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]

Unread post by boblipton » Fri Sep 28, 2018 3:39 pm

Sleighing in Central Park, New York (1904): I am a fan of Edwin S. Porter's movies. Many of his works, best known among them The Great Train Robbery were well shot and innovative. This one, however, falls into that class of actuality which is utterly devoid of details that might allow some one to say "Yes, that is the place it says in the title."

It's a picture of a snowy intersection. The camera pans left and right a bit to show us the trees to one side, the large number of people dressed for cold weather on the other. Yes, there are sleighs of the horse-drawn variety, and they move briskly along. However, I see nothing that would allow me or, indeed anyone to identify it as Central Park. Given that there are several identifiable landmarks in the Park and have been since the middle of the Nineteenth Century, this is a sad lack.

Unless there were people in the audience willing to stand up and say "I know that tree," that is.

Steamscow "Cinderella" and ferryboat "Cincinnati" (1903): The steamscow passes a pinnace headed in the other direction, then steams on past the huge paddlewheeler.

Edwin S. Porter is credited as running the camera on this one, and it's a fairly good example of motion on the water. Except that it's a foggy day. And it's been done before. Maybe not for two vessels of this sort, but there's nothing on the Internet to indicate either of them were remarked on in the era.

It was a dull era for the actuality short. A.E.Weed was out in Missouri, taking shots of the St. Louis Exposition and what look to be contract films for the Missouri State Board of Education (if that's the name of the organization) to tout their modern athletic programs. Meanwhile, between his grand projects, Porter shot stuff like this, mostly to fill out the catalogue, and possibly because he was planning some intermediate shots for one of them. The Life of An American Fireman was a huge artistic hit for him. Maybe he was planning something about the American Sailor.

Two Memories (1909): Marion Leonard and David Miles quarrel. At first it seems nothing, but arguments grow more heated and they decide to part. Some time later -- long enough for the part in his hair to grow white with flour, though not hers -- he is seated in his study and, feel poorly, decides to write a letter. As it is delivered and Miss Leonard -- whose wild temperament is indicated by the cigarette she takes a few puffs from -- shows the letter to the party, who grow merry. They decide to take the party to Mr. Miles.

It's nine months since D.W. Griffith took over at Biograph, and his command of film has grown immeasurably. The pantomime of the quarrel ranges from small, seemingly unconsidered gestures, to large, angry ones. His crowd scene at the party shows fine group dynamics and flow. Everyone is doing something that makes sense, including the last man out the door, making sure he has a bottle of champagne. Finally, the cross-cutting is there, from Mr. Miles in his room to the party, all working to raise tension as the race begins. It is not a race within the story, but one in the audience's mind: will they get there in time? Even though no one knows of any threat?

It's still a trifle of a split-reel melodrama with a heavy-handed message. The basic techniques, however, are finally in place.

The Day After (1909): Arthur Johnson and Marion Leonard are hosting a costume party to celebrate the New Year -- this split-reel was released on December 30th -- and stand by the punch bowl in the foyer to welcome their guests. The punch is not for them, but as each pair arrives, they insist their hosts drink with them to welcome in the New Year. After all, we are best friends, each says. As the party goes on and the celebrants form a sort of Edwardian Conga line, the hosts behave perhaps a little more genial than seemly... until the next morning.

This short has Mary Pickford credited as the writer. It's her third in that role. Griffith directed 150 movies that year, and even if they were short subjects by modern standards, he had a lot of work to do and was ready to take ideas from anyone, and pay for them. The movie itself is very good for the year, which means unremarkable for Griffith. As he gained command and proficiency in his role of director, he reached the point where he could give his well-trained company of regulars instructions, send them into the costume department and have them come out ready to perform in the new style of pantomime that Griffith had settled on. The result is a silly little comedy with some typically Griffith-style finger-wagging.

A Gold Necklace (1910): Griffith was not the only director on staff at Biograph. By 1910, his work was getting popular, even if only industry insiders knew it. The word was out: Biographs were popular. Ship more. Comedies would be nice.

But after turning out more than 150 movies in 1909, Griffith wanted to produce longer works using more involved techniques, so he set Frank Powell and Mack Sennett up in their own unit, and supervised.... whatever that meant. Here's one directed by Powell.

Or at least it would be if it wasn't scrambled. Even reading the plot description, it seems odd and out of sequence. I believe what happened was that the movie was shot out of sequence -- Griffith had been doing that since the previous year -- and then printed onto paper for the Copyright Office requirements of the time without editing. So, as it exists, it's a mess on the Library of Congress' National Screening Room site.

It is nice to see Mary Pickford playing opposite her sister. It would be even nicer if some one assembled this in the correct order.

Bob
Life's too short to sit on our rears watching other people's work.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Unread post by boblipton » Fri Sep 28, 2018 5:35 pm

L'Auberge Rouge aka The Red Inn (1923) is one of Jean Epstein's stylistic showpieces: his first as sole director. It's based on a Balzac story. In it, a rich diamond merchant entertains an elegant dinner party with one of his famous stories. He tells of the early days of the Revolution, when another diamond merchant was traveling in Alsace and may have been murdered by a young man for his stones.

The movie plays with levels of story-telling. The flow of the interior tale, in which Epstein uses quicker cuts, flash lighting and Dutch angles is interrupted by the merchant pausing to take a drink of wine or eat some meat. When asked the names of some of the characters in the tale he tells, he occasionally says he doesn't remember. Gradually it becomes clear that this is no tale he is telling, but events he is recounting. Or is he simply an unusually beguiling story teller? After all, he was asked for one of his beguiling stories.... and in French, 'histoire' means story.... and history.

Epstein was the leader of the French avant-garde, and that meant strong meat and and technique that was different from the standards of the day. His set design is composed of abortive ornamentation and the camerawork also has an air of unreality about it, making it unclear where reality resides in this movie, if it exists at all. Is this the effect Epstein wished to achieve? Is it an effect worth offering in a commercial release? Critics may have one opinion or another. Each member of an audience must make his own appraisal.

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

Unread post by FrankFay » Fri Sep 28, 2018 7:20 pm

One of the titles in German is something like "Killer! -....... you suddenly shrink back!" It gets translated as "Killer - you jerk!" It puzzled me & I had to look it up.
Eric Stott

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

Unread post by boblipton » Sat Sep 29, 2018 6:16 am

Maybe it's not true that all good things comes to him who waits, if you keep going long enough, Ken Viewer will post a copy of Jack Ford's Hell Bent (1918). Although the formatting in Nitrateville didn't allow me to read the English subtitles, going to the site it's copied from did. Thanks, Ken.

A writer gets a letter that says that his characters and plots are unrealistic. Looking at a Remington picture, he imagines a story....

It's Harry Carey fleeing the county after a kerfuffle at a poker game. He dumps his cards and heads into Rawhide, a mining town where there are dozens of people leading their own lives with their own plots and plans. As he settles in, notices them and deals with them, character is revealed and the plot of Carey's story, the story the author is telling is revealed.

It's a nice story-telling technique, revealing character by action and plot arising therefrom. In a 50-minute western, of course, they can be only the briefest of sketches: Duke Lee as a mean man with a sentimental streak and love of singing "Sweet Genevieve"; Joe Harris as a dandy who robs gold shipment and is recognized.... but not when it comes time to tell Wells Fargo; and Neva Gerber, a girl who goes to work in the dance hall because her brother, Vester Pegg, is too lazy to work. She is the love interest, who rebuffs Harry when he grabs her in the dance hall, but invites him home when he apologizes sincerely.

Ford's movies are composed of shots filled with strong compositions. Westerns were a very conservative genre, where the visuals that had worked for early William S. Hart films would turn up again in the 1950s, and iris shots persisted well into the 1930s. Ford only used one iris shot here, and it's for a portrait shot of Carey. Otherwise he uses objects to frame his performers, changing the size of his canvas to focus the audience's attention. When people stumble in the empty desert, somehow it's by a random pile of brush; people stand in narrow doorways (a shot he would use to bookend The Searchers forty years later. Ford spent his early years building up a lexicon of shots and his later westerns make use of them.

It's not a great movie. It's too brief to explore its themes, too short a shooting schedule to perfect its images (although Ben Reynold's camerawork comes darned close), It's still a lot of fun and good to see in studying the evolution of a great director.

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

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

Unread post by boblipton » Sat Sep 29, 2018 5:25 pm

And it;'s back to the LoC National Screening Room.

An Indian Summer (1910): In this D.W. Griffith comedy, W,. Chrystie Miller moves into a rooming house run by Kate Bruce and her daughter, Mary Pickford. Soon the two older people are getting on like a house on fire (Miss Pickford obviously disapproves of these shenanigans). Miller, however, is embarrassed by his bald head. He writes away for a hair restorer. When he reads his mail to Miss Bruce, but withholds this, she thinks it a correspondence with another woman, and sticks a picture from a magazine in a frame to make him jealous.

It's a well shot, well performed, but slightly lugubrious comedy. Mr. Miller was the eldest member of Griffith's stock company at 68, suitable for support, background characters and occasionally a lead in films like WHAT SHALL WE DO WITH OUR OLD? and THE OLD ACTOR. When Griffith left Biograph, he retired and died in Staten Island in 1922.

The copy posted on the Library of Congress' National Screening Room site is a bit jittery. Anyone who has looked at prints drawn from the Paper Print collection, restored in th 1960s and 1970s will recognize this as a registration problem.

Comata, The Sioux (1909): Sioux brave James Kirkwood is sweet on Sioux maiden Marion Leonard, but she's sweet on White Man Arthur Johnson. Soon they have a child, but Kirkwood keeps an eye on matters. Eventually Johnson goes courting a White woman, Linda Arvidson...

It will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with silent movies that D.W. Griffith was a racist by modern standards. What may surprise people who stop with that appraisal is that he did not hold the White race blameless. Here it is Johnson (who offers a performance that looks like a modern, surly adolescent out to shock his parents), who behaves badly throughout.

Mr. Kirkwood had quite a career in the movies. He joined Griffith's company in 1909, branched out into directing in 1915 and had his last motion picture role in 1961 in a John Ford western. Not quite the Donald Crisp level -- Crisp had joined Griffith the year before and his last big-screen role was in 1963), but impressive!


May and December (1910): Middle-aged Kate Bruce proposes marriage to young Billy Quirk. He accepts, despite his soliloquizing to the audience. Soon thereafter, elderly W. Chrystie Miller proposes to Mary Pickford. She, despite some misgivings, accepts. The two couples encouter each other, and the youngsters chat with each other, while the oldsters seem to enjoy their talks.

It's a split-reel comedy from Biograph, but it's not directed by Griffith or the ambitious Mack Sennett. It's directed by Frank Powell, and it' not a comedy in the sense of being particularly funny -- what Biograph and early Keystones labeled "farce comedies". It's a comedy in the classical mold, in which a bad situation is corrected. Although Quirk mugs his asides, and Miller makes a production of getting down on his knees to propose, it's not particularly amusing or surprising at any point.

Kate Bruce was a favorite of Griffith for motherly roles, and from 1908 until her retirement in 1931, she as a busy actress, with appearances in almost three hundred movies of various lengths. Little is known of her outside her birth in 1860, her death in 1946 and her friendship with the Gish sisters. Lillian Gish said that she lived austerely and never spoke of her past.

The Necklace (1909): Herbert Prior and his wife, Rose King, have been invited to an elegant party. They buy new clothes and, show off their appearance to their neighbor, Caroline Harris, who lends Rose her expensive-looking necklace. When they return from the party, they are reminiscing, when Rose realizes the necklace is missing. What to do?

It's a heartfelt and well-acted movie based on a Maupassant story, about honest people in an unkind world, Given the source, Griffith presents it without much adornment, albeit updated to 1910.

Miss King was a stage and vaudeville performer who was appearing for a year in the flickers. Mr. Prior, on the other hand, was a well-regarded screen actor, who moved from one company to another: Griffith, Edison, Majestic... he seems to have peaked within a few years. By 1925, he was appearing in uncredited bits. He retired from the screen in 1934 and died 20 years later, far from his native England

Muggsy Becomes a Hero (1912): While tough Billy Quirk is waiting for his girlfriend Mary Pickford to finish with church, Kate Bruce and Claire McDowell ask him to escort them home, through a rough part of town. He reluctantly agrees. Then they run into some toughs.

Here's a straight-up sequel to a Griffith movie, Muggsy's First Sweetheart. Griffith wasn't so interested in doing more comedy, so he passed it on to Frank Powell. Thanks to a good script by Stanner Taylor, it holds up well.

However, neither Pickford nor Quirk were interested in Biograph's B units. They left, Quirk for a career that petered out, and Pickford to become America's Sweetheart.

That's Jack Pickford, Mary's kid brother, playing Mary's kid brother. He's a natural!

Bob
Life's too short to sit on our rears watching other people's work.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Unread post by Big Silent Fan » Sat Sep 29, 2018 7:59 pm

YouTube suggested, "The Lost Express' (1926), A 42 minute adventure with Helen Holmes, who was a star of serials in the Pearl White/Perils of Pauline vein. This short feature has many twist to the story and lots of action.

Following that, I stumbled onto a film written by Frances Marion, "Back Pay" (1922).
A Library of Congress restoration, but like "The Lost Express," it does not have sound.

Once I found something suitable to listen to, I discovered a real gem, running just about 90 minutes.
It's a much different sort of 'morality' play, with very incredible titles. For example, before the story of Hester Bevins begins, we read these words:

The Story of Hester Bevins, is as old as sin, but sin is just a little younger than love, and often the two are interchangeable.

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

Unread post by boblipton » Sun Sep 30, 2018 7:50 am

It's a Wild Life (1918): Harold Lloyd wants to marry Bebe Daniels, but her father tells him no. Everyone meets later at a swell party.

Harold had dropped Lonesome Luke several months earlier and was performing in his series of one-reelers to build up the Glasses character. However, in this one, he and director Gilbert Pratt revert to type. Despite the fact that everyone dresses like members of the upper classes, they remain pure hard-knock slapstick comics, offering their gags at a rat-a-tat pace with little in the way of rhyme or reason. While his team liked to vary the sort of comedy they offered and a hard kick in the pants remained standard throughout the shorts, this one is too primitive. Sometimes the combination works. Here, it doesn't

One brief good bit has Harold and Bebe dancing, which is a charming moment.... until he kicks someone in the pants.

Follow the Crowd (1918): Harold Lloyd finds a sputtering Infernal Device -- you recall the black-ball-with-a-fuse sort of bomb that anarchists used to throw in the editorial cartoons? -- and then follows Bebe Daniels to a combination bootleg beer parlor/anarchist-death-cult cub set in a funhouse.Typical high-speed antics ensue under the direction of Alf Goulding.

Lloyd dropped Lonesome Luke and came up with the Glasses character so he wouldn't be limited to hard-knock slapstick... and then continued to do hard-knock slapstick for a while. Sometimes it didn't work, but here it does, since Harold gets to be a marginally sane character in this insane, cartoony world. It's almost as if he is performing a burlesque of the form and the result, while utterly heartless, gets carried along by its high-speed mania.

The copy I saw had French and Spanish titles.

The Newlyweds (1910): When his fiancee hands back her ring, Arthur Johnson swears off women. When her fiance dumps her, Mary Pickford cries and gives up men. When they sit next to each other on a train, though, everything mistakes their shy attitudes for that of newlyweds.

I think that the reason that so few of D.W. Griffith's comedies for Biograph have been unavailable until now (this and several other rare films have just been posted to the Library of Congress' National Screening Room site), is in part that he used his more elaborate techniques in his dramas, while the comedies depended more on his players' acting; in part because of the snobbish attitude that drama is serious and comedy is ... well, silly: not art; in part because he handed the comedy over to Frank Powell and Mack Sennett and in large part because his comedies were rarely laugh-out-loud farces and burlesques that overwhelmed movie comedy when Sennett struck out on his own. Given his Victorian standards of story-telling, he seemed to be uneasy with making people, particularly young women, the butt of jokes; his comedies were structural, rather than risible.

Occasionally, though, he could turn out a good one, particularly if he had the right actors. He has them here in his two young leads.

Oh, Uncle! (1909): James Kirkwood sends word to nephew Billy Quirk that he will be visiting. Billy know that his uncle disapproves of women (save possibly for his own mother), so he and fiancee Mary Pickford agree that she will pose as his maid. They hope she will charm Kirkwood so that he won't object to her marrying his heir. Miss Pickford, however, is so charming that the old man takes a lively interest in her in this sprightly D.W. Griffith comedy.

That's what I can glean from the five minutes of shots and the plot synopsis at the Library of Congress' National Screening Room site. Unfortunately, what they posted (drawn from the Library's Paper Print collection) seems to be unedited footage from the movie, including a lot where Kirkwood ruins the take by breaking up at Quirk's antics and asides. Miss Pickford seems to be having a good time too, once the scene is blown.

This is not the only film that survives in this condition. Movies could not be copyrighted at this time (which is why so many scenes are decorated with the Biograph 'AB', to establish a trademark). Biograph, while they sent paper prints of their films to the Library (which were nominally books, and so could be protected), seems to have sent them in batches. Some of the films, which had been shot but not edited, wound up preserved in this manner.

It was better than what Vitagraph did. That company produced many innovative films in the era. However, they sent highlights, resulting in a few intriguing clips.

Bob
Life's too short to sit on our rears watching other people's work.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Unread post by earlytalkiebuffRob » Sun Sep 30, 2018 12:26 pm

boblipton wrote:
Sat Sep 29, 2018 6:16 am
Maybe it's not true that all good things comes to him who waits, if you keep going long enough, Ken Viewer will post a copy of Jack Ford's Hell Bent (1918). Although the formatting in Nitrateville didn't allow me to read the English subtitles, going to the site it's copied from did. Thanks, Ken.

A writer gets a letter that says that his characters and plots are unrealistic. Looking at a Remington picture, he imagines a story....

It's Harry Carey fleeing the county after a kerfuffle at a poker game. He dumps his cards and heads into Rawhide, a mining town where there are dozens of people leading their own lives with their own plots and plans. As he settles in, notices them and deals with them, character is revealed and the plot of Carey's story, the story the author is telling is revealed.

It's a nice story-telling technique, revealing character by action and plot arising therefrom. In a 50-minute western, of course, they can be only the briefest of sketches: Duke Lee as a mean man with a sentimental streak and love of singing "Sweet Genevieve"; Joe Harris as a dandy who robs gold shipment and is recognized.... but not when it comes time to tell Wells Fargo; and Neva Gerber, a girl who goes to work in the dance hall because her brother, Vester Pegg, is too lazy to work. She is the love interest, who rebuffs Harry when he grabs her in the dance hall, but invites him home when he apologizes sincerely.

Ford's movies are composed of shots filled with strong compositions. Westerns were a very conservative genre, where the visuals that had worked for early William S. Hart films would turn up again in the 1950s, and iris shots persisted well into the 1930s. Ford only used one iris shot here, and it's for a portrait shot of Carey. Otherwise he uses objects to frame his performers, changing the size of his canvas to focus the audience's attention. When people stumble in the empty desert, somehow it's by a random pile of brush; people stand in narrow doorways (a shot he would use to bookend The Searchers forty years later. Ford spent his early years building up a lexicon of shots and his later westerns make use of them.

It's not a great movie. It's too brief to explore its themes, too short a shooting schedule to perfect its images (although Ben Reynold's camerawork comes darned close), It's still a lot of fun and good to see in studying the evolution of a great director.

Bob
Thanks for the tip. I, too found the copy on YT hard to watch, so will hunt this one out...

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

Unread post by earlytalkiebuffRob » Sun Sep 30, 2018 12:30 pm

Watched the restored version of BEGGARS OF LIFE (1928), which is a great improvement on the copies previously available to me. Also, Maurice Elvey's NELSON (1918), shown at the cinema at Portsmouth Dockyard, not far from HMS Victory herself, and on Nelson's birthday, to boot. More about both films later...

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

Unread post by boblipton » Sun Sep 30, 2018 5:22 pm

The Peachbasket Hat (1909) After reading a newspaper article about gypsies kidnapping babies, John Cumpson goes to work. Florence Lawrence goes shopping, leaving baby with nurse Anita Hendrie. Miss Hendrie spots gypsies and invites them in to read her fortune. Florence returns with a huge hat, the size of a peach basket. The gypsies are hustled out behind her back, the box the hat came in falls over the baby (not harming him, of course). Mr. Cumpson returns home. Where's the baby?

Here's the slapstick chase given solid plot justification, complete with Mack Sennett as the cop who joins the frenzy. Cumpson was Biograph's resident comic, leading with Miss Lawrence as the Joneses in shorts like Her First Biscuit and Mr. Jones' Burglar. Then he left Biograph for the greener fields (i..e. money) at Edison.

Griffith also makes the point that gypsies are not necessarily rootless, evil people. Why, people say the same things about actors on tour!

The film listed as The Seventh Day (1909) in the LoC National Screening Room is actually Over the Hill to the Poorhouse (1908). I've submitted a correction, but others may confirm to speed the process.

What's Your Hurry? (1909): Billy Quirk is just back from school. He steals a kiss from Mary Pickford, as who wouldn't? Because she is a good girl, she pretends to be insulted and threatens to tell her father. When Billy visits her at home, her father goes out to meet him, carrying the birthday gift he has just received: a new shotgun.

The wicked flee when no man pursueth is the text for this D.W. Griffith split-reel comedy. It's a clever variation on the chase comedy, and Billy gets to run through a lot of variations, aided by an undercranked comedy and no one running after him, for a very amusing result.

I have looked at more than three dozen of the early films posted on the Library of Congress National Screening Room site. This is the first with a score, provided Ben Model.

When We Were in Our Teens (1910): Mary Pickford has become an artist! When Billy Quirk comes by, she asks his opinion of the masterpiece she has painted. He being in his salad days, green in judgment, tells her. This wounds her, but when Joseph Graybill appears, his offered opinion is that it is wonderful. So, Billy's out and Joe is in.

I'm not usually amused by Frank Powell's comedies for Biograph, but this one has some pizzazz to it. In this period, many comedies were of the one-gag practical joke variety, minimally motivated and unornamented. In this one, Billy has plenty of motivation. What's more, he's something different at Biograph. He's not just an actor trained in the new understated Griffith pantomime: he's a comic. He performs to and for the audience, slipping in asides, making rude gestures that only we see. In short, he's funny, and so is this movie.

Won By A Fish (1912): Dell Henderson goes fishing every day and can't catch anything larger than a sprat. Edward Dillon teases him about this. Angered, Dell tells Dillon he may not see his daughter, Mary Pickford (credited here, at the elderly age of 20, as "The Woman"). The next day, on their way to plead for their love, they find Dell asleep at the rod and an immense halibut for sale in a fish shop.

Before he was lured off to form Keystone and his own career as a film magnate, Mack Sennett spent a four-year apprenticeship at Biograph, working for D.W. Griffith as writer, actor and director of eighty or ninety short comedies. They were not wild slapstick comedies, but far more genteel efforts in which normal-looking people would do almost normal things to get what they wanted -- in this case, Eddie Dillon and Mary Pickford. Under the direction of some one like Griffith, movies like this one could be charming, effervescent and even telling in some way of society's problems. Mack admired Griffith, he learned from him, he respected him and throughout his life referred to him as "The Master." He just didn't want to make that sort of movie. He wanted to make people laugh, and the best way he knew was by being outrageous.

This this movie is interesting in showing this stage of Sennett's development. It's interesting to see Mary Pickford in a movie where she is upstaged by a dead fish. It's just not terribly funny once you've figured out the one joke that is available in half a reel of film.

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

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

Unread post by Ken Viewer » Sun Sep 30, 2018 7:36 pm

boblipton wrote:
Sat Sep 29, 2018 6:16 am
Maybe it's not true that all good things comes to him who waits, if you keep going long enough, Ken Viewer will post a copy of Jack Ford's Hell Bent (1918). Although the formatting in Nitrateville didn't allow me to read the English subtitles, going to the site it's copied from did. Thanks, Ken.

A writer gets a letter that says that his characters and plots are unrealistic. Looking at a Remington picture, he imagines a story....

It's Harry Carey fleeing the county after a kerfuffle at a poker game. He dumps his cards and heads into Rawhide, a mining town where there are dozens of people leading their own lives with their own plots and plans. As he settles in, notices them and deals with them, character is revealed and the plot of Carey's story, the story the author is telling is revealed.

It's a nice story-telling technique, revealing character by action and plot arising therefrom. In a 50-minute western, of course, they can be only the briefest of sketches: Duke Lee as a mean man with a sentimental streak and love of singing "Sweet Genevieve"; Joe Harris as a dandy who robs gold shipment and is recognized.... but not when it comes time to tell Wells Fargo; and Neva Gerber, a girl who goes to work in the dance hall because her brother, Vester Pegg, is too lazy to work. She is the love interest, who rebuffs Harry when he grabs her in the dance hall, but invites him home when he apologizes sincerely.

Ford's movies are composed of shots filled with strong compositions. Westerns were a very conservative genre, where the visuals that had worked for early William S. Hart films would turn up again in the 1950s, and iris shots persisted well into the 1930s. Ford only used one iris shot here, and it's for a portrait shot of Carey. Otherwise he uses objects to frame his performers, changing the size of his canvas to focus the audience's attention. When people stumble in the empty desert, somehow it's by a random pile of brush; people stand in narrow doorways (a shot he would use to bookend The Searchers forty years later. Ford spent his early years building up a lexicon of shots and his later westerns make use of them.

It's not a great movie. It's too brief to explore its themes, too short a shooting schedule to perfect its images (although Ben Reynold's camerawork comes darned close), It's still a lot of fun and good to see in studying the evolution of a great director.

Bob
You're most welcome. Glad you were able to watch the film. Had I known that thread of silent films uploaded in higher fidelity on Youtube was drawing any interest from people actually viewing the movies, I'd have (and now will) post more of them. That thread that I started listing some of them doesn't belong to me, so hopefully others will post details of their finds on Youtube there or anywhere on this site.

Ken

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

Unread post by boblipton » Tue Oct 02, 2018 6:27 am

Beverly of Graustark (1916): In this short feature, Linda Arvidson is on the way to visit her friend, the princess of Graustark. She is captured by Charles Perley, a goat hunter with exquisite manners. He is actually the disguised prince of a neighboring country who has been driven out of power by his evil brother. By the usual mistakes that occur in this this sort of Ruritanian fiction, he mistakes her for the Princess and sends her on her way. Soon, however, he and she are involved in various goings-on in Graustark and his own country.

It's based on the novel by George Barr McCutcheon. He rose to prominence based on Graustark and was soon called upon to write more Prisoner-of-Zenda-style romances, even though he preferred his stage work and efforts like Brewster's Millions. It was produced by Biograph during their collapse as a film-production company, and it shows. Even though the acting and photography is excellent, it was saddled with numerous titles to explain what was going on. This reduced it to an "illustrated text" movie, in which the titles tell you what you are about to see, reducing the actual movie to largely an afterthought.

Miss Arvidson was actually Mrs. D.W. Griffith. They had separated about six years earlier, although they did not divorce until the 1930s. She had left Biograph in 1912 for what should have been a better contract, but the company collapsed within a year. She made one more movie after this and retired from the screen.

The story was remade in 1926, with Marion Davies in the lead. I assume it is a better movie.

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

Unread post by boblipton » Tue Oct 02, 2018 6:05 pm

The National Screening Room connection is not loading. I, being an impatient soul, have been looking at the secondary postings on Youtube. The video quality is not as good.

The Inner Circle (1912): J. Jiquel Lanoe is a rich Italian, with a nice house and Mary Pickford for a daughter. A secret organization sends a note that unless he puts $1000 under the rose bush in his front yard, both are at risk. He goes to the police, and they put a guard on their house. While they are pursuing another man, Adolph Lestina sneaks onto the property and lights a bomb under the house. Little does he know that his own daughter, who was struck by a speeding car, has been carried into the house, where its occupants are comforting her.

We're talking about La Cosa Nostra, the Black Hand, the Mafia... whatever you choose to call it. Because these movies were popular among the poor Italian emigrants, the organization had to be given a false name.... but everyone knew what they were talking about.

Lanoe was a member of Griffith's stock company, almost invariably in bit parts. This was a rare opportunity for him to take a larger role. Although little of his work survives, he was a painter, who had been in Tahiti in the 1890s, where he may have met Gaugin. A few of his surviving canvases show Gaugin's influence.

Eubie Blake Plays His Fantasy on Swanee River (1923): It's a Deforest Phonofilm, one of the roots of the movie-sound system that eventually took over the world. Blake appeared in two others that year, paired with his writing partner, Noble Sissle.

Although this is presented as a serious work of music, you can tell that Blake is a piano player in evening clothes, not a concert pianist; the pinky ring on his right hand gives it away. Nonetheless, he's a very important figure int he history of music. Not only did he compose the well known "I'm Just Wild About Harry" (originally written as a waltz, but when no one wanted it, he syncopated it), but he and Sissle wrote the music for the first all-Black show on Broadway, and was still around, showing off his skills for the Mike Douglas and Johnny Carson shows in the 1970s. He died in 1983 at the age of 96.

The performance offered is an interesting one, full of glissandoes and blues riffs, played with his trademark high-arched hands and strong melodic notes. Mostly, though, it was meant to show off the synchronized sound, and his style of playing makes the system's excellence clear.

Excavation for Subway at Union Square aka New York's New Subway (1902): It's a very long take from what appears to be an upper floor of the Flatiron Building. Large trucks move slowly down Broadway, constricted by the big hole in the ground, littered with lumber. In other words, nothing about New York City has changed in more than a hundred years.

The camerawork is by Robert K. Bonine, who shot about 250 actualities for Edison and American Mutoscope & Biograph in the ten years from 1897 through 1907. He was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania in 1862, and died in 1923.

Scrambling for Eggs (1902): It's Easter Sunday in 1902, so everyone went to the White House to roll eggs. According to contemporary newspapers, over 40,000 people showed up. Looking at this movie, I can believe it. It's a sea of young boys, some staring straight ahead, well placed to make sure they are seen, others ganging together to pursue others.

I spent much of last week looking at Congressional hearings, and all that has changed is that instead of doing it on the White House Lawn, they're behaving the same way within the halls of the Senate. In fact, I expect some of these boys are serving as Senators even as we speak.

S.S. "Coptic" Running Against The Storm (1898) The early master of bad movies, James H. White, shoots another picture of the Coptic. This time, however, instead of showing us the back of onlookers' hats while the ship pulls into harbor, pulls out of harbor, or slowly sinks into the harbor, he seems to have ordered his cameraman, W. Blechryden, to nail his camera to the aft, pointing forward. There are no seamen visible on deck. Because typical foggy conditions at sea during a storm, and the copy I looked at on the Library of Congress' National Screening Room was grainy and low-contrast, there is little to be seen except the grey sky, although high waves do occasionally break about the hull.

I wonder where the crew has gone. Perhaps they've abandoned ship and left White to die. Too bad he didn't, but continued to make bad movies for more than a decade to home.

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

Unread post by boblipton » Fri Oct 05, 2018 1:58 pm

Empire State Express, The Second, Taking Water on the Fly (1905): A train approaches a water tank on the tracks, with a pan filled with water laid between the tracks. It passes over the pan and continues on its way.

This actuality from 1905 looks to be fairly antiquated for the year it is listed as entering the catalogue. Cinematically, it is a single take, longer than it would have been half a decade earlier, but showing no advancement in technique. Motion proceeds, as always, from the upper mid-right towards the lower left. There's no motion or action outside of that; there's water, and then there's not, no sense of how the water is brought into the train.

There's no doubt that Edison was still selling these simple moving-train movies, but except for rail buffs, there's little here for modern viewers that is not available in the 1901 short on the Empire Express, or even the 1896 film.

One Hundred Per Cent American (1918): Mary Pickford was originally Gladys Louise Smith from Toronto, Ontario. Americans didn't care and we've always welcomed our Canuckistani neighbors. Miss Pickford, Charley Chaplin (from England, naturally) and Douglas Fairbanks (he, at least, was born here) toured the country, raising money for the First World World, aka the 4th Liberty Bond. They also produced short subjects, exhorting movie audiences to buy bonds. This is Mary's.

It's a simple story of a young girl, out at an amusement park, exhorted to buy bonds. So she practices a few economies, like forgoing an ice cream soda and walking home instead of taking the trolley, and in less than a minute of screen time, she has her own bond in hand.

Miss Pickford is adorable and silly and compassionate and sad..... all the emotions and a couple of nice gags. There's little in this movie, but it's fun to see America's Sweetheart mugging it up. Even if she was from another country, we Americans like a taste of the exotic.

Moonland (1926):Here's a charming silent short. Mickey McBan looks at the moon before going to sleep and wonders what's it like up there. Then he goes to sleep and dreams of his trip to visit the Man in the Moon.

McBan is an engaging child actor, with a quizzical expression and two black-out front teeth. His career as a child actor in movies like PETER PAN ended as he grew up, but he continued to perform in movies for another quarter century.

Other IMDB viewers have commented that this movie looks to be influenced by Melies. As a fancier of that great man's work, I'd like to agree, but between the Beaux Arts settings and a couple of the special effects, I think it shows more clearly the influence of Winsor McCay, the great cartoonist of Little Nemo in Slumberland, and Edwin S. Porter. That sequence when Mickey is flying to the Moon looks based on Porter's Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend .... based on another McCay comic strip.

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

Unread post by boblipton » Sat Oct 06, 2018 3:44 pm

His Birthright (1918): After his stunning performance in Demille's The Cheat, Sessue Hayakawa became a star.... and the industry didn't know what to do with him. Eventually he began producing his own movies, and some of them were great.... and some were programmers, like this one. In the early 1920s, he tried Europe, but his results were spotty, so after a few talkies, he returned to Japan in the early 1930s.

After the Second World War ended, he returned to occasional roles in Hollywood pictures. His turn as the Prison Camp Commander struggling with the insane English POWs in The Bridge Over the River Kwai was brilliant. However, after the death of his wife in 1961, he returned again to Japan to become a monk... and give private acting lessons.

In this one, Hayakawa is a young man bet on revenge. His Japanese mother is dead of a broken heart and he has been told that his father is Harry von Meter, an American admiral. While tracking him down, he becomes involved with a gang of swindlers and spies.

Hayakawa plays his role well, a moral Japanese, bent on revenge and yet totally naive. As a result there are many comic bits throughout, rendered in the stolid style usual for Hollywood movies in this era. This was a period when American movies were overwhelming all the competition. As a result few showed much in the way of interesting technique, barring a few hairpins. Add in the melodramatic plots and subplots, and it all depends on Hayakawa's acting. He mostly measures up.

At least, that's the conclusion I can draw from the copy posted on the Eye Institute site on Youtube. Unfortunately, that copy has a major flaw: it's missing the first and fourth reels of a five-reel feature, and there's no way of judging the missing reels. Even assuming that the missing reels explain why the movie seems underdeveloped, I can only make my call based on the evidence of the film; and that evidence says this is a well-performed potboiler.

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

Unread post by drednm » Sun Oct 07, 2018 2:53 pm

To go along with Blue Jeans (1917) and The Cossack Whip (1916), I finally watched John H. Collins' 1915 melodrama Children of Eve which tells a story about a do-gooder (Robert D. Walker) who is the ward of a manufacturing tycoon who, years before, had fathered a child out of wedlock. The child, played by Viola Dana, grows up in the slums and lives a dishonest life. By chance, Dana and Walker run into each other and he tries to change her life. She sees the light and becomes good and is about to take a job as a "plant" for a group that is against child labor. She infiltrates a canning factory own by you know who. In the meantime, the do-gooder catches some disease from the slums but Dana is turned away when she tries to visit him. The finale is loosely based on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 and gives Collins the "socko" ending his other films have. The ending, when the tycoon realizes exactly who Dana is, is very effective. This was a Kino issue from 2012 (?) with Rodney Sauer and company providing a nice score.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Unread post by Jim Roots » Mon Oct 08, 2018 11:49 am

The Dumb Girl of Portici (1916) has been wildly hailed as a forgotten masterpiece upon Milestone Films’ reissue in 2018, on the basis of it being Anna Pavlova’s only film and Lois Weber’s “lost” major feature film. The hailing is justifiable on those two reasons alone – but for those two reasons alone.

Weber, as per the era in which she made it, keeps the camera pulled well back so that we can almost always see the entire person (no doubt a consideration where the world’s greatest ballerina is the star). This unfortunately detaches the viewer from the film; it is hard to get immersed in it. It is also hard to tell the male characters apart: as Mike Gebert noted, they all look like Frank Zappa with their long loose black hair, black moustache, and black chin-patch.

Mike is inaccurate in stating that Pavlova gets frequent opportunities to dance. Nearly all of her dancing is done in the first half-hour or so, and there isn’t much of it: a sand-dance, another brief whirl, and that’s about it.

Her charisma and dynamism glow rather than blaze. Saying she isn’t an actress is false: a prima ballerina by definition has to be a good actress. The problem is that a ballerina has to play incessantly to the mass audience, not discreetly to the intimate film-viewer. There are no variations to the pitch of her performance.

I wish there had been several more close-ups of her, because her head is quite fascinating. We wouldn’t see such a long, narrow head on an actress again until Sarah Jessica Parker some 80 years later, and like Parker, Pavlova’s face is either uniquely beautiful or grotesque. It certainly doesn’t look anything like her photographs, which all make her head look normally proportioned.

Weber gives us a riot that seems to go on for an hour: it’s done well enough, especially for 1916, but its length seems pointless. So does Pavlova’s character’s “dumbness”: what’s the reason for her muteness? Its bearing on the storyline is oblique (she can’t identify her attacker verbally? But she does identify him later, merely by pointing at him. Duh.) But then, the storyline itself is very baffling in this film version. Presumably it has more coherence in the original opera. That that coherence doesn’t get transferred into film is Weber’s fault and demonstrates a weakness as a director.

Finally, the film is simply far too long at 114 minutes. Lengthiness is considered a virtue in opera because it gives ample expanse for the music; in a silent film, its raison d’etre doesn’t exist. My wife (still ballet-dancing recreationally in her late sixties), my older daughter (a life-long dancer with particular specialization in ballet), and I all dozed intermittently in the second hour, despite our best efforts.

So, kudos for the restoration, gratitude for the chance to watch Pavlova, but disappointment that the film itself isn’t better.

Jim

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

Unread post by Daveismyhero » Tue Oct 09, 2018 10:05 am

I had the pleasure of holding down the couch yesterday due to a nasty cold, and I spent the time watching Fatty and Mabel Adrift (1916).

I also watched a handful of shorts from the Hallroom Boys (thanks Mike!). The Hallroom Boys were new to me, and I really enjoyed the shorts that I watched. The pacing was very quick and I loved the snappy music! I'd like to get to know the boys a little better, so I'll have to see what the interwebs have to say.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Unread post by Jim Roots » Tue Oct 09, 2018 12:14 pm

Daveismyhero wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 10:05 am
I had the pleasure of holding down the couch yesterday due to a nasty cold, and I spent the time watching Fatty and Mabel Adrift (1916).
Fatty and Mabel could have used your help holding down their bed in that film!

Jim

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

Unread post by Battra92 » Thu Oct 11, 2018 9:20 am

Going through another rewatch of Les Vampires. It's been a couple years since I've watched it and I love the serial, especially the version released by Kino (special shout out to Mont Alto Orchestra for the fantastic score!) I own two copies of this with two different scores (Kino and Artificial Eye.)

It's a serial I would love to have a discussion on with people but I've never been able to convince anyone to watch it.

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

Unread post by Roscoe » Thu Oct 11, 2018 11:32 am

Saw Murnau's FAUST the other night, first time on a bigger-than-tv sized screen, and my original take on it was pretty well confirmed. It's a really splendid piece of filmmaking, with wonderful camera work and special effects and performances, and it all just collapses when Faust transforms into a boyish twit and starts romancing that Gretchen. The film gets its bearings again when the inevitable tragedy starts happening, but too much momentum has been lost. And I'm not sure why Mephisto is so disappointed at film's end -- based on the events of the film, he's already well in charge of earthly events anyway.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Unread post by Jim Roots » Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:30 pm

Roscoe wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 11:32 am
Saw Murnau's FAUST the other night, first time on a bigger-than-tv sized screen, and my original take on it was pretty well confirmed. It's a really splendid piece of filmmaking, with wonderful camera work and special effects and performances, and it all just collapses when Faust transforms into a boyish twit and starts romancing that Gretchen. The film gets its bearings again when the inevitable tragedy starts happening, but too much momentum has been lost. And I'm not sure why Mephisto is so disappointed at film's end -- based on the events of the film, he's already well in charge of earthly events anyway.
Faust in any media is always a disappointment, at least to me, at the point when the focus shifts from Faust's search for knowledge to his pursuit of Gretchen. The whole story goes completely flat for me at that point.

The great Barker Fairley discussed his translation with my German Lit seminar way back in 1975 or '76, and even his august presence couldn't explain away the weakness of the second half.

Jim

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

Unread post by Arndt » Thu Oct 11, 2018 3:33 pm

Battra92 wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 9:20 am
It's a serial I would love to have a discussion on with people but I've never been able to convince anyone to watch it.
Discuss away! This is one of my all-time favourites.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Unread post by Big Silent Fan » Fri Oct 12, 2018 9:53 am

Yesterday's choice for classic Silent film at my house began with Chapter 4 of Les Vampires ('The Spectre') followed by Lon Chaney's 1920 epic, The Penalty (1920). It took some searching on YouTube but I found a nice copy of the film with a piano score instead of the jarring noise I've heard when it's been shown on TCM. We also watched Clara Bow in Mantrap.

All this year, I'm now able to show favorites to someone at my home each Thursday. We've watched a combination of foreign films, silent films, classics from the 1940s and even Westerns, both Silent and Sound. It's really nice to finally not need to watch these films alone.

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

Unread post by Rodney » Fri Oct 12, 2018 2:31 pm

Thanks for the nice comments about the Les Vampires score. I wanted to compile a score that would hold together over the considerable length of the whole serial, by having some common music but also a few fresh pieces in each episode. The "main theme" is a weird little piece by M.L. Lake called "Fourteen Fathoms Deep." It has a memorable four-note opening phrase that I could recall whenever I wanted to emphasize a particular on-screen happening.

And note that besides the synthesizer and piano scores for The Penalty, Mont Alto created a traditional small-orchestra score for Kino's re-release on BluRay. It's the first score I recorded on the Kawai grand piano that I purchased with the proceeds from my work on Les Vampires! Thanks, Kino!
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Unread post by boblipton » Sat Oct 13, 2018 6:22 pm

The Musician's Daughter (1911): William S. Rising pawns his violin, but the money is gotten too late to save his wife. His daughter, Grace Scott, has him committed to the looney bin. It's a matter of some consolation that his last composition has been accepted for performance. When the artist who was to perform it stalks off in a rage, Miss Scott takes her place on stage and is greeted with wild approval. In fact, one of her admirer's abducts her.

This two-reeler from American Eclair looks to be a very ambitious one, telling a story with twists and a lot of incidents. Unfortunately, far too much of it appears to have been left on the cutting-room floor, leaving it told in a rather telegraphic fashion, with only the titles to make sense of the action. It's clear that director Jay Hunt was ambitious, and eventually he would get to do some greater work; he was one of the uncredited director's of Ince's Civilization and would continue to direct until 1920. After that, he would return to acting until his death in 1932.

Dispute De Cocher (1898): A coach driver and a boulevardier trade blows until a flic separates them.

It's a twenty-meter strip of film, which means it's not much of anything by modern standards. Yet in 1898 this was considered a comedy. Neither the combatants nor the police officer seem to be made up for comedy. The conclusion is that this is an actuality that people would laugh at on the grounds that respectable people are being beaten by poor people. Truly, comedy is someone you don't like suffering pain! Calling it a comedy was an indication of that, and that the market for movies was moving downscale fast.

L'arrestation d'un ivrogne (1896): A seedy drunk gets into a dispute with the owner of a wine shop and is arrested.

Here's a short by Eugene Pirou that the IMDb doesn't know about. Little is known of him, so I'll take the liberty of quoting from the "Who's Who of Victorian Cinema" site produced, in part, by Luke McKiernan. Stephen Bottomore writes:
Though Eugène Pirou has long been recognised as one of the pioneering filmmakers in France, his work as a stills photographer is less well known. He was working as a portrait photographer from at least the time of the Paris Commune in 1871, where he took pictures of the slain communards. In 1888 he photographed General Boulanger in full uniform, and the following year was present at the Paris Exposition, where E-J. Marey's chronophotography was on display, and perhaps this is where his interest in moving photography was initiated. In 1896 he wrote to the Eastman Kodak company asking for information about the Edison Vitascope, but nothing seems to have come of this and he teamed up with Henri Joly, who had developed a projector. This allowed Pirou to be one of the first rivals to the Lumières in Frances, presenting films at the Café de la Paix in Paris in April 1896. By this time he had dubbed himself as the 'photographe des rois' and appropriately the first films he made were of the visit of Tsar Nikolas II to France in October 1896, showing various official activities. But Pirou's real importance is in pioneering another type of production, the risqué film. In the autumn of 1896 he produced Le Coucher de la Marie, in which Mlle. Louise Willy recreated the most sensational part of her eponymous stage hit, where she performed a striptease.

The resulting film was unusually long at sixty metres (around three minutes) and was such a sensation when shown in Paris (along with the films of the Tsar's visit) that Pirou opened at two other venues in the city and even exhibited at the Casino in Nice. Anxious to cash in, other filmmakers including Georges Méliès and Charles Pathé also made striptease films, and so was launched an entire genre of risqué films, known in France as scènes grivoises d'un caractère piquant. Such films were not always welcomed, and one of them (probably the Pirou title) had to be withdrawn from a London music hall in January 1897 after protests from the more respectable clientele. Léar, the director of Le Coucher de la Marie, may have been a trader in pornographic pictures, another of Pirou's business interests, thogh Léar went on to make the first film of the life of Christ. It is not clear what happened to Pirou after the turn of the century, but his place in film history was assured; in the brief period 1896 to '97 he had made over fifty films (frames of which are preserved in the Bibliotheque Nationale); other achievments in these years include pioneering the amateur film business, and also (probably for the first time) enticing a theatrical star, Cecile Sorel, before the camera.
I hope that's informative.

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

Unread post by boblipton » Sun Oct 14, 2018 5:00 am

Fatima (1897): Fatima, aka "Little Egypt", shakes her stuff for the Edison cameras.

I just looked at this old movie as it was presented on the "Movie Museum" show from the early 1960s. They showed two versions of the movie. The first was the screened version, with what looked like two little picket fences strategically placed to not shock Victorian prudery. The second was the uncensored version, in which the cootch dancer's belly button and covered breasts can be seen. She's pretty good.

Fatima, also known as "Little Egypt", was Fahreda Mazar Spyropoulos. She was born about 1871. She seems to have first performed the belly dance for American audiences in Tombstone Arizona. She did the dance at the 1893 Chicago Fair, where she did not give Mark Twain a heart attack, then went on a tour of Europe. She also did the belly dance at the 1933 World's Fair and died in 1937.
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Unread post by boblipton » Sun Oct 14, 2018 7:25 am

The Old Captain (1911): Fred Huntley is released as ship's captain because he is too old. Despite his protests, and those of his wife, Anna Dodge, his command is given to a younger man. He is a brute who drinks and when the ship runs on the rocks, he panics.

The first thing I noticed was that Huntley seemed to be wearing more make-up than Karloff in Frankenstein. He was 48 when he made this and needed to look old. However he seems to have used stage make-up and facial prosthesis far too liberally.

Other than that, I found the movie to be decently performed with the moral that experience is worth a great deal. As I meander through my seventh decade, I find that comforting... but I always thought that old people had probably learned a few things through the decades.

They did without titles in this production; perhaps it was because I was looking at the Dutch version from the Eye Institute. Most of it is clear, although it took me a couple of minutes to make sense of the brief epilogue. Perhaps you'll catch on quicker.

Beheading a Chinese Boxer (1900): Between 1899 and 1901, a Chinese secret society called Yihetuan (translated as "Militia United United in Harmony" and called "Boxers" by foreigners, since martial arts clubs were a source of members) rose up against the Qing dynasty, who eventually tried to ride the whirlwind and support them. They were put down severely by the foreigners, since they opposed foreigners, Christianity and foreign gunboats shelling the Chinese. This movie shows an example of the reprisals, using the same camera trick used five years earlier in The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.

There's nothing surprising in any of that. What is surprising is that this movie was produced by Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon, the Manchester film company that is best known for going around town and shooting the crowds at local events. Apparently they did a few studio pieces in addition to their better-remembered work.

1861 (1911): When a union officer sent on a scouting (read: spying) mission can't break back through enemy lines, he shelters for a few days at a Southern plantation. Later, his hostess, Kathlyn Williams becomes a nurse for the Confederate army. She takes some time off to search for her brother and finds him dying on the battlefield, being comforted by injured spy.

With the Civil War half a century past, there were a lot of films produced on the subject, and this is one of them. There were two rules. One was that they were told from the Southern viewpoint, since otherwise they would not be shown in Southern theaters. The other was that you had to be respectful of Lincoln, otherwise it wouldn't be shown in Northern theaters. This one is typical for the era, obviously shot way down south, and the Black roles were a mixture of blackfaced White actors and some Black ones. The scene of the battle's aftermath is quite affecting.

Miss Williams is currently the only individual identified in this Selig production.

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

Unread post by Jim Roots » Sun Oct 14, 2018 11:45 am

Antony and Cleopatra (not a misspelling of "Anthony") (1913) – Another historical spectacular from Italy based on its own bygone glories. Not being British, or even English-speaking, its adherence to Shakespeare is more in the way of an homage than a faithful adaptation or even an elephantine “borrowing”. On its own terms, it progresses through the story at a regular pace, throws in the standard thousands of supporting crowds, yet parses its pennies in the prop department, which latter isn’t the usual way with Italian spectaculars of the pre-WW1 era. (The lead conspirator wears a bowling trophy on his head; his chief advisor sports a paint can on his; and everybody else wears soup bowls, cuspidors, and similar “creative” chapeaux.) The throne rooms are sparse and are clearly the same whether it’s pretending to be Cleopatra’s, Antony’s, or Octavius’. The “massive” fleets of ships are three or four boats of such smallness as to cause the viewer to double-take in surprise; and on one occasion, Cleo’s barge is a mere cut-out being towed rather stiffly in front of a poorly-done backdrop.

The players, though Italians, look like modern (1910’s) Americans in their faces, which are indistinguishable atop bodies that are almost uniformly, um, “thick”. There are, of course, no close-ups -- it's 1913, remember -- and only a very few medium shots. The leads have no real spark of attraction between them. You do not believe in their passion for each other.

Still, it kept me watching and my mind didn’t wander much.

The film was imported by George Kleine, producer of that other classic of solemn historic earnestness, The Mishaps of Musty Suffer.

Jim

Battra92
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Re: What's The Last Silent Movie You Watched? [2018]

Unread post by Battra92 » Sun Oct 14, 2018 8:54 pm

Rodney wrote:
Fri Oct 12, 2018 2:31 pm
Thanks for the nice comments about the Les Vampires score. I wanted to compile a score that would hold together over the considerable length of the whole serial, by having some common music but also a few fresh pieces in each episode. The "main theme" is a weird little piece by M.L. Lake called "Fourteen Fathoms Deep." It has a memorable four-note opening phrase that I could recall whenever I wanted to emphasize a particular on-screen happening.

And note that besides the synthesizer and piano scores for The Penalty, Mont Alto created a traditional small-orchestra score for Kino's re-release on BluRay. It's the first score I recorded on the Kawai grand piano that I purchased with the proceeds from my work on Les Vampires! Thanks, Kino!
You're very welcome. I have seen three different versions of Les Vampires and this is my favorite score to it. That opening phrase really is memorable. Is there any recordings of Fourteen Fathoms Deep. Google shows none.

I wish Fantomas had received a decent score. I feel it suffers from having such a bad score on the DVD. I mean, it's not as good a film as Les Vampires or Judex but I don't rewatch it like the others.

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