What Were Your Favorite Silent Films During Your Misspent Youth?

Disclaimer: I do not actually know whether or not your youth was misspent. My apologies to any non-misspenders.

Since my recent poll revealed that a whopping 88% of you started watching silent films under the age of 25, the obvious question is which ones?

I am constantly asked about good silent films for kids and teens, so this will give me an opportunity to gather up some good recommendations too!

I was incredibly partial to the old Mutt and Jeff and Felix cartoons, though I did not realize they were silent until years later. They were so wacky and wild and weird. What kid doesn’t like a bit of weirdness? I remember particularly enjoying the Mutt and Jeff animated short Mummy O’ Mine.

What about you? Do you remember some favorites from your under-25 days? Or, if you are under 25, what do you like now? Please share as many as you like! I am looking forward to hearing from you.

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22 Replies to “What Were Your Favorite Silent Films During Your Misspent Youth?”

  1. I always recommend showing kids the Chaplin Mutuals or Keaton’s short silent films. I saw Chaplin’s “The Rink” and Keaton’s “The Boat” very early in life.

  2. Charlie Chaplin, The Circus
    Harold Lloyd, The Kid Brother
    Buster Keaton, The Camera Man
    Harry Landon, The Strong Man
    Mary Pickford, Sparrows

  3. One night during my misspent early 20s, I happened to tune into PBS (KQED in the SF Bay Area). Buster Keaton’s “The General” was showing. I became transfixed. My only exposure to silent film had been a few Keystone comedies and Little Rascals. I had not realized the depth of quality that was possible in a silent film until then. I immediately took out a membership in KQED and the rest, as they say, is history….

  4. For me it started when I was in the 1st grade and came across the 1925 classic Phantom of the Opera. I remember my disbelief that there was a period in film history that was silent. I remember asking my great-grandma the next day about it. I found it to be a fascinating subject. Then there was the time that a small theater in my area was do a showing of Metropolis with live music. I went with my mother and that was probably one of the best theater experiences of my life. The same goes when they showed Buster Keaton’s the General a few months later. I wish I could tell more, but I will admit that I got into silent films at a slow rate. I guess you could say that I only casually watched silent films until recently. Though one last thing before I go, I will admit that the Passion of Joan of Arc was probably one of the most moving experiences I had with a film.

  5. I was lucky to start with the cream of the crop: The General, Safety Last, Modern Times, The Phantom of the Opera, Metropolis, The Covered Wagon, Robin Hood, Sparrows, Seventh Heaven, Tumbleweeds, etc.
    All at film festivals. I don’t remember finding many on our PBS outlet, although local television stations did sometimes run Laurel and Hardy or Chaplin shorts.

  6. The first film I remember seeing was Keaton’s the General on my neighbors little Portable set that ran on PBS back in the mid 1970’s. I then purchased a cheap secondhand projector at the local camera shop and like many picked up films from Blackhawk. My favorites were Laurel and Hardy’s Two Tars, and Keaton’s the Balloonatic. Years later when my own son was in 4th or 5th grade I was invited to teach his class about Film History and at the end I showed Snub Pollards It’s A Gift. The class absolutely loved it. What was interesting was that his teacher gave them a writing assignment to write me letters on the presentation and which I read later , all mentioned that until they saw the film they never new Movies without Sound or Color could be that funny.

  7. The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari was the first silent film I saw. Then I saw The General and The Passion of Joan of Arc. I thought those movies were great. Then I watched Intolerance and Birth of a Nation and hated those movies. At first I thought I hated American dramatic silents. Now I know I just hate D.W. Griffith.

  8. For me and my sisters, as kids in the 1960’s, our silent movie intro came at about kindergarden age, via silent 8mm and super-8 movies from the Blackhawk collection, shown on the living-room wall using our home movie projector. We would put an LP record on the stereo to provide music – (this was usually either Scott Joplin rags or Chopin polonaises, as they were the two records we owned that seemed best suited to old movies.) The movies that we watched over and over, until we knew them by heart, tended to be the ones available on loan from our neighborhood branch library. These favorites included…
    Laurel & Hardy in “Big Business” and “Two Tars”,
    Buster Keaton in “Cops” and “One Week”,
    Charlie Chaplin in “The Immigrant” and “The Gold Rush”,
    the Gish sisters in “Orphans of the Storm”,
    and Mary Pickford in “Sparrows”.
    Also, for some obscure reason, Paul Parrot in “Post No Bills” was a favorite.

  9. I’m twenty years old now and the silent films I first discovered in my mid-teens still hold a close place in my heart. Some of the titles I really enjoy revisiting time and again are The Phantom Carriage, Docks of New York, A Story Of Floating Weeds, Faces of Children and Michael Strogoff (thank you so much Fritzi for recommending this film in case you’re reading this).

  10. When anticipation meets expectations it becomes a great moment in time.. can’t remember the first one but each new one I witnessed was sensational and unique.. still think seeing Intolerance was and still is a top 10 film of all time..

  11. My first silent was “The Cat and the Canary” with Laura La Plant. The creepy mood lighting, perfectly spooky dark mansion with sliding panels and secret passageway was enough to hook me for life. After, I began an obsession with Clara Bow and Mary Pickford.

  12. When anticipation meets expectations it becomes a great moment in time.. can’t remember the first one but each new one I witnessed was sensational and unique.. still think seeing Intolerance was and still is a top 10 film of all time..

  13. Greed by Erich Von Stroheim was my first experience with silent films. I remember how amazed I was by the film itself and the acting and the direction. It still packs a punch today. Its strong stuff and Erich Von Stroheim was a brilliant visionary.

  14. By age 20, thanks to Blackhawk Films, I had collected quite a few Chaplins & Laurel & Hardys; but the pride of my collection were the four great horror features: Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu, Phantom of the Opera, & the Barrymore Jekyll & Hyde. In the decades since then I have greatly expanded my favorites list but these have never lost their place in my heart. I have never been able to single out one of the four as my super-favorite.

  15. You never forget your first one. One night at a Baptist church in Texas, grown-ups were having a get-together, but us kids were treated to a “movie” elsewhere, and it was a 16mm silent print of King of Kings shown with no music. We talked all the way through it. I was entranced by the mix of reading titles, which was like a book, and the accompanying visuals, which was the film itself.

    Plenty of titles followed by the early 1960s on TV, including a series called Hour of Silents, which showed 52-minute condensations of silent features. By the time I had seen all those, I was hooked, hopelessly and lifelong.

    Blackhawk Films, Thunderbird Films, and others were making 8mm/Super8 prints available of several hundred titles, and I bought quite a few with money earned by mowing lawns and selling coke bottles back to a grocery store. What a waste! I should have saved it all and bought gold coins, but I was blinded by the phantasmagoria, and I invested only in the thrills.

  16. As I’ve mentioned in a comment more than a year ago, my mother took me as a child to a re-release of “The King of Kings” in a commercial theater, I think it must have been in 1948-9 but I remember the magic of it well.

    Years later I built up my collection from the tantalizing Blackhawk catalogs with money I earned as an usher in a suburban theater. I was paid 50c an hour, so buying features like Phantom of the Opera was quite a project! Of course I’ve replaced the 8mm films with tapes & now with discs. But I have no regrets buying them. My memories of getting them in the mail & feeding them through the projector for the first time are among my most satisfying “investments.”

  17. Fortunately my youth wasn’t misspent ; ). I watched old movies night and day, discovering the silent screen, too. My favourites were:
    “The Temptress” (1926)
    “Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1919)
    “Docks of New York” (1928)

  18. Thanks to my local PBS station, by the time I graduated high school I had seen Dr. Caligari, Blood and Sand, The Jazz Singer (well, it’s mostly silent), pretty much all of Harold Lloyd’s silent work, The Rink, The Gold Rush and every episode of Harold Lloyd’s World of Comedy TV series.

    And, yes, my youth was very misspent…

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