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Silent Players: A Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses [Kindle Edition]

Anthony Slide
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

" From his unique perspective of friendship with many of the actors and actresses about whom he writes, silent film historian Anthony Slide creates vivid portraits of the careers and often eccentric lives of 100 players from the American silent film industry. He profiles the era's shining stars such as Lillian Gish and Blanche Sweet; leading men including William Bakewell and Robert Harron; gifted leading ladies such as Laura La Plante and Alice Terry; ingénues like Mary Astor and Mary Brian; and even Hollywood's most famous extra, Bess Flowers. Although each original essay is accompanied by significant documentation and an extensive bibliography, Silent Players is not simply a reference book or encyclopedic recitation of facts culled from the pages of fan magazines and trade periodicals. It contains a series of insightful portraits of the characters who symbolize an original and pioneering era in motion history and explores their unique talents and extraordinary private lives. Slide offers a potentially revisionist view of many of the stars he profiles, repudiating the status of some and restoring to fame others who have slipped from view. He personally interviewed many of his subjects and knew several of them intimately, putting him in a distinctive position to tell their true stories.

Product Description


"Slide sets a standard for film research that other writers can study and emulate." - Daily Variety "The grand master of silent film scholarship." - Choice "One writer who possesses the special insight necessary to any intelligent discussion of the silent movie is Slide." - Films in Review

About the Author

Anthony Slide, a scholar of film history, has published over fifty pioneering works on film and entertainment.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3317 KB
  • Print Length: 476 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 081312249X
  • Publisher: The University Press of Kentucky (1 Feb. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0078XFS3G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,314,409 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars very disappointing and more than a tad nasty 9 Aug. 2004
By S. Hapgood VINE VOICE
This is a glossy coffee-table a-z of actors from Hollywood's silent era, the fascination for most readers being in that Mr Slide personally knew many of the people he is writing about. Sadly that doesn't make it a better book. To try and be fair to Mr Slide I came to this book immediately after reading Jeanin Basinger's beautiful tribute to silent movies, "Silent Stars", and so I wasn't prepared for Slide's style, which is uneappealing to say the least, and like being doused in cold water. Even though I am fascinated by the Silent Era I found Mr Slide's overbearing personality and humourless attitude robbed the book of any enjoyment for me. Even the rather pompous and self-important title grates. You can only really get away with such a negative attitude if you're genuinely funny with it, and/or you speak profound truths, and he does neither.
Some c-list actors seem to be included solely because Mr Slide knew them, nothing wrong with that, it's his book after all, but that still doesn't make them particularly interesting, or what they did of any significance. I know that if you miss out key players you're inevitably going to get criticised, but Slide's gloomy, defensive rebuttal to this in his Introduction really gives a foretaste of what unpleasentness is to come. I was disappointed at first that he left out John Barrymore and Clara Bow for instance, but when I think of his style I'm quite glad he did, as I dread to think what bile he would have written! Also you need to temper personal opinion with some acknowledgement of the facts. He may not find Mabel Normand funny, and I daresay she might not be viewed that way much by everyone now, but she was hugely popular in her time, consistently polling popularity votes in fanzines of her era.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.6 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Obnoxious Book by an Obnoxious Writer 19 Jan. 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Anthony Slide is somewhat infamous among movie buffs for his truly unctuous writing style, arrogantly putting forth his own opinions as fact and lambasting any opinions to the contrary. Movie fans have to put up with his nonsense for years in the vintage films publication CLASSIC IMAGES with his malicious reviews of other author's works, often completely trashing excellent books because of a single trivia error he found (and no, I am not a book author trashed by him in case you are wondering). The insufferable Slide always gave the impression he was slumming in that good-natured fan publication, fortunately a few years ago he finally decided he had lived in the trailer park too long and haughtily left the magazine much to the delight of most of the readership.
Slide has written numerous books on silent movies, none of them particularly good except for the D.W. Griffith filmography which I suspect was due mainly to his co-writer, Edward Wagenknecht, a beloved silent film historian. Indeed, despite his many years writing (Slide must be sixtyish now), I certainly would not rank him on the level of Wagenknecht, Kevin Brownlow, James Card, and William Everson as an important, influential silent film scholar-historian despite the compliment by the always kind Lillian Gish that adorns the dust jackets of many Slide books. Slide is more of a critic than a historian or scholar and unfortunately he tends to be the Rex Reed of silent movie writers. Typical Slide views are his dissmissal of Greta Garbo's films while spending one of the largest chapters praising his personal friend starlet Mary Brian to the heavens. Miss Brian was quite a beauty and well-loved in the industry but she was in no way a great star and was not at all a good actress. Considering Lillian Gish's kindness toward him, I was surprised by the rather indifferent profile she merits in this book including digging up a few negative reviews (which could be found on of course any Hollywood star). There is something of the suggestion Slide was miffed that Ms. Gish was equally generous and warm to her fans as well as to snooty film writers.
Slide's essays here are often scarcely more credible than the books of Boze Harleigh, whose shoes Slide seems to want to fill as for "outing" and conjecture about possible gay silent stars. He speculates Wallace Reid and George O'Brien might have been gay or bisexual with the weakest of evidence (one actress who was not known to be close to Reid told Slide he "should never have married") while the elderly character actress Kate Bruce is ludricously presumed by Slide to have been a lesbian due to her never having married, complete with a suggestion the old grandma actress was bedding down some very young Griffith actresses!! Slide's "source" for this is his intrepetation of a quote from a 1920's vindictive book by D.W. Griffith's widely disliked ex-wife but the quote he gives from the book as "evidence" (that various young actresses would cling to Bruce and rest their heads on her lap) could be intrepeted as such only by the dirtiest of minds, a more level-headed person would realize Mrs. Griffith was being excessively sarcastic about a bunch the women all playing the cornball mother/daughter sentiment bit from Griffith's melodramas off screen as well as on. Would that Slide have actually listened to his friend Mary Brian whom he quotes as dismissing all the lurid latterday gossip about the golden era, that it was literally another era and people just were not as sexually adventurous back then!! (I did find it rather ironic that Slide repeatedly refers to his housemate film archivist Robert Gitt but never actually identifies their relationship!!)
Like Miss Brian, Slide goes into detail about some of the other elderly actresses who befriended him like Ruth Clifford and Priscilla Bonner, women whose careers arguably don't merit this much space. His chapter on Laura La Plante is not bad but his Corinne Griffith essay is quite weak (by the way, Mr. Slide, the Redskins, owned by one of Corinne's husbands, are a football team not a baseball team). The Blanche Sweet chapter allows him to both brag on his friendship with the elderly star and expose her hot temper while he joins the long line of Mae Murray bashers (so many cruel-natured writers just love to kick this tragic, ill-fated star since she fell perhaps the hardest of any big name) in an extremely short essay and when Slide ridicules the home and clothes of the elderly, impoverished Madge Bellamy one wonders if the man has any humanity in him at all. The book in fact seems overloaded with mean-spirited comments (is it possible for him to be any other way with individuals he does not admire?) directed at certain performers some of whom were kind enough to give him a few minutes of their time. Some were smarter and apparently snubbed him. Be smart yourself and follow their lead. And go read a book by Kevin Brownlow!!
54 of 59 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and infuriating 24 Mar. 2003
By Bruce Calvert - Published on
The book is both fascinating and infuriating. I have a few other of Mr. Slide's books, and they are full of useful information, just like this one.
This book has great profiles on a lot of lesser known, but still interesting actors and actresses. Some of the profiles are several pages and are in-depth. Others are a very short page or two. Mr. Slide met more than half of the people profiled in the book. For those people, he greatly comments on how these people treated him. The book also documents their talkie careers, their career decline and their lives before their death.
The book does dish dirt on many prominent silent film people. While some of it is certainly true and deserves to be public record, sometimes he speculates on things like sexual relationships that seem unlikely (Ralph Graves and Mack Sennett!). Mr. Slide apparently finds it hard to believe that older women who live together can do so as friends not have a sexual relationship.
I don't know Mr. Slide, but he really lets his personality show through in this book. For one thing, he does not have a sense of humor. Of the comedians, he only wrote admiringly of Harold Lloyd and Alice Howell. He has very poor opinions of Mabel Normand and John Bunny. He says Bunny's comedy "contains
nothing creative" and "one wonders if audiences ever did laugh at his work." Chaplin, Keaton, Langdon, and Raymond Griffith are barely mentioned. Laurel & Hardy and Charley Chase are ignored. He talks of Arbuckle as if Roscoe really did rape and murder Virginia Rappe.
Mr Slide seems to remember everyone that made an anti-semetic remark to him. Surely people of this era were just as bigoted toward blacks and other ethnic groups. Yet D.W. Griffith is the only person (remembered by Blanche Sweet) remembered as making a racist remark, and that was before BOAN and INTOLERANCE. (At least he did say in the preface that he decided not to profile Patsy Ruth Miller because of her racist views and he usage of the n-word.
Mr. Slide seems obsessed with determining everyone's sexual orientation, and who had affairs with whom. By the end of the book, you are almost disappointed if a person profiled just married once and didn't sleep with anybody else. In the case of William Haines, J. Warren Kerrigan, Ramon Novarro (only mentioned in the book) and a few others, their sexuality certainly was an important part of their story and certainly affected their careers. After "outing" so many people, I was actually surprised when he said that he had determined that George O'Brien is NOT bisexual.
Surely, just like the general population, silent actors got crotchety in their old age. The best chapters are actually the ones where Slide spent a lot of time with the person, like Jetta Goudal (!) and Blanche Sweet.
Mr. Slide also calls anybody who does not agree with his political views "right-wing". In an otherwise glowing profile on Lloyd, he calls THE CAT'S PAW (1934) "unfortunately right-wing". I'm not a conservative, yet his judgements of
the subjects' political views are unusually harsh.
The most shocking line in the book to me was, "Nowhere is the tragedy of Clarine Seymour's death more pointed than here; if only she might have lived and [Carol] Dempster died, how much better would Griffith have fared in the coming decade." While I agree that Dempster wasn't a very good actress, this is really some bizarre wish.
So anyway, it is a fun, fascinating read. Having said that, Kevin Brownlow's books have better interviews with their subjects, and Eve Golden's GOLDEN IMAGES book has better profiles of obscure silent film stars.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Silent Players: An arrogant, Tasteless Polemic 7 Jan. 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Anthony Slide seems to be working out some deep-seated psychiatric dysfunction whenever he writes about silent stars. His recent work, Silent Players, shows an enormous amount of disrespect towards his subjects---most of whom are long dead and cannot provide a rejoinder. While Mr. Slide apparently has a good grasp of most of the subject matter, his favoritism is painfully obvious---those stars whom he liked personally received favorable treatment, while those he did not like (usually those who refused to submit to his interviews) were lambasted and ridiculed, i.e., calling Mary Philbin "braindead." What gives Mr. Slide, whom, as far as we know, can't act his way out of paper bag, the right to judge these people personally, not just artistically? Too often his work reads like the personal likes and dislikes of a frustrated little boy who doen't always get his way. What a shame. Mr. Slide should exhibit more class toward those who are dead, especially since they possessed far more talent than he.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Revisionist, almost revolutionary" Gossip w/ Nice Photos 31 May 2004
By mwreview - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book by noted silent movie expert Anthony Slide features a photo and approximately three pages of biographical text (although some have as little as one page of text) on the following actors and actresses: Mignon Anderson, Mary Astor, William Bakewell, Lina Basquette, Madge Bellamy, Constance Binney, Priscilla Bonner, Hobart Bosworth, Evelyn Brent, Mary Brian, Gladys Brockwell, Kate Bruce, John Bunny, Ruth Clifford, Elmer Clifton, Miriam Cooper, Pauline Curley, Viola Dana, Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon, Philippe De Lacy, Carol Dempster, Dorothy Devore, Richard Dix, Billie Dove, Claire DuBrey, Virginia Brown Faire, Bess Flowers, Howard Gaye, Lillian Gish, Dagmar Godowsky, Jetta Goudal, Ethel Grandin, Ralph Graves, Gilda Gray, Corinne Griffith, Robert Harron, William S. Hart, Alice Howell, Alice Joyce, Madge Kennedy, Doris Kenyon, J. Warren Kerrigan, Laura La Plante - The Legends: Lon Chaney, Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Buster Keaton, Rudolph Valentino; - Harold Lloyd, Babe London, Bessie Love, Dorothy Mackaill, Mary MacLaren, Percy Marmont, Mae Marsh, James Morrison, Jack Mulhall, Mae Murray, Conrad Nagel, Nita Naldi, Mabel Normand, Jane Novak, George O'Brien, Gertrude Olmstead, Seena Owen, Jean Paige, Kathryn Perry, Olga Petrova, Mary Philbin, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, Arline Pretty, Esther Ralston, Charles Ray, Wallace Reid, Billie Rhodes, Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Clarine Seymour, Lowell Sherman, Pauline Starke, Gloria Swanson, Blanche Sweet, Constance Talmadge, Norma Talmadge, Alice Terry, Florence Turner, - The Vamps: Theda Bara, Louise Glaum, Kitty Gordon, Olga Grey, Alice Hollister, Valeska Suratt; - George Walsh, Henry B. Walthall, Kathlyn Williams, Lois Wilson, Margery Wilson, Claire Windsor, and Fay Wray.
For mostly selfish reasons, I was a little disappointed by this book because many silent player names (well known or otherwise) I run across and would like to look up I do not find in this book. I was also disappointed in the biography on the actor about whom I know the most because I run a tribute website on him. I did not learn much new about him through this book which surprised me because he was very famous between 1914-16 and Slide knew several actors and actresses who worked with him (i.e. Lillian Gish). As many other reviewers have noted, there is a lot of gossipy information in this book (Slide calls it "revisionist, almost revolutionary"). Everything from Robert Harron dying a virgin to Mary Pickford's drunken rages aimed at her husband Buddy Rogers. Certainly, one would be hard pressed to find such stories in other books. One of the best features in the book, however, are the photos. Every star has a full page photo (except for those in the "Legends" and "Vamps" chapters who have a smaller photo and only a paragraph of text). Many of the photos seem to be quite unusual. I had never seen the photo used in this book of my website subject before. Slide does not use the commonly seen publicity shots for this book, which is nice. If the above names intrigue you and you like a bit of controversy, I recommend this book but, as a reference guide to silent movie stars, I was disappointed in it.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Silent Players 27 Dec. 2005
By T. Miller - Published on
This book is wonderful for those of us who collect books on the silent cinema however, if you're looking for the big stars this might not be the book for you. If you're looking for a glowing book about the talents from films silent age look elsewhere. I actually found myself searching for one biography in which Mr. Slide didn't say something mean, improper, or speculative about an actor and could find but a few. It was his personal feelings about these people, not short biographys of actors. Some of it was interesting but I could care less if Viola Dana was promiscuous or Patsy Ruth Miller was a racist. I'm interested in their films, not who they slept with and whether they were nice to him when he interviewed them. Because of all this "gossip" the book disappointed me but I have to say I have discovered a few more actors from the silent era. I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if he had written the book while any of these people were still alive.
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