I do so love my biographical collections! This one focuses on the stars of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s but since a lot of those talented folks started in the silents, it is a great addition to my bookshelf. I highly recommend it for golden age film buffs as well. Actually, not just buffs. This book would be ideal for a newcomer to classic movie watching.
This book really should have been titled The Feature Films of D.W. Griffith since all of his shorter work is covered in a single chapter. No matter. Written by Edward Wagenknecht and Anthony Slide, it covers all of Griffith’s movies, from Judith of Bethulia to The Struggle.
Anytime you are dealing with an actor from the pre-feature era, a filmography book is essential. Assuming you are a fuddy-duddy who likes dead tree editions. Which I do. I like silent movies, for heaven’s sake!
Anyway, when short films were the rule, it was possible for a performer to star in dozens and dozens of films in a single year, thus the need for the filmography. Mary Pickford made her film debut in 1909 under the direction of D.W. Griffith. She starred in over 125 short films and over 50 features.
What is it?: While it is about the films of Mary Pickford, it is really more of a picture book than anything. I greatly enjoyed my copies of Conrad Veidt On Screen and The Films of William S. Hart (which listed detailed information about the filming conditions, budget, co-stars and provided anecdotes) and was hoping that this book would be the same. This book merely lists the director, cameraman and the main cast with no added details or historical tidbits.
Pictures: This is what saves the book from being a total wash-out: the pictures! There are portraits, stills, behind-the -scenes shots. Every page has at least one beautiful photo. Also included are pictures of Pickford later in life, as late as 1961.
Writing style: What little writing there is (a brief introduction) is warm and affectionate. The book was published in 1970 and the author had been a Pickford fan since his youth.
The book is light on scholarship but heavy on photos. It is a feast for the eyes and worth getting if you can snag a cheap copy.
This is not just a book for silent film enthusiasts. Any fan of classic film is going to find a lot to like. But I am getting ahead of myself. Daddy Danced the Charleston is “a nostalgic remembrance of our yesterdays.” In this case, “our” means people who came of age between 1920 and 1950. So this book encompasses the silent era, the pre-Code era and much of the Golden Age as well.
Last time, I shared the biographical collection Ladies in Distress, now I will do the same for its follow-up, Gentlemen to the Rescue. This collection contains select biographies of silent era leading men.
Zorro. The character is almost 100 years old and yet he needs no introduction. California’s very own masked superhero. Righter of wrongs and fan of the basic black ensemble. Zorro’s clothing and trademarks can be described even by people who have never read a Zorro book, seen a Zorro film or watched a Zorro television show.
Let’s review another vintage swashbuckler that was turned into a silent motion picture.
Today I am going to review yet another volume from the New York Institute of Photography’s silent movie how-to series. This book is a little different from the other works reviewed. While the previous books in the series focused on a specific skill (acting, writing, directing, photography), this book teaches the reader how to make an entire silent movie for their own amusement.
By now we have covered acting, screenwriting and directing of the silent motion picture. What’s left? The shooting, of course! How were motion pictures photographed during the silent era? This book answers all your questions. In fact, it is by far the most technical (and thickest!) volume in the series.
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…