If you have an interest in silent film, Kevin Brownlow and David Gill’s thirteen-part documentary series Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film is essential viewing. This series truly is a treat for silent film fans. It’s very insightful, has a great narration by James Mason, and is chock full of interviews with actors and actresses, directors, producers, writers, cameramen, stuntmen, and journalists who were all part of the film industry during that era.
Quite a few big names were still alive at the time and were able to be interviewed for this documentary including Gloria Swanson, Janet Gaynor, Anita Loos, King Vidor, Hal Roach, Bessie Love, Mary Astor, Lillian Gish, Jackie Coogan, Colleen Moore, Louise Brooks, Frank Capra, and Charles “Buddy” Rogers, just to name a few. Interviews with some of these people were quite rare, which makes this documentary an extremely important resource for anyone wanting to learn more about the silent film era.
Although the series was released on VHS and Laserdisc, due to copyright issues, it has yet to make its way to DVD. Copies of the complete series on VHS are for sale on Amazon, but the asking prices are pretty ridiculous ($989 for a set? Get out of here.) I really hope the copyright issues can be worked out someday and it can be released on DVD, because it absolutely deserves to be seen. In the meantime, the whole series is currently up on YouTube. Each episode is just under an hour long, so it will take you a while to make your way through the series, but the time investment is absolutely worth it. I’ve included a link to each episode along with my episode summaries.