In Defense Of “The Big Four” Of Silent Comedy

There’s an old quote you may have heard, attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “…In this world, nothing can said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I’d like to amend that: “…In this world, nothing can said to be certain, except death, taxes, and fans of silent comedy debating about the ranking of the Big Four.” (Or the “Big Three,” for the multitudes of you who haven’t made Harry Langdon an integral part of your lives yet.)

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There’s a reason Harry’s wiping away a tear.

General film enthusiasts take the informal-yet-widespread ranking of Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd as the all-time best silent comedians for granted (and more would include Harry if they would actually watch Harry, harumph), but for some time now the tide has been changing among silent comedy fans. It’s not uncommon to find arguments in favor of less emphasis on “The Big Four,” of adding or replacing a comedian or two, or even of ditching the ranking all together. Those in favor of the latter say there were lots of popular comedians back in the silent era, and furthermore, these unjustly overlooked folks could be just as funny as Lloyd or Keaton. Thus, the ranking is unfair and not even historically accurate. Right? Continue reading

Classic Film Fans, We’ve Got A Lot To Be Thankful For!

Happy Turkey Day, and warmth and good wishes to all! This is a day where we take a moment to be thankful for all the good things in our lives–family, friends, food, shelter, and other blessings. No matter how much or how little you have, there’s always something to be thankful for.

Recently it struck me that we classic film fans have a lot to be thankful for. Not only are old movies more accessible than ever thanks to the Internet, but new finds are turning up all the time, new restorations are always ongoing, research is easier than ever, and best of all, we can connect with film fans across the globe.

Speaking of “new finds,” and connecting with fans, here’s a prime example. CineMuseum, the team behind the Roscoe Arbuckle and Mack Sennett sets, just took custody of this amazing piece of history–Roscoe Arbuckle’s 100 year old makeup kit that he used while acting on the stage! Paul Gierucki shared this photo below, and there was much rejoicing:

How incredible is that?! All these decades later it’s still intact and still looks just how Roscoe left it before joining the Keystone company.

Thanks to the Internet and to generous historians, fans can now get the first look at amazing artifacts like this. It’s this kind of happy event that makes me feel thankful to be a classic film fan not just on Thanksgiving, but all year round.

Have a lovely day, everyone!

Obscure Films: “L’Inhumaine” (1924)

When I find myself not liking a film, it’s usually because it just isn’t my taste, or because I find it boring. Maybe the subject matter doesn’t interest me, maybe it’s poorly made, or maybe there’s way too many giant robots and the stupid things all look practically the same. 

But then there are a few films, a very very few films, that not only aren’t to my taste but make me want to stand up, grab my little flat screen TV, and throw it straight through the wall. L’Inhumaine (1924) is one of those films.

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Yeah, you heard me.

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What, It’s Post #200 Already?

200 posts– not a bad little milestone! Next thing you know we’ll be coming up on Christmas, then another Silent-ology anniversary, and then the real star of the coming year…BUSTER BLOGATHON 2017!! (I’ve been excited about it for ages!)

I wanted to write a little sumpin’ special for this post, but I started training for a new job last week and had to shuffle my writing plans around. Here’s something simple but meaningful: an Exhibitor’s Trade Review portrait page from 1924 featuring some of my favorite people in the whole entire world, who you all get to blame for me starting this blog:

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Well well well, look who’s smack dab in the middle there! None other than the thoroughly and somewhat unfairly forgotten comedienne Louise Fazenda, surrounded by such mighty names as Keaton and Lloyd. Interesting, no?

Writing plans are in the works, new ideas are bubbling up–I’m thinking it’ll be a good winter, everyone! I’ll get to work.😉

It’s Liebster Time Again!

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I’ve been nominated for two more Liebsters by the very kind MIB and  Ann S Blyth! In case you don’t know, a Liebster Award is an Internet tradition, a fun way for bloggers to welcome each other into the online community as well as help other people discover interesting blogs. When you receive a Liebster, you:

(a) Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you;
(b) Tell your readers 11 random facts about yourself; and
(c) Nominate up to 11 other bloggers to receive the award, and give them 11 questions to answer on their blogs when they post their nominations.

And so, partly because they’re fun and partly so new subscribers can get to know me better (thanks for following!), let’s go through the questions!  Continue reading

Thoughts On: “Nosferatu”

Why do we hold such reverence for Nosferatu? Why does a film with such simple special effects and occasionally humorous acting linger in our minds? Why, when Hollywood offers a wealth of svelte–even sexy–vampires, do we keep turning to the gaunt, bushy eyebrowed Count Orlok with his protruding rat teeth?

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It must be more than simple curiosity to see one of our earliest vampire films, although that’s probably a big factor for many. According to some of my non-silents-accustomed friends, its style and film speed can make it effectively creepy. That said, I’ll admit that plenty of people find it hysterical. Continue reading

John Barrymore’s Amazing Transformation in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

What could be more fitting for Hallowe’en time than examining all those wonderful film costumes? I’m pleased to contribute to the Characters in Costume blogathon, hosted by Christina Wehner and Into the Writer Lea (and hey, I greatly appreciate any blog that includes my name! :-P). A hearty welcome to all new readers–feel free to take a look around, and don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts! I love comments like Lon Chaney loved makeup and prosthetics (very, very much).

So, there’s been a friggin’ ton of movies based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s famed novella Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And no wonder, with such a temptingly bizarre plot and tantalizing dual role. The main draw is seeing the transformation of the kind, genteel Mr. Jekyll into the evil Mr. Hyde, and we all know how he usually looks. Continue reading

Obscure Films: “Behind The Door” (1919)

If you mention Behind the Door to a silent film fan, they’ll react in one of two ways: the blank, racking-their-brains-have-they-heard-of-it-maybe-actually-nope-never-heard-of-it look, or a sudden widening of the eyes and a little gasp: “You’ve seen it?!

Because it’s that kind of film, my friend. Its notoriety precedes it, and once you watch it you’ll know why. The screen doesn’t show anything graphic, but the implications are crystal clear…and stomach-churning.

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Vamps! Your Great-Grandfather’s Femme Fatales

Today, let us extend a suitably theatrical nod toward the “vamp.” That wicked temptress of yesteryear, pale-skinned, alluringly dressed, leading respectable gentlemen to their doom. And don’t forget the copious amounts of kohl eyeliner, which made them appear like the Victorian-themed dream of a goth kid who fell asleep still clutching his dog-eared Edgar Allan Poe book.

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Whence came the vamp? Short for “vampire,” the word meant a female seductress with an almost supernatural ability to drain male victims not of their blood, but of their…life force. Or something like that. Ask someone from the 1910s to name a vampire, and they were just as likely to say “Theda Bara” as “Count Dracula.” If not more so. Continue reading

Thoughts On: “The Cat And The Canary” (1927)

“On a lonely pine-clad hill overlooking the Hudson, stood the grotesque mansion of an eccentric millionaire…”

It’s a dark, rainy October evening as I type this. And what could be more fitting, when I’m writing about The Cat and the Canary (1927)? If you’re looking for entertainment to pair with spooky autumn weather, you can’t go wrong with this archetypal “old dark house” movie. Just look at that title card I quoted up there.

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