Scene from Josef Von Sternberg’s The Salvation Hunters
As promised, here are an even dozen great American silent films. Left out are the great comedians—Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd—mostly because people are pretty familiar with them. Below are films that are mostly dramatic, including one drama that Chaplin directed, but did not star in. The films are arranged by year of release:
- D. W. Griffith’s Broken Blossoms (1919), probably my favorite among his films
- Rex Ingram’s The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), starring Rudolph Valentino
- Maurice Tourneur’s Lorna Doone (1922), a real diamond in the rough
- Charlie Chaplin’s A Woman of Paris (1923), his tribute to the lovely Edna Purviance
- Victor Sjöström’s He Who Gets Slapped (1924), starring Lon Chaney Senior, based on a Leonid Andreyev play
- Josef Von Sternberg’s The Salvation Hunters (1925), the director’s first American film
- Ernst Lubitsch’s Lady Windermere’s Fan (1925), based on the Oscar Wilde play
- Raoul Walsh’s What Price Glory? (1926), with profanity for proficient lip-readers
- F. W. Murnau’s Sunrise (1927), a real masterpiece
- Paul Leni’s The Man Who Laughs (1928), based on a Victor Hugo novel
- Victor Sjöström’s The Wind (1928), with Lillian Gish going mad on the prairies of 19th century America
- Erich Von Stroheim’s Queen Kelly (1928), produced by Joseph P. Kennedy and starring Gloria Swanson
Rudolph Valentino Dancing the Tango in Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
I think it is worth the effort to see these films if you’re interested in silent films of the period. If you’re not, they very well might make you interested.
NOTE: The 1920s were pretty racist, so I would advise you to remember that our great-grandparents did not hold the same political views that we do.
The failure of Queen Kelly broke up Kennedy and Swanson’s love affair.