Party like you’re in a silent film

The Great Gatsby (2013)
The Great Gatsby (2013)

I’ve just got home from the cinema, where I saw Baz Luhrmann’s new adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Sad to say, I was pretty disappointed in the film: the unnecessary “mansplaining” voiceover, the clunky framing device, those rather chilly, stilted lead performances. Oh well, I had been forewarned about some of that, but still retaining fond memories of Romeo + Juliet, I had expected a lot more good old-fashioned fun. I was anticipating orgiastic party scenes, crammed with beauty and vigour – and all filmed in retina-bumping 3D. Somehow, those bashes, from the grand getups in Gatsby’s mansions to the sleazier affairs in speakeasies and hotel rooms, were a letdown to me. Perhaps it’s just because I can’t get get on board with the speed of the editing – I had a similar problem with Moulin Rouge! – or maybe I’m just not cut out for the talkies. Either way, all the time the champagne was flowing and the dancing girls were shimmying I was casting my mind back to some great party scenes I had seen in silent movies. Such as …

Josef von Sternberg’s grizzly gangsters lay down their guns and lift their glasses in this debauched Underworld ball.

A dance craze becomes a collective mania in Ernst Lubitsch’s The Oyster Princess.

This foxtrot in Our Dancing Daughters is especially foxy. Something tells me Joan Crawford could get into trouble …

Blub. Charlie Chaplin misses all the fun at New Year’s Eve in The Gold Rush.

In Metropolis, a seductive dancing girl energises the crowd in a questionable nightspot – but she’s not who she appears to be.

This shindig in Jean Gremillon’s Maldone is a dizzy delight. Give us a twirl – and watch out for a forthcoming Gremillon retrospective at BFI Southbank in July.

Life appears to be one long party for Colleen Moore – with damning consequences – in these snippets from the lost film Flaming Youth.

Oooh la la. One night in Paris, washed down with a lot of bubbles in Wings.

Feather and tar me if you will, but I loved this moment in The Artist.

And finally, check out the pool parties in this trailer for the first film version of The Great Gatsby – shot in 1926 but sadly lost to the ages. (You can read more about this film in the current issue of Sight & Sound.)

Share your suggestions for the best party scenes in silent movies below.

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