Silent film books
July 3, 2012 2:00 PM   Subscribe

What are some good books about the silent film era?

I know the basics about the early days of film and Hollywood, but I'd like to know more. What books about the era of Keaton, Pickford and Chaplin are considered good reads?

(Bonus points for there being a UK Kindle version - makes them easier to read on the train to work!)
posted by garius to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I enjoyed Lulu in Hollywood by Louise Brooks:
Louise Brooks (1906-1985) is one of the most famous actresses of the silent era, renowned as much for her rebellion against the Hollywood system as for her performances in such influential films as Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl. Eight autobiographical essays by Brooks, on topics ranging from her childhood in Kansas and her early days as a Denishawn and Ziegfeld Follies dancer to her friendships with Martha Graham, Charles Chaplin, W. C. Fields, Humphrey Bogart, William Paley, G. W. Pabst, and others are collected here. New to this edition is the revelatory "Why I Will Never Write My Memoirs" by Brooks and "The Girl in the Black Helmet" by Kenneth Tynan, which brought about the revival of interest in her work and was the best discussion of Brooks's film work to appear in her lifetime.
posted by bcwinters at 2:20 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is my favourite though not Kindled. Tarbox is a fine writer on cinema and I love this one, too, and it is Kindled.
posted by TheRaven at 2:55 PM on July 3, 2012

You want The Parade's Gone By, by Kevin Brownlow.
posted by scratch at 3:03 PM on July 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

The Movies, Mr. Griffith and Me by Lillian Gish is very charming but also includes a lot of technical detail on how some of the earliest films were made.
posted by La Cieca at 3:06 PM on July 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild. No Kindle version, sadly, but worth reading anyway in my opinion.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:31 PM on July 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Charlie Chaplin: My Autobiography.
posted by starman at 3:31 PM on July 3, 2012

Back when I was first getting into movies, I asked a knowledgeable friend for recommendations and he suggested the following:

Brownlow's The Parade's Gone By (1968)
The Rise of the American Film by Lewis Jacobs (1939)
William K. Everson's American Silent Film (1978)
Paolo Cherchi Usai's Silent Cinema: An Introduction (which is written from a preservationist's perspective)
Margaret Farrand Thorp's America at the Movies (1939, and not specifically focused on the silent era, but too good not to mention here)
and anything by Richard Koszarski or Gilbert Seldes.

I didn't get through all of these, but what I did get through was good enough that I happily recommend them all to you.
posted by bubukaba at 5:45 PM on July 3, 2012

I grabbed Gloria Swanson's autobiography on a whim at a vacation house and thoroughly enjoyed it.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:20 PM on July 3, 2012

Paul Merton's Silent Comedy is meant to be good and is available on Kindle.
posted by permafrost at 3:42 AM on July 4, 2012

Thanks all. All good answers, so I've highlighted the ones that I've now ordered. The others I will purchase when I get through those!
posted by garius at 9:18 AM on July 4, 2012

It's a novel, but Glenn David Gould's Sunnyside is about this era and packed with historical detail. It should be on the Kindle, which is good as it's HUEG.
posted by mippy at 11:06 AM on July 5, 2012

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