Reading Robb

I’ve now got my copy of Brian J. Robb’s Silent Cinema (see earlier post) and indeed it is quite poor. It’s sloppily edited, has numerous errors, spells names wrongly (Adolph Zuker, Brit Acres, D.W. Griffiths etc), and unashamedly regurgitates every dubious myth about silent film you can think of. It’s also very oddly structured – chapters on the origins and developing art of film, then a chapter on Georges Méliès, then straight into sections on directors, stars and clowns, followed by scandals, a quick round up of international silents, then potted descriptions of some classic titles, and on to the coming of sound.

I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody, except for the DVD that accompanies it. This is a generous 193 mins compilation put together by Sunrise Silents. The quality of the clips is poor, the accompanying music is cheap, and there’s nothing to tell you what the film clips are unless to refer to a back page of the book. But the sheer range of clips is very impressive, so here’s a listing (the dates aren’t given on book or DVD, so The Bioscope comes to the rescue):

  • Johnny Hines – Conductor 1492 (1924)
  • Mary Pickford – Little Annie Rooney (1925)
  • Harold Lloyd – I’m On My Way (1919)
  • Pola Negri – Hotel Imperial (1926)
  • Rudolph Valentino – Son of the Sheik (1926)
  • The Gish sisters – Orphans of the Storm (1921)
  • Douglas Fairbanks – Wild and Woolly (1917)
  • Greta Garbo – Joyless Street (1925)
  • Laura La Plante – The Cat and the Canary (1927)
  • Buster Keaton – Cops (1922)
  • Norma Talmadge – The Social Secretary (1916)
  • Rin Tin Tin – The Night Cry (1926)
  • Raymond Griffith – The Night Club (1925)
  • Colleen Moore – A Roman Scandal (1919)
  • Lon Chaney – The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
  • Louise Brooks – It’s the Old Army Game (1926)
  • Charles Chaplin – The Star Boarder (1914)
  • Clara Bow – My Lady of Whims (1925)
  • William S. Hart – The Ruse (1915)
  • Pearl White – The Perils of Pauline (1914)
  • Lige Conley – Air Pockets (1924)
  • John Barrymore – The Beloved Rogue (1927)
  • Theda Bara – The Unchastened Woman (1925)
  • Our Gang – The Big Show (1923)
  • Mabel Normand – The Extra Girl (1923)
  • Alla Nazimova – Salome (1923)
  • Gloria Swanson – Teddy at the Throttle (1917)

All are American except Joyless Street (German), and, no, I’d never heard of Johnny Hines or Lige Conley either…

2 responses

  1. Actually, I saw a Johnny Hines film at Slapsticon a few years ago and it was quite good. Another of the “unknown” members of the film industry who gets glossed over. It is a shame with all of the worthwhile research and effort done out in the world this lackluster effort find its way too publication.


  2. I’ve now looked him up and know a little more than I did. I wonder what sort of public profile he and other such minor comedians (including Lige Conley) had at the time?

    What’s interesting about the Robb book is that it was written at all. It’s done by someone who has specialised in cut-and-paste biogs of modern day starts, who has applied the same method to silent cinema. Why?

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