It’s yet another good month for silent films on TCM: there are ten of them total, including two tonight. A couple of these are ones that also aired last month, but overall it’s a good mix.
Steamboat Bill Jr.: Even if you haven’t seen this film, you’ve almost certainly seen one of its most enduring images, a house collapsing on Buster Keaton, who escapes death by standing in the spot of the open window. The whole film, and especially the final storm sequence are classic chaotic Keaton. It’s a must see silent comedy.
The Kid: This is another must see silent comedy. Chaplin’s first full length movie, it’s one of his perfect mixes of comedy and drama. He was a master at combing the comedy with pathos, and this is one of his finest examples.
Show People: A great movie about movies, this one from the very end of silent films is directed by King Vidor. Starring Marion Davies and William Haines, it also includes cameos by such megastars as Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks.
Modern Times: Released in 1936, this all time classic by Chaplin was his final silent film (although there are sound effects and some spoken gibberish). The final holdover from silent films, Chaplin would move on to a full talking picture after this. Not only is it insanely funny, but carries with it social commentary about the common worker in the world of industrialization.
The Mysterious Island: This film starring Lionel Barrymore is a pretty unique one: it features talking sequences and was made in technicolor. The version broadcast by TCM will likely be in black and white, though. Only that version existed until last year, when a technicolor copy was found in Czech film archives.
The Racket:This film was shown last month, and is absolutely worth seeing if you didn’t check it out then. One of the first films nominated for Best Picture, it’s a very good crime film.
Ben-Hur: This 1925 version off his often adapted story is a grandiose production, and much like the 1959 film, features an incredibly well done and dramatic chariot scene. Watch out for dozens and dozens of classic movie stars making cameo appearances in the chariot scene.
Flesh and the Devil: This film features two stars in the middle of a romance: Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. The two were actually romantically linked at the time, and the film helped launch Garbo into a higher level of stardom.
Spione: This spy thriller was directed by German Fritz Lang. His second to last silent film, it features one of his regular stars, Friedrich Rudolf Klein-Rogge.
The Viking: From a technological perspective, this is a very notable film. Not only is it the first technicolor feature with a soundtrack, it’s also a landmark technicolor film. It’s the first film to use the technicolor 3 process, which used a dye transfer to allow more colors to be seen.
West of Zanzibar: Also shown last month, this film Briggs together the familiar pair of director Tod Browning and star Lon Chaney.