So in the past year, I’ve fallen really hard for silent films. It isn’t exactly surprising since my parents instilled a love of old movies, especially those of the Marx Brothers. (Once in my youth, we apparently watched all the movies during the coldest weekend in Chicago history). In graduate school, I feel hard and deep for Carmen Miranda after taking a class on her (relevant for my thesis, I must add). However, her characters are all much more impressive than any movie she’s actually been in.
So something clicked when I saw Buston Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. He is such an incredible master of physical comedy. Now I’m completely hooked. I go out of my way for any opportunity to see silent films on the movie screen with live organist. If you haven’t tried it, go to the Music Box on Silent Saturday at noon. It doesn’t really matter what’s playing; it’s worth it.
I’m a big fan of the physical comedy sorts: Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton and then Charlie Chaplin. Yeah, Chaplin isn’t even numero 2 in my list. There are some amazing dramas, namely Metropolis and Battleship Potemkin. I have a long list of films to go to even say that I’m educated on the subject but I’ll mention some things as I go along.
I just watched a Harold Lloyd short called An Eastern Westerner which is about a young playboy who is sent West because he’s too much of a playboy. In the starting credits, it lists the time of the film as “Several thousand cocktails before the prohibition hour.” Such a brilliant way to capture the carefree spirit of the roaring 1920s.
After the credits, it opens into a party. Now, one thing that seems universal to all the silent films I’ve seen so far is that silent films have the best parties. No one can party like the people in a silent film. These parties are epic. I’d even go so far to say that they are the sphere of parties per Plato’s conception of spheres. Part of it may be the necessary overacting; after all, it is a silent film. Or maybe it’s the 1920s and they just knew how to party. What I think is more likely is that silent films, by nature of being silent, have to reduce a party down to its most core: dancing and having fun. Conversations, drama etc that have become staples of parties are stripped away because of the medium. All that is left is dancing and music. But then again as a musician and live music lover, I might be biased about parties.
Someday I hope to have a party like one those in silent films. It’s an ideal, I suppose, but can’t hurt to aspire for it. Anyway, that’s all for now about silent films.