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Silent Movie History

               Silent Movie History Film Clips

In 1923, FDR wrote a screenplay for a silent film; click here to read about it.

Norma Talmadge was Different (Photoplay Magazine, 1923)

As delighted as this Photoplay Magazine journalist was to make the acquaintance of 1920s film star Norma Talmadge (1894 1957), she could not help but compare her to the reigning film diva of the period, Mary Pickford:

"Mary awakens your love."
"Norma awakens your admiration."
"Mary makes you long to be of service to her."
"Norma makes you long to have her friendship."
"Mary Pickford is a sort of divine child, who always seems far away from you, glowing in a soft light..."
"Norma Talmadge is an intelligent, brilliant woman of the world, with every faculty keyed to the highest pitch..."

The interview was conducted by the versatile Adela Rogers St. Johns (1894 1988): a veteran journalist from Hollywood's earliest days, she also made her mark writing screenplays, novels and toiled in the precincts as one of the first woman police reporters.


In Praise of Slapstick Comedy (Photoplay Magazine, 1914)

A reporter from Photoplay Magazine let all her eager readers in on the excitement from the glamorous set of the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company (Illinois) where the comedy, "Actor Finney's Finnish" (1914) was being shot.
The silent short was directed and performed by those who would be participating steadily during Hollywood's next thirty year spree: E. Mason Hopper (1885 - 1967), Director; Wallace Beery (1885 - 1949), leading man; Eddie Redway (1869 - 1919), co-star; Leo White (1882 - 1948), co-star; Bobbie Bolder (1859-1937) co-star, Ruth Hennesy (no dates), actress.


Etiquette in the Movies (Vanity Fair, 1915)

No doubt, this is one of the funniest pieces you are likely to find on the topic of acting and costuming in silent movies. It was written by Frederick Lewis Allen (1890 - 1954) and Frank Tuttle (1892 - 1963); both men approached the movies with the low expectations that were probably all too typical of theater lovers at that time.


Blanche Sweet Interviewed (Motion Picture Magazine, 1916)

An interview with the silent film actress, Blanche Sweet (1895-1986) who, at that point in her career, had been a "photoplayer" (ie. an actor) for only six years. Prior to her contract with The Lasky Company, where she was obliged to perform at the time of this interview, she had toiled in the vineyards of such studios as Reliance and Biograph (where she was nick-named, "The Biograph Blonde"). Unlike her co-swells in that young industry, who liked to read and re-read their recent interviews from Motion Picture Magazine while loitering around the sets, we read that Blanche Sweet was very fond of reading Tennyson, Kipling and the novels of Edward Phillips Oppenheim (1866-1946). During the course of her career she had appeared in well over one hundred films.

Click here to read magazine articles about D.W. Griffith.
Click here to read articles about another Hollywood blonde: Marilyn Monroe.


The Depiction of Mothers in Silent Film (Pathfinder, 1926

This one is from the "more things change, the more they stay the same" department; it was penned by an outraged woman who was plenty peeved that nascent Hollywood chose to cast geezers to play the rolls of mothers in their movies. In light of the fact that women had babies at far, far younger ages one hundred years ago, she illustrated her point with an anecdote pulled from the annals of the Chicago Police Department.


Stage Productions Must Compete With Movies (Harper's Weekly, 1915)

A thoughtful look at all that stage productions have had to learn while competing for audiences with the early (and exciting) Hollywood film industry:

"There is no doubt that the moving picture was responsible for the disappearance of the second-class theatre devoted to traveling companies, giving lurid melodramas and plays of obvious sentiment [but] instead of taking a lesson from the history of this form of amusement, which it helped to kill, the moving picture theatre imitated one of it's very worst features."


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