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Kyle Kersten was a true friend of TCM. One of the first and most active participants of the Message Boards, “Kyle in Hollywood” (aka, hlywdkjk) demonstrated a depth of knowledge and largesse of spirit that made him one of the most popular and respected voices in these forums. This thread is a living memorial to his life and love of movies, which remain with us still.

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Recently Watched Silents


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#121 LawrenceA

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 04:17 PM

The Monster (1925) - Early "Old Dark House" comedy-horror-thriller from director Roland West. After noted citizen Luke Watson goes missing following a mysterious car crash, his plucky daughter Betty (Gertrude Olmstead) and two of Watson's clerks (Hallam Cooley and Johnny Arthur) decide to investigate at the scary mental hospital nearby. They find the devilish Dr. Ziska (Lon Chaney) who plans on using living human subjects in his surgical experiments. Our heroes bumble and stumble their way around the hospital's many corridors and secret rooms in hopes of escape. Also featuring Charles Sellon, Walter James, Frank Austin, Edward McWade, and Knute Erickson as Daffy Dan.

 

Johnny Arthur, a longtime character actor in the years after this, is amusing as the meek clerk who is also a would-be detective. Chaney gets to act with less makeup than usual, and he also gets to ham it up with glee. Olmstead also makes for a fetching heroine. If you've seen many of the "Old Dark House" types of films that came after this, you won't really find anything too unexpected here, but I found it enjoyable despite its familiarity.   7/10

 

Source: TCM

 

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#122 LawrenceA

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 01:29 PM

Little Annie Rooney (1925) - Schmaltzy comedy-drama written by and starring Mary Pickford, with direction by William Beaudine. Pickford plays the title role, a young girl who runs with a gang of innocently delinquent kids in the Bowery area. Her older brother Tim (Gordon Griffith) runs with the older boys who are little more than gangsters. Annie's beloved pa (Walter James) is a beat cop who is liked and respected by the multi-ethnic immigrant community. When tragedy strikes, and Little Annie is devastated, things look like they may take an even darker turn in response. Also featuring William Haines, Carlo Schipa, Hugh Fay, Spec O'Donnell, and Vola Vale.

 

Pickford was 33 when she filmed this, still playing a juvenile. Her short stature, combined with larger sets and tall co-stars, help sell her casting. Pickford is very charming, as are many of the kids in her gang. Schipa was also good as the hot-tempered Tony. I enjoyed seeing the camaraderie between the disparate racial and immigrant population, among them Irish, Greek, Italian, Jewish, Chinese and black. Showing this kind of unity is especially touching in today's increased tribalism, nationalism, and anti-immigrant sentiment.   7/10

 

Source: TCM

 

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#123 LawrenceA

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Posted 04 August 2017 - 11:16 PM

Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life (1925) - Ethnographic documentary look at the nomadic Bakhtiari tribe of Eastern Turkey/Western Iran. Starting out in what is now Ankara, Turkey, the tribe and its livestock make a treacherous journey through desert, rocky terrain, raging rivers, and across snow-capped mountains to reach grazing land for the season. Co-directors Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack, and Marguerite Harrison became the first westerners to ever make the journey with the tribe, acquiring some amazing footage. I was particularly impressed with the river crossing sequence, where they used inflated goat skins as flotation devices, and the perilous climb up the mountain, their zig-zag trail an amazing sight from a distance. Cooper and Schoedsack, of King Kong fame, met making this film for the American Explorers Club, which they then sold to Paramount Pictures. A true landmark in the genre. Recommended.   8/10

 

Source: TCM

 

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#124 LawrenceA

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Posted 04 August 2017 - 10:00 PM

Chess Fever (1925) - Amusing short film from the Soviet Union and director Vsevolod Pudovkin. A young man (Vladimir Fogel) is obsessed with chess, as is everyone else in the city, it seems, much to the consternation of the hero's girlfriend (Anna Zemtsova). Featuring an appearance by real-life chess champion Jose Raul Capablanca.

 

The chess motif is carried over into the costumes and sets, with the chess board squares reappearing time and again. The editing is excellent, and the basic scenarios funny, particularly a bit with a lot of kittens. This showed more humor in its brief 28 minutes than in all of the other Soviet-era films that I've seen combined.   7/10

 

Source:  Kino DVD

 

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#125 LawrenceA

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Posted 04 August 2017 - 08:07 PM

The White Sister (1923) - High-drama romance from director Henry King. Lillian Gish stars as Angela Chiaromonte, a lovely young Italian girl who is devoted to her wealthy father (Charles Lane). Angela's jealous sister Marchesa (Gail Kane) not only resents the close relationship Angela has with their father, but also the attention Angela gets from the handsome Giovanni Severini (Ronald Colman). When tragedy strikes, Angela is brought low, but finds strength in her love for Giovanni, with whom she plans to get married. But Giovanni gets a military commission that sends him to Africa, where he's reportedly killed. The despondent Angela decides to become a nun, a White Sister, and to serve God and the Church. But when Giovanni returns, whom will Angela choose, her beloved or the Almighty? And why does the nearby Mount Vesuvius keep rumbling?

 

This is classic tearjerking romance. Gish excelled at playing saintly women in distress, and she gets to go all out here, with one stand-out histrionic scene. Colman looks young and dashing, and the sets are sumptuous. The last act disaster-movie scenes are well-handled, too. This was remade a decade later with Helen Hayes and Clark Gable in the leads.  7/10

 

Source:  TCM

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#126 LawrenceA

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Posted 04 August 2017 - 04:58 PM

Three Ages (1923) - Buster Keaton stars in and directed (along with Eddie Cline) this triptych look at love through the ages. We see the same performers in 3 eras, the Stone Age, the Roman Age, and the Modern Age. The young Hero (Keaton) is smitten with the Girl (Margaret Leahy) but has a rival in the Villain (Wallace Beery). Also featuring Joe Roberts, Lillian Lawrence, and Horace Morgan.

 

The Stone Age segment features a bit of stop-motion dinosaur action, while the Roman Age segment features some animal cruelty that drains the laughs from the proceedings (a live cat is tied to the end of a long pole and dangled in front of dogs to entice them to run). The Modern Age has some good stunt work.   7/10

 

Source: Kino DVD. Extras on the disc include an Alka-Seltzer commercial with Keaton, a segment from Candid Camera also featuring Keaton, and an excerpt from DW Griffith's 1912 short Man's Genesis that provided the inspiration for the Stone Age segment of the feature.

 

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#127 LawrenceA

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Posted 04 August 2017 - 02:26 PM

Oliver Twist (1922) - Frank Lloyd directed this showcase for young superstar Jackie Coogan, who plays the title orphan in this Charles Dickens adaptation. The oft-told tale follows the young lad from the orphanage/workhouse to his time working for pickpocket king the Artful Dodger (Edouard Trebaol) and crime boss Fagin (Lon Chaney). They all live in fear of tough-guy Bill Sikes (George Siegmann) and his dog. Also featuring James Marcus, Lewis Sargent, Joan Standing, Carl Stockdale, Taylor Graves, Lionel Belmore, and Gladys Brockwell.

 

By the far the shortest version of the story that I've seen, I can't say that I missed the excised fat from the later versions. Chaney doesn't get as much screen time as one would wish, but he still does his best with what he has. Coogan is an adorable kid, and doesn't have to do much to win over the audience.   7/10

 

Source: TCM

 

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#128 LawrenceA

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Posted 04 August 2017 - 12:44 PM

Four Around the Woman (1921) - One more German Fritz Lang movie, this time a drama about jealousy and infidelity. Florence (Carola Toelle) is married to Harry Yquem (Ludwig Hartau), a wealthy "broker" with ties to the post-war underworld. He becomes convinced that his wife has had or is having an affair. Also featuring Hermann Bottcher, Lilli Lohrer, Anton Edthofer, and Rudolf Klein-Rogge.

 

There are a lot of characters to keep up with, some of whom are played by the same person, and others who switch back and forth with disguises, so things can get a bit confusing if you're not paying strict attention. The criminal underworld is well depicted, and hints at future Lang masterpieces like the Mabuse films, or M. I would only recommend this for Lang completeists, though     6/10

 

Source: Kino DVD

 

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#129 LawrenceA

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 10:39 PM

Ducks & Drakes (1921) - Lightweight romantic comedy that works on the strength of the performers' charm. Mischievous young lady Teddy Simpson (Bebe Daniels) likes to spend money and act wild with her friends. She also has a game where she randomly dials phone numbers, and if a man answers, she flirts mercilessly with them. All of this, despite being engaged to Rob Winslow (Jack Holt). When Rob's had enough of Teddy's ways, he devises a plan to set her straight once and for all. Also featuring Mayme Kelso, Edward Martindel, W.E. Lawrence, and Wade Boteler.

 

This is minor fluff, but it's amusing, and well executed. Daniels is very good, and one can see how this helped establish her as a grown star after years of juvenile and teen roles. Holt, best known for Westerns, does a good job in city slicker's clothes. This was restored with the efforts of one of our message board regulars, and I can't thank him enough.   7/10

 

Source: TCM

 

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#130 LawrenceA

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 09:25 PM

Destiny (1921) - German fantasy portmanteau film written and directed by Fritz Lang. The movie is comprised of four tales of doomed romance, one set in a German village, one in Arabian Nights-style Middle East, one in Renaissance Venice, and the last in China. Many of the same performers return, with Lil Dagover and Walter Janssen as the doomed lovers in each story. Other cast members include Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Bernhard Goetze, Karl Huszar, and Paul Biensteldt.

 

The first story, in which Death himself (a suitably imposing Goetze) takes human form and builds a mysterious walled dominion next to the town cemetery, was probably my favorite of the lot. The last tale, set in China, features an old wizard with a flying carpet and a few other magic tricks. Some of the segments have Expressionistic designs, while others don't. The sets and costumes are very good, and Dagover is excellent.   7/10

 

Source: Kino Blu-Ray

 

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#131 LawrenceA

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 07:20 PM

The Wandering Shadow (1920) - Silly German melodrama from director Fritz Lang. Irmgard (Mia May) heads into the Alps to do some soul-searching. She's followed by a man (Hans Marr) claiming to be her husband, although she says that her husband is dead. She's also pursued by her husband's cousin Wil (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), who just happened to be on the same train headed for the Alps as Irmgard. How everyone got to this point is revealed in the film's second half, as is the identity of the mysterious, lonely shepherd living on the mountain. 

 

The Alpine scenery is nice, and there are a couple of nice cinematographic shots, but the story is ludicrous, and the film drags, despite only being slightly over an hour. It was odd seeing Klein-Rogge in a sympathetic role, shortly before gaining fame as the screen's great super-villain, Dr. Mabuse.   6/10

 

Source: Kino DVD.

 

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#132 LawrenceA

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 06:01 PM

The Penalty (1920) - Classic bizarre Lon Chaney crime drama. After his legs are wrongfully amputated while still a child, Blizzard (Chaney) grows up bitter and filled with rage, becoming a top crime boss of the city. His elaborate plan for revenge against the world is a secret, though, so police send an undercover agent (Ethel Grey Terry) to try and learn the details. Blizzard also falls for a beautiful sculptress (Doris Pawn) who uses Blizzard's countenance for her statue of Satan! Also featuring James Mason (not that one), Milton Ross, and Claire Adams.

 

Chaney painfully tied his legs up and walked around on his knees to produce the effect of him being an amputee. This movie helped cement his reputation as one of the best actors in the business. I thought it was very lively, entertaining and unpredictable. The strange score used for the broadcast added to the sense of unease, but I imagine it won't be to all tastes. Recommended.   8/10

 

Source:  TCM.

 

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#133 LawrenceA

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 05:54 PM

The Golem (1920) - German horror/fantasy set in Prague. The Rabbi Low uses cabbalistic magic to create the Golem, a being made of clay and brought to life using a sacred, secret word. The creation is played by Paul Wegener, who also directed. The movie has great sets and camera work, and a few moments of genuine dread, such as when a demon is summoned in order the ascertain the secret word needed to bring the Golem to life. This story has been viewed as anti-Semitic by some, and it's hard to dismiss the time and place when the movie was made, but the artistry involved is admirable.   7/10

 

Source: Kino DVD.

 

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#134 LawrenceA

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 05:50 PM

Harakiri (1919) - Early Fritz Lang, here adapting Madame Butterfly. The German performers playing Japanese don't put much into the ethnic change, simply adopting appropriate costumes. A couple of leads wear terrible, ill-fitting bald caps. Lil Dagover, as the female lead, is good.   5/10

 

Source: Kino DVD.

 

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#135 LawrenceA

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Posted 02 August 2017 - 11:59 PM

Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914) - First feature length comedy, based on the stage hit and brought to the screen by Mack Sennett. Tillie (Marie Dressler, in her debut) is homely farm girl who stands to inherit a lot of money from her millionaire uncle. This fact is learned by a slick Stranger (Charlie Chaplin) who proceeds to woo Tillie to get to her money. The Stranger's Girlfriend (Mabel Normand) is too jealous not to get involved, complicating matters. Also featuring Mack Swain, Charles Bennett, Chester Conklin, Charley Chase, Edgar Kennedy, Charles Murray, Slim Summerville, Al St. John, and the Keystone Kops.

 

There are a lot of pratfalls, and a lot of shin kicking, but Sennett's sense of cinematic rhythm and camera placement help this rise above the typical slapstick fare of the time. Chaplin's a lot of fun in a non-Tramp role, playing a sleaze to perfection. Dressler goes big, and steals most of her scenes with her more seasoned co-stars. I like how everyone takes a curtain bow at the end.   7/10

 

Source: TCM

 

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#136 LawrenceA

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Posted 02 August 2017 - 10:12 PM

The Squaw Man (1914) - The directing debut of Cecil B. DeMille and the first feature-length movie made in Los Angeles. A British former soldier named James (Dustin Farnum) is blamed when a lot of money is embezzled from the military widows and orphans fund. It was actually James's cousin Henry (Monroe Salisbury), but James gets the blame and goes on the run to the US, while Henry inherits an ancestral title and becomes nobility. James ends up in Wyoming, where he buys a ranch, falls for native girl Nat-U-Rich (Lillian St. Cyr), and runs into trouble with local bad guy Cash Hawkins (William Elmer). Also featuring Winifred Kingston, Baby Carmen De Rue, Joseph Singleton, Raymond Hatton, and Hal Roach.

 

This is as creaky as one would expect, with primitive filming techniques (most scenes are framed like a stage play, and are usually one continuous shot), and wild pantomime acting. Farnum and St. Cyr are a bit thicker in the middle than most screen stars. My favorite moments include one scene where someone falls off the side of a mountain (a bad dummy is used to humorous effect) and the people who rush to help him do so by rubbing his hands; a scene in which our hero is overcome by the poisonous gases of the "Death Hole"; and a scene where a small child is placed on a horse, given a pistol, and then urged to shoot, which the kid does, seemingly into the back of the horse's head (thank goodness for blanks).   6/10

 

Source: TCM

 

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