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Silent Movies: The Birth of Film to the Triumph of Movie Culture [Hardcover]

Peter Kobel
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

6 Dec 2007
Few people realise the extent to which the Hollywood movie industry today was shaped in the silent era. Drawing on the resources of The Library of Congress, one of the greatest repositories for silent film and associated memorabilia, Peter Kobel explores the fascinating world of silent film, from its birth in the 1890s, with the earliest narrative shorts, through the full-length features of the Twenties and puts directors, actors and their films into a broad historical perspective. The book also looks at the technology of early film, the use of colour photography and the restoration work being spearheaded by some of Hollywood's most important director such as Scorcese and Francis Ford Coppola. Lavishly illustrated by the Library of Congress's extensive collection of posters, paper prints, film stills and other memorabilia, most of which has never been in print, SILENT MOVIES will take its place as the defining work on this most important and fascinating aspect of American culture.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Little Brown Book Group; 1st Edition edition (6 Dec 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316117919
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316117913
  • Product Dimensions: 31.2 x 24.1 x 2.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 257,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Spectacular. --The New York Times

Book Description

An illustrated history of silent films, capturing the ground-breaking works and icons of the genre - including Chaplin, Garbo, Clara Bow and Valentino

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book 15 April 2009
This is a great book with a real sense of chronological events in the history of silent movies. Lavishly illustrated and well written, this is an essential contribution to silent movies. I was only frustrated by the biographies of the main actors and actresses. Too short ! I think there should have been two volumes : 1. History of silent movies and 2. The great names of silent movies (actors, actresses, directors...). That's my personal opinion...but the book deserves four stars ! My favourite is still Kevin Brownlow's "Parade's gone by".
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book about silent movies 16 July 2010
By feb
I'm totally agree with the previous review : first of all, this book is just beautiful (gorgeous illustrations, high quality paper) and well written but the part concerning the actors/actresses is too short (a page with a picture and a page with a brief resume for some stars or just a page for others....but my favourites Janet Gaynor and Greta Garbo are present). Nevertheless this book is a great source of information and deserves a place in your book case next to "The Parade's Gone by..." by Kevin Brownlow and "Silent Films, 1877-1996: A Critical Guide to 646 Movies" by Robert K. Klepper.

PS : sorry for my writing but I'm not at ease enough with english to write a full review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Introduction 30 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you know little or nothing about the history of film or silent movie history itself I can think of nothing better than to start with this volume. Rather than an academic study that bogs itself down in interpretation and social juxtapositon, this is written with a lot of love and a great deal of clarity. Both Kevin Brownlow and Peter Kobel have depth in the subject and write with affection, rigour and occasional sly humour when describing both the films themselves and the stars who filled the movie houses with crowds that ran into the millions.

The book covers film origins including the slightly surreal Edward Muybridge, how Edison failed to invent moving pictures; early development in europe particulaly France and to a lesser extent the UK; the business of film making and the growth and explosion of film stardom. The outline of basic film genres (westerns,horror,comedy etc.); together with descriptions of early directors, some world famuous D.W Griffith, Erich Von Stroheim and others to my eyes unknown, Oscar Micheaux,a black director and producer who tried to bridge the gap between black and white audiences and Lois Weber very well regarded at the time for her social realism.

The works of the German expressionists; Murnau, Lang, Pabst and their influence on later directors is well brought out in the text.

There are numerous vignettes of actors and actresses Fairbanks, Gish, Bow, Barthlemess, Valentino, Garbo and many more.

The book also discusses and indeed cherishes silent film as a distinct artform. Highlighting incredible setpieces including Intolerance (Griffith),Ben Hur (Niblo),the cost over run cost several people their jobs, Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant, gorgeous book 28 Oct 2007
By Jane L. Taylor - Published on
This book is an absolute treasure. We're first seduced, of course, by the incomparable illustrations, many never published before--arresting movie stills, posters, lobby cards, promotional photographs. The stars, the directors, the cinematographers, the technological processes, the advertising stunts are all represented by artfully chosen items from the Library of Congress's extensive archives, and it's great fun to browse; while searching for favorite actors and films, we discover surprising images we never knew existed. But this is no slick coffee-table book. Peter Kobel is a brilliant writer whose clear, lively, graceful prose illuminates every aspect of the silent-film world. The book is thought-provoking, thoroughly researched, and substantive without ever being stuffy. Kobel has a light touch and his enthusiasm for his subject is compelling. He understands the films' creators and their audiences, and puts both masterfully into context. Silent Movies is a loving tribute that makes a strong case for increasing our efforts to save this endangered artistic legacy. A definitive, solid, and intoxicating book.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Awesome Book 29 Oct 2007
By Susan Rogers - Published on
This book is an absolute delight. During my initial paging through, I was at first struck by the quality, quantity, and depth of the incredible wealth of illustrations. Glorious eye candy for the film buff. But once I began reading Peter Kobel's eloquent text, I was captured by a prose that makes the silent film world come alive. Kobel provides us with a rich, well-researched picture of this era. I particularly liked his organization which avoids a straight chronology and approaches the subject from a variety of views - genre, individual personalities, the art of film, even promotion and the press. This allows me to read in depth or browse at leisure. Silent Movies is one of those fascinating books that will draw me back into it again and again.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sumptuous Book on the Silent Era 30 Dec 2007
By Tonia M. Crum - Published on
I received this book as a Christmas gift and while not a definitive volume on the Silent Era, it is truly beautiful. They have various chapters from the stars, the directors, genres and etc. This book is loaded with photos of stars and posters and is a large coffee table book. I have read bits and pieces but not cover to cover, yet. Still, I can highly recommend this book to anyone interested in this forgotten time in cinema history.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars for silent movie lovers 10 Jun 2008
By P. Kingsbury - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The photographs alone in this book justify the purchase price. Heck, the cover photo of Clara Bow justifies the price! The text was interesting but not overly enlightening; however, every photo was one I'd not seen before. I found the author's choice of biographic subjects to be intriguing since it included actors I might have overlooked. If you love the silent movie era, this is a good addition to your library.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully illustrated book 9 Jan 2008
By Christina Gould - Published on
This book is crammed with lush photos and fantastic ad materials from the silent era. The text is thorough, informative, and presented in an organized and entertaining manner, but the book is worth the price for the illustration alone.
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