Lock-down may be preventing us from getting out to see silent film events ‘in the flesh’. But don’t forget that there are still opportunities to see films at live On-Line screenings. Forthcoming events include;
Friday 6 – Sunday 22 November
The Alplify On-line film festival presents Waxworks (Dir. Paul Leni/Leo Birinisky, Ger, 1924) A wax museum owner employs a poet (William Dieterle) to create stories for his pieces. The poet dutifully pens disturbing tales, envisioning himself as a significant character in each story — a baker sentenced to death by the Caliph of Baghdad (Emil Jannings), a Russian prince contending with the deadly paranoia of Ivan the Terrible (Conrad Veidt) and a man who is pursued through the haunting streets of London by Jack the Ripper (Werner Krauss). Directed by Paul Leni, whose creative wizardry would later lead him to Hollywood, and with powerful star performances, flamboyant production design, and brilliant technical effects, Waxworks conjures up three very different, dangerous worlds inhabited by monstrous personalities. Find out more at filmdirtblog.blogspot.co.uk . Although I’m not 100% sure, this looks to be the new digitally recombined and restored version shortly to be released by Eureka-Masters of Cinema. That release comes with two alternative accompaniments so again not sure which one will be used here. To watch, click here
Tuesday 17 November
On (UK) television rather than On-Line but perhaps worth a mention, Talking Pictures TV is screening Crazy Days (Dir. James M. Anderson, UK, 1962) Described as a compilation of silent era greats including Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin plus many more. Narrated by Hughie Green (!). I’ve not seen and the only review on its IMDb page is less than complimentary but, hey ho, you never know! Screens on Talking Pictures TV (Freeview Channel 81) at 6.30pm.
Wednesday 18 November
Cinephobe.TV presents The Mystic (Dir. Tod Browning, US, 1925) Returning to one of his favorite themes, crooks conning the gullible nouveau riche, Tod Browning both co-wrote (with Waldemar Young) and directed this evocative silent melodrama starring Conway Tearle as Michael Nash, an American criminal who imports a gang of Hungarian gypsies to gain control over a fortune. The victim, Doris Merrick (Gladys Hulette), is persuaded by fake medium Zara (Aileen Pringle) to hand over her jewels to Nash. But the seance does more than raise the fake spirit of Doris’ dear departed father; it also uncovers a plot by “Uncle” James (David Torrence) to take over the girl’s inheritance. Saving Doris from her unscrupulous guardian, Nash and Zara renounce crime and return to Hungary. Somewhat of a disappointment in comparison with Browning’s later thriller The Unholy Three (1925), The Mystic benefited from the presence of costume designer Romain de Tirtoff (aka Erté) whose extravagant black-and-white creations were luxuriously modeled by the sophisticated Aileen Pringle. With recorded score. You can watch it here at 12.45pm.
In the second part of this Browning double bill Cinephobe.TV presents The Show (Dir. Tod Browning, US, 1927) Cock Robin is the swaggering ballyhoo man of a Hungarian sideshow known as the Palace of Illusions. The highlight of the show is a reenactment of Salome’s dance of the seven veils, replete with the beheading of Jokanaan. The performer portraying Salome is in love with Cock Robin. Jealous, sinister The Greek is determined to eliminate that competition. Another dose of grand guignol from master of the macabre Browning, starring John Gilbert, Renee Adoree and Lionel Barrymore. With recorded score. You can watch it here at 1.50pm.
The Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington, NY presents The Mark Of Zorro (Dir. Fred Niblo, US, 1920) Don Diego Vega (Douglas Fairbanks) masquerades as an ineffectual fop to bamboozle his enemies and conceal his secret persona: ‘Zorro’: avenger of the oppressed. The first King of Hollywood – dashing, athletic Fairbanks, pretty much defined the swashbuckling genre with this rip-roaring adventure flick. Featuring horseback stunts, witty chase sequences and sword fighting, this entertaining romp achieves a satisfying blend of humour and heroics that remains the benchmark for action films today. Find out more at silentfilm.org. With live piano accompaniment by Ben Model. Screens at 7.00pm EDT (12midnight UK time). Screening is free or pay-what-you-can but you need to register. Details here
Saturday 21 November
Another gem from cinephobe.tv is Love One Another (Dir. C T Dreyer, DenGer, 1922) Hanne-Liebe, a young Jewish girl, has been the subject of anti-semitic prejudice among her Russian neighbours since childhood. As the result of a cruel intrigue she is expelled from her school and travels to St. Petersburg where her brother Jakov, a wealthy lawyer, lives. When Hanne-Liebe meets back up with Sascha, a revolutionary-minded student from her hometown, they fall in love. But as unrest in 1905 Russia spills over into open revolution, lives not just relationships are in jeopardy. This was the first film directed by Dreyer in Germany. But the original German version is lost, and it was only recently that a Russian version was found at the Cinémathèque de Toulouse. The film was apparently highly regarded by Soviet historians as an interesting document on the 1905 revolution although it was not a popular success on its first release and is now largely forgotten. However, few, if any, films from this period depict the destructive power of racial hatred as clearly as Love one Another and the violence of the final pogrom still retains its power to shock. Find out more at acinemahistory.com. With recorded score. You can watch it here at 1.00pm UK time.
Sunday 22 November
Cinephobe.tv presents Lucky Star (Dir. Frank Borzage, US, 1929) Borzage’s long-lost romance was made in both a part-talkie sound and a silent version. Only the silent version has survived, with a print rediscovered in the Netherlands Film Museum. The film sees another romantic screen pairing between Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell (having previously starred in 7th Heaven, 1927) in a tale of a poverty stricken girl who is transformed through her friendship with a wheelchair-bound Great War veteran. Over sentimental perhaps, with a contrived plot and a scarcely credible finale, Lucky Star nevertheless remains a life-affirming piece of cinema and serves only to enhance Borzage’s reputation as one of the greats of American cinema. Find out more at trettleman.medium.com/. With recorded score. You can watch it here at 1.00pm UK time.
Episode 35 of the Silent Comedy Watch Party, live from New York and hosted by accompanist Ben Model and silent film historian Steve Massa. The usual format is three silent comedies introduced by Steve and with Ben doing live piano accompaniment from his Upper West Side apartment. This week’s films have not yet been announced. The event streams at 8pm UK time on You Tube. Further details here. (NB This event will be available to watch live but will also remain available on You Tube to watch later.)
Monday 23 November
Another classic silent from cinephobe.tv, this time a British one. Cottage on Dartmoor (Dir. Anthony Asquith, 1929) Joe (Uno Henning) works as a barber in a shop in a Devon town, alongside a manicurist called Sally (Norah Baring). He becomes infatuated with her and asks her out but it is clear that Sally does not reciprocate Joe’s feelings. Joe’s infatuation with her develops into obsession. Meanwhile a young farmer Harry (Hans Schlettow), begins to woo Sally and the couple begin seeing each other which leaves Joe in despair. After a fight with Harry, Joe is jailed but swears revenge on Harry and Sally. A Cottage on Dartmoor is a tale of love and revenge set in the bleak landscape of Dartmoor and a thoughtful distillation of the best of European silent film techniques from a director steeped in the work of the Soviet avant-garde and German expressionism. One of the last films of the silent era and a virtuoso piece of film-making, A Cottage on Dartmoor was a final passionate cry in defence of an art form soon to be obsolete. Find out more at silentfilm.org. With recorded score. You can watch it here at 12.30pm UK time.
Retroformat Silent Films from Los Angeles presents Deliverance (Dir. George Foster Platt, US, 1919) This looks fascinating, an early film biog of deaf/blind American author, political activist, and lecturer Helen Keller. The film is in three distinct segments. The first is of Keller as a child and the teaching breakthrough moment which puts her on the path to learning to communicate. The second is of her time at college. Perhaps most interesting however is the final segment with Keller as an adult working to improve the social and educational prospects of the deaf and blind community. Here, both Keller and her lifelong teacher and companion Anne Sullivan are portrayed by Keller and Sullivan themselves. Needless to say, you’ll find little in the film that reflects Keller’s life-long socialist leanings or her advocacy for trade unions and civil liberty issues let alone her sympathy for the theories of eugenics. Find out more at moviessilently.com. Not sure if this comes with live or recorded accompaniment. Event screens at 7.30 PDT (02.30 am 24 Nov UK time). Click here to watch (NB This event will also remain available on You Tube to watch later.)
Wednesday 25 November
The Kennington Bioscope present the twelth of their Live Stream Broadcasts on the KBTV channel on You Tube at 7:30. In an impressively high tech format they present silent films introduced by Michelle Facey (@best2vilmabanky) and accompanied live by pianists including Cyrus Gabrysh and John Sweeney. Tonight’s films are yet to be announced but check out our review here of a previous KBTV episode to get an idea of the format. You can watch here . Or why not subscribe here for future event details delivered straight to your In-Box. (NB This event will also remain available on You Tube to watch later.)
Friday 27 – Sunday 29 November
From the Gateway Film Festival in Peterborough comes Hypocrites (Dir. Lois Weber, US, 1915). The film follows the parallel stories of an early Christian ascetic monk and a modern minister, with most actors in dual roles. Gabriel (Courteney Foote) is a medieval monk who devotes himself to completing a statue of “Truth,” only to be murdered by a mob when his work turns out to be an image of a naked woman. The contemporary Gabriel is the pastor of a large wealthy urban congregation for whom religion is a matter of appearances, not beliefs. The hypocrisy of the congregation is exposed by a series of vignettes in which the Naked Truth (literally portrayed by a nude Margaret Edwards) reveals their appetites for money, sex and power. Director Lois Weber was the leading female director-screenwriter in early Hollywood and amongst the most important and prolific film directors of the silent era. At the time this film was made perhaps only D W Griffith could rival her status or ability. Weber viewed film-making as a means to highlight contemporary social issues in the hope of effecting social and political change. As well as exposing hypocrisy within religious belief, other Weber films tackled poverty and income inequality (Shoes, 1916), drug abuse (Hop, The Devil’s Brew, 1916) and contraception (Where Are My Children, 1916). But as well as this focus upon social issues, Weber was also a pioneering director in a technical sense. She directed the first US feature length film and was a pioneer of inventive processes such as split screening. Her directorial skills shine through in Hypocrites with (for its time) very clever traveling double-exposure shots while the tracking shot which follows the reactions of the medieval audience to the unveiling of the naked statue remains electrifying to this day. There is also a fascinating close-up shot of the priest’s eye in which is reflected the camera and its operator. The use of a naked actress caused a sensation at the time and considerable difficulties with various local censors but the film’s subject matter, the naked truth, together with Weber’s reputation as a serious director and perhaps also the fact that the director was a woman meant that the film received a wide release to overwhelming critical and popular acclaim. Find out more at ithankyouarthur.blogspot.com. Hypocrites will be accompanied by a brand new score composed especially by Lloyd Davies. The film will be available here for 48 hours from 7pm on 27 November.
Sunday 29 November
Episode 37 of the Silent Comedy Watch Party, live from New York and hosted by accompanist Ben Model and silent film historian Steve Massa. The usual format is three silent comedies introduced by Steve and with Ben doing live piano accompaniment from his Upper West Side apartment. This week’s films have not yet been announced. The event streams at 8pm UK time on You Tube. Further details here. (NB This event will be available to watch live but will also remain available on You Tube to watch later.)