A Mesmerizing Talent: The Life And Career Of Conrad Veidt

“I only fell in love once with a movie actor. It was Conrad Veidt. His magnetism and his personality got me. His voice and gestures fascinated me. I hated him, feared him, loved him. When he died it seemed to me that a vital part of my imagination died too, and my world of dreams was bare.”

Quoted from one of the documents compiled in British Cinemas and Their Audiences by J.P. Mayer. 

He had a lean, chiseled face that could’ve belonged to a regal nobleman, a sickly poet, or a sinister villain. His blue eyes could burn with the fury of a madman, or grow wide and distant as if trying to forget terrible secrets. But they could become warm and friendly too, especially if you were chatting with this tall, distinguished man about his greatest passion: dramatic acting. “I must have the dramatic, the ecstatic,” he told an interviewer in 1928, “something with great mental force.”

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Known today for such horror classics as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Man Who Laughs, Hans Walter Conrad Veidt (nicknamed “Connie”) came from a quiet and sensible background. Continue reading

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Why You Should Learn To Stop Worrying And Start Loving The Title Cards

Happy Thursday, y’all! Here’s a Silent-ology “oldie-but-goodie,” my impassioned defense of the old-timey title card. My readership has definitely grown since the last time this was published! By the way, point #4 is always worth sharing with any silent film skeptic friends.

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So you’ve decided to give those funny old black-and-white silent movies a try. You pop in a DVD with a quaint title and relax on your couch (or you rev up the Netflix, either one).  An organ tune plays as you see the scene of a busy town street. There are Model Ts, and people in clothes that look less like a Roaring Twenties party than you‘d assumed, and hey, does that old guy have a handlebar mustache? And was that a streetcar? Why, you could get used to this! And then it happens. The screen goes black…and there are words. Words that you must read. Words that are inflicted upon you. This, my friend, is your very first exposure…to a title card.  

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Thoughts On “Coney Island” And A Shout-Out To “A Country Hero”

Coney Island (1917)

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For decades, Coney Island was one of the most-watched Comiques, thanks to 16mm copies being in the public domain. Since few other Arbuckle films were available, it was sometimes cited as the “only” film where Buster actually smiled on camera–not true, as we’ve seen. Still, we’re lucky the lovable, crowd-pleasing Coney Island got to be one of those available few. It’s not only very funny, but treats us to all the period charm of an Edwardian afternoon at the famed amusement park.

Image result for coney island 1917 arbuckle Continue reading

Silent Ireland: 5 Dramas From The Emerald Isle

I’m guessing that many of you have seen silent films from a number of countries, like Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, and possibly even Japan. But have you ever watched one from Ireland?

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Sure and there are Irish silents, indade! And they captured snapshots of traditional rural life in Ireland several years before the famous Easter Rising. Thanks to Trinity College in Dublin, several Irish dramas are available for your viewing pleasure on their official YouTube channel. Continue reading

Book Review: “Like Any Other Monday” By Binnie Brennan

When I began writing book reviews I decided Silent-ology would be concentrated on nonfiction, with maybe a very rare exception for a well-written historical fiction novel. For one thing, silent fans are always seeking out nonfiction with good info about the era. Plus, I’m come to the sinking realization that I’m turning into one of those awful nitpickers who notices and actually kind of cares if a novel has some minor historical inaccuracies. (“It’s supposed to be 1917 and he just used a slang term that wasn’t popular until 1923? This shall not stand!“) It’s getting bad, folks.

But, as I said, there are those rare exceptions, and I dare say that Binnie Brennan’s Like Any Other Monday is one of them. Continue reading

“Splashes of Fun and Beauty”–Sennett’s Famous Bathing Beauties

Being in the midst of preparing an article for the upcoming issue of The Silent Film Quarterly (have I mentioned that I have a column there now? No? Oh. Well, I do), I decided to do a repost of one of my favorite 2015 articles. It was written especially for Keystone Month, and was a lot of fun to write. Hope you enjoy!

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If you’re ever having an earnest discussion about silent comedy (and who wouldn’t), there are a few topics that will often bring out a smile: fake mustaches, cream pies, satirical twirling of said fake mustaches, the Ton of Fun. And there’s one topic that always seems to make people smile: Mack Sennett’s Bathing Beauties.

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Once considered mildly risquébut now considered surprisingly innocent, the playful, perky, mischievous girls popped up in Sennett’s comedies time and time again. Admittedly the plots would sometimes screech to a halt just for them, but at least half of the theater audiences were too appreciative to mind.

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A Sad Farewell To Historian David Shepard

Yesterday evening, January 31st, brought some sad news–the great historian and film preservationist David Shepard had passed away.

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This is a huge loss to anyone who loves silents and supports film preservation. Shepard is responsible for the restorations of Intolerance, The Navigator, Man With a Movie Camera, The Gold Rush, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Cheat, and countless others. To say that we owe him one is an understatement.

Shepard worked at Blackhawk Films in the 1960s (and bought the company in 1987), became a preservationist at the American Film Institute, and eventually started his own company, Film Preservation Associates. He’s worked with Kino, Flicker Alley, many film festivals, and has won awards for his tireless work. He has been both a huge help and huge inspiration to countless historians. In some of their own words:

“David was an extraordinary individual. I do not think it hyperbole to state that he significantly inspired most of our current film historians and archivists, and his countless works have been viewed and loved by nearly every serious classic film fan.”

“A Giant in the Film Preservation world has taken his leave from us this evening. A friend to so many of us, his legacy is large and immeasurable.”

“There was no better advocate for restoring classic films and making them available to modern audiences. I pray that David is chatting with many of the film greats in heaven today.”

“He leaves behind one heck of a legacy, as well as an influence on all of us who follow in his footsteps.”

Shepard had been suffering from an inoperable cancer, and passed away with his family, friends, and beloved dog at his side. He will be greatly missed.

7 Silent Christmas Movies (From The Horse-And-Buggy Era)

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?

Exposure to forbidding vintage Santas is well worth the price.

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 ClausThese 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