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3851 reviews in total 
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Early Powers Drama, 20 October 2016

Isabel Rea is dead broke and about to be thrown out of her rooming house, when Edwin August offers her a job in his toy shop. Later, she inherits a lot of money and leaves. When August falls ill, will she be there for him? The copy of this short film that has been posted to the Eye Institute site on Youtube is in very poor shape, with lots of decomposition and several sections replaced by a series of still. That, alas, inevitably affects the impact of a movie. In addition, the films issued by Pat Powers in this era (distributed by IMP, later Universal) are generally very simple in their story lines, but are more distinguished by the acting.

The simple, rather obvious story of this one is not very telling, but there aren't many of Powers' productions from this era surviving, and this, along with the two or three others (all comedies) I have seen, are interesting for their rarity.

Hanging With Mr. Bunny, 20 October 2016

A rustic out in the wilds of Brooklyn comes across John Bunny with a rope, preparing to hang himself. Instead of trying to stop him, he rushes back to town so that everyone can come and witness this event in this Vitagraph split reel comedy.

This movie is actually an amusing minor variation on an early Max Linder movie, LE PENDU(1906). The Picwickian Bunny (usually with the leading supporting player in this film, Flora Finch) Vitagraph's leading comic star until his death in 1915; in an era when most studios hid their players' names lest they demand more money, Vitagraph put Bunny's name in the movie's title.

A copy of this movie has been posted to the Eye Institute site on Youtube.

For Sentimental Adults, 19 October 2016

Toddler Buster Johnson falls asleep. He dreams that that he is at a tea party with other toddlers and that his rival, Brooks McCloskey, and some other children dressed up as cowboys, have kidnapped him and his girl friend Henrietta O'Beck.

It's the sort of movie that would likely appeal to adults who think of children as living in some sort of child world. I can't speak for others, but that wasn't the impression I had. When I dreamed, I dreamed about a world in which I was a child and there were adults. As a result, I find this far too sentimental to give it a good rating.

Buster Johnson (real name: Roswell Johnson) was Mary Pickford's godson. He had a bit of a career as a child actor for Lubin. Even then, connections helped you get a job.

A copy of this film has been posted on the Eye Institute site on Youtube.

A Casual Attitude Towards Crime, 19 October 2016

When his father brings home a stepmother for him, ten-year-old Raymond Hackett doesn't like her. A year later, when she gives birth to a sibling, he has learned to accept the situation. However, the baby dies and his stepmother reacts terribly. Raymond comes up with a plan in this Lubin short subject.

Raymond Hackett was already a show business professional. He had a Broadway credit from 1907, when he was five. He gives a broad performance here, and despite the page boy haircut, he's pretty good in the role, although the adults' reactions to the events of the second part of this movie seem pretty odd to me.

Hackett's film career would run into the early 1930s: a good run for a child actor, since many of them lose their followings when they no longer can play children. If you wish to see this movie, a copy has been posted to the Eye Institute site on Youtube.

Gunsmoke, 18 October 2016

There is a civil war going on in Mexico. Two men on opposite sides help each other escape from their own forces, because they are Americans in this visually excellent but muddled short film from Kalem.

There is some interesting work in terms of composition in this movie; window frames and clouds of smoke from guns redefine the size and shape of the screen constantly throughout this movie, but it is as if that same obscuring smoke obscures the story; there is an enormous amount of exposition through titles throughout this picture. That inability to tell the story purely through images makes this a failure as a motion picture.

A copy of this film has been posted to the Eye Institute site on Youtube.

The Craven (1912)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A Woman's Work is Never Done, 18 October 2016

Anne Schaeffer marries dude Robert Thornby, who becomes sheriff. However, when he must go after a murderer, he doesn't have the nerve, so it's up to Anne to strap on the gun belt and mount up in this Vitagraph short western.

It's a good story, with some nice sequences in it, but even at the (to the modern eye) brisk pace of action in movies of this era, there are moments of draggy obscurity. For most of its length, it maintains a nicely humorous tone, even during the shootouts and Miss Schaeffer's unhappy musings on her life choices.

Rolin Sturgeon's western unit for Vitagraph was fairly prolific and a lot of the standard visual tropes of westerns were set there, rather than the more popular "Broncho Billy" westerns from Essanay. If you wish, you can see them for yourself in the copy posted on the Eye Institute site on Youtube.

A Good Cops-Against-the-Counterfeiters movie, 17 October 2016

Edgar Jones is a U.S. Marshall out west to crack down on a ring of counterfeiters. He meets and falls in love with Clara Williams, who turns out to be the daughter of the ringleader in this good Lubin short film.

Although Lubin's films were usually very conservative in their adoption of techniques, this one is right up there with the other films of the era, particularly in the editing department. It's cut fast in the more exciting films and adds a good deal to a genre that was already old; cops fighting counterfeiters had been a frequent topic of films for ten years at this point.

Actress Clara Williams is best remembered for her role in 1915's THE Italian and as the ingenue in several William S. Hart movies. She would retire shortly thereafter to private life.

A good copy of the film has been posted on the Eye Institute site on Youtube.

As I Lay Dying, 17 October 2016

With his friend dying, Hobart Bosworth takes his opportunity to steal the man's goods. Once that happens, though, he begins to imagine he is being watched in this well-performed short film from Selig Polyscope.

Bosworth became a film actor when ill health forced him off the stage. He became one of the earliest star-directors of the cinema, and released his films, first through Selig and later through Paramount. After the end of his starring career, he continued as a busy character actor through his death in the 1940s. He adapted well to changing styles of story and performances. With this early one, we can see him emoting fit for the stage. He would soon learn that the camera could see deeper into a performer's thoughts with its own techniques.

No Waiting, 16 October 2016

William Wadsworth hires Charles Ogle as another waiter in his restaurant. Mr. Ogle is a tough, more interested in juggling plates than in serving meals in this split-reel comedy from Edison.

Ogle is best remembered for being the first actor to play Frankenstein's Monster on screen, which he had done for Edison in 1910. In a film career that stretched to the end of the silent era, he played a great variety of roles, in more than three hundred movies. Here, acting like a Bowery tough, he comes up with a fine number of variations on crockery destruction.

A copy of this movie has been uploaded to the Eye Institute site on Youtube.

Jack Clark: Boy Spy, 16 October 2016

J.J. Clark is a Union spy during the Civil War. On a mission, he and Gene Gauntier fall in love. When Clark's mission is discovered and he is imprisoned by the Rebel army, what will Miss Gauntier do in this Kalem short film? Gene Gauntier, at this point, had played "The Girl Spy" in several movies, a woman in crinolines always ready to switch to trousers to serve the Cause. In this one, she is cast more conventionally and acquits herself well, even if the Confederate army can't seem to understand how to hold a prisoner. Possibly this is intended to appease Northern sentiments, since the assumption among film makers in this era was that to mock the Confederacy would lose a lot of bookings in the South. Clark himself seems to saunter through most of the role.

A good copy of this film has been posted to the Eye Institute site on Youtube.

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