Part of the fun of spending an unhealthy amount of time perusing old movie magazines is finding…well, stuff you can’t make up. From a June, 1926 issue of Film Fun:
Do you collect vintage Christmas decorations? Love singing vintage Christmas songs? Maybe even enjoy trying out vintage holiday recipes? Then how about taking the next step and trying out some very vintage Christmas films?
I’m not talking about the familiar holiday staples like Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life or the hallowed classic Santa Claus Conquers the Martians–I’m talking about the very earliest Christmas films ever made, pre-dating our more commercialized era. Heck, they pre-date the widespread use of electricity. The discovery of penicillin. Even the Coca-Cola Santa Claus. These are holiday movies over a century old, from the literal horse and buggy era, and they are charming peeks into a long-gone world. Let’s start with: Continue reading
There’s an old quote you may have heard, attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “…In this world, nothing can said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I’d like to amend that: “…In this world, nothing can said to be certain, except death, taxes, and fans of silent comedy debating about the ranking of the Big Four.” (Or the “Big Three,” for the multitudes of you who haven’t made Harry Langdon an integral part of your lives yet.)
General film enthusiasts take the informal-yet-widespread ranking of Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd as the all-time best silent comedians for granted (and more would include Harry if they would actually watch Harry, harumph), but for some time now the tide has been changing among silent comedy fans. It’s not uncommon to find arguments in favor of less emphasis on “The Big Four,” of adding or replacing a comedian or two, or even of ditching the ranking all together. Those in favor of the latter say there were lots of popular comedians back in the silent era, and furthermore, these unjustly overlooked folks could be just as funny as Lloyd or Keaton. Thus, the ranking is unfair and not even historically accurate. Right? Continue reading
Today, let us extend a suitably theatrical nod toward the “vamp.” That wicked temptress of yesteryear, pale-skinned, alluringly dressed, leading respectable gentlemen to their doom. And don’t forget the copious amounts of kohl eyeliner, which made them appear like the Victorian-themed dream of a goth kid who fell asleep still clutching his dog-eared Edgar Allan Poe book.
Whence came the vamp? Short for “vampire,” the word meant a female seductress with an almost supernatural ability to drain male victims not of their blood, but of their…life force. Or something like that. Ask someone from the 1910s to name a vampire, and they were just as likely to say “Theda Bara” as “Count Dracula.” If not more so. Continue reading
We’re kicking off Forgotten Comedians month with a look at one of most memorable aspects of silent comedy–those wacky human oddities who made people laugh just by showing up onscreen.
They could’ve walked right out of the funny papers. They came in every conceivable shape and size: short and stubby, alarmingly tall, skinny as beanpoles or round as beach balls. They wore every kind of mismatched clothing: floppy shoes, enormous pants, tight coats, moth-eaten hats, and out of date dresses. If you touched their makeup, you’d probably leave a dent. Sometimes called “grotesque comedians” (an old-time term), these were people who specialized not just in acting funny, but in looking funny.
A few of the names might be familiar to you: Ford Sterling, Larry Semon, Al St. John. But come on, guys, they’re too easy. Let’s really dive into the nooks and crannies of ’10s and ’20s comedy. Who were some of the most outlandish and “out there” characters ever to inspire a cartoonist’s envy? I invite you all to get acquainted with a few of the largely-forgotten names among the finest silent “grotesques”! Continue reading
A little while ago I posted a page from 1925 Motion Picture Magazine that displayed entries in a “draw your favorite stars!” contest for kids. Looks like a previous issue (from April) had a contest for adults, too!
I’m loving all of these, especially the slinky Colleen Moore. Nita is surprisingly modern (perhaps that’s fitting?) and Zasu is almost anime-inspired. You could say that the Zasu sketch nabbed the $10 prize because it was just a tad ahead of its time.
Hope everyone’s been having a great summer! I’m gearing up for next month right now–a theme month maaaay be in the works (my hints are the subtlest). It’s going to be a fun one, folks!
Not too long ago I saw a discussion in a Facebook group about a silent era actor who, it was revealed, had strongly supported keeping his wealthy neighborhood “White People Only.” Naturally this was disheartening news, and more than one person declared that they would never look at him the same way again.
I could hardly blame them, but it got me thinking: What do we do if we love a star’s work onscreen, but discover that they were less-than-charming off screen? Is it reasonable to judge a star by their personal life?
Happy Fourth of July weekend, fellow Americans! And I suppose I can wish a Happy Independence Day of sorts to the U.K. too, yes?…No? Too soon? But…but why?
In the ’20s, as part of the “fun cheesy photos for the holidays” tradition, it was popular for actors (mainly actresses) to pose in gag photos with fireworks, some of which were comically gigantic. The June 30, 1928 Exhibitor’s Herald and Moving Picture World featured this spread, which included our Louise Fazenda:
As a chaser, here’s the always-adorable Baby Peggy (from the Exhibitor’s Herald, July 21, 1923):
And of course, no matter where you are, have a lovely weekend because everyone deserves to have a lovely weekend. More posts are on the way once we’ve all recovered from any and all festivities!
…jetting off to southern California!! That’s right, once again I’ll be in both San Francisco and the Holy Land (err, Hollywood), and lemme tellya, it’s been a supremely gorgeous May here in Minnesota but man, this month has seemed long…!
Regular readers may remember that I visited San Francisco with friends last year, on a weekend that just happened to coincide with the prestigious San Francisco Silent Film Festival. I chose a handful of showings to attend and had a grand time (my encouraging friends joined me for a Colleen Moore film–and loved it!). And for the world’s greatest chaser, after the Frisco trip I decided to visit Hollywood for the very first time ever. All in all, an epic trip, and I vowed to return next year if I possibly could.
Well, both plans and funds fell into place and I am indeed returning! And this time it’s going to be even more epic. Continue reading