Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Roaring 20's

I've been doing research on silent films lately, for various projects and personal interest. I ran across some old movie magazines, and I was struck by how down-to-earth both the stars and the writing were. Of course there's some sensationalism and hyperbole, but it's nothing compared to the splashy sensationalism of movie magazines these days. Here's an example from an interview with Kathlyn Williams, who starred in adventure serials in which she often escaped from wild animals.

"And there are always little accidents that bring unexpected crises. One day a leopard went 'bad' and started for me. There was plenty of room for me to run--but just before I reached the safety cage, I tripped and fell. In my scalp today are ten claw marks where the leopard 'got home' before I was dragged to safety, and in my mind the thought of what might have happened had the attendant keepers been less adept at my rescue.

"Now I know you're sure to ask the question--so let me say right now that I'm deathly afraid of a mouse! I've never been afraid of big animals because I have always liked them--and when you like them they return your friendship--but little crawling things--ugh!"

Certainly Kathlyn Williams in appearance is truly feminine. Modishly slender and with a grace of movement that has long been a characteristic of her stage and screen work, Miss Williams today presides graciously over a beautiful hill-top home that overlooks all of Los Angeles, and as one wanders through rooms decorated in perfect taste and abounding in those alluring touches which are so truly feminine--it is hard to believe that the fair mistress of this "home" home has perhaps faced death more often than any other living woman; or at any rate, that she has gone through such experiences and remained just the same sweet representative of the gentler sex.

(MOVIE WEEKLY, July 9, 1921; accessed at:

EDIT 4/24: Another sentence I just had to share, regarding something said by an expert movie investor:
This statement is cryptogrammatic to the most informed of us; to the man just casually interested in the business side of motion pictures it is absolutely befogging.

(Paul H. Davis, "Investing in the Movies," Part One, Photoplay Magazine, August 1915, pages 55-58. Accessed at:

I just love the word choice. I'm not saying it's good writing, but it's definitely more sparkly than modern journalism will give us.


NOT Freddy Jones said...

They would NEVER call females the gentler sex these days. Somebody might take offense. Anything but that!

They were also more sensible about models back in the early 20's. If you look at really old fashion magazines you'll notice that the models look like normal women should, and not like anorexic bimbos.

Ethan said...

Two very true comments, there.