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Betty Balfour: “Great Britain’s Queen of Happiness”

Looking forward to some Betty B in Leicester!

British Silent Film Festival

Betty Balfour in 1925 Betty Balfour

Betty Balfour could well be the mascot of the 19th British Silent Film Festival. You will see her in three different films across the weekend – two silents and a musical. In each film, you’ll get a glimpse of why she was once one of the most popular British film stars. In her heyday, she was occasionally compared to Hollywood’s Mary Pickford, but her appeal was not quite so girlish and innocent. Balfour was first and foremost a comedienne, with an earthy, active charm that she deployed to great effect playing the Cockney flowergirl ‘Squibs’ in a series of hit films. Later in her career, she played more sophisticated characters in more serious films, but the Balfour charm still shines through.

Balfour was not a Cockney herself, although she was raised in London. As a profile on Balfour in Picturegoer in 1924 wrote, “‘Squibs’ was a rough-cast…

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Malombra (1917): Lyda Borelli and the Italian divas of silent cinema

Silent London

This is a guest post for Silent London by David Cairns, a film-maker and lecturer based in Edinburgh who writes the fantastic Shadowplay blog.

The so-called “Italian diva” school of silent cinema presents challenges for those in love with narrative and closure, and not just because many of the films are incomplete or untranslated. These movies seem genuinely less concerned with plot than surrounding national cinemas, though this assertion must be qualified in a number of ways.

Francesca Bertini

What the films definitely are obsessed with is their stars, such women as Lyda Borelli, Francesca Bertini, and Pina Menichelli, around whom the films revolve, wholly. It’s as if the Italians noted that stars seemed to be what the public cared for most, and so decided to put everything else on the back burner while serving up long, langurous shots of languishing, anguished beauties. Superficially resembling both the kohl-daubed vamps of the Theda…

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Announcing a publication!

Excellent research, writing and illustrating from Silents Please!

Silents, Please!

Not long ago, a major project of mine came to fruition. A chance infatuation with the adverts for a particular film grew into a fruitful research project which involved early newspaper comic strips, international media coverage, and two Italian silent films. Now, my article on this particular collison of comic strip history, pop culture, and silent cinema has been published in the journal Feminist Media Histories.

The article is called From the New York Herald to the Italian screen: Fluffy Ruffles, la donna americana, and you can find it here.

It’s a research article, but also has a visual component: I produced hand-drawn illustrations to accompany the text. They’re mostly in pen, with some ink, and some use of collage. The illustrations are all based on archival materials, primarily adverts, that I unearthed in the course of my research. (Originally the concept was to produce something more zine-like in nature, but…

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Lupino Lane

‘The Half Pint Hero’ Rubber-limbed British comedian who originated ‘The Lambeth Walk’. 1892  – 1959 For fans of: Buster Keaton Charlie Chaplin Harry Langdon Lupino Lan…

Source: Lupino Lane

The 2nd Kennington Bioscope Silent Comedy Weekend: the laughter returns

Silent London

It’s back, the perfect post-Pordenone pick-me-up: a weekend of giggles at the Cinema Museum curated by the inimitable David Wyatt. I heard great things about last year’s event, but this time you’ll have double the fun with a two-day festival. So ink 22 & 23 October 2016 into your diary and look out for tickets on sale in early September. Here’s what the Kennington Bioscope crew are promising for their second Silent Comedy Weekend:

Two days of (mostly) silent comedy – except for the audience laughter (judging from last year’s successful extravaganza) and live music from our world famous accompanists. 

Feature films with Eddie Cantor and Clara Bow, Harold Lloyd, Max Linder, Monty Banks, Syd Chaplin, Harry Langdon and more. Rare showings of Lupino Lane’s LAMBETH WALK and Walter Forde’s first feature WAIT AND SEE – long–neglected British stars in need of re evaluation – plus some equally forgotten funny females, European shorts from the early years and Laurel &…

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A Couple of Down and Outs (1923) Research, Interpretation and the Case of Walter Summers.

Research can be such an adventure at times. Being a film archaeologist, excavating the influence and importance of films that sometimes cannot be found means assessing the worth of a range of opini…

Source: A Couple of Down and Outs (1923) Research, Interpretation and the Case of Walter Summers.

The Passion of Joan of Arc at Shakespeare’s Globe: a film out of time

This will be the third time I’ve watched this score and the venue couldn’t be better. But most of all… what a film and what an actress!

Silent London

If you are reading this post and you have never seen The Passion of Joan of Arc, stop now. Skip to the end, click on the link to buy tickets and make your life better with just a few taps of the mouse. Then you can come back and read the rest of what I have to say. Passion is not just one of the very best films of all time, but one that has inspired some of the most exciting scores too – despite the director’s misgivings about it being accompanied by music at all. There have been many film adaptations of the story of Joan of Arc, but Falconetti’s haunting portrayal of the saint, in front of Dreyer’s unflinching camera, is unforgettably raw and moving.

In September, you can see Passion at one of London’s most fascinating venues, Shakespeare’s Globe, as part of a season of live music events…

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