The Sound Of Silents

The men and women who labored in the ghostly light of the great screen to make the music that accompanied silent movies were as much a part of the show as Lillian Gish or Douglas Fairbanks

If I ever kill anyone,” D. W. Griffith once exclaimed, “it won’t be an actor but a musician.” He had been arguing with Joseph Carl Breil, his collaborator on the score for The Birth of a Nation. Griffith wanted to change some of the notes in the music they were planning to borrow, and Breil was outraged. “You can’t tamper with Wagner!” he cried.Read more »



The Shattered Silents: How the Talkies Came to Stay

by Alexander Walker William Morrow and Co., Inc. 65 photographs, 218 pages, $10.95 Read more »

The Late Late Silents

The last of the major silent films, made shortly before sound engulfed the movie industry in 1928, may not have been golden, but they glittered brightly. Some sixty million Americans were going to the movies more or less regularly, and production budgets were soaring to dizzy heights. Competition among the big film corporations— Paramount, Loew’s, Fox, Universal—was savage. In 1924 Loew’s had merged to become the formidable Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.Read more »

Doug Fairbanks

Superstar of the Silents

In early Hollywood there lived a King. He was married to a Queen. Her name was Mary, and she was a Golden Girl. He was dashing and marvellously graceful and young—above all young. Youth was very American, and besides, it was essential to the King

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All Join In The Chorus

For almost two decades at the turn of the century illustrated songs charmed nickelodeon audiences.

It is nearly a half-century now since there occurred one of the swifter but less regrettable casualties of American culture—the passing of a form of professional entertainment known as the illustrated song. A strange phenomenon native to music halls, dime museums, vaudeville, and the early, early silent movies, the song play, as it was billed in places with pretensions, enjoyed a brief but unforgettable craze during the first dozen years of this century.