Top Ten By Year: 1925

Top Ten By Year: 1925 posts: Favorite Shots, Movie Poster Highlights, Poll Results, What I’ll Remember
Top Ten By Year posts: 1935, 1983, 1965, 1943, 1992, 1978

For those unaware of my Top Ten By Year project:
The majority of my viewing habits have been dictated by this project since September 2013. Jumping to a different decade each time, I pick weak years for me re: quantity of films seen and/or quality of films seen in comparison to other years from said decade. I use list-making to see more films and revisit others in a structured and project-driven way. And I always make sure to point out that my lists are based on personal ‘favorites’ not any notion of an objective ‘best’.

I miss the way actors faces used to be photographed. The head-on shot. Directors and actors using the camera as connective tissue, a delivery service to the audience. This wasn’t breaking the fourth wall — just one of the most commonly used angles, getting us access to the in-between spaces. In silent film, we frequently become eavesdropping ghosts with the ability to insert ourselves anywhere without disruption.

After starting in April, I have finally reached the end of 1925. The road was rough this time around for a few reasons. For one thing, I went through a major break-up which put life and movie watching on hold for a good month and a half. And I’m not going to lie, restricting my viewings to mostly silent films for several months was trying at times. I love silent films, but I often have to be in a certain receptive head-space for them, a kind of synchronization that aligns us both. And I’m picky with them to boot. And so, working through the watchlist took longer than it normally would have.

I’m also in a writing slump. I normally take notes while watching films, and/or jot down thoughts in a notebook after viewing. But for 1925 I became very lazy about this process. So the idea of writing about films I watched months ago, when you aren’t feeling inspired to begin with, has put me at a standstill. The more I try to force it, the more time I end up wasting, and wasting time is something I’m trying to do less of these days. So for this year, I’m going to do what I hoped I’d never do; I’m just going to drop the list without ceremony. This decision basically goes back on the entire purpose of this project, but I don’t think enough people read this for it to be more of a disappointment than it probably is for myself. But I cannot sit in 1925 limbo any longer. So here you go. We will get back to our regularly scheduled programming for my next year, 2005. 

What I’ve learned is that I love silent spectacle; there is, and never will be, anything else like it. I’m more drawn to silent films that try to operate in more than one mode, tone, or genre even if they sometimes fail at doing so. And finally, the power of an actor’s face, and their chemistry with the camera and costars, goes a very long way for me.

1925 Films Seen: (bold; first-time viewing, italic; re-watch)
Joyless Street,
Seven Chances, Phantom of the Opera, The Eagle, The Red Kimona, Lazybones, The Freshman, The Wizard of Oz, Cobra, The Goose Woman, Lady of the Night, Variete, Tartuffe, The Salvation Hunters, Go West, Woman of the World, The Lost World, Whirlpool of Fate, The Gold Rush, Master of the House, Lady Windermere’s Fan, Orochi, Body and Soul, Cyrano de Bergerac, The Pleasure Garden, Visages D’Enfants, Don Q, The Big Parade, Ben-Hur, Chess Fever, Battleship Potemkin, The Unholy Three, Strike, The Gold Rush, The Merry Widow, The Road to Yesterday, Stage Struck

Joyless Street 1

1. Joyless Street (Germany, Pabst)
2. Stage Struck (US, Dwan)
3. The Merry Widow (US, von Stroheim)
4. The Road to Yesterday (US, DeMille)
5. The Gold Rush (US, Chaplin)
6. Lazybones (US, Borzage)
7. The Big Parade (US, Vidor)
8. The Eagle (US, Brown)
9. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (US, Niblo)
10. The last 20 minutes of Seven Chances (US, Keaton)

What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1925: A Love Letter

My What I’ll Remember posts are an ongoing tradition. A logbook of sorts, they pay tribute to all the year-specific viewing I’ve done over the past however many months. It also stresses that, while the Top Ten list is the crux of this whole project, it’s really a means to an end. It goes without saying, but the process and journey of watching and re-watching these films is most important. I’ve recently looked back on previous What I’ll Remember posts and they evoke the feeling of a photo album, flipping through filmic memories of all shapes and sizes. Top Ten By Year: 1925 will go up late next week.

Top Ten By Year: 1925 posts so far: Movie Poster Highlights, Poll Results, Favorite Shots of 1925

Posts in the What I’ll Remember tag: 1943, 1958, 1965, 1978, 1992, 2012, 2013, 2014


MVP of 1925: John Gilbert (The Big Parade, The Merry Widow)

The realization that impressive craftsmanship and individual merits aside, I am very picky when it comes to silent films that captivate me as a whole…which makes me feel like a shitty cinephile. 

Favorite Characters: Jenny Hagen (Gloria Swanson; Stage Struck), Jack (William Boyd; The Road to Yesterday), Sally O’Hara (Mae Murray; The Merry Widow), Molly Helmer (Norma Shearer; Lady of the Night), Countess Elnora Natatorini (Pola Negri; A Woman of the World)

Rape, attempted rape, or the threat of rape and/or assault is almost guaranteed to crop up
(Whirlpool of Fate, Orochi, The Road to Yesterday, Variete, The Salvation Hunters, The Red Kimona, Tartuffe, The Wizard of Oz, The Joyless Street, Body and Soul, The Merry Widow, The Unholy Three, Phantom of the Opera)

Goose Woman

There’s a disturbing image for you (The Goose Woman)

Clarence Brown putting his engineering skills to use with that majestic tracking shot through a banquet table (The Eagle)

Introducing (relatively speaking): Paul Robeson, Joan Crawford, Myrna Loy, Georgia Hale (The Gold Rush, The Salvation Hunters), Constance Bennett

Introducing to Hollywood: Vilma Banky (The Eagle)

woman of the world

Pola Negri’s tattoo in A Woman of the World (:whispers: “she did it for a man she loved!”)

Least Favorite Characters: Farmhand/The Scarecrow (Harry Semon; The Wizard of Oz), Levett (Miles Mander; The Pleasure Garden), Jill Cheyne (Carmelita Geraghty; The Pleasure Garden), Ken/Lord Strangevon (Joseph Schildkraut; The Road to Yesterday), Mary Drake (Gertrude Olmstead; Cobra), Metzger von Melchiorstrasse (Werner Krauss; Joyless Street)

Lon Chaney playing a man whose love goes unrequited; how shocking! (The Unholy Three, Phantom of the Opera)

Pretending you aren’t in love with someone so they can be happy and move on (Cobra, The Unholy Three, Lady of the Night)

Red Kimona 1Tartuffe 3

Postmodernism rears its head by breaking the 4th wall in The Red Kimona and Tartuffe

The disasterpiece that is The Wizard of Oz

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari reunion! (Werner Krauss and Lil Dagover in Tartuffe)

Selection of purple prose intertitles:
“In his mind the boy divided human beings into Children of the Mud and Children of the Sun. Himself, he belonged somewhere between the two.” (A typical one in The Salvation Hunters)

“On the edge of the Grand Canyon, in the shadow of infinity” (The Road to Yesterday)

stage struck 4 200_s

Color (two-strip Technicolor or stencil) (Stage Struck, Phantom of the Opera, Cyrano de Bergerac, Ben-Hur)

The idyllic French countryside at the center of Whirlpool of Fate

The sheer spectacle of Ben-Hur

The completely unrecognized comedic stylings of Gloria Swanson. She does a wide range of physical comedy in Stage Struck, utilizing the entirety of her body and the intricacies of her face


Larry Semon is the world’s worst-case scenario Martin Short (The Wizard of Oz)

Told in flashback: Variete, The Red Kimona

Yakov’s death in Strike

Directorial debuts (or close enough): Alfred Hitchcock, Josef von Sternberg, Jean Renoir, Lewis Milestone

50b19134f7de2afe35d72a7bf39cf4ebThe Gold Rush 1

William Boyd serving up some young Kurt Russell in The Road to Yesterday, and Georgia Hale serving young Catherine Keener in The Gold Rush

An independent message film about forced prostitution co-directed, produced and overseen by a woman, Dorothy Davenport aka ‘Mrs. Wallace Reid’ (also adapted by Dorothy Arzner!) (The Red Kimona)

10 Performances of 1925: John Gilbert (The Big Parade), Zasu Pitts (Lazybones), Charlie Chaplin (The Gold Rush), Mae Murray (The Merry Widow), Gloria Swanson (Stage Struck), Louise Dresser (The Goose Woman), Harry Earles (The Unholy Three), Norma Shearer (Lady of the Night), Georgia Hale (The Salvation Hunters), Asta Nielsen (The Joyless Street)

John Gilbert rises to stardom and meets Mae Murray as she descends from stardom (The Merry Widow)

Am I the only one who finds Charlie Chaplin the most attractive during his bread roll ballet in The Gold Rush? (P.S he’s always attractive)

Merry Widow 3

John Gilbert’s lascivious stares are both sexy, and terrifying (The Merry Widow)

Favorite intertitles:
“Doff your hat you mannerless knave!” (A typical piece of dialogue from the 17th century portion of The Road to Yesterday)

“Gudule was endowed with the ability to make a good stew while using questionable ingredients” (Whirlpool of Fate)

“A gentleman’s relation to a lady is indicated by the manner in which he rings her doorbell” (Lady Windermere’s Fan)

“Martha Tuttle was one of those mother hens who clucked long after the deed was done” (Lazybones)

“I will only marry a man of great deeds and strange experiences – a man who can look death in the face without flinching!” – Miss White, who might be single for a very long time, oh wait except she’s married by the end of the film (The Lost World)

Phantom of the Opera 1 Phantom of the Opera 2 Phantom of the Opera 3

Don’t ask me why, but I live for scenarios like this (above) (Phantom of the Opera)

Lazybones making what is on paper a really queasy central romance into something delicate and beautiful

Mads’s stony face remains in tact as her son throws all manner of clothes at and past her in Master of the House

The incredible aerial shot fight scene at the end of Orochi

The innovative model animation of the dinosaurs in The Lost World

stage struck

The unbearable cuteness of Gloria Swanson’s Jenny having regular conversations and role plays with a stuffed dog named Flea (Stage Struck)

Photographed by the incomparable Karl Freund! (Variete and Tartuffe)

The Goose Woman, just one example of ceilings visible in the frame before Citizen Kane

The romantic interest of Stage Struck; wheat cake extraordinaire Orme Wilson who is obsessed with actresses and says things like “You oughta see her – she’s the Duke’s mixture” and “You’re about as funny as a murder”


Why yes, that is a duck projectile vomiting (The Wizard of Oz)

Emil Jannings as the eternal fool? Yes. But you expect me to buy him as a fucking trapeze artist? Girl. Sorry. Next. (Variete)

Slow motion in Whirlpool of Fate, The Joyless Street, The Unholy Three, The Merry Widow, Phantom of the Opera

The proto-Cocteau dream sequence in Whirlpool of Fate

Discovering the greatness of character actress Louise Dresser (The Eagle, The Goose Woman)

Red Kimona 2battleshippotemkin2

Walter Lang, Dorothy Davenport, and Sergei Eisenstein have you beat by 69 years Steven Spielberg (The Red Kimona, Battleship Potemkin)

Can the lost art of the then-ubiquitous visual of aggressively intimate head-on close-ups be resurrected? I miss it so (literally all the movies)

Largely forgotten vamps/’exotic’ types of the day: Nita Naldi (Cobra), Lya De Putti (Variete)


Women are Cobras! Get it? (Cobra)

Based on a play: Cobra, Lady Windermere’s Fan, Tartuffe, Cyrano de Bergerac, Master of the House

Pair The Goose Woman with Frank Capra’s Lady for a Day for two very different films about down-on-their-luck alcoholic older women

Masquerading religious ‘devotees’ (Tartuffe, Body and Soul)

big parade pic A

Meet cutes don’t get cuter than this (The Big Parade)

Playing two characters (Paul Robeson in Body and Soul, everyone in The Road to Yesterday, Norma Shearer in Lady of the Night)

Costume Highlights:

The first year in the career of legendary fashion designer Adrian (The Eagle, The Road to Yesterday, Cobra, Her Sister from Paris)

The Eagle

Vilma Banky’s pearl headdress in The Eagle

Gloria Swanson -1927-Stage Struck

Gloria Swanson’s outfits in the Technicolor dream sequence in Stage Struck

Lady of the Night 6
Look at those pockets!!!!!!

Lady of the Night 1 Lady of the Night 3

Pretty much everything Norma Shearer wears in Lady of the Night

Merry Widow 9 Lady of the Night 5stage struck 3

I miss elaborate head-pieces (The Eagle, Lady of the Night, Stage Struck, The Merry Widow)

Joyless Street 5

Tamara Geva’s coat in Die freudlose Gasse (The Joyless Street)

Top Ten By Year: Favorite Shots of 1925

Each time I take on a year in film for the Top Ten By Year Project I end up adding more components. At the end of What I’ll Remember for 1978 I posted some of the shots that stood out for me the most. For 1925, I’m just making it a separate post because I’ve ended up with quite a few screenshots. I’m posting them on my tumblr page as thematic photosets and I’ll try to recreate them here as best as I can. This is by no means exhaustive but as often as I could I tried to pull what jumped out at me as being particularly evocative. I’ve realized I’m a sucker for hands, shadows, faces, and reflections. Basically, I’m an easy visual lay.

Part 1: Shadows

Strike (Eisenstein)
Joyless Street 15
Joyless Street (Pabst) Impossible to catch in a still. Trust that it’s a moment of frenzied shaky mania
orochi 2 (2)
Orochi (Futagawa)
Phantom of the Opera (Julian)
Red Kimona 3
The Red Kimona (Davenport/Lang)
Strike (Eisenstein)
the unholy three
The Unholy Three (Browning)

Part 2: Hands and Feet

Battleship Potemkin 1
Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
body and soul 2
Body and Soul (Micheaux)
Joyless Street 11
Joyless Street (Pabst)
Joyless Street 13
Joyless Street (Pabst)
lady windermere's fan 1
Lady Windermere’s Fan (Lubitsch)
Merry Widow 1
The Merry Widow (von Stroheim)
Merry Widow 2
The Merry Widow (von Stroheim)
Salvation Hunters 5
The Salvation Hunters (von Sternberg)
tartuffe 4
Tartuffe (Murnau)
tartuffe 5
Tartuffe (Murnau)
The Eagle 2
The Eagle (Brown) (part of a tracking shot through the table)
Joyless Street 3
Joyless Street (Pabst)

Part 3: Reflections

Lady of the Night 4
Lady of the Night (Bell)
Red Kimona 2
The Red Kimona (Davenport/Lang)
Salvation Hunters 3
The Salvation Hunters (von Sternberg)
Tartuffe (Murnau)
Variety 3
Varieté (DuPont)
phantom of the opera 4
Phantom of the Opera (Julian)

Part 4: The Faces of Women

body and soul
Body and Soul (Michaeux)
Goose Woman 2
The Goose Woman (Brown)
Joyless Street 1
Joyless Street (Pabst)
Joyless Street 7
Joyless Street (Pabst)
Joyless Street 8
Joyless Street (Pabst)
Joyless Street 9
Joyless Street (Pabst)
Lady of the Night 3
Lady of the Night (Bell)
Mery Widow
The Merry Widow (von Stroheim)
Salvation Hunters 2
The Salvation Hunters (von Sternberg)
Whirlpool of Fate 2
Whirlpool of Fate (Renoir)
Whirlpool of Fate 3
Whirlpool of Fate (Renoir)

Part Five: Scenic and/or Establishing Shots

Whirlpool of Fate 4
Whirlpool of Fate (Renoir)
Whirlpool of Fate 1
Whirlpool of Fate
The Big Parade 2
The Big Parade (Vidor)
The pleasure garden
The Pleasure Garden (Hitchcock)
Merry Widow 5
The Merry Widow (von Sternberg)
Battleship Potemkin 3
Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
Ben Hur
Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (Niblo)

Part 7: The Rest

The Gold Rush (Chaplin)
Battleship Potemkin 2
Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein)
Joyless Street 12
Joyless Street (Pabst)
Joyless Street 14
Joyless Street (Pabst)
Lady of the Night 2
Lady of the Night (Bell)
lady windermere's fan 2
Lady Windermere’s Fan (Lubitsch)
Merry Widow 6
The Merry Widow (von Stroheim)
Merry Widow 7
The Merry Widow (von Stroheim)
Merry Widow 8
The Merry Widow (von Stroheim)
orochi (1)
Orochi (Fukasawa)
Phantom of the Opera (Julian)
Phantom of the Opera (Julian)
Salvation Hunters 4
The Salvation Hunters (von Sternberg)
Salvation Hunters
The Salvation Hunters (von Sternberg)
strike 2
Strike (Eisenstein)
Tartuffe 6
Tartuffe (Murnau)
Tartuffe (Murnau)
Tartuffe (Murnau)
the big parade 2
The Big Parade (Vidor)
The Merry Widow (von Stroheim)
The Merry Widow (von Stroheim)
Variety 1
Varieté (Dupont)
Variety 2
Varieté (Dupont)
Variety 4
Varieté (Dupont)
Variety 5
Varieté (Dupont)
Variety 6
Varieté (Dupont)
Whirlpool of Fate 5
Whirlpool of Fate (Renoir)