Ninety years ago, today, the melodramatic silent film Thunder was released. Written by Ann Price and Byron Morgan, it was directed by William Nigh. Considered a lost film, it starred Lon Chaney, Sr. (The Man of a Thousand Faces), Phyllis Haver, James Murray, Tom Keene, Frances Morris (Adventures of Superman (TV Series)/Sarah Kent) and Wally Albright. Though a silent movie, it did have sound effects and a musical score. Only half of the reel survived and this was Chaney’s last silent. [During filming], Chaney caught a cold during the snow scenes which, then, developed into walking pneumonia. Production was shut down for a time but, was eventually completed. Chaney’s illness, combined with his throat cancer, led to his death two months after the release of his last film, and only talkie, 1930’s The Unholy Three.
Lon Chaney plays Grumpy Anderson, a railroad engineer with an obsession for running his train on time. His slavishness to promptness causes several tragedies which alienate him from his family. By the story’s end, the engineer restores their faith in him and validates his obsession by forcing his train through a flood to bring badly needed Red Cross supplies to the victims.
“Grumpy” Anderson is an old railroad engineer that is obsessed with keeping his train on schedule, no matter the cost. His two sons are also railmen but, don’t share his single mindedness, which leads to one son’s death and a fight with the other on the first son’s funeral car. [This] leads to a crash and demotion of Grumpy to mechanic in the yards. His redemption comes during the Mississippi flood when he is, again, pressed into service to pilot a relief train along with his surviving son.
Thunder (the book) from Creepy Classics
Ninety-five years ago, today, the silent drama Being Respectable was released. Based on the novel of the same name written by Grace Flandrau, it was adapted by Dorothy Farnum. Directed by Phil Rosen, it starred Marie Prevost, Monte Blue, Louise Fazenda, Irene Rich, Theodore von Eltz, Frank Currier, Eulalie Jensen, Lila Leslie, Sidney Bracey and Charles French.
Wealthy young Charles Carpenter is pressured by his family to marry Suzanne, even though he is really in love with young “flapper” Valerie. He gives in to his family’s pressure, however and marries Suzanne, after which Valerie leaves town. Years later, after Charles and Suzanne have had a child, Valerie comes back to town and, Charles realizes he is still in love with her…and she with him. Complications ensue. [Source]
Through the scheming of his respectable, and wealthy family, Charles Carpenter is obliged to marry Suzanne, although he is in love with young flapper Valerie Winship. Years later, when Valerie is back in town, they renew the affair and, Carpenter plans to leave his wife and child for her. […] in the end, he yields to family duty and respectability. [Source]
New York Times Review [August 4, 1924]
I could not find any video clips of this movie. ~Vic
There weren’t any movies released on today’s date. So, I will use yesterday’s date. One-hundred years, ago, yesterday, One-Thing-At-A-Time O’Day was released. Based on a short story by William Pelley, it was directed by John Ince with the adaptation written by George Baker. A lost, silent comedy film, it starred Bert Lytell, Joseph Kilgour, Eileen Percy, Stanton Heck, William Carroll and Bull Montana.
A serious-minded boob named Stradivarious O’Day, because his music-loving mother says he “fiddles his time away”, acquires his nickname because of his motto of “one thing at a time and that done well.” Falling in love when he first sees circus bareback rider Prairie-Flower Marie, O’Day, living off his inheritance, follows the circus until the pestered manager gives him a job cleaning his Ford. With the help of a manual, O’Day learns to drive and secures employment with the circus as a chauffeur. After strong man Gorilla Lawson, who also loves Marie, beats him up, O’Day contacts his friend, boxer Roughneck M’Dool, to teach him to fight. Lawson, frightened by O’Day’s daily development, steals the circus receipts, and the Ford, on the day of their scheduled fight but, O’Day overtakes and whips him. After O’Day weds Marie, he unwittingly goes against his motto when he becomes the father of twins.
One-hundred, five years ago, today, The Brash Drummer and The Nectarine was released. A short, silent, black & white comedy, it was written and directed by George Ade, a popular American humorist for his time and a follower of Mark Twain. Starring Wallace Beery and Bevery Bayne, this piece was one of Ade’s Fables in Slang.
Gabby Gus made the town regularly every month. He was a swell guy and thought he could cop most any Jane that he took a liking to. Clara Louise Willoughby, a farmer’s daughter with a pretty face and figure, took the salesman’s eye. He looked the old gent up in Dunn and Bradstreet and, discovered that the old boy was worth some coin. Then, he set his traps for the daughter. Dad, however, sent her away to boarding school and when she returned, she was the swellest peach in the orchard. They all fell for her. Gus hastened to her home where he discovered she was some lemon when it came to the country stuff and that she was a real ‘highfalutin’ society butterfly now. […] her aspirations were higher than a poor hick drummer. She made him feel awfully small. [Source]
I can’t find a video clip of this film but, I did find Ade’s Fables in Slang in audio book form. It has 26 stories and was published in 1899. [Disclaimer: It is nearly two hours long.] ~Vic
One-hundred and ten years ago, today (exactly, believe it or not), the silent short crime-drama, The Lonely Villa, was released. A film directed by D. W. Griffith, it starred David Miles, Marion Leonard, Mary Pickford (in one of her very early roles), Gladys Egan and Adele DeGarde and, was based on the Andre de Lorde French play from 1901: Au Téléphone.
D. W. Griffith and Mary Pickford, along with Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks, founded United Artists on February 5, 1919, as a studio where actors could control their own interests instead of being beholden to commercial studios. It is now a subsidiary of MGM and Annapurna Pictures and, as of February 5, 2019 (its 100th anniversary), it was rebranded as United Artists Releasing.
A gang of thieves lure a man out of his home so that they can rob it and, threaten his wife and children. The family barricade themselves in an interior room but, the criminals are well-equipped for breaking in. When the father finds out what is happening, he must race against time to get back home.
♦ During the shot of the father leaving the hotel, a dip can be seen in the road in the background. Today, that is currently the exit for the George Washington Bridge and the location of the hotel is now an apartment complex.
Specific dates are a little hard to come by but, one-hundred, twenty-five years ago in May, Edison Studios produced three silent actuality films of German bodybuilder Eugen Sandow (born Friedrich Wilhelm Müller). It was directed by Scottish mutoscope inventor, photographer and Edison employee William K. L. Dickson.
Florenz Ziegfeld wanted to display Sandow at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Ziegfeld found that the audience was more fascinated by Sandow’s bulging muscles than by the amount of weight he was lifting so, Ziegfeld had Sandow move in poses which he dubbed “muscle display performances”…and the legendary strongman added these displays in addition to performing his feats of strength with barbells. He added chain-around-the-chest breaking and other colorful displays to Sandow’s routine and Sandow quickly became Ziegfeld’s first star. The [Edison] film was of only part of his act and featured him flexing his muscles rather than performing any feats of physical strength.
From Film Threat:
Did you ever stop and say to yourself: “Hey, who was the very first movie star?” You never did? That’s funny, because I did. In researching the answer, I found myself going all the way back to the dawn of motion pictures, where a scantily clad muscleman flexing his biceps was the unlikely pioneer in the realm of celluloid stardom. The year was 1894 and the American motion picture industry consisted solely of Thomas Edison and his team of inventors. Edison had the technology in place but, he was missing one key element: the film contents. […] there was one man who had no problem filling that void. In between the expected presentations for feats of strength, there were posing sequences where Sandow arched and twisted his body in a manner that detailed the excesses of his musculature. Today, we call that bodybuilding, and no one thinks twice about it but, in the 1890s, it was a startling and exciting physical display. Reportedly, Sandow made a nice side business by accepting money from women who wanted to feel his mighty muscles! Sandow’s fame in the United States grew fairly quickly and he became a major headliner on the vaudeville circuit. Edison realized he could also cash in on Sandow’s fame and, in early 1894, he sent word to Ziegfeld about having Sandow appear in a kinetoscope film. Edison then handed Sandow over to William K.L. Dickson, who was in charge of the film production at Edison’s studio. Sandow stripped off his clothing, donned his tighty-whitey posing trunks and stood before the hand-cranked kinetoscope camera. And, to employ the ultimate cliché, history was made.
Ninety-five years ago, today, The Ten Commandments, a Cecil B. DeMille silent film, was showing. Much like the Charlie Chaplin movie from last week, if this movie was a number one, there is no way to tell as the Academy Awards were still six years away. It was the 2nd highest-grossing film of 1923 so, it was very popular. It starred Theodore Roberts, Charles de Rochefort, Estelle Taylor, Julia Faye, Terrence Moore, James Neill, Lawson Butt and Clarence Burton. It was released on December 4 at Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.
Plot from IMDB:
The first part tells the story of Moses leading the Jews from Egypt to the Promised Land, his receipt of the tablets and the worship of the golden calf. The second part shows the efficacy of the commandments in modern life through a story set in San Francisco. Two brothers, rivals for the love of Mary, also come into conflict when John discovers Dan used shoddy materials to construct a cathedral.
♦ Most of the chariot crashes in the prologue were real and unplanned.
♦ After production, the enormous movie sets were bulldozed and buried in sand. It is now the legendary “Lost City of DeMille” and the site is recognized as an official archaeological site by the state of California.
♦ Midway through production, the film ran out of money and Cecil B. DeMille’s original backers pulled out. The production was saved when DeMille called in a personal favor from his friend Amadeo Giannini, one of the founders of Bank of America. Giannini’s $500,000 investment allowed the production to continue without stopping.
Today, we are going waaaaaaay back…to 1918. On this date, Shoulder Arms, a Charlie Chaplin piece, was a very popular film. Was it a ‘number one’? Hard to tell. This film pre-dates the Academy Awards by 11 years. Starring Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Sydney Chaplin (Charlie’s elder, half-brother) and Tom Wilson, it is, primarily, a dream sequence set in France during World War I.
Plot from IMDB:
Charlie is in boot camp in the “awkward squad.” Once in France, he gets no letters from home. He finally gets a package containing limburger cheese, which requires a gas mask and which he throws over into the German trench. He goes “over the top” and captures thirteen Germans (“I surrounded them”) then, volunteers to wander through the German lines disguised as a tree trunk. With the help of a French girl, he captures the Kaiser and the Crown Prince and, is given a statue and victory parade in New York. Then…fellow soldiers wake him from his dream. [edited for grammar]
From an archived New York Times article:
“”The fool’s funny,” was the chuckling observation of one of those who saw Charlie Chaplin’s new film. “Shoulder Arms”, at the Strand, yesterday and, apparently, that’s the way everybody felt. There have been learned discussions as to whether Chaplin’s comedy is low or high, artistic or crude but, no one can deny that when he impersonates a screen fool, he is funny. Most of those who go to find fault with him remain to laugh. They may still find fault but, they will keep on laughing. In “Shoulder Arms”, Chaplin is as funny as ever.” [edited for grammar]
♦ Many in Hollywood were nervous that one of their most famous peers was going to tackle the subject of WWI. It was released shortly before the Armistice so, it did not help boost national morale but, it did end up as one of Charles Chaplin’s most popular films and, it was particularly popular with returning doughboys.
♦ Released two weeks and one day before the end of World War I.