pidgin english


Back in the days of silent movies, inventor Charles Pidgin patented a breakthrough way to simulate speech on screen. This invention provided for each character to inflate, at the appropriate moment, a balloon carrying the words to be spoken.

body odour

“the words constituting the speech of the actors or characters are placed on balloons of oblong shape adapted to be inflated to a relatively large size and normally occupying a comparatively small space with the words entirely visible… the blowing or inflation of the devices by the various characters of a photo-play will add to the realism of the picture by the words appearing to come from the mouths of the players. “

out talk

Pidgin didn’t think to provide instructions about how each actor would manipulate multiple balloons during lengthy conversations. But his patent was actually approved in 1917 so someone must have thought it had merit.


Another inventive star of the silent movie era was the beautiful “Biograph Girl”  Florence Lawrence.

florence lawrence

During her lifetime, Lawrence appeared in more than 270 films for various motion picture companies. Nicknamed “The Girl of a Thousand Faces”, at the height of her career, she was earning a great deal of money and could afford an automobile, something that at the time was still a luxury for most people. Born with a curious mind, she invented the first turn signal, a device attached to a motor vehicle’s rear fender. Dubbed as the “auto signaling arm”, when a driver pressed a button, an arm raised or lowered, with a sign attached indicating the direction of the intended turn. Following this, she developed a brake signal based on the same concept where an arm with a sign reading “STOP” was raised up whenever the driver stepped on the brake pedal. However, Ms. Lawrence’s inventions were not patented, and others in the rapidly expanding auto industry developed their own versions.


Carl Laemmle from Universal Pictures started a rumor that Florence had been killed by a street car in New York City. After gaining the attention of the media, he placed ads in newspapers that included a photo of Ms. Lawrence, declaring she was alive and well. This early example of the celebrity machine at work was a very successful publicity stunt to attract attention for her upcoming film. Her official cause of death in 1938 was by the ingestion of ant paste mixed with cough syrup.


Published in: on October 20, 2009 at 7:31 am  Comments (29)  
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29 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. damn. i hate it when someone puts ant paste in my cough syrup…

  2. I remember reading in a scholarly journal that the acting in adult entertainment industry films is generally not good. I like the idea of these challenged actors holding up thought balloons to express their lines. I can just see it.

    Omar Ohmyohmy

  3. did you know that the carburetor was invented by a woman? i don’t know about ant paste though.

    • No I didn’t. Who was she?

  4. I’d like to patent an LED display for car windows w/ preprogrammed messages like, “put the kid in a carseat…. get off the cell phone… get off my ass…. you’re an idiot..” etc.. Seems like a wonderful way to help people and vent my frustration at the same time. though I’d probaby get shot by an irate driver.

  5. I had no idea it was invented during silent movie era..

  6. Florence Lawrence. I love her name.

    • I knew you would!

  7. Totally off the subject…well sort of. When I was in Atlanta, I went to the Gone With the Wind Museum to ask for the location of where Margaret Mitchell got run over and killed by a taxi. Needless to say they were NOT amused. They eventually told me but I the “evil eye” as I left.

    • It was Florence Lawrence car signal invention that reminded me. Mitchell stepped out onto the road, bang, right in front of a taxi. Gone with the wind!

  8. The beautiful Florence Lawrence? I realize that I‘ve only seen 13 of the 1000, but I think someone was fairly charitable with the dubbing of that moniker!

    • ….but she was good at pulling faces

  9. Stunningly well researched, and graphically gripping as ever. Your woman there in the redness… is that really a sexual thing?

    • Yes indeedy Jimmy. Not my thing though

  10. So a chick inventd th STOP signal.

    Whooda guessd?

  11. Just curious – is the hooded lady in the red-dress, the author of this blog?

    • see my answer to Jimmy (above) 🙂

  12. sheesh, even **I** know you mix ant paste with mint mouthwash, not cough syrup. what are they teaching kids nowadays?

  13. Ant paste and cough syrup… wonder what that was supposed to do for you? I assume it was some variety of altered consciousness – that worked all too well.

    • She used it to commit suicide

  14. According to that first picture in the Asian setting: men get erections, then a woman gets on the erection, then the man gets pregnant before finally shooing a baby out of his ass. And all without leaving his seat. I have reason to doubt the accuracy of this claim.

  15. holy crap! what’s up with the gal in latex? that’s downright freakish…uh uh..(shaking head)

  16. Ant paste. Did anyone think maybe she was murdered?

  17. Well, comics books would never be the same

  18. Why would anyone create a paste made of ants????!!!

  19. Flo sounds like a very interesting woman.

  20. She ingested what!?!?!?! Sounds like big time hoaxes have always been around much like the latest balloon boy debacle.

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