Greed-notes-and-queries-v-007You can read more about this year in film here.  Since this is the pre-Oscar era, clearly there are no Best Picture reviews to link to.  So, without further ado, here are the initial Nighthawk Awards, covering the entire pre-Oscar era.  There are the categories, followed by all the films with their nominations, then the Globes, where I split the major awards by Drama and Comedy, followed by a few lists at the very end.  If there’s a film you expected to see and didn’t, check the very bottom.

Nighthawk Awards:

  • Best Picture:
  1. Greed
  2. The Battleship Potemkin
  3. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
  4. The Gold Rush
  5. The Phantom of the Opera

note:  A good year for films because there are so many.  The next five, in order, are The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Birth of a Nation, Faust, The Last Laugh and Foolish Wives and the **** films go all the way down to #16.

  • Twentieth Century Fox-Inside the Photo ArchiveBest Director:
  1. Erich von Stroheim  (Greed)
  2. Sergei Eisenstein  (The Battleship Potemkin)
  3. Robert Wiene  (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)
  4. D.W. Griffith  (The Birth of a Nation)
  5. Charlie Chaplin  (The Gold Rush)

Analysis:  In spite of all the great directors of the era (or maybe because of it), there is very little doubling up.  Only two directors make the Top 10 twice – von Stroheim at #1 and #9 (for Foolish Wives) and F.W. Murnau, who amazingly doesn’t earn a nomination, but comes in at 6th (Faust) and 10th (The Last Laugh).  But this is it for von Stroheim, whose only remaining film, Queen Kelly, wouldn’t actually get released until 1985, while Murnau will make some more appearances before his untimely death in 1931.  This is also it for Wiene and Griffith.

  1. Greed
  2. The Phantom of the Opera
  3. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  4. Faust
  5. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. The Gold Rush
  2. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
  3. The Battleship Potemkin
  4. Foolish Wives
  5. Our Hospitality
  • Best Actor:
  1. Lon Chaney  (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
  2. Emil Jannings  (The Last Laugh)
  3. Charlie Chaplin  (The Gold Rush)
  4. Lon Chaney  (The Phantom of the Opera)
  5. Erich von Stroheim  (Foolish Wives)
  6. Emil Jannings  (Faust)
  7. Lon Chaney  (The Penalty)
  8. Rudolph Valentino  (The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse)

Analysis:  I have a rule where I nominate five actors in the acting categories, and if I have to more than 5 nominations because the same actor or actress appears more than once in the top 5, then so be it, I keep going until I get to 5.  That’s because the Oscars don’t allow multiple nominations – they simply lump all the votes together in one performance.  So, since Jannings is one here twice and Chaney three times, we have to get down to #8 before we get a fifth actor.  Also, the same for Actress.  But I don’t this with the Globes (possibly because the Globes themselves don’t have the same rule), so they’re limited to 5 below.  Unlike Actress, which will be very different, this is a very similar lineup to Best Actor in 27-28.  And Chaney, aside from the 3 nominations, also makes it in at 10th place for He Who Gets Slapped.

  • Best Actress:
  1. Lilian Gish  (Broken Blossoms)
  2. Hilda Borgström  (Ingeborg Holm)
  3. Lilian Gish  (The Birth of a Nation)
  4. Aileen Pringle  (The Mystic)
  5. Gloria Swanson  (Male and Female)
  6. Marie Dressler  (Tillie’s Punctured Romance)
  • crispBest Supporting Actor:
  1. Donald Crisp  (Broken Blossoms)
  2. Conrad Veidt  (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)
  3. Sessue Hayakawa  (The Cheat)
  4. Lon Chaney  (Oliver Twist)
  5. Pomeroy Cannon  (The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse)

Analysis:  For a long time, I never really thought about supporting performances in the Silent Era and I don’t really know why.  I had Crisp winning here and Pitts winning below, but nothing else.  So, before I did this post (and part of why this post is late in coming), I went back through a lot of films and looked at the supporting performances.  But I really must point out the Silent Oscars over at the Mythical Monkey.  I got a good head start from his detailed look at every year from the Silent Era as to where to start looking.  I didn’t always agree, but it always gave me a good place to start.  In fact, while I go in depth for every year all the way up to 2012, he goes a lot deeper in the early years of film, especially for the Silent Era, and his stuff is always good to read.  Hayakawa will be back (and will the Nighthawk) in 31 years.

  • greed2 (1)Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Zasu Pitts  (Greed)
  2. Camilla Horn  (Faust)
  3. Alice Terry  (The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse)
  4. Sylvia Ashton  (Old Wives for New)
  5. Bebe Daniels  (The Affairs of Anatol)
  • Best Editing:
  1. The Battleship Potemkin
  2. The Birth of a Nation
  3. The Gold Rush
  4. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
  5. The Last Laugh
  • Best Cinematography:
  1. Greed
  2. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
  3. Faust
  4. The Birth of a Nation
  5. The Last Laugh

Analysis:  While Greed and Cabinet finish 1-2, it’s the next three cinematographers themselves who were the star cameramen of the era.  Carl Hoffman, the cinematographer for Faust, would also films three Fritz Lang films: the two parts of Nibelungen and the first Dr. Mabuse film.  G.W. Bitzer was D.W. Griffith’s regular cameraman and his work on Broken Blossoms makes the Top 10 for the year and a number of his other collaborations with Griffith were under consideration.  And there is Karl Freund.  He filmed The Last Laugh for Murnau, as well as both Spiders films for Lang and The Golem (and will show up in 27-28 for his work on Metropolis and Tartuffe) and will later earn a Nighthawk for shooting Dracula for Universal before they allowed him to move into the directors’s chair with The Mummy.

  • Best Original Score:
  1. The Gold Rush
  2. The Kid

Analysis:  You could say that this and the next award are cheating.  Chaplin re-issued The Gold Rush with sound in 1942 and it actually earned nominations for both the sound and score.  He also later added a score to The Kid.  Otherwise, there would be no nominees, since this is obviously the Silent Era (and thus, why there are also no nominations for Best Sound Editing or Best Original Song).  If I have Chaplin getting the nomination for the score for The Gold Rush (the Academy only nominated Max Terr), then he earns 6 nominations for The Gold Rush (he also edited it) and 1 for The Kid and wins two awards (Screenplay and Score).

  • Best Sound:
  1. The Gold Rush
  • caligariBest Art Direction:
  1. The Cabinet of Dr. Calgari
  2. The Phantom of the Opera
  3. Greed
  4. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  5. Faust

Analysis:  Possibly the hardest category outside of Picture.  The winner was easy.  The nominees were not.  The next five films, in order, were Foolish Wives, Cabiria, Nibelungen: Siegfried, The Birth of a Nation and Intolerance.  And that means that the brilliant sets in the Fairbanks Robin Hood and Thief of Bagdad don’t even make the Top 10.

  • Best Visual Effects:
  1. Thief of Bagdad
  2. Ben-Hur
  3. Nibelungen: Siegfried
  4. Faust
  5. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  • Best Costume Design:
  1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  2. The Phantom of the Opera
  3. Cabiria
  4. Intolerance
  5. The Birth of a Nation
  • Best Makeup:
  1. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  2. The Phantom of the Opera
  3. The Golem
  4. Faust
  5. Nibelungen: Siegfried

Analysis:  Hopefully you know enough about film to know that the makeup artist for those top two is Lon Chaney himself.  So, in this initial year for awards, he wins Best Actor and Best Makeup.  And earns two other nominations for Actor and a nomination for Supporting and Makeup.  So, 6 total nominations for Chaney.

  • metropolisBest Foreign Film:
  1. Metropolis
  2. The Battleship Potemkin
  3. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
  4. Nosferatu
  5. Faust

Analysis:  Partially because this covers a wide swath of years, and partially because we have the best of German expressionism, this is probably the second best group of five Foreign Films in any year of the Nighthawk Awards.  The #6 and 7 films are both **** films (The Last Laugh and Crainquebille).  There wouldn’t be another **** film that fails to get a nomination until 1957, which is the best year for Foreign films in film history.  Please note that Metropolis will be eligible for other awards in 27-28 and Nosferatu in 28-29.

By Film:

note:  They’re in points order.  You get twice as many points for a win as for a nomination.  Hopefully your math skills will let you figure out the system.

  • Greed  (400)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Art Direction
  • The Gold Rush  (325)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Editing, Original Score, Sound
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari  (275)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Editing, Cinematography, Art Direction, Foreign Film
  • The Battleship Potemkin  (205)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Editing, Foreign Film
  • Faust  (200)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress, Cinematography, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Makeup, Foreign Film
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame  (180)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup
  • The Phantom of the Opera  (160)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup
  • The Birth of a Nation  (145)
    • Director, Actress, Editing, Cinematography, Costume Design
  • The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse  (135)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Broken Blossoms  (120)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor
  • The Last Laugh  (85)
    • Actor, Editing, Cinematography
  • Foolish Wives  (75)
    • Original Screenplay, Actor
  • Our Hospitality  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • The Thief of Bagdad  (40)
    • Visual Effects
  • The Penalty  (35)
    • Actor
  • Ingeborg Holm  (35)
    • Actress
  • The Mystic  (35)
    • Actress
  • Male and Female  (35)
    • Actress
  • Tillie’s Punctured Romance  (35)
    • Actress
  • The Cheat  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • Oliver Twist  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • The Affairs of Anatol  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • Old Wives for New  (30)
    • Supporting Actress
  • Nibelungen: Siegfried  (30)
    • Visual Effects, Makeup
  • The Kid  (25)
    • Original Score
  • Ben-Hur  (20)
    • Visual Effects
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea  (20)
    • Visual Effects
  • Cabiria  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • Intolerance  (15)
    • Costume Design
  • The Golem  (10)
    • Makeup

Best Film Not Nominated for any Nighthawk Awards:

  • The General

Analysis:  I rate The General as a **** film and it comes in 11th place on my list for the year.  I fully realize that there are people who would put at #1, that there are those who rate Keaton above Chaplin.  I think it’s a great film, well made, entertaining, and that Keaton is very good in it.  But to me, it doesn’t come anywhere near The Gold Rush.  And I will fully admit that I can never quite get over the fact that we’re supposed to be rooting for a Confederate soldier.  It nags at me every time I watch the film.  The General comes closest to a nomination in Original Screenplay, where I have it at 7th.  But it does earn several Comedy nominations below.  The only other **** film not to earn any nominations was Crainquebille, the brilliant Feyder film that I only actually saw for the first time this past week, which comes in 7th in Foreign Film and 8th in Original Screenplay.

Also Not Nominated But Don’t Miss:

  • Crainquebille  –  a brilliant heart-wrenching French film
  • Tillie’s Punctured Romance  –  Charlie Chaplin’s first feature film
  • He Who Gets Slapped  –  a very good performance from Lon Chaney and a very young and beautiful Norma Shearer

Nighthawk Golden Globes:

Drama:

  • Best Picture
  1. Greed
  2. The Battleship Potemkin
  3. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
  4. The Phantom of the Opera
  5. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Best Director
  1. Erich von Stroheim  (Greed)
  2. Sergei Eisenstein  (The Battleship Potemkin)
  3. Robert Wiene  (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)
  4. D.W. Griffith  (The Birth of a Nation)
  5. F.W. Murnau  (Faust)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Greed
  2. The Phantom of the Opera
  3. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  4. Faust
  5. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
  2. The Battleship Potemkin
  3. Foolish Wives
  4. The Last Laugh
  5. J’Accuse
  • 23-quesi-lc-1Best Actor:
  1. Lon Chaney  (The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
  2. Emil Jannings  (The Last Laugh)
  3. Lon Chaney  (The Phantom of the Opera)
  4. Erich von Stroheim  (Foolish Wives)
  5. Emil Jannings  (Faust)
  • Broken-Blossoms-4Best Actress:
  1. Lillian Gish  (Broken Blossoms)
  2. Hilda Borgström  (Ingeborg Holm)
  3. Lillian Gish  (The Birth of a Nation)
  4. Aileen Pringle  (The Mystic)
  5. Gloria Swanson  (Male and Female)
  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Donald Crisp  (Broken Blossoms)
  2. Conrad Veidt  (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari)
  3. Sessue Hayakawa  (The Cheat)
  4. Lon Chaney  (Oliver Twist)
  5. Pomeroy Cannon  (The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse)
  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Zasu Pitts  (Greed)
  2. Camilla Horn  (Faust)
  3. Alice Terry  (The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse)
  4. Sylvia Ashton  (Old Wives for New)
  5. Miriam Cooper  (The Birth of a Nation)

By Film:

  • Greed  (330)
    • Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari  (205)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame  (160)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • Faust  (150)
    • Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actress
  • The Battleship Potemkin  (135)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay
  • Broken Blossoms  (130)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor
  • The Phantom of the Opera  (125)
    • Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Actor
  • The Birth of a Nation  (110)
    • Director, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse  (100)
    • Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress
  • Foolish Wives  (75)
    • Original Screenplay, Actor
  • The Last Laugh  (75)
    • Original Screenplay, Actor
  • J’Accuse  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • Ingeborg Holm  (35)
    • Actress
  • The Mystic  (35)
    • Actress
  • Male and Female  (35)
    • Actress
  • The Cheat  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • Oliver Twist  (30)
    • Supporting Actor
  • Old Wives for New  (30)
    • Supporting Actress

Best Drama not Nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages

Analysis:  Part of this is that while Intolerance does manage to make it to the level of ****, it’s not quite on the same level as so many of the other films here (it ranks 11th in Picture and 10th in Director among the dramas).  Part of it is that because of the structure of it (various stories told across different time periods) it uses a lot of different actors and doesn’t use them a lot or to great dramatic effect, so the film doesn’t rank at all in any of my acting categories.  And that episodic nature also hurt it in the screenplay category.

Comedy:

  • Best Picture:
  1. The Gold Rush
  2. The General
  3. Our Hospitality
  4. Seven Chances
  5. Safety Last

Analysis:  I haven’t actually seen a whole lot of silent feature-length comedies.  Only 23 of the 167 films I have seen from this era do I classify as a Comedy for its primary genre and only a handful of films with other primary genres also make it into this field.  And care to guess what most of those are?  Most of them are Buster Keaton simply because Chaplin spent so long on each film that he only has two films from the era (plus one he starred in but didn’t direct).

  • Best Director:
  1. Charlie Chaplin  (The Gold Rush)
  2. Buster Keaton  (The General)
  3. Buster Keaton  (Our Hospitality)
  4. Mack Sennett  (Tillie’s Punctured Romance)
  5. Buster Keaton  (Seven Chances)

Analysis:  This looks a little uneven in favor of Keaton, but I feel I should point out, that in my point system, Chaplin’s direction of The Gold Rush is pretty much even with the other four films nominated here.

  • Best Adapted Screenplay:
  1. Tillie’s Punctured Romance

Analysis:  Part of the problem here, as I said above, is that I haven’t seen a lot of comedies in the Silent Era, and a lot of what I have seen are either Chaplin or Keaton and neither one of them adapted material – they wrote their own.  Tillie isn’t the only adapted comedy I’ve seen (there are also, for example The Plastic Age and The Affairs of Anatol), but it’s the only one I considered worthy of a nomination.

  • Best Original Screenplay:
  1. The Gold Rush
  2. Our Hospitality
  3. The General
  4. Three Ages
  5. Seven Chances
  • Charlie Chaplin in the Shoe-Eating Scene from .Best Actor:
  1. Charlie Chaplin  (The Gold Rush)
  2. Buster Keaton  (The General)
  3. Charlie Chaplin  (The Kid)
  4. Charlie Chaplin  (Tillie’s Punctured Romance)
  5. Wallace Reid  (The Affairs of Anatol)
  • 01523Best Actress:
  1. Marie Dressler  (Tillie’s Punctured Romance)
  2. Gloria Swanson  (Why Change Your Wife)
  3. Gloria Swanson  (The Affairs of Anatol)

Analysis:  One of the disadvantage of having watched mostly Chaplin and Keaton films is that there isn’t a whole lot in the way of lead actress performances (or supporting male performances).  So, it’s not that there probably aren’t performances of being worthy of this list.  But if there are, they have somehow eluded me.

  • Best Supporting Actor:
  1. Mack Swain  (The Gold Rush)
  2. Theodore Roberts  (The Affairs of Anatol)
  • Best Supporting Actress:
  1. Bebe Daniels  (The Affairs of Anatol)
  2. Agnes Ayres  (The Affairs of Anatol)
  3. Mabel Normand  (Tillie’s Punctured Romance)
  4. Bebe Daniels  (Why Change Your Wife)
  5. Clara Bow  (The Plastic Age)

By Film:

  • The Gold Rush  (400)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor, Supporting Actor
  • Tillie’s Punctured Romance  (260)
    • Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress
  • The Affairs of Anatol  (190)
    • Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actress
  • The General  (170)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actor
  • Our Hospitality  (135)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay
  • Seven Chances  (135)
    • Picture, Director, Original Screenplay
  • Why Change Your Wife  (65)
    • Actress, Supporting Actor
  • Safety Last  (50)
    • Picture
  • Three Ages  (40)
    • Original Screenplay
  • The Kid  (35)
    • Actor
  • The Plastic Age  (30)
    • Supporting Actress

Best Comedy not nominated for any Nighthawk Golden Globes:

  • The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks

Analysis:  This is actually a pretty amusing propaganda film about what happens when a westerner comes to the Soviet Union.  It is well made and amusing, a lower ***.5, which isn’t enough to get into the Best Picture – Comedy and the script doesn’t really compare to Chaplin or Keaton and the acting is nothing to specifically notice.  But a good film if you have the time.  It is the only comedy that is ***.5 or higher that failed to earn any Globe nominations.

Roundup for the Year in Film:

Eligible Films I Have Seen:  167

Top 5 Films of the Year:

1  –  Greed  (see review here and here)

2  –  The Battleship Potemkin  (see review here)

The ultimate in German expressionism.

The ultimate in German expressionism.

3  –  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari  (dir. Robert Wiene)

Is it possible that in the 93 years since this film was released, Horror as a genre has still never been better?  Could sound, which opened up all sorts of new avenues in a variety of genres, actually have negatively impacted Horror?  How rare it is that the dialogue is vitally important in genre – and in this film, it works so much better because we don’t hear the dialogue (instead, we get those wonderful titles, which are just as bizarre and twisted in their design as the rest of the film).  And so many Horror films try too hard to scare you with their quick sounds and a score designed to make you jump (though, outside of Psycho, Jaws and Halloween, rarely does).  This film is all the more disturbing because we can’t hear it – we have to imagine the sounds in our heads.

There has been much written about German expressionism, and its influence on Hollywood and filmmaking as a whole.  From Caligari to Hitler, published in 1947, was one of the first vitally important film books.  Part of that was the brilliance of the films themselves while part of it was the rush of great German filmmakers to Hollywood – Murnau (who was to make the best American silent film, Sunrise), Lang, Lubitsch.  And part of it was just how brilliant it all is.  Outside of Truffaut, I think the French New Wave gets overrated and I think too much gets written about the 70’s American films.  But I eat up German expressionism in all its artistic brilliance.  And this is really the key film to seeing where it comes from, ironically directed by Robert Wiene, who never did come to America (though he did flee the Nazis and died in Paris in 1938).

There are two things about this film that are absolutely brilliant and have echoed down through the last century of film.  The first is the look of the film.  While D.W. Griffith was trying to recreate massive historical looks and bring realism to the world and Chaplin was mocking the world around him with a heightened sense of realism tinged through satire, the look of Caligari is deliberately world away from reality.  Buildings come together at odd angles.  Rooms come to a point in the back.  A bridge arches away from the nothing and comes back to nothing more.  The brilliant inspiration in the creation of the look of the film has rarely been matched in the years since.  And yet, the rest of the film fits the look.  The actors deliberately move in stilted ways, nothing like realism.  And even the look of the titles echoes the look of the film (hell, even the poster does – look at it if you somehow haven’t seen the film and then go anywhere on line and watch the film because it’s in the public domain and if you haven’t seen it that’s just wrong).

But then there is the story itself.  Watch this short little film about the demented doctor who uses his somnambulist to commit crimes and the man who accidentally discovers it when the sleeping man makes off with his love.  And then come to the end of the film and decide what has happened.  And then wonder if that’s really what has happened.  Because you may have to decide not to believe anything that came before.  Or, possibly worse, you may have to decide to absolutely believe everything that has come before.  We often take away from a film with the ending that it leaves us.  So, what then can we take away from Caligari?  That it’s a brilliant film, definitely.  But the rest?  Well, I’ll leave that up to you.

You know you want to dance with your dinner rolls tonight.

You know you want to dance with your dinner rolls tonight.

4  –  The Gold Rush  (dir. Charlie Chaplin)

By 1925, Charlie Chaplin was one of the most famous men in the world.  He had been directing his own short films for a decade, ever since just after his feature debut in Tillie’s Punctured Romance and his departure from Keystone.  But while he had made plenty of shorts, he had only made two feature films.  The first one, The Kid, is charming and sweet and funny and is a very good film, but doesn’t really rise to greatness.  His second, A Woman in Paris, didn’t star Chaplin himself and was a romance, steering away from comedy.  Then came the film that he worked on for two years, the one he would later say he wanted to be remembered for.  And Charlie Chaplin had made his first truly great feature film.

What do people remember about this film?  My guess is that they remember the dance of the dinner rolls (which seems so in character for Chaplin but actually takes place in a dream), the Thanksgiving dinner where he eats a boot and the collapse of the cabin over the cliff.  And yet there’s so much more.  There is the tramp’s desperate attempt at romance which comes out well in the end (Chaplin was a romantic and the tramp usually ends up happy and romantically involved, but yet, you go into every film surprised to see him actually succeed – one of the great things about the happy endings to Chaplin films is that they work so well in relation to everything that has come before).  There is the wonderful way that Chaplin moves – like Lon Chaney, his movements are almost like dancing (and even when he is dancing they are wonderful, as his pants keep slipping, so he manages to grab a rope to tie them up, not realizing there is a dog tied to the end of that rope).  There is the fight in the cabin, where Chaplin is desperately hanging on the much bigger man, and then actually ends up hanging on to a bear.  And there is the cabin scene.  The tramp wakes up hungover and is certain that the room is spinning because of his hangover.  In fact, the room is spinning, but that’s because the storm has sent over the edge of the cliff and it is reacting to all of his movements (Chaplin, the 1992 film, may be just an okay film, but it does a good job of showing exactly what Chaplin as a filmmaker had to do in order to make this scene work).

Chaplin would never be a prolific feature filmmaker – he was too much of a perfectionist and took far too long to complete each film (indeed, he planned The Great Dictator before the Anschluss and yet World War II had been reigning for over a year before the film was released).  But he brought perfection to his films – in the writing, the directing, the editing, the composing, the acting.  Chaplin was the consummate creative force in his films, rivaled in Hollywood history only by Orson Welles.  There has been a tendency in recent years for people to let Chaplin slide on by and prefer Buster Keaton.  But while Keaton is enjoyable and was good at writing, acting and directing, Chaplin was a talent like no other.  After all, just take your pick.  Ask someone what the best Chaplin film is and you’ll get a whole lot of different answers (and some of them will be short films).  There are many who would pick The Gold Rush.  I don’t blame them, and yet I would rank it behind Modern Times, The Great Dictator and City Lights.  Because that’s how amazing Chaplin was.

5  –  The Phantom of the Opera  (see review here)

5 Worst Films (#1 being the worst):

  1. The Doll  (dir. Ernst Lubitsch)
  2. The Poor Little Rich Girl  (dir. Maurice Tourneur)
  3. Peter Pan  (dir. Herbert Brenon)
  4. The Wildcat  (dir. Ernst Lubitsch)
  5. I Don’t Want to Be a Man  (dir. Ernst Lubitsch)
Lubitsch at his worst

Lubitsch at his worst

Worst Film of the Year:

The Doll  (dir. Ernst Lubitsch)

I’ve written before about my feelings on the over-rating of Ernst Lubitsch and his films.  I covered him not that long ago in my ranked list of all the directors who have ever been nominated for an Oscar, noting that while some of his films work wonderfully, I prefer von Stroheim and “the realism of his films to a fanciful romantic version of the world that Lubitsch gave us.”  He just missed out on the Top 100 Directors list, but that’s because he earned 145 points from the two external categories, far more than any other director who didn’t make the list.  And in my review of his The Smiling Lieutenant, I wrote “I really couldn’t take any more.  The film had reached such a point of ridiculous stupidity that even being a musical was no excuse.”

And so here we have The Doll.  I have seen 167 feature-length films from the pre-Oscar era.  This is the only one that I rated below **.5.  Why?  Well, because, like The Smiling Lieutenant, it’s so unbearably stupid.  It has a very basic (and ridiculous premise) – a young man must get married because his rich uncle says so.  The local monks, who he has been staying with, convince him to marry a mechanical doll instead.  But the doll was just broken and so the dollmaker’s daughter stands in for the doll and the man marries her instead.  And then we go on with the Lubitsch touch from there.

I suppose this could have been a camp classic if not for the fact that Lubitsch doesn’t really fall into the camp category and the fact that I hate camp.  But it doesn’t even work for that.  While there are some artistic flourishes to the film (shades of German expressionism in Lubitsch, where I wouldn’t have expected to find it), the main problem is that, aside from the ridiculous premise, the film just falls flat.  Lubitsch’s direction is incredibly flat, there is no wit to the film and, here’s the key, some of the worst acting you could possibly imagine.  One of the thing about silent films is that the actors had to act with their eyes, with their gestures, with their faces (back then they had faces).  So, a bad performance doesn’t necessarily mar a film like it does in the sound era, when a horrendous line can bring things to a crashing halt.  But here, the acting is just so incredibly bad from everyone involved, that I can’t bear to watch it.

Points:

  • Most Nighthawk Nominations:  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari  /  Faust  (8)
  • Most Nighthawk Wins:  Greed  (5)
  • Most Nighthawk Points:  Greed  (330)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Award:  The Affairs of Anatol
  • 2nd Place Award:  The Phantom of the Opera  (Adapted Screenplay, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup)
  • 6th Place Award:  The Last Laugh  (Original Screenplay, Foreign Film)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Nominations:  Greed  /  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari  /  Faust  (4)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Wins:  Greed  (4)
  • Most Nighthawk Drama Points:  Greed  (330)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Drama Award:  The Cheat
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Nominations:  The Gold Rush  /  Tillie’s Punctured Romance  /  The Affairs of Anatol  (5)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Wins:  The Gold Rush  (5)
  • Most Nighthawk Comedy Points:  The Gold Rush  (400)
  • Worst Film Nominated for a Nighthawk Comedy Award:  The Affairs of Anatol

Breakdown by Genre  (Foreign in parenthesis, best film in genre following):

  • Drama:  99  (27)  –  Greed
  • Foreign:  43  –  The Battleship Potemkin
  • Comedy:  23  (5)  –  The Gold Rush
  • Adventure:  11  –  The Mark of Zorro
  • Fantasy:  7  (4)  –  Faust
  • Crime:  7  (3)  –  The Unholy Three
  • Horror:  6  (2)  –  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
  • War:  5  (1)  –  The Birth of a Nation
  • Western:  3  –  The Iron Horse
  • Kids:  2  –  His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz
  • Mystery:  2  (1)  –  Sherlock Holmes
  • Sci-Fi:  1  (1)  –  Metropolis
  • Suspense:  1  –  Ace of Hearts
  • Action:  0
  • Musical:  0  (obviously)

51 Films Eligible for Best Foreign Film (alphabetical, with director in parenthesis – red are ****, blue are ***.5 – both those colors qualify for my Best Foreign Film Award):

  • The Adventures of Prince Achmed  (Reiniger)
  • Aelita: Queen of Mars  (Protazanov)
  • Anna Boleyn  (Lubitsch)
  • The Battleship Potemkin  (Eisenstein)
  • The Burning Soil  (Murnau)
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari  (Wiene)
  • Cabiria  (Pastrone)
  • The Cigarette Girl of Moscow  (Zhelyabuzhsky)
  • Crainquebille  (Feyder)
  • Cyrano de Bergerac  (Genina)
  • Destiny  (Lang)
  • The Doll  (Lubitsch)
  • Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler  (Lang)
  • The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks  (Kuleshov)
  • The Eyes of the Mummy  (Lubitsch)
  • Faces of Children  (Feyder)
  • Faust  (Murnau)
  • The Golem  (Boese)
  • The Gosta Berlings Saga  (Stiller)
  • The Hands of Orlac  (Wiene)
  • Haunted Castle  (Murnau)
  • I Don’t Want to Be a Man  (Lubitsch)
  • Ingeborg Holm  (Sjostrom)
  • J’Accuse  (Gance)
  • Judex  (Feuillade)
  • La Roue  (Gance)
  • The Last Days of Pompeii  (Caserini)
  • The Last Laugh  (Murnau)
  • Leaves Out of Satan’s Book  (Dreyer)
  • Madame DuBarry  (Lubitsch)
  • A Man There Was  (Sjostrom)
  • Metropolis  (Lang)
  • Michael  (Dreyer)
  • Mother  (Pudovkin)
  • Nana  (Renoir)
  • Nibelungen: Kriemheld’s Revenge  (Lang)
  • Nibelungen: Siegfried  (Lang)
  • Nosferatu  (Murnau)
  • Othello  (Buchowetzki)
  • The Oyster Princess  (Lubitsch)
  • Phantom  (Murnau)
  • The Phantom Chariot  (Sjostrom)
  • Queen of Atlantis  (Feyder)
  • Sir Arne’s Treasure  (Stiller)
  • The Spiders Part I: The Golden Lake  (Lang)
  • The Spiders Part II: The Diamond Ship  (Lang)
  • Strike  (Eisenstein)
  • Tartuffe  (Murnau)
  • Waxworks  (Leni)
  • Whirlpool of Fate  (Renoir)
  • The Wildcat  (Lubitsch)

Films Released This Year Originally But Eligible in a Different Year:

  • Flesh and the Devil  (1927-28)
  • The Gosta Berlings Saga  (1927-28)
  • The Hands of Orlac  (1927-28)
  • The Magician  (1927-28)
  • Metropolis  (1927-28)
  • The Scarlet Letter  (1927-28)
  • Tartuffe  (1927-28)
  • Aelita: Queen of Mars  (1928-29)
  • Nosferatu  (1928-29)
  • The Adventures of Prince Achmed  (1930-31)
  • Mother  (1934)
About these ads