Where Did All the Silent Films Go?: Tales of Fire, Destruction and Deterioration

Silent films have become a frequent topic around here. Recently, we even talked about the lost films that have been found this year, even though 75% of the silent films are lost. We keep making reference to all these silent films being gone, but what happened to them? Many were destroyed deliberately and others deteriorated, but the vast majority can be attributed to what all the films were made of. To understand properly why the films were gone, you need to know that specific fact.

The answer boils down simple to one thing: nitrate and, specifically, nitrate film. Even before there were motion pictures being made, nitrate was already being used for still frame cameras. The first patent was filed by Hannibal Goodwin, a priest, in 1887. During the time in which Goodwin waited for his patent to be filed, Kodak began using the nitrate film in 1889 (Goodwin later won $5 million in a patent infringement lawsuit). It was this type of film that was used dating back in motion pictures as early as Edison’s Kinetoscope.

There is, however, a major problem with using nitrate film: it’s highly flammable. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise given that nitric acid had been used in guncotton, to create an explosion, since the 1830s. As many were to find out, it can catch fire easily and is hard to put out.

Experiments found that even getting the fire of a nitrate film underwater was difficult. This is because nitrate film gets fueled by it’s own oxygen once it’s on fire, which makes it hard to put out and allows it to catch fire quickly. New nitrate films could also catch fire easily, which is what brought about two very deadly fires at movie theaters in Ireland and Scotland. In the case of the one in Ireland, it was started by a nearby candle.

It was these fires throughout the decades that spelled the end for a vast majority of the silent film. Practically each major studio has numerous terrible stories. On the Universal lot, a 1922 electrical fire spread to where the films were stored. It immediately ignited and burned up 185,000 feet of film. Warner Bros suffered a similar fate in 1933.

So many films were lost in the fires because they were all store in similar proximity. A 1937 fire in Fort Lee, NJ wiped out all of the films made by Fox Pictures up to that point– the building contained 48 different vaults filled with films. Fox would later have a couple more fires in the decades to come, and RKO had it’s own vault fire.

The 1967 MGM Vault Fire is perhaps one of the most notable ones. It’s certainly one of the most damaging. The entire vault went up in flames, including some of the most now sought after silent films– London After Midnight, The Divine Woman, Our Gang shorts, and numerous early talkies as well.

In other cases, studios simply threw out the films. Universal notably dumped whatever silent films they had left in the 40s, greatly adding to the number of films now lost.

The ones that survived fires and purposeful destruction still ended up gone in many cases. Once again, the nitrate prints combined with poor storage were to blame. Little did anyone know at the time just how badly nitrate prints decomposed throughout the decades in various stages.

In a good situation, the print only fades and develops an amber color. From there, prints begin to stick together and become brittle. Ones even further along contain gas bubbles and sometimes a poor odor. Up until that stage, there is still a chance the film can be saved, but there are no guarantees that the film will survive the breaking apart due to their brittle nature. Films even worse along might be welded together and covered in froth, eventually breaking down into powder. Films in these later stages cannot be saved and must be safely disposed of.

It was once estimated that the majority of nitrate print films would have decomposed by 2000. Luckily, there are many that have still survived to this day, and new methods in freezing the film have allowed them to be saved for longer periods of time. They must still be carefully preserved, as these older prints can catch fire at 120 degrees F (49 C). And yet, some have managed to last the test of time, like this print of the 1934 version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, which I now own:

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Yes, this is all horrible news but remember the good news from before–many international vaults are still turning up lost films. And when they are found, they are almost immediately preserved. Most of the silent films may be lost, but the ones that are still around are being permanently saved. It’s just a shame that flammable prints stored poorly led to almost all of them disappearing.

Hammer: More Than Just Horror

Tonight, beginning at 8 PM EST, TCM will be airing four Hammer Films. Hearing that name should conjure up certain images for classic film fans, that of an endless slew of horror movies. There was no bigger name synonymous with horror in the 50s and 60s, particularly gothic tales and endless sequels in involving Dracula, Frankenstein and others. But those are not the films TCM is showing tonight. They are showing off another facet of Hammer’s productions– their noir films.

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Yes, Hammer actually produced a wide variety of films including noir, sci-if, adventure and fantasy films. So where did they come from and what else did they make?

Hammer’s history dates back to the 1930s in the UK. It’s original incarnation didn’t last long, producing only five films before going bankrupt within two years. It was it’s resurrection ten years later that formed the basis it would be known for: producing lots of films cheaply.

From the very beginning, Hammer worked almost exclusively in phases, producing large numbers of films of one kind. Through the 40s and into the early 50s, the product was largely mysteries, thrillers and film noir. Their earliest batch of sequels came from three Dick Barton crime films, a character originally from British radio. Three films, ending in 1950, were produced with him as the lead character.

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Through around 1955, these remained the dominant form of film produced by Hammer. By 1956, the shift began. That year, they instead produced a sci-fi film (of which they had made a couple prior), and a women’s prison film. The following year, they expanded even further into sci-fi and horror, producing Dracula and Frankenstein films. Several comedies were even made.

By the early 60s, they were firmly planted into the familiar horror genre, making tons of those films almost exclusively. More changes were still coming. By the mid-60s, they had begun to create their own steady stream of Hitchcock-esque psychological thrillers or suspense movies. Most of these revolved around either a mysterious killer or a twist ending (sometimes both). The one most often seen now, due to it’s frequent airing on TCM would be Die! Die! My Darling! The latter half of the decade saw those films go away too. Horror and sci-fi became prominent again, along with several movies revolving around cave girls.

Hammer returned to almost exclusively horror films in the 1970s, at a time when the signature gothic style was no longer in fashion. At the time, it’s last film was a remake of Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes in 1979.

The Hammer has since changed hands many times, along with many failed attempts at a revival. Currently, though, the latest revival of Hammer Films has actually produced films. Since 2008, they’ve produced six films, including The Quiet Ones earlier this year.

Check out four of Hammer’s noir films, before the were known for horror, beginning at 8 PM EST on TCM.

A Look at the Very Few Remaining Silent Film Actors

Note: There is now a new follow up post here which features information on other living silent actors.

Carla Laemmle has passed away, at the age of 104. Others have written glowingly and wonderfully about the woman and her unique life. Not only was she the niece of Universal Pictures found Carl Laemmle, she most notably appeared in the 1931 Dracula. Her connection to the horror genre through film led to her making a few film appearances in the final decade of her life, after not appearing in a role for around 70 years. There is another notable item about her as well– she was one of the remaining silent movie actors still alive. Her roles weren’t major by any stretch of the imagination (she was uncredited in her first appearance, The Phantom of the Opera), but she was one of the dwindling few left alive who appeared in silent films. Mickey Rooney, another member of that small group, passed away earlier this year as well. The number now is extremely small, and all of them were child actors. All of them are worthy of being discussed and remembered, as they are a final link to that bygone era. Let’s look at the lives and careers of all of them, going from oldest to youngest.

Mary Carlisle

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Mary Carlisle (101) also only made one uncredited silent appearance, as a child in the Jackie Coogan film Long Live the King. By 1930, at the age of 16, she began appearing in films more regularly. These too were very small roles– it wasn’t until 1932 that she even played a character with a name. By that point, the size of her role began to depend on whether it was a b-movie or a bigger picture. While she had small roles in big pictures like Grand Hotel and Smilin’ Through in 1932, she also played more major parts in b-movies like Down to Earth and Her Mad Night.

By 1933 she received top billing for the first time in The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi. As the years went by, she continued to work in a similar fashion, starring in smaller films while taking on supporting roles in bigger films. Through all of the 1930s she was active, sometimes appearing over half a dozen films per year.

When the 1940s hit, her work slowed down. But in the few films she made in that decade before retiring, all but one of them features her in a starring role. All of them fall into a b-movie specific genre as well: two gangster movies (one a partial comedy), a war film and a horror movie. She has not appeared in a movie since 1943.

Carlisle is also the last living member of another group: the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers (WAMPAS) Baby Stars. The group named young actresses each year who they felt were approaching high points in the motion picture industry. When it ran from 1922 to 1934, it did indeed choose many major stars like Clara Bow, Joan Crawford, Mary Astor and Ginger Rogers.

Shep Houghton
The person who is definitely alive is Shep Houghton. Houghton has appeared in minor and insignificant roles in a number of major pictures, most notably The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. IMDB gives him credit for three silent films: Underworld, The Last Command and Ramona. But was he actually in those three films? That is where the issue gets a little trickier. Houghton’s roles are all listed as uncredited, which should come as no surprise. Silent films are notoriously bad at giving full cast lists in credits. Anyone outside of the main stars usually didn’t get a mention. The kinds of roles Houghton is listed as playing (strangely, both a Russian and a Mexican youth) never would usually get a screen credit.

At the very least, there is further confirmation that he appeared in the latter two films. Houghton was interviewed in an article about his hundredth birthday earlier this year. The article references both The Last Command and Ramona as early film roles. As that article was compiled from interviews with him and from an unreleased manuscript, those roles can pretty much be confirmed. Houghton is another silent film actor still living.

Fay McKenzie

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Fay McKenzie (97) made the earliest film appearance by a living person as Gloria Swanson’s baby in the 1918 film Station Content. Throughout the 1920s, she played five other roles, most notably a young Sarah Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln’s stepmother) in The Dramatic Life of Abraham Lincoln.

By 1934, McKenzie began a steady stream of bit parts and slightly larger roles in low budget movies like the drug scare film Assassin of Youth. After six years of small work like that, 1941 marked her biggest year on the silver screen. Between that year and the following one, she starred in five Gene Autry westerns. In each film, she played in the lead female role and sang with Autry. This peak of her career came right before she mostly retired from film.

After a few smaller roles in the following years where she sang, McKenzie mostly retired. The 1960s saw her make very sporadic appears, mostly in minor roles. She last appeared in very small role in the 1981 film S.O.B., also the the final film William Holden appeared in.

Diana Serra Cary (Baby Peggy)

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Cary (96), also known as Baby Peggy, was one of the top child stars of her time. For a three year run beginning in 1921, dozens upon dozens of Baby Peggy shorts were produced, fueling her popularity. 1924 saw her debut in features, but also saw the end of her time as a major film star. Reportedly due to poor financial and negotiating decisions by her parents, she ended up out of films the following year and moved to vaudeville.

She would appear as an extra or in bit parts throughout the 1930s, but that marked the last time she appeared in film. Since that time, she has continued to be active in the public eye. She wrote for radio for a time, and has written several books about her time as a child star, along with the dangers of child stardom.

Priscilla Moran
For a four year period starting in 1922, Priscilla Moran was a major child star. Her debut, The Toll of the Sea, was one of the first technicolor features, and 1926 saw her star in her first and only leading role. Her time in the spotlight was short-lived due to no fault of her own. A custody battle that lasted for years pulled her from various homes and left her unable to appear in films. Long after the dust settled in that regard, she played several bit parts in 1937.

Moran is likely still alive at the age of 96. There are no death records for anyone with her date of birth, and Young Hollywood Hall of Fame lists her as still living.

Dorothy Morrison
Dorothy Morrison, 95, only made six film appearances as a child, three of them in Our Gang shorts. Her most notable appearance is in the 1929 film Hearts in Dixie, an early talkie musical that was one of the first to feature an all African-American cast.

Louise and Billy Watson
Louise (95) and Billy (91) are two members of the very large Watson Family. All told, there were nine siblings, all of whom acted at some point or another. A complete filmography for all the members of the family, including Louise and Billy, appears to be incomplete. It’s known they both were in silent films, but sources show very few appearances.

Billy had several small roles throughout the 1930s, many of them in major pictures starring the likes of Katherine Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck, Will Rogers and Jimmy Stewart (the latter in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). His last appearance was in 1940. Louise, if what filmography available is believed to be complete, made no more than a couple of appearances in the 20s and 30s. She did, however, make several small appearances in TV shows in the 1990s.

A third Watson child, Garry, is also still living. He did not appear in any silent films.

Helen Rowland
Sometimes known as Baby Helen Rowland, she appeared in a total of nine films over a span of five years. Despite being a few years old at the time, it looks like she may have played an actual baby in some of her films. Unfortunately, only two of her films survive, so there is very little footage of her around. Not much information about her outside of these films are available.

Rowland may be alive. Multiple sources list her birthdate as October 23, 1919. The Social Security Death Index does show a Helen Rowland who passed away, with a birthdate that is six days off. It does seem likely that this is a different person. This other woman is listed as having died in Ohio, which connects with a woman of the same name in Ohio in 1940 census records. An Ohio news article from 1938 discusses a highly successful local decorator of the same name.

Given that the actress Helen Rowland was born in New York, it looks like she is more than likely still alive. If that is correct, she is 94.

Lassie Lou Ahern

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Ahern (93), along with her sister Peggy, were in a few Our Gang shorts in the mid 1920s. After those appearances, the two formed a nightclub act for several years. Ahern made small appearances in films in the 1940s, and later landed one episodes spots on Love, American Style and The Odd Couple in the 1970s. Peggy died in 2012.

Kathleen O’Malley
You’ve probably seen O’Malley (90) in something, even if the name isn’t familiar. Her only silent film appearance was as a baby, but she was very prolific in her adult life.

O’Malley made small film small film appearances in the 40s and 50s, but the number of TV shows she’s made guest appearances on is staggering. She’s appeared on all of the following shows: Dragnet, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, General Hospital, Leave it to Beaver, Perry Mason, Bonanza, Hazel, Twilight Zone, The Munsters, The Fugitive, Family Affair, Gunsmoke, Mary Tyler Moore, Columbo, The Waltons, Barnaby Jones, Dynasty, The A-Team and Beverly Hills 90210.

Mildred Kornman
Kornman (88), is yet another Our Gang member. She is the younger sister of Mary, the female lead in the Our Gang shorts. Mildred never played a prominent role in any of the shorts, and typically only appeared in large groups or background shots.

Some of the actors previously featured in this post have passed away. Below are their bios.

Manoel de Oliveira
Oliveria, now 105, is the only person known to be alive that was an adult in silent films. It’s only one role, an uncredited part in a Portuguese film that has more than likely been lost to the ages. His connection is small as can be, but Oliveria can lay claim to one of the most amazing careers in film history.

Since that first uncredited role, Oliveria has made very few other acting appearances. He has, however, gone on to become a prolific director who’s only gotten more active the older he gets.

From the 1930s through the 70s, he directed a grand total of 19 films. As he headed into his 70s, he amazingly had a huge uptick in productivity. Since 1980, he has made 40 films. In this decade alone, he has released five films, three in 2012. Two more are currently in development. At the moment, he is more than likely the most prolific working director. Oliveria does have the occasional year without a film release, unlike Woody Allen. But Allen only releases one film a year, whereas Oliveria sometimes produces several. As of 2014, they have each made the same number of films in this decade.

Working at such advantaged age has led to him either passing, or becoming very close to passing many age records. Not only he is the oldest director working today, but it is believed he is very close to becoming the oldest director to have ever lived. There are two known directors who lived to be older: Miguel Morayta (who also lived to 105) and George Abbott (107). In the cases of both the others, they had quit working decades before hitting the age of 100. Oliveria is also the only person to appear in a silent film who has gone on to direct using modern digital technology.

Oliveria’s work has also received a wealth of critical acclaim. He most recently was nominated for a Portuguese Golden Globe for Best Picture last year. His films are often nominated at the Cannes Film Festival (including winning the jury prize in 1999), and he received a special lifetime achievement award at the 2008 festival. It’s safe to say he is one of the hardest working men in the history of film. And considering the bulk of his work has been in his 70s and later, that is pretty amazing.

Jean Darling
Darling (93) is another Our Gang member, and is still active to this day.

Her run in the Our Gang shorts was a fairly lengthy one, dozens of films over a three year period from 1927 to 1929. Her film career ended nearly right after that with a few small appearances in the 30s. Her career outside of film has been very good, however. Following her film exit, she began a successful run as a Broadway performer in the 40s, including the original performance of Carousel. In the ensuing decades, she also wrote regular mystery stories for various magazines, and hosts a radio show in Ireland where she reads her stories.

In 2013, Darling made her first film appearance in decades in a short silent film. It can be viewed here.

Dickie Moore

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Moore (88) made one appearance as a baby in a silent film. By this point, you should know what the next sentence will be: he was in Our Gang shorts as a child. As a child, his biggest role was as the title role in the 1933 Oliver Twist adaptation. His second most prominent role was opposite Shirley Temple in a much hyped first kiss for her in Miss Annie Rooney (the movie bombed). Moore made more sporadic appearances through the 50s and married Jane Powell in 1988.

The Rediscovered Lost Films of 2014 (so far)

Fans of classic films, and particularly silent films, are all too well aware that way too many of the films have been lost over the decades. In fact, it was estimated several months back that around 75% of all silent films are lost. As bad as that news is, every year a few more lost films are found. It’s only June, but already it’s an excellent year for rediscovering lost films. With the most recent find occurring last month, 28 films have been restored already. Some of these are of particular importance in film history. Let’s take a look at what’s been found so far.

26 of the 28 found films come by way of the National Film Preservation Foundation. The group has done great work before. Their DVD release last year, Lost and Found: Treasures from the New Zealand Film Archive, included such notable films as a short directed by Mabel Normand and the first seen footage of Alfred Hitchcock’s work as an assistant director. Their estimates are that they have preserved over 2,000 films already, and they’re slated to preserve those 26 more previously lost films this year. An Amsterdam film archive presented to them last year tons of nitrate prints from their vaults. Now, after examining it all, the films are set to be preserved this year. The full list can be seen here, but here are some of the highlights:

The Backyard, a 1920 short starring Oliver Hardy (still credited as Babe Hardy at the time), and Jimmy Aubrey. Little is known about this one, aside from Hardy being credited as “a ruffian” and Aubrey as “almost a cop.”
Mickey’s Circus, from 1927, the first starring role for Mickey Rooney.
-One comedy each from three different silent comedy studios: Essanay, Mack Sennett and the lesser known Century Comedies. Neptune’s Naughty Daughter, the Century film, comes from the first year of the company’s existence, 1917. The Sennett film, The Village Chestnut, stars Chester Conklin. The Essanay film is almost a complete mystery. As of now, there is not even one cast member known.
Fifty Million Years Ago, a 1925 animated film that discusses the theory of evolution.

Two other films have been discovered this year, one in April and one in May. The 1923 British film Love, Life and Laughter also turned up in the Amsterdam archive in April, long after the other 26 films discussed above were found.

This is a notable discovery for British films. That country’s silent films have faired slightly worse than their American counterparts–it’s estimated an even higher percentage of their silent films (80%) are missing. This film in particular is important as it stars Betty Balfour, perhaps the biggest British silent film female star. But essentially all of her work has never been seen by modern audiences. Until this discovery, only one complete film of hers and a fragment of another had survived. It appears that the British Film Institute has yet to obtain the film, but they hope to screen it at some point.

The other film, the 1956 musical Corn’s a-Poppin, was discovered at the University of Wisconsin. It already received a screening last month, and will have another later this month. Written at least partially (and rumored to be directed by) by Robert Altman, one of the very few plot accounts available indicates the climax takes place in outer space.

And so, just six months into the year, 28 lost films have been discovered. Given that 27 of these films come from the Amsterdam film archive, maybe it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that even more could turn up from that source alone. Even if not, there will still be a lot of rare finds available to watch very soon.

The Many Wizard of Oz Adaptations, and Their Troubled History

TCM’s Silent Sunday feature tonight is the 1925 adaptation of The Wizard of Oz. As mentioned in the previous post, there are actually tons and tons of adaptations of L. Frank Baum’s book, including many before the legendary 1939 version. In total there have been 23 film adaptations (some of them sequels), one of which was never finished. Of those 23, nine came out prior to the Judy Garland version. Each of these takes it’s own unique look on the story, creating a very complex history of adaptations. Interestingly enough, nearly all of them faced production obstacles:

The first adaptation was helmed by Baum himself in 1908, a unique multimedia experience called The Fairylogue and Radio Plays. Presented as a stage show, Baum himself introduced scenes played by live actors as well as film clips of the Oz story. The film clips were colored through a tinting process, by means of which we’re not exactly aware. Baum appears to have credited the process to a person that did not exist, and referred to their method as “radio-play,” which also appears to be something that was simply made up. A musical score with distinct cues was also created for the production. The show only lasted for a couple months before shutting down.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a short, followed two years later in 1910. Based more around a 1902 musical adaptation, this version came about purely due the bankruptcy Baum accrued as a result of the Fairylogue and Radio Plays failure. Baum gave up the rights to his work, leading to the film being produced. It wasn’t until 1932, long after his death, that his wife obtained the rights again.

Despite that, Baum continued to make loose adaptations of his work, or works that took place in the land of Oz. All three he made were released in 1914. Two of them, The Patchwork Girl of Oz and The Magic Cloak of Oz were based off different books, but used Oz as their setting. The third, His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz falls more in line with the original book, although it is still a loose adaptation. After Patchwork flopped, the following two films hit distribution problems, leading to their failure as well. Following that, a 1921 production directed by Ray C. Smallwood began production, but was never completed.

The next completed adaption was the 1925 Wizard of Oz, which TCM is showing. Although each adaptation differs from the book in some ways, this one is the most extreme. The main key is that all of the farmhands are disguised as the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion when she encounters them in that form. In addition, Dorothy is explicitly romantically interested in them. There is at least one other major difference, but that includes spoilers and won’t be included here. The film was also plagued by distribution problems, due to the production company’s bankruptcy.

The Land of Oz was a sequel released in 1932. There is little known about the film, largely due to it being lost for a great period of time. Although now recovered, it is missing the soundtrack on one of the reels. It is known that it was made by the Meglin Kiddies production company.

An animated short released the following year wasn’t without it’s own problems. Although created using Technicolor, it had to be released in black and white through a lawsuit, due to licensing problems.

The next adaptation was the famed 1939 version, which had plenty of it’s own production problems. Many of these oft repeated, such as Buddy Ebsen’s bad reaction to the Tin Man paint, and Margaret Hamilton’s injuries. Beyond that, though, are several more problems that cropped up throughout the process. Nailing down a writer or director to complete the film proved to be quite difficult. Herman Mankiewicz, Noel Langley and Ogden Nash all simultaneously worked on scripts, unbeknownst that the others were working on it. None of those scripts were used, as a version by Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf appeared to be the one that made the cut. Not too long after, however, Langley was out back on the job. Additional dialogue was changed afterwards, although only Ryerson, Woolf and Langley received screen credit. It has been estimated that as many as 16 people made uncredited contributions to the script.

The director’s chair was frequently changing as well. Norman Taurog, the original director, never made it past the screen test phase. Richard Thorpe took over for a brief period when Ebsen was still in the role of the Tin Man. During the layoff following his departure, Thorpe was dropped from the position. George Cukor was then brought on to helm the project. Although he never shot any footage, he made two big decisions to change the look of Dorothy and the Witch. The Witch’s makeup was changed, and Dorothy lost the blonde wig and makeup she wore in the footage shot. Due to these changes, all the previous material shot could no longer be used. This left new director Victor Fleming to start completely fresh.

Although Fleming would go on to shoot most of the film, he left late in the process to replace Cukor in Gone with the Wind. King Vidor, uncredited, filmed what was left, most of which was the Kansas sequences. As the technicolor portion of the film was a much more arduous task to complete, that was handled first and was completed by the time Fleming departed. Producer Mervyn LeRoy later went on to direct re-shoots that popped up for three months after filming ended. Ultimately, only Fleming received screen credit.

Overall, the production and distribution problems of these Oz adaptations were numerous, and ran the gamut from financial issues, to creative differences. One of the most beloved stories of our time has a very volatile history.

TCM Silent Film Schedule: June

It’s a week late, but there’s plenty of great silent films on TCM later this month. Here’s a look.

8th
The Wizard of Oz: No, this isn’t the one you’re thinking of. The classic Judy Garland version was far from the first adaptation of the story. There were nine different adaptations or sequels prior to that version, some more faithful than others. The one TCM is showing is the 1925 version, and features many major departures. Oliver Hardy plays the role of the Tin Man.

9th
City Lights: This is heralded as an all time classic, so if you haven’t seen it by now, now would be a good time. This Chaplin film, released when he was the lone holdout still making silent films, is both hilarious and a touching love story. It’s one not to missed. For those looking for a physical copy, the Criterion Blu-Ray release is superb.
The Thief of Bagdad: Considered by Douglas Fairbanks to be his best film, this is one of many swashbuckling roles which he excelled at during the 20s.
The Conquering Power: This starring vehicle for Rudolph Valentino was a major point in his career. Coming off the heels of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, this was the final film he made for Metro Pictures, at which point he made the blockbuster The Shiek.

22nd
The Mark of Zorro: Yet another swashbuckling film starring Fairbanks, this one could be called the original one. It certainly set the tone for future films of the type.

23rd
Haxan: The most expensive silent Scandinavian film ever made, this film was banned in the US (among other places) at the time due to it’s use of nudity and torture. When it was finally released in the states in 1968, around forty minutes were shaved off. The version TCM is showing will be the complete version.

29th
A Woman of Paris: A departure for Chaplin, this is a serious drama in which he makes only a brief and uncredited appearance. It didn’t perform well at the box office at the time.