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Books and DVDs tell the stories behind silent movies

By Betty Moore
Rowan Public Library
Rowan Public Library will show classic silent films at 6:30 p.m. each Tuesday in August. RPL has books for people who would like to read more about silent films, as well as DVDs and videotapes of classic silent films available for checkout.
“Silents to Sound: A History of the Movies,” by Juliet P. Schoen, is a good overview of the history of American movies. It shows how they began as short silent films and how they developed technically and artistically.
“The Silent Clowns,” by Walter Kerr, is a fascinating look at silent film comedy. Much of the focus of this deeply researched book is on those he considers the four great silent comics: Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Harry Langdon. Kerr writes memorably about memorable individuals, giving examples of each master’s style, technique and persona. In addition, the book is illustrated with extraordinary still photos.
In “Hollywood: The Pioneers,” film historian Kevin Brownlow and John Kobal, a leading film pictorial archivist, weave together text with 300 rare photographs in their unique film history. They examine the great actors and directors, cameramen, editors, stunt men and others to recapture crucial moments of silent moviemaking and, later, the coming of sound to movies.
Alexander Walker’s book “The Shattered Silents: How the Talkies Came to Stay,” details how talking pictures emerged practically overnight. In 1926, they were still an experiment. By 1929, they had largely replaced silent movies. Walker shows the effects of this rapid transition on the stars of silent films and their fans, as well as on the technology and economics of the film industry.
RPL owns several DVD series which contain classic silent films. Some of these are “The Art of Buster Keaton,” “The Harold Lloyd Collection,” and “The Stan Laurel Collection.”
“Unknown Chaplin” is the DVD of a fascinating Emmy Award-winning documentary of Charlie Chaplin’s life and career. This DVD includes three feature-length programs: “My Happiest Years,” “The Great Director” and “Hidden Treasures.”
Search the RPL catalog by subject for “silent films” to find more classics on DVD and videotape.
For kicks, you might want to check out Mel Brooks’ 1976 film “Silent Movie,” in which a film director and his strange friends struggle to produce the first major silent feature film in 40 years. This humorous spoof of Hollywood and silent movies is loaded with slapstick, vaudeville and big name stars. Produced long after the last of the true silent movies, the film contains only one word of dialogue.
Computer classes: Aug. 11, 7 p.m., Introduction to Windows; Aug. 14, 2:30 p.m., Introduction to Internet Safety; Aug. 18, 7 p.m., Creating Web Pages Part 2; Aug. 21, 2:30 p.m., Creating Presentations with Power Point; Aug. 25, 7 p.m., Introduction to Searching the World Wide Web; Aug. 28, 2:30 p.m., Creating Spreadsheets with Excel.
Classes are free and held at the library headquarters on the second floor. Class sessions are about 90 minutes long. Class size is limited to 16 on a first-come, first-served basis.
Displays: Headquarters ó Dolls by Rowan Doll Society; South ó lunch boxes by Sharon Ross; East ó ceramic and porcelain dolls by Margie Von Cannon.

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