Silent Films & Early Talkies on DVD: A Classic Movie Fan's Guide
Around 500 movies from the silent and early talkie era are now available on DVD. Of course this figure includes shorts as well as features, plus 40 or 50 films that are available in multiple versions. This handbook reviews 178 movies, dating from 1918 through 1934, that are now available to purchase in DVD format from reputable suppliers. Almost all these 178 films are full-length features that showcase stars like Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Clara Bow, Lon Chaney, Louise Brooks, Charles Chaplin, Joan Crawford, Colleen Moore, Harold Lloyd, Gary Cooper, William Powell, Greta Garbo, Rudolph Valentino, Norma Shearer, Buster Keaton, Shirley Temple, Barbara Stanwyck, Ronald Colman, Lillian Gish, Marion Davies, and Wallace Beery, who are still top favorites with all motion picture fans. In addition, however, it's very pleasing to note that players like Laura La Plante, Charles Ray, Alice Terry, Pola Negri, Mary Miles Minter, Rod La Rocque, and Mabel Poulton are also featured on a large number of discs. These stars were extraordinarily popular in their day and are just waiting to be re-discovered by today's movie lovers. Full credits and current release information are provided for each film. And the DVD itself is rated for quality on a scale of one to ten. Purchasers will save the price of this book by following just one of the author's recommendations. It's disappointing to buy a DVD and then find the picture and/or sound quality is so poor that the movie cannot be enjoyed. A further bonus is that the book is illustrated with some beautiful black-and-white photos from the Barrie Pattison Gallery of vintage movie stills, one of the best and largest private collections in the world. P.S. Some of Clive's points are well taken in his review below, but I do think his complaining about the inclusion of "Bad Girl" rather odd. A DVD release of this most important film had been announced shortly before the book went to press. It was therefore included. And as a matter of interest, the DVD is of course NOW available from the supplier indicated! And, as intimated in the book, a fine movie it is too! CLIVE'S REVIEWS: The problem with most DVD catalogs is that they age quickly, with new releases coming out all of the time. However, this is not the case with silent films and early talkies where new releases are limited to 3 or 4 a month. So for the fan of the silents and early talkies, this book is a one of a kind find. The author has listed many films, both the well known and obscure, listed a synopsis and some interesting background information on the film, stars, and directors, and even included reproductions of old movie posters. Best of all, the author tells you where you can find these films on DVD, and the quality of the reproduction. The manufacturers are not limited to just the major studios, Kino, and Criterion. He also includes such vendors as Grapevine Video, which has been selling silents for over thirty years. Now for my minor complaints. The author has a few articles for films that, at the time this catalog was printed, had no DVD release at all. For example, he goes into great detail about Borzage's "Bad Girl", which is a great film, even though at the end of the article he mentions - correctly at the time - that there was no DVD release. There are other films that deserved mention that were omitted, such as 1929's "It's A Great Life" and "Lights of New York", the first all-talking picture. However, I still recommend the book both as a buyer's guide and as just an all-around interesting read to those of us fascinated with the films of this much ignored era in Hollywood history... Roy Salmons in "International Movie Making" writes: "This book is ideal for historical research or simply for the movie buff. The 178 films reviewed list actors, directors and technicians. Another winner from John Howard Reid!"
- John Howard Reid, April 2011
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