Rudolph Valentino–The Man Behind The Image

“The woman from fourteen to ninety loved him, because he made romance come riding home to her dreams. He was not the individual she craved, he was the symbol of what she craved.” —From a letter to Photoplay, January 1927

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What does it mean to be an icon? In the case of film actors, we assume this means their image has instant recognition. Across the world, people belonging to every culture and race will recognize Marilyn Monroe or Charlie Chaplin. Their very names have symbolism–“Chaplin” calls to mind laughter and old-time slapstick, while “Marilyn Monroe” stands for glamour and sensuality with a touch of vulnerability. (Interestingly, many people I’ve encountered who mention admiring Marilyn have never seen one of her films.)

So let us consider “Rudolph Valentino.” Of all the screen icons, his legacy is perhaps the most obscured by mythology, fantasy and cult status. The mere mention of his name–and how fortunate he was to adopt the elegant “Valentino”–recalls the kind of old Hollywood romance involving soft lighting, perfectly tailored suits, glimmering jewels and long, thrilling kisses. It calls to mind the stories of sobbing, fainting fans at his funeral bier–for he died young, as everyone remembers.

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But how many people today know what Rudolph Valentino looked like? How many have watched one of his films, or even a single clip? Who was the living, breathing human being behind the romantic name–the romantic dream? Continue reading

Thoughts On: “The Sheik” (1921)

Throwback time! This post was originally written for the Accidentally Hilarious blogathon hosted by Movies Silently a few years back.  I’m dusting it off for you since you can’t have a Sheik Month without The Sheik itself. (Plus, this article was really fun to write.) Hope you get a kick out of it!

When I was but a wee silent film newbie, I discovered there were far more old films available on YouTube and Netflix than I’d thought. Innumerable classics of early master filmmakers, such as Intolerance, Greed, Battleship Potemkin and The Last Laugh were all awaiting me, holding within their hallowed reels the potential to unlock within my brain a renewed appreciation for film artistry, and the ability to view early 20th century history through fresh eyes. So what did I do first?

Why, sit myself down with a bag of cheesy popcorn and watch The Sheik, of course!!

“Yesssssssssss.”

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Homme Fatales And Hair Grease: The Phenomenon Of The 1920s “Sheik”

Post #1 of Sheik Month is here! Hope you enjoy!

We’re all familiar with stereotypical 1920s flapper–the fun-loving, trendy young woman who loved Jazz, dancing, and all things “modern.” But arm in arm with the flapper was the 1920s sheik, their male counterpart. There’s plenty of discussion about flappers nowadays, but there’s comparatively little discussion about sheiks, and the sort of factors that lead to their place in pop culture.

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One of John Held Jr’s popular cartoons.

But “sheik culture” is an important piece of the Jazz Age puzzle. Its advent spurred numerous discussions about movie romance, masculinity and female desire. And its impact on American cinema was tremendous–in fact, you could easily categorize screen romance as B.V. (Before Valentino) and A.V. (After Valentino). Continue reading

A Big THANK YOU From Me And Buster!

Yet another wonderful Buster Keaton Blogathon has come to a close. After reading and enjoying all your thoughtful articles and essays,  I want to offer a warm:

Buster blogathon thank you 2019

Not only is this annual event an excellent way to celebrate Buster’s work, but it’s also doing a service to his legacy. Every Buster-themed post in every participating blog introduces his work to readers around the world. Since not everyone is familiar with silent comedy nowadays, events like this are one small way of contributing to a worthy cause–spreading the joy of Joseph Frank “Buster” Keaton’s masterful films. Continue reading

The Fifth Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon

The big day has arrived!! After 364 days of waiting, it’s finally time for:

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Today and tomorrow, me and many of my fellow bloggers are celebrating the legacy of one of the cinema’s finest comedians–if not the finest. Each year I’m excited about the wealth of creative topics and thoughtful essays in store, and this year is already proving to be just as fantastic. So get cozy on your couch with your laptop/Ipad/phone, my friends–it’s time to start reading about all things Buster!

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Bloggers: Please send me the link to your post whenever it’s ready today or tomorrow (and thanks to those of you who sent me a link early!). I’ll be updating periodically throughout the blogathon. Don’t forget that I’ll be holding a drawing for the participants, the winner receiving a copy of the book Silent Echoes: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Buster Keaton  by John Bengtson. The drawing will be held on February 20th–I’ll be in touch with the winner!

Readers: Drop by often to see the latest posts–and don’t forget that we bloggers adore comments. (We adore them almost as much as Buster himself. They’re a close second, is what I’m saying.)

And of course, here are the links to the First, SecondThird and Fourth Annual Buster Blogathons.

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The Roster:

Silent-ology | Buster’s Wife’s Relations: Getting To Know The Talmadge Family

MovieRob | Limelight

Silver Screenings | Buster Keaton Goes to MGM

A Person in the Dark| Meeting Buster Backwards: A Hard Act to Resist

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films | Sherlock Jr.

MovieMovieBlogBlog II | Seven Chances and the article Buster Keaton and

Lucille Ball–Together on TV in 1965

Julia Hut | Buster illustrations for posts by MovieMovieBlogBlog II

A la rencontre du Septième Art | Our Hospitality

wolffian classic movies digest | Buster Keaton: The Art of the Gags

Welcome to My Magick Theatre | Spite Marriage

The Stop Button | Hard Luck

Big V Riot Squad | Comique: Roscoe, Buster, Al and Luke

Silver17 Productions | Keaton Vs. Surrealism (video)

       Grace Kingsley’s Hollywood | Humorists All At Sea: Writing The Navigator

Taking Up Room | How To Stuff a Wild Bikini

TheScriptLab | Five Comedy Lessons From Five Buster Keaton Classics

The Wonderful World of Cinema | The Great Buster

Critica Retro | The Saphead

Buster’s Wife’s Relations: Getting To Know The Talmadge Family

This is my own post for the Fifth Annual Busterthon–I hope you enjoy!

Let us consider Norma and Constance Talmadge. They were two of the brightest stars of the silent era, the role models of countless gals and the crushes of countless young men. And today, they are–you’ve guessed it–practically forgotten. While they’re starting to be recognized as important figures in cinema history, their films are rarely screened and seldom discussed. But there’s one big reason they’re still remembered: their connection to a certain beloved comedian–Buster Keaton.

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BLOGATHON UPDATE: Less Than Two Weeks Until Busterthon Five!

Happy Friday, all! It’s hard to believe, but the anticipated Buster Blogathon V is only ten days away!

Busterthon 5-4

This year we have a lot of Busterthon regulars as well as some new faces. A hearty welcome to all–this event is shaping up to be as exciting and enlightening as previous years! Continue reading

In Memory Of Ron Hutchinson

On Sunday, February 3rd, the family of film historian Ron Hutchinson shared the sad news that he had passed away from cancer on Saturday. He was 67. The classic film community has been reeling ever since, both shocked by the suddenness of the event and deeply saddened by the loss of a true giant in film preservation.

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Hutchinson was the co-founder of The Vitaphone Project, a group of passionate historians and collectors which aimed to rediscover and restore Vitaphone films. This early sound process (spanning the years 1926-1931) recorded dialogue and sound effects on discs which were then synchronized with the projected films. If you’ve ever taken in an early talkie or one of those late silents with sound effects–say, the magnificent King of Jazz (1930) or Colleen Moore’s Why Be Good? (1929)–chances are you’re quite literally hearing some of Hutchinson’s hard work.

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From Ron’s Facebook page.

Hutchinson had both discovered and assisted in the restoration of literally hundreds of early talkies, both shorts and features (especially “Vitaphone shorts,” which served as pre-feature entertainment in theaters). And as so many have attested in the past couple days, he was an enthusiastic and helpful supporter of countless preservation projects. He leaves behind a loving family and too many friends in the classic film community to count.

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A memorial service for Hutchinson will be held on Saturday, February 9th from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Piscataway Funeral Home in Piscataway, New Jersey. There is also talk of a special memorial event to be held later this year, possibly as a benefit for his beloved Vitaphone project.

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My friend Annette at Hometowns to Hollywood wrote a detailed article about Vitaphone and The Vitaphone Project here–it’s highly recommended!

Hutchinson was a fellow columnist on Classic Movie Hub, and his detailed articles on all things Vitaphone can be read here