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

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

Unread post by R Michael Pyle » Mon Jul 16, 2018 2:06 pm

I watched the silent version of "The Informer" (1929) with Lya de Putti, Lars Hanson, Warwick Ward, Carl Harbord, Daisy Campbell, and several others. I used to own an old VHS copy of this, though it was the goat-glanded sound version. I thought the film was quite good actually, especially in comparison with the 1935 sound release directed by John Ford in which Victor McLaglen won the Academy Award for Best Actor. But this new release from the British Film Institute is so spectacular as to be breathtaking. The completely silent version, too, is far, far better than the part-talkie goat-glanded version. I was in awe all the way through this thing. The photography is outstanding in every way, and it will remind any viewer of Film Noir or German Weimar Republic era psychological drama. Lya de Putti only has to move an eye to make all kinds of emotions happen and invite emotions from viewers at the same time. Lars Hanson (the informer, Gypo Nolan) and Carl Harbord (the IRA person who accidentally has killed the Chief of Police and who is informed on) are equally stellar in their performances. Warwick Ward as the IRA Cap'n couldn't be better, and he's abetted by some great actors as his toughs who go after the informer. They really did have faces then! If you've never seen any version of this film, look for the 1935 version and watch it; but, afterwards, you'll be thunderstruck if you like silent film and are able to see this BFI restored presentation. The disc set has both the silent and the sound versions and is presented as a Blu-Ray/DVD double set with several additional things on the discs. It is, however, in PAL only.

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

Unread post by earlytalkiebuffRob » Tue Jul 17, 2018 1:21 pm

William S Hart again plays the good-bad-man in THE CRADLE OF COURAGE (1920), set in 1919 San Francisco. Hart plays one-time crook 'Square' Kelly, whose time in the trenches has taught him a thing or two, and he is given the chance of a new slate if he joins the Police Force.

Of course this has repercussions, initially in the form of his old Ma, who turfs him out. Needless to say his old pals aren't too cheerful, as they had been counting on Kelly to bring their schemes to fruition, his old partner Tierney (Tom Santschi) being particularly displeased. Kelly starts to leave, but when Tierney accuses his old comrades of being 'yellow' a battle royal ensues.

Needless to say there is the usual girl (Ann Little) who seems about half Hart's age*, and who has been taken in by Tierney, only to be used as bait for the drinkers in his club. Very soon, a 'job' is in the offing, but Hart keeps to the straight and narrow, although there are complications and misunderstandings along the way. Despite a rather convoluted housebreaking scene near the end of the film, this is a very decent and absorbing character study, handsomely shot by Joseph August and directed by Lambert Hillyer. Oh, and the 'Cradle of Courage' is a reference to the Great War...

Little was actually 28-29, and her last film was in 1925. She died fifty-nine years later, aged 93!

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

Unread post by boblipton » Tue Jul 17, 2018 3:45 pm

A Railway Tragedy (1904) This film in six scenes has a woman preparing to take a train while a man, unknown to her, watches her. In the train, they are in the same compartment. When she falls asleep, he rifles her purse. She wakes and accuses him and he throws her off the train.

Other than its distributor (Gaumont British) there are no known credits for this short film, which uses simple camera set-ups to tell its paranoid story. Like other British films of the era, it is thoroughly middle-class, warning respectable women to be on their guard at all times. Evil men men will steal your money and try to kill you! The only clue you might have is that they wear their mustaches a little long!

Excuse me while I go trim my mustache.

Los Héroes Del Citio De Zaragoza (1903): This is an early directorial credit for Segundo de Chomon, before he became Pathe's go-to director for Melies-style movies. It's based on the Battle of Saragossa in the War of 1710, but it doesn't concern the great and mighty. It's about two or three of the common people who, when the soldiers failed, took up their positions and defended their city from the enemy.

The film as it exists is in terrible shape. It's seven shots and three titles, several of which are repeated. Whether that was the way it was originally presented is impossible to tell. The actions are not framed by the familiar rectangular outline, but are set within an oval. It's more an extended and slightly animated tableau vivante than what would be considered a movie today.

An Extraordinary Cab Accident (1903) A man and a woman are chatting, when a horse-drawn cab strikes the man, runs him over and kills him. People gather and try to help him, but he is dead. Then he stands up and he and the woman run off.

This was directed by Walter Booth for Robert Paul. Booth, like Georges Melies, was a former stage magician, and he was interested in camera tricks and what could be done with them -- in many ways, he developed alongside Melies, who stole one or two of Booth's movies and redid them as his own. Booth would eventually move more securely into animation before having his film career peter out in 1918.

Like Melies' shorter works, the point of the film is the gag. How is the man run over, and then fine? The modern viewer can easily figure it out, although it is well executed.

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

Unread post by FrankFay » Tue Jul 17, 2018 4:41 pm

boblipton wrote: Like Melies' shorter works, the point of the film is the gag. How is the man run over, and then fine? The modern viewer can easily figure it out, although it is well executed.

Bob
What made me laugh is that the viewpoint of the gag is so current - a young couple pulls a tasteless and shocking prank and then runs away laughing and all but shouting "PUNKED!"
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Unread post by boblipton » Tue Jul 17, 2018 4:48 pm

FrankFay wrote:
boblipton wrote: Like Melies' shorter works, the point of the film is the gag. How is the man run over, and then fine? The modern viewer can easily figure it out, although it is well executed.

Bob
What made me laugh is that the viewpoint of the gag is so current - a young couple pulls a tasteless and shouking prand and then runs way laughing and all but shouting "PUNKED!"

I think it's a shame that Booth is largely forgotten. I love Melies, but the legend of the lone genius plowing his field, while the world ignores him does a grave disservce to the actual history. Booth and de Chomon are both largely forgotten, and they neither of them deserve it.

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

Unread post by boblipton » Tue Jul 17, 2018 7:35 pm

EarlytalkieRob noted last year of Maytime (1923) that it's unfair to write a review of an incomplete film and I agree. It's not going to stop me, however, except to note that it's a pity that it is incomplete -- missing, as it does, the last 20, 2-strip-Technicolor minutes -- and that there is serious degradation in the remaining sections, ameliorated by a red tint on the restored print.

Ethel Shannon and Harrison Ford (the silent star, not Indiana Jones) are young lovers in Pre-Civil-War New York, but he is a poor gardener working for her rich father, who insists she marry her annoying cousin. Ford goes out to California to get rich, and returns, just as she has been married, and a scandal is threatened, which he averts by marrying Ethel's cousin, Clara Bow -- surely not a fate worse than death -- and again, the lovers are parted. However, in Jazz Age New York their grandchildren, who bear the same names (and are played by the same actors) know and like each other....

Well, most of that last part is the missing footage, even if the course of events is covered in the restoration's titles and fairly obvious to anyone who knows how dramas of this variety go. It's all based on a hit Broadway show by Cyrus Wood and Rida Johnson Young, with a famous libretto by Sigmund Romberg. The title and score were plundered a decade and a half later for one of the Jeanette MacDonald-Nelson Eddy movies.

This one is notable for its production values, for its recreation of New York before the Civil War, and for some fine make-up work on the leads, which serve to actually make them look old when appropriate. Also, the actors are very good. They play two sets of very distinct characters, one set of them at various ages, and succeed in making them all believable.

The story may seem corny -- as a modern New Yorker, it's sometimes hard to believe that the Little Old New York shown in this movie ever sat on the same land where skyscrapers now tower -- even though I live in a brownstone whose skeleton was erected before the events of the show took place. Yet, grown old and, yes, sentimental, I like to believe in the reality of such things, and this movie -- the parts of it that, like Old New York, survive -- pleases me greatly.

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

Unread post by boblipton » Wed Jul 18, 2018 7:35 am

The Poachers aka A Desperate Poaching Affray (1903) Men with guns flee from other men, police and dogs in this film by Walter Hagar.

One of the IMDb reviews claims this is the first chase film. My immediate reaction to any claims of a cinematic first is denial, but a brief search shows that fellow British director, Alf Collins, who was accounted a specialist in chases, released his first chase film a month later. Then I remembered A Daylight Robbery, which had been released in July of that year.... and I await reports of earlier examples.

Regardless of who was first, it wouldn't take long for the genre to ripen. The following year there would be chase comedies, like How a French Nobleman Found a Wife Through the 'New York Herald' Personal Advertisements.

It's also a very advanced movie for 1903, starting off with a panning shot in the first of five scenes.

Stop, Thief! (1901): No sooner do I write a review in which I cast doubts on the idea that the first chase film was made in 1903, but I look at this amusing James Williamson comedy from 1901, in which a tramp steals a leg of lamb and is pursued in three scenes by an irate housewife and a pack of assorted dogs.

I've seen this movie before, which causes me repeat two things: first, be very careful when you proclaim something as a "first" in film history; and second, rely on no opinions save your own. Other peoples' opinions may give you an interesting idea, an interpretation that you might not have thought of on your own, that you realize is a pretty good one, but your esthetic is the proper guide to what is good in movies.

By the way, the housewife in this movie is quite obviously a man.

The Waif and the Wizard (1901) A ragged boy clambers onto a stage to ask a magician a favor. The magician transforms the boy into an umbrella and takes the boy to his home, where he prepares a magical feast for the boy's mother and sick sister.

It's Walter Booth at his most Melies-like, with a bit of social commentary in it. If you can call spirits from the vasty deep, how about calling up a decent meal for me mum? It's quite unusual for an early British film-maker. Most of them were more concerned that gypsies would steal their babies, or poachers would shoot their grouse.

The wizard of the title is uncredited. I like to think it's Booth, who had begun as a stage magician and hadn't lost the common touch.

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

Unread post by Big Silent Fan » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:49 am

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:William S Hart again plays the good-bad-man in THE CRADLE OF COURAGE (1920), set in 1919 San Francisco. Hart plays one-time crook 'Square' Kelly, whose time in the trenches has taught him a thing or two, and he is given the chance of a new slate if he joins the Police Force.
Thanks for the tip since the film was posted to YouTube just three days ago.
I watched sans music, since with all the military parades and war scenes included in this San Francisco crime tale, I couldn't imagine what might be suitable to use. I enjoyed imagining 'Ma' Kelly was played by an old lady, someone like 'Granny' in "The Beverly Hillbillies," but a little tougher like James Cagney's 'Ma' in his crime film. I liked how the film ended with a soldier playing taps on a bugle.
Hart films always include an unexpected twist in the story, making them worth watching. This, and "The Whistle" (1921) are the only two non-westerns I've seen.

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

Unread post by earlytalkiebuffRob » Wed Jul 18, 2018 1:53 pm

Long unavailable, CHICAGO (1927) has recently resurfaced in a superb print, with a very nice score, although I did wonder the wisdom of the odd sound effect. No matter, what we have is story which has taken many forms, and which was based on a real-life case.

Phyllis Haver plays the sexy, but fickle and material-minded wife of shopworker Victor Varconi, who seems a nice, but dullish fellow. While at work, Haver invites 'sugar-daddy' Eugene Pallette upstairs, not realising that he is intending to give her the air, owing to her extravagance. When Pallette refuses to cough up any more, she shoots and kills him, leading to a spectacular and amusing trial. Unbeknown to Haver, Pallette had just been to buy some baccy, giving the lie to her burglar story.

Along the way, we have a wonderful prison scene, with some fruity inmates (including a possible pair of lesbians) being presided over by matron May Robson, a vindictive D.A., splendidly played by Warner Richmond, and a crooked lawyer, in the form of Robert Edeson. Further amusement is provided when Varconi has scraped up $2,500 (rather a lot for a chap who works in a tobacco shop) for the defence and has to cough up the same again. He then decides to rob the fellow to get the remainder, finding it is in fact crooked money as well, having been delivered by thug Walter Long in an all-too-brief cameo, before the climactic trial. Oh, and the nice, pretty cleaning lady (Virginia Bradford) has a yen for Varconi...

The direction of CHICAGO is credited to Frank Urson, who was unknown to me, possibly due to his career being cut short by his death the following year. Other notable credits are Peverell Marley, Mitchell Leisen and Leonore Coffee, and the whole thing is very handsomely presented, with a nice score from Rodney Sauer.

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

Unread post by earlytalkiebuffRob » Wed Jul 18, 2018 2:18 pm

Big Silent Fan wrote:
earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:William S Hart again plays the good-bad-man in THE CRADLE OF COURAGE (1920), set in 1919 San Francisco. Hart plays one-time crook 'Square' Kelly, whose time in the trenches has taught him a thing or two, and he is given the chance of a new slate if he joins the Police Force.
Thanks for the tip since the film was posted to YouTube just three days ago.
I watched sans music, since with all the military parades and war scenes included in this San Francisco crime tale, I couldn't imagine what might be suitable to use. I enjoyed imagining 'Ma' Kelly was played by an old lady, someone like 'Granny' in "The Beverly Hillbillies," but a little tougher like James Cagney's 'Ma' in his crime film. I liked how the film ended with a soldier playing taps on a bugle.
Hart films always include an unexpected twist in the story, making them worth watching. This, and "The Whistle" (1921) are the only two non-westerns I've seen.
Yes, apart from whistling 'Over There', did not do any music either... And THE WHISTLE is even better...

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

Unread post by Big Silent Fan » Wed Jul 18, 2018 3:42 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:
Big Silent Fan wrote:
earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:William S Hart again plays the good-bad-man in THE CRADLE OF COURAGE (1920), set in 1919 San Francisco. Hart plays one-time crook 'Square' Kelly, whose time in the trenches has taught him a thing or two, and he is given the chance of a new slate if he joins the Police Force.
Thanks for the tip since the film was posted to YouTube just three days ago.
I watched sans music, since with all the military parades and war scenes included in this San Francisco crime tale, I couldn't imagine what might be suitable to use. I enjoyed imagining 'Ma' Kelly was played by an old lady, someone like 'Granny' in "The Beverly Hillbillies," but a little tougher like James Cagney's 'Ma' in his crime film. I liked how the film ended with a soldier playing taps on a bugle.
Hart films always include an unexpected twist in the story, making them worth watching. This, and "The Whistle" (1921) are the only two non-westerns I've seen.
Yes, apart from whistling 'Over There', did not do any music either... And THE WHISTLE is even better...
Agreed.
In The Cradle, you can watch Hart being too melodramatic, jerking his head and face back and forth, attempting to add more drama than was possible by the simple movement. He was more natural in The Whistle.

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

Unread post by boblipton » Wed Jul 18, 2018 5:29 pm

Hal Roach's silent shorts distributed by MGM are hard to find because they were never released to either the home market like his earlier movies, distributed by Pathe, but Crazy House (1928) turned up in a nicely tinted copy derived from the French release. It's an Our Gang and I'm a fan of them, although this one is a bit weak. Jean Darling is the poor-little rich-girl and her father has invited the gang in for a party. Since it's April Fool's Day, he's wired the house to give the guests electric shocks, is offering them food made of sponge rubber and similar gags. Only Jay Smith as a Little Lord Fauntleroy type of kid is in on the gag, and he uses it to torment the kids.

As usual, it's fun to watch the kids behave as kids, and Miss Darling is pretty good. Most engaging, though, are Mary Jane Jackson, whose wide-eyed, confused reaction to the weirdness is the only thing that makes sense,and of course, Pete the Pup (who's called "Pansy" in several of the silents, for reasons I don't understand. Pete's real name was Pal and he rose to fame playing Tige in a weird series of Buster Brown shorts for Century Films before he debuted with the Rascals in 1927. He was a regular until 1931, then retired (except for a cameo in a Bob Hope short in 1935) and lived until 1946, a fine age for the best dog in the movies.

Over all, though, it's rather crueler to the kids than I like, and far more calculated than the good ones. Even so, it's good to have.

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

Unread post by FrankFay » Wed Jul 18, 2018 6:56 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote: The direction of CHICAGO is credited to Frank Urson, who was unknown to me, possibly due to his career being cut short by his death the following year. Other notable credits are Peverell Marley, Mitchell Leisen and Leonore Coffee, and the whole thing is very handsomely presented, with a nice score from Rodney Sauer.
Urson was a cinematographer & assistant director to DeMille as well as directing some of the secondary films from DeMille productions. CHICAGO is several cuts above his usual level & there is an opinion that DeMille directed much of this film but gave Urson the screen credit to keep his name associated with his more prestigious effort of 1927, KING OF KINGS.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Unread post by boblipton » Wed Jul 18, 2018 8:05 pm

Playin' Hookey (1928) When the kids spot a cops-and-robbers chase being filmed on the street, they go to take a look and overhear that the trained dog the director wanted is in a von Stroheim picture for the next four years. Joe Cobb immediately offers Pete the Pup for the job, and Our Gang goes along to the studio. Pete is a wash-out, but when they are ordered off the set, Pete goes into action and everyone runs wild throughout the open sets.

Everyone who loves Hal Roach's Rascals has a favorite, and Pete is mine: the finest dog ever on the movie screen, and he gets to unleash all of his tricks in this episode of the long-running series that has the kids being kids -- and also, makes fun of the movie-making industry of the era. It also has a lot more adults than most of the shorts in the series, as Roach regulars like Sam Lufkin, Charlie Hall and Tiny Sandford take a break from the Laurel & Hardy and Charley Chase units to play studio personnel. See if you can spot the all the supporting comics, and watch out for the pantomime rhinoceros!

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

Unread post by Rodney » Wed Jul 18, 2018 9:32 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:Long unavailable, CHICAGO (1927) has recently resurfaced in a superb print, with a very nice score, although I did wonder the wisdom of the odd sound effect.
Thanks for the kind words. I don’t usually do a lot of sound effects, but this score was based largely on the original cue sheet, which calls for those sound effects. And I thought that it worked pretty well... for a silent film, Chicago has an awful lot of auditory material shown on screen that the characters react to (though not as much as the movie “Silence.”). If you read the essays included with the DVD, there's evidence that a lot of the film—perhaps most— was directed by Cecil B DeMille himself. It would explain why a copy of the film was in his personal vault.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Unread post by boblipton » Thu Jul 19, 2018 5:41 am

I thought I had seen just about every one of the Our Gang shorts, from the early, plotless ones before they figured out what they were doing, to the last obnoxious MGM offerings. I was delighted to find one new to me, Tired Business Men (1927) in a fuzzy but pleasantly amber-toned copy. Fat boy Joe Cobb wants to join the kid's club, but their initiation is rougher than a fraternity hazing, and he gets kicked out. He vows his vengeance, so the Gang threatens to cut off his appendix. Joe's father is a cop, so he convinces them he can use his whistle to summon a horde of policemen and bluffs his way into leadership and tormenting them as they had him.

It's one of the shorts in which Our Gang has duplicated something adult to the best of their ability, using old junk and animal-powered contraptions. While it's not my favorite variety of the Gang's adventures -- those are the ones in which the kids fill up two reels with random bits of kids doing kid's stuff -- it does showcase series mastermind Bob McGowan's charming ability to remember how we thought when we were kids and were so anxious to be adults. Alas, now that I am, I never realized how good I had it!

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

Unread post by Daveismyhero » Thu Jul 19, 2018 9:50 am

I watched An Eastern Westerner (1920) last night. It was pretty solid Harold Lloyd fare, and it was nice seeing a silent once again.

Now I need to figure out what to watch next!
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Unread post by boblipton » Thu Jul 19, 2018 1:23 pm

I see Bruce Calvert saw Barnum & Ringling, Inc. (1928) several years ago. The copy I saw was a nice amber-toned version with what claimed to be the original synchronized sound track and effects. Our Gang is in a hotel, where they have decided to set up a circus. This is the sort of thing they did throughout the years, resulting in the usual frenetic chaos. Doubtless the decision by series runner Bob McGowan to locate the action in a high-toned hotel seemed like a funny one. Animals running amok! I'm afraid that, despite my fondness for the Little Rascals, the set-up looks forced and un-natural, and the kids were always best just being natural, or at least looking natural. There's a word for that: verisimilitude. That's what's lacking here.

Jean Darling does some more of her poor-little-rich-girl shtick, where she's oh, so sweet, and oh, so annoying. Here she likes to stick pins into people. For those of you who like to play spot the star, hang around until the end for Oliver Hardy. It's the last time for a decade you'd see him without Stan Laurel. Other than that, it's an amusing entry in the series that you won't need to look at again

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

Unread post by boblipton » Thu Jul 19, 2018 3:33 pm

The last of the cache of late silent Our Gangs was the best of the lot: The Spanking Age (1928) has Mary Ann Jackson and Wheezer dealing with Evil Stepmother Lyle Tayo. She takes her own daughter, Jean Darling, to a swell party, leaving the others to mind the house and answer the door. So the three of them -- did I mention Pete the Pup? -- decide to throw a party and invite the Gang.

I always find the episodes in the series where the kids are just being kids the most enjoyable, and in this one, watching Mary Ann and Wheezer go about their nonsensical business in a perfectly serious manner is a lot of fun. Mary Ann had come to Roach from the Sennett studio, where she was the child in the Smith Family series (a couple would be released after this short). Bobby 'Wheezer' Hutchins, on the other hand, was a Roach veteran, having been a member of the Rascals since the age of 2 -- that was 1927, the year before this movie, and he had been the star of The Old Wallop. So they were both seasoned veterans.

And Pete? Pete was the best dog on the movie screen. Enjoy.

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

Unread post by boblipton » Fri Jul 20, 2018 6:55 am

Looking at Stop, Thief! the other day reminded me that I hadn't looked at the movies of James Williamson in, oh, quite a while. He was born in 1855 and came into film-making not through photography, but because he ran a chemist shop -- where he presumably developed film -- and expanded into selling photographic equipment, in Hove, quite near George A. Smith's St Ann's Well Pleasure Garden. Besides shooting and directing his own films, he patented a couple of devices useful for film production, founded a company to produce photographic equipment that was active at least until the Second World War, and lived until 1933.

An Interesting Story (1904): A man is reading a book at breakfast, which absorbs him so completely that he pours coffee into his hat. He continues reading it as he walks into the street, colliding with various people..... and a steam roller in this amusing variation on Walter Booth's An Extraordinary Cab Accident

The IMDb trivia for this movie notes that this is considered to be the earliest slapstick film -- obviously no one has ever heard of at least three version of The Miller and the Sweep released in 1897.

The Big Swallow (1901) aka A Photographic Contortion: Sam Dalton objects strongly as the camera slowly dollies in on him. As it approaches his face, he opens his mouth wide and swallows it, chewing lustily!

There are none of the usual claims for a cinematic first here, nor should there be, since Melies had been doing this for a couple of years. Nonetheless, it's using a cinematic technique for a laugh, something that Williamson was adept at.

Fire! (1901) A policeman spots a fire in a home He tries the windows, but they are locked. He runs to the nearest fire station. Will they be able to save the residents.

It's a very impressive movie for 1901, shot in five scenes. Each of the sequences begins with a life-threatening situation: can the policeman get into the house and help the occupants? Can the fire brigade get the equipment on the street? Can they get to the house in time? .... and so forth. The camera placement is simple and the editing is, by modern standards, simple. Time is linear within the movie; cross-cutting has not yet shown up. Even so, it plays very well, even today.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Thu Aug 09, 2018 8:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Life's too short to sit on our rears watching other people's work.
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Jim Roots
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Unread post by Jim Roots » Fri Jul 20, 2018 9:14 am

Buck Jones was already a big cowboy star when he ventured into Charles Ray territory with a couple of hick-country-boy sentimental rural fantasies, including Lazybones (1925). Given his wealth of experience playing Westerners (he’d been in the movies since 1917), perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us that he was good in these non-cowboy flicks. He actually could act, if not particularly deeply: he knew the roles and he could feel the characters with genuineness.

Where he differed noticeably from Ray’s bashful, naïve, ambitious barefoot lads was in playing his rubes as lazy, good-for-nothing layabouts – good-natured, slow-movin’, work-shunnin’, not very bright sleepers content to Rip Van Winkle their entire lives away. Even when he goes to war, his “Lazybones” character snoozes throughout a vicious trench battle, barely waking enough to accidentally capture a German division.

With his hair inexplicably half-greyed – he’s too lethargic to have been frightened sufficiently by warfare to have had it turn white on him, so this cosmetic affectation really makes no sense – he laconically moseys back home and resumes his slumbers. The orphaned child he had raised from babyhood is now a pretty 20-year-old, and he falls in love with her and decides he’s going to marry her. Completely putting aside the age difference of at least 20 years, this is highly creepy. He was almost literally her uncle and in-all-but-name her actual father since birth, and he thinks he’s going to wed her? Ick!

Madge Bellamy plays the grown-up girl, and she is very childishly attractive – that is, her prettiness is immense, but it is as immature as a 12-year-old’s prettiness. The actresses who play the same girl at younger ages are also very, very good, and believable as the same person (they look alike just enough). ZaSu Pitts plays the birth-mother in her typical, extremely limited manner: loads of staring through her gigantic eyes as though uncomprehending of the world in all its aspects, very occasionally leavened by semi-hysterics.

It’s a very pleasant movie, as unambitious as Jones’ character, and just as successful in winning our affection.

Jim

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

Unread post by boblipton » Fri Jul 20, 2018 2:07 pm

The Boy and the Convict (1909): A boy is visiting his mother's grave when an escaped convict comes upon him and pleads for his aid. The boy fetches him food and helps strike off his fetters. After he flees, he even sets the pursuers on the wrong path. Seven years later, the escaped man is a wealthy Australian miner. Remembering the lad who had done him a good deed, he makes him a rich man. However, the free man is not content, but must return to England, his wife and child....

Those of us who are fans of Charles Dickens will instantly recognize this as a heavily abridged version of Great Expectations, lumbered with a happy ending.It's an elaborate British production and therefore cinematically primitive. George A. Smith's experiments of a decade earlier had washed over the landscape and receded, leaving no apparent trace behind.The camera sits in the middle of the audience and the show show proceeds between the proscenium arch.

Elsewhere, there are signs of experimentation, even in Britain, where Percy Stowe is doing interesting work, but for the moment, director David Aylott's entire interest lies in putting on Dickens for the cheap nickelodeon seats. Because Dickens sells.

Why did Dickens sell? And why does he still sell? In large part, because of his characters drawn from life (so well drawn that for a century most writers just used them without bothering their own eyes and ear) and stories of real suffering, but mostly, I think, because he understood the pacing and the scene-writing. He grew up with the budding and blooming precursor technology to the cinema, the magic lantern, and a lot of the techniques from that carried over to modern story-telling. As a result, so does Dickens.

Besides, it's easier than coming up with new ideas. Just ask the BBC with their endless remakes of Jane Austen and Agatha Christie.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Sat Jul 21, 2018 7:15 am, edited 2 times in total.
Life's too short to sit on our rears watching other people's work.
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earlytalkiebuffRob
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Unread post by earlytalkiebuffRob » Fri Jul 20, 2018 2:42 pm

Rodney wrote:
earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:Long unavailable, CHICAGO (1927) has recently resurfaced in a superb print, with a very nice score, although I did wonder the wisdom of the odd sound effect.
Thanks for the kind words. I don’t usually do a lot of sound effects, but this score was based largely on the original cue sheet, which calls for those sound effects. And I thought that it worked pretty well... for a silent film, Chicago has an awful lot of auditory material shown on screen that the characters react to (though not as much as the movie “Silence.”). If you read the essays included with the DVD, there's evidence that a lot of the film—perhaps most— was directed by Cecil B DeMille himself. It would explain why a copy of the film was in his personal vault.
If the effects were in the original cue sheets, that's another matter. My concern wasn't so much their effectiveness but whether they gave a different experience to that had by original viewers. And I confess to having found it on YouTube, although didn't realise it was on DVD. Until recently I didn't even know it was extant! And had been told about the possible DeMille input...
Last edited by earlytalkiebuffRob on Fri Jul 20, 2018 2:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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

Unread post by earlytalkiebuffRob » Fri Jul 20, 2018 2:46 pm

boblipton wrote:The last of the cache of late silent Our Gangs was the best of the lot: The Spanking Age (1928) has Mary Ann Jackson and Wheezer dealing with Evil Stepmother Lyle Tayo. She takes her own daughter, Jean Darling, to a swell party, leaving the others to mind the house and answer the door. So the three of them -- did I mention Pete the Pup? -- decide to throw a party and invite the Gang.

I always find the episodes in the series where the kids are just being kids the most enjoyable, and in this one, watching Mary Ann and Wheezer go about their nonsensical business in a perfectly serious manner is a lot of fun Mary Ann had come to Roach from the Sennett studio, where she was the child in the Smith Family series (a couple would be released after this short). Bobby 'Wheezer' Hutchins, on the other hand, was a Roach veteran, having been a member of the Rascals since the age of 2 -- that was 1927, the year before this movie, and he had been the star of The Old Wallop. So they were both seasoned veterans.

And Pete? Pete was the best dog on the movie screen. Enjoy.

Bob
Thanks for the tip - I've only recently had the chance to savour the original Little Rascals movie and Mary Ann and Wheezer are high on the list of favourites. Mary Ann's facial expressions in particular seldom fail to amuse...

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

Unread post by drednm » Sat Jul 21, 2018 5:45 am

Rewatched the 1987 restoration of Sadie Thompson (1928) with Gloria Swanson sizzling her way to her first Oscar nomination in a film that wowed the public and the critics. The story is familiar. Swanson summons all of her considerable talent to play Sadie, and it surely ranks among the great silent-era performances. In the first chunk of film, Sadie is on a romp with her playful ways among the marines. But things turn serious once Lionel Barrymore gets a bug up his wazoo and decides that Sadie must be "saved." Also very good is director Raoul Walsh in his last major acting role as O'Hara.

George Barnes is credited with cinematography (the film is gorgeous) but backstories tell us Sam Goldwyn called in Barnes to work on another film and Swanson scurried to find replacements. Swanson's battle with the censors is also well documented yet there are several scenes in which we can clearly read her cursing lips ... the intertitles "clean up" the dialog.

Dennis Doros assembled materials to replace the (mostly?) missing final reel, and that was in 1987. It's one of the great pities that the final reels has not been discovered.

Oh yes, and from the getgo, the Oscars got it wrong.
Ed Lorusso
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Unread post by FrankFay » Sat Jul 21, 2018 8:12 am

drednm wrote:
Dennis Doros assembled materials to replace the (mostly?) missing final reel, and that was in 1987. It's one of the great pities that the final reels has not been discovered.
.
The final reel is missing completely- that bit of footage where Barrymore's body is found in a fishnet was taken from the sound version. It fits well.
Eric Stott

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

Unread post by drednm » Sat Jul 21, 2018 8:32 am

FrankFay wrote:
drednm wrote:
Dennis Doros assembled materials to replace the (mostly?) missing final reel, and that was in 1987. It's one of the great pities that the final reels has not been discovered.
.
The final reel is missing completely- that bit of footage where Barrymore's body is found in a fishnet was taken from the sound version. It fits well.
Very nicely done.
Ed Lorusso
Writer/Historian
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https://wordpress.com/view/silentroomdo ... dpress.com" target="_blank

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

Unread post by earlytalkiebuffRob » Sat Jul 21, 2018 2:16 pm

FrankFay wrote:
drednm wrote:
Dennis Doros assembled materials to replace the (mostly?) missing final reel, and that was in 1987. It's one of the great pities that the final reels has not been discovered.
.
The final reel is missing completely- that bit of footage where Barrymore's body is found in a fishnet was taken from the sound version. It fits well.
Sound version? Did you mean RAIN (1932)?

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

Unread post by FrankFay » Sat Jul 21, 2018 5:57 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote:
FrankFay wrote:
drednm wrote:
Dennis Doros assembled materials to replace the (mostly?) missing final reel, and that was in 1987. It's one of the great pities that the final reels has not been discovered.
.
The final reel is missing completely- that bit of footage where Barrymore's body is found in a fishnet was taken from the sound version. It fits well.
Sound version? Did you mean RAIN (1932)?
Yes- sorry I forgot to cite chapter and verse.
Eric Stott

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

Unread post by boblipton » Sun Jul 22, 2018 6:13 am

Betty and the Buccaneers (1917): Juliette Day is a young woman who reads too many Rafael Sabatini books and so has a romantic view of pirates. Her youth and naivete is further indicated by the fact that she wears a big white bow in her hair, despite the fact that Miss Day was 25 when she made this movie. Her father, Charles Marriott is an unworldly numismatist who thinks he has found a treasure map and hires an unsavory ship's captain with a crew of three roughnecks to take him to the the remote island where the treasure is buried. He sails off, leaving Miss Day with a parrot to fend for themselves. When they reach the island, the seamen clunk the professor on the head, head back to Miss Day and set up housekeeping and general threatening.

As you might expect from that synopsis, I was not terribly impressed by the movie with its obvious set-up and straightforward follow-through. Clearly the movie was intended for the juvenile audience, with its mildly twee screen titles which often addressed the audience directly, with "you" and "we." In a movie where most of the people seem to have to wait for the parrot to tell them what to do, one can not find much to admire.

Tastypotpie looked at this a couple of years ago and seems to have come to the same conclusions.

Bob
Life's too short to sit on our rears watching other people's work.
— Bob Fells

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