If you have the slightest bit of interest in documentaries or in silent movies, this is the series to watch. Not only is it a great wealth of info on the silent era…it’s one of the best documentaries I’ve ever watched. It is made up of 13 different one-hour sections. It’s quite a series at 676 minutes.
All of these are on youtube. I have them listed at the bottom… just click on the links I gave. If a link doesn’t work…just copy the title of the episode on youtube and it will show up. If you want to watch a couple give it a try…I would suggest Episode 8: Comedy – A Serious Business and Episode 12: Star Treatment (The Great Stars Of The Silent Films).
There is one misconception about silent films that most have. When you think of a silent film what do you think of? Some people think of the hard-to-see Keystone cops running about like they snorted Peru… that is NOT what most silent films looked like. They played at normal speed and the cinematography was breathtaking in many of them. They are as clear as any movie you will watch if the print has been taken care of or restored.
There was a problem with some prints after the silent era. The holes in the film were at a different gauge for the then-modern film projectors and they played them fast and transferred them fast…that meant everything was sped up.
This documentary is to the Silent Era what Ken Burns Civil War doc is to the Civil War. It starts with the pioneers of the movies to the very end when sound took over and changed and some people say ruined an art form. When movies were silent…they were international…no need for translations…just different text. The sound changed all of that and silent movies were at their height.
You get to know the great directors, actors, actresses, cameramen, stuntmen, and movie moguls.
They interviewed these ladies and gentlemen in the late seventies and it was many of their last appearances on film before they passed away. I’m thankful that Kevin Brownlow got this finished and we now have first-hand knowledge of films’ most exciting eras.
I do wish sound pictures would have been held off a few years. The studios weren’t ready for talking pictures. The first “talky” pictures were clumsy and still. The mics had to be placed in flower vases and other stationary places. The silent artists perfected the art of pantomime. Most had great quality (especially in the 20s) that looked better than movies 40 years later. One problem was with the early transfers from the films…now with Criterion and others cleaning up the transfers…we can watch these beautiful movies the way they were intended.
Just like today, you had your formula movies and your great movies. In my opinion, I think the best genre of silent movies is comedies. Not Keystone Cops…they are more like cartoons than films. For me, it would be Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. They both had some of the most subtle and genius gags. Many of their gags have been copied to this day. There were others like Harry Langdon and Harold Lloyd that were popular.
I know it’s a big task BUT…if you like documentaries or silent movies…this series is worth it! Every episode is out there on youtube.
Here are the different episodes.
Episode 1: Pioneers (Groundbreakers Of Film)
Episode 2: In The Beginning (Birth Of Cinema)
Episode 3: Single Beds And Double Standards (Censorhip)
Episode 4: Hollywood Goes To War (World War I)
Episode 5: Hazard Of The Game (Stunts And Stuntmen)
Episode 6: Swanson & Valentino (The 2 Great Hearthrobs Of The Silent Films)
Episode 7: Autocrats (The Great Directors)
Episode 8: Comedy – A Serious Business
Episode 9: Out West (Westerns)
Episode 10: The Man With The Megaphone (The Evolution Of Directors)
Episode 11: Trick Of The Light (The Cameraman)
Episode 12: Star Treatment (The Great Stars Of The Silent Films)
Episode 13: End Of An Era (The Birth Of Talking Pictures)
This is the 12th episode and it is about two people…John Gilbert and Clara Bow. Clara Bow is my favorite actress of all time…and yes that includes today.
The cast listing is below the video.
- Mary Astor
- Eleanor Boardman
- Louise Brooks
- Olive Carey
- Iron Eyes Cody
- Jackie Coogan
- Dolores Costello
- Viola Dana
- Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
- Janet Gaynor
- Leatrice Joy
- Lillian Gish
- Bessie Love
- Ben Lyon
- Marion Mack
- Tim McCoy
- Colleen Moore
- Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers
- Gloria Swanson
- Blanche Sweet
- John Wayne
- Eva von Berne
- Lois Wilson
- Dorothy Arzner
- Clarence Brown
- Karl Brown
- Frank Capra
- George Cukor
- Allan Dwan
- Byron Haskin
- Henry Hathaway
- Henry King
- Lewis Milestone
- Hal Roach
- Albert S. Rogell
- King Vidor
- William Wyler.
Choreographer: Agnes de Mille,
Writer: Anita Loos,
Writer: Adela Rogers St. Johns,
Press Agent/writer: Cedric Belfrage,
Organist: Gaylord Carter,
Cinematographers: George J. Folsey, Lee Garmes and Paul Ivano,
Writer: Jesse L. Lasky, Jr.,
Special Effects Artist A. Arnold Gillespie, Lord Mountbatten
Agent Paul Kohner
Producer/writer Samuel Marx
Editors William Hornbeck and Grant Whytock
Property Pan: Lefty Hough
Stuntmen Bob Rose, Yakima Canutt: Paul Malvern, and Harvey Parry, Rudolph Valentino’s brother Alberto Valentino
English set Designer Laurence Irving
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