The Late Late Silents

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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. Even without a sound track the voice of the lion was heard in the land, and the M-G-M motto— “More Stars than there Are in Heaven”—became the king of boasts. It seemed not too gross a hyperbole, either, with Lillian Gish, Mae Murray, John Gilbert, Lon Chancy, and Ramon Novarro all acting for M-G-M ; and after The Big Parade , starring John Gilbert, set new box-office records in 1925, the company was ready for the 1926–27 season absolutely swollen with confidence. To its exhibitors it sent a lavishly illustrated book showing off the productions for the coming year. After the complacent endpaper reproduced below, it glorified each film with a poster reproduction and a portrait of the star. Most of these movies were in fact fated for oblivion after the stunningly audible arrival of Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer in the fall of 1927. But from that now faded bouquet we are glad to present, on the following pages, a few pressed blossoms from the last big summer of the silents.