Oh, Mary Pickford. If only I could go back in time and tell you how amazing and respected your work still is today. Of course, you wouldn't be surprised that the movie studios and even most of the public seldom look back at film history ... but there are still people who care greatly. And those of us who do are doing our best to keep your legacy and the legacy of the silent screen era alive.
I would also ask if we could collaborate on a project. Any project. You're the best.
So tonight I found "Sparrows" (1926) on YouTube. I've been toying with purchasing a collection of four of her films that includes this one, but I hadn't yet. Then I found it on YouTube, so that's very cool. Now I can use that money to buy a silent film book or a biography of a silent star instead. Damn, but I do love books.
I must say a big thank you to the people who have been posting silent films on YouTube and other websites. If you're like me and live in a smaller city where they don't have things like silent film festivals (the closest ones are in Chicago, which is about three hours away), the opportunities to watch silents don't come around very often. God bless the Internet!
The web has not only made the world smaller, it's also allowed us to travel back in time. We can watch old movies, listen to out-of-print music or read out-of-print books. When I was a kid a billion years ago in the 70s and 80s, if you missed a TV show or movie, you were out of luck. You'd have to wait for the reruns of a TV show's season during their hiatus. A movie might play on TV one day. These were the days before beta and VHS. Those magical tapes opened up a whole new world to us.
The world's gotten to be a more rude place over the years. Maybe it's because VHS tapes aren't around anymore to remind us to "be kind and rewind."
As so many people around the world mourn the loss of David Bowie, I discovered something about him I never knew--he was really into Buster Keaton. Is this surprising? No. For one, Bowie's talents and inspirations were many and varied. Second, David Bowie was one REALLY damn cool guy.
I'm a Bowie fan and have been since the 80s. I'm not as huge a fan as my husband, some of our friends and a large number of people whose posts I've seen on Facebook and Twitter. When I think of him, Ziggy Stardust comes to mind, but I don't connect with that much. My David Bowie was the skinny time and suit version. The "Let's Dance" version. When I hear him in my head, I hear "Modern Love" (LOVE that one), "Blue Jean," "China Girl," the duet with Bing Crosby on "The Little Drummer Boy" and even the duet with Mick Jagger on "Dancin' in the Streets." I also dig "Changes," "Golden Years," "Heroes," "Space Oddity" and "Fame" and the like.
I was a teen in the 80s, and I lived off MTV. To me, David Bowie was one of the coolest dudes on the planet. He was beyond hip in an ethereal way I couldn't quite understand. To be honest, I still don't. He'd pop up in movies and reinforce his strangeness--his oddity. My friend, Tim, thinks he was an alien life-form that got called back to his home planet. He may be right.
When I'd heard the news yesterday morning that he'd died, I was stunned but didn't process it right away. I had to step back and consider his musical life as a whole (or as much of that whole that I knew about) as well as his contributions as an entertainer on a wider scale. It was massive. It's still more than I can wrap my brain around. Hell, his "Labyrinth" performance alone was creepy, enticing and just plain weird to this mainstream-thinking gal. And, of course, I loved it. And was a bit scared. But that's okay.
While looking for an image I wanted to include in a Twitter post about him yesterday, I came across the photo I've included here. Bowie looking a lot like Buster Keaton. Can his coolness get any colder? (The answer is yes.)
I just read a blog tonight that talks about his interest in Buster Keaton. You should definitely read Robert Curry's blog post about it. Coincidentally, I had also watched a Keaton short called "The Neighbors" from 1920. His slapstick with a dead-pan expression is wonderful. And I do love a guy in make-up.
If you're interested in watching "The Neighbors," it's on YouTube.
Photography by Steve Schapiro on PDN Photo of the Day.
Well, like most other movies and shows on Netflix, the silent movies they off get rotated out of play. They used to have a number of silents in their queue "The Mark of Zorro" and "The Thief of Bagdhad" with Douglas Fairbanks. Until a few days ago, two versions of "A Trip to the Moon" by Georges Méliès were available for viewing.
As of today, though, they are down to two films: "Wings" with Clara Bow and Buddy Rogers, and the Fritz Lang classic "Metropolis." Two great movies, no doubt, but just two isn't enough.
Fortunately, there are other places online where people can watch silent films and get a good look at the history of film as we know it today.
• OpenCulture.com offers "101 Free Silent Films: The Great Classics"
• Fandor.com has a number of silent films
• Archive.com has a lot of films, including some by Thanhouser, Mack Sennett and D.W. Griffith, and others featuring Florence La Badie, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Florence Lawrence, Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Martha Mansfield, Rudolph Valentino and many more
• BlackAndWhiteMovies.org offers a variety of silent and talkie films
• SilentMovies.info gives information about the films and lets you click right through to watch them; if you thought that the only versions of the following films were the Technicolor talkies, check out this site to see: "The Ten Commandments" (1923), "Alice in Wonderland" (1915), "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923), "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" (1916) and "Ben Hur" (1925).
• Public Domain Comedy Video has a bunch of Charlie Chaplin films plus many others
If you check out any of these silent films on these sites or have a site to add to the list, let me know! I'm all about resurrecting the silents and helping people rediscover this forgotten part of film history and the people who made it.
I'm the author of a number of cemetery books and am now writing one about the graves of silent film stars, starting with the ladies. Who would you like to see included?
More Silent Film Resources
• Silentology blog