Author: Ray Olson


The Talkies: One-offs

Four of these movies are genuine anomalies for their makers. The fifth is the best film by a very famous and successful director-writer whose other movies—and I’ve seen nearly all of them—reliably disappoint me. 


Movies That Began To Talk,

The Jazz Singer (1927) is said to have brought down the curtain on silent movies. Sound shorts were made before The Jazz Singer, but few theaters were set up for them, and it was Al Jolson’s hit feature that first pushed exhibitors hard to install sound.


The Silents–The Final Installment

Everybody interested in movies has heard of Leni Riefenstahl. She made the famous, though now quite dull, film of the spectacular 1934 Nuremberg Nazi Party rally, Triumph des Willens (1935), and Olympia (1938), a far more durable record of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.


The Silents: The Classics: Good Start!

The silents were perforce the medium in which most masters of the talkies learned their profession. Indeed, many first showed their mastery in silent features. Four titles on my list of favorite silents attest to their makers’ gifts very early on.


The Silents: Reviews: Jacques Feyder (1885–1948)

Jacques Feyder just must be the font of French cinema in the Renoir tradition. Everything looks very on-location, everyone looks very real-life, every action is quite natural, every development is made as credible as possible through adept, unshowy camerawork, careful lighting, and naturalistic acting.


The Silents: The Classics: One-Offs

Some movie classics are one-offs. Their makers never made another film or another film nearly as good or even another film that’s now available to the public. Here are five of them.


Classic French Silent Films

For cinéastes of a historical bent, Kino Lorber’s 3-disc set Gaumont Treasures 1897–1913 is a pearl almost beyond price. It showcases the earliest development of narrative cinema in one of the most fertile of its seedbeds.