Yesterday and Today

YESTERDAY AND TODAY (United Artists/1953)

Two years ago, I purchased the Medallion TV Enterprises film library. There were many interesting films…some prestigious…some schlock…some in between. (More on Medallion later on.) One of them, Yesterday and Today, is an oddity. I kept putting off the DVD release because I didn’t quite know how to package it. The closest I could come was to pair it with the Italian silent spectacle, After Six Days.

Anyway, it’s a silent movie compilation covering the period 1900 – 1910. The films are really interesting, but the identification of the films in the commentary (by George Jessell) are a mess. Virtually every film is incorrectly identified! It’s not a problem as you’ll read later…particularly if you love mysteries!

It all started with two 1951 British compilations, Return Fare to Laughter, produced by Henry E. Fisher and compiled by James M. Anderson, and Those Were the Days, produced by Bishu Sen Butcher, and edited by Philip Wrestler, for Butcher Film Service Ltd. Y&T is a cut-down coupling of these two pictures.

The British producers had access to an excellent library of early silent films, but wherever they came from the cans were mislabeled, or perhaps not labeled at all. If a can of film came from a French archive, it became “French,” regardless of its actual origin. No title at all? They made them up! You get the idea. Y&T perpetuates these errors. Fortunately, the sequences are sharp (from 35mm) and long enough to enjoy… and most of the films I’ve never seen before.

This is the part I really enjoyed:

When it comes to identifying the most obscure silent films, there is Richard M. Roberts, and then all others. However, these movies are so obscure that even he had to call in his fellow film detectives. They eventually identified just about every title, sometimes starting with the absolute thinnest of clues. The fruits of their efforts are contained in the supplemental commentary track. Roberts does it himself in his usual light-hearted, unpretentious way. I hope you enjoy listening to the mystery-solving as much as I did.

BTW, the posters, lobby cards, etc. are lackluster, sporting images of major stars of the silent era, most of which appear only in short clips or stills.

Trivia: The producer of the picture was the late theatrical agent Abner J. (“Abby”) Greschler, who dabbled in the importation of some minor British pictures, specifically, Emergency Call(US: The Hundred Hour Hunt) (1952), Bombay Waterfront, (1952), and Life’s a Luxury (US: Caretaker’s Daughter) (1952.) Why did a powerful and extremely wealthy agent, who represented Martin and Lewis, Danny Kaye, Al Jolson, Benny Goodman, Eddie Cantor and Milton Berle (later, Vince Edwards, Marcel Marceau, The Monkees, Jayne Mansfield, and others) bother with some grade B English movies, and a specialized audience picture such as Yesterday and Today, with a hard to book 57 minute running time?  Tax shelter? I have no idea.

David M. Ryder British noirs.

Interesting People


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