The It Girl and others

I’ve long been interested in the silent movies of the ’teens and ’20s, many of which no longer exist because the nitrate film they were shot on has essentially disintegrated. It’s one of those aching cultural sorrows, because it means a significant chunk of our artistic heritage has been blotted out. (A lot of it is trivial stuff, of course, but a surprising amount of what’s gone isn’t. And even the trivial is historically, if not artistically, fascinating.)

There was an article in the New York Times the other day that gave me, as if I needed one, yet another reason to appreciate New Zealand. A fair number of “lost” flicks are winging their way north.

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My father has a funny memory of sitting in a theater in 1928 or ’29, watching a silent film at a kiddie matinee with his older brother, who was reading the dialogue to him. Remarks were passed from behind them that my uncle should pipe down. Bob, probably eight or nine at the time, but almost certainly already in the world elite of bitingly facetious remarks, turned around and made a few personal suggestions of his own. A fight started that had to be broken up by the ushers. For all I know, that movie has disintegrated…but the memory lingers. There’s cultural history for you.



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