Showing posts with the label 1910's

Noch pered Rozhdestvom/The Night Before Christmas (1913)

This 41-minute silent film is based on a 19th-century novel by Nikolai Gogol and directed by the legendary stop-motion pioneer,  Ladislaw Starewicz . It's the first adaptation of this work - expect a review of the 1961 version, titled "Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka," soon, but for now let's focus on the 1913 adaptation, which is... well... it's bonkers. Let me jump right into the plot. The movie starts by introducing us to Solokha, the witch, and her demonic lover. Apparently, the book makes it clear this is a devil, rather than THE Devil, but it was a bit ambiguous in the movie (there's a decent chance that might be due to the translation, though). At any rate, they climb up Solokha's chimney, fly around on her broom, and briefly steal the moon before returning to her home. Around this time, Solokha's son, Vakula, is trying to convince Oksana to marry him. She dismisses the idea but mockingly offers him a chance: if he can bring her the Tsar's d

Scrooge (1901), A Christmas Carol (1910), Scrooge (1913), A Christmas Carol (1914), Scrooge (1922), and A Christmas Carol (1923)

As you've probably guessed from the heading, this covers six separate silent adaptations of A Christmas Carol. As far as I can tell, this is the entirety of surviving footage from that era. To be clear, there are several other known versions that have been lost, including "The Right to be Happy," a 55-minute film from 1916. Not all of the films discussed here are available in complete forms, either. If you're curious about any, they're all readily available for free online - just go to YouTube and search by name and year. Before I get to my individual reviews (to the extent the term even applies here), I'll give a brief overview for those of you who'd rather not wade through four thousand words of text about a bunch of movies 100+ years old. That's all of you, right? I'm grouping these together as a single post, because I can't imagine anyone would be in the least bit interested in seeing these appear one a day for a week. In general, these mov

Christmas vs. Fourth of July (Book, 1908)

I wish I were about to tell you about an obscure mystic war between the forces of winter and summer, but instead this is a little message book about injured children and giving to the poor. The intended message from author Asenath Carver Coolidge seems to be that both holidays should be less about buying things, but that the Fourth of July especially shouldn’t be about buying fireworks. This book appears to be a Christmas tie-in for the author’s pet issue: preventing injuries from fireworks and firearms. She wrote multiple books on the subject. While the Fourth of July is still a common time for injuries today, regulation has brought the numbers down from the time that Coolidge was writing. Time Magazine reports that at the height, according to the book Fireworks, Picnics, and Flags: The Story of the Fourth of July Symbols , “Over the course of five consecutive Fourths, from 1903 to 1907, 1,153 people were killed and 21,520 more were injured.” But let’s run through the book.

Book Review: Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories

Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories L. M. Montgomery, edited by Rea Wilmshurst Collection 1995, Stories originally published 1899 - 1910 Premise: A collection of holiday tales by L. M. Montgomery. They can't all be winners. This volume occupies a weird space between light holiday collection and academic archive only of interest to scholars. There isn’t any scholarly commentary, but I can't imagine anyone reading this entire book who isn't either writing this review or looking for common themes in pieces from the time period for a research project. Because oh, are there common themes. The strongest pieces in the collection are the two excerpts from the Anne books: a chapter from Anne of Green Gables and one from Anne of Windy Poplars. Both of these have charm, whimsy and warmth in equal portion. The introduction explains that the other stories were among many written by Montgomery in these years for various magazines - mostly what we would now call

Santa Claus vs. Cupid (1915)

Two suitors are trying to woo the same woman on Christmas Eve. One steals the flowers the other sent, so we know not to root for him. They both show up at a Christmas party dressed as Santa in order to impress the woman. At the same time, another character with a sick wife decides to rob the party. He holds up the guy we're not rooting for, locks him in a closet, then steals the sack of presents he had with him. The other suitor runs into the thief outside the house, gets him to renounce his ways, then sends him off with some money. Then the suitor enters and distributes the gifts. After, he proposes to the woman, and the rival is freed from his closet just in time to learn about the engagement. It is entirely possible the synopsis I've just laid out is the plot for the 99-year-old silent movie, "Santa Claus vs. Cupid." But I really wouldn't swear to that: I found it hard to follow due to the sparse use of speech cards. Clearly, the intent was for the audien