The Sign of the Cross

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Paramount (1914) 67 min. NR

Director: Frederick A. Thomson

Assistant Director: Harry Jay Smith

Screenplay: adapted from play by Wilson Barrett

Cinematography: Herbert J. Siddons

Stars: William Farnum (Marcus Superbus), Rosina Henley (Mercia), Sheridan Block (Nero), Ethel Gray Terry (Berenice), Lila Barclay (Poppaea), Morgan Thorpe (Favius), George Majeroni (Tigellinus), Ogden Child (Stephanus), Ethel Phillips (Dacia), Charles E. Vernon (Glabrio), Rienzi De Cordova (Philodemus), Madge Evans (Little Christian girl in arena), Kittens Reichert (uncredited child)

The Sign of the Cross represents one of the many attempts by early American cinema to compete with the stupendous epics issuing from Italy in the years preceding the first World War. Titles such as Antony and Cleopatra, Spartacus, Julius Caesar and The Last Days of Pompeii give some suggestion of their dimension. Only the efforts of The Sign of the Cross to emulate them is more blatantly derivative than most.

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The Trail of the Lonesome Pine

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For a brief period of time, The George Eastman House in Rochester N.Y. had the good will to swing wide their vaults. The archive made available over their website many silent features and short films it would’ve been impossible for most people to see under normal circumstances. And though the company copyright was branded into the lower corner of every frame, even at the expense of obscuring certain title cards at times, posting these movies online constituted an admirable attempt to make long unseen treasures available again to the general public they were originally intended for.

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The Artist

The Artist (279)The Weinstein Co. (2011) 100 min. PG-13

Director: Michel Hazanavicius

Screenplay: Michel Hazanavicius

Cinematography: Guillaume Schiffman; Editing: Anne-Sophie Bion & Michel Hazanavicius

Production Design: Laurence Bennett; Set Decoration: Robert Gould 

Costumes: Mark Bridges

Score: Ludovic Bource

Stars: Jean Dujardin (George Valentin), Bérénice Bejo (Peppy Miller), John Goodman (Al Zimmer), James Cromwell (Clifton), Penelope Ann Miller (Doris), Missi Pyle (Constance), Uggie (The Dog), Malcolm McDowell (The Butler)

The Artist is a gentle, sincerely felt homage to silent movies blinded by its love of the art form. If this story of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), the fading silent star who falls in love with Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), the new sound actress he helped groom for stardom only to find himself supplanted by her in the hearts of the public, seems unduly familiar it’s because director Michel Hazanavicius and his predominantly French cast and crew are showing their love not just for silent films but for golden age Hollywood in general, by saluting other iconic American classics along similar lines.

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