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Book Review: Silent Vignettes: Stars, Studios and Stories from the Silent Movie Era

Tim Lussier’s new book from Bear Manor is a delightful, interesting, and enlightening anthology of information on the silent era. The author compiles several chapters on different subjects under the silent movie umbrella and explores them at a level that informs and well as entertains. Its random presentation is one of the book’s most endearing qualities.

Harold Lloyd’s earlier films opposite Bebe Daniels are discussed, with further information about Bebe’s life and career. Buster Keaton’s use of water in his films is examined. And a chapter on Reginald Denny opens with an old trade magazine’s quote which states: “The screen is crowded with Americans trying to act like Englishmen but Reg is the only Englishman who tries to act like an American and gets away with it. His comedies are both typically American and very funny.”

There are chapters on stars at the level of Greta Garbo and Mary Pickford, as well as Harold Lockwood and Nils Asther. The tragic Olive Thomas is discussed. The beautiful Virginia Brown Faire is here. Never heard of the Flugrath sisters? Well, they’re Edna Flugrath, Shirley Mason, and Viola Dana. How about the Novak sisters? The union of Reginal Hitchcock and Alice Taaffe? They’re all in this book with a wealth of interesting details.

The author also explores Charlie Chaplin’s various leading ladies and their different characters, the rise and fall of the Lubin company, movie stuntmen, “crusty” character actors, Raymond Griffith, Betty Compson, Corrine Griffith, women in comedy, all the way to Fracelia Billington.

Books like these are rich with detailed information on so many different levels, and feature so many fascinating tidbits about the silent era. Silent Vignettes is an absolute must for any library, research center, or personal book collection that hopes to be at all comprehensive.

The book is available here: SILENT VIGNETTES

James L. Neibaur
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