I own "The Parade's Gone By," "The War, The West and The Wilderness," and "Behind the Mask of Innocence," as well as "The Pioneers." The reason I go out of my way to find Kevin Brownlow's books can be summed up in one word: Love. He loves his work and he loves the movies, and it shows in every sentence. The three parts of the book discuss silent filmmaking in Hollywood just before and during U.S. participation in the first World War, the making of westerns and documentary filmmaking, such as that done by Robert Flaherty and those two crazy men, Cooper and Schoedsack.
Brownlow not only takes the reader to the scene (literally) of the films, he adds information from the reviews of the day, comments from distributors and, in the case of part 1, various censorship boards of the U.S. and UK.
Part 2 includes interviews with and stories about the early western stars, including some long forgotten (like Art Acord). His depiction of Inceville, out past Santa Monica, brings back California at the turn of the last century. Viewers of the Brownlow/Gill HBO series will recognize some of the anecdotes, especially those of Allan Dwan.
Part 3 I will reread, soon. What sticks in my mind is the incredible bravado of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack making "Grass," you can feel the adventurism that later led them to make "King Kong."
This is a hard to get book, now. It's for the true aficionado with nitrate in their blood, questioning if we'll ever get back that sense of love and wonder when the silent filmmakers were loosed upon the world.