FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: It has come to our attention that many in the classic film community–of which the silent film community is a small yet passionate subset–have been somewhat misinformed about a particular character trope of the early 20th century.
Namely, that upon viewing certain 1920s films with the promise of having “vampires” in their plots, the said movie watching experiences don’t appear to reveal any bloodsucking, cape-wearing, pasty-faced monsters from the grave.
This prompts various IMDb reviews to say: “So there’s definitely no vampires in this movie…” or, “The gal in this film was a piece of work, but definitely not a vampire.”
I may have mentioned my great love for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, which I try my darnest to attend every year (I also try my darnest to see every single showing–last year I finally succeeded!). Probably mentioned it once or twice…or fifty times. (They deserve frequent shoutouts!)
One of the many bonuses of this grand festival is their annual “Amazing Tales From the Archives” presentation, which is always free to attend and always full of interesting info on the exciting projects archivists are working on. The 2019 festival had one presentation that charmed my socks off: about Léon Beaulieu’s teeny tiny cinema flipbooks he manufactured for his unique 1890s “pocket cinematograph.”
Here’s something a little different–a magazine interview with that famed authoress of Three Weeks, that chooser of “It” girls, that grand dame of romance herself–Elinor Glyn! I wrote a piece on Glyn and her famed novel awhile back, and it’s been one of my favorite “Personalities” articles ever since.
There was a time when Glyn was considered the expert in the “moonlight and magnolias” type of love–and happily marketed herself as such. She had hair dyed “Titian red,” was rumored to travel with a tiger skin rug, and apparently coached Valentino in his romantic scenes. If you aren’t too familiar with this romance novelist-turned-screenwriter, Gloria Swanson’s fantastic description pretty much says it all:
She took over Hollywood. She went everywhere and passed her fearsome verdicts on everything. “This is glamorous,” she would say. “This is hideous,” she would say, as she baby-stepped through this or that dining room or garden party. People moved aside for her as if she were a sorceress on fire or a giant sting ray.
Haven’t done one of these posts in awhile! It’s time to poke through the ol’ antique fan magazines and see what they’ve been hiding for 90-100 years. Today, let’s focus on those artsy illustrations!
These charmers are from a two-page spread in the November 1923 issue of Motion Picture Magazine, called “Cut-Out Caricatures.” Well whaddaya know, this minimalist style just happens to be all the rage today:
So that’s Nita Naldi, Buster, Richard Barthelmess, Norma Talmadge, Mary, and Doug, respectively. Let’s not forget Bull Montana, because I almost did:
A version of this post was originally written for my Classic Movie Hub column Silents are Golden. Hope you enjoy!!
When Rudolph Valentino became a 1920s superstar thanks to the megahits The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921) and The Sheik (1921), he basically changed the definition of “matinee idol” forever. Unlike many popular actors at the time, who tended to be steady, “regular guy” types, the young Italian often played characters with a dangerous edge and definite air of sensuality. Even today, it’s not hard to see why women became obsessed with him.
“Yuck”–said no woman ever.
Which might make you wonder: before Valentino, which leading actors were considered major heartthrobs? After all, when we list handsome silent film actors today, 1920s personalities like John Gilbert or Ramon Novarro will spring to mind–but who were the “hotties” of the Edwardian era?
MERRYCHRISTMAS, my friends! I sincerely hope you’re all having a fine holiday season, no matter where you may be.
You might notice that while Silent-ology goes all out on spooky film-viewing in October, it’s a bit quieter around Christmas. That’s because: A) Back in the silent era, Christmas wasn’t the commercialized extravaganza it is today–there really aren’t a ton of Christmasy silents to choose from, and B) December is a very busy month! So I tend to be more sparing in my Yuletide-themed posts, although I make sure to decorate Silent-ology appropriately.
Hold on, I’ll just put up a few more ornaments.
So! With that said, here’s a bit of festive Christmas reminiscing from Lillian Gish’s autobiography The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me, where she occasionally looked back on holidays from her childhood. At times life was hard for Lillian, her sister Dorothy and their mother, especially since their father abandoned them when the girls were young. However, they did have fond memories of holidays past. Continue reading →
Hello and happy Thanksgiving, my readers! And a happy holiday season in general–it’s officially that time of the year! As such, I initially thought I’d look for some sort of vintage, pumpkin pie-related recipe from Ye Old Movie Magazines to share. But instead, I found something better!
Introducing the great 1922 Way Down East Perfect Pumpkin Pie Contest Exploitation Campaign!!
While browsing through old film magazines online (how often have I said that), an unusual photo caught my eye–a young woman with intense eyes, peasant-like clothing and long, unkempt hair. Oh, and she was gripping an ax.
Happily the full version is online.
Not something you see in those polished magazines every day! I had to find out the story behind it, and what turned up was one of those “rags to riches” types of Hollywood tales–with a unique twist. Continue reading →
‘Tis Hallowe’en, and may an abundance of spooky, autumnal fun be had by all! In the spirit of the season I’m sharing this essay from the November 1920 issue of Photoplay, mainly for the author’s reminisces about childhood Hallowe’ens, but also to remind us that we simply don’t write gentle, moralizing essays like this anymore.
Sangster was actually the granddaughter of the warm, philosophic poet and writer Margaret Elizabeth Sangster, who had passed away in 1912. The younger Sangster was given her own column in Photoplay in the summer of 1920, where she shared her thoughtful look on life. Since she wrote this in 1920, her childhood probably took place around the 1900s–the Meet Me in St. Louis era, if you will. Feel free to give it a read–you might find its message surprisingly timeless! Illustrated throughout with Hallowe’en imagery from those days of “magic and mystery.”
BOBBING FOR APPLES
A heart to heart talk with the Family Circle
by Margaret E. Sangster
When I was a little kiddie I used to look forward to Hallowe’en with nearly as much happiness and nearly as many anticipatory thrills as Christmas or a birthday awoke in my breast. Christmases and birthday were wonderful times of present giving and joy and congratulations and extra-special things to eat, but Hallowe’en was a day of mirth and magic and mystery! Hallowe’en was a day when you wore your old frock–a day when you could tear stockings and lose hair ribbons without being scolded. Hallowe’en was a boisterous day–a day when spirits were high and laughter was the king of the universe.
One of the few silent classics virtually anyone’s willing to watch, Nosferatu has been iconic practically since its release in 1922. The strange, hunched Count Orlok has a permanent place in cinema history, a unique pedestal that keeps him apart from the suave villains of later pop culture.
I’ve reviewed this gothic masterpiece before, but didn’t delve much into the details of how or why it was made. A few of you may already know the tale, with its background of modern art, WWI, occultism, flu epidemics, and gleeful copyright infringement. But if not, do read on. Continue reading →