Friday, October 14, 2011

Tales from the Archives: The Movie Church Feb. 1928

This week I will be discussing the films shown by Church of the Holy Infancy in February and March of 1928. The last post featured films shown at the Church in the final two months of 1926. I'm not sure why there is a one year gap here. Either they didn't show movies during this time, did not list them in the parish monthly calendars, or I missed them as I was going through the calendars. No matter what, this listing features some fascinating films and famous actors so let's get started!

The scheduling format is basically the same as we saw in the 1926 calendar. The main difference is that newsreels are no longer listed and we often have two shorts shown instead of just one.

We Moderns (1925) was a silent 7-reel comedy that is now a lost film. The movie was a First National Production, a film company that later merged with Warner Bros. The film was shot in London and was a British look at the flapper phenomenon.

The star of We Moderns was famous actress Colleen Moore. Moore became known for her flapper roles and bob haircut. Her popularity waned after the silent era.

The short that followed We Moderns was the Our Gang aka Little Rascals short Telling Whoppers (1926). This was the 55th Our Gang short released.

The final of the two shorts shown on February 12th was Red Hot Sands (1927). This silent animated short was in the Aesop's Film Fables series which were created by cartoonist Paul Terry. Although the early short films in the series were about the fables, they later dropped that gimmick but kept humorous morals which often had nothing to do with the story. The series was extremely popular in the 1920s.

The feature film shown on February 19th was the comedy The Lunatic at Large. The film starred Leon Errol and Dorothy Mackaill. Like We Moderns, this movie was also a First National Production. While it appears to be a lost film, I was able to find a review of the film from 1927. Check it out here!

The first short from this week was On the Front Page (1926) which starred Stan Laurel before he teamed up with Oliver Hardy to make the popular comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. This short still survives and also features famous silent actor and wrestler Bull Montana. I guess we wouldn't have Hulk Hogan and The Rock without him! Below is a picture of Montana.

The final short that week was a sports documentary called Taking Punishment (1927). It was made by the Sports Pictorials company which specialized in these sports shorts. Famous sportswriter Grantland Rice (and the namesake of the college football Rice Bowl) was associated with the company.

Only one film was shown on February 26th and it was the "Warner Spectacle" Don Juan (1926). The movie starred famous actor John Barrymore (the grandfather of Drew Barrymore) and was the first feature film to have synchronized Vitaphone sound effects and musical soundtrack. The character Don Juan kisses various women 191 times during the film for an average of one kiss every 53 seconds!


The feature movie for March 4th was The Third Degree (1926). This romance film starred Dolores Costello, who was the wife of John Barrymore who starred in Don Juan which was shown the week before. The film also featured Oscar nominated actress Louise Dresser and Jason Robards Sr., who was the father of better known actor Jason Robards, Jr. A print of The Third Degree exists at the Library of Congress film archive.
The first short this week was Smith's Baby (1926), produced by Mack Sennett Comedies. Sennett was an Oscar-winning director who was a pioneer of comedy in the early days of film.
The second short was another Aesop's Fables animated short: Small Town Sheriff (1927).
I am pleased to announce that this is the first film in this series that can be seen on YouTube! Check it out here!

The drama White Flannels (1927) was the feature for March 11th. The film featured Louise Dresser and Jason Robards Sr. who were both in last week's film. I'm starting to notice a bit of a pattern here but I'm not sure if this was intentional or not. It seems that this is a lost film.

A few weeks earlier the church showed a Stan Laurel solo short. This time they showed Bromo and Juliet (1926), an Oliver Hardy comedy short! Although Hardy was without Laurel, fellow comedian Charley Chase was also in the film. This short was followed up by Cutting a Melon (1927), another Aesop's Fables cartoon.

The Better 'Ole
(1926) was the feature film for March 18th. This movie was the second film to use the Vitaphone sound process for music and special effects after Don Juan. Last week we saw that this church apparently showed a 3-D film and now we see that they showed the first two Vitaphone sound films. It seems that this church was on the cutting edge when it came to cinema. They clearly liked their movies! The star of this film was Sydney "Syd" Chaplin, the older half-brother of Charlie Chaplin! He appeared with Charlie Chaplin in Shoulder Arms (1918) and was also in his own films like this one. Syd Chaplin was not as famous as his younger half-brother, but did work as Charlie's business manager. The Better 'Ole still survives and you can even buy in on DVD from the Warner Bros. Archive Collection.
The lone short for this week was On the Hook (1927), another short by the Sports Pictorials company.

The star of While London Sleeps (1926) was none other than "the famous film dog" Rin Tin Tin! Even though he was not human, Rin Tin Tin was immensely popular and starred in many films of the 1920s and early 1930s. The dog's lineage continues today and many of his descendants also appeared in movies. "Rinty," as he was often known, played a police dog helping Scotland Yard in this film. Sadly it appears to be lost.

The first short for March 25th was The Fourth Alarm (1926), the 53rd Our Gang comedy released.
The second and final short was called The Human Fly but I can't seem to locate any information about  it, even on IMDB. The closest I can find is a documentary short from 1917 but since this theater did not seem to show films older than a year or two I find it hard to believe that this is what they saw in 1928. I have a feeling this will remain a mystery!

See you Sunday for the weekly wrap-up!

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