Recommended Reading

"Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and Triumph of Movie Culture"

by Peter Kobel and the Library of Congress

Foreword by Martin Scorsese, Introduction by Kevin Brownlow

(Little, Brown and Company, 2007, 301 pages)

Another sumptuous, glossy, large, must-have book with gorgeous reproductions of photographs, posters and other movie-related materials. An excellent overview of the silent era from its earliest days to the coming of sound, the book never pretends to be a comprehensive history of the silent era - yet, as Kevin Brownlow says in the introduction, "This book is an ideal introduction to the silent cinema. It takes an incredibly complicated series of events, such as the first few years of cinema, lays them out so we can understand them, and then sails on, keeping our interest through a genuine enthusiasm for the subject." For example, in about a dozen pages, Kobel discusses the origin of the motion pictures with references to those to whom we are so indebted such as Thomas Edison, Otway and Gray Latham, William Kennedy-Laurie Dickson, Eadweard Muybridge and others who played significant roles in the development of the moving image. The book then moves to the early years from 1893 to 1914 and the significant films from that period made by Edison, Biograph, Pathé, Mélies and other pioneering movie companies. In another chapter, the business of film is discussed with background on the evolution of many of the movie companies that emerged prior to 1920, and the role of the anti-trust dispute in the rise of these studios. A chapter entitled, "Genres" gives several pages to comedy, westerns, horror and science fiction, documentaries, serials, animation, epics and more. "The Art of Film" gives due credit to the beautiful art titles and the genius of the written word in conveying dialogue and story in the intertitles, as well as art direction, set design and cinematography. "The Stars" is a chapter that may cause some to question why "so and so" is missing, but the idea is to give the reader some sense of the kind of stars that were popular and the reason for their appeal. An absorbing chapter is provided on "Promotion and the Press" with special attention given to posters, lobby cards, glass slides, movie magazines, newspaper ads and such. Chapters are also devoted to directors and international cinema. However, the special appeal of this book is the wealth of materials that have been beautifully reproduced. Not only do we see exquisite photos, there are pages and pages of reproductions of promotional material of every imaginable kind that grace the pages, all in vivid color. A high quality, absorbing book that should be in every silent movie fan's collection - and on a coffee table or some other prominent place where others can see it, because it's irresistible. You'll find yourself picking it up time and time again to flip through the pages.

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