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Silent Lives Paperback – Feb 1 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 411 pages
  • Publisher: Bear Manor Media (Feb. 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593931247
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593931247
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 567 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #725,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars 25 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Have for Early Cinema Enthusiasts May 3 2008
By Barbara Underwood - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It was with great pleasure and excitement that I began reading this new book whose release seems perfectly timed in this current revival and growing availability of silent and early films. Written with passion and in-depth understanding by a life-long silent film enthusiast, this book is exactly what everyone with a sincere interest in early cinema could wish for. It has been meticulously researched and presented in a way which provides the reader with a wealth of information at a glance and at one's fingertips, from the succinct biographies in alphabetical order, to resource references and website addresses for further personal research. Aside from being an indispensable handbook for general knowledge or for writing articles and reviews about actors, directors and other key characters of the silent era, it is also a pleasure to simply read from cover to cover. This is mainly due to the engaging style of writing, making a factual biography read more like an enjoyable story - and what stories they are! Suddenly the names of stars and behind-the-scenes crew became real, living people as I read each one's life story, beginning with the basic facts underneath their names, namely what age they lived to, and of what they died. This little bit of extra information already makes the person come alive in one's mind, and the 2-3 page biographies summarize highlights and certain traits about each individual in such a way that a solid first (or second!) impression is formed. No doubt this can be attributed to the fact that the author personally interviewed some of the people showcased in this book, or else has liaised with family members or ardent followers of the person in question. Each person's most important films are mentioned, both from the silent and early sound era, and at least one interesting photo or illustration per biography makes for enjoyable yet very informative reading.

Although essential for any novice of silent films, "Silent Lives" is also an exciting revelation for more advanced aficionados, thanks to the carefully chosen list of biographies ranging from the essential, most famous names to the obscure and unexpected silent film features such as Felix the Cat, the Model T Ford automobile and my favourite; Rin Tin Tin, the famous canine actor, whose biography reveals that he lived nearly 14 years, and unlike some of his contemporaries, made the transition into sound films effortlessly. Important behind-the-scenes people such as directors, writers, inventors and cameramen are also given worthy tributes in these biographies, which altogether gives a well-balanced overview of who contributed to the development of early Hollywood, how, and which films best represent these facets. Obviously, a medium-sized book cannot encompass the entire gamut of early cinema, but the mere fact that the one hundred short biographies in this book already provide a firm foundation is evidence of the skilful research, planning and writing required for such a book, which in itself deserves of a full 5-star rating.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Warts and All" Jan. 1 2010
By William J. Cassara - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Silent Lives," by Lon Davis. He of the Many Great Books, I might add. I recommend this book highly. The task seemed too big and is certain to arouse readers into demanding more, more, more. As a reference book to those silent stars, this is a great start. For the person who considers themselves knowledgeable about the people profiled, you are in for some nice surprises. Lon Davis provides some personal rememberences. He had the forsight to visit with many while at the Motion Picture Home while he was a young boy. Thank goodness Lon Davis put this in book form.

To me, it reads as a sequel to "Clown Princes and Court Jesters." That is a compliment, sir. I applaud Mr. Davis for furthering the study and bringing up those that were famous and those that were obscure. I enjoyed the Babe London, Del Lord and Billy Beven very much. Do you know who I turned to first? Stan Laurel. This is not a rehash of information already out there. It's a fresh perspective on the professional and personal lives of those who made the movies, not just the stars. Be forewarned; Some of those profiled had tragic endings. Isn't that life? We care about these people and so does the author.

I recommend this book for all libraries and for anyone that may want to rekindle their fond memories of the people that made us laugh. Really laugh.

"Silent Lives" is a warm and serious study that reads like visiting old friends; warts and all.
18 of 32 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing June 5 2008
By Classic Hollywood Lives - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Silent Lives by Lon Davis is a sadly disappointing collection of 100 thumbnail silent film star biographies that could have been written by any casual silent film fan. This book contains no new information or interesting revelations; most of the 100 bios run only a short two or three pages - and that's including photos - so how in-depth could they possibly be? While the author cites numerous sources for each biography (books which I have read, for the most part), he seems only to be paraphrasing the previous works.

If you want to read intelligent and informative (as well as concise) silent film star bios, I recommend that you leave this disappointing volume on the shelf and instead pick up the comparably priced Silent Stars by the great Janine Basinger.
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinary Glimpse into a Bygone Era April 11 2008
By Hiram Horwitz - Published on
Format: Paperback
Silent Lives is a treasure. It chronicles the lives of 100 silent film stars nearly a century after their big day - and does so in a way that's exciting and fresh, despite the passage of time. Each mini-biography contains concise background information, pertinent career highlights, rare period photographs, and at least one pithy anecdote about the subject at hand. The range of silent film stars covered is broad and provides a representative sampling of larger-than-life big name personalities (Chaplin, Fairbanks, Pickford, Swanson, and Valentino), recognizable and enduring character actors (Conklin, Clyde, Dressler, and Turpin), and lesser-known players who are often overlooked or forgotten (Beverly Bayne, Florence Lawrence, and Henry Walthall). The author paints a clear picture of each personality by contrasting the on-screen character with the off-screen behavior. The net result is that the reader is offered a glimpse into the lives of the players, as well as the atmosphere of the silent film era they created. This glimpse will no doubt whet your appetite for searching out the many films highlighted by the author and make you want to watch the films one by one. That's certainly what happened to me! Whether you're a silent film scholar or neophyte, I highly recommend this book.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Landmark Cinema Book that is needed for every film library May 21 2008
By Ricky Lertzman - Published on
Format: Paperback
"Silent Lives" by film historian Lon Davis is a captivating work that explores the lives of 100 of the greatest silent film actors, writer, studio heads and directors. Beyond being a fascinating glimpse into many of the stars of this era, it also explores a period that is being rapidly forgotten. Many film historians know about the great art that was created during this period. Mr. Davis presents fresh material and information about the artists who created the cinema. His interviews with those who were actually there (Diana Serra Carey (Baby Peggy), Babe London etc.) and direct descendents (Suzanne Lloyd (Harold Lloyd), Harold Langdon Jr. and others) is cogent information from a generation that is leaving us rather quickly.
This book will serve as a document, for generations to come, of an art form that served to frame what followed in cinema. Film scholars will reference this book for years to come. The illustrations in this book add to the wonderful stories about these iconic stars and creators.
Kudos to Mr. Davis for writing one of the best cinema books I have ever read. As a former publisher of a scholarly film magazine, I thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful portraits that Mr. Davis paints. It is so refreshing to find a film scholar, such as Mr. Davis, who has not forgotten the roots of our cinema and has brillantly captured those artists.
Rick Lertzman