Silent Film’s Last Hurrah

The Remarkable Movies of the Long 1928


In stock

About the Book

This is a history and critical appreciation of an unusually fertile period for the production of great or near-great silent films: late 1927 through early 1929, in the midst of the tumult and upheaval of Hollywood’s transition from silent to sound. The book offers in-depth looks at several of the best of these films and discusses the gifted artists such as Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Lillian Gish who helped bring them to life, even as the art they had taken to remarkable heights was about to be obliterated. It depicts some of the silent medium’s most talented filmmakers and their efforts—in the face of inescapable technological change—to give their dying art a rousing last hurrah.

About the Author(s)

The author of multiple books on film history, David Meuel has also published two books of poems, more than two dozen short stories, and hundreds of articles on subjects ranging from U.S. national parks to high technology. He lives in Gig Harbor, Washington.

Bibliographic Details

David Meuel
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 211
Bibliographic Info: 24 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6895-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4859-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1
Introduction: A Doomed Art’s Glorious Last Days 5
1. At the Precipice: Mary Pickford and My Best Girl 17
2. “The maddest idea in the world”: Gloria Swanson, Raoul Walsh, and Sadie Thompson 27
3. Tramp on a Tightrope: Charlie Chaplin and The Circus 40
4. “A lyricist of light and shadow”: Josef von Sternberg, The Last Command, and The Docks of New York 51
5. “The highest reaches of the form”: King Vidor and The Crowd 65
6. The End of an Amazing Run: Harold Lloyd and Speedy 77
7. In a Blaze of Windswept Glory: Buster Keaton and Steamboat Bill, Jr. 88
8. A Star Is Born: Joan Crawford and Our Dancing Daughters 100
9. “Astonishing elegance”: William Wellman, Louise Brooks, Wallace Beery, and Beggars of Life 110
10. “Time was his; he owned it”: Erich von Stroheim and The Wedding March 121
11. “I have a special confidence in you”: Lillian Gish, Victor Sjöström, and The Wind 133
12. Partners in Perversity: Lon Chaney, Tod Browning, and West of Zanzibar 147
13. “To reach for the moon one last time”: Douglas Fairbanks and The Iron Mask 158
14. Twenty-Eight Other Notable U.S. Silent and Hybrid Films Released During the Long 1928 168
Afterthoughts: Requiem and Reemergence 183
Where to Find the Films Featured in This Book 187
Chapter Notes 189
Bibliography 195
Index 199

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Meuel’s latest book marks a specific, prolific time in silent-film history that signaled the end of an era as Hollywood transitioned to sound. This title covers films from the end of 1927 to early 1929. Each chapter details a silent-film star or director and a renowned film of theirs from that period…. Meuel analyzes what made these films special and provides details about the stars’ personal lives and their other notable works…. Film-history fans will enjoy Meuel’s contextualization of some of the greatest silent films and biggest actors…. Great for libraries with lots of movie buffs, especially fans of silent films and classics, and for institutions with film studies programs.”—Library Journal