Let’s journey back to simpler times via a book I have in my library here in the vault at Mike’s Take. The book in question is Coming Next Week. Published in 1973, the author, Russell C. Sweeney, is listed as a member of the Society for Cinephiles on the inside jacket. I’m not so sure if this Society is still active so if you have any information on it, please share.
The book covers selected magazine and newsprint ads from 1920 through to 1940, year by year. Having to start somewhere for this spotlight, I thought we’d go back to the days of the silent film.
So join me in the Time Tunnel to the days when movies were but a few cents to see. I’ve included the chapter year for each film.
1920 …. William S. Hart, the famous silent film star of westerns.
1921 …. The ill fated comedy star Roscoe Arbuckle stars in the title role as Brewster. I’d see the remake starring Richard Pryor at the theater decades later in 1985.
1922 …. A quartet of names jumped from the year’s selections that I’m sure most movie buffs will recognize. Fairbanks, Lloyd, Valentino and Miss Davies.
1923 ….. DeMille’s first go around with Moses and Egypt. By strange coincidence, a babe was born and christened Charlton Heston the same year. 1956 awaits.
1923 …. Lillian Gish stars at the Metropolitan. In just a short 64 years I’d see her on the big screen myself in The Whales of August alongside Bette Davis and my reason for going, Vincent Price.
1924 …. I’ve no idea if this Johnny Hines effort is any good. To be honest I’m not even sure who Johnny Hines is but I sure love the ad for this one.
1924 …. Long before she became Norma Desmond living on Sunset Boulevard, Gloria Swanson, was one of the most bankable silent film stars of the twenties. Her director on this feature, Allan Dwan, has an incredible 407 credits listed to his name at the IMDB and would work behind the camera as late as 1961.
1924 …. Buster Keaton to this day still looms large when we look back at the silent film era.
1924 …. Another ad that caught my eye produced by Uncle Carl Laemmle.
1925 brings cowboys, Tom Mix, Buck Jones and Harry Carey. It also brought Lon Chaney’s The Phantom to movie screens.
1926 …. Norma Talmadge and eventual Oscar winner of 1947, Ronald Colman, are backed by a Ben Turpin short if you head to the Rivoli.
1926 also featured The Great Profile as the famed lover.
1927 …. Clara Bow scores a huge hit and Lon Chaney didn’t always hide behind make-up. I haven’t seen a great many of his films but he’s magnificent in this straight role of a war time drill Sergeant.
1927 …. Real life sports heroes like The Babe can be found on the big screen and LADIES please tale note of the bottom left hand corner.
1928 …. I must confess that I’ve never understood the appeal of Greta Garbo but I’m well aware of her standing in film history.
The chapter on 1928 also includes this advertisement for Wings. The film that would become the Academy’s first Best Picture winner.
Thanks to 1927’s The Jazz Singer, plenty of 1929’s ads are sure to point out that All-Talking Pictures were upon the movie going public.
Ramon Novarro makes the jump from a silent film classic.
History would prove John Ford easily made the transition to sound.
Plenty of action advertised for this William Boyd flick and don’t forget more talkies on the way next Wednesday starring Victor McLaglen.
We’ll close out with America’s Sweetheart, Mary Pickford, (by way of Canada) making her first 100% talking feature.
If anyone was bothering to keep score on just how many of these century old films you’ve sctually seen, my score was 6. Robin Hood, Grandma’s Boy, The Phantom of the Opera, It, Tell it the Marines and Wings.
Back to the present but I do hope you all enjoyed looking back to an era largely forgotten by the general public. Which is exactly why I embarked on one silent film a month for 2021 and thus far have enjoyed every selection I’ve sat in on featuring silent film stars Clara Bow, Norma Talmadge, Harold Lloyd and even a young Joan Crawford.
Yes, the Silent Era is getting more and more obscure, but it still does have a fan base. My Dad loves Silent Era stuff, particularly the comedies of Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd. He’s a big Lon Chaney Sr. buff too. I’m kinda picky when it comes to Silents to be honest, there’s only a handful in my collection, but the few I do have I really enjoy. There are certain ones where the pantomime is done just right and doesn’t feel overexaggerated. The only one in my collection I’ve come to quasi-regret is Birth of a Nation. I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing it, but it is one all film fans should see, and I didn’t want to YouTube or Stream it because they can only show the poor quality Public Domain prints, and I thought if I’m gonna bite the bullet and see it, I might as well see it restored, and went with the Eureka! Masters of Cinema Blu Ray from the UK. It was on sale for 9 GBP, so I only paid $11, which I’m OK with, though I had to stop watching after an hour. I’ll probably sell it when my Dad and I get our eBay page going.
I’ve still to this day not seen Birth of a Nation. Not sure why or if I ever will despite there being a copy here on the shelf. I find it’s the comedy that still speaks to us via slapstick from the silent era more than any other genre which may look stilted to many of todays viewers but comedy always elicits laughs thanks to the bog three. I promised myself one silent a month this year and so far so good, just watched Keaton’s Battling Butler today.
Fabulous array of silent film talent and great ads. I love to see these old ads and especially for stars who were famous in the day but less well-known now like Texas Guinan, Viola Dana, Colleen Moore, Betty Compson and so on.
Lost to time. Of the four you mentioned I’m only aware of the names Colleen Moore and Betty Compson and I’m a pretty well schooled film buff. It’s like they all but disappeared as soon as talkies were born.
Some elected to retire when they realized their voices would not fit. The Talmadge sisters went into real estate and made a fortune. Theda Bara went back to vaudeville. Through astute investment Anita Stewart became one of the wealthiest women in the world. I wrote a book about how silent film stars prospered – often at the expense of men – called “When Women Ruled Hollywood: The Untold Story of How Actresses Took On Hollywood and Won.” .
I do find it interesting that women in the silent era seemed to have a greater power in Hollywood then they would in the years to come. Pickford and Swanson easily come to mind.
Pickford certainly had the power and a lot of the female stars had control of their careers in those days. Sometimes they developed their careers but sometimes they stayed put in the roles they were most comfortable in. Pickford was a classic example, refusing to cut her famous curls until the late 1920s.