Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


I HAVE LONG BEEN an aficionado of silent films, no less entertaining than those of the chit-chat variety. Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are recollections of several appearing at SimanaitisSays, one with only the briefest of recent mentions.

An Early Fav. Cinema pioneer Georges Méliès is known for his 1902 Le Voyage dans la Lune, but my favorite of his works is Le Raid Paris-Monte Carlo en Deux Heures, An Adventurous Automobile Trip, 1904

The opening scene outside the Paris Opera House, as exhibited in this hand-painted print. See YouTube for the historic 10-minute 12-second film.

The flick satirizes Belgian King Leopold’s automotive penchants, many notorious for their gaffes. There’s plenty of slapstick (including an over-inflated policeman) and even two Méliès cameos, one as a white-haired mailman knocked over by the king’s driving, the other, as a police chief at the Dijon gateway. All in good 1904 fun.

Another Early Fav. This one was early in my life, not cinema’s. Back in the 1950s, my parents bought a projector capable of showing 16-mm silent flicks, cartoons, newsreels, and the like. My favorite was A Day at the Dude Ranch.

I remember it to this day, almost frame by frame: There’s an Easterner, his Girlfriend, and a Cowboy who’s rewarded for saving her from a runaway horse. 

This one-reeler has one of the best lines ever uttered— er… not actually uttered—in a movie.

An Operatic Association. The silent flick of recent mention is Pandora’s Box (enjoyed on Turner Classic Movies). It’s a tale shared by one of favorite operas, Lulu. The opera is described by Wikipedia as a tale of both “victim and a purveyor of destruction… It explores the idea of a femme fatale and the duality between her feminine and masculine qualities.” 

Heady stuff, this. 

Alban Berg’s Lulu, as portrayed by Marlis Petersen. Image by Kristian Schuller/Metropolitan Opera

Berg adapted the libretto from German playwright Frank Wedekind’s two plays, Erdgeist (Earth Spirit), 1895, and Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora’s Box), 1905. 

Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ve delve into Lulu’s film career. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022


  1. Andrew G.
    September 14, 2022

    Opera connections in silent movies — who’da thunk?

    I’ve always liked history, but I was ignorant of Belgian King Leopold II’s horrible legacy until very recently.

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