February 12, 2022
During the 1920s, the romance film genre was flourishing. Prior to this, the first feature film as defined by length, had been the 1906 Australian film, The Story of the Kelly Gang. As the feature film continued to develop, directors had the ability to tell more complex stories with emotional arcs which helped to fuel the romance film. Since the films were silent, the actors relied much more on their facial expressions and body movements to tell the story, and to show the chemistry between the actors.
My Best Girl was a 1927 film starring Mary Pickford who played Merrill Department store stockgirl, Maggie Johnson. When she has to attend to the sales counter, she meets a man who calls himself Joe Grant, and who pretends to be interested in buying toys. Joe Grant is actually the son of the owner and is working as a stockboy to prove he is ready to be engaged. When the shift manager gives him his timecard, revealing that he is the new stockboy, Maggie takes him to the stockroom to make him get to work. Because he is inept, she calls him “The Dumbest Stockboy in the World,” but the romance between them develops and eventually Joe wants to take her out to dinner. When she refuses because of her clothing, he convinces her that they should eat at the Merrill mansion because the company’s motto is “We’re all a family.” Once they are in the mansion, Joe gets the butler to say “a Merrill employee eats here almost every night!” Meanwhile, Joe’s mother had planned a surprise engagement party, and they return home and find Joe and Maggie who are hiding under the table. He admits to Maggie that he is Joseph Merrill but can’t explain any further before his fiancée shows up and kisses him. Maggie witnesses this and leaves, heartbroken. When Joe catches up to her, she is in the courtroom after pleading for her sister Liz who has been arrested because of her association with her boyfriend. When the boyfriend makes comments about Maggie “taking up with the Merrill boy,” a fight, followed by a scandal ensues after Joe punches the boyfriend. Joe’s father plans to buy Maggie off and send Joe to Hawaii while the scandal blows over, but Joe wants to take Maggie. When Joe arrives to see Maggie, the two argue, and eventually, she tells him she can’t go because her family relies on her. However, her father hears this and insists that she go with Joe.
The Eagle is a 1925 silent film starring Rudolph Valentino, Vilma Bánky, and Louise Dresser. Valentino plays Vladimir Dubrovsky, a Lieutenant in the Imperial Guard of the Russian Army. He rescues Mascha and her aunt, the Czarina, who are trapped in a runaway stagecoach. The Czarina tries to seduce him, and when he flees, the Czarina puts a price on his head. When he finds out that the evil nobleman Kyrilla Troekouroff is terrorizing the countryside, he returns home. He vows to avenge his father’s death and help the peasantry, so, donning a black mask, he becomes the Black Eagle. He finds out that Kyrilla is Mascha’s father and pretends to be a tutor so he can work his way into Kyrilla’s household. He falls more in love with Mascha and becomes reluctant to seek revenge against her father. Mascha and Vladimir flee and eventually leave Russia for Paris.