I’m writing this post primarily for my dear friend, Karrie who expressed an interest in knowing what my favorite silent films were. In true Nancy fashion, I couldn’t pick just one! I will never forget the evening I fell in love with silent film. While I prefer to keep the movie title to myself, it is on this list. I remember that Sunday evening so clearly like it was yesterday. I felt drawn to the movie, the actors and the musical score. It was almost nine years to the day.
If you’re looking to check out silent films, these are my recommendations. This list is in no particular order. Note: all of the mini summaries are credited to IMDb.
20. Don’t Change Your Husband (1919) This comedy was directed by Cecil B. DeMille and starring Gloria Swanson. Synopsis: “Leila Porter comes to dislike her husband James, a glue king who is always eating onions and looking sloppy. But after she divorces him and marries two-timing playboy Schuyler Van Sutphen the now-reformed James looks pretty good.”
19. Why Change Your Wife? (1920) This comedy was directed by Cecil B. DeMille and stars Gloria Swanson & Thomas Meighan. Synopsis: “Robert and Beth Gordon are married but share little. He runs into Sally at a cabaret and the Gordons are soon divorced. Just as he gets bored with Sally’s superficiality, Beth strives to improve her looks.”
18. The Family Secret (1924) The films stars Baby Peggy (Diana Serra Cary) Synopsis: “A modest man unknowingly has a daughter with a woman from an affluent family. Through a series of coincidences he is accidentally reunited with his daughter during a burglary, forcing the family to confront its secrets.”
17. Pandora’s Box (1929) The film stars Louise Brooks and this role is the one that catapulted her into fame. Synopsis: The rise and inevitable fall of an amoral but naive young woman whose insouciant eroticism inspires lust and violence in those around her.
16. Modern Times (1936) The film was written, directed and starred Charlie Chaplin. Synopsis: The Tramp struggles to live in modern industrial society with the help of a young homeless woman. The story is a metaphor in so many ways.It’s a film that still evokes emotions today.
15. Show People (1928) is a comedy directed by King Vidor and starring Marion Davies and William Haines. Synopsis: A young lady from Georgia goes to Hollywood in the hopes of becoming an actress.I’m not one for comedy films but there are some silent comedies that are so good! This is one of them.
14. Lady of the Night (1925) stars Norma Shearer. Synopsis: A world-weary prostitute yearns after respectability and the love of an inventor.
13.Love (1927) starring Greta Garbo & John Gilbert. Synopsis: A married woman compromises her social standing and family life when she falls for a young officer.
12. Flesh and the Devil (1926) starring Greta Garbo & John Gilbert. Synopsis: Childhood friends are torn apart when one of them marries the woman the other once fiercely loved.
11. City Lights (1931) Written, directed and starring Charlie Chaplin. Synopsis: With the aid of a wealthy erratic tippler, a dewy-eyed tramp who has fallen in love with a sightless flower girl accumulates money to be able to help her medically. This is a sweet little film– a love story with a mix of comedic relief.
10. Stella Maris (1918) Directed by Marshall A. Neilan and starring Mary Pickford. Synopsis: Stella Maris is a beautiful, crippled girl, who is cared for by a rich family. They shield her from the harsh realities of the world, so that she has no idea of the cruel things that some people do. Unity Blake is a poor orphan all too familiar with the harsh realities of the real world. These two young women both fall in love with John, love which is complicated by the fact that he is still married to (though separated from) a bad wife.
9. Our Modern Maidens (1929) The film stars Joan Crawford, Douglas Fairbanks Jr and Anita Page. Synopsis: A flapper charms a diplomat to procure her fiancé a career opportunity, while the fiancé starts a relationship with her best friend.
8. Our Dancing Daughters (1928) This film stars Joan Crawford, Johnny Mack Brown, Dorothy Sebastian and Anita Page. Synopsis: A flapper who’s secretly a good girl and a gold digging floozy masquerading as an ingénue both vie for the hand of a millionaire.
7. Metropolis (1927) Directed by Fritz Lang and stars Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel and Gustav Fröhlich. Synopsis: In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city’s mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences.This is most definiely one of the most influential films of all time. The film’s message still hold true today. A MUST SEE for anyone interested in the silent film genre.
6. The Flapper (1920) Written by Frances Marion and starring Olive Thomas. Synopsis: 16-year-old Genevieve is growing up in the boring town where having a soda with a boy is considered scandalous. Because of her behavior and yearning for a thrilling life her father decides to send her to a boarding school, Mrs. Paddle’s School for Young Ladies, which is run by strict disciplinarian Mrs. Paddles. Despite the strictness, the girls have fun getting into flapper lifestyle. This is a delightful film and one of the few films Olive Thomas made. Her life was cut too short at the age of 25. She is absolutely memorizing, quirky and fun in this film!
5. Beyond the Rocks (1922) written by Elinor Glyn, this movie stars Gloria Swanson. Synopsis: A young woman marries an older millionaire and then falls in love with a handsome nobleman on her honeymoon.
4. Camille (1921) stars Allah Nazimova. Synopsis: A courtesan and an idealistic young man fall in love, only for her to give up the relationship at his status-conscious father’s request.
3. IT (1927) written by Elinor Glyn and starring Clara Bow. Synopsis: A salesgirl with plenty of “it” (sex appeal) pursues a handsome playboy.
2. The Younger Generation (1929) directed by Frank Capra and stars Jean Hersholt, Lina Basquette, Ricardo Cortez. Synopsis: a social-climbing Jewish man and his old-world parents who are heartbroken by his rejection of them. A compelling must see.
1. The Crowd (1928) was written and directed by King Vidor. It stars James Murray and Eleanor Boardman. It tells the story of a man and woman together in a large, impersonal metropolis through their hopes, struggles and downfalls. Another MUST SEE. This is a film with depth; it’s a powerful story that a lot of people still identify with to this day.
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