Tag Archives: 1920s

Chelovek s kino-apparatom / Man with a Movie Camera (1929) Dziga Vertov, Mikhail Kaufman, Documentary

Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
Soviet director Dziga Vertov’s experimental film grew out of his belief, shared by his editor, Elizaveta Svilova (who was also his wife), and his cinematographer, Mikhail Kaufman (also his brother), that the true goal of cinema should be to present life as it is lived. To that end, the filmmakers offer a day-in-the-life portrait of a city from dawn until dusk, though they actually shot their footage in several cities, including Moscow, Kiev, and Odessa. After an opening statement, there are no words in the film (neither voice-over nor titles), just dazzling imagery, kinetically edited – as a celebration of the modern city with a marked emphasis on its buildings and machinery. The Image Entertainment DVD edition of the film offers a musical score composed from notes left by the director, which adds greatly to the impact of the film.

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Devil-May-Care (1929) Sidney Franklin, Ramon Novarro, Dorothy Jordan, Marion Harris, Musical, Romance

Devil-May-Care (1929)
Silent screen heartthrob Ramon Novarro (Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ) sounds off in his all-talking debut, a romantic musical adventure directed by Sidney Franklin. When Napoleon is exiled to Elba, loyal officer Armand de Tr?ville (Novarro) manages to elude the firing squad only to find his heart captured by Leonie de Beaufort (Dorothy Jordan), the lovely Royalist who turns him in. Making a daring escape, Armand hides with the Countess Louise (Marion Harris), unaware that Leonie is her cousin. Leonie’s sudden arrival forces him to choose between love and war as he awaits the emperor’s return. Featuring a two-color Technicolor® ballet sequence scored by future Oscar®-winner* Dimitri Tiomkin, plus seven new songs by Herbert Stothart and Clifford Grey, Devil-MayCare was one of M-G-M’s earliest musicals, a box-office hit that ensured that Novarro’s career as a leading man would continue well into the ’30s.

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Mockery (1927) Benjamin Christensen, Lon Chaney, Barbara Bedford, Ricardo Cortez, Drama, Romance

Mockery (1927)
One of the rare American films directed by Danish auteur Benjamin Christensen, Mockery stars Lon Chaney Sr. as a half-witted Russian peasant. On the verge of starvation, Chaney is hired to guide a beautiful countess (Barbara Bedford) through the treacherous Siberian wastes. Once he arrives at the countess’ home territory, Chaney is swept up by the Bolshevik movement. He comes to despise the aristocracy in general and the countess in particular, but the young woman’s kindness towards him weakens his revolutionary resolve. Long thought lost, Mockery was rediscovered and preserved in the mid-1970s; the film was based on a story by Stig Esbern.

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The Circus (1928) Charles Chaplin, Merna Kennedy, Al Ernest Garcia, Comedy, Romance

The Circus (1928)
The Tramp finds himself at a circus where he is promptly chased around by the police who think he is a pickpocket. Running into the Bigtop, he is an accidental sensation with his hilarious efforts to elude the police. The circus owner immediately hires him, but discovers that the Tramp cannot be funny on purpose, so he takes advantage of the situation by making the Tramp a janitor who just happens to always be in the Bigtop at showtime. Unaware of this exploitation, the Tramp falls for the owner’s lovely acrobatic stepdaughter, who is abused by her father. His chances seem good, until a dashing rival comes in and Charlie feels he has to compete with him.

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The Jazz Singer (1927) Alan Crosland, Al Jolson, May McAvoy, Warner Oland, Drama, Musical

The Jazz Singer (1927)
Cantor Rabinowitz is concerned and upset because his son Jakie shows so little interest in carrying on the family’s traditions and heritage. For five generations, men in the family have been cantors in the synagogue, but Jakie is more interested in jazz and ragtime music. One day, they have such a bitter argument that Jakie leaves home for good. After a few years on his own, now calling himself Jack Robin, he gets an important opportunity through the help of well-known stage performer Mary Dale. But Jakie finds that in order to balance his career, his relationship with Mary, and his memories of his family, he will be forced to make some difficult choices.

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Gipsy Anne / Fante-Anne (1920) Rasmus Breistein, Asta Nielsen, Einar Tveito, Johanne Bruhn, Crime, Drama, Romance

Gipsy Anne (1920)
The story of an orphaned girl brought up by the Storlein family. Young Anne (Asta Nielsen) is brought as an infant to the Storlein farm by her mother, who has been traveling and is in need of a rest. The two are turned away at the door, and the mother takes her young daughter to the barn to sleep. The farmhand Jon discovers them in the morning but the mother has not made it through the night, so young Anne is taken in and raised by the family. She is a rambunctious little girl, always getting her younger (step) brother into trouble. Finally mother Storlein has had enough, and lets slip that she never should have taken Anne in. Young Anne goes to Jon and learns the truth of her arrival at the farm. Years pass, and she and her younger step-brother are now smitten. But Jon, the farmhand who found her in the barn all those years ago is also in love with Anne. Anne will be betrayed by one and saved from a life in prison by the other, and in the end will find true happiness in a new land.

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Branded a Bandit (1924) Paul Hurst, Yakima Canutt, Judge Hamilton, Wilbur McGaugh, Action, Adventure, Mystery, Romance, Western

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Falsely accused of murdering a prospector and on the lam from the law, rancher Jess Dean (Yakima Canutt) not only tracks down the real culprit (shifty-eyed Wilbur McGaugh) but earns the love and respect of his enemy’s daughter (Aly Murrell). Directed by prolific western performer Paul Hurst, this independently produced silent western was one of the earliest starring vehicles for legendary stunt-coordinator Yakima Canutt. Cannutt’s career as a leading man didn’t survive the changeover to sound, but his stunt work made a lasting impression on the film industry and earned him a special Academy Award in 1966 “for creating the profession of stunt man as it exists today.”

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Nell Gwyn (1926) Herbert Wilcox, Dorothy Gish, Randle Ayrton, Juliette Compton, Biography, Drama, Romance

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While Lillian Gish achieved stardom with her dramatic emoting, her sister Dorothy made a name for herself as a saucy comedienne. Nell Gwyn was one of several felicitous collaborations between Dorothy Gish and British producer-director Herbert Wilcox. The star is of course cast as the title character, the infamous 17th-century orange vendor who became a star on the London stage – and the mistress of “merry monarch” King Charles III (Randle Ayrton). Though her fortunes take a downswing towards the end of her life, Nell remains ever faithful to her beloved Charles. Nell Gwyn was based on a novel by Marjorie Bowen, which was also the source for the 1934 remake, which starred Herbert Wilcox’s talented protégé (and later wife) Anna Neagle.

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