Dear Movies Silently, Why are silent movies so boring?

There is one word that comes up again and again when silent movies are discussed by non-fans: boring. This video addresses the misconception head-on– and has clips to prove that silent movies were a lot of things but boring was not one of them!

I hope you enjoyed the video. If you have any questions about silent movies that you think deserve their own video, be sure to let me know.

Update: By popular demand, here is a list of the clips and the DVDs that they come from.

“Great pals.”
A Woman of the World

Cocaine
The Mystery of the Leaping Fish

“Great singer.”
The Garden of Eden

“I want my pants!”
Beyond the Border

The ladies duke it out
Carmen

“I’m sex appeal.”
Eve’s Leaves

“I air a lady!”
Heart o’ the Hills (and yes, that is a very young John Gilbert)

Shake your booty
Skinner’s Dress Suit

16 Replies to “Dear Movies Silently, Why are silent movies so boring?”

  1. They’re not boring! Some of the most thrilling chases were in silents – like in ORPHANS OF THE STORM. And so funny – like Keaton or all of them! I think they’re hard for some people because the pace starts out slow and then gets to a manic pace later in the movie. Then they can be faster than any action flick today – so much energy!

    1. Couldn’t agree more! A lot of the problem comes from people THINKING they are boring.

  2. Woah, were did that clip with the cocaine come from? Instead of piling it onto his desk, Tony Montana could’ve kept all of his blow in a can like that guy.

    This video was good. I hope at least people could get introduced to silent film by way of Charlie Chaplin. It’d be terrible to first learn about it in a film class and think it’s all Battleship Potempkin and The Passion of Joan D’Arc.

    1. It’s from The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (1916).

      I agree about Potemkin if it is the reissue with the Shostakovitch score. Most classrooms play that version as it can be obtained on the cheap. The speed is wrong, it was cut down and seemed to emphasize dear Dmitri and his music. The Kino version with the new/old score and restored footage is considerably more digestible, in my opinion at least.

      Chaplin, Keaton, Langdon, Lloyd… all better choices for newcomers. Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks as well.

  3. So at some point I should expect a letter from someone that begins with, “Dear Cinema Monolith, why is your giant rotating tower of DVDs so big and dumb?”

    Anyway, neat video, Fritzi! And I don’t know how many times I’ve shouted “I’m hungry! I want my pants!” to begin my day!

  4. I would take any silent film over the stuff considered entertaining today (okay, well, maybe not The Birth of a Nation or Larry Semon’s Wizard of Oz). A Buster Keaton or FW Murnau film is a thousand times more entertaining and involved than something like Avatar or The Avengers, both of which put me to sleep.

    1. Yes, the CGI thing has got to be stopped. Is it too much to want real grass and trees and rocks in movies?

    1. Agreed. It’s like going to a fine restaurant with someone and having them order a PB&J. Nothing wrong with liking new films but it’s a pity to limit yourself.

  5. I loved the short answer! That was hilarious!

    And I totally agree about the films shown in film class. Back in the early 90s when I went to college, we watched Sunrise. And if I hadn’t already been hooked on to Chaplin, Keaton, etc, I would not have been impressed (though the drunk pig scene was funny.) Maybe the music wasn’t right or something. I feel I should give that one another go.

    Wonderful video (as always)!

    1. Thanks so much! For what it’s worth, I far prefer the modern score (by the Olympia Chamber Orchestra) over the original Movietone soundtrack. In fact, I am not a fan of Movietone or Vitaphone scores in general. They are far too high-pitched and inappropriately peppy, at least in my opinion. The modern score, on the other hand, is moody and properly eerie. If you try Sunrise again, I definitely recommend going that route.

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