Silent Movie Stars Strum Ukuleles

It’s an essential part of Hawaiian music but the ukulele was so popular on the United States mainland in the 1910s and 1920s that “with ukulele arrangement” became ubiquitous on sheet music of the period. The movies followed right along with major stars strumming the cute instrument.

Gloria Swanson was probably the most famous uke player in movieland. She played while she was happy, of course, but the instrument was also used to convey her broken heart, as it was here in Don’t Change Your Husband.

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Available on DVD.

Swanson repeated the trick five years later in Manhandled, in which she played a shop clerk who may or may not be ready to settle down.

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Available on DVD and Bluray.

Alma Rubens strummed away on the instrument in She Goes to War, her last film before her early death.

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Available on DVD.

The gents got in on the act too and Richard Barthelmess briefly considered using it as a weapon in The Love Flower.

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Available on DVD.

The ukulele can be irresistible, as shown by Harold Lloyd in Captain Kidd’s Kids. So next time you’re held prisoner by flapper pirates…

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Available on DVD.

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6 Replies to “Silent Movie Stars Strum Ukuleles”

  1. Love the gifs, especially the flapper pirates from Captain Kidd’s Kids (oh, you kid)! Here’s a nice little 1925 uke tune from Frank Crumit that was later revived, to acclaim by Arlo Guthrie:

  2. This is nothing to do with silent films, and you may know it already, but if you get a kick out of ukeleles, do a search on You Tube for Red Hot Chili Peppers Ukelele. The one I watched was three girls who called themselves “Young Adults,” and they are doing a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover using a ukelele and a trombone. This video (although not silent) would make an excellent short feature on the night you view “Dream of a Rarebit Fiend,” and of course you will want to be drinking Flaming Hot Cheetoh Tequila Shots while you are watching this. After you have your short feature and your cartoon, I’m not sure what feature you could present that could possibly hold up this level of crazy, so maybe you should just do the whole thing very late at night so you will drop off to sleep right away . . .

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