Author: Ray Olson


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.


Ray Olson’s History of Film:  Silent Cecil

Clad for work in campaign hat and jodhpurs, flicking a riding crop, Cecil B. DeMille (1881–1959) was D. W. Griffith’s peer in the early American commercial cinema. He’s said to have made the first feature-length film in Hollywood, The Squaw Man (1914), a year before Griffith’s Birth of a Nation,


Silent Movies–Four Big Swedes

Very early in the history of movies, Sweden produced a couple of directors of the first rank, Victor Sjöström and Mauritz Stiller, both of whom were brought to Hollywood, where each made a handful of features with major stars, most notably including Great Garbo, who came to America with Stiller, who had discovered her.


Western Silents

America’s movie industry committed to the western almost immediately, what with the sensational success of The Great Train Robbery (1903). Feature-length westerns came about a decade later, thanks to the nascent star system