Movies Silently’s Top 6 Silent Romantic Comedies

Welcome back to another silent movie list! This time, I will be sharing six movies that manage to get both love and humor to fit into the story.

Modern romantic comedies have a bad reputation and, frankly, they deserve a lot of the scorn they receive. They have used the same plot for decades and it’s becoming a bit threadbare. Sure, there are a few great ones but the genre’s glory days are long gone.

No so in the silent era! Silent movies had enough sass, imagination and willingness to step outside the cliches. The result? Some genuinely witty and genuinely romantic films.

As usual, this list is not the BEST silent romantic comedies ever, just the ones that I consider personal favorites. I will also be limiting the list to films I have already reviewed on this site. That way, you will be able to read a longer review if you choose and understand what made these films appeal to me.

For the romantic comedy list, my main concern was the film succeeding in both departments: Is the comedy really funny? Do we want the leads to end up together?

6. Oh Doctor! (1925)

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Reginald Denny is not remembered among the top silent era clowns but his everyman comedies are an absolute delight. Oh Doctor! is a little more on the wacky side as Denny plays a hypochondriac convinced that anything stronger than digestive biscuits will kill him. Enter Mary Astor as his beautiful new nurse and Denny soon realizes that there are certain advantages to good health. As cute as a bug.

Read my full-length review here.

5. Feel My Pulse (1928)

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I hesitated with this picture as it’s not a true romantic comedy so much as an action romantic comedy. You won’t tell anyone, will you? Bebe Daniels specialized in making comedy films that reversed the genders of popular hits. In this case. she takes on the hypochondriac comedy sub-genre (which includes Oh Doctor!) and churns in some bootlegger adventure. The result? A surprisingly empowering and extremely entertaining film. Richard Arlen is the love interest and William Powell is on hand as the villain.

Read my review here.

4. My Best Girl (1927)

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Mary Pickford’s final silent film is also an absolutely classic romantic comedy. Pickford plays a shopgirl (85% of all romantic comedy heroines were shopgirls in the 1920s) who falls for the new worker on the team, played by future husband Buddy Rogers. What she doesn’t know is that he is the boss’s son working incognito to learn the family business. A sweet script, genuine chemistry and talented supporting players make this a must-see.

Read my review here.

3. The Garden of Eden (1928)

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Corinne Griffith plays a wannabe opera singer who accidentally takes a job at a naughty cabaret, ends up beating off a lecherous patron with a bouquet of roses, escapes to Monte Carlo accompanied by a bankrupted Russian countess-turned-seamstress and ends up falling for a wealthy bachelor. And that’s just the first act! Lewis Milestone’s energetic direction keeps things peppy and the talented cast does the rest.

Read my review here.

2. The Girl with the Hat Box (1927)

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Russian comedy chops are often underrated but I hope this charming film will change that. It was directed by Boris Barnet and stars Anna Sten, who is more remembered today for Sam Goldwyn’s campaign to make her a Hollywood star. This film is the story of a hatmaker who decides to take a starving student under her wing and the crazy complications that result, which include a few brawls, a mad railway worker and a winning lottery ticket. The plot has many twists and turns but what really holds it together is the charm of Sten and Ivan Koval-Samborsky. They are just as cute as can be!

Read my review here.

1. The Oyster Princess (1919)

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This list couldn’t be complete without an Ernst Lubitsch film, right? The movie tells the story of Ossi Oswalda, a spoiled American heiress whose father has made a fortune in the oyster business. Ossi decides that she is ready to get married and only a prince will do. Harry Liedtke plays the penniless prince who is more than willing to marry money but sends his manservant ahead to make sure Ossi is suitably hot. Mistaken identity, chaos and an all-girl boxing match ensue. It’s a delightfully raucous entry into the genre.

Read my review here.

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I hope you enjoyed! What are some of your favorite silent romantic comedies? Share your picks below!

19 Replies to “Movies Silently’s Top 6 Silent Romantic Comedies”

  1. Oh heck yes, Oyster Princess! Who doesn’t love that Lubitsch? From the prince trying to keep his penniless life from lacking regal taste to the delightful fox trot scene, I enjoy it all. To be honest, I don’t watch that many rom-coms of any era, though your choices all appeal to me, especially those weird-looking hypochondriac comedies.

    Btw, I just ordered the Russian Emigres box set because your site has whet my appetite for more Mosjoukine. Amazon needs to hurry up!

  2. What a great list and it shows how much I need to catch up on my silent films and how little I know. As for The Garden of Eden..that has happened to me-I thought that happened to everyone:)

  3. You mention so many people with which I am unfamiliar so that’s why I enjoy checking your regular postings!

  4. Excellent choices. MY BEST GIRL is one of my favorite Pickford films and ONE WEEK (1920) is Keaton at his best. I’d also add Colleen Moore’s WHY BE GOOD? (1929) and Constance Talmadge’s HER SISTER FROM PARIS (1925) and A PAIR OF SILK STOCKINGS (1918).

  5. That shorts post would be great fun- there are so, so many! Wished on Mabel has Roscoe and Mabel playing kid sweethearts attempting to tryst in a park. Her mother (and several ill-suited Keystone suitors) complicate things for the couple. Terrific Normand/Arbuckle timing throughout, particularly in their catch-as-catch-can kissing routings. Think you’ll enjoy it.

  6. Did you read that “overview” of romantic comedy from Urban Angeleza’s website? Read and groan over this description of silent romcoms:

    “But identifying the first true rom com film is tough. But two movies that came out in 1924 followed the basic premise laid out above: Sherlock Jr. (starring the silent film star Buster Keaton) and Girl Shy. But these were silent films, so all dialogue was captured with title cards that appeared between each scene of actions—which means the true cleverness and comedy in the characters’ dialogue could not be captured until 1928, when “talkies” took the world by storm. ”

    Because dialogue is all that matters, kids. It’s not like film is a visual medium, right? Also all films were slapstick! Only the Big Three matter!

    Advice to the wise: don’t write about film history if you’re just going to be lazy about anything “too old.”

    1. Oh good lord! Not enough palms for my face!

      So much to unpack! So much to unpack! You know this already but indulge me:

      Dear Urban Angeleza (if that IS your real name)

      1. The talkie revolution started in 1927, not 1928.
      2. That’s not how title cards work.
      3. “starring silent film star” is bad writing.
      4. Do you even Lubitsch?
      5. Someone has clearly limited their viewing to silent slapstick comedy.
      6. Two initials, two words: H.M. “Beanie” Walker. Look it up.
      7. Someone has clearly never seen those early talkies. Witty? Mmm-hmm, suuuuuure.
      8. “The Wishing Ring” (1914), which you have clearly never seen. In fact, you do not seem to have seen much of anything. Have you considered a new profession? I hear Arby’s is hiring.

      And now, because I shouldn’t be the only one gobsmacked by darn fools, here is a comparative review of different versions of Daddy Long Legs. It’s a doozy. A sample:

      I’m sorry to silent film fans of the world, but this version is just unspeakably boring. I tried to watch it at least four times and had to settle for playing it in an adjacent window as I type this. Also, it is an hour and a half long. Do you know how long an hour and a half of silence is? Interminable, that’s how long.

      Says someone watching a pirated copy on YouTube. Cry me a river, you cheapskate.

      http://foreveryoungadult.com/2013/01/08/a-highly-scientific-analysis-of-daddy-long-legs-adaptations/

      1. The laziness never fails to floor me. Like, I would almost rather they’d just start with screwball comedies, because then we would not have more misinformation about silent film than there is already an abundance of. Silent film fans go through so much garbage from people who either won’t make the effort to watch silents or even read up the basics on film history. It gets so discouraging.

      2. Yes, I agree. They just want to be able to say their list is “of all time” and so they drag silent cinema into the nonsense. Just admit that you’re only covering talkies, no one will be angry. To bring up the AFI list again, limiting your selection of and information on silent films to the movies you saw in the cinema history class you took back in 1992 is not good film scholarship.

  7. This is a fabulous list, with great actors how could it be bad… and I’m sorry an all girl boxing match… well, that’s romantic to me… ! I’ve always wanted to see the Oyster Princess! These are great recommendations for silent romantic comedies indeed!

  8. Loved your list and write-ups! I own them all except #1 & #2, which I haven’t even seen, but will hunt down now! Five of my faves are:

    IT
    EXIT SMILING (one of the best films of the silent era IMO)
    WHY BE GOOD?
    ORCHIDS & ERMINE
    ELLA CINDERS

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