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.
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.
“It would have been more logical if silent pictures had grown out of the talkie instead of the other way round.”
“The silent film has a lot of meanings. The first of the film is comic. It represents the burlesque feel of those silent films. But I think that the second part of the film is full of tenderness and emotion.”
“As Daddy said, life is 95 percent anticipation'”
“Adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de Milo”
“A well dressed woman, even though her purse is painfully empty, can conquer the world.”
Some facts I found online about silent film that were published on www.oldmagazinearticles.com/silent_movie_history_article in 1947 by journalist Richard G. Hubler.
Film production companies were fierce busy back in the silent era, how about averaging three movies per week.
With that sort of work, what type of salary were some of the early film production crews on, well how about a good pay for a Hollywood film executive which would be around $50.00 per week.
And then there were the film extras who were on about $1.50 per day. (Did they get their meals provided for as well I wonder)
Film directors did a bit better though, they were on about $150.00 per week. (No wonder they all lived in luxury)
And sure Cameramen were also well thought of with a salary of $80.00 per week.
Scriptwriters had to be very prolific, since they were averaging about $25 per script – must have been very heavy work on an old type-writer though.
And finally, Money must have really stretched far back then: About $500.00 for a big-budget production back in the silent-era – no wonder they could afford to squeeze out three movies per week. More next week. Log in and find out what new facts I have to reveal.
Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee