DVD Review: “Little Orphant Annie” (1918)

Image result for little orphant annie dvd

Little Orphant Annie (1918), the latest film restoration by film historian and collector Eric Grayson, is a rare gem for silent film fans–especially those who enjoy falling down research rabbit holes as much as I do. It’s come out at the perfect time–exactly 100 years since its initial release, and 100 years after the death of James Whitcomb Riley, author of the poem “Little Orphant Annie.” It’s the earliest available film that stars Colleen Moore, who within a few years would define “flapper” for a generation. Watching it requires you to put aside any memories of 1977 musicals involving little redheaded girls singing hopeful songs–and even the Little Orphan Annie comic strip, which didn’t debut until 1924. Continue reading

Lost Films: “Flaming Youth” (1923)

It was one of the most culturally important films of the 1920s, the one that made Colleen Moore a star and made “flapper” part of every American’s vocabulary. Her delightful performance is arguably the highlight of the film…or so we can assume, because sadly only a fragment of the influential Flaming Youth (1923) still remains. But thank heavens for that fragment–not all lost films are as lucky.

And it did, my friends. Exhibitor’s Herald, Nov. 3, 1923.

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Colleen Moore, America’s Favorite Flapper

One of the most famous quotes about the Jazz Age comes from F. Scott Fitzgerald himself–and no doubt you’ve heard of it: “I was the spark that lit up flaming youth, and Colleen Moore was the torch. What little things we are to have caused all that trouble.” But did you ever wonder where he wrote that quote?

According to one scholar, it was inscribed by Fitzgerald himself in a miniature volume of This Side of Paradise for the tiny library of Ms. Moore’s famed, beautiful, $500,000 “fairy castle” dollhouse. And that not only gives you a little taste of the success and popularity of this spirited actress, but also of her girlish, whimsical nature that so appealed to countless audiences back in the silent days.

COLLEEN MOORE Continue reading

The History (And Mythology) Of 1920s Flapper Culture

The first post of Flapper Month is here! Hope you enjoy!

Bobbed hair! Short skirts! Jazz! The Charleston! All I have to say is those few words, and right away your brain is lighting up and thinking, “Flappers!” It’s been so many decades since the Twenties that they’re almost here again, but to this day, perhaps no other cultural figure (of sorts) from the 20th century is as universally well-known–and well-liked–as the Jazz Age flapper.

Flappers dancing the Charleston on the edge, New York City, ca. 1920s

How could you not like gals who dance the Charleston on building edges?

We all know at least a smidge of 1920s history–a smidge which tends to be, shall we say, a bit vague. It’s usually trotted out like this: For many years the world was a sad glum place full of sad glum Victorians, who were compelled by an unseen force to wear starchy suits and uncomfortable corsets, and who frowned upon all things fun. Then, at the stroke of midnight on January 1st, 1920, jazz music came trumpeting down from the sky, long locks of hair plopped to the ground to reveal newly-fashionable bobs, the bottom few inches of all women’s skirts just flew right off, and everyone loosened up their morals and ran off to the nearest bar to drink highballs.

I include a handy scientific illustration:

1920s history meme

What, you feel like a few details are missing? So do I. While it would take a heck of a lot of research to come to a truly thorough understanding of the era, let’s try to sort through the stereotypes and figure out why the world seemed to change so quickly from the horse-and-buggy days to the era of the Tin Lizzie. Continue reading

My Top 5 Favorite Silent Stars

Hola! I’ve been out of town for a awhile but am back just in time for the Five Stars Blogathon hosted by Classic Film and TV Cafe, celebrating National Classic Movie Day–my kind of holiday!

In true Silent-ology style, I decided to focus on my top 5 utmost favorites from the silent era, rather than film in general. So let’s count down to number 1: Continue reading

Thoughts On: “Synthetic Sin” (1929)

One of the most delightful things about watching a 1920s flapper film is that it’s always happy to confirm all your expectations about the Jazz Age…or the shined-up Hollywoodland Jazz Age, at any rate. The moment you pop in that DVD or plunk down in your seat in the (independent) theater, the bobbed hair, flasks, short-ish skirts, greased-back hair, Charleston dancing and snappy slang come roaring back to life. And what better way to revisit that exciting, “Ain’t We Got Fun?” era than with the vivacious Colleen Moore?

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Thoughts On: “Why Be Good?” (1929)

Well, if this isn’t the cat’s meow! Let’s get a load of one of the classic flapper flicks of the Roaring Twenties, assumed lost for many years, but happily rediscovered, shined up, and put on DVD at long last. It’s Why Be Good? starring Colleen Moore, released at the very end of the Jazz Age. Did I was! 

A cheery lobby card.

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Thoughts On: “Ella Cinders”

This post was written especially for Movies Silently’s Fairytale Blogathon, where many great posts on fairytale-themed classic films await you. Thank you so much for stopping by–feel free to take a look around and don’t be shy about leaving comments! I love comments like Charlie Chaplin loved pathos (very, very much).

“Cinderella”–it’s a story that’s long been told, retold, analyzed, pop culturalized and even subjected to those “fresh spins on classic tales” that are so popular nowadays. (Thankfully there haven’t been any gritty reboots…yet.) It’s one of the most familiar of all stories, endearing not only due to little girls’ love of princesses but because of its message of the neglected, oppressed heroine whose goodness is finally rewarded, spectacularly.

During the Twenties, when everyone’s goal was to “make good” and where prosperity was certain to be just around the corner, you could say that the rags-to-riches Cinderella story had extra significance. There were several film adaptations back then, and one that survives today is Ella Cinders (1926), starring the popular “Flaming Youth” herself, Colleen Moore.

Ella Cinders ad

As seen here in this perfectly gorgeous ad.

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