How I Fell in Love with Silent Movies
It was the early 1980s when I saw on WTTW Channel 11 this 13-episode series called Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film, and it's what led me to become horribly fascinated by early cinema. At the time, of course, it was difficult as hell to get your hands on any silent films. VHS was in its infancy, and silent films had long been mocked as an outmoded form of entertainment, as crude as ancient cave paintings.
But no, they weren't that. Directors Kevin Brownlow and David Gill painted the era in this series with more than a glob of overwhelmingly rose-colored nostalgia, but it is done with such love, care and devotion it's completely addictive. Brownlow, who recently won an Honorary Oscar for his decades of devotion to silent film preservation and restoration, is my hero. It is because of his efforts that I even know what silent movies are.
Unfortunately, Hollywood is only available on YouTube and not in any kind of a pretty restored edition on Blu-Ray or even DVD. The rights to the numerous clips that Brownlow used have long since expired and to renew them would have been prohibitively expensive. Here, however, is Episode One of this landmark series. I'll keep sharing. Brownlow and Gill do a marvelous job here of setting up the tale of Hollywood's silent era with deep affection. And, of course, let's not forget the narration of James Mason. Oh, man. What a voice.