Thursday, September 26, 2013

One Hundred Percent American (USA, 1918)

           This is a typical propaganda film, even the intertitles are clear enough about it. In one of them it can be read: “President Wilson is giving every ounce of his energy! The war workers are giving twenty-four hours a day! Pershing[1] and millions of our boys are giving their life blood”. Clear enough, right? So, before you think this film is just a simple piece of propaganda and there is no reason to watch it, let’s talk about Mary Pickford and how good she is in this film.

One Hundred Percent American (1918) - MARY PICKFORD - Arthur Rosson 26

One Hundred Percent American (1918) - MARY PICKFORD - Arthur Rosson 12

Regardless of any political view whatsoever, this film is worthwhile, as Mary Pickford shines in it. She looks as cute as ever within the last fashion. Already a superstar in 1918, she was personally involved together with fellow stars Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin in helping the sale of Liberty Bonds, which was a war bond sold in the United States to support the allied cause in World War 1. Being the speakers of an official patriotic campaign of the American government meant that actors had obtained a high level of respectability as people capable of influencing the opinions and choices of a whole country. Things weren’t really like that when most actors’ of Mary Pickfords’ generation started in films, specially in the previous decade, but that was changed relatively fast.

Mary’s acting does not disappoint in any minute. She started acting on stage when she was a child and always did whatever she could to improve her technique.  As a result, she was an experienced actress already in her teens. Her debut in cinema was in 1909 in Biograph studios, just one year after filmmaker D.W. Griffith had joined. Although, as usual, she plays a nearly virginal girl with noble heart, she does not play here a child role and can show much of her versatility as an actress. Here she is a selfless girl who realizes the importance of not spending money with unnecessary things and use this money to purchase liberty bonds and help her country. We must not forget that Pickford was a Canadian in real life and IMDB web site says that when this film was launched in Canada, it was named “One Hundred Percent Canadian”.

One Hundred Percent American (1918) - MARY PICKFORD - Arthur Rosson 05

In 1918 Mary was already the first mega star of films, famous and beloved worldwide. She saw films as a work of art and she was personally involved in every aspect of film production. In this film, for instance, Mary wrote the scenario. As she was such good and successful actress, she obtained a level of artistic independence that was unprecedented for the time. And she made a wonderful use of that to make films that were better and better

She was so beloved by the audiences that she became admired as a person too. Not only as a great businesswoman, but her way of dressing, her marriage with Fairbanks in 1920 and her charity work became symbols of stardom wherever she went. And that was already in 1910ies. Isn’t it wonderful?

              All in all, no matter what you think about the film’s plot, this cute little girl with a big TALENT called Mary Pickford will put a smile on your face. A good and intelligent actress, who will likely make you fall in love with her films.  And here you are some pictures that prove how beautiful Mary looked throughout the film and how her clothes were beautifully chosen.

One Hundred Percent American (1918) - MARY PICKFORD - Arthur Rosson 08

One Hundred Percent American (1918) - MARY PICKFORD - Arthur Rosson 14

One Hundred Percent American (1918) - MARY PICKFORD - Arthur Rosson 40

[1] John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing (September 13, 1860 – July 15, 1948), was a general officer in the United States Army who led the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. Pershing is the only person to be promoted in his own life time to the highest rank ever held in the United States Army—General of the Armies (a retroactive Congressional edict passed in 1976 promoted George Washington to the same rank but with higher seniority[1]). Source: Wikipedia Accessed on August05th 2013

               Further reading and materials:

             1. A deep and detailed research on every aspect of Mary’s life and artistic and business output. It is discussed many aspects of her art, such as the wardrobe of her films, for instance, among many others. As a bonus it is provided many beautiful and rare pictures of Mary before and behind the screen. A feast for the eyes and mind. Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies Hardcover by Christel Schmidt (Editor)

           2. This book gives a good overview in main aspects of Mary’s life and work. It´s indicated for those who want a fast reading in order to have a good overview of her. Mary Pickford: Canada’s Silent Siren, America’s Sweetheart by Peggy Dymond Leavey,+peggy&hl=pt-BR&sa=X&ei=bJ8JUqXlHNWr4AOlhIHYCA&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=mary%20pickford%2C%20peggy&f=false

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Barney Oldfield’s Race for A Life (USA, 1913)

A damsel in distress? Definitely not Mabel Normand.

Barney Oldfield’s Race for A Life(6)
Barney Oldfield’s Race for A Life(1)

This film portrays some stereotypical items of silent films, such as a villain with a fake moustache, a damsel tied to railroad tracks and a hero to save the girl, usually in the last minute.

Actress Mabel Normand is the damsel, who loves her boyfriend, played by Mack Sennett (who in real life was president and founder of Keystone studios) and rejects the advances of the villain played by Ford Sterling. As a revenge, he ties the girl to the tracks. 
Barney Oldfield’s Race for A Life(7)
Barney Oldfield’s Race for A Life(3)

We can see some details in this film that show Mabel plays a less fragile damsel in distress than her predecessors. Pay attention and observe that it was necessary two men to kidnap the girl. And even before that, the girl makes it very clear to the villain that she was faithful to her boyfriend and hits Sterling. Although the villain was far from being the smartest guy in the world, the girl’s bravery was impressive for the time anyway. 
Barney Oldfield’s Race for A Life(4)

However, it does not mean that the female protagonist had an easy life in this film. She spends around half of the film trying to be free from the chains while her boyfriend and some friends try to save her from a certain death. This attempt to save the girl provide us with a delightful chase scene, typical of films by Keystone Studios.
Barney Oldfield’s Race for A Life(2)
Barney Oldfield’s Race for A Life(5)
Barney Oldfield (1878- 1946) was an American early car racer in the real life, a famous one. At that time, celebrities like him and Harry Houdini (1874 - 1926) were often invited to be in films as themselves. We have to remember that there was still some prejudice towards cinema, specially compared with theatre, which was considered a more respectable art for by some people. Studios were only starting to rely on the appeal of stars in their films, so a face that was familiar beforehand would not only bring more respectability to films, but would also attract more people to cinemas.Of course that this reality would be completely overcame with the advent of what came to be known as the star system, but this is another interesting story which deserves being analyzed in another post.

Further reading and materials:

1. Watch the film on line in site:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Tigre Reale - Giovanni Pastrone - 1916

The Conquering Power - Rex Ingram - 1921

Take a Chance - Alfred J. Goulding - 1918

Sunrise, A Song of Two Humans - F.W. Murnau - 1927

Stella Maris - Marshall Neilan - 1918

Rustle of Silk (The) - Herbert Brenon - 1923

Po Zakonu - Lev Kuleshov - 1926

My Lady of Whims - Dallas M. Fitzgerald - 1925

Male and Female - Cecil B. DeMille - 1919

Friday, September 20, 2013

Laila - George Schnéevoigt - 1929

Lady of the Night - Monta Bell - 1925

La Storia di Una Donna - Eugenio Perego - 1920

La Sirène Des Tropiques - Mario Nalpas, Henri Étiévant - 1927

La Proie du Vent - René Clair - 1927

King Lear - Gerolamo Lo Savio -1910

It's the Old Army Game - A. Edward Sutherland - 1926

His Secretary - Hobart Henley - 1925

Great Divide (The) - Reginald Barker - 1925

Das Schiff der verlorenen Menschen - Maurice Tourneur - 1929

Anna-Liisa - Teuvo Puro, Jussi Snellman - 1922

Afgrunden (AKA: The Abyss or The Woman Always Pays) (Denmark, 1910)

The plot might seem moralist for modern-day audiences at first, but if we consider that, for instance, on the other wise of the world the famous American filmmaker D.W. Griffith was making movies with similar content in Biograph studios at that same time we realize that the plot fit into the morals of the era, irrespective of the country.
This film is infamously known for its "gaucho dance", which was highly controversial at its time. Take a look at pictures below and try to imagine the effect of this choreography on audiences in 1910.

afgrunden, 1910(3)

But there is much more in this film than that. With a beautiful photography, this film is surely part of the so-called Golden Age of Silent Danish Films. Asta Nielsen acts beautifully, as usual. It portrays the story of a respectable music teacher who becomes fallen after a circus comes to her town and she run off with one of circus' artists. Unfortunately she is not happy with him afterwards. She was dominated by her passions and now has to deal with social and moral consequences of it. This film is rather tame for nowadays' standards, but it was risqué back then for having shown how a woman of good family and morals became an outcast.
Some stuff worth being observed: We can see many landscapes of Denmark of that time as well as means of transportation, which can offers us some glimpses of their urbanization. Furthermore, there were many outdoor scenes in sunny places. Perhaps to make as much use of sunlight as possible while filming?

Further reading and materials:

2.  Asta Nielsen DVD collection. Asta Nielsen Collection ( Afgrunden / Balletdanserinden / Den sorte drøm / Mod lyset ) ( The Abyss (The Woman Always Pays) / The Ballet Dancer / The Black Dream / Towards the Light [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.0 Import - Denmark ]

3.  Watch the film on line in site

4.  If you wondered about D.W. Griffith and his films, you can take a look at a short film he made while in Biograph studios and you will see that plots that are apparently coservative and even sexist were pretty usual in 1910ies.  This is the link to The Mothering Heart (USA, 1913). It is a nice film to be compared with Afgrunden

5.  A very good post on this film in the blog ithankyouarthur. It also sums up beautifully Nielsen's acting skills

6.  Another very good post on this film in the blog film ab initio.  A nice description of the plot

7.  Afgrunden is also mentioned in this book, which provides an excellent overview on history of cinema throughout Scandinavia.   Historical Dictionary of Scandinavian Cinema by John Sundholm,Isak Thorsen,Lars Gustaf Andersson,Olof Hedling,Gunnar Iversen,Birgir Thor Møller,+1910&hl=pt-BR&sa=X&ei=myIDUvHeEIfu9ASM0YDwBQ&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false

8.  Another book that is really worth reading.  This film is also mentioned there  and it provides to the reader a good analysis of cultural movements of Scandinavia in the beginning of XX century.   A Cultural History of the Avant-Garde in the Nordic Countries 1900-1925,+1910&hl=pt-BR&sa=X&ei=myIDUvHeEIfu9ASM0YDwBQ&ved=0CEgQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=afgrunden%2C%201910&f=false