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/

Silent Boris and Silent Bela: The Early Careers of Two Horror Icons

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!

Silent-ology

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:

Silent Boris

A future Monster at a more youthful age.

If you had…

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Obscure Films: “The Merry Skeleton” (1898)

The Merry Skeleton (S) (1898) - Filmaffinity

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?

Georges Méliès - Wikipedia
“…Duh?”

Nope! It would actually be these staid gentlemen:

Auguste and Louis Lumière - Wikipedia
“…Oh.”

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.

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Thoughts On: “The Bat” (1926)

In the annals of “Whodunnit?” spooky old house movies, the awesome The Cat and the Canary (1927) ranks pretty high. But how about The Bat (1926)? It’s not quite a masterpiece of murder mystery films, but it does its job well, has some quasi-Expressionist cinematography and features one of my favorite comediennes (and she livens up the reels quite a bit). And yes, it features a mysterious “bat man” quite a few years before the Batman. Hmm, could this murder mystery be more influential than we realize…?

The Bat (1926 film) - Wikipedia
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Many Thanks, Fellow Film Bloggers!!

It’s a wrap! On behalf of myself and Crystal at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood, I wanted to say:

to everyone who participated in our Silent Movie Day blogathon!

The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks | Hometowns to  Hollywood
Mary and Doug are elated too!

And I know lots of people will still reading through them in the next few days, too–plenty of folks have been stopping by and that’s pretty darn exciting!

I wanted to alert everyone that some exciting things have been happening this Silent Movie Day–a commemorative plaque for the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Alley was dedicated yesterday, thanks to the efforts of historian John Bengtson and all the fans who donated to his campaign. Isn’t it beautiful? I can’t wait to see it in person!

May be an image of 3 people and text that says 'Chaplin Keaton- Lloyd Alley Charlie Chaplin "The Kid" (1921) Buster Keaton "Cops" (1922) Harold Lloyd "Safety Last!" (1923) Three of the greatest comedies of all time were filmed in part along this east-west alley from Cahuenga to Cosmo. Each of these landmark movies has been inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress, cinema's highest honor. Three Iconic Stars Three Timeless Films One Hollywood Alley Hollywood Heritage, Inc. EaCa Alley Property Owners'

Also, Hollywood FINALLY has a proper film museum, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which officially opened today. It only took a few decades, but it’s finally here, folks! Historian Mary Mallory talks about this longtime work in the making in her new post here.

Academy Museum Of Motion Pictures Announces Inaugural Programming And  Screenings Opening With 'The Wizard Of Oz' – Deadline

And one final thing, on a more sober note. I just heard that Steve of MovieMovieBlogBlogII, who contributed to our blogathon, has passed away. I’ve known Steve through Facebook for quite a few years, we shared a love of old movies and especially our great comedians. He was always very supportive of my silent film blogging and I could always count on him to be the first to sign up for a blogathon! He and his jokes and his many well-written classic movie posts will be greatly missed. Please check out his site here, and maybe bookmark it to visit now and then–I’m sure he’d appreciate it:

https://moviemovieblogblogii.wordpress.com/

And once again, thank you for all your hard work making this event a success. And Happy Silent Movie Day!

The Silent Movie Day Blogathon

Happy Silent Movie Day, everyone! (Man it feels good to say that…! Dream come true, and all.) Me and In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood are happy to be celebrating it with you all with you today! The founders of this new holiday–one of the best since Christmas–wrote:

“National Silent Movie Day is an annual celebration of silent movies, a vastly misunderstood and neglected cinematic art form. We believe that silent motion pictures are a vital, beautiful, and often powerful part of film history, and we are united in the goal to advocate for their presentation and preservation.”

Couldn’t agree more! So let’s get to it.

Bloggers: Please send us the link to your post whenever it’s ready today–if you signed up with me, send me the link, if you signed up with Crystal at In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, send it to her. Our rosters will be updated periodically throughout the blogathon.

Readers: Please drop by often today to check out the latest posts–and don’t forget that we bloggers live for comments!

The Roster:

Silent-ology | What is the greatest silent film?

Silent Locations | Honoring the Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Alley

MovieMovieBlogBlogII | The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez (1991)

RealWeegieMidget Reviews | Silent Movie (1976)

The Classic Movie Muse | Hot Water (1924)

Hometowns to Hollywood | Girl Shy (1924)

Cinematica | Coney Island (1917)

Better Living Through Television | The relationship between silent film and television

Nitrateglow | The hit films of 1921

Caftan Woman | The Last of the Mohicans (1920)

Silver Screenings | The Hoodlum (1919)

The Story Enthusiast | The Scarlet Letter (1926)

The Thoughts of One Truly Loved | The Circus (1928)

Laurel and Hardy Blog | The Battle of the Century (1927)

Strictly Vintage Hollywood | The lost silent Uncharted Seas (1921)

Grace Kingsley’s Hollywood | “What Does Hollywood Think of Herself?”

Wild About Harry | The silent cinema of Harry Houdini

MovieRob | The Conquest of the Pole (1912)

Critica Retro | Souls For Sale (1923)

Brooksie at the Movies | “Who Taught Valentino to Tango?”

The Classic Movie Muse | Hot Water (1924)

LA Daily Mirror | The first permanent studio in Hollywood

Silent Film Music | Article on silent film projection speeds

Century Film Project | The Nut (1921)

Taking Up Room | Show People (1928)

The Everyday Cinephile | Pre-1920 cinema

Lokke Heiss | The Crowd (1928)

What Is The Greatest Silent Film?

This is my own post in honor of the Silent Movie Day Blogathon. Hope you enjoy!

When it comes to talking about great movies (in the Roger Ebert sense of the word), I’ve always loved making and sharing lists: top tens, top fives, your “essential threes”–they always seems to prompt interesting discussions. Face it, you’re asked to list what you think are the Top 10 Best Movies Ever Made and it’s hard to resist, isn’t it? Even the top film critics and directors in the world famously contribute to Sight & Sound‘s “Top 10 Greatest Films” lists once every decade. It’s enlightening to see how certain films will fall a bit out of favor while others remain universally praised–often for generations.

The greatest films of all time- a list compiled from multiple sources –  OWEN TEMPLE
Image credit: Owen Temple

But your average carefully-compiled lists, hard as they can be to put together, are one thing. Trickiest of all is picking a single “greatest of the great” film from a given genre or era (putting aside the immense difficulty of choosing “The Greatest Film, Period”–phew!). So with that in mind, and since no one asked me, I thought I’d ponder: “What is the greatest silent film?”

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Book Review: “King Of The Movies: Francis X. Bushman” By Lon And Debra Davis

King of the Movies: Francis X. Bushman

While working the book CHASE! A Tribute to the Keystone Kops (slight plug there, hee hee), editor Lon Davis kindly asked me: had I ever read he and his wife Debra’s book King of the Movies: Francis X. Bushman? When I said I hadn’t, he offered to send me a copy. Of course I accepted–who wouldn’t want to learn more about Edwardian heartthrob Frankie X?

Francis X. Bushman Photograph by Kay Shackleton

And I can now say, without bias or exaggeration, that King of the Movies is one of the most engaging, readable biographies of a screen star that I’ve come across, possibly supplanting my former favorites Vamp: The Rise and Fall of Theda Bara and The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks. Or at least standing shoulder to shoulder with them. I mean, they’re pretty darn awesome too.

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What Happened To Virginia Rappe?–Featuring A Q&A With Tracey Goessel

It’s not hard to argue that the aftermath of the 1921 Labor Day scandal is still unfolding to this day. Those curious enough to investigate the case will learn that Virginia Rappe died under mysterious circumstances allegedly involving Roscoe Arbuckle, and that Arbuckle was eventually acquitted of manslaughter. But ugly rumors and hearsay about “a comedian who raped a girl” or “a disease-ridden actress who died at a wild party” still abound. And while most fans of classic films today are thankfully quick to let you know about Arbuckle’s acquittal, it’s Virginia’s reputation that seems to get battered the most consistently. She’s been called a “party girl” at best and a “whore” at worst, depicted as a good times gal whose devil-may-care lifestyle made her pay the ultimate price.

This caricature is what originally caught the eye of historian Joan Myers, the first to do substantial research into Virginia’s backstory: “I’d never been satisfied with the way Virginia Rappe had been depicted…All of our knowledge about her was unsubstantiated and looked suspiciously familiar–it’s pretty much the traditional rhetoric trotted out as a defense in any rape case.” Surprisingly, info about Virginia’s life and career was not very hard for her to find. And I can confirm that simple searches in newspaper archives can bring up a surprising variety of articles and photos about her.

Such as this image from The Day Book (August 7, 1915).

So let’s do two things in this post: let’s clear out some of the cobwebs and get to know Virginia better as a human being, and then take a fresh look at the unfortunate events that lead to her death. Perhaps there’s other angles that haven’t been considered that can add something new to the discussion–that’s what I’m hoping!

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