Books

This page lists silent film-related books, both fiction and non-fiction, that I’ve written about.

  • A book roundup post on the following titles:
    • The Magic Mirror: Moviemaking in Russia, 1908-1918 by Denise J. Youngblood (1999). A fascinating and very readable volume on the cultural history of pre-Revolutionary Russian film.
    • The History of Italian Cinema by Gian Piero Brunetta (2003). Interesting material, yet the book can’t decide whether it is aiming for academic or popular history.
    • A Hundred Years of Japanese Film by Donald Ritchie (2001). An accessible yet nuanced history of Japanese film; highly recommend.
    • Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of The Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell (2013). Although I’m not convinced by Churchwell’s central thesis, this is an elegantly written and entertaining book.
    • Hollywood’s Copyright Wars: From Edison to the Internet by Peter Decherney (2012). An excellent history of the many ways moving image copyright in the US has been regulated.
  • Silent film fiction, covering the following:
    • Pearl White: The Peerless, Fearless Girl by Manuel Weltman & Raymond Lee (1969). A goofy but fun ‘biography’ of Pearl White, written after the fashion of one of her adventure serials.
    • Missing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme (2014). In this novel, a young woman 1980s New York is looking for romance and a lost silent film, unfortunately in that order.
    • Dancing in the Dark by Caryl Phillips (2005). A beautifully written fictional biography of Bert Williams, a major vaudeville and Broadway star who was the most famous and highest-paid Black performer of early twentieth century America.
  • Silents by Claire Crowther (2015). Crowther weaves a delicate web of associations in her collection of poetry responding to silent cinema.
  • The Film Explainer (1990). This fictionalized memoir by Gert Hofmann celebrates his grandfather Karl, who was their town’s ‘film explainer’ well into the 1930s. Alas, the sound film finally arrives, and in the background, National Socialism is gaining traction …
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