Silent Movie Bookshelf: Hollywood of the Rockies by Michael J. Spencer

Where were classic movies made? Most people will say “California!” while few will answer that the industry started in New York and New Jersey. But did you know that Colorado was the setting for dozens of films during the early silent era?

Hollywood of the Rockies:Colorado, the West & America’s Film Pioneers seeks to shed light on this forgotten legacy. As usual, let’s start with some particulars about the book itself.

This book is a 2013 release and is available in both print and digital formats. The physical book is a perfect bound paperback and retails for $19.99 and is available from most major online retailers. The Kindle edition of the book retails for $9.99. I personally like the print edition as I prefer to browse through books, flipping back and forth. However, I must admit that the digital version is quite a bargain.

Back cover of my copy
Back cover of my copy

What is it? This book tells the forgotten story of motion picture pioneers in Colorado. The cast of characters includes early cinema luminaries like Broncho Billy Anderson and William Selig, as well as colorful figures like Harry “Buck” Buckwalter. While this may seem like a rather narrow focus, the story of the movies in Colorado turns out to be a microcosm of the early film industry as a whole. In fact, I dare say that this is one of the most readable breakdowns of how the movies came to be.

The readers are treated to a gossipy take on the formation of the earliest motion picture companies and the interpersonal and legal battles that almost crippled the industry. Reading about patents, partnerships and profit sharing is not usually this fun. In addition, we are given details of the movie-going public’s love affair with westerns, quotes from vintage articles describing this new entertainment and some very interesting behind the scenes interviews.

Sample page
Sample page

Pictures: The book is filled with pictures from the Colorado film industry, as well as portraits of the major players in the story.

Writing style: The book is a light and entertaining read. Michael J. Spencer also makes an effort to make the early film industry relevant by comparing the short films to something familiar: YouTube videos. This is greatly appreciated, considering how difficult it is to get people to even look at a silent film.

All in all, a fun book about a forgotten topic. I enthusiastically recommend it.

You can read a sample of the book on its official website. (Thank you, Mr. Spencer for the review copy.)

*** Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this film for free for the purpose of reviewing it on my blog. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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