About Lea S.

I am obsessed with silent films (it's Buster Keaton's fault, I swear) and write about them here: https://silentology.wordpress.com/

ANNOUNCING: The Seventh Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon!

IT HAS RETURNED!! (In spite of everything, I might add. *wink*) Yes, my friends, at long last this is the official announcement of the 7th Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon!

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When: Monday, March 22 and Tuesday, March 23, 2021.

Where: Right here on Silent-ology!

How: To join in, please leave me a comment on this post and let me know which Buster film or Buster-related topic you want to cover! (Or feel free to send me a message). Please help spread the word about the event by adding one of my vintage poster-inspired banners to your blog (aren’t those illustrations fun?). During the blogathon itself, when you publish your post leave me a comment with the post’s link (or again, you can send me a message). Please mention my blog and the name of the event too (such as “This post is part of Seventh Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon hosted by Silent-ology.”) Post whenever you have time during March 22nd and 23rd, no pressure at all! If you post before the 22nd that’s fine too, just give me a head’s up. (Keep in mind Silent-ology will make all the links to the posts “live” only on the blogathon dates, even if you send it way in advance.)

What to write about: Anything and everything related to our talented Buster Keaton’s busy life and career! (Check out his filmography for some ideas.) Articles about his crew and the many wonderful actors who appeared in his films are welcome, too. Don’t be afraid to get creative–in the past people joined in with fan art and even a comic book, so the sky’s the limit! Also: Duplicates are 100% allowed! Everyone has a different perspective, so 2-3 posts on the same film are welcome.

I will be hosting a drawing for all blogathon participants, to be held on March 24th as a “thank you” to everyone who joined in. The prize will be announced closer to the blogathon dates (but you can guess that it’s likely a great Buster book or DVD!).

As always: Make Buster proud! There’s a lot of dubious information out there about his life and career, so let’s try and steer clear of those myths and rumors. Our goal is to make Buster smile, folks. (And I highly recommend checking out the Buster Mythbusting page on the Damfinos’ site!)

For ideas and inspiration, here’s the links to the FirstSecond, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Buster Blogathons. Man, we’re creating a virtual Buster library of our very own!

Banners:

The Roster:

Silent-ology | Buster’s childhood summers In Muskegon, Michigan

The Thoughts of One Truly Loved | Free and Easy (1930)

Big V Riot Squad | Buster’s silent short comedies

Cinematica | Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928)

RealWeegieMidget Reviews | A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (1966)

Once Upon A Screen | The High Sign (1919) and The Scarecrow (1920)

Taking Up Room | The General (1927)

Critica Retro | TV episode “The Awakening” (1954)

Whimsically Classic | The General (1927)

Century Film Project | The Goat (1921)

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen 2020–The Silent Community Year In Review

Happy New Year’s Eve, my friends–and how. As I look back on the year that has been 2020, I can’t help recalling what I wrote for 2019’s “Year in Review” post: “I, for one, welcome the impending return of the Twenties. Let’s make ’em Roaring!”

Errr, I’m not detecting any roaring, are you? And we’re definitely not partying like a 1928 Joan Crawford movie, which was also one of my predictions for 2020. At least, not partying yet.

Six Degrees of Joan Crawford: The Flapper and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. — You  Must Remember This
Slow your roll, Joan. All in good time.

Anyways, it’s time for my hopefully helpful annual review of silent film-related news. It was a lighter news year than most, it seems, probably because so many projects and festivals were either cancelled or postponed, but I hope you find this roundup interesting nonetheless! Also, me spending extra time outdoors this year + having crappy or intermittent Internet for months = more news sneaking past me, so please, feel free to chime in with any significant info I might have missed.

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Obscure Films: “Santa Claus” (1925)

A very Merry Christmas to one and all! I’m happy to announce that after a gigantic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer-style blizzard yesterday, we folks up here in Minnesota are finally getting a white Christmas–and how. So this year’s holidays will seem extra cozy–and what goes better with “cozy” than Victorian and Edwardian Christmas silents?

This year my pick for a fun novelty holiday film to show to family is the little-known three-reeler Santa Claus (1925), which I stumbled upon out of the blue recently. (Those are always the best kinds of films, you know.) This charming film gives us the inside scoop on Santa’s life at the North Pole, in a whimsical old-timey way, of course–I’d expect nothing less.

Maybe a less fake-looking beard, but eh, I’ll take it.
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“With Every Good Wish For A Right Merrie Christmas”–Little Holiday Greetings From The Silent Era

Can you believe Christmas is right around the corner? Somehow, time is still humming along. I’ve been keeping busy lately with cookie baking, making Christmas-y crafts, and of course getting a few Christmas cards sent out in time.

Very long line in plaza 600 x 400 Blank Template - Imgflip
Judging by the lines at the post office this year, I was just in the nick of time.

Which reminds me (great segue, eh?) did you know that back in the day actors used to place little Christmas greetings in the trade magazines? I’m guessing these were placed by publicity folks and meant as little “thank yous” to exhibitors, distributors and other people in the industry for a prosperous year–nothing wrong with fostering a little goodwill. They might be as simple as the words “Yuletide Greetings” along with the actor’s name, but some included a portrait or a small holiday-themed illustration. What’s also interesting is how most of these “cards” were placed in the December 24th-25th issues, or published around New Year’s. (The early 20th century U.S. didn’t generally have the weeks-long Christmas hype of today.)

I think these little greetings are pretty endearing, so let’s check out some examples! Here’s what a typical bunch looked like (you can click to see larger images, or right-click to bring them up in their own tab):

Camera!, December 24, 1921.
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In Memory Of Buster And Eleanor’s House

Last weekend Buster Keaton fans heard the sad news that his last home, the comfortable ranch house he and his wife Eleanor bought in the 1950s, had been demolished. I’m sure I’m not the only fan who would’ve liked to glimpse it in person one day, if only from a car window. Sadly, that is one item on my bucket list that will go forever unchecked.

A nicely retouched/enhanced image courtesy of Steve Stubbs.

The one-story house, built in 1947, was bought with the $50,000 given to Buster by Paramount for the screen rights to his life story. The resulting film, The Buster Keaton Story (1957) starring Donald O’Connor, was frankly terrible (Eleanor recalled attending a preview with Buster and how they “felt like crawling out on our hands and knees”), but it did give them the ability to finally purchase their own house. The couple had been living with Buster’s family for years, and Buster’s career had gone through numerous ups and downs in that time. They took proud ownership of their new home in June 1956, and were content there until Buster’s death in 1966.

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Wishing You And Yours A Happy Thanksgiving!

Is it Thanksgiving already? Incredible! Time for a festive image–here’s Katherine MacDonald with the big honkin’ horn of plenty:

According to our November 18 1922 Exhibitor’s Herald: “This photograph of MacDonald should suggest to exhibitors an appropriate and atmospheric prologue for their Thanksgiving program.” Exhibitors and bloggers, that is.

Wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving, dear readers! If there was ever a year to really sit and count our blessings, it’s this year. So no matter where you are or what you’re doing right now, I truly hope your day is bright and that you have an equally fine weekend ahead. Cheers!

Thanksgiving Greetings: A Quick Getaway - Vintage Advertisement Print

Obscure Films: “The Village Chestnut” (1918) And A Watch Party Recommendation!

Sometime ago, I saw this still on the National Film Preservation Foundation’s site (a site I have lauded in the past) for a film that was being restored:

Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog: Post #800 Salutes The EYE Project And  FIlm Preservation

A Sennett short–from the late 1910s, probably my favorite period of of the silent era–loaded with goofy slapstick–AND it starred Louise Fazenda! I waited with bated breath for it to become available.

File:The Village Chestnut (1918) - 1.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

I had bated breath for a pretty long time, but my lack of oxygen was worth it because The Village Chestnut is now freely available on the NFPF site! And it’s a beaut, too, one of those scratchy-but-clear prints that does silent fans’ hearts good. And it’s probably one of the best showcases for Louise’s slapstick skills I’ve seen yet–not every actress was willing to fall in mud puddles or do tough, dizzying pratfalls quite the way she did. Continue reading

Thoughts On: “The Mystery Of The Leaping Fish” (1916)

Hello all, hope you’re doing well! I took a little break earlier this month because…well…I figured folks might be a bit distracted. *wink* What to do while we’re getting back to somewhat normal? Cover one of the least normal films of all time, of course!!

None of this is photoshop.

So if you haven’t seen The Mystery of the Leaping Fish, I…really don’t know how to prepare you for The Mystery of the Leaping Fish. Gently, with a rose? With a joke-filled monologue? With a solemn discussion of its historical background? With a parental advisory label? This, after all, is a short that manages to be adult-themed, in bad taste, shocking and weirdly innocent all at the same time. I may need to ponder this on a remote mountaintop for a few weeks.

“…I still got nuthin’.”

Or I could just hurl you right into the plot and hope for the best. Problem solved!

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Thoughts On: “The Night Of The Hunter” (1955)

Happy Halloween, my friends! I couldn’t resist putting this piece on one of my favorite films of all time–just in time for this spooky day, I might add. There is so much to say about this film that it easily could’ve been three times as long. Enjoy!

Some films transcend regular genres. They might draw on an eclectic mix of inspirations, from literature to art, and the result is a work of strength and imagination whose stature only increases with the passing years. You can hardly find a better example than the gothic masterwork The Night of the Hunter, most easily definable as a horror film (I know I can’t resist it every October).

The Night of the Hunter | film by Laughton [1955] | Britannica

The elements are familiar–riverside towns and the Great Depression, prayer meetings and Bible stories, fairytales and fables. It’s soaked in the atmosphere of what we’ve dubbed “southern gothic,” and softened by several haunting songs (few non-musicals would use songs more effectively). But it draws its greatest power on something less familiar to the modern viewer: the rich influence of silent film, particularly Expressionism and the work of D.W. Griffith.

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Obscure Films: “The Avenging Conscience” (1914)

In 1914, horror wasn’t a recognized movie genre. Yes, there were films with macabre elements (like those strange, ancient special effects excursions by de Chomon and Melies), and you had your usual dark mysteries and thrillers (often in serial form). But the idea of being an enthusiast of “horror films” wouldn’t enter the public lexicon for quite a few years.

So in order to find the ancestors of Frankenstein, (1931) and The Haunting (1963), we have to weigh our options. The 1910 Frankenstein certainly counts, yes? And something like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) does, obviously. What about the serial Les Vampires (1915), with that one famous still? Or something off the beaten track, like Charley Bowers’s surreal short There It is (1926) or Max Linder’s Au Secours! (1924)?

One film that’s an obvious candidate is The Avenging Conscience, or Thou Shalt Not Kill (1914), D.W. Griffith’s Poe-infused drama containing visions of leaping demons and fake skeletons. I know I prefer watching it around Halloween.

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