Top Favorite Silent Film Books

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
  • Author
  • Message
Offline

James Bazen

  • Posts: 262
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 7:41 pm
  • Location: Canton, Ohio

Top Favorite Silent Film Books

PostFri Aug 08, 2008 6:00 pm

I was going back through the a.m.s archives looking for something or other, when I came across this topic, and since this is a new forum with a lot of new folks who may not have been on the a.m.s board, I thought it would be interesting to ask here.

Aside from Brownlow's The Parade's Gone By, what film books past and recent do you particulaly love. Which books are definitive, highly informative, or just down right enjoyable?
Offline
User avatar

Frederica

  • Posts: 4060
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:00 pm
  • Location: Kowea Town, Los Angeles

Re: Top Favorite Silent Film Books

PostFri Aug 08, 2008 9:38 pm

James Bazen wrote:I was going back through the a.m.s archives looking for something or other, when I came across this topic, and since this is a new forum with a lot of new folks who may not have been on the a.m.s board, I thought it would be interesting to ask here.

Aside from Brownlow's The Parade's Gone By, what film books past and recent do you particulaly love. Which books are definitive, highly informative, or just down right enjoyable?


Oooh. Many, many! For the biz in showbiz, I like:
The Genius of the System, Thomas Schatz
The Hollywood Studio System, Douglas Gomery
The American Film Industry, Tino Balio
United Artists, the Company Built by the Stars, Tino Balio
A Million and One Nights, Terry Ramsaye

Biographies:
Lion of Hollywood, Scott Eyman
Without Lying Down, Cari Beauchamp
King Baggott, Sally Dumaux
Florence Lawrence, The Biograph Girl, Kelly Brown
Dark Lover, Emily Leider
Beyond Paradise, Andre Soares

Other types of history
The Speed of Sound, Scott Eyman
Broncho Billy and the Essanay Film Company, David Kiehn
William Fox, Sol M. Wurtzel and the Early Fox Film Corporation: Letters, 1917-1923, ed. Carla Winter
Anything by Jeanine Basinger
Picture Personalities, The Emergence of the Star System in America, Richard deCordova
Adventures with D.W. Griffith, Karl Brown

And in the "let's not be too parochial" category, here are some favorites that place the film industry in a larger context:
Material Dreams, Kevin Starr (Southern California history)
Inventing the Dream, Kevin Starr (Southern California history)
Red Ink, White Lies, Rob Leicester Wagner (Los Angeles newspaper history)
Our Times, all six volumes if you can find 'em, Mark Sullivan (this is an unbelievably valuable work; better histories were written later but no one better illuminated what people in the twenties thought about their own recent history)
Prohibition, Sean Dennis Cashman

And finally, stuff you probably haven't read about the Arbuckle case:
Folk Devils and Moral Panics, Stanley Cohen--the best book ever written about the Arbuckle case that doesn't mention Arbuckle even once
Difficult Reputations, Collective Memories of the Evil, Inept, and Controversial, Gary Alan Fine
Headline Hollywood: A Century of Film Scandal, Adrienne L. McLean and David A. Cook
Directed Verdict, Dean Alan Budnick (unpublished doctoral dissertation on the press coverage of the Arbuckle case)

and on a far less exalted note, there is the hootworthy:
The Fatty Arbuckle Case, Leo Guild ("The Hollywood story no one dared publish!!)

I'll try to refrain from jumping in with the "me toos!" when other people list all the books that I haven't listed here.

Fred
Offline
User avatar

Mike Gebert

Site Admin

  • Posts: 4152
  • Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:23 pm
  • Location: Chicago

PostFri Aug 08, 2008 9:53 pm

Mine are fairly obvious, I must admit:

Though it only deals with a little of the silent era, one of the most important books for me in my film education was Everson's Classics of the Horror Film-- go in a Famous Monsters-reading kid, come out wanting to see "that most beautiful of silent films, Sunrise." I've seen almost everything in it by now, though Murder By the Clock has eluded me.

Kerr's The Silent Clowns is a key work, marking the transition to an era when you no longer commented on specifics in a film based on your 25-year-old memory, but actually viewed them fresh before writing. I don't agree with everything Kerr says but it's an extremely insightful book.

The Parade's Gone By is the book you love (and that makes you love silent movies), but The War, The West and the Wilderness and Behind the Mask of Innocence are the real eye-openers, books that expanded and transformed our understanding of what the silent era was really up to.

If Frederica's going to mention Our Times (a wonderful compulsive read, there's an abridgement from 10 or 15 years ago that's easy to find), I'm going to say that you can't understand the cultural scene of the 20s without knowing its most famous, opinionated and contrary commentator, Mencken. The two Chrestomathies are the place to start, even when you disagree with him violently you have to enjoy one of the most inimitable prose voices America ever produced.
If you truly love film, I think the healthiest thing to do is not read books on the subject. I prefer the glossy film magazines with their big colour photos and gossip columns, or the National Enquirer. Such vulgarity is healthy and safe. —Werner Herzog
Offline
User avatar

silentfilm

Moderator

  • Posts: 7735
  • Joined: Tue Dec 18, 2007 12:31 pm
  • Location: Dallas, TX USA

PostSat Aug 09, 2008 2:53 am

I promise that I am not listing every book that I have, because I'm actually very picky. This is probably about a fourth or third of the silent film movie books that I have. But the books that I love, I really love.

The ones that I refer to the most, after I've read them...

Laurel & Hardy by John McCabe
Laurel or Hardy by Rob Stone
The Complete Films of Buster Keaton by Jim Kline
Florence Lawrence, The Biograph Girl by Kelly Brown
King Baggot by Sally Dumax
Our Gang, The Life & Times of the Little Rascals by Leonard Maltin and Richard Bann
Vamp: The Rise and Fall of Theda Bara by Eve Golden
Muriel Ostriche: Princess of Silent Films by Q. David Bowers
Edgar Kennedy: Master of the Slow Burn by Bill Cassara
The Speed of Sound by Scott Eyman
The American Newsreel 1911-1967 by Raymond Fielding
Nitrate Won't Wait by Anthony Slide
Early American Cinema by Anthony Slide
The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907 by Charles Musser
The Transformation of Cinema: 1907-1915 by Eileen Bowser
The Age of the Silent Feature Picture, 1915-1928 by Richard Koszarski
A to Z of Silent Film Comedy by Glenn Mitchell
The Laurel & Hardy Encyclopedia by Glenn Mitchell
A Pictorial History of the Silent Screen by Daniel Blum
Harold Lloyd: Master Comedian by Jeffrey Vance and Suzanne Lloyd
Mary Pickford Rediscovered by Kevin Brownlow
Buster Keaton Remembered by Jeffrey Vance and Eleanor Keaton
Behind the Mask of Innocence by Kevin Brownlow
The Parade's Gone By by Kevin Brownlow
The War, The West, and the Wilderness by Kevin Brownlow
A History of the Hal Roach Studio by Richard Ward
The Life and Films of Erich von Stroheim by Richard Koszarski
William Fox, Sol M. Wurtzel and the Early Fox Film Corporation by Lillian Wurtzel Semenov
Alice Guy Blaché: Lost Visionary of the Cinema by Allison McMahan
Cecil B. DeMille's Hollywood by Robert S. Birchard
The Films of D.W. Griffith by Scott Simmon
Without Lying Down: Francis Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood by Cari Beauchamp
Dark Lover: The Life & Death of Rudolph Valentino by Emily Leider
Louise Brooks by Barry Paris
W.C. Fields by James Curtis
Marguerite Clark: America's Darling of Broadway and the Silent Screen by Curtis Nunn
Silent Traces by John Bengtson
Silent Echoes by John Bengtson
The Films of Lon Chaney by Michael F. Blake
A Thousand Faces: Lon Chaney's Unique Artistry in Motion Pictures by Michael F. Blake
Chaplin by David Robinson
Clara Bow: Running Wild by David Stenn
Smile While the Raindrops Fall: The Story of Charley Chase by Brian Anthony and Andy Edmonds
American Silent Film by William K. Everson
Film Style & Technology: History and Analysis by Barry Salt
The Ciné Goes to Town by Richard Abel
Golden Images by Eve Golden
Lillian Gish: Her Legend Her Life by Charles Affron
The Star Film Ranch: Texas' First Picture Show by Frank Thompson
Lost Films by Frank Thompson
The Silent Clowns by Walter Kerr
Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success by Joseph McBride
Whatever Happened to Baby Peggy? by Diana Sierra Caray
Billy Bitzer: His Story by Billy Bitzer
Two Reels and a Crank: From Nickelodeon to Picture Palaces by Alfred E. Smith
Swanson on Swanson by Gloria Swanson
Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture by Peter Kobel

O.K. so I can't narrow them down! I've definitely missed a few good ones, but the absolute best is...
Adventures With D.W. Griffith by Karl Brown

And although The Parade's Gone By was one of the books that got me hooked on silent films, I actually like his Behind the Mask of Innocence even better!
Offline
User avatar

Ferdinand Von Galitzien

  • Posts: 335
  • Joined: Tue Dec 25, 2007 10:16 am

Re: Top Favorite Silent Film Books

PostSat Aug 09, 2008 11:03 am

James Bazen wrote: By[/i], what film books past and recent do you particulaly love. Which books are definitive, highly informative, or just down right enjoyable?


Isn't it funny that has to be this German, aristocratic count the one that recommend highly to the longhaired youngsters silent fans around the world, besides Herr Brownlow. among other silent conneisseurs..., essential silent books, the superb Herr Jay Leyda's "KINO" book???!!...

Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien
http://ferdinandvongalitzien.blogspot.com/
Offline

Helen

  • Posts: 35
  • Joined: Sat Aug 02, 2008 10:48 pm
  • Location: Indianapolis, IN

PostSat Aug 09, 2008 1:05 pm

This thread is giving me an invaluable reading list!

I really enjoy reading and re-reading the collected film reviews of Otis Ferguson and Graham Greene, for both their writing and the look at contemporary responses to 'thirties film. Greene's film crticism in particular is fascinatng as a companion piece to his screenwriting and novels.
Offline

gjohnson

  • Posts: 653
  • Joined: Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:56 pm

PostSat Aug 09, 2008 1:35 pm

I concur with Gebert's Kerr & Brownlow's picks. A few others I find invaluable are.......

The Warner Brothers Cartoons - Will Friedwald/Jerry Beck
Detailing cast & credits along with a short synopses of every single cartoon released by Warner Brothers studio starting with "Sinkin' In The Bathtub" - (1930) and ending with "Injun Trouble" - (1969). I stumbled across this book at a Hollywood bookstore back when it was first printed in the early 80's. A decade later I somehow misplaced it from my various wanderings only to find it again last year at Cinecon in the dealers room.

Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind The Movies - Randy Skretvedt
The ultimate reference on the making of The Boys films. Nuff' said!

James Curtis does a yeoman's job at fleshing out the life of The Great One in his recent biography on Fields but to hear his own words then Ron Fields W.C. Fields: By Himself is a must. His grandson delves into Fields vaudeville trunk and publishes writings, letters, scripts, drawings and notes by Fields that covers the length of his life. Fields' written arguments with his various film producers alone showed the care he had over the finished product.

Staying with the comedians Groucho, Harpo, Chico and sometimes Zeppo by Joe Adamson is not only the definitive account on the careers of the Marxes but is, to wit, one of the funniest books ever written about show business.

Hollywood Goes To War - Clayton Koppes/Gregory Black
Scholarly detailed account of the fascinating period when America entered WWII and how the government, through subtle intimidation to outright threats, got the Hollywood studios in line to produce propoganda on the grandest scale.

The World Of Entertainment: Hollywood's Greatest Musicals - Hugh Fordin
Chronicling the mostly autonomous Freed Unit at MGM through the 40's & 50's. The author makes extensive use of studio archives showing script revisions to some of the most popular movies from MGM's history. Some chapters devote themselve to the making of one film classic, such as "Gigi" or "Meet Me In St. Louis" but because the Freed unit was so prolific some years we jump from the set of "Easter Parade" to script troubles for "Words and Music" to final cutting decisions on "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." I found it all fascinating

Sinatra!: The Song Is You - Will Friedman
Here's a novelty. A book on Sinatra that doesn't dwell on his tabloid life but - HEAVENS! - actually concentrates on the one aspect of his life that he is most known for......his music. The care and professionalism that Sinatra exerted on all of his recordings are emphasized throughout and in the same way that Brownlow's Unknown Chaplin revealed that Chaplin rehearsed on film, here we discover that Sinatra used his constant touring to select and shape the material for his next planned albums long before he ever neared a recording studio.

And when it comes to general reference books I still depend on the updated Leonard Maltin & Leslie Halliwell Movie Guide books.

Gary J.
Offline
User avatar

Rob Farr

  • Posts: 503
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 9:10 pm
  • Location: Washington DC

PostSat Aug 09, 2008 2:18 pm

I can't believe no one has mentioned James Card's Seductive Cinema. It is idiosyncratic, wanders off on whatever tangent the author chooses, is self-aggrandizing, more interested in settling old scores than in accuracy, and leaves out the juicy parts (were Card and Louise Brooks...y'know?). But it is a compelling read by a great raconteur. His love of silent film shines through every page.
Last edited by Rob Farr on Sat Aug 09, 2008 6:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Rob Farr
"If it's not comedy, I fall asleep." - Harpo Marx
www.slapsticon.org
Offline
User avatar

Mike Gebert

Site Admin

  • Posts: 4152
  • Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:23 pm
  • Location: Chicago

PostSat Aug 09, 2008 2:22 pm

I'd put Card's book a notch below, because it's full of score-settling and dubious opinions. (Most famously, Card insists on a different starting date for World War II than historians!) But it's great fun and like hanging out with one of the great cranky characters of the film world.

I also really like Jeanine Basinger's Silent Stars, she takes a fresh look at so many of those famous names and tries to puzzle out why they were big.

The other lists here make me realize how rarely I read biographies. I'm glad they get researched and written, but I just don't go in for that, usually, for some reason. Subtract them and the list of silent movie books gets a lot shorter.

Exception: He's barely a silent film figure, but Bunuel's My Last Sigh is one of the most enjoyable autobios, as seemingly civilized and yet as strange as one of his films.
If you truly love film, I think the healthiest thing to do is not read books on the subject. I prefer the glossy film magazines with their big colour photos and gossip columns, or the National Enquirer. Such vulgarity is healthy and safe. —Werner Herzog
Offline
User avatar

Harold Aherne

  • Posts: 1455
  • Joined: Tue Dec 18, 2007 1:08 pm
  • Location: North Dakota

PostSat Aug 09, 2008 4:49 pm

My own list will seem rather boring, as I haven't gotten around to most of the biographies and the Browlow, Everson, et al. books appear to have had less influence on me than on others, marvellous as they are. The one book that introduced me to the real possibilities of silents was Katz's Encyclopaedia; here I could ponder over such names as Priscilla Dean and Larry Semon (among other) and know of their importance, in spite of Katz's many typos and mistakes (too often silent performers' careers are said to have "ended with the coming of sound" as if to demonstrate causality, even where his assessment is historically correct).

Then there is the 1921-30 volume of the AFI catalogue, which transformed the mere lists of titles in Katz's book into more descriptive entries that gave me a sense of who the major character performers were in those years as well as the lesser lights who seldom appear at all in film history books. Here I could come to know what these titles were actually about, and wonder if such interesting entries as Sowing the Wind (1921) and The Garden of Weeds (1924) still existed (the answers are yes and apparently not, respectively).

Blum's Pictorial History lacks riveting prose, but it turns a great deal of these performers and titles listed in the above works into living and breathing beings, with attention given to not only to the well known personalities but also to June Caprice and George Walsh, for example. I have become at least slightly better at recognising various players in still photos since obtaining a copy of it!

All of the above books will seem rather empirical, more concerned at describing and enumerating aspects of silent history than analysing them per se. But allowing such works to have influence over my thoughts helps to mimimise my a priori expectations when watching a film, and to at least aim at an Arnoldian goal of seeing the picture as it really is. Such isn't always (or even usually) possible, but it can be worth trying for.

-Harold
Offline
User avatar

Jim Reid

  • Posts: 1259
  • Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 9:16 am
  • Location: Dallas, Texas

Raoul Walsh

PostSat Aug 09, 2008 6:09 pm

I pretty much agree with most of these lists. One autobiography I really enjoyed was the one by Raoul Walsh.
Offline
User avatar

Rob Farr

  • Posts: 503
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 9:10 pm
  • Location: Washington DC

PostSat Aug 09, 2008 7:07 pm

You never forget your first love and as a young movie-obsessed 17-year-old, I devoured that yellow, red and blue paperback of Arthur Knight's The Livliest Art. I don't know how it would hold up today, but to me it seemed as if he had total recall of every film ever made (did he really see Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Waiter from the Ritz, Kiss Me Again and Three From the Filling Station?). Knight's later biography of Von Stroheim just seemed cranky, but back in 1970 he was my Pied Piper.
Rob Farr
"If it's not comedy, I fall asleep." - Harpo Marx
www.slapsticon.org
Offline

Richard M Roberts

  • Posts: 1385
  • Joined: Fri Dec 21, 2007 6:56 pm

PostSat Aug 09, 2008 8:42 pm

Most of the books mentioned are fine reading (and I like James Cards's book quite a bit, and some of the opinions that were considered to be controversial at the time of it's publication have worn quite well, like the ones about D.W Griffith not being the know-all and end all of film pioneers and not running silent film at slow speeds), but one book I find interesting in its not being included in anyone's lists Is A HISTORY OF THE MOVIES by Benjamin B. Hampton.

It was published in 1931 and I think briefly reprinted in the 1960's, but it is fascinating reading. Hampton was a businessman who was involved in the film business from the time of the Patents Trust and became a Producer in the late teens. (he produced some early versions of the Zane Grey stories in the early 20's), and he tells the story of the Movie Business from the standpoint of the Producers and the exhibitors, and he does it quite intelligently, entertainingly, and in a way even a layman could understand. The original edition also has some great stills in it. The book's a fine companion volume to Terry Ramsayes A MILLION AND ONE NIGHTS, and perhaps even more accurately describes all the wheeling and dealing that went on between all the major producers in the Industry at the beginning.

RICHARD M ROBERTS
Offline

gjohnson

  • Posts: 653
  • Joined: Tue Jan 15, 2008 4:56 pm

PostSat Aug 09, 2008 9:23 pm

Rob,

I believe I have the smallest edition of "The Liveliest Arts." It is a reprint hard cover but it fits in the palm of my hand. Quite convienent for whacking small bugs or annoying visitors who talk while you are watching a silent film.

These scholarly tomes were the first books I devoured way back then but I remember always getting slightly annoyed because whenever they wrote about great art in the movies it was always chapter after chapter about the Soviet Russian or German films of the Twenties. Whenever American films were mentioned it was basically Griffith and everyone else got short shift. By then I was already interested in Ford, Hawks & Capra but they would have to wait until the 70's to get their just due.

Gary J.
Offline
User avatar

Rob Farr

  • Posts: 503
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 9:10 pm
  • Location: Washington DC

PostSun Aug 10, 2008 5:08 am

gjohnson wrote:Rob,

I believe I have the smallest edition of "The Liveliest Arts." It is a reprint hard cover but it fits in the palm of my hand. Quite convienent for whacking small bugs or annoying visitors who talk while you are watching a silent film.

These scholarly tomes were the first books I devoured way back then but I remember always getting slightly annoyed because whenever they wrote about great art in the movies it was always chapter after chapter about the Soviet Russian or German films of the Twenties. Whenever American films were mentioned it was basically Griffith and everyone else got short shift. By then I was already interested in Ford, Hawks & Capra but they would have to wait until the 70's to get their just due.

Gary J.


Well, to give Knight his due, he devotes almost half the book to the silent era (of course, by 1957 over half of film history had occurred in the silent era). And he devotes an entire chapter to Hollywood in the 1920s, with sub-headings on DeMille (Cecil and William), Chaplin, Lubitsch, Von Stroheim, Flaherty and Von Sternberg, with side discussions on Murnau, Borzage, Keaton, Lloyd, Fairbanks, westerns, Cruze, Vidor and Brenon. Today Keaton, Murnau and Borzage would probably get more ink than Flaherty and Von Sternberg, but Knight was generally spot on. I pulled out my tattered paperback last night and it's still a fun read.
Rob Farr
"If it's not comedy, I fall asleep." - Harpo Marx
www.slapsticon.org
Offline
User avatar

silentfilm

Moderator

  • Posts: 7735
  • Joined: Tue Dec 18, 2007 12:31 pm
  • Location: Dallas, TX USA

PostSun Aug 10, 2008 6:23 am

Card's Seductive Cinema and Slide's Nitrate Can't Wait kind of go hand in hand. Before I read them, I thought of archivists as geeky. After reading those books, you learn about the huge short-sighted mistakes archivists made. Some had big egos, some were scoundrels, and some worked very hard without much recognition. Heck, James Card had a torrid affair with Louise Brooks (which is better documented in Barry Paris' Louise Brooks biography). But most of the time they make-do with whatever funds and resources that they have. It sounds like it might be a pretty fun job, and certainly not boring.

After getting Blum's A Pictorial History of the Silent Film (cheaply off of eBay about 10 years ago), I thumbed through it for days. It inspired me to start collecting silent film stills. What is amazing is that even with the huge number of films represented, it just scratches the surface as to the number of films that were produced in the silent era. And most features had dozens of stills released for just one film!
Offline
User avatar

Rodney

  • Posts: 1927
  • Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2008 11:09 am
  • Location: Louisville, Colorado

PostSun Aug 10, 2008 10:00 am

I agree with many of the above, especially Adventures with D.W. Griffith by Karl Brown, which I found hugely entertaining. But -- as a musician who has attempted to find out about musical practices of the 1920s but stymied by the fact that almost nothing was written down -- the most impressive and entertaining recent book I've found recently is "Silent Film Sounds" by Rick Altman. Not restricted to music, he talks about all kinds of presentations from lectures to "sound effects" specialists, to the differences in musical style that arose based on whether the theater's staff used to do vaudeville or musical theater before it was converted to films. Nowhere have I come across better-documented evidence that the "silent era" did not have a "performance practice," but an almost infinitely varying continuum that changed year by year. And though the opening chapters bog down a bit in the philosophy of history, the meat of the book is quite breezy and entertaining, with plenty of well-chosen illustrations.
Rodney Sauer
The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
www.mont-alto.com
"Let the Music do the Talking!"
Offline
User avatar

radiotelefonia

  • Posts: 1406
  • Joined: Thu Feb 14, 2008 11:00 pm

PostSun Aug 10, 2008 12:07 pm

The most exciting thing to read about silent films are the original newspaper editorials in which they complain that audiences are frustrated because exhibitors pay attention to their watches in order to speed up the projection and squeeze another exhibition.
Offline
User avatar

Derek B.

  • Posts: 280
  • Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2008 2:36 pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA

PostSun Aug 10, 2008 12:58 pm

Most of my favorites are listed above. Some others are:

Two books by authors who remembered going to silents when they were new:
The Movies in the Age of Innocence by Edward Wagenknecht
Silent Magic: Rediscovering the Silent Film Era by Ivan Butler

The first is more personal, the second more of a survey with many nice stills and, as the author is British, more on European silents than in some similar books.

Classics of the Silent Screen by Joe Franklin (and William K Everson)

Another career review:
Harold Lloyd: "The King of Daredevil Comedy" by Adam Reilly

For more stills:
A Pictorial History of the Movies by Deems Taylor, Marcelene Peterson and Bryant Hale (It includes photos from talkies but at least the edition I have, from 1943, is about 60% silent.)
Silent Portraits: Stars of the Silent Screen in Historic Photographs by Anthony Slide

For original reviews collected in one place:
VARIETY Film Reviews Volumes 1 (1907-1920), 2 (1921-1925) and 3 (1926-1929)

and an interesting collection:
"The Movies Are": Carl Sandburg's Film Reviews And Essays, 1920-1928 edited by Arnie Bernstein
(And I second the recommendation above for The Film Criticism of Otis Ferguson for the period it covers, 1934-1942. I enjoyed it enough to go through The New Republic to find the reviews that hadn't been included.)

For more recent views:
Magill's Survey of Cinema: Silent Films in three volumes
Silent Films, 1877-1996: A Critical Guide to 646 Movies by Robert K Klepper
- Derek B.
Offline
User avatar

urbanora

  • Posts: 305
  • Joined: Sat Jan 05, 2008 2:41 pm
  • Location: Rochester, UK

PostSun Aug 10, 2008 1:06 pm

I've much enjoyed this thread, both for favourites being named (Karl Brown, Daniel Blum) and for titles I was not aware of and have now added to my reading list. Here are a few of my favourites which I don't think have been mentioned as yet (some wholly, some partially on silent film):

George C. Pratt, Spellbound in Darkness
Ivan Butler, Silent Magic: Rediscovering the Silent Film Era
George Pearson, Flashback: The Autobiography of a British Film Maker
Brian Coe, The History of Movie Photography
Edward Wagenknecht, The Movies in the Age of Innocence
Garth Jowett, Film: The Democratic Art
Audrey Field, Picture Palace
John Barnes, The Beginnings of Cinema in England series
Rachael Low, The History of the British Film series
Denis Gifford, The British Film Catalogue
Lisa Cartwright, Screening the Body: Tracing Medicine's Visual Culture
Deac Rossell, Living Pictures
A. Nicholas Vardac, Stage to Screen
Jay Leyda, Films Beget Films
Hugo Münsterberg, The Photoplay: A Psychological Study
Michael Chanan, The Dream that Kicks
F.A. Talbot, Moving Pictures: How They are Made and Worked
Robert Hamilton Ball, Shakespeare on Silent Film
Richard Brown and Barry Anthony, A Victorian Film Enterprise
Hanns Zischler, Kafka Goes to the Movies
Richard Butsch, The Making of American Audiences
Alison Griffiths, Wondrous Difference: Cinema, Anthropology and Turn-of-the-Century Visual Culture
Charles Barr, English Hitchcock
Mary Ann Doane, The Emergence of Cinematic Time
Hermann Hecht, Pre-Cinema History
Donald Crafton, Emile Cohl
Charles Musser, Edison Motion Pictures, 1890-1900
Offline
User avatar

Rodney

  • Posts: 1927
  • Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2008 11:09 am
  • Location: Louisville, Colorado

PostSun Aug 10, 2008 1:11 pm

For more stills:
A Pictorial History of the Movies by Deems Taylor, Marcelene Peterson and Bryant Hale (It includes photos from talkies but at least the edition I have, from 1943, is about 60% silent.)

I have A Pictorial History of the Silent Screen, and I don't know how it relates to that one. Mine is all silent (including the late Chaplins), and has some amazing photos. Thanks for reminding me!
Rodney Sauer
The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
www.mont-alto.com
"Let the Music do the Talking!"
Offline
User avatar

Derek B.

  • Posts: 280
  • Joined: Sat Jan 12, 2008 2:36 pm
  • Location: Palo Alto, CA

PostSun Aug 10, 2008 1:43 pm

Rodney wrote:For more stills:
A Pictorial History of the Movies by Deems Taylor, Marcelene Peterson and Bryant Hale (It includes photos from talkies but at least the edition I have, from 1943, is about 60% silent.)

I have A Pictorial History of the Silent Screen, and I don't know how it relates to that one. Mine is all silent (including the late Chaplins), and has some amazing photos. Thanks for reminding me!


They are different books. The latter is by Daniel Blum and is on several earlier lists above. There was a reprint edition in the 1980s but I have seen the original from the 1950s more frequently. He also has The Pictorial History of the Talkies, and possibly also one on the stage. The Talkies version went through at least 2 different editions with some stills in the first edition being cut to fit in later movies.

The Taylor book is a smaller format. It doesn't have anywhere near as many stills as it doesn't include any tiny ones like Blum's does. But it does include some text for each still.
- Derek B.
Offline
User avatar

silentfilm

Moderator

  • Posts: 7735
  • Joined: Tue Dec 18, 2007 12:31 pm
  • Location: Dallas, TX USA

PostSun Aug 10, 2008 2:44 pm

urbanora wrote:John Barnes, The Beginnings of Cinema in England series


I didn't know this was a series! I have one of these books, I guess the one from 1894-1896, in the original edition. I tried reading it a few years ago, but got bogged down in the patents and patent disputes and wasn't able to finish it. I tried again last year and enjoyed it more. Mr. Barnes documented every film shot in England those years, with many tantalizing photographs and image fragments.

I remember looking up the "Barnes Museum of Cinematography" on the web and finding nothing. But I tried again today and see that you have an obituary on your blog from June. If anybody wants to read it go to http://bioscopic.wordpress.com/2008/06/08/john-barnes-rip/.
Offline
User avatar

Frederica

  • Posts: 4060
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:00 pm
  • Location: Kowea Town, Los Angeles

PostSun Aug 10, 2008 6:48 pm

Serendipitously I think I've just run into a new favorite film book, Life Through a Lens, Memoirs of a Cinematographer, by Osmond Borradaile with Anita Borradaile Hadley. It skirted being too technical for me in places but that won't be a problem for many of you. And jeez, what an exciting life and career! (this from a person to whom even the word "camping" is anathema). Splendid photographs throughout, too.

Fred
Offline

Chris Snowden

  • Posts: 752
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:20 am

Re: Top Favorite Silent Film Books

PostSun Aug 10, 2008 7:51 pm

My favorites tend to be the ones that first opened up the world of silent film to me, back when I was 11 or 12:

A Pictorial History of Horror Movies by Denis Gifford
Classics of the Silent Screen "by Joe Franklin"
Clown Princes and Court Jesters by Kalton Lahue and Sam Gill
Marvellous Melies by Paul Hammond
A Pictorial History of the Silent Screen by Daniel Blum
American Film Institute Catalog: Feature Films 1921-1930
D. W. Griffith: The Years at Biograph by Robert M. Henderson
Early American Cinema by Anthony Slide

Since then, I've read a lot of wonderful books. Two that I'd like to say a good word for are Silent Players by Anthony Slide (which some people detest because it's so gossipy, but it's a real page-turner and I've spotted very few mistakes in it), and Tim McCoy Remembers the West by Tim McCoy. His film career takes up only about 50 of its 267 pages, but you won't mind, because the rest of his life was just as interesting or even more so: he was a cowboy, a cavalryman, a veteran of two World Wars, a bullwhip performer in a circus and more. The heart of the book is about his life with the Arapaho tribe of Wyoming, of which he was a full member. It's the greatest autobiography I've ever read.
-------------------------------------
Chris Snowden
https://televisiondiary.wordpress.com
Offline

rollot24

  • Posts: 806
  • Joined: Wed Dec 19, 2007 4:16 pm
  • Location: Bellevue WA

PostSun Aug 10, 2008 8:09 pm

Like Chris I picked up Classics of the Silent Screen when I was about 9 or 10 and shortly afterwards got Pictorial History... and I was completely hooked. I went through my local library's Kalton Lahue collection and anything else I could find on their shelves relating to silent film. They even had Linda Arvidson's book. Sometimes I wish I had conveniently "lost" some of them when I checked them out.

As they say, "So many books, so little time."
Offline

Micromegas

  • Posts: 215
  • Joined: Sun Apr 27, 2008 8:20 am
  • Location: Atlanta, Georgia

PostMon Aug 11, 2008 5:59 am

Well, one of the best books on Melies is Artificially Arranged Scenes by John Frazer. Up until now, I've only been able to read it from the library. But I just picked up (at a really fair price) a copy from ebay. (I'm a Melies nut).

Steve
Offline
User avatar

urbanora

  • Posts: 305
  • Joined: Sat Jan 05, 2008 2:41 pm
  • Location: Rochester, UK

PostMon Aug 11, 2008 9:52 am

silentfilm wrote:
urbanora wrote:John Barnes, The Beginnings of Cinema in England series


I didn't know this was a series! I have one of these books, I guess the one from 1894-1896, in the original edition. I tried reading it a few years ago, but got bogged down in the patents and patent disputes and wasn't able to finish it. I tried again last year and enjoyed it more. Mr. Barnes documented every film shot in England those years, with many tantalizing photographs and image fragments.


None of John Barnes' five-volume series is the sort of book that you curl up to read with pleasure, but for facts, personalities and general signposting for the early film business in Britain (and beyond) it is an inspiration. I consult it continually.
Offline
User avatar

Jim Roots

  • Posts: 1494
  • Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2008 2:45 pm
  • Location: Ottawa, ON

Film Books

PostThu Aug 14, 2008 9:35 am

One post here mentioned Robert Klepper's book of reviews. I'd have to say Klepper has the most ... peculiar ... tastes and/or prejudices. His reviews frequently leave me stunned. There's no question about him possibly pulling our legs or deliberately trying to be provocative -- he's too serious for that. He just has an extremely bizarre opinion of too many films. (Not to mention that he sounds like George Shelps' even more odious brother whenever the subject of Chaplin comes up.)

I'm on holidays and spent a few days in Kingston (Ontario, not Jamaica) last week with my family, visiting all the bookstores in one of our favourite towns. I came across Peter Kobel's new coffee-table book and immediately bought it; looks like a great viewing.

We go to Kingston at least once a year partly for the book-buying and partly to stay at our all-time favourite hotel, the Best Western Fireside Inn. This is not your typical Best Western budget flophouse -- it is more like a luxury country resort, with pine furniture, brick fireplaces, canopied beds, fantasy suites (never been in one yet, though) ... and a shelf of old books discarded by nth-hand bookstores that often contain gems. A few years ago I recovered a first edition of the letters of Ellen Terry and G.B. Shaw here.

My find this time was a 1929 first edition of Raphael Sabatini's Mistress Wilding, one of Raffy's least-known books and possibly the only one never filmed, as far as I know. Since I had never read Sabatini, I started on this one, and found it quite compulsive even though it lacked the swashbuckle we associate with the movies based on his other books. A good read. Weirdly enough, this copy originally came from the Salvation Army "military outpost" at the Petawawa military base near Kingston; I never thought of the Sally Ann as having actual military outposts on Army campuses!

While acknowledging that the book was set in the era of King James II (no relation, ahem) and the dialogue was accordingly pompous and stilted, it was still impossible to believe this was written at the same time that Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Joyce were at their peaks, never mind Gertrude Stein. Sabatini's style almost pre-dates Dickens.

Special treat for Frederica: a line of deathless dialogue fit for a vamp. One character pretends to faint and instead of calling out for air, he (yes, he) gasps, "Fan me, ye winds!"

Jim
Offline
User avatar

Mike Gebert

Site Admin

  • Posts: 4152
  • Joined: Sat Dec 15, 2007 3:23 pm
  • Location: Chicago

PostThu Aug 14, 2008 9:55 am

I started to post something about Sabatini and then I realized I already had at AMS a few years ago:

My wife and I read The Sea Hawk on vacation recently, and happened to take a Wodehouse novel too, and considering that both started out with skullduggery at vast English manors, and were not entirely dissimilar stylistically (except that one was mocking what the other embodied) it was sometimes hard to take Sabatini seriously. But boy, once his ripping yarn gets ripping, he pulls you through it despite glaringly obvious flaws of archaic language, a resolute refusal to draw characters in any other than one dimension, and generally lacking other niceties of grownup literature. Like Edgar Rice Burroughs, he's great despite the fact that the sum of his parts is a negative number.
If you truly love film, I think the healthiest thing to do is not read books on the subject. I prefer the glossy film magazines with their big colour photos and gossip columns, or the National Enquirer. Such vulgarity is healthy and safe. —Werner Herzog
Next

Return to Talking About Silents

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests