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Hollywood Movie Memories » silent film

Posts Tagged ‘silent film’


Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Sunrise S.e. (1927 vers.) [Blu-ray]

Starring – George O’Brien (The Man), Janet Gaynor (The Wife), Margaret Livingston (The woman from the city), Bodil Rosing (The Maid).

Released – November, 1927

Directed By – F. W. Murnau

Produced By – Fox Film Corporation

Distributed By – Fox Film Corporation

Description – When a seductive, scheming, woman from the city meets and starts an affair with a simple-living farmer only trouble can follow.

A vacationing city woman hangs around a small town much longer than expected. She has been having an affair with a farmer who has fallen under her spell. The woman sees the farmer as an opportunity to seize an easier life.

One night, after donning a slinky black dress, the city woman goes to the home of the farmer, his wife, and their child. She signals for the farmer and waits secretly outside for him. After awhile he comes out and the pair sneak off for another tryst.

However, this tryst is a little different. The woman from the city suggests that the farmer drown his wife making it look like an accident. Then the pair can live together in the city. At first the farmer violently objects, but the lustful spell of the city woman eventually wins out.

The plan is that the farmer will go boating with his wife, throw her overboard, and make it appear that he was the only one to survive an overturned boat. He will cling to bundles of reeds to stay afloat and make it to shore.

The wife suspects nothing when asked by her husband to go for a boat ride on the local lake. It is only when out on the lake that she becomes increasingly uncomfortable due to her husbands unusual and bizarre behavior.

The husband starts to throw his wife over the side of the boat when he suddenly realizes what a horrible thing he is doing. He stops and immediately, and hurriedly, rows toward shore. When there his, now very fearful, wife runs away. He follows.

Afraid to return to their remote home she boards a trolley for the city. He also boards the trolly. Desperately trying to get his wife to forgive him, and after a tearful reconciliation, they talk and walk around the city. They have their picture taken, make a visit to a local barber shop, enter a church to watch a wedding, go to an amusement park, and spend some time dancing. After dark, they board the trolley for the ride home.

Again they must cross the lake by boat. As they row across the lake a storm begins to start up. Fearful that the boat may overturn, the man ties the groups of reeds around his wife. The storm worsens, the boat capsizes, and the man is washed to the shore.

With no sign of his wife he asks the townspeople to help look for her. All that is found is a broken bundle of reeds floating in the water.

The commotion of the search has gotten the attention of the city woman who now believes that the plan to murder the farmers wife has been successful.

NOTABLE: Sunrise won Oscar’s for Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production (This was the only year that this specific award was given out), Best Actress in a Leading Role (Janet Gaynor), and Best Cinematography. The film was also nominated for Best Art Direction.

In 1989, Sunrise was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Sunrise was one of the first motion pictures to include a soundtrack of music and sound effects using the new Fox Movietone sound-on-film system.

Sunrise became the first silent-film to be released on Blu-Ray in 2009 by Eureka Entertainment in the United Kingdom.


The Cat and the Canary

Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

The Cat and the Canary (1927) (The Photoplay Restoration)

Tagline – The play that startled the world!

Starring – Laura La Plante (Annabelle West), Creighton Hale (Paul Jones), Forrest Stanley (Charles Wilder), Tully Marshall (Roger Crosby).

Released – September, 1927

Directed By – Paul Leni

Produced By – Universal Pictures

Distributed By – Universal Pictures

Description – Millionaire Cyrus West is near death as he lay in his decaying old mansion. His family is there with him, but without the usual sense of impending loss. In fact, their only interest is in just how each of them will fare in regard to an inheritance.

Their display of greed has not escaped the notice of Cyrus who decries that his will remain locked in a safe to be read only on the 20th anniversary of his death. Also in the safe is a second will, that has mysteriously appeared, which may only be opened should the terms of the first will not be met.

How did this second will get into the safe? According to the belief of Mammy Pleasant, the mansion’s caretaker, it was put there by the ghost of Cyrus West.

Twenty years have passed and West’s greedy relatives arrive for a midnight reading of the will. The group include nephews Harry Blythe, Charlie Wilder, and Paul Jones, along with Paul’s sister Susan and her daughter Cecily. Also there for the reading is Cyrus’s niece Annabelle West.

The will is read and the fortune, including a collection of diamonds, has been left to the only relative remaining with the last name of West. That would be Annabelle. However, there is a catch. Annabelle must be judged sane by a doctor, if not, the fortune will go to the unnamed heir in the second will.

That evening, as Annabelle and the disappointed relatives prepare for dinner, a guard barges in to announce that a lunatic, called the Cat, has escaped from confinement and is on the mansions grounds, or already in the house. The guard tells the group that the Cat is a maniac who believes he is a cat and tears his victims apart like they were canaries.

Cyrus West’s lawyer Roger Crosby, who read the will, is afraid that a family member may try to hurt Annabelle. He decides to tell her the name of the second will’s heir. But, before he can speak the name, a hairy hand with long fingernails reaches out from behind a bookcase and pulls him in. Annabelle is terrified and when she informs the family of what happened they believe her to be insane.

Later the same evening, while trying to sleep and wearing a diamond necklace, the hand again emerges from the wall behind her bed and grabs the necklace. Again the terrified Annabelle informs the family of what has happened, and again they believe her claim to be proof of her insanity.

However, a search of her room reveals a hidden passage in the wall. Behind the passage is found the body of Roger Crosby.

Who is responsible for the apparent murder and is the lunatic known as the Cat in the house, or perhaps the killer is a member of the family?

NOTABLE: The Cat and the Canary enjoyed a great deal of success on Broadway, opening February, 1922 in New York and running for 148 performances.

Director Paul Leni and Charles D. Hall designed and fabricated the Gothic sets. Hall would later design both the sets for Dracula and Frankenstein.

Though not itself a horror film, The Cat and the Canary had a profound effect on the horror genre and was even cited as an influencing the work of Alfred Hitchcock.



My Best Girl

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

My Best Girl

Tagline – Have You Seen It Yet?

Starring – Mary Pickford (Maggie Johnson), Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers (Joe Grant), Sunshine Hart (Ma Johnson), Lucien Littlefield (Pa Johnson).

Released – October, 1927

Directed By – Sam Taylor

Produced By – Mary Pickford Company

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – Joe Merrill has got something to prove. Joe is the son of millionaire Robert E. Merrill, who made his fortune with a chain of 5 and 10 cent stores, and is determined to prove that he can make it on his own, without his father’s influence. To do this, he changes his name to Joe Grant and takes a job in the stockroom of one of his father’s stores.

Also working in the stockroom is Maggie Johnson. During a particularly exhausting day, Maggie is given a break from the stockroom and asked to cover the sales counter. While working the counter a handsome young man, who is interested in meeting her, inquires about some children’s toys.

As she demonstrates some toys for him, the store manager approaches and hands the young man a time card. The manager, who does not know the young man is the owner’s son, introduces him to Maggie as new employee Joe Grant.

Annoyed by Joe’s deception, Maggie is asked to take him back to the stockroom and get him started. It doesn’t take long for Maggie to determine that this young man is pretty enept. She promises to take “the dumbest stockboy in the world” under her wing and properly train him.

Within a few days, Maggie begins to develop a crush on Joe and the pair begin to flirt with each other. Maggie invites Joe to supper with her family, but cautions him that her family is a bit “off kilter.”

Her elderly dad is a meek postal worker, her mom is an overly dramatic woman who enjoys going to random funeral’s, and her sister is a “flapper” with a boyfriend who always seems to be getting her into trouble. A great deal of commotion at Maggie’s house causes the supper invitation to be posponed.

Joe returns the dinner invitation by asking Maggie to dinner at the Merrill Mansion. He tells her that the company loves to promote a family atmosphere and has an employee to dinner at the mansion regularly. She accepts and suggests that they should, out of respectability, claim that they are Mr. and Mrs. Grant.

This is where the trouble begins. Mrs. Merrill has planned this particular dinner to be a surprise engagement party for Joe and society girl Millicent Rogers. It is Mrs. Merrill’s hope that Joe will marry into the proper level of society. Joe is totally unaware of this plan.

Joe’s family is surprised at the presence of Maggie, and her lack of fromal dinner habits embarass her to the point of hiding under the table. And it is at this very moment that Millicent arrives and kisses Joe.

Maggie’s heart is now broken, and to make matters worse, her sister has again gotten into trouble and may be going to prison. The romantic scandal turns up as a headline in the next day’s newspaper. Joe’s father plans on sending Joe to Hawaii until everything blows over and tries to buy Maggie off with a check for $10,000.

It now seems as though everything has fallen apart for Maggie, but perhaps there is still a way that love will conquer all.

NOTABLE: My Best Girl received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography.

This motion picture was the last silent film for Mary Pickford. Ten years later, she and co-star Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers would become man and wife.

The Village Voice has declared My Best Girl to be Mary Pickford’s finest romantic comedy.

Lucien Littlefield, who played Maggie’s “old codger” father, was actually three years younger than Pickford.

To prepare for this role, Mary Pickford (incognito) took a job as a sales clerk to get a feel for her character.


The King of Kings

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

The King of Kings (The Criterion Collection)

Tagline – Supreme in Theme! Gigantic in Execution!

Starring – H. B. Warner (Jesus), Dorothy Cumming (Mary), Ernest Torrence (Peter), Joseph Schildkraut (Judas Iscariot).

Released – April, 1927

Directed By – Cecil B. DeMille

Produced By – DeMille Pictures Corporation

Distributed By – Pathe’ Exchange

Description – An epic retelling of the life of Jesus, focusing on selected episodes during the last weeks before his crucifixion and resurrection.

The film begins by introducing us to Mary Magdalene who is living the life of a courtesan. Upon learning that Judas has gone to stay with the carpenter known as Jesus, rather than attend her feast, she sets out by chariot to bring him back.

Peter is portrayed as the most loyal apostle, and future gospel writer Mark as a child healed by Jesus. The Virgin Mary is both saintly and beautiful, a mother figure to all of Jesus’ followers. We first view Jesus, adorned with a halo, through the eyes of a young girl who has also been healed.

When Mary Magdalene arrives to speak with Judas, he tells her that he is staying with Jesus so that when Jesus is named the King of King’s he too may be named a king. Mary Magdalene will also meet with Jesus and the meeting causes her to repent her sins and her lifestyle. Jesus now will cast the Seven Deadly Sins from Mary cleansing her for a new life.

The next segment shows Jesus Raising of Lazarus, four days after his death. This miracle illustrates Jesus’ divine authority by showcasing his power over death. It is here that his crucifixion is foreshadowed as, during a visit to the work shop of a village carpenter, Jesus helps the carpenter with a piece that revels a cross towering over Jesus.

As Jesus and his apostles enter Jerusalem, Judas rallies the people to support Jesus as the King of Kings. This act infuriates High Priest Caiaphas who believes Jesus to be a false prophet. In an effort to save himself from Caiaphas, Judas agrees to betray Jesus.

It is now that the events that can only end with Jesus crucifixion began to unfold. Warned by Mary, his mother, that danger is coming and he should flee, Jesus responds that what must be done, must be done, for the salvation of all people.

As a result of Judas’ betrayal, Jesus is soon captured by the Romans and despite the pleas of the Virgin Mary, and Mary Magdalene, he is taken to ultimately be crucified. The horror of this reality will drive Judas to suicide.

The death of Jesus results in a blackened sky, violent lightning strikes, high wind, and a great earthquake. Peace only returns after Mary appeals to God to forgive the world. Jesus is taken down from the cross and buried. On the third day he will rise again.

NOTABLE: King of King’s became the first motion picture to be shown at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Cecil B. DeMille required his two stars, H. B. Warner (Jesus) and Dorothy Cummings (Virgin Mary) to sign agreements prohibiting them from appearing in other screen roles that might compromise their “holy” image for this film. This agreement was for five years.

Author Ayn Rand, then a struggling immigrant, was a face in the crowd in this film. After filming, she would be given a job by DeMille to help her get on her feet.

Popular western actor J. B. Warner (no relation to H. B. Warner) was DeMille’s first choice to play the role of Jesus. However, before production began, J. B. Warner died from tuberculosis. He was 29.

The backlot set for The Temple of Jerusalem was later used as the Great Wall broken through by King Kong, and again as a Civil War era building burned to the ground in Atlanta during filming of Gone With the Wind.


Metropolis – A Fritz Lang Glimpse of the Future

Monday, July 9th, 2012

January, 1927 – Director Fritz Lang screened his eagerly-awaited science fiction production of Metropolis to a guest audience of 2,500 that included German Chancellor Wilhelm Marx. The screenplay was written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou and is sure to be the pioneering work of the Science Fiction genre.

Metropolis - A frightening look at the future.

Metropolis – A frightening look at the future.

The film takes us to the year 2000, and the gigantic futuristic city of Metropolis, where a startling vision of the future portrays social class polarization as we have never seen it before. A city consisting of wealthy factory owners exploiting the working class as if they are slaves. A frightening separation of class consisting of those who are wealthy and progressive and the distressed and downtrodden. This type of society comes with only one guarantee… eventually, there will be rebellion.

Inspired by a 1924 visit to New York, Lang designed his sets with the New York skyscrapers in mind. The production combined live action with models and artwork, easily making Metropolis  the most expensive German production ever. Costs exceeded 5 million marks, and production took 11 months to complete.

A beautiful young working-class woman falling in love with an industrialist’s son, a mad scientist, and a robot designed to be a perfect replica of the young woman, all enable Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to set a new standard for science fiction.