Timeline of Greatest Film
Milestones and Turning Points
in Film History


The Year 1921

Timeline of Greatest Film History Milestones and Turning Points
(by decade and year)
Introduction | Pre-1900s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s
1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s
1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929

The Year 1921
Year
Event and Significance
1921
Director George Melford's and Famous Players-Lasky's melodramatic The Sheik debuted and established Italian-born star Rudolph Valentino as cinema's best-known lover. It was one of the first of numerous exotic and erotic (at least for the day) romance/adventure films designed to stimulate box office success. Valentino reached the peak of his stardom in this year (especially for female audience members), and also starred in Metro Pictures' and director Rex Ingram's The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), the top-grossing film of the year.
1921
Silent comic star/director Charlie Chaplin's first feature-length film (a six-reeler) and first film as producer, The Kid (1921), was released, with a star-making role for young Jackie Coogan. Both a slapstick comedy and a soap opera tearjerker, it inspired future films such as The Champ (1931) (teaming another popular child star Jackie Cooper with Wallace Beery) and Three Men and a Baby (1987). Chaplin's young 13-year old co-star Lita Grey, who portrayed a tempting angel in the film, became his second wife from 1924-1927.
1921
Heavyweight silent-screen comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle signed a $3 million contract with Paramount and celebrated with a wild party in a San Francisco hotel, the St. Francis, on the Labor Day September 5th holiday weekend. There, five days after the party, he was arrested for the alleged rape and murder of 30 year-old bit-player/actress Virginia Rappe who was in attendance and died on September 9th, 1921. Muckraking showbiz tabloids sensationalized the crime, the first major scandal for Hollywood, and made up fictionalized stories about Arbuckle's 'bottle party' (Coca-Cola or champagne), implying that the comedian had sexually assaulted her, causing her to die of a ruptured bladder and peritonitis, although she was most likely drunk and suffering from chronic internal inflammation or after-effects of a botched abortion. The multiple, high-profile celebrity trials against the innocent actor for manslaughter always ended with the finding of 'not guilty,' but Arbuckle's career was over after two hung juries and a subsequent acquittal. As a result, the public conceived of Hollywood as wild and scandalous -- and pressures were brought to bear on the industry to censor its sinful vices and excesses.
1921
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued Famous Players-Lasky for violating anti-trust laws by refusing to allow independent films to play in its theaters.
1921
The technique of test screenings of films to obtain audience feedback was pioneered or invented by silent film comedian Harold Lloyd and producer Hal Roach, as far back as the late 1910s and early 1920s. Specifically, they took initial cuts of films to theaters for unannounced test screenings. After measuring audience laughs, they would recut the films as needed. Lloyd's first 'feature-length' comedy, A Sailor-Made Man (1921) was originally planned to be a two-reeler, but because audience reaction was so strong to all of the film's many sight gags and the film didn't require any further cuts, it became his first four-reeler by default. Lloyd was only the second silent film comedian, following Charlie Chaplin, to release a feature-length film.
1921
D.W. Griffith's film Dream Street, with experimental sound (in its introductory prologue) using inventor Orland E. Kellum's Photokinema, has been regarded as the first feature film to use sound.
1921
Writer/director Lois Weber's The Blot was released, a tale of class struggle, with a plea for social tolerance and consciousness toward the working class (clergy and teachers) struggling to survive and make a living.


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