Saturday, June 29, 2013

Funny Ladies Of The Silent Era: A Baker's Dozen

My purely idiosyncratic list designed to promote the Funny Lady Blogathon now up and running at Movies, Silently. "A baker's dozen" implies pies will be thrown and some of these funny ladies, particularly Mabel Normand, threw a mean one. Things might get messy so dress appropriately—you've been forewarned.

13. Daphne Pollard—standing 4' 9", this diminutive comedienne was a star in Mack Sennett's stable in the mid-1920s.

12. Bebe Daniels—co-starred in the early Harold Lloyd shorts then jumped to Cecil B. DeMille's sex comedies.

11. Jobyna Ralston—the "girl" in most of Harold Lloyd's latter-day features, including Girl Shy, The Freshman and The Kid Brother

10. Constance Talmadge—remembered now for her turn as the "Mountain Girl" in D.W. Griffith's Intolerance, in her day she was beloved for her comedy.

9. Edna Purviance—made more movies with Charlie Chaplin than any other actress.

8. Ossi Oswalda—maybe the least known to American audiences, she was Ernst Lubitsch's go-to girl before he moved to Hollywood.

7. Colleen Moore—this fresh-faced girl-next-door had a knack for finding trouble.

6. Gloria Swanson—long before Norma Desmond, she was playing second fiddle to superstar Teddy the dog for Mack Sennett then graduated to DeMille's groundbreaking sex comedies.

5. Marion Davies—Orson Welles owes somebody an apology: this woman was talented and funny.

4. Clara Bow—the original "It" girl: beautiful, tender, funny and ultimately doomed.

3. Marie Dressler—the star of the first feature-length comedy, 1914's Tillie's Punctured Romance, she made a comeback in 1928 and eventually won an Oscar. (Dressler's the one on the right.)

2. Mary Pickford—number one at the box office, number one in our hearts, number two on this list.

1. Mabel Normand—sometimes credited with throwing the first pie in movie history, she was the beauty who starred with such beasts as Charlie Chaplin and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle.

That's it. Have at it.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Musical Interlude: Exile In Guyville

Bill Wyman over at the New Yorker website reminds me that this month is the twentieth anniversary of Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville, which can only mean that I have gotten old.

But not that old.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Catching Up: Erik Beck Versus The Mythical Monkey

A while back after I wrote my thumbs-up review of the 1929 version of The Taming of the Shrew, starring Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, Erik Beck (of the Boston Becks) left a comment noting that he was working on an essay naming Shrew the worst movie of the 1929-30 Oscar season.

He was very polite about it—"we can disagree on films and still be friends," he wrote, "or as much as you can be friends with someone whose real name you don’t know and who lives 400 miles away"— and since he and I are the greatest alternate Oscar bloggers on the planet (well, anyway, named Erik Beck and Mythical Monkey), I offered to link to his review and to mine then let you, the readers, make up your own minds.

In a nutshell:

EB: "In 1928-29, Mary Pickford and Sam Taylor teamed up to make the worst film of the year, Coquette, which, sadly, won Pickford an Oscar. In 29-30, they added Pickford’s (by-now-estranged) husband, Douglas Fairbanks into the mix and made a film that was nearly as bad and ended up being a major nail in the coffin to the careers of both stars."

Read the full review here.

MM: "In little over an hour, Pickford and Fairbanks reduce Shakespeare to a Laurel and Hardy comedy—and I mean that as the sincerest of compliments. Sometimes we get so caught up in the iambic pentameter that we forget that Shakespeare was writing for the masses. He had a fondness for lowbrow humor and I think the Bard would have approved of the slapstick and irreverent staging."

Read the full review here.

The film is available for streaming from various sources, can be purchased on DVD and is even floating around on YouTube (although you didn't hear that from me). Have a look, come back and vote in the poll on the right-hand side of the blog.
Next in the Catching Up series: "The Singular Case of Roy J. Pomeroy's Missing Oscar"

Coming Attractions

As soon as I (read: Katie-Bar-The-Door) can figure out how to embed a poll other than the buggy blogspot poll gadget I've been using, you will have an opportunity to decide, as promised weeks ago, whether Erik Beck (of the Boston Becks) or the Mythical Monkey is closer to the truth when we call the 1929 version of The Taming of the Shrew, starring Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, either the worst movie of 1929 or a rollicking good fun comedy.

Maybe this evening. Tomorrow at the latest, I'd think.

By the way, I had no idea what Erik Beck looks like, so I made my best guess and went with the one above which I lifted from the internet. I hope it's the right one.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Man Of Steel: An Observation

Duck Soup—running time: 1 hour 8 minutes

Casablanca—running time: 1 hour 42 minutes

Citizen Kane—running time: 1 hour 59 minutes

North by Northwest—running time: 2 hours 16 minutes

Man of Steel—running time: 2 hours 23 minutes.

I will grant you that Gone with the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia and Schindler's List are long movies, but they fully justify their running time. Otherwise, if you make a movie longer than Casablanca or Citizen Kane, you better have something to say. Anyway, that's my opinion.