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Silent Film Era

Silent Cinema: 1908-1926 Created by: PICRYLDated: 1920
The High Sign in Motion Picture News
By 1908 there were 10,000 permanent movie theaters in the U.S. alone. For the first thirty years, movies were silent, accompanied by live musicians, sound effects, and narration. Until World War I, movie screens were dominated by French and Italian studios. During Great War, the American movie industry center, "Hollywood," became the number one in the world. By the 1920s, the U.S. was producing an average of 800 feature films annually, or 82% of the global total. Hollywood's system and its publicity method, the glamourous star system provided models for all movie industries. Efficient production organization enabled mass movie production and technical sophistication but not artistic expression.

In 1915, in France, a group of filmmakers began experimenting with optical and pictorial effects as well as rhythmic editing which became known as French Impressionist Cinema. In Germany, dark, hallucinatory German Expressionism put internal states of mind onscreen and influenced the emerging horror genre. The Soviet cinema was the most radically innovative. In Spain, Luis Buñuel embraced abstract surrealism and pure aestheticism.

And, just like that, at about its peak time, the silent cinema era ended in 1926-1928.
2,227 Media in collectionpage 1 of 23
Karl Wolfgang Böhmer - Movie Being Filmed

Karl Wolfgang Böhmer - Movie Being Filmed

Karl Wolfgang Böhmer (German (?), early 20th century)

Pacific Queen (built 1886; ship, 3m), Rosa Kissinger aboard during the making of "Mutiny on the Bounty", circa 1934-1935

Pacific Queen (built 1886; ship, 3m), Rosa Kissinger aboard during the...

View includes the PANDORA ex OTTILIE FJORD (built 1892; schooner, 3m: movie vessel) in the background.

Jeffries-Sharkey pictures - under the direction of Wm. A. Brady & Thos. O'Rourke

Jeffries-Sharkey pictures - under the direction of Wm. A. Brady & Thos...

Early motion picture poster showing scene from the boxing match between James J. Jeffries and Tom Sharkey on November 3, 1899. Title from item. Caption continues: The greatest motion photographs ever taken by t... More

Porträtt av tyska stumfilmsstjärnan Henny Porten.

Porträtt av tyska stumfilmsstjärnan Henny Porten.

Porträtt av tyska stumfilmsstjärnan Henny Porten.

Mary Pickford in "Little Annie Rooney"

Mary Pickford in "Little Annie Rooney"

Title from unverified data provided by the Bain News Service on the negatives or caption cards. Forms part of: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress). General information about the George Grantha... More

Mabel Normand, George Grantham Bain Collection

Mabel Normand, George Grantham Bain Collection

Photograph shows Mabel Ethelreid Normand (1892-1930), an American silent-film actress, screenwriter, director, and producer.(Source:Flickr Commons project, 2019) Title devised by Library staff. Data provided by... More

Con. i.e. Connie and Norma Talmage i.e. Talmadge

Con. i.e. Connie and Norma Talmage i.e. Talmadge

Photograph shows American silent movie star Constance Alice Talmadge (1898-1973). (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2019) Title from data provided by the Bain News Service on the negative. Forms part of: George ... More

Mary Pickford, George Grantham Bain Collection

Mary Pickford, George Grantham Bain Collection

Title from unverified data provided by the Bain News Service on the negatives or caption cards. Forms part of: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress). General information about the George Grantha... More

Velociped/cykel. Fröken Jean Parker (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer aktris) hittade denna gamla höghjuling i studions förråd och försökte lära sig cykla på sin lediga tid. Hon gjorde lite research och fann att hjulet kallades för extraordinär och tillverkades av Singer 1879.

Velociped/cykel. Fröken Jean Parker (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer aktris) hitta...

Miss Jean Parker (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer actress) found this old high-wheel in the studio's storage room and tried to learn to ride a bike in her spare time. She did some research and found that the wheel was call... More

Mary Pickford, George Grantham Bain Collection

Mary Pickford, George Grantham Bain Collection

Title from unverified data provided by the Bain News Service on the negatives or caption cards. Forms part of: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress). General information about the George Grantha... More

Con. i.e. Connie and Norma Talmage i.e. Talmadge

Con. i.e. Connie and Norma Talmage i.e. Talmadge

Photograph shows American silent movie star Constance Alice Talmadge (1898-1973). (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2019) Title from data provided by the Bain News Service on the negative. Forms part of: George ... More

Porträtt av tyska stumfilmsstjärnan Henny Porten.

Porträtt av tyska stumfilmsstjärnan Henny Porten.

Porträtt av tyska stumfilmsstjärnan Henny Porten.

Mary Pickford, George Grantham Bain Collection

Mary Pickford, George Grantham Bain Collection

Title from unverified data provided by the Bain News Service on the negatives or caption cards. Forms part of: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress). General information about the George Grantha... More

Two men using a movie camera indoors

Two men using a movie camera indoors

Title devised by cataloger. "Le Parvo" and "J. Debrie, Paris" on 35 mm movie camera. No Detroit Publishing Co. no. Gift; State Historical Society of Colorado; 1949.

Ångaren "Tamm" med malmpråmar vid Moviken och dess kolugnar.

Ångaren "Tamm" med malmpråmar vid Moviken och dess kolugnar.

Ångaren "Tamm" med malmpråmar vid Moviken och dess kolugnar.

Buster Keaton, George Grantham Bain Collection

Buster Keaton, George Grantham Bain Collection

Title from unverified data provided by the Bain News Service on the negatives or caption cards. Forms part of: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress). General information about the George Grantha... More

Interiör från biografen Röda Kvarns maskinrum. Elektriska anläggningen utförd av Elektriska Bolaget Poijes & Wettermark, Stockholm.

Interiör från biografen Röda Kvarns maskinrum. Elektriska anläggningen...

Interiör från biografen Röda Kvarns maskinrum. Elektriska anläggningen utförd av Elektriska Bolaget Poijes & Wettermark, Stockholm.

Tyskland Bröderna Skladanowsky med sin filmkamera och projektor "bioscop".

Tyskland Bröderna Skladanowsky med sin filmkamera och projektor "biosc...

Bröderna Skladanowsky med sin filmkamera och projektor "bioscop".

Betty Mack and Talmages i.e. Connie and Norma Talmadge

Betty Mack and Talmages i.e. Connie and Norma Talmadge

Photograph shows American silent movie star Constance Alice Talmadge (1898-1973). (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2019) Title from data provided by the Bain News Service on the negative. Forms part of: George ... More

Alexander the man who knows

Alexander the man who knows

At head of title: Pantages, Minneapolis; week com. Sun. Mar. 30. Transferred from; LC Rare Book and Special Collections Division; 1956. Forms part of: Magic poster collection (Library of Congress) Forms part of... More

PHONO-CINEMA-THEATRE/ VISIONS ANIMEES/ DES/ ARTISTES CELEBRES/ Mme. SARAH BERNHARDT/ Mr. COQUELIN AINE/ [...] EXPOSITION DE 1900/ RUE DE PARIS, PORTE 43- PONT DES INVALIDES

PHONO-CINEMA-THEATRE/ VISIONS ANIMEES/ DES/ ARTISTES CELEBRES/ Mme. SA...

Affiche Signature - S.B.G.: " FRANCOIS- FLAMENG. " Lettre - " PHONO-CINEMA-THEATRE/ VISIONS ANIMEES/ DES/ ARTISTES CELEBRES/ Mme. SARAH BERNHARDT/ Mr. COQUELIN AINE/ Mr. VICTOR MAUREL/ de l'Opéra-Comique/ Mlle.... More

Porträtt av okänd man. Möjligen stumfilmsstjärna.

Porträtt av okänd man. Möjligen stumfilmsstjärna.

Porträtt av okänd man. Möjligen stumfilmsstjärna.

May Allison with movie camera, Helen Taft

May Allison with movie camera, Helen Taft

Photograph shows actress May Allison (1890-1989) with Helen Taft and a motion picture camera. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2018) Title from data provided by the Bain News Service on the negative. Forms part... More

Douglas Fairbanks White, George Grantham Bain Collection

Douglas Fairbanks White, George Grantham Bain Collection

Forms part of: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress). Title from data provided by the Bain News Service on the negative. General information about the George Grantham Bain Collection is availabl... More

H. Abrams, Mary Pickford & mother, A. Kelly, J. Schenck etc

H. Abrams, Mary Pickford & mother, A. Kelly, J. Schenck etc

Title from unverified data provided by the Bain News Service on the negatives or caption cards. Forms part of: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress). General information about the George Grantha... More

Mary Pickford, George Grantham Bain Collection

Mary Pickford, George Grantham Bain Collection

Title from unverified data provided by the Bain News Service on the negatives or caption cards. Forms part of: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress). General information about the George Grantha... More

Porträtt av stumfilmsstjärnan och regissören William Desmond Taylor.

Porträtt av stumfilmsstjärnan och regissören William Desmond Taylor.

Porträtt av stumfilmsstjärnan och regissören William Desmond Taylor.

Skioptikonbild med motiv från gata i Prina. Kaiserpanorama.Bilden har förvarats i kartong märkt: ?

Skioptikonbild med motiv från gata i Prina. Kaiserpanorama.Bilden har ...

Skioptikonbild med motiv från gata i Prina. Kaiserpanorama.Bilden har förvarats i kartong märkt: ?

Skioptikonbild med motiv från London med biografen Empire vid Leicester square.Bilden har förvarats i kartong märkt: ?

Skioptikonbild med motiv från London med biografen Empire vid Leiceste...

Skioptikonbild med motiv från London med biografen Empire vid Leicester square.Bilden har förvarats i kartong märkt: ?

Mildred Davis, George Grantham Bain Collection

Mildred Davis, George Grantham Bain Collection

Photograph shows film actress Mildred Davis (1901-1969) best known for the fifteen silent comedies in which she starred with her husband, Harold Lloyd. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2019) Title and date fro... More

Portrett, Sarah Bernhardt, filmstjerne, skuespiller mm. Kristianiabesøk i 1902.

Portrett, Sarah Bernhardt, filmstjerne, skuespiller mm. Kristianiabesø...

Portrett, Sarah Bernhardt, filmstjerne, skuespiller mm. Kristianiabesøk i 1902.

Coil winding section E, Westinghouse works /

Coil winding section E, Westinghouse works /

Rows of women are shown at tables with winding machines. They wind using material from spools behind them, apparently putting the finished products on the table in front of them. Various supervisory staff, male... More

The lost child

The lost child

A woman brings a small boy into the backyard of a house in the suburbs. She puts him on the ground to play and returns later to find him missing. Unaware that the baby has crawled into the dog house, she admoni... More

FAIRBANKS, DOUGLAS

FAIRBANKS, DOUGLAS

Title from unverified caption data received with the Harris & Ewing Collection. Date span based on active dates of Harris & Ewing, Inc. Portrait series. Gift; Harris & Ewing, Inc. 1955. General information abou... More

FAIRBANKS, DOUGLAS

FAIRBANKS, DOUGLAS

Title from unverified caption data received with the Harris & Ewing Collection. Date span based on active dates of Harris & Ewing, Inc. Portrait series. Gift; Harris & Ewing, Inc. 1955. General information abou... More

The slave

The slave

In ancient Rome, the beautiful Nerada is courted by Deletius, a wealthy patrician, but she marries the sculptor Alachus instead. Several years later, the sculptor's family is in dire straits, their child dying ... More

The light that came

The light that came

Grace, a disfigured young woman with two beautiful sisters, Vivian and Daisy, falls in love with Carl Wagner, a blind violinist, and they become engaged. Though she fears losing his love when he sees the scar o... More

The Cardinal's conspiracy

The Cardinal's conspiracy

"A princess will have nothing to do with a neighboring prince her father, the king, has chosen for her. The Cardinal suggests that the prince disguise himself as a guard, and arranges for him to save the prince... More

The peachbasket hat

The peachbasket hat

Mr. Jones and Mrs. Jones are reading the morning paper. He reads an article about a kidnapping by gypsies. She spots an ad for hats. Upon leaving the house, Mr. Jones sees a family of gypsies reading the neighb... More

Love's stratagem, Movie Poster

Love's stratagem, Movie Poster

Motion picture poster for "Love's Stratagem" showing three scenes from the movie set against an art nouveau design. Title from item. IMP - Independent Moving Pictures Co. of America, 111 E. 14th St. New York Ci... More

His duty

His duty

It's Bob Allen's twenty-first birthday. His mother and his brother Jack, a policeman present him with a cap, personalized with his initals in the lining. Jack then goes to work and Bob goes out also. Later in t... More

The necklace

The necklace

The Kendricks are a young couple, excited to have been invited to an important social event. Mrs. Kendrick buys a new gown and borrows a jeweled necklace from a friend. At the ball, the necklace it is stolen, ... More

Through the breakers

Through the breakers

Happily married, Mr. and Mrs. Normand are soon blessed with a child. Unfortunately, as the baby grows up, the Normands become less interested in the child, and more interested in their social lives. By the age... More

What's your hurry?

What's your hurry?

At a birthday party, the father of the house is given a double-barrel shotgun, over which he is most enthusiastic. Meanwhile, his daughter recieves a letter saying that her boyfriend will be home from college e... More

The lonely villa

The lonely villa

Mr. and Mrs. Cullison and their three daughters live in a beautiful, large home out in the country. When Mr. Cullison is called away, leaving his wife and daughters alone in the house, a gang of thieves break i... More

Oh, Uncle!

Oh, Uncle!

Uncle Zeke, a wealthy old batchelor, is trying to decide which of his nephews will be his heir. His visit to nephew Tom and Tom's wife does not go well, so he decides to visit Harry, whom he believes to be unma... More

The Gibson goddess

The Gibson goddess

An attractive young lady at a beach resort draws unwanted attention from a group of unruly young men, so she disguises herself with a long beach coat and plenty of padding. Not recognizing the beauty they had s... More

The day after

The day after

The day after they host a boisterous New Year's Eve party, the Mr. and Mrs. Hilton both suffer remorse and wicked hangovers. They vow never to do it again. J136612 U.S. Copyright Office Copyright: Biograph Co.;... More

A corner in wheat

A corner in wheat

A greedy tycoon decides, on a whim, to corner the world market in wheat. This doubles the price of bread, forcing the grain's producers into charity lines and further into poverty. Shows the differences between... More

The faded lilies

The faded lilies

"Francois, a hunchback violinist, performs at a society party and is given a bouquet of lilies by a young woman in appreciation. He takes the gift a sign of love, and when he realizes his mistake, he loses his ... More

Lines of white on a sullen sea

Lines of white on a sullen sea

Emily turns down an offer of marriage from sailor Joe, and accepts sailor Bill. He sails away and soon forgets about his promise to Emily, leaving her to wait for six, long years. Unbeknownst to her, he marries... More

Two memories

Two memories

Henry and Marion have a lover's quarrel and part in anger. They do not reconcile, and ten years pass without contact. Marion becomes a society girl and spends her time at parties with her friends. Henry has bec... More

The country doctor

The country doctor

Dr. Harcourt's daughter, Edith, falls sick. While treating her, the doctor is summoned to the sickbed of a poor neighbor's daughter who is also gravely ill. The doctor is torn between his duty, and concern for ... More

All on account of the milk

All on account of the milk

Hiram, a young contractor, goes to a house near his worksite to get a glass of milk. He is mistaken by the heroine, Sophia, for a laborer, while he thinks she is the maid, although she is the daughter of the ma... More

May and December

May and December

An older man is engaged to a young woman, and an older woman is engaged to a young man. The couples meet several times by chance. Eventually, the young man and woman go off together, leaving the older man and w... More

[Mary Pickford, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left] / Moody, N.Y.

[Mary Pickford, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left] / Moody, N.Y...

Title devised by Library staff. Copyright by Moody, New York.

When we were in our teens

When we were in our teens

May shows her newest painting to Tom and Howard, rivals for her affection. Tom tactlessly offers an honest opinion, saying the picture is "punk". No fool Howard, however, pretends to admire May's painting. May,... More

Napierkowska, George Grantham Bain Collection

Napierkowska, George Grantham Bain Collection

Photo shows French actress, dancer, and silent film star Stacia Napierkowska (1891-1945). (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2010) Title from data provided by the Bain News Service on the negative. Forms part of... More

Napierkowska, George Grantham Bain Collection

Napierkowska, George Grantham Bain Collection

Photo shows French actress, dancer, and silent film star Stacia Napierkowska (1891-1945). (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2010) Title from data provided by the Bain News Service on the negative. Forms part of... More

H. A. Molzon presents a modern screen version o fthe everalsting play Uncle Tom's cabin with Julia Swayne Gordon & Ralph Ince

H. A. Molzon presents a modern screen version o fthe everalsting play ...

Motion picture poster for "Uncle Tom's Cabin" shows reproductions of four engravings of scenes from the book and in the center a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and an emancipated slave. Tit... More

Muggsy becomes a hero

Muggsy becomes a hero

Mabel sends a note to Muggsy asking him to meet her after church. While he is waiting for the services to end, another note is handed to him, requesting him to escort the Frost sisters through a bad area. Thoug... More

A gold necklace

A gold necklace

Mazie lends her gold necklace to her friend Nellie, who loses it. She and her boyfriend, Sam, look for it in vain. Sam, thinking it belongs to Nellie, promises to replace it, and she describes it to him in deta... More

Young America and the moving-picture show / L.M. Glackens.

Young America and the moving-picture show / L.M. Glackens.

Illustration shows a vignette cartoon showing children leaving Sunday school on the left and walking to the movies on the right, with scenes depicting bad influences, such as "The Devil's Recruiting Station" an... More

On the lake, Tuxedo

On the lake, Tuxedo

Photograph shows people seated on chairs on a frozed pond with skaters in Tuxedo Park, New York State. A man with a movie camera films the scene. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2017) Title from data provided ... More

The newlyweds

The newlyweds

After being jilted by their respective sweethearts, Dick Harcourt and Dora Dean have both become disenchanted with the opposite sex. Unknown to each other, they happen to share a seat on a passenger train. Due ... More

Fate's turning

Fate's turning

John Lawson, Jr. has taken over the family business due to the illness of his father, and he has suffered a nervous breakdown. His father,regaining health, suggests the son take a rest at a summer hotel. John b... More

"Bio-Kino", Stortingsgata 14, Oslo. Kinoen åpnet 04.12.1911, ifølge anmeldelse i Morgenbladet. Fotografert 1912.

"Bio-Kino", Stortingsgata 14, Oslo. Kinoen åpnet 04.12.1911, ifølge an...

"Bio-Kino", Stortingsgata 14, Oslo. Kinoen åpnet 04.12.1911, ifølge anmeldelse i Morgenbladet. Fotografert 1912.

Won by a fish

Won by a fish

Harry teases his girl's father about his bad luck with fishing and is consequently forbidden to see his girl. The next day, Dad goes fishing again. After he leaves, the young couple goes for a walk. They pass a... More

Iola's promise

Iola's promise

Iola, an Indian girl, is held captive by a gang of cutthroats. She is rescued by Jack Harper, a prospector. In gratitude, she promises to help him to find gold, and, when his fiancee is about to be burned at th... More

The Inner Circle

The Inner Circle

A lonely widower is told to bomb Senor Cataldo's house by the Inner Circle, a secret society of which he is a reluctant member. Sr. Cataldo's offence is that he has gone to the police with an extortion note he ... More

An Indian summer

An Indian summer

An elderly widower takes lodgings at a seaside boarding house owned by a widow and her daughter. Attracted to the widow, but self-conscious about his thinning hair, the widower writes a letter to inquire about ... More

Lena and the geese

Lena and the geese

An aristocratic woman is forced to give up her newborn daughter to be raised by Gretchen, a peasant woman. The girl grows up with Lena, the peasant's real daughter, who tends a flock of geese. On her deathbed, ... More

Le cinéma Gaumont-Palace, place de Clichy, vers 1913

Le cinéma Gaumont-Palace, place de Clichy, vers 1913

Signature - Au recto du tableau, en bas à droite : "à M. Beaudouin / sympathiquement / Abel Truchet". Dédicace - Au recto du tableau, en bas à droite : "à M. Beaudouin / sympathiquement / Abel Truchet". Le ciné... More

[Scene from the 1913 Italian silent film Quo Vadis?]

[Scene from the 1913 Italian silent film Quo Vadis?]

J181128-31 U.S. Copyright Office. Title devised by Library staff. Logo of Italian studio Cines appears in left corner of image.

[Scene from the silent film "The last days of Pompeii" showing a young woman clutching flowers to her chest as she picks a rose, bas-reliefs in the background]

[Scene from the silent film "The last days of Pompeii" showing a young...

J185325 U.S. Copyright Office. Title devised by Library staff. Copyright 1913 by Photo Drama Co. The last days of Pompeii, after the novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, was an Italian production released through Geo... More

[Baptism scene from the 1913 Italian silent film Quo Vadis?]

[Baptism scene from the 1913 Italian silent film Quo Vadis?]

J181132-5 U.S. Copyright Office. Title devised by Library staff. Logo of Italian studio Cines appears in left corner of image.

Quo Vadis, Movie Poster

Quo Vadis, Movie Poster

Motion picture poster for "Quo Vadis" shows city on fire and burned out ruins. Title from item. Copyright 1913 by George Klein. No. 16638. George Klein presents / the Cines photo drama as produced at the Astor ... More

Quo Vadis Lygia bound to the wild bull.

Quo Vadis Lygia bound to the wild bull.

Motion picture poster for "Quo Vadis" shows a woman bound to a wild bull in an arena being watched by the [Emporer Nero] and other spectators. Title from item. Copyright 1913 by George Klein. No. 05337-B. Georg... More

[Scene from the 1913 Italian silent film Quo Vadis?]

[Scene from the 1913 Italian silent film Quo Vadis?]

J181136 U.S. Copyright Office. Title devised by Library staff. Logo of Italian studio Cines appears in left corner of image.

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