What if modern blockbusters had been made in the silent era? And what if we made posters for them? Well, we did!

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that if The Dark Knight had been made in the 1920s, John Gilbert should have played Batman. Welcome to my fictional world of modern blockbusters in the silent era!

As a site ages and grows, older content tends to get pushed to the background and so I thought I would share some oldies but goodies that I made a while ago. It all started with this poster:

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

I was thinking about Conrad Veidt being a proto-Joker and things kind of snowballed. Fun, eh? And so, I decided it would also be fun to give The Princess Bride the silent treatment:

(click to enlarge)
(click to enlarge)

I reimagined thirteen films in all and here they are for your reading and viewing pleasure! In addition to the poster, I provide info on my casting choices and why I chose certain directors for the job. Knock yourselves out kids.

24″ circa 1927 with Milton Sills, Mae Busch and Anita Page

Batman Begins” circa 1925 with John Gilbert, Lionel Barrymore and Norma Shearer

“Casino Royale” circa 1919 with Clive Brook

The Dark Knight” circa 1926 with John Gilbert, Conrad Veidt and Conrad Nagel

The Dark Knight Rises” circa 1927 with John Gilbert, Lupe Velez and George Bancroft

“Despicable Me” circa 1922 with Erich von Stroheim, Mary Pickford and Baby Peggy

“Enchanted” circa 1918 with Marion Davies

“The Fugitive” circa 1923 with Harrison Ford and Lon Chaney

“The Princess Bride” circa 1928 with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Mary Astor

“The Proposal” circa 1920 with Wallace Reid and Geraldine Farrar

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” circa 1925 with Richard Arlen and Bebe Daniels

“Star Wars” 1915 with Elliott Dexter, Florence La Badie and Teddy the Dog

“True Grit” circa 1917 with William S. Hart and Bessie Love

Do you have a favorite imagined cast for a silent version of a modern blockbuster? Do share! Remember, there are no wrong answers in this! (My pet peeve would be people who are all, “Wrong! It should have been XYZ!” Um, you know this is all imaginary, right? Right? Please put down that fork.)

Update: What about social media sharing? Sure thing! Be sure to include a link back to me and thanks for spreading the word!


  1. Reg Hartt

    Our “modern blockbusters” don’t hold a candle to those of the silent era. Beginning with THE BIRTH OF A NATION in 1915 “A” films were seen in theaters with up to 5,000 seats. Today’s “blockbusters” are seen in theaters with up to 500 seats. Beginning with THE BIRTH OF A NATION “A” films were seen at $2 a seat. That is roughly $50 a seat today. No comparison between them. It was not that the movies got smaller. It is that the people who make them have.

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      I think that is a bit unfair. Silent movies are wonderful but modern films can be wonderful too. And they have the added bonus of not advocating lynching. Ticket prices can’t really be used to reflect the quality of a film as there are so many other factors in play. (Competition from other entertainment, number of pictures released, economic conditions of the potential audience, etc.) I mean, 1915 milk was far more expensive than what we pay today but I wouldn’t drink that unpasteurized muck for all the tea in China.

  2. christinawehner

    What a great idea! I would have loved to see the silent The Princess Bride. The one I’m always trying to imagine is what the 1930s-40s studio system would have done if they ever set out to make Lord of the Rings (and assuming the studios pooled their resources). But I haven’t tried casting it from the silent era, yet.

    Hmmm…part of my problem is I don’t yet have as good a knowledge of silent stars as I would like. Do you think Lilian Gish would have made a good elf? Or Ramon Novarro (some people argue Legolas really had dark hair)?

    1. Fritzi Kramer

      Love it! My pick for Galadriel would be Camilla Horn. I see Novarro more as Frodo, provided the camera angles and practical effects work. I would love to see Rod La Rocque as Boromir, Charles Boyer as Aragorn and Pierre Blanchar as Legolas. Blanchar looked quite elven in The Chess Player:

      But, as I stated, this is all in theory so there are no wrong answers!

      PS, and Lon Chaney as one or more of the Orcs! And maybe the Balrog too.

  3. christinawehner

    Wow, yes he does look elven! Perhaps auditioning in advance of the book. And somewhat whimsically – because I’d love to see her in more films – Mary Pickford could be one of the hobbits, like Sam.

    Love the idea of Lon Chaney in multiple roles! I could see him as the witch king, too.

  4. popegrutch

    I do love these, and I don’t think I’d seen all of them before now. This is where you really show off your graphic design skills; I’d never be able to hold a candle to these images.
    How about doing “Ghostbusters” – there can even be two versions, one with a male cast and one with females? For the first, I’m thinking Fatty Arbuckle as Ray, Harold Lloyd as Egon, Harry Langdon as Peter, and Bert Williams as Winston. For the ladies, we could have Marie Dressler, Mabel Normand, Edna Purviance, and…um, I guess maybe Madame Sul-Te-Wan? That’s a reach, maybe Sunshine Sammy Morrison can put on a wig…Anyway, there’d be lots of roles for other comedians in the supporting roles – I totally see Ford Sterling as Walter Peck.

  5. Faded Endless

    Let me take a shot at The Avengers:

    Iron Man – John Gilbert. I can’t think of a better fit for Tony Stark. Sadly, his real life mirrored the fictional character a bit too closely.

    The Hulk – Lon Chaney. Obviously.

    Black Widow – Anna May Wong. An unusual choice that would require a rewrite. She’s not a name that would be associated with action-adventure silent films, but I really think that she would have been perfect in a role like this. She could project mystery, which would serve this character well. I think we can all agree that it would have been nice to see her in a non stereotypical role more often.

    Hawkeye – Lloyd Hughes. A good actor with several action films on his resume.

    Thor – Marion Davies. The current Thor is a lady in the comics, so there is precedent for this. Plus, she’s Marion Davies. I’d cast her in anything.

    Loki – Conrad Veidt. Need a charismatic villain? I can’t think of anyone better.

    Nick Fury – Jack Johnson. While the man was not much of an actor, he was easily the biggest African American superstar of the era. I think that his natural charisma and his imposing physicality would have served him well in this role.

    Agent Phil Coulson – Harold Lloyd. A great every-man and could excel in action sequences and comedies.

    Agent Maria Hill – Carole Lombard. This would be a great role for an up and coming star. I like Carole Lombard a lot, and would cast her in anything.

    My silent film adaptation synopsis would be: When the god Loki uses a magical staff to brainwash soldiers and start an invasion of the US, General Nick Fury must assemble his own team of soldiers and civilians to stop the fiendish god.

  6. The Flapper Dame

    This is such an interesting and cool idea! I love the William Powell idea of him being the bad guy in the princess bride- genius idea!!

  7. Karen

    If I were casting “Jaws” I’d have Ernest Torrance in the Robert Shaw role, William Boyd in the Richard Dreyfus role and Wallace Reid for Roy Scheider. Can’t you just see them reenacting the drinking scene on the boat ?

  8. Birgit

    I will take a fun flick that is nothing amazing…The Heat with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy about an arrogant, by the book cop having to be teamed with her polar opposite. I would have Lillian Gish play the Sandra Bullock role and Louise Brooks play the McCarthy role. The captain would have to be played by Lon Chaney and the heavy by Antonio Moreno. The brother would be Harry Langdon. I love your picks and loved the posters

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