Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Silents, Please

Jesse Walker is back to 1924 with his top ten lists. (I don't think he's going back to 1914--Charlie Chaplin made 36 films that year, but Jesse's not a fan.)

By 1924, silent film as art and entertainment was fully established.  The studio system was being created---as MGM's massive recutting of Greed demonstrated--but little did the actors and directors of the era know in a few years everything would be turned upside down by sound.  But that's far enough in the future--let's just look at how things were then.

Here's Jesse's top ten list:

1. Sherlock, Jr.
2. L'Inhumaine
3. Cartoon Factory
4. Ballet Mécanique
5. Au Secours!
6. He Who Gets Slapped
7. Girl Shy
8. The Last Laugh
9. The Crazy Ray
10. The Navigator

An interesting list, and much of it I agree with.  Many of these are shorts, which I find hard to compare with features.

I agree Sherlock, Jr. should be on top--it's a special film, one of Buster's best, even if it wasn't particularly beloved when released. (The reason it's so short is Buster kept cutting it down after poor previews--if only we had DVD extras from those days).  I also agree The Navigator, which for decades was considered Buster's best after The General, isn't as good--though I think it's a classic, I consider it his most overrated film.  While we're talking about great clowns, let's note that Girl Shy is one of Harold Lloyd's best--a "character" film that works from start to finish, ending with one of the most rousing chases ever put on film.

L'Inhumaine is an experimental film I've never seen. (There were lots of people--especially the French, it seems--experimenting around these times). Jesse says Duck Amuck comes from Sherlock, Jr., but I wonder if it didn't come more from Fleischer animation like the excellent Cartoon FactoryBallet Mecanique is another one of those short, fun French experiments in the 20s.  Au Secours! is a Max Linder collaboration with Abel Gance.  I don't think Linder (or Gance, for that matter), was ever that great, but it's a fascinating work. (Linder's best days were behind him--he'd really never been the same since the War--and he committed suicide in 1925, only 41.)

He Who Gets Slapped is a well-done Lon Chaney drama, directed by Victor Sjostrom, that helped establish MGM (and featured two of its biggest up-and-comers Norma Shearer and John Gilbert).  The Last Laugh is one of Murnan's greatest, and should be ranked higher.  The Crazy Ray is Rene Clair's first film, a bizarre comedy short that's a lot of fun.

Films that might have made my top ten:

Entr'acte (Jesse is fully aware of this absurdist Clair film and has chosen to go with The Crazy Ray)

Hot Water (Harold Lloyd's hilarious gag comedy)

Greed (maybe not the classic it's often thought to be, but still pretty special)

The Marriage Circle (one of Lubitsch's best silents, and if I'd seen his other two from 1924 maybe they'd be up here too)

Monsieur Beaucaire (starring Valentino, not Bob Hope)

Other films of note:

Alice's Spooky Adventure (an example of the Disney series that dropped a real little girl into the middle of animation), Beau Brummel, Captain Blood, Captain January, Dante's Inferno, Dorothy Vernon Of Haddon Hall, The Extraordinary Adventures Of Mr. West In The Land Of The Bolsheviks, Felix Finds Out (from the Felix The Cat films), Forbidden Paradise, Her Night Of Romance, Icebound, The Iron Horse (an early John Ford "classic"), Kid Speed, The Last Man On Earth, Manhandled, Manhattan, Monsieur Don't Care, Die Nibelungen, Peter Pan, Pleasures Of The Rich, Quo Vadis, Romola, Rupert Of Hee Haw, Scaramouche, The Sea Hawk, The Snob, So Big, Symphonie Diagonale, Tess Of The D'Urbevilles, The Thief Of Bagdad (Fairbanks' biggest production, but not his best), Thy Name Is Woman, Triumph, Waxworks, What Every Woman Knows, Why Men Leave Home, Wide Open Spaces, The Wolf Man, Yolanda


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is Hot Water the one they used to show before Safety Last?

1:01 AM, January 06, 2015  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Lloyd owned his work and for years they weren't widely available. He released a couple compilation films in the early 60s, but most of his stuff was withheld.

After his death some of his stuff was chopped up and shown on TV. What you could mostly see for some time were two of his most popular films, Safety Last and The Freshman, generally in poor condition. And a couple parts from Hot Water that were in his compilation--Harold on a streetcar and taking his new car out for a spin--were attached to Safety Last, I believe.

Finally, a couple decades ago, good versions of his films were made available, and now we can all see what we were missing--stuff like Girl Shy and the complete Hot Water and, what I think is his masterpiece, Kid Brother.

1:28 AM, January 06, 2015  
Blogger Jesse said...

Much as I like Lubitsch's sound films, I've never been able to get into any of his silents. I haven't seen The Marriage Circle, though.

5:17 AM, January 06, 2015  
Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

He Who Gets Slapped, What Every Woman Knows, Why Men Leave Home . . . I'm starting to think this is a different era.

1:38 PM, January 06, 2015  

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