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Silent Movie History

               Silent Movie History Film Clips


The Scenario Formula EXPOSED (Photplay Magazine, 1920)

Cartoonist Ralph Barton and funny man Howard Dietz put together this nifty six-panel comic strip in order to ridicule the Hollywood screen writers and expose that crowd to be the tiresome dullards that they were (they've since reformed) and they also had the odd vision that the gag would be posted on a web page some eighty-six years in the future.

 

Silent Films and the Lexicographers (Motion Picture Magazine, 1916)

This small notice appeared on the pages of the March, 1916, issue of MOTION PICTURE MAGAZINE reporting that the overwhelming popularity of the new entertainment medium, and the public's curiosity with the manner in which they are produced, is beginning to have an impact on the everyday language of the English-speaking world:

"When a thing takes hold of a whole people its idiom enters the language; its individual verbiage begins to limber-up the common speech."

"So the idiom of active photography has entered the English language, at least wherever the English language is Americanized. The self-conscious valedictorian is told not 'to look into the camera'. The reporter writing of a street murder terms his description of the underlying cause a 'cut-back'."

- and most interestingly, one of the most popular elements of Hollywood verbiage is mentioned as having been noticed by the lexicographers: "close-up".

The N.Y. TIMES reported that the verb "to film" was entered into the dictionary in 1914,.

 

Predictable Characters from the Silent War Movies (Vanity Fair, 1919)

Here are seven drawings by Henry Raleigh (1880 - 1944) that depict the sorts of silent film characters that were likely to be seen in the 1920s W.W. I movies. These sketches are accompanied by a few dry remarks by the Vanity Fair editors:

"No matter how much we may wish to lose sight of the war, it can't be done. There will always be reminders of it. You suppose that, just because a little thing like peace has been declared, the playwrights, the theatrical managers, and the moving picture producers are going to let a chance like the war get by? Since we have become accustomed to German spies, Red Cross nurse heroines, and motor corps vampires, we could never go back to the prosaic mildness of innocent little country heroines, villains in fur-lined overcoats and cub reporter heroes. No actor will ever again consent to play a society role in evening clothes with flap pockets and jet buttons, when he can appear in a war play wearing an aviator's uniform and going around in a property airplane."

This 1918 silent movie was certainly mocked for its predictability...

 

1913 American Films (''Our Times'', 1936)

As the rosy fingered dawn came upon America in 1913 it found Douglas Fairbanks, the man who would soon be Silent Hollywood's fair haired boy, wowing the crowds on Broadway. The play, Hawthorne of the U.S.A., starred Fairbanks in the title roll and closed after 72 performances; he was also married to a woman who wasn't named "Pickford" - but rather named Anna Beth Sully, who had sired his namesake. Life was good for the actor and he wouldn't turn his gaze West for another two years. By contrast, his future bride, Mary Pickford (né Gladys Smith, 1892 - 1979) had been prancing before the cameras since 1909 and by the time 1913 rolled around had appeared in well-over 100 short films and earned the nickname "Little Mary".

 

A Predictable Silent Movie I (Vanity Fair, 192?)

Attached is a Vanity Fair cartoon from the days of silent film illustrating how unsophisticated those movies truly were and how wildly predictable the plots and characters always seemed to be. This cartoon, along with a number similar magazine articles on this site, illustrate that such thinking was not entirely rare.

Another anti-silent film article can be read here...

This critic didn't like silent movies either - -

 

1914 Hollywood (American Legion Monthly, 1934)

This is excerpt from a longer article about the goings-on in 1914 presented an interesting (if incomplete) list of Hollywood's offerings for 1914:

• The most popular screen performers were Mary Pickford, John Bunny, Ethel Barrymore and May Irwin.
• The most popular films were "The Peril's of Pauline" and an Italian film titled "Cabiria" (directed by Giovanni Pastrone, aka: Piero Fosco).

This reminiscence pays tribute to a stand-up comedian named Jack Gardner and his skit, "Curse You Jack Dalton", in which he interacted with the performers on a movie screen, "ordering" them about, cracking wise and even having the audience believe that he had shot one of them.

 


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