MERRY CHRISTMAS to one and all! I hope your holiday’s been merry and bright so far–mine sure has!
A fellow Buster fanatic reminded me of this fun clipping that I shared on social media some years ago. It’s a little glimpse into what Christmas was like at Buster Keaton’s house back in the late ’20s (or early ’30s?), and it simply must be shared again!
If the clipping’s a bit challenging to read, here’s a handy transcript:
“Although the sun shines at Christmas in Hollywood, and thin dresses are worn, the good old Christmas spirit is not lacking in the homes of film stars.
“Parties are given on Christmas Eve as well as Christmas day. In the homes of Jack Holt and Buster Keaton for instance, where children form such an important part of the festive season, the decoration of a Christmas tree for the kiddies is made an excuse for a Christmas Eve party for the grown-ups.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how Christmas silents are fewer and farther between than, say, October-appropriate spooky films (and “spooky” is a broader brush). Christmas wasn’t the season-long extravaganza back then the way it is now–some stores only brought in toys a week or two before the big day. Movie theaters might’ve had a Christmas-themed short or two mixed in with their programming, but focused more on “fairytale” films, since fairytale plays had traditionally been put on for children at Christmastime. Quite the contrast with, say, the Hallmark channel’s two-month long 24/7 schedule of 4,678 holiday movies!
So there’s a little less to choose from when it comes to silents with familiar Christmasy imagery, but that just means we can give extra appreciation to the ones we have. Take A Merry Christmas To All (1926), a short novelty I just recently discovered on YouTube–a shoutout to the channel Silent Flicks Theater!
A very Merry Christmas to one and all! I’m happy to announce that after a gigantic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer-style blizzard yesterday, we folks up here in Minnesota are finally getting a white Christmas–and how. So this year’s holidays will seem extra cozy–and what goes better with “cozy” than Victorian and Edwardian Christmas silents?
This year my pick for a fun novelty holiday film to show to family is the little-known three-reeler Santa Claus (1925), which I stumbled upon out of the blue recently. (Those are always the best kinds of films, you know.) This charming film gives us the inside scoop on Santa’s life at the North Pole, in a whimsical old-timey way, of course–I’d expect nothing less.
Can you believe Christmas is right around the corner? Somehow, time is still humming along. I’ve been keeping busy lately with cookie baking, making Christmas-y crafts, and of course getting a few Christmas cards sent out in time.
Which reminds me (great segue, eh?) did you know that back in the day actors used to place little Christmas greetings in the trade magazines? I’m guessing these were placed by publicity folks and meant as little “thank yous” to exhibitors, distributors and other people in the industry for a prosperous year–nothing wrong with fostering a little goodwill. They might be as simple as the words “Yuletide Greetings” along with the actor’s name, but some included a portrait or a small holiday-themed illustration. What’s also interesting is how most of these “cards” were placed in the December 24th-25th issues, or published around New Year’s. (The early 20th century U.S. didn’t generally have the weeks-long Christmas hype of today.)
I think these little greetings are pretty endearing, so let’s check out some examples! Here’s what a typical bunch looked like (you can click to see larger images, or right-click to bring them up in their own tab):
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 →
A very MERRYCHRISTMASfrom Miss Movie! Or so the fairy in this 1917 Motion Picture Magazine is called:
I was amused by the fact that “Also a Merry Christmas!” is a wee afterthought at the bottom. In fairness, this is a January issue, but the December issues don’t seem to have an abundance of Christmas ads either. Times have sure changed, eh?
I’m hoping that all Silent-ology readers have a lovely Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, wherever you may be! No matter what you’ll be doing today or how busy or how quiet it’ll be, know that I’ll be raising a glass to you at some point.
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 →
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 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 →
A very MerryChristmas to all my Silent-ology readers!
You’ve been making my days merry and bright all year round! Thank you, thank you for stopping in to read my posts. You make this labor of love one of the most fulfilling projects I’ve ever undertaken–and that’s the 1000% truth!
Here’s a bit of festive cuteness from Our Gang, circa the December 1924 Exhibitor’s Trade Review. (You should be able to click on the image to see the details better.)
Have a lovely Yuletide weekend everyone, and THANK YOU again!!