Monday, September 19, 2011

The Silent Oscars: 1910

winner: Frankenstein (prod. Edison Manufacturing Company)
nominees: Afgrunden a.k.a. The Abyss a.k.a. The Woman Always Pays (prod. Hjalmar Davidsen); The D.W. Griffith Biograph Shorts (prod. The Biograph Company); Jeffries-Johnson World's Championship Boxing Contest (prod. J. Stuart Blackton); The Max Linder Short Comedies (prod. Pathé Frères); Mobiliaire Fidele a.k.a. The Automatic Moving Company (prod. Émile Cohl)

winner: Charles Ogle (Frankenstein)
nominees: Max Linder (The Max Linder Short Comedies)

winner: Asta Nielsen (Afgrunden a.k.a. The Abyss a.k.a. The Woman Always Pays)
nominees: Vittoria Lepanto (Salomé); Florence Turner (Twelfth Night)

winner: J. Searle Dawley, Charles Kent and Ashley Miller (A Christmas Carol)
nominees: Émile Cohl (Mobiliaire Fidele a.k.a. The Automatic Moving Company); J. Searle Dawley (Frankenstein); Urban Gad (Afgrunden a.k.a. The Abyss a.k.a. The Woman Always Pays); D.W. Griffith (The D.W. Griffth Biograph Shorts)

It occurred to me this morning as I was walking the dog that in 2011 a schnook like me has greater access to silent movies than an Oscar-winning expert like Kevin Brownlow did forty years ago. How about that. You, too, can become an amateur film historian in fairly short order if you're willing to work at it.

Of course, when nobody has a monopoly on information, it also means everybody has an opinion, and sometimes it's difficult to separate opinion from fact. Fortunately, when it comes to movies, you can watch them for yourself and make your own decisions.

As best picture of 1910, I chose the 13-minute version of Frankenstein. I won't tell you that it's great—none of the choices are—but it was the first American horror film ever produced and thus was groundbreaking. You might compare it with another film also directed by J. Searle Dawley that year, A Christmas Carol, which is notable not only for a double exposure to show Marley's Ghost, but a triple exposure to then reveal scenes from Scrooge's past.

Canon Movies chose the latter as the best picture of 1910, ranking Frankenstein sixth.

I've embedded both movies here. (Public domain copies of my other best picture nominees can be found floating around the internet.) You make the call.

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