Thursday, December 9, 2010

Midnight, the stars, and you...

This has been a busy, busy semester for me. Not just with school but with work as well. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to write that many entries, but when this semester ends, I can get back on track.

I was just curious about you, the reader. Why do you like silent films? What got you started? What was the first one you saw? Who are your favorite silent film actors/actresses?

I am curious to hear what you guys have to say!


  1. Boy that reminds me when I was ins chool...yuck:) I am thinking about the silent film. I gues I got into film because of my dad. He was in his 20's during the great depression and knew all the stars. I would ask him a whole series of questions..."Who is that?" "Is he dead?" When did he die?" "What did he die of" Was he married?" "To whom was he married"? When was he born?" and so on. I then slowly learned about silent film stars and it intrigued me when my dad said he would go to the picture show when he was my age(10 yrs old or so and watch silent films with Clara Bow, Charlie Chaplin etc... In fact my dad and I watched The Gold Rush together and we laughed so hard that we both were crying ( the cabin scene. I then found a book which showed the beautiful picture palaces and my dad would tell me about them but that he only saw a film in Toronto once in one of them. I found them magical and how the public just believed the "magic" of silent film and the stars. Good luck with your exams!

  2. For me silent movies are the most pure form of cinematic art. The silent era is probably the most interesting period to study about. In those days movies were a new art of creation.... a kind of "newmans land". My first film was "Faust"... later "Nosferatu" and I remember to have seen "Greed" in my childhood. I was a kid when I saw them, but I remember that I was fascinated by the atmosphere... It's something special to watch a good silent movie... it's like a trip in another dimension. Favorite actor is Lon Chaney... favorite actresses are Louise Brooks, Lilian Gish, Greta Garbo.... also Clara Bow, Blanche Sweet.... Michel Nussbaum

  3. Birgit - That is very cool that you were able to share those memories with your dad and get a first hand account of what it was like to see these films in the beautiful movie palaces. My grandmother on my dad's side was born in 1905 (she died before I was born) and she grew up in the 1920s. She used to love silent movies and had sheet music from Valentino films and some Al Jolson pieces as well. I wish she were alive now so we could talk about it, but...alas. My grandma on my mom's side watches them with me sometimes so that is nice :)

  4. Michel - I agree with you 100% about silent film being a pure art form and also how it seems to transport you to another time. That is why I like seeing them in big theatre feels like a time machine!

    I haven't seen any Blanche Sweet movies. Oh wait...I think I own one! Ha! I have a DVD collection of early Thanhouser films and I think she was on one...

  5. I am a silent film freak. I always have been. Jessica, I am so glad you asked this! My Mom, was an Italian immigrant born (1914) and loved Rudy. She loved movies and all the stars like many women did of that era. I think my “awakening” began , when I was 13. I saw a Chaplin Keystone film. There was a little girl with big eyes doing prat falls, blowing kisses, and breaking hearts. That was Mabel Normand. I had to know everything about her. So, for the last 40 years I have been learning everything about her. I have gone to LA several times on Mabel trips. Going to places she worked , lived and prayed. I love old movies and try to know all there is to know about them. Thanks and Happy New Year

  6. That is so cool Billy! My grandma loved Rudy too!

    Mabel Normand certainly was a darling. I had seen her in films but really got interested in her after watching the Robert Downey Jr. film "Chaplin." Where all have you visited in LA? I tried finding her grave when I was out there and could not find it! The cathedral was just huge!

    Happy New Year to you! And maybe one day we will do some silent film sight seeing in tandem!

  7. I would love to do that sometime Jessica . Just let me know when. I visit LA twice a year and have gotten to know my way around town. My favorite parts are Beverly Hills and the Sunset Strip. I have friends and family out there that have helped guide me to some great old movie sites and homes. Mabel (if you have gone out to Calvary) is upstairs in the big mausoleum. Are you on facebook? Mine is : Friend me and you ‘ll see some of the photos I have taken in my travels. Wasn’t Downey great as Chaplin? How did he not win the Oscar??? Talk to you soon. Thanks again

  8. I sent you a friend request Billy!

    If it says is me!! :)

  9. Why do I like Silent films?
    Probably the simplest answer is because it’s history. It’s the birth of cinema with pretty faces blown up on the big screen. It goes a little deeper though, it’s not just the stars but of life from a bygone era. It had to be magical the first time someone saw their first moving picture. Can you imagine seeing ‘The Great Train Robbery’ as your first film with the bandit firing directly at the camera?

    What was the first one you saw?
    I’ve seen several clips growing up, the usual suspects; Chaplin and Keaton. They didn’t really make an impression.
    No Sound. No color. Wasn’t interested.
    What a difference a few years made. As a teenager I took another look. It began with black and white films from the 50’s such as Casablanca, Citizen Kane and Sunset Boulevard. I developed this habit where I would watch as many films as I could find within that time period. I would soak it all up like a sponge.

    I read about this one film called “Pandora’s Box”. It peaked my curiosity because it was supposedly about Jack the Ripper. It was such a disappointment the first time I saw it, Jack was only in it for like 5 min. I remember feeling cheated but... there was something else that captured my imagination. I couldn’t stop thinking about this girl on the screen.

    She was Beautiful.

    And just like that I was in love. Lulu had claimed another victim.

    Soon after, I began to discover so many great actresses; Clara Bow, The Gish Sisters, Norma Talmadge and many others.

    Louise Brooks still kicks my ass though.

    I’ve been coming here for almost a year now. I had discovered this place right after the Kansas Silent Film Festival in Feb. This year it’s all about the first Academy Awards so the films they will be showing are all from 1927 and 1928. The highlights looks like (imho) 7th Heaven, The Circus and Wings. They are all new to me so I'm anxious to see them.

    Thanks again for creating this blog.

    It has been a joy to read.

  10. Mr. Lake,
    I completely agree with you about the idea that silent film is history. I think that is one reason I got so interested in them. I actually started with Marilyn Monroe and then kept going to older and older movies.

    I have read about the Kansas film festival before. I can only imagine how amazing that would be! Getting together with fellow silent film fans and watching films on the big screen. Just incredible.

    Louise is amazing. I had a chance to visit her grave a couple years ago. And it is so incredible that the woman who first interested me in silent film and is such a big deal to the silent film community has a modest gravemarker. Just blew my mind.

    I wish I could travel back in time and see films for the first time at a Nickelodeon and just be blown away by the new technology. Lets get a group together and go! :)

    Thank you so much for coming to my blog. I really love talking about silent films, especially with people who know about them!! :)

  11. HI Jessica,

    I love this blog! You have an incredible amount of knowledge.
    I love that the younger generation appreciate silent films.
    i am a film maker and am researching on an actress called Iris Ashton. She was in a couple of pretty rare silent movies which I can't find ANY info on, I Know one of them was put out by Fox, here is the link to her imdb:
    Do you know any resources where I could find a picture or some clips of the movies she was in... I would LOVE to see what she looked like and what she was like as a performer. She is also a vital part of the documentary... Thanks!

  12. Thank you Mr/Miss Anonymous!

    I wish more people around my age would get into silent film, or at least appreciate them more!

    I have actually never heard of Iris Ashton. Why are you choosing her to focus on in your documentary? Who else are you highlighting? I will see what other info on her I can find when I have a few minutes to do research.

    I would suggest looking at the website They have a lot of information and actually have a list of lost silent films with information on them.

    Good luck!

  13. Hello :)

    Irish Ashton is/was a great Aunt of mine! I notice the message about her is quite old but I wanted to reach out.

    We have some memorabilia - photos, magazines... etc... If you still want info we could arrange it!



    1. Oh I am super jealous! I am not familiar with the name though, but any of the information you can give me would be great!!

  14. I am sending this again...with correction...I am new at blogging...first time...
    I was always a fan of the 30's, loving the music and the amazing clothes. And somehow, I got interested in the 20's. I think the first book I read on it was "Runnin Wild" - Clara Blow. The 70's is always described as a wild era. But it couldn't possibly compare to the 20's where heroin and morphine were legal and alcohol was illegal and therefore super chic and automobiles were new and movies were new - and we as a people were naïve and looking expectantly towards the future. The other thing that makes the 20's so haunting and shrouded in mystery is that there is no longer any one alive who can verify or further flesh out the events that happened. The information we have is all we have. I think the first silent movie snippet I saw was Clara Bow with her stuffed dog...and I agree with I think it was Mary Pickford, who said "bringing sound to the movies is like putting lipstick on the venus de milo"....