Monday, January 08, 2018

The Change

1927 may be the most significant year for movies since their invention.  It was the year Al Jolson starred in The Jazz Singer, and the switch to sound was inevitable. At that point, silent film had reached its artistic peak--at least we think it did, we'll never know what would have happened next.

By the end of the decade, Hollywood had made the conversion, and not long after the rest of the film world left silence behind.

Let's see what Jesse Walker has to say about this momentous year.  Here's his top ten list for 1927. (I get the feeling this will be his last top ten list. Not that there aren't delights from 1917--we've got Chaplin's four best Mutual shorts, and Buster Keaton starting to work with Fatty Arbuckle--but most of the films from that era are either lost or rarely shown.)

1. Berlin: Symphony of a Great City
2. Metropolis
3. Napoleon
4. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
5. The End of St. Petersburg
6. A Wild Roomer
7. The Kid Brother
8. The Unknown
9. Fluttering Hearts
10. The Lodger: A Tale of the London Fog

I haven't seen Berlin.  For that matter, while I've seen most of the silent Soviet classics, I haven't gotten around to The End Of St. Petersburg. 

Metropolis is a landmark film that I find fascinating--great, yet overblown and campy. Napoleon is an amazing technical achievement, but I've never found it that entertaining. Sunrise would be either #1 or #2 on my list.

"The Wild Roomer" is a short by the very imaginative Charley Bower, who seems to be a favorite of Jesse. "Fluttering Hearst" is a short starring Charley Chase.

The Kid Brother may be Harold Lloyd's greatest achievement.  Either #1 or #2 on my list. The Unknown is pretty good. The Lodger shows Hitchcock was something special right about from the start.

11. R-1, a Form-Play
12. Emak-Bakia
13. Combat de Boxe
14. Bed and Sofa
15. Long Pants
16. The Battle of the Century
17. L'Invitation au Voyage
18. Should Second Husbands Come First?
19. Walking from Munich to Berlin
20. The Cat and the Canary

11 and 12 are (weird) shorts.  13 is a sports short.  Haven't seen 14.  Harry Langdon is not to everyone's taste, but 15 would make my top ten.  16 is a classic Laurel and Hardy short.  17 through 19 are shorts.  20 I haven't seen.

Other films that would make my top ten:

College (even second-best Buster Keaton is pretty good)

The Student Prince In Old Heidelberg

Other films I like:

Mr. Wu

Running Wild

Two Arabian Knights


Other films of note:

7th Heaven, Chang: A Drama Of The Wilderness, The College Widow, The Devil Dancer, The Dove, For The Love Of Mike (Capra's first for after Langdon fired him), The Gaucho, It, The Jazz Singer, The King Of Kings, Madame Pompadour, The Magic Flame, My Best Girl, The Patent Leather Kid, The Private Life Of Helen Of Troy, Sorrell And Son, Topsy And Eva, Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Way Of All Flesh, Wings (first film to win Best Picture Oscar), The Yankee Clipper

PS  I was right. The series is over


Blogger Jesse said...

College and Underworld are both good movies. I didn't care for The Student Prince In Old Heidelberg, though—silent-era Lubitsch doesn't do much for me. (After sound comes along, of course, he's one of the best.) I haven't seen your other alternative nominees.

"Fluttering Hearst" is my new favorite typo.

5:59 AM, January 08, 2018  
Blogger Brian Leonard said...

Wasn't Fluttering Hearst Pauline Kael's follow-up to Raising Kane?

6:31 AM, January 08, 2018  
Blogger Joel Schlosberg said...

What's your beef with shorts?

8:21 AM, January 08, 2018  
Blogger LAGuy said...

It's a good enough typo that I'll keep it up.

Shorts and features are different animals, and shouldn't be compared on the same list.

9:32 AM, January 08, 2018  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People think The Jazz Singer is the first talkie, but actually it's a silent film with certain section that have sound, mostly for music. His 1928 film The Singing Fool had a lot more sound (though wasn't completely a sound film) and was an even bigger hit that pretty much cemented sound as a thing that would take over.

11:01 AM, January 08, 2018  

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