The silent era of film was a golden age of cinema making. Modern audiences might find that hard to believe, but without dialogue and sound effects, early film makers concentrated on what movies should be, a visual experience. This article provides a film review of Such is Life (1915), a fine, but lost example of that bygone age.
Background and plot
The title of the film, Such Is Life, is said to be the last sentence uttered by Australian outlaw Ned Kelly. Pictures and details of the bushranger had been circulating since his execution in 1880 and although, this is by no means certain, it may have been the inspiration behind the choice of title. The film itself was set in a theatrical boarding house where Polly, the maid, was in love with a popular actor called Will Deming who was a guest in the house. Imagining herself as a lady loved by the man, she follows his every move. Will tries to help another of the guests, Olive Trent, in her quest to become an actress, but she misunderstands his intentions and shuns him. Tod Wilkes, another performer at the house, also has an interest in Olive, and he gives her a job in his burlesque company. Whilst rehearsing with Tod, he makes his play for her and she runs away, disgusted. Will sees her plight and comes to her rescue.
The cast and crew consisted of Pauline Bush as Polly, Lon Chaney, Sr. as Tod Wilkes, William C. Dowlan as Will Deming and Olive Carey as Olive Trent. Olive also went by the names of Fuller Golden and Olive Deering. The director was Joe De Grasse and the picture was released on 4 March 1915 by Universal Pictures. Lead actor, Lon Chaney (1 April 1883 – 26 August 1930), was called The Man of a Thousand Faces and is best remembered for his ground-breaking artistry with film make-up when playing grotesque roles such as Quasimodo. In 1957, he was played by James Cagney in a biopic film called Man of a Thousand Faces. Lon has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in 1994, his image appeared on a United States postage stamp.