Joe Franklin's book, "Classics of the Silent Screen" (Cadillac Publishing, 1959) brought a renewed interest to silent movies, especially to a new generation of movie lovers, listing 50 greatest movies and 75 greatest stars. Of all the programs dedicated on silent films during the 1960s on Public Broadcast Television (PBS), the one I remember and enjoyed most is "The Silent Years", hosted by the bearded and cigar smoking Orson Welles, which premiered on WNET, Channel 13, July 6, 1971, in New York City. All the movies presented were from the Paul Killiam collection, individually scored either by William Perry's piano playing or an organ soundtrack. The new scores were so wonderful to hear made watching the silent movies even more enjoyable.
The silent movies shown in the series include: (1) THE GOLD RUSH (1925), Charlie Chaplin; (2) THE SON OF THE SHEIK (1926), Rudolph Valentino; (3) D.W. Griffith's INTOLERANCE (1916); (4) THE MARK OF ZORRO (1920), Douglas Fairbanks; (5) THE GENERAL (1926), Buster Keaton; (6) THE BELOVED ROGUE (1927), John Barrymore; (7) THE EXTRA GIRL (1923), Mabel Normand; (8) THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1924), Douglas Fairbanks; (9) ORPHANS OF THE STORM (1921), The Gish Sisters; (10) SALLY OF THE SAWDUST (1925), Carol Dempster and WC Fields; (11) BLOOD AND SAND (1922), Rudolph Valentino; and (12) THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1923), Lon Chaney. Take note that DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1920), starring John Barrymore, was not included in the New York City broadcasts but presented at various PBS stations in other states (including WNJM, Channel 50, Montclair, New Jersey, in 1974) in place of THE SON OF THE SHEIK (1926). While "The Silent Years" did have numerous rebroadcasts on Channel 13 until 1974, strangely, THE SON OF THE SHEIK was never included as part of the rerun package.
In 1975, a new "SILENT YEARS" series was presented, hosted by Lillian Gish, with 12 more new silent films being presented to television, many for the first time, including Lillian Gish herself in BROKEN BLOSSOMS (1919). While "The Silent Years" of 1971 has been out of circulation since the mid 1970s or so, many of the movies aired have become available on video cassette, some with new orchestral scores, others with original scores presented for "The Silent Years" series.
"The Silent Years" broadcasts for both 1971 and 1975 make excellent viewing for silent film lovers. It's also a great introduction to anyone interested or curious about films from the silent film era and the legendary stars that made them famous.
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