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/

Stuck In A “Toxic” Present–What Today’s Hollywood Can Learn From Mary Pickford

There’s a movie industry-related trend that’s been growing in recent years, and it’s become…alarmingly pervasive. While its causes aren’t hard to discern, all things considered it’s still somewhat baffling.

Let’s take a look at two recent examples. Ponder, if you will, the following headline:

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Book Review: “Pokes & Jabbs: The Before, During And After Of The Vim Films Corporation” By Rob Stone

Sometimes a silent film book comes along that you never knew you needed, about silent era performers you hadn’t looked at too closely, and somehow, that book clocks in at a mighty 480 pages of historical info, trivia, and rare photos. And, it has a fantastic cover. (The designer is the talented Marlene Weisman, who also did covers for Slapstick Divas and various Undercrank Productions releases.)

Pokes & Jabbs: The Before, During And After Of The Vim Films Corporation by film archivist and historian Rob Stone is just such a book, and it’s not only a mighty trove of information but certainly a labor of love, first taking shape during the research process for Stone’s 1996 book Laurel or Hardy: The Solo Films of Stan Laurel and Oliver “Babe” Hardy. (Ollie was in quite a few of the Pokes and Jabbs films, and starred in Vim’s “Plump and Runt” comedies.) Historian Steve Massa points out in the forward of Pokes & Jabbs that this research was begun in the pre-Media History Digital Library days, when–gasp!–you had to travel to archives around the country to find surviving copies of trade magazines. This is a fact that you’ll quickly learn to appreciate once you take in the hundreds–and I do mean hundreds–of film stats, synopses, and contemporary reviews packed into this book. 

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Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About “London After Midnight” (Practically)

The time has come! On this October the 31st, as the leaves are fluttering off the trees and a chill fills the air, it’s time to examine a film that would be a Halloween classic if it wasn’t so thoroughly and completely lost. Ah yes, the one and only…the famously misplaced…drumroll please…

…London After Midnight (1927).

Hey, that looks like my Halloween banner!

By the way, have you ever thought about what a great title that is? London After Midnight–the spooky scenes practically write themselves! No wonder it’s lodged itself in our imaginations.

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A Century Of “Nosferatu” (1922)

As you sit down to sometime this weekend to enjoy the great German Expressionist classic Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (just a hunch, but something tells me you will!), keep in mind that 2022 has a special significance: it’s the 100th anniversary of this milestone piece of cinema!

Its “birthday” of sorts is technically March 4, 1922, when the studio Prana-Film hosted its grand premiere at the Marmorsaal (“marble hall”) of the Berlin Zoological Garden. It was released in German theaters on March 15, and then slowly made its way around the Netherlands, France, Estonia, a few other European countries…and that’s about it, until it was finally released in the U.K. in 1928 and the U.S. in 1929.

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Tod Browning, The Edgar Allan Poe Of Cinema

If you’d never seen a photo of Tod Browning and I showed you a couple portraits of him, you might be forgiven for thinking he was an average 1920s Joe, maybe someone who worked as an accountant or a store manager. Would you have ever guessed he was one of the legends of horror film whose name was practically synonymous with “grotesque”? That the gothic Dracula (1931) and the shocking Freaks (1932) were concocted by this somber man, who probably looked fifty ever since he was 25?

Yet a legend of horror he was, and given his attraction to mysterious themes it might be fitting that his conventional appearance was also bit of a head-scratcher. Lest you think his early life was equally conventional, his background was actually one of the most colorful in the business–indeed, the kind that he’d often give to characters in his own films. In Browning’s case, art was very much drawn from life.

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The Unsettling Charm Of “Le Cochon Danseur” (“The Dancing Pig,” 1907)

Many of you have seen it, a lot of you probably love it, and I think it’s safe to say that some of you find it…unsettling. Oh yes, it’s one of the most viral bits of Edwardian film footage in existence–the split-reel oddity Le Cochon Danseur (1907) that many of us simply know as The Dancing Pig.

First bursting into the Internet in the 2000s, it’s become a go-to all-purpose “check out this creepy old film” film. YouTube alone has dozens (and dozens) of copies of it, and GIFs of it float about generously on social media. There are memes. There’s fan art. There’s even Creepypastas. But aside from all this 21st century hullabaloo, it’s also been a film festival mainstay since the ’80s, when the late, great historian David Shepard had a copy of it struck from an original negative.

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Thoughts On: Keaton’s “The Haunted House” (1921)

Happy Buster Keaton’s Birthday!! In his honor I’m reposting this piece I wrote on one of his classic shorts. It also makes me nostalgic since I headed to my first Damfino convention shortly after writing it. Ah, memories!

Silent-ology

Not only was yesterday Buster’s birthday, but this weekend I’ll be heading to Muskegon, Michigan for the official Damfino convention! This will be my very first time at this event (I’m giving a presentation too, so wish me luck!). Thus, it only seemed fitting to start out this Halloween month with one of Buster’s more well-known shorts.

There seemed to be certain plots and tropes that all silent comedians tried out in turn. Everyone did food preparation gags, everyone went to the beach, everyone (everyone) from Harry Langdon to Chaplin himself showed up as a white-clad street cleaner at some point. In 1921, it was Buster Keaton’s turn to try his hand at the familiar gag-rich setting of The Spooky Haunted House.

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Many Thanks, Film Bloggers!

Aaaaand the second Silent Movie Day Blogathon is a wrap! To all the talented bloggers who took the time to participate, a very hearty:

We had a fine variety of posts this year on topics ranging from 1922 box office hits to Sennett’s Bathing Beauties, and I know I’m still going through them all myself! Many thanks as well to the many readers took the time to stop by and read the posts–and are still stopping by, might I add.

Will it be back next year, becoming an annual tradition much like our Buster blogathon? Hmm…it’s always a possibility!