Monday, February 14, 2022

5 Off My Head: Siri Says 1926

May wonders never stop wondering, we're doing two editions of our "Siri Says" series in as many weeks -- what a spectacle! Who needs a Super Bowl when you've got this shit? It's a good time of the year for these posts because what the hell else is going on, movie-wise? We're post-Sundance and mostly only shit's being released in theaters, and everybody's sick of the Oscar conversations. So why not look back at movies-past? And this week we're going way way past, very nearly an entire century, to The Movies of 1926. (As explained last week I have too few years left for this series so I didn't actually ask Siri for a number between 1 and 100; I am now choosing the few remaining years from a hat, basically.) 

In fact we're going so far back that as far as I can come up with I've only seen five movies from 1926 total. My batting average with Silent Film is not great, Bob! So I put "Favorite" in quotes, which implies "Only" this go-round (although a few of these are straight-up masterpieces, to be sure.) And there are several films from this year I've always wanted to see, so do check out the "Never seen" list for more titles of note...

My 5 "Favorite" Movies of 1926

(dir. Clyde Bruckman & Buster Keaton)
-- released on December 25th 1926 -- 

(dir. Lotte Reiniger)
-- released on July 2nd 1926 -- 

(dir. FW Murnau)
-- released on October 14th 1926 -- 

(dir. George Fitzmaurice)
-- released on July 9th 1926 -- 

(dir. Keaton)
-- released on August 22nd 1926 -- 


Never seen: The Winning of Barbara Worth (dir. Henry King), Don Juan (dir. Alan Crosland), Beau Geste (dir. Herbert Brenon), The Sea Beast (dir. Millard Webb), The Student of Prague (dir. Henrik Galeen)...

... Tartuffe (dir. Murnau), What Price Glory? (dir. Raoul Walsh), Tell It to the Marines (dir. George W. Hill), La Bohème (dir. King Vidor), The Johnstown Flood (dir. Irving Cummings), Bardelys the Magnificent (dir. Vidor)


What are your favorite movies of 1926?


Shawny said...

Only one I've seen is The General, and that's because I was in a film class in college. No other reason. Early silent films were pretty flat, like paintings before the renaissance. Very crudely staged and shot, long takes of mouths moving before you get the words. I do like some but it's really difficult to sit through. I can't imagine kids now ever, ever giving one the time of day. Unless it's on tik tok of course.

joel65913 said...

We really are doing a deep dive today!!

I’m unsurprised to see two Buster movies in your five, he being your silent movie boyfriend and all. I don’t hold him in quite the same regard but those two are enjoyable, very inventive films from him.

I would say the same for Faust, you can see how it had a pervasive influence on films that came afterwards, and Prince Ahmed even for a non-animation fan like myself.

Son of the Sheik is another thing altogether though. It’s wildly dated both in story and acting. Valentino was without question a looker in his slick haired nostril flaring way but that’s the problem. His acting is so overly emphatic and operatic I found myself laughing at times. I don’t mean this cruelly but for him death was an excellent career move, if he had made it to sound I think his career would have nosedived almost instantly especially as his brand of machismo gave way to the Gables and Tracys. Instead, his name is a catchword for silents. I did not hate the picture but boy is it a relic.

I have seen a bit from this year, according to Letterboxd I’m at 44 films, but most have been middling at best and I have no flat-out classics that I love. The worst thing I’ve seen from ’26 is a very, very early Joan Crawford picture (she’s practically unrecognizable) hilariously called Tramp, Tramp, Tramp! It doesn’t refer to Joanie of course but the star of the flick, comic Harry Langdon.

But back to higher quality pictures, I can pull together a top ten but only just! A couple were made abroad but they are a good illustration of one of the best things about silent film. Since there is no dialog all films were truly international requiring only title card substitutions to be viewed and understood anywhere in the world.

Top 10 in order of preference:

1. A Page of Madness-Japanese horror without title cards about a man’s attempt to free his wife from an insane asylum.
2. Old Ironsides
3. The Sorrows of Satan
4. Gribiche
5. Faust
6. Don Juan
7. Flesh and the Devil-The picture is a bit stilted but the chemistry between Garbo and John Gilbert is scintillating and it contains one of the most erotic fully clothed scenes in any film ever.
8. The Winning of Barbara Worth
9. The Scarlet Letter
10. The General

As far as runners-up there aren’t many and those are all because of their star.

Battling Butler

The Black Bird-Since it stars Lon Chaney it’s worth seeing but it’s one of his lesser vehicles.

The Black Pirate-Decent Douglas Fairbanks adventure with him leaping about as was his custom.

Mantrap-Clara Bow radiates star power, but this is a typical film for her.

The Temptress-Again its Garbo so worth it for her special electricity but the picture itself is clunky.