Last night I went to the historic Fox Theater in downtown Hanford with my poppa to see silent movies playing with a live organist and a hand cranked projector. It was fun, and interactive, with the audience being encouraged to cheer or boo with prompting cards.
Jonathan and I always try to catch the silent movie nights when they come to town (the above photo is from a previous silent movie night at the Fox), and I was determined to not miss this one, since Jonathan insisted I not stay home and miss out on fun things while he’s gone. So even though I have been coming down with a cold, I dragged my poppa out – who is also experiencing a similar cold. We were both so sick and coughing up such a storm that we ended up leaving at intermission after only seeing two films. It got to a point where our coughing and hacking up phlegm started to annoy ourselves as much as I’m sure it was annoying everyone around us.
The first movie we watched was Teddy At The Throttle, a 1917 flick starring Bobbie Vernon and Gloria Swanson (who were newlyweds in real life during the filming of this movie). You can watch the entire film on YouTube here.
The film is about a girl (Gloria) who lives in a mansion with her dog. Her fiancé / boy toy Bobbie lives across the hall from her. The spineless male love interest in the movie has a lot of money coming to him in his inheritance as soon as he gets married. But Bobbies guardian is a crooked guy who is scheming after the money, and plans to have his sister seduce Bobbie away from Gloria.
The sister is tall and curvy and very buxom, so spineless Bobby begins to fall for her. He even goes so far as to break up the engagement with Gloria and demand the ring back. Suddenly it’s discovered that it’s not Bobbie who has the inheritance upon marriage, it’s actually Gloria. Seriously. I don’t know how the eff that works. Are they siblings? Cousins? Was this silent film set in Alabama? Was incest just a part of the roaring 20s? Or did.. and this is my guess… did movies just not have to make any freaking sense back then?
Anyway, randomly and without sufficient reason, Bobbie finds out Gloria’s inheritance money-bags outweigh the buxom rival sisters fun-bags, and decides to get back together with her. But then… get this, it’s my favorite part at 20:05… Gloria is suddenly tied to a train by the evil guardian. While I’m sure 1917 audiences were on the edge of their seats in nail-biting anticipation, I was LOLing pretty hard. That’s awesome! And so random. Senseless acts of violence for the win!
If you are gonna watch any of this film at all, watch the last five minutes from the 20 minute mark onward to see the damsel in distressed get rescued by her dog, and then fall back in love with the spineless engagement breaking asshole.
The second film we watched was Balloonatic, a 1923 film, written by and starring Buster Keaton. Again, you can watch the entire film on YouTube here.
This story has no story. It’s just a bunch of random slapsticky crap that had me more and more convinced with each story “twist” that everyone in the 1920s were either retarded or on some kind of drug. Basically Buster wanders around Coney Island hitting on girls, and getting rejected. Then he climbs into a hot air balloon and flies off into the sunset. After shooting a hole in the balloon, he lands in the middle of a wilderness, where he tries to hunt and fish and swim and basically fails at life. Throughout the whole things there’s some random girl camping in the area too, also failing miserably at everything she does. Eventually the girl gets attacked by a bull, but ends up wrestling it to the ground. Buster is then followed by a friendly bear that he shoots in the face and uses as a sofa. Then Buster and the girl fall in love and fly off into the sunset in a broken canoe attached to the now-repaired hot air balloon.
Seriously. WTF. How the bloody hell did this film even get pitched to the Hollywood big wigs who were responsible for spending precious depression-era dough on production costs?!
Now don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy watching silent movies and I love to get immersed in such a romantic bygone era. Jonathan and I are so turn of the century, industrial-era, Edwardian crazy that our wedding carried heavy influences from that time period, fashion and music-wise. Hell, my wedding ring is an antique authentic Edwardian solitaire and Al Bowlly music is practically the soundtrack to our ceremony. But still. When it comes to the storytelling value of major motion pictures that were distributed to the masses…. WTF 1920’s. WTF.
Cool picture I took of the Hanford Fox Theater on our last Silent Movie date night. We’d arrived early and no one was in the west wing of the theater, so I snapped this shot and photoshopped the crap out of it to make it look creepy and awesome.