• Film

    Underworld (1927)

    The beast is sleeping. Passed out from too much booze and too good a time. The gangster’s ball is over, and all that is left is him passed out on a table, and his woman about to be assaulted by the man’s enemy. He is warned of the danger. Shook. He is still sleeping, or in a stupor. He slowly raises his eyes, aware of the danger, aware of the alcohol poisoning his system, aware that his body cannot move like it should. He is awakened, he screams. He grabs at himself, trying to force himself out of the chair. Staggering through a hallway filled with confetti up to his…

  • History

    A Night at Coffee Dan’s

    1920s Humor: Coffee Dan’s was a speakeasy in San Francisco, where parts of Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer was filmed. The place was fairly high-society, despite fronting as a breakfast place. The hilariously named society magazine “The Wasp” called it “The rendezvous for San Francisco’s Elite.”

  • History

    Lois Long, and New York in the 1920s

    “The originality of this nation is something miraculous. Likewise the imagination and the je ne sais quoi. Take, for example, a simple matter such as naming colors for stockings. Do they say taupe, greenish brown, or yellowish beige—descriptive names all? No, a thousand times no! You are wearing stockings of Elephant’s Ear, Baby’s Breath, Summer Dawn, or What Not? And the trouble is, just as you have decided Rhinoceros Shimmy is just the right color to match that new suit, and go back for more of the same color, they tell you that batch has sold out and it is impossible to duplicate the dye exactly. But Aztec or Mystery…

  • Film

    Erotikon

    In one climactic scene of Erotikon, a woman is shocked, SHOCKED, to find out that a man thinks that she is having an affair. Of course she wants to be having an affair, with him, but no such thing has happened yet. Her husband, for his part, is in love with his niece (it’s the times), or at very least her cooking. These two questionable love affairs make up what has to be one of the more charming romantic comedies that was ever made. And perhaps the first to ask the eternal question “what the hell is wrong with the sex life of Swedish people.” The film is notable for its overlapping…

  • Film

    South

    Britain’s attempts to explore Antartica during the first part of the 20th century, included some of the more epic failures of human endeavor, and, luckily for us, some of the best recorded. Ernest Shackleton’s attempt to cross the continent from one side to another failed to even reach the continent he was trying to cross. Somehow, the entire crew survived nearly two years in isolation, most of the time sitting on floating pack ice. And they had a filmmaker with them. Much of the appeal of early documentaries, such as this one, or the work of Robert Flaherty, is the ability to see things which simply can no longer be…

  • Film

    Mantrap

    The first time I saw a picture of Clara Bow was in my history textbook junior year of high school. She had a two page spread as a representative of the Jazz Age. She was by far the most popular screen star of the era, and her films freely used her sexuality and the attention given to her sexuality, to discuss the changing role of women, and the rapidly changing structure of society. But none of this matters as much as the sheer energy she puts into her performances. You can (and should) see an example here. It is this sort of giddy, nearly frantic, performance, that brings up images…