Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film
PCF posted about this some time back, but yesterday YouTube user BentoJoaoAntonio uploaded the 13th and final episode of Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film. I’ve known about this series for some time, but had never had the opportunity to see it. It has never been released on DVD, only on VHS and laserdisc.. You can occasionally find the VHS set for sale (I’m not sure what kind of contraption plays those things) and sellers often sell laserdisc to dvd-r transfers on places like Ebay. But thanks to BentoJoaoAnotoio, the entire series is available to watch at your leisure. It’s been delightful to watch this series and silent film fans, or film fans in general, should definitely carve out about 13 hours to give it a watch.
Click on through to see the episode list with links to the vids. Happy viewing and hats off to BentoJoaoAntonio for posting it for all to enjoy!
Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film
- “The Pioneers” – The evolution of film from penny arcade curiosity to art form, from what was considered the first plot driven film, The Great Train Robbery, through to The Birth of a Nation, films showing the power of the medium. Early Technicolor footage, along with other color technologies, are also featured. Interviews include Lillian Gish, Jackie Coogan and King Vidor.
- “In the Beginning” – Hollywood is transformed from a peaceful village with dusty streets and lemon groves to the birthplace of the industry in California. Silent film transcends international boundaries to become a worldwide phenomenon. Interviews include Henry King, Agnes de Mille, and Lillian Gish.
- “Single Beds and Double Standards” – Fast success in Hollywood brings a cavalier party lifestyle, which led to shocking scandals such as Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle’s trial and subsequent acquittal for manslaughter. To tone down the image of Hollywood and curtail films with footage unsuitable to all audiences, Will H. Hays is appointed and introduces Hollywood’s self regulated Production Code, which would be enforced well into the 1960s, while filmmakers still found creative ways to present ‘adult’ situations. Interviews include King Vidor and Gloria Swanson.
- “Hollywood Goes To War” – The outbreak of World War I provides Hollywood with a successful source for plots and profits. Peacetime curtails the release of war movies, until the release of King Vidor’s The Big Parade in 1925. Wings (1927) earns the first Academy Award for Best Picture. As movies transition to sound, Universal releases Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front, showing the German side of the conflict, becoming a powerful statement of war by the generation that fought it. Interviews include Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., King Vidor and Lillian Gish.
- “Hazard of the Game” – Silent films are often remembered for slapstick gags and dangerous stunts. Stuntmen took anonymous credit for very little pay and could not reveal their involvement. Stuntmen Yakima Canutt, Harvey Parry, Bob Rose and Paul Malvern tell hair-raising and humorous stories, and reveal the secrets behind many famous stunts.
- “Swanson and Valentino” – Two of the great romantic legends of the silent screen are profiled. Rudolph Valentino’s on-screen persona is remarkably different from his real personal life, as recounted by his brother, Albert, and Gloria Swanson recalls her meteoric rise – and fall – with remarkable candor.
- “The Autocrats” – Two of Hollywood’s greatest directors, Cecil B. DeMille and Erich von Stroheim. One worked with the Hollywood system, the other against it. DeMille’s pictures, lavish in detail and cost, made his studio a fortune, while Von Stroheim’s similar ways, albeit to excess in footage and expense, resulted in films that were often either excessively cut by the studios or never released, leading to his being fired on several occasions. Interviews include Agnes DeMille, Gloria Swanson and Henry King.
- “Comedy – A Serious Business” – Hollywood learned very early how to make people laugh. Comedy was king, and battling for the throne were stars like Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, Harry Langdon and Charlie Chaplin. In a purely visual medium, their comedy was a work of genius. Interviews include Hal Roach, Sr., Jackie Coogan, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd
- “Out West” – ‘The Old West’ was still in existence in the silent days. Old cowboys and outlaws re-lived their youth, and got paid for doing it, by working in films. The ‘western craze’ really begins with stars like William “Buffalo Bill” Cody and Tom Mix. Interviews include Yakima Canutt, Colonel Tim McCoy, Harvey Parry and John Wayne.
- “The Man With the Megaphone” – Silent film directors were flamboyant pioneers, making up their technique as they went along. Filming ‘indoor’ sets on open outdoor lots and combating the elements, communicating with actors in spite of overwhelming distraction and deafening noise, directors (male and female) fashion great films out of chaos and confusion. Interviews include Bessie Love, Janet Gaynor, and King Vidor.
- “Trick of the Light” – Skilled cameramen had the ability to turn an actress into a screen goddess, and were valuable assets to studios and stars. With the aid of art directors, they achieved some of the most amazing and dangerous sequences captured on film, pioneering photography effects used through the remainder of the 20th century. Interviews include William Wyler and Lillian Gish.
- “Star Treatment” – Producers discovered the effect of ‘star power’ on their box office bottom line. Creating Hollywood stars becomes its own industry, resulting in the Hollywood Star System, from which came Clara Bow, Lillian Gish, and John Gilbert, successor to Rudolph Valentino as “The Great Lover”. But as easily as they made them, studios could break them. Interviews include Charles “Buddy” Rogers, Louise Brooks and King Vidor.
- “End of an Era” – Silent films had universal appeal, simply by replacing intertitles and dialogue cards for the foreign markets. Sound film was experimented with in many forms since the 1890s, but did not become commercially successful until The Jazz Singer in 1927. Hollywood movie making was transformed and ultimately shattered, taking the careers of many silent film stars, directors and producers with it, victims of the emerging technology. Interviews include Lillian Gish, Mary Astor, Janet Gaynor, George Cukor and Frank Capra, Sr.