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Silent Traces: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Charlie Chaplin Paperback – Aug 1 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Santa Monica Press; 1 edition (Aug. 1 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159580014X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595800145
  • Product Dimensions: 27.9 x 1.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #582,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"A delightfully obsessive piece of artistic detective work...that would make the ghost of Jacques Derrida weep with pleasure."  —Los Angeles Times Book Review

"John Bengtson has again produced a book that combines film history, social history, and a cultural study of Los Angeles."  —Leonard Maltin, film critic and historian

"John Bengtson uses the films of Charlie Chaplin to perform effortless miracles of observation and detection."  —Los Angeles Times

"What a debt we owe him! . . . Silent Traces is a marvelous sequel to his book on Buster Keaton."  —Kevin Brownlow, director and film historian

"Silent Traces offers fascinating glimpses of Charlie Chaplin's Hollywood in relation to the Hollywood of today." —Bob Mondello, National Public Radio

"Silent Traces is terrific! Bravo!' —Ray Bradbury

"Silent Traces is a fascinating inquiry that transcends the geographical and approaches the spiritual." —Palm Beach Post

"Film history at its most accessible, this volume is a treasure for Chaplin fans."  —Editor's Guild Magazine

About the Author

John Bengtson is a business lawyer and film historian who discovered the magic of silent comedy at an early age. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Silent Traces: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Charlie Chaplin, Silent Echoes: Discovering Early Hollywood Through the Films of Buster Keaton, and Silent Visions: Discovering Early Hollywood and New York Through the Films of Harold Lloyd. Bengtson has presented his work on Buster Keaton as keynote speaker at events hosted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre, and the UCLA Film and Television Archive. He is a featured columnist of the Keaton Chronicle newsletter, and lives in the San Francisco Bay area with his two daughters.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I guess Mr.Bengston's book Silent Echoes,featuring the shooting locations then and now of the legendary Buster Keaton,wasn't enough.Nooooo.He had to try it again with the master himself,Charlie Chaplin.And do you know what? I'm happy to say he has done it again! He has created another book that should be on EVERYONE's list of must-haves.
Like Silent Echoes,Silent Traces gives us plenty of info on Chaplin proper and zooms in on his studios and his myriad of filming locations in and around the L.A.area.He combines old original shots with what the current point of interest looks like now.Absolutely fascinating stuff for Chaplin fans and film historians.And because Chaplin had a lengthier resume in films than Keaton,this book comes in at about 100 pages thicker than Silent Echoes.We are talking a career span from Chaplin's Keystone works,to The Great Dictator.That is a LOT of film work and locations.Want to know where Chaplin shot his First National Pictures and if it is there today?Want to know where Charlie ran around dressed as a tree in Shoulder Arms?How about the road Charlie is on when he hangs on to the car in the fadeout for the Rink? It's all there and much,much more.
You also learn of related local history concerning his shooting locations.For example,in Mr.Bengston's chapter on The Adventurer,he discusses at length on how the current Pacific Coast Highway around Malibu was originally private property.A fascinating by product of his investigations into his work,and something I suspect even folks living around there today may not even know much about.
Silent Traces also works on another level.For those that like to get out and explore first hand,this book is a great tool to take along to seek out these long forgotten areas for themselves.
So if you're an historical buff of L.A. and its greater areas,a film historian,or an armchair fan of the great Chaplin,this is a must have book for your collection.Highly recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa1188e88) out of 5 stars 19 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa13818e8) out of 5 stars AN ABSOLUTE MUST!!!! Dec 17 2006
By Richard J. Oravitz - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Along with Bengtson's previous SILENT ECHOES (Buster Keaton) this is absolutely amazing stuff!!! I've been fascinated by this before & after photography since purchasing several Dover books (NEW YORK THEN AND NOW; WASHINGTON...etc)in the 1970's (still available at amazon) & Frassanito's series of Civil War books (GETTYSBURG...ANTIETAM, ETC...1980's) that show modern views of battlefield sites (also still avail...). But Bengtson clearly is the undisputed master of such "STUFF". The detective work involved in locating the actual sites where Chaplin (& Keaton) filmed their masterpieces is nothing less than astounding! Why isn't this guy working for our government on some top-secret spy project? I was & am simply blown away by Bengtson's books! I've revisited Chaplin's & Keaton's films & have enjoyed them even more (if that can possibly be) thanks to Bengtson. What's next...Lloyd?...Sennett& Keystone?...Fatty?
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1381b34) out of 5 stars Part Two of a Trilogy? One Can Only Hope! Jan. 10 2007
By Edward Dunn - Published on
Format: Paperback
In 1999, I posted a 4-star Amazon review of John Bengtson's "Silent Echoes--The Films of Buster Keaton." While I praised the book as a masterpiece of urban archaeology, I the time...I ultimately considered it to be an accomplished curiosity. It's not and, if I had it to do over, I'd opt for a 5+ rating. "Silent Echoes," and now "Silent Traces," are ingenious works of film scholarship that use environment and architecture to map the unique genius of their respectives subjects. At the time of the "Silent Echoes" publication, I lived in California and made a number of trips to LA armed with my now dog-eared copy of the book. (The related website was an equally dazzling revelation in unearthing long-lost LA.) The more I used the book to guide me through the landscape of Keaton's filmography, the more it became apparent that Bengtson was, in fact, charting the manner in which Keaton spun comic genius from the world around him. He constructed a unique world view from the pieces of the real world...a now quaint and unrecognizable LA of a past age more akin to the gentleness of spirit that imbued his work. If nothing else, the book was worth it for its view into the now faded glories of Venice Beach. I'm now on the East Coast, so I'll have less opportunity to trace Chaplin's journey through old LA, but that doesn't make the book any less rewarding. Now, we can only hope that, six or seven years down the road, Mr. Bengtson does the same service to Harold Lloyd, thus completing a study of the Holy Trinity of silent comedy. The rating for the Keaton and Chaplin books: Not enough stars in the heavens!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1381d74) out of 5 stars Great book, Poor design Sept. 12 2006
By Carl Wilson - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
All in all, this book represents a massive amount of research and contains a lot of great information. Now don't get me wrong... I do like the book, but for me though, the book fails on 2 levels: 1. the soft cover combined with the 300 pages and 11" depth makes it flop all over the place and subsequently I kept damaging the book. You have to set it on a table to read it. It's very inconvenient; but easily solvable with a hard cover. 2. The "now" pictures are in black & white. This is the most disappointing aspect of the book. The emphasis on change, and being made to feel like you are visiting the "now" location is lost in the myriad photos from different time periods. I almost felt sea sick

trying to separate the then and now pictures. I guess I was expecting the original pictures to be lined up the current pictures for a stunning contrast.

I suppose that both of these things decisions were made for cost of production reasons, which I can understand to some degree. In the end however, the feel of the book is more academic than entertaining. For a true Charlie fan, it is a treasure trove of information, but a little bit disappointing. Having never knocked a book for stuff like this before,I must have some sort of leg to stand on. So, overall, a great book with a wealth of information, poorly packaged.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1381f18) out of 5 stars A Great - and FUN - Must-Own Chaplin Book For Chaplin-Lovers Aug. 30 2006
By Lincoln - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a FUN new book for Chaplin fanatics to own (and I am one of them!) I have purchased, for my personal library, almost every book on Charlie that's been printed over the last 30 years, and I feel that this is a VERY worthy volume - in fact, it's already one of my favorites. It's one of those books that you just know you will be looking at again and again. It has a nice "look" to it inside - alot of nice pictures from Charlie's films, arranged chronologically (the Keystones, then Essanays, then the Mutuals, the First Nationals, and then Chaplin's United Artists and later films). Bengtson examines them, film by film, with alot of pictorial clues (aerial views, maps, etc.) as to exactly where the various shots were done, and "then and now" photos - all laid out in an easy to follow format. My only complaint (and this is a quibble) is that for such a nice book, I wish the publishers had released it in hardback! Oh well. Anyway, this is a very evocative book, and really makes me want to get to L.A. to make a pilgrimage to some of these Chaplin locales myself! I would of course HIGHLY recommend it as a "must own" book to any fellow Charlie-lover, and also to people who like silent films, and classic films, in general.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa1385300) out of 5 stars Chaplin and L.A. Spaces Sept. 26 2006
By Charles Maland - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is the result of amazing detective work by author John Bengston, who says he hopes to "use Chaplin's films as a portal to the past" by identifying the locations where Chaplin shot his films. Mr. Bengston fully succeeds in achieving his goals in this lavishly illustrated book, which often juxtaposes pictures from spaces in present Hollywood and the surrounding area with photographs and movie stills from Chaplin's era showing those same spaces.

I also appreciated the excellent chapter on the Chaplin Studio, now owned by the Jim Henson Company and adorned at the original entrance by a statue of Kermit the Frog holding a cane and tipping a Chaplinesque derby.

Thanks to Mr. Bengston for his history of the cultural geography of Chaplin and Hollywood.