Those old silents are golden

In today’s paper I discussed my trip down to Bristol for Slapstick 2010, a celebration of the works of silent comedians who wowed audiences back in the 1920s and 30s with their daredevil on-screen antics, mostly without the aid of stuntmen or camera trickery.

Luckily, thanks to DVD and the internet we’re able to see many of these films easily, so here are a few examples of silent comedies which have inspired me to search out more of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and their contemporaries.

First up is my silent hero, Buster Keaton. Known as Old Stoneface, Keaton never smiled on-film, at least not in his self-made films, and his acrobatic skills were honed from years performing on stage with his family. You can get a glimpse of his style here but his feature length films are well worth checking out:

By far the best known silent comedian is Charlie Chaplin, born into poverty in London only to become one of the highest paid film actors in the world – here he is in a montage of clips:

Finally, here’s Harold Lloyd, the gentleman of silent films and a man who could perhaps be better described as a comic actor rather than a full-on slapstick star. One of his feature films, Girl Shy, was screened at Slapstick 2010 and brought the house down (not literally, but that would have been quite apt considering the things that went on in some these films)…

The above is just a taster of what to expect from the world of silent movies, which weren’t really silent at all if you consider that they were always shown with live musical accompaniment. As I mentioned before, these films are best watched with an audience in a cinema to get the full effect, but grab yourself a boxset in the next DVD sale and you’ll be doing yourself a favour.

What’s your favourite silent?

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