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

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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Jim Roots

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

PostSun Jul 01, 2018 9:15 am

The Ancient Law (1923) got a lot of love on this board (and from Bob on the IMdB), and I was happy to pre-order such an intriguing title.

As seemingly all of you classic movie fans already know, it's the prototype of The Jazz Singer, except with the Orthodox Jewish son plumping for the theatre instead of the music halls; so you’re not watching this film for its plot or originality, howevermuch it may have been able to boast of both in 1923. No, you’re watching it for its historical importance as a silent German-Jewish film that sympathetically and (presumably) accurately comes straight out of the real ghetto in Austria, and which always takes the Jewish perspective in its presentation. This “strangeness” makes the early going very interesting.

Regrettably, once the main focus shifts to Baruch’s entry into Austrian society, director E. A. Dupont seemingly abandons the importance of pacing. I drifted off continually from thereon, and even once burst out with, “This is boring!” which is hardly my typical attitude towards silent movies.

I felt the film went too far in the direction of tolerance, acceptability, respect for cultural differences … almost like a 21st century film labouring to avoid offending anyone of any possible cultural, religious, hairstyle, or physical appearance “uniqueness”. To be specific, I just cannot imagine a real world (especially not the between-wars Austro-Germanic society) in which Baruch’s sidelocks and Orthodox outfits would go unremarked by theatre agents and aristocrats, excepting only the scene in his performance of Romeo and Juliet when he whips off his cap and the locks fall out, to the hilarity of the theatre's audience. You can say I’m wishing it were less subtle, but I’m saying the prejudices are absent, not underplayed.

One shot I loved: the schnorrer leaves the ghetto and we see him in long-shot, heading out into a endless, empty landscape. A kind of mist rolls in to obscure him briefly, like the standard shot of the stranger disappearing into the ether after having changed everybody's lives, or striding off to vanish into the obscurity of timelessness. But wait: the mist lifts unexpectedly, and he's still chugging along into the distance, and you realize it's a beautiful visualization of the eternal Wandering Jew.

Whatever my misgivings, this is undeniably a special film and I'm glad it has been recovered and made available to us.

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

PostSun Jul 01, 2018 2:08 pm

Looking up the credits of THE GREAT WHITE TRAIL (1917), I found that co-directors Theodore and Leopold Wharton worked on the lively PATRIA. This film, while a trifle outrageous has the virtue of being fast-moving and entertaining. It tells of a brother and sister who have been brought up badly, with the woman (Doris Kenyon) marrying 'unsuitably' and the son being a scapegrace.

We see this poor fellow at his wit's end having used his brother in law's money to gamble and having lost. The young fool then goes to Sis for help, and his letter, partially burnt leads her husband to believe she has a lover. He then throws her and the baby out of the house. After several months of privation, the brother goes to the house to retrieve her money and jewels (why not get them in the normal way?) and is fatally injured. Kenyon, in her madness wanders away and hides the baby, who is discovered by a clever pooch who takes her to his / her (I forget which) Master, a kindly parson.

Years later, the parson (who is of the fighting variety) and the wife (now a nurse) independently decide to travel to Alaska to help the folk up there. Her husband, reading about this in the paper, decides to follow...

One could easily dismiss THE GREAT WHITE TRAIL as an absurd melodrama, and an example of what was sometimes despised in silent film. It is accompanied by a thundering music track which gives the impression that it may have been reissued. Fruity, it is, with a good deal of coincidence (the Whartons worked on serials) and plenty of incident. Kenyon, however, is a spunky heroine, and there is the odd unexpected turn in the plot. I certainly found the film entertaining in the way one would enjoy the later works of Tod Slaughter, and one wonders if the film had influences on THE GOLD RUSH and THE TRAIL OF '98. Incidentally, I first expected the story to be about the Evils of Cocaine, and that is one of the few things missing from this heady brew.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostMon Jul 02, 2018 4:49 am

How They Rob Men in Chicago(1900) A man turns to look at a pretty girl. Another hits him on the back of the head and runs off with his wallet. A passing policeman leans over the victim and takes his watch.

Wallace McCutcheon had been shooting movies for three years, but this is the third on which he is credited as a director -- a new job title and clearly indicating that it is a fiction film, not an actuality. Like most comedies of the era, it is a single joke. It does have the reasonable excuse that it is only 25 seconds long, and it is a good example of a set-up and pay-off joke; in this respect, McCutcheon was far ahead of his competitors and would remain a force in the business for several years.

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

PostMon Jul 02, 2018 6:44 am

Another Wallace McCutcheon film that is unremarked here since Earlytalkiebuffrob wrote about in March of 2016 is The Suburbanite (1904). A family moves out to the suburbs, where everything that can go wrong, does.

Wallace McCutcheon, the Old Man of Biograph -- he had attained the great age of 44 when this was released -- is only known to have co-written this one, but it clearly shows his hand, not only in his sense of humor, but in his taste for the "illustrated text" style of film-making that this is an example of. The occasional titles serve to tell the audience what they are about to see, followed by the action.... only the action comments ironically on the brief titles. The result is a film that even today is very amusing, despite elaborations on the theme at far greater length n later years, in films like Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House and The Money Pit.

Personal (1904) A gentleman places a personal advertisement in the paper asking for a young woman, interested in matrimony to meet him at a set location. When a sveral women mob him, he takes off in a panic, pursued by them.

It was a movie that was very popular the year that Wallace McCutcheon made this for Biograph.... or remade it, since it's a remake of Edison's How a French Nobleman Got a Wife Through the 'New York Herald' Personal Columns. The various movie companies did a lot of that in the era, since there was no way to copyright a movie. McCutcheon, being Biograph's house director, was called on to restage the picture in Asbury Park, and did so with little elaboration.

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? [2018]

PostMon Jul 02, 2018 7:31 am

For the umpteenth time, yesterday I began another look at the original VHS version of Napoleon (1927), recorded during it's premiere at Radio City Music Hall back in 1981. Many years ago, I dubbed that 'too fast' (24 fps) recording at .8 speed resulting in 4 hours, 27 minutes run time. The faster speed was done intentionally because of time restriction place on them by Radio City Music Hall, who were unwilling to pay the staff overtime.
I've seen the newest Blu-ray copy in 2016, but I'm quite happy with the original.

The film is amazing! There was no such thing as 'hand-held' cameras, but Gance strapped a camera to the front of a cameraman, resulting in an amazingly similar effect. When Napoleon returns home to Corsica and is mobbed by family members, the camera motion makes it seem as if you are actually among those clamoring to greet him. I've never seen a 'hand-held' camera used so well in modern films.
The incredibly long running horse chase scene, with so many different perspectives is another example of unequaled camerawork. The view constantly changes from distant to close; so close,there's even four brief glimpses of the chase shot from behind the ear of a horse (by a rider operating an air powered camera), and so far away that at first, you cannot see where the horses are, off in the far distance.
I remembered a comment I made here concerning the "Proclamation" Gance gave his entire crew. Here it is again.

Re: Kevin Brownlow's Napoleon

Post: Sun Dec 25, 2016 8:32 am

For those who have received the booklet with the film, I call your attention to the "Proclamation," an appeal Gance made to his entire cast and crew. From this heartfelt appeal:

"Thanks to you, we are going to revive the Revolution and the Empire. This is unprecedented.
You must find within you the passion, frenzy, strength, skill and selflessness...I want to sense a powerful swell which will overcome any barriers erected by the critics, so much so that , from afar, I will no longer be able to tell the difference between your heart and your red caps.
Fast, furious, tumultuous, monumental, bold and Homeric, with pauses which make the silences all the more devastating: that is what the Revolution wants you to be , like a bolting horse...
My friends, all the world's screens are waiting.
Of all of you, whatever your role - lead actors, those playing secondary roles, cameramen, painters, electricians, grips and especially you, humble extras, who bear the heavy burden of conjuring up the spirit of your ancestors and joining forces to convey the formidable face of France between 1792 and 1815 -- I demand that you set aside any petty personal consideration and show total dedication. Only then can you reverently serve the already illustrious cause of the finest art of the future through the most marvelous lesson from the Past."

"It is for the audience to tell us whether we have achieved our goal." ---Abel Gance

End Quote.

I think everyone was faithful to this request and truly brought the story to life.
Norma Desmond's "We had faces then" comes to mind each time I watch this favorite of mine. Focus on anyone and you'll see the dedication in their face.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostMon Jul 02, 2018 6:12 pm

In a 58-second comic short subject, police hold a woman for a mug shot. As the camera dollies in, she makes faces at it to render her unrecognizable.

Although the trivia of the Internet Movie DataBase claims that "Photographing a Female Crook (1904), possibly, contains an early rendition of sequences of tracking-in shots that leads to a close-up of one the characters", this weasel-worded assertion is clearly wrong. Melies' studio at Montreuil had been equipped with tracking set-ups from its completion in 1899, and he used this for man of his elaborate effects. Nonetheless, it was a novelty for American films, and director Wallace McCutcheon and cameraman A.E. Weed used the technique to offer a joke..... that in the context of a criminal who did not wish to be identified from police photographs, made absolute sense.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Wed Jul 04, 2018 8:58 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostTue Jul 03, 2018 5:30 am

Little Red Riding Hood (1917): This film version of the Perrault fairy tale was originally part of the ninth of twelve Conquest Films' programs of films, featuring Kidnapped (1917). With the falling off of the Patents Trust companies, it was one of the last attempts to control the exhibition market. Instead of the local exhibitor having to wrangle with the distributor to make a selection of which features and shorts to offer the audience, simply choose Edison's prestige package! It didn't work and by the end of the following year, Edison had left production. Recently this film and the others in the program have been issued on dvd by Fritzi Kramer with scores by Ben Model. Copies went to more than 300 people who helped fund the project by Kickstarter; I hope it will be made available for more general sale shortly.

This version is unusual in that it is offered as a shadow play. Fans of old movies will be familiar with the form mostly through the works of Lotte Reiniger. Shadow plays are an old form dating back thousands of years, almost always involving silhouettes or puppets. This one is unusual in that the characters are played by people -- the wolf seems to be in a woolly costume. The result is an unusual and charming telling of the tale that should please those who are interested in the odd bypaths of cinema.

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

PostWed Jul 04, 2018 5:41 am

At the French Ball (1908): D.W. Griffith packs for a trip and leaves. When he is gone, his wife, Linda Arvidson, dresses as a nun for a costume ball. Meanwhile, Griffith meets some friends. He dresses as Pierrot, goes to the ball, and flirts with Miss Arvidson. Recognizing each other, each decides to trap the straying spouse in this Wallace McCutcheon comedy issued on June 30, 1908.

It's a bit strange, looking at this nine-shot film that is the plot basis of Charley Chase's classic 1926 short Mighty Like a Moose that Griffith first movie as a director would come out two weeks later. It's even harder to believe because this Griffith and Arvidson show n ability as actors and the camerawork by Billy Bitzer is perfunctory/ The editing is workmanlike, but that's about the best that can be said about this movie.

About this time, his bosses at Biograph would broker peace with the Patents Trust, bringing them within the ranks and opening up enormous profits. Some of those moneys would be spent on making their product better. Griffith was a marginal stage actor who needed a steady paycheck, which is why he took the job. Even more, he wanted respectability. He wanted to show those snobs in his disregarded profession, who looked down on him because he had to work in the flickers, that he was a man of vision and talent and ability. Eventually, he would succeed so wildly that the entire industry would follow him, then learn how to do what he did, do it better, and leave him in the dust.

None of which is to imply that he was the only individual in the movies who contributed, who saw that the movies had the potential to be a great and popular art. Griffith took techniques from the stage, like cross-cutting. He took techniques from earlier film maker like George A. Smith. He forced American movies into feature-length movies after seeing the success of Italian epics, he picked the brains of his cameramen, his actors, his writers.

But for ten years, Griffith was the face and reality of what was driving American movies forward. This movie is where they were when he began his ascent to that all-too-brief height.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Wed Jul 04, 2018 8:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostWed Jul 04, 2018 6:08 am

Another of the short subjects from the ninth of twelve Conquest Films programs issued in 1917, newly reissued on dvd by Fritzi Kramer, with a score by Ben Model, is Quaint Provincetown (1917). This split-reel travelogue shows its audience views of Provincetown Massachussets, a quiet Cape Cod seaport where artists were already at work. I found it a dull effort, with obviously staged shots, showing little to make the town stand out from any other small town of the era. Perhaps that was the point of choosing the town: its all-American, small-town atmosphere, intended to appeal to the rural market.
The movie changes subject by irising in and out of shots. It's a technique that has vanished, and I found it interesting for a while, but it grew repetitive by the end.

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

PostWed Jul 04, 2018 1:33 pm

Chiens Contrabandiers aka Dogs Used as Smugglers (1906) Georges Hatot began his film career with tableaux vivantes efforts like The Death of Marat, but by the time he came out with this movie for Pathe Freres, he was producing interesting oddities. This movie in 24 shots shows wool-smugglers using dogs to transport raw wool across the border against police opposition. The major part of it shows the dogs racing across the countryside, through open fields and through lakes, pursued by armed and uniformed officers, almost exactly in the same manner as early slapstick chases like How a French Nobleman Found His Wife Through the 'New York Herald' Personal Advertisements!

Hatot would have a great success with an early serial for Eclair based on Nick Carter in 1908. He would return to the the theater, but make a brief return to feature film-making in 1922. He would live into his 80s and die in 1959.

Le Cheval Emballé aka The Runaway Horse (1907): A laundryman picks up a load of dirty linen and brings it down to his dray. However, his horse is in a rush and the driver is thrown from the cart. The horse runs wild through the streets, spreading havoc and picking up a crowd of angry, pursuing citizens.

Louis Gasnier may be remembered for directing Reefer Madness thirty years later, but at this stage in his career, he was an assured young professional. There are some excellent examples of cross-cutting (early on, while the dray-man is pausing for a glass of wine and a piece of cake, the scene cuts to the horse waiting impatiently outside), and some nicely delayed gags (an open-air market with people going about their business is suddenly torn asunder by the racing horse).

In fact, some of the details seem to have been directly lifted by Mack Sennett and D.W. Griffith for their slapstick success, The Curtain Pole two years later, including a shot of the horse running backwards. Slapstick chases were not new. They had been around almost since the beginning of the movies, lifted from the stage, but here was a fine model for the movies. Sennett and his imitators would spend many years elaborating on it.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Wed Jul 11, 2018 5:59 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostThu Jul 05, 2018 5:28 am

Microscopic Pond Life (1915) is the last of the four short subject from the ninth of twelve Conquest Film programs issued by the Edison Company in 1917 to accompany Kidnapped. It has just been published on dvd by Fritzi Kramer with a score by Ben Model. As the title indicates, it shows motion pictures of pond life, as viewed under a microscope, with brief explanatory titles.

The print is more difficult to view than the others in the set, partially because the movie is two years older, and partially because looking at unicellular and simple multicellular life through a microscope often seems like looking at outlined sketches in any case. I'm 40 years out of school, and this movie seems like the sort of thing I learned in 7th grade. A century ago, it was available to bright youngsters.

What this indicates to me, along with the other shorts in the Conquest package (the anachronistic and pun-filled comedy Friends, Romans and Leo; the small-town travelogue Quaint Provincetown; the charming silhouette play Little Red Riding Hood; and this, is that this package was designed for a rural audience. The Patents Trust companies were in disarray, losing out to the newer, upstart companies. They had been slow to move into features, and the war in Europe, while reducing competition, was literally killing their audiences. This was an effort to appeal to the small, isolated, ill-served rural theaters. Too bad that they weren't ill-served. Within three years, all off the Trust companies but Vitagraph would be gone. They would be bought out by Warner Brothers in the middle of the next decade.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostThu Jul 05, 2018 5:20 pm

When I looked at A Romany Lass aka Rilka or the Gypsy Queen (1918), I ran it at 1.25 the recommended speed and it played just fine. Even the titles moved along at a good clip: I could read them three times while they were on the screen, which is, I believe, the recommended length of time.

James Knight has left the army because he was captured by East African warriors and tortured and lost his nerve. Now his father and everyone in the Scottish town he lives in thinks him a coward, even at the golf club. As the movie begins, his father, Charles Rock, has given permission for a gypsy tribe to camp on his land. They're led by Marjorie Villis, their convent-trained queen, who has to come down hard on her fiance, Bernard Dudley, who likes to beat up dogs and small children. Naturally Mr. Knight and Miss Villis fall in love and... well, there were gaps in the film, but nothing that made the story impossible to follow. It was, however, utterly predictable and if the individual actors were all right, the groups were poorly directed.

It's a title-heavy stereotype-filled production, redeemed somewhat by some nice camerawork by the uncredited crew. Most of the talent had some history in British film production -- the writer was Reuben Gillmer, who also wrote On the Banks of Allan Water, which I've reviewed elsewhere. He died in 1920. Few others' film careers survived much beyond 1920 and lead James Knight was playing bit roles in minor films up to his death in 1948. British film production collapsed in the early 1920s, and the Government passed laws mandating that theaters' show contain a certain proportion of British production in 1927. It may have saved the industry, but it didn't help the quality. It may account for the re-issue of this film in 1928.

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

PostFri Jul 06, 2018 7:34 am

Kidnapped (1917) is the featured film of the 9th of 12 Conquest Film programs released by the Edison company in 1917. All five titles from that have recently been restored and issued on dvd by Fritzi Kramer with a score by Ben Model in cooperation with the Library of Congress via a Kickstarter program. Ms. Kramer hopes to have the set available for more general release soon.

Raymond McKee is David Balfour, a young lad who, on the death of his father, is sent to his ancestral home of the Shaws, occupied by his uncle, Joseph Burke. Burke was the younger son, and so had no right to the estate, but McKee's father let him have it; now, though, his son should have his rights. Burke, however, has no such intentions. He tries to kill McKee. Failing in that, he has him kidnapped -- or, as we might say nowadays, shanghaied -- aboard a ship bound for North America and slavery. Onto the stage of this story steps Robert Cain as Alan Breck, a swaggering adventurer who, confronted with a boatload of men who mean him harm, leads McKee in a two-man mutiny, then across the wilds of Scotland, back towards the Shaws.

Alan Crosland directs with a sure hand, and offers some views that are surprising to me, despite what I consider a good understanding of silent movies. Although he uses the compositions of the film screen and the infinite vistas well, he sometimes uses theater effects, like spotlights, to focus the eye. The actors are all capable, the characters well-drawn, if broadly so, and the print the dvd was drawn from was handsomely toned -- a coloring process in which the silver nitrate which formed the blacks and grays of most black-and-white prints were replaced by other, more colorful compounds.

All of these -- the bright colors, the broad strokes of character, can be explained by the source material. Robert Louis Stevenson had originally written his novel for young readers -- what we would classify these days as Young Adult Fiction -- and in works like this and Treasure Island, he invented a new branch of literature. This production captures those impulses excellently for the cinema of a hundred years ago.

This would not be one of my reviews if I did not point out a flaw or two. The minor one is that some of the titles were hard to read. Perhaps, before making the dvd generally available, the titles could be redone in a more legible form. The second flaw is more basic. Raymond McKee is, alas, too old to play David Balfour. At the time of the production of this movie he was 24 or 25. Master Balfour was a callow youth, perhaps ten years younger. In any era when people played children when they were in their 40s. it would not have mattered. Today it requires a greater stretch of the imagination than I or, I fear, most of even a willing audience, can manage.

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

PostSat Jul 07, 2018 8:13 am

Human Apes from the Orient (1906): The transfer on YouTube is of a fuzzy videotape copy, with the online source and the rolling time stamp of the tape taking up about a quarter of the screen. It appears to be set on the deck of a ship where two men with peculiar haircuts, wearing long shirts, sit cross-legged and pick at each other as if they were apes grooming, or walking about clumsily in the manner of chimpanzees. There are 55 views since it was posted on September 19, 2017. Over on the Internet Movie DataBase, there are six votes for a average rating of 1.8; G.W. Bitzer is credited as the cameraman and American Mutoscope & Biograph as the production company and distributor. A Google search turns up nothing else but two other YouTube copies, with but a single comment among them: "Wow."

Carnival sideshow act? People raised by wild animals? People with birth defects? Internet hoax? I've no idea.

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

PostSat Jul 07, 2018 8:49 am

LIGHTS OF OLD BROADWAY (Monta Bell, 1925)-- a hilarious double-role comedy featuring Marion Davies. It screened at the Bologna Ritrovato this year. It also had a wonderful Technicolor sequence toward the end.

http://festival.ilcinemaritrovato.it/en ... -broadway/" target="_blank" target="_blank

"FILM NOTES
By the time Marion Davies made this film, her first for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, it was clear her talents as a light comedienne outstripped her abilities as a dramatic actress. Lights of Old Broadway played to those strengths, offering her the chance to play the dual roles of twins separated at birth, one destined to be raised in the wealthier enclaves of old money New York, the other in an Irish shantytown. A variety of conflicts are set in motion – gentry versus newcomers, rich versus poor, gas lighting versus electric, sober minded Dutch bankers versus the less-than-sober-minded Irish – all before coming together in exactly the way one would expect this picture to end. But getting to that predictable finish is a good deal of fun.
Lights of Old Broadway was directed by Monta Bell, a solid journalist-turned-director who later became a producer at Paramount’s Astoria studios. Bell had a reputation as an actor’s director, and clearly MGM was comfortable turning over its newest star (not to mention William Randolph Hearst) to his care, along with a sizable budget for set design, costumes, and two color sequences. The set design is credited to Cedric Gibbons and Ben Carré, although it’s likely the Paris-born Carré was primarily responsible for the film’s color scenes, the few that take place somewhere other than a domestic setting.
That use of color makes sense within the narrative of the film, both in terms of sheer spectacle – a vaudeville performance – and as a dramatic device when Charles Brush introduces electricity to New York City in December 1880. The latter scene is of particular note for its effective use of three different color techniques within a handful of shots: tints, Technicolor, and the Handschiegl process, which was used specifically to make a giant American flag practically pop out of the screen. The overall effect is quite impressive and is a fitting early tribute to what genuinely was the dawning of a new technological age."
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSat Jul 07, 2018 8:55 am

batacchio33 wrote:LIGHTS OF OLD BROADWAY (Monta Bell, 1925)-- a hilarious double-role comedy featuring Marion Davies. It screened at the Bologna Ritrovato this year. It also had a wonderful Technicolor sequence toward the end.

http://festival.ilcinemaritrovato.it/en ... -broadway/" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank

"FILM NOTES
By the time Marion Davies made this film, her first for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, it was clear her talents as a light comedienne outstripped her abilities as a dramatic actress. Lights of Old Broadway played to those strengths, offering her the chance to play the dual roles of twins separated at birth, one destined to be raised in the wealthier enclaves of old money New York, the other in an Irish shantytown. A variety of conflicts are set in motion – gentry versus newcomers, rich versus poor, gas lighting versus electric, sober minded Dutch bankers versus the less-than-sober-minded Irish – all before coming together in exactly the way one would expect this picture to end. But getting to that predictable finish is a good deal of fun.
Lights of Old Broadway was directed by Monta Bell, a solid journalist-turned-director who later became a producer at Paramount’s Astoria studios. Bell had a reputation as an actor’s director, and clearly MGM was comfortable turning over its newest star (not to mention William Randolph Hearst) to his care, along with a sizable budget for set design, costumes, and two color sequences. The set design is credited to Cedric Gibbons and Ben Carré, although it’s likely the Paris-born Carré was primarily responsible for the film’s color scenes, the few that take place somewhere other than a domestic setting.
That use of color makes sense within the narrative of the film, both in terms of sheer spectacle – a vaudeville performance – and as a dramatic device when Charles Brush introduces electricity to New York City in December 1880. The latter scene is of particular note for its effective use of three different color techniques within a handful of shots: tints, Technicolor, and the Handschiegl process, which was used specifically to make a giant American flag practically pop out of the screen. The overall effect is quite impressive and is a fitting early tribute to what genuinely was the dawning of a new technological age."


Welcome, Battachio33, and thanks for the heads up. Let’s hope we get a chance to see this version in its native land. Maybe Dave Kehr arranged a horse trade for MOMA or the folks at TCM. I imagine San Francisco is not impossible.

Bob
If no one listens, then it’s just as well. At least I won’t get caught in any lies I tell.
— Joe Darion
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSat Jul 07, 2018 10:16 am

Sweet Alyssum (1915) raises the important question: "Was Tyrone Power Sr. the inventor of the monobrow?" And then fails to answer it, obliging us instead to watch a story of complex coincidences that almost incidentally throws up some startling pre-code twists.

Power and Kathlyn Williams are the parents of young Alyssum (a name I can't figure out -- was it some kind of baby-talk variation on Alice? The intertitles sometimes shorten it to " 'Lissim", which does nothing to explain the name.) They are fairly happily married, giving each other real full-on kisses and pats, but she's frustrated by his insistence on saving every penny for the girl's education. Eventually his boss exploits her desire for new dresses by making her his paid mistress and even putting her up in a love-nest apartment. She goes into the affair on a strictly business-like proposition: there is no queasiness or sentimentality in her hard-headed decision to prostitute herself to him.

Through contrived emergencies, the boss and the wife are eliminated separately but simultaneously. Twenty years later, Power and Alyssum are far away on a farm. Through more plot convolutions -- it really is over-plotted, this movie -- the boss's son shows up and takes up with Alyssum. They have a child upon whom Power dotes. Another plot twist puts them on oil-rich land threatened by the guy who framed the boss's son. Are you lost yet? Well, hang on, it gets even more intricate and scandalous: the young couple, now accused of bigamy, confess that they never got married -- i.e., they're openly living in sin and their baby is a bastard. They don't seem perturbed by any of it, either. Well, there's at least one more plot twist to get through before all ends up well and wealthy.

It's a good movie, filled with good performances, especially Kathlyn Williams. Power isn't quite as swooningly handsome as his son and namesake would be, even though they look almost exactly alike; presumably Jr trimmed the monobrow and thereby made himself a tad more attractive.

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

PostSat Jul 07, 2018 12:33 pm

Jim Roots wrote:Sweet Alyssum (1915)…
Power and Kathlyn Williams are the parents of young Alyssum (a name I can't figure out -- was it some kind of baby-talk variation on Alice?…
Jim


I just accidentally learned, by searching for the movie's title on YouTube, that Sweet Alyssum is a flower:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobularia_maritima

There are multiple YouTube videos about the flower.

You gave a great review, sounds very interesting.

Rick
“The past is never dead. It's not even past” - Faulkner.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSat Jul 07, 2018 12:34 pm

Jim, it's interesting that you got to see this film. 1915 was the year Kathlyn Williams was voted by a popular poll the most popular actress in moving pictures! I don't remember who the actor was for that year, though I'm thinking it was Francis X. Bushman.

How did you get to see that picture? Is it on You Tube?
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSat Jul 07, 2018 2:17 pm

boblipton wrote:
batacchio33 wrote:LIGHTS OF OLD BROADWAY (Monta Bell, 1925)-- a hilarious double-role comedy featuring Marion Davies. It screened at the Bologna Ritrovato this year. It also had a wonderful Technicolor sequence toward the end.

http://festival.ilcinemaritrovato.it/en ... -broadway/" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank

"FILM NOTES
By the time Marion Davies made this film, her first for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, it was clear her talents as a light comedienne outstripped her abilities as a dramatic actress. Lights of Old Broadway played to those strengths, offering her the chance to play the dual roles of twins separated at birth, one destined to be raised in the wealthier enclaves of old money New York, the other in an Irish shantytown. A variety of conflicts are set in motion – gentry versus newcomers, rich versus poor, gas lighting versus electric, sober minded Dutch bankers versus the less-than-sober-minded Irish – all before coming together in exactly the way one would expect this picture to end. But getting to that predictable finish is a good deal of fun.
Lights of Old Broadway was directed by Monta Bell, a solid journalist-turned-director who later became a producer at Paramount’s Astoria studios. Bell had a reputation as an actor’s director, and clearly MGM was comfortable turning over its newest star (not to mention William Randolph Hearst) to his care, along with a sizable budget for set design, costumes, and two color sequences. The set design is credited to Cedric Gibbons and Ben Carré, although it’s likely the Paris-born Carré was primarily responsible for the film’s color scenes, the few that take place somewhere other than a domestic setting.
That use of color makes sense within the narrative of the film, both in terms of sheer spectacle – a vaudeville performance – and as a dramatic device when Charles Brush introduces electricity to New York City in December 1880. The latter scene is of particular note for its effective use of three different color techniques within a handful of shots: tints, Technicolor, and the Handschiegl process, which was used specifically to make a giant American flag practically pop out of the screen. The overall effect is quite impressive and is a fitting early tribute to what genuinely was the dawning of a new technological age."


Welcome, Battachio33, and thanks for the heads up. Let’s hope we get a chance to see this version in its native land. Maybe Dave Kehr arranged a horse trade for MOMA or the folks at TCM. I imagine San Francisco is not impossible.

Bob


Or even better: a DVD from Warners.
Ed Lorusso
Writer/Historian
-------------
https://wordpress.com/view/silentroomdo ... dpress.com
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSat Jul 07, 2018 2:38 pm

R Michael Pyle wrote:Jim, it's interesting that you got to see this film. 1915 was the year Kathlyn Williams was voted by a popular poll the most popular actress in moving pictures! I don't remember who the actor was for that year, though I'm thinking it was Francis X. Bushman.

How did you get to see that picture? Is it on You Tube?


Nope, it was Grapevine's new movie special in May, I think. Their copy is in good shape. There are about four places where an abrupt cut indicates lost material, but only to the extent of a few frames.

The blurb on the back of the case is rife with punctuation errors, though!

The second generation is played by Edith Johnson and Wheeler Oakman. Frank Clark plays the boss, so you know Kathlyn isn't going to bed with him out of infatuation.

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

PostSat Jul 07, 2018 2:39 pm

Rick Lanham wrote:
Jim Roots wrote:Sweet Alyssum (1915)…
Power and Kathlyn Williams are the parents of young Alyssum (a name I can't figure out -- was it some kind of baby-talk variation on Alice?…
Jim


I just accidentally learned, by searching for the movie's title on YouTube, that Sweet Alyssum is a flower:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobularia_maritima" target="_blank

There are multiple YouTube videos about the flower.

You gave a great review, sounds very interesting.

Rick


Thanks, Rick!

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

PostSun Jul 08, 2018 6:23 am

The Mountaineer's Romance (1912): This British two-reeler concerns Percy Moran, who loves Ivy Martinek, whose brother is H.D. Martinek. They all seem to live together in a rough cabin in the Dovedale Peak district in Derbyshire, whence Mr. Moran is summoned one day to lead a party up the mountains, including pretty Dickie Thorpe -- yes, that's Miss Thorpe. Miss Martinek spies Miss Thorpe giving Mr. Moran a fond embrace as he drops the group back at their hotel. She tells her brother that her lover has been untrue to her.

I wasn't terribly impressed. Not only is the story simple and ultimately far too easily wrapped up, given the supposedly turbulent emotions of the people involved -- after all, Miss Martinek does wear a scarf on her head, surely a sign of wild passions! -- but the nature photography, evidently the actual purpose of this movie is less than excellent. It is true that the unnamed cameraman is competent. His compositions are fine and his camera movements excellent. However, the choices for scenes seem to be mostly set around scree and uninteresting mountain passages. British taste in movie layout and design in this period ran a lot busier than American, as if they did not realize the distraction that additional objects caused. Here, where an American director might choose a site because it photographed well as a backdrop to the action or because it might be nice to look at on its own, neither reason seems to have been in director Charles Raymond's thoughts.

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

PostSun Jul 08, 2018 2:03 pm

The old saying,
Ignorance is Bliss
came to mind today, since exploring information on something entirely different (Erich von Stroheim Jr. directing "Party Girl"), resulted in my watching Alraune (1928).
While the copy available on YouTube was not restored, it was 137 minutes long (copied from an Italian TV broadcast), and including an early orchestra score with many cleverly added sound effects. Don't always enjoy sound effects, but these worked well.
This was perhaps the second telling of "Alraune" or "Mandrake." The story (repeated several times afterwards in film), concerns the creation of a woman, the result of a forced sexual union between a woman and a mandrake root, a plant said to have magical powers due to its uncanny resemblance to the human body. While one cannot help think of Mary Shelly's "Frankenstein," there's little in common with this tale. The most touching part is when Alraune discovers the truth of her origin and decides to seek revenge on her creator.
I so enjoyed the 1928 film with Brigitte Helm and Paul Wegener, that I found the 1930 sound version with English sub-titles. IMO, the Silent tells a more exact and compelling story and includes scenes from the 'creation's stay at a Catholic school for girls (were all the girls are quite beautiful), and a circus, where we see Alraune enter the lions cage all alone and unafraid. There's also a nice print of Erich von Stroheim in "Mandragore" (1952, released in 1957), but there's no English titles available at Youtube.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostMon Jul 09, 2018 6:35 am

Big Silent Fan wrote:The old saying,
Ignorance is Bliss
came to mind today, since exploring information on something entirely different (Erich von Stroheim Jr. directing "Party Girl"), resulted in my watching Alraune (1928).
While the copy available on YouTube was not restored, it was 137 minutes long (copied from an Italian TV broadcast), and including an early orchestra score with many cleverly added sound effects. Don't always enjoy sound effects, but these worked well.
This was perhaps the second telling of "Alraune" or "Mandrake." The story (repeated several times afterwards in film), concerns the creation of a woman, the result of a forced sexual union between a woman and a mandrake root, a plant said to have magical powers due to its uncanny resemblance to the human body. While one cannot help think of Mary Shelly's "Frankenstein," there's little in common with this tale. The most touching part is when Alraune discovers the truth of her origin and decides to seek revenge on her creator.
I so enjoyed the 1928 film with Brigitte Helm and Paul Wegener, that I found the 1930 sound version with English sub-titles. IMO, the Silent tells a more exact and compelling story and includes scenes from the 'creation's stay at a Catholic school for girls (were all the girls are quite beautiful), and a circus, where we see Alraune enter the lions cage all alone and unafraid. There's also a nice print of Erich von Stroheim in "Mandragore" (1952, released in 1957), but there's no English titles available at Youtube.

Go, and catch a falling star,
Get with child a mandrake root...
(John Donne)
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostTue Jul 10, 2018 1:47 pm

After struggling manfully (or should this now be personfully?) through THE WOMAN IN THE SUITCASE (1920) thinking it must be one of the worst silents I've put myself through, I find boblipton had a similar reaction when I was checking up some credits on IMDb.

Perhaps a better musical accompaniment and print would help this film, but possibly not enough to make it particularly worth seeing. Enid Bennett plays a young college graduate who finds an incriminating photograph in Daddy's suitcase when she rummages through it to find her present which he has told her she must wait for. Although one suspects that there may be a misunderstanding, she sends an ad to the paper asking for an assistant to help her find the mysterious, and scarlet 'Dolly'. Meanwhile Bennett's mother (a thankless role for Claire McDowell) languishes feebly at home.

Grasping the opportunity for adventure is the proprietor's son, played by no less a person than than Rowland V Lee, who wisely slipped behind the camera after such dreary outings as this. Unfortunately this film is weighted down with a surfeit of titles, and gives the impression that the camera was stuck down in front of the players, who were just told to get on with it. This despite the camera credit being for George Barnes. I felt also, with boblipton, that the characters were simply not worth caring a carrot for. One or two titles amuse, but for the wrong reasons: perhaps the best one is (25:10) "It's too dull here. Let's go".

Needless to say, my cat Patchy had too much intelligence to stay and watch such a tiresome crock of old drivel such as this was, materialising briefly for her usual quota of 'Dreamies' plus a tickle or two before stalking off in disgust. Sensible girl!
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostTue Jul 10, 2018 4:21 pm

Child Stealing aka The Child Stealers (1904): A woman leaves her infant in a pram and goes into a store. An old lady walks by and snatches it out. When the mother comes out, she is hysterical. Another mother is player with her children in the park. When she moves briefly offscreen with one in search of a ball, another abductor snatches her toddler from the bench. The scene is repeated, with variations.

Some modern academic writers seem to think that British film makers in this era have a lot of issues akin with modern feminism. I look at this four-minute movie from William Barker, who flourished for a decade, and see petit-bourgeouis anxiety. Your children are at risk from strangers! Gypsies are out to steal from you! Automobiles may explode! Your inept kitchen maid may set your house on fire!

That last is a comedy, of course. This is a nicely edited and shot film for the period in half a dozen scenes. True, the acting of the mothers on discovering their children missing is outsized, but I think a bit of hysteria is justified under such circumstances.

Speaking of middle-class neuroses, there's Pickpocket (1903): A man in thug's garb -- flat cap, dark jacket and trousers, horizontal-striped shirt -- asks a a gentleman for directions. While the toff examines a piece of paper, the criminal sticks his hands in various pockets, until he is noticed, then knocks his victim down, steals a watch and runs off, pursued by half a dozen bobbies.

It's directed by Alf Collins, a music-hall comic and prolific early director for Gaumont British. He directed and acted for about ten years starting in 1902. This short, like many of the British shorts of its era, demonstrates the middle-class biases of the film-makers. While American film-makers quickly realized that they were making their films for an audience that simply could not afford staged theatrics, and kept any moralizing in the background, the British filmmakers seemed to bring it to the fore.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostTue Jul 10, 2018 5:36 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:After struggling manfully (or should this now be personfully?) through THE WOMAN IN THE SUITCASE (1920) thinking it must be one of the worst silents I've put myself through, I find boblipton had a similar reaction when I was checking up some credits on IMDb.

Reading your post, and then reading the Wikipedia write-up on this film, I decided to see if I could find it on YouTube. I was thinking it might be another story like Griffith's Battle of the Sexes. Like that film, both have the daughter and father confronting one another when his sin is exposed. Both have a very weak mother figure.
Perhaps you saw the same version I did with organ accompaniment, and the sometimes impossible-to-read intertitles. Still, I found the picture quality watchable throughout. There was no obvious decomposition as you often find in even the best Silents.
The organist did what most organists do for these sort of stories, they provide background music. What else can be done with the many scenes of mother sitting on a sofa or the many mother-daughter embraces. Of interest to me was each time the scene contained someone playing a piano, the score became that piano music, or at least something much like it. You had to know the film music was carefully scored.
Most every title was superimposed over artwork, reflecting the story at that point. Sadly, most were impossible to make out, but one had images of bills and change, with the word Scandal written below. Another actually was an animated circle in a liquor glass after Enid says' "Put a good kick in it, please."
I enjoyed the twist where the daughter advertises for an escort, the way she takes charge and arranges each encounter with the 'other woman'. I accepted the story (the playboy Paper Owner's son looking for a good laugh) and could care less about who this actor might really be. For me, he played the role very well.
Simply said, I enjoyed the entire story; directed by Fred Niblo, much as he later did in The Red Lilly (another favorite of mine). In most of this film, he keeps wife Enid Bennett looking swell, but in the end, she is disheveled much like she appeared in "The Red Lilly." I've seen Enid Bennett in four other films and enjoyed them all.
Fritzi Kramer did a fun size review of the film, complete with some images. http://moviessilently.com/2016/10/03/fu ... case-1920/" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank" target="_blank
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostTue Jul 10, 2018 6:39 pm

Less than fifty of the more than three hundred comedies that Eddie Lyons and Lee Moran made are known to survive. One that was thought lost and then turned up when an old movie theater shut down in Alfreton, in England was The Lost Appetite (1917). Eddie is married to pretty Edith Roberts and they have to fire the maid. With chicken feet going at $1 each -- remember, this is 1917 -- they can't afford to pay her wages. Lee, her brother, is coming to visit, and he has an enormous appetite. The good news is that he is feeling unwell and is off his feed. The bad news is that even so, he eats more than a platoon in training in a week.

That's the set-up and the entirety of the movie, watching Moran eat enormous amounts of food and Lyons trying to come up with the money to pay for it. It's not much of a comedy, but the comedy pair were, as noted above, in more than 300 short movies over seven years of their screen partnership. If you went to the movies once or twice a week, they were a familiar, welcome act, and you smiled some at this week's hijinks and knew there would be more next week.

There is some technical interest in the fact that the titles in this movie have been changed to reflect that this was the English release. While prices were marked in dollars in the pictures, the titles refer to shillings; likewise, in the American release, Moran was Lyons' "country cousin". In the British, he is his brother-in-law.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostWed Jul 11, 2018 6:39 am

Looking at Raid on a Coiner's Den (1904) is a difficult task for several reasons. The available copies seem to be derived from the Library of Congress Paper Print collections, reconverted to film some time in the 1960s or 1970s. These were not drawn from the original issue by Gaumont British from Alf Collins' production, but the American reissue by Biograph. As a result, the print is jerky, blotchy and may have been extensively altered. Certainly, its abrupt start and lack of titles makes me believe so.

What survives is an action film depicting the raid of the title and the pursuit and capture of some of the fugitives by the police. Assuming the five-minute film is complete, it is at once an advanced and clumsy effort for the year, beginning with an extreme close-up of hands, some holding guns and handcuffs -- indicating the exciting themes of the film -- and showing some cross-cutting in the second half, between the coiners' den and the pursuit of the fugitives.

Both are offered, however, in a blatant and clumsy manner. It is as if Mr. Collins had studied the films of George A. Smith, who had done much of the work in devising the pieces of what would become film grammar over the previous half dozen years and had attempted to apply them, but without any sense of rhythm. Mr. Collins' background was on the stage as a comic performer. Perhaps is why he seems to get it wrong. Perhaps this film would lay in Biograph's archives until 1908 when D.W. Griffith was trying to figure out how to make films, catch the spark from it and others, and add his superior sense of pacing. I'd like to think so, anyway.

Another film by Mr. Collins that seems pretty muddled is Revenge! (1904). A man comes home to find an officer assaulting his wife. He is arrested -- the wronged man -- and returns home, but the police are on his trail. His wife and child are killed, but he flees. In the chase, he throws several officers over a cliff and finally tracks down the cause of his woes.

It's pretty heady stuff, carried out at such a breakneck pace that it's often hard to figure out what's going on. Director Alf Collins, during his decade of directing movies, was accounted an expert in chases, and that's what this movie largely consists of. Its melodramatic plot has been writ much larger and at greater length as movies have expanded to feature length, and his cutting from one scene to the next is poor to the modern eye. Quite clearly, he has no talent for the rhythms of such operations, or -- if I wish to be charitable -- his rhythms are alien to the modern eye, washed away in the sea changes established by D.W. Griffith's regularization of film grammar beginning four years later. Yet we can see the primitive origins of them here.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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