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Thread: Silent Era

  1. #1
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    I am writing a stage production called 'When The Silence Stopped'. It is the story of how certain comedians coped with the talkies and some fell by the wayside. Some of the stage production will be recreating the filming or rehearsal of certain classic moments in the silent era. In the first act Buster Keaton will be featured highly as will Roscoe Arbuckle and Mabel Normand. As I have found this excellent site, has anyone got any particular moments that they regard as classic, bearing in mind it will have to be recreated on stage. The second act will relate to Laurel and Hardy succeeding with the others sadly falling by the wayside. All research greatly appreciated as there is so much to choose from.

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    Further to my request above, does anyone know of any possible research into James (Jimmy) Finlayson who played against Laurel and Hardy. We are looking at his off stage persona. We have tracked someone down who once met him at a party and said he was extremely funny off stage but we do need to research this matter. Thanks.

  3. #3
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    </div><div class='quotemain'>Comedy Dave:

    I am writing a stage production called 'When The Silence Stopped'. It is the story of how certain comedians coped with the talkies and some fell by the wayside. Some of the stage production will be recreating the filming or rehearsal of certain classic moments in the silent era.[/b]
    The idea portrayed in Singin' in the Rain where a silent star has a voice that's not appropriate for the talkies and their first talkies are dubbed with another voice. That happened with at least one (probably more) silent star.



    Alfred Hitchcock's first talkie Blackmail (1929) starred Anny Ondra but the voice you hear on the soundtrack is that of Joan Barry as Anny had a strong Austrian accent.



    Steve

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    Dave - I can't really help with Finlayson's off-stage persona, but I must quote from William K Everson's perceptive book about L & H and their films, specifically "Way out West" a sublime take-off of the Western genre.



    Of Finlayson, Everson says he was cast as "Mickey Finn, and outdoes himself as the epitome of double-dyed villainy, the sheer joy of chicanery almost outweighing the monetary rewards it will bring. Finlayson's direct stares at the audience, often done in direct counterpoint to Hardy's (Hardy would appeal for sympathy, while Finlayson's were aggressive, as if daring the audience to do anything with it's knowledge of his own perfidy) here are extended and exploited as never before. As he outlines some particular piece of villainy, he rubs his hands, chuckles, leaps for joy, and looks to the audience for admiration of his cunning; or as he tells some exceptionally outrageous lie, he stares at the camera with an exaggerated intake of breath, over-awed himself by his own skullduggery"



    I think that captures Finlayson's screen persona completely.



    rgds

    Rob

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    Here's a snippet...

    Right next to Elstree station is a building and on its roof in fading letters is "THE GATE STUDIOS" This I believe was a studio making silent films. When sound came along, they found sound equipment was picking up the noise of passing express trains, sound proofing not being needed in the silent era. The studios were shut down. Perhaps this was when the Elstree studios were born? A bit farther away from the railway.

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    There were six main groups of studios in Elstree, of which the Gate Studios (originally known as the Whitehall Studios) were one; they were built in 1928.



    rgds

    Rob

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    Amongst the many great moments of the silent era that spring to mind is the scene where the side of the building falls down apparently about to crush, was it Buster Keaton?Anyway he escapes scott free because he's standing right where the gap is for the window,very clever at the time.Could be recreated on stage with plenty of balsa wood and sound effects!

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    There is one silent moment that springs to mind and it may be useful as I'm sure it is one of the earliest jokes recorded on film. It is the old chestnut of the naughty boy who stops the gardeners hose by standing on it and taking his foot off as the gardener looks down the nozzle. Hackneyed, I know, but it was ahoot in his day.

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    There are a few moments that spring to mind

    1) Harold Lloyd hanging from a building in a number of films eg Safety Last

    2) Chaplin and Eric Campbell's fight in Easy Street which ends with Chaplin sticking Campbell's head in the street lamp to gas him unconscious

    3) Keaton sitting on those bits between the wheels (I don't know what they are called) of the General as it moves into the shed. Apparently it was pretty dangerous.



    Good luck with the project. Please don't make too much of Keaton's films with Jimmy Durante after talkies came in, which apparently he hated. Those films are probably never seen now for a very good reason.

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