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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars full marks!, 4 Aug 2004
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S. Hapgood "www.sjhstrangetales.com" - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Silent Stars (Hardcover)
This book was very much a labour of love for Ms Basinger, and it shows, as it's a simply gorgeous read. The author does an in-depth analysis of many Hollywood actors of the 1920s who, these days, rarely are remembered, let alone given the credit that is their due. She divides the book into types of actors, and this works very well, so for instance we get the cowboys, the flappers, the magnificent femme fatales (the successors to the vamps) etc. Some actors, such as Mary Pickford, merit a chapter to themselves, and deservedly so. Basinger reminds us that Pickford wasn't simply a grown woman who specialised in playing little girls (or sometimes little boys) with lots of curls, but a hard-nosed and extremely astute businesswoman, who set up her own production company, in an era when it was virtually unkown for a woman to do such a thing, and had been supporting her entire family since she was 6-years-old.
Basinger delights in bringing out another side to the actors, for instance Gloria Swanson, who had a magnificent and regal public image, was also a highly-skilled comedian, and could do physical slapstick comedy on a par with Chaplin (who she of course impersonated brilliantly in "Sunset Boulevard"). Marion Davies has had a rough press in showbiz history, (largely "thanks" to Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane") dismissed as Randolph Hearst's pampered mistress. In fact she was a brilliant comic actress who could, arguably, have gone a lot further WITHOUT Mr Hearst's support. Hearst often objected to what Marion was expected to do in films, wanting to keep her as a pretty, serene woman. For instance, he vociferously refused to let her be hit with a custard pie in "Show People". Marion got round it by distracting him off to a business meeting the day it was to be filmed, and was squirted with a soda syphon instead! A high note is Basinger's tribute to the Mack Sennett slapstick movies (the ones that brought us the Keystone Kops). For an academic Ms Basinger shows a shrewd understanding of what makes physical comedy works, and how the gusto with which it was done during the silent era would be nigh-on impossible to do now. The actors were simply more at ease with their own bodies, and also, many of the comedians had actually been real clowns.
She also naturally shows the downside to Hollywood, how the very first movie star, Florence Lawrence, the Biograph Girl in 1908, eventually committed suicide by eating ant paste, and Mabel Normand, the slapstick queen who lived her private life as frantically as a Keystone Kops chase, eventually burnt out and died at the tender age of 37. In spite of all that though you come away with the impression that making movies in those days was a heck of a lot of fun. Clara Bow is reputed to have said towards the end of her life that stars today (she was talking in the 1960s) had a much better chance of keeping their health, their sanity and their security, but, she concluded, "we had a lot more fun!"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars silent movie literary classic, 8 Mar 2013
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This review is from: Silent Stars (Paperback)
This has to be the best book about silent movies in Hollywood since Kevin Brownlow's 1969 masterpiece 'The Parades Gone By'.Basinger knows her subject and her enthusiasm comes across on the printed page in a highly readable fashion. The near 500 pages are lavishly illustrated. In discussing the careers of some 20 or so stars ranging from Rin Tin Tin through the Keystone Kops to Mary Pickford we gain a real insight into the workings of early Hollywood. Well worth seeking out for anyone interested in the period. Incidentally, her later companion volume 'The Star Machine' which looks at the studio system in the 30's and 40's is even better and has career profiles of many overlooked stars such as Eleanor Powell, Tyrone Power, Loretta Young and Irene Dunne among others.
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5.0 out of 5 stars excellent read, 8 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Silent Stars (Kindle Edition)
I loved this book terrific reply explained the ins and outs of the early cinema and its actors and actresses of that reintroducing some new n( to me) stars and characters written in a pleasant easy style
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Voice of the Stars, 20 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Silent Stars (Kindle Edition)
I would have preferred more information about the lesser known stars of the era such as Laura LaPlante or Valeska Suratt but what is in the book is very informative.
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Silent Stars
Silent Stars by Jeanine Basinger (Paperback - 1 Nov 2000)
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