Century Film Project

Celebrating the movies our ancestors loved

Best Stunts 1914

Stuntwork is the black sheep of the modern film industry. Not included in the Academy Awards, professional stuntmen and women work in the shadows of the more famous stars and live largely unknown and unnoticed by the public, which nonetheless thrills at their accomplishments. In the early days of the film industry, most actors and actresses did their own stunts – it was expected – although occasionally a double would be found for a particularly challenging shot.

Stuntwork was vital to the slapstick comedies that were so popular before words added verbal comedy to the range of possibilities for the industry. Thus, we have two nominations for the surprisingly agile Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. In “Leading Lizzie Astray,” he plays a physical giant who destroys a wall and takes on a whole team of bad guys, while in “The Knockout” he performs an elaborate series of moves as an aspiring boxer outclassed in the ring by much more able opponents (with no less than Charlie Chaplin as the unfortunate ref). Jack Holt took on the stunt-double’s work for William Pike in “Salomy Jane,” falling down a cliff into a river, and trained acrobat Pierre Couderc gives us flips and falls as “The Patchwork Girl of Oz.” Finally, Pearl White undertook a number of harrowing situations in “The Perils of Pauline.”

The nominees for best stunts for 1914 are:

  1. Perils of Pauline (Pearl White, et. al)
  2. Patchwork Girl of Oz (Pierre Couderc, et. al)
  3. The Knockout (Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, et, al)
  4. Leading Lizzie Astray (Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, et. al)
  5. Salomy Jane (Jack Holt, et. al)

And the winner is… Pearl White and others for “Perils of Pauline!”

 Perils_of_Pauline

Pearl White got my attention in the very first chapter of the serial, when she scaled a rope from a balloon onto a beach, and she never let up in getting herself into and out of trouble in dangerous ways. Although it’s possible a double was used (and that balloon was never quite so far off the ground as it seemed), the stuntwork in this serial is outstanding, and holds up a century later as a remarkable achievement.

Best Production Design 1914

In the early years of film, movie making was very much a “physical” process. There was no way to create a landscape for an audience through computer trickery, you had to create it in at least two, and often three, dimensions, in order to convince the audience that it existed. While early film was often satisfied to simply work on indoor sets and small stages, by 1914 film producers and directors were starting to make elaborate environments for their actors to perform in, and sets were getting bigger and bigger.

Both “Judith of Bethulia” and “Cabiria” built cities from the ancient world as settings for their stories, with gargantuan features that at times dominate the human actors – the walls of the city in “Judith” and the Temple of Mammon for “Cabiria” being standout examples. “The Squaw Man” deserves special notice for the innovation of building an indoor set right next to a railroad track, so that the actual trains rushing by would become part of the action without camera trickery. “Magic Cloak of Oz” gave us not one, but two fairy castles, as well as the city of Noland with its fanciful architectural style. Finally, production-designer-turned-director Evgeni Bauer gave us a complex and believable bourgeois household, contrasting the beautifully decorated living quarters with the Spartan look of the servants’ domains in “Silent Witnesses.”

The nominees for best production design for 1914 are

  1. Cabiria
  2. Judith of Bethulia
  3. Magic Cloak of Oz
  4. The Squaw Man (Wilfred Buckland)
  5. Silent Witnesses (Evgeni Bauer)

And the winner is…”Cabiria!”

 Cabiria

Although the other contenders had some good work, noted above, there really was nothing to compete with the grand scale and imagination of “Cabiria.” D.W. Griffith himself was floored when he saw it, and would try building on that scale two years later when he made “Intolerance.” But until then, nothing could hope to touch it.

Best Costume Design 1914

It’s been said that “clothes make the man,” and the clothes an actor wears can help to create a character that stands out to an audience and informs it about the history and personality of that character. Each of the nominated films in this category exemplify that, with “Cabiria” and “Judith of Bethulia” standing out as “costume dramas” set in antiquity, “In the Land of the Head Hunters” taking advantage of native ritual garments to create an otherworldly experience, and “Magic Cloak of Oz” giving us a fantasy world where humans dressed as animals and fantastic beasts interact with women dressed as men.

The nominees for best costume design are:

  1. Cabiria
  2. In the Land of the Head Hunters (Kwakwaka’wakw peoples)
  3. Magic Cloak of Oz
  4. Kid Auto Races at Venice (Charlie Chaplin)
  5. Judith of Bethulia

And the winner is…Charlie Chaplin for “Kid Auto Races at Venice, California”!

Kid's_auto_races

I gave away at the outset who the winner would be, because I don’t think there’s any more iconic costume from 1914 than Charlie Chaplin as the “Little Tramp.” While “Kid Auto Races” was hardly his best movie of the year (it’s more like watching a screen test), it was the movie that introduced the world to Chaplin in the clothes that would become inextricably associated with his name and his fame. Out of costume, he was rarely recognized, but in costume, he was the man loved by everyone. The Century Film Project is pleased to honor his achievement.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling 1914

Hello everyone and welcome to the Century Awards! I’ve decided that the best way I can simulate the tension and ceremony of the Oscars is to post one award per hour, building up to the Best Picture of 1914 late tonight. So, get ready, here we go!

Faces are the raw material for movies, especially when dialogue is limited to intertitles and music is not reproduced the same way in different venues, as was the case during the Nickelodeon Era. The appearance of a performer may be radically altered by makeup and hairstyling: a young person can be made old, or a healthy person appear deformed. The audience’s experience of a film is subtly influenced by the work of preparation that takes place before they enter the camera’s stage.

Each of the nominations this year honors a film that made good use of that prep time. From Mary Pickford’s elaborate locks as the fairy tale queen “Cinderella” to the makeup that turned lovely Violet MacMillan into a boy and Pierre Couderc into the “Patchwork Girl of Oz,” from Henry B. Walthall’s frightening turn as Holofernes to Sessue Hayakawa’s convincing transformation into a Native American in “Last of the Line,” each of these makeup artists has contributed outstanding work to the history of film. And, of course, we can’t forget the little mustache and curly mop of hair that defines the “Little Tramp” for us.

The nominees for best makeup and hairstyling for 1914 are:

  1. Judith of Bethulia
  2. Cinderella
  3. Patchwork Girl of Oz
  4. Kid Auto Races at Venice (Charlie Chaplin)
  5. Last of the Line

And the winner is…”Patchwork Girl of Oz!”

Patchwork Girl of Oz

This was tough, but I ultimately decided that the “Little Tramp” is more significantly defined by costume than makeup – you can pull off a Charlie Chaplin imitation without the hair, but not without the right clothes – which left me examining the others to see which really made the most impressive use of makeup and hairstyling. Pickford’s “Cinderella” was a serious contender, but apart from her and the brief visit to the witch, there wasn’t all that much going on there. “Patchwork Girl of Oz” is disappointing in terms of special effects, but quite advanced in makeup and hair. Almost every character (except those whose costumes covered their faces) has some work going on to make them seem more bizarre and fantastic.