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alt.movies.silent Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), 1/4


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Archive-name: movies/silent/alt-movies-silent
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 2002/02/15
Version: 2.2
URL: http://www.vex.net/~emily/film/amsfaq/
Copyright: (c) 1999-2002 Rick Levinson and Emily Way
Maintainer: Emily Way <emily@vex.net>
and Rick Levinson <Rick.Levinson@sympatico.ca>

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
FAQ about silent film: alt.movies.silent

-----------------------------------------------------------
This document is the first of four FAQs for the Usenet newsgroup
alt.movies.silent, and contains information about the newsgroup
itself. There is some overlap in the content of the FAQs. If you
don't find what you're looking for here, try one of the related
FAQs (see the last question for a complete list).

  1. What is alt.movies.silent for?
  2. Is it okay to post about talkies?
  3. Some newsgroups are really courteous. Others are
     nasty. How does the silent film newsgroup rate?
  4. Is it okay to buy, sell, and swap films on the
     newsgroup?
  5. What are the recurring in-jokes and threads?
     5a. Charles Ogle
     5b. Snitz Edwards
     5c. LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT
     5d. SH! THE OCTOPUS
     5e. GREED
     5f. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
     5g. Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle
     5h. The proper running speed of silent film
  6. What do some of the terms and abbreviations mean?
  7. Is it okay to ask whether a certain film still exists?
  8. How do I catch up on the newsgroup if I've missed a 
     couple of weeks?
  9. Where are the other silent film FAQs?

-----------------------------------------------------------

1. What is the newsgroup alt.movies.silent for?

alt.movies.silent is for people who love silent film.  There's a
fairly broad base of people in the group. Some have been collectors
and aficionados of silent film for many decades. Others discovered
silent film relatively recently. Some have a particular favourite
film star, filmmaker, or genre. Others enjoy all types of silent
film.  Some prefer late silents from the '20s. Others enjoy all
types of silent film from the turn of the century to the end of
the silent era.

The benefits of connecting with the silent film group
include:

   * learning about silent film in particular and in general
   * finding out about recent developments within the silent film 
     community
   * learning about silent film festivals
   * meeting with people whose expertise of silent film in all its facets 
     is unparalleled.

Whether you are new to silent film or a veteran, please feel free
to post opinions, comments, suggestions, queries, lists, arguments,
and anything else related to silent films.



2. Is it okay to post about talkies?

Occasionally there are discussions about early talkies, silent
filmmakers and performers in talkies, biopics about silent film,
and so forth. So this kind of posting is fine.



3. Some newsgroups are really courteous. Others are nasty. How
does the silent film newsgroup rate?

There are the occasional rhubarbs -- all newsgroups have them --
but generally the level of discourse tends to be civil. Obviously
we all love silent film and some of us are more knowledgeable than
others, but generally we welcome any comments, suggestions, or
opinions from anyone and everyone.

If you want to pick a fight with someone, go offline and duke it out 
mano  mano. Try not to engage in a personal grudge match over the 
newsgroup.

If you find yourself in a flamewar with someone on the group, try
to keep your posts limited; have your say, let someone post his or
her response, reply, and then stop there. Go to email if you want
to continue the fight.



4. Is it okay to buy, sell, and swap films on the newsgroup?

Unless you are a retailer by profession, it is illegal to sell
copyright-protected material publicly.

If you want to sell or trade your silent film cache, you can mention
it on the newsgroup, but do your actual business by email.

If you want to buy or sell silent film or silent film memorabilia,
check out the online auction site, eBay:

     http://www.ebay.com/

You must register online with eBay before you sell or bid on items.



5. What are the recurring in-jokes and threads?

There's a few perennials:

5a. Charles Ogle

Charles Ogle (1865-1940) was an actor who started with Edison in
1909. His most celebrated role is that of the Frankenstein monster
in 1910 in what is considered to be the first screen adaptation of
Mary Shelley's novel. He was a prolific character actor in silent
film.

Why is Ogle mentioned so frequently on the silent film newsgroup?
The answer is shrouded in mystery. It may be because the name "Ogle"
sounds humorous in a vague sort of way.

Jeremy Bond Shepherd <jbond@netcom.com> has shed some light on the
Ogle phenomenon on the newsgroup:

     I think it's because of Firezine's numerous Ogle
     references. He used to chime in every time a film
     was being discussed in which Ogle had even the
     smallest walkon. A most endearing habit.

The Silents Majority Web site has an Ogle page:

     http://www.mdle.com/ClassicFilms/Guest/ogle.htm

for all your Ogle needs.


5b. Snitz Edwards

Snitz Edwards, a small, homely character actor who worked with
everyone from Jack Gilbert to Mary Pickford to Douglas Fairbanks
Sr. to Buster Keaton, is also mentioned a lot, probably because of
the amusement value of his first name. Say it out loud: "Snitz!"
See?

The Silents Majority site also has a Snitz page:

     http://www.mdle.com/ClassicFilms/FeaturedStar/sedwards.htm


5c. LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT

LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT is a 1927 film starring Lon Chaney and directed
by horror auteur Tod Browning. It is a lost film and it is mentioned
to torment Jon Mirsalis, a/k/a ChaneyFan.

Q. I heard that a collector has LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT and is waiting
for its copyright to expire so he can release the film.  Is this
true?

A: Almost certainly not.

Tod Browning's LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (1927), starring Lon Chaney
Sr. in a dual role as a Scotland Yard inspector and as a pointy-toothed
vampire, is the most famous of lost films -- mainly because Forrest
J. Ackerman, with the aid of the film's admittedly tantalizing
stills, spent a lot of energy hyping it as a lost masterpiece in
his teen-oriented horror magazines.  The reality is that those who
saw the film as late as the 1950s, such as William K. Everson and
David Bradley, considered it well short of a masterpiece -- inferior
to Browning's talkie remake, MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935), with Bela
Lugosi, and not even the most desirable lost film of Chaney's
career.

The most persistent rumor about LAM is that some collector has the film and
has been waiting for the copyright to expire in 2002.  The legend probably
dates back to the early 70's, when a New England rental source named Cecil
Miller listed LAM among his upcoming titles, presumably as a gag.  (Later
versions of the same gag have included reviews of the film on the Internet
Movie Database and April Fool's discussions of showings on Turner Classic
Movies in alt.movies.silent.)  This mythical collector is in for a longer
wait now -- copyright law has been changed, making the date LAM would become
public domain 2022.  For that reason, it is likely that any such collector
who wanted to cash in during his own lifetime would have already come
forward to make a deal with the current copyright holders (Time Warner).

In fact, the odds are not high that any print ever got loose in the first
place.  According to Jon Mirsalis, MGM "was very diligent about collecting
prints after the completion of their print run, making it unlikely that a
retired projectionist has a copy hiding in his attic... The last time the
film was inspected by MGM was in 1955.  It was stored in vault 7 and a
vault fire (circa 1967) in vault 7 destroyed the last known print.  All the
MGM nitrate material was subsequently donated to Eastman House, but by then
the print and camera negative were gone."  As Bob Birchard further points
out, "MGM did a worldwide search when it decided to copy its nitrate to
safety in the 1970's," and turned up nothing.

Even so... another MGM film that vanished around the same time was
Victor Sjostrom's THE DIVINE WOMAN, with Greta Garbo.
Yet a ten-minute fragment of that film subsequently turned up in
Eastern Europe.  So the possibility that LAM will turn up in some
unexpected place cannot be ruled out completely.  Just... nearly
completely.

In the meantime, the closest you are likely ever to come to seeing 
LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT is in the pages of Philip J. Riley's 
book LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT, published by Cornwall Books in 
1985 -- and by watching MARK OF THE VAMPIRE.

[Thanks to Michel Gebert for the above information on 
LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT.] 


5d. SH! THE OCTOPUS!

Not a silent, but a 1937 Warner Bros. B-picture--running a scant 54
minutes and filmed almost entirely on one set. It's a loose remake of
the comedy-mystery warhorse "The Gorilla," and stars Allan Jenkins and
Hugh Herbert. A particular favorite of Michael Schlesinger (a.k.a.
Precode), who often jokingly cites it as the standard by which all films
must be judged.


5e. GREED

GREED (1925) is famed director Erich von Stroheim's epic, based on
the Frank Norris novel McTeague.

Von Stroheim filmed Lord knows how many reels. MGM released it in
a cut version. To this day silent film aficionados will argue over
how many reels constitute the "director's cut" of the film. So it's
not uncommon for someone to say, apropos of nothing, "well, I've
seen the 72-reel version of GREED," just to start an argument and
tick others off. 

GREED was restored to four hours in 1999, shown on Turner Classic
Movies, and then released on video. The 1999 version restores
lost subplots, secondary characters, and important bits of 
development of the main characters. Although much of Von Stroheim's 
cut footage is gone forever, the restoration uses some of the 
extensive stills that exist, in the same way as the restored version 
of Frank Capra's LOST HORIZON. The 1999 version is about as close
to Von Stroheim's original vision as we're likely to get.


5f. Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle
   
You may have heard of the famous scandal involving the death of a
young actress at a party thrown by Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. Once and
for all, Arbuckle absolutely did not rape, kill, or harm anyone.  

An unemployed actress named Virginia Rappe took ill during a party
held in Roscoe Arbuckle's suite at the St. Francis Hotel in San 
Francisco. Arbuckle found her in his bathroon, and called for a
doctor. Four days later, Rappe died of acute peritonitis, while in a
maternity hospital. Many experts today believe she died from a botched
abortion done a short time before the party.

Another party guest, Maude Delmont, declared that Arbuckle had raped
Rappe at the party. Yellow journalistic newspapers, led by the Hearst
newspaper chain, used Delmont's story to paint Arbuckle as a murderer.
Tabloid-like banner headlines attacked Arbuckle's reputation daily
over several months. 

On Delmont's statement, Arbuckle was arrested by the police for
murder. However, the state prosecution found that Delmont was an
unusable witness because of her criminal record and her being a
complusive liar. Nevertheless, pressured by the public, the
prosecution pushed forward and tried Arbuckle for the reduced charges
of manslaughter.

After two hung juries, Arbuckle was found not guilty by a third jury
in five minutes. Arbuckle's jury then made this statement to the
press:

"Acquittal is not enough for Roscoe Arbuckle. We feel that a great
injustice has been done him. We feel also that it was only our plain  
duty to give him this exoneration, under the evidence, for there was
not the slightest proof adduced to connect him in any way with the
commission of a crime. He was manly throughout the case, and told a 
straightforward story on the witness stand, which we all believed.  

"The happening at the hotel was an unfortunate affair for which
Arbuckle, so the evidence shows, was in no way responsible. We wish 
him success and hope that the American people will take the judgement
of fourteen men and women who have sat listening for thirty-one days
to the evidence, that Roscoe Arbuckle is entirely innocent and free of
all blame."

Despite this complete vindication, Arbuckle's reputation as a film  
star remained in tatters. Arbuckle was effectively banned from acting
in Hollywood for a period of eleven years. Returning to the screen in
1932, Arbuckle died in 1933, immediately after celebrating his signing
of a new starring contract with Warner Brothers, and the completion of
six comedy shorts which re-established him as a comedian. 

For more information, see Arbucklemania:

     http://silent-movies.com/Arbucklemania/ 


5g. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA

Scott MacQueen <smacqueen@mindspring.com> posted this to the
newsgroup:

This issue of the versions of Chaney's PHANTOM just doesn't go
away, and there doesn't seem to be a definitive answer. Here is
what we know:

The 1925 ("Astor Theater") version: this is what opened in NYC
in September after all the monkeying around. It was in 10 reels.
It only survives in 16mm Universal Show-at-Home copies that were
reduction printed in the 1930s, by which time the domestic "A"
negative was very heavily worn. John Hampton had several copies
of this, which he cannabalized, yet still never got a full 100%
print. Hampton allowed one of these to be duped in the 1960s,
which is why there are collector prints about. The Packard
Foundation now has Hampton's original Show-at-Homes, and have
funded a restoration at UCLA which Bob Gitt has been overseeing.
The 35mm blow-up work is superb, and the best possible allowing
for the indifferent quality of the source material and the
printed-in cinches and scratches. However, authentic 1925 Main
Titles are still proving elusive...so check your closets & cellars.
No word on when UCLA will consider this done. Bob did locate a
35mm dupe negative of a 1925 version in Italy, but the quality
is said to be indifferent, though it offered one shot that appears
nowhere else. The 1925 version is a VERY full 2 reels longer than
the reissue print, with a different continuity (i.e. placement
of chandelier fall).

While sound discs are known for the 1930 sound version, there is
no corresponding bona fide picture. The surviving copy ,the common
Phantom, was obtained as a 35mm acetate print in 1950 by Jim Card
from Universal. It is likely that it was the only negative
Universal had at that date, and clearly it was decomposing when
the print was struck (perfs break into picture, the sequence in
Christine's undergrounf bedroom rippling and hypoing). It was
clearly stated in 1929-30 by U that PHANTOM was "sound on disc
only". No paperwork has surfaced re: a foreign version, but all
of the evidence is that the GEH print is a non-dialogue Music &
Effects version for Europe. It is from a "B" (or "C") alternate
camera negative, alongside and often at a different elevation
than the "A" camera. All of the intertitles are physically spliced
into the 35mm print, so they were printed up seperately either
from title rolls (my guess) or flash frames. None of the newly-shot
dialogue scenes are included, but the Faust "Jewel Song" is, at
24 fps (shot on Agfa negative, by the way!) with a new performer.
The "old" Carlotta retained in the silent footage is now called
"Carlotta's Mother" via a changed title. All of the intertitles
are simplied and refilmed. Those cards with live background plates
(inlcuding the Main Title) of the Phantom are newly shot with a
double for Chaney. The Main Titles, by the way, have been truncated
-- probably by Jim Card; look at the jump cut, which removes the
production credits including cameramen...this same card carried
the "Western Electric Sound System" credit.

In the domestic version of the talkie, as much old footage was
used as could be dalvaged, and Joseph Buquet & the ballerinas
were looped with "synthetic dialogue" in the manner of CHINATOWN
NIGHTS.

Now, the Man With the Lantern. He does NOT appear in the domestic
talking version. He appears in the Eastman House print, in a long
24 fps take, with the Phantom's double/shadow gliding by. It is
likely that THIS scene alone was for foreign dialogue so the
picture could be advertised as "talking" in other countries.
Either A) the long shot allowed for asynchronous dubbing, or, B)
there were inserts created for the major language territories
and positive assembled to the prints (this is how Universal
handled the various European and Latin emcees for THE KING OF
JAZZ in 29-30!). The figure is wardrobed like Snitz Edwards (he
is NOT Snitz) so it is possible that he was meant to be Florine
Papillion. I have another theory.

The dupes of the Show-at-Home contain the Main Titles and the
Man With Lantern, lifted from the Eastman House print. BUT! They
also contain a Medium Shot of the Man which is clearly from
different preprint! There is a different pattern of tram lines
and wear, suggesting that this shot was cut in to the master
print being duped. Also, in MS this guy looks nothing like Snitz,
much uglier and heavier -- and the generic Parisian workman's
clothes and cap leave one other alternative: he is Simon Buquet's
brother Joseph -- the SOB who is found strangled by the Phantom 
later. Makes narrative sense.

QUESTION: what the hell print did THAT shot come from?

Unfortunately I found no corroboration of this when I was
researching at Universal in the '80s, and since then U's PHANTOM
holdings have, uh, been "liberated", shall we say, by a "historian"
armed with carte blanche from Mr. Wasserman. So if the answers
were once at the studio, they're gone now.

PHANTOM still lacks color inserts. In Reel 1, the shots of the
audience arriving, with the uniformed soldiers "fashion show" as
it were, was originally in Prizma (U tested both Prizma &
Technicolor). Contemporary reviews indicate that "all views" in
the auditorium were in color, yet this is not born out by
continuities -- I believe that SOME long shots of the house
curtain were color. The "Apollo's Lyre" sequence was blue tinted
(or toned) with red Handschlegl, which I helped Kevin Brownlow
replicate for this recent version (the intertitles here were
originally all in GREEN, but Kevin elected to keep them uniform
with the scene). The second half of the Masked Ball, from the
lovers' return from the room through Florine's fainting number,
was also Tech, and again it was my privilige to replicate this
for Photoplay's version which will be on TCM. The tints were very
interesting, and in no version are done correctly -- for example,
the flashing of the chandelier prior to falling was amber/blue/amber/blue
to action, and similar color cutting was done in the torture
chamber with the waves of heat and light. The Phantom's rooms
"below stairs" (including the unmasking) were entirely in B&W.
The "Honeymoon in Viroflay" tag that closed Reel 10 (still in
the Show-at-Home in B&W) was also -- once -- in Technicolor.

The Technicolor masked ball sequence was rescued by David Shephered
years ago, and is from a 1930 dye transfer copy. In the latest
versions restored by both Shephered and Photoplay, an effort was
made to remove the heavy amber color, which was a by-product of
the early 2-color process (perhaps varnish to keep the print from
scratching). This version has a much wider range of colors than
we have seen previously, and the color is clearly more accurate
to the 2-color primaries and what colors were actually under
camera -- Mary Philbin's gown is now salmon-pink as it should
be, not gold.  For purists, who want the IB color warts and all,
there is adequate preservation of excellent quality already
accomplised on a one-to-one basis by both UCLA and Mr. Shepherd.

Photoplay's version, by the way, is the best looking edition I
have seen.  Sharp, steady, nicely tinted. The heavily decomposed
section prior to the unmasking was blow-up from the Hampton 16mm
at UCLA, which will give you an idea of the pictorial qualities
of the two surviving editions.  Unfortunately, the Eastman House
print was struck with a block in the track position, so the far
left of image is lost forever, and the movie is now best shown
with something approaching Movietone (1.17) aperture.

Whew!



5h. The proper running speed of silent film

There are infrequent disputes over the proper running speed of
silent film. Please don't mention this. It's been known to cause
nervous breakdowns.

Okay; if you want the goods on the proper running speed, check out
David Pierce's peerless Silent Film Bookshelf Web site:

     http://www.cinemaweb.com/silentfilm/bookshelf/

Bob Lipton notes: "there is no 'proper' running speed for silents.
As both cameras and projectors were hand-cranked, the action running
speeds varied according to the dictates and whims of the cameramen
and projectionists.   Comedies were typically run faster than
dramas."

In his book SEDUCTIVE CINEMA: THE ART OF SILENT FILM (Knopf: New
York, 1994), James Card, the founder of the famed George Eastman
film archive housed in Rochester, New York, discusses among other
things the holy grail of the "proper" running speed for silent
film, on pp. 52-56.



6. What do some of the terms and abbreviations mean?

Here is a list of frequently used initialisms, courtesy of Jon
Mirsalis:

LOC: Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
GEH: George Eastman House, Rochester, NY
MOMA: Museum of Modern Art, New York City
PFA: Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA
UCLA: University of California-Los Angeles
FIAF: La Federation Internationale des Archives du Film
AFI: American Film Institute
BFI: British Film Institute (which isn't an archive really, but they
acquire films that are then stored at the National Film Archives in
London)
NARS: National Archives, Washington, D.C.
fps: frames per second

Jon also notes that he and others frequently refer to things being at
"Turner." This refers to Ted Turner's Turner Entertainment; however,
the company is now known as Warner Brothers Classics since Time/Warner
bought Turner Entertainment in a billion-dollar stock swap.



7. Is it okay to ask whether a certain film still exists?

Tragically, about 80% of the films of the silent era no longer
exist. Many were lost in fires because of the volatility of nitrate
film stock; some were destroyed deliberately for their silver
content; some were just allowed to decompose. It's fine to post
and ask if a film survives. Someone will get back to you on it.

Bruce Calvert has pointed out that you can search the UCLA
Film and Television Archives' database online. Here is the
information he posted to the newsgroup:

Telnet to telnet://melvyl.ucop.edu/ . If you don't know how to do
that, just enter "telnet://melvyl.ucop.edu/" (without the quotation
marks) into your Web browser. If you've never used telnet before,
you may need to select the Terminal Menu->Preferences. Click on
local echo. Click on OK, and then enter VT100 for your terminal type.
Press RETURN.

You're in! Now you need to tell the system what you want to search.
Enter SET FORM VIDEO, FILM . This will look at videotapes, discs,
and film.

You can search on titles actors or directors. To search on a title,
type FIND TW . TW stands for title words. You don't have to put
every word in the title, but it helps. For example FIND TW DREAM
LOVE .  (You can use lower case.)

I didn't find "Dream of Love" in the archive. Here's an example of
a film that does exist...

  FIND TW PATHS TO PARADISE 

  Search request: FIND TW PATHS TO PARADISE (AND SETTING: FORMS
  VIDEORECORDINGS, MOTION PICTURES) Search result: 1 record at all
  libraries

  Type HELP for other display options. 

  1. MOTION PICTURE 

  Paths to paradise / Famous Players-Lasky ; presented by Adolph
  Zukor, Jesse L. Lasky ; director, Clarence Badger ; screenplay,
  Keene Thompson. 1925.  UCLA Film TV A1-3-1 Research Copy. Viewing
  on premises only. Type EXP FTV ARCHIVE for viewing details 

  1 reel of 1 (ca. 2000 ft.) : si. ; 16 mm.$3safety
  print.

This tells me that they have a 16mm print of the film. Other films
will have 35mm prints or negatives, VHS video tapes, or laserdiscs.
If you want to view the film, you'll have to go to Los Angeles.

If multiple entries are found, you can press D to start displaying
them, and RETURN to go to the next page.

To search on a directors name use "PA" for personal author. For example,
FIND PA KING VIDOR


8. How do I catch up on the newsgroup if I've missed a couple of weeks?

Deja.com archives Usenet postings, and Dave Garrett posted a link
to a handy interface that you can use to search Deja for what you've
missed:

     http://www.exit109.com/~jeremy/news/deja.html


9. Where are the other silent film FAQs?

There are three other FAQs for the alt.movies.silent newsgroup:

   * Online resources for silent film
   * Books and documentaries about silent film
   * Where to see silent films

The complete set of alt.movies.silent FAQs lives on Emily Way's
REEL WORLD Web site:

     http://www.vex.net/~emily/film/amsfaq/

The FAQs are also posted to alt.movies.silent, news.answers, and
alt.answers once a month. They are also archived automatically at 
the following sites:

   * ftp://rtfm.mit.edu/pub/usenet/news.answers/movies/silent/
   * http://www.cis.ohio-state.edu/hypertext/faq/usenet/movies/silent/top.html
   * http://www.cs.ruu.nl/wais/html/na-dir/movies/silent/.html
   * http://www.faqs.org/faqs/movies/silent/

-----------------------------------------------------------
Rick Levinson (Rick.Levinson@sympatico.ca) and Emily Way (emily@vex.net)
Last updated February 15, 2002
-- 
Emily Way * emily at vex.net 
"No one knows what's on his mind except him and his monkey"

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