This gif never gets old. Image: Tech Noir

We (as in, yours truly) strive to be a Productive Member of Society. We volunteer and recycle, and we try not to block the aisle in the grocery store.

But we do have some unproductive habits, such as being Greatly Distracted by short videos on YouTube.

We’re powerless against these things! A bulldozer runs over a car, a raccoon steals dog food, a man drops a birthday cake – doesn’t matter. Sign us up for more!

We suspect we aren’t alone. How many times have you researched something on YouTube, only to find yourself, an hour later, watching penguin videos?

So when Fritzi at Movies Silently issued a Silent Movie Challenge, we saw our chance to exploit our YouTube habits and look like a film advocate at the same time! Brilliant!

Those crazy silent film folk! Image: gfycat

In our opinion, some of the earliest films are perfect for our media-savvy age. Just like many viral videos today, these films are short and clever.

We invite you to take a look at the films below. We’ll wager they’re just as amusing as anything you’ve seen lately on social media.

(All clips below are from YouTube, naturally.)

Challenge #1: Watch 5 Films Made In or Before 1905

Fritzi’s Silent Movie Challenge is a two-parter. The first challenge is to watch five films made in or before 1905. Those were the heady pioneer days of filmmaking; folks Wrote The Playbook as they Went Along.

We chose five offbeat films, and each one runs less than a minute. Our picks include a bizarre animal procession and boxing cats. Boxing cats!

Seriously, this stuff is prime gif-making material.

Serpentinen Tanz (1895), Max Skladanowsky

The Boxing Cats (Prof Welton’s) (1894), William K.L. Dickson and William Heise

The Sprinkler Sprinkled (1896), Lumière Brothers

The Cabbage Fairy (1896), Alice Guy Blaché

Promenade of Ostriches, Paris Botanical Gardens (1895), Lumière Brothers

Challenge #2: Watch 5 Films Made Between 1906 and 1914

The second part of the challenge is to watch five films made between 1906 and 1914.

We’ve chosen five comedies for you: The first three run less than 10 minutes each, and the last two are about 12 minutes long. These are one-reel films.

Smarty Pants Tip: A reel holds about 1,000 feet of film, which runs about 10-12 minutes. In the Silent Era, films were often shown at 16 frames per second (fps). When sound film was introduced, 24 fps became the standard. (Some films nowadays are experimenting with higher frame rates, but that’s a discussion for another day.)

We digress. Please enjoy the films below, which feature some of the biggest names in comedy Back In The Day.

(Note: Some of these films have Dutch and French intertitles, but we think you’ll get the gist.)

The Hand Bag (1912) starring Flora Finch

Le Chapeau de Max (Max’s Hat) (1913) starring Max Linder

The Glue (1907) directed by Alice Guy Blaché

Fatty Joins the Force (1913) starring Roscoe Arbuckle and the Keystone Cops

Mabel’s Busy Day (1914) starring Mabel Normand and Charlie Chaplin

Looking for more resources on silent film? Check out Century Film Project and, of course, Fritzi’s site, Movies Silently.

But let us not forget YouTube. In its way, it is a champion of the Silent Era.

Happily blogging about old movies and using the royal "We".

28 Comment on “Why Early Silent Films are Meant for YouTube (or Vice Versa)

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