Silent Movie Bookshelf: Daddy Danced the Charleston by Ruth Corbett

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.

This book is out of print. I fell in love with it at my local library and was having a hard time finding a used copy. Then I walked into my friendly local thrift shop several years ago and a copy was sitting on the $1 hardcover shelf! Score!

Availability: Out of print but now easy to find used.

What is it?: It is basically the flavor of thirty years captured in book form. Ruth Corbett provides newspaper clippings, photos, ads, articles… This is everyday life and pop culture for the average American citizen. And since Corbett lived these events, she is able to provide details and insight that the images may lack.

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The jacket flap describes the book like this:

You’ll learn about the clothes they wore, the furniture and kitchen appliances they fancied, the cars they drove, the movie stars, sports figures, and socialites they idolized.

How many times have you watched a classic film and had the pop culture references go right over your head? Or the characters use some kind of tool or appliance and you have absolutely no idea what it is? Surely you can see why this book is so valuable for avid viewers.

Pictures: The book is crammed full of photographs, cartoons, newspaper pages and clippings, fashion illustrations, catalogs, advertisements…  None in color, unfortunately, but certainly a grand assortment.

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Writing style: Ruth Corbett has a breezy, readable writing style and her great affection for her subject makes this book light, informative reading. This is not a scholarly book. Rather, it is like sitting down and talking to a grandmother with really clear memory of how things were.

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As I said before, this book is a real treat for any fan of older films or anyone who is curious about early-mid-century life. It is easy to get a cheap copy and I highly recommend doing so.


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  1. moviepas

    I have had those lucky breaks too with books but it is not always the case. I certainly can’t justify hundreds of dollars for a book and ridiculous postage etc costs on my pension.

  2. Shari Polikoff

    I love anything to do with nostalgia too (like probably every one of your readers.) 0ne of my favorite finds was ‘The Talkies,’ articles and illustrations from Photoplay Magazine (1928-1940.) Three hundred sixty pages of delight!

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