Confession time! Name your silent movie crushes (no fainting!)

Rudolph Valentino? Louise Brooks? Richard Barthelmess? Clara Bow? Who are the silent stars who make your heart skip a beat?

This is about pure chemistry, not acting ability, though I certainly will not condemn you for choosing acting dynamos. Talent is very attractive, isn’t it?

My top silent movie crushes are a brooding bunch:

Conrad Veidt

last-performance-smug-veidtIvan Mosjoukine

michael-strogoff-ticked-off-mosjoukineSessue Hayakawa

cheat-sessue-hayakawa-silent-movie-animated-gif-courtroom-scowlAnd here is the random, chaotic element: Richard Arlen.

feel-my-pulse-prowling-squirrels-animated-gif-movies-silentlyOne of these things is not like the others. Clearly, I am dealing with some kind of weird issue. Arlen is far too normal.

Okay, I shared, now it’s your turn. There are no wrong answers, you like who you like and your crushes are your own.

Spill, my darlings! This will be fun.

125 Replies to “Confession time! Name your silent movie crushes (no fainting!)”

  1. Charlie Farrell. No hesitation. I got to see Old Ironsides on the big screen last time I was in L.A., and was like, “Hellllloooo Gorgeous!” What a hunk.

  2. Buster Keaton, oh God, Buster Keaton <3

    Also: Sessue Hayakawa, Conrad Veidt, Betty Amann, Louise Brooks, Josephine Baker, Richard Barthelmess, Joseph Schildkraut, Lon Chaney Sr (yeah a bit weird, but he does it for me for some reason)

  3. I find Lon Chaney Sr quite attractive. He’s not the traditional “attractive” type but he was apparently a very charming, polite, and kind shy man in real life and I think that’s so adorable. I also find Theda Bara incredibly beautiful, of course. I wish more of her films existed! The stills from Cleopatra are so beautiful!

  4. I’ve got a bunch, is that OK? It doesn’t mean I’m unfaithful … I just can’t pick one!

    Mary Pickford. I think she was SO hot in the Biographs. Like another dirty old man, DW Griffith, I love her “cute figure.” Yes, she was technically jail-bait when she made her first films, but this IS harmless fantasy, right?

    Florence La Badie. Drop-dead gorgeous. I wish that more of her work survived, and that she had lived into the flapper era.

    Marion Leonard. Might seem an odd choice, but she was Biograph’s first leading lady and the epitome of “The Gibson Girl.” Beautiful face, hourglass figure, and as an actress was an important bridge between the stage and early film acting.

    Bebe Daniels. I especially love her with Harold Lloyd. (How he “lost” her is beyond me!) Fun-loving, sexy, funny, smart — and incredibly versatile, in comedy, drama and musicals. Her career (and stardom) covered virtually the entire silent era, and her vocal talent enable her to succeed in sound as well.

  5. Without a doubt, Novarro. Although he lacked the sizzle of Valentino, his honest vulnerability and beauty were captivating to me. And for a gay guy, he still knew how to kiss a woman!

  6. Wat? No Anna May Wong fans here? (faint, THUD!) Oops. Sorry. Ow.
    Louise Books, of course, Vina Fay Wray, Miss Baker makes me bananas (ha!), as do a few more ladies I see mentioned here.

    And yep, Veidt, Karloff and Chaney Sr. have both given a gal or three I know that “Oooh, he’s somehow kinda… cute?” moments. That’s when I wish I had a Ben Turpin t-shirt that said “What About ME?” on it to whip out and wear, lol.

  7. Nobody beats Veidt in The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. Somehow the messy hair, black makeup, and big eyes just make me swoon.

  8. Milton Sills, Enid Bennett, Lars Hanson, Anna May Wong.

    Can’t call Mabel Normand a crush…she always feels more like a bosom buddy you’re sharing a wonderful joke with.

  9. I love Rudolph Valentino, Richard Barthelmess, and Wallace Reid. For comedians, I think Harold Lloyd, Al St. John, and Bobby Vernon are adorable.

  10. I find Theda Bara endlessly fascinating and alluring. I’ve even written a song about her.

    Other favourites include Louise Brooks, Clara Bow, Buster Keaton, Keaton’s frequent co-star Sybil Seeley, Anna May Wong… I feel like I must be forgetting someone, I’m such a crush hoarder…

  11. Blanche Sweet, Florence La Badie, Jobyna Ralston, Betty Bronson, and Florence Vidor — these are the five actresses that make my heart smile whenever they appear on screen.

  12. Two words: Richard. Barthelmess. Absolute screen perfection, though what happened to his face post-silents makes me want to weep…

  13. You did say “crushes”? I’m past the usual crush age, whatever it is, so: Louise Brooks because her intelligence shines through her eyes, Musidora because she’s an adventure, Clara Bow because she’s fun.

    All are physically attractive of course.

  14. Ivor Novello because he just could do more than just act. Richard Dix when he’s all sweaty. John Gilbert because he was a bad boy with a dashing smile. Harold Lloyd…he was funny. Lon Chaney because of his dedication to his craft and Conrad Veidt because…..I’m not sure but he does something to me. Now I’m a healthy happy heterosexual but these gals just ar the bees knees for me….Dolores Costello because I always thought she was a beauty. Louise Brooks…what an intelligent cracker. Florence Labadie as she seemed more than just what she showed on the screen. Clara Bow because she always seemed to need a hug and a true friend. Anna May Wong…she was a beauty and deserved more. I could think of more but that is it for now.

  15. First of all… Greta Garbo (the divine Garbo) will albays be the first and I ‘ve been fascinated by silent because of her. Also…
    Louise Brooks (eternal Lulu), Gloria Swanson, Lillian Gish & Richard Barthelmess are unforgettable in Broken blossoms , also way down east, but (Broken blossoms) …I love this film, this pure love. Clara Bow the It girl but also awesome in “Wings”, Brigitte Helm is very special of course because of Metropolis and nobody thought of her but in “G.W Pabst s’ Pandora s’ box” is like very much countess Geschwitz (Alice Roberts) this character has marked my life many years ago.

  16. Oh dear, I have so many, but here is a top 10. Sybil Seeley, Jobyna Ralston, Marion Davies, Bebe Daniels, Colleen Moore, Anny Ondra, Clara Bow, Janet Gaynor, Betty Compson & Phyllis Haver.

  17. I think you already know my answer to this question! 😉

    But I would also add sister Dotty, Louise Brooks, Mary Duncan (from Murnau’s “City Girl”) and Miriam Cooper.

    I did have a thing for Harold Lloyd era Bebe Daniels too but she was only 15 at the time which makes it a bit awkward… :/

  18. Colleen Moore. It’s weird, because I’d have written her off as “too skinny” before I saw her in motion, but there’s something about those smiling eyes that captivates me.

  19. Who I’d like to look like from the silent era? Garbo – no doubt.
    Who I’d like to date from the silent era? John Gilbert around his The Big Parade time (even with only one leg)

  20. Musidora. Constance Talmadge. Anita Page. Louise Brooks. Clara Bow. Francesca Bertini.

    And based on her intertitles, Anita Loos. Is it proper for a gentleman to openly admire a woman’s intertitles?

    1. Oh, I think so. Her intertitles were written from a place of empowerment and I think she would enjoy respectful admiration. Of course, you wouldn’t want to just shout, “Hey, nice intertitles!” to any random woman. 😉

  21. i invited douglas fairbanks jr. to my bat mitzvah and a few months later named my new kitten after him

  22. I’m tempted to say Fay Wray, but that’s cheating — she made only a few silents, and I’ve only seen her in talkies. But I also have a huge crush on another actress. She made only one silent (Exit Smiling) but I’ve seen it and loved it. Beatrice Lillie has won my heart!

  23. I’m happy to see Florence LaBadie getting so much love. She’s my favorite actress from the teens. As far as crushes go I like Charles Farrell, Clive Brook, and my number one all time of any era – Gary Cooper!!! In the 1920s he was so gorgeous it’s almost unbelievable. The scene of him and Florence Vidor kissing in a hay bale (they were caught out in the rain and dug out some hay from a big bale and crawled inside it) in Doomsday (1928) is so romantic and beautiful it just takes my breath away.

  24. John Bunny. KIDDING! Buster Keaton is my all time crush with Maurice Costello a close second. Wait I forgot about Harold Lloyd oh no!

  25. Unusual choice this one, but Geraldine Farrar in Carmen. Wow! Her manner, her exquisitely unusual beauty, her gestures and facial expressions… My eyes were glued to the screen when she was on.
    Also, Miriam Cooper. She was IMO the best thing about the noxious Birth of a Nation, and was riveting in Intolerance as well. Her beauty is quite contemporary in my opinion, and her acting has stood up well.
    Clara Bow, of course.
    Anna May Wong – what beauty and screen presence!

  26. I just would like to clarify that my choices are idealized. They are based mainly on the work that these actresses did on screen and not on their respective personal lives.
    HavIng said that, in no particular order:

    Edna Purviance
    Jobyna Ralston
    Ossi Oswalda
    Leatrice Joy

    I can appreciate the appeal and talent of the more glamorous or “exotic” actresses, but (and please forgive me for sounding crass) they’ve always seemed too high-maintenance to me. I prefer charismatic charm and natural beauty with a side of feistiness, which were all possessed by the four ladies above.

    One more thing, say what you will about Mary Philbin as an actress, but I think she was cute as a button.

  27. I have seen my fair share of silent movies, and I have to say while I love Theda Bara, Jobyna Ralston, and Frances Marion (even if she only acted in one film), there is one silent star that I’m obsessed with, and that would be that Glorious Lady and Everybody’s Sweetheart, Olive Thomas, who died under scandalous circumstances while on her “honeymoon” in Paris (in respecting the Comment Policy I of course won’t include the details here!). Olive Thomas is to me what Jane Seymour is to Christopher Reeve in SOMEWHERE IN TIME; and the legendary portrait in question is Alberto Vargas’ Memories of Olive, painted on three days before she boarded the ship to Paris.

      1. This is cool! Here’s mine:
        Definitely Rudolph Valentino, no question for me, so handsome, talented, and a nice guy, he sounded like a gentleman and a good guy.
        I also like Ivor Novello in The Lodger (1927), Charlie Chaplin without the makeup, and Ronald Coleman.

  28. In a non romantic way, I always thought Olive Thomas was very pretty, also Natasha Rambova, I once tried to grow my hair like hers haha! I always wished I looked like either Olive, Gloria Swanson (same name as me!), or Agnes Ayres.

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