Time machine: ‘The Miser’s Heart’ (1911)

I was thinking about time machines today. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see how people lived a century ago?

And then I realized we can do that.

That’s “The Miser’s Heart,” a D.W. Griffith film from 1911: 101 years ago.

The first thing I thought when I saw this: Filmmakers were totally irresponsible a century ago. Who in his right mind would tie a kid up with a rope and hang her outside a window as part of a movie? We’ll obviously D.W. Griffith would. I’ve got a ton of problems with Griffith, but I’ll save that for another post. Still, wrapping a rope around a kid and hanging her outside a window! That’s really sick.

Then I thought: Parents were totally irresponsible a century ago. Who in her right mind would tell a four-year-old to go outside and play in the middle of a city? The kid in this movie takes food from strangers, hangs out with a homeless guy outside her building and goes up into the apartment of an old guy who can’t seem to keep his hands off of her. And then the old guy gives the kid’s mother money and gropes her again before leaving. Where are the cops when you need them?

Then I thought: Cops were totally irresponsible 100 years ago! A guy runs into the police station, says a kid is in trouble and instead of rushing to the scene, the police arrest him! Then they say, “Hey, didn’t that guy say there’s a kid in trouble.” When they get him out of the cell, instead of running to the scene, they leisurely stroll down the street. These guys were less competent than the Keystone Kops.

I’m not a fan of nostalgia. I think the present is a lot more tolerable than the past. And when you look throough the time machine we call movies, you see that the past pretty much sucked big time.

But then, that was 100 years ago. And we can see it. Think about that! We are actually seeing what people considered normal behavior 100 years ago.

The girl who played Little Kathy, Ynez Seabury, died in 1973 at the age of 65. There’s also a major movie star in the film. The homeless guy who stole the food is Lionel Barrymore, who would win an Oscar as best actor 20 years later for “A Free Soul.” He was Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but he also was the head of the eccentric family in another Frank Capra classic with Jimmy Stewart, “You Can’t Take It With You.” We’re seeing him in this short at the very beginning of his career.

Everyone in this movie is dead … even the little girl. No one alive witnessed the making of this film. But we see when they were children. When they were young and didn’t know where their careers would take them. When movies were the new form of entertainment. Actually seeing something from 100 years ago should be unimaginable, but here it is.

(Found this movie at the site 100 Year Old Movies.)

‘Rear Window’ in three minutes

According to Vimeo, this timelapse consists of actual shots taken from the Alfred Hitchcock movie “Rear Window.” And if you know the movie, you see that the sequence of events is correct.

Jimmy Stewart never shows up in the field of vision, because his character never leave the apartment from which the events in the courtyard are viewed, but you do see Raymond Burr and Grace Kelly. You also see the dancer through one window, the composer through another, the “active” newlywed couple, the dog owner and Miss Lonelyhearts. I’ll bet if you look close enough, you’ll see Alfred Hitchcock in the composer’s apartment.

One thing that bothered me about “Rear Window,” but was totally logical in the development of the movie was, the sequence where you thought Miss Lonelyheart was about to commit suicide.

As a viewer … actually as a voyeur … you saw all the lives develop in the courtyard from Jeff Jefferies’s (Stewart’s) perspective, and there were no secrets. But in the part where Miss Lonelyhearts (played by Judith Evelyn) seemed ready to end it all, it was extremely troubling that Jefferies never made an effort to call out to stop her, because he was so obsessed by the mystery developing in Lars Thorwald’s (Burr’s) apartment.

But there’s a distraction and everyone comes out to investigate, except for the disabled Jefferies and the cigarette smoking Thorwald.

Miss Lonelyhearts, though, is alive at the end of the movie, and you’re left with the impression that she’s found romance with another one of the tenants. I thought that was a little forced, but I felt better since it wasn’t another addition to the body count.