|Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Clara Bow, and Richard Arlen star in Wings (1927).|
Here's something I never thought I'd say: I've become utterly and fabulously obsessed with silent movies!
Silent films were something I had always shied away from watching because I thought they were stuffy, manic, and boring. If I'm being completely honest, I never understood where their appeal lay. What was it about the silent film genre that people found fascinating? And how could an entire cinema-full of people be kept entertained for two hours by a moving picture that had no voice (talking, that is)? The very thought baffled me.
It wasn't until the spring of 2012 that I started getting into silent movies. I remember ordering the Greta Garbo Signature Collection off of amazon right before leaving on my annual trip to the UK and, included in that DVD set was The Garbo Silents Collection, a mini boxed set of some of Garbo's famous silent features. Despite how much I loved Garbo - and still do, obviously - I literally had to force myself to sit down and pop in FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1926) starring Garbo and the equally delicious John Gilbert.
That movie shocked me by how good it was. Seriously. I credit FLESH AND THE DEVIL with kick-starting my silent film obsession. First off, I couldn't believe that I had made it through an entire silent movie without once becoming bored. Second, I learned that an audience doesn't necessarily need voices to be moved and entertained the way I was that afternoon. The visuals were stunning and the film titles were perfect; beautifully capturing the film's mood and story in just a handful of sentences.
Since then I made it a habit of sneaking in a silent movie viewing at least once or twice a month. Other silents that I've come to love are WINGS (1927) which had me blubbing like a child, SAFETY LAST! (1923), THE GENERAL (1926), METROPOLIS (1927), NOSFERATU (1922), IT (1927) and THE BIG PARADE (1925). The last silent feature I watched was CITY LIGHTS (1931) starring the majorly talented Charles Chaplin, and though that ending didn't make me cry like I was told it would, I still really enjoyed it. That boxing scene had me in stitches and I couldn't help wondering how many hours of rehearsal it took the actors to perfect the routine they pulled off in the ring. Fancy footwork indeed!
|Charles Chaplin, Eddie Baker, and Hank Mann show off their moves in the ring in the delightful City Lights (1931).|
Through the past year-and-a-half of experimenting with silent film viewing I've learned that silents are the sort of films that enlighten audiences. True, there is no speaking, but in place of that there are incredible visuals, striking sets, realistic stunt sequences, and truly great performances from both the actors and directors of each piece. The musical accompaniment to each feature is lilting and lucid; really helping to establish the picture's mood and undercurrent.
So, my question to you is out of all the silent films I haven't seen yet, which would you recommend? Tell me which silents are your personal favourites and which ones you think I should steer clear of. Do you have a favourite silent film star? A favourite genre you think I should delve deeper into? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section down below!