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Silent Stars
Jeanine Basinger

2000 • 510 pp. 307 photos. End-paper illus. 7 x 9 1/4”
Film, TV, Visual Culture / Popular Culture

$34.95 Paperback, 978-0-8195-6451-1

No sales Brit Comm, Ireland, & South Africa

"Basinger is the perfect guide to movies past, passionate, savvy, discerning, funny, not only in love with her subject, but able to convey the reasons for her enthusiasm." —Los Angeles Times

An eminent film historian illuminates the stars of silent film.

Film scholar Jeanine Basinger offers a revelatory, perceptive, and highly readable look at the greatest silent film stars -- not those few who are fully appreciated and understood, like Chaplin, Keaton, Gish, and Garbo, but those who have been misrepresented, unfairly dismissed, or forgotten.

Included are Valentino, "the Sheik," who was hardly the effeminate lounge lizard he's been branded; Mary Pickford, who couldn't have been further from the adorable little creature with golden ringlets that was her film persona; Marion Davies, unfairly pilloried in Citizen Kane; the original "Phantom" and "Hunchback," Lon Chaney; the beautiful Talmadge sisters, Norma and Constance. Here are the great divas, Pola Negri and Gloria Swanson; the great flappers, Colleen Moore and Clara Bow; the great cowboys, William S. Hart and Tom Mix; and the great lover, John Gilbert. Basinger also includes the quintessential slapstick comedienne, Mabel Normand, with her Keystone Kops; the quintessential all-American hero, Douglas Fairbanks; and, of course, the quintessential all-American dog, Rin-Tin-Tin.

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Reviews / Endorsements

"Basinger's fascinating, evocative and at times provocatively revisionist Silent Stars measures the distance between celebrity and fame, and restores key early movie idols to their proper depth of field . . . She has hunted down and screened hundreds of extant silent movie prints . . . This buttresses her critical insights, allowing her to report in meticulous and convincing detail how each star's films present more sides and talents than we were aware of."—New York Times Book Review

"While Chaplin, Gish, and Garbo are still remembered, many silent-era celebrities have faded from view. Here Basinger discovers a Mary Pickford who was more tomboy than golden girl; a Gloria Swanson with Chaplinesque physicality, and a Marion Davies who, contrary to the mythology of 'Citizen Kane,' was a talented actress held back by her relationship with William Randolph Hearst. Particularly enjoyable are accounts of such exotics as kohl-eyed Pola Negri, whose white Rolls-Royce was upholstered in white velvet, and the lovable German shepherd Rin-Tin-Tin, who kept Warner Bros. solvent through the twenties and finally died in the arms of Jean Harlow."
The New Yorker

"No tell-all, this book recreates the excitement the actors provoked while illustrating the nature of their appeal . . . Learned and wholehearted, the book is classic Basinger fare: effortless history that . . . establishes its necessity . . . [an] excellent tribute to the silent film era."—Publishers Weekly


ALA “Outstanding Book” for Public and Secondary Libraries, Eleventh Edition. (2001) Commendation

Author Photo

JEANINE BASINGER is Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies and Curator of Cinema Archives at Wesleyan University. Her many books on film include A Woman's View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women, 1930 - 1960 (1995), American Cinema (1994), The "It's a Wonderful Life" Book (1990), and The World War II Combat Film (1986).

Tue, 15 May 2018 12:58:22 -0500