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.
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:
Since we’ve been following the Great War’s centennial pretty closely here on Silent-ology (click here to read last year’s WWI in Film Month posts), I wanted to make sure today was given some attention. June 28, 2019, marks 100 years since the Treaty of Versailles, the first and most significant of the peace treaties that officially ended World War I. While Armistice Day famously declared a ceasefire, these treaties put an official end to the actual “state of war.”
The crowded Hall of Mirrors during the Treaty’s signing.
During my recent Hollywoodland trip, there was one place I was determined to finally visit: the Musso & Frank Grill on Hollywood Boulevard.
Haven’t heard of it? Well, my friends, if you love classic films then you need to know this heavenly place exists. It’s something exceedingly rare in today’s L.A.: a venerable and perfectly-preserved restaurant that’s served generations (and generations!) of stars. Having first opened in 1919, it’s been a Hollywood institution for almost a full century–and its commitment to tradition is refreshingly strong.
Whether you’re a silent era newbie or someone who’s already into movies in general, there’s a ton of reasons to get into silent films (so far I’ve counted up to 11,459). If you are one of those movies-in-general fans, your reason for taking a look at the 1890s/1900s/10s/20s is probably for the sake of expanding your Artsy Filmmaking knowledge. This is a worthy reason, one that I can stand behind while cheering very loudly and doing fistpumps.
Basically me while you’re expanding your knowledge.
However, there’s another big reason to get into silent films, a vastly important one: silent films will expand your perspective. To be more specific, you will never look at history–or heck, today’s society–the same way again. Continue reading →
So if you, like me, have watched some of those newfangled “modern” movies and documentaries, have read some of the books that everyone reads, and have done some Internet surfing, you’ve found that the general gist of 20th century American history is always something like this:
One thing that really stands out? The idea that the world was straitlaced and proper in the early 20th century but tossed that all aside at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 1920 just in time for the crazy, hedonistic ride that was the 1920s. (Then, presumably, the world slowly became straitlaced and proper again just in time for the 1950s). And those first twenty or so years of the 20th century were…well…the Victorian era, right? Continue reading →