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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: #175,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa556fc48) out of 5 stars 24 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5143714) 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.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5143960) 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
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5143ba0) 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.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa5143e1c) out of 5 stars Silents, Please May 18 2008
By Mark Pruett - Published on
Format: Paperback
I was strangely moved to see the references in SILENT LIVES to Joe Franklin's CLASSICS OF THE SILENT SCREEN, a book that is typically ignored by silent film historians. Franklin's book, ghosted by the great William K. Everson, appeared in 1959, the year that Lon Davis was born. CLASSICS may seem a little dusty by now, if only because Everson, lacking instant access to the silent-film library that we now take for granted with DVD, had to rely on his memory, his own and others' collections, and whatever screenings of rare films he was able to arrange. CLASSICS OF THE SILENT SCREEN introduced a new generation to the silent era; SILENT LIVES furnishes a beginner's guide to that era from the very different vantage point of 2008.

Think how much has changed! Where, in 1959, did one go to see Betty Bronson in PETER PAN, filmed only 35 years earlier? Today, 84 years after the movie's release, we can watch it at our convenience on DVD (or, if we're blessed, on a big screen), restored to its original tinted magnificence from an endangered nitrate print. We are mindful now that only 20% of all silent films survive, yet more effort is being expended today to preserve that 20% than was ever put forth to save the lost 80%. We live in an age of new hope for silent film.

To confirm this, open SILENT LIVES at the back, page 402. The appendix in Joe Franklin's book was limited to an FAQ section and cast lists for fifty films. In contrast, Davis provides a short bibliography, important works by Everson, Kevin Brownlow, Walter Kerr, Jeanine Basinger, Anthony Slide, and earlier enthusiasts like Kalton C. Lahue; inventories two multi-episode television documentaries by Photoplay Productions; lists a dozen specialized outlets (by mailing address and URL) for the purchase of silent era DVDs, and furnishes the web addresses of 56 web sites dedicated to the study and enjoyment of silent films.

The body of the book offers one hundred brief, unpretentious, cross-referenced biographies of film people--actors, primarily, but also writers, directors, moguls, even Felix the Cat and Rin-Tin-Tin. It is far from exhaustive, but it provides the silent-film novice with multiple springboards to further reading and watching.

The book's photos are surprisingly diverse. I didn't imagine I would ever see a Mary Pickford still that I hadn't seen before, but Davis came up with one (Mary literally draped with puppies). She graces the cover of the book, too--a shot from COQUETTE (1929), her first talkie. In the photo she is holding her finger to her lips. It's a cautionary gesture, frozen in time, from the very end of the silent era.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa50a412c) out of 5 stars A Tremendous Contribution to Silent Film Scholarship Aug. 12 2008
By Harold Lloyd's Annette - Published on
Format: Paperback
What a delightful book this is - and what an important contribution to film scholarship Lon Davis has offered through his book, Silent Lives. This is a splendid introduction to 100 luminaries in the film galaxy - and I was honored to have been asked to assist with the bios of Harold Lloyd and Jobyna Ralston. And, I think that is what makes this book special - Davis didn't create film history in this book, but rather built upon it, by corresponding with experts in various fields, in order to get the facts straight and correct. His sources, at the end of each chapter, allow the reader to dig further, and learn more. This shows not only thorough research, but a care and concern for giving credit where credit is due, and from those sources, building a marvelous array of Life Stories. I highly recommend this book for those new to silent film, as well as those who want to learn more about the origins of cinema, and the personages who contributed to its greatness. I congratulate Lon Davis on a splendid book, and urge those who are even remotely interested in silent film stars to seek it out, and savor the pages within.

Annette D'Agostino Lloyd