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

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostWed Jul 11, 2018 1:13 pm

Big Silent Fan wrote:
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" target="_blank


I wrote on THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES on July 31 last year. Thought it much better than it reputation would have suggested, but helped by excellent presentation...
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostWed Jul 11, 2018 5:32 pm

Trout Fishing, Landing a Three-Pounder (1903) shows a man dressed in new angling clothes by a low waterfall, casting for and hauling in a fish. It's a brief, well composed actuality that is so anonymous and pointless that the very impulse to make it, let alone exhibit it seems peculiar more than a century later, little more than a picture post card. Perhaps it was thought of as an item for Warwick Trading's American partner, Biograph, for their Mutoscope machines.

Perhaps it was a means to extend the contemplation of an image. Someone might look at a picture of an angler and feel its value had been exhausted in a few seconds, while the action and hope for action would keep the audience watching for a full minute. If so, it feels like a cheat.

A Search for Evidence (1903): This movie shot by Billy Bitzer is clearly an expansion on Ferdinand Zecca's racy 1901 short, Par Le Trou De La Serrure . A man and a woman go through a hallway in a hotel and look through keyholes. Through a keyhole stencil, they see a series of scenes, until they find what they are looking for.

Zecca's original was little more than an assortment of racy postcard images. Combined with the keyhole iris, it raised them from ordinary smut to an even dirtier form of voyeurism. This movie, in contrast, has an actual plot, and each keyhole view tells a different story, none with any overt dirtiness. Although the overall story leads to one conclusion, the variety of vignettes glimpsed lends a depth to the storytelling that the cinema was not ready to explore.

Old London Street Scenes (1903): Twelve of 'em to be exact, even though one of them isn't of a street at all, but of a ship pulling out of a dock. Still, the overall effect is to show London as a crowded, busy city, full of street traffic, both people afoot and various horse-drawn vehicles. The latter carry advertisements for brands, many of which are still known: Nestle's and Lipton.

Among the earliest actualities filmed by the Lumieres were single street scenes, some well-known street in a major city and they quickly fell into a pattern, ending with a public transportation vehicle pulling into the center of the frame to end the film; even the one showing Tokyo ended with a rickshaw pulling up. This assortment is a bit different, suggesting that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. It's not a startling insight of the makers of this film. Brief, single-shot actualities were already on their way out and travelogues would become quite elaborate with a few years. Even so, it's pleasant and early in the process.

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

PostThu Jul 12, 2018 5:17 am

boblipton wrote:Old London Street Scenes (1903): Twelve of 'em to be exact, even though one of them isn't of a street at all, but of a ship pulling out of a dock. Still, the overall effect is to show London as a crowded, busy city, full of street traffic, both people afoot and various horse-drawn vehicles. The latter carry advertisements for brands, many of which are still known: Nestle's and Lipton.


Bob, NitrateVille has a separate thread for self-promotion.

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

PostThu Jul 12, 2018 5:51 am

Spiders on a Web (1900) I don't see any web in this 12-second film, but it's an interesting piece of work anyway. It's by George A. Smith, the Englishman who seems to have done the work that evolved into much of the photographic grammar of film. Here's it's a close-up of two spiders moving against a faint grid.

Are they large spiders in medium close-up? Tiny spiders in extreme close-up? It's impossible for anyone but a spider expert to tell, because this was when Smith was experimenting with close-ups.

Smith distributed his films through Charles Urban's Warwick Trading, but he was an entrepreneur on his own, patenting Kineamacolour, one of the earliest color film technologies. He was another individual of foresight and talent whose contributions to cinema have been forgotten, washed away in the simple narrative of legend.

The Bund, Shanghai (1901): Robert K. Bonine is not a name to conjure with in the history of film. He was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania in 1861. From 1897 through 1907 he was a cameraman, sometimes with Edison, sometimes with Biograph, sometimes wandering around the globe, sometimes remaking George A. Smith movies in the studio. Then he moved to Hawaii and died in 1923. The End.

He seems to have been in Shanghai in 1901, given this film and it's a nice one. The camera sits, watching a busy street, and for an audience it's a fascinating glimpse into a foreign world, ended by a troop of Sikhs that march by. You'd think it was a casual slice of life, caught by chance. Perhaps the street traffic was, but those Sikhs weren't. The movie ends with their officer pauses at exactly the right spot for the camera to focus on him lighting a cigarette. Take a break, audience. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

After Dark in Central Park (1900) A man and a woman are necking rather passionately. A policeman strolls unconcernedly by.

At 22 seconds, this one was clearly intended for the peep-show machines from the start. Although film makers had wasted little time in making movies suitable for stag parties -- off the top of my head, Melies' Apres le Bal dated from 1897 -- in America, such stuff was imported, or merely risque -- in 1896, there were cries of immorality when Edison released The Kiss, showing just that from a Broadway play.

The print I looked at, as is common for transfers of 110+-year-old peep-show card, hard to make out and mildly humorous, more than anything else.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Sun Jul 15, 2018 7:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostThu Jul 12, 2018 5:57 am

Jim Roots wrote:
boblipton wrote:Old London Street Scenes (1903): Twelve of 'em to be exact, even though one of them isn't of a street at all, but of a ship pulling out of a dock. Still, the overall effect is to show London as a crowded, busy city, full of street traffic, both people afoot and various horse-drawn vehicles. The latter carry advertisements for brands, many of which are still known: Nestle's and Lipton.


Bob, NitrateVille has a separate thread for self-promotion.

Jim


I sold my shares in Nestle's some time ago.

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

PostThu Jul 12, 2018 5:47 pm

Comic Face aka Old Man Drinking a Glass of Beer (1898): That's Tom Green, a popular music hall comedian of the era, and it's what it says on the label: Mr. Green drinks a glass of beer and is jovially drunk. Why did George Albert Smith think this worth making a movie? Even one that was less than 40 seconds long?

Because it's a close-up. Specifically, to use a technical term, it's an extended medium close-up. Mr. Smith was interested in the effects achievable by different camera angles and positions, and not just in the way that people like Melies were, but to determine what camera positions were best to show different things. Here, he shows that the medium close-up is just the thing to show the expressions on the face of an individual performer. The exact distance and so forth.

Well, isn't that obvious? Sure, that's what you say now, 120 years later.

New Pillow Fight (1897): Four young girls hit each other with pillows until the feathers fly.

Edison film, you say. Released May 24, 1897. No, wait, someone else says. It's American Mutoscope & Biograph, released May 24, 1897. It's a very erudite crowd, up on the minutiae, and maybe you'll argue some about whose idea it was and who stole from whom and so forth.

Well, this one is from Lubin, who had a habit of looking at what his competitors did. And because there was no copyright back then and he had the best equipment in the business -- he had started out as an optician, moved into optical manufacturing and so forth -- he had a habit of buying a competitor's movie and then reprinting it for his own catalogue. Or sometimes he restaged it.

Release date? May 1897. So who came up with it first?

Carga de Rurales (1896) Against the background an architrave of aqueduct, a small group of sombrero-hatted men ride their horses. A few seconds. a larger group pursues them. It's a typical, well-composed actuality that you'd expect from the folks who worked for Lumiere.

Gabriel Veyre, who shot this actuality, was a globe-trotting exhibitor for about seven years. In Mexico in 1896, he shot a bunch of movies, then went to other places to show movies and shoot some more. Lumiere distributed his movies. He died in Morocco in 1936, where he had resided for many years, working as a newspaper correspondent.

His cameraman on this and his other Mexican films was Claude Ferdinand Bon Bernard. About that individual, all that is known is that fact.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Sun Jul 15, 2018 7:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostThu Jul 12, 2018 10:20 pm

The Joyless Street/Die freudlose Gasse (1925) is one of the few Greta Garbo films that I had not seen. A copy had been in my queue on Amazon Prime streaming for some time. I had seen parts of it in documentaries, but never the film. It is directed by G.W. Pabst. It was his third film as a director.

The other week I watched the Amazon copy. It turned out to be a flawed 1 hour version. It seems to include all scenes with Garbo and cut everything else. I knew there was a longer version, but who makes it?

http://www.silentera.com/video/joylessStreetHV.html" target="_blank" target="_blank

Edition Filmmuseum does. That should be all right then. I ordered their 2 disc DVD restoration (2009). Wow, it’s 2 and a half hours (IMDB lists 2h 5min). So I’ve seen only 40% of the film; which is not really seeing it.

https://www.edition-filmmuseum.com/prod ... Gasse.html" target="_blank" target="_blank

But as the restoration extras explain, I still have not seen the original film. It was so heavily censored and altered into different narratives in different countries, that an accurate recreation of what was originally there has become guess work. One of the restorers explains that they had to keep an eye on the minor characters in each scene to try to figure out the original order of shots, that is, if that actor could/should be in the film at this time. 5 main copies were used over many years to make this version.

Is it a masterpiece? Well, no, and it has received bad reviews over the years also, but what version were they seeing? It moved German film-making away from Expressionism, although there are still some odd sets (to these American eyes).

Asta Nielsen seems much too old for her role, but she is very effective in it. Garbo shines and she was apparently helped by two aspects out of her control. The camera man noticed that she had developed a “tic” when doing close-ups. So he shot her as though for slow motion. It gives her close-ups a dreamy character. The other was that her mentor Mauritz Stiller insisted that she be shot with the more expensive Kodak film rather than Agfa. Of course these stories could be untrue. There is no doubt that the film enhanced her reputation however. And Pabst’s.

Valeska Gert is another actress in the film. She’s such a delight as Frau Greifer (called Madame Gill in the Amazon version). You might know her from Diary of a Lost Girl (got to keep those girls exercising!). A beautiful actress plays Lia Leid, a key character in a subplot. She is apparently Tamara Geva, who had been married in real life to George Balanchine. I say apparently since IMDB also lists Lia Lied as being played by Dorothea Thiele??

What’s the film about? Oh. The film is set in 1921 Vienna, based upon a 1924 (I think) novel. There was rampant inflation and this caused terrible financial problems, maybe dislocations might be the word. The middle class saw that their pension might soon be worthless. It was a struggle to get basics such as meat. A long line formed at the butcher shop on this joyless street. But the butcher (Werner Krauss) had his eye out for the ladies who would do him favors, etc.

Morality was collapsing with the increasing poverty of some; while speculators were getting rich and living it up down the street at a brothel. This causes one young man to try to join the speculators, with disastrous consequences. There are misunderstandings, starvation, jealousy, murders, prostitution, etc. This all-too-accurate depiction of recent events hit too close to home and caused the censorship cuts to begin.

Rick

Edit: While searching for more info about the film, I found this Nitrateville thread with Arndt's enthusiastic review of the Edition Filmmuseum release:

viewtopic.php?p=22486
Last edited by Rick Lanham on Sat Jul 14, 2018 10:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostFri Jul 13, 2018 7:02 am

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:
I wrote on THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES on July 31 last year. Thought it much better than it reputation would have suggested, but helped by excellent presentation...

That, and of course the lovely Phyllis Haver.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostFri Jul 13, 2018 12:05 pm

Another big surprise to me from YouTube is The Fighting Eagle (1927) which I had never heard of.
The film, based on a novel by Arthur Conan Doyle, stars (never seen by me in a leading role) Rod La Rocque, with Phyllis Haver, Sam De Grasse and even fan dancer/actress, Sally Rand in this light hearted costume drama/comedy about the days of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (played convincingly by Max Barwyn).
Directed by Donald Crisp for DeMille Picture Corporation, with lots of tinting and a large cast in costume, the film, just over an hour (IMDB says it's only 54 minutes), seems to be running the proper speed although the titles had more than enough time to be read. Watching on my Blu-ray player, I couldn't change the speed as I can watching on my laptop.

Not a fan of silly slapstick comedy, but I enjoyed the cheeky fun way this story was told.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostFri Jul 13, 2018 1:56 pm

Rick Lanham wrote:The Joyless Street/Die freudlose Gasse (1925) is one of the few Greta Garbo films that I had not seen. A copy had been in my queue on Amazon Prime streaming for some time. I had seen parts of it in documentaries, but never the film. It is directed by G.W. Pabst. It was his third film as a director.

The other week I watched the Amazon copy. It turned out to be a flawed 1 hour version. It seems to include all scenes with Garbo and cut everything else. I knew there was a longer version, but who makes it?

http://www.silentera.com/video/joylessStreetHV.html" target="_blank" target="_blank

Edition Filmmuseum does. That should be all right then. I ordered their 2 disc DVD restoration (2009). Wow, it’s 2 and a half hours (IMDB lists 2h 5min). So I’ve seen only 40% of the film; which is not really seeing it.

https://www.edition-filmmuseum.com/prod ... Gasse.html" target="_blank" target="_blank

But as the restoration extras explain, I still have not seen the original film. It was so heavily censored and altered into different narratives in different countries, that an accurate recreation of what was originally there has become guess work. One of the restorers explains that they had to keep an eye on the minor characters in each scene to try to figure out the original order of shots, that is, if that actor could/should be in the film at this time. 5 main copies were used over many years to make this version.

Is it a masterpiece? Well, no, and it has received bad reviews over the years also, but what version were they seeing? It moved German film-making away from Expressionism, although there are still some odd sets (to these American eyes).

Asta Nielsen seems much too old for her role, but she is very effective in it. Garbo shines and she was apparently helped by two aspects out of her control. The camera man noticed that she had developed a “tic” when doing close-ups. So he shot her as though for slow motion. It gives her close-ups a dreamy character. The other was that her mentor Mauritz Stiller insisted that she be shot with the more expensive Kodak film rather than Agfa. Of course these stories could be untrue. There is no doubt that the film enhanced her reputation however. And Pabst’s.

Valeska Gert is another actress in the film. She’s such a delight as Frau Greifer (called Madame Gill in the Amazon version). You might know her from Diary of a Lost Girl (got to keep those girls exercising!). A beautiful actress plays Lia Leid, a key character in a subplot. She is apparently Tamara Geva, who had been married in real life to George Balanchine. I say apparently since IMDB also lists Lia Lied as being played by Dorothea Thiele??

What’s the film about? Oh. The film is set in 1921 Vienna, based upon a 1924 (I think) novel. There was rampant inflation and this caused terrible financial problems, maybe dislocations might be the word. The middle class saw that their pension might soon be worthless. It was a struggle to get basics such as meat. A long line formed at the butcher shop on this joyless street. But the butcher (Werner Krauss) had his eye out for the ladies who would do him favors, etc.

Morality was collapsing with the increasing poverty of some; while speculators were getting rich and living it up down the street at a brothel. This causes one young man to try to join the speculators, with disastrous consequences. There are misunderstandings, starvation, jealousy, murders, prostitution, etc. This all-too-accurate depiction of recent events hit too close to home and caused the censorship cuts to begin.

Rick


The abridged copy was released in the mid-1930s and received an unenthusiastic and slightly patronising review from Graham Greene, who failed to mention that is was heavily truncated and had been revived to exploit Garbo's popularity.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostFri Jul 13, 2018 1:58 pm

Big Silent Fan wrote:Another big surprise to me from YouTube is The Fighting Eagle (1927) which I had never heard of.
The film, based on a novel by Arthur Conan Doyle, stars (never seen by me in a leading role) Rod La Rocque, with Phyllis Haver, Sam De Grasse and even fan dancer/actress, Sally Rand in this light hearted costume drama/comedy about the days of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (played convincingly by Max Barwyn).
Directed by Donald Crisp for DeMille Picture Corporation, with lots of tinting and a large cast in costume, the film, just over an hour (IMDB says it's only 54 minutes), seems to be running the proper speed although the titles had more than enough time to be read. Watching on my Blu-ray player, I couldn't change the speed as I can watching on my laptop.

Not a fan of silly slapstick comedy, but I enjoyed the cheeky fun way this story was told.


Yes, agree with you there. Had not heard of this one, but found it thoroughly good fun. P.s., was the music track original?
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostFri Jul 13, 2018 3:03 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:
Big Silent Fan wrote:Another big surprise to me from YouTube is The Fighting Eagle (1927) which I had never heard of.
The film, based on a novel by Arthur Conan Doyle, stars (never seen by me in a leading role) Rod La Rocque, with Phyllis Haver, Sam De Grasse and even fan dancer/actress, Sally Rand in this light hearted costume drama/comedy about the days of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (played convincingly by Max Barwyn).
Directed by Donald Crisp for DeMille Picture Corporation, with lots of tinting and a large cast in costume, the film, just over an hour (IMDB says it's only 54 minutes), seems to be running the proper speed although the titles had more than enough time to be read. Watching on my Blu-ray player, I couldn't change the speed as I can watching on my laptop.

Not a fan of silly slapstick comedy, but I enjoyed the cheeky fun way this story was told.


Yes, agree with you there. Had not heard of this one, but found it thoroughly good fun. P.s., was the music track original?

It was the longest version of "Funeral March of a Marionette" I've heard and it certainly seemed to fit that part of the story. Obviously a big production, it may have been part of the original score created for the film. We know it was used in at least one other Silent back then. A quick search told me nothing.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostFri Jul 13, 2018 5:39 pm

Johnston Forbes-Robertson was accounted the finest Hamlet (1913) of his generation by George Bernard Shaw, so that must be true. By his own admission, Shaw was never wrong. Hepworth's hour-long production of the Shakespeare play was undoubtedly seen as a very English sort of feature and a reply to Famous Players in Famous Plays that Adolph Zukor was producing in the States. As a result, Forbes-Robertson, who also had the distinction of appearing in the first Shakespearean film (1898's MacBeth, which was just part of the duel) seems to have brought his entire West End cast so that the 60-year-old actor could record his performance as a disaffected college student for eternity.

It's a big performance. It strikes me that not only were the cheapest seats at the back of the balcony aware of everything that Forbes-Robertson said and did, but so was anyone standing in the lobby and quite possibly anyone walking by the theater while a performance was on. His performance is a full stage performance for a generation earlier, with grand gestures and Forbes front stage and the camera (supervised by Geoffrey Faithfull, who would still be a director of Photography in the early 1970s) seemingly set right over the prompter's box, so that every gesture made during the long soliliquies (summed up in brief catchphrases: "To be or not to be: that is the question"; "Alas, Poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio"; et c.) will be caught.

This one makes it clear: the movies are not the stage, pageantry is a different matter and Shakespeare is about the words and thoughts as much as the performances. Without the words, this is an unfortunate mess, just a dumb record of what must have been an exciting stage performance. It's too bad we'll never get to hear it.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Thu Jul 19, 2018 5:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostFri Jul 13, 2018 7:49 pm

Trapped by the London Sharks (1916): Humberston Wright is enjoying a night on the town. He runs out of money and goes home to raid the purse of his wife, Blanche Forsythe. When she says no, he knocks her unconscious, takes the money and goes to get involved in a crooked game run by Hugh Nicolson and Maud Yates. Not only do they have the latest sharper's mechanical aids, she has a ring that squirts poison gas in the face of anyone who calls them cheats. When Wright wakes up the next morning, thoroughly hung over, they tell him that he killed that corpse, but they'll cover up for him if he goes in with them for a spot of bank robbing.

Meanwhile, Miss Forsythe eventually wakes up, decides that this is no place for her and, after some hardship, goes to work for Bertram Burleigh, the stalwart police inspector who's investigating the bank robbery. Eventually the robbers flee to their country home, which is liberally supplied with the usual amenities of sliding passages, a dungeon and a private laboratory.

Were this a continental melodrama or even Sax Rohmer, the villains would be intent on world domination. Here, being simple British villains, all they want is money, and they go about it with the usual minor flourishes. The acting is pleasantly restrained for such a pulpish plot and the print I looked at was in very good condition and pleasantly toned for about two thirds of its scenes -- only the daytime interiors were in black and white. It's not a great movie, nor even particularly good, but if you have a taste for this sort of cheap theatrics -- I certainly do -- it's a pleasant way to kill an hour.

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

PostFri Jul 13, 2018 8:15 pm

boblipton wrote:This one makes it clear: the movies are not the stage, pageantry is a different matter and Shakespeare is about the words and thoughts as much as the performances. Without the words, this is an unfortunate mess, just a dumb record of what must have been an exciting stage performance. It's too bad we'll never get to hear it.

Bob


Forbes-Robertson lived quite a long life, and you CAN hear him do HAMLET, albeit in the relaxed tones of an older man: he's still quite engaging:
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSat Jul 14, 2018 4:27 am

FrankFay wrote:
boblipton wrote:This one makes it clear: the movies are not the stage, pageantry is a different matter and Shakespeare is about the words and thoughts as much as the performances. Without the words, this is an unfortunate mess, just a dumb record of what must have been an exciting stage performance. It's too bad we'll never get to hear it.

Bob


Forbes-Robertson lived quite a long life, and you CAN hear him do HAMLET, albeit in the relaxed tones of an older man: he's still quite engaging:


I'm shocked, Eric, since this genial, cocktail-party tone bears more relationship with Mr. Arliss in close-up about 1935 than it does the man who saws the air in 1913. My conclusions are twofold: that Forbes-Robinson understood the difference between the comparative intimacy of a radio (or record) performance and the stage some time later, if he did not understand the distinction between the stage and the screen in 1913 (or thought it did not matter); and that Hay Plumb was not the man to force him into it.

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

PostSat Jul 14, 2018 6:52 am

One of the pleasures of being willing to look at old movies, regardless of their provenance is that I am constantly learning something. In looking at Saved by the Juvenile Court (1913), a 4-minute movie about Judge Ben Lindsey, and a couple more minutes of looking around the Internet, I learned about an interesting jurist who established an early juvenile court in Denver, Colorado, fought for election reform and wrote a a book urging trial marriage in the 1920s -- or, as the article termed it, "Companionate Marriage." Now, here we are, more than a hundred years later, these things accomplished in fact if not quite by legislation.

Oh well. Who knows the name of the fellow who invented the wheel?

Le Frotteur (1907): The maid announces the cleaning man and the master leaves the study. The man proceeds to clean the place with such energy that the furniture is all smashed, the floor is covered with suds so slippery that everyone who enters falls down and the people eating in the apartment a floor below must flee because plaster from the ceiling pelts them.

It's a typical Gaumont half-reel farce for the year and the only point of interest is to wonder which of two possible directors is responsible: Alice Guy or Louis Feuillade? There are several items on the recent Gaumont sets in which the shorts are attributed to one, while the IMDB attributes them to t'other. I'll take a whack at the controversy, split the difference and opine that Madame Guy was probably operating as what we would call a producer today, and Feuillade was the guy looking over the cameraman's shoulder and giving the orders when Madame wasn't there to overrule him.

A film that was definitely directed by Alice Guy is Le Fils Du Garde-Chasse (1906): When two poachers kill a game-keeper in the performance of his duties, his titular child tracks them down. Despite their almost killing him, he leads the police in pursuit of the one who flees.

It's largely a chase movie over wild and varied terrain, shot in the wild. Although the copy I looked at was in a bleached-out and low-contrast condition, it's a very well executed film for its year and will doubtless be even more shocking to the modern audience because of the youth and bloodthirstiness of its protagonist -- even though children, in my experience, tend to be bloodthirstier than better socialized adults -- by that I mean older people who have actually grown up.

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

PostSat Jul 14, 2018 1:22 pm

After watching YOU'D BE SURPRISED (1926), I expected to be in a minority, for though the film is smartly made and clever in a lot of ways, I didn't find it particularly funny after the first reel or so. One writer on IMDb, 'silentmoviefan', was similarly disappointed. Set aboard a houseboat, the host announces a diamond necklace has gone missing, and proposes to put the case on the floor for it to be reinstated while the lights are turned out. Of course in the interim, the old fool is killed himself, and the necklace found on Dorothy Sebastian who has been shoved into a grandfather clock.

Cue innumerable policeman, followed by coroner Raymond Griffith, who is en route to the theatre. Perhaps the music track didn't help, but I found Griffith rather irritating in this spoof of a 'Golden Age' mystery, as he is here terribly smug and facetious. There are bonuses, however, in the attractively gowned ladies on board as well as a black cat who manages to upstage everybody in the film. Of course watching this film with an audience would doubtless help, but for me, the film was rather a letdown, despite input from Jules Furthmann and Robert Benchley.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSat Jul 14, 2018 4:19 pm

"The Ancient Law" (1923, Dupont) (Flicker Alley BR):

Take a 135-min. silent film involving Eastern European Jewish traditions and family strife and suggest it to a modern audience. Watch the room clear... :lol:

The story most probably is the origin of "The Jazz Singer", with a theater-obsessed son of a Rabbi who breaks with tradition to go on the secular stage.

"The Ancient Law" has humor (subtle and broad) and wonderfully telling moments about 'being Jewish' as much in
the year of '23 in Germany when the film was made as in the 1860s Vienna of the story.
The idea of the boy being an actor, maybe even possibly having a non-Jewish fiancee, let alone from the upper classes, is basically heresy to the father, who disowns his son.

One moment in the film is sublime: the father decides reluctantly to read some Shakespeare to understand the play his son is in. The old man, very uncomfortable, instinctively puts the book down backside up, being used to Hebrew right-to-left reading, then turns it over. He might as well have been handling a porn magazine, with the way he looks around to make sure no one sees him...

Wonderful film, great restoration.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSun Jul 15, 2018 7:02 am

General Post (1920) is a children's game in which one child is "General Post Office", and another is blindfolded. That child appoints each of the other children a town, Those children then sit in chairs; when the General Post Office calls out a pair of towns, those children must stand, clap hands, and exchange seats before one can be tagged by the Blind Man. The child who is tagged changes place with the Blind Man.

If the Blind Man is struggling, the General Post Office can announce "General Post", whereupon everyone must stand, clap hands and scramble for a chair before the Blind man can tag anyone. It's a scene of chaos and hilarity.

Robert Henderson Bland -- his best-remembered role is as Jesus in From the Manger to the Cross -- is a tailor in a small English town in 1912. He and Lilian Braithwaite, the daughter of local aristocrat Dawson Milward, are in love with each other, but the family naturally disapproves. He decides to return to London, and she offers to go with him, but he convinces her it would not work. Then World War One comes along and he winds up the Colonel of her brother' regiment...

J.E. Harold Terry wrote the play this movie is based on, and Elliot Stannard opened it up in a fine screenplay, about the stuffiness and class-ridden structure of pre-war and wartime England. Although the arc of the plot will not surprise anyone, director Thomas Bentley demonstrates a fine visual flair for the vignettes that illuminate the eras' moments. Although, in the light of fixed history, the moment's concern may seem trivial to a modern audience, it is a well-rendered contemporary portrait.

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

PostSun Jul 15, 2018 2:30 pm

Secrets of the Night (1924) is one of those "spooky old house" comedy/dramas. This one has James Kirkwood in trouble at his bank. A loan he made (without collateral) has defaulted and the bank examiner is on his way. To divert the examiner, he invites him to his mansion for a big party. At the house we meet various people. There's Madge Bellamy as woman Kirkwood and another guy are interested in. There's the neglected wife (Rosemary Theby), the old maid (Zasu Pitts), the jittery servant (Tom Wilson in blakcface), and other bank board members (including Tom Ricketts without a beard). After Kirkwood is shot, a dumb cop and the coroner arrive and things gets even more bizarre. Goes along nicely enough but I couldn't keep several of the guys separate since they all looked alike and wore the same evening wear. Bellamy has little to do and Theby seems to have the more important role. Pitts and Wilson are very funny. At 75 minutes, it actually seems a tad drawn out, but there's a neat double twist of an ending that makes it all worthwhile. This is an old Grapevine release. No idea how long I've had it.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSun Jul 15, 2018 5:11 pm

I have finally added my name to the list of Nitratevillains who have seen A Message from Mars (1913) and am ready to add my own peculiar comments to the general hubbub. Others have described this movies as a scientifictional version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol and that's not a bad tag. On Mars, where everyone wears Medieval garb except for a big ankh, E. Holman Clark has committed some crime. For his punishment, he has his ankh taken away and must redeem Charles Hawtrey.

This is not the Charles Hawtrey of the CARRY ON films, but a stout, well-to-do man who wants to stay home and read the paper when his fiancee, Crissie Bell wants to go to a dance. After she breaks their engagement and he settles in, a man comes with a note asking if Hawtrey can do something for him. The answer is apparently no. After this, Martian Clark pops in using standard camera tricks, and tries to redeem Earthling Hawtry by tormenting him.

It is based on a play by Richard Ganthony from 1899 and this is believed to be the earliest British sf feature -- make of those distinctions what you will. I found the hour-long restoration a bit abrupt, but well carried out, the story well acted and the print quite watchable; doubtless the tinting helped. I am always glad to see any early movie restored, and to see one, like this, that is quite watchable on its own terms, is a pleasure.

What I found distinctly not a pleasure is the sound track that the BFI allowed this to be saddled with by Matthew Herbert, credited here as "Sound Designer." I have heard Mr. Herbert's work previously on the Best Foreign Oscar-winning Una Mujer Fantastica, and he is certainly competent in that. For this movie, his sound design sounds as if part of it has been lifted from the 1960s version of Doctor Who; the music, including dance music, is something I can only describe as electro-junkyard Reggae; and his idea of what an Edwardian London Street sounds like on a clear, clean evening, is the Indianapolis Speedway on a slushy afternoon. Other sound effects are equally over-the-top.

Like many a contemporary musical artist brought in to compose for a silent movie, Mr.Herbert seems to think that there are silent movie fans who will watch this regardless, so he needs to get in the kids who wouldn't watch it without the weird and ugly music. The result, I fear, will be something that will please no one but Mr. Herbert. People like me, who enjoy silent movies, will be rude about it, and the kids won't come to see this movie anyway. Not until they have gone to a lot of the more easily accessible silents. At that point, they will, at best, be puzzled.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostSun Jul 15, 2018 5:24 pm

drednm wrote:Secrets of the Night (1924) is one of those "spooky old house" comedy/dramas. This one has James Kirkwood in trouble at his bank. A loan he made (without collateral) has defaulted and the bank examiner is on his way. To divert the examiner, he invites him to his mansion for a big party. At the house we meet various people. There's Madge Bellamy as woman Kirkwood and another guy are interested in. There's the neglected wife (Rosemary Theby), the old maid (Zasu Pitts), the jittery servant (Tom Wilson in blakcface), and other bank board members (including Tom Ricketts without a beard). After Kirkwood is shot, a dumb cop and the coroner arrive and things gets even more bizarre. Goes along nicely enough but I couldn't keep several of the guys separate since they all looked alike and wore the same evening wear. Bellamy has little to do and Theby seems to have the more important role. Pitts and Wilson are very funny. At 75 minutes, it actually seems a tad drawn out, but there's a neat double twist of an ending that makes it all worthwhile. This is an old Grapevine release. No idea how long I've had it.


I tried watching this film years ago, and very quickly got so bored that i engaged in a minute comparison of all the mens tuxedo jackets (though i believe the oldest man had a tailcoat). I compared the lapel styling and the button arrangement etc. I surmised that they were probably wearing their own evening wear and wondered about the chronology of the styles and whether any were the latest in 1924 fashion. I remember nothing else about the film.

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

PostSun Jul 15, 2018 6:10 pm

Fougere (1899): Eugenie Fougere was a popular French performer of the danse epileptique, a sexy cakewalk -- actually, there were two performers the same name, and for a while they actually lived in the same street in Paris. The one in this movie came over to the U.S. and premiered here at Koster & Bial's Music Hall in 1891, where the first public exhibition of motion pictures took place on April 23, 1896 -- where Macy's is today.

Anyway, here she is, prancing about, her skirts raised high. If you're wondering if she ever performed at the Folies Bergeres .... how could you doubt it?

A Ballroom Tragedy (1905) A man and a woman, both in evening dress, sit on a couch, while another woman sneaks up behind them. As the couple on the couch begin to neck passionately, the second woman plunges a knife into the first's back. As one woman falls dead, the other makes her escape.

In this brief scene shot by Billy Bitzer for Biograph, we are presented with an entire story of sexual betrayal and revenge. The audience can infer the entire course of events from less than a minute of screen time. It's a startlingly effective bit of story-telling that draws in the viewer, forcing him or her to come up with the entire matter: emotions, planning, and even what happens afterwards... according to the sentiments of audience

The Society Raffles: A man in evening clothes speaks to a burglar at a window, then sits with a young woman on a couch in front of the window. As they flirt, he removes a tiara from her head unnoticed, and passes it to the burglar.

There are no tickets here, except for those sold to see the movie. The Raffles here is a reference to E.W. Hornung's gentleman jewel thief. It's hard to say whether this movie is meant to be shocking or funny in its brief length: quite probably both.

Modern viewers will look on the clothes that the performers wear as cartoonish, but in the era, clothes were considered class markers, even as today one might judge people who wear certain sorts of clothes to be employed in certain lines work. When was the last time you saw a computer programmer who regularly wore a three-piece suit?

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

PostMon Jul 16, 2018 4:49 am

greta de groat wrote:
drednm wrote:Secrets of the Night (1924) is one of those "spooky old house" comedy/dramas. This one has James Kirkwood in trouble at his bank. A loan he made (without collateral) has defaulted and the bank examiner is on his way. To divert the examiner, he invites him to his mansion for a big party. At the house we meet various people. There's Madge Bellamy as woman Kirkwood and another guy are interested in. There's the neglected wife (Rosemary Theby), the old maid (Zasu Pitts), the jittery servant (Tom Wilson in blakcface), and other bank board members (including Tom Ricketts without a beard). After Kirkwood is shot, a dumb cop and the coroner arrive and things gets even more bizarre. Goes along nicely enough but I couldn't keep several of the guys separate since they all looked alike and wore the same evening wear. Bellamy has little to do and Theby seems to have the more important role. Pitts and Wilson are very funny. At 75 minutes, it actually seems a tad drawn out, but there's a neat double twist of an ending that makes it all worthwhile. This is an old Grapevine release. No idea how long I've had it.


I tried watching this film years ago, and very quickly got so bored that i engaged in a minute comparison of all the mens tuxedo jackets (though i believe the oldest man had a tailcoat). I compared the lapel styling and the button arrangement etc. I surmised that they were probably wearing their own evening wear and wondered about the chronology of the styles and whether any were the latest in 1924 fashion. I remember nothing else about the film.

greta


LOL. I admit the first 10 minutes are deadly dull while they set up the bank loan story. And James Kirkwood seems very wooden.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostMon Jul 16, 2018 6:04 am

In Old California, two mysterious strangers with papers identifying themselves as anonymous agents of the governor show up at a Presidio. They are Johnnie Walker and Francis MacDonald. Each claims to be seeking to capture Captain Fly-by Night (1922), a mysterious road agent who has wound up as the head of a conspiracy of peons and Indians to take over Mexico. Meanwhile, lovely senorita Shannon Day is affianced to a man she has never seen.

Given Douglas Fairbanks' great success in Zorro, everyone wanted to get into the act, and Robertson-Cole, which specialized in B westerns and cheap melodramas thought this Johnston McCulley story was the property for it to do so, and Walker the star to do it with. He had had a great success with Over the Hill at Fox a couple of years earlier, but had a hard time maintaining his standing with the majors, despite obvious talent. He would end his silent career at Columbia, working with Frank Capra as studio and director struggled to work their way into respectability; then Walker would disappear into bit roles in the sound era.

There are some fine stunts here, and a nicely shot sword fight in a bell tower, but despite the usual bravura framing shots by director William K. Howard and cinematographer Lucien Andriot, everyone knew they were filming a western with some swordplay.

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

PostMon Jul 16, 2018 6:33 am

drednm wrote:
LOL. I admit the first 10 minutes are deadly dull while they set up the bank loan story. And James Kirkwood seems very wooden.


I've seen Kirkwood in The Devil's Holiday (1930) and he's extremely stagy- which probably served him well on the stage since he was quite successful. Hard to believe his son wrote A CHORUS LINE.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostMon Jul 16, 2018 6:43 am

FrankFay wrote:
drednm wrote:
LOL. I admit the first 10 minutes are deadly dull while they set up the bank loan story. And James Kirkwood seems very wooden.


I've seen Kirkwood in The Devil's Holiday (1930) and he's extremely stagy- which probably served him well on the stage since he was quite successful. Hard to believe his son wrote A CHORUS LINE.


I seem to recall that A Chorus Line was devised more than written, by talking with the original performers and writing up their own histories in sides and song. So: more a concept and editing job than a writing job.

I thought it was pretty shmaltzy when I saw it several years into its run.

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

PostMon Jul 16, 2018 11:27 am

boblipton wrote:
FrankFay wrote:
drednm wrote:
LOL. I admit the first 10 minutes are deadly dull while they set up the bank loan story. And James Kirkwood seems very wooden.


I've seen Kirkwood in The Devil's Holiday (1930) and he's extremely stagy- which probably served him well on the stage since he was quite successful. Hard to believe his son wrote A CHORUS LINE.


I seem to recall that A Chorus Line was devised more than written, by talking with the original performers and writing up their own histories in sides and song. So: more a concept and editing job than a writing job.

I thought it was pretty shmaltzy when I saw it several years into its run.

Bob


Same here- something very traditional, despite the "tits and ass". The basic concept could have served as a precode film
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

PostMon Jul 16, 2018 2:01 pm

Aside from Humberston Wright, none of the main players in TRAPPED BY THE LONDON SHARKS (1916) made a sound film. Wright plays a drunken sot who thinks that he has killed his wife in an argument and becomes the catspaw for a couple of crooks who run a prosperous-looking night club as well as having another house full of trapdoors and suchlike.

These two rotters comprise a presumably fake Baron as well as a likewise Countess who is as attractive as she is venal, puffing poison gas from a bracelet at every sign of resistance. This gas seems rather selective, as it bumps off the poor bank guard near the beginning but lets off the Police Inspector and jail guard with perhaps a slight headache. The pair involve the poor sap by suggesting that he has killed the victim of some card sharping, who is then dispatched into a cob=nvenient stream.

The wife, who has nor died after all, leaves and works in a sweatshop, but is sacked after she rebuffs the odious advances of her boss, a visit to a pawnshop (rather pricey goods) leads to a job with the Inspector...

TRAPPED BY THE LONDON SHARKS is not as entertaining as one might expect, and there are a few unconvincing moments such as when the crooks use their ill-gotten gains to buy jewellery and the odd riverside tea. The two ladies, Blanche Forsythe and Maud Yates (also to be seen in THE LURE OF DRINK the previous year give good accounts of themselves as does Hugh Nicolson as 'The Baron', but the plotting and unconvincing elements subtract from the general effect...
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