There’s a lot of legendary lost films that everyone wants to see, like Browning’s London After Midnight, the Laurel and Hardy silent Hats Off, Murnau’s late silent feature Four Devils, and so on. But I’m sure every silent fan has their own personalized “wish list” of lost films they’d really, really love to see. My own is a bit silent comedy-centric and Griffith-centric, because I love a good comedy (duh) and I’m a big fan of Griffith’s wonderful stock company (Marsh, Harron, Gish–priceless!). So here’s my list of films that I’m crossing my fingers will turn up some day. I wrote it as a “top ten” list, but just know that only #1 is truly ranked:
10. Back to the Kitchen (1919)
Many of Louise Fazenda’s starring comedies with Mack Sennett have vanished, and that’s a shame, because as you guys know I’m a big fan of this highly-overlooked comedienne. She usually played a “kitchen slavey” or other type of working girl who’s either revealed to be an heiress or is fought over by determinedly inept suitors. It’s very hard to decide which short I’d like to see best, but I actually own the above lobby card for Back to the Kitchen (1919) so it’d be mighty special to see it!
I thought you’d enjoy this festive one-page spread from 1910, featuring farmers’ daughters posing with their Thanksgiving bounty and kids “gathering pumpkin pie in the rough.” The sentiment at the top is pretty relevant right now, well over a hundred years later, don’t you think?
As always, I’m thankful for each and every one of you, Silent-ology readers! Have a lovely day and a fine holiday weekend!
“Good, or even inspired in many of its aspects, it was simply not the sort of picture everyone had come to expect of Griffith,” was the prevailing sentiment over D.W. Griffith’s drama The Mother and the Law. Starring Bobby Harron and Mae Marsh, it told the tragic tale of a young couple whose lives are torn apart by circumstance and unjust authority. With its low budget and intimate storyline it had more in common with Griffith’s one- to three-reel Biograph “potboilers” than the “prestige pictures” that were now associated with his name. Originally filmed in 1914, after The Birth of a Nation‘s success it was shelved, eventually taken out again and tinkered with, used as a humble kickoff point for Griffith’s mega-epic Intolerance (1916), and finally tinkered with some more before being released in 1919 as a standalone film.
Bobby and Mae’s scenes are some of my favorite parts of Intolerance, so I was excited to finally watch The Mother and the Law recently. Most of it was familiar footage, but I found myself unprepared for some of Marsh’s scenes that didn’t make it into Intolerance (or perhaps they were added later). Lillian Gish once said of Marsh that “she was the only actress of whom I was ever jealous.” I always thought that was nice and gracious of her–Marsh was very good. But after seeing The Mother and the Law, boy oh boy, now I understand exactly what Gish meant.
If the combination of “Edward Everett Horton” and “silent comedies” just made you do a double take like, well, Edward Everett Horton, I don’t blame you. A very familiar “fussy gentleman” type in ’30s and ’40s films, and also known for working in television, Horton isn’t someone we associate with “silent clown.” Yet a silent clown he was for a short series in the late 1920s, and it’s only recently that his two-reel comedies have been hauled out of archives and restored. And, all eight of them are available on Undercrank Productions‘ new DVD collection!
HOLD EVERYTHING–how have I not mentioned this yet?! Recently it was announced that fragments of Theda Bara’s Salome (1918)–one of her most lamented lost films after Cleopatra—have been found! That’s right, there’s new footage of the legendary Theda Bara to enjoy, and from one of her lavish costume dramas, too!
Theda, early sex symbol and current silent era icon, appeared in around 40 films but only a few of them survive. Many of her biggest hits have vanished and are represented only by tantalizing stills of the actress in elaborate beaded costumes and fancy headdresses. And one of the most intriguing hits is the William Fox production Salome (1918). I won’t make you wait–here’s the footage below. The clips are brief and have Spanish intertitles, and they capture some wonderful Theda moments:
Happy Halloween everyone! In honor of this spooky day, I decided to reblog one of my favorite posts on one of my most favorite silent horror films–indeed, it’s one of my most favorite films period! If you haven’t read it yet I hope you enjoy it. Have a wonderful Halloween!
I always kick off the month of October with this Expressionist masterpiece. I hope you enjoy it–or will enjoy it–as much as I do!
Some of the greatest silent films can be described as collective dreams. They capture familiar legends, familiar places, and certain eras. These films are Art, and Art doesn’t age, not the way many older movies do. One of these works of Art is F.W. Murnau’s Faust (1926), a masterpiece of fantasy that’s often overlooked in favor of other German Expressionist works–such as Murnau’s own Nosferatu. Strange, considering that did nothing less than draw upon some of the most iconic imagery of good vs. evil in the world.
The weather is appropriately damp and dreary here in the upper Midwest, and we’re only a few days away from Halloween. So gather ’round, folks, it’s ghost story time!
The following was courtesy of actress Nancy Carroll, whose screen stardom began in the late 1920s and who was at peak popularity by the time this Screenland article was published (in 1932).
Carroll had been born in New York City to Irish parents, and their ghost stories from the “Old Country” were the basis of this charmingly spooky interview. Also note the game Carroll talks about at the end, which is still pretty popular today!
And Now For Halloween! The Ghost Walks With Nancy Carroll Listen to some real Irish folk-tales of the spooky season By Ruth Tildesley
How would you like to go to a Hallowe’en party held in a haunted castle in Ireland?
Hold everything–there’s a silent film version of Dostoevsky’s riveting classic Crime and Punishment that is German Expressionist, is very faithful to the text, has Russian actors, and was directed by the same guy responsible for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari? Is this the recipe for a perfect forgotten classic?!
If you’re a regular reader you might recall that my review forGenuine (1920), another German Expressionist film by Robert Wiene, began pretty much the same way. Now, in Genuine‘s case rosy expectations were, uh, not met (really not met). But in the case of the overlooked Raskolnikov (1923)? Circulating prints have their drawbacks, but from what I can (sort of) see it’s a pretty darn good adaptation. It could well be a minor classic of the German Expressionist era–but funnily enough, not really because of its German Expressionist sets.
Happy weekend, readers! I wrote this piece for a blogathon back in 2015 and can’t resist pulling it up again (especially after rewatching “Dracula” and “The Old Dark House” a few day ago–October staples!). Lugosi and Karloff are horror movie icons but not everyone knows much about their silent movie careers, the essential ladders that lead up to their big breaks in the early talkie era. As it turns out, both of them had similar climbs to fame!
Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi are not only two of the most iconic faces of movie horror, but two of the most iconic figures in Hollywood history, period. The “looks” of Frankenstein’s monster and Count Dracula are synonymous with those early Thirties screen interpretations, to the point where only literature buffs remember that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was a disturbing elderly man with a mustache and that Mary Shelley’s Monster spoke philosophically about its own existence.
There are only these men.
We tend know Karloff and Lugosi exclusively for their work in horror, especially since both men ended up having lengthy, if very typecast, movie careers. But did you know that good chunks of those careers were during the silent era?
Let’s take a look at what Boris and Bela were up to before the talkie era arrived:
It’s less than minute long, was filmed over 120 years ago and simply shows a dancing skeleton who keeps falling to pieces and magically reassembling itself. Silent film fans, any guesses about the director?
Nope! It would actually be these staid gentlemen:
Who probably never pictured themselves being part of a Halloween-themed month, gravitating more towards the documentation of departing factory workers, arriving trains and the like. But they filmed a skeleton, and skeletons are great Halloween decorations, so if you ask me that counts.