Off Topic Messages

The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sat Feb 11, 2012 4:42 pm

Well, here we go.

Silent films are a scary proposition for most people, after all they are so OLD and nobody TALKS! And the ones we hear about most are three hour epics or supposed must-see masterworks which bore most people to tears (including this researcher of silent films!). So, this thread is intended to be a place to talk about silent films that are accessible to the silent film novice - with a bit of an explanation if possible, and a link if it is available for purchase would be useful.

So, to kick off...

THE UNKNOWN (1927)

This is a Lon Chaney film and a great way in to silent film, especially if you have seen something like Freaks from a few years later. Lon Chaney plays an armless knife-thrower (he does everything with his feet) in a carnival. He is in love with Joan Crawford, who in turn is in love with the strong man, but she has a phobia of hands. Chaney though has a secret, he not only has two arms, but he also has three thumbs. He pretends he has no arms because a three-thumbed strangler is wanted by the police! Chaney thinks he is in luck with Crawford, but his assistant points out that when they go to bed, she will realise he is wearing a corset to keep his non-existent arms in place. Chaney realises he can do with his feet what he should be able to do with this hands (although I'm assuming SOME things are more difficult than others!), and so decides to have his arms amputated, and that's when the fun really begins!

It is completely nuts, of course, quite grotesque, but only runs for about 55 minutes and is paced extremely quickly, so is perfect for the silent novice. It's available as part of a Chaney triple film set, which I'm sure is available from the likes of netflix in America:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lon-Chaney-Collection-Region-NTSC/dp/B0000B1O9L/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1328967657&sr=8-1

It's also complete on youtube:
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Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sat Feb 11, 2012 5:16 pm

I love this film. Hope some others will take time out to watch it. It's my favourite film genre, silent. The form is very artistic.

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sat Feb 11, 2012 6:34 pm

Swingin-Little-Guitar-Man wrote:I love this film. Hope some others will take time out to watch it. It's my favourite film genre, silent. The form is very artistic.


I'm hoping the recent film threads have got people interested in exploring early cinema a little. There was some encouragement to start a thread such as this, so here's hoping!

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sat Feb 11, 2012 7:40 pm

Good luck with the thread. I'm an avid silent film fan.

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sat Feb 11, 2012 8:40 pm

THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1927)

Another accessible film from 1927 is The Cat and The canary. many will have seen the Bob Hope version, but this is from a dozen or so years earlier, but still with all the same elements you would expect from this kind of chiller. It's a bit longer, at around 85 minutes, but it keeps its pace up nicely, and is accessible for the very fact that the genre is so familiar.

And, again, it's on youtube (for now!)

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Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sat Feb 11, 2012 9:41 pm

Great idea for a thread!

I thought I'd bring this over (from the 'earliest films - 1949'-thread) to this thread, as it fits the theme better.
poormadpeter wrote:
Bob-Holland wrote:Also a few titles I have never seen before, like the '17 version of Tom Sawyer. Would love to see it.


I confess to being a huge jack Pickford fan, despite not many of his films surviving. As has been said many time, he lived in his sister's shadow (and probably in her liquor cabinet too!), but he was a fine actor and one who could be extremely likeable and vulnerable onscreen. I recently saw In Wrong from 1919, in which he really is at his best in a slight rural tale. Such a great talent, such a tragic life (albeit partly his doing).

Tom Sawyer is actually available on DVD - for now. Unknown video who produced the DVD is no more, so I'm guessing that the 7 currently in stock on amazon are probably the last.

http://www.amazon.com/Tom-Sawyer-Little-Mary-Sunshine/dp/B0006PWM7I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1328753360&sr=8-1

This post made me want to find out more about Jack Pickford. Man, what a life this guy must have had ...

'Tom Sawyer' was followed by 'Huck And Tom'. Another title for my to-see list.

Were there ever any docu's made about him that you know of?

I found this interesting article about Sawyer:
http://jackpickfordisaluteyou.blogspot. ... -1917.html

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:00 pm

I like the silent Our Gang's

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:12 pm

Bob-Holland wrote:
'Tom Sawyer' was followed by 'Huck And Tom'. Another title for my to-see list.

Were there ever any docu's made about him that you know of?

I found this interesting article about Sawyer:
http://jackpickfordisaluteyou.blogspot. ... -1917.html


There are no Jack Pickford documentaries that I know of, but there is one about Olive Thomas and another about Mary Pickford that I highly recommend:

http://www.amazon.com/Olive-Thomas-Coll ... 501&sr=8-3

http://www.amazon.com/Mary-Pickford-Lau ... 540&sr=1-1

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:39 pm

Bob-Holland wrote:Great idea for a thread!

I thought I'd bring this over (from the 'earliest films - 1949'-thread) to this thread, as it fits the theme better.
poormadpeter wrote:
Bob-Holland wrote:Also a few titles I have never seen before, like the '17 version of Tom Sawyer. Would love to see it.


I confess to being a huge jack Pickford fan, despite not many of his films surviving. As has been said many time, he lived in his sister's shadow (and probably in her liquor cabinet too!), but he was a fine actor and one who could be extremely likeable and vulnerable onscreen. I recently saw In Wrong from 1919, in which he really is at his best in a slight rural tale. Such a great talent, such a tragic life (albeit partly his doing).

Tom Sawyer is actually available on DVD - for now. Unknown video who produced the DVD is no more, so I'm guessing that the 7 currently in stock on amazon are probably the last.

http://www.amazon.com/Tom-Sawyer-Little-Mary-Sunshine/dp/B0006PWM7I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1328753360&sr=8-1

This post made me want to find out more about Jack Pickford. Man, what a life this guy must have had ...

'Tom Sawyer' was followed by 'Huck And Tom'. Another title for my to-see list.

Were there ever any docu's made about him that you know of?

I found this interesting article about Sawyer:
http://jackpickfordisaluteyou.blogspot. ... -1917.html


Huck and Tom is sadly a film that none of us will ever see, as it is a lost film. The sequel to that film, Huckleberry Finn, from 1920, was recently restored by George eastman House and broadcast late last year on TCM in the States. It is floating around on the internet as a torrent somewhere, or can be viewed on the Eastman House website via a videostream. A documentary called "In Mary's Shadow" has been made about Jack, but is reasonably sanitised - the Pickford estate (like Mary Pickford herself) is very careful on what gets sanctioned and what doesn't:

http://www.aandfproductions.com/jackpickford.html

I admit that, when my PhD is finished, I would very much like to write the first jack Pickford biography. He was a fine actor and one that deserves more recognition than he gets, and it would be wonderful to finally find out the truth about his life

*

I gave a short paper on Pickford at a mini-conference-type event last year, and reprint my paper here (warts and all). It was used as a cue for a vocal presentation, so it is what it is, basically, rather than a finished product. But reprint it below for those that are interested.

*

JACK PICKFORD: THE MAN WHO HAD EVERYTHING...AND LOST IT

Jack Pickford – actor, director, alcoholic, drug user, womaniser, criminal and all-round scamp. Born in 1896, Jack was the brother of Mary Pickford, the queen of Hollywood during the 1920s while her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, was the king. Jack entered the film industry in 1909 and featured, mostly in small roles, in a series of short films under the helm of such directors as D W Griffith. His big break came in 1917 when he played the title role in William Desmond Taylor’s film adaptation of Tom Sawyer, which was so successful that a sequel, Tom and Huck, was made the following year. By 1918, when he joined the armed forces, Jack had married former Ziegfeld girl and rising star of the screen, Olive Thomas, a young woman who shared Jack’s love of fun, alcohol and, allegedly, drugs.

URL=http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/96/jacpickfordengagedphoto.jpg/]Image[/URL]

Whilst in the armed forces, Jack found himself involved in the running of a scam in which he helped others avoid military service. He was court-martialled, although his dishonourable discharge was changed to medical discharge when he turned state witness in the subsequent trial:

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Still Jack made a number of films following this, including the funny Man Who Had Everything (available from Grapevine video) and In Wrong, a charming rural drama from 1919:

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In 1920, with their marriage on the rocks, Jack and Olive travelled to Europe in the hope that the trip would help them to patch things up. It didn’t. After an alcohol-fuelled evening of partying, Olive drank a bottle of medication prescribed to Jack for the syphilis he had also supposedly passed on to his wife. She died a few days later. Unsurprisingly, speculation grew that Olive’s death was suicide or even murder, although Jack always protested that it was simply an accident. The following year, William Desmond Taylor, Jack’s friend and director of two of his biggest hit films (Tom Sawyer and Tom and Huck), was found murdered. His murder is still unsolved.

Jack married twice more, both times to former Ziegfeld girls and both times unsucessfully. He continued making films throughout the 1920s with his career only fading out in 1929 following the advent of sound – although his lifestyle, unpredictable behaviour and premature aging were probably as much to blame as the change to the film industry. Jack’s health deteriorated rapidly over the next few years and he died in 1933, aged just 37.

In this paper, I will explore how the scandals associated with Jack were reported at the time in publications as different as Photoplay and The New York Times. The latter publication is surprising in the way that it handled the scandals, using more of a tabloid approach than one might expect from such a respected newspaper. By examining these articles I will show how Jack Pickford could be regarded as one of the first, if not the first Hollywood celebrity to suffer what we might call today “trial by press” or “trial be media”. The fact that he was still making films nearly a decade after the suspicious death of his wife should be our first indicator that such events were treated vastly differently ninety years ago to how they are now. After all, Michael Barrymore’s career was effectively over when the body of Stuart Lubbock was found floating in his swimming pool. Jack was not a prolific actor, however, making normally just one or two films a year during the 1920s – compare this to the 13 that Clara Bow starred in during 1925 alone. Despite this, Pickford was never relegated to particularly minor films. In 1925 he starred in Waking Up The Town with Norma Shearer and The Goose Woman, a film co-starring Louise Dressler based on a real-life murder case. 1926 saw him in the ensemble cast of The Bat, the first film version of the Broadway hit old dark house thriller, and in Brown of Harvard which also starred William Haines. His final silent film was Exit Smiling in 1927, a huge flop on release, but even this was blamed on the lack of comedic skills of Beatrice Lillie rather than on Jack (and is now highly thought of!)

One of the most surprising things that one can see when looking at film magazines of the 1920s is the way in which the scandals such as those surrounding Jack Pickford were rarely covered. Whereas today scandal makes up the majority of many celebrity magazines, this was not the case during this earlier period. From my own point of view, this was unexpected. One of the things I intended to talk about today was how the likes of Photoplay covered the story of the death of Jack Pickford’s first wife, Olive Thomas, who died in Paris in 1920. However, upon examining the magazines from 1920 and early 1921, I realised that the event was barely mentioned at all. Photoplay simply published a full page photograph of Olive Thomas along with three lines of text stating that the photograph was in tribute to Thomas who had recently died of accidental poisoning. It would be difficult to imagine a fan magazine being so reverent about a suspicious celebrity death now. However, in the case of Pickford at least, it was left up to the broadsheets such as the New York Times to cover the events in more detail – and to encourage speculation.

Pickford had already made the newspapers a couple of years earlier due to his involvement in a bootlegging racket, a story in which he was dealt with somewhat unsympathetically. Therefore it is no surprise that the newspaper appears to have come to its own conclusions about his involvement in his wife’s death. The first mention of the events of Olive Thomas’s poisoning appear in a short article on September 8, 1920. At this point, Thomas was seriously ill. The paper states that Thomas was suffering from “mecurial poisoning” and that “the closest secrecy veils the affair” and “outside nurses have been engaged”.

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Uploaded with ImageShack.usTwo days later, on September 10, a headline tells us “Olive Thomas Near Death”. Again the article seems intent on stirring up speculation as to how the poisoning happened. The article states that “as she has been unable to talk since she took the poison, Miss Thomas has not been able to explain how she came to make the mistake of drinking from the bottle which was clearly marked”. It’s clear from the repeated querying of how the poisoning came about and the supposed secrecy of the affair that the newspaper is going to make more of this in the coming days and that, despite any facts that may surface in the future, their stance is going to be that there is some form of cover-up. This, in many ways, is surprising. Although over the next few years Hollywood was rocked by scandals which would indirectly lead to the introduction of the Production Code in 1934, the death of Olive Thomas was the first of these and so one can only presume that the suspicions that had been aroused by the incident were caused by the fact that naughty boy Jack Pickford was the husband of the deceased.

On September 11, the day after Thomas’s eventual death from the poison, the New York Times contained a much longer article which seems to divulge the information that the paper seems to have had from the outset. The headline of this story tells us that “Paris authorities investigate the death of Olive Thomas” while the subheading tells us that that “police seek evidence on rumours of drug and champagne orgies”. Again there are hints that within the story that Jack Pickford was not an innocent in the affair. While the police were investigating what the paper calls “cocaine orgies”, they apparently had not yet interviewed Pickford who was “not receiving visitors” and, according to a physician, was “in a very bad state of health”.

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Even so, there seems little likelihood of the husband of a victim of poisoning not having been interviewed by the police within nearly a week of the initial taking of the poison. Yet, according to the New York Times, he still hadn’t given his version of the events to the authorities, something which is very hard to believe. Surely with a suspicious death such as this, he wouldn’t have had a choice and would have been taken in for questioning, if only for a formality. Just a few days later, the autopsy on Thomas had taken place and the newspaper reported that Pickford and his friends had already left for London.

Jack Pickford did give his own account of the events to the Los Angeles Enquirer. To say that his comments are understated is to put it mildly. In the article he said: "...We arrived back at the Ritz hotel at about 3 o'clock in the morning. ... Both of us were tired out. We both had been drinking a little.” One would always assume that someone in Jack’s position would play down the amount of alcohol and/or drugs that had been taken but to try to get away with “we had been drinking a little” probably did him no favours and certainly made his story considerably less believable, especially with the fact that the police had already said that they were investigating various parties that had taken place that night as part of their enquiries. Pickford carries on: “She was in the bathroom. Suddenly she shrieked. I jumped out of bed, rushed toward her and caught her in my arms. She cried to me to find out what was in the bottle. I picked it up and read: 'Poison.' It was a toilet solution and the label was in French. I realized what she had done and sent for the doctor. Meanwhile, I forced her to drink water in order to make her vomit. ... The doctor came. He pumped her stomach three times while I held Olive. .... She didn't want to die. She took the poison by mistake. We both loved each other since the day we married. The fact that we were separated months at a time made no difference in our affection for each other. ... She kept continually calling for me. I was beside her day and night until her death. The physicians held out hope for her until the last moment, until they found her kidneys paralyzed. Then they lost hope. .... She was kept alive only by hypodermic injections during the last twelve hours. I was the last one she recognized. I watched her eyes glaze and realized she was dying. I asked her how she was feeling and she answered: 'Pretty weak, but I'll be all right in a little while, don't worry, darling.' Those were her last words. I held her in my arms and she died an hour later. .... All stories and rumors of wild parties and cocaine and domestic fights since we left New York are untrue...” Pickford’s obviously sanitised and, in places, saccharine account of the events could have done him no favours, especially as both he and Olive were well-known hell-raisers in Hollywood who were notorious for their appetite for partying.

One would assume that, after the funeral, the story would peter out. This is indeed the case, but it was to raise its head virtually every time Jack Pickford found himself in the newspaper in subsequent years. Two years later, in 1922, Pickford re-married, this time to fellow widower, Marilyn Miller whose husband had also died in a car accident, also in 1920. On May 28, 1922, the New York Times declared in a headline “Marilyn Miller to Marry Jack Pickford”. The story consists of 5 paragraphs, two of which are about the forthcoming wedding, with the final three being about Jack’s scandals. The paper reminds its readers that Pickford’s first wife died of “bichloride mercury poisoning, having taken the poison in her hotel apartment following a night of gayety in Montmartre” before adding that “Pickford was asleep in the next room at the time and was awakened by her cries”. This seems a rather unsubtle way of suggesting that parts of the story are still missing. The readers are left wondering why Pickford wasn’t in the same room as his wife? Were they not sleeping together? Was the marriage already on the rocks? The story finishes by raking over the issue of Pickford’s court martial in 1918, stating that he “turned state’s evidence in the exposure of the graft and bribery ring in the Third Naval District”. The paper went on to fuel extra speculation as to the state of Jack’s first marriage in a story from July 1922 in which it states that Olive Thomas left everything to her Mother, with nothing going to her husband.

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There is an apparent preconception (which still lingers on today) that Jack only had a career because he was the sister of Mary Pickford. Whether or not this is true we shall never be able to completely determine, but we do know that Jack had appeared in a huge number of short films prior to the mid-1910s when Mary was at the pinnacle of her fame, and not just at the studios at which Mary herself was making films. Therefore, it is safe to assume that Jack didn’t get all of his work through Mary’s stardom, at least in the early years of his career. Following the death of Olive Thomas, Mary did finance a couple of the movies which he directed, and yet Jack’s own status rose again during the mid-1920s. Most explanations for his relatively low output of acting work is that he had become depressed and disinterested. The real reason is something we shall probably not know unless a full biography of him is written at some point in the future which has access to letters and diaries etc.

The Pittsburgh Post takes all of the speculation on his career and personal life a stage further when it reported on Pickford’s death in 1933, which ironically took place in the same Paris hospital as that of Olive Thomas. The relatively lengthy article almost becomes a memoriam for Thomas, who seems to be of more interest to the Pittsburgh Post simply because she originated from Pittsburgh. However, the article seems particularly cutting when it comes to Jack, referring to him as a “one time film star” and “brother of the famous Mary”. In comparison, the article refers to Thomas’s “brilliant but short” career. Almost a column is then given over to a summary of Thomas’s rise to fame ending with an almost bizarre account of the poisoning incident that killed her. According to the newspaper “she stumbled in his (Jack’s) bedroom following their return from a night of gaiety and said ‘I’ve taken poison, goodbye Jack’”. It then refers to her suicide, when the official ruling was accidental death.

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Both The New York Times and The Pittsburgh Post seem to be intent on linking Jack with the death of his wife, whether by implying that there was a cover up as to how and why the poison was taken in The New York Times or the suggestion that he must have had been part of the reason for her suicide in The Pittsburgh Post. This seems to be an early example of what we might call “trial by press”, something which has become more and more prevalent over the last ninety years most notably perhaps with regards to the child molestation trial of Michael Jackson and the aforementioned Michael Barrymore story. With regards to Jack Pickford, the allegations are implied rather than stated outright, almost as if the newspapers were testing the waters as to how much they could get away with in this area. All of that changed rapidly over the next couple of years with the murder of William Desmond Taylor, the death of movie star Wallace Reid due to drugs and the manslaughter trials of Roscoe Fatty Arbuckle, a comedian second only to Chaplin in the popularity stakes in the 1910s. Arbuckle was accused of raping and causing the death of Virginia Rappe, a struggling actress, at a booze-fuelled party. There were literally hundreds of newspaper stories about Arbuckle, the party and the morals of Hollywood in general. There were three trials, the first two of which were inconclusive. The third trial ended in acquittal, with the foreman of the jury reading a statement which said: “Acquittal is not enough for Roscoe Arbuckle. We feel that a great injustice has been done to him... there was not the slightest proof produced to connect him in any way with the commission of a crime. He was manly throughout the case and told a straightforward story which we all believe. We wish him success and hope that the American people will take the judgement of fourteen men and women that Roscoe Arbuckle is entirely innocent and free from all blame.” However, it was too late, Arbuckle was a broken man and was effectively banished from movies by William Hayes. He attempted a comeback in 1932, but died the following year – the same year as Jack Pickford.

Arguably, Arbuckle is still more remembered for the scandal than for his popularity. The same can certainly be said for Jack Pickford, who is still regularly accused of benefitting from his sister’s fame and of being implicated in some way in the death of Thomas. A recent biography of the actress is particularly (and rather viciously) damning of him. In the 2007 book, Michelle Vogel writes that “Jack wallowed in a world of alcohol- and drug-induced self-pity and grief (or was it guilt?) for two and a half years after Olive’s death.” She goes on: “There were so many unanswered questions surrounding the lead up to Olive’s death and Jack held the answers to most (if not all) of them. Unless he had ice water running through his veins, the weight of that burden would have been difficult to endure without the help of a bottle of something stronger than lemonade”. One can only assume that such vindictiveness was influenced by the reading of contemporary newspaper stories and gossip columns. Her rather unprofessional prejudice is perhaps at its most cutting in her next comment: “When you analyse the few years that Jack had to live after Olive’s death, everything, on every level, began to fall apart for him....The old saying ‘what goes around, comes around’ seems to be extraordinarily appropriate when it comes to the life of Jack Pickford”. Harsh words.

This was the first scandal to rock the modern celebrity world. Many more have followed, from the Fatty Arbuckle case to the Michael Jackson case, and from the revelations of Rock Hudson’s private life to the murder of Ramon Novarro at the hands of two hustlers the aging actor had taken back to his house. Looking at these articles, it appears that, from the very beginning, the newspaper industry has been of the opinion “we can put you on a pedestal, and we can knock you down again”, something that we have seen time and time again in recent years. What’s more, as Michelle Vogel’s biography of Olive Thomas goes to show, once the suspicions and scandals have been made public, it is almost impossible for a celebrity to shake them off, even three quarters of a century after their death.

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:49 pm

Sorry I couldn't upload the other newspaper and magazine clippings I got together for that piece of work, but would have taken nearly as long to upload them as it did to do the research!

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sun Feb 12, 2012 1:58 am

I know some of you wanted to see Tom Sawyer from 1917, so I have uploaded it to youtube for those wanted to take the time to view it. The film itself is out of copyright, but the print if from Unknown Video. Unknown Video are no longer in business, hence my uploading with a clear conscience!

Enjoy.

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(This post will also be posted on the favouite film by year thread as well, to cover both bases)

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sun Feb 12, 2012 2:14 am

How about this classic starring Harold Lloyd "Get Out And Get Under" :


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Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sun Feb 12, 2012 4:42 am

Interesting thread PMP

How about this landmark film!!

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..and this

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Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sun Feb 12, 2012 4:47 am

I think as accessible films for the uninitiated, Nosferatu probably rates higher than Caligari, which I think can be hard work for a silent film novice, no matter how great it may be. Veidt was in another horror film in 1920 called Weird Tales, which is a portmanteau film of four or five stories which works well as an intro for silent horror, I think.

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sun Feb 12, 2012 7:14 am

There is an apparent preconception (which still lingers on today) that Jack only had a career because he was the sister of Mary Pickford.
:smt107
That would have been a better scandal.

Must get some two-tone lace-ups for swimming in.

This thread has inspired me to look up a full version of Valentino in The Sheik on YouTube. And the other one, Blood and Sand.

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Elvis needn't have worried.

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sun Feb 12, 2012 11:43 am

Many thanks Shane, for sharing the extremely informative Pickford-paper! You did some excellent work.

I sure hope you will get to work on the biography. It will probably take many years to do all the research. Firsthand information is no longer available of course, but there will be tons of articles that have been written about him in those days. The problem is to find them, but this looks like a real nice challenge. Hell, this is an execllent job for someone like you!





Here is an terrific article, aptly titled 'You Don’t Know Jack – A Second Take on Jack Pickford', it's a work in progress.
http://paradiseleased.wordpress.com/201 ... rd-part-i/





poormadpeter wrote:I know some of you wanted to see Tom Sawyer from 1917, so I have uploaded it to youtube for those wanted to take the time to view it. The film itself is out of copyright, but the print if from Unknown Video. Unknown Video are no longer in business, hence my uploading with a clear conscience!

Much appreciated! :smt023





I am sure most people are aware of this great series (13 episodes of 60 minutes): 'Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film'.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_(documentary)

It can be watched on YouTube, and you can also download it with the links provided on the YouTube:

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Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sun Feb 12, 2012 4:02 pm

That three-part article on Jack is probably longest I have seen on him anywhere - there are no books etc on is work. The was going to be a new Jack Pickford website opening last year, filled with old articles etc, but the lady planning to run it had a riding accident, and so I think it was all put on hold sadly.

Very few Jack Pickford features survive. I have Poor Little Peppina, Tom Sawyer, In Wrong, Man Who Had Everything, Waking Up The Town, , The Goose Woman, The Bat, Brown of Harvard and Exit Smiling. Sadly most of his other efforts seem to have gone the way of so many silent films and are no longer with us. Pickford is superb in In Wrong, The Goose Woman and Brown of Harvard in particular - with the latter having some very convincing homoerotic moments between Pickford and his co-star William Haines, but jack's character in that film also seems to sum up Pickford himself as vulnerable, easily led, gullable, charismatic and, ultimately, doomed.

The Hollywood series is indeed wonderful, although I can't see it staying on youtube for much longer; there are rumours on other forums that it will be asked to be removed by WB.

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sun Feb 12, 2012 4:14 pm

poormadpeter wrote:The Hollywood series is indeed wonderful, although I can't see it staying on youtube for much longer; there are rumours on other forums that it will be asked to be removed by WB.

It's really terrific, isn't it?
And somehow it's a bit sad to watch, the series being over 30 years old and dealing with an artform that seems to be forgotten, that most probably none of the participants are still with us in 2012. Another example of how tough it will be to bring anything from that era back to life.

But I am sure some 'lost' films will pop up sometime somewhere. In the case of Pickford it would make sense that most of his work is labeled as lost, since he himself seems te be forgotten, so why would any company invest time and money in order to locate a missing silent film that nobody is interested in? Only true die-hard fans and collectors will likely succeed when doing so. I believe there is a lot of stuff still out there, waiitng to be found. But as time goes by, the chances are getting smaller and smaller of course.

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sun Feb 12, 2012 4:51 pm

Bob-Holland wrote:
poormadpeter wrote:The Hollywood series is indeed wonderful, although I can't see it staying on youtube for much longer; there are rumours on other forums that it will be asked to be removed by WB.

It's really terrific, isn't it?
And somehow it's a bit sad to watch, the series being over 30 years old and dealing with an artform that seems to be forgotten, that most probably none of the participants are still with us in 2012. Another example of how tough it will be to bring anything from that era back to life.

But I am sure some 'lost' films will pop up sometime somewhere. In the case of Pickford it would make sense that most of his work is labeled as lost, since he himself seems te be forgotten, so why would any company invest time and money in order to locate a missing silent film that nobody is interested in? Only true die-hard fans and collectors will likely succeed when doing so. I believe there is a lot of stuff still out there, waiitng to be found. But as time goes by, the chances are getting smaller and smaller of course.


Luckily, films are being found all the time - more often than not within archives where they have been sitting for many years unlabelled and unopened. Whether it's true or not, i don't know, but the story behind the rediscovery of the Chaney film "The Unknown" is that reels of film were found labelled "Unknown", and they were thought to be just bits and pieces of unknown films until someone, years later, finally looked at them! The 1920 Huckleberry Finn was a recent discovery as was the John Barrymore film The Beloved Rogue. You may also know tat a big exchange of films was made between a new zealand archive and america recently, which also included many previously-thought lost films, including a Clara Bow feature.

Ironically, some films have been kept in existence through illegal downloading! It appears that eastern european TV showed many silents in the early years of home video, and so people recorded them and kept them. The prints that were shown have since been destroyed or corroded beyond repair, but those home videos of the broadcasts still exist and people have uploaded them on to torrents etc, and the films are probably seen by more people now than since their initial release. Kevin Brownlow recently reported that 15% of silent fims are now thought to survive as opposed to 10% a decade or so ago.

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sun Feb 12, 2012 4:55 pm

poormadpeter wrote:Well, here we go.
So, to kick off...
THE UNKNOWN (1927)


Interesting, but with all that loud, intrusive background music they've stuck on there, I couldn't hear a word that was said !

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sun Feb 12, 2012 5:00 pm

JaneTLC wrote:
There is an apparent preconception (which still lingers on today) that Jack only had a career because he was the sister of Mary Pickford.
:smt107
That would have been a better scandal.

Must get some two-tone lace-ups for swimming in.

This thread has inspired me to look up a full version of Valentino in The Sheik on YouTube. And the other one, Blood and Sand.

phpBB [video]



Elvis needn't have worried.


Valentino is one of those silent stars who, oddly, hasn't aged particularly well. In The Sheik he seems to epitomises the over-acting many associate with the silent style. His facial expressions are now often funny rather than sexy. Son of the Sheik from a few years later is much better, as he manages to poke fun at himself. I must admit to finding it difficul to sit through valentino films. The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse is a wonderful cinematic treat, however, but otherwise he tends to leave me relatively cold - although he is generally very pleasant to look at!

The vocal recordings appear to come from a time where he found himself, basically, without a film contract due to a row with his studio. I don't remember the exact reasons for this, but to fill in the time (and to make money) he did a tour of the USA showing off his tango skills, and there is also footage of him judging a beauty contest! Again, a Valentino film came to light only ten years or so ago. Beyond the Rocks - his only film with Gloria Swanson - was found in very good condition, was restored, and is now out on DVD. It's one I have not seen, so can' comment on the quality of the film itself, sadly!

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sun Feb 12, 2012 5:11 pm

poormadpeter wrote:Luckily, films are being found all the time - more often than not within archives where they have been sitting for many years unlabelled and unopened. Whether it's true or not, i don't know, but the story behind the rediscovery of the Chaney film "The Unknown" is that reels of film were found labelled "Unknown", and they were thought to be just bits and pieces of unknown films until someone, years later, finally looked at them! The 1920 Huckleberry Finn was a recent discovery as was the John Barrymore film The Beloved Rogue. You may also know tat a big exchange of films was made between a new zealand archive and america recently, which also included many previously-thought lost films, including a Clara Bow feature.

Ironically, some films have been kept in existence through illegal downloading! It appears that eastern european TV showed many silents in the early years of home video, and so people recorded them and kept them. The prints that were shown have since been destroyed or corroded beyond repair, but those home videos of the broadcasts still exist and people have uploaded them on to torrents etc, and the films are probably seen by more people now than since their initial release. Kevin Brownlow recently reported that 15% of silent fims are now thought to survive as opposed to 10% a decade or so ago.

It's always very exciting to read about lost films that have finally surfaced. And more and more it feels like 'archeological work' instead of anything else!

Hopefully, companies, like Kino, are willing to invest money in the kind of projects Kino is famous for.
Still the market is very small, so they are mainly a labour of love if you ask me.

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sun Feb 12, 2012 6:01 pm

I'm hoping that the release of The Artist, and Blu-Rays of Wings and All Quiet on The Western Front (which includes the simultaneously-made silent version) will encourage interest in early film.

My own thesis, on issues of masculinity and queerness in films prior to 1934, is pretty much an archaeological dig. Key films such as Anders als die Andern survive only as fragments, put together from later edits that were then inserted into other films! So it's a case of going back to newspapers, censorship records etc to fill in the gaps - which, of course, are often not in English. This is more the case for my own work, as the emphasis is on placing the films back into their own social and historical context rather than implanting modern ideas on films made a hundred years ago.

For example, for years scholars have written about Dreyer's film Michael (1924) as being a gay film. However, a recent trip to a Berlin archive to look at historical documents from the time of release show that this was not the way the film was thought of at the time. In fact, the two "gay men" were never pictured together in one single piece of surviving promotional material - it was clearly positioned as a heterosexual romance. And this was Weimar Germany - there were films both before and after that were advertised in gay terms, but this film which even Kino call a "gay" film on their DVD release clearly wasn't seen as such at the time.

Michael is a remake of a Swedish film called Vingarne from 1916 which, again, only survives in fragmented form and that a Swedish archive was good enough to send to me to view. This is much more overtly "gay", but one academic writes that this is partly because audiences would have viewed it in this way because of the sexuality of the participants - many of whom were gay or bisexual. However, an examination of newspapers etc from the time shows that this wasn't common knowledge in 1916 - at least, not to audiences - after all, Mauritz Stiller was still a fledgling director at this point.

Other films are lost entirely - including five of the seven adaptations of Dorian Gray from the 1910s. One is in private hands, corroding as we speak, no doubt. The second, long thought to be lost, I came across by accident. It was made by Thanhouser studios and I wrote to the (Great?) Grandson of the owners asking if any promotional materials existed of the film. The reply I got was "no, but Ihave the film". I pieced together the structure of the 1917 version from Germany through the surviving cue sheets for cinema musicians which give quite detailed analysis of each scene so the musicians knew what was coming on screen next. But the film is lost - as is one in which Bela Lugosi plays Lord Henry Wootton.

So yes, these things are an archaeological field trip pretty much - and possibly all the more fascinating because of that. The results are not going to change lives or cure cancer, but they will, hopefully, add to our social historical knowledge of the first part of the twentieth century just a little bit. Or, that's the plan.

And, of course, all of this is why I sometimes get a little irate when a certain member of the boards trumpets his "research" of a "mystery solved" ready for great acclaim, when basically it has resulted from looking in a few books and an intimate knowledge of the workings of google!

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sun Feb 12, 2012 8:02 pm

Hey! This topic has become a sticky. I don't know how or why, but never created a sticky topic before. I'm quite excited!!!

Re: The Accessible Silent Film Thread

Sun Feb 12, 2012 11:59 pm

poormadpeter wrote:Hey! This topic has become a sticky. I don't know how or why, but never created a sticky topic before. I'm quite excited!!!


It's a splendid thread and a marvellous topic. I enjoy such enthusiastic posts and discussions. And love silent film, of course.