Happy Birthday, John Gilbert!

I’m lucky to share a birthday with my favorite silent film actor, John Gilbert!

Here’s to you, Jack. 

John Gilbert

John Gilbert

Garbo and Gilbert in A Woman of Affairs

Gloria Swanson…

I’m a bit late, but yesterday was the 35th anniversary of her death. She was a singular lady, that one. 

    Gloria Swanson in Don’t Change Your Husband (1919).

[Classic Movie History Project 2016] The Emancipation of Ossi Oswalda: I Don’t Want to Be a Man (1918)

This is my entry in the Classic Movie History Project, hosted by Movies Silently, Once Upon a Screen, and Silver Screenings.

Classic Movie History Project

Classic Movie History Project

Ossi gets emancipated

Ossi gets emancipated

THE EMANCIPATION OF OSSI OSWALDA: I DON’T WANT TO BE A MAN (1918)

“You are a dream; I hope I never meet you.”-Sylvia Plath

Reliable biographical information on German silent movie actress Ossi Oswalda is scant. Even worse, the crumbs that do exist often conflict with one another. To be blunt: facts are on particularly unreliable ground here. Matters are further gummed up by the early-film habit of naming characters after their actors. Ossi was often Ossi, or, to add variety, Össi. Who was who was who? Does it matter? Fortunately, since the focus of this essay is on her incredible comedic performance in I Don’t Want to Be a Man (1918), I’m not particularly concerned with the trajectory of her personal life, or to what extent her true personality coursed through the veins of her screen selves. Even though her off-screen circumstances, opportunities, and choices undoubtedly affected her career, an understanding of them is not a fundamental component to enjoying her remarkable gifts.  It would benefit us to take a page from her delightful films, and, at least for the duration of this piece, leave the logical, workaday world behind in favor of the magical hinterland of the imagination. Let’s travel to a place, then, where time and reality don’t matter, where Our Heroine, in her various fictional disguises, is forever brave, scampish, and determined to grab every experience within her reach. 

Ossi Oswalda, circa 1917

Ossi Oswalda, circa 1917

To sheltered twenty-first century viewers, Ossi Oswalda can seem like a young woman ahead of her time. Her screen characters embrace values that we chauvinistically claim as exclusively ours: they are full of physical courage and a feminist resolve to be treated as equal to all comers, have spicy senses of humor, are confidently attractive, take chances as if they were made for risk, and rebel against the mundane as a matter of principle.

Silent film fans know better. Continue reading

CAPA Summer Movie Series: 25 Classics on the Big Screen

The CAPA Summer Movie Series is one of the (many, many) reasons I am thrilled to be living in my hometown again. It’s the oldest still-running classic film series in the US.

Of this year’s line-up, I’m particularly excited to see the gorgeously photographed silent classic “Sunrise” (1927) blossom on a big screen. Bonus: Clark Wilson will be on hand at the Ohio Theatre to play the Mighty Morton organ.

2016 Summer Movie Series

Janet Gaynor, May 1931

Janet Gaynor, May 1931

I’ll definitely dedicate another post or two to the series. Until then…

Happy Birthday, John Gilbert!

John Gilbert, my favourite silent movie actor, was born on 10 July 1897.*

Let’s celebrate with some photos of the great matinée idol!

*I was born on the same day, nearly 80 years later.