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.

title-norman-loose change '28 1

Loose Change (1928)

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Harold Lloyd’s Magnificent (Year-Round!) Christmas Tree

If you got to go back in time to the Golden Age of Hollywood and spend Christmas with one of your favorite stars, who would you pick? It would be a really tough decision, but if you were factoring in stars who were really, REALLY into Christmas, then Harold Lloyd should probably top your list!

Harold and family (and friends?). Not sure where this image came from, but it’s a nice one, isn’t it?

On his 15-acre estate Greenacres, boasting a 44-room mansion, 9-hole private golf course, a 900-foot man-made canoe stream, and what was once southern California’s largest swimming pool, Lloyd “knew how to keep Christmas well,” as Dickens would say. Continue reading

Mona Darkfeather, The “Indian Princess” of Hollywoodland

Among the ranks of the many forgotten silent actors and actresses who specialized in similar kinds of dramatic roles or comic “types,” there were a few who were a little more unique. One was the actress Josephine Workman, aka “Princess Mona Darkfeather,” who (believe it or not) wasn’t actually an Indian princess and whose possible American Indian ancestry is a big question mark. But for much of the 1910s she was very popular among the moviegoing public–and, she was certainly a part of the development of the Western genre.

Mona Darkfeather portrait Continue reading

Enjoy This Gallery Of Stars Posing With Turkeys

In honor of this here Turkey Day, I’ve decided to craft a small collection of photos showcasing a hot 1920s autumn trend: pictures of silent stars posing with turkeys. Apparently, no November issue of a movie magazine was complete without at least one of these.

Here, for instance, is Anna Q. Nilsson posing with a studio’s best stuffed turkey. Some of you might remember Nilsson’s cameo in Sunset Boulevard:

Thnxgiving Nilsson exh herald Nov 20 '26 Continue reading

Fan Magazine Fun: “If I Were a Man…”

1920s fan magazines are an endless source of trivia, fun anecdotes, touches of serious journalism, and of course, oodles of fluff pieces. Take the following irresistible article from Picture-Play Magazine, from the March 1927 issue:

If I Were a Man 1

Here’s the headline on the opposite page (as you can see, the article was compiled by Dorothy……………Wooldridge):

If I Were a Woman 2

A bunch of actors and actresses were asked what annoyed them about the opposite sex the most–and who knows if they were asked personally, or if their publicists responded. Either way, some of the answers are most amusingly 1920s.  Continue reading

“Make Next Halloween Sane!” How 1920s Theater Owners Helped Curb Kids’ Vandalism

Now here’s an interesting peek into the history of this ghoulish time of the year. We take it for granted that “Halloween” = kids dressing up in costumes and going trick or treating. But for kids back during the silent era, Halloween (or Hallowe’en, if you like old-timey spellings as much as I do) had far more emphasis on the “trick” than the “treat.”

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As well as the “terrifying.”

Trick-or-treating, descended from the “guising” tradition from Scotland and Ireland, didn’t become common until the 1930s. Before that, kids would still dress in costumes, but usually for Hallowe’en parties. And…mischief making.

This mischief often involved harmless pranks like soaping shop windows or more annoying feats like toppling people’s outhouses or opening gates to let out farmers’ cows. But some “goblins” took advantage of the night to vandalize peoples’ property, sometimes causing serious damage. Continue reading

The OTHER Artist Charles Chaplin

Phew! I’ve been a tad lean on the posts lately because of a couple silent film-related projects that had to be done LIKE RIGHT NOW, but I’m getting back into the swing of things. Coming soon: at least one of three article ideas bouncing around in my head right now, an Obscure Film review, and a couple blogathons, too.

Ah, the funny places research rabbit holes will lead you to. Hey guys, did you know there was another Charlie Chaplin?

No, I’m not talking about imitators like Billy West. And not Charlie’s father, Charles Chaplin Senior, either. This guy was a highly-acclaimed artist of the 19th century, and his name was Charles Joshua Chaplin.

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A strong resemblance, there ain’t.

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The Comique Shorts: Roscoe Arbuckle’s Masterpieces

This is post #1 of Comique Month! (I’m so excited, I’ve been wanting to write about this amazing studio for ages.) Enjoy, and check back often throughout the next thirty-one days as we dive into incomparable world of the Comique Film Corporation!

The Comique films! As cheerful as a sunny summer’s day and as energetic as jazzy music, Roscoe Arbuckle’s 1917-1919 series of two-reelers should be required viewing for anyone even remotely interested in silent comedy. They’re goofy, clever, cheerful, inventive, and contain some of the best choreographed slapstick sequences the Edwardian era ever devised. Chaplin’s late 1910s Mutuals may get the most applause, but the “Comiques” (as they’re often called) definitely deserve the most high fives.

Comique crew butcher boy

At least three for this publicity photo alone.

But despite some excellent restorations, Arbuckle’s Comiques are still somewhat overlooked. They’re usually credited as containing Buster Keaton’s earliest film appearances, and…that’s about it. If they’re discussed in any depth at all, it’s usually in order to analyze Buster’s performances, speculate on which gags might be his, and to compare them with his later, independent work. In other words, the Comiques are held up as examples of decent enough, admittedly energetic films that are of course far inferior to Buster’s own 1920s shorts. Continue reading