Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Silents, Please



It might seem strange for a gal who is all about words to have a fascination for the old silent era actresses. But I do, I love them. 

After all, what were they? They were storytellers. They came to a brand new medium, usually from difficult backgrounds, and made it their own. Because the "flickers" were new, there were no traditions, no rules, no customs set in stone. It was wide open and nobody knew just how it ought to be done. 

At first, all the shots were long, as if seen by an audience sitting in a theater. After all, so many of the people making early motion pictures came from vaudeville backgrounds. But when the camera came close, that was when these women cut loose and made moviegoers fall in love with them.

In a silent medium, it did no good to be subtle. The expressions, the gestures, the emotions, were all big and bold. I love that! Further, the movies were seen as hopelessly low brow in the early days, and so the story lines tended to be populist and sentimental. Fine with me!

Of course, it hardly even needs saying that these gals were beautiful, and I think their old-timey dresses, hats and hair are all as charming as the day is long. But don't be fooled. These were some tough cookies. Mary Pickford was a shrewd businesswoman, and it was Mabel Normand who fought to get a second chance for first-time fizzler Charlie Chaplin.

So, I love them. Maybe you will, too. Enjoy the video!
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11 comments:

Lynn said...

That dark haired woman with the big eyes makes me think of my paternal grandmother, who had a way of looking into the camera very intensely like that. Perhaps she had seen some silent films and was emulating the look. :)

Fireblossom said...

I think you mean Clara Bow, the "it" girl. A LOT of girls copied her!

Sioux said...

I think your fondness for silent movie starlets makes lots of sense. You are extraordinarily gifted with words and phrasing and rhythm and images...They were talented when it came to facial expressions and bigger-than-life acting.

I agree--they did wear gorgeous clohtes.

Daryl said...

They said more with their faces than words could express .. imagine Catherine Zeta Jones Botox trying to emote without speaking .. she might get the Helen Keller role in the silent version of The Miracle Worker ..

Brian Miller said...

i am fascinated with story telling in general and finding new and different ways to tell them so this is right up my alley and the constraints of them being silent, other than maybe the music makes for great art...also love old radio drama which was the opposite and relied on teh voice and noises...

Suz said...

ah, but let us not forget the makeup artists,the dress designers and of course, the photographers who made the magic happen
such beauty
gorgeous women

hedgewitch said...

Thanks for that--a fascinating look at the past brought to life. Lilian Gish is exactly what I would have wanted to look like if I could have picked me before birth. The clothes still have that touch of the fin de siecle, the older softer days when women were marketed as reproductive units and had to be shackled in symbolic ultra-femininity, but contain the rebellion of the new days to come when women got up and started to change the status quo. The picture of Dorothy Gish, as it? up a tree, and of the last actress with her Joan of Arc crop show how these women began to define a new kind of feminine. Loved it, Shay.

Mama Zen said...

They are so beautiful!

Hannah Stephenson said...

Mmmm....storytelling with silence is loud.

Fireblossom said...

Thank you for all your comments! As Norma Desmond said in Sunset Boulevard, they didn't need words...they had faces!

PS--laffin hard @ Daryl talking about Botox-Jones.

Rene/ Not The Rockefellers said...

Since make-up artistry was not what it is today many silent movie actors were responsible for putting on their own make-up( which was a bluish green tint btw, since warm tones would not register on film) Some of them, like Lon Chaney, were the pioneers of special effects techniques used to this day.