The Silent Movie Thread

The **Barbara Kent **obit thread was getting hijacked so much I thought I should start a separate one for the three or four of us who enjoy the silent photoplays.

Seen any good ones lately? What are your favorite/least favorite films and stars? Think these “talkies” are going to catch on?

I am going to the Library of Congress sometime in the next two or three months to see their John Gilbert holdings: Golden Rule Kate, Happiness, The Hater of Men, and the disastrous His Glorious Night. I hope I can make it a one-day trip and not have to stay overnight (my friend in D.C. has pointedly not offered me his sofa).

Haven’t seen many lately; the most recent was rewatching Raymond Griffith’s Hands Up! and Victor Sjostrom’s The Wind. I also caught Hitchcock’s Easy Virtue.

Favorites are the usual: Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, Lillian Gish, Douglas Fairbanks. Favorite films include The General, City Lights (not technically the silent era, I know), The Circus, The Gold Rush, Sherlock Jr., Greed, The Wind, The Crowd, Easy Street, and The Thief of Bagdad

One aspect where my modest knowledge of the silent era is of the British film industry. The French had some swell stuff with the Fantomas & Irma Vep serials, the Russians had Eisenstein, the Japanese had narrators in the thwarted who became bigger stars than the actors on the screens, and of course the Germans knocked everybody’s eyes out with what they did. But as far as the English, my ignorance is positively encyclopedic.

Another subtopic: what sound-era picture about the silent era is worthwhile? I thought the one with John Malkovich and Willem Dafoe about the making of Nofuratu was gimmicky. Richard Attenborough’s Chaplin should not have been an epic since, as influential and famous as his subject was, he really didn’t influence world events at large; a straight biopic would have been better. And Dick Van Dyke’s The Comic was mean-spirited.

I haven’t seen many since February, and the last Kansas Silent Film Festival, but last night on TMC they had one I’d seen before, Buster Keaton in Brown Eyes.

I love the Charley Chase shorts. One of my favorite of those was Limousine Love, in which he plays a guy on his way to his wedding, and all the complications that occur along the way.

I prefer Keaton to Lloyd but they are both fantastic. My favorite Keaton is not one of the more famous ones, but his Seven Chances. A guy has to marry by 7:00PM on his 27th birthday or he’ll lose a huge inheritance. When I heard the intro before the movie I thought “Hmm, this sounds familiar” And sure enough it was remade as “The Bachelor” with, I think, Chris O’Donnell. Not nearly as funny.

Broken Blossoms, starring Lillian Gish, is one of the most tragic, heart rending films ever made. It’s theme of child abuse is as relevant today as ever it was.

Our Hospitality, with Buster Keaton, is a great comedy.

Smilin’ Through, with Mabel Norman, is a tear-jerker of the first order.

One of the things I like about the movies we’ll see this weekend at the “Silents in the Cathedral” showing of silent films is that the musical accompaniment is on the church’s big pipe organ, with a guy, Dr. Marvin Faulwell, that really knows how! This is the link

And as I said in the other thread, if you check out the link and see the shot taken from the film you notice the Hayes Code was not in effect. I don’t think that “faun” is wearing much of anything at all. And he does have a nummy body.

I want to know when the heck they’re going to release Hollywood: A Celebration of American Silent Film on DVD. Apparently, it’s on an indefinite hold due to an irresolvable dispute over the legal rights to all the various clips.

And I’ve never seen their follow-up series Cinema Europe:The Other Hollywood which was a history of European silent movies.

I haven’t watched any silent movies in quite a while, but back when I was on a silent movie kick I remember The Great Dictator being one of my favorites. IIRC The General was my favorite Keaton movie, but I always liked Charlie over Buster.

One of the things I love about the DVD era is that there have been restored versions of silent films that habve only recently become available, and excellent quality ones at that. I’m partial to fantastic genre films, so you’ll have to forgive me that, but in the past couple of months I’ve seen

Metropolis – the fully restored version. My daughter recently asked me why I watched this so often. I puled out my oldest copy of the film and looked at it – it’s the one I grew up on, the horribly abridged and totally washed-out print with really inappropriate music. When I saw the Giorgious Moroder restored version i 1984 i was blown away by the sharpness and crispness of the image (especially the opening animation – the versions I’d seen before were so washed-out that I wasn’t even aware that there was title animation). then about ten years ago the newly-restored version with even crisper images 9and with more scenes. Among other things, Moroder actually cut out scenes to keep the running time 90 minutes). And then only a couple of years ago the newly-restored version, with scenes not seen since the initial release. i read an article recently about the film, in which someone talked to Fritz Lang about his film in the 1960s, and he said he couldn’t understand why people were so interested in a film that no longer existed – even Lang wasn’t aware of the version stored in South america. Each “restoration” has been a revelation, and this last one shows that there is overlying structure that wasn’t even evident in the previous release. A great flick, and worth the watching.

Nosferatu – I watched every version of Dracula I could get my hands on this month, including this one. Sadly, the most complete version of the film still hasn’t been released to DVD. One of these days it will be.

Frankenstein – the 1910 Edison version was thought to be lost for the longest time, but it turned up in the hands of a collector in the 1980s. he refused to release it or have it conserved for a long time, but finally relented and it was briefly available on DVD. Now you can watch it on YouTibe and other internet sites. Not a “Great” film, but historically significant. We still have a lot of the production documents and the script, too.

The Lost World the 1925 film was only available in a severely clipped version, a little more than half the original length, until about a decade ago. Using prints from several European libraries, a restorede version was put together circa 2000 by Eastman House in Rochester. To the ire of fans (who’d contributed to the restoration), they refused to release the film or make it generally available, restricting it to a few showings at their Dryden Theater. (In addition, Eastman House didn’t use much of the new material on the grounds that it was not described in scripts) In response, silent film restorationist Dave Shepard put together another version, using the same archival material (and using more of it). He released it to DVD back about 2002, when I bought my own copy. The Eastman House version was quietly released as a bonus feature on the DVD release of the 1960 Irwin Allen color version of The Lost World (an insanely backward decision, from several points of view). I recently purchased a copy of this at the Borders going out of business sale. And, of course, watched it. I can’t agree with the reviewers who call it “smoother” and “more artistic” – I prefer Shepard’s. I haven’t compared the two restorations side by side yet. ( )
I’ve plenty of other silent films, many recently restored, but these are the only ones I’ve watched recently.

I liked Flickers and Sprockets, but those both covered the business side, not the moviemaking side.

Pardon a hijack about a talkie actor, BUT it’s related to a silent superstar:

Eric Stonestreet, best known for playing Cam in Modern Family, is going to play Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle in a movie about the Virginia Rappe death and trial. It’s HBO so the potential for excellence is certainly there, but I really hope they have the right consultants and feel and get this one right.

With Halloween coming up, I recently found myself thinking of The Man Who Laughed.

Whew. Great movie.

I did see this film at Halloween a couple of years ago, at the annual Silents in the Cathedral film fest I mentioned upthread. It’s showing “The Magician” this year.

What an interesting film. Kind of makes you wonder if that’s where the original makeup for The Joker got its’ inspiration.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Nickelodeon. It’s an early comedy from Peter Bogdanovich about the early pre-Birth of a Nation days of silent filmmaking.

This really isn’t in the spirit of the thread, but…

The Call Of Cthulhu.

This 2005 film was made as if it was made in 1927. I think they did a good job.


I prefer the silent Ben-Hur to the talkie version, probably because I saw it first. I also loved The Passion of Joan of Arc.

And in a less serious vein, Top Gun: A Requiem for Goose

This is one of my all-time favorite films, silent or otherwise.

And of course, Wings.

Well Keaton has already been mentioned but I have to profess my undying adoration for his films. One Week, The Goat, The Boat, Cops, Our Hospitality, Sherlock Jr. I don’t even know what the point is in making a list. The General (!!!). By no means is this a complete list.

I also have to mention Hands Up! starring the sadly forgotten Raymond Griffith and Harry Langdon’s The Strong Man.

Even though he came along much later, the films of Jacques Tati are worth mentioning in a thread on this topic. In college I was able to see a 70mm print of Play Time. His work was not strictly silent film but very much in the same spirit.

Safety Last, with Harold Lloyd has always been a favourite. And Charlie Chaplin’s One A.M. always makes me laugh.

Right before the Sydney Olympics, my family took a trip from Texas to Australia. We spent a few days in LA and went there.

When we went, it was honestly a silent movie theatre. (I’d read an article about it. ) It had a cartoon. A short. And a film and a very old gentleman playing the organ for all the sound.

So neat and so fun.

Joey P writes:

> I haven’t watched any silent movies in quite a while, but back when I was on a
> silent movie kick I remember The Great Dictator being one of my favorites.

The Great Dictator isn’t silent.