Why-Do-They-Do-It
February 8, 2020 1:17 PM   Subscribe

THIS is YOUR Department. Jump right in with your contribution. What have you seen, in the past month, which was stupid, unlifelike, ridiculous or merely incongruous? Do not generalize; confine your remarks to specific instances of absurdities in pictures you have seen. Your observation will be listed among the indictments of carelessness on the part of the actor, author or director.
As we know, nitpicking movie mistakes is not a new hobby and Photoplay Magazine had an entire feature that published the snarky letters of sharp-eyed moviegoers. Let’s take a look at February of 1920. Here Are the Tropes, Cliches and Sloppy Mistakes that Annoyed Moviegoers 100 Years Ago
posted by Ten Cold Hot Dogs (14 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
Delightful!
posted by crush at 1:55 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


This is great! How easily our own movie complaints would fit in with this set!

- The ladies on the island have been shipwrecked without any supplies for weeks, have begun to devour each other for food, and yet every lass has smoothly shaved armpits with nary a stubble even as her limbs are torn apart by her hungry sisters.

- The gentleman is an occasionally-employed actor in Manhattan, but his apartment has three full rooms and a bath, leaving one to wonder whether he pays the rent on money or blackmail.

- She undresses and performs an elaborate pre-bed toilet but as she lays her pretty head on the silken pillow, her lipstick, rouge, and why, even her false lashes are still on!
posted by MiraK at 2:17 PM on February 8 [7 favorites]


OK, I snickered at the one about the plate rail. My parents' home is near LA, they have a plate rail, and there's a reason that nothing has ever been on it.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:21 PM on February 8 [6 favorites]


I was totally going to make a post of these and somehow never did it.
posted by octothorpe at 2:43 PM on February 8


joey is the largest, but does not simply eat the other friends!
posted by dismas at 3:46 PM on February 8 [14 favorites]


jfc, thank you so much for posting this.
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 4:35 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Fun read! So sad that so many early movies have been lost to time. Unfortunately, a lot of stuff was recorded on nitrate film which was highly volatile and could auto-ignite. Or some movies just went missing or were thrown away for one reason or another.
posted by acidnova at 5:20 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


It looks like it's a monthly feature so there's more of them.
posted by RobotHero at 6:13 PM on February 8 [4 favorites]


acidnova: "Fun read! So sad that so many early movies have been lost to time. Unfortunately, a lot of stuff was recorded on nitrate film which was highly volatile and could auto-ignite. Or some movies just went missing or were thrown away for one reason or another."

80% - 90% of silent films are gone. Once talkies hit, the studios couldn't exhibit them anymore so they just tossed them.
posted by octothorpe at 9:33 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


It's oddly comforting to know that people have always been fussy about make-believe.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:21 AM on February 9 [2 favorites]


The taxi-driver who took the singer home in “The Cabaret Girl” accepted tip nor fare neither on starting his trip or upon ending it. And gasoline so expensive too!

I was surprised by this, but as it turns out, neither gas prices nor vehicle mileage per gallon are much different now than they were 100 years ago. Inflation adjusted gas prices in 1920 were around $3.50/gallon, with vehicles getting around 20mpg.
posted by phoenixy at 4:31 PM on February 9


Great post! I loooove this kind of stuff, hearing from the actual audiences from way back in the day. It's too common I think to make assumptions about historical audiences purely from the content of the films, but nice to be reminded that there were just as many people criticizing movies then as there are today.

And the blog post author following up each movie with the latest evidence on its whereabouts is excellent icing on the cake.

Thanks for linking to the recurring feature, RobotHero! I'm definitely reading more.
posted by theatro at 5:37 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


From the June 2019 edition:

Falsifying False Faces
Having just seen Henry Walthall in “False Faces” I would like to ask:
Since when do they carry life preservers on the boat deck and not in the cabin?
Since when does an officer go into the crow’s nest, and if he does see a sub, why not use the phone to the bridge instead of the megaphone?
Why does a ship of that size run with lights blazing in the war zone and portholes uncovered?
Why does the. submarine come straight up to pick up Lone Wolf? They always come up under headway by use of the horizontal rudders.
What kind of submarine uses a large wooden wheel to steer with?
How does the helmsman steer without compass or binnacle?
How does — but that’s enough for now.

A. W. 0. L., Boston

From a movie called The False Faces, which is apparently still available.
posted by Emmy Rae at 6:44 PM on February 10


From May 2019:
A Healthful Basement

Geraldine Farrar in “The Hell Cat” has a scrap with a cow puncher and gels her face clawed up. She has a large scar on her chin when the cow puncher puts her down a cellar when the sheriff calls. The sheriff’s call is very brief, say five minutes. Geraldine is then let out of the cellar and the scar is gone. Some health resort this cellar.
-Sam Browne. Los Angeles.

"Some health resort this cellar." LOL
posted by Emmy Rae at 6:49 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


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