Inside the playhouse are movies from under the sea. From the heat
of the pavements and the dust of sidewalks, passers-by go in a
breath to be witnesses of large cool sponges, large cool fishes,
large cool valleys and ridges of coral spread silent in the soak
of the ocean floor for thousands of years.
"In a breath," Carl Sandburg, from Chicago Poems, 1916.
Silent movies are to me a strange, hermetic medium. I feel as though I am entering a different dimension, swimming underwater in a slow moving stream where everything is lovely and exaggerated. Reading Carl Sandburg's columns on films, which he wrote for the Chicago Daily News in the 20s, I was pleased to realize that even silent movies were once a fun, popular, living and growing medium. They were also just as lacking in creativity (with umpteen Sheik-a-likes), notorious for overblown budgets, offensive and scandalous as they are today. Carl Sandburg gave Charlie Chaplin a free pass for life and got fussily irritated when they got Swedish accents wrong. That a title card can get an accent wrong is kind of wonderful. He did not view The Jazz Singer as a milestone because he'd sat through many different kinds of experimentalism before. Sandburg's prose is delightful and breezy. I'm quite glad I stumbled onto knowing that such a great poet happily tackled pop culture. Who do we have covering the 30s?