Cover image for Silent films, 1877-1996 : a critical guide to 646 movies
Silent films, 1877-1996 : a critical guide to 646 movies
Klepper, Robert K., 1966-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland, [1999]

Physical Description:
ix, 586 pages : illustrations ; 27 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN1995.75 .K57 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

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This film reference covers 646 silent motion pictures, from Eadweard Muybridge's initial motion photography experiments in 1877 to the 1996 silent film effort, The Taxi Dancer. Among the genre included are classics, dramas, Westerns, light comedies, documentaries and even poorly produced early pornography. Masterpieces such as Joan the Woman (1916), Intolerance (1916) and Faust (1926) can be found, as well as rare titles that have not received coverage since their original releases.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Klepper has a most serious love affair with silent movies. His previous work, Silent Films on Video (McFarland, 1996), listed more than 700 silent movies available on video. This work builds on the earlier one and has entries for 646 silent movies with cast lists and birth and death dates of performers, directors, etc., when known. The work covers 119 years of films, from the experimental photography of Eadweard Muybridge in 1877 to The Taxi Dancer in 1996. The earlier experimental films are not rated, but the longer works are assigned ratings that range from four stars (a masterpiece) to one star (abysmal). The purpose of the work is to provide information on silent movies, lobby for wider availability of some, point out the ones to ignore, and provide a comprehensive study of the topic. Within each section, arrangement is by year, and then alphabetical by film title. The first chapter covers the "Experimental Years (1877^-1885)." Most of these films are very short and depict actions, such as Woman Hopping on One Foot or Woman Walking Down Stairs. The 1890s saw more Edison Kinetoscope Company shorts, generally less than a minute in length, such as Fred Ott's Sneeze and Serpentine Dances. "The Nickelodeon Age (1902^-1911)" began with films that told a story. One of the most famous is A Trip to the Moon, which appears in most movie and science fiction retrospectives. As much as can be located about the film's cast and crew is included along with pertinent dates. There is also a brief plot summary and evaluation. The longest section is "The Golden Era of Silents (1912be as long as two pages. All the big names pop up, including Lon Chaney, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Mary Pickford, and. Gloria Swanson. A Free Ride (1915), which is the oldest hard-core porn film in existence, is described. Early African American films such as Body and Soul (1924), with Paul Robeson, are included. Black-and-white photographs of many of the movie stars are scattered throughout. The work concludes with an extensive bibliography of the works consulted and a comprehensive bibliography of films and people. The film titles analyzed are in italics. One thing to note about the index is that citations refer to the number of the entry, not the page. The work is not without flaws. Errors such as "good buy" instead of "good guy" and "short" instead of "shot" are found. Also, in the entry for the 1927 version of Ben Hur, the main character is called "Judas" instead of "Judah." It can be difficult to locate film entries if one does not know the year of release, and the index is not always helpful. The index listing for Intolerance gives more than 30 entry numbers, with no indication of which is the main one. Generally, however, this labor of love is a readable and critically perceptive analysis of silent movies. Other resources on the topic include the three-volume Magill's Survey of Cinema: Silent Films (Gale, 1982), which has long critical summaries of 308 films from the years 1902 to 1936. Many more films are listed in the silent-films volume of The Motion Picture Guide (Cinebooks, 1985) and in pertinent volumes of The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States (Univ. of California, 1970^-), but these provide only brief descriptions. Silent Films, 1877^-1996 covers more years, has a number of unique titles, and offers descriptions that are often considerably detailed. Recommended for public, academic, and special libraries.

Library Journal Review

Expanding on his Silent Films on Video (McFarland, 1996), Klepper offers his personal appraisal of 646 films. Arranged by year of release and then alphabetically by title, the entries provide a chronology of the development of the film industry as well as information on specific titles. Each entry includes production company, running time, director and other technical contributors, and cast, including vital dates and the names of the characters portrayed. While these facts are helpful and sometimes hard to come by, the real merit of the book lies in the zest with which Klepper covers his subject. He goes beyond the usual feature films and serials and delves into the early experiments of Edison and Lumi`ere, issue films on such topics as civil rights and homosexuality, and even some films that were considered pornographic at the time. His critiques summarize the plot, note historic significance, give facts about the filming, and relate fascinating anecdotes about the stars on and off the set. Well over 200 illustrations, a four-star rating system, and a copious index add to the appeal of the book. Unfortunately, the sources for obtaining the films are not usually mentioned, so another reference book such as Klepper's own (mentioned above) must be consulted. Recommended for any library where there is interest in silent films.ÄVivian Reed, Long Beach P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Klepper's critical guide both echoes and pays tribute to the gargantuan work of Anthony Slide in his edited volumes Selected Film Criticism (1982-85, CH, Nov'82; CH, Oct'84). Although Klepper promises "complete, detailed critiques of all types of silent films" but delivers more descriptive synopsis than critical analysis, such a general overview is worthwhile in helping to educate uninformed audiences of the range and variety of silent films. The author divides his work into three broad categories: the "experimental years" (Eadweard Muybridge's photography), "Early Films of the 1890s" (mostly the Lumiere Brothers and Edison), and the 20th century. He divides this last section into discussions of the "nickelodeon age," the "golden era," and silent films made after the advent of sound (e.g., Mel Brooks's Silent Movie, 1976). Several films are notable for their absence--e.g., Lois Weber's The Hypocrites (1915) and Rene Clair's Entr'Acte (1924)--and American films are privileged over all others. Klepper's book, with its photographs and the author's own starred rating system, will provide general readers, undergraduates, and neophytes with an enjoyable, accessible introduction to the sparkling diversity of silent films. T. Lindvall Regent University