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Week of the Greats - The Silver Screen [White & Blue Ajahs] Great Actors through the Decades


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Lets take a stroll through the decades! Do you have any favorites that stand out? Who are your favorite actors and actresses?

 

Let start with the silent film era!

 

Have you ever heard of Greta Garbo?

 
(1905-90) She made one film in her native Sweden and a second in Germany before coming to Hollywood. The camera loved her, and she made 10 silent films in five years, the greatest being Flesh and the Devil (1926).
 
How about Max Linder?
 
(1883-1925)This French comedian turned to the cinema in 1905, creating the first widely popular comic character “Max”, an aristocratic, skirt-chasing boulevardier. He was much admired by Chaplin, who gave him a photograph signed: “To Max, the professor, from his disciple Charles Chaplin.” Seriously wounded in the great war, he suffered from depression and experienced failure in the US. But in the early 20s and with Chaplin’s help, he made two classics in Hollywood, Seven Years Bad Luck and the Dumas parody, The Three Must-Get-Theres. Sadly he killed himself in Paris at age 41.
 
Speaking of Charlie Chaplin!
 
(1889-1977) Following a Dickensian working-class childhood in London, Chaplin became a music hall star before finding overnight success in 1914 as an inventive director-star in Hollywood. His tramp persona – bowler hat, baggy trousers, outsize boots, moustache, funny walk – made him the most famous man who ever lived, and one of the richest. After a decade making shorts, he produced feature films in his own studio, most famously The Kid, The Gold Rush and City Lights, and was the only film-maker able to ignore the coming of sound. A complex genius, he’s among the greatest artists of all time.
 
 
What do you know of the Silent Film era? It wasn't that easy for the actors...
 
Silent film actors emphasized body language and facial expression so that the audience could better understand what an actor was feeling and portraying on screen. Much silent film acting is apt to strike modern-day audiences as simplistic or campy. The melodramatic acting style was in some cases a habit actors transferred from their former stage experience. Vaudeville was an especially popular origin for many American silent film actors. The pervading presence of stage actors in film was the cause of this outburst from director Marshall Neilan in 1917: "The sooner the stage people who have come into pictures get out, the better for the pictures." In other cases, directors such as John Griffith Wray required their actors to deliver larger-than-life expressions for emphasis. As early as 1914, American viewers had begun to make known their preference for greater naturalness on screen.
 
Silent films became less vaudevillian in the mid 1910s, as the differences between stage and screen became apparent. Due to the work of directors such as D W Griffith, cinematography became less stage-like, and the then-revolutionary close up allowed subtle and naturalistic acting. Lillian Gish has been called film's "first true actress" for her work in the period, as she pioneered new film performing techniques, recognizing the crucial differences between stage and screen acting. Directors such as Albert Capellani and Maurice Tourneur began to insist on naturalism in their films. By the mid-1920s many American silent films had adopted a more naturalistic acting style, though not all actors and directors accepted naturalistic, low-key acting straight away; as late as 1927, films featuring expressionistic acting styles, such as Metropolis, were still being released. Greta Garbo, who made her debut in 1926, would become known for her naturalistic acting.
 
According to Anton Kaes, a silent film scholar from the University of Wisconsin, American silent cinema began to see a shift in acting techniques between 1913 and 1921, influenced by techniques found in German silent film. This is mainly attributed to the influx of emigrants from the Weimar Republic, "including film directors, producers, cameramen, lighting and stage technicians, as well as actors and actresses."
 

Have you ever seen a silent film?

 

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Nosferatu is my favorite!

 

I think that a lot of people have lost that appreciation for the early silent movies. It was such a huge innovation at the time, but now they almost seem silly. I love how much harder the actors really had to work at the expressions though. They had to show emotions without sounds. That had to be tough! Charlie Chaplin though, he made it look easy!

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I used to live at TCM so I've watched a lot of silents. The best ones make you forget they're silent. What surprises see me most was how daring and racy and violent and funny and real and fantastic they were. These were pre-code films, and pre-foundation garments, and they were adult in a way that most modern films can't be. Without being childish, without being silly...

 

Another thing I've seen is that there are no new stories. Every movie seems to be redone, whether acknowledged as a remake if not, every five to ten ten years. But that's ok, it's always new. Like new actors, new methods, new technologies. New audiences. Same stories but new experiences.

 

Very early talkies like the universal horror Dracula show how much there was to learn about making sound pictures. Compared to Frankenstein just a little later, the lack of any music or soundtrack beyond the spoken words is glaring.

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The only silent film I've seen was The General starring Buster Keaton, and I thought it was terrific. The stunts that man pulled off are simply amazing, putting himself into life-threatening situations without CGI or stunt actors. Sadly, it wasn't well received at the time of release, but it's status has only grown throughout the years.

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I love John Wayne too! Did you know that he received his first leading film role in The Big Trail in 1930? Working with John Ford, he got his next big break in in Stagecoach (1939). His career as an actor took another leap forward when he worked with director Howard Hawks in Red River (1948). Wayne won his first Academy Award in 1969. I don't know why it took so long for him to be recognized...he was an icon long before the 60's!!!

 

Hundreds of full-length films were produced during the decade of the 1940s. The great actor Humphrey Bogart made his most memorable films in this decade. Frank Capra's masterpiece It's a Wonderful Life and Orson Welles's masterpiece Citizen Kane were released. The film noir genre was at its height. Alfred Hitchcock made his American debut with the film Rebecca, and made many classics throughout the 1940s. The most successful film of the decade was Samuel Goldwyn's The Best Years of Our Lives, the film was directed by William Wyler and starred Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, and Harold Russell. The film won nine Academy Awards.

 

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Films of the 1950s were of a wide variety. As a result of television, the studios and companies sought to put audiences back in theaters. They used more techniques in presenting their films through widescreen and big-approach methods, such as Cinemascope, VistaVision, and Cinerama as well as gimmicks like 3-D film. Big production and spectacle films perfect for this gained popularity with the many historic and fantasy epics like The Robe, The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, The Ten Commandments (1956), The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, and Ben-Hur (1959). Other big-scoped films thrived internationally, too, such as Russian fantasy director Aleksandr Ptushko's mythological epics Sadko, Ilya Muromets, and Sampo, and Japanese director Akira Kurosawa's historic Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood and The Hidden Fortress. Toshiro Mifune, who starred in those Kurosawa films, also starred in the color spectacle Samurai Trilogy.

 

This spectacle approach, coupled with Cold War paranoia, a renewed interest in science from the atomic bomb, as well as increased interest in the mysteries of outer space and other forteana, lent itself well to what this film decade is best known for, science fiction. The science fiction genre began its golden age during this decade with such notable films as The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Thing from Another World, The War of the Worlds, It Came from Outer Space, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Them!, This Island Earth, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, and Forbidden Planet (1956). There were also Earth-based subjects, such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) and When Worlds Collide (1951). Companies such as American International Pictures, Japan's Toho, and Britain's Hammer Film Productions were created to solely produce films of the fantastique genres.
 
The decade was equally adept at both character and realistic films. The highly noted actors James Stewart, John Wayne, and Marlon Brando were at the peak of their popularity. Stewart starring in Winchester '73 and Wayne starring in John Ford's Cavalry Trilogy and The Searchers revitalized the western. Brando mastered versatile roles in films such as A Streetcar Named Desire, The Wild One, Julius Caesar, On the Waterfront, Guys and Dolls, The Teahouse of the August Moon, and Sayonara.
 
Oh Marlon Brando!!! I love him too!!
 
And director Alfred Hitchcock, who was at the peak of his craft with films such as Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), and North by Northwest (1959) with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly starring in three each. 
 
I think the 50's are my favorite movie genre. Such classics!!!
 
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