Well, folks, everyone’s doing some sort of “year in review” post this week, and Silent-ology isn’t one to ignore a tradition. We’re going to run down some of the highlights and news items that the silent film community was buzzing about in 2014 (this is by no means comprehensive but let me know if there’s anything major I missed):
Many silent films have started turning 100 this year, not the least of which was Charlie Chaplin’s first film appearance in Making a Living, as well as his other numerous Keystone appearances and Tillie’s Punctured Romance. Cabiria and Winsor McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur also turned 100. Other things that happened 100 years ago: Paramount Pictures was created, Cecil B. DeMille made his first picture, the first feature-length color film, The World, the Flesh, and the Devil, was released, and very importantly, the Great War began (and curtailed much of Europe’s film production).
One of the biggest stories of the year was the discovery of a 1916 Sherlock Holmes film, found in the vaults of the Cinémathèque Française. It stars lauded theater actor William Gillette, who was the Sherlock Holmes to Edwardian audiences (even praised by Arthur Conan Doyle himself). It is being restored and will be shown at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in May 2015.
Empty Socks (1927), a long-lost Disney cartoon featuring Oswald the Rabbit, was found in the National Library of Norway in Mo i Rana. It’s not only a pre-Mickey work by Disney and Ub Iwerks but it’s the first Christmas film released by Disney too!
Mickey’s Circus (1927), the first film starring Mickey Rooney, was one of 176 American silent films found at the EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam (as was officially announced). Shorts, cartoons, dramas, westerns, and documentaries are some of the treasures.
Members of the International Buster Keaton Society found an actual script and numerous behind the scenes photos from The General (the latter via Craigslist!). The finds are going to be showcased in a new book due sometime in 2015. Incredible news for anyone interested in this silent masterpiece.
Colleen Moore’s Why Be Good? (1929) and Synthetic Sin (1928) have been restored, shown in theaters, and been given DVD releases! What a fantastic year for Moore fans–and anyone who loves flapper culture.
Lime Kiln Field Day (1913), an unreleased seven-reel film starring the legendary Bert Williams, has been restored and shown to the public for the first time ever. Not only do we get to see Williams in action, but we get a rare opportunity to see a 1910s film featuring middle-class black characters and even get peeks behind the scenes. And speaking of the Williams film…
…Lime Kiln Field Day, The Dragon Painter (1919), Shoes (1916), and Unmasked (1917) were the silents added to the National Film Registry in 2014.
DVD/Blu-ray Releases and Kickstarter Projects
Undercrank Productions has been working wonders with Kickstarter, releasing Accidentally Preserved: Volume 2 and The Mishaps of Musty Suffer. Their latest Kickstarter, The Marcel Perez Collection, was another success and the new DVD set will be released in 2015.
Animation historian Tom Stathes released Cartoon Roots, a great selection of silent and early-talkie cartoons. Stathes also…
…worked with colleagues to create a Kickstarter for a documentary on silent animation, Cartoon Carnival. The project has been funded and the film will be coming to your shelf sometime in 2015!
Grapevine Video released a slew of silents as usual, including Heart o’ the Hills (1919), The Leopard Woman (1920), The Old Swimmin’ Hole (1921), Nell Gwyn (1926), The Canadian (1926), Hula (1927), and more.
Flicker Alley produced a Blu-ray of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), the collection We’re in the Movies: Palace of Silents and Itinerant Filmmaking and released Chaplin Mutual Comedies 1916-17. And much fanfare greeted the release of their awaited The Mack Sennett Collection: Volume One!
Kino-Lorber released The Max Linder Collection and a glorious Blu-ray of the great The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
Lisle Foote’s Buster Keaton’s Crew, an in-depth look at the fine people who helped create Keaton’s silent classics, was published and has gotten fabulous reviews.
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann, a novel-style account of–naturally–the William Desmond Taylor murder, became a big seller.
On the sadder side of things, we lost the amazing Mickey Rooney in 2014, as well as Carla Laemmle, the niece of Universal Studios founder Carl Laemmle, and Luise Rainer, whose film career began with the silent short Ja, der Himmel über Wien (1930).
It was quite a year, and hopefully 2015 will be a kind one for silent film fans. Let’s raise a glass to the coming year, my friends!