Monday, August 4, 2008

Silence Is Golden

For the month of August, Turner Classic Movies is doing their annual "Summer Under the Stars" festival in which they devote an entire day to one star. This past Saturday, that star was the legendary Charlie Chaplin. At first I was indifferent and didn't have plans to watch TCM that day. I then had to call myself out. For awhile now I've been meaning to check out some silent movies and since a majority of Chaplin's work falls into that category, this was an excellent opportunity to do so.

Early that morning, TCM aired Chaplin's 1921 classic The Kid co-starring Jackie Coogan (Uncle Fester from the TV series The Addams Family). That movie really blew me away... it was equally hilarious and touching. Because it's so commonplace now, I found it interesting that The Kid was the first film that attempted to combine comedy and drama. Later on that afternoon, I watched Chaplin's 1931 silent film City Lights. I enjoyed this film for the reasons as The Kid. Because "talkies" had become the norm a couple of years earlier, it was daring for Chaplin to make a silent film in 1931. Although Chaplin may not have foreseen this, I think that the silent pics he made after the introduction of sound actually play better today than some of the early "talkies" because the dialogue in some of those films can be awfully stilted. Along with some of his silent movies, TCM's 24 hour marathon also showcased a few of Chaplin's "talkies" as well as a comprehensive documentary.

Because of my experience watching The Kid and City Lights, I plan to make an effort to watch more of the silent films that TCM airs. Even if some of the films turn out to be disappointments, what's the harm in me giving them a chance?

It's easy to dismiss things that we know little or nothing about (I know I've been guilty of this in the past). However, it can be rewarding getting out of our comfort zone when the opportunity arises. Even if you go in with an open mind and watch a couple of silent films but decide they aren't for you, at least you made the effort.

Not counting Mel Brooks' 1976 homage to the genre (Silent Movie), have you ever watched a silent film? If so, what did you think? If not, would you ever consider watching a silent film?

Below is a scene from The Kid where The Tramp and The Kid go about their daily hustle in order to make a living.


Motherhood for Dummies said...

oh cool. I have never seen Charlie Chaplin before. Thanks

Anonymous said...

While I have never seen one Charlie Chaplin movie, my brother is a huge fan of his. He even named his dog "Charlie". But then again, he was a Theater Arts major in college. :)

Jessica said...

That was fun! :)

I've watched some silent films, but I normally fast forward while I watch. I don't mind watching them, and I'm really dying to see some silent Hitchcock movies.

Lori said...

Weren't the early "Mr. Bean" movies, essentially "silent" flicks? I've watched bits and pieces of a few silent flicks, but nothing from beginning to end, I don't think. They are interesting and make for a different kind of cinematic experience (smile).

X. Dell said...

I've watched a ton of silent movies, and I own a few (Thomas Edison's The Kleptomaniac, D.W. Griffith's A Corner in Wheat, Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr.). I find that particular era in filmmaking pretty interesting, for it was a by-the-seat-of-the-pants technology and industry. Lots of things flew that wouldn't today.

I've seen quite a few Charlie Chaplin movies too. I think I like Modern Times and The Little Dictator equally as the best. Then again, I always had a thing for Paulette Goddard.

Malcolm said...

Motherhood For Dummies: If you have Turner Classic Movies, you can check their online schedule to see if/when they will be showing a Charlie Chaplin film in the near future.

Thriving Holly: I think you may have mentioned your brother before. Is he still involved in acting/theater?

Jessica: I have never seen any of Hitchcock's silent films either. I'll have to add them to my list of movies to look for... I think TCM may have some in their library.

Lori: I believe that Mr. Bean was mainly silent. Watching a silent movie is definitely a different experience. I found that it made me more attentive because their is no dialogue.

X. Dell: It doesn't surprise me that you would be down with silent movies. You make a good point about the industry being "by-the-seat-of-the-pants". Modern viewers may say, "oh, I could see that coming a mile away". However, they have to realize that these movies are nearly 100 years old and the stuff they were doing back then was groundbreaking.

Because I know that TCM shows "Modern Times" from time to time, I elected to watch the Tigers/Rays game instead. The way the game turned out, I wish I hadn't. I caught most of "The Great Dictator" the other night. I agree with you about Paulette Goddard. She was very easy on the eyes.

Anonymous said...

Not really. He's a manager at a local restaurant. He was in a bunch of plays in high school and college, but then he didn't do much after that. He was in a few plays (one that his friend wrote) and they performed it in Galveston. It got good reviews, but you know that kind of stuff doesn't pay the bills. :)

Malcolm said...

Thriving Holly: Thanks for the update on your brother. Yeah, you have to make a choice between being a starving artist or putting food on the table.

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