Welcome back to our weekly Nenagh Silent Film Festival Friday Facts post. Again I’ve been studying the 1947 article Hollywood’s Green Years, which is a treasure trove of information about the silent era. Of course with this article having being published less than twenty years after the beginning of talkies, the time would have being fresh in many minds. I hope you may be amazed at some of the facts I’ve found as I have been, and you if you want to read the previous Friday Facts posts, you’ll find them under the Category Friday Facts.
In 1909 the American Film Company (AFC) sent it’s first unit to California. After a time there was no sign of any word coming back, so a scout was sent out to locate the company. He eventually found it in San Juan Capistrano, where the director had become a confirmed drunkard and the actors and crew were broke and stranded. The scout contacted AFC and advised them of the situation. The reply wire from AFC read: “WE WANT PICTURES. MAKE UP STORY AND DIRECT IT.” The scout did as he was told! Such was the way of things back in the pioneering days of the early silent era.
The title of the first two-reeler ever shot was called Oil on Troubled Waters. The story was about a heroine who owned oil wells that were located in the sea off California. The villain of the piece coveted the wells, but the hero of the story arrived just in time (Hooray!) Of course, as in every story like this back in the day pre-Tarentino, you have a calm, comfortable setting at the beginning, then an anti-hero or a villain comes along and upsets the apple cart, until the hero arrives to resolve everything, before everything returns to a calm, comfortable setting again. This is usually accompanied with a love interest between the hero and the heroine. (Check out most films you have watched – same rules nearly always apply) Anyway, a fight inevitably happens between the hero and villain and this occurs when the hero is drilling a new well from a rowboat(?) and the villain had swam out to beat the bejaysus out of him (Booo!), however the hero wins through and ends up drowning the villain by sitting upon him. (Tarentino again: Unnecessary violence)
After the first two-reeler was screened, there was a lot of people who were very unhappy with this progression in the motion film industry and hundreds of letters were addressed to the powers that be, as well as to the film companies. An extract from on of these letters from a church minister read: “It is morally degrading to have a motion picture more than one reel in length.” The film industry remained tight-lipped over the matter and continued to make two-reel silent films – Thank God! That’s all for this week, but don’t forget to check us out next week when we’ll have some more amazing facts from the silent era.
Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee