"This 'ere's Doreen" 'e sez; This 'ere's the Kid;

I dips me lid

Title cards from     The Sentimental Bloke (1919)
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May Issue

Classic Film

Silent Film

In May we are heading back to the early years of cinema, to uncover some silent gems.

Silent film is something of a misnomer when talking about early film. Films were always accompanied by live music, and audiences often cheered or booed loudly, depending on what was happening on screen.

For contemporary audiences a number of things about early films can be off-putting. The acting sometimes seems over the top, the title cards can be obtrusive and the cinematography can seem badly exposed. The two silent films we are screening in May overcome these issues in different ways.

The Sentimental Bloke uses the engaging poetry of CJ Dennis and makes the title cards a joy. In the early years of filmmaking Australia was a world leader, and this film is a one of a kind. A film we should be proud of.

By the end of the Silent era, filmmakers had become masters of their craft. Sunrise  is the first Hollywood film made by F.W. Murnau, a man who died tragically young in a motor vehicle accident. The film is remarable for the beauty of the cinematography and for how few title cards are used.

Two must-see films.
Classic Silent Actors
Brooksie - Dancer, Actress, and a very naughty girl

Louise Brooks led a fascinating life full of events that if you saw them in a film, you might struggle to believe them.

At the age of 9 a neighborhood predator sexually abused her. This had major influence on her life and career. Brooks was quoted as saying that she was incapable of real love, and that this man "must have had a great deal to do with forming my attitude toward sexual pleasure....For me, nice, soft, easy men were never enough – there had to be an element of domination".

At the age of 14, Brooks's family moved to Kansas and Louise began dancing. By 15, she had moved to Los Angeles where she joined the Denishawn modern dance company, quickly moving up to a starring role. A long-simmering personal conflict within the troupe boiled over one day and in 1924 Brooks' was fired. Brooks almost immediately found employment as a chorus girl in George White's Scandals, followed by an appearance as a featured dancer in the 1925 edition of the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway.

As a result of her work in the Follies, she came to the attention of Paramount Pictures producer Walter Wanger, who signed her to a contract in 1925, the same year her and Charlie Chaplin has a 2 month affair over the summer. 

When her contract came up for renewal in 1928, on being offered no pay rise she walked out on Hollywood and went to Berlin to work for acclaimed director F.W. Pabst. In Berlin she made the film for which she is best known - Pandora's Box, playing the character of Lulu.

Brooks returned to Hollywood in 1930, and appeared in a short film with Fatty Arbuckle before turning down a role opposite James Cagney in The Public Enemy. The role was taken by Jean Harlow - the film established her as a star and marked the beginning of Brooks' decline.

Louise married twice but was rarely faithful to anyone. By 1938 she had turned her back on Hollywood (which she had always loathed) in favour of prostitution. By the 1950's she had been rediscovered by French film academics and there was a revival of her films. At this time she embarked on writing about film and Hollywood, penning her autobiography in 1982.

Brooks is much loved today and has a large number of fans who are still dedicated to her.

You can find more information about Louise Brooks through:

F.W. Murnau

F.W. Murnau (born Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe) revolutionized the art of cinematic expression using the camera subjectively to interpret the emotional state of a character.

Murnau studied philosophy, art history, and literature at the Universities of Heidelberg and Berlin. In 1908 he joined the company of renowned stage director Max Reinhardt, acting in several plays and serving as Reinhardt’s assistant for the groundbreaking production of the wordless, ritualistic The Miracle (1911). After serving in the German army and air force during World War I, Murnau worked in Switzerland, where he directed short propaganda films for the German embassy. He directed his first feature film, Der Knabe in Blau (The Boy in Blue) in 1919. For the next few years Murnau made films that were Expressionistic or supernatural in nature, such as Der Januskopf (1920; Janus-Faced), a highly praised variation of the Jekyll-and-Hyde story that starred Bela Lugosi and Conrad Veidt. Unfortunately, this and most of Murnau’s early films are lost or exist only in fragmentary form.

Complete prints survive of Murnau’s first major work, Nosferatu (1922), which is regarded by many as the most effective screen adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Der letzte Mann (1924; “The Last Man”; English title The Last Laugh) was a collaboration between Murnau and the renowned scriptwriter Carl Mayer, and it established Murnau’s reputation as one of the foremost German directors.The film's mobile camera style had an international impact on the cinema. Restricted by technology, noted cinematographer Karl Freund mounted cameras on bicycles, used overhead wires, and in one memorable sequence strapped a camera to his waist and stumbled across the set while on roller skates in order to portray the viewpoint of the drunken protagonist.

Following the success of Murnau’s final two German films, his reputation was such that he was offered a Hollywood contract by Fox Film Corporation and was allowed to use the same staff of technicians and craftsmen he used for his German films. His first American production, Sunrise (1927), was another masterpiece that has been hailed by many critics as the finest silent film ever produced by a Hollywood studio. Unfortunately, it was a box office fiasco, and the studio closely supervised Murnau on his next two productions: Four Devils (1928; now lost) and Our Daily Bread (1929; also released as City Girl).

In order to better control the content of his films, Murnau joined with the pioneer documentary filmmaker Robert Flaherty and the pair traveled to the South Seas to film Tabu (1931). It is one of Murnau’s masterpieces and was his biggest popular success. Sadly Murnau was killed in an auto accident a week before Tabu’s premiere.

The Sentimental Bloke
The Sentimental Bloke is considered the greatest Australian silent film, and one of the best Australian films of all time. But prior to the film's production, the 1915 poem The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke by C.J. Dennis was already a runaway success. C.J. Dennis was reluctant to sell the film rights as he was concerned it might impact on book sales, but he relented.

The film was picked up by the husband and wife filmmaking team of Raymond Longford and Lottie Lyell. Lottie had been a star of the stage in 1910, and on crossing over to film, achieved the same star status in 1911. By 1919, Lyell and Longford (in that order) were the biggest thing in Australian film. On the release the film their reputation grew even more
Lyell is believed to have also worked on the screenplay (she wrote many screenplays for Longford) and may have been responsible for relocating the setting from Melbourne to Woolloomooloo in Sydney.

The film was a huge box office success in Australia, New Zealand and Britain, but it bombed in the US. The use of slang would've bamboozled Americans so they changed the name of the film and title cards. This in turn robbed the film of all its charm and the film was soon withdrawn from distribution.

The film was however sufficiently successful to spawn a sequel - Ginger Mick, the following year which was also a financial success. F.W. Thring tried to repeat the success in 1932, but the film didn't succeed as a talkie.

Be sure to come along for the screening as the film still has so much to offer. From amazing shots of Sydney a century ago, to the fascinating language of the time (captured by C.J. Dennis and Lottie Lyell's title cards), to what is a well put together film which stands the test of time.

At different times in our history we have been among the world's best filmmakers, and in 1919 Raymond Longford was one of the best around.


Saturday, 2nd of May

7pm start

Sunrise (1929)

In this fable / morality tale subtitled "A Song of Two Humans", the "evil" temptress is a city woman who bewitches farmer Anses and tries to convince him to murder his neglected wife, Indre.

Drama/ Romance    Rated: G    94 mins

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Sunday, 3rd of April

7pm start

The Sentimental Bloke (1919)

Bill is a Woolloomooloo larrikin, who vows to abandon his life of gambling and drinking after a spell in gaol. He falls in love with Doreen, who works in a pickle factory, but faces competition from a more sophisticated rival, the Stor' at Coot.
Bill is torn between his mate, Ginger Mick and what Doreen expects of him.

Drama    Rated: G     106 mins
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