A Newbie’s Visit To The Margaret Herrick Library

A meager two weeks or so hence I embarked upon the most important day trip of my film history fanatic life–a trip to the Margaret Herrick library at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I’d always hoped that one day I would make it there, but lo and behold it was sooner than expected! My second (longer) visit to Hollywood was too obviously a golden opportunity.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Herrick, it’s a prestigious reference library devoted entirely to film history. For anyone dabbling in serious cinematic research, going to the Herrick is practically a rite of passage. Its book and vintage magazine collection is fabulous and its Special Collections department is nothing short of priceless. I mean, Buster Keaton’s baby pictures are there. Yes.

Since I had a research project going (sit tight, details are coming!), I had decided that yes, I would take the leap and request an appointment to see some items in Special Collections. Admittedly, this was somewhat terrifying–scrolling through newspapers and vintage magazines on the Internet from the comfort of my Victorian-style couch from Goodwill is one thing, but actually sifting through delicate original documents under the watchful, professional eyes of the Herrick librarians was most definitely another.  Continue reading

Getting Into Silent Films–Where To Begin?

So you’re completely new to silent films.  The list on Netflix is daunting–where to begin?  Should you go with a polite melodrama from the ’10s?  A college comedy from the ’20s?  Throw the concept of “easing into it” to the wind and dive into a marathon session of La Roue?  Cuddle up on the couch with some cookie dough and Battleship Potemkin? Continue reading

How To Watch a Silent Film (If You’ve Never Seen One)

So there you are, a 21st-century movie watcher, buzzed up on Monster and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and you take a break from watching your CGI-stuffed Michael Bay blowout sequel while listening to K-Pop on your iPodPhonePad amidst an online gaming marathon to go watch some old movies.  Really old movies.  Maybe you’re looking for something new and challenging.  Maybe you’re just curious.  Or maybe you have a hipster-ish desire to go beyond the mainstream (waaaaay beyond the mainstream).  Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to step outside your comfort zone and check out some 1910s and ’20s silent films–for the first time ever! Continue reading

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

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.   Continue reading