When most of us think of the era known as the “roaring twenties” we imagine what it must have been like to live during the time of flappers, silent movies, and prohibition. Motion pictures produced during this period pale in comparison to the films that show on our silver screen today.
In the early part of the twenties, films were silent with the possible exception of a piano or organ being played live in the theater as a background to the picture. This all changed with the debut of the “Jazz Singer” in 1927 starring famed entertainer, Al Jolsen.
The most celebrated stars of the silent era were Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Greta Garbo. All three created magic on the silent screen and more than lived up to their legendary reputations made during the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Deservedly, the most honored of these stars is Charlie Chaplin. The multi-talented Chaplin was both a wonderful actor and a brilliant director. In 1914 Chaplin appeared in his very first silent film “Making a Living” and continued to make many more successful silent films until the invention of “talkies.” Chaplin disliked talking pictures, but successfully made the transition from silent to sound pictures. Not all silent era stars were able to successfully make the change. For many of them sound brought only silence.
Buster Keaton was also very popular in both America and many other countries of the world. Keaton was recognized as a comedic actor, but like Chaplin was also a brilliant director. His trademark was always demonstrating a stoic face no matter what the circumstances of a scene.
His career began in 1917 playing a gag man and he co-stared in a great many movies including “Cops”(1920), “The Play House“(1921), and “One Week”(1920). The success of these movies and the publics love of his characterizations earned him a spot among the top three film stars of the silent era.
Greta Garbo was the silent screens glamor queen and one of the most popular stars of both the silent and sound era. Her most popular silent movies were made with co-star John Gilbert, whom she had an off-camera affair with that provided her a great deal of press. Audiences couldn’t get enough of their romantic chemistry on screen, magazines couldn’t stop writing about their affair, and gossip columnists had a field day reporting on their relationship.
They made their first silent movie together called “Flesh and the Devil” in 1927, and despite their rocky romance on and off screen, they continued on to make the films “Love” in 1927 and “A Woman of Affairs in 1928. There seemed to be some irony in the pictures titles.
Garbo received significant voice training in an effort to reduce her Swedish accent, and as a result, she too was able to make the transition from silent films to talkies very successfully. She acted in the classic films “Grand Hotel”(1932), “Anna Karenina”(1935), and the well known anti-communist movie ” Ninotchka” in 1939. Her final film before retiring from Hollywood was in 1941. From that point on she lived a secluded life in New York until her death in April of 1990.
These three great stars have carved a permanent place for themselves in the history of motion pictures, and their names are often the first ones mentioned when discussing 1920′s movie stars.
Carl DiNello is a Blogger whose passion is Hollywood history and those movies from the 1920′s – 1950′s that make up this rich history.
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