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Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  224 ratings  ·  18 reviews
A gorgeous, lavish history of silent movies - with more than 400 amazing images - captures the birth of film and icons like Chaplin, Garbo, Clara Bow, and Valentino.

Drawing on the extraordinary collection of The Library of Congress, one of the greatest repositories for silent film and memorabilia, Peter Kobel has created the definitive visual history of silent film. From
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 1st 2007 by Little, Brown and Company
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4.11  · 
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 ·  224 ratings  ·  18 reviews

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Mar 05, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book is full of gorgeous photos, but if you are only going to write 3 paragraphs about Louise Brooks, don't make sure to mention that she worked for an escort service after she quit making movies.

I guess I just broke my own rule, but that really burnt my toast. Respect, people.
Jul 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book, really well done. Illustrations and over-size format incredible. If you like early Hollywood -- it's a must.
Jim Dooley
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book is the perfect introduction to the world of silent motion pictures. I say that having read many books about silent film history.

I frequently encounter people who have a skewed perception of silent movies. Without having seen them (or after only seeing brief clips frequently speeded up for comedic effect), they believe that all of them are ridiculously over-acted with minimal production values and the simplest of storylines. The writer, Peter Kobel, helps to set the record straight.

If a
May 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Utterly stunning and beautiful coffee table book on silent film. Had tons of information (most of it is pretty well known to buffs but great for newbies to silent film) and large sections on some of the most important stars. The photos alone make it worth owning in my opinion and my only complaint is some repeating of Hollywood gossip that has long since been proven incorrect. It definitely has tons more info than the average film book though, and current works on silent film can be hard to find ...more
Dec 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
A beautifully illustrated, big coffee table book, with an interesting text, but it's the pictures that make this book so enjoyable. To put it mildly "Silent Movies" are a big subject spanning over 30 years of film history. If you thought all there was to this period of cinema were jerky, badly scratched grainy black and white films of Charlie Chaplin falling over, you may be in for something of a surprise! If however like me you think that the silent era was actually cinemas finest, this book ca ...more
May 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was an entertaining overview of the history of film from its origins in the late 19th century throughout the silent era, which lasted until the late 1920's in the United States. The book covers the major inventors, directors, and stars of the period, and the author is just opinionated enough to add some spice.

One of the book's main strengths is the photos and poster art illustrations. I may have missed out on some of the impact of these by reading this as an ebook.
Jul 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A piece of delightful eye candy for silent film fans. It's not the most comprehensive book on silent films, but completely worth buying just for the beautiful pictures. I can't get enough of looking at all the pictures.
May 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely fantastic introduction to silent movies, released in cooperation with the Library of Congress. A must for any silent movie fan!
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cinema
Una storia concisa del cinema muto.

La prefazione è di Martin Scorsese, noto appassionato della storia del cinema.
L'autore, forse incerto sull'approccio da scegliere, dedica un capitolo a un racconto sequenziale, cronologico, che segue l'evoluzione di questo mezzo di comunicazione, un'altro ad una panoramica sui generi, ed altri ancora ad una rassegna delle figure più importanti (attori, registi).
Così facendo, inevitabilmente, il materiale è trattato solo superficialmente, ma serve bene allo scop
Patrick Elsey
Jan 05, 2018 rated it did not like it
Simple wasn’t in-depth enough to be a good book in an interesting period in film history
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent reference. Chock full of great information and supplemented by wonderful images. Great for any fan of the silents.
How often does one actually read a coffee table book?
Oct 15, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: performing-arts
This is a beautiful, lushly illustrated, coffee table book that is better for browsing than for reading. Peter Kobel covers a lot of the same material that William K. Everson did in his much earlier American Silent Film, but with not as much depth. Kobel does cover some aspects more deeply than Everson did: the early technology of color film, the musical scores of the silents, and silent films from Europe and the Soviet Union. And there's a good chapter that gets us up-to-date (as of 2007, anywa ...more
Beth Ann
Jan 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: the silent film book collector completist
I've set this book aside for a while. I've read about a quarter of it. The author crams in a lot of detail and history about silent film and its stars, but his writing comes off workmanlike. His prose can't compete with the images contained within his book--the luscious star photographs like the Clara Bow that graces the cover, the colorful posters and other ephemera, and the photographs of the mechanical aspects of filmmaking like the original cameras. I would recommend this book mainly for its ...more
Mark Flowers
Feb 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
I should have stopped at the subtitle: "the triumph of movie culture"?!? What does that even mean? Some really great illustrations (including some great reproductions of trade and fan magazines from the 20s), but other than that, what can you say about a book about "silent movies" that deigns to include "international" (read: non-English language) cinema in a single chapter?
Courtney Phillipson
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Old movie fanatics
This was very informative. I loved this book. I love old movies so this book was a very good read. I hated trying to pronounce the foreign names though. Haha. Very difficult. I recommend this book to anyone who has a passion for old films. (:
Jul 07, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: research
Great as a coffee table book to glance through and admire the pretty pictures, but that's about all. Very shallow and disjointed. For the extremely casual observer only. NOT for the true film student or historical researcher.
dreamer of art
A truly great overview of American Silent films, filled with gorgeous photographs. It's quite big in size. I remember buying it around the time it came out and was surprised by how excellent the quality is, overall. Still recommend.
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Peter Kobel has worked as an editor at Entertainment Weekly, ARTnews, and Premiere and has contributed articles to The New York Times and Chicago Tribune, among many other publications.

His critically acclaimed book Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture (Little, Brown) was published in collaboration with the Library of Congress. His biography of the controversial physica