Flickchart Film School: 1924

28 Apr
2011

In 1924, two of cinema’s most famous film studios were created. Three companies, Marcus Loew’s Metro Pictures Corporation, Goldwyn Pictures Corporation and Louis B. Mayer Picutres Company combined to form MGM. The first film under the MGM banner was Lon Chaney’s He Who Gets Slapped, which would also be the first film to begin with the infamous lion roar that would be the logo for MGM for decades after. In the same year, brothers Jack and Harry Cohn and Joseph Brandt would change their C.B.C. Film Sales Company into the Columbia Film Corporation.

1924, the time of the flapper and the cowboy, wasn’t without its controversy. Director and producer Thomas Ince mysteriously died on William Randolph Hearst’s yacht and it was suspected that Hearst himself may have killed Ince. Charlie Chaplin, who will become no stranger to controversy, married Lita Grey, a sixteen year old girl that Chaplin would go on to star with in his classic film The Gold Rush.

But with the bad comes the good, as Ethel Barrymore would become the first actress to be on the cover of Time Magazine. Russia also had their first big-budget film and the first full-length sci-fi film with Aelita: Queen of Mars. And in Germany, cinematographer Karl Freund began to discover new ways to utilize a mobile camera.

The best film of 1924 as voted by the users of Flickchart is Sherlock Jr. The film, which in my opinion is Buster Keaton’s finest film, is a great early example of combining story with “special effects”, as simple as they may be.

Keaton plays a projectionist who also hopes to one day become a great detective. Keaton is also in love with a girl and proposes to her. While at her house, a man who has just stolen her father’s watch frames Keaton and has him kicked out of her house, leaving the villain, played by Ward Crane, to move in on the girl. After these unfortunate events, Keaton goes back to his job and dreams of being a detective in a movie that echoes his own life. While Keaton plays imaginary detective, the girl tries to find out the truth behind the missing watch and who really stole it.

What really makes Sherlock Jr. so impressive is Keaton’s dream sequence, where he literally jumps into the screen. However like a dream, the scene that Keaton is put into constantly changes, making it harder for him to solve the case in his dreams instead of in the real world. This technique used to create this is fairly simple, mostly by obvious starts and stops in the camera, but is still very effective.

Keaton’s vision is perfectly captured with his film and even the dream world comes off as a close possibility.  Sherlock Jr. film is a short, yet sweet musing on thee beauty of imagination and the beautiful possibilities of the movies and getting yourself lost in them.

For those interested in more films from 1924, check out these films:

If you need more Keaton after Sherlock Jr., try The Navigator, where Keaton proposes to his girlfriend Betsy, who says no. Yet the two get closer when they board a passenger ship that gets cut loose, with the two of them as the only passengers.

For an epic silent film, there’s The Thief of Bagdad, starring Douglas Fairbanks as the thief who attempts to win the hand of a princess away from an evil suitor. Even today, the basic special effects and story make for a fun watch.

Also check out Erich von Stroheim’s classic Greed, about three people whose lives are ruined by greed after winning the lottery. The film was originally ten hours along, but Stroheim was forced to cut the film down to  2 ½ hours.

Finally witness the masters of cinema across the Atlantic with Eisenstein’s Russian masterpiece Strike and Germany’s The Last Laugh, directed by F.W. Murnau.

Come back next time when we will discuss 1925, and Chaplin’s aforementioned classic, The Gold Rush.

  • http://www.the-frame.com/blog Jandy

    The most recent time I saw Sherlock Jr., the incredible motorcycle chase sequence impressed me even more than the famed dream sequence (not that the dream sequence isn’t awesome, because it is). There are some unbelievable stunts in that chase.

    • Ross Bonaime

      I did love the motorcycle chase as well. I don’t know though, there’s something so great about the dream sequence. It reminds me of old Melies short films, which I adore.