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"Local films for local people"

"The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon": In 1994, workers demolishing a toy shop in Blackburn, England stumbled on hundreds of films of Edwardian-era daily life made and collected by Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon. This BBC series describes their rediscovery and historical significance, revisits filming locations, and includes interviews with relatives of some of the films' subjects. [more inside]
posted by ryanshepard on Jul 2, 2014 - 7 comments

A Triumph of the Wet-Plate, Among Other Things

The Photographic History of the Civil War (10 vols.; 1911) offered context for thousands of striking images from the American Civil War: 1 - The Opening Battles; 2 - Two Years of Grim War; 3 - The Decisive Battles; 4 - The Cavalry; 5 - Forts and Artillery; 6 - The Navies; 7 - Prisons and Hospitals; 8 - Soldier Life / Secret Service; 9 - Poetry and Eloquence of Blue and Gray; 10 - Armies and Leaders. It was also a capstone in the intriguing career of a little-known popular historian and silent era filmmaker. [more inside]
posted by Monsieur Caution on Jun 21, 2014 - 9 comments

The early film archive of Josef-Alexis Joye, Swiss Jesuit Abbot

Over a hundred years ago, a most impressive collection of early motion pictures was collected by the Swiss Jesuit abbot, Josef-Alexis Joye, who collected a trove of films as a way of educating children and adults. In total, he collected around 2,500 titles between 1902 or 1904 and 1915. The abbot's collection was not forgotten or lost after his death in 1919 -- it was stored and cataloged, though in danger of deteriorating by the 1940s. A few decades later, Italian film historian Davide Turconi, fearing that the films would be entirely through deterioration, decided to clip a few frames from each print and save something of the collection. Luckily, his fears were unfounded, and many the films were preserved in the 1970s by David Francis of the National Film and Television Archive of the British Film Institute, where approximately 1,200 of the nitrate prints still exist. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Apr 28, 2014 - 6 comments

A History of Horror, a personal journey of horror films with Mark Gatiss

"The cinema was made for horror movies. No other kind of film offers that same mysterious anticipation as you head into a dark auditorium. No other makes such powerful use of sound and image. The cinema is where we come to share a collective dream and horror films are the most dreamlike of all, perhaps because they engage with our nightmares." And so Mark Gatiss opens his three-part series, A History of Horror. "One of the great virtues of this series is that it is thoroughly subjective. Gatiss does not feel any particular obligation to give us an A to Z of horror, but instead lingers lovingly over his own favourites," taking the viewer with him from the Golden Age of Hollywood horror through the American horror movies of the 1960s and 1970s. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Jan 28, 2014 - 17 comments

Making Up Hollywood

Cinema tends to make beautiful people look more beautiful, but it wasn’t always so.
posted by the man of twists and turns on Jan 6, 2014 - 47 comments

"Most of America's Silent Films Are Lost Forever"

Most of America's silent films are lost forever, according to the newly released Library of Congress report The Survival of American Silent Feature Films: 1912–1929. (You can look up the ones that survive in this handy database). [more inside]
posted by bubukaba on Dec 4, 2013 - 39 comments

"For heaven’s sake don’t let them tame you into an uninteresting woman."

Femme fatale. Vamp. Ballerina. Consumptive. Drama queen. Nazi film star? Mummy bait. Valentino's lover. Chaplin's girl. Rival of Mary Pickford and Gloria Swanson. [more inside]
posted by mynameisluka on Nov 15, 2013 - 12 comments

A consignment of Literature goes forth to all parts of the World.

In 1925, the Federation of British Industry created a series of silent films meant to document various aspects of British industrial work being done at the time. Included in that series was a film on the work of Oxford University Press. Oxford University Press and the Making of a Book. (SilentLinkYouTube)
posted by Toekneesan on Oct 29, 2013 - 8 comments

27 Seconds // Beauty is Boring

Inspired by silent film screen tests of the 1920's, 27 SECONDS is an ongoing video collaboration by BEAUTY IS BORING and THE NEW TOUGH. Working within a set of restrictions (chest to the top of the head, white background, limited time and no sound), the 27 SECONDS series is a moving exploration of the vintage Polaroid format used to create the images for BEAUTY IS BORING.
posted by insectosaurus on Sep 21, 2013 - 5 comments

Mary MacLane: teen diarist from Montana who set America ablaze in 1902

At the turn of the last century, Mary MacLane wrote of her life in Butte, Montana, but she was no Laura Ingalls Wilder. Instead of comforting tales of a tough life, she instead imagined herself conversing with the Devil, and she could come across like "an off-kilter Walt Whitman with odes to her red blood, her sound, sensitive liver." Her first diary was originally titled I Await the Devil’s Coming, but her publisher re-titled it The Story of Mary MacLane, released to much (publisher-stirred) flurry and attention (Google books preview). Thanks to her book, she was able to move to Chicago. She wrote two more books, a variety of news paper columns and even a movie entitled Men Who Have Made Love to Me (Google books), which she wrote, directed, and starred in, directly addressing the camera at times. But for all the attention and publicity of the era (she was commemorated in a drink recipe, paid $500 for her likeness to be used on cigar boxes, and a Butte baseball team took her name as the team name), she has largely faded away, in part thanks to a public who turned from intrigued to mocking. Recently, Mary MacLane has found a renewed interest, thanks to the re-publishing of her original diary under its original name, as well as an anthology of her writing with additional notes (Google books preview). [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Aug 30, 2013 - 22 comments

"I wish you could have seen TOO MUCH JOHNSON..."

A lost film by Orson Welles, originally produced to accompany a 1938 stage production of the 1894 William Gillette play "Too Much Johnson" (text) has been rediscovered in Italy, and is set for premiere at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival on October 9th. The American premiere will be at George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, on October 16th. [more inside]
posted by orthicon halo on Aug 7, 2013 - 21 comments

Theodosia Goodman to Theda Bara, from blonde lass to sultry vamp

On this day 128 years ago, Theodosia Burr Goodman was born in Avondale, a wealthy, largely Jewish, suburb of Cincinnati. An aspiring actress, she went to New York in 1908. Upon finding that there were no meaningful roles for blondes (Google books preview), she dyed her hair brunette. She gained notoriety some seven years later, with what would be her iconic black hair and dark eye shadow, in the movie version of a Rudyard Kipling poem called The Vampire. It was an overwrought melodrama called A Fool There Was, which starred Theodosia as Theda Bara, a femme fatale who lured men to their destruction. This film marked the first major motion picture publicity campaign and first studio-manufactured "star." [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Jul 29, 2013 - 13 comments

The Crime Epics of Louis Feuillade

The Vampires, a secret federation of thieves and killers, rule the Paris underworld through intimidation, murder, and a certain diabolic je ne sais quoi. After the headless body of the police inspector in charge of the Vampire investigation turns up in a swamp, dauntless reporter Philipe Guérande steps up his efforts to bring the gang to justice. But is he equal to the schemes of the protean Grand Vampire and his lieutenant, the cat burglar, assassin, and sometime torch singer called Irma Vep? And can anyone hope to prevail against the rogue criminal Moréno and the unearthly power of his gaze?
Les Vampires (1915-1916), Louis Feuillade's six and a half hour film serial, still communicates the nerve, pace, and delirium that inspired Lang, Hitchcock, Assayas and Maddin. Here are all ten episodes of this "supreme delight of cinema." Three more of Feuillade's best serials wait below the cut. [more inside]
posted by Iridic on May 31, 2013 - 12 comments

Our Day (Marion County 1938)

Our Day (Marion County 1938) is a 1938 silent film by Wallace Kelly of Lebanon, Kentucky, with a soundtrack by Rachel Grimes (previously of Rachel's)
posted by dng on Feb 22, 2013 - 4 comments

The Wind, 1928

"This is the story of a woman who came in to the domain of the wind." Vento e Areia (The Wind) is a silent film from 1928 with arresting visuals, and a haunting story line about a woman who travels to the windy, desolate prairie land in the middle of America. Via 100 Cinematic Moments.
posted by codacorolla on Dec 30, 2012 - 13 comments

As he whispers in my ear: "Tonight you will die as a Hitchcock starlet"

Before The Pleasure Garden (Alfred Hitchcock's directorial debut) was released in 1925, Hitchcock's worked on a numerous silent films as both an assistant director and an art director. Now recently recovered and restored footage from one of his oldest, long-lost films, 1924's The White Shadow, has been released online, and you can watch it now at Film Preservation. (Via io9). Running time: About 43 minutes.
posted by Mezentian on Nov 21, 2012 - 3 comments

The Preserved Silent Animation project, part of the UCLA Digital Library Program

"Although best-known for its restoration of feature films, UCLA Film & Television Archive has been preserving animated films for more than three decades, with over one hundred titles to its credit. The short subjects, trailers, and promotional films presented here provide a representative sampling of that work. They have been preserved from best-surviving and sole-surviving 35mm nitrate and 16mm prints, showcasing many forms of animation spanning the entire silent film era." The UCLA Preserved Silent Animation project, one of over 80 collections made available through the UCLA Digital Library Program.
posted by cog_nate on Aug 30, 2012 - 4 comments

The Man In The Silk Hat

For a time, Max Linder was considered the greatest of film comedians. Star of over 500 films (examples, 1, 2), inventor of the mirror gag, he was arguably the first film star. His life changed forever when he fought on the front lines in World War I, surviving three serious wounds, including a gas attack. Thereafter, he began bouts of depression. In 1925, he talked his new bride into a suicide pact, dying on Halloween. [more inside]
posted by dances_with_sneetches on Jul 3, 2012 - 11 comments

The Death of Poor Joe (1901) - earliest Dickens film, 1-min long

The earliest surviving Charles Dickens film, thought lost since 1954, has been re-found in the British Film Institute's archive. The Death of Poor Joe (YouTube HD, IMDB, Wikipedia), a one minute-long silent film based on an episode in Dickens' novel Bleak House, was filmed in 1901.
posted by stbalbach on Mar 11, 2012 - 8 comments

Paranormal cinematic experiments

"Over eighty percent of silent films are lost. I’ve always considered a lost film as a narrative with no known final resting place... It’s eventually occurred to me that the best way to see them would to make contact with their miserable spirits and invite them to possess me." Filmmaker Guy Maddin is summoning the ghosts of lost silents at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, with a cast including Udo Kier and Charlotte Rampling -- and streaming the results live on the web. [more inside]
posted by muckster on Feb 24, 2012 - 6 comments

Julius Neubronner: apothecary, inventor, and a pioneer of amateur film and (pigeon) photography

Julius Neubronner, born in Germany in 1852, was the son of Wilhelm Neubronner. Wilhelm carried on the family-run pharmacy and had introduced rapid medicine delivery by way of carrier pigeon (Google books). Julius continued the family practice, including pigeon-delivery. As a young boy, Julius was interested in the then-newly invented cameras, and his hobby and his career merged when a once-punctual pigeon took was waylaid a month. Interested to find the source of the delay, Julius placed a miniature camera on the pigeon to see where it went. The effort was successful, and he improved upon the design, patenting a panoramic pigeon-carried camera that resulted in novel photos. Julius is also distinguished as an early German experimenter in amateur silent film. His recordings, including daily life, historic events, and film magic, were restored in 1996 (Google Quickview; original PDF).
posted by filthy light thief on Jan 9, 2012 - 15 comments

Burton Holmes, Inventor of the Travelogue

The Burton Holmes Archive has information about Burton Holmes, the travel writer who became the first person to make filmic travelogues. More importantly, they also have a lot of film clips by Holmes and his associate, André de la Varre, who was also a great travelogue maker himself. Watching these clips is not quite time travel, but it is as close as we can get. Take a look at Reykjavík, Iceland, in 1926, Lake Michigan in 20s, Cairo in 1932 and the 1955 Rio de Janeiro carnival. The later films have sound and narration, but I prefer the silent ones. [Burton Holmes previously, André de la Varre previously, and the Travel Film Archive, which runs Burton Holmes site, previously]
posted by Kattullus on Oct 26, 2011 - 5 comments

Charley Bowers: the film genius no one's ever heard of

“Highbrow critics talk in ornate polysyllables about the ingenuity and art of the German filmmakers. If they condescended to witness the nonsensical genius of a Charley Bowers comedy they could drool dictionaries.” Educational Pictures Press Book for THERE IT IS, January 23, 1928
Charley Bowers is a genius of silent film and animation that never got the level of attention of his peers Buster Keaton or the Fleischer Brothers. You'll have to search hard to find him in film literature. But watching his work—as a bird lays a Ford Model T or a scruffy ghost tortures a Scotsman and his insect sidekick—you can see the inspiration for the later sight gags of Ernie Kovacs, the visual non sequiturs of Looney Toons, the cut paper trickery of Terry Gilliam and surrealist Andre Breton citing one of Bowers' shorts as the most influential film of 1937. [more inside]
posted by Gucky on Jul 10, 2011 - 18 comments

And so in Speedy's fancy, Chet Trask was tottering on his throne––

A handful of complete Harold Lloyd films on YouTube:
A Sailor-Made Man (1921)
Why Worry? (1923)
Safety Last (1923)
Girl Shy (1924)
The Freshman (1925)
From the splendid F*** Yeah Harold Lloyd
posted by shakespeherian on Jun 16, 2011 - 19 comments

An Extended Finnish Saturday Matinee

Finnish YouTube user Ishexan has uploaded seven English subtitled movies in parts: Broken Blossoms (1919), Aelita (1924), The Gipsy Charmer (1929), The Tragedy of Elina (1938), The Activists (1939), The Wooden Pauper's Bride (1944), and Sampo (1959), which is based on the epic poem The Kalevala. The films are mostly Finnish, though Aelita is a silent Russian sci-fi film, and Sampo was a joint Finnish and Soviet production. More film clips inside (mostly Finnish documentaries and "dorky musical numbers"). [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Apr 30, 2011 - 12 comments

Benshi

The benshi of Japan were live narrators of silent films. "To many 'silent' cinema fans in Japan, benshi were a major attraction. It was usually the film that drew people to the theater, but it was often the benshi which determined which theater a person would attend. Benshi were huge cultural stars of the time, with benshi earning as much, if not more, than many actors." [more inside]
posted by Paragon on Feb 27, 2011 - 17 comments

The Song is Ended, but the Melody Lingers On

Doris Eaton Travis, the last Ziegfeld Girl, has passed away at age 106. One of the last living links to the time of vaudeville and theatrical revues, Travis premiered the song Singin' in the Rain. She performed with the likes of Al Jolson and Irving Berlin, and hobnobbed with Babe Ruth and Henry Ford. Her career as a performer and entertainer lasted nearly 100 years... [more inside]
posted by Esteemed Offendi on May 12, 2010 - 27 comments

Alice in Wonderland (1903)

Alice in Wonderland (1903), directed by Cecil Hepworth and Percy Stow
posted by brundlefly on Feb 26, 2010 - 32 comments

For her, all seven deadly sins!

The Buenos Aires restoration of Metropolis streams today. (French|German) It's said that nearly an hour of footage, long thought to be lost, has been added.
posted by stoneweaver on Feb 12, 2010 - 48 comments

Georges Méliès, the Cinemagician

He invented or popularized a startling array of the fundamental elements of film: the dissolve, the fade-in and fade-out, slow motion, fast motion, stop motion, double exposures and multiple exposures, miniatures, the in-camera matte, time-lapse photography, color film (albeit hand-painted), artificial film lighting, production sketches and storyboards, and the whole idea of narrative film.
By 1897, in a studio of his own design and construction – the first complete movie studio – his hand forged virtually everything on his screen. Norman McLaren writes, "He was not only his own producer, ideas man, script writer, but he was his own set-builder, scene painter, choreographer, deviser of mechanical contrivances, special effects man, costume designer, model maker, actor, multiple actor, editor and distributor." Also, his own cinematographer, and the inventor of cameras to suit his special conceptions. Not even auteur directors such as Charles Chaplin, Orson Welles, John Cassavetes, and Stanley Kubrick would personally author so many aspects of their films."
Inside: 57 films by Georges Méliès, the Grandfather of Visual Effects. [more inside]
posted by Paragon on Feb 3, 2010 - 31 comments

Single Link Silent French Sureal Slapstick

Artheme Swallows his Clarinet is a rather bizarre short film from 1912. [more inside]
posted by hydrophonic on Jun 24, 2009 - 10 comments

"Shh! ...Did you hear that?"

"Did you hear a stalk of celery being cut? If you did, you understand the magic of the Foley Artist." A short film that is just too long about silent films from the previously mentioned podcast You Look Nice Today
posted by Del Far on Jan 8, 2009 - 19 comments

IMDB has movies and TV now

The IMDB is hosting movies and TV. If the expanding collection doesn't yet do it for you, there's always http://www.moviesfoundonline.com/, or, for your silent film needs, plain old youtube.
posted by StrikeTheViol on Sep 30, 2008 - 13 comments

The Head, the Hands, and the Heart

After 80 years, a complete version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis has been discovered in Buenos Aires. [more inside]
posted by Nathaniel W on Jul 2, 2008 - 81 comments

All I need to make a comedy is a park, a policeman and a pretty girl.

Charlie Chaplin Filter. [more inside]
posted by miss lynnster on May 26, 2008 - 22 comments

DW Griffith's Infamous Epic

D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation [previously] is now viewable in its entirety at YouTube. Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. Or at Internet Archive, if you prefer.
posted by flapjax at midnite on Apr 6, 2008 - 25 comments

Silent Film

Enjoy some silent film this week: Battleship Potemkin. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The General. The Immigrant. Haxan. Intolerance (1, 2, 3). Nosferatu.
posted by TrialByMedia on Dec 2, 2007 - 27 comments

"Look out! It's the evil Lord Vader!"

Silent Star Wars. (YouTube)
posted by fandango_matt on Jul 28, 2007 - 13 comments

Buster Keaton: Until he said 'cut' or was killed

Joseph Frank Keaton Jr. was born into vaudeville. He quickly became a popular and controversial part of his family's stage act; an act that had his father violently hurling the "disobedient" child across the stage into scenery, the orchestra pit, or even into the audience, only to see him emerge amazingly unharmed. After the boy took an unplanned and particularly clamorous fall down a hotel stairwell, an astonished Harry Houdini cried out to the parents, "What a buster your kid took!" And thus, as legend has it, did little Joseph Frank Keaton Jr. become Buster Keaton.

At 22, Keaton made his cinematic debut with mentor Fatty Arbuckle. Afterward, he immediately founded Buster Keaton Studios, releasing a series of brilliant short (and later longer) comedies. Dozens of these are freely available to stream or download at the Internet Archive, including Steamboat Bill Jr, Convict 13, The Electric House, and his seminal The General (alt), which, despite completely failing at the box office, would be later hailed by many as one of the greatest films of all time. [more inside]
posted by churl on Apr 25, 2007 - 58 comments

«The silent queen of all that is snowy and pure» (.pdf)

«The silent queen of all that is snowy and pure» (.pdf) I will never forget the first time I saw Giovanni Pastrone’s extraordinary Cabiria... I wasn’t quite prepared for the sheer scope and beauty of this film. And I was completely unprepared for having my sense of film history re-aligned. There are so many elements that we took for granted as American inventions – the long-form historical epic, the moving camera, diffused light. Suddenly, here they were in a picture made two years before Griffith’s Birth of a Nation. -- Martin Scorsese
It was the first film to be over three hours long, the first to use a moving camera, the first to cost 20 times the average cost of a motion picture; Pastrone took several elephants and hundreds of extras to the Alps, in the dead of winter, to film scenes that only lasted a couple of minutes onscreen. He hired an ex-dockworker and turned him into one of the first action movie heroes, Maciste. And, he also created the first international marketing campaign of the history of cinema. The Americans were so impressed that Cabiria became the first film to be ever shown on White House grounds. Last week, at the Cannes Film Festival, a beautiful, painstakingly restored version of this forgotten masterpiece has just been shown to the public.
posted by matteo on May 29, 2006 - 13 comments

The Unhappy Medium

The Unhappy Medium. If you like modern silent films like Doc Hammer's Rub, linked here previously, you may also enjoy the work of Chelsea Spear. Her Alphabet is a short about math, music and a precocious child, while The Unhappy Medium, set in the 1920's, is about spiritualism, fraud, adults and children. And some good news for the would-be filmmaker: Kodak still makes Super-8 film, and there are plenty of cameras both old and new available.
posted by box on Feb 6, 2005 - 6 comments

Rub

When little girls rub their eyes, the face of the man to whom they're destined will become visible in the swirling eddy of light. (a short film from Doc Hammer of Venture Bros. fame)
posted by buriednexttoyou on Dec 18, 2004 - 26 comments

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