Over the Christmas/new-year break I managed to catch up with at least a few of the DVDs that have been waiting for some attention next to my TV set. Included in this mini-festival were a number of  silent films including Douglas Fairbank’s in Robin Hood, German director Paul Leni’s version of The Cat and the Canary and John Ford’s early epic western The Iron Horse. All of which got me to wondering…..

The parade’s gone by: Kevin Brownlow

Abacus, 1973

Abacus, 1973

There are few people who have done more to document and celebrate the great days of the silent film than Kevin Brownlow, and this pioneering book has managed to retain its place as one of the most important works on the early days of cinema. Brownlow was fortunate that many of the major stars, directors and behind-the-scenes personnel were still alive when he was compiling this story,  and the interviews he conducted with them give an unrivalled perspective into an era that essentially defined the Hollywood studio system. The photos are great as well!

Silent stars by Jeanine Basinger

Knopf, 1999

Knopf, 1999

This readable and scholarly book examines the life and work of some of the silent era’s major stars.  Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino, Gloria Swanson and Lon Chaney are names that still have some resonance with film audiences (whether or not they have actually seen any of their films) but others such as Pola Negri, Marion Davies and Mabel Normand have seen their once colossal fame dissolve into something far less distinct. Basinger, one of the leading scholars of the classical Hollywood cinema, revives these figures in profiles that delve way beyond mere nostalgia in order to reassess the forgotten achievements of these film pioneers.

Moguls & movie stars: a history of Hollywood (DVD) produced and written by Jon Wilkman

Warner Home Video, 2011

Warner Home Video, 2011

This fascinating 7 part documentary series examines the history of the Hollywood studio system through its major players, focusing particularly on the careers of the moguls who set up the studios and created from the ground up the very notion of “Hollywood”. Beginning with the very earliest attempts at capturing the moving image both in Europe and America, the series then goes on to examine the Hollywood system from its earliest peepshow days through to the virtual collapse of the old style studio system in the 1960s. Totally absorbing!

Our own Will Alma filming an unidentified Australian classic!

Will Alma, amateur movie maker and editor of V.A.C.S. magazine, 1948

Will Alma, amateur movie maker and editor of V.A.C.S. magazine, 1948

This article has 2 comments

  1. Alas, Will Alma is not filming anything. Those machines are film projectors, not cameras.

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