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6/10
There Will Be No Card Playing
18 November 2018
The Joneses -- John Cumpson and Florence Lawrence -- have about ten friends gather for a card party. While the guests are dancing, Mr.Cumpson tears his trousers. When they disappear into the bedroom to repair the pants, the guests insist on knowing what has happened to their host and hostess.

Fat and balding John Cumpson was Griffith star comic actor. In 1910, he left the Master for Edison, where he was, presumably paid more; his place as the company's comic was soon taken by Billy Quirk, who was much given to playing to the audience and breaking up the other actors. Miss Lawrence likewise departed Biographm going to IMP (which evolved into the modern Universal), She rose much higher, becoming the first movie star, being credited with her appearances.

The Jones comedies were popular enough that Griffith made almost a dozen of them with his performers, All but one has 'Jones' in the title.
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7/10
The Vivaphone
18 November 2018
Harry Buss sings the title song while a chorus of beauties prance around him in this late Vivaphone production.

Vivaphone was Hepworth's entry in the attempt to make sound films. It competed at the time, with the Edison Kinetophone and Gaumont's Chronophone --they liked their fancy names back then. All were sound-on-disk. Hepworth patented his system in 1905 or 1906. Because of the production methods of the Vivaphone shorts, director Hay Plumb was able to achieve scene changes and even movement within the frame, something that the competitors' immobile sound equipment made impossible. This was managed by using pre-recorded disk and having Mr. Buss mime to it.

"The Rollicking Rajah" is sung rapidly as a patter song. Mr. Buss wears blackface. If you have an insurmountable problem with either, beware!
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6/10
Brrr!
18 November 2018
Men walk through the snowy streets of Boston, bundled against the cold: except for one man, who is very happy dressed only in shorts. He is joined by other men in shorts. They do calisthenics. They go ice skating and knock off the hats of the fully dressed. They finally, head out to the icy where they happily jump into the cold, cold water in this terrifying short shot by Billy Bitzer.

When I was 12, one of my elderly relatives was a Polar Bear -- those people who go out to Coney Island on the coldest days in February and into the ocean. He took me with him once, saying it would make a man of me. We disrobed and ran into the water. Then, as quickly as I could, I ran back onto the beach, seeking some protection against the wind while I got my clothes back on. He and his crazy friends laughed at me.
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6/10
Redemption
18 November 2018
The copy of of this movie that I just looked at wasn't in great shape -- there's sprocket damage throughout and a lot of decomposition in the last few minutes of the print -- but Robert Israel's sentimental score was, as usual, spot on.

Harry Holden runs the threadbare End of the Trail Mission in the poorest neighborhood in town. He has called together a congregation of the weary and worn out. Among them, Wanda Hawley, clouted and tossed out by the an she thought was her husband, and dapper Norman Kerry, lured by Miss Hawley's hymn singing. Kerry is a clubman whose income is provided by provided by burglary. Impelled by his feeling for Miss Hawley, and the earnestness of Holden, he provides funds for the mission. When one of the nicest members of the congregation, Bert Woodruff, is knocked down by a speeding car, Kerry goes on a job to raise funds for Woodruff's care -- and is ratted out by David Kirby.

The movie's blatant sentimentality is hard to overcome -- were Miss Hawley less beautiful, would Kerry's erratic redemption have taken place? However director Emmet J. Flynn offers a view of the broken down that excuses the conventional story, and also an excitingly shot action sequence with interesting camera angles.

It's unlikely this movie would have been made available were it not for the presence of Rudolph Valentino in a small, uncredited role as a member of the Mission, but if that's what it took to get this film mostly restored and available, that's fine. The vast majority of silent features is unavailable. It's good to see any from this period, when vinema was about to enter the fascinating 1920s, and particularly this one directed by Mr. Flynn. the only other movie of his I have seen in the 1922 MONTE CRISTO, where he also showed a sure hand in directing his actors.
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4/10
Whip Wilson Is Getting Fat
17 November 2018
Whip Wilson and Rand Brooks are surveying a valley for a railroad line. Peggy Stewart, who runs most of the valley, doesn't want the railroad, since it would mean the locals would be able to ship their cattle and trade with outsiders at better rates. Noel Neill is there to play Miss Stewart's good sister and for Brooks to ogle.

It's a good story and Lewis Collins directs with his usual efficiency; as usual, Whip Wilson is pretty bad. Not only is he incapable of delivering a line with any authority. He's grown a bit fat in this movie, and moves poorly except on horseback.Collins seems to have compensated for his inability to speak while moving by having everyone but Brooks stand still while talking.

Lewis Collins started out as a stage director. By the 1920s, he was in Hollywood, writing and directing shorts, B movies and even a serial or two along the way. He directed more than a hundred features and died, age 55, in 1954.
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5/10
Lunatics of All Types
17 November 2018
Here's another industrial film about psychological disorders from Oklahoma. It is clearly intended to make people less terrified about mental disorders and their treatments.

Modern methods often differ vastly from the standards 65 years ago. There are a lot more outpatient programs, and many mental illnesses are treatable by medicine. In truth, the standards of treatment in 1953 had shown enormous changes from earlier eras; many people had a vision of psychiatric hospitals based on standards centuries out of date, when mad people were placed in Bedlam and exhibited to the public like animals in a zoo. This movie emphasizes the pleasant, engaged methods, with only a brief mention of some of the harsher forms of treatment.
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4/10
So It Is
17 November 2018
Women ride horses as a man in a riding jacket and top hat look at them in this half-minute Edison short.

I looked at the 1903 reissue of this movie, and it wasn't a very good copy. The copy ranged from so dark as to be unwatchable to grey and poor contrast; despite most of the paper prints at the Library of Congress being printed on low-acid paper, the silver-salts that made the black areas is not the most stable compound in the world; neither, given that it was never expected that anyone would look at the print, let alone more than a century later, were they printed with such care as the film copies they sold for money.

It's directed by William Heisse, a frequent collaborator with James White, abot whom the less said, the better.
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6/10
A Man After My Own Heart
17 November 2018
Jack Charman mimes to a recording of his song, while a chorus of beauties dance behind him and attack him in this Hepworth Vivaphone production.

Vivaphone was Hepworth's patented sound-with-film method. Like the contemporary German, French and much later Vitaphone techniques, it used a sound-on-disc recording which the operator strove to keep synchronized with the film. The patent seems to have been issued in 1905 or 1906; a Vivaphone catalogue is known to have been issued in 1909, but seems to be lost; there is also some correspondence about a Vivaphone performance in Turkey in 1913.

Charman was a popular music hall performer of the era. I think he looks like Franklin Pangborn.
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6/10
Let the Classes Unite!
16 November 2018
Shy Aleksandra Rebikova comes to a small village and is assigned to teaching adults to read and write. Her rowdy pupils distress her, particularly surly Vladimir Mayakovsky, who hands in a classroom assignment with the words "I love you." Believing herself mocked, she tears it up. He stops coming to class, but when they meet in the street, he tries some rough wooing. Her other students come to appreciate her efforts and respect her, The men gang up and beat Mayakovsky to a pulp.

Mayakovsky not only stars, he co-directed and co-wrote the script; although he died in 1930, only 36, he was a playwright whose works were being turned into movies as late as 1977.

In western movies of this sort, the usual course of events would be that the crude peasant would study hard and prove himself worthy of the young lady's love. Mayakovsky's work urges the intelligentsia to make the effort to understand and succor and yes, love their bottom-class students on their own terms.
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College Humor (1933)
6/10
Sex and Football
16 November 2018
With a title based on the popular magazine founded in 1920, COLLEGE HUMOR is a major ensemble piece with the rapidly rising Bing Crosby singing several songs. The plot, such as it is, concerns Mary Carlisle (in the first of three pairings with Der Bingle) pursuing professor Crosby, with him much in favor of the idea and football player Richard Arlen unhappy over the couple. Jack Oakie is Carlisle's brother, on the varsity team and paired with Mary Kornman. Burns & Allen are also around for laughs and singing.

Paramount was still unsure about how to deal with Crosby, and of his three musical numbers, two are elaborately shot production numbers and the romantic "Moon Struck" is staged to feature Miss Carlisle's figure. Cinematographer Leo Tover uses a lot of back-lit high lighting.

Looking back 85 years, it's a sentimental and stereotypical college musical of the era, in which academia is all about sex and football, but director Wesley Ruggles directs as if these are the important things about college. The result is a very amusing bit of fluff.
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6/10
Collaboration
16 November 2018
Elmer Booth and pal Charles Gorman commit yet another crime, and adopted brother Robert Harron turns them over to the police. Then they escape from prison, vowing vengeance.

It's Christy Cabanne's third movie as director, and D.W. Griffith is credited as the co-director. What does that mean in this context, when Griffith was supervising all of Biograph's production? Did he direct part of the movie and Cabanne the rest? Did he retake some scenes, or did Cabanne? Did Cabanne act as second unit director before the term was coined? Did their bosses decide that it looked better for the trade papers if Griffith was credited as director?

I can't tell anything from looking at the movie. It looks like the standard Biograph product at the time, with fine camerawork and performances. The story is a little corny, but not particularly so for the Victorian-minded Griffith, even if Cabanne was the writer.

There's an almost automatic tendency to downgrade all of Cabanne's efforts, based on his Poverty Row westerns made on non-existent budgets. However, well into the sound era, whenever he was given any money, or even a good actor down on his luck, he could turn out something interesting.
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6/10
The Missionary's Father
16 November 2018
Ray Collins is looking forward to his son, John Bryant, graduating from engineering school. He expects to take him into his partnership. Bryant, however, says that he wants to become a minister. Despite his father's arguments, he does so, is sent as a missionary to New Guinea, and marries Angie Dickinson.

It's hard for me to determine the exact provenance of this movie, with its script by Herbert Moulton, but it's clearly intended as a call to dedication to Christian principles. Although the production looks like little more than a cheap TV drama, it has some impressive talent in its cast and crew. Moulton had whom two writing Oscars for short subjects; Collins, in his final big-screen role (although he would continue for the next five years in William Talman's futile quest to win a case against Raymond Burr's Perry Mason) is fine; Angie Dickinson is appropriately button-down for a minister's wife.

I have remarked in other reviews that faith is a closed book to me. However, I can recognize a well-told story. For those with a real Christian faith, this is a telling work.
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5/10
Compilation
15 November 2018
Here's a compilation of dancers at their work. It features Ted Shawn and the company of which he was a leading artist would soon evolve into the Denishawn troupe, one of the wellsprings of modern dance. It seems that there was extensive footage and it was cut into a surrounding frame, like a cameo in a brooch, of a modern (by 1913 standards) audience watching the dancers.

It's a well done, if not particularly demanding effort for 1913 in terms of editing. It it holds any particular excellence or importance, it's as that historical record of the era's dance. I think that's the case, and because of that, and because it's more interested in this different art form than film, it is a not particularly good movie.
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6/10
Illusion and Reality
14 November 2018
You know as soon as he shows up that Lowell Sherman is a suave rotter. It was his signature role in the movies, and had been since he played the City Slicker in Griffith's WAY DOWN EAST. When a worker saves Florence Vidor from being crushed by a falling girder and she faints in his arms, Sherman steps from a saloon car and pushes him aside. He takes on the heroic role himself as an entree into Florence's world of of a touring Russian vaudeville troupe and, he hopes, her.

There are complications to his quest: the loyalty of the closed world of the troupe, and the doglike love of Clive Brook, the troupe's magician. Of course, she loves him -- like a brother -- and is fascinated by the debonair Sherman.

It's a movie about illusion and the revelation of the realities behind them. Brooks throws knives at Miss Vidor, without endangering her; he turns her into a butterfly floating through the theater; he makes her vanish from one spot and appear in another; he escapes from water traps.... until he doesn't, and reality is revealed.

William Wellman was coming off a string of unsuccessful movies, and other people who talk and write about his films think this one about a small world and intruders is the first stirring of his auctorial voice. I think he was assigned a project and discovered he liked its themes. He would return to it again and again, a theatrical world that outsiders just don't understand, in movies like A STAR IS BORN, LADY OF BURLESQUE and BUFFALO BILL: tough, bitter and mocking tales about how people protect their own.

He certainly shows us the community. The shots of the troupe in performance are close-ups or shot from the wings. The clear implication is that outsiders don't see what's going on. It's stage illusion (or perhaps movie illusion), and unless you're part of the troupe, you never see the reality.
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6/10
Let's Go Surfing Now
14 November 2018
Robert C. Bruce takes his cameras to Waikiki to show us the still unfamiliar sport of surfboarding, as practiced by two enthusiastic young men and one small dog.

Bruce (1887-1948) was the father of another Robert C. Bruce. From 1916 through the end of the silent era, he filmed many travelogues of local oddities, from hoboes riding the rails to efforts like this, often under the title of "Scenic Novelties". His shorts were distributed through Educational Pictures and they were very popular, not only for their exotic lcations and stories, but for his very interesting camerawork. In this one, he seems to hav set his camera not only near enough the shore be spattered by sea spray, but in other shots to be trailing inches behind his surfers, with a rock-steady composition.

With the end of the silent era, he went over to Paramount, where he filmed a wide variety of short subjects,
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5/10
The Adoration
13 November 2018
This Edison movie was directed fairly late in his career there by Edwin S. Porter. It covers the birth of Jesus, with the Annunciation, the trip to Bethlehem, the shepherds and finally the Wise Men showing up. It's fairly elaborately cast, with a lot of extras in costume filling out the streets of the city.

It's an example of the Illustrated Text style of movie-making; although that would gradually fall out of fashion, it remained in use, for almost a decade more, for Biblical stories and epics.

Most of the titles in the print I saw were phrased in the present tense -- with Italian titles beneath. Thus: "By order of the Emperor, every person must go to their native town to register for the census". However, the titles for the Annunciation and the Magi are given in the past tense, as if quoting the Bible. Edison films were generally sparse on titles, relying on action to offer their stories.

The production as a whole looks like a school nativity play with adults.
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6/10
From the Bible
13 November 2018
This is the story, drawn from Genesis, of how G*d commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his only son.

Henri Andréani was born in 1877 and, apart from the information on his IMDb page, almost nothing is known of his life. He became a director for Pathe in 1908, turned out about a dozen Biblical films amidst a total of of about 45. He acted in ESTHER (1913) and drew his cast -- for the Biblical pieces -- from the Comedie Francaise, from which I surmise he was connected with that theater. He died in 1936, a few days shy of his 59th birthday.

This movie is a split-reel drama, and it's nicely tinted.
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6/10
Absalom, My Son
13 November 2018
The Bible story of the revolt of Absalom and his death following his lost battle with his father, King David, is covered in this two-reel short from director Henri Andréani .

When you mention the Comedie Francaise to me, I think of....well, comedy, usually performed on stage. This story gets its lead actors from that institution, although the large number of extras for the battle scenes was undoubtedly drawn from.... well, I don't know where Pathe got a large number of dress extras. Surely their use, as well as good costuming and sets shows they expected this to be a popular movie: if not theatrically, then for various aftermarkets, like churches and Sunday school.
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5/10
Sound In Film
13 November 2018
There were several attempts to make sound films before the ultimate success in the 1920s, led by the Warner Brothers' Vitaphone process and Fox's Movietone put the merger on the cinematic map. Even before his company had turned out a single releasable movie, Edison spoke about the matter. There's an Edison movie from the middle of the 1890s showing two men dancing next to a gramophone that was the result. From 1906 through at least 1910, producers in France and Germany turned out short musical novelties that were played in a few dedicated theaters. In 1913, Edison premiered the baroquely named Kinetophone, with about a dozen shorts,. This movie is the English effort, or at least one of them.

In December 1910, Charles Bignell's recording of the title song was released, and the following year, Hepworth released this movie, showing a comic scene in a courtroom, action timed to match the recording. It's a pleasant novelty effort, and doubtless the movie was shown with either a live singer and band performing, or perhaps the record was played.

It didn't take, but it shows the lively technical interest in talking pictures was continuous for almost a decade, a dozen years before other technical issues, like a sound system good enough to exhibit the efforts became available.
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5/10
The Comedie Francaise
13 November 2018
It's the Bible story of how David fought Goliath. Director Henri Andréani handled about a dozen of these over the course of his career, and so should probably be considered a specialist.... although he directed forty movies in total (mostly shorts) and was an Assistant Director to Abel Gance on the massive 1927 NAPOLEON.

The print I saw was handsomely stencil-colored, mostly green and yellow, but with occasional bits of blue. The most interesting thing about this movie is the casting, from the Comedie Francaise. David is played by Berthe Bovy, who was 23 at the time. She was married to Pierre Fresnay for a few years, acted occasionally in the movies through 1971, and died in 1977, age 90.

The role of Goliath is taken by Louis Ravet, also of the Comedie Francaise. He is obviously a big man, and his size is enlarged by a bit of forced perspective, placing him much closer to the camera than the rest of the cast.
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6/10
A Falsely-Accused-and-on-the-Run Movie.
13 November 2018
Derek Farr deserted from the British Army after four years of service and went underground. Now he is at the end of his rope, so he takes his service revolver to a pawn shop.... to pawn it. While he's standing there, two other men enter, knock out the owner and flee, killing a bobby as they go. Now Farr is really being pursued and he randomly stops Joan Hopkins... who agrees to help him.

There are definite noir elements in this movie, with discussion the estimated 20,000 deserters and some grimy cinematography by DP Wilkie Cooper, but that's about the limits of it. Otherwise, writer-director Lawrence Huntington has turned out a reasonably taut man-accused movie. Despite a decent story, the movie itself is curiously inert, with a lot of talk and not much movement.

Farr is clearly not wearing his hairpiece for this movie, an odd choice for a romantic lead type, but that, I suppose, it part of the noir aspect of it. Watch out for Laurence Harvey in his second screen appearance, playing a detective. He's only mildly creepy in this one.
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4/10
Cutdown Version Doesn't Have Much Fun
12 November 2018
When bored American billionaire Charles Vanel is amused by the happiness of poor railroad man Nicolas Koline, he offers him a wager: if Koline and his family can spend 20,000 francs a day (about $11,000 in current American money) for a year, then he'll give him a nice pension. The rest of the movie is about the poor man and his family's efforts to win the bet.

The copy I looked at was derived form a Pathe-Baby cutdown, so I expect it was originally longer than the 51 minutes it took me to watch this version. I also suspect it was not a series of titles, followed by brief clips -- illustrated text movie-making in 1926 seems unlikely. In addition, the people involved (except for the screenwriter) had healthy movie careers. Koline (who also directed the movie) was one of the Russian emigree actors who did so well; he had appeared in Gance's NAPOLEON and he worked until 1955, retired to Long Island and died in 1966, age 88. Vanel also had a long career, starting out on screen and appearing in more than 150 features through 1988; he died the following year, almost 97.

It's an amusing set-up out of BREWSTER'S MILLIONS, but the lack on ornamentation in the shortened version doesn't leave that much pleasure.
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6/10
A Nancy Kwan Vehicle
12 November 2018
Nancy Kwan is to be married in a few days, whereupon she will become a housewife. She's a good girl in the early phases of the Swinging Sixties, and she wonders what she is missing.

It's a pleasant and, in the end, rather normative effort, mostly distinguished for its efforts to make a real star of Miss Kwan (who is still alive and working), with lots of cinematic leering efforts of the men to get in a one-night stand with the lovely actress while the getting is good. In the end it is pleasant, if not particularly distinguished.

Some of the casting is rather interesting, with Bessie Love playing Miss Kwan's mother, Bud Flanagan as the building's door man, and Terry-Thomas as her boss -- sans mustache and gap-toothed grin.
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5/10
A Tip of the Hat
12 November 2018
The white-faced clown tips his hat in what is essentially a 5-second film.

Marceline Orbes was born in Jaca in Spain in 1873. By the end of the 19th Century, he was a world-famous clown, appearing at the London Hippodrome. In 1905 he became a star of the New York Hippodrome. By 1915, his act was falling out of favor. He ceased to be a regular player at the theater he had graced for a decade. Attempts to go into real estate or the restaurant trade failed. In 1927, he shot himself.

Along the way, he appeared in one short film, Thanhouser's THE MISHAPS OF MARCELINE.

The copy I looked at was derived from the Library of Congress' Paper Print Collection. Some time in the 1960s, a film copy was made at the request of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences. Some elderly clown enthusiast, I suppose.
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6/10
Pickford, the Waif
12 November 2018
This was considered a lost movie when Mary Pickford died. A copy turned up in the Cinematheque Francaise, as they so often do, and in cooperation with the Mary Pickford Foundation, the BFI, Flicker Alley.... oh, the usual suspects, it has been preserved, restored somewhat and made available on a Blu-Ray/dvd set. I looked at the dvd version. It's a handsome offering, with only a few imperfection on the print, and a handsome toning to the affair: golden for daylight, blue for night, red for interiors.

It's based on a novel and written for the screen by director James Kirkwood and Frances Marion. Mary is Fanchon, a poor girl of a French village. Her grandmother is supposed to be a witch, but Mary is a free spirit, running around in rags. She takes a shine to Jack Standing, but all of the young villagers despise her; she beats up real-life brother Jack Pickford, sticks her tongue out at real-life sister Lottie, saves Standing from drowning and finds his idiot brother and has a grand time romping around the wild in the Delaware Water Gap for the first half of the movie. Then, as so often happens, the plot eventuates.

It's the second Pickford vehicle that Frances Marion had a hand in writing (I don't count THE NEW YORK HAT), and Pickford gets a lot out of the 'waif' role. The two women would half a fruitful collaboration, and Marion would direct a movie or two for America's sweetheart. Still, things slow down in the second half, and Standing is pretty much a stiff all the way through. Costume design is partially to blame. With his knee pants, wide-brimmed hat and collar, he winds up looking like Grady Sutton; he performs his role with the lack of brio that Sutton put into his comic nullities.... but Standing is simply a nullity.

Still, it's always good when a long-lost feature of Miss Pickford shows up. I'm glad I saw it.
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