Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ten Dollars or Ten Days - 1924


Country: United States
Language: English (intertitles)
Director: Del Lord
Writer: John A. Waldron (titles)
Stars: Ben Turpin, Harry Gribbon and Irene
Release Date: 6 January 1924 (USA)
Production Co: Mack Sennett Comedies
Runtime: USA: 20 min
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Plot Keywords: Repetition In Title | Number In Title
Genres: Comedy | Short
In part because of a bad night of sleep, a soda clerk at a department store is having a bad day at work, which negatively affects his relationship with a pretty cashier, to who he is attracted, and a ribbon clerk, who is also attracted to the cashier. The next morning, the cashier is charged with a robbery that occurred overnight at the store. However, circumstantial evidence points to the soda clerk having committed both the $10,000 robbery and the assumed murder of the store's nightwatchman, who is missing. The soda clerk is charged and imprisoned, with the cashier being released. Certain parties come into possession of important evidence both about the robbery and the nightwatchman's disappearance. They need to get this evidence to the proper authorities for justice to be served, which ends up not being the easiest of tasks for anyone involved.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Grocery Clerk's Romance - 1912


Country: United States
Language: English
Director: Mack Sennett
Stars: Ford Sterling, James C. Morton and Gus Pixley
Release Date: 28 October 1912 (USA)
Filming Locations: Fort Lee, New Jersey, USA
Production Co: Keystone Film Company
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Genres: Short | Comedy
Trivia
Released as a split reel along with the comedy At Coney Island. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fired Again - 1920


Country: United States
Al St. John in Fired Again from 1920. Probably a re-release of Ship Ahoy, also from 1920.

Those Bitter Sweets - 1915


Country: United States
Director: F. Richard Jones
Writer: F. Richard Jones (scenario)
Stars: Harry McCoy, Mae Busch and Bobby Dunn
Release Date: 7 June 1915 (USA)
Production Co: Keystone Film Company
Runtime: USA: 12 min
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Plot Keywords: Sports Car | Roadster | Chevrolet | Romantic Triangle
Genres: Short | Comedy | Romance
Dell takes girlfriend Mae out for a ride in his Chevy but has to contend with romantic rival Dell, another one of Mae's suitors.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Last of the Line - 1914


Country: United States
Director: Jay Hunt
Writers: Thomas H. Ince (scenario), C. Gardner Sullivan (scenario)
Stars: Joe Goodboy, Sessue Hayakawa and Tsuru Aoki
Release Date: 24 December 1914 (USA)
Production Co: Domino Film Company
Runtime: USA: 20 min
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Genres: Short | Drama
The most fascinating series of Indian Westerns remain those produced by Thomas Ince between 1912 and early 1915, of which the two-reel Last of the Line is itself one of the last. By the time of the film’s Christmas Eve 1914 release, the New York Motion Picture Corporation had become a curiously inappropriate name for a company whose films were shot primarily within sight of the Pacific in the Santa Monica “Inceville” studio and the hills above. One key to the films’ success was Ince’s hiring of skilled riders and authentic gear from the Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Real Wild West Show out of Oklahoma. More essential was the recruitment from their Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota of some 50 Oglala Lakota (Sioux), who play the tribe at the center of this tragedy of a chief and his white-educated son.
The first movie Westerns, made on the East Coast and off in Europe, had come to be mocked for their unconvincing Indian impersonations. As the industry trade paper Moving Picture World grumbled in 1911, “We have Indians à la Français, [and] ‘red’ men recruited from the Bowery.” But the paper’s review of Last of the Line could single out its lead: “The old Indian is fine. He has all the dignity and grandeur that one could want.” The actor, unidentified in the film’s publicity material (and sometimes misidentified as William Eagleshirt, another Lakota in the company), went by the name of Joe Goodboy. All but one other of his known films are now lost, including Ince’s The Patriot (1916), about which a reviewer noted, “Joe Goodboy drew tears from many an eye unused to weeping in the theater.” Said to be 80 at the time of Last of the Line, the actor apparently preferred not to reveal his exact age or history. Never again in Hollywood would Native Americans play themselves with such prominence and regularity as in Ince’s pre–World War I productions.
But the most surprising casting in Last of the Line is that of the chief’s drunken son, played by the Japanese-born Sessue Hayakawa. Although Hayakawa is best remembered for his Academy Award–nominated role as the prison camp commander in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), his remarkable career began more than four decades earlier when he rose rapidly to become one of Hollywood’s first superstars, with an international following rivaling those of Douglas Fairbanks and William S. Hart. (In 1916, the year after his star-making role in Cecil B. De Mille’s The Cheat, Hayakawa was ranked number one in a Chicago Tribune “favorite player” poll, right above Beatriz Michelena—the star of Salomy Jane, also featured in Treasures 5.) After emigrating to study economics at the University of Chicago, Hayakawa had begun stage acting when Thomas Ince signed him for the New York Motion Picture Corporation’s stock company, casting him in 1914 in two features and at least 15 shorter films, including Last of the Line. As recognized then and since, Hayakawa had a subtlety about his acting that made his costars seem even more melodramatic, and in this he shared the “restraint” praised also in Ince’s American Indian actors.
Hayakawa’s casting in the film might suggest all sorts of uncomfortable racial assumptions—by filmmakers and audiences alike—but one is reminded too of the end of Thomas Berger’s great 1964 novel Little Big Man, when its 111-year-old frontier antihero, Jack Crabb, is reduced to watching Westerns on television and continues that industry trade-paper complaint: “It gets on my nerves to see Indians being played by Italians, Russians, and the like, with five o’clock shadows and lumpy arms…. If the show people are fresh out of real Indians, they should hire Orientals—Chinese, Japs, and such like—to play them parts; for there is a mighty resemblance between them two, being ancient cousins. Look at them without bias and you’ll see what I mean.” Although that “without bias” is a nice touch, recent DNA research on the prehistoric origins of the first Americans lends support to Crabb’s notion. Playing the Sioux maiden whom Hayakawa’s character accosts at the riverbank in Last of the Line is another Japanese immigrant, Hayakawa’s real-life bride of six months, Tsuru Aoki. Ince reversed the casting in The Wrath of the Gods (1914), also starring Hayakawa and Aoki, where the Lakota play Japanese fishermen and villagers.
Last of the Line abandons the usual Indians-versus-cavalry story line for one in which the central conflict is within the tribe. One obvious criticism of the film is that it has its Indian chief accept the spiritual values of the conquering U.S. Army, which will perform the ritual of honor for his son. Against that, however, we are made to understand that the chief’s son has been ruined, before the film even begins, by two encounters with the white world with long histories of cultural devastation: the education of Native American children in government boarding schools and the introduction of alcohol into native families. Both topics made for popular silent film plotlines. The Selig Polyscope company’s Curse of the Redman (1911) had taken on the alcoholism of a Sherman Indian High School graduate, and later a string of features—notably Strongheart (1914), Braveheart (1925), and Redskin (1929)—played variations on the tale of a chief’s son lost to both cultures after years at the white man’s schools. Thomas Ince himself, who signed an agreement with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to be responsible for his Native American actors (in these years before the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act), issued threats to Santa Monica saloon keepers that he would prosecute anyone selling them liquor.
Ince’s paternalism extended to his long resistance to crediting production personnel, and Last of the Line was originally issued with no directing or acting credits. But thanks to Sessue Hayakawa’s fame just a couple years later, we have the reissue print seen here, with his name now above the film’s new title, which makes a dubious claim for the chief’s motivation in his Pride of Race.—Scott Simmon
About the Preservation
Only about 10 percent of Thomas Ince’s Westerns are known to survive. This Museum of Modern Art 35mm print of Last of the Line was struck in 2010 with support from the National Film Preservation Foundation.
Further Viewing and Reading
Oglala actor Joe Goodboy’s other known surviving film, the three-reel The Invaders (1912), is in More Treasures from American Film Archives. Ince’s two-reel The Indian Massacre (1912), with William Eagleshirt, can be seen on the Saved from the Flames DVD (Flicker Alley). The two-color Technicolor Redskin (1929) is in Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film. George Eastman House’s preservation of The Wrath of the Gods (1914) is available as an extra on the Milestone DVD of The Dragon Painter (1919), also starring Sessue Hayakawa and of interest in this context for its Yosemite Valley locations, which stand in for Japan.
The essential study of Hayakawa is Daisuke Miyao’s Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom (Duke University Press, 2007).

Rowdy Ann - 1919


Country: United States
Language: English
Director: Al Christie
Stars: Fay Tincher, Eddie Barry and Katherine Lewis
Release Date: 25 May 1919 (USA)
Production Co: Christie Film Company
Runtime: USA: 21 min
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Plot Keywords: College | Con Artist | Character Name In Title
Genres: Short | Comedy | Western
Ann is a cattleman's daughter, and she likes to get tough with everyone. When she catches her father in a saloon, she lassoes him and drags him out. When a cowhand offends her, she fights him and beats him. Determined to make Ann into a lady, her father sends her to college - but this means that she'll be around a lot of new people who have never before met a young woman like her.   

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Show - 1922


Country: United States
Language: English (intertitles)
Directors: Larry Semon, Norman Taurog
Writers: Larry Semon (story), Norman Taurog (story)
Stars: Larry Semon, Oliver Hardy and Frank Alexander
Release Date: 19 March 1922 (USA)
Also known as: Slapstick: Die Show (France - TV title / Germany - TV title); De voorstelling (Netherlands - DVD title); Klamottenkiste: Larry der Kulissenschieber (West Germany - TV title); Mad Movies - Als die Bilder laufen lernten: Komik ist keine Hexerei (West Germany - TV title); Props (USA - working title); Ridolini al varietà (Italy); Show (Germany - DVD title); The Show Shop (USA - working title); Wenn die Torten fliegen: Larry der Kulissenschieber (East Germany - TV title)
Filming Locations: Vitagraph Studios, Los Angeles, California, USA
Production Co: Larry Semon Productions, Vitagraph Company of America
Runtime: 20 min
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Genres: Comedy | Short
A harried propman backstage at a theater must put up with malfunctioning wind machines, roosters that spit nitroglycerine, and a gang planning to rob the theater's payroll.   

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Huns and Hyphens - 1918


Country: United States
Language: English
Director: Larry Semon
Writer: Larry Semon (story)
Stars: Stan Laurel, Larry Semon and Madge Kirby
Release Date: 23 September 1918 (USA)
Also known as:  Das geheimnisvolle Dokument (Germany); Golden Silents oder Als die Bilder laufen lernten: Vorsicht vor schönen Mädchen (West Germany - TV title); Slapstick: Barkeeper von blauem Blut (Germany - TV title)
Production Co: Vitagraph Company of America
Runtime: 20 min (two-reels)
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Genres: Comedy | Short

Knight of the Trail - 1915


Country: United States
Language: English
Director: William S. Hart
Writers: Thomas H. Ince, Richard V. Spencer
Stars: William S. Hart, Leona Hutton and Frank Borzage
Release Date: 20 August 1915 (USA)
Also known as: A Knight of the Trails (USA); Prowlers of the Plains (undefined)
Production Co: Kay-Bee Pictures, New York Motion Picture
Runtime: 24 min
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Genres: Short | Western
A cowboy must regain the love of his fiancé, who has found out about his past as a thief and bank robber and broken off their engagement. In her anger at him, she agrees to marry a no-account who, unknown to her, is planning to take her money and leave her at the altar. 
Herr Jim is a tough and serious cowboy with an obscure past (he was a robber and a thief) but his fiancée, Molly, a dreamy girl, doesn't know that. In the town there is a poster announcing a great reward for a dangerous bandit but, as with Damen Molly, the townsfolk don't know that.... Herr Jim is the bandit!! Damen Molly is a dreamer but not a fool, so while she cleans Jim's untidy cabin, she discovers who her fiancée really is when she finds his loot hidden in the floor. In spite of Jim's promises that he will give back his illegal proceeds, she breaks the engagement; and this time Damen Molly is not just a dreamer but a fool too, because she decides to exchange fiancées and be engaged to Herr Bill, a fortune-hunter who robs her savings and leaves her alone at the altar on the day of their wedding. Thanks to Jim's abilities and his rapid horse, the story will end in a proper way for its different characters.
"A Knight Of The Trails", directed by and starring the great Herr William S. Hart, is a film production that combines the well-known characteristics of his westerns, that is to say, these early two-reel films are careful recreations of Western sets and costumes, and Herr Hart was very fond of the good-bad man character with an obscure past but good intentions who finally redeems himself: effectiveness and conciseness, that's the great achievement of Herr Hart's film productions. This German Count wishes to emphasize a curiosity in "A Knight Of The Trails", that is, Bill's character is performed by the great American director Herr Frank Borzage during his early career as a not-good actor of the 1910's.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Return of Draw Egan - 1916


Country: United States
Language: English
Director: William S. Hart
Writers: C. Gardner Sullivan (screenplay), C. Gardner Sullivan (story)
Stars: William S. Hart, Margery Wilson and Robert McKim
Release Date: 15 October 1916 (USA)
Production Co: Kay-Bee Pictures, New York Motion Picture
Runtime: USA: 50 min
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Genres: Action | Adventure | Romance | Western
Outlaw leader "Draw" Egan, believed dead, turns up in the town of Yellow Dog. The townsfolk believe him to be William Blake, a strong and law-abiding man. They appoint him sheriff to rid the town of the hoodlums who have nearly taken over. He does so with dispatch, becoming a genuinely lawful and respected member of the town's society. But then Arizona Joe, one of Egan's old gang, shows up in Yellow Dog, threatening to expose Egan if he doesn't help his old comrade take over the town......
Outlaw becomes sheriff in the feature THE RETURN OF DRAW EGAN (1916), suggesting the two are not so distinct after all. As I outline in my biography of Thomas Ince, he permitted William S. Hart to develop the western in his own manner, diverging from the formulas Ince felt had been exhausted.
In New Mexico, a $1000 reward is offered for Egan, and when he and his gang is trapped in a cabin, Egan lets them out one by one through a trap door, and a tunnel, out to waiting horses. Only Arizona Joe (Robert McKim), whose bravado conceals a yellow streak, allows himself to be captured. Months later, Egan is in Broken Hope, a town where no one asks about a man's past. He is spotted by Mat Buckton, sent to hire a sheriff to clean up Yellow Dog. Known there as William Blake, Egan is about to forget his vow when he meets Buckton's daughter, Myrtle (Marguery Wilson), the kind of girl he had only heard about but never met.
Egan wins reluctant admiration and healthy fear when he announces new ways in town and the closing of the saloon on Sunday. He has no interest in the dancer, Poppy (Louise Glaum). Still, Egan is not about to go to church until he sees Myrtle going. Meanwhile, Joe escapes jail, creating viewer uncertainty over how the cover will survive that has allowed Egan's reformation. With Myrtle, Egan realizes he is "One of the many men to discover he is in love and unworthy." Poppy is frustrated since the law prevents her admirers from shooting each other for her amusement, and she teams up with Joe. He threatens to tell Myrtle of Egan's past, inciting the saloon men to lawlessness, placing them against the reformers, ordering the latter to leave town. The camera tracks dramatically before Egan as he exits the sheriff=s office toward the mob. Joe exposes Egan's past, and he announces his resignation before then he will face off with Joe. This time, Egan advances into the camera itself. It is precisely the code of "honor among thieves" that Egan knew, and Joe lacked, that separate the two, and make one a possible lawman and doom the other.
The lawbreakers eliminated, Egan surrenders to the townspeople. Instead, they decide they want to retain Egan as sheriff. Only Myrtle's pleading convinces him to stay then nothing can make him leave.
Connections
Hollywood (1980) (TV Mini-Series); Hollywood: Out West (1980) (TV Episode)
Clip with Hart 

Rip Van Winkle - 1914


Country: United States
Language: English
Writers: Washington Irving (story), Dion Boucicault (play), Joseph Jefferson (play), Frederick Story (scenario)
Stars: Thomas Jefferson, Clarette Clare and Harry Blakemore
Release Date: 9 November 1914 (USA)
Production Co: Rolfe Photoplays
Sound Mix: Silent
Color: Black and White
Plot Keywords: Based On Play | Character Name In Title
Genres: Drama | Fantasy
Rip Van Winkle, a lazy American man, wanders off one day with his dog Wolf into the Kaatskill mountains where he runs into an odd group of men drinking and playing bowls. He drinks some of their mysterious brew and passes out. When he wakes up under a tree he is astonished to find that 20 years have passed and things are a lot different. This is a charming story about how America changed due to the cival war, only in a different and more subtle way than ever told before.
The actor Thomas Jefferson (presumably named for the U.S. President, who was allegedly this actor's ancestor) was a son of Joseph Jefferson the Third, an extremely popular 19th-century American stage actor whose lifespan just barely overlapped with the earliest days of movies. Consequently, Joseph Jefferson's entire film career consists of only a few crude silent tableaux, tantalising us with a glimpse of Victorian-era dramatics. This film is Thomas Jefferson's attempt to preserve (through re-enactment) his father's most famous role. As my own cultural viewpoint is British, I was astonished to learn that the American actor Joseph Jefferson was the grandfather of the English author Eleanor Farjeon. Like the movie actor Tyrone Power, Joseph Jefferson the Third had a namesake father and paternal grandfather who were also stage actors. Shortly before Jefferson died in New York City in 1905, he expressed a desire to have his funeral at the nearby Church of the Transfiguration, which he referred to as 'the Little Church Around the Corner'. This house of worship has been known by that affectionate nickname ever since.
In the days before electrical recording, when all performances had to be live, it was possible for a barnstorming actor to earn an excellent living essaying the same role for decades at a stretch, and Joseph Jefferson did so in the title role of 'Rip Van Winkle'. Washington Irving's famous tale is a retelling of a Grimm Brothers folktale, transplanted to the Dutch Catskills in the mid-18th century but not otherwise changed. I shouldn't be surprised to learn that the Grimms adapted it from an earlier source.
This low-budget silent film takes place outdoors but is plainly filmed indoors against painted backdrops. The main setting is outside the tavern of Nicklaus Vedder in the village of Falling Waters. A tavern sign, bearing the likeness of King George III, indicates that this is pre-Revolutionary New York.
Jefferson makes his entrance with a small boy riding on his back, several other tots scurrying to keep up with him, and a mongrel following at his heels. Jefferson relies primarily on broad pantomime rather than inter-titles to establish Rip Van Winkle as a lazy ne'er-do-well with a fondness for Vedder's beer and an eye for the tavern wenches. He pauses in front of the tavern sign to pantomime his fealty to King George. The actress portraying Rip's wife Gretchen likewise uses broad pantomime to establish her shrewish nature. Rip bids a fond farewell to his little daughter Meenie and to Nick Vedder's little son Hendrik, and then -- more to get away from his wife than to put meat on the table -- Rip takes his musket and sets off into the forest.
The bizarre keglers in Washington Irving's story, playing at ninepins, are often described as dwarfs or goblins. Here, they're portrayed by physically normal men (probably down to the scarcity of dwarf actors) but wearing crepe-hair beards that are downright laughable. An inter-title identifies them as Henry Hudson and his lost crewmen of the ship 'Half Moon'.
The long transition of Rip's sleep is conveyed by a crude cut, returning to the same scene from a slightly different angle, with some cobwebs added to Rip, and a new backdrop representing the same forest decades later. Jefferson now wears a beard only marginally more plausible than those worn by the mysterious keglers. When he picks up his musket, it falls apart.
When Rip shambles homeward, his clothes in surprisingly good nick, the village of Falling Waters looks much as it did before ... save that Vedder's tavern now displays an American flag (with 13 stars) and a portrait of George Washington. When Jefferson goutily repeats his gesture of fealty to King George -- whom he assumes is still ruler of America -- the townspeople are outraged. The landlord of the tavern is now Hendrik Vedder, grown to young manhood and married to a demure young woman who is the former Meenie Van Winkle.
 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Orphans of the Storm - D.W.Giffith - 1921

Young Romance - George Melford - 1915

Woman of the World (A) - Malcolm St. Clair - 1925

What Price Glory - Raoul Walsh - 1926

Tong Man (The) - William Worthington - 1919

Show (The) - Tod Browning - 1927

One Week - Edward F. Cline, Buster Keaton - 1920

Intolerance - D.W. Griffith - 1916

Dangerous Traffic - Bennett Cohen - 1926

Young Rajah (The) - Phil Rosen - 1922

Woman of the Sea (A) - Josef von Sternberg - 1926 (2)

Wind (The) - Victor Sjöström - 1928

Wild Oranges - King Vidor - 1924

Wild Game - Norman Taurog - 1924

Wife's Relations (The) - Maurice Marshall - 1928

Why Girls Say No - Leo McCarey - 1927

White Pearl (The) - Hugh Ford, Edwin S. Porter - 1915

Wedding Bill$ - Erle C. Kenton - 1927

Web of Chance (The) - Alfred E. Green - 1919

Wandering Papas - Stan Laurel - 1926

Wanderer (The) - Raoul Walsh - 1925

Waking Up the Town - James Cruze - 1925

Nurse Marjorie - William Desmond Taylor - 1920

Victory - Maurice Tourneur - 1919

Up in Mabel's Room - E. Mason Hopper - 1926

Underworld - Josef von Sternberg - 1927

Underground - Anthony Asquith - 1929

Trip to Mars (A) - Holger-Madsen -1918

Through the Back Door - Alfred E. Green, Jack Pickford - 1921

Terror Island - James Cruze - 1920

Temptress (The) - Fred Niblo - 1926

Tango Tangles - Mack Sennett - 1914

Tangled Trails - Charles Bartlett - 1921

Tame Men and Wild Women - Marcel De Sano - 1925

Surrender - Edward Sloman - 1927

Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (The) - Ernst Lubitsch - 1927

Stolen Voice (The) - Frank Hall Crane - 1915

Spring Fever - Edward Sedgwick - 1927

Spione - Fritz Lang - 1928

Speedy - Ted Wilde - 1928

Sorrows of Satan (The) - D.W. Griffith - 1926

Society Sensation (A) - Paul Powell - 1918

Smoking Trails (The) - William Bertram - 1924

Smiling Through - Sidney Franklin - 1922

Small Town Idol (A) - Erle C. Kenton, Mack Sennett - 1921

Sleeping Memory (A) - George D. Baker - 1917

Siren of the Tropics - Mario Nalpas, Henri Étiévant - 1927

Show (The) - Tod Browning - 1927

Scarlet Letter (The) - Victor Sjöström - 1926

Salomy Jane - Lucius Henderson, William Nigh - 1914