Silent Movie Bookshelf: Gentlemen to the Rescue by Kalton C. Lahue

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.

Home Media Availability:Out of print but available used.  

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What is it?: Gentlemen to the Rescue contains biographical sketches of 30 silent era actors. Unlike the actress volume, this book contains a much higher proportion of well-known actors. Rudolph Valentino, Richard Barthelmess, John Gilbert… most of the most popular leading men are included. There are a few early performers who are now considered obscure (for example, King Baggot, Bryant Washburn and Maurice Costello– Drew Barrymore’s great-grandfather) but there is not really very much that has not been covered before. Perhaps if this book had contained 40 biographies (as Ladies did) more obscure actors could have been included.

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Pictures: The book is extremely generous with pictures with most of the entries containing at least 7-12 half-page images of the subject. Most are period publicity stills and there are a few autographed souvenir photos. The quantity and quality of the images is a huge selling point for the book.

Writing style: As before, Lahue does not interview any of his subjects, nor does he offer sources for his information. This book is less serial-centric than its predecessor but Lahue seems less interested in writing about the gentlemen as compared to the ladies. Don’t get me wrong, he is still enthusiastic about his subject but there doesn’t seem to be quite the spark this time.

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What else?: The obscure actresses that made Ladies an enjoyable (if lightweight) silent film book are not replicated in this volume. What we are left with are some pretty generic biographies of the top male stars, most of whom have been covered better elsewhere. While it is not a bad book, it is not particularly outstanding.

However, it can be obtained cheaply and the illustrations are top-notch. I give it a tepid recommendation. If you can snag it for a few bucks, do so.


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