Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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Shane91
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Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by Shane91 » Sun Jul 13, 2014 1:27 am

I Am Looking To Purchase Some Books On The Silent Era As Well As Early Sound Era Hollywood 1927 - 1935, etc,
I Was Wondering If Anyone Here Could Give Me Some Help In Narrowing Down My Choices, Any Suggestions, Or Recommendations Would Be Very Helpful. Here Are Some That I Am Considering:

Decided:
The Parades gone by - Kevin Brownlow
Garbo - Barry Paris
Greta Garbo: A Cinematic Legacy - Mark A. Viera
Joan Crawford - Enduring Star - Peter Cowie
Harlow In Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell In The Glamour Capital - Mark A. Viera & Darrell Rooney

Not Sure:
Silent Movies: The Birth Of Film And The Triumph Of Movie Culture - Peter Kobel
Silent Lives - Lon Davis
American Silent Film - William K. Everson
Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Star - Alexander Walker
Sin In Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood - Mark A. Viera
Irving Thalberg: Boy Wonder To Producer Prince - Mark A. Viera

filmnotdigital
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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by filmnotdigital » Sun Jul 13, 2014 5:18 pm

From your second group, I would recommend the Everson, followed by at least one of the Vieiras: Sin In Soft Focus is one of the best books about the Pre-Code era.

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Donald Binks
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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by Donald Binks » Sun Jul 13, 2014 5:51 pm

if you are interested in the transition period (to sound) then I would recommend "The Speed of Sound", Scott Eyman (1997). A fascinating read from cover to cover.
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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by Jim Gettys » Sun Jul 13, 2014 6:39 pm

For a successful search, use the author's correct name: Mark A. Vieira (not Viera).

Jim Gettys

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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by Gumlegs » Fri Jul 25, 2014 6:12 pm

Shane91 wrote: Decided:
The Parades gone by - Kevin Brownlow
Garbo - Barry Paris
Greta Garbo: A Cinematic Legacy - Mark A. Viera
Joan Crawford - Enduring Star - Peter Cowie
Harlow In Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell In The Glamour Capital - Mark A. Viera & Darrell Rooney

Not Sure:
Silent Movies: The Birth Of Film And The Triumph Of Movie Culture - Peter Kobel
Silent Lives - Lon Davis
American Silent Film - William K. Everson
Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Star - Alexander Walker
Sin In Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood - Mark A. Viera
Irving Thalberg: Boy Wonder To Producer Prince - Mark A. Viera
Add to your list, "The Talkies" by Donald Crafton. Authoritative.

Anything by Brownlow is first rate. "The War The West and The Wilderness" and "Behind the Mask of Innocence" are every bit as good as "The Parade's Gone By." His "Hollywood: The Pioneers," the companion to the TV series is lighter but also very well done.

Everson's book is very good. "Sin in Soft Focus" is also well done. I haven't read the others, so I can't comment.

"A Song in the Dark" by Barrios is also well done.

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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by Dave Pitts » Sat Jul 26, 2014 8:54 am

Some excellent titles there -- of the ones I know, Everson is tops; he seems to have seen all the available & important films that a researcher could have seen 40 years ago, and has good judgment. Brownlow is so devoted to the subject, the era, the comedians, that he does what really great critics do: he makes you want to track down the films he's discussing, and when you do, you appreciate them more for having read him. Paris on Garbo is a good and maybe definitive study -- I believe this is the book where (I think) Cukor is quoted as saying that when he was behind the camera watching Garbo he couldn't see the magic, but when the film was screened he could suddenly see Garbo pouring herself into the lens.
I would add the oldie title, Daniel Blum's Pictorial History of the Silent Screen, not for the text but for the fine collection of old stills. Many of them are printed too small, but they're fascinating. I wouldn't be without my copy.
Depending on how obsessed you are, you might want to search Alibris or Amazon or half.com for used copies of New York Times Film Reviews, Vol 1, covering 1913-1931, or the three beginning volumes of Variety's Film Reviews. The opinions of the original release critics are sometimes startling and off-base, but that's half the fun of it. They sometimes report on specific audience reactions to films, and for the lost films, you get plot rundowns, etc.

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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by Derek B. » Sat Jul 26, 2014 10:57 am

Donald Binks wrote:if you are interested in the transition period (to sound) then I would recommend "The Speed of Sound", Scott Eyman (1997). A fascinating read from cover to cover.
I would second this. I meant to get it for years and finally bought and read the e-book version earlier this year when Frederica mentioned it here. And I agree about all of the other books discussed in the above replies. It may have too many possibilities for the original poster but if they haven't seen it the old NitrateVille topic Top Favorite Silent Film Books is very useful.
- Derek B.

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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by Michael O'Regan » Sat Jul 26, 2014 12:23 pm

THE SPEED OF SOUND and A SONG IN THE DARK are both excellent. I might also recommend THE SHATTERED SILENTS by Alexander Walker. IMO, it's the weakest of the three but worth a read, just the same.

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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by earlytalkiebuffRob » Sat Jul 26, 2014 4:14 pm

I bought Everson's AMERICAN SILENT FILM more or less when it came out and found it very readable with the benefit that Everson only commented on films he'd actually seen. His enthusiasm is very infectious, and it is one of those books which I would not dream of parting with. THE SHATTERED SILENTS is a very handy work and shouldn't cost more than a few dollars. The main drawback, which I noted recently was that he does not clarify what films he has actually seen, as some of the films discussed appear to be lost now. We therefore don't always know if an opinion is his or that of a contemporary observer. It was, however, the first book I had on the subject and is very entertaining.

A SONG IN THE DARK has been discussed on this site before, but it is well worth getting. And ditto BEHIND THE MASK OF INNOCENCE, which I found on a market stall twenty years back and have not seen another copy since. A customer at my bookshop asked for it once and it was available and in the £30-£40 range, but it is a particularly good guide to a different area of film history and well worth having.

There is a very good range of silent / early sound film history books now. Your main problem will be affording them and finding shelf space!

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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by earlytalkiebuffRob » Sun Jul 27, 2014 7:06 am

...and if you're tracking down early talkies, a very useful source is freeclassicmovies.com as it contains a lot of small-studio films of the period. The print quality is variable, but one I certainly found films which were totally new to me as well as ones I never expected to see, either in rep houses or on television. It is particularly useful if you live in a Region 0 or 2 zone as many of these films are only available to buy on Region 1 and one doesn't know how much the customs folk will slap on the price. Some of these films are Region-free, but are listed on Amazon as 1, which can raise the odd hiccup.

When I first started to catch up with films from this era, there was less choice, as tv stations showed very little, and the other main source was the National Film Theatre, which understandably concentrated on major stars, directors and studios. Now one is spoilt for choice!

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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by Michael O'Regan » Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:54 am

freeclassicmovies.com seems to be a disused website?

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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by CoffeeDan » Sun Jul 27, 2014 6:15 pm

Are you referring to free-classic-movies.com?

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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by Dave Pitts » Mon Jul 28, 2014 7:38 am

Amending my post above because of an episode of premature senility! What I said about Brownlow's book (which is excellent, too) really applies to Walter Kerr's The Silent Clowns, which I was picturing as I wrote my comment. Both books are classic, Brownlow because he got to some of the survivors in their final years and writes with care and style; Kerr for describing film sequences in detail and showing that he's savored the excellent work of the 20's comedians. Both are high quality books, both as literature and as film studies.

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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by Michael O'Regan » Mon Jul 28, 2014 11:39 am

Regarding books, though I haven't read it A Million and One Nights by Terry Ramsaye is often quoted as being a must-read. I have yet to do so, as it's out of print and expensive to come by.

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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by Frederica » Mon Jul 28, 2014 11:57 am

Michael O'Regan wrote:Regarding books, though I haven't read it A Million and One Nights by Terry Ramsaye is often quoted as being a must-read. I have yet to do so, as it's out of print and expensive to come by.
Gosh, there are used copies available on Amazon (US) for peanuts.
Fred
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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by Michael O'Regan » Mon Jul 28, 2014 12:14 pm

Cheapest on Amazon UK is £15. I guess one man's "peanuts" is another man's "armandaleg".
I'd be happy to pay this for a new copy.
:)

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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by Frederica » Mon Jul 28, 2014 12:28 pm

Michael O'Regan wrote:Cheapest on Amazon UK is £15. I guess one man's "peanuts" is another man's "armandaleg".
I'd be happy to pay this for a new copy.
:)
It was about $6.50 on amazon US, but you'd pay for shipping. No libraries handy?
Fred
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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by Michael O'Regan » Mon Jul 28, 2014 12:34 pm

Frederica wrote: No libraries handy?
None that would have this book.

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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by Michael O'Regan » Mon Jul 28, 2014 12:37 pm

CoffeeDan wrote:Are you referring to free-classic-movies.com?
Now you're talkin'!
:D

How does one get these movies onto DVD? I can't abide watching a movie on my PC.

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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by earlytalkiebuffRob » Mon Jul 28, 2014 1:26 pm

Apology for leaving out the dashes! Recently found MISTER ANTONIO (1929), which admittedly is cheap to buy but not sure what they sting you for duty. Certainly easy to download to disc and all Public Domain. If no-one else enlightens will jot down procedure and attempt to explain...

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Re: Silent & Sound Film History Books - Recommendations

Unread post by Michael O'Regan » Mon Jul 28, 2014 1:55 pm

earlytalkiebuffRob wrote: If no-one else enlightens will jot down procedure and attempt to explain...
Yes, please. :D

Perhaps you can PM me, rather than hijack this thread, which is unrelated.

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