Host/narrator Gene Kelly takes a nostalgic look at silent films from their earliest beginnings in New York and New Jersey with primitive features like "The Great Train Robbery" to the migration of the independent filmmakers like Cecil B. DeMille to the sleepy suburb of Los Angeles called Hollywood to avoid lawsuits from the film trust controlled by Thomas Edison. There the industry flourished when they created the star system with personalities like Maurice Costello, Florence Lawrence, Theda Bara, Clara Kimble Young, and Francis X. Bushman, movies' first matinée idol. The industry grew in stature in the Teens and Twenties led by the technically innovative D.W. Griffith with epics like "The Birth of a Nation" and Intolerance" and blossomed with such superstars like Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charles Chaplin. Scenes from some of the great silent classics like "The Big Parade, "King of Kings" and "Wings" are shown. The silent era comes to an end with Warner Bros. historic ... Written by
Although Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard are mentioned in conjunction with other big stars of the Silent Era, in reality, although their careers did start in the last years of the period, they did not become stars until after sound films arrived. See more »
Narrator Gene Kelly includes Darryl F. Zanuck with the other pioneering studio executives like Jesse L. Lasky, Adolph Zukor, and William Fox. Actually Zanuck did not become a studio executive until the mid-1939s when he formed Twntieth Century Pictures. See more »
Battle Hymn of the Republic
Music by William Steffe and lyrics by Julia Ward Howe
Music from "John Brown's Body"
Integrated into background music for "Birth of a Nation" sequence See more »
This 1961 television documentary is a unique look at early Hollywood through the use of early film clips, rare backstage footage and the perfect storytelling style of legend Gene Kelly. The doc moves right along at a fast but thorough pace and covers the birth and early development of the film industry.
It's very interesting to see how classic Hollywood was perceived in 1961 ("DW Griffith's 1916 classic Intolerance came on nearly 50 years ago" Gene Kelly says) but remains honest by telling the real stories of these classic films. Birth of a Nation's portrayal of the KKK is revealed to be shrouded in controversy with it's racist approach. Most of the real issues are glossed over or committed though-hey this was 1961 broadcast television. There really is though some great information here and much footage that is not available elsewhere.
A fun trip through truly the golden age of Hollywood!
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