Who Was Gustav Von Wangenheim?

Nosferatu (1922) fans such as myself (and, hopefully, yourself) are highly aware of its iconic status, its gothic cinematography, and its limitless ways to inspire today’s filmmakers. It may not be as jump-out-of-your-seat scary as some later horror films, but we highly appreciate how it broke ground and managed to create a beautifully haunting atmosphere.

Oh, and we’re also well aware of this guy:

Gustav von Wangenheim | Explore Tumblr Posts and Blogs | Tumgir
Yup, that guy.

This acquired taste in human form is Gustav von Wangenheim, the source of a few unintentional chuckles in the early scenes of the movie. But maybe that’s a little harsh. As I wrote in my Nosferatu review, Gustav’s babyface and habit of laughing just a little too long actually make his later scenes with Count Orlok pretty effective–if a character that happy-go-lucky starts getting scared, it must be for a good reason.

Gustav von Wangenheim - Classic Monsters

In fact, his acting left enough of an impression that I decided to take a closer look at this young actor. How did he come to star in Nosferatu, and what happened to him thereafter?

Let’s just say his story…threw me for a loop.

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Thoughts On: “Haunted Spooks” (1920)

Ah, the haunted house. The sheer imaginative possibilities of an old, creepy, atmospheric mansion/castle/farmhouse have made it irresistible to many filmmakers. In fact, it’s been showing up since very dawn of film, thanks to its limitless possibilities for tinkering with primitive special effects. At last, ghosts could disappear and reappear before our very eyes–or turn into bats or skeletons at a director’s whim.

Skits and plays about haunted houses weren’t uncommon on 19th century and early 20th century stages, and amusement park haunted houses apparently existed at least since the 1900s. It’s not surprising, then, that they were destined to become fertile ground for comedy gags.

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One Of The Unsung–A Nod To Bit Player Joe Bordeaux

While I’d originally hoped to put out two more posts, this is going to be the last one for Forgotten Comedians Month 2–it needed a bit more care. I hope you enjoyed following along! It was fun to have a “round two” of this theme month, so maybe it could become a recurring series…? I’d be down, just sayin’!

If you’ve been lurking around Silent-ology for awhile, you might’ve found my little bio for an apparently random bit player named Joe Bordeaux (sometimes spelled “Bordeau”). Why did I decide to write about this obscure person? Well, there’s a story involved. And a quasi-drinking game, of my own invention. I’ll explain.

Thoughts On: “His Wedding Night” And “Oh Doctor!” | Silent-ology

Pictured in cop garb on the far left: our subject.

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Obscure Films: “Just Imagination” (1916)

Does your life seem a little too normal right now? (I know, I know–“so to speak.”) Are you longing for something more…surreal? Do the people around you have a frustrating lack of pancake makeup and fake potbellies? Does your furniture just sit there? Wanting to have a trippy experience without getting…well…trippy?

This was probably the most down-to-earth intro I could give to this sentence: Then The Mishaps of Musty Suffer series may be for you!!

Now, I’m betting 99.5% of you just asked, “Who or what the heck is Musty Suffer?” I understand, my friends, for I have been there. For all my wanderings through the zany universe of silent film comedy, I had never, ever heard of the comedian Musty Suffer before Undercrank Productions successfully Kickstarted a Musty DVD series a few years ago. And now that I’ve watched him, I, well, definitely can’t forget him. Continue reading

Rose Melville And The Phenomenon Of Sis Hopkins

Judy Canova, Minnie Pearl, Louise Fazenda, Gale Henry, Mabel Normand, Lucille Ball in those I Love Lucy episodes where she blacks out teeth and wears hillbilly clothes–all of these talented ladies had fun bringing “country bumpkin” characters to the screen. Some did it part time (like Mabel) while others turned their rube characters into a full time career (like Minnie).

And those pigtails, funny hats and gingham dresses have hollered “bumpkin” to us ever since. But how often do you hear about their direct ancestor, Sis Hopkins? This great-grandmother of movie hillbillies was the creation of comedy pioneer Rose Melville. Her Sis was a very familiar character to audiences, debuting in the 1890s and appearing regularly in theaters across America for two straight decades.

Rose M. “Lily” Smock Minzey (1873-1946) - Find A Grave Memorial
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“My Friend Charlie”–A 1952 Buster Keaton Interview

Here’s an interesting piece I’ve been wanting to share! It’s from a book called The Legend of Charlie Chaplin, compiled by Peter Haines. This is a collection of essays and interviews by Chaplin’s friends, fellow actors, and other contemporaries, recalling their experiences with him. They’re essentially reprints from hard-to-find publications, the dates ranging from the 1910s-1970s. And we’re talking pieces by greats like Mary Pickford, Mack Sennett, Stan Laurel, etc. I can’t recall hearing anyone discuss this book–although I suppose it was printed back in the early ’80s–and I got it off Amazon a few years ago on a whim (where it’s still available at surprisingly reasonable prices, by the way).

The Legend of Charlie Chaplin: HAINING, Peter.: 9780491026086 ...

Keep an eye out for it!

One of the pieces is an interview given by our Buster Keaton to the French magazine Arts in October 1952, during the time when Limelight (1952) was being publicized. It’s, err, clearly translated from French, which was already translated from English, resulting in an oddly formal tone for the salt-of-the-earth Buster. But here and there you can decipher a very Buster-ish phrase or two. Continue reading

A Brief History Of Hollywood Before It Was Hollywood

A version of this post was originally written for my Classic Movie Hub column Silents are Golden. Hope you find it an interesting weekend read!

Today Hollywood, California is one of the most famous places in the world. The thriving axis of moviemaking, for decades it’s drawn countless dreamers hoping to make it in “the industry.” Real estate up in its hills is bought and sold for millions. And, of course, it attracts perpetual hordes of tourists strolling its Walk of Fame or hoping for glimpses of celebrities in Beverly Hills.

But there was a time when this same bustling neighborhood of Los Angeles was a sleepy little stretch of hilly farmland ten miles east from the city, accessible only by a gravel road and populated by a few hundred people. Little did the residents of this quiet community know what vast changes were in store–especially once those “movies” came to town (as they would nickname early filmmakers, not knowing “movies” referred to films).

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The Wonder Of Léon Beaulieu’s “Pocket Cinematographs”

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.”

Image credit: silentfilm.org

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