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/

A Big THANK YOU To All!

Another successful blogathon has come to a close, my friends! And thus I would like to offer:

Thank you from Buster 2018

Every year you classic film bloggers outdo yourselves writing insightful, touching, and well-researched posts about our favorite comedian, and I and all the Silent-ology readers could not be more appreciative! I’m sure that Buster, somewhere out there, was doing plenty of smiling in the last couple of days.

As promised, I conducted the drawing with my trusty gray cloche hat, and am happy to announce that the winner of The Saphead DVD is….

The Wonderful World of Cinema

Congratulations! I’ll be in touch as soon as I can. And if you see this post first, contact me on my “About Silent-ology” page so we can email each other. (NOTE: I know that many of us Buster fans will snap up as much merchandise as we can, so if you already have the DVD let me know if you’d like to give it to someone who’d appreciate it or if I should draw another name.)

Thanks again, everyone! Here’s to next year’s Busterthon.

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The Fourth Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon

Welcome back, everyone, to the Buster Keaton Blogathon–fourth edition!

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UPDATE 2/13/18 Day two of the blogathon has begun–looking forward to what the day has in store!

Once again we’re paying tribute to one of the most unique and beloved comedians of all time. An excellent variety of topics is being covered, and more are on the way!

Bloggers: Please send me the link to your post whenever it’s ready today or tomorrow. I’ll be updating periodically throughout the blogathon. Don’t forget that I’ll be holding a drawing for all participants, the winner receiving a Blu-ray/DVD of The Saphead! The drawing will be held on February 14 (Valentine’s Day).

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 adored pratfalls.)

And once again, here are the links to the First, Second and Third Annual Buster Blogathons.

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The Roster:

Silent-ology | Recap of the 23rd Annual Buster Keaton Convention 2017

Silver Screenings | College

MovieMovieBlogBlog | The Railrodder and an essay on Buster’s Educational and Columbia sound shorts

Wolffian Classic Movies Digest | The Joys of Silent Comedy essay

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films | Why I Love Buster essay

A Person in the Dark | Yay for the Porkpie Party!

Big Riot V Squad | Buster Goes to War

Silver17 Productions | Trailer for The Rough House

An Ode to Dust | Curating a Buster Keaton retrospective

Grace Kingsley’s Hollywood | Kingsley’s 1920s interviews with Buster

Welcome To My Magick Theatre | Steamboat Bill, Jr

Special Purpose Movie Blog | Twilight Zone episode “Once Upon a Time”

It’s Rob | On visiting Buster’s gravesite

Silent Wierdness | Buster, Roscoe, and Al’s Comique films in New York

Once Upon a Screen | Convict 13

Le Monde de Dyajesse | Reviews of various Buster features (French language)

Senseless Cinema | Buster’s Blockbusters

Critica Retro | The Villain Still Pursued Her

Christina Wehner | Our Hospitality

The Wonderful World of Cinema | The Blacksmith

tgreywolfe | “Visage”–a poem

Old Hollywood Films | The history of the Italian Villa

My Experience At The 2017 Buster Keaton Convention

This is my own post for the 4th Annual Buster blogathon–hope you guys enjoy!

In case you haven’t noticed, I kind of made a big deal out of Buster Keaton’s 2017 film centennial here on Silent-ology. From book reviews to July’s Comique Month, there was plenty of nods to that year-long celebration. But there was one more thing I did in honor of the centennial that I haven’t really shared with you guys yet–attend the 23rd Annual Buster Keaton convention in Muskegon, Michigan, hosted by the lovely Damfinos!

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I’d heard a lot about the beloved convention from fellow Buster fans, who shared photos and raved about its great events and friendly atmosphere. The fact that it’s held in Buster’s adopted hometown was the cherry on top. After wanting to attend for ages, the chance to go during the centennial was simply too much for me to pass up.

Plus, I must humbly add, I had been invited to give a presentation there–a 40 minute presentation–me. More to follow! Continue reading

Thoughts On: “Nanook Of The North” (1922)

It’s one of the most famous documentaries of all time, familiar to folks around the globe. Most people at least know the title, even if they haven’t seen a frame of the film. And for those who have seen it, the story of “Nanook” and his family remains as charming and fascinating as it was back in 1922.

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BLOGATHON UPDATE: The 4th Annual Busterthon Is Coming Up Fast!

Our yearly celebration of all things related to porkpie hats is just under a week away!

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I’m excited to see many bloggers returning for a second or third time–a few of you are even here for a fourth time, fantastic! I’m also happy to welcome newcomers to this fine event–hope you enjoy!

For this year’s drawing for participating bloggers I will giving away a copy of Kino’s Blu-ray The Saphead, Buster’s earliest appearance in a feature film. This set also includes the complete alternate version of the film, a featurette, and a rare 1962 recording of Buster entertaining his friends with vaudeville stories.

Bloggers: Once the 12 and 13th roll around, send me your posts whenever they are ready! Posting a day or two early is fine, just send the link my way and it’ll be up by the 12th. A handful of you have posted your contributions already (which must be some kind of record, lol), which is grand, but if you could maybe drop Silent-ology a nod during the blogathon days too that would be grand as well.

If you are just learning about this blogathon and would like to join, go right ahead! Any and all latecomers are welcome.

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If you like, here are the links to all the posts in the First, Second and Third Annual Buster blogathons.

And here is the updated roster! Let me know if everyone is present and accounted for.

The Roster:

Silent-ology | Recap of the 23rd Annual Buster Keaton Convention 2017

MovieMovieBlogBlog | The Railrodder and an essay on Buster’s Educational and Columbia sound shorts

Special Purpose Movie Blog | TBA

Maddy Loves Her Classic Films | Essay on why she’s a Buster Keaton fan

Grace Kingsley’s Hollywood | Kingsley’s 1920s interviews with Buster

Once upon a screen | Convict 13

Big V Riot Squad | The influence of Buster’s WWI experiences on his films

It’s Rob | Reflections upon visiting Buster’s gravesite

Christina Wehner | Our Hospitality

An Ode to Dust | TBA

Movies Meet Their Match | The General

Welcome To My Magick Theatre | Steamboat Bill, Jr.

Silent Wierdness | Article on work with Roscoe Arbuckle and Al St. John

Silver17 Productions | Mock trailer for The Rough House

Wolffian Classic Movies Digest | Tribute to Buster Keaton

Old Hollywood Films | The history of the Italian Villa

Silver Screenings | College

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood | The Cameraman

Critica Retro | The Villain Still Pursued Her

The Wonderful World of CinemaThe Blacksmith

L.A. ExplorerThe Navigator

tgreywolfe | Poem about Buster

A Person in the Dark | If Buster were president

 

Silent-ology Turns Four Today!

Four years? Have I really been blogging about silent films for four whole years? 

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The Indianapolis Circle Theater circa the 1920s sends its regards.

It sure doesn’t feel like it, my friends. Why, I haven’t even started covering the Hairbreadth Harry silent comedy series, and I haven’t even come close to researching the dramatic career of Eugenie Besserer, so you might say I’ve been slacking. Nevertheless, to all of you who been keeping up with Silent-ology these last few years and to all of you who are just starting to drop by, I offer a big, hearty, Art Deco: Continue reading

“Natalie Marries Buster Keaton”–An Interesting Book Excerpt

So lately I’ve been investigating two of the most overlooked stars of the silent era, Norma and Constance Talmadge, and their sister Natalie (Buster Keaton’s first wife). While Norma and Constance were once wildly popular, critically praised, and well-liked by their Hollywood co-stars, they’ve become surprisingly obscure. And unfortunately, a kind of bizarre mythology has grown up around all three sisters–a mythology that’s painted them as cold, snobby, and somewhat scheming (mainly in pretty much every Buster Keaton book ever, unfortunately).

Clearly coming up with evil schemes. (Image credit: Wisconsin Historical Society)

From what I can see, much of this is due to Anita Loos’s gossipy, jumbled book The Talmadge Girls, published in 1978, otherwise known as “several years after all the Talmadges were safely dead.” It’s been decades since the silent era, many books have been written about every silent star imaginable, and yet this–this–is still the only book available on the Talmadges.

 …Or is it? Ah, my friends, there was one other book, published in 1924, called The Talmadge Sisters: Norma, Constance, Natalie, written by their mother Margaret “Peg” Talmadge. It’s difficult to find but well worth a read (I recommend doing an interlibrary loan). Whether it was ghostwritten under the family’s watchful eye or whether Peg did sit down at her typewriter is hard to tell, but it’s quite fascinating, released as it was during the heights of the girls’ careers and giving us their detailed story decades before folks like Loos got their hands on it. The style can be sentimental and romanticized (as all the 1920s “life stories of the stars” books are), but not to the point where I felt the whole thing was complete hokum (unpleasant details, like Peg’s husband abandoning the family, are simply not mentioned).

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The Talmadge ladies travelling.

I’ll have to review it in near future (a double review with the Loos book may be in order), but thought I’d copy down the chapter that fascinated me the most. For such a “cold and snobby” family, as Keaton bios will state, Peg included an entire chapter on her son-in-law Buster and ended it with some pretty thoughtful and generous complements. It also includes much of the old “how Buster got his nickname” kind of lore, and it’s interesting to see how consistent certain stories were throughout his life.

Here it is–hope you enjoy! Any unusual spellings are original to the 1924 book.

CHAPTER XI

NATALIE MARRIES BUSTER KEATON

After our return from Europe, Natalie’s letters and telegrams from Buster became more and more frequent, so that none of us was surprised when, while we were at Palm Beach, where Norma was taking some scenes for one of her pictures, Buster wired Natalie that he would meet her in New York and that she had better be prepared to give an answer to an important question! Continue reading

“The Muse Of The Reel”–The Pioneering Work Of Director Lois Weber

When the history of the dramatic early development of motion pictures is written, Lois Weber will occupy a unique position. 

Thus spoke a journalist in a 1921 Motion Picture Magazine article. At the time, Weber was one of the most familiar and respected directors in the film industry–and the most prominent of the few female directors overall. Today, from our vantage point of nearly a century later, it may seem like that journalist’s prediction hasn’t quite come true. Weber certainly does have a unique place in cinema history, but that place has been largely overlooked for many decades.

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However, thanks to new restorations of her work being shown at film festivals and a wealth of online resources for film scholarship, Weber’s slowly but surely being restored to her place in the early filmmakers’ pantheon–a place she had certainly earned, with the goal of nothing less than the moral uplift of mankind. Continue reading

The Funny (And Forgotten) Stick Figures of Norman Z. McLeod

While combing through an online copy of a 1920s magazine just for amateur movie makers (it’s called, in case you’re curious, Amateur Movie Makers) I stumbled across a name that seemed familiar: “Norman McLeod”. Hmm, why did that ring a bell?

He was mentioned in an article on “art titles” (title cards with illustrations) which referred to “the famous skeleton cartoons” which “were made familiar by the clever pen of Norman McLeod, who has illustrated Christie Comedy titles for a number of years.” (You might be picturing Silly Symphony-style skeletons, but they were actually stick figures.) Having seen a few of the Christie Comedies, I had a little “ah-ha!” moment of now knowing who was behind those funny cartoons.

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Loose Change (1928)

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It’s Not Just A Movie–Musings On “The Last Jedi” Backlash And Why Cinema Matters

Note: These musings are free of clear TLJ spoilers. 🙂 

So you may have heard of a little film called The Last Jedi. Came out during Christmastime, made a bit of a splash, did pretty well at the box office and all.

And by now you’ve probably heard about the backlash against the film (much of which I, a major Star Wars fan, agree with). Although critics–surprisingly–seemed to embrace it with uncharacteristic enthusiasm, many fans have been lukewarm. Some outright hate many of the choices it makes, as you can see in numerous online articles and videos and doubtless in some face-to-face discussions as well.

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Let’s just say obvious ploys to sell oodles of plushies are the least of its problems.

I’ve noticed that some folks have been countering the backlash with the retort, “Oh calm down, it’s just a movie.” (Fans of just about anything are sure familiar with that.) And I’ve been thinking over that retort, my friends, and it simply doesn’t sit well with me.  Continue reading