How Silent Films Help You Understand History (Better, Much Better)

A couple stories circulating in the media recently had levels of ridiculousness so high (admittedly an easy bar to reach nowadays) that they inspired me to explore a topic near and dear to my heart: how silent films can help us understand history. Better. Much better, since it helps to, you know, see history, at least from the 1880s onwards. And I want to show how a deeper understanding of history isn’t just some neat perk to help add more trivia nuggets to your noggin, but something that can have huge real-word ramifications–especially today.

Image result for 1920s newspaper reading
“Yup, those are high levels of ridiculousness alright.”

Now, I like discussing overall societal trends in this blog in a generalized fashion, but I usually avoid specific news stories. Partly because the blog doesn’t need to get super dated (my blog topic’s already dated, thank yew very much), and mainly because I really don’t feel like bringing the soul-sucking, fang-dripping, grinning, oozing specter of politics into my teensy corner of the blogosphere. That denizen of the Hellmouth can stay in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe, okay–and besides, it’s infesting everything enough as it is. So while the following two stories are easy to discuss in a polarizing political fashion, they’re also very much related to general societal trends. I’ll allow it!

First up: the viral Cracker Barrel infographic-of-sorts–my apologies for the smattering of uncouth vernacular therein:

Continue reading

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

Ray Guns and Mechanical Monsters: 5 Obscure Sci-Fi Silents

Hello, everyone! Today I’m happy to be taking part in the “For the Love of Film” blogathon, a prestigious annual fundraiser about a topic near and dear to all of our movie-loving hearts: saving films. Hosted by Ferdy on FilmsThis Island Rod, and Wonders in the Dark, this year’s blogathon is aiming to raise money for the restoration of a delightful 1918 film called Cupid in Quarantine. The goal is $10,000 to cover the National Film Preservation Foundation’s laboratory costs.

Here’s the description of Cupid in Quarantine from the NFPF site:

This charming comedy about two lovebirds faking smallpox features the forgotten actress Elinor Field, who got her start in a series of Strand Comedies and later starred in such films as The Blue Moon (1920), The Kentucky Colonel (1920), and the 15-part Selig serial The Jungle Goddess (1922). Regarding her performance in Cupid in Quarantine, Motion Picture World raved, “Miss Field’s vivaciousness permeates the entire picture, filling it with life and action and a humor that is contagious.

So here’s how it works: 

  1. Everyone rushes to donate money (as little as $5 will help!),
  2. The NFPF will restore the film to gloriousness and create a new score,
  3. The film will be available to everyone FOR FREE on the NFPF website,
  4. We can all sit back and marvel at the the role we played in helping to preserve film history for future generations–for as little as $5!

Sound good? Excellent! On with the blog post:

Long before the robots-and-rocketships mania of the 1950s, long before the epic adventures of Star Trek and Star Wars, and very long before the current steampunk craze, science fiction was alive and well in the form of popular novels and…silent films (which could be surprisingly steampunk). That’s right, sci-fi silents, and you already know at least two of them: A Trip to the Moon (1902) and Metropolis (1927). Continue reading

Thoughts on “Frankenstein” (1910)

Have you ever thought about how classic “monster” costumes like Dracula and Frankenstein used to be completely different from the way we imagine them now? The black capes, widow’s peaks, flat heads and neck bolts are so ingrained in us and our Halloween costume aisles that it’s downright impossible to imagine them any other way.

Although at times dark forces have tried to sway us.

But if you had walked up to the average person in the Twenties and showed them a picture of Bela Lugosi in full Dracula regalia, he would probably say “he looks Latin, or something foreign of that sort” and “he’s got that patent leather Valentino hair. Really, I don’t know what the women see in that fellow Valentino. I’d much rather watch Douglas Fairbanks.” (The person you walked up to is an average Twenties man.) Continue reading