Favorite Older Films First Viewed in 2013 (Part 2 of 5)

This is an list I first saw on Rupert Pupkin Speaks. The idea is to list your favorite films from the past year that you saw for the first time, but exclude new releases. This allows much more variety and creates a lot of great suggestions if you read many of them.

Since I tracked these films much more closely this year my list grew long. I will occasionally combine selections by theme, but there is enough for five posts. These choices are in no particular order.


The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)

The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979, Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation)

One theme that was hard to split up among all these lists were the works of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. While Fassbinder made the lists in 2011 and 2012 I saw one and two films of his in those years respectively. This year I saw quite a bit more, and then got both region 2 box set of his films.

I was more hooked on his work than any other filmmaker this year, and this is the first of his selections that will show up here. The postbellum period in Germany’s history was one of his major preoccupations and while I’ve not yet seen all that’s readily available this appears to be both the most evocative and effective of his works on the time period; whereas Fassbinder paints the portrait of a nation, and a period of time, through the eyes of one woman.

The Narrow Margin (1952)

The Narrow Margin (1952, RKO Radio Picutres)

This is another selection from 31 Days of Oscar and was one of the films I had heard the least about going into my viewing. Here was my initial take:

Here’s another film with a short running time but a hell of a lot of wallop. The setup is great: cops escorting a grand jury witness cross-country to testify against a mobster. When you throw in the fact that it’s a film noir tale, you know you’re gonna be thrown for a loop quite a few times and boy does it have some doozies up its sleeve. This movie’s the kind of good that had me absolutely buzzing after it was over. Amazing.

It was a late night viewing that kept me riveted and is very memorable.

The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968)

The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968, Disney)

Viewed, but not written up, during my March to Disney theme this film had a few surprises in store. Sure enough there were a few staples of Disney live-action musicals within in, especially enjoyable toe-tapping songs; but perhaps most surprising (in a move reflective of the time in which the film was produced, and something that would never happen now) there’s a lot of familial in-fighting of a political nature. Not only that but the backdrop is one of frontier days prior to the Dakotas joining the union. Therefore, there’s also an American history reminder folded neatly into the plot, which if you pay close attention to the Walt Disney World attractions was a favorite of Uncle Walt himself also. There’s much to like in this not-too-frequently-referred-to film.

Hearts of Humanity (1932)

Hearts of Humanity (1932)

This is a film that was part of my Poverty Row April theme this past year. It’s also an example of how the initial scoring is not always indicative of how lasting a film will be. There was a film that scored higher, in part because of a more generic title, that I had to slip back in to the final post because this one was more memorable.

Here’s a blurb from my original review:

In this film there’s an example of much of what I was talking about as a boy is orphaned one day through two unrelated acts. Both his parents die on the same day. His father has just learned of his mother’s demise when he meets his unfortunate fate. The plot that follows his less high-stakes to an extent, but it is moving. Jean Hersholt is endearing in the lead and Jackie Searl shows his ability to play endearing characters as well as conniving ones, though his Irish accent isn’t that great. It’s a simple film, but a truly enjoyable one in the style that only this era could produce.

This is a film you can find on archive.org.

Blood Car (2007)


I’m not very up-to-date on HBO and Showtime. I have, at the moment, one show I watch on DVD (i.e. late) from each. I say that by way of an introduction to the fact that I’ve been slow to catch up on the Anna Chlumsky renaissance, most notably HBO’s Veep. Granted she has a supporting role, but this was one of her first roles back from her departure from acting after a promising, if not A-list, career as a young actress.

Blood Car is a hilarious horror/comedy that riffs tremendously on current events and concerns and takes them to absurd extremes for comedic and horrific effect. Fueling automobiles with blood is a tad ridiculous, but how far away from that are we really?

Ariel (1988)


Over the course of the week via Netflix I finally viewed the Proletariat Trilogy, which I had meant to see for quite some time. I thought that perhaps the films were just going to seem passable, although brisk, a bit off-balance comedically, unique and visual; but then there was Ariel. A man’s father commits suicide and he is framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Upon escaping from jail he wants to flee the country but of course things don’t go smoothly. I would recommend all the films as they are short and quick-moving but this is the unusually warmest and most human.

Orphans of the Storm (1921)

The Gish Sisters

Here’s one I was able to see, yes, because it’s on YouTube but the reason I even looked for it was a blogathon. Silent features, even if you’ve seen more than a few, can be a bit daunting; especially one this lengthy. However, the later the vintage on a silent feature the more like the modern language of film it is, that and this film very quickly absorbs you as I stated in more words in my original post.

Dead Ringer (1964)


I shouldn’t have to try too hard to sell a film starring Bette Davis and Bette Davis. However, what bears noting is that the film is worth watching for more than just the unique double-starring role for the legend. It’s a classic revenge thriller formula with a great ending and brilliant support from Karl Malden.

The Fly (1958) and Return of the Fly (1959)

The Fly (1958, 20th Century Fox)

I discussed the entire original Fly Trilogy during 61 Days of Halloween. However, they really stood out through now. I took a while to watch the box, and didn’t get in as many new vintage titles during that timeframe this year as I wanted to, but these were great not just on their own but also how they work back to back (as I watched them very close to one another. They make a great double-bill.

The Gish Sisters Blogathon: Orphans of the Storm, Dorothy and Lillian Together


Firstly, my apologies for this post being late, and to subscribers who may have seen this post come up raw, unfinished and unedited. I’ll do my best to keep that kind of thing from happening again (it’s already happened far too often).

My goal in this post for this blogathon was to through viewing the works of Dorothy and Lillian working together not only come up with a unique angle on their collective filmography, but, also get to know them better. Yes, I know Lillian’s work on Night of the Hunter. Her quote about children is one of my favorite in the annals of film history. However, I can’t claim much knowledge about them. I knew more about them than I did about Louise Fazenda, but not too much. Therefore, a perfect opportunity to learn.

If looking at it like a science experiment I used many of the same methods to hunt down the Dorothy and Lillian titles that I did with Louise. Sadly, though The Internet Archive yielded me no results. Youtube did get me the chance to view nine films, however, few featured them very prominently. Those that did will be embedded.

However, even if this strikes me as somewhat disappointing, I have gained some knowledge and surely my goals are always lofty and not always likely to be reached. For I should recall that it was Lillian Gish herself who said:

I’ve lived long enough to know the whole truth is never found in history texts. Only the people who lived through an era and who are the participants in the drama, as it occurred, know the truth. The people of each generation are the accurate historians of their time.

So, no, in this approach only finding a few of the works they did together I can’t be all-encompassing but perhaps there’s something new that can be found.

Films Viewed

An Unseen Enemy (1912)

An Unseen Enemy (1912)
So Near, Yet So Far (1912)
The Burglar’s Dilemma (1912)
The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912)
The New York Hat (1912)
The Painted Lady (1912)
Judith of Bethulia (1914)
Home, Sweet Home (1914)
Orphans of the Storm (1921)


Gish Sisters

Firstly, almost by accident I watched these films in something resembling chronological order. I searched based on the IMDb list, which sorted them that way and then I created a YouTube play list in the order things were found. As per the official Lillian Gish site An Unseen Enemy marks her debut.

In my note-taking I was a bit more poetical about the ladies’ participation in this film referring to them as “mournful ingenues” rather than “damsels in distress.” However, that’s what it boils down to. There’s nothing atypical about this work from Griffith, not anything exceedingly spectacular save for the fact that it began their association with him and it would prove rather fruitful for both. It was an auspicious start to watching them both because they’re scarcely apart for even a second.

In terms of working in tandem The Musketeers Pig Alley is not a prime example as here Lillian plays a significant role and Dorothy plays a small part as “frizzy-haired woman in street,” as would end up being the case quite a bit; as it was Lillian who was regarded as one of the greatest actresses of the silent age, but I was keen to re-examine it after I saw it earlier this year and thought nothing too much of it. What created that turnabout was Scorsese’s mention of it in this brilliant article. The film didn’t appeal to me too much more but the shot he refers too, which was unusual for the time, did.

As little as that film has to offer for both of them, Lillian’s physicality does shine through in her contributions to the narrative.

Going in chronological order through much of the early small works the sisters both did for Griffith/Biograph did have me rather dejected regarding my hopes of finding something worthwhile.

A note to all those writing about film is that one must watch first and find the angle second. Reversing that equation can have very adverse effects on your viewing experience. Giving me little fodder to discuss, but a film I thought was very enjoyable, such that it buoyed me to continue was The New York Hat.

Closing out what represented the selections that marked the early part of their careers was an odd little film called Home, Sweet Home. Here these another good scene of the sisters together. As the protagonist (Payne played by Henry B. Walthall) flirts with his sweetheart (Lillian) her sister (Dorothy) get some great reactions while facing away from them. The story is an interesting pre-cursor to what Griffith would later do in Intolerance structurally, though I suspect this is far less successful. The sisters start the film but do go out for a while. If you can stick it out it’s worth taking in. I had difficulty doing so, I must admit.

Much as my playlist did for me, I save the best for last for you. This is one of three features that I took in and this one is a long one at over 140 minutes but truly the story is a fairly epic one, but also intimate. Fate, more specifically the events leading up to, during and immediately following the French Revolution; tear apart these two sisters many times over. Louise, played by Dorothy, is blind, and Henriette, played by Lillian, is even more protective of her because of it. You add into the equation things like: it’s another D.W. Griffith work; one of his sprawling, great melodramas and you can see how special this title is without, even factoring in other things like that it was the last time Lillian worked with Griffith and that she suggested the film, as it was based on a popular play.

However, the film is not just excellent, but both Lillian and Dorothy are exceptional in it. Playing blind in the silent era is not something I think I’ve been privy to yet so it’s not quite as big as I expected it to be and that’s a credit to Dorothy. The fact that one sister is a caretaker for another is augmented by the genuine sisterly affection that shines through their performances.

Here is where you see a citation, much as I alluded to earlier, being personified. Lillian was one of the finest actresses around, but the already more naturalistic style that came in as cameras moved closer to actors was something that she was already more than capable of previously. The litany of scenes and different emotions conveyed by the two in this film is would be quite long if I enumerated them all.

However, key in this film is that they each have significant screen time in the film, but much of it is spent separated and in search of one another. Thus, each sister gets her chance to shine. This makes it perhaps a more powerful and impactive film as Lillian’s career continued strongly for years and Dorothy didn’t transition to sound nearly as successfully.

The Syndrome of Siblings in entertainment, particularly film, can be a vicious one because whether or not a rivalry does exist; the public, both at large and within an industry, has a tendency to compare. And comparisons can adversely effect the sibling who is generally perceived to be the lesser of the two making an isolated and impartial evaluation hard or impossible to come by.

One example of how they both shine is in a fleeting reunion, which can be referred to as this film’s “balcony scene.” For a scene such as that to work both of the actors have to pull it off, especially in a wide angle (which at least a portion of the scene is) and they do, emoting as befits their character.


Gish Sisters

Regardless of how history may recall the Gish sisters individually “the whole truth cannot be found in history texts.” What can still be found are some of their works. I did, through my limited exposure in the past, come to post with a hierarchy in mind, but as I saw the first short with faces so similar and performances virtually on par it made me wonder about that – even identifying them become difficult in these version. Perhaps what it illustrates is that both were better together, and Lillian was more capable when they were not paired.

Yet, I can’t help but think bigger than that. For film is collaborative art: without Lillian Griffith doesn’t have Orphans of the Storm to his credit; without Dorothy Lillian may not even think to suggest it; without each other they can’t deliver the performances they do. And then, what of us, filmmakers and lovers both, where are we without both of them, without our ability to enjoy and learn from them? It may be impossible to quantify, but thankfully one needn’t answer that question but can merely enjoy what they have contributed.