Today, November 11, 2018, marks the centenary of the end of World War I. Many of the most impactful and enduring silent films used this brutal conflict as a backdrop for uniquely emotional and human stories. And so we ask you, readers, what the greatest silent film set during World War I is? Select up to FIVE options from the list below. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.
by Silent Film Quarterly contributor Olivia Gilmer
I had my first experience with silent film at the age of 14—but what captivated a 14-year-old girl in Ireland, where there is no such thing as a “silent film weekend” or a “silent film community,” into an impassioned spiral that eventually led her to watch every silent film she could possibly get her hands on, from obscurities such as Young Mr. Jazz to classics such as Safety Last?
“You turned around, screamed at the scene,
Grabbed my hand and leapt out of the screen.”
When Roger Miller sang—or rather, barked—these words on the song “Outlaw,” from Mission of Burma’s seminal 1981 Signals, Calls, and Marches EP, I’m sure nothing was further from his mind than silent films. At the time Mission of Burma was on the cutting edge of the American post-punk scene, vying with bands like the Talking Heads and Devo for critical acclaim (if not market share). Miller was lauded by many as a leading poet of the genre, with lyrics exhibiting a cerebral nature that the previous generation of punk had largely lacked. Jaded art school kids and volatile punks alike gathered for the band’s notoriously loud and raucous shows.
Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation claims that 90% of films made before 1929 are lost. The Library of Congress found that 75% of silent films made my major studios are lost. These numbers, on the surface, are harrowing to say the least. If all we have is 10% of the silent films ever made, what brilliant, ground-breaking, revolutionary pieces of art are we missing out on?
My answer: probably not that many.
C.K. Farnsworth is a familiar face to anyone who has attended a vintage lifestyle event in the Los Angeles area over the past few years. Impeccably dressed in white and typically riding a bicycle outfitted with an ice box, Farnsworth’s vintage ice cream-slinging persona is a welcome sight to many a famished flapper. I can personally attest to how wonderful one of his ice cream sandwiches tastes on a hot summer day.
Author and Hollywood Forever Cemetery tour guide Karie Bible meets historian Kevin Brownlow.
I will preface everything that follows by staying this: the programming at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival was, in a word, extraordinary. A balance of genres, countries of origin, and artistic styles meant that each day remained stimulating and unexpected (we at SFQ will be reviewing the specific titles in the forthcoming issue of the magazine). As much as it sounds like a cliché, there truly was something for everyone.