Silents, please...

There are various sayings for it.  Everything old is new again.  What goes around comes around.  It’s déjà vu all over again.  (Ya gotta love Yogi Berra!)  In any case, it’s certainly true for Hollywood this past year.  One of the biggest films of 2011, a movie causing a lot of buzz, is a black & white, silent film.
The Artist is racking up the award nominations.  Six Golden Globe noms (it won Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical and Best Actor – Comedy or Musical).  Twelve BAFTA nominations.  Ten Academy Award noms.  And believe it or not, here in the 21st century, when movies are full of color and surround sound and incredible special effects, this film is the odds-on favorite to win Best Picture when the Oscars are handed out.

The Artist was inspired and created out of love for silent movies.  While the writer-director Michel Hazanavicius and stars Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are French, the movie is pure Hollywood.  It is the story of George Valentin, a romantic, action-adventure star of silent films, and Peppy Miller, a young actress on her way up. When sound begins to enter the film industry, both Valentin and Miller find their careers profoundly changed.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some silents – The Phantom of the Opera and Robin Hood -- on the big screen at Tampa Theatre in Florida.  The old Wurlitzer organ was played for the films and it was an overall fantastic experience for a movie fan.  And now I’ve seen another great silent film on the big screen.  The Artist is not only a tribute to early Hollywood; it’s also a sweet love story.  Oh, and it also stars one of the cutest, most talented dogs in movie history.

If you’d like to see some of the works that inspired the creator of The Artist, check out the list below for stars and titles of 1920s and early 30s.  You’ll find everything from comedy to drama to adventure to horror.

Lon Chaney The Phantom of the Opera
Charlie ChaplinCity LightsThe Gold Rush; The Kid
Douglas FairbanksThe Thief of Bagdad; The Mark of Zorro; Robin Hood
Buster KeatonThe General; Our Hospitality
The Keystone Cops
Laurel & HardyThe Lost Films of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy
Harold LloydSafety Last
Mary Pickford Amarilly of Clothes-line Alley
Rudolph ValentinoBlood and Sand; Cobra; The Sheik

Behind the Camera
Cecil B. DeMille The Cheat; The Ten Commandments (silent version in the DVD set with 1950s remake)
Alfred Hitchcock The Lodger; Easy Virtue

Other Classics Worth Seeing
Ben-Hur (silent version in the DVD set with the 1950s remake)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (early horror)
Metropolis (early science fiction)
Nosferatu (the original vampire movie)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (historical film)
Sunrise: a Song of Two Humans (melodrama)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin (based on the classic novel)

Honorable Mentions
Flickers – British TV series about the earliest days of filmmaking in England, starring Bob Hoskins and Frances De la Tour.
The Jazz Singer – The first talkie, though most of the movie is silent.  The story of a young man’s desire to go on the stage rather than follow in the footsteps of his cantor father. Al Jolson plays the title role.
Silent Movie – Mel Brooks’s 1976 comedy, featuring Marty Feldman, Dom DeLuise, and Sid Caesar.
Singin' in the Rain – The classic movie musical about silent film stars who have to make an often hilarious transition to talkies.  And, yes, there’s a love story along the way.  You know the stars.  Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Jean Hagen.
Sunset Boulevard – Billy Wilder’s 1951 dark comedy/melodrama about screenplay writer Joe Gillis and his fateful affair with an older woman – the mad silent film star Norma Desmond.  It stars William Holden and Gloria Swanson – who really was a silent film star.

Enjoy some quiet time at the movies!


Every so often, a movie comes

Every so often, a movie comes along that completely captures my heart. The Artist is one of those films. I haven't been so completely and utterly charmed by a movie since I first saw Bringing Up Baby in college. I certainly didn't expect a black and white, mostly silent film to win me over so thoroughly. 

The story is a familiar one (I was strongly reminded of Singin' in the Rain), but it still manages to be fresh and unique. The characters are winsome and charismatic, the acting is superb (particularly from Dujardin and Bejo), and the score perfectly accentuates the plot.   And let's not forget Uggie, the adorable dog who steals the show whenever he's on screen!

I sincerely hope The Artist wins all the awards at the Oscars this weekend. It certainly deserves them, if only for re-introducing a generation of movie watchers to a lost art form.

Thanks for putting together this fantastic list!

Thank you for reading and

Thank you for reading and commenting!  The Artist is one of the movies that sort of stays with me.  The more I think about it, the more I want to see it again.  And, as you pointed out, it's so good to bring silent movies to the attention of moviegoers.  It's so good that we have access to early movies through DVDs and can see how extraordinary filmmaking was even before the advent of sound.

Thanks again!