Which Silent Star Have You Never Seen in a Movie (But Would Love To)

I have been knee-deep in research about 1910s stars and one thing that struck me was the number of big, big names I have never seen on celluloid. Oh, stills exist but silent stars can’t really be appreciated properly until you see them move.

I consider myself to be a fairly intense silent film fan but I am once again taken aback by just how much we do not know and cannot experience firsthand.

Based on my research, the star I would love to see in a movie is Elsie Ferguson. From what I can tell, only one of her silent films, Witness for the Defense, still survives and it is preserved in Russia. (Her talkie debut survives too but we’re all about the silents here.)

Ferguson’s elegance was praised and she was a constant fixture of fan magazines and popularity lists. I want to enjoy the same star power that silent era audiences loved so much.

How about you? Your star can be famous or obscure and they may or may not have films on home media. Maybe you’re a longtime fan who would really like to see a Marie Doro movie. Maybe you’re a newcomer who has not yet experienced a Marion Davies or Lon Chaney or Gloria Swanson movie.

Whatever your choice, please share!


  1. Shari Polikoff

    Elsie Ferguson and Vedah Bertram will do for starters. I’m always particularly interested in stars like Vedah who come from my part of the world, the Boston area.

  2. David Steere

    There are so many, Fritzi! — including silent actors and actresses I don’t know I haven’t seen (particularly from Europe, Scandinavia, and Japan). Your lovely shots of Elsie Ferguson make me want to add her name to my mental list. I have seen one or two, but most of Colleen Moore’s films “died” at MOMA. So little of Viola Dana survives that I can’t say I really know her as an actress.

      1. David Steere

        Apparently something similar happened at MOMA to films of Gloria Swanson and Douglas Fairbanks. I know these donations were a long time ago and proper procedures have changed in 70 years. But, the loss is still heartbreaking. I’ve never found a recent-day explanation from MOMA staff, nor heard the issue addressed during one of their appearances on TCM.

  3. David Steere

    I have THE DEVIL’s NEEDLE Blu ray so I do have at least one Viola Dana. Shame on me for forgetting! Thanks. As I was writing this, the postman delivered the new Blu ray from Flicker Alley: DER HUND VON BASKERVILLE (1929). There are likely actors/actresses I’ve not seen before in this last silent Sherlock Holmes.

  4. mercurie80

    Mary Astor is best known for her talkies, but her career stared in the Silent Era. Sadly, I haven’t seen any of her silent movies and I would love to! She is one of my favourite actresses, and she was born in nearby Quincy, Illinois!

    1. David Steere

      Try BEAU BRUMMEL and DON JUAN–both with Barrymore–on Warner Archive. DON Q with Douglas Fairbanks on Kino is also fine. She was so young when she was in silents that I asked myself whether this was really the same actress who later played Brigid O’Shaughnessy I am still waiting for Milestone to release the still-delayed THE BEGGAR MAID with Mary from 1921. Herbert Blache directed. Reading its description again at the MIlestone website makes me impatient all over again.

  5. DeAnna

    Kitty Gordon’s Tinsel (1918) is her only surviving film. Would love to see that. Pauline Frederick, also has abysmal survival rates.

  6. Birgit

    Colleen Moore, Florence LaBadie, Blanche Sweet and Marion Davies. I was so happy last night because I was able to see the silent film, “The Yellow Ticket” with Pola Negri. Alicia Svigals, a great violinist who created an original work to go with the film, played throughout with Marilyn Lerner who accompanied her on the piano. It was excellent! Did you ever write about this film and if so, can you give me the link as I would love to read your review.

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