Tag Archive for '1920s'

Safety Last!

Safety Last! (2/14/14) TCM (1923 **1/2) Directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor, starring Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis and Bill Strother. A department store clerk goes to great lengths (and heights) to impress his girl. One of the most famous cinematic images in all of film history is Harold Lloyd hanging from the hands of a clock, and Safety Last! is the silent movie featuring that indelible scene. I’ve been aware of this classic film for a long time and finally got around to watching it, albeit in piecemeal fashion over the course of several viewings. I was more than a little disappointed that the 70 minute film took so long to build to the film’s most memorable sequence, which occupies the last quarter or so of the running time. Unfortunately, the remaining 75% didn’t have much to keep my interest, which may be why I only watched a little bit at a time. Consequently, I think I can only really recommend this film to purists or film students.


Wings (3/7/13) TCM (1927 ***1/4) Directed by William A. Wellman, starring Clara Bow, Charles “Buddy” Rogers, Richard Arlen and Jobyna Ralston, with Gary Cooper. Jack and David are two WWI flyboys in love with the same girl back home. This silent film’s claim to fame is that it won the very first Best Picture Oscar, and after all these years, it’s still surprisingly entertaining. In my experience, most of the feature-length silent films I’ve seen (and granted, there haven’t been that many) suffered from pacing problems when viewed by twenty-first centrury eyes. However, Wings seemed to have been shot and edited for a much more modern sensibility. On the trivia front, in addition to its first Oscar status, Wings also included an brief appearance by a young Gary Cooper as the painfully obviously doomed Cadet White.

The General

The General (11/4/10) TV-TCM (1926 ***) Directed by Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton, starring Buster Keaton and Marion Mack. Set during the Civil War, southern railroad engineer Johnnie Gray is torn between his love for a young lady and a steam locomotive named… The General. I’d been meaning to see this historic film for about twenty years and finally got around to it. You know what? It’s not bad, but it wasn’t nearly as engaging as I’d expected, considering all the hype around it. Keaton’s physical feats were awfully impressive, though, considering so many of the gags revolved around multi-ton trains. One small mishap and Keaton never would’ve lived on to an old age so he could make cameos in Sunset Boulevard and Beach Blanket Bingo. On another level entirely, I found the movie’s point of view challenging to accept: In The General, the “good guys” were plucky confederates and the villains were the blue-suited Union Yankees. Though there’s no mention of slavery anywhere in the film, it was still an implicit question. It made me wonder about Keaton’s sympathies as well as the sympathies of the film’s intended 1926 audience.

Wizard of Oz (1925)

Wizard of Oz (12/19/08) TV-TCM (1925 *½) Directed by Larry Semon, starring Semon as the Toymaker / farmhand / Scarecrow (kind of), Dorothy Dwan as Dorothy and Oliver N. Hardy as the farmhand / Tin Man (sort of). This silent movie represented an era in film history I don’t often visit. I can’t really recommend it, though it was mildly engaging intellectually. For one, it was interesting seeing Oliver Hardy in an early role, prior to his pairing with Stan Laurel. The story was very different from the 1939 Judy Garland Oz to which we’ve become accustomed. Most of the screen time was taken up by long gag sequences, the kind of gags that are now clichés of the silent movie era. Unfortunately, those sequences did nothing to advance the story, what little story there was.