This was the first book on silent cinema that I ever bought. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction. Film historian Kevin Brownlow has proven to be one of the strongest advocates for silent cinema and, as it turns out, he is a heckuva writer too.
So, what kind of silent movie fan are you? In my experience, they usually come in three varieties:
There is only one thing I love more than a good silent movie: A good Conrad Veidt movie. And if it is a Conrad Veidt silent movie…
Welcome to the very first Theme Month here at Movies, Silently! The theme for March 2013 is “I Loved a German”
Ok, first thing’s first. The “research assistant” for this book was esteemed silent film historian William K. Everson so we know that we are in good hands. This is yet another long out-of-print book that I added to my collection. It’s pretty easy to find a used copy online for just a few dollars. I highly recommend that you do just that. This book is ideal as your first-ever silent movie book.
Those discount trivia books that litter the shelves of chain bookstores have a lot to answer for. They state with great confidence that The Jazz Singer was the first sound movie, The Birth of a Nation was the first feature film, that The Great Train Robbery was the first film with a story…
A psychological history of the German Film, if you want the full subtitle. I love silent German cinema; I admire its fierce creativity and its willingness to take crazy risks. And there is also, of course, Conrad Veidt. But enough of that. How is the book? Well, the title is certainly provocative enough.
Continue reading “Silent Movie Bookshelf: From Caligari to Hitler by Siegfried Kracauer”
This book was a bit of an investment but I am happy with it overall. It is a big, big, BIG guidebook to silent films arranged chronologically and then alphabetically by Robert K. Klepper.
This is how the (movie) west was won!
William S. Hart was one of the most popular western stars of the silent era. Though his films have a low loss rate, relatively few of them are available on home media. This book is valuable because it is the closest we may ever get to some of Hart’s more obscure titles. It also happens to be the gold standard in the “complete films of” book genre.
I was ferreting through the stacks of a particularly good used bookstore when I found Miriam Cooper’s autobiography, Dark Lady of the Silents. Hurrah!
Continue reading “Silent Movie Bookshelf: Dark Lady of the Silents by Miriam Cooper”
Gertrude Claire is ready to take on William S. Hart, who plays her son. His crime? Becoming a cop instead of a decent everyday crook. I love this lady!
William S. Hart trades his Stetson for a blue policeman’s hat in this gangland drama. Hart is a safecracker-turned-cop who finds himself at odds with his larcenous family and targeted by a former business partner. But, as we all know, Hart is not someone to be trifled with.
Continue reading “The Cradle of Courage (1920) A Silent Film Review”
Carol Dempster’s evil step-mother does not approve of her frolicking in The Love Flower. Gotta say, though, I am on the side of the step-mother this time.
Director D.W. Griffith attempts to showcase his protegee, Carol Dempster, in this ocean-themed crime drama. An accused murderer is hiding out on a South Sea island with his daughter. The long arm of the law is closing in. How far will she go to make sure that her dear old dad stays free?
Continue reading “The Love Flower (1920) A Silent Film Review”
It’s a reasonably popular internet meme: Take hit modern film, desaturate it, add a few intertitles and a tinkling piano score and voila! You have a silent movie. That’s all silent movies are, right? Movies without sound and with those title cards placed at intervals.
Hooo boy, is this an old one. It is actually as old as talking pictures themselves. The myth goes like this: So-and-so (often John Gilbert) was a famous film star in the silent era but what people didn’t know is that he sounded like Mickey Mouse! Hilarious!
John Barrymore is elected the King of Fools in the medieval swashbuckler The Beloved Rogue. He seems pretty thrilled about it.
Richard Barthelmess is David, a country boy whose one goal in life is to be considered a man, to prove himself worthy of being allowed into the grown-ups club. When tragedy strikes his family, David finds himself growing up faster than even he had ever wanted.
Continue reading “Tol’able David (1921) A Silent Film Review”
An animated GIF from A Woman of the World, Pola Negri’s uproarious vamp comedy.
Then, as now, there were some people who just did not want to see a silent drama.
Rudolph Valentino finally came up with the perfect movie formula in this 1925 hit: Action Lover. Valentino is a fun-loving Cossack who turns down the advances of the Czarina. Forced on the run, he takes the opportunity to seek revenge against his father’s enemy. And wouldntcha know it, that enemy just happens to have a beautiful daughter.
Continue reading “The Eagle (1925) A Silent Film Review”
When an innocent romance springs up between a lowly shop girl and an incognito chain-store heir, can it survive interfering parents, a hidden identity, and a secret engagement? This was Mary Pickford’s final silent film and she works opposite her future husband, Buddy Rogers.
I am pretty sure we all know the famous Alexandre Duman tale. Nice guy gets framed, finds buried treasure and then he is off for revenge. Tralalala! A very young John Gilbert stars as the vengeful count, determined to destroy the men who sent him to prison on false charges. Gilbert buckles swash (or is it swashes his buckle?) in admirable style.
Lon Chaney at his most grotesque. A delightfully slimy jungle picture that involves Chaney’s quest for revenge against the man who stole his wife and crippled him. Mary Nolan and Lionel Barrymore support. Wonderful but not for all tastes. A slightly warped mind is recommended. Maybe even required.
Continue reading “West of Zanzibar (1928) A Silent Film Review”
Cinderella has ulterior motives in this early DeMille melodrama. Mary Denby is a judge’s daughter who married below her station. With her husband drinking away the household income, she applies for work as a seamstress. The new job puts her in contact with a rich family who decide to use her beauty and charm to their advantage in business dealings. Nice people.
Mary Pickford plays an orphan who is awarded a scholarship to college by a mysterious benefactor, whom she nicknames her Daddy Long Legs. Mary grows, learns and graduates and all the time, she sends letters to Daddy Long Legs detailing her progress, fears and dreams. Now just who could her Daddy be?
Toni is an innocent Austrian girl who dreams of an operatic career but the only job she can get is as a showgirl in a nightclub. After refusing the advances of a wealthy customer, Toni and the club seamstress are sacked. The unlikely pair make their way to Monte Carlo where Toni gets a chance at real love.
Think silent movies are dusty? Meet Clara! The divine Miss Bow is a pretty city girl who winds up married to a stodgy Canadian trapper. Then a city man shows up and starts a flirtation with our bored little flapper. He gets more than he bargained for. Basically, this is the most fun you can legally have at the movies.
Continue reading “Mantrap (1926) A Silent Film Review”
John Barrymore lends his talents to this tale of a cricket player who has found a more lucrative occupation: cat burglary. Barrymore is supported by Frank “Oz” Morgan hut can the film survive all the changes that are made to the iconic character of A.J. Raffles? Looks like we are going to find out.
Continue reading “Raffles the Amateur Cracksman (1917) A Silent Film Review”
A Cinderella story for the 1920s. Colleen Moore plays the Ella of the title, a waif who finds happiness and her prince charming via Hollywood. The picture has some clever and funny camera work and an extremely beguiling performances from Moore, who lends her ready wit and elastic features to the affair.