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

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

PostFri Aug 11, 2017 4:05 pm

I am in the process of trying to watch several films on home dvd of Constance Talmadge to see her later characterizations (ie Duchess of Buffalo, The Primitive Lover, Her Night of Romance, and Her Sister from Paris so far) that are far different than her roles in The Microscope Mystery and Intolerance. Different perspective to her career if you compare her films after 1920 to before then.
Mark Hamilton (I) is on imdb.com
Joseph Hamilton (I) is on imdb.com
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Aug 11, 2017 5:59 pm

Watching "The Iron Horse" (1924) came at a good time for me as the new Michael Portillo railways series has just started playing in Oz and this time he is doing the railroads of the U.S. There is also another reason to watch the film as it lends history to the journey I did back in May of '58 when, with my parents, we took the Sante Fe "Super Chief" from Chicago to Los Angeles. But as usual, I digress, now, where was I?

Ah! Yes, I have never had the opportunity until quite recently to look at this picture - only having previously read a bit about it, so I was naturally quite eager to have a look. I was not disappointed because the print I have is quite pristine and the accompaniment has been scored by the late John Lanchberry. He was an Englishman who had settled in Oz and whom I had seen play the piano to "The Hunchback of Notre Dame", but, I am wandering away again.

"The Iron Horse" is, for a lot of the way, a series of vignettes that present the historical facts concerning the building of the two railroads which crossed America from East to West finally meeting in the middle and uniting the nation. This I suppose is the part of the film which allows the producers to get away with the title card "a completely true story"; for I doubt there is much semblance of fact in the other story or stories tacked on to give a bit of love interest, some comical touches and general excitement.

The picture stars George O'Brien, a likeable enough chap. I don't remember ever seeing him in a talking picture and having a look through his repertoire I think it is mainly because he concentrated on Westerns, a genre I don't much care for. He doesn't come in until quite a few reels in - his role is first played by Winston Miller as a young boy. The young boy's father has a dream of building a railroad - but he is killed by a white man posing as an Indian.
We then leave that story and go on to scenes of Abraham Lincoln (Charles Edward Bull) talking about railways. Then it is Thomas Marsh (Will Walling) who finally gets started on building one. He has a daughter (Madge Bellamy) who later provides some love interest for George. There has to be a bit of soppyness in every picture.

Anyway, the picture then goes on with the trials and tribulations involved with building railways and we get to see what life was like in some pretty wild frontier towns. Justice apparently was carried on by pub-owners who turned their bars into court houses when warranted and dispensed law and order without much clue as to the pertaining official rules and regulations. In this picture we are introduce to one Judge Haller (James A. Marcus) a rather amusing fellow by way of the intertitles which suggest that he did not have the benefit of a law degree and may have left school at the age of five.

In addition to this little bit of nonsense brought in from time to time, we are also introduced to a party of three workers - who were Irish immigrants and the dialogue titles seem to confirm this. The trio is "led" by J. Farrell MacDonald who had the knack of being able to raise one eyebrow - the others are Francis Powers and Jim Welch.

The "Injuns" are a bit of a bother and we see scenes of them attacking the railroad builders from time to time - leading to a big battle towards the end of the picture. Another part of the story has a crooked property owner trying to divert the track laying to property he owns so he can make a profit. Yes my son, they were just as bad in them old days.

George's love interest is engaged to another bloke - a Mr. Jesson (Cyril Chadwick) - who is a surveyor for the railroad company - but he is a bit of a twerp as he agrees to do a bit of dirty business for the property owner in exchange for a pile of the folding stuff - but - he gets his come comeuppance naturally as the picture has to end happily ever after.

This is quite a long picture, but it is skillfully put together by John Ford. There is quite a bit of detail which I suppose could have been glossed over - but it is interesting in consideration of the historical aspect. Two of the actual locomotives of the time were used in the film. It held my attention throughout and apart from the excitement in a lot of the scenes which is engrossing, I was quite amused by those parts that formed the comedy element.
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she won't polish them..."You know what she's like." So I said:..."
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Aug 11, 2017 11:25 pm

Got around to watching two more films from Flicker Alley's Early Women Filmmakers set the other night, both rather short but roughly feature-length. The first was a silent, the second was a talkie but with some long silent sections and a music score.

LA SOURIANTE MME. BEUDET (1922) (THE SMILING MADAME BEUDET) ***
Germaine Dulac’s very interestingly made but not terribly compelling story of a depressed upper middle-class French housewife dissatisfied with her life and seemingly workaholic, controlling husband is especially notable for the visuals presenting her state of mind. The film's title appears to be mainly ironic and the story takes place over only a couple of days. At 43 minutes the movie packs a lot of psychological study within a quick enough period not to wear out its welcome. The Blu-ray in Flicker Alley's "Early Women Filmmakers" set is a very good transfer of what looks like either a good 16mm print or a softish 35mm preservation dupe with minor wear. The piano score by Judith Rosenberg is good but should have included themes from Bizet's FAUST and Chopin at appropriate times during the film to match what's on screen.

LE ROI DES AULNES (1929) (THE ERLKOENIG) ***
Another interesting film in the "Early Women Filmmakers" set, this early French talkie by Marie-Louise Iribe is a visually inventive drama inspired by Goethe's famous German poem "The Erl King" and the classic Schubert song of it. The film is full of beautiful imagery with lots of superimposures and dissolves, sometimes several at once showing characters like the Erl king, fairies, and real people at different sizes, visions seen by the sick little boy followed by what his father explains they really are. Taking place over a single day and night, the film is nowhere near as emotionally affective as a good performance Schubert's artsong and tends to drag at times during its 45-minute running time, but captures the mood well. This Blu-ray transfer is from a very sharp 35mm print, although there are lots of scratches and sections of film damage and decomposition. The audio is surprisingly robust for a 1929 European recording, but naturally has the limitations of that early talkie era.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSat Aug 12, 2017 2:02 am

boblipton wrote:
earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:A real oddity from the Eastman House, and partially based on a real disaster, THE WRATH OF THE GODS (1914) is a Japan-set drama about a family supposedly cursed by Buddha for a killing committed in a temple, a curse which has been going on an awfully long time, When the last female in the line is being wooed by a young fellow, he is immediately deterred when an ancient prophet tells of the curse. Soon after, a ship is wrecked nearby, and the sole survivor falls in love...

The religious side of THE WRATH OF THE GODS is hard to swallow, as no sooner does the daughter (who has renounced Buddha) speak of the Curse, than the young sailor (Frank Borzage) tells her that it is all nonsense, but his god is the one to go to. This after his shipmates have all presumably perished, and one later sees the father (SPOILER) convert, only to be slaughtered by a mob of crazed Japanese. A slightly muddled, rather illogical tale, partially salvaged by a lively finale. Sessue Hayakawa plays the father, in this, his debut, and later married the lady who played his daughter - shades of Old Mother Riley!



I don't know in what order they were released elsewhere, but there were four of films with Hayakawa issued before this one, in the US, at any rate.

Bob


My fault for looking on Wiki. THE WRATH OF THE GODS was said to have been started in January 1914, a few days after the volcanic eruption. Release may have been delayed due to the special effects, although it does seem quick work for four films to come out inbetween! Saying that, the ones listed as earlier on IMDb are all shorts. And don't think William Beaudine had started making features then!
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSat Aug 12, 2017 2:38 pm

Miss Bluebeard (1925) never quite got going. At 54 minutes out of the original 62, it's likely an entire reel is missing. Bebe Daniels stars as a French actress who accidentally marries a man (Kenneth MacKenna) posing as his friend (Robert Frazer), who is a famous songwriter tired of women chasing him. Of course he changes his mind when (after the missing reel, I suspect) the newly married couple arrives at his flat. The marital mixup goes from there with predatory women (Martha Madison, Florence Billings) and a hapless friend (Raymond Griffith) caught in the crossfire as the men jockey for Bebe's attention. Of course MacKenna's fiancee (Diana Kane) also shows up, and of course she's Bebe's old friend from convent school. Griffith shows a few flashes of real humor and MacKenna is good. Frazer is not so good. Bebe Daniels is gorgeous in a variety of hairstyles and clothes, but it never seems to come together as the farce it's meant to be. Maybe a snappy music score would have helped.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSun Aug 13, 2017 7:30 am

I watched "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (1915), a Thanhouser silent recently restored by the Library of Congress. Ben Model did the accompanying music, and it's wonderful. Starring Harris Gordon as Dorian, he does a very creditable job in a straightforward way. The film is about 2000 feet, or a 2 reeler shown at 22 minutes, 26 seconds. Helen Fulton as the actress for whom Gray falls at the outset is also quite good. Others in the drama are Ernest Howard, W. Ray Johnston, Morgan Jones, Claude Cooper, Arthur Bauer, and N. Z. Wood. The story is told straight on; editing is the same; direction perfunctory, but fairly well done. Photography is boring, but story makes up for it. For 1915, pretty good, but a lot better was being done. Still, it's fun to see this restored piece back in the repertoire to compare the Thanhouser company with all the others. For the most part, they do a creditable job. Many of their actors and actresses were stage presences, fairly easily accessible because the company itself was in New Rochelle, New York.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSun Aug 13, 2017 2:45 pm

Two this weekend at Capitolfest stand out: NAUGHTY BABY with Alice White was a fun and fast moving flapper comedy. Two little surprises: 1. Andy Devine was not bad looking as a slender youth. 2. Jack Mulhall had tattoos.

HAIL THE WOMAN (1921) was a very strong film with fine performances from Florence Vidor and the whole cast.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSun Aug 13, 2017 5:14 pm

"Hey Boss?"
"Yeah?"
"You know that musical "Show Boat" that's playing the Ziegfeld?"
"Yeah, sure I do."
"Well I think we should make it into a silent picture!"
"What! Are you nuts? How can you make a musical with all those songs into a musical already? You're a schmuck!"
...

I don't know if the above scenario played out - but make a silent picture they did. Well, put it this way. The picture was started off as a silent and then later, some talking passages were inserted and finally a prologue was added featuring some of the songs from the stage version.

This is the 1929 version of "Show Boat", a film interpretation I have been longing to see for ages and ages. "Show Boat" is one of my favourite musicals and I have seen it on the stage a number of times - a memorable performance in Sydney had one reviewer write - "Show Boat" sailed into Sydney Harbour last night and sunk". Of the film versions I think I liked the 1935 version the best.

Now I have a completely different version as the storyline has been altered. We concentrate more on the relationship between Magnolia and Gaylord Ravenol - everyone else is just peripheral to their story. As such, we have only the one basic theme to follow and this of course works in a silent picture as otherwise it could have been too hard for an audience to follow, relying as they did on the odd title card to let them know what's going on. A drawback to this simplification is that the inter-race implications and relationships which made the story so powerful, are gone. What we are left with is a basic romantic drama in a novel setting. Nevertheless it all seems to work and that is in no small part due to the players.

Laura La Plante is everything one could wish for as "Magnolia" whilst Josef Shildkraut, who was still playing matinee idols before he took on character parts, is "Ravenol". he gives the part its necessary flair for the debonair whilst maintaining an undercurrent - that of being an absolute bounder.

Magnolia's mother is given more prominence and the wicked witch of the West would have nothing on the character brilliantly portrayed by Emily FitzRoy. She must go down as portraying the ultimate harridan - yet she does so by conjuring up facial expressions that seem to convey more than the one interpretation. Whilst there is the look that could kill at ten paces, there is at the same time, a look of sorrow in the eyes.

Otis Harlan plays Captain Andy in the usual and familiar manner whilst Alma Rubens plays a cut down and re-written part as "Julie".

The unfortunate thing is that with the passage of time, there are elements of the film that are missing. There are two main sound sequences in the story part of the film - which don't feature any of the songs but merely replace the dialogue titles. The second of these sequences has the sound drop out at one stage with the dialogue represented by sub-titles, then these disappear and we are left with total silence accompanying opening and closing mouths. Lip-readers should be able to do alright. I know I could pick up a few words here and there. I believe also that some of the musical items as featured in the prologue have now shown up.

In all, I was quite taken with the film and found it an entertaining experience - which was the whole point of the exercise I suppose in making it.
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"So, she said: "Elly, it's no use letting Lou have the sherry glasses..."She won't appreciate them,
she won't polish them..."You know what she's like." So I said:..."
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Aug 14, 2017 1:08 pm

Nice to see a note of praise from Donald re the 1929 SHOW BOAT, which I saw some years back. I, too found it much better than its reputation might allow, although I thought the section which was completely mute could have been filled with suitable music from Kern's score. In any case, good to see it risen from the ashes.

My silent for last night, THE ADORABLE CHEAT (1928) has Lila Lee in a none-too-original. plot, but is a pleasant way to spend just under an hour and is an interesting example of a silent from the Chesterfield studio. Lee plays the daughter of a kitchenware magnate, who is despairing of his scapegrace son, a rather weak fellow. Pop's remark that he wishes she were a boy prompts her to find work (incognito, of course) in his factory, and of course finds romance as well, in the shape of the shipping clerk played by Cornelius Keefe.

What follows is a comedy of classes, with the clerk's nice, but ordinary, parents being humiliated by Lee's toad of a former boyfriend, who is up to all sorts of nasty tricks and deserves to be flung into the nearest sewage farm. Rather plainly filmed, but quite agreeable of its kind. Lee's best friend is played by another Lee, Virginia, who gives a lively likable performance as the only decent one of her 'friends'.

Another I'd not heard of, THE THIRD ALARM (1922) struck me as a very soggy affair, aside from some lively action scenes. Ralph Lewis plays a long-serving fireman who is miserable when the service becomes motorized and the horses are taken away. Worse is to come when he finds he can't handle the new engine and is pensioned off early. His miseries are compounded when he realises he can't afford to send his son (Johnnie Walker) to medical school and there is more trouble when he finds his old horse has been bought by a bully.

Much of this sort of stuff probably seemed familiar in 1922, and the film staggers from one crisis to another without generating much interest. Needless to say there is a whacking great fire at the end, with Walker's girlfriend trapped in the blazing building having gone back to rescue her puppy. Oh, and her father is the doctor whom Lewis blames for the death of one of his children several years back. For something rather better (though still sentimental), I would recommend THE SONG OF THE ROAD (1937) with Bransby Williams playing a similar part. Oh, and I forgot to mention, there is a crippled (to use the contemporary term) child whom Walker promises to cure....
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Aug 15, 2017 6:21 pm

It was interesting to see what might have been one of the original films about submariners stuck on the bottom of the ocean in a busted submarine. There have been so many similar stories on film since Frank Capra's "Submarine" of 1928.

The beginning of the film introduces us to the two male leads - Jack Holt and Ralph Graves. Both are rollicking, boisterous Navy men. Holt is a deep sea diver and Graves is han hofficer. We follow their on-shore adventures and by the fourth reel we are asking "Where is the bloomin' submarine?"

Eventually Holt settles down with a wife, but she is bored at home and when he is away, she goes orf to the local Palais de Hop and whilst there meets other men. One happens to be Graves - and of course the inevitable happens. Holt finds out about it and the two former friends are estranged.

Finally we get on board a submarine which is sent to the bottom of the ocean during a run-in with a destroyer during exercises. Graves is on board. The crew are running short of the breathing substance and divers are trying to get an air hose down to them - but - there is only one man who can dive to the depth required - but Holt is at home on leave and doesn't care much about saving his former friend until, for the sake of the picture, he has a change of heart just when the oxygen is running out.

I suppose we have to endure all the soppy business which takes up a lot of this picture in order to set up a story which might involve us more - knowing the backgrounds of the two men involved. It is only really when we get to the submarine part that the picture gets genuinely exciting and we become very interested spectators on the edge of our seats, biting our nails, wondering if the men will be saved.

The scenes on board the submarine are very well handled and the claustrophobic nature of it all is well conveyed as is the sense that breathable air is running out. Here Clarence Burton as the submarine captain and Arthur Rankin as a junior rating, give believable performances.

Jack Holt always seemed to me the perfect choice to play any gung-ho military type - and let's face it - he played numerous similar parts. He is therefore well-suited here.

I enjoyed this film. The only drawback I had was that the accompaniment was by way of someone's selection of "suitable" gramophone records. It's a hard task - been there, done it myself, so it is at best only going to be a hit and miss affair. In this case it is more of a miss than a hit. I can only hope that one day the film may have a proper orchestral score added to it. It certainly deserves it.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostWed Aug 16, 2017 1:11 pm

Checking some details on the Frank Borzage movie, THE PRIDE OF PALOMAR (1922), I came across boblipton's review which I would more or less fall in with. It tells of a California estate which has fallen into neglect and is in danger of repossession. The owner's son (Forrest Stanley) is a war hero, and when he hears of the boy's (a soldier hero) death he shortly does the same, collapsing in a local church.

Of course, the young man is safe and well (apart from an injured hand) and is on his way home, on the same train as the fellow who the estate owes money to (Alfred Allen), his attractive and headstrong daughter (Marjorie Daw) and a crooked Japanese played by the ever-oily Warner Oland. Being a veteran, he is given a year's grace to pay off the $300,000 owing, which he proceeds to do, sometimes with a bit of secret help.

Though none-too-original in its plotting, THE PRIDE OF PALOMAR moves at a good clip, so brisk, in fact that sometimes one doesn't catch all that is happening. In addition, the rodeo sequence was slightly confusing in spots, even though the gist of it was very clear. The film doesn't have the tone of some of the later Borzages, although one scene where the young fellow is returning along an avenue of trees does give one a taste of what was to come. A very pleasing film.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostWed Aug 16, 2017 1:16 pm

Donald Binks wrote:It was interesting to see what might have been one of the original films about submariners stuck on the bottom of the ocean in a busted submarine. There have been so many similar stories on film since Frank Capra's "Submarine" of 1928.

The beginning of the film introduces us to the two male leads - Jack Holt and Ralph Graves. Both are rollicking, boisterous Navy men. Holt is a deep sea diver and Graves is han hofficer. We follow their on-shore adventures and by the fourth reel we are asking "Where is the bloomin' submarine?"

Eventually Holt settles down with a wife, but she is bored at home and when he is away, she goes orf to the local Palais de Hop and whilst there meets other men. One happens to be Graves - and of course the inevitable happens. Holt finds out about it and the two former friends are estranged.

Finally we get on board a submarine which is sent to the bottom of the ocean during a run-in with a destroyer during exercises. Graves is on board. The crew are running short of the breathing substance and divers are trying to get an air hose down to them - but - there is only one man who can dive to the depth required - but Holt is at home on leave and doesn't care much about saving his former friend until, for the sake of the picture, he has a change of heart just when the oxygen is running out.

I suppose we have to endure all the soppy business which takes up a lot of this picture in order to set up a story which might involve us more - knowing the backgrounds of the two men involved. It is only really when we get to the submarine part that the picture gets genuinely exciting and we become very interested spectators on the edge of our seats, biting our nails, wondering if the men will be saved.

The scenes on board the submarine are very well handled and the claustrophobic nature of it all is well conveyed as is the sense that breathable air is running out. Here Clarence Burton as the submarine captain and Arthur Rankin as a junior rating, give believable performances.

Jack Holt always seemed to me the perfect choice to play any gung-ho military type - and let's face it - he played numerous similar parts. He is therefore well-suited here.

I enjoyed this film. The only drawback I had was that the accompaniment was by way of someone's selection of "suitable" gramophone records. It's a hard task - been there, done it myself, so it is at best only going to be a hit and miss affair. In this case it is more of a miss than a hit. I can only hope that one day the film may have a proper orchestral score added to it. It certainly deserves it.


SUBMARINE was originally issued with music and sound effects. This copy was from a British print, and was presumably silent owing to the fact that few cinemas were equipped for sound over here. I agree over the music selection being hit or miss, as when the film started I presumed it was the sound version, until some of the music got very unsuitable indeed! Lovely to catch up with it, anyway.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostWed Aug 16, 2017 1:56 pm

I watched half of it the other night and honestly, it was such royalty-free cheap sounding music that I just found the Brahms channel on AccuRadio and played that. I liked the movie fine though!
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostWed Aug 16, 2017 6:56 pm

continuing along with the Edison:Invention of the Movies

for the first time, I'm watching Richard Barthelmess's "Soul-Fire"(1925),... 30 minutes in and still no Bessie Love. :o
And also for the first time "A Kiss for Cinderella" (1925 or ''26)
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Aug 18, 2017 1:02 pm

Difficult to evaluate the large chunk of John Ford's NORTH OF HUDSON BAY (1924) as the English subtitles were overlaid with (I think) Spanish, and there were so many jumps and splices in the first half as to make it difficult to follow, to say the least. The second part is a good deal smoother, but sadly finishes very abruptly. A murder device whereby a rifle is set to fire when the sun's rays pass through a flask whilst the murderer is elsewhere seems rather unlikely, though, as one would have thought it seemed EXTREMELY suspicious as well as something the intended victims would avoid like the plague. If the film wasn't so early one might have felt the writers had been reading too much Freeman Wills Crofts! With Tom Mix and Eugene Pallette as brothers.

Followed this with Rin-Tin -Tin supported by William Collier Jr and Louise Fazenda in THE LIGHTHOUSE BY THE SEA (1924), a slightly shortened yarn which is most enjoyable. Fazenda is the daughter of yet another blind lighthouse-keeper (Charles Hill Mailes, who was 53/54 at the time) who is in danger of losing his post. On hand, too is a bunch of scurvy dogs who work for the local rum-runner. Rinty and Collier are survivors of a shipwreck who are taken in by Fazenda and her Dad, and the inevitable happens. Things come to a head when the revenue men have decided to set a trap...

Although suspenseful, the scene (SPOILER) when Dad is in danger after his daughter tells him the stick-tapping will give the game away is a little unlikely as the old man didn't seem daft enough to go wandering about in such a perilous spot without some method of guidance. And needless to say Rinty saves the day by showing more intelligence and initiative than anyone else in the film. The music score was very suitable, and seemed to have been lifted from a Vitaphone track of sorts. A good, lively entertainment, surprisingly directed by Mal St Clair, and left out of Andrew Sarris's listings in his 'The American Cinema'.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSat Aug 19, 2017 5:21 pm

One of the most delightful experiences I have had of late was in watching Bessie Love and Johnnie Walker in Frank Capra's production of "The Matinee Idol" (1928).

The film's story is simple - "a Broadway matinee idol famous for his black-face portrayals anonymously joins an amateur acting troupe and falls in love with the leading lady" yet it is told beautifully and so much so that one loses all sight of the fact that no-one is speaking any dialogue. It is further proof that by the end of the 1920's, the medium of silent pictures had reached its zenith.

Bessie Love is capricious, captivating and exuding charm in every direction. Johnnie Walker is a perfect foil for her in that he holds back from over-playing and allows her prominence, but that is not to say that he doesn't make his presence known.

The comedy in this picture goes against the grain of what a lot of people have come to take as the staple diet of silent comedies - slapstick. In this we are treated mostly to subtleties, a little bit of black comedy and that which can simultaneously produce a tear as we stifle a laugh.

The travelling troupe of repertory actors and the serious play they produce is hilarious - as funny now as it was in 1928. The only minor problem might be that some of the gags employed have been used subsequently. Lionel Belmore gives a wonderful portrayal as the blustering leader of the troupe whilst Sidney D'Albrook is the lead ham actor assisted by the requisite effeminate male - David Mir. What struck me as quite bold was the very overt way in which homosexuality is expressed in this film. There is one scene which is very blatant, harmless of course, but still a bit of a shock to see it on the screen in 1928.

I should also mention the performance of Ernest Hilliard who plays a Broadway entrepreneur.

Lost for donkey's years, "The Matinee Idol" has been lovingly restored from a copy found back in the 1990's. The accompaniment has been composed and conducted by the esteemed Robert Israel employing a small orchestra. His score is perfect. I should point out though that there may be problems for some in that Johnnie Walker plays a character who is in black-face during part of the film.
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"So, she said: "Elly, it's no use letting Lou have the sherry glasses..."She won't appreciate them,
she won't polish them..."You know what she's like." So I said:..."
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSat Aug 19, 2017 8:34 pm

Donald Binks wrote: I should point out though that there may be problems for some in that Johnnie Walker plays a character who is in black-face during part of the film.


My problem with Johnnie Walker is that he plays a smug, obnoxious jerk who I want very much to punch in the face every time he's onscreen. Loved Bessie, the print is beautiful, Robert Israel scores as always, but not a satisfactory film for me.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSat Aug 19, 2017 10:27 pm

Dr. Jack was Harold Lloyd's third feature, and the last one I had not yet seen (not counting the silent version of Welcome Danger). Last and, I think, least; like his first feature, A Sailor-Made Man, it basically has the plot of an extended two reeler, but A Sailor-Made Man has better comedy-action sequences to wrap it up, where this one takes a silly turn out of deep left field in order to reach a climax that has Lloyd impersonating an escaped lunatic so that everyone (especially the comic black servants) can run around in a panic for the last two reels. (He's at the home of Mildred Davis' Sick Little Well Girl, a rich girl being kept an invalid by a quack named Dr. Salsbourg; Lloyd quickly realizes that she just needs a normal life and some excitement, like chasing an escaped murderer around the house.)

That said, I think there's still something that Lloyd got out of it. Lloyd started playing comedy grotesques and became, over time, the most normal American fellow among the comedians, and you can see it happening here. He's a small town doctor whose skills have less to do with medicine than with insight into human behavior; most of his cures involve helping people straighten out their lives a little, or just understanding what they're up to (as when Mickey Daniels attempts to play hooky, and Lloyd gets him to reveal his chicanery by telling his mother, "Isn't it a shame that the school house burned down last night," causing Daniels to bolt upright in glee, his "illness" instantly forgotten). It's a good character for Lloyd, like a young man version of Doctor Bull for Will Rogers, and it helps him put distance between himself and zanier comic types and be instantly appealing as a smart, good-hearted fellow.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSun Aug 20, 2017 2:18 pm

ZANDER THE GREAT (1925) is a title which might let one expect a circus picture, or at least showbusiness or adventure. What we have here is the story of an orphan girl (Marion Davies) sent by a kindly governor to live with a lady (Hedda Hopper) whose husband has abandoned her. This has happened after the poor girl has been beaten black and blue by the dragon in charge of the institution, played by Emily Fitzroy, Parenthia in 1929's SHOW BOAT.

Hopper has a child (the Alexander, or Zander of the title) and all goes well until she is dying from one of those mysterious diseases known to fiction. A letter has arrived from the husband saying he has no intention of returning, a letter which Davies lies about to save Hopper's feelings.

After her death, the boy is in danger of being sent to the same orphanage. Incredibly, the same ogre is still in charge (rather than getting the sack and a turn on chokey), but Davies spirits the boy away in search of Dad. Near the Mexican border they bump into three bandits, and Davies proceeds to transform their hideout. The leader, Harrison Ford, (SPOILER) then pretends he is the boy's father...

ZANDER THE GREAT starts well enough, but sags badly after Hopper's death, and the film becomes rather a bore after that, despite the odd touch such as a running gag with rabbits. Surprisingly, Ford doesn't seem out of place as the leader of the trio, but despite a dose of action and the appearance of 'Black Bart', one is rather relieved when the fadeout comes, complete with aforementioned bunnies... Directed by George Hill, who did a much better stuff before his tragic early death.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Aug 21, 2017 1:50 pm

Nice to echo Christopher Jacobs in his praise of YOUNG MOTHER HUBBARD (1917), a film I spotted the other day and was intrigued by. It stars a talented Mary McAllister as the very youthful head of a family of orphans left in the lurch when their weak stepfather throws in the towel and vamooses. Enter the landlord (William Clifford), who for some reason is collecting the rents himself instead of employing an agent, and the youngsters are carted off to the welfare folk. After four different people choose who they want to 'look after', the crafty Mona (Mary) pleads for them to stay one last night at their home.

Deciding on making their escape, they take all their essentials (toys of course, but not the Family Bible!) and ride away to freedom. Of course they all drop off and their nag finds some hay... ...at the landlord's farm....

Aside from some decomposition, which doesn't interfere with following the story, YOUNG MOTHER HUBBARD was a very good copy of an enjoyable and charming, if predictable film. The music is more of an accompaniment than a score, but does its job perfectly well, and complements this engaging entertainment nicely.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostMon Aug 21, 2017 2:45 pm

Finally watched The King on Main Street (1925), which is missing a reel or maybe more. Copy I've had forever had organ music that didn't fit at all and clocked in at 47 minutes or so. Adolphe Menjou was very good, especially in the Coney Island segment with a kid named Skinny Smith (unbilled) and has tons of charm in scenes with Bessie Love. Greta Nissen seems mostly absent from the existing copy despite getting second billing. Oscar Shaw also shows up as Bessie's intended.

Two very funny bits has Bessie in Paris where she's dying to me the king when he arrives at the hotel she's staying at. She gets up from the dining table and runs to the line of gawkers and well-wishers. When they start peppering the king with confetti (or whatever it is) she throws what she has in hand ... unfortunately it's a large cream puff. The king accepts her apology and says, "It's a blessing you weren't eating a coconut." Later when the king arrives in Smallville to accept a weekend party invite, the mayor rushes to the musicians and asks for the national anthem of Ruritania (or wherever he's from) but they can't find the sheet music so they settle for "Yes, We Have No Bananas." Bittersweet ending and Bessie's Charleston are total pluses.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostTue Aug 22, 2017 1:52 pm

Sixty-five years after all known films produced by the California Motion Picture Company were destroyed in a fire caused by a firecracker, a nitrate print of SALOMY JANE (1914) turned up in Australia. The film was based on a Bret Harte story and featured Beatriz Michelena in the title role. In 1852, Jane and her father turn up in gold-rush California and settle in a rather crooked community. Complications arise when it is discovered that Pop has been involved in a feud and is in danger of getting peppered. Jane is also being courted by several highly unsuitable males (including a 'gentleman' gambler and an Uncle Sam near-lookalike with the unlikely name of Starbottle) as well as a wanderer (House Peters) seeking revenge for his sister. For good measure there are a couple of no-goods who foolishly decide to hold up a stagecoach. One of these is a useless individual, whose main achievement seems to be in fathering three children. However, he treats his loyal and long-suffering wife like dirt, and is one of the most unsympathetic of the lot.

Much of this plotting takes place in the first quarter or third of the film. The way the characters and situations are introduced seem rather rushed, too, so that it takes a little while to work out what is happening. For me the film's main merit was its pictorial sense, which is very impressive for the time, and much enhanced by the print quality. Dramatically it seems a bit rambling, although I felt it picked up somewhat in the second half, and there is a shocking scene where one of the suspected robbers is shot in cold blood whilst attempting to swim to safety. SALOMY JANE would be filmed at least twice more. In 1925 (lost) and in 1932, by Raoul Walsh, as WILD GIRL.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostWed Aug 23, 2017 9:05 am

I watched "The Devil's Assistant" (1917) with Margarita Fischer, Monroe Salisbury, Jack Mower, Kathleen Kirkham, and Joe Harris. I should say, I watched what remains of it. This was originally a five-reeler about a couple who marry (Fischer and Mower) and the people who are in love with each of them (Salisbury and Kirkham) who plot to ruin the marriage. Salisbury, a doctor, turns into a devil of a man and drugs Fischer, although the remaining reels don't really allow us to see all the nastiness involved, only a portion. What we do see, however, is visually and creatively amazing. The accompanying organ score by Andrew E. Simpson is fantastic! When the hallucinatory death/Purgatory/Hell scene occurs near the end the music just is perfect, and the scene for 1917 visually stunning, tints and all. The scene itself must have been written by those who knew Virgil, Dante, and Milton, because we see everything from the boatman who leads those across to the other side to Cerberus, the three-headed dog. All I could think about was "Il Penseroso" throughout the scene. All that remains is 26 minutes of what was probably at least a 70 minute film. The film has been lovingly restored (what remains of it and what is not totally nitrate-deteriorated) at the instigation of Ben Model and by The Library of Congress. It's the second film on a DVD whose main film is "Whispering Shadows", a film I watched a few days ago but didn't review. The DVD is a product of Ben's company Undercrank Productions.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostWed Aug 23, 2017 12:59 pm

Although there are three words of dialogue ( 'Bob', 'Bob', and, I think, 'Go!'), THE FIRST AUTO (1927) is essentially silent, with music and sound effects, courtesy of Vitaphone. Russell Simpson has a leading role as a livery stable owner who races his horses at the local fair. However, it's 1895 and the horseless carriage is on the horizon, something his son Bob (Charles Emmett Mack, ironically killed in an auto accident before the film was released) is rather keen on. Things take a turn for the worse when Simpson's prize racer dies following a stroke giving birth, and his fortunes run parallel with his stubbornness.

THE FIRST AUTO is a mixture of drama, romance, humour and sentiment, with a spot of motoring history thrown in in the shape of Barney Oldfield playing himself and the appearance of Henry Ford as a character. I was reminded somewhat of the Fox movies of the 1940s which had the same setting, as well as the later Disney live-action films which continued in that vein. Patsy Ruth Miller (who was nearly involved in the accident) is the love interest, and there are running gags featuring William Demarest and his whiskered, cigar-chomping friend.

With a score made up mainly from familiar tunes such as 'In My Merry Oldsmobile', THE FIRST AUTO is a very likable, good-natured film. Some of the plotting is a little shaky, with the odd spot which doesn't make sense. As a whole, it is certainly a decent early work from director Roy Del Ruth, and was written by Darryl F Zanuck.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostWed Aug 23, 2017 4:25 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:A
With a score made up mainly from familiar tunes such as 'In My Merry Oldsmobile', THE FIRST AUTO is a very likable, good-natured film. Some of the plotting is a little shaky, with the odd spot which doesn't make sense. As a whole, it is certainly a decent early work from director Roy Del Ruth, and was written by Darryl F Zanuck.


I think that a bit of the plot trouble is due to the death of Charles Emmett Mack. I'm pretty sure he died before the shooting was complete because we don't see his character in the concluding scenes, even though he survives the crash. The film wraps up VERY quickly.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Aug 25, 2017 1:14 pm

FrankFay wrote:
earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:A
With a score made up mainly from familiar tunes such as 'In My Merry Oldsmobile', THE FIRST AUTO is a very likable, good-natured film. Some of the plotting is a little shaky, with the odd spot which doesn't make sense. As a whole, it is certainly a decent early work from director Roy Del Ruth, and was written by Darryl F Zanuck.


I think that a bit of the plot trouble is due to the death of Charles Emmett Mack. I'm pretty sure he died before the shooting was complete because we don't see his character in the concluding scenes, even though he survives the crash. The film wraps up VERY quickly.


Yes, it seems you're quite right there that he was killed before the last scenes were shot, so he is only referred to by Russell Simpson and his pal. Of course nowadays there would be a dedication at the start or end of the film.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Aug 25, 2017 1:33 pm

A quite remarkable movie, Julien Duvivier's AU BONHEUR DES DAMES (1929) [from the Zola novel, but updated] was also shot as a talkie in 1930, but that doesn't seem to have survived. Dita Parlo plays the innocent who comes to Paris to live with her uncle and his family after her father dies. Everywhere there is publicity for the new super-big department store, which her uncle (whose draper's is slowly going down the tubes) sees as his ruin. Parlo then applies to work at the store, finding a job as a mannequin, but aside from the owner and a friendly, but awkward fellow newcomer, she feels threatened by her so-called workmates as well as the brute of a secretary who attempts to rape the poor girl. A further subplot is the attempt to obtain finance to expand the business. with of course a sexual element involved.

As there were no English subtitles, I did have difficulties with some of the plot points as well as working out who was who. Saying that, AU BONHEUR DES DAMES is stunningly shot, with an astonishingly dynamic last section. I felt it could have been longer also, as there was a good deal of plot and detail crammed into less than ninety minutes. Dita Parlo is brunette here, and makes an interesting contrast to the more famous L'ATALANTE and LA GRANDE ILLUSION, with a captivating and powerful performance.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostFri Aug 25, 2017 5:23 pm

Obviously cashing in on the success of William Fox's "What Price Glory" the year before, "Two Arabian Knights" (1927) has Hoppalong Cassidy* and Louis Wolheim in the roles of roustabout servicemen taking on more or less the same sort of parts as Edmond Lowe and Victor McLaglen did in the former picture.

The rollicking around and teasing of each other is much the same in this the United Artists (Howard Hughes) take off.

We start off in the Great War with the two antagonists running into each other in a fox-hole before being taken prisoner by the Hun. They manage to escape disguised as Arabs and through some adventures involving transportation to Constantinople, end up rescuing an Arabian princess from drowning, hitching a ride soon after on a Russian vessel with her in tow. Next minute they are in an Arab fort fighting off the Princess' fiance and family - but Hoppalong has fallen in love with her and we end with them finally going off to see the Chief Mufti in order to get hitched.

This is basically a Boys' Own adventure story based on the answers provided to the question "What did you do in the war, Daddy?" As such it is written to appeal mainly to boys aged from 12 to 88. Mr. Wolheim, due to his rather knocked about face, plays the one who has been raised rather roughly and Hoppalong, naturally, plays the debonair and sophisticated one.

It is all good fun, a lot of it tongue in cheek and one is bound to gain many a guffaw from the humour ensuing. For good measure, Mary Astor plays the alluring Princess; Ian Keith is the nasty but very polite fiancee and those with a good eye for faces will spot William Pratt (Boris Karloff) as the Purser on board the ship.

There is some slight nitrate damage along the way - but it is not a terrible distraction and the orchestra accompanying is playing yet another good score by Robert Israel.

(* - William Boyd)
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSat Aug 26, 2017 8:22 am

I watched "Not Guilty" (1910), a somewhat gripping 14 minute short about a man who becomes inadvertently involved in a robbery of a man's wallet and accused of the crime, found guilty, sent to jail where he's made to work on a road-gang, escapes, but is finally found not guilty and freed. It's all told very straightforwardly, but well acted except for some overly histrionic attitudes at the young man's house where his blind mother lives and where his fiancé comes to visit apparently constantly (one scene has her awakening on the floor next to the mother who's still in her chair, the implication being that they've spent the night there in one place without moving). From the story-telling viewpoint, it looks as if the young man will never get out of his jam. When that does happen at the end, it just - happens! We don't see anything except a newspaper announcing that the guilty man has confessed. That was a disappointment because it was absolutely ridiculous. Otherwise, a pretty good film. For 1910 this is decent, yes, but Griffith was doing them better. He was a better story teller by far. Still, this was fun until the otherwise nearly impossible conclusion. This is on the DVD "Thanhouser Presents Treasures from the Library of Congress", eleven releases preserved by The LOC.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2017]

PostSat Aug 26, 2017 12:29 pm

A film I'd been keen on seeing for a long time, CYRANO DE BERGERAC (1925) was difficult to appreciate owing to the lack of English titles and the fact that my French wasn't up to the job, partly owing to there being a hell of a lot of titles, which could well be a problem even if a translation came about. The main interest of the film is that it was completely hand-tinted, with several colours in each frame of the film. The music was also very well done. Even bearing in mind my language difficulties, CYRANO is a very theatrical piece of entertainment and would appear to be using the original play text as opposed to new dialogue.

Rex, King of the Wild Horses, is the ostensible star of NO MAN'S LAW (1925). However he is easily upstaged by the lovely Barbara Kent, who plays Jimmy Finlayson's daughter (!) who is introduced in a pair or rather revealing pyjamas. and has a number of nude bathing scenes, much to my surprise. Fin plays a prospector who 'in thirty years has dug more holes and found less gold than any man in Death Valley', to quote H M Walker. Meanwhile there are a couple of shifty-looking types out for easy money, one being an especially villainous-looking Oliver Hardy, who is wanted for umpteen things. Finding Fin's mine, Hardy queries him: "Any gold in it?", to which Fin gives the priceless reply "-There oughtta be - There ain't none ever been taken out--". An odd mix of lust, romance, violence and comedy, with enough good moments to make up for the rest.
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