Category Archives: 1915

Best Stunts of The Year List 1913-1919

 

The future versions of this list will be a decade list of the top stunts of every year as listed in the book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts.  Since this is the first list, it will start with the first year listed in the book 1913 and move to the end of that decade of film.

1913:  The Bangville Policebangville police

This is really the first real Keystone Kops short film, and for back then has some impressive stunts, like a series of explosions that follow a car as it weaves down a dirt road.  There are a few pratfalls as well.  Film is so new at this point that companies were still wondering if they could make money in this medium.  A few breakout hits made people realize that film could be a great new business proposition and little mini-studios started popping up in southern California in a place called Hollywoodland.  The rest is history.

1914:  The Perils of PaulineThe_Perils_of_Pauline_(1914_serial)

Women seemed to be ruling the action films in this period and one of the hottest stars/stunt performers of the time was Pearl White. This was one of her biggest serials, and the one that would remain a classic for a new type of cliffhanger series with a chapter being presented to theatre-goers weekly.

1915:  Les VampiresLes Vampires Stunt

Musidora would be considered the first Femme Fatale and a damn good stunt performer in her own right. This was one of the first crime serials and she was a stand-out as one of the bad guys.  Most of her stunts are done while wearing a skin-tight nylon body suit. Her bruises must have been massive.

1916:  IntoleranceIntolerance Babylon

DW Griffith’s Intolerance is as grand spectacle as anything to ever have been put on film and is widely considered to be the first cinematic epic.  The actors themselves do all the stunts and they are massive, with hundreds if not thousands of people on screen at the same time doing incredible battles.  It’s impressive.

1917:  Oh, Doctor!  arbuckle-keaton-st-john-1917

Sometimes the simplest stunts are the best, and nothing showcases this better than a stunt about 10 minutes into the film where Buster Keaton gets smacked by Fatty Arbuckle and he backflips over a table and lands in a chair with his feet propped up, reading a book as if he’d been there all along.  Simply brilliant.

1918:  Cupid’s Round Uptom mix and tony

Westerns really started to grow in popularity and Tom Mix was king of the cowboy serials.  This was his first full-length feature film and showcases a stunt that he would repeat several times throughout his career is different versions.  He jumps from his horse Tony through the window of a moving train.

1919:  The Great Air RobberyGreat_Air_Robbery_lobby_card

Ormer Locklear was the creator of “wing walking” and this film was produced to showcase his new thrill-seeking techniques.  They called him The Sky Dare-Devil.

For more information about these stunt performers and these movies, including a lot of great trivia, please look for their chapters in the new movie stunt book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Musidora and Les Vampires

 

I’d have to say upfront that the female stunt performers at the very start of the film industry were very impressive. They were always expected to do things that even men wouldn’t do. I’m sure that hasn’t changed over the years because just a few years ago, acclaimed stuntman and Arnold Schwarzegenner Stunt Double, Peter Kent, said of female stunt performers, “A lot of times the guys are wearing pads and stuff under their pants. But then you’ll get a woman in a skimpy dress doing a stair fall, and you can’t hide anything under that. I give kudos to a lot of the stunt-women out there because many times they take way more of a beating than the men do. ‘We want you to do this in a frigging negligee. Okay.'”

Musidora gets my nod for 1915 due to sheer style. Her mystique was accentuated by large, dark eyes and a habit of wearing a black leotard, hood and tights while on the set. Born Jeanne Roques, she used Musidora as a stage name. She started out as an acrobat and did all her own stunts in this film serial. It’s also interesting to note, her character’s name in the film, Irma Vep, is an anagram for Vampire. Vamp is a colloquial term applied to describe a particular type of femme fatale, popular in silent films. The term is a shortening of the word vampire, and is used to describe a woman who is glamorous in an exotic, stylized and usually overstated manner. She is usually noted for her striking features, dark clothing and hair, and cosmetics which darken and accentuate the eyes and lips. Her character is a heartless seductress, and the men she seduces are usually shown as helpless victims unable to resist her. From the perspective of American film audiences, she is often seen as foreign, usually of undetermined Eastern European or Asian ancestry. She was designed as the sexual counterpoint of the wholesome actresses such as Lillian Gish and Mary Pickford. Among the notable vamps of the silent screen were Theda Bara, Louise Glaum, Musidora, Nita Naldi, Pola Negri, and in her earliest film appearances, Myrna Loy.Les Vampires Stunt

The Gaumont film, Les Vampires, directed by French film Director, Louis Feuillade, is a 10-part serial, and is about gangsters and secret societies inspired by the exploits of the real-life Bonnot Gang, rather than what the title suggests, Vampires. It’s a very good film serial and is very popular for it’s many twists throughout the film. It’s considered one of the first action crime thrillers. Though not intended to be “avant-garde,” Les Vampires has been lauded by critics as the birth of avant-garde cinema and cited by such renowned filmmakers as Fritz Lang and Luis Buñuel as being extremely influential in their desire to become directors. It’s listed in “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die” edited by Steven Jay Schneider.

Things to look up (go to IMDB):

Musidora

Les Vampires

Louis Feuillade

Peter Kent

Fritz Lang

Luis Bunuel

Lillian Gish

Mary Pickford

Theda Bara

Louise Glaum

Nita Naldi

Pola Negri

Myrna Loy

Glossary of film terms as defined by Wikipedia:

  1.  Femme-Fatale – The phrase is  French for “deadly woman”,  a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers in bonds of irresistible desire, often leading them into compromising, dangerous, and deadly situations. She is an archetype of literature and art. Her ability to entrance and hypnotize her victim with a spell was in the earliest stories seen as being literally supernatural; the femme fatale today is still often described as having a power akin to an enchantress, seductress, vampire, witch, or demon, having some power over men.

A femme fatale tries to achieve her hidden purpose by using feminine wiles such as beauty, charm, and sexual allure. In some situations, she uses lying or coercion rather than charm.

Although typically villainous, if not morally ambiguous, and always associated with a sense of mystification and unease, femmes fatales have also appeared as antiheroines in some stories, and some even repent and become true heroines by the end of the tale.

  1.  Avant-Garde – Avant-garde(from French, “advance guard” or “vanguard”) is a French term used in English as a noun or adjective to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art,culture, and politics.

Avant-garde represents a pushing of the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo, primarily in the cultural realm. The notion of the existence of the avant-garde is considered by some to be a hallmark of modernism, as distinct from postmodernism.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Charlie Chaplin in The Tramp

 

It should be no surprise to anyone that I open this blog with the Master himself, Charlie Chaplin. He gets my first vote for his film,” The Tramp”. It is actually Chaplin’s sixth film with Essanay Studios. The Tramp marked the beginning of The Tramp character most known today, even though Chaplin played the character in earlier films. This film marked the first departure from his more slapstick character in the earlier films, with a sad ending and showing he cared for others, rather than just himself.

Plot – The Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) meets his dream girl (Edna Purviance) and takes a job on her Father’s (Ernest Van Pelt) farm. The Tramp helps around the farm, including getting rid of criminals. Everything is perfect, until the Tramp meets his dream girls’ boyfriend. He doesn’t want to get in the way of her happiness, so the film ends with the Tramp heading on back down the road.

The Tramp PosterDirected, Written, and Starring Charlie Chaplin
Produced by Jess Robbins
Also Starring Edna Purviance and Ernest Van Pelt
Cinematography by Harry Ensign
Edited by Charlie Chaplin
Distributed by Essanay Studios
Release Dates April 11, 1915
Run Time 32 minutes

Goof – Near the end of the movie, the “Tramp” writes a note and there are two separate shots of it edited in. Both notes are in completely different handwriting and the word “good bye” is spelled differently. But Charlie couldn’t blame the editor because… Yep, you guessed it! It was himself.

Sir Charles Spencer “Charlie” Chaplin, (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977) was an English comic actor and film-maker who rose to fame in the silent film era. Chaplin became a worldwide icon through his screen persona “the Tramp” and is considered one of the most important figures in the history of the film industry.

Chaplin’s childhood in London was defined by poverty and hardship. His Father was mostly absent and his Mother was committed to a mental institution, so Charlie began working at a very young age. He always preferred performing to the workhouses, so he toured music halls and later worked as a stage actor and comedian. At 19 he travelled to America and began working for the Fred Karno Company, appearing in the popular Keystone comedies. He soon developed the Tramp persona and formed a large fan base. Chaplin directed his own films from an early stage, and continued to hone his craft as he moved to the Essanay, Mutual, and First National corporations. By 1918, he was one of the best known figures in the world.

In 1919, Chaplin co-founded the distribution company United Artists, which gave him complete control over his films. This is where he wrote, directed, and produced many films that rank on various industry lists of the greatest films of all time.

Chaplin’s later years are marked with controversy as he found his popularity decline. He was accused of having communist sympathies and was criticized for having marriages to much younger women. There was even a scandal involving a paternity suit. Eventually, an FBI investigation was opened, and Chaplin was forced to leave the United States and settle in Switzerland.

In 1972, as part of a renewed appreciation for his work, Chaplin received an Honorary Academy Award for “the incalculable effect he has had in making motion pictures the art form of this century”. Today, he continues to be held in high regard and is often celebrated as one of the most pivotal stars of the early days of Hollywood.

Just as a side note, I think that Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Charlie Chaplin in the film “Chaplin” was brilliant. It’s a travesty that he didn’t win an Academy Award for it, but you’ll have to wait to read all about it in my next series, “100 Years of the Best Oscar Snubs”.

Top 10 Charlie Chaplin Films (As rated by IMDB)

Charlie Chaplin's Top 10 Films as rated by IMDB
Charlie Chaplin’s Top 10 Films (As Rated by IMDB)