Some more facts this week of the golden silent era of film: Well, as movies became more and more popular, memorabilia from the stars of the big screen were sort after to an extent whereby there were thousands of requests for photographs of favourite actors. The actors were only delighted to oblige. They charged their fans 25 cents for a picture, and since they were originally charged just 10 cents for each picture, they made a 15 cents profit for each picture. This helped boost their weekly income with these picture sales totalling more than their weekly salary.
One film director, Allan Dwan had worked continuously in motion pictures from 1909 up to 1947, when the Hollywood’s Green Years article was published. During this time Mister Dwan’s salary had ascended $50 a year to earnings of $1,000,000 by 1947. He had made more than 1250 productions of all lengths and his productions had earned more than $500,000,000 up to 1947.
D. W. Griffith
Directors talked constantly during shooting in the silent era. The Hollywood’s Green Years article reported a typical scene went along these lines: “Come in, Kerrigan (J. M. Kerrigan was an early favourite of the silent era). Go to the table. Pick up a book. Look for something in it. You don’t find it. You’re mad. Put it down. Hard. Now turn toward the fireplace. Walk slowly. Still mad. Take out a cigarette. Light a match. Light a cigarette. Put out the match. Cross to the window. You see someone coming. Someone you love. You look at the door expectantly. All right, come in Jessalyn. (Jessalyn van Trump was one of the first leading ladies). Go to each other. You embrace. You kiss. Hold it. Hold it. You’re saying goodbye. Alright, Kerrigan, get out. Get out.“ If the hero didn’t get out fast enough, the cameraman simply slowed his cranking. Projected at normal speed on the screen, it looked as if the hero had being yanked out. How things change, in the silent era there was obviously plenty of talking during shooting, while nowadays it’s hugely important for silence on the set. That’s all for this week. Now I’m off to dig up some more facts for you for next week.
Quoted by Stan Laurel:
“If any of you cry at my funeral, I’ll never speak to you again.”
Quoted by Oliver Hardy:
“Well, if she was dumb enough to marry you, she’ll believe anything.”
Quoted by Buster Keaton:
“Silence is of the gods; only monkeys chatter.“
Quoted by Greta Garbo:
“Why haven’t I got a husband and children?” mused Greta Garbo to the Duchess of Windsor, “I never met a man I could marry.”
Quote by Marisha Pessl in Special Topics in Calamity Physics:
“If all histories have a period known as The Golden Age, somewhere between The Beginning and The End, I suppose those Sundays during Fall Semester at Hannah’s were just that, or, to quote one of Dad’s treasured characters of cinema, the illustrious Norma Desmond as she recalled the lost era of silent film: “We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces.”
Quoted by Leonard Maltin:
“When it comes to the selections, I heard several observers claim that the Academy was embracing “nostalgia” by honoring The Artist and Hugo. Give me a break! Hugo represents cutting-edge storytelling by a world-class director—in 3-D, no less. The Artist dares to revisit a form of cinema that was abandoned in the late 1920s. The Academy members admired these films for making the past seem immediate and relevant. That has nothing to do with nostalgia; it has everything to do with great moviemaking, which is what the Academy Awards are all about.”
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
More facts of the silent-era taken from the 1947 article: Hollywoods Green Years! A regular practice at the start of a production was for a hunt, whereby a spectacular place to kill a villain was found. This was usually a high cliff. Fifty feet of the heroine in the heroes arms was shot and then a 20 foot walk into the sunset. At this point the whole production company sat down and figured out the first part of the production which resulted them in getting to the finished point. The universal motto was “Do and Die First; Reason why Later!”
Another report from this article was that $1.50 was paid daily to extra players. It was also reported that good extra players were contracted to $10 a week. And there were bonuses of $1 if they performed stunts like jumping over a cliff, wrestling a berserk steer, or swimming a river that is in flood.
There was no such thing as doubles in the silent film era. Seemingly if the script called for the hero to fall from a precipice, the actor would would fall personally. Acorroding to the article this would usually be into a haystack or into the sea. The article goes onto say that in one saga the leading man was strung up by the neck and then to be rescued in the nick of time by a posse, however the horse that he was on bolted. He was then literally hung for a few moments. Talk about really getting into the part. The report says that he got a sore neck for his trouble and asked for a raise.