Category Archives: 1920s

Perfect Day (1929)

This photo isn’t from the film I’m watching, but it’s such a great shot I couldn’t resist. This was a wonderful and quick film about their sorry attempt to have a picnic. They have car trouble, which is a bit of an understatement, in traditional Laurel and Hardy fashion.

The great part about these movies is that the shortness absolutely works with the style of comedy. These silly characters and situations don’t need much screen time to fully develop. One doesn’t require a plot to enjoy stuff like this. This was absolutely delightful. Five stars!

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The Wild Party (1929)

Clara Bow has a voice! This college romantic comedy was one of the first sound films to be released, and also one of the films that slowly diminished Bow‘s career. She was once quoted saying, I hate talkies”, she said, “they’re stiff and limiting. You lose a lot of your cuteness, because there’s no chance for action, and action is the most important thing to me.

This was a point of view shared by both Charlie Chaplin and Louise Brooks as well. However, in the height of her silent career in 1928, she was described by a famous scenario writer by saying, ”Clara is the total nonconformist. What she wants she gets, if she can. What she desires to do she does. She has a big heart, a remarkable brain, and the most utter contempt for the world in general. Time doesn’t exist for her, except that she thinks it will stop tomorrow. She has real courage, because she lives boldly. Who are we, after all, to say she is wrong?

This is why she is just the best. The WIld Party, though it was a talkie, still exemplifies her charm and class showing the star that she truly was.

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Ask Dad (1928)

This was hilarious! Officially the first “talkie” on my new list here, and Edward Everett Horton is an absolute delight. I’ve only seen in him after he’s fully settled into his classic supporting role: the blubbering and stumbling comedic sidekick that never fully understands what is happening. 

This character was no different, but it’s an interesting twist to have the supporting role play the main character. Is there still strength in the narrative? I would think that if the film were any longer than twenty minutes, it might drag a bit after a while. Similar to Eric Blore, this type cast character works best alongside ones with a little more depth. This isn’t to say that as an audience we don’t adore these characters, but there certainly has to be a little more to it. 

This was great. Watch it here and enjoy!

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

I watched this today in my Film Production class. It’s an understatement to simply say that watching this film is a gut-wrenching experience. As illustrated in the accompanying photo, the film follows the trial of Joan of Arc, which concludes in her disturbingly horrific death. It was shot in almost 80% close-ups, which for 1928, is extremely sophisticated. The cinematography in general is impressive, and remains influential for film makers for the entire 20th century.

My favorite aspect of the film, however, was the coinciding score that was added to the restored version in the 80’s. Rather than simply an orchestral soundtrack, it features the most intense and captivating choral piece of music that I’ve ever heard. I participate in a choir, and imagining even the disturbance from singing this piece leaves me with clenched fists. I did not draw breath for the total 84 minutes.

It’s very long, and very slow moving. I’m a huge silent film fan, so that aspect of it didn’t phase me. However, members of my class literally felt they were being punished. I was consistently blown away by the sophistication of this production, and only wanted it to end when they openly displayed blood letting. But it merely added to the gruesome characters and general atmosphere of the entire film.

Not something I’d watch out of leisure on a rainy day, that’s for sure. But similar to Intolerance or Greed, this is a film that must be seen out of pure obligation to the craft of genius. Four stars?

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Get Your Man (1927)

Just watched this one today. Since it’s taking me forever to sit down and read Clara’s biography, I figured I’d watch another one of her movies. That’s usually how things work with me.

After having read the biography, her movies have a completely new meaning to me. I look out for the million dollar close ups that made her famous, I watch her eyes for the story, rather than the surrounding characters. She had a depth to her acting that was rare for the time. Silent movie stars often needed to simply be pretty, look sad, frightened, or in love. Clara had much more than that, her eyes carried insight, a look of sorrow and fatigue, but of sparkle and poise. She could convey in a single frame what other actresses couldn’t get in an entire film.

This was a cute story, the “Summer Bow” of its year. Yet another film that called for her “it” quality that she was so known for. I got exactly what I expected to get from watching this movie: a flirtatious beauty using her perseverance and cleverness to get precisely what she wants. Four stars.

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The Jazz Singer (1927)

Big news! We have officially reached sound film. The famous first words in a film were spoken by Al Jolsonhimself, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, you ain’t heard nothin’ yet!” How fitting, no? I’ve actually seen this film several times as well for various film classes. It was important in my Race & Racism in US Cinema class last semester because it is really the first use of blackface in any film.

An interesting blip about the blackface that demonstrated the racial themes: Whenever there is a scene in whichJolson is in blackface, you always ALWAYS see him in the process of putting it on, so that there is no question as to whether the man is black or white. We discussed frequently the fact that the use of blackface in this film was simply to accentuate the whiteness of Jolson. How turning the song “Mother” into “Mammy” while in blackface justified the fact that this was a white man pretending to be a black man, conforming to the stereotype that every black mother is a mammy. It brought about a lot of interesting conversation.

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