I wonder if Chaplin didn't point this out to Turpin during their time together at Essanay in 1917, because thereafter Turpin seemed to take care that he was face-front to the camera most of the time. Even in profile shots, such as his first scene in Pride of Pikeville, he made sure the opening shot continued until he turned to face the camera.

P.S. In my amazingly wonderful book, The 100 Greatest Silent Film Comedians, I wrote this about Out of Control, aka Studio Stampede (1917): "... you wouldn't even know he was cross-eyed if you went by this film..." So it isn't just Versus Sledge Hammers where the effect occurs.

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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSat Jun 30, 2018 2:02 pm

boblipton wrote:The Boy Detective or The Abductors Foiled (1908): Bobby Harron is playing craps with a pal when he notices two men following a lady, so he follows them. Learning of their sinister plans, he justifies the subtitle of this movie.

Although Bobby Harron, who died far too young, is generally thought to have been brought to the fore by D.W. Griffith, his rise to fame had actually begun under the previous administration at Biograph. He's clearly the star of this movie, present in every camera set-up and getting the star close-up at the end -- smoking a cigarette and playing with a revolver!

The movie is a fine example of silent story telling. There's not a single title to explain any of the action. Clearly, Wallace McCutcheon knew that the juvenile audience for this movie understood film grammar as it then existed. His successor, D.W. Griiffith, would build on this to develop the basis of cinema as we understand it today, drawing from many sources.

Bob


Actually, the lead in The Boy Detective, identified in the Biograph Bulletin as Swipesy, was played by an (as yet) unidentified actress. The film's final shot, where the camera has moved in to show the character smoking triumphantly against a plain backdrop, makes it clear in a way the rest of the film, filmed in long shot, might not. Robert Harron does appear in the film, though only in the small part of the lead character's friend Swifty, and Eddie Dillon has a role as one of the villains.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSat Jun 30, 2018 2:25 pm

eidoloscope wrote:
boblipton wrote:The Boy Detective or The Abductors Foiled (1908): Bobby Harron is playing craps with a pal when he notices two men following a lady, so he follows them. Learning of their sinister plans, he justifies the subtitle of this movie.

Although Bobby Harron, who died far too young, is generally thought to have been brought to the fore by D.W. Griffith, his rise to fame had actually begun under the previous administration at Biograph. He's clearly the star of this movie, present in every camera set-up and getting the star close-up at the end -- smoking a cigarette and playing with a revolver!

The movie is a fine example of silent story telling. There's not a single title to explain any of the action. Clearly, Wallace McCutcheon knew that the juvenile audience for this movie understood film grammar as it then existed. His successor, D.W. Griiffith, would build on this to develop the basis of cinema as we understand it today, drawing from many sources.

Bob


Actually, the lead in The Boy Detective, identified in the Biograph Bulletin as Swipesy, was played by an (as yet) unidentified actress. The film's final shot, where the camera has moved in to show the character smoking triumphantly against a plain backdrop, makes it clear in a way the rest of the film, filmed in long shot, might not. Robert Harron does appear in the film, though only in the small part of the lead character's friend Swifty, and Eddie Dillon has a role as one of the villains.


Whoops!

Bob
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSat Jun 30, 2018 3:21 pm

boblipton wrote:The Paymaster (1906): Gene Gauntier works in a New England cloth mill and her boss is getting grabby, not only with her (which earns him a slap in the face from her a punch from her boyfriend, depending on the occasion), but with the company pay roll, which he steals, and then frames the boy friend for stealing.
Bob


Gene Gauntier's memoirs are a lot of fun, and she had a fantastic career that was all but over by The Birth of a Nation. But the movies themselves...

They most likely shot this in New Jersey.
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