Tag Archives: silent era

Little Princess, The (1917)


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Mary Pickford Season: FD Cinematheque

The Little Princess (1917)

Director: Marshall Neilan, Howard Hawks

Cast: Mary Pickford, Norman Kerry, Katherine Griffith, Anne Schaefer, Zasu Pitts, WE Lawrence, Theodore Roberts, Gertrude Short, Gustav von Seyffertitz, Loretta Blake, George A McDaniel, Edythe Chapman, Josephine Hutchinson, Joan Marsh, Joe Murphy

62 min

 

A Little Princess is a 1917 American silent film directed by Marshall Neilan based upon the novel A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This version is notable for having been adapted by famed female screenwriter Frances Marion.[1]

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Plot 

As described in a film magazine,[2] Sara Crewe (Pickford) is treated as a little princess at the Minchin boarding school for children until it is learned that her father has lost his entire fortune, and she is made a slavey (a household servant). She and Becky (Pitts), another slavey, become close friends who share their joys and sorrows.

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Christmastime draws near and the girls watch the preparations wistfully. Their loneliness arouses the sympathy of a servant of the rich Mr. Carrisford. On the night before Christmas he prepares a spread for the slaveys in their attic. He calls his master Mr. Carrisford (von Seyffertitz) to watch their joy, but both are witness to the slaveys being abused and whipped by Miss Minchin (Griffith). Carrisford interferes and learns that Sara is the daughter of his best friend. He adopts Sara and Becky and in their new home they have a real Christmas.

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The film opens with Sarah’s father moving back to London after serving in the British Army in India. She is opposed to leaving the luxurious life of an officer’s child with a large house and many servants, and is initially shy when enrolled in Miss Minchin’s School. Her reputation as “the little princess” precedes her and the other girls are fascinated with her tales of life in India. The girls sneak into Sarah’s room at night to listen to her stories. One night, she tells “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” which becomes a story within a story with elaborate exotic sets and costumes.

 

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Cast

References

  1. Jump up^ Progressive Silent Film List: A Little Princess at silentera.com
  2. Jump up^ “Reviews: A Little Princess. Exhibitors Herald. New York: Exhibitors Herald Company. 5 (22): 29. November 24, 1917.

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Dream, The (1911)


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Mary Pickford Season: FD Cinematheque

The Dream (1911)

Director: Thomas Ince

Cast: Mary Pickford, Owen Moore, Charles Arling, William Robert Daly, J Farrel MacDonald, Lottie Pickford

11 min

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The Dream is a 1911 short film, one reel, produced and released by the Independent Moving Pictures Company (IMP) and directed by Thomas H. Ince and George Loane Tucker. It starred Mary Pickford and her husband Owen Moore after they left working at the Biograph Company. This film is preserved at the Library of Congress, a rare survivor from Pickford’s IMP period. It appears on the Milestone Films DVD of Pickford’s 1918 feature Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley.[1]

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Plot

The film opens in a fancy restaurant where the husband and a woman who is not his wife are polishing off a bottle of wine. Cut to home, where a dejected wife sits at the dining room table waiting for her husband. She briefly nods off before rousing and checking the wall clock indicating that it’s getting late. Cut back to the fancy restaurant, where the husband settles the check with a large wad of bills. The waiter obliges by helping the husband and his lady companion with their hats and coats. The other woman kicks the husbands hat out of his hand.

Six hours later, the husband strides through the door awakening his wife who is still sitting by the dining room table. He rebuffs her attempt to take his hat, whereupon she points to the wall clock. She draws his attention to dinner, which still sits on the dining table. He upends a few dishes then overturns a chair before collapsing on the sofa, cigarette in hand. Upset, the wife walks off camera and the scene fades to black.

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In the next scene, introduced by a title card stating “HIS DREAM”, the wife returns, clad in a form-fitting dress and a plumed hat. She awakens the husband by jostling his head. Talking animatedly, she downs a couple of glasses of wine from a decanter on the sideboard and tosses the wineglass on the floor. She drop-kicks a plate, lights up a cigarette, flicks the match at her husband, and blows smoke in his face. She pelts him with a pillow that has been lying on the floor, slings her coat over her arm, pulls down the curtains covering the door, and blows the husband a kiss goodbye. A well-appointed gentleman arrives at the front steps to their house a second or two before the wife steps out the front door and they leave together.

Confounded by what he has just witnessed, the husband grabs his hat and coat and leaves. The wife and her gentleman caller arrive by taxi at the fancy restaurant where they are shown to the same table the husband had occupied earlier. The husband arrives hot on their heels, briefly considers confronting them, but then flees, distressed by the whole affair. He stumbles out into the street before returning home. There he rants wildly, repeatedly grasping his forehead before settling down to compose a letter which reads in part “You’re not the woman I supposed you were.” Stumbling to the sideboard, he pulls out a small revolver from a drawer, points it at his abdomen, pulls the trigger, and collapses spasmodically on the sofa.

In the next scene, introduced by a title card stating “HIS AWAKENING”, he falls off the sofa and stands up, clutching his abdomen. His wife enters the scene, this time reclad in her modest attire, and startles him. He recounts his vivid experience, she comforts him and helps him realize it was all just a dream. While she turns her attention to preparing dessert on the dining room table, he pulls his address book from his suitcoat pocket and shreds it. Reconciled, they embrace and then settle down to eat the confection.

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Cast

References

 

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In Old Madrid (1911)


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Mary Pickford Season: FD Cinematheque

In Old Madrid (1911)

Director: Thomas H Ince

Cast: Mary Pickford, Owen Moore

11 min

In Old Madrid (1911) is a Mary Pickford film directed by Thomas H Ince.

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Thomas H Ince

Synopsis

Don Gomez writes a letter to the parents of Zelda, a young Spanish girl, regretting his inability to pay them a visit, but sends his son, Jose, instead. Jose arrives and is immediately smitten by the charms of Zelda. Zelda indulges in a little flirtation.

Her mother inaugurates a system of espionage that is very inconvenient for the lovers. They are surprised by the duenna-like mother and are driven to desperation.

Zelda has a girlfriend about her age who resembles her and is attired to represent a clever counterpart of Zelda. The mother walks in the garden accompanied by Zelda. Seating herself on a bench, she commands the girl to repose beside her. Finding the vigil rather tiresome, the elder woman lapses into a state of drowsiness, and the companions of Zelda beckon her to join them.

So clever is the disguise of Rosa that Jose is deceived and he kisses her. The father of Zelda discovers the act and hastens to the mother to inform her only to see Zelda yawning beside his wife on the bench. Exhausted, the guardian falls asleep, and Rosa exchanges places with Zelda, who joins her lover. Jose induces Zelda to accompany him to the seashore.

He gathers the girl in his arms, and wades across a stretch of water, and they take a perilous position on the rocks. A search is instituted and Zelda and Jose are discovered on the rocks. Jose has a scheme which he quickly imparts to Zelda and she acquiesces. The irate parents see the daughter and her lover.

Jose is firm and threatens to throw Zelda into the roaring torrent, unless the parents consent to their immediate marriage. The agonized parents relent. The obdurate parents have been outwitted by the scheming lovers.

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In Old Madrid

Lonely Villa, The (1909)


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Mary Pickford Season: FD Cinematheque

Lonely Villa, The (1909)

This is one of the earliest surviving prints from the beginning of Mary Pickford’s career. It is assumed to have been her 9th film.

Director: D W Griffith

Cast: David Miles, Marion Leonard, Mary Pickford, Gladys Egan, Adele DeGarde, Robert Harron, James Kirkwood, Florence Lawrence, Owen Moore, Mack Sennett

8 min

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The Lonely Villa (1909)

The Lonely Villa is a 1909 American short silent crime drama film directed by D. W. Griffith. The film stars David Miles, Marion Leonard and Mary Pickford in one of her first film roles. It is based on the 1901 French play Au Telephone (At the Telephone) by André de Lorde.[1] A print of The Lonely Villa survives and is currently in the public domain.[2]

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Plot

A group of criminals waits until a wealthy man goes out to break into his house and threaten his wife and daughters. They refuge themselves inside one of the rooms, but the thieves break in. The father finds out what is happening and runs back home to try to save his family.

Cast

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Production notes and release

The Lonely Villa was produced by the Biograph Company and shot in Fort Lee, New Jersey.[3][4] It was released on June 10, 1909 along with another D.W. Griffith split-reel film, A New Trick.[2]

See also

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References

  1. Jump up^ Choi, Jinhee; Wada-Marciano, Mitsuyo, eds. (2001). Horror to the Extreme: Changing Boundaries in Asian Cinema. Hong Kong University Press. p. 111. ISBN 962-209-973-4.
  2. ^ Jump up to:a b “Progressive Silent Film List: The Lonely Villa”. Silent Era. Retrieved June 24, 2008.
  3. Jump up^ Koszarski, Richard. Fort Lee: The Film Town. John Libbey Publishing. p. 58. ISBN 0-86196-653-8.
  4. Jump up^ “Studios and Films”. Fort Lee Film Commission. Retrieved May 30, 2011.

 

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New York Hat, The (1912)


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Mary Pickford Season: FD Cinematheque

New York Hat, The (1912)

Director: D W Griffith

Cast: Mary Pickford, Charles Hill Mailes, Kate Bruce, Lionel Barrymore, Alfred Paget, Claire McDowell, Mae Marsh, Madge Kirby, Lillian Gish, Jack Pickford, Robert Harron, Dorothy Gish, Mack Sennett

16 min

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D W Griffith

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The New York Hat (1912)

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The New York Hat (1912)

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The New York Hat (1912)

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The New York Hat (1912)

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The New York Hat (1912)

 

The New York Hat (1912) is a short silent film directed by D. W. Griffith from a screenplay by Anita Loos, and starring Mary Pickford, Lionel Barrymore, and Lillian Gish.

Production

The New York Hat is one of the most notable of the Biograph Studios short films and is perhaps the best known example of Pickford’s early work, and an example of Anita Loos‘s witty writing. The film was made by Biograph when it and many other early U.S. movie studios were based in Fort Lee, New Jersey at the beginning of the 20th century.[1][2][3]

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Plot

Mollie Goodhue leads a cheerless, impoverished life, largely because of her stern, miserly father. Mrs. Goodhue is mortally ill, but before dying, she gives the minister, Preacher Bolton, some money with which to buy her daughter the “finery” her father always forbade her.

Mollie is delighted when the minister presents her with a fashionable New York hat she has been longing for, but village gossips misinterpret the minister’s intentions and spread malicious rumors. Mollie becomes a social pariah, and her father tears up the beloved hat in a rage.

All ends well, however, after the minister produces a letter from Mollie’s mother about the money she left the minister to spend on Mollie. Soon afterwards, he proposes to Mollie, who accepts his offer of marriage.

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Cast

New York Hat, The 8

See also

References

  1. Jump up^ Koszarski, Richard (2004), Fort Lee: The Film Town, Rome, Italy: John Libbey Publishing -CIC srl, ISBN 0-86196-653-8
  2. Jump up^ Amith, Deninis (January 1, 2011). “Before there was Hollywood there was Fort Lee, NJ”. J!-ENT.
  3. Jump up^ The New York Hat at silentera.com
  4. Jump up^ “The New York Hat”. Library of Congress. Retrieved 28 December 2011.

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Mary Pickford – Hollywood Pioneer


Mary Pickford – Hollywood Pioneer

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Gladys Louise Smith (April 8, 1892 – May 29, 1979), known professionally as Mary Pickford, was a prolific Canadian-American film actress and producer. She was a co-founder of both the Pickford-Fairbanks Studio (along with Douglas Fairbanks) and, later, the United Artists film studio (with Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith), and one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who present the yearly “Oscar” award ceremony.[3]

Known in her prime as “America’s Sweetheart”[4][5][6] and the “girl with the curls”,[6] Pickford was one of the Canadian pioneers in early Hollywood and a significant figure in the development of film acting. Pickford was one of the earliest stars to be billed under her name (film performers up until that time were usually unbilled), and was one of the most popular actresses of the 1910s and 1920s, earning the nickname “Queen of the Movies”.

She was awarded the second ever Academy Award for Best Actress for her first sound-film role in Coquette (1929) and also received an honorary Academy Award in 1976. In consideration of her contributions to American cinema, the American Film Institute ranked Pickford as 24th in its 1999 list of greatest female stars of classic Hollywood Cinema.

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Mary Pickford - Ziegfeld - c. 1920s - by Alfred Cheney Johnston

An Introduction to Mary Pickford by Mary Pickford Foundation – on Film Dialogue YouTube Channel 

Mary Pickford Foundation Copyright

Early life 

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Mary Pickford was born Gladys Louise Smith in 1892 (although she would later claim 1893 or 1894 as her year of birth) at 211 University Avenue,AToronto, Ontario.[1] Her father, John Charles Smith, was the son of English Methodist immigrants, and worked a variety of odd jobs. Her mother, Charlotte Hennessey, was of Irish Catholic descent and worked for a time as a seamstress. She had two younger siblings, Charlotte, called “Lottie” (born 1893), and John Charles, called “Jack” (born 1896), who also became actors.
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To please her husband’s relatives, Pickford’s mother baptized her children as Methodists, the faith of their father. John Charles Smith was an alcoholic; he abandoned the family and died on February 11, 1898, from a fatal blood clot caused by a workplace accident when he was a purser with Niagara Steamship.[1]
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When Gladys was age four, her household was under infectious quarantine, a public health measure. Their devoutly Catholic maternal grandmother (Catherine Faeley Hennessey) asked a visiting Roman Catholic priest to baptize the children. Pickford was at this time baptized as Gladys Marie Smith.[7][8]

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Charlotte Smith began taking in boarders after being widowed. One of these was a theatrical stage manager. At his suggestion, Gladys (age 7) was given two small roles, one as a boy and the other as a girl,[1] in a stock company production of The Silver King at Toronto’s Princess Theatre. She subsequently acted in many melodramas with Toronto’s Valentine Company, finally playing the major child role in their version of The Silver King.

She capped her short career in Toronto with the starring role of Little Eva in their production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, adapted from the 1852 novel by United States writer and abolitionist Harriet Beecher Stowe.[9] Stowe’s novel was, coincidentally, based on the memoirs of another Ontarian, Josiah Henson.[10]

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Career

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Mary Pickford on stage 1905

Early years

By the early 1900s, theatre had become a family enterprise. Gladys, her mother and two younger siblings toured the United States by rail, performing in third-rate companies and plays. After six impoverished years, Pickford allowed one more summer to land a leading role on Broadway, planning to quit acting if she failed. In 1906 Gladys, Lottie and Jack Smith supported singer Chauncey Olcott on Broadway in Edmund Burke.[11]
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Mary Pickford in 1908

Gladys finally landed a supporting role in a 1907 Broadway play, The Warrens of Virginia. The play was written by William C. DeMille, whose brother, Cecil, appeared in the cast. David Belasco, the producer of the play, insisted that Gladys Smith assumes the stage name Mary Pickford.[12] After completing the Broadway run and touring the play, however, Pickford was again out of work.

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Mary Pickford on stage in The Warrens of Virginia 1907

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The Warrens of Virginia newspaper advert 1907

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The Warrens of Virgina Belasco Theatre Poster 1907

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Mary Pickford promotional photo for The Warrens of Virgina – Belasco Theatre

On April 19, 1909, the Biograph Company director D. W. Griffith screen-tested her at the company’s New York studio for a role in the nickelodeon film, Pippa Passes. The role went to someone else but Griffith was immediately taken with Pickford. She quickly grasped that movie acting was simpler than the stylized stage acting of the day. Most Biograph actors earned $5 a day but, after Pickford’s single day in the studio, Griffith agreed to pay her $10 a day against a guarantee of $40 a week.[13]

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Mary Pickford in one of her first film roles in DW Griffith’s The Lonely Villa 1909 – Biograph Productions

Pickford, like all actors at Biograph, played both bit parts and leading roles, including mothers, ingenues, charwomen, spitfires, slaves, Native Americans, spurned women, and a prostitute. As Pickford said of her success at Biograph:

“I played scrubwomen and secretaries and women of all nationalities … I decided that if I could get into as many pictures as possible, I’d become known, and there would be a demand for my work.”

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Biograph Offices in 1909

She appeared in 51 films in 1909 – almost one a week. While at Biograph, she suggested to Florence La Badie to “try pictures”, invited her to the studio and later introduced her to D. W. Griffith, who launched La Badie’s career.[14]

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Mary Pickford in DW Griffith’s The Country Doctor 1909

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Mary Pickford in DW Griffith’s The Hessian Renegades 1909

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Mary Pickford in DW Griffith’s The Violin Maker Of Cremona 1909

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Mary Pickford in DW Griffith’s Willful Peggy 1910

In January 1910, Pickford traveled with a Biograph crew to Los Angeles. Many other film companies wintered on the West Coast, escaping the weak light and short days that hampered winter shooting in the East. Pickford added to her 1909 Biographs (Sweet and Twenty, They Would Elope, and To Save Her Soul, to name a few) with films made in California.

Actors were not listed in the credits in Griffith’s company. Audiences noticed and identified Pickford within weeks of her first film appearance. Exhibitors in turn capitalized on her popularity by advertising on sandwich boards that a film featuring “The Girl with the Golden Curls”, “Blondilocks”, or “The Biograph Girl” was inside.[15]

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Mary Pickford in DW Griffith’s They Would Elope 1909

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Mary Pickford in DW Griffith’s To Save Her Soul 1909

Pickford left Biograph in December 1910. The following year, she starred in films at Carl Laemmle‘s Independent Moving Pictures Company (IMP). IMP was absorbed into Universal Pictures in 1912, along with Majestic. Unhappy with their creative standards, Pickford returned to work with Griffith in 1912. Some of her best performances were in his films, such as Friends, The Mender of Nets, Just Like a Woman, and The Female of the Species. That year Pickford also introduced Dorothy and Lillian Gish (both friends from her days in touring melodrama) to Griffith.[1] Both became major silent stars, in comedy and tragedy, respectively. Pickford made her last Biograph picture, The New York Hat, in late 1912.

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Mary Pickford in DW Griffith’s Friends 1912

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Film Poster for Mary Pickford in DW Griffith’s The Mender of the Nets 1912

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Mary Pickford in DW Griffith’s The New York Hat 1912

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Mary Pickford in DW Griffith’s The Female of the Species (1912)

She returned to Broadway in the David Belasco production of A Good Little Devil (1912). This was a major turning point in her career. Pickford, who had always hoped to conquer the Broadway stage, discovered how deeply she missed film acting. In 1913, she decided to work exclusively in film. The previous year, Adolph Zukor had formed Famous Players in Famous Plays. It was later known as Famous Players-Lasky and then Paramount Pictures, one of the first American feature film companies.

Pickford left the stage to join Zukor’s roster of stars. Zukor believed film’s potential lay in recording theatrical players in replicas of their most famous stage roles and productions. Zukor first filmed Pickford in a silent version of A Good Little Devil. The film, produced in 1913, showed the play’s Broadway actors reciting every line of dialogue, resulting in a stiff film that Pickford later called “one of the worst [features] I ever made … it was deadly”.[1] Zukor agreed; he held the film back from distribution for a year.
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Poster for A Good Little Devil (1914) with Mary Pickford

Pickford’s work in material written for the camera by that time had attracted a strong following. Comedy-dramas, such as In the Bishop’s Carriage (1913), Caprice (1913), and especially Hearts Adrift (1914), made her irresistible to moviegoers. Hearts Adrift was so popular that Pickford asked for the first of her many publicized pay raises based on the profits and reviews.[16] The film marked the first time Pickford’s name was featured above the title on movie marquees.[16] Tess of the Storm Country was released five weeks later. Biographer Kevin Brownlow observed that the film “sent her career into orbit and made her the most popular actress in America, if not the world”.[16]

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Poster for In the Bishop’s Carriage (1913) with Mary Pickford

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Poster for Caprice (1913) with Mary Pickford

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Poster for Hearts Adrift (1914) with Mary Pickford

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Mary Pickford in Tess of the Storm Country (1914)

Her appeal was summed up two years later by the February 1916 issue of Photoplay as “luminous tenderness in a steel band of gutter ferocity”.[1] Only Charlie Chaplin, who reportedly slightly surpassed Pickford’s popularity in 1916,[17] had a similarly spellbinding pull with critics and the audience. Each enjoyed a level of fame far exceeding that of other actors. Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, Pickford was believed to be the most famous woman in the world, or, as a silent-film journalist described her, “the best known woman who has ever lived, the woman who was known to more people and loved by more people than any other woman that has been in all history”.[1]

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Silent film superstars: Fairbanks, Pickford and Chaplin

Stardom

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Adolph Zukor with Mary Pickford and her mother, Mrs. Charlotte Smith in 1916

Pickford starred in 52 features throughout her career. On June 24, 1916, Pickford signed a new contract with Zukor that granted her full authority over production of the films in which she starred,[18] and a record-breaking salary of $10,000 a week.[19] In addition, Pickford’s compensation was half of a film’s profits, with a guarantee of $1,040,000 (US$ 17,330,000 in 2017).[20][clarification needed] Occasionally, she played a child, in films such as The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917), Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917), Daddy-Long-Legs (1919) and Pollyanna (1920). Pickford’s fans were devoted to these “little girl” roles, but they were not typical of her career.[1]

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Mary Pickford in The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917)

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Mary Pickford in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917)

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Mary Pickford in Daddy Long Legs (1919)

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Mary Pickford in Polyanna ( 1920)

In August 1918, Pickford’s contract expired and, when refusing Zukor’s terms for a renewal, she was offered $250,000 to leave the motion picture business. She declined, and went to First National Pictures, which agreed to her terms.[21] In 1919, Pickford, along with D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks, formed the independent film production company United Artists. Through United Artists, Pickford continued to produce and perform in her own movies; she could also distribute them as she chose. In 1920, Pickford’s film Pollyanna grossed around $1,100,000.[22] The following year, Pickford’s film Little Lord Fauntleroy was also a success, and in 1923, Rosita grossed over $1,000,000 as well.[22] During this period, she also made Little Annie Rooney (1925), another film in which Pickford played a child, Sparrows (1926), which blended the Dickensian with newly minted German expressionist style, and My Best Girl (1927), a romantic comedy featuring her future husband Buddy Rogers.

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Mary Pickford signing United Artists documents – with Douglas Fairbanks, Charles Chaplin and DW Griffith

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Mary Pickford in Little Lord Fauntleroy (1921)

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Mary Pickford in Rosita (1927)

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Mary Pickford in Little Annie Rooney (1925)

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Mary Pickford in Sparrows (1926)

The arrival of sound was her undoing. Pickford underestimated the value of adding sound to movies, claiming that “adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de Milo“.[22]

She played a reckless socialite in Coquette (1929), a role for which her famous ringlets were cut into a 1920s’ bob. Pickford had already cut her hair in the wake of her mother’s death in 1928. Fans were shocked at the transformation.[23] Pickford’s hair had become a symbol of female virtue, and when she cut it, the act made front-page news in The New York Times and other papers. Coquette was a success and won her an Academy Award for Best Actress,[24] although this was highly controversial.[25] The public failed to respond to her in the more sophisticated roles. Like most movie stars of the silent era, Pickford found her career fading as talkies became more popular among audiences.[24]

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Mary Pickford in Coquette (1929)

Her next film, The Taming of The Shrew, made with husband Douglas Fairbanks, was not well received at the box office.[26]Established Hollywood actors were panicked by the impending arrival of the talkies. On March 29, 1928, The Dodge Brothers Hour was broadcast from Pickford’s bungalow, featuring Fairbanks, Chaplin, Norma Talmadge, Gloria Swanson, John Barrymore, D.W. Griffith, and Dolores del Rio, among others. They spoke on the radio show to prove that they could meet the challenge of talking movies.[27]

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Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks in The Taming of the Shrew (1929)

But the transition came as Pickford was in her late 30s, no longer able to play the children, teenage spitfires, and feisty young women so adored by her fans, and was not suited for the glamorous and vampish heroines of early sound. In 1933, Pickford underwent a Technicolor screen test for an animated/live action film version of Alice in Wonderland, but Walt Disney discarded the project when Paramount released its own version of the book. Only one Technicolor still of her screen test still exists.

Mary Pickford Technicolor test for The Black Pirate 1926 – Courtesy of George Eastman House – watch it on Film Dialogue YouTube Channel

She retired from acting in 1933; her last acting film was released in 1934. She continued to produce for others, however, including Sleep, My Love (1948; with Claudette Colbert) and Love Happy (1949), with the Marx Brothers).[1]

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Mary Pickford behind the camera
Mary Pickford talking about her life and career – CBC Radio Interview May 25th 1959 – on Film Dialogue You Tube Channel

The Film Industry

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Pickford, Fairbanks and Chapling promoting the sale of Liberty Bonds

Pickford used her stature in the movie industry to promote a variety of causes. Although her image depicted fragility and innocence, Pickford proved to be a worthy businesswoman who took control of her career in a cutthroat industry.[28]

During World War I, she promoted the sale of Liberty Bonds, making an intensive series of fund-raising speeches that kicked off in Washington, D.C., where she sold bonds alongside Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Theda Bara, and Marie Dressler. Five days later she spoke on Wall Street to an estimated 50,000 people. Though Canadian-born, she was a powerful symbol of Americana, kissing the American flag for cameras and auctioning one of her world-famous curls for $15,000. In a single speech in Chicago she sold an estimated five million dollars’ worth of bonds. She was christened the U.S. Navy’s official “Little Sister”; the Army named two cannons after her and made her an honorary colonel.[1]

 At the end of World War I, Pickford conceived of the Motion Picture Relief Fund, an organization to help financially needy actors. Leftover funds from her work selling Liberty Bonds were put toward its creation, and in 1921, the Motion Picture Relief Fund (MPRF) was officially incorporated, with Joseph Schenck voted its first president and Pickford its vice president. In 1932, Pickford spearheaded the “Payroll Pledge Program”, a payroll-deduction plan for studio workers who gave one-half of one percent of their earnings to the MPRF. As a result, in 1940, the Fund was able to purchase land and build the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital, in Woodland Hills, California.[1]

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Charles Chaplin, Darryl Zanuck, Samuel Goldwyn, Douglas Fairbanks, Joseph Schenck and Mary Pickford

An astute businesswoman, Pickford became her own producer within three years of her start in features. According to her Foundation, “she oversaw every aspect of the making of her films, from hiring talent and crew to overseeing the script, the shooting, the editing, to the final release and promotion of each project”. She demanded (and received) these powers in 1916, when she was under contract to Zukor’s Famous Players In Famous Plays (later Paramount). Zukor acquiesced to her refusal to participate in block-booking, the widespread practice of forcing an exhibitor to show a bad film of the studio’s choosing to also be able to show a Pickford film. In 1916, Pickford’s films were distributed, singly, through a special distribution unit called Artcraft. The Mary Pickford Corporation was briefly Pickford’s motion-picture production company.[29]

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Mary Pickford with her crew members

In 1919, she increased her power by co-founding United Artists (UA) with Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith, and her soon-to-be husband, Douglas Fairbanks. Before UA’s creation, Hollywood studios were vertically integrated, not only producing films but forming chains of theaters. Distributors (also part of the studios) arranged for company productions to be shown in the company’s movie venues. Filmmakers relied on the studios for bookings; in return they put up with what many considered creative interference.[citation needed]

 

United Artists broke from this tradition. It was solely a distribution company, offering independent film producers access to its own screens as well as the rental of temporarily unbooked cinemas owned by other companies. Pickford and Fairbanks produced and shot their films after 1920 at the jointly owned Pickford-Fairbanks studio on Santa Monica Boulevard. The producers who signed with UA were true independents, producing, creating and controlling their work to an unprecedented degree. As a co-founder, as well as the producer and star of her own films, Pickford became the most powerful woman who has ever worked in Hollywood. By 1930, Pickford’s acting career had largely faded.[24]

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Al Jolson, Mary Pickford, Ronald Colman, Gloria Swanson, Douglas Fairbanks, Joseph Schenck, Charlie Chaplin, Samuel Goldwyn and Eddie Cantor

After retiring three years later, however, she continued to produce films for United Artists. She and Chaplin remained partners in the company for decades. Chaplin left the company in 1955, and Pickford followed suit in 1956, selling her remaining shares for three million dollars.[29]

Madge Bellamy on Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and United Artists – Radio Interview – on Film Dialogue YouTube Channel

 

Personal life

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Pickford was married three times. She married Owen Moore, an Irish-born silent film actor, on January 7, 1911. It is rumored she became pregnant by Moore in the early 1910s and had a miscarriage or an abortion. Some accounts suggest this resulted in her later inability to have children.[1] The couple had numerous marital problems, notably Moore’s alcoholism, insecurity about living in the shadow of Pickford’s fame, and bouts of domestic violence. The couple lived together on-and-off for several years.[30]

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Mary Pickford with Owen Moore 1917

Pickford became secretly involved in a relationship with Douglas Fairbanks. They toured the U.S. together in 1918 to promote Liberty Bond sales for the World War I effort. Around this time, Pickford also suffered from the flu during the 1918 flu pandemic.[31] Pickford divorced Moore on March 2, 1920, after she agreed to his $100,000 demand for a settlement.[32]She married Fairbanks just days later on March 28, 1920. They went to Europe for their honeymoon; fans in London and in Paris caused riots trying to get to the famous couple. The couple’s triumphant return to Hollywood was witnessed by vast crowds who turned out to hail them at railway stations across the United States.

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Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks wedding day

The Mark of Zorro (1920) and a series of other swashbucklers gave the popular Fairbanks a more romantic, heroic image. Pickford continued to epitomize the virtuous but fiery girl next door. Even at private parties, people instinctively stood up when Pickford entered a room; she and her husband were often referred to as “Hollywood royalty”. Their international reputations were broad. Foreign heads of state and dignitaries who visited the White House often asked if they could also visit Pickfair, the couple’s mansion in Beverly Hills.[12]

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Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks at Pickfair

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Dinners at Pickfair included a number of notable guests. Charlie Chaplin, Fairbanks’ best friend, was often present. Other guests included George Bernard Shaw, Albert Einstein, Elinor Glyn, Helen Keller, H. G. Wells, Lord Mountbatten, Fritz Kreisler, Amelia Earhart, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Noël Coward, Max Reinhardt, Baron Nishi, Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko,[33] Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Austen Chamberlain, Sir Harry Lauder, and Meher Baba, among others.

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Special guests at Pickfair: Natalie Talmage, William S Hart, Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford’s mother, Joseph Schenck, Sidney ChaplinRudolph Valentino and others

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Mary Pickford with Frances Goldwyn, Samuel Goldwyn, John Abbott and Mary Pickford

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Mary Pickford with Paulette Goddard, Charlie Chaplin, Maria Christina Marconi and her husband Guglielmo Marconi at Pickfair 

The public nature of Pickford’s second marriage strained it to the breaking point. Both she and Fairbanks had little time off from producing and acting in their films. They were also constantly on display as America’s unofficial ambassadors to the world, leading parades, cutting ribbons, and making speeches.

When their film careers both began to flounder at the end of the silent era, Fairbanks’ restless nature prompted him to overseas travel (something which Pickford did not enjoy). When Fairbanks’ romance with Sylvia, Lady Ashley became public in the early 1930s, he and Pickford separated. They divorced January 10, 1936. Fairbanks’ son by his first wife, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., claimed his father and Pickford long regretted their inability to reconcile.[1]

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Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks

On June 24, 1937, Pickford married her third and last husband, actor and band leader Buddy Rogers. They adopted two children: Roxanne (born 1944, adopted 1944) and Ronald Charles (born 1937, adopted 1943, a.k.a. Ronnie Pickford Rogers). As a PBS American Experience documentary noted, Pickford’s relationship with her children was tense. She criticized their physical imperfections, including Ronnie’s small stature and Roxanne’s crooked teeth. Both children later said their mother was too self-absorbed to provide real maternal love. In 2003, Ronnie recalled that “Things didn’t work out that much, you know. But I’ll never forget her. I think that she was a good woman.”[34]

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Buddy Rogers and Mary Pickford wedding with Charles Chaplin and Paulette Goddard, 24th June 1937

Mary Pickford – Selection of Radio Interviews – 1938 – 1968 – on Film Dialogue YouTube Channel

Later years

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Mary Pickford later in life

After retiring from the screen, Pickford became an alcoholic, as her father had been. Her mother Charlotte died of breast cancer in March 1928. Her siblings, Lottie and Jack, both died of alcohol-related causes. These deaths, her divorce from Fairbanks, and the end of silent films left Pickford deeply depressed. Her relationship with her children, Roxanne and Ronald, was turbulent at best.
Pickford withdrew and gradually became a recluse, remaining almost entirely at Pickfair and allowing visits only from Lillian Gish, her stepson Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and few other people. She appeared in court in 1959, in a matter pertaining to her co-ownership of North Carolina TV station WSJS-TV. The court date coincided with the date of her 67th birthday; under oath, when asked to give her age, Pickford replied: “I’m 21, going on 20.”[35]
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Mary Pickford visiting WSJS TV – 30th September 1953

In the mid-1960s, Pickford often received visitors only by telephone, speaking to them from her bedroom. Buddy Rogers often gave guests tours of Pickfair, including views of a genuine western bar Pickford had bought for Douglas Fairbanks, and a portrait of Pickford in the drawing room. A print of this image now hangs in the Library of Congress.[29] In addition to her Oscar as best actress for Coquette (1929), Mary Pickford received an Academy Honorary Award in 1976 for lifetime achievement. The Academy sent a TV crew to her house to record her short statement of thanks – offering the public a very rare glimpse into Pickfair Manor.[36]

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Mary Pickford receiving an Academy Honorary Award in 1976

Pickford had become an American citizen upon her marriage to Fairbanks in 1920.[37] Toward the end of her life, Pickford made arrangements with the Department of Citizenship to regain her Canadian citizenship because she wished to “die as a Canadian”. Her request was approved and she became a dual Canadian-American citizen.[38][39]

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Mary Pickford with her Academy Honorary Award

Mary Pickford Documentary – American Hollywood History Documentary – watch it on Film Dialogue YouTube Channel

Death

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The tomb of actress Mary Pickford in the Garden of Memory, Forest Lawn Glendale

On May 29, 1979, Pickford died at a Santa Monica, California, hospital of complications from a cerebral hemorrhage she had suffered the week before.[40] She was interred in the Garden of Memory of the

She was interred in the Garden of Memory of the Forest Lawn Memorial Park cemetery in Glendale, California.

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Mary Pickford’s tomb in the Garden of Memory, Forest Lawn Glendale

Legacy

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Pickford’s handprints and footprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California

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Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study in Hollywood, California

 

You can watch many Mary Pickford documentary clips and audio recordings – on our YouTube Channel

https://www.youtube.com/filmdialogueone

  • Pickford was awarded a star in the category of motion pictures on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6280 Hollywood Blvd.[41]
  • Her handprints and footprints are displayed at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California.
  • Pickford Film Center in Bellingham, Washington is a three-screen, two-venue art house cinema dedicated to showing the best in independent, foreign and documentary film and world class performing arts in high definition.
  • The Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study at 1313 Vine Street in Hollywood, constructed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, opened in 1948 as a radio and television studio facility.
  • The Mary Pickford Theater at the James Madison Memorial Building of the Library of Congress is named in her honor.[29]
  • The Mary Pickford Auditorium at Claremont McKenna College is named in her honor.
  • A first-run movie theatre in Cathedral City, California, is called The Mary Pickford Theatre. The theater is a grand one with several screens and is built in the shape of a Spanish Cathedral, complete with bell tower and three-story lobby. The lobby contains a historic display with original artifacts belonging to Pickford and Buddy Rogers, her last husband. Among them are a rare and spectacular beaded gown she wore in the film Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (1924) designed by Mitchell Leisen, her special Oscar, and a jewelry box.[citation needed]
  • The 1980 stage musical The Biograph Girl, about the silent film era, features the character of Pickford.
  • In 2007, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences sued the estate of the deceased Buddy Rogers’ second wife, Beverly Rogers, in order to stop the public sale of one of Pickford’s Oscars.[42]
  • A bust and historical plaque marks her birthplace in Toronto, now the site of the Hospital for Sick Children.[43] The plaque was unveiled by her husband Buddy Rogers in 1973. The bust by artist Eino Gira was added ten years later.[44] Her date of birth on the plaque is April 8, 1893. This can only be assumed to be because her date of birth was never registered – and throughout her life, beginning as a child, she led many people to believe that she was a year younger so she would appear to be more of an acting prodigy and continue to be cast in younger roles, which were more plentiful in the theatre.[45]
  • The family home had been demolished in 1943, and many of the bricks delivered to Pickford in California. Proceeds from the sale of the property were donated by Pickford to build a bungalow in East York, Ontario, then a Toronto suburb. The bungalow was the first prize in a lottery in Toronto to benefit war charities, and Pickford unveiled the home on May 26, 1943.[46]
  • In 1993, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars was dedicated to her.[47]

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 Pickford’s star on the Walk of Fame in Toronto
  • Pickford received a posthumous star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in Toronto in 1999.
  • Pickford was featured on a Canadian postage stamp in 2006.[48]
  • From January 2011 until July 2011, the Toronto International Film Festival exhibited a collection of Mary Pickford memorabilia in the Canadian Film Gallery of the TIFF Bell LightBox building.[49]
  • In February 2011, the Spadina Museum, dedicated to the 1920s and 1930s era in Toronto, staged performances of Sweetheart: The Mary Pickford Story, a one-woman musical based on the life and career of Pickford.[50]
  • In 2013, a copy of an early Pickford film that was thought to be lost (Their First Misunderstanding) was found by Peter Massie, a carpenter tearing down an abandoned barn in New Hampshire. It was donated to Keene State College and is currently undergoing restoration by the Library of Congress for exhibition. The film is notable as being the first in which Pickford was credited by name.[51][52]
  • On August 29, 2014, while presenting Behind The Scenes (1914) at Cinecon, film historian Jeffrey Vance announced he is working with the Mary Pickford Foundation on what will be her official biography.
  • The Google Doodle of April 8, 2017 commemorates Mary Pickford’s 125th birthday.

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Filmography

See also

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Mary Pickford with Charles Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks

Mary Pickford Season is screening in our Cinematheque Live. Join us in viewing those rare classic films

https://filmdialogueone.wordpress.com/category/cinematheque-live/

Notes

A. ^ 211 University Avenue at the time of Mary Pickford’s birth was at the corner of University Avenue and Elm Street, now the location of the Hospital for Sick Children. University Avenue was later extended south of Queen Street and the addresses renumbered.

References

  1. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Whitfield, Eileen: Pickford: the Woman Who Made Hollywood (1997), pp. 8, 25, 28, 115, 125, 126, 131, 300, 376. University Press of Kentucky; ISBN 0-8131-2045-4
  2. Jump up^ Photoplay, Volume 18, Issues 2–6. Macfadden Publications. 1920. p. 99.
  3. Jump up^ Obituary Variety, May 30, 1979.
  4. Jump up^ Baldwin, Douglas; Baldwin, Patricia (2000). The 1930s. Weigl. p. 12. ISBN 1-896990-64-9.
  5. Jump up^ Flom, Eric L. (2009). Silent Film Stars on the Stages of Seattle: A History of Performances by Hollywood Notables. McFarland. p. 226. ISBN 0-7864-3908-4.
  6. ^ Jump up to:a b Sonneborn, Liz (2002). A to Z of American Women in the Performing Arts. Infobase. p. 166. ISBN 1-4381-0790-0.
  7. Jump up^ Kevin Brownlow (1968). The Parade’s Gone by ... University of California Press. p. 123. ISBN 9780520030688. I was baptized Gladys Marie by a French priest — Gladys Marie Smith. David Belasco settled on Pickford after I told him the various names in my family…
  8. Jump up^ Gladys Smith (Mary Pickford) was baptized in the Catholic faith at the age of four at her home by a visiting priest, books.google.com; accessed May 19, 2014
  9. Jump up^ name=”Whitfield”
  10. Jump up^ “Josiah Henson Historical Plaque”.
  11. Jump up^ Pictorial History of the American Theatre 1860–1985 by Daniel C. Blum, c. 1985
  12. ^ Jump up to:a b “Mary Pickford at Filmbug.”. Filmbug. Retrieved January 24, 2007.
  13. Jump up^ Mary Pickford, Sunshine and Shadow, Doubleday & Co., 1955, p. 10.
  14. Jump up^ Zonarich, Gene (2013-08-03). “FLORENCE LA BADIE, BECOMING”. 11 East 14th Street. Retrieved 2017-04-08.
  15. Jump up^ “Mary Pickford at Golden Silents.”. Golden Silents.com. Retrieved January 15, 2007.
  16. ^ Jump up to:a b c Brownlow, Kevin (May 1, 1999). Mary Pickford Rediscovered. Harry N. Abrams. pp. 86, 93. ISBN 978-0810943742.
  17. Jump up^ “Mary Pickford, Filmmaker” (PDF). Retrieved February 25, 2010.
  18. Jump up^ Lane, Christina (January 29, 2002). Mary Pickford. St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture. Retrieved January 11, 2009.
  19. Jump up^ “Timeline: Mary Pickford”. American Experience. PBS. July 23, 2004. Retrieved January 11, 2009.
  20. Jump up^ Balio 1985, p. 159
  21. Jump up^ The New York Times, October 29, 1925
  22. ^ Jump up to:a b c “Timeline: Mary Pickford”. American Experience. PBS. July 23, 2004. Retrieved January 11, 2009.
  23. Jump up^ People & Events: Mary Pickford, Fan Culture, PBS.org; accessed December 4, 2015.
  24. ^ Jump up to:a b c The Long Decline, PBS,org; accessed December 4, 2015.
  25. Jump up^ Andre Soares. “Mary Pickford Oscar Controversy”. Alt Film Guide.
  26. Jump up^ “Douglas Fairbanks profile”, pbs.org; accessed May 19, 2014.
  27. Jump up^ Ramon, David (1997). The Dodge Brothers Hour. Clío. ISBN 968-6932-35-6.
  28. Jump up^ McDonald, Paul (2000). The Star System: Hollywood’s Production of Popular Identities. London, UK: Wallflower. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-903364-02-4.
  29. ^ Jump up to:a b c d “Mary Pickford biography”. Retrieved January 24, 2007.
  30. Jump up^ Peggy Dymond Leavey, Mary Pickford: Canada’s Silent Siren, America’s Sweetheart. Dundurn Press (2011), pp. 80–81
  31. Jump up^ Kirsty Duncan (19 August 2006). Hunting the 1918 Flu: One Scientist’s Search for a Killer Virus. University of Toronto Press. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-8020-9456-8. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  32. Jump up^ Peggy Dymond Leavey, Mary Pickford: Canada’s Silent Siren, America’s Sweetheart. Dundurn Press (2011), p. 110
  33. Jump up^ Sergei Bertensson; Paul Fryer; Anna Shoulgat (2004). In Hollywood with Nemirovich-Danchenko, 1926–1927: the memoirs of Sergei Bertensson. Scarecrow Press. pp. 47–. ISBN 978-0-8108-4988-4. Retrieved July 19, 2010.
  34. Jump up^ “Buddy Rogers, Mary Pickford and Their Children”. American Experience. Retrieved August 26, 2007.
  35. Jump up^ “Mary Pickford “Going On 20″ (Or Is It 66?)”, The Ottawa Citizen, April 11, 1959, p. 18
  36. Jump up^ The 48th Annual Academy Awards. March 29, 1976.
  37. Jump up^ “Mary Pickford Files TV Bid”. Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc.: 14 April 30, 1949. ISSN 0006-2510.
  38. Jump up^ Colombo, John Robert (2011). Fascinating Canada: A Book of Questions and Answers. Dundurn. p. 20. ISBN 1-554-88923-5.
  39. Jump up^ “City, fans honor Mary Pickford”. The Leader-Post. May 18, 1983. pp. D–8. Retrieved November 26, 2012.
  40. Jump up^ “Mary Pickford Is Dead At 86”. The Palm Beach Post. May 30, 1979. Retrieved 26 November 2012.[dead link]
  41. Jump up^ “Mary Pickford – Hollywood Walk of Fame”.
  42. Jump up^ Siderious, Christina (September 1, 2007). “The Oscar goes to … Court”. The Seattle Times.; September 1, 2007.
  43. Jump up^ “Mary Pickford Historical Plaque”. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
  44. Jump up^ Filey, Mike (2002). A Toronto Album 2: More Glimpses of the City That Was. Dundurn Press Ltd. p. 9.
  45. Jump up^ “ARCHIVED – Mary Pickford – Celebrating Women’s Achievements”. Collectionscanada.gc.ca. Retrieved February 15, 2014.
  46. Jump up^ “Yardwork at the Mary Pickford Bungalow”. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
  47. Jump up^ “Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated”(PDF). Retrieved February 15, 2014.
  48. Jump up^ “Canadians in Hollywood”. Canada Post. May 26, 2006.
  49. Jump up^ “TIFF: Films – Winter Calendar”. Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
  50. Jump up^ “America’s Sweetheart Home in Toronto”. Torontoist. Retrieved November 16, 2016.
  51. Jump up^ “Lost Mary Pickford movie discovered in N.H. barn”. CBS News. September 24, 2013. Retrieved February 15, 2014.
  52. Jump up^ “Mary Pickford Film ‘Their First Misunderstanding’ Found In Barn Is Restored”. Huffingtonpost.com. September 24, 2013. Retrieved February 15, 2014.

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Further reading

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Mary Pickford and her husband Douglas Fairbanks on a visit to Toronto in the 1920s

Little American (1917)


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Mary Pickford Season: FD Cinematheque

Little American (1917)

 

Director: Cecil B DeMille (uncredited) and Joseph Levering (uncredited)

Cast: Mary Pickford, Jack Holt, Raymond Hatton, Hobart Bosworth, Walter Long, James Neill, Ben Alexander, Guy Oliver, Edythe Chapman, Lillian Leighton, DeWitt Jennings, Wallace Beery (uncredited), Olive Corbett, Lucille Dorrington, Colleen Moore (uncredited), Ramon Novarro (uncredited), Sam Wood (uncredited)

80 minutes

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Little American The 1917 5

 

 

The Little American is a 1917 American silent romantic war drama film directed by Cecil B. DeMille. The film stars Mary Pickford (who also served as producer) as an American woman who is in love with both a German and a French soldier during World War I. A print of the film is housed at the UCLA Film and Television Archive and has been released on DVD.[2]

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Plot

Karl Von Austreim (Jack Holt) lives in America with his German father and American mother. He notices a young lady, Angela More (Mary Pickford). As she is celebrating her birthday on the Fourth of July of 1914, she receives flowers from the French Count Jules De Destin (Raymond Hatton). They are interrupted by Karl, who also gives her a present. They soon battle for Angela’s attention. To lose his competition, Count Jules arranges for Karl to be sent to Hamburg, where he will have to join his regiment. Angela is crushed when he announces he has to leave. The next day, Angela reads in the paper the Germans and French are at war and 10,000 Germans have been killed already.

Three months pass by without a word from Karl. Karl is wounded in the fighting. Word spreads that Germany will sink any ship which is thought to be carrying munitions to the Allies. Angela is aboard one of those ships when it is hit. Angela saves herself by climbing on a floating table and begging the attackers not to fire on the passengers. Angela is eventually rescued.

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After weeks of ceaseless hammering from the German guns, the French fall back on Vangy. Angela arrives in Vangy as well to visit her aunt, only to discover she has died. The Old Prussians are bombing the city and Angela is requested to flee. However, she is determined to stay to nurse the wounded soldiers. Meanwhile, the Germans enter the chateau with the intention of getting drunk and enjoying themselves with the young women. A French soldier tries to help Angela escape, but she is unwilling to. He next asks her to let a French soldier spy on the Germans and inform the French via a secret hidden telephone. Angela is afraid, but gives them permission.

The Germans are intent on raping Angela, who is the only person in the mansion not to be hidden. She reveals herself to be an American to save herself, but they do not believe her. Angela attempts to run away and hide, but is discovered by a German soldier who turns out to be Karl. Angela orders him to save the other women in the house, but Karl responds he cannot give orders to his fellow Germans. She realizes there is nothing she can do. With permission to leave the mansion, she witnesses the execution of the French soldiers. She is heartbroken and decides to go back in for revenge.

Angela secretly calls the French with the hidden telephone and informs them that there are three gun holders near the chateau. The French prepare themselves and attack the Germans. The Germans realize someone is giving the French information and Karl catches Angela. He tries to help her escape, but they are caught. The commander orders that Angela be shot. When Karl tries to save her, he is to sentenced to be executed as well for treason. As the couple face death, the French bomb the mansion, enabling Angela and Karl to escape. They are too weak to run and collapse near a statue of Jesus. The next day, they are found by French soldiers. They initially want to shoot Karl, but Angela begs them to set him free. They eventually allow her to fly back to America with Karl by her side as a German prisoner.

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Cast

Reception

Although the United States had entered World War I and declared war on Germany earlier in 1917, the Chicago Board of Censors initially blocked exhibition of the film in that city, calling it anti-German and suggesting that showing it could start a riot.[3] Artcraft challenged the Board in state court and, after a jury trial, the refusal of the board to issue a permit despite a court order, and the denial of a second appeal by the board, won the right to show the film in Chicago.[4]

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See also

References

  1. ^ Jump up to:a b Birchard, Robert S. (2009). “25”. Cecil B. DeMille’s Hollywood. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-813-13829-9.
  2. Jump up^ The Little American at the silentera.com database
  3. Jump up^ “Chicago Censors Call “Little American” Anti-German and Block Exhibition”. Exhibitors Herald. New York City: Exhibitors Herald Company. 5 (3): 13. 14 July 1917. Retrieved 2014-11-07.
  4. Jump up^ “Pickford Film Wins in Chicago Over Funkhouser”. Exhibitors Herald. New York City: Exhibitors Herald Company. 5 (6): 17. 8 August 1917. Retrieved 2014-11-07.

Little American The 1917 12

David Wark Griffith


D. W. Griffith
DW Griffith 2
Born David Wark Griffith
January 22, 1875
Oldham County, Kentucky, U.S.
Died July 23, 1948 (aged 73)
Hollywood, California, U.S.
Cause of death Cerebral hemorrhage
Resting place Mount Tabor Methodist Church Graveyard,
Centerfield, Kentucky, U.S.
Occupation Director, writer, producer
Years active 1908–1931
Spouse(s) Linda Arvidson (m. 1906; div. 1936)
Evelyn Baldwin (m. 1936; div. 1947)

David WarkD. W.Griffith (January 22, 1875 – July 23, 1948)[1] was an American director, writer, and producer who pioneered modern filmmaking techniques.

Griffith is best remembered for The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916).[2]The Birth of a Nation made use of advanced camera and narrative techniques, and its popularity set the stage for the dominance of the feature-length film in the United States. Since its release, the film has sparked significant controversy surrounding race in the United States,[3][4] focusing on its negative depiction of African Americans and its glorification of the Ku Klux Klan. Today, it is both noted for its radical technique and condemned for its inherently racist philosophy.[1] The film was subject to boycotts by the NAACP and, after screenings of the film had caused riots at several theaters, the film was censored in many cities, including New York City. Intolerance, his next film, was, in part, an answer to his critics.[1]

Several of Griffith’s later films, including Broken Blossoms (1919), Way Down East (1920), and Orphans of the Storm (1921), were also successful, but his high production, promotional, and roadshow costs often made his ventures commercial failures. By the time of his final feature, The Struggle (1931), he had made roughly 500 films.[2]

Griffith is one of the founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and widely considered among the most important figures in the history of cinema. He is credited with popularizing the use of the close-up shot.[5]

Early life

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Griffith (c. 1907)

Griffith was born on a farm in Oldham County, Kentucky, the son of Mary Perkins (néeOglseby) and Jacob Wark “Roaring Jake” Griffith.[7] Jacob was a Confederate Army colonel in the American Civil War and was elected as a Kentucky state legislator. Griffith was raised a Methodist.[8] He attended a one-room schoolhouse where he was taught by his older sister, Mattie. After his father died when he was ten, the family struggled with poverty.

When Griffith was 14, his mother abandoned the farm and moved the family to Louisville, where she opened a boarding house. It failed shortly after. Griffith then left high school to help support the family, taking a job in a dry goods store and later in a bookstore. Griffith began his creative career as an actor in touring companies. Meanwhile, he was learning how to become a playwright, but had little success—only one of his plays was accepted for a performance.[9] Griffith then decided to become an actor, and appeared in many films as an extra.[10]

Griffith began making short films in 1908, and released his first feature film, Judith of Bethulia, in 1914. A few years earlier, in 1907, Griffith, still struggling as a playwright, traveled to New York in an attempt to sell a script to Edison Studios producer Edwin Porter.[9] Porter rejected Griffith’s script, but gave him an acting part in Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest instead.[9]

Finding this attractive, Griffith began to explore a career as an actor in the motion picture business.

Film career

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Griffith on the set of Birth of a Nation (1915) with actor Henry Walthall and others.

In 1908, Griffith accepted a role as a stage extra in Professional Jealousy for the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, commonly known as Biograph, where he would meet his future, favorite cameraman, G. W. “Billy” Bitzer. At Biograph, Griffith’s career in the film industry would change forever.[11] In 1908, Biograph’s main director Wallace McCutcheon grew ill, and his son, Wallace McCutcheon, Jr., took his place.[12] McCutcheon, Jr., however, was not able to bring the studio any success.[11] As a result, Biograph co-founder, Henry “Harry” Marvin, decided to give Griffith the position;[11] and the young man made his first short movie for the company, The Adventures of Dollie. Griffith would end up directing forty-eight shorts for the company that year.

His short In Old California (1910) was the first film shot in Hollywood, California. Four years later he produced and directed his first feature film Judith of Bethulia (1914), one of the earliest to be produced in the United States. At the time, Biograph believed that longer features were not viable. According to actress Lillian Gish, the company thought that “a movie that long would hurt [the audience’s] eyes”.[13]

Because of company resistance to his goals, and his cost overruns on the film (it cost $30,000 to produce), Griffith left Biograph. He took his stock company of actors with him and joined the Mutual Film Corporation. He formed a studio with the Majestic Studio manager Harry Aitken;[14] it became known as Reliance-Majestic Studios (and was later renamed Fine Arts Studio).[15] His new production company became an autonomous production unit partner in Triangle Film Corporation along with Thomas Ince and Keystone StudiosMack Sennett; the Triangle Film Corporation was headed by Griffith’s partner Harry Aitken, who was released from the Mutual Film Corporation,[14] and his brother Roy.

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Birth of a Nation (1915), perhaps the most famous silent movie directed by Griffith and considered a landmark by film historians. Adapted for the screen by Griffith and Frank E. Woods, based on the novel and play The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan by Thomas Dixon, Jr.. Collection National Film Registry.

Through Reliance-Majestic Studios, Griffith directed and produced The Clansman (1915), which would later be known as The Birth of a Nation. Historically, The Birth of a Nation is considered important by film historians as one of the first feature length American films (most previous films had been less than one hour long), and it changed the industry’s standard in a way still influential today.[16]Although the film was a success it also aroused much controversy due to its depiction of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, and race relations in both the Civil War and the Reconstruction era.

Like its source material, Thomas Dixon, Jr.‘s 1905 novel The Clansman, it depicts Southern pre-Civil War slavery as benign, the enfranchisement of freedmen as a corrupt Republican plot, and the Klan as a band of heroes restoring the rightful order. This view of the era was popular at the time, and was endorsed by historians of the Dunning School for decades, although it met with strong criticism from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other groups.

The NAACP attempted to stop showings of the film; while they were successful in some cities, it was shown widely and became the most successful box office attraction of its time. Considered among the first “blockbuster” motion pictures, it broke virtually all box office records that had been set up to that point. “They lost track of the money it made”, Lillian Gish once remarked in a Kevin Brownlow interview.[citation needed] Some[who?] have speculated that an adjustment of box office earnings for inflation would confirm it as the most profitable movie of all time.

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The first million dollar partners: Fairbanks, Pickford, Chaplin and Griffith.
Intolerance (1916), the second most famous silent movie directed by Griffith who co-wrote the screenplay with Frank E. Woods, Hettie Grey Baker, Tod Browning, Anita Loos and Mary H. O’Connor. Collection National Film Registry.

Among the people who profited by the film was Louis B. Mayer, who bought the rights to distribute The Birth of a Nation in New England. With the money he made, he was able to begin his career as a producer that culminated in the creation of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios.

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After seeing the film, which was filled with action and violence, audiences in some major northern cities rioted over the film’s racial content.[17] In his next film, Intolerance, Griffith believed he was responding to critics. He portrayed the effects of intolerance in four different historical periods: the Fall of Babylon; the Crucifixion of Jesus; the events surrounding the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre (during religious persecution of French Huguenots); and a modern story. During its release Intolerance was not a financial success; although it had good box office turn-outs, the film did not bring in enough profits to cover the lavish road show that accompanied it.[18] Griffith put a huge budget into the film’s production, which could not be recovered in its box office.[19] He mostly financed Intolerence, contributing to his financial ruin for the rest of his life.[20]

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Griffith’s Intolerance

When his production partnership was dissolved in 1917, Griffith went to Artcraft (part of Paramount), then to First National (1919–1920). At the same time he founded United Artists, together with Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks. At United Artists, Griffith continued to make films, but never could achieve box office grosses as high as either The Birth of a Nation or Intolerance.[21] He was also a producer on the 1915 film Martyrs of the Alamo.

Later film career

Though United Artists survived as a company, Griffith’s association with it was short-lived. While some of his later films did well at the box office, commercial success often eluded him. Griffith features from this period include Broken Blossoms (1919), Way Down East (1920), Orphans of the Storm (1921), Dream Street (1921), One Exciting Night (1922) and America (1924). Of these, the first three were successes at the box office.[22] Griffith was forced to leave United Artists after Isn’t Life Wonderful (1924) failed at the box office.

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United Artists founders, Griffith, Pickford, Chaplin, and Fairbanks sign their contract for the cameras (1919).

He made a part-talkie, Lady of the Pavements (1929), and only two full-sound films, Abraham Lincoln (1930) and The Struggle (1931). Neither was successful, and after The Struggle he never made another film.

In 1936, director Woody Van Dyke, who had worked as Griffith’s apprentice on Intolerance, asked Griffith to help him shoot the famous earthquake sequence for San Francisco, but did not give him any film credit. Starring Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald and Spencer Tracy, it was the top-grossing film of the year.[citation needed]

In 1939, the producer Hal Roach hired Griffith to produce Of Mice and Men (1939) and One Million B.C. (1940). He wrote to Griffith: “I need help from the production side to select the proper writers, cast, etc. and to help me generally in the supervision of these pictures.”[23]

Although Griffith eventually disagreed with Roach over the production and parted, Roach later insisted that some of the scenes in the completed film were directed by Griffith. This would make the film the final production in which Griffith was actively involved. But, cast members’ accounts recall Griffith directing only the screen tests and costume tests. When Roach advertised the film in late 1939 with Griffith listed as producer, Griffith asked that his name be removed.[24]

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Mostly forgotten by movie-goers of the time, Griffith was held in awe by many in the film industry. In the mid-1930s, he was given a special Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 1946, he made an impromptu visit to the film location of David O. Selznick‘s epic western Duel in the Sun, where some of his veteran actors, Lillian Gish, Lionel Barrymore and Harry Carey, were cast members. Gish and Barrymore found their old mentor’s presence distracting and became self-conscious. While the two were filming their scenes, Griffith hid behind set scenery.[25]

Death

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On the morning of July 23, 1948, Griffith was discovered unconscious in the lobby at the Knickerbocker Hotel in Los Angeles, California, where he had been living alone. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage at 3:42 PM on the way to a Hollywood hospital.[2] A large public service was held in his honor at the Hollywood Masonic Temple, but few stars came to pay their last respects. He is buried at Mount Tabor Methodist Church Graveyard in Centerfield, Kentucky.[26] In 1950, The Directors Guild of America provided a stone and bronze monument for his gravesite.[27]

Legacy 

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Performer Charlie Chaplin called Griffith “The Teacher of us All”. Filmmakers such as John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock[28]Orson Welles, Lev Kuleshov,[29]Jean Renoir,[30]Cecil B. DeMille,[31]King Vidor,[32]Victor Fleming,[33]Raoul Walsh,[34]Carl Theodor Dreyer,[35]Sergei Eisenstein,[36] and Stanley Kubrick have spoken of their respect for the director of Intolerance. Welles said “I have never really hated Hollywood except for its treatment of D. W. Griffith. No town, no industry, no profession, no art form owes so much to a single
man.”[37    
Stamp issued by the United States Postal Service commemorating D. W. Griffith

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Griffith’s Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6535 Hollywood Blvd.

Griffith seems to have been the first to understand how certain film techniques could be used to create an expressive language; it gained popular recognition with the release of his The Birth of a Nation (1915). His early shorts—such as Biograph’s The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912), the first “gangster film”—show that Griffith’s attention to camera placement and lighting heightened mood and tension. In making Intolerance, the director opened up new possibilities for the medium, creating a form that seems to owe more to music than to traditional narrative.

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  • In the 1951 Philco Television Playhouse episode “The Birth of the Movies”, events from Griffith’s film career were depicted. Griffith was played by John Newland.
  • In 1953, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) instituted the D. W. Griffith Award, its highest honor. On December 15, 1999, DGA President Jack Shea and the DGA National Board announced that the award would be renamed as the “DGA Lifetime Achievement Award”. They stated that, although Griffith was extremely talented, they felt his film The Birth of a Nation had “helped foster intolerable racial stereotypes”, and that it was thus better not to have the top award in his name.
  • In 1975, Griffith was honored on a ten-cent postage stamp by the United States.
  • D.W. Griffith Middle School in Los Angeles is named after Griffith.[38] Because of the association of Griffith and the racist nature of The Birth of a Nation, attempts have been made to rename the 100% minority-enrolled school.[39]
  • In 2008 the Hollywood Heritage Museum hosted a screening of Griffith’s earliest films, to commemorate the centennial of his start in film.[40]
  • On January 22, 2009 the Oldham History Center in La Grange, Kentucky opened a 15-seat theatre in Griffith’s honor. The theatre features a library of available Griffith films.

Film preservation

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Griffith has five films preserved in the United States National Film Registry deemed as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” These are Lady Helen’s Escapade (1909), A Corner in Wheat (1909), The Birth of a Nation (1915), Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916), and Broken Blossoms (1919).

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See also

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References

  1. ^ Jump up to:a b c “D.W. Griffith”. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  2. ^ Jump up to:a b c “David W. Griffith, Film Pioneer, Dies; Producer Of ‘Birth Of Nation,’ ‘Intolerance’ And ‘America’ Made Nearly 500 Pictures Set, Screen Standards Co-Founder Of United Artists Gave Mary Pickford And Fairbanks Their Starts.”. The New York Times. July 24, 1948.
  3. Jump up^ “‘The Birth of a Nation’: When Hollywood Glorified the KKK | HistoryNet”. HistoryNet. Retrieved February 27, 2016.
  4. Jump up^ Brooks, Xan (July 29, 2013). “The Birth of a Nation: a gripping masterpiece … and a stain on history”. The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved February 27, 2016.
  5. Jump up^ “D.W. Griffith”. Senses of Cinema. Retrieved February 27, 2016.
  6. Jump up^ “History of the Close Up in film”.
  7. Jump up^ “D. W. Griffith (1875-1948)”. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  8. Jump up^ Blizek, William L. (2009). The Continuum Companion to Religion and Film. A&C Black. p. 126. ISBN 0-826-49991-0.
  9. ^ Jump up to:a b c “D. W. Griffith”. Spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk. Archived from the originalon June 5, 2011. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
  10. Jump up^ “American Experience | Mary Pickford”. PBS. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
  11. ^ Jump up to:a b c “D.W. Griffith Biography”. Starpulse.com. July 23, 1948. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
  12. Jump up^ “Who’s Who of Victorian Cinema”. Victorian-cinema.net. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
  13. Jump up^ Kirsner, Scott (2008). Inventing the movies : Hollywood’s epic battle between innovation and the status quo, from Thomas Edison to Steve Jobs (1st ed.). [s.l.]: CinemaTech Books. p. 13. ISBN 1438209991.
  14. ^ Jump up to:a b “D. W. Griffith: Hollywood Independent”. Cobbles.com. June 26, 1917. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
  15. Jump up^ “Fine Arts Studio”. Employees.oxy.edu. June 9, 1917. Archived from the original on May 14, 2011. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
  16. Jump up^ MJ Movie Reviews – Birth of a Nation, The (1915) by Dan DeVore ArchivedJuly 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. Jump up^ “The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow . Jim Crow Stories . The Birth of a Nation”. PBS. March 21, 1915. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
  18. Jump up^ “”Griffith’s 20 Year Record”, ”Variety” (September 25, 1928), as edited by David Pierce for ”The Silent Film Bookshelf,” on line”. Cinemaweb.com. September 5, 1928. Archived from the original on July 12, 2011. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
  19. Jump up^ “Intolerance Movie Review”. Contactmusic.com. May 29, 2011. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
  20. Jump up^ Georges Sadoul (1972 [1965]). Dictionary of Films, P. Morris, ed. & trans., p. 158. University of California Press.
  21. Jump up^ “American Masters . D.W. Griffith”. PBS. December 29, 1998. Retrieved June 5, 2011.
  22. Jump up^ “Last Dissolve”. Time Magazine. August 2, 1948. Retrieved August 14, 2008.
  23. Jump up^ Richard Lewis Ward, A History of the Hal Roach Studios, p. 109-110. Southern Illinois University, 2005. ISBN 0-8093-2637-X. In his Biograph days, Griffith had directed two films with prehistoric settings: Man’s Genesis (1912) and Brute Force (1914).
  24. Jump up^ Ward, p. 110.
  25. Jump up^ Green, Paul (2011). Jennifer Jones: The Life and Films. McFarland. p. 69. ISBN 0-786-48583-3.
  26. Jump up^ Schickel, Richard (1996). D.W. Griffith: An American Life. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 31. ISBN 0-879-10080-X.
  27. Jump up^ Schickel 1996 p. 605
  28. Jump up^ Leitch, Thomas; Poague, Leland (2011). A Companion to Alfred Hitchcock. John Wiley & Sons. p. 50. ISBN 1-444-39731-1.
  29. Jump up^ “Landmarks of Early Soviet Film”. Retrieved October 18, 2012.[permanent dead link]
  30. Jump up^ “Jean Renoir Biography”. biography.yourdictionary.com. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
  31. Jump up^ “Movie Review: Restored ‘Intolerance’ Launches Festival of Preservation”. latimes.com. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
  32. Jump up^ “Overview for King Vidor”. tcm.com. Retrieved October 18, 2012.
  33. Jump up^ “Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master”. Archived from the original on September 14, 2013. Retrieved April 24, 2013.
  34. Jump up^ Moss, Marilyn (2011). Raoul Walsh: The True Adventures of Hollywood’s Legendary Director. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 181, 242. ISBN 0-813-13394-7.
  35. Jump up^ “Matinee Classics – Carl Dreyer Biography & Filmography”. matineeclassics.com. Archived from the original on December 15, 2013. Retrieved October 9, 2012.
  36. Jump up^ “Sergei Eisenstein – Biography”. leninimports.com. Retrieved October 9, 2012.
  37. Jump up^ “MintyTees @ Amazon.com: vintage/celebrities/directors/dw_griffith/details/”. Archived from the original on December 15, 2013.
  38. Jump up^ “Griffith Middle School: Home Page”. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  39. Jump up^ “Petition calls for Griffith Middle School name change over racism – LA School Report”. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  40. Jump up^ “Hollywood Heritage”. Hollywood Heritage. Retrieved June 5, 2011.

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Further reading

  • David W. Menefee, Sweet Memories (Dallas, Texas: Menefee Publishing Inc., 2012)
  • Lillian Gish, The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me (Englewood, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1969)
  • Karl Brown, Adventures with D. W. Griffith (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973)
  • Richard Schickel, D. W. Griffith: An American Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984)
  • Robert M. Henderson, D. W. Griffith: His Life and Work (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972)
  • William M. Drew, D. W. Griffith’s “Intolerance:” Its Genesis and Its Vision (Jefferson, New Jersey: McFarland & Company, 1986)
  • Kevin Brownlow, The Parade’s Gone By (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1968)
  • Seymour Stern, An Index to the Creative Work of D. W. Griffith, (London: The British Film Institute, 1944–47)
  • David Robinson, Hollywood in the Twenties (New York: A. S. Barnes & Co, Inc., 1968)
  • Edward Wagenknecht and Anthony Slide, The Films of D. W. Griffith (New York: Crown, 1975)
  • William K. Everson, American Silent Film (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978)
  • Smith, Matthew (April 2008). “American Valkyries: Richard Wagner, D. W. Griffith, and the Birth of Classical Cinema”. Modernism/modernity. 15 (2): 221–42. Retrieved September 14, 2014.
  • Iris Barry and Eileen Bowser, D. W. Griffith: American Film Master (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1965)
  • Drew, William M. “D.W. Griffith (1875–1948)”. Retrieved July 31, 2007.

External links

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Silent Cinema


Silent film

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A silent film is a film with no synchronized recorded sound, especially with no spoken dialogue. The silent film era lasted from 1895 to 1936. In silent films for entertainment, the dialogue is transmitted through muted gestures, mime and title cards which contain a written indication of the plot or key dialogue. The idea of combining motion pictures with recorded sound is nearly as old as film itself, but because of the technical challenges involved, synchronized dialogue was only made practical in the late 1920s with the perfection of the Audion amplifier tube and the introduction of the Vitaphone system. During silent films, a pianist, theatre organist, or, in large cities, even a small orchestra would often play music to accompany the films. Pianists and organists would either play from sheet music or improvise; an orchestra would play from sheet music.

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The term silent filmis therefore a retronym—that is, a term created to distinguish something retroactively. The early films with sound, starting with The Jazz Singer in 1927, were referred to as “talkies“, “sound films”, or “talking pictures”. Within a decade, popular widespread production of silent films had ceased and production moved into the sound era, in which movies were accompanied by synchronized sound recordings of spoken dialogue, music and sound effects.

A September 2013 report by the United States Library of Congress announced that a total of 70% of American silent feature films are believed to be completely lost.[1] There are numerous reasons for the loss of so many silent films, three chief causes being: (a) intentional destruction by film studios after the silent era ended, (b) damage due to environmental degradation of the films themselves, and (c) fires in the vaults in which studios stored their films.

Elements (1895 – 1936)

Roundhay Garden Scene 1

Roundhay Garden Scene 1888, the first known celluloid film recorded. The elderly lady in black was filmmaker Louis Le Prince’s mother-in-law and she died a week after this scene was taken.

The earliest precursors of film began with image projection through the use of a device known as the magic lantern. This utilized a glass lens, a shutter and a persistent light source, such as a powerful lantern, to project images from glass slides onto a wall. These slides were originally hand-painted, but stillphotographs were used later on after the technological advent of photography in the nineteenth century. The invention of a practical photography apparatus preceded cinema by only fifty years.[2]

The next significant step towards film creation was the development of an understanding of image movement. Simulations of movement date as far back as to 1828 and only four years after Paul Roget discovered the phenomenon he called “Persistence of Vision“. Roget showed that when a series of still images are shown at a considerable speed in front of a viewer’s eye, the images merge into one registered image that appears to show movement, an optical illusion, since the image is not actually moving. This experience was further demonstrated through Roget’s introduction of the thaumatrope, a device which spun a disk with an image on its surface at a fairly high rate of speed.[2]

The three features necessary for motion pictures to work were “a camera with sufficiently high shutter speed, a filmstrip capable of taking multiple exposures swiftly, and means of projecting the developed images on a screen.” [3] The first projected primary proto-movie was made by Eadweard Muybridge between 1877 and 1880. Muybridge set up a row of cameras along a racetrack and timed image exposures to capture the many stages of a horse’s gallop. The oldest surviving film (of the genera called “pictorial realism”) was created by Louis Le Prince in 1888. It was a two-second film of people walking in “Oakwood streets” garden, entitled Roundhay Garden Scene.[4] The development of American inventor Thomas Edison‘s Kinetograph, a photographic device that captured sequential images, and his Kinetoscope, a viewing device for these photos, allowed for the creation and exhibition of short films. Edison also made a business of selling Kinetograph and Kinetoscope equipment, which laid the foundation for widespread film production.[2]

Due to Edison’s lack of securing an international patent on his film inventions, similar devices were “invented” around the world. The Lumière brothers (Louis and Auguste Lumière), for example, created the Cinématographe in France. The Cinématographe proved to be a more portable and practical device than both of Edison’s as it combined a camera, film processor and projector in one unit.[2] In contrast to Edison’speepshow“-style kinetoscope, which only one person could watch through a viewer, the cinematograph allowed simultaneous viewing by multiple people. Their first film, Sortie de l’usine Lumière de Lyon, shot in 1894, is considered the first true motion picture.[5] The invention of celluloid film, which was strong and flexible, greatly facilitated the making of motion pictures (although the celluloid was highly flammable and decayed quickly).[3] This film was 35 mm wide and pulled using four sprocket holes, which became the industry standard. This doomed the cinematograph, which could only use film with just one sprocket hole.[6]

From the very beginnings of film production, the art of motion pictures grew into full maturity in the “silent era” (1894–1929). In artistic innovation alone, the height of the silent era from the early 1910s to the late 1920s was a fruitful period in the history of film — the film movements of Classical Hollywood, French Impressionism, German Expressionism, and Soviet Montage began in this period. Silent filmmakers pioneered the art form to the extent that virtually every style and genre of film-making of the 20th century had its artistic roots in the silent era. The silent era was also pioneering era from a technical point of view. Lighting techniques such as three point lighting, visual techniques such as the close-up, long shot, panning, and continuity editing became prevalent long before silent films were replaced by “talking pictures” in the late 1920s. Film scholars and movie buffs claim that the artistic quality of cinema decreased for several years, during the early 1930s, until film directors, actors, and production staff adapted fully to the new “talkies” around the late 1930s.[7]

Battle of Chemulpo Bay 1

An early film, depicting a re-enactment of the Battle of Chemulpo Bay (Film produced in 1904 by Edison Studios)

The visual quality of silent movies—especially those produced in the 1920s—was often high. However, there is a widely held misconception that these films were primitive and barely watchable by modern standards.[8] This misconception comes from the general public’s unfamiliarity with the medium and technical carelessness. Most silent films are poorly preserved, leading to their deterioration, and well-preserved films are often played back at the wrong speed or suffer from censorship cuts and missing frames and scenes, resulting in what may appear to be poor editing.[citation needed]Many silent films exist only in second- or third-generation copies, often copied from already damaged and neglected film stock.[7]

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Another widely held misconception was that silent films lacked color. In fact, color was far more prevalent in silents than in sound films for decades. By the early 1920s 80% of movies could be seen in color, usually in the form of film tinting or toning (i.e. colorization) but also with real color processes such as Kinemacolor and Technicolor.[9] Traditional colorization processes ceased with the adoption of sound-on-film technology. Traditional film colorization, all of which involved the use of dyes in some form, interfered with the high resolution required for built-in recorded sound, and thus were abandoned. The innovative three-strip technicolor process introduced in the mid-30s was costly and fraught with limitations, and color would not have the same prevalence in film as it did in the silents for nearly four decades.

Intertitles

Lodger 1
Alice
Brandon
Christmas
Whistling
As motion pictures eventually increased in length, a replacement was needed for the in-house interpreter who would explain parts of the film to the audience. Because silent films had no synchronized sound for dialogue, onscreen intertitles were used to narrate story points, present key dialogue and sometimes even comment on the action for the cinema audience. The title writer became a key professional in silent film and was often separate from the scenario writer who created the story. Intertitles (or titles as they were generally called at the time) often became graphic elements themselves, featuring illustrations or abstract decoration that commented on the action.[citation needed]

Live music and sound

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Showings of silent films almost always featured live music, starting with the guitarist, at the first public projection of movies by the Lumière Brothers on December 28, 1895 in Paris. This was furthered in 1896 by the first motion picture exhibition in the United States at Koster and Bial’s Music Hall in New York City. At this event, Edison set the precedent that all exhibitions should be accompanied by an orchestra.[10]From the beginning, music was recognized as essential, contributing to the atmosphere and giving the audience vital emotional cues. (Musicians sometimes played on film sets during shooting for similar reasons.)

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However, depending on the size of the exhibition site, musical accompaniment could drastically change in size.[2]Small town and neighborhood movie theatres usually had a pianist. Beginning in the mid-1910s, large city theaters tended to have organists or ensembles of musicians. Massive theater organs were designed to fill a gap between a simple piano soloist and a larger orchestra. Theatre organs had a wide range of special effects; theatrical organs such as the famous “Mighty Wurlitzer” could simulate some orchestral sounds along with a number of percussion effects such as bass drums and cymbals and sound effects ranging from galloping horses to rolling rain.

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Film scores for early silent films were either improvised or compiled of classical or theatrical repertory music. Once full features became commonplace, however, music was compiled from photoplay music by the pianist, organist, orchestra conductor or the movie studio itself, which included a cue sheet with the film. These sheets were often lengthy, with detailed notes about effects and moods to watch for. Starting with the mostly original score composed by Joseph Carl Breil for D. W. Griffith‘s groundbreaking epic The Birth of a Nation (USA, 1915) it became relatively common for the biggest-budgeted films to arrive at the exhibiting theater with original, specially composed scores.[11] However, the first designated full blown scores were composed earlier, in 1908, by Camille Saint-Saëns, for The Assassination of the Duke of Guise,[12] and by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov, for Stenka Razin.

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When organists or pianists used sheet music, they still might add improvisational flourishes to heighten the drama on screen. Even when special effects were not indicated in the score, if an organist was playing a theater organ capable of an unusual sound effect, such as a “galloping horses” effect, it would be used for dramatic horseback chases.

By the height of the silent era, movies were the single largest source of employment for instrumental musicians (at least in America). But the introduction of talkies, which happened simultaneously with the onset of the Great Depression, was devastating to many musicians.

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Some countries devised other ways of bringing sound to silent films. The early cinema of Brazil featured fitas cantatas: filmed operettas with singers performing behind the screen.[13] In Japan, films had not only live music but also the benshi, a live narrator who provided commentary and character voices. The benshi became a central element in Japanese film, as well as providing translation for foreign (mostly American) movies.[14] The popularity of the benshi was one reason why silent films persisted well into the 1930s in Japan.

Score restorations from 1980 to the present

Few film scores survive intact from the silent period, and musicologists are still confronted by questions when they attempt to precisely reconstruct those that remain. Scores used in current reissues or screenings of silent films may be: A) complete reconstructions of composed scores, B) scores newly composed for the occasion, C) scores assembled from already existing music libraries, or D) scores improvised on the spot in the manner of the silent era theater pianist or organist.

Napoleon 1

Interest in the scoring of silent films fell somewhat out of fashion during the 1960s and 1970s. There was a belief in many college film programs and repertory cinemas that audiences should experience silent film as a pure visual medium, undistracted by music. This belief may have been encouraged by the poor quality of the music tracks found on many silent film reprints of the time. Since around 1980, there has been a revival of interest in presenting silent films with quality musical scores, either reworkings of period scores or cue sheets, or composition of appropriate original scores. An early effort in this context was Kevin Brownlow‘s 1980 restoration of Abel Gance‘s Napoléon (1927), featuring a score by Carl Davis. A slightly re-edited and sped-up version of Brownlow’s restoration was later distributed in America by Francis Ford Coppola, with a live orchestral score composed by his father Carmine Coppola.

Napoleon 3

In 1984, an edited restoration of Metropolis (1927) was released to cinemas with a new rock music score by producer-composer Giorgio Moroder. Although the contemporary score, which included pop songs by Freddie Mercury of Queen, Pat Benatar, and Jon Anderson of Yes was controversial, the door had been opened for a new approach to presentation of classic silent films.

Metropolis 1

Currently, a large number of soloists, music ensembles, and orchestras perform traditional and contemporary scores for silent films internationally.[15] The legendary theater organist Gaylord Carter continued to perform and record his original silent film scores until shortly before his death in 2000; some of those scores are available on DVD reissues. Other purveyors of the traditional approach include organists such as Dennis James and pianists such as Neil Brand, Günter Buchwald, Philip C. Carli, Ben Model, and William P. Perry. Other contemporary pianists, such as Stephen Horne and Gabriel Thibaudeau, have often taken a more modern approach to scoring.

Orchestral conductors such as Carl Davis and Robert Israel have written and compiled scores for numerous silent films; many of these have been featured in showings on Turner Classic Movies or have been released on DVD. Davis has composed new scores for classic silent dramas such as The Big Parade (1925) and Flesh and the Devil (1927). Israel has worked mainly in silent comedy, scoring films of Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, Charley Chase and others. Timothy Brock has restored many of Charlie Chaplin‘s scores, in addition to composing new scores.

Big Parade 2

Contemporary music ensembles are helping to introduce classic silent films to a wider audience through a broad range of musical styles and approaches. Some performers create new compositions using traditional musical instruments while others add electronic sounds, modern harmonies, rhythms, improvisation and sound design elements to enhance the viewing experience. Among the contemporary ensembles in this category are Un Drame Musical Instantané, Alloy Orchestra, Club Foot Orchestra, Silent Orchestra, Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, Minima and the Caspervek Trio. Donald Sosin and his wife Joanna Seaton specialize in adding vocals to silent films, particularly where there is onscreen singing that benefits from hearing the actual song being performed. Films in this category include Griffith’s Lady of the Pavements with Lupe Velez, Edwin Carewe‘s Evangeline with Dolores del Rio, and Rupert Julian‘s The Phantom of the Opera with Mary Philbin and Virginia Pearson.[citation needed]

The Silent Film Sound and Music Archive digitizes music and cue sheets written for silent film and makes it available for use by performers, scholars, and enthusiasts.

Acting techniques

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29th September 1926: Lillian Gish (1893 – 1993) plays the real-life Scottish heroine of the film ‘Annie Laurie’, directed by John S Robertson.
Lillian Gish, the “First Lady of the American Cinema”, was a leading star in the silent era with one of the longest careers, working from 1912 to 1987

Silent film actors emphasized body language and facial expression so that the audience could better understand what an actor was feeling and portraying on screen. Much silent film acting is apt to strike modern-day audiences as simplistic or campy. The melodramatic acting style was in some cases a habit actors transferred from their former stage experience. Vaudeville was an especially popular origin for many American silent film actors.[2] The pervading presence of stage actors in film was the cause of this outburst from director Marshall Neilan in 1917: “The sooner the stage people who have come into pictures get out, the better for the pictures.” In other cases, directors such as John Griffith Wray required their actors to deliver larger-than-life expressions for emphasis. As early as 1914, American viewers had begun to make known their preference for greater naturalness on screen.[16]

Silent films became less vaudevillian in the mid 1910s, as the differences between stage and screen became apparent. Due to the work of directors such as D W Griffith, cinematography became less stage-like, and the then-revolutionary close up allowed subtle and naturalistic acting. Lillian Gish has been called film’s “first true actress” for her work in the period, as she pioneered new film performing techniques, recognizing the crucial differences between stage and screen acting. Directors such as Albert Capellani and Maurice Tourneur began to insist on naturalism in their films. By the mid-1920s many American silent films had adopted a more naturalistic acting style, though not all actors and directors accepted naturalistic, low-key acting straight away; as late as 1927, films featuring expressionistic acting styles, such as Metropolis, were still being released. [17] Greta Garbo, who made her debut in 1926, would become known for her naturalistic acting.

Theda Bara 1

 

According to Anton Kaes, a silent film scholar from the University of Wisconsin, American silent cinema began to see a shift in acting techniques between 1913 and 1921, influenced by techniques found in German silent film. This is mainly attributed to the influx of emigrants from the Weimar Republic, “including film directors, producers, cameramen, lighting and stage technicians, as well as actors and actresses.[18]

Projection speed

Cinématographe Lumière at the Institut Lumière, France. Such cameras had no audio recording devices built into the cameras.

Until the standardization of the projection speed of 24 frames per second (fps) for sound films between 1926 and 1930, silent films were shot at variable speeds (or “frame rates“) anywhere from 12 to 40 fps, depending on the year and studio.[19]“Standard silent film speed” is often said to be 16 fps as a result of the Lumière brothers’ Cinématographe, but industry practice varied considerably; there was no actual standard. William Kennedy Laurie Dickson, an Edison employee, settled on the astonishingly fast 40 frames per second.[2] Additionally, cameramen of the era insisted that their cranking technique was exactly 16 fps, but modern examination of the films shows this to be in error, that they often cranked faster. Unless carefully shown at their intended speeds silent films can appear unnaturally fast or slow. However, some scenes were intentionally undercranked during shooting to accelerate the action—particularly for comedies and action films.[19]

 

Projector 1

Slow projection of a cellulose nitrate base film carried a risk of fire, as each frame was exposed for a longer time to the intense heat of the projection lamp; but there were other reasons to project a film at a greater pace. Often projectionists received general instructions from the distributors on the musical director’s cue sheet as to how fast particular reels or scenes should be projected.[19] In rare instances, usually for larger productions, cue sheets produced specifically for the projectionist provided a detailed guide to presenting the film. Theaters also—to maximize profit—sometimes varied projection speeds depending on the time of day or popularity of a film,[20] or to fit a film into a prescribed time slot.[19]

 

Projector 2

All motion-picture film projectors require a moving shutter to block the light whilst the film is moving, otherwise the image is smeared in the direction of the movement. However this shutter causes the image to flicker, and images with low rates of flicker are very unpleasant to watch. Early studies by Thomas Edison for his Kinetoscope machine determined that any rate below 46 images per second “will strain the eye.”[19] and this holds true for projected images under normal cinema conditions also. The solution adopted for the Kinetoscope was to run the film at over 40 frames/sec, but this was expensive for film. However, by using projectors with dual- and triple-blade shutters the flicker rate is multiplied two or three times higher than the number of film frames — each frame being flashed two or three times on screen. A three-blade shutter projecting a 16 fps film will slightly surpass Edison’s figure, giving the audience 48 images per second. During the silent era projectors were commonly fitted with 3-bladed shutters. Since the introduction of sound with its 24 frame/sec standard speed 2-bladed shutters have become the norm for 35 mm cinema projectors, though three-bladed shutters have remained standard on 16 mm and 8 mm projectors which are frequently used to project amateur footage shot at 16 or 18 frames/sec. A 35 mm film frame rate of 24 fps translates to a film speed of 456 millimetres (18.0 in) per second.[21] One 1,000-foot (300 m) reel requires 11 minutes and 7 seconds to be projected at 24 fps, while a 16 fps projection of the same reel would take 16 minutes and 40 seconds, or 304 millimetres (12.0 in) per second.[19]

Projector 3

In the 1950s, many telecine conversions of silent films at grossly incorrect frame rates for broadcast television may have alienated viewers.[22] Film speed is often a vexed issue among scholars and film buffs in the presentation of silents today, especially when it comes to DVD releases of restored films; the 2002 restoration of Metropolis (Germany, 1927) may be the most fiercely debated example.[citation needed]

Projector 4

Tinting

Broken Blossoms 1

Scene from Broken Blossoms starring Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmess, an example of sepia-tinted print.

With the lack of natural color processing available, films of the silent era were frequently dipped in dyestuffs and dyed various shades and hues to signal a mood or represent a time of day. Hand tinting dates back to 1895 in the United States with Edison’s release of selected hand-tinted prints of Butterfly Dance. Additionally, experiments in color film started as early as in 1909, although it took a much longer time for color to be adopted by the industry and an effective process to be developed.[2] Blue represented night scenes, yellow or amber meant day. Red represented fire and green represented a mysterious atmosphere. Similarly, toning of film (such as the common silent film generalization of sepia-toning) with special solutions replaced the silver particles in the film stock with salts or dyes of various colors. A combination of tinting and toning could be used as an effect that could be striking.

1928 Pola Negri 3 Sinners

Some films were hand-tinted, such as Annabelle Serpentine Dance (1894), from Edison Studios. In it, Annabelle Whitford,[23]a young dancer from Broadway, is dressed in white veils that appear to change colors as she dances. This technique was designed to capture the effect of the live performances of Loie Fuller, beginning in 1891, in which stage lights with colored gels turned her white flowing dresses and sleeves into artistic movement.[24] Hand coloring was often used in the early “trick” and fantasy films of Europe, especially those by Georges Méliès. Méliès began hand-tinting his work as early as 1897 and the 1899 Cendrillion (Cinderella) and 1900 Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc) provide early examples of hand-tinted films in which the color was a critical part of the scenography or mise en scène; such precise tinting used the workshop of Elisabeth Thuillier in Paris, with teams of female artists adding layers of color to each frame by hand rather than using a more common (and less expensive) process of stenciling.[25] A newly restored version of Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon, originally released in 1902, shows an exuberant use of color designed to add texture and interest to the image.[26]

Intolerance 1

By the beginning of the 1910s, with the onset of feature-length films, tinting was used as another mood setter, just as commonplace as music. The director D. W. Griffith displayed a constant interest and concern about color, and used tinting as a special effect in many of his films. His 1915 epic, The Birth of a Nation, used a number of colors, including amber, blue, lavender, and a striking red tint for scenes such as the “burning of Atlanta” and the ride of the Ku Klux Klan at the climax of the picture. Griffith later invented a color system in which colored lights flashed on areas of the screen to achieve a color.

With the development of sound-on-film technology and the industry’s acceptance of it, tinting was abandoned altogether, because the dyes used in the tinting process interfered with the soundtracks present on film strips.[2]

Early studios

Film Studios 4

The early studios were located in the New York City area. Edison Studios were first in West Orange, New Jersey (1892), they were moved to the Bronx, New York (1907). Fox (1909) and Biograph (1906) started in Manhattan, with studios in St George, Staten Island. Others films were shot in Fort Lee, New Jersey. In December 1908, Edison led the formation of the Motion Picture Patents Company in an attempt to control the industry and shut out smaller producers. The “Edison Trust”, as it was nicknamed, was made up of Edison, Biograph, Essanay Studios, Kalem Company, George Kleine Productions, Lubin Studios, Georges Méliès, Pathé, Selig Studios, and Vitagraph Studios, and dominated distribution through the General Film Company. This company dominated the industry as both a vertical and horizontal monopoly and is a contributing factor in studios’ migration to the West Coast. The Motion Picture Patents Co. and the General Film Co. were found guilty of antitrust violation in October 1915, and were dissolved.

Film Studios 1

The Thanhouser film studio was founded in New Rochelle, New York, in 1909 by American theatrical impresario Edwin Thanhouser. The company produced and released 1,086 films between 1910 and 1917, including the first film serial ever, The Million Dollar Mystery, released in 1914.

Film Studios 3

The first westerns were filmed at Fred Scott’s Movie Ranch in South Beach, Staten Island. Actors costumed as cowboys and Indians galloped across Scott’s movie ranch set, which had a frontier main street, a wide selection of stagecoaches and a 56-foot stockade. The island provided a serviceable stand-in for locations as varied as the Sahara desert and a British cricket pitch. War scenes were shot on the plains of Grasmere, Staten Island. The Perils of Pauline and its even more popular sequel The Exploits of Elaine were filmed largely on the island. So was the 1906 blockbuster Life of a Cowboy, by Edwin S. Porter. Company and filming moved to the West Coast around 1911.

 

Film Studios 2

Top-grossing silent films in the United States

The following are American films from the silent film era that had earned the highest gross income as of 1932. The amounts given are gross rentals (the distributor’s share of the box-office) as opposed to exhibition gross.[27]

Ben Hur 1
Poster for Ben-Hur
Title Year Director(s) Gross rental Ref.
The Birth of a Nation 1915 D. W. Griffith $10,000,000
The Big Parade 1925 King Vidor $6,400,000
Ben-Hur 1925 Fred Niblo $5,500,000
Way Down East 1920 D. W. Griffith $5,000,000
The Gold Rush 1925 Charlie Chaplin $4,250,000
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse 1921 Rex Ingram $4,000,000
The Circus 1928 Charlie Chaplin $3,800,000
The Covered Wagon 1923 James Cruze $3,800,000
The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1923 Wallace Worsley $3,500,000
The Ten Commandments 1923 Cecil B. DeMille $3,400,000
Orphans of the Storm 1921 D. W. Griffith $3,000,000
For Heaven’s Sake 1926 Sam Taylor $2,600,000
7th Heaven 1927 Frank Borzage $2,500,000
What Price Glory? 1926 Raoul Walsh $2,400,000
Abie’s Irish Rose 1928 Victor Fleming $1,500,000

During the sound era

Transition

Jazz Singer The 1

Although attempts to create sync-sound motion pictures go back to the Edison lab in 1896, only from the early 1920s were the basic technologies such as vacuum tube amplifiers and high-quality loudspeakers available. The next few years saw a race to design, implement, and market several rival sound-on-disc and sound-on-film sound formats, such as Photokinema (1921), Phonofilm (1923), Vitaphone (1926), Fox Movietone (1927) and RCA Photophone (1928).

Warner Bros was the first studio to accept sound as an element in film production and utilize Vitaphone, a sound-on-disc technology, to do so.[2] The studio then released The Jazz Singer in 1927 which marked the first commercially successful sound film, but silent films were still the majority of features released in both 1927 and 1928, along with so-called goat-glanded films: silents with a subsection of sound film inserted. Thus the modern sound film era may be regarded as coming to dominance beginning in 1929.

For a listing of notable silent era films, see list of years in film for the years between the beginning of film and 1928. The following list includes only films produced in the sound era with the specific artistic intention of being silent.

 

City Girl 1

Later homage

Several filmmakers have paid homage to the comedies of the silent era, including Jacques Tati with his Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (1953) and Mel Brooks with Silent Movie (1976). Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien‘s acclaimed drama Three Times (2005) is silent during its middle third, complete with intertitles; Stanley Tucci‘s The Impostors has an opening silent sequence in the style of early silent comedies. Brazilian filmmaker Renato Falcão’s Margarette’s Feast (2003) is silent. Writer / Director Michael Pleckaitis puts his own twist on the genre with Silent (2007). While not silent, the Mr. Bean television series and movies have used the title character’s non-talkative nature to create a similar style of humor. A lesser-known example is Jérôme Savary‘s La fille du garde-barrière (1975), an homage to silent-era films that uses intertitles and blends comedy, drama, and explicit sex scenes (which led to it being refused a cinema certificate by the British Board of Film Classification).

Artist The 1

In 1990, Charles Lane directed and starred in Sidewalk Stories, a low budget salute to sentimental silent comedies particularly Charlie Chaplin‘s The Kid.

The German film Tuvalu (1999) is mostly silent; the small amount of dialog is an odd mix of European languages, increasing the film’s universality. Guy Maddin won awards for his homage to Soviet era silent films with his short The Heart of the World after which he made a feature-length silent, Brand Upon the Brain! (2006), incorporating live Foley artists, narration and orchestra at select showings. Shadow of the Vampire (2000) is a highly fictionalized depiction of the filming of Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau‘s classic silent vampire movie Nosferatu (1922). Werner Herzog honored the same film in his own version, Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht (1979).

Some films draw a direct contrast between the silent film era and the era of talkies. Sunset Boulevard shows the disconnect between the two eras in the character of Norma Desmond, played by silent film star Gloria Swanson, and Singin’ in the Rain deals with the period where the people of Hollywood had to face changing from making silents to talkies. Peter Bogdanovich‘s affectionate 1976 film Nickelodeon deals with the turmoil of silent filmmaking in Hollywood during the early 1910s, leading up to the release of D. W. Griffith‘s epic The Birth of a Nation (1915).

Sunset Boulevard 1

 

In 1999, the Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki produced Juha, which captures the style of a silent film, using intertitles in place of spoken dialogue.[28] In India, the film Pushpak (1988),[29] starring Kamal Hassan, was a black comedy entirely devoid of dialog. The Australian film Doctor Plonk (2007), was a silent comedy directed by Rolf de Heer. Stage plays have drawn upon silent film styles and sources. Actor/writers Billy Van Zandt & Jane Milmore staged their Off-Broadway slapstick comedy Silent Laughter as a live action tribute to the silent screen era.[30] Geoff Sobelle and Trey Lyford created and starred in All Wear Bowlers (2004), which started as an homage to Laurel and Hardy then evolved to incorporate life-sized silent film sequences of Sobelle and Lyford who jump back and forth between live action and the silver screen.[31] The animated film Fantasia (1940), which is eight different animation sequences set to music, can be considered a silent film, with only one short scene involving dialogue. The espionage film The Thief (1952) has music and sound effects, but no dialogue, as do Thierry Zéno‘s 1974 Vase de Noces and Patrick Bokanowski‘s 1982 The Angel.

In 2005, the H. P. Lovecraft Historical Society produced a silent film version of Lovecraft’s story The Call of Cthulhu. This film maintained a period-accurate filming style, and was received as both “the best HPL adaptation to date” and, referring to the decision to make it as a silent movie, “a brilliant conceit.”[32]

The French film The Artist (2011), written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, plays as a silent film and is set in Hollywood during the silent era. It also includes segments of fictitious silent films starring its protagonists.[33]

Silent Life 1

The Japanese vampire filmSanguivorous (2011) is not only done in the style of a silent film, but even toured with live orchestral accompiment.[34][35]Eugene Chadbourne has been among those who have played live music for the film.[36]

Blancanieves is a 2012 Spanish black-and-white silent fantasy drama film written and directed by Pablo Berger.

The American feature-length silent film Silent Life started in 2006, features performances by Isabella Rossellini and Galina Jovovich, mother of Milla Jovovich, will premiere in 2013. The film is based on the life of the silent screen icon Rudolph Valentino, known as the Hollywood’s first “Great Lover”. After the emergency surgery, Valentino loses his grip of reality and begins to see the recollection of his life in Hollywood from a perspective of a coma – as a silent film shown at a movie palace, the magical portal between life and eternity, between reality and illusion.[37][38]

Right There is a 2013 short film which is an homage to silent film comedies.

The 2015 British animated film Shaun the Sheep Movie based on Shaun the Sheep was released to positive reviews and was a box office success. Aardman Animations also produced Morph and Timmy Time as well as many other silent short films.

 

THREETIMESquad01

The American Theatre Organ Society pays homage to the music of silent films, as well as the theatre organs which played such music. With over 75 local chapters, the organization seeks to preserve and promote theater organs and music, as an art form.[39]

Preservation and lost films

Kevin Brownlow 1

Kevin Brownlow

Many early motion pictures are lost because the nitrate film used in that era was extremely unstable and flammable. Additionally, many films were deliberately destroyed because they had little value in the era before home video. It has often been claimed that around 75% of silent films have been lost, though these estimates may be inaccurate due to a lack of numerical data.[40] Major silent films presumed lost include Saved from the Titanic (1912), which featured survivors of the disaster;[41]The Life of General Villa, starring Pancho Villa himself; The Apostle, the first animated feature film (1917); Cleopatra (1917);[42]Gold Diggers (1923); Kiss Me Again (1925); Arirang (1926); Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1928);[43]The Great Gatsby (1926); and London After Midnight (1927). Though most lost silent films will never be recovered, some have been discovered in film archives or private collections. Discovered and preserved versions may be editions made for the home rental market of the 1920s and 1930s that are discovered in estate sales, etc.[44]

Davis Shephard 1

David Shepard

In 1978 in Dawson City, Yukon, a bulldozer uncovered buried reels of nitrate film during excavation of a landfill. Dawson City was once the end of the distribution line for many films. The retired titles were stored at the local library until 1929 when the flammable nitrate was used as landfill in a condemned swimming pool. Stored for 50 years under the permafrost of the Yukon, the films turned out to be extremely well preserved. Included were films by Pearl White, Harold Lloyd, Douglas Fairbanks, and Lon Chaney. These films are now housed at the Library of Congress.[45] The degradation of old film stock can be slowed through proper archiving, and films can be transferred to digital media for preservation. Silent film preservation has been a high priority among film historians.[46]

 

Shephard and Brownlow 1Kevin Brownlow and David Shephard at Academy’s 2010 Governor’s Dinner

See also

References

  1. Jump up^ “Library Reports on America’s Endangered Silent-Film Heritage” (Press release). Library of Congress. December 4, 2013. ISSN 0731-3527. Retrieved 2014-03-07. There is no single number for existing American silent-era feature films, as the surviving copies vary in format and completeness. There are 2,000 titles (14%) surviving as the complete domestic-release version in 35mm. Another 1,174 (11%) are complete, but not the original — they are either a foreign-release version in 35mm or in a 28 or 16mm small-gauge print with less than 35mm image quality. Another 562 titles (5%) are incomplete—missing either a portion of the film or an abridged version. The remaining 70% are believed to be completely lost.
  2. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i j Lewis, John (2008). American Film: A History (First ed.). New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-97922-0.
  3. ^ Jump up to:a b Kobel, Peter and the Library of Congress. Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007. Print.
  4. Jump up^ Guinness Book of Records (all ed.).
  5. Jump up^ “Lumière”. Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2007. Archived from the original on 25 January 2008. Retrieved 2007-03-18.
  6. Jump up^ Musser, Charles. The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1990. Print
  7. ^ Jump up to:a b Dirks, Tim. “Film History of the 1920s, Part 1”. AMC. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
  8. Jump up^ Brownlow, Kevin (1968). The People on the Brook. Alfred Knopf. p. 580.
  9. Jump up^ [1]
  10. Jump up^ Cook, David A. (1990). A History of Narrative Film, 2nd edition. New York: W.W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-95553-2.
  11. Jump up^ Eyman, Scott. The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution, 1926–1930. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997. ISBN 0-684-81162-6
  12. Jump up^ Marks, Martin Miller (February 13, 1997). Music and the Silent Film: Contexts and Case Studies, 1895–1924. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-506891-7. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
  13. Jump up^ Parkinson, David (January 1996). History of Film. New York: Thames and Hudson. p. 69. ISBN 0-500-20277-X.
  14. Jump up^ Standish, Isolde (May 8, 2006). A New History of Japanese Cinema: A Century of Narrative Film. New York: Continuum. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-8264-1790-9. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
  15. Jump up^ “Silent Film Musicians Directory”. Brenton Film. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  16. Jump up^ brownlow 1968, pp. 344-353.
  17. Jump up^ Brownlow 1968, pp. 344–353.
  18. Jump up^ Kaes, Anton (1990). “Silent Cinema”. Monatshefte.
  19. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f Kevin Brownlow, Silent Films: What Was the Right Speed? (1980). A very slow example is The Birth of a Nation which has some sequences which call for 12 frames per second. Archived November 9, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  20. Jump up^ Card, James (October 1955). “Silent Film Speed”. Image: 5–56. Archived from the original on April 7, 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-09.
  21. Jump up^ Read, Paul; Meyer, Mark-Paul; Gamma Group (2000). Restoration of motion picture film. Conservation and Museology. Butterworth-Heinemann. pp. 24–26. ISBN 0-7506-2793-X.
  22. Jump up^ Director Gus Van Sant describes in his director commentary on Psycho: Collector’s Edition (1998) that he and his generation were likely turned off to silent film because of incorrect TV broadcast speeds.
  23. Jump up^ 1 “Annabelle Whitford” Check |url= value (help). Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
  24. Jump up^ Current, Richard Nelson; Current, Marcia Ewing (May 1997). Loie Fuller: Goddess of Light. Northeastern Univ Press. ISBN 1-55553-309-4.
  25. Jump up^ Bromberg, Serge and Eric Lang (directors) (2012). The Extraordinary Voyage (DVD). MKS/Steamboat Films.
  26. Jump up^ Duvall, Gilles; Wemaere, Severine (March 27, 2012). A Trip to the Moon in its Original 1902 Colors. Technicolor Foundation for Cinema Heritage and Flicker Alley. pp. 18–19.
  27. Jump up^ “Biggest Money Pictures”. Variety. June 21, 1932. p. 1. Cited in “Biggest Money Pictures”. Cinemaweb. Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved July 14, 2011.
  28. Jump up^ Juha at the Internet Movie Database
  29. Jump up^ Pushpak at the Internet Movie Database
  30. Jump up^ “About the Show”. Silent Laughter. 2004. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
  31. Jump up^ Zinoman, Jason (February 23, 2005). “Lost in a Theatrical World of Slapstick and Magic”. The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
  32. Jump up^ On Screen: The Call of Cthulhu DVD Archived March 25, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  33. Jump up^ “Interview with Michel Hazanavicius” (PDF). English press kit The Artist. Wild Bunch. Retrieved 2011-05-10.
  34. Jump up^ “Sangivorous”. Film Smash. December 8, 2012. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
  35. Jump up^ “School of Film Spotlight Series: Sanguivorous” (Press release). University of the Arts. April 4, 2013. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
  36. Jump up^ “Sanguivorous”. Folio Weekly. Jacksonville, Florida. October 19, 2013. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
  37. Jump up^ “Another Silent Film to Come Out in 2011: “Silent Life” Moves up Release Date” (Press release). Rudolph Valentino Productions. November 22, 2011. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
  38. Jump up^ Silent life official web site Archived March 8, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
  39. Jump up^ “About Us”. American Theater Organ Society. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
  40. Jump up^ Slide, Anthony (2000). Nitrate Won’t Wait: a history of film preservation in the United States. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co. ISBN 0-7864-0836-7. Retrieved 2014-03-07.
  41. Jump up^ Thompson, Frank T. (March 1996). Lost Films: Important Movies That Disappeared. Carol Publishing. pp. 12–18. ISBN 978-0-8065-1604-2.
  42. Jump up^ thompson 1996, pp. 68–78.
  43. Jump up^ thompson 1996, pp. 186–200.
  44. Jump up^ “Ben Model interview on Outsight Radio Hours”. Archive.org. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  45. Jump up^ slide 2000, p. 99.
  46. Jump up^ Kula, Sam (January 1, 1979). “Rescued from the Permafrost: The Dawson Collection of Motion Pictures”. Archivaria Issue 8. Association of Canadian Archivists: 141–148. Retrieved 2014-03-07.

Further reading

  • Brownlow, Kevin (1968). The Parade’s Gone By... New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
  • Brownlow, Kevin (1980). Hollywood: The Pioneers. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-394-50851-3.
  • Davis, Lon (208). Silent Lives. Albany: BearManor Media. ISBN 1-593-93124-7.
  • Everson, William K. (1978). American Silent Film. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-195-02348-X.
  • Kobel, Peter (2007). Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture. New York: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-11791-9.
  • Usai, Paulo Cherchi (2000). Silent Cinema: An Introduction (2nd ed.). London: British Film Institute. ISBN 0-851-70745-9.
  • The Late Hollywood Silent Film Melodrama Special Issue, Film International, Issue, 54, Volume 9, Number 6 (2011), Jeffrey Crouse (editor). Extensive analyses include those by: George Toles, “‘Cocoon of Fire: Awakening to Love in Murnau’s Sunrise“; Diane Stevenson, “Three Versions of Stella Dallas“; and Jonah Corne’s “Gods and Nobodies: Extras, the October Jubilee, and Von Sternberg’s The Last Command.” There are also featured film and book reviews pertaining to silent film.

External links