Tragedy of the street 1927

Also known as Dirnentragödie (1927) German silent movie

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Before road movies there were street films, a distinct cycle within German silent cinema. The essential ingredient – misalliance between bourgeois and slum dweller – is present here, though somewhat displaced by Asta Nielsen’s star persona. She plays an aging hooker who falls for handsome Felix, a student who has rowed with his parents and ventured into the lower depths. Dreaming of a new life, she ejects her pimp and invests her savings in a cake shop. Even without that title, though, you wouldn’t bet on a happy ending. Nielsen is a quite restrained sort of diva, and Rahn likewise soft pedals the melodrama, except for the grand finale. He died soon after making this, his contemporaries regretting the masterworks the cinema was thus denied. Well, maybe. ×

Director : Bruno Rahn
Music composed by : Felix Bartsch
Story by : Wilhelm Braun
Screenplay : Leo Heller , Ruth Goetz

Stars: Asta Nielsen, Hilde Jennings, Oskar Homolka

Sorry no English subtitles

Scenes at His Excellency the Viceroy’s Garden Party at Belvedere 1926

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Part of India on Film: 1899 – 1947
This collection of newly digitised films is part of the BFI’s contribution to the UK-India Year of Culture 2017, in partnership with the British Council. View more films on BFI Player

A summer garden party in 1920s Calcutta – Indian high society enjoy themselves at a Calcutta garden party held to welcome the new Viceroy, Lord Irwin.

This film gave Indian cinema audiences the chance to rub shoulders with India’s elite and catch a glimpse of the men who ruled their country – and their families. We see not one but two Viceroys: Lord Irwin (shown in the first table shots) became Viceroy in April 1926 after Lord Lytton (who was Governor of Bengal and is seen in the second table shot) filled the post on a temporary basis.

The party was held at Belvedere House, the Viceregal residence before India’s capital was moved from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911. While we can name the key British figures in the film, the identity of the Indian guests is unknown, nor does the film identify them.

The film was likely to have been made by Madan Theatres Ltd., an Indian cinema chain. Later shots show Lady Dorothy Wood (Irwin’s wife) and Lytton’s wife Pamela as well as their children, Ann Wood and Anthony and Davina Bulwar-Lytton, who are seated at a ‘children’s table’ along with an Indian royal prince. In spite of these festivities, Irwin’s period as viceroy was not easy as he oversaw intense Indian protests for further political devolution and was forced to negotiate with Gandhi to bring the nationwide Civil Disobedience movement to an end.

Walking back 1928

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(SILENT)Jazz age youngster Smoke Thatcher “borrows” a neighbor’s car to take Patsy, his sweetheart, to a dance after his father refuses to lend him his car. A car-fight with a rival results in the borrowed automobile’s being so wrecked that Smoke cannot return it. The garage to which he and Patsy take the car for repair turns out to be actually a gang’s hideaway and a place where stolen cars are brought and later fenced. The gangsters compel Smoke, accompanied by Patsy, to drive a getaway car, promising enough money to replace the neighbor’s car. The gang robs the bank where Smoke’s father is employed, and they shoot Thatcher in making their getaway. Forced to leave his father wounded in the street, Smoke makes a wild drive through the city, ending up at the police station. He is rewarded for “capturing” the crooks.

—Lloyd Purvis

Directors: Cecil B. DeMille, Rupert Julian
Screenplay: Monte M. Katterjohn
Producer: Cecil B. DeMille
Cinematography: John J. Mescall

Stars: Richard Walling, Sue Carol, Robert Edeson

Newman Laugh-O-Gram 1921


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Published on 9 May 2018

In the 21st century, when the name Disney is associated with a media conglomerate that has become the embodiment of cultural imperialism, it might be a surprise to see “Newman Laugh-O-Grams”. This is probably Walt Disney’s first credit. The title is based on the theater where it ran. It appears to be based on advertisements that ran in Kansas City, where Walt Disney lived before moving to Hollywood. He made a series of shorts called Laugh-O-Grams, but the studio folded after a year or two due to lack of funds. Once he moved to southern California, the rest is history.
Among the other people who worked at Laugh-O-Gram Studio were Ub Iwerks and Friz Freleng (the latter of whom famously became one of the directors of the Looney Tunes cartoons).
This short is nothing special, just a peek at Disney’s early work.
Disney’s beginning by Lee Eisenberg:

1925 Studio Tour (1925)

Untitled and without any crew credits, this 32-minute silent documentary takes you on a tour of MGM in 1925, meeting the people who create the movies, and watching some of them do it. I found it fascinating, especially when some of the moviemakers were identified by the inter-titles. It was nice to be able finally to attach a face to some familiar names such as writers Agnes Christine Johnston, Jane Murfin, Waldemar Young and others who are identified and shown in closeups. I noted that Howard Hawks was included as a writer – he didn’t start directing until later. Less interesting were the showing of groups of unidentified crew members: about 50 cameramen lined up in a row, each hand cranking their cameras, seemed to serve no useful purpose. Unlike the writers, who were identified individually, the directors were all identified first in an inter-title, and the camera then panned across them standing in a row, but you could not tell which name belonged to which director. I did recognize Erich von Stroheim, but only because he was also a famous actor. When the actors and actresses were introduced as a group by inter-titles, it was much more fun, because identifying them became a game. I also saw three unlisted actors: Ford Sterling, William Haines and Sojin, and there are probably others.

Later on, some actors and some crew members were identified and shown in closeup. I finally got to see what famed art director Cedric Gibbons looked like. And it was delightful to see “the world’s foremost designer,” Romaine de Tirtoff Erte, fitting a gown on “M-G-M’s ‘find’ of 1925,” Joan Crawford, when she was still known as Lucille Le Sueur. I enjoyed famous actors clowning around: John Gilbert puts his hat in position to hide his kissing Zasu Pitts, and Norma Shearer mugs the camera while ‘accidentally’ dropping hundreds of fan letters.

Most interesting were shots of the filming of two movies: Tod Browning directing a scene for Mystic, The (1925), and Edmund Goulding directing Conrad Nagel and Lucille La Verne in Sun-Up (1925). And there’s much more to this enjoyable documentary. It eventually acquired a music soundtrack, which is the way it is shown every once in a while on the Turner Classic Movies Channel (TCM). Unfortunately, it has never been scheduled (probably because it has no title), but is a filler whenever a two-hour slot is scheduled for a silent film that runs less than an hour and a half. It’s worth looking for such a case.

The Mayor of Casterbridge 1921

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Dorset Life
… and leading actors Fred Groves (Michael Henchard) and Pauline Peters (Susan Henchard) at Maiden Castle in 1921 on the set of The Mayor of Casterbridge

A man sells his wife and child to a sailor, remarries on becoming mayor, and learns his daughter is actually the sailor’s.
Director: Sidney Morgan
Writers: Thomas Hardy (novel), Sidney Morgan (screenplay)
Stars: Fred Groves, Pauline Peters, Warwick Ward

This is a rough transfer of all that survives of the 1921 adaptation of The Mayor of Casterbridge, taken from a 9.5mm print in my collection.

For a review of the film, head over to…