Something New (1920)
“Something New” (1920) directed by and starring Nell Shipman is a silent-era adventure that defies expectations and showcases the ingenuity and determination of its characters.
Set against the rugged backdrop of Mexico, the film unfolds as a young woman becomes an unlikely heroine in the face of danger.
The narrative kicks into high gear when our protagonist, played by the talented Nell Shipman, finds herself kidnapped by a gang of bandits. Dragged through the unforgiving wilderness, she becomes a pawn in their sinister game. Shipman’s character, resilient and resourceful, emerges as a beacon of strength in a perilous situation.
The twist in this tale lies in the mode of transportation that comes to the rescue. Bill, a friend familiar with the terrain, sets out to save the day. However, in a delightful departure from the expected, the only available means of transport is a roadster – a car in a landscape where one might least expect it.
The juxtaposition of a sleek roadster navigating rocky, broken terrain adds an element of humor and suspense. Bill’s determination to overcome the challenging landscape with a seemingly unsuitable vehicle introduces a touch of slapstick comedy, a characteristic feature of many silent-era films.
The film not only entertains but also provides a unique window into the technological and cultural landscape of the early 20th century. The juxtaposition of traditional wilderness with the modernity of a roadster creates a fascinating contrast, highlighting the evolving times.
Nell Shipman, both in front of and behind the camera, shines as a pioneering figure in early cinema. Her ability to craft a narrative that blends adventure, humor, and unexpected twists underscores her talent and vision. Shipman’s portrayal of a woman in jeopardy who turns the tables on her captors challenges the conventions of the damsel in distress trope prevalent in the era.
The cinematography of “Something New” captures the vastness of the Mexican wilderness, utilizing the visual language of silent cinema to convey the isolation and grandeur of the landscape. The absence of dialogue is compensated by expressive performances and visual storytelling techniques that were the hallmark of silent films.
As a classic silent film, “Something New” may have faded from the collective memory, but its significance endures. It represents a time when filmmakers experimented with storytelling and embraced the challenges and possibilities presented by the medium. Nell Shipman’s contributions to both acting and directing in this film contribute to the rich tapestry of silent cinema.
In conclusion, “Something New” is a delightful cinematic journey that surprises and captivates audiences. Its blend of adventure, humor, and pioneering spirit makes it a standout in the silent film landscape. As we revisit this classic, we celebrate the creativity of early filmmakers and the enduring charm of silent-era storytelling.
Release Date: October 28th, 1920
Main Cast Members
Nell Shipman (A Young Woman Writer)
Bert Van Tuyle (Bill Baxter)
L.M. Wells (Sid Bickley)
Merrill McCormick (Agrilla Gorgez (as William McCormick))