Vintage: Women and Injuries

Posted in Vintage at 5:00 am by Sam

This week in our Vintage series, an exploration of the film industry in the 1927-1929, I thought we’d look at some of the legal issues of the day. It sounds like a dry subject; actually, it’s quite fascinating because of how starkly certain attitudes have changed over time, particularly following the equal rights movement. That discussion will segue (not so smoothly) into a look at how the “frivolous lawsuit” may not be as recent a trend as we tend to think.

Although you can read these posts in either order, this one can be seen as a continuation of the legal discussion in the Vintage: Boxing and Sunday post, which was about rulings concerning the distribution of boxing films and theaters being required to close on Sundays, both legal concerns that seem strange today.

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Vintage: Topsy and Eva

Posted in Vintage at 5:00 am by Sam

This week’s Vintage post is an ugly one. But it’s irresponsible to talk about the performing arts in the 1920s and not at some point talk about blackface, the practice of whites donning make-up them look like stereotyped caricatures of blacks. What follows is an ad for a film called “Topsy and Eva,” a musical comedy based on Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The ad itself contains racially insensitive material.

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Vintage: Independent Film

Posted in Vintage at 5:00 am by Sam

We think of independent films as being a relatively recent phenomenon in the history of cinema. John Cassavetes came along in the sixties, made great movies outside the studios, and eventually others followed suit. But independent film has been around all long. In fact, Hollywood exists as the center of filmmaking today because the early filmmakers wanted to get out from under the corporate thumbs of the Motion Picture Patents Company in New York, which held so many patents over so many facets of the filmmaking process, even on the raw film itself, that they essentially owned the industry on paper.

In Hollywood, major movie studios formed, and eventually they became the institution that independent filmmakers would be independent from. It was tough. The studio system was powerful, especially before their monopoly over exhibition was broken up. But there were a fair number of independent filmmakers working, especially before the advent of sound ramped up the costs and technical requirements of filmmaking.

This week, I thought we’d take a look at some early ads for independent productions. It’s fascinating to me how differently movies were advertised compared to today’s well oiled process. It’s also interesting, as I’ve said before in this series, how all these titles are unrecognized today. For all the movies I’ve seen and read about, I’ve never even heard of these. Probably they’re lost.

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Vintage: Ballyhoo, Part 7

Posted in Vintage at 5:00 am by Sam

Time for the next entry in our series on ballyhoo — wild advertising stunts actually used by local theaters in the 1920s to advertise their movies. If you don’t already know what this series is all about, I recommend backtracking to Part 1 first.

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Vintage: The Hays Organization

Posted in Vintage at 5:00 am by Sam

For the last three weeks in the podcast, we’ve been talking about the history of Ratings and Censorship in America. We mentioned how William Hays was appointed to establish some kind of means by which film content would be regulated as part of an effort to “clean up” Hollywood’s scandalized image with the public.

The Hays Code, also known as the Motion Picture Production Code, would be put into effect in 1934 and last for a few decades until it eventually suffered from social obsolescence. It was replaced with the MPAA ratings system we know today in 1968. But the Hays Organization had a hand in regulating film content well before 1934, albeit with less power. Here’s a little glimpse at the Hays Organization in 1927.

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Vintage: International Distribution In 1927, Part 2

Posted in Vintage at 12:04 pm by Sam

As promised last week, here is a look at the state of international distribution of movies to specific countries as of 1927, with a particular eye on foreign censorship laws. There are a lot of scans and tons of information this time, but my commentary will zero right in on the interesting bits.

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Vintage: International Distribution In 1927, Part 1

Posted in Vintage at 3:24 pm by Sam

A relatively new industry and a relatively new product means a relatively new export. In the 1920s, American studios were eager to sell their product in foreign markets, but it’s not as simple as that. Do the foreign markets have the theaters to show films in? What are the import tariffs going to be? And to wrap us back to the promise given at the end of Episode 39, what are the censorship laws in these foreign markets that imported American films will be subject to?

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Vintage: Animal Players

Posted in Vintage at 3:06 pm by Sam

Animals on the silver screen have long had the power to captivate audiences. Well, it makes sense. They hold a special fascination for us in real life, so why not in the movies? Here’s a glimpse at the four-legged movie stars of the 1920s.

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Vintage: Ballyhoo, Part 6

Posted in Vintage at 10:47 am by Sam

In our last exciting installment of Ballyhoo, we left off in the middle of a shocking marketing stunt, actually used in the 1920s, that began thusly:

Novelty stunt to be worked with newspaper. The latter has a photographer take five photos of girls each day who are willing to pose in the–

We now return to — Ballyhoo! (But if you’re totally lost about what this is all about, maybe you want to backtrack to Part 1 first.)

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Vintage: Best of 1928

Posted in Vintage at 3:24 pm by Sam

In 1928, the movie industry was as obsessed with recognizing its own accomplishments as it is today. And let’s face it: we are too. Reflecting on the year’s best every year, or the summer’s best every summer, or the decade’s best every decade, is a way of championing the movies that have made us think and feel and love. Movies stir within us strong emotions, some more than others, and recognizing accomplishments in the art and craft of filmmaking is a way of expressing those reactions. And we’re organizational beings by nature. We classify and sort and arrange and label, because that’s how we make sense of the world. If we do that, not only does it help us identify how we feel about things and make sense of the world, but it’s a way of communicating with others, too. Hey, if you loved the sixth best tearjerker of the year, you’ll really love these other five!

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