Ten essential silents

Kevin Brownlow’s “Silents Please” article, published today in The Times, concludes with a list of “ten essential silents” (with his comments):

The Birth of a Nation, 1915 The most influential and controversial of all silents

Broken Blossoms, 1919 Poetry on the screen

The Phantom of the Opera, 1925 Inspired hokum

Variety, 1926 Dazzling sex drama set among trapeze artists

Flesh and the Devil, 1927 Garbo and Gilbert fell in love on this picture – and it shows

Metropolis, 1927 The silliest great film yet made

Napoléon, 1927 The most technically innovative film yet made

Sunrise, 1927 Masterly use of the camera

The Crowd, 1928 A young couple’s fight against poverty

The Wind, 1928 Lillian Gish enduring relentless Texan storms

Those are Kevin’s choices. These are mine:

Satan’s Merry Frolics (Les Quatres Cents Farces du Diable), 1906 Georges Melies’ most dazzling trick film

A Corner in Wheat, 1909 D.W. Griffith’s finest

The Battle of the Somme, 1916 The pity of war

The Rink, 1916 Charlie Chaplin, poetry in motion

Our Hospitality, 1923 Buster Keaton in sweetly nostalgic mood

An Italian Straw Hat (Un Chapeau de Paille d’Italie), 1927 The funniest silent of them all

Hindle Wakes, 1927 Stunning slice of Northern life

The Manxman, 1929 Underrated Hitchcock, technically flawless

Umarete Wa Mita Keredo… (I was Born But…), 1932 Ozu’s wry, sympathetic view of childhood

Tianming (Daybreak), 1933 Chinese emotional masterpiece

5 responses

  1. Well since we are playing top ten (in no particular order)

    1) The Cameraman (1928) – Keaton in top form

    2) Life of An American Fireman (1903)- I love the Dream Sequence, and the early narrative.

    3) TWo Tars- My Favorite Laurel and Hardy (1928) (Yeah, I know it is a short)

    4) The Kid (1921) – coogan and Chaplin ran emotions A to Z

    5) Sunrise (1928) – I agree with Kevin, A Lovely use of the Camera

    6) The Lonedale Operator (1911) – Vintage Early Griffith

    7) Amarilly of Clothes Line Alley (1918) Mary Pickford at her plucky best

    8) Grandma’s Boy (1922) – Harold Lloyd thoroughly engaging

    9) Wings (1927) The first drama I saw that kept my interest

    10) (Any Silent I can get to see for he first time!)

  2. FYI, I wil be scoring SATAN’S MERRY FROLICS for David Shepard/Kino release later this year…other Melies on the same set include SOAP BUBBLES, THE GOOD SHEPHERDESS AND THE EVIL PRINCESS, THE NEW LORD OF THE VILLAGE, NOT GUILTY, THE MISER, SIGHTSEEING THROUGH WHISKEY, CAKEWALK INFERNAL, and JUSTINIAN’S HUMAN TORCHES

  3. Terrific news that there is to be a Georges Méliès DVD from David Shepard/Kino – it’s needed. Anything called JUSTINIAN’S HUMAN TORCHES is going to be worth the price of the DVD alone. There was a French four DVD set given advance promotion at the end of last year, LA COLLECTION GEORGE [sic] MELIES, but I’ve heard nothing further about it. Presumably rights issues with the Méliès family have held things up…?

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