A Merry Christmas to All!
Merry Christmas, folks. I am reposting this from my Facebook group, Silent Films Today. Enjoy!
Christmas with Lionel Barrymore
– Mr. B’s many versions of “A Christmas Carol” are all over the Internet (thankfully) but here are two commercial recordings of less well-known performances he made in 1950:
Among the finest Golden Age films are the very first horror films of the sound screen. Later films were more gory, and had more shock and slasher violence, but in terms of sheer romantic Gothic style these first films have never been equaled. Your blogmeister has been busy making color transfers and searching his files for photos to demonstrate the lyricism of DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN (both 1931), and the most impossible sequel that was better than the classic original, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935). Let’s begin!
Two scenes from DRACULA say it all in terms of pictorial composition. The later British Hammer horror films of the 1950s and 60s have many admirers but the sets were small and lacked this type of poetic grandeur:
Many credited the influence of the German expresssionist movement of the 1920s for the artwork in these films. The fact that Universal Pictures at the time was owned by German immigrant Carl Laemmle suggests that this influence was no coincidence:
These are a series of posed shots that are not scenes from the film itself. Lovely Valerie Hobson plays Elizabeth, Baroness Frankenstein, and Ernest Thesiger is the unforgettable Doctor Pretorius. I added color:
This superb costume adventure of Old Russia set during the reign of Czarina Catherine the Great offered an eye-popping camera shot as it traveled down a huge banquet table. Here is an on the set production photo showing how it was filmed. Seated on the right looking into the camera are Rudolph Valentino and Vilma Banky. Seated on top of the bridge is director Clarence Brown. Color is by yours truly:
And here is the shot as it appeared in the film:
The survival rate of Bill Hart’s westerns is impressive. A stage actor from New York, Hart’s love of the American West transformed his career in 1914 to starring, directing, and in some cases writing, a classic series of films. Hart managed to capture the “Old West” just before it faded away forever and his films seem more like documentaries than dramas. Our film here is one of the most rarely-seen and has been preserved by the Danish Film Institute in its original color tints. The main titles and intertitles were in Danish but I translated them and substituted English versions using vintage title cards. Finally I added music, which no silent film should ever be without. Enjoy!
“Silents Please” – the Legendary 1960 TV Series – BLOOD AND SAND (1922) starring Rudolph Valentino and Nita Naldi
In 1960, the baby boomer generation got a real treat when Paul Killiam produced his legendary television series, “Silents Please.” After decades of ridicule and jokes by Hollywood itself, Mr. Killiam showed the younger generation what silent films were really like and the series became a surprise hit! Long-forgotten stars, some of whom were still living in 1960, suddenly became familiar names to the boomers: Mary Pickford, Buster Keaton, Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson, and others found themselves in demand to discuss their silent film work.
The image quality of these films back in the day can’t compare to the clarity and sharpness of their 21st century Blu-ray editions – not to mention the addition of color tints and stereo scores absent from 1960s TV broadcasts. But seeing one of these episodes again today recalls the excitement of discovering these films for the first time over a half century ago.
Here is Paul Killiam’s expertly edited and narrated (by himself) edition of the 1922 blockbuster, BLOOD AND SAND, starring Rudolph Valentino, Nita Naldi, and Lila Lee. In 26 minutes Killiam wisely lets the images speak for themselves and limits his commentary to just the essentials. The story is a faithful adaptation of the best-selling novel by Vicente Blasco Ibanez. The Spanish title is translated as BLOOD IN THE ARENA. I added a color tint just for fun:
Behind the scenes with director Fred Niblo:
Rudy’s costume as it exists today:
Great Poster Art: