Silent : What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

Xiao Wanyi (1933), which, without music, was a bit slow going, but I'd just re-watched Stanley Kwan's 1991 biopic Ruan Lingu (aka: Center Stage) (with Maggie Cheung), which fueled my curiosity. Some very tender scenes, and great acting.

A great double feature.

"What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

Hi lubin-freddy. So glad that you finally got to see Little Toys and that you enjoyed it. It's such a beautiful film and Ruan Lingyu is sensational as always.

Center Stage is an interesting biopic and Maggie Cheung does a very good job in that.







Go to bed Frank or this is going to get ugly .

The Undesirable

No-one's seen any silent in the last two months?

“Let me go far away from here, to a country with better men.”

After the disappointment of sitting through a public screening of the then-recently restored 1922 Michael Curtiz silent Sodom and Gomorrah with an audience of silent film fans whose anticipation turned to exponentially mounting disappointment and boredom as it unreeled, I had dialled down my expectations substantially for the Hungarian Filmlab’s new restoration of his recently rediscovered 1915 Hungarian film The Undesirable aka The Exile/A Tolonc. While it’s certainly not a lost masterpiece, it’s not the massive letdown Sodom turned out to be, offering a simple tale simply told – albeit with more sophistication than many of its contemporaries – that is very much part of the transitional era between the early declamatory style of performance and something more intimately tailored to the camera.

Based on a folk story, it’s very much a melodrama: Lili Berky learns that her dying father (who overdoes his death scene as much as she underplays her reactions) is in fact her uncle and that her real father was a cruel man who was murdered by her mother, whose fate remains unknown to him. As fate would have it, her mother (Mari Jázsai) is just about to be released from prison after serving 15 years for the crime at exactly the same time as her daughter travels to the big city to find work, becoming a maid to Mariska Simon and her James Finlaysonesque wastrel of a husband, whose son Várkonyi Mihály (before he moved to Hollywood and changed his name to Victor Varconi) falls madly in love with her. Unfortunately not quite as madly in love with her as he is with his own moustache, which he can’t keep his hands off for a minute, and not quite madly enough to stand by her when a vagrant steals the family jewels and the suicidal Berky gets the blame and is run out of town back to her village, where her long lost mother has already given up hope of ever finding her…

Offering doomed mother love, ill-fated romance across the class divide, poisoned wine and some broad comedy from the local larcenous vagrant who causes all the trouble and Simon’s battering of her husband, it’s very much a populist piece of its time. There are no great technical revelations, the camera always static, although there is one surprising close-up of Berky in the stepfather’s death scene. Yet the performances are mostly understated enough for it to avoid unintentional comedy, with Berky in particular confidently subtle, and you can definitely see why Mihály Kertész, as Curtiz was still called at the time, was soon wooed away from Hungarian films first by the German film industry and then by Hollywood.

While Olive’s region A-locked Blu-ray offers no extras, it does offer a splendid transfer of a rare almost pristine print of a silent film with only a few missing frames and one noticeable but very brief section of a single take that looks like it comes from a dupe: for the most part this is immaculate, rock steady and with a lot more detail than silent film lovers have come to expect and certainly wouldn’t have expected from a long-lost 101 year old film. It also benefits from an excellent orchestral score by Peter Illenyi that really compliments the film. The apparently vintage intertitles are all English, albeit with the odd spelling mistake but not without occasional wit (Varconi asks his mother for his inheritance before his father spends it all on wine, women and song and later breaks off a tryst with Berky when his warring parents return because ‘I should like to be present at the peace treaty’). It’s a film that’s of more interest to silent film lovers than general audiences, but it’s a very welcome and impressive restoration.


"Security - release the badgers."

Where East is East

Despite the expectations Lon Chaney and Tod Browning’s names above the title may automatically summon up among horror fans, 1929’s Where East is East is one of the star’s many melodramas (and the final entry in the star and director’s jungle trilogy after the all-but-33-minutes lost The Road to Mandalay and the dementedly lurid West of Zanzibar), albeit one with a grisly, though mostly offscreen denouement. Set in what was then French IndoChina - ‘a colourful spot of French rule and Chinese custom’ - Chaney, using his own face with just a few strategically added scars in his penultimate silent film, makes his living trapping tigers for circuses, raising his hyperactive half-caste daughter Lupe Velez himself and at first less than pleased to discover that she’s fallen in love with Lloyd Hughes, the son of the circus owner who is his biggest customer. No sooner is he won over by his courage than the boy falls under the spell of Estelle Taylor’s (metaphorically) man-eating vamp on a trip downriver: well, the nights of the East, so the title card tells us, are strange and wayward things and there’s not much else in the way of shipboard entertainment. Her maid (Mademoiselle Kithnou) warns Chaney, ‘She is bad. White boy like sheep with tiger,’ but Chaney already knows it only too well, because not only is he one of the many men broken by her heathen tricks, but she’s Velez’s mother – and that only makes her want to steal her prospective son-in-law from her own daughter all the more. Chaney would sooner see the tigers get Hughes than her, but Taylor isn’t going to give up without a fight….

It’s typical of the kind of colourful romantic melodrama set in exotic locales that was one of the mainstays of silent cinema, with MGM and production designer Cedric Gibbons ensuring it has lavish production values and quite a lot of location footage even if it’s obvious the stars never left California long before the bad back projection sticks out like a sore thumb on the boat trip up the Mekong Rover. Velez’s jealousy of women are no threat to her romance is played quite effectively for laughs in the first third of the film before things take a darker turn as Chaney tries to keep her long-lost mother’s true nature from her and Hughes from his prospective mother-in-law’s arms, which is no easy task when at one point the lad’s so tormented with desire he sees her face on every woman in a bar. As the critics complained at the time, everything pretty much plays out exactly as you expect – as soon as you see Old Ranghu you know exactly how this one will end – but it does so in a satisfying and entertaining fashion. Surprisingly despite the Kiplingesque associations of the title the film never makes an issue of its interracial pairings, but Taylor’s seduction technique and faux-Asian makeup don’t exactly make her a credible rival for Velez, and at times she’s as much a parody of sophistication as Velez’s overenthusiastic childishness is of her innocence. Small matter: Chaney’s commanding yet never overplayed presence carries the film, showing that he didn’t need tortuous makeup transformations to suffer compellingly. It’s hokum, but it’s high quality hokum.

Warner Archive’s US NTSC manufactured on demand DVD-R is not one of their best efforts, hailing from the early days of the program before they improved their mastering but it does include the original Movietone soundtrack that has a synchronised full orchestral score and some sound effects but has suffered a fair bit of wear over the intervening decades – no breaks but a lot of scratches, with detail better in the medium shots and close-ups than some of the early long shots of the waterfront village. No extras.



"Security - release the badgers."

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

I just watched The Iron Horse (1924) which is a pretty good flick!
Now I can't wait for Hell on Wheels to start again. :)

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

To give this thread an extra boost, here's the selection of mostly obscure silents I watched in February.


The Green Goddess (1923, Sidney Olcott)
--- In my review of the sound version of The Green Goddess (1930) I called it "...a bunch of mumbo jumbo" and might be my least favorite George Arliss film. Now I had the pleasure of seeing the original 1923 silent production of The Green Goddess (1923), where Arliss, Alice Joyce & Ivan F. Simpson did their roles like they did in the 1930 version, and it works better as a silent! The story is still a piece of exotic mumbo jumbo, but it feels less corny in this atmosphere. Not among Arliss' best work, but with that ugly mug he makes for a very alluring villain. So much that you end up rooting for him instead of those snotty Brits crashing in his kingdom!
5/10


Kärlek och journalistik [Love and Journalism] (1916, Mauritz Stiller)
--- Mauritz Stiller making a romcom of the lightest kind. And it works rather well within it's silent 1916 format. Easy to follow and likable characters, though I wouldn't call the plot all that creative.
4/10


Khlib [Bread] (1929, Nikolai Shpikovsky)
--- Khlib [Bread] (1929) is a Ukrainian film that didn't get past the Soviet censors. The third and last film Nikolai Shpikovsky got to direct! All his output is worth a look. Most famous is Shakhmatnaya goryachka [Chess Fever] (1925), but also Shkurnyk (1929) is a very fascinating comedy. As for Khlib, it takes a interesting look at the communist ideals on farming. One I guess the communist leaders wasn't so keen on. Shpikovsky has a good eye on how to compose this story, sometimes using far-shots and rapid editing to get the sense of feel for the moment. Quite impressive and a shame he wasn't on the good side of those governing the movie business so he could continue what he was good at.
6/10


La proie du vent [The Prey of the Wind] (1927, René Clair)
-- A lesser known René Clair and the only one of his silents I'd yet to see. Shows signs of his masterful direction, but narratively it gets too dull to engage. Becomes my least favorite of his silent features, but it's not a bad film.
4/10


Red Lily (1924, Fred Niblo)
--- This was a tragic love story. Not sure I believe the ending after all that, but for those that want to believe in the Red Lily (1924) that was the upswing one was waiting for. Ramon Novarro was good, but this is the movie one will remember Enid Bennett by! I must also praise the soundtrack on the restored print. Really helped create the mood during all the slummy moments.
7/10


The Young Rajah (1922, Phil Rosen)
--- Saw the restored version which uses a lot of still photos and inter-titles to explain what happens in the missing footage. Quite a lot is lost of the early portion of the film, but thankfully it feels more like a proper movie as the story takes form in the later stages. I've never been much of a fan for Rudolph Valentino's exotic pictures, and this one felt about average. Got some decent moments, but the focus is mainly on Valentino's handsome and muscular looks. A 1922 chick flick.
3/10


Les nouveaux messieurs [The New Gentlemen] (1929, Jacques Feyder)
--- Les nouveaux messieurs [The New Gentlemen] (1929) is clearly a work of love from the remarkable French director Jacques Feyder. Unfortunately in all it's playfulness in this tug-of-war romance it fumbles too much. Some scenes are brilliant, but most of the time it struggles to really express it's wit clear enough, much to do with it's excessive running-time dragging the flirting out too long. Didn't feel they had enough personality to get away with that.
5/10


Six et demi onze [6 1/2 x 11] (1927, Jean Epstein)
--- I always preferred Jean Epstein more narrative features to his avant guard mood pieces. Simple because he composes his imagery so powerful and his pure image driven films kind of overdoses on his creativity. Nice to have a straight story guiding us through. A tragic one, well suited to his style of shooting. Six et demi onze (1927)'s reputation had escaped me, but it's one that deserves broader exposure.
6/10


The Little Minister (1921, Penrhyn Stanlaws)
--- I still prefer Katharine Hepburn's The Little Minister (1934) and the way they handled this story there, but Betty Compson bubbly performance in The Little Minister (1921) was a joy to behold.
4/10


Nattens barn (1916, Georg af Klercker)
--- Swedish drama from 1916 about the experiences of a unlucky maid. Not a story which generated much interest. Looks alright, especially for a throwaway production for this period, but little about it stands out.
3/10


La casa sotto la neve [Under the Snow] (1922, Gennaro Righelli)
--- A Italian jealousy drama in the snow. Little on the long side for that sort of film, but Maria Jacobini magnetism warms cold parts and they do a solid job of building the suspense in several stages of the film. Quite a pleasant view.
5/10

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

Gloria Swanson has a great screen presence, some of my favorite films with her are actually talkies.
You should take a look at The Trespasser (1929) which was the first talkie she did and Tonight or Never (1931) in which she sings - quite well actually.

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

Thanks for the suggestions, I will definitely give them a look.

Just watched Clara Bow in 'It' (1927) for the first time last night.
She was just sensational and it was a really funny movie from beginning to end.
Perfect Rom-com. What a breathe of fresh air from the current pathetic deluge of comedies that Hollywood is now churning out- I will be turning more and more to the silents for something amusing and original. I have an Early Charlie Chaplin short 'Easy Street' (1916) left to watch on my Slapstick masters DVD.

Never the biggest Chaplin fan but I am sure with his huge 82 film offerings there should be something that should be to my likings.

Gee- a Ghostbusters remake!!!!
Just what everybody is asking for-LOL.




A Romance of Seville

With a screenplay by Alfred Hitchcock’s wife and underappreciated behind the scenes heroine of his films Alma Reville, it’s doubtful that A Romance of Seville made any more impression on audiences in 1929 than it does today. A professionally made but uninspired romantic drama that was originally sold more on its Spanish locations and now lost Pathécolor sequences (and on its reissue the following year on its synchronised score featuring ‘a medley of colourful Spanish music’) than on its story or bland cast, the locations look great and are fully exploited by Claude Friese-Greene’s cinematography but the story is a routine melodrama. Alexandre D’Arcy meets the bride he was betrothed to since childhood (Eugenie Amami) for the very first time, and the sparks fail to fly, so he’s delighted to find out that she’s actually in love with poor officer Hugh Eden, which is perfect timing because he’s just about to meet Marguerite Allan and save her and her father from bandits who are after her valuable necklace. She’s also got a fiancé waiting in the wings (Cecil Barry), but unbeknownst to her he’s in debt to the bandits and is behind the attempted robbery. Cue a few romantic misunderstandings that are quickly resolved, a kidnapping and a race to the rescue, all carried out with some professionalism but little attempt to make them seem new (though D’Arcy leaving a bandit tied to a tree with his arm pointing to the bandits’ hideout is a neat bit of business).

It’s the kind of film that needs a charismatic star to pull off, and while the producers may have thought the Egyptian-born D’Arcy’s male model looks gave him a bit of Valentino-style exoticism he’s a rather bland fellow who doesn’t exactly exude strength or confidence (the kind of handsome but unexciting type some women would describe as having Pointless Good Looks). The script doesn’t give him too much help either, throwing away his chance to be a swashbuckling hero when, mid-rescue, he takes two swords from the wall, throws one to Randle Ayrton’s bandit chief in a classic prelude to a duel only to promptly run away with the girl and shut the door behind him, leaving most of the heavy lifting in the final battle to Eden’s soldiers. But for the most part it’s the kind of film where nobody shines but nobody disgraces themselves either, and the BFI’s restoration of the 1930 black and white reissue version certainly looks very impressive even if the only extra on Network’s UK DVD is a brief stills gallery.



"Security - release the badgers."

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

Well a few personal thoughts on Charlie Chaplin.

I have seen a couple of Chaplin silent films on and off over the years mostly on TCM and will be the first to admit my lack of enthusiasm for his style of comedy.

Having just read the (Awesomely good :) George Burn's 'All my Best Friends' in which he described a round table lunch vote in the early thirties that included most of the top comedians at the time including Groucho Marks and Jack Benny- everyone voted unanimously for Chaplin as being the Greatest screen comedian of their time. With all that comedy heft- there must be something that I was missing?

It was during the watching of 'Easy Street' (1916) that an understanding of Chaplin's greatness started to dawn upon me- like having stared at a painting upset down for years and trying to figure out what it was all about.

Chaplin's comedy is not how one has grown up to expect comedies to be acted out, of course there is slapstick and sight gags but to my understanding Chaplin should be viewed as watching a straight drama in which all the drama is speed up to it's highest pitch until it starts to lose it serious aspects and starts to become almost surrealistic.

Take 'Easy Street' for example, the film has a highly dramatic subplot of a down and out tramp who is so poor that he wanders into the church sermon just to steal the donation box and upon seeing the angelic countenance of the woman playing the organ suddenly decides to bolt out the door in anxiety but then the woman next to him asks him to hold her baby and then hands him the baby bottle upside down which starts to dribble on his pants and he does not know how to react to the possibility of the baby....well, that is an example of the surrealistic drama that bursts into comedy because it has gone beyond tragedy into something unexpected and crazy without losing the punch of the Social observations on poverty, despair and the violence it breeds which is a very serious underlying theme of this comedy.

The best I can conclude is that:
Chaplin = Social commentary as comedy.

And somewhere down the line modern audience expected their comedies- to contain social commentary. The picture turned around the other way.

Just one viewpoint on discovering some modern meaning in Chaplin.

He Who Gets Slapped and Mockery

“I say serious things – and people laugh.”

A film of firsts – the first film solely developed by Metro Goldwyn Mayer (though still credited to Metro-Goldwyn), Lon Chaney and Irving Thalberg’s first film at the studio, and the first appearance of Leo the Lion declaring Ars Gratia Artis in their corporate logo - time hasn’t been as kind to HE Who Gets Slapped as to many of Chaney’s other films. As with several of his films at the studio a melodrama with a grisly finish, it’s a curious mixture of sometimes heavy-handed symbolism (various acts being intercut with a clown spinning a ball that becomes a globe the most overused), sentiment, pathos, love story and finally suspense.

Chaney starts the film as a scientist pursuing his theories on the origins of man thanks to the patronage of Mark McDermott’s Baron, who’s not merely content with stealing Chaney’s wife (Ruth King) but steals all the credit for his work too, leaving him humiliated and alone. Years later he’s turned the slaps and derisive laughter he received that day into the basis of a circus act that’s turning him – or HE Who Gets Slapped, as he now calls himself – into the hottest star in Paris. He may be billed as ‘The quaintest clown in the world,’ but HE’s act is pretty much the Twenties’ version of torture porn: not content with 60 clowns slapping him each night (well, it is just a small circus), he’s bound and gagged and his heart torn out, stamped on and buried, all to the raucous roars of laughter from the crowd (well, it is a French circus, and some of their comedies have higher body counts than The Wild Bunch). It’s not so much pathos as unrelenting sadism, but then audiences came to see Chaney suffer or make others suffer, so there’s a knowing element to his twice-nightly humiliation.

Things get complicated when Tully Marshall’s down-on-his-luck Count introduces his daughter Norma Shearer to the circus and she becomes part of John Gilbert’s trick riding act and naturally falls in love with him while HE stands on the sidelines silently falling in love with her. But her father has plans to sell her off to a rich aristocrat – no prizes for guessing who – giving HE the chance for a terrible revenge…

Although it’s not helped by the 60s score that’s been included on Warner Archive’s DVD-R release, which sounds like it was written for a family comedy-adventure with a few Twilight Zone cues creeping in, despite its huge critical reputation it’s not one of director Victor Sjöström’s best (his name is Americanised to Victor Seastrom in the credits), never matching the kind of extraordinary emotional power he was able to bring to The Phantom Carriage. There are a few good visual moments, he plays the melodrama straight enough for it not to be saccharine or pathetic in the worst way and builds up some real suspense in the finale, but occasional attempts to try to make it seem more philosophical than the story actually is, like a title card asking ‘What is life -? What is death -? What is love -?’, feel a bit too much like trying to shoehorn a sense of universal importance into a shamelessly populist story. Gilbert and Shearer’s careers both got a huge boost from the film, though neither are really at their best in what are very much juvenile leads, which doesn’t help when the film forgets about Chaney for far too long while they discover the delights of Spring. Ruth King makes much more out of considerably less as the unfaithful and ultimately discarded wife: her frozen shock as she is paid off while McDermott slopes off after younger prey is one of the film’s most memorable images.

Chaney, as ever, is adept at balancing moments of stillness and subtlety with the broader elements but even though it was one of his favourite parts it never really stretches him much beyond the crying on the inside tragic clown stereotype, something he revisited with rather better results four years later in Laugh, Clown, Laugh. In many ways it’s very much a template for some of his later MGM films, with the decent man wronged transforming himself into a human monster who takes a terrible revenge, and it’s certainly worth watching for Chaney’s admirers, but newcomers might want to start elsewhere to see him in a story that makes better use of his remarkable talents.


“He gets kisses while you get lashes.”

Mockery is one of Lon Chaney’s least remember films today and it’s sadly not hard to see why. Despite grossing four times its budget, the film was regarded at the time as a major disappointment, the contemporary mixed reviews only adding to its eventual obscurity. At first it’s hard to understand why because the film starts out so strongly and Chaney is good enough to set up expectations that this could be among his best performances. His slow but fundamentally decent peasant, first seen scavenging dead bodies, is persuaded to guide Barbara Bedford’s Countess through Bolshevik territory to safety. Unaware of her true identity himself, he suffers a vicious beating to protect her, motivated more by her promise of friendship than money only to find his reward is a lowly job in the kitchens of her war profiteering friends. There he falls under the influence of the Bolshie cook who turns his disappointment into surly resentment with his talk of class war and a time when they will be Bedford’s equals (“Do you think those upstairs pigs ever keep their promises to us downstairs?”), with disastrous consequences once the army leaves town and the reds arrive…

It’s a disappointing film with two great moments that top and tail the film that hint at the better film you imagine director Benjamin Christensen (Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages) had in mind before the studio lost their nerve. The scene where Chaney gently takes off the exhausted Bedford’s shoes and bathes her feet before making a bed for her is a magical moment of screen innocence that makes clear the simple purity of his soul before it becomes corrupted and the final scenes recapture at least some of that spell. It’s a film where almost everyone makes mistaken assumptions about Bedford’s countess: Chaney mistakes her kindness and manners for friendship, Ricardo Cortez’s officer mistakes her for a peasant girl when crudely flirting with her – only the Bolshevik revolutionaries immediately suspect her real position.

Chaney’s very good in the kind of part that could have been overplayed (“Idiot, am I? Well.. idiots kill”) but unfortunately, despite the obvious parallels with Quasimodo and Esmerelda, there’s not much of a story for him to get his teeth into, spending much of the middle section in a bit of a disappointed huff, with the revolution largely being played out as an extended comic drunken petty power struggle between the arms dealing nouveaux riche and Chaney that quickly gets tiresome and repetitive (and MGM had planned to include even more broad comedy as Mack Swain and Emily Fitzroy fled their Dacha) before spending far too long with Chaney chasing Bedford around the table and through various rooms to have his wicked way with her - and it’s made very clear exactly what the chef and Chaney plan to do to her. Bedford is an interesting and quite subtle actress, with the poise and nobles oblige the part calls for, never making her a simplistic snob or the exploiter of the working class she’s derided as: it’s not that she’s malicious, merely that her generosity is limited by her assumption that all the lower class really want is a job and the occasional kind word. She’s not so good in the later scenes of panic where she’s required to run away from Chaney waving her hands in the air, but it’s hard to imagine many actresses doing anything interesting with those scenes.

It’s a film that feels both watered down and under developed. It has some epic street fighting scenes, but they’re only glimpsed very briefly before cutting back to the dacha, while Bedford’s romance with the eternally cocky Cortez (“I apologise for my lips, Countess... and I apologize for my eyes... but I cannot apologize for my heart”) feels more like a plot device than a real passion even though he’s excellent in his final scene where he completely misreads the situation. There are some nice touches here and there, particularly a bit of business with a bullet hole in a barrel, but it’s hard to come away from it without a sense of disappointment.

Although the film was thought lost until 1970, the print quality on Warner Archive’s manufactured on demand DVD-R is for the most part excellent despite a couple of moments of water damage and boasts a superb score by James Schafer



"Security - release the badgers."

Tell It To the Marines

“Anybody here want to drive the general’s car?”

Service comedies were a comparative rarity in the silent era, but two major studios released two of them within a month of each other in 1926 and pretty much established the genre’s template for decades to come. Raoul Walsh’s What Price Glory? is probably the best remembered today, but Tell It To The Marines was the bigger hit – the second biggest of the year, in fact, as well as the most profitable film Lon Chaney ever made at MGM. Both revolved around bickering U.S. Marines who both have their eye on the same girl (and both Fox and MGM would bicker over who had the rights to use the word Marines onscreen, MGM having the edge by being the first film made with the full co-operation), but while Glory was set during the First World War, Marines was set in the present day and followed fresh (in every way) recruit William Haines through his training and misadventures in the Philippines and China under the disapproving eye of Chaney’s veteran sergeant. Naturally the Marine Corps makes a man of Haines and it’s not much of a headscratcher which one of the stars will win over Eleanor Boardman’s Navy nurse, nor that the rivalry between them will resolve into friendship when they have to rescue her from Warner Oland’s Chinese bandit (politically correct it’s not, one Leather Neck throttling a Chinese extra and telling him “That’s for all the punk chop suey I got in Omaha!”).

It’s certainly formulaic, but the formula was still fresh then, and director George Hill keeps it moving along breezily and enjoyably. Haines’ conceited wisecracking character isn’t as irresistible as he imagines (“I’m America’s Sweetheart,” he boasts in one very ‘in’-joke) and even after he shapes up he doesn’t develop much in the way of charm, but as ever Chaney, using his own face as ‘the ugliest mut in the service’, is the main attraction. He may be playing the archetypal tough as nails D.I. with the heart of gold, but he’s absolutely convincing in the part – so much so that he was made a honorary Marine and granted a Marine honour guard at his funeral despite never having served – managing to add subtle shading and self-awareness to the role without ever descending into bathos. It’s a fairly slight, unashamedly crowd pleasing film, but Chaney’s performance gives it a strong enough heart and centre to remain engaging after 90 years of variations on the same theme.



"Security - release the badgers."

The Magician

“If you wish to see strange things, I have the power to show them to you.”

Not to be confused with the actor who played the genie in The Thief of Bagdad, Rex Ingram may have been one of MGM’s top directors in the silent era, but watching The Magician you can’t help wondering what a more inspired and adventurous director like F.W. Murnau or Michael Powell (who has a cameo in the film) could have made of W. Somerset Maugham’s tale of a young woman in Paris who falls under the spell of a magician who needs her virgin blood to create life (“He looks as if he stepped out of a melodrama”). There are moments that hint at what could be: a giant statue of a faun briefly appearing to come to life before crumbling and crushing its sculptor or a vision of pagan revels overseen by the same faun come to life. Yet they’re few and far between, Ingram adopting a rather classical style that never hypnotises the audience the way Paul Wegener’s magician does the heroine but rather keeps it a film you watch at a remove rather than being drawn into, with even the brief imaginary hedonism never really letting rip.

It doesn’t help that there’s not a spark of chemistry or sexual magnetism between romantic leads Alice Terry (aka Mrs Ingram) and Iván Petrovich, behaving more like a long-married couple than lovers: there’s no life in them to lose, which renders the threat purely academic. Ingram was somewhat notorious for not getting the most out of his wife and occasional co-director onscreen, and that’s certainly the case here. She’s never particularly convincing and rarely seems engaged by the material in a part that offers her little to work with. Looking like a cross between Lionel Atwill and Oskar Homolka with the bulk of Emil Jannings, Paul Wegener was probably the first real superstar of the horror genre in the days when Germany led the field, but this never really taps into his talent or utilises his screen presence especially well in a role inspired by Satanist socialite Aleister Crowley (who wrote a scathing review of the novel under the pen-name Oliver Haddo, the character Wegener plays in the film).

Despite being shot in his studio in Nice and on location in Paris and Monte Carlo to avoid studio interference (most notably from Louis B. Mayer), this feels very much life a safe studio-friendly picture rather than a passion project. It’s professionally made but rarely comes to life, and when it does it’s often where you least expect it. Always good with spectacle the casino scene is effective and there’s a couple of delightful bits of comic business with his protégé Michael Powell as a balding bespectacled man with a balloon on the sidelines when Wegener demonstrates his powers during a snake charmer’s act, but despite gifting his mad magician with an atmospherically designed and shot sorcerer’s tower for his laboratory and a dwarf assistant who presumably spawned all those generations of Igors that populated Universal’s horror cycle, the finale offers more fisticuffs than frissons.

Horror fans might enjoy seeing it as a bridge between the more stylised German expressionist horror films of the early Twenties and the mad scientist movies that would become a screen staple in the wake of Frankenstein’s huge success, but this is really more of a production line melodrama with most of the supernatural elements and the darker ending of the novel omitted. It’s certainly watchable, but it’s more of historical interest than especially enthralling.

Warner Archive’s manufactured on demand DVD-R is taken from TCM’s 2010 TV presentation with a new orchestral score by Robert Israel that acknowledges the clichéd material in much of its choice of source music, especially Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. The tinted print isn’t pristine with some damage and track marks that’s most noticeable in the first reel but more than acceptable. No extras.


"Security - release the badgers."

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

I recently watched Street Angel (1928) with Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, and thought it was sublime.I had previously seen them in another Frank Borzage film Seventh Heaven, but, as enjoyable as that was, 'Angel' is my favourite.Janet Gaynor gives an absolutely stunning performance, on a par with her turn in Murnau's Sunrise, and it's easy to see why she won the first Oscar for her performances.

"Barney Sloane...That's my new name...My old one's a little more Italian."

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

Those two are great, absolutely, and I have to admit they blur into each other a little in my memory.

If you loved those, you must also check out Lucky Star and City Girl, if you haven't already.

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

Thanks for the recommendations.I haven't seen those yet, but will certainly try to seek them out.

"Barney Sloane...That's my new name...My old one's a little more Italian."

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

Just watched 'Wings'(1927) for the first time and I am a little embarrassed that I have never watched this fantastic first Academy Award winner for best film.

When someone says, "That Silent Movie could be released in Theaters today and people would flock to see it" then that would be 'Wings'. The Aerial actions sequences are that phenomenal and probably the closest we will ever get to seeing actual W.W.I aerial combat. Having been filmed a mere 8 years after the first war and having the experienced pilots, planes and tactics that were probably still in use- gives this film a depth of authenticity that has you gripping your chair as the planes fill the screen in dive-bombing mayhem.

The copy that I watched was sepia toned? personally, I don't really care for this look in silent films, so I just turn the color back down to B&W.

According to the extras, the film maybe the most expensive ever, as the federal government gave approx 15 million dollars worth of support in troops, planes, artillery, equipment etc.. plus the production budget of $2 million.

Really enjoyed this film and the cast overall, good love triangle storyline that ties itself up neatly in the end. It does start a little Sappy at first when it is introducing the characters and their relationships but after they get out of aerial training and go off to war, then the film shifts to another level and the light comedy in-between the action helps to break up the tension between the build up scenes of combat with the Big Push at the end.

In my top ten list of the most exciting Silent Films of all times- period and one of the last. Out with a bang at 2 dollars a ticket in 1927.

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

It is as if the only good WWI movies were made in the years between WWI and WWII, I guess that people seem to think that WWII is a more interesting subject for a movie than WWI.

Have you seen Hells Angels (1930)? It is a WWI air combat talkie directed by Howard Hughes, it is not as good as Wings but still a pretty solid flick.

One of my all time favorite war movies is The Big Parade (1925) directed by the incredible King Vidor. Apart from a few scenes that are a bit silly it is as close to a masterpiece as you can probably get. A solid 9/10!

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

Watched 'Hell's Angels' when I was on my Jean Harlow kick, not much of the film stuck with me??? I guess it is more of a thrilling-action experience than something that leaves a dramatic impression. I will take a good look at 'The Big Parade' and add it to my growing list- some can be rented and those that have to be bought should be exceptional to justify it.

That is a good point, probably the most effective (anti-war) film that I have viewed- still remains 'All Quiet on the Western Front' (1930) when the main character returns from the front on a furlough and visits his family at home, where the old veterans were singing their nostalgic praises of going off to battle and he now has his own taste of it for real and you can feel the bitterness of his betrayal.

The film still lingers potently when I remember it. It seems that these early war pictures are far less propagandist or political than the succeeding generations take on the wartime experience, so maybe they are more accurate in a way.

The Unholy Three x 2

The best-known of Lon Chaney and Tod Browning’s collaborations at MGM – albeit perhaps more for the non-Browning directed remake that was the star’s only talkie – 1925’s The Unholy Three is far from the best despite its initially deliriously devious set-up. Kicking off with an array of sideshow freaks and chiselers that’s like a dry run for Browning’s Freaks (itself based on a novel by the same author, Tod Robbins), Chaney is Professor Echo, a ventriloquist who distracts the crowds while girlfriend Sweet Rosie O’Grady (a very good Mae Busch) picks their pockets. But he has bigger plans: teaming up with a strongman (Victor McLaglen, at times looking like a very young Anthony Quinn) and midget (Harry Earles, who would go on to star in both the remake and Freaks), he has an unholy scheme that sees him disguising himself as a little old lady and Earles as a baby running a pet shop that sells birds that can’t speak to the wealthy. Not that his scam ends at throwing his voice to make it sound as if they can. When the wealthier customers complain that their bird is silent, he and Earles visit to case the joint while appearing to coax it to talk and return after dark with McLaglen to rob the place. Which works rather well until his accomplices decide to go it alone and end up committing murder and setting up the bespectacled sap who helps out in the shop (a surprisingly sympathetic Matt Moore in Harold Lloyd glasses) and has a crush on Busch…

This was very much a comeback picture for Browning after a run of flops, and at times it feels like he’s playing it safe because he knows he’s in the Last Chance Saloon after spending too much time in real saloons. While there are certainly plenty of grotesque elements and anarchic in the film, from the obligatory wild animal that Chaney keeps that wreaks vengeance (in this case a giant ape) and Earles puffing away on a cigar while in his baby clothes or laughing about his victim begging for his life, the first half of the film is played more as a black comedy than a thriller. There are a couple of suspense set pieces and the unholy trinity do fall out with murderous intent, but the film takes its lead from Chaney’s character who may run a crooked racket but isn’t that bad a guy underneath it all. When Busch offers to go off with him if he’ll clear Moore there’s no real question of how it’ll end up and the film gives in to sentimentality and melodrama once things reach the courtroom and the Professor’s plans to use his ventriloquism to save the day fail him. Browning shows some originality in handling the whole notion of ventriloquism playing a key role in a silent movie, at one point even putting cartoon speech bubbles above the parrots’ cages in the shop, and it’s a decent enough melodrama, but it’s ultimately more wholesome than unholy. It’s the kind of film whose reputation you have to take with perhaps a pinch of salt to get the most out of it – when Chaney says “That’s all there is to life, friends… a little laughter… a little tear,” he’s pretty much summing up the movie. But remember, never smoke cigarettes and you’ll be a big strong man like Victor McLaglen!


‘Lon Chaney TALKS in The Unholy 3’ screamed the posters for MGM’s 1930 remake of his 1925 hit, and Chaney’s voice is certainly the main attraction in his only talkie before his untimely death. On one level it shows that his career would have had no problems adjusting to the new era but also indicates that it would move away from the more tortured dramas that made him a huge box-office attraction to the kind of street smart rogues on the wrong side of the law who discover they have a heart after all roles that Wallace Beery and James Cagney would thrive in a few years later. It’s simultaneously a curious and an obvious choice for his belated entry into the talking picture stakes: the original was one of his lesser melodramas but the plot is dialogue-heavy and the then-new technology does allow you to actually hear his ventriloquist throw his voice. It’s actually Harry Earles, also reprising his role from the silent version as the midget, whose voice is the real problem: his German accent is so thick around 95% of his dialogue is completely incomprehensible, and he has a lot of dialogue. Thankfully it’s a problem not shared by Ivan Linow, replacing a then-under contract to Fox Film Corporation Victor McLaglen as Hercules.

The plot is basically the same, and so are some of the sets and costumes), but Elliott Nugent, this version’s co-writer along with his father J.C. Nugent, is while Lila Lee is convincing as a shopworn streetwise cookie but less convincing as the good girl underneath it all. It’s pretty much a scene for scene remake until the end, which reaches the same point via a slightly different route that curiously makes much less of the ventriloquism than the original, but if it lacks individuality the under-rated Jack Conway’s direction is very polished, with the film playing up the comedy much more. Chaney’s performance is a bit broader than in the 1925 version as a result, his Granny O’Grady less convincing second time round, as is his final scene, but it’s not a bad swansong for all that – just not up to the standard of his most extraordinary silent film work.


"Security - release the badgers."

The Show and The Merry Widow

“If it’s his heart you want, I’ll cut it out and give it to you.”

It’s part of the legend that has grown around John Gilbert’s ultimately career ruining feud with Louis B. Mayer that the vengeful studio chief actively sought out the worst projects he could find for his $250,000 a picture star and that the years after Flesh and the Devil were filled with predestined turkey after turkey – a notion that, like the myth that he had a bad voice, shows how few of Gilbert’s later films many have seen. If Mayer was deliberately trying to sabotage his fledgling company’s biggest investment, he had a funny way of going about it: The Cossacks was one of the studio’s biggest budgeted movies and Tod Browning’s The Show, so often described as an insulting bit of casting for one of the silent screen’s most popular lovers, is one of his best pictures and best performances.

In many ways it’s Gilbert’s Nightmare Alley (not surprising since in just as many ways Tyrone Power was his talking pictures equivalent), with the star cast against time as Cock Robin, the ballyhoo man for a Budapest sideshow featuring Neptuna, Queen of the Mermaids, Arachnida, the human spider and Zela, the half-lady (the film is almost a dry run for Freaks, though the attractions here are all fake). He knows how to get the ladies, and their money too, currently setting his sights on Gertrude Short’s country girl who he generously allows to pay for his supper. Things get complicated when her father is murdered by ‘The Greek’ (Lionel Barrymore, quietly oozing self-satisfied menace), whose girl (Renée Adorée) plays Salome in the show’s grand finale, where Gilbert plays John the Baptist in a fake decapitation – which The Greek figures could be improved by removing the fake part from the equation…

Gilbert had tried without success to get Liliom made as a starring vehicle, and this feels as if it was intended as a consolation prize, retaining the sideshow background, Hungarian setting and redemptive ending, but it’s made of much darker stuff. For most of the running time there’s no attempt to make the characters likeable, especially the self-centred and exploitative Gilbert, yet they are genuinely compelling as they go through their sordid paces before it all ends in melodrama and redemption, though even then Browning manages to keep it fairly grounded. But it’s the first half of the film that sees him truly in his element, offering some striking imagery as well as a fascination with the fakery of it all, with a wonderful dissection of the beheading scene, and drawing an excellent performance from Gilbert (or at least until his final moment of catharsis where the star’s tendency to overdo the big emotional moments comes into play). But the film, surprisingly, belongs to Adorée, who gives a superb performance that adds surprising depth to what could have been a clichéd and one dimensional part as the woman who’s mistreated by all the men in the picture in one way or another, imbuing it with a combination of tired hope and world weariness with a subtlety that’s absolutely fascinating to watch, drawing you in without ever showboating or over-emotin’. She’d previously managed to make more out of her part than was on the page in The Blackbird for Browning the previous year, and judging from the excellent performance he drew from Mary Nolan in West of Zanzibar the following year it’s obvious that the director’s fascination with the grotesque has overshadowed his considerable abilities as an actress’s director.

It’s not without its flaws - the last act threatens to overstay its welcome though Browning manages to prevent the pathos turning into bathos by making Edward Connelly’s elderly blind soldier an irritatingly needy and impatiently bossy figure who’s yet another cross for Adorée to bear – but it’s strengths and strikingly seedy atmosphere more than outweigh them. And the film even manages to end with an innuendo-laden joke and a wonderfully sick variation on the lovers kissing as if to put the director’s own signature on the traditional studio formula.

Warner Archive’s manufactured on demand DVD-R comes with an effective new score by Darrell Raby and includes the original intertitles which surprisingly include some surprisingly strong examples of taking the Lord’s name in vain language that the Production Code would bar from films for decades just a few years later.


One of the biggest hits of the silent era, 1925’s The Merry Widow may seem a contradiction in terms – a silent musical? – but is one of the most enjoyable, spectacular and surprisingly bawdy films of the day. The answer to the question how can you make a silent musical? is twofold: just because you can’t sing doesn’t mean you can’t dance, and the operetta’s famous waltz is not the film’s only dance number, with Mae Murray getting a big number of her own to show off her chorus girl credentials, but also it helps if the operetta not only has a half-decent plot but if you add substantially to it as director Erich von Stroheim and his co-writer Benjamin Glazer do. Michael Curtiz had already made a silent version in Hungary in 1918, but while that version might have been more faithful it’s easy to see why this one made a much bigger impression.

‘Personally Directed by Erich von Stroheim’ as the credits inform us – not quite as ridiculous as it might sound when many of MGM’s big silent features were directed by multiple hands even if only credited to one - it’s a film rich in history, Hollywood lore and gossip. The litigious and nigh-on impossible to deal with forgotten superstar Mae Murray spent much of the shoot fighting with almost everyone and, not entirely unjustifiably, complaining that von Stroheim was making a dirty movie (the self-destructive egocentric Murray would later be cited as the inspiration for Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, in which von Stroheim, perhaps not coincidentally, co-starred after his own egocentricity had killed off his directorial career). Von Stroheim’s excess on the shooting was the stuff of legend while his foot fetish is very much in evidence throughout the film (though Louis B. Mayer more pertinently described him as a ‘footage fetishist’ because of his excessive shooting). And, while Murray would quickly burn her bridges with the studio, it made John Gilbert a huge star in his own right before his own feud with Mayer and his drinking would derail his career. Not to mention the extras in the ballroom scene including future regular screen pairing Clark Gable and Joan Crawford. The film even ended with a reportedly stunning early Technicolor sequence that is now sadly lost.

The parallels with both stars’ lives are in retrospect striking, but without the happy ending. Gilbert was jilted at the altar by Garbo, went through a period of hating her before trying to win her back to the altar and hitting the bottle when he failed, while Murray moved from husband Robert Z. Leonard, the director who had helped make her a hugely wealthy but spendthrift star, to marry a phoney prince (one of a notorious trio of gold-digging brothers) who took her for every dime before ditching her. Yet even that knowledge can’t cast a shadow over how enjoyable much of the film is.

Gilbert is the second in line to the throne of a small Ruritanian kingdom and ‘the world’s champion of indoor sports,’ a title bestowed upon him by the jealous and vindictive first in line to the throne Roy D’Arcy, doing his best von Stroheim impersonation as the kind of prince who doesn’t just kick a cripple’s crutches but will kick him in the leg while he’s down and who quite literally can’t see the hand he’s kissing for all the diamonds on it. Both vie for the favours of Murray when her theatrical company arrives, though neither have plans for her beyond a single night. D’Arcy’s Teutonic lack of charm and duplicitous scheming naturally fails him but Gilbert has better luck by taking her to what is very obviously a brothel catering to all tastes where he keeps a private room to dine his latest conquest, complete with blindfolded musicians to provide the mood music only to find himself genuinely falling in love with her. Fearing a constitutional crisis if he marries a commoner, the horrified royal family forbid the marriage and she hastily marries the richest man in the kingdom on the rebound – who promptly drops dead on their wedding night, leaving her the richest woman in the kingdom and controlling its purse strings. When she flees to Paris, the prospect of her taking her money with her and bankrupting the country calls for desperate measures – someone has to marry her and bring her (and her money) back…

It’s a film that works on several levels – as a comedy of loose morals, a satire of the elegance and decadence of the old world and an adult fairytale romance set in a predatory world full of cynicism. Most of the laughs are to be found in the constant games of one-upmanship between man of the people – particularly the women – Gilbert and the over the top snobbery of D’Arcy before things take a darker turn (much more so than in Ernst Lubitsch’s version), but even then von Stroheim throws in another barbs of jaded wit for the film not to sink into solemnity. It’s lavishly staged with production design and photography that gets the mixture of storybook opulence and down-to-earth seediness just right and, while it won’t take anyone’s breath away, the film’s more than respectable transfer on Warner Archive’s manufactured-on-demand NTSC DVD does a decent job of reflecting that, though it’s a shame it doesn’t have a full orchestral score (though the famous Waltz does get an airing on the organ soundtrack).




"Security - release the badgers."

Flesh and the Devil and Show People

“When the Devil cannot reach us through the spirit… he creates a woman beautiful enough to reach us through the flesh.”

Neither John Gilbert nor Greta Garbo wanted to make Flesh and the Devil, yet as well as giving them a smash hit it led to perhaps the most famous of all on and offscreen love affairs of the silent era and one you can almost see unfold in real time – their first meeting was shooting their first scene where Gilbert falls in love with her at first sight and during their first big love scene rather than call cut, director Clarence Brown, or so he claimed, quietly ushered his crew away from the set and left them alone. But there’s more to the film than just seeing two of the silent era’s most perfect specimens falling in love for real, with Brown’s sophisticated direction and William Daniels’ superb cinematography elevating the material beyond the moralistic tale of a woman who destroys almost every man she comes into contact with.

Gilbert and Lars Hansen (Garbo’s co-star in The Saga of Gosta Berling) are fellow soldiers and childhood blood brothers (“Foolishness! You might have got blood poisoning!”) whose friendship is compromised when the former falls in love with Garbo, unaware that she’s married, and is exiled to the colonial service after a duel with her husband only for her to marry the wealthy Hansen in his absence. Not that that means she wants to give up Gilbert when he returns…

It’s a curious mixture of romanticism, with its storybook matte paintings, and the more down to Earth (Gilbert and Hansen even mucking out steaming piles of horse manure in the stables), with plenty of comedy to undercut the formality and pomp in the first third of the film before things take a darker tone. There are a few moments that don’t work, most notably some superimposition effects while Gilbert obsessively hurries across the globe to his lover, but there’s so much that works so well and so seductively it doesn’t matter: the truly striking play of light when Gilbert lights a cigarette in his cupped hands at night (“You know… when you blow out the match… that’s an invitation to kiss you?”), a duel shot entirely in silhouette like a shadow play or the camera revealing Garbo’s first husband as it follows a cigarette thrown out of the window. But it’s not just the visuals that are so impressive about Brown’s striking direction: it’s the way that despite the film’s title and George Fawcett’s pastor’s pulpit moralising, he avoids overtly demonising Garbo’s character.

What’s most intriguing about Garbo’s performance here is that although the part is clearly written as a femme fatale and the script and title are riddled with religious references, she downplays the malice to just a few quiet moments – the small hint of a smile as she tries on her widow’s veil for the first time, the way she adjusts her lipstick during a fire and brimstone sermon about adultery or the way she looks at a gift proffered by Hansen – so that you’re not sure if she really is evil or just, as she protests, simply too weak. It’s notable that the most unconvincing part of her performance is her hysterical reaction while Barbara Kent’s ‘good’ girl prays for the two friends’ lives in what’s pretty much meant to be a symbolic exorcism scene that drives the Devil out of her (although her evil spell still cannot be broken while she lives): it’s just too histrionic and on the nose and you can tell she doesn’t entirely believe in what she’s been asked to play. But that apart, the rest of the cast aren’t on her level, the two male leads admittedly not helped by some of the sledgehammer symbolism on their Island of Friendship when they finally face off against each other. Yet despite that, it works rather magnificently, as much thanks to the undervalued Brown as to Garbo, and still weaves its seductive spell nine decades on.

Warner Home Video’s DVD offers a good transfer of the 1988 Thames Silents restoration that was prepared by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill with a Carl Davis score and comes with a decent selection of extras, including an alternate ending obviously made to placate some of the regional censors, a photo montage, a featurette on a competition to create a new score for Garbo’s The Temptress and an audio commentary by Garbo biographer Barry Paris. Despite not having a lot to say about the film itself, the latter is mildly informative, but there’s quite a lot of dead air and intermittent Garbo impersonations when quoting her.


It almost feels mean not to love Show People, one of the increasingly few opportunities that Marion Davies got to demonstrate her comic chops because of her lover William Randolph Hearst’s determination to turn her into a great but demure dramatic actress, but it’s one of those comedies that doesn’t really live up to its reputation. Not that there isn’t much to enjoy in this spoof of both Gloria Swanson’s rise from custard-pie comedies (though Hearst strictly vetoed Davies getting a pie in the kisser) to first lady of screen drama and Davies’ own often ill-fitting dramatic roles and Hearst’s shameless promotion of her (there’s even a scene of Louella Parsons dutifully taking dictation of her virtues: ‘She has the temperament of Nazimova, the appeal of Garbo, the sweetness of Pickford, and the lure of Pola Negri!’). The plot isn’t a million miles from Merton of the Movies, with Davies arriving in Hollywood with dreams of being a great dramatic star but, initially at least, finding her efforts are more at home in comedy where she briefly finds a surrogate family thanks to bread-and-butter stock company member William Haines (looking strikingly like Kurt Russell in Tombstone with his comedy moustache) before being signed up by the High Art Studio for ‘serious’ pictures and starting to believe her own fake publicity and lose her audience, her soul and her true love.

There are certainly some good moments, not least a prolonged sequence of Davies desperately struggling to cry despite the best and increasingly forlorn efforts of the director and the crew (“Imagine forty thousand starving Armenians!”), but King Vidor certainly wasn’t a natural comedy director and it’s hard to shake the feeling that he’s talking down to the audience in the rather clumsily executed first half hour when Davies finds herself in Mack Sennett territory. It doesn’t help that the scenes look more like something that would have been shot a decade earlier. Davies’ constant silly face pulling is also something of an acquired taste in a film that’s funnier when its underplaying its jokes. But the many celebrity cameos are a big part of the film’s enduring attraction, not least Charlie Chaplin trying – and failing – to get her autograph (“Who is that little guy?”) and a pre-post-modern scene where she’s distinctly unimpressed by one Marion Davies (Douglas Fairbanks, John Gilbert, William S. Hart also turn up among many mostly forgotten stars, writers and directors who would have been familiar to audiences in 1928). It even ends with director King Vidor playing himself and reworking a scene from The Big Parade with Davies and Haines (even the film’s love theme makes an appearance on the original synchronized score). That historical interest carries it over some of the clumsier comic moments for fans of silent cinema, but it’s still a little too broad at times to stand comparison with the best silent comedies being produced at the time.

Warner Archive’s manufactured on demand DVD-R shows some water damage in a few scenes on the print used but is for the most part in more than acceptable condition as long as you’re not expecting a striking restoration – this has obviously been sourced from used prints – though it does have the original synchronized score that’s a lot more effective than many of the 60s reissue scores on some other Warner Archive silent titles.


"Security - release the badgers."

Three from Anthony Asquith

Despite its outrageous plot – a silent star plans to kill her husband and co-star during the shooting of a Western so that she can be with the knockabout comedian she loves without damaging her career - Shooting Stars isn’t really a comedy. Parts of it are funny, and Anthony Asquith’s script certainly takes plenty of satirical swipes at the industry he was trying to break into, but it’s really more of a drama that turns into a tragedy in very different ways than you might expect.

Mae Feather (Annette Benson), the ‘Sunshine Girl,’ is the archetypal silent leading lady, beloved by all she meets, a lover of Shakespeare and all creatures furry and winged – well, except for the crew of her films who despise her and the dove she shares a scene with who shows itself an excellent judge of character by pecking at her. In fact the only two people who love her are husband Julian Gordon (Brian Aherne) and, unbeknownst to him, Ben Turpin-like (minus the wild eyes) comedian Andy Wilkes (Donald Calthrop), and in Julian’s case it’s not the real Mae he’s in love with but the sweet and loving version she plays in all her films: indeed, while she’s with her lover, he’s in the cinema across the road watching her onscreen and utterly enraptured. Yet at the same time he knows that his real life doesn’t quite match up, sighing, “I wish life was more like the movies.” Ironically it’s part of maintaining the illusion of that movie image that puts him in harm’s way: because the ‘morals clause’ in both her and Calthrop’s contracts could end their careers and hopes of a move to Hollywood if either were involved in divorce or scandal, murder is the only way they can be together – though it’s only Benson who wants it enough to go that far, and even her resolve is shaky. Not that Wilkes is in any way admirable: he takes real delight in incorporating the key to his lover’s flat into one of his films (complete with future star Chili Bouchier as the married bathing beauty his onscreen lecher has his eye on).

The behind the scenes look at a working silent studio is a big selling point of the film, from the split level studio (Westerns downstairs, comedy upstairs) revealed in a lengthy overhead crane shot and the phoney press interviews to the backstage bitching and some convincing scenes of Wilkes workshopping his routines in a way that had largely gone out of fashion by the time the film was released in 1928 (the main body of the film turns out to be set several years before). It’s certainly more convincingly naturalistic than more traditional movies about movies like Show People: while a few try to live their dreams, for most it’s just a job, and not a very interesting one at that.

There is one major credibility problem with a key revelation depending entirely on Benson completely forgetting that Aherne is in the same flat at the wrong moment and for all the claims that Asquith’s scenario was so flawlessly worked out that the credited director was a mere technician carrying out his wishes to the letter there are sections that feel technically accomplished but don’t quite work as well as they could due to some sedate pacing. And, like many behind the screens stories, Wilkes is never as funny as everyone seems to find him: Calthrop is good as the actor but he’s not a natural comedian, and it shows. Aherne, however, is a surprisingly convincing silent cowboy, with a wistful sadness to his young good looks while Benson manages to avoid entirely demonising her shallow character and there’s some real power to her final scenes, by which time we’ve had an impromptu funeral parade and one major character has suffered an even worse fate than death: old movie stars never die, they just become obscure trivia questions, and it’s the film’s extended epilogue set several years later that is actually the film’s most powerful and memorable section. You know exactly where it’s going and how, but the inevitability of it only makes it more poignant.

There’s also another comment on the nature of celebrity and lasting reputation in the way the film is now constantly described as Anthony Asquith’s debut not merely as a writer but as a director: yet he didn’t direct the film, veteran actor-director A.V. Bramble did. But Bramble wasn’t a celebrity and didn’t go on to greater things so everything that is good about the film is ascribed to Asquith while Bramble is curtly dismissed as a mere supervisor working from a detailed script that must have precluded any possibility of his own individuality or imagination finding its way into the film. And yet, while it does feature many of his trademark shots, at times the style and look is markedly different from Asquith’s silents: the ideas may have been Asquith’s but it seems obvious that the same wasn’t always true of the execution. Nor was Asquith the only writer – he shares a credit with John Orton (as J.O.C. Orton), who, like Bramble, failed to go on to better things and so is casually disregarded as barely worth discussing. It’s all too easy to think of Bramble and Orton also being lost in the shadows of the film’s final shot and hard not to wonder who would have got the credit if Asquith’s career had fizzled out in later years and the auteur theory were not so ruthlessly backdated.

For all that, it’s a fascinating film that gains in real emotional power as it progresses – just don’t expect a comedy.


‘The “Underground” of the Great Metropolis of the British Empire, with its teeming multitudes of ‘all sorts and conditions of men,’ contributes its share of light and shade, romance and tragedy and all those things that go to make up what we call ‘life.’ So in the “Underground” is set our story of ordinary work-a-day people whose names are just Nell, Bill, Kate and Bert.’

He may have become better known for his adaptations of stage plays and ended his career making glossy pictures about glamorous people as befits the son of a distinguished Prime Minister, but Anthony Asquith’s early work was considerably more down to Earth, or rather distinctly Underground, his terrific 1928 silent film (his first directorial credit) dealing with a beautiful observed romantic triangle between three working class people whose paths cross on the London Underground system. Beginning as an observational comedy filled with all the behavioural traits that Londoners still slavishly adhere to on the Tube to this day, for much of the film it’s a traditional tale of romantic rivalry, with Cyril McLaglen’s power worker setting his cap at shopgirl Elissa Landi but merely annoying her with his boorish bravado on the train and finding himself out of the running when she meets cute with Brian Aherne’s porter on the escalator. Nothing especially novel or exciting happens, with the emphasis on the everyday, but it’s all so hugely enjoyable and good natured that it’s a real surprise when things take a much darker turn as McLaglen (yes, Victor’s brother) enlists his still devoted ex Norah Baring to break up the lovers, with disastrous results…

Despite seeming a tricky proposition to pull off, the shift in tone and genre is executed so well that it never feels jarring but rather a natural consequence of events: it’s a mundane, petty enough revenge to convince even as its consequences spiral out of control. That’s in no small part because Asquith never patronises his characters or stereotypes them because of their background – indeed, they and their world are so convincing you’d never guess the lifelong socialist was brought up in such a rarefied social circle (seen in interview footage Asquith almost sounded like a parody of the awfully, awfully nice awfully, awfully posh). He has a great eye for faces (a couple of which in the pub scene could pass for Alfie Bass and Victoria Wood’s grandparents) and places and his direction has all has the energy of a young man’s film, whether the camera is frantically following a dropped parcel as it falls down the escalator or finding moments of visual grandeur in the everyday (there’s a particularly magnificent establishing shot of the pub interior in the darts scene).

More than that, the film is constantly alive. Asquith’s sound films would become increasingly performance and dialogue-led, earning him a somewhat undeserved reputation as a staid, establishment filmmaker, but his silent work is very different – so different that you’d be forgiven for assuming the young tyro behind the camera was a completely different person. He not only knows just how to move a camera (and parts of the film really move) but more importantly when to move it depending on whether a scene needs a burst of energy or an emotional revelation. And it’s very emotional filmmaking at times: when Baring’s mind finally snaps completely outside the power station, the camera breaks loose with her as she loses herself, while the final extended chase sequence is one of the best action scenes in silent cinema.

All in all it’s a fantastic piece of filmmaking and a fantastic film: the two don’t always go together, but they genuinely do here.

Long only available in a badly water damaged print, the BFI’s Blu-ray/DVD combo release is an excellent transfer taken from two different sources that looks strikingly good and befits from an excellent score by Neil Brand (there’s the option of an alternate, more modern score by Chris Watson’s, but Brand’s is the more effectively appropriate). A good selection of extras includes a brief newsreel clip of the young Asquith watching early planes with his father and a selection of shorts and newsreels about the Underground system (most of the latter only included on the DVD version), a featurette on the restoration and a booklet. Very highly recommended.


Although the last of his silent features, the restoration of Anthony Asquith’s A Cottage on Dartmoor was something of a bolt from the blue that caused many to re-evaluate the director’s work. Best-known for dialogue driven stage adaptations, most notably his collaborations with Terence Rattigan, it seemed like the work of a completely different man with a completely different language – not least an incredible sense of movement and an awareness of the visual language of cinema as an alternative to dialogue. The plot is simplicity itself, beginning with an escaped convict (Uno Henning) racing across the moors before breaking in on the cottage of a woman (Norah Baring) and her infant child. No sooner has she recognised him and called his name than we’re back in the past when they both worked in the same salon, he as a barber, she as a manicurist. At first it looks like they might become lovers, even though their first date is thwarted (well, more muted by a deaf resident of her boarding house) and he misinterprets her subsequent signals. Instead she finds herself attracted to Hans Adalbert Schlettow, who keeps on finding excuses to return to the salon for more treatments to see her, inflaming Henning’s jealousy as he stalks them before he ultimately cracks while giving him a shave with a cutthroat razor…

If the story isn’t complicated, the adventurous and articulate filmmaking more than compensates, with Asquith making innovative use of every technique in the silent filmmakers arsenal. Henning’s small talk with his clients is conveyed through montages of the recurring subjects – sports, politics, trivia – while the film’s celebrated cinema sequence is an amazingly ambitious bit of bravura filmmaking. While the pit orchestra put down their instruments and get out their cards and sandwiches and Schlettow and Baring and the audience (a bespectacled Asquith among them) are drawn into one of the new talkies, the flickering light from the screen alternately reveals and hides Henning behind them, the emotion from the unseen film reflected on the faces of the audience as the film and its title become mixed up with Henning’s thwarted fantasies. It’s such a powerful sequence that it tends to overshadow much of what follows – though not that close shave – but it’s worth the price of admission on its own.

Both Henning and Baring (who gets a chance to goof it up a bit in the early scenes) are excellent, though young Ronnie Barker lookalike Schlettow makes for an unlikely winner of her affections, though that unlikeliness helps convincingly fuel Henning’s jealousy. (The combination of genial lifelong socialist Asquith and passionate Nazi activist, propagandist and anti-Semite Schlettow must have made for an interesting atmosphere on the set, and it’s probably largely because of his active role in the Nazi Party that the least interesting of the three leads had the longest and most successful screen career.) The film’s narrower focus and more melodramatic plot ultimately makes it a slightly less satisfying film than Asquith’s previous collaboration with Baring, 1928’s Underground, at times feeling like the technique is compensating for the thinness of the story, but it’s still an impressive late silent that stands in stark contrast to Asquith’s later more soundstagebound work.

Although available on a US DVD from Kino with 90-minute documentary Silent Britain as an extra (it’s available as a separate DVD in the UK from the BFI), the BFI’s UK DVD has a much better transfer. The extras package isn’t as generous but far from negligible: an amusing short wartime information film about the importance of keeping the rush hour buses free for essential workers directed by Asquith and a 15-minute documentary about Asquith made during the shooting of Libel that includes interviews with him, Dirk Bogarde and Olivia De Havilland, as well as a booklet.




"Security - release the badgers."

Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü (1929)

I just watched Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü (1929).
I was especially blown away by the direction and cinematography, it reminded me (especially the torch scenes) of the cinematography of Neotpravlennoe pismo by the ever brilliant Sergey Urusevskiy.
Perhaps Sergey was inspired by scenes from Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü?

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

I watched Cowards Bend the Knee or The Blue Hands (2003) yesterday. I thought it was really good. Maddin always creates such a unique and haunting world. The visual style is dazzling and the surreal plotting is nothing short of fever-dreamish.

I also watched Easy Street (1917) today. It's the best Chaplin short I watched yet. I thought it was quite witty but also incredibly action-packed (more reminiscent of Keaton than of Chaplin) which I really enjoyed.

I'd rate both 8,5/10

---

"You see things; and you say Why? But I dream things that never were and I say Why not?"

Gerhard Lamprecht

Over the last week I have watched four German films directed by Gerhard Lamprecht in the 1920's. The theme that these films have in common is that they give a very realistic focus on the human suffering of everyday life in 1920's post-war Berlin.

Slums of Berlin (1925) is about an engineer who has served a term in prison. After his release he wants to continue his life as before but soon realizes that life is not going to be the same again as before he was imprisoned.

Children of No Importance (1926) is about three children that are in a foster home and the abuse that they suffer. Then a dramatic event happens and life changes.

Menshen untereinander (The Folk Upstairs) (1926) sketches a cross-section of Germany's new post-war society, with its winners, social climbers and losers who are tenants in an apartment building.

Under the Lantern (1928) is about a young woman who runs away from her domineering father and the unfortunate sequence of events that lead to her downward spiral.

When mention is made of German silent film directors, usually the names mentioned are Lang, Murnau, Pabst or Lubistch. But these four films are evidence that Gerhard Lamprecht deserves his place among them. These films are wonderful and thanks to Edition Filmmuseum they are now available on DVD.

Highly recommended.

Re: Gerhard Lamprecht

I have sadly never seen any of Lamprecht's Silent work, but I am a huge fan of his Emil Und Die Detektive (1931), and am very interested in seeing more. The films you mentioned all sound very interesting, and I shall try to seek them out.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Barney Sloane...That's my new name...My old one's a little more Italian."

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

The Flapper (1920).

Olive Thomas was truly delightful.


Animal crackers in my soup
Monkeys and rabbits loop the loop


Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

Prix De Beaute (1929).I had the pleasure of seeing this wonderful Louise Brooks film, as part of an event discussing the transition from Silent to Sound in European films.It was absolutely stunning, beautifully directed and performed.Louise Brooks was mesmerising, and the whole experience was enhanced by live accompaniment on piano and accordion. The only existing copy is taken from an Italian print, and missing scenes were replaced by muted frames from the sound version, but the end result was seamless, and the Italian inter-titles (and on screen French text) were translated on a separate screen above the film.Not as distracting or confusing as it sounds. I hope that this becomes available on DVD some day, as it is a truly sublime piece of work that deserves to be seen by a wider audience.

"Barney Sloane...That's my new name...My old one's a little more Italian."

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

Like most of it's silent stars, this thread is dead! To liven it up here is a selection of obscure silent films watched in November:


The Captive (1915, Cecil B. DeMille)
--- The Captive (1915) is one of those lucky pictures that was presumed lost and eventually got preserved for re-release 100 years after it's original premier. A missing piece among Cecil B. DeMille's early films. And it turns out to be fine melodrama. Perhaps nothing exceptional for the period, but respect for not choosing one of the more glamorous conflicts to set it's story. Blanche Sweet looks the part and House Peters never looked more handsome. Far cry from DeMille's series of marriage comedies which would start a few years later before he got his epic kick.
5/10


Hasta después de muerta ['Til After Her Death] (1916, Ernesto Gunche & Eduardo Martinez de la Pera)
--- Surprisingly well done film considering it's a Argentinian feature film from as early as 1916. Given the period it's not the easiest of films to get underneath the emotions of the story, but at the same time it's not the most difficult of plots to follow and the acting is good, almost natural. One is dependent on subtitles for there is a lot of reading needed to get the right mood. Once you have them, this can be a intriguing one to seek out if interested in early South American film.
4/10


Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (1919, Hugh Ford)
--- The dramatic portion of Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (1919) wasn't really interesting. This was more for those little adorable things the the old ladies, children and of course the main attraction - Marguerite Clark. A actress who's works are mostly lost. Only her Snow White (1916) is widely available, but Mrs. Wiggs shows she wasn't just a one hit wonder. A sweet little film where she shines nicely.
4/10


Maksim Maksimich (1927, Vladimir Barsky)
--- Another barely known Soviet silent. This one from the Georgian parts of the Soviet Union. And which is often the case, not the easiest of viewings. Some parts are tragic enough to get the imagination flowing, but in a way I felt they were hamming it so the effect wasn't all that strong.
3/10


Bela (1927, Vladimir Barsky)
--- Apparently these are a series of Georgian films and I'm watching them in reverse order. Perhaps Maksim Maksimich (1927) would have made more sense had I watched it after Bela (1927). Unfortunately I'm unsure of the availability of the first in the trilogy Tavadis asuli Meri (1926). Regardless Bela was a fairly good composition of love and tragedy. Visually some strong moments and even teasing some nudity as a added attraction. Story wise sad, though not engaging enough. Still it shows that Soviet states could produce well crafted movies just as mother Russia.
4/10


Gospoda Skotininy (1927, Grigoriy Roshal)
--- A bubbly Soviet comedy about those poor lower-class people and stupid rich folks. Quite enjoyable in it's way, before it ends in true Communist fashion, without a smile and a rebels revolution against the establishment.
4/10


Bolnye nervy (1929, Noi Galkin)
--- A Soviet health warning! Starts off as a typical office drama follow a man, a smoking wreck, about to have a nervous breakdown from stress at work and at home. Then it turns into documentary mode with doctors explaining health warnings and how to deal with them. General health tips. Once that was over this becomes a rare film without a "Russian ending" as they show the positive results of listening to your doctor with all smiles and family bliss.
3/10


Sopernitsy [Rivals] (1929, Aleksey A. Dmitriev)
--- Cute in it's rural ways, but not exactly the most polished movie making one'll ever see.... except for one exceptional scene. One of alluring nature. No nudity, but during the courting one of the women cuts a wound on her breast and fools her suitor to suck on it to extract the alleged poison (or something to that effect). Almost shocking, but brilliant moment in what was otherwise forgettable Soviet movie.
3/10


Poslednij attraktsion (1929, Ivan Pravov & Olga Preobrazhenskaya)
--- A surprisingly well-crafted and largely unknown Soviet silent from the directorial duo that brought us the more known Baby ryazanskie [Women of Ryazan] (1927), nicely restored too, following a traveling circus during the revolutionary turbulence in Russia. Could possibly have built more tension up to the climax, but besides that it's both captivating and easy to follow story. Wonderful acting too. Loved the old clown! Poslednij attraktsion (1929) deserves a larger audience!
6/10

Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre (1900)

Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre (1900)
--- Funny how sound and color was a part of the absolute earliest experimental years of cinema, and it still took nearly 40 years before sound became the standard and even longer before color became cheap enough to become the norm. This series of shorts of various popular entertainers at the turn of the century was filmed and shown at the 1900 Paris World's Fair to promote the new media using cylinder sound rotators synchronized with colored 3 minute sequences of someone dancing, singing or doing comedy. Not all the prints exists the way they were shown, but the few that combines all three aspects of picture, sound and color this presentation was eye opening.
4/10

The Children in the House (1916)

The Children in the House (1916, Chester M. Franklin & Sidney Franklin)
--- Norma Talmadge's The Children in the House (1916) is a imaginative attempt at the 'wrong marriage' story. Overall not a amazing film, but the fantasy scene and bits & pieces does tingle the brain a little bit. I rarely have much expectation for Norma's films, which is a good thing, for they are usually fairly average stuff only sensationalized by the Talmadge-mafia. However, what was amazing was seeing a almost thin Eugene Pallette! You know, the gruff voiced character actor from 1930s films that looked like a balloon.
4/10

La quena de la muerte (1928)

La quena de la muerte (1928, Nelo Cosimi)
--- Argentinian melodrama of the silent variety. Slow and unspectacular, unless you count the flirting between the ethnicities, yet there in an certain feel to it which makes it durable in all it's simplicity.
3/10

Das Eskimobaby [The Eskimo Baby] (1918)

Das Eskimobaby [The Eskimo Baby] (1918, Heinz Schall)
--- Inuits (and probable everyone else) will cringe over Asta Nielsen's portrayal of a Eskimo, but screw it, this is a comedy so let's just go with the silliness of a duck out of water as the Eskimo visits continental Europe. Speaking of a duck out of water, watching the dramatic actress Asta Nielsen do comedy was a grotesque sight. She rarely did comedies and the result is strangely freaky. Not sure if "funny" describes it, but it was a sight I couldn't take my eyes off.
4/10

Haji Agha actore cinema [Haji Agha, the Cinema Actor] (1933)

Haji Agha actore cinema [Haji Agha, the Cinema Actor] (1933, Ovanes Ohanian)
--- Unfortunately I saw a crap print of this movie without subtitles in any language I understand (though it was subbed for 3 languages with French being the closest to anything I could decipher). But it's not every day one comes across a Iranian silent film, so I had a go anyway. And the result was tiering and confusing. Even knowing the plot it was hard to follow. A few scenes got a smile, but as I feared, not very rewarding in this quality.
2/10

Mästerman [A Lover in Pawn] (1920)

Mästerman [A Lover in Pawn] (1920, Victor Sjöström)
--- Mästerman [A Lover in Pawn] (1920) is another quality film from the great Swede Victor Sjöström. Story of a cruel pawnbroker.... who everybody else is also cruel to. I had expected the broker to be more evil, but I ended up gaining more sympathy for the ugly old man then the money lending villagers. A fairly diverse drama of control, bullying, revenge and I guess happy endings.
6/10

The Daughter of Dawn (1920)

The Daughter of Dawn (1920, Norbert A. Myles)
--- I found The Daughter of Dawn (1920) to be fairly easy viewing, but I wouldn't call it a exciting film. More intriguing for it's historical aspect. Fairly positive portrayal of Native Indians with a largely real-Indian cast making it feel authentic and with a purpose.
4/10

Hintertreppe [Backstairs] (1921)

Hintertreppe [Backstairs] (1921, Leopold Jessner & Paul Leni)
--- Slow and creepy romance with a spectacularly tragic ending. Lovely German gem!
6/10

Othello (1922)

Othello (1922, Dimitri Buchowetzki)
--- Text heavy silent rendition of Othello (1922) with Emil Jannings as an institution. In short: Master Jannings' Othello.
6/10

L'enfant de Paris

L'enfant de Paris.

Quite effective feature (shot, as I learned, as a serial), with great use of depth in cinematography, lighting, set design, and (mostly) understated acting.

Well worth the two hours.

What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

Jewish Prudence (1927) -Consistently funny short with Max Davidson as the cunning father trying to find jobs for his idle offspring. This was my first experience of Davidson, but I hope to see more.Martha Sleeper and Eugene Pallette also appear, with Pallette in particular featuring in a very funny scene involving a fraudulent insurance claim.

Thundering Fleas (1926) -Typically silly Little Rascals offering, with the gang causing havoc with a flea circus at a wedding.Oliver Hardy, Jimmy Finlayson,Charley Chase and Martha Sleeper all make an appearance.

Fluttering Hearts (1927) - Inventive Charley Chase comedy, with our hero determined to retrieve an incriminating letter from blackmailer Oliver Hardy. The wonderful Martha Sleeper, and Eugene Pallette lend fine support.



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"Barney Sloane...That's my new name...My old one's a little more Italian."

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

The sublime Louise Brooks in G.W Pabst's Diary Of A Lost Girl.Wonderful storytelling, and Louise Brooks was positively radiant as Thymian,the wronged heroine.

"Barney Sloane...That's my new name...My old one's a little more Italian."

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

Queen Of Spades (1910)

The House In Kolomna (1913)

Two Russian shorts by Petr Chardynin, adaptations of stories by Alexander Pushkin. Queen Of Spades being the first of many screen adaptation, both Silent and sound.

"Barney Sloane...That's my new name...My old one's a little more Italian."

Re: What was the last silent film that you watched? (NEW EDITION)

The restored new DVD version of Able Gance's Napoléon.

What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

The Nervous Wreck (1926)

The Nervous Wreck (1926, Scott Sidney)
--- Looked like Harrison Ford was trying a combination of Buster Keaton's stone face with Harold Lloyd's glasses for The Nervous Wreck (1926). He in no way had their sense of comic timing, though he did have a certain personalty for light romance comedies like this. Regardless of what limitations he had, Phyllis Haver was there to back him up with some real personality! One of the great silent actresses making even the silliest of hypochondriac comedies durable. Plus they had Mack Swain eating things. With a face like that not much else as needed to make one laugh.
4/10


Sold for Marriage (1916)

Sold for Marriage (1916, Christy Cabanne)
--- Considering this stars the great Lillian Gish, Sold for Marriage (1916) was below expectations. Even her performance was unremarkable, though she did look crazy angry there. Filthy story rushed. Works alright for a quick dramatic fix into the world of forced marriage. Not exactly charming, but such stories are provocative.
4/10

Re: Sold for Marriage (1916)

It's the Old Army Game (1926) with W C Fields and Louise Brooks.
What more could you want?
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