A Bookshelf of Silent Film Memoirs & Biographies (plus, the star who most desperately needs a new book)

As everyone seemed to enjoy my Beginner’s Bookshelf of silent film books, I have decided to follow it up with a collection of my favorite biographies and autobiographies of silent film folks.

The market for these titles is fairly glutted and I can’t claim to have read everything but these are the books that I find to be either the most reliable or the most entertaining. I will be sure to tell you which is which.

This list is, of course, a matter of opinion. I tend to prefer books that focus on films rather than sex and I give extra points for books with unique claims that stand up to scrutiny.

I do not claim that this list is complete and will likely write a follow-up if there is a demand for it.

I Was There: The Best Silent Movie Memoirs

To me, the most important aspect of a memoir is capturing the essence of the subject’s personality. These are the books that I feel did just that.

Swanson on Swanson by Gloria Swanson

swanson on swanson

Gloria Swanson may be famous as Norma Desmond, a silent star who never quite realizes that she is no longer top of the heap. In real life, Swanson could not be more her opposite. Witty, intelligent and disarmingly frank, Swanson’s remarkable personality comes through loud and clear. She dishes dirt but the person she is most ruthless with is herself. This is not self-loathing but rather a dissection of her own legendary life and career. A pleasure to read, Swanson on Swanson is the gold standard for silent star memoirs.

Silent Star! by Colleen Moore

silent-star-colleen-moore

Flapper and fashion icon, Colleen Moore’s memoirs are brimming with humor and amusing anecdotes. She shares her methods for combating upstagers (Milton Sills was apparently shameless) and her way of getting rid of lusty producers. Like Swanson, Colleen Moore led a rich and fulfilled life outside of Hollywood and my favorite section of the book is her description of her famous dollhouse and how it became her passion. You’ll come away with fresh respect for this remarkable woman.

The Times We Had by Marion Davies

the times we had marion davies

Onscreen and off, Marion Davies was all about personality and her sparkling wit is on display here. Assembled out of tapes that Davies recorded in her last decade, this memoir is humorous, touching and an intriguing look into the mind of a much maligned woman. While unreliable as far as facts are concerned, the book succeeds in demonstrating the charm that made Davies so irresistible. Smashing read.

Buster Keaton: Interviews

keaton interviews

Buster Keaton’s distinct voice is on display in this collection of interviews the famous comedian granted between 1921 and 1965. Keaton was a natural storyteller and his rough-around-the-edges style is extremely enjoyable. Good natured and a little gossipy, the stories may not always get the little details right but Buster is always Buster. A must-read.

Reconstructing History: The Best Silent Movie Biographies

The ideal biography must be written by someone with an eye for detail and affection for (but not worship of) their subject.

Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer by Scott Eyman

lion of hollywood

I cannot emphasize enough how good this book is. It’s probably the title that I recommend the most. Eyman took one of the most reviled men in Hollywood history and humanized him. This is not a fawning work, rather, it is a unique look at a remarkable life. Eyman cuts through the myths and gossip and emerges with a nuanced and sensitive portrait of the famous MGM mogul. Highly readable, this book will likely turn everything you thought you knew about classic and silent Hollywood on its head.

Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood by Robert S. Birchard

cecil b demille's hollywood

Now this is my kind of book! As one of the few living people who has seen every one of Cecil B. DeMille’s surviving films, Birchard is uniquely positioned to give his opinion of DeMille’s entire body of work. This biography covers DeMille through the lens of his individual films with budgets, box office, production woes and personal correspondence all figuring into the tale. Endlessly valuable and one of my very favorite silent film books.

John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars by Eve Golden

john gilbert eve golden

Who was John Gilbert? A martyr? A victim? Golden cuts through the mythology and misinformation and presents us with a human being. Her affection for her subject is tempered by solid research and a desire to understand what made Gilbert tick. The result is a breathtaking biography that humanizes its subject like never before.

Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood by Eileen Whitfield

pickford the woman who made hollywood

Mary Pickford was one of the most famous and beloved women in the world. In this brilliant biography, Whitfield explains why. Pickford’s personality, fierce ambition and business acumen are all displayed and put into the context of the era in which she lived. This book often shows up in lists of the best silent movie biographies and with good reason. As Golden did for Gilbert, Eileen Whitfield turns a legend into a human being and makes her all the more intriguing.

***

I hope you have enjoyed this list. Now I am going to write a bit about a subject that has been simmering away on the back burner for a while.

Who needs a new biography the most?

That’s the million dollar question. There are major stars who have never had any biography published. Others have only been covered in the briefest manner. Some have been smeared. For example, the tiny section on Florence La Badie in the horrid book Stardust and Shadows has caused more than a few headaches to serious students of silent film.

My nominee? Lillian Gish.

Silent film autobiographies come in many flavors. Louise Brooks and Marion Davies are wildly unreliable but a blast to read. Gloria Swanson is the mistress of the memoir with her searing frankness that spares no one, especially herself. Charlie Chaplin and Miriam Cooper are unpleasantly bitter and settle entirely too many scores. Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish both went in for prim legend building with Sunshine and Shadows and The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me respectively.

Lillian Gish's memoirs.
Lillian Gish’s memoirs.

As brought up above, Pickford has had some excellent biographies published, books that deflate the legend and build up the real woman. Eileen Whitfield’s Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood is a lovely read that gets to the heart of what made Mary Pickford tick. (Though I would have preferred it if the author had not relied quite so heavily on Agnes de Mille and her rather dubious pronouncements on Uncle Cecil.)

lillian gish her legend her life

Lillian Gish deserved equally careful treatment. What she got was Lillian Gish: Her Legend, Her Life by Charles Affron. While very well researched and factually correct, one gets the impression that the author had grown to dislike his subject. Lillian Gish inflated her own legend and that of D.W. Griffith, true, but we never get to the core of why she did this.

The scariest fandom in silent film.

The sad truth is that while most silent film fans are reasonable and a delight to talk to, there is a fringe element that is a bit… well… scary. Often attached to a particular star or film, these people do a lot to frighten off newcomers.

Different fandoms have different eccentricities, some of them delightful, others not. I generally find the Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Louise Brooks and Clara Bow devotees to be pretty chill. The Buster Keaton fans used to be annoying with their constant cries of “Buster is better than Chaplin!” and “Let’s kill Natalie Talmadge!” but the saner majority seems to be prevailing.

Ramon Novarro fans like to use him as a cudgel to bash Rudolph Valentino. Valentino fans… Oh good lord. There are a few frightening ones there and they will relentlessly attack anyone who challenges their chosen view of Valentino’s love life.

Valentino’s fringe fans can be terrifying but the devotees who deliver the most outright abuse? Lillian Gish’s fan club.

Psst! They can be pretty scary!
Psst! They can be pretty scary!

You see, Lillian Gish was one of the great actresses of the silent era and she lived to tell the tale. Her reminisces are everywhere, no silent film documentary is complete without them. She passed halfway to her 100th birthday in 1993, a respected and beloved fixture of the silent film scholarship scene.

Gish was a skillful actress and her tales of early film are convincing and moving. The problem is that she was not a reliable narrator. She embroidered on some tales and outright invented others.

And this is where the Gish fans get their dander up. Fans of Marion Davies and Louise Brooks know that they played fast and loose with the facts. They were having fun. Pola Negri’s memoir’s have been described as a work of fiction. “That’s Pola for you!” her fans chuckle. But Gish? Gish is different. Her more obsessed fans are invested in her legend, her status as the all-knowing patron saint of silent films.

(And I want to emphasize here that overboard Gish fans are in the minority. Most folks have been lovely.)

Come away from the scary fans...
Come away from the scary fans…

The problem is that Gish’s tales have been told and retold and people have taken them and run with them, creating bizarre theories and conclusions out of them. I got so sick of starry-eyed people asking me where to find the “real” ending for The Wind that I ended up writing a debunking post. To date, it is the only post I have ever published that has lost me subscribers. (Not that I particularly want subscribers who cannot take a bit of debunking. It’s kind of my thing. Still, interesting.)

Even more problematic was Gish’s tendency to proclaim herself spokesperson for all minorities and assure viewers that minorities viewed racist humor as just a jolly bit of fun. Her flippant dismissal of any criticism of D.W. Griffith’s pervasive racism allowed his pictures a free ride for entirely too long.

But things often go like this:

“Upon closer examination, Lillian Gish’s account of XYZ does not hold up to scrutiny.”

“But, but, but she was a great actress!!!!”

And then they turn into butter or something. These are the more polite conversations. I will not repeat the more unpleasant ones.

LILLIAN GISH WAS A GREAT ACTRESS! (Shouting from rooftops.)
LILLIAN GISH WAS A GREAT ACTRESS!
(Shouting from rooftops.)

No one is denying that Gish was a great actress. No one. But great actress or not, talented or not, she is going to be fact-checked and  corrected the same way every other silent film source is fact-checked and corrected. Mary Philbin was a terrible actress but her reminisces are accurate and refreshingly free of any agenda. Being a reliable source and being a great performer are not the same thing. However, some viewers are invested in Lillian Gish as the perfect silent film historian and have tied this into her legendary performances. Let’s unbundle these two aspects of her life, shall we?

Please note that I have never run into this kind of rage when debunking claims from any other performer. In fact, I can declare Charlie Chaplin, Louise Brooks, Ben Lyon, Eleanor Boardman and Miriam Cooper to be utter fibbers with impunity. The only reaction that comes close is when I dismiss that nutty tale about John Gilbert slugging Louis B. Mayer in the men’s room. I usually get asked for more details (reasonable request) but only a few people have gotten outright angry at their favorite anecdote being proven to be so much bunk.

If you're that invested in an imaginary brawl in the men's room, that's your business.
If you’re that invested in an imaginary brawl in the men’s room, that’s your business.

What the more fanatic Gish devotee does not seem to understand is that he (and it is almost always a he) is free to worship Gish the actress, Gish the woman. However, someone trying to piece together what really happened during a film’s production or the aftermath of a racist film’s release has to weigh the evidence carefully and cannot allow the deification of an illusion to get in the way.

You know what I want? I want the real Lillian Gish. I don’t want an illusion. I have a feeling that the person behind the legend is fascinating and nuanced and intriguing. Gish spent a lifetime building that legend up but what made her tick? What drove her to make the decisions she did? How do they tie in with the brilliant films she made at MGM before the coming of sound?

I want the real Lillian, darn it! I bet she was awesome.
I want the real Lillian, darn it! I bet she was awesome.

Lillian Gish’s half-truths, fibs and legend-building were no worse than, say, those of Charlie Chaplin. Yet it is only Gish who is left suspended in a glass case of her own making. Any attempt to break her out is met with resistance and outright hostility.

After a few skirmishes, one begins to sympathize with Affron.

My dream biography

Lillian Gish was a complicated woman, too nuanced for a pedestal and certainly not deserving of a hit piece. What she does deserve is a biography that will slice through the wisps of legend in which she is enshrouded and reveal the living, breathing woman. I want to read about her, warts and all, but I don’t want those warts to take over the book. I don’t want a saint, I don’t want a devil and I don’t want a legend. I want a human being.

I want the sort of work that Whitfield did for Mary Pickford, Scott Eyman did for Cecil B. DeMille and what Lon and Debra Davis did for Francis X. Bushman.

Here are my wishes for a biography of Gish:

Lots and lots of background detail on her creative process, particularly the films she made after leaving Griffith. Show how deeply she was involved in every stage of a Lillian Gish vehicle’s creation.

More detail on her relationship with Dorothy. It’s been romanticized and criticized but I want to read about the real complexities of a sibling relationship. In addition, details on the Gish parents and how the absence of her father may have affected Lillian’s outlook and opinions.

Lillian and Dorothy
Lillian and Dorothy

Plenty of material on her devotion to the silent screen and why she felt it was important. Not the rehearsed speeches that she later gave but insight into her thoughts and feelings during the sound revolution.

A sober and serious discussion on Gish’s views of race, how they related to the society in which she was raised, how they did and did not change with the times and how they influenced a generation of silent film historians.

Gish with Blanche Sweet, whom she would replace.
Gish with Blanche Sweet, whom she would replace.

The motivations for Gish intense desire for intellectually upwardly mobility and her need to project these desires onto others.

A balanced look at why Gish was so driven to take control of D.W. Griffith’s narrative after his death. A level-headed look at their personal and professional relationships.

On top of all this, the biography should be a fun read. Well-researched but not too dense. It should also be respectful of Gish but not fawning. No hagiographies need apply.

***

Who do you think needs a new biography? Conversely, is there a biography that you think is the cat’s meow? Do tell!

29 Replies to “A Bookshelf of Silent Film Memoirs & Biographies (plus, the star who most desperately needs a new book)”

  1. A most interesting article! I am very interested especially in the Colleen Moore and Louis B. Mayer books. Thanks for those recommendations. I’m now reading Eyman’s The Speed of Sound. He is an excellent writer.

    Regarding Lillian Gish: I was actually surprised to learn that here has been some doubt about her veracity. I knew that she sang the praises of Griffith a good bit, but did not realize the extent to which may have been legend-building. I have read her autobiography, but it was a good while back, and I don’t remember a lot of the specifics. I do recall that she seemed to be evasive about certain things (like the death of Bobby Harron). I would indeed like to see written just the kind of balanced, well-researched biography you describe. I think that would be fascinating. There is certainly a quality about Gish that seems to inspire the glass-case treatment, but there has to be much more complexity beneath the surface than we have seen revealed.

    The most interesting biography I’ve read lately is Miriam Cooper’s Dark Lady of the Silents. I’m still not quite sure what I think about that book (or about her), but it was certainly interesting. Yes, she was bitter, and certainly could not be accused of mincing words. I found myself wondering about the reliability factor there, too. If you do a followup, I would be interested in seeing your thoughts about that book in more detail.

    1. Yes, Lillian Gish inspires a lot of loyalty, which is fine so long as it doesn’t spill over into the general film historical record. Unfortunately, it does. Her autobiography is indeed evasive and somewhat deceptive (though no more than average) but it is actually her later interviews that really start to get strange.

      I found Miriam Cooper to be highly unreliable. I believe that Griffith made a clumsy pass at her but her writings about Ethel Barrymore, Theda Bara and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle just strike me as mean girl nonsense.

      Edit to clarify: Lillian Gish’s stories getting better with age… again, not unusual. What is unusual is the rage that any attempt at debunking brings on.

      1. Her description of that pass by Griffith was one of the oddest parts of the book to me. The actions she describes there seem totally incongruous with the Griffith she describes earlier, the Griffith who was always the perfect gentleman, and was above the crudity and crassness of many others in Hollywood. It just didn’t make much sense to me. Of course, sometimes people do incongruous things. đŸ™‚

      2. Her early descriptions of Griffith were parroting the usual party line. Griffith inspired cult-like devotion but he was also the man who shoved Mary Pickford in a fit of rage. The man got some kind of thrill out of surrounding himself with young women (almost exclusively with dead or departed fathers) and setting them against one another. Yes, he also got loyalty from the men in his crew (most notably Karl Brown) but there was some weird, weird stuff going on beneath the surface.

  2. Griffith was an exceedingly complex person—a great genius, but not all elements of his character were pleasant ones, that’s for sure.

    So people really go into attack mode over such things as debunking a Lillian Gish story? Strange. I mean—why?

    1. I can’t say that I hold Griffith in such high regard. Perhaps if he had stopped directing in 1913 but…

      Yep, it’s pretty crazy how angry people can get when their illusions are shattered. The thing is, I can’t tiptoe around people’s feelings when there’s debunking to be done. That’s how a lot of these messes start.

  3. Gish does need a new biography. The Affron piece was not only mean-spirited, but by the end of it, I still did not feel like I knew what Gish was like as a person. I adore her as an actress, but to admit her views were problematic does not take away from that talent (the time she said the blackface gag in College wasn’t offensive made me face palm so hard).

    As for my favorite memoirs and bios, I love Michael F. Blake’s work on Lon Chaney, both on and off the screen. Schickel’s book on DW Griffith gets a little dense and at some points he gets a little too apologetic of the racism (like claiming Birth is “more sexist than racist”??), but overall, he does well trying to explain the strangeness that was Griffith. Buster Keaton’s My Wonderful World of Slapstick is good stuff and focuses more on Keaton’s career and creative life than his sexual exploits, but I don’t like how the author who ghostwrote the work edited out so much of Buster’s way of speaking. I need to get my hands on that interview book! Years ago, I also came across an interesting book on Natacha Rambova (who’s almost as reviled as Natalie Talmadge) that looked at her in an even-handed way, but I cannot for the life of me recall the name nor do I know if the facts were straight.

    I had been planning on checking out Chaplin’s autobio, but is it worth it? I avoided Miriam Cooper’s memoir solely because of the alleged middle school mean girl ambiance. Speaking of which, you should also do a “silent film books to avoid” list. There’s so much ugh material.

    1. Yes, that’s the main problem with all the Gish stuff on the market. We simply are not given insight into what made her tick as a person. It’s either fawning or venomous but no real insight. Griffith could use a new bio as well but I don’t envy anyone the job.

      Rambova is an intriguing subject. Anyone who thinks she was just riding on Valentino’s coattails has clearly never seen her glorious skills as a costume and set designer. And they forget that her designs were stolen by lover Theodore Kosloff, who was also reported to be abusive. No wonder she insisted on a large amount of creative control once she got the chance. I know she was supposed to be a bit of a pill on the set of Monsieur Beaucaire but that was directed by Sidney Olcott, who seemed to absolutely loathe any woman who had any sort of power. I’m not sure if that particular detail has ever been brought out. (So often it seems that we reach to real story by studying the minor characters in these tales, don’t you think?)

      I think the Chaplin autobiography is worth it but in short bursts. I had to stop every chapter or so to come up for air. Chaplin comes off as a pompous ass but there are interesting little details throughout. Plus, a lot of people have read it who may not otherwise bother with silent film folk and so some of the rumors Chaplin spouted have spread pretty far. Forewarned, forearmed. We’re still cleaning up his nonsense about Cecil B. DeMille.

      1. Rambova was fascinating and talented; I wish her cinematic career had been longer. After she was done with the movies, she dedicated quite a bit of her life to the study of ancient Egypt. Her relationship with her mother is also interesting.

        I don’t like how she is vilified by so many Valentino fans. I was also disappointed with the way she was treated in the Hollywood documentary from the early 1980s, claiming she got involved with Valentino solely because “the match suited her ambitions.”

      2. Yes, the miniseries relied heavily on the firsthand accounts of the silent veterans but the people interviewed clearly did not like Rambova or Pola Negri. Valentino seems to be someone who inspires/inspired possessiveness in friends, lovers and fans. (Understatement of the century.) “He’s my friend/lover/whatever, who does this Rambova think she is?”

        My respect for Natacha Rambova has done nothing but grow every time I see a film that features her designs.

  4. I love you! Thanks for the recommendations on this post (and others).
    And about Lillian Gish biography, why don’t you write it? Seriously.

  5. Fascinating column Fritzi! The way you demonstrate a need for a more complex, nuanced telling of Lilian Gish’s story, as just one example, speaks to your scholarship and master-knowledge of silent film history.

    I, too, love Whitfield’s “Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood” for all the reasons you described – plus Whitfield writes in a compelling, thoughtful manner. But there’s one personal reason I also love “Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood” and that’s because Eileen interviewed Letitia Fairbanks Smoot, my stepmom, in the last 2 years of Letitia’s life. Eileen wove Letitia’s memories and stories about her just-as-beloved-as-Uncle-Doug Aunt Mary throughout the bio, showing the span of the women’s friendship, across marriage and divorce, until alcoholism claimed Mary. Letitia is there through-out Mary’s life (after marriage to Doug) and witnessed it all, and tells it all, truthfully, even in the painful parts.

    When you (Fritzi) write about DW Griffith, “The man got some kind of thrill out of surrounding himself with young women (almost exclusively with dead or departed fathers) and setting them against one another. Yes, he also got loyalty from the men in his crew (most notably Karl Brown) but there was some weird, weird stuff going on beneath the surface.” I think you’ve hit on a key point.

    Letitia often mentioned that at the beginning of Hollywood, it was all sweetness and innocence in a certain way, peculiar to pre-WWI society. Once WWI was over and America assumed a much larger role in global affairs, and Doug and Mary created Hollywood, the innocence was slowly stripped away, until when the sound came to motion pictures, all but took away what was left.

    Thanks for a great article! You are so inspiring Fritzi!

    1. So glad you enjoyed and thank you for your personal insight! Yes, Whitfield’s bio did such an amazing job with Pickford, I just wish that more silent stars were as fortunate in their biographers. It was an exciting, wonderful time but so few authors are up to the talents of Whitfield, Eve Golden or Scott Eyman.

  6. I’m currently at work on a biography of Marion Davies. The Times We Had is unreliable because the editors basically pieced together her words taking snippets from different tapes and welded them together to create their own narrative. I’m fortunate to have the actual tapes at my disposal, and can hear her words as SHE spoke them.

    Aside from Marion (my work should be done in about 3 or 4 years), I would love to see a biography of Renée Adorée. She had a fascinating, albeit ultimately tragic, life.

    1. Looking forward to it, though I should clarify that some of Marion’s own words do not hold up to examination. Her claim that Zander the Great contained a scene with a lion and Charlie Chaplin doubled for her, for example.

  7. My favorite silent film biography is Karl Brown’s “Adventures With D. W. Griffith”. It’s factual and funny at the same time. He worked with some of the greats (including Gish), but was always down to earth.

    I’m a big fan of Gish, and I’d love to read a better biography of her. I agree that Affron seemed to dislike Gish. You don’t have to agree with everything your subject does, but you should at least respect them as a person. I’ve met a rabid Gish devotee that was convinced that she was a lesbian, because she never married — so I know that they are out there…

    It’s really a tragedy that Gish’s one directorial effort REMODELING HER HUSBAND (1920) is lost.

    1. Thanks for sharing!

      Yes, that’s why being a good biographer is such a difficult task. I’m not sure I would be able to study someone, learn more about them than they ever knew about themselves and still be able to step back and give some clear-headed insight. I salute any author who succeeds in this.

      Believe it or not, I still get people inquiring about that awful Hollywood Babylon rumor regarding Dorothy and Lillian Gish. That sort of thing deserves no response beyond cold silence. I get a few Marion Davies, Pola Negri and Rudolph Valentino remarks from time to time but my reply is the same to everyone who has theories about romantic partners and wishes them to be treated as fact:

      “Oh, sorry, I forgot to install cameras in their bedroom.” đŸ˜‰

      1. The Lillian/Dorothy rumor is beyond contempt. I actually once came across a Gish fan who, after I had debunked that filth, said, “You know, some of us LIKE to imagine that’s how it was between them! So just let us believe it, okay?. :)” I didn’t bother with a follow-up; how can you have a discussion with THAT and expect to come away from it thinking it was time well-spent? So yes, cold silence is what these people deserve. They don’t want facts, they don’t want to know what these people were like, they just want their salacious fan fiction and gossip.

      2. The smiley somehow makes it worse, doesn’t it?

        See, fan fiction and shipping are not my thing but as long as they stick to fictional characters, okay, fine. But when their gross fixation with imagined incest between real performers spills over into actual attempts at serious film discussion, they have become a menace and deserve no consideration at all. Stay in your holes, you horrid little creatures! (Don’t you hate the way they use Orphans of the Storm as “evidence” for their fantasies. Grrrr!)

    1. Yes, there are many, many stars who need even their first biography. This leads to an interesting question: do stars with bad bios or stars with no bios have precedence? I say bad bios.

  8. I’ve done a lot of research on Raymond Griffith (even wrote an article on him for Classic Images). I hope some day to put together a “Films of” book for him, but it is a very difficult task to document someone’s life, especially when they died decades ago. I have a lot of respect for people like Jame Curtis and Eileen Whitfield. A well-researched and balanced biography takes a lot of research.

  9. I was amazed to find out that Tyrone Power has had so little written about him and none of it has been recent stuff, if memory serves. I don’t know if they would make very interesting biography subjects but I would love books about Eille Norwood (the most prolific and some would say best Sherlock Holmes of the silent cinema), Nigel Bruce (I have never found a reason for why they have never released his autobiography that, I believe he finished before he died – only excerpts can be found online), and Roy William Neill (who directed most of the Rathbone and Bruce Holmes series). Obviously I a bit Sherlock obsessed.

    Oh, and out of curiosity, which (if you have read all of them) do you prefer out of the autobiographies from the big three silent comedians (Buster, Harold, and Charlie)? All three have been lying around my house unread for far too long (I’ve only managed to read portions of Chaplin’s) and am curious on your thoughts.

    1. Thanks for sharing!

      Of the three comedians, I have not yet read Lloyd’s American Comedy. I found Chaplin’s autobiography to be mean-spirited but a valuable look inside his head. Keaton’s memoirs were cleaned up a bit grammatically and he’s not entirely reliable but they’re fun to read and I recommend them.

    1. The problem I have is that all the best silent film documentaries are produced by Kevin Brownlow’s crew and those are pretty much the only ones I really like. Of the non-Brownlow films, Silent Britain is a study in jingoism and dubious claims and I did not appreciate Without Lying Down suggesting that Mary Pickford was a stone around Frances Marion’s neck.

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