The Classic Movie History Project Blogathon: Silent Era

It’s here at last! On the first day of the Classic Movie History Project Blogathon, we are going to be taking a look at the dawn of film through the talkie revolution. Hold onto your hats!

My co-hosts (the wonderful Aurora and Ruth) are going to be handling the Golden Age and the Modern Era on Saturday and Sunday so be sure to give them a visit for a well-rounded education.

For your convenience, here are direct links to:

Part 2: The Golden Age

Part 3: The Modern Era

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I also want to give a huge thanks to Flicker Alley, who is sponsoring the event and helping to spread the word. They have two historical (and historic!) new releases: a gorgeous restored Blu-ray of Dziga Vertov’s most famous works and an eye-popping collection of vintage 3D Rarities. (Did you know this is the centennial year of the very first 3D screening? Cool, huh?) You can win the 3D Rarities collection too. (Details here.)

The silent era is one of the most misunderstood and underappreciated eras of film but some very talented writers have agreed to share the silent movie love and take you on a guided tour of the birth of the movies. Enjoy!

I will be updated this page as new submissions are completed. Check back often.

The Beginning-1907: Pre-History and Invention

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When did the movies begin? Motion has been used to entertain audiences for centuries but actual moving pictures? Eadweard Muybridge‘s experiments were an important stepping stone, Thomas Edison’s Black Maria studios got the ball rolling, the Lumiere brothers turned the gimmick into a going concern… This is the pre-history and early history of film.

The Movie Rat | The Muybridge Experiment (1880)

Silent-ology | From Magic Lanterns to Fred Ott’s Sneeze – Cinema Begins

Big V Riot Squad | Life of an American Director: Edwin S. Porter in 1903

Silent Volume | Before 1915: An Appreciation

1908-1913: Nickelodeon

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Movies were a certified phenomenon. Nickel theaters were popping up all over the country and it seemed like new techniques were being invented every day. Movies were leaving New York and New Jersey for the sun and scenery of California. The star system as we know it was beginning to emerge, the studio system was also starting to solidify. The first known narrative feature film was made in Australia in 1906 but it took a while for the format to catch on. Most movies at this point were still 5-25 minutes long.

Silver Screenings | Silent Film with a Surrealist Twist: The Thieving Hand (1908)

Now Voyaging | The Early Career of Lois Weber (1908-1913)

365 Days 365 Classics | From Gods to Matinee Idols – Story of India’s First Feature

1914-1918: The War and Feature Film

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The First World War coincided with the new dominance of the feature-length film. War disrupted the vibrant European industry and directly led to Hollywood’s ascension as the movie capital of the world. The star system was firmly in place and powerful studios were starting to take on names were are still familiar with today. The propaganda picture was perfected and used as never before.

Now Voyaging | Movie Audience Perception of WWI and World War One Films from Flicker Alley

Once Upon a Screen | “The Mightiest of All” William Fox sets up shop in Fort Lee a hundred years ago

Yesterday, Tomorrow & Fantasy | Tom Sawyer, the 1917 film

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World | William Selig’s Lost World

Century Film Project | Regeneration (1915)

1919-1926: The High Art of Pantomime

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This is the golden age of silent film. Almost all the major Hollywood studios, from MGM to Warner Brothers, took on their modern names and logos during this period. Hollywood was dominating but bold experimental films were being made all over the world. Movies were the universal language and Hollywood movie stars were adored the world over. What could change all this? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

Movies Silently | Home Video in the Jazz Age: How the French Cracked the Code

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood | Don Juan (1926) and the Introduction of Vitaphone

Movies Silently | Unboxing Dziga Vertov

Viv & Larry | James Abbe: Capturing the Silent Screen

1927-1929: The Talkie Revolution

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Sound films finally started to take hold but it was not an overnight victory. Some of the finest studio silents were made during this period but the talkie wave could not be turned back. This is a bittersweet time of innovation and the cruel abandonment of an art in its prime. Stage stars began to flood Hollywood, old favorites had to adapt or be swept away. Silent film held out longer in Europe and Asia but soon (with the exception of the occasional cartoon series) the whole world was talking. Also, Great Depression.

CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch | The Crowd (1928)

Sepia Stories | Jeanne Eagels was robbed. Why the stage’s most recognized Sadie Thompson didn’t appear in the film

Movies Silently | The Chess Player (1927)

film, fashion & frivolity | Garbo’s Last Silents

Critica Retro | 1928: Around the World in 80 Films

41 Replies to “The Classic Movie History Project Blogathon: Silent Era”

  1. Hi Fritzi! I’m running a little late with my post. “Garbo’s Last Silents”. It will be finished soon, but not just now. Let me know if this is OK, or not…

  2. Just to let you know, the selections from Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Fantasy, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World are up! Thanks for co-hosting the blogathon!

  3. Your intro above to the nickelodeon years might give the uninformed the impression that movie making proceeded from New York/New Jersey to the west coast with no stops in between. Florida was significant; just ask Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew (and Theda Bara….)

    1. While some studios did indeed migrate to (or begin in) Chicago, Florida and Colorado (among other places) the bulk of the majors were making their move to California during this period. In any case, discussing the assorted minor players in this migration is beyond the scope of this small paragraph. I stand by my intro.

      PS, your comment may give the uninformed the impression that Mr. and Mrs. Sydney Drew and Theda Bara are either still alive or are available for a seance. 😉

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