University of Exeter Press

Silent Features

The Development of Silent Feature Films 1914 - 1934

    • 384 Pages

    A collection of essays on fifteen feature-length silent films and two silent serial features. The aims of the collection are threefold: to provide detailed accounts of a wide array of films produced between the early 1910s and the early 1930s; to focus principally on films that may be well-known but that have rarely been discussed in detail; and hence to appeal to those interested in film style and its history.

    Outstanding group of contributors – see details on Author Biography page – all are acknowledged and well-regarded scholars in the field, many of whom have established international reputations for their work in this area and a world-renowned editor.

    Silent Features is a collection of essays on seventeen feature-length silent films and two silent serial features, their diverse stylistic, generic and structural characteristics, and the national, historical and industrial contexts from which they emerged. Of the 17 films discussed, 15 are still currently available on DVD. 200 b&w illustrations.

    A valuable compilation of analysis on feature films filmed between 1914 and 1934, written in an almost programmatic way from the neoformalist perspective.

    Daniel Sánchez Salas

    Silent Features is an unprecedented volume, as it consists exclusively of analyses of films from the pre-sound era. The volume’s focus on distinctive work allows the authors to delve into the style and narration of the chosen films, making a collective case for the singular achievement of filmmaking in the silent era.
    Steve Neale has gathered together an informed and skilled set of scholars, who are adept at revealing the formal intricacies of the films under examination.
    Professor Charlie Keil, Department of History and Cinema Studies, University of Toronto

    Silent Features is a unique and an important contribution to the general field of film studies, but particularly to the serious study of silent films. Edited by Stephen Neale, the book contains original essays by well-known film scholars on fifteen feature-length silents and two serials. The range of titles examined includes the well-known (Capra’s 1926The Strong Man, Lubitsch’s 1925 Lady Windemere’s Fan, Lang’s 1923 Dr Mabuse, der Speiler, Borzage’s 1925 Lazybones and Wellman’s 1927 Wings) to the truly obscure (due to its general unavailability), the Chinese rarity from 1931, Love and Duty.
    The essays, which provide a remarkable diversity in cinematic history, are presented chronologically, covering the early 1910s through the early 1930s. The authors are all specialists in their subjects, and all are remarkably (and thankfully) jargon-free. Each essay is highly readable, informative, and whenever possible illustrated with frame stills. For each film readers are given relevant cultural and historical information, an appropriate business background, and a cinematic definition of visual style, generic context, and narrative structure. The clarity and depth of each essay guarantees that the book will have appeal to general readers as well as to scholars.
    Unlike too many film books, Silent Features addresses each movie in terms of ‘film as film’, including details on how each movie is shot, visually presented, and shaped for the viewer’s perception. This characteristic is the mark of the exceptional work of the book’s editor, Stephen Neale, who is well-known for his analyses of cinematic style. Neale has contributed an excellent introductory essay addressing the issues of ‘feature’ film definition, acting styles, international comparisons, and the general progression of cinema throughout the decades represented. There is no other book quite like this that I know of, and it is a valuable contribution to the field that should inspire other scholars to seek out the territory of these early years for further study.
    Professor Jeanine Basinger, Wesleyan University

    It is unique in the range of its coverage and in its focus on the stylistic and narrative organization of the films under discussion.
    Several of the films are well-known, while other essays draw attention to significant but previously neglected works such as Boris Barnet’s Miss Mend, which casts a new light on Soviet filmmaking in the 1920s.
    The essays are written by acknowledged and well-regarded scholars in the field, many of whom have established international reputations for their work in this area.
    Professor Richard Maltby, Flinders University, Australia

    Notes on Contributors
    Introduction Steve Neale
    Germinal(1913) Ben Brewster
    Assunta Spina (1915) Lea Jacobs
    L`Enfant de Paris (1913) Heather Heckman
    The Wishing Ring (1914) Rebecca Genauer
    The Phantom Carriage (Körkalen) (1921) John Gibbs and Douglas Pye
    Dr. Mabuse, Der Spieler (1922) Steve Neale
    Lazybones (1925) Scott Higgins
    Lady Windermere’s Fan (1925) Steve Neale
    The Strong Man (1926) Joe Kember
    Miss Mend (Mucc Mettò) (1926) Vincent Bohlinger
    Wings (1927) Sara Ross
    Palais de Dance (1928) Martin Shingler
    Piccadilly (1929) John Burrows
    The Kiss (1929) Patrick Keating
    Love and Duty (Lian `ai yu yiwu) (1931) Anne Kerlan
    I Was Born, But....(Umarete wa mita keredo) (1932) Alex Clayton
    Street Without End (Kagari naki hodo) (1934) Lisa Dombrowski





    Vincent Bohlinger is Associate Professor and Director of Film Studies at Rhode Island College. His primary interests are in Soviet cinema, and he is a regular contributor to Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema and KinoKultura. He is currently working on a book on Soviet film style from the late 1920s to the mid-1930s and co-editing a collection of essays on movie stars in Russian/Soviet  cinema.

    Ben Brewster was editor of Screen and taught Film Studies at the University of Kent before becoming Assistant Director of the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research in Madison, Wisconsin. He is the co-author of Theatre to Cinema (1996) and has contributed articles on early cinema to Screen, Cinema Journal, Film History, Cinema & Cie and a number of essay collections.

    Jon Burrows is an Associate Professor in the Department of Film and Television Studies, University of Warwick. He is the author of Legitimate Cinema (2003) and The British Cinema Boom, 1909–1914 (2017) and various essays and articles on the subject of silent British cinema.

    Alex Clayton is Senior Lecturer in Film and Television at the University of Bristol. He is the author of The Body in Hollywood Slapstick (2007), coeditor of The Language and Style of Film Criticism (2011), and a member of the editorial board of Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism. He has published a range of essays on screen comedy, performance and aesthetics, and his next book is entitled Funny How? Sketch Comedy and the Art of Humor (forthcoming).

    Lisa Dombrowski is Associate Professor of Film Studies at Wesleyan University. She is the author of The Films of Samuel Fuller: If You Die, I’ll Kill You! (2008) and the editor of Kazan Revisited (2011), and has writtenfor the New York Times, Film Comment, Film Quarterly, Film History, and the Criterion Collection.

    Rebecca Genauer is a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she is undertaking research on William de Mille. She is also a contributor to Films on Ice: Cinemas of the Arctic (2015).

    John Gibbs is Professor of Film at the University of Reading. He is a member of the editorial board of Movie: a journal of film criticism and the author of Mise-en-Scène: Film Style and Interpretation (2002), Filmmakers’ Choices (2006) and The Life of Mise-en-Scène: Visual Style and British Film Criticism, 1946–78 (2013). His collaborations with Douglas Pye include the collections Style and Meaning (2005) and The Long Take: Critical Approaches (2017), audiovisual essays on Notorious and The Phantom Carriage and coediting the series Palgrave Close Readings in Film and Television.

    Heather Heckman is Director of Moving Image Research Collections at the University of South Carolina. She has contributed essays to The American Archivist, The Moving Image and Colour and the Moving Image: History, Theory, Aesthetics, Archive (2013).

    Scott Higgins is Charles W. Fries Professor of Film Studies and Director of the College of Film and the Moving Image at Wesleyan University. His books include Harnessing the Technicolor Rainbow (2007), Arnheim for Film and Media Studies (2011), and Matinee Melodrama (2016). He has contributed to Serial Narrative (2017), Behind the Silver Screen: Editing and Special Effects (2016), and The Ultimate Stallone Reader (2014).

    Lea Jacobs teaches film history and aesthetics in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of The Wages of Sin: Censorship and the Fallen Woman Film (1997), The Decline of Sentiment: American Film in the 1920s (2008), Film Rhythm after Sound (2015), and co-author of Theatre to Cinema (1998). She has also contributed articles to Cinema Journal, Film History, Iris, Screen and a number of other publications.

    Patrick Keating is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at Trinity University in San Antonio. He is the author of Hollywood Lighting from the Silent Era to Film Noir (2010), the editorof Cinematography (2014), and a contributor to The Classical Hollywood Reader (2012).

    Joe Kember is an Associate Professor in Film at the University of Exeter. He is the author of Marketing Modernity: Victorian Popular Shows and Early Cinema (2009), and a number of articles and essays in Early Popular Visual Culture, The Velvet Light Trap, Visual Delights II (2002) and The Sounds of Early Cinema (2012).

    Anne Kerlan is a researcher at the Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, a team of the UMR Chine Corée Japon (CNRS-EHESS, Paris). She is an historian of Chinese visual culture. In addition to coediting and contributing to Loin d’Hollywood? Cinématographies nationales et modèle Hollywoodien (2013) she has published several articles and a book on a the history of a major Chinese studio, Hollywood à Shanghai. L’épopée des studios Lianhua (1930–1948) (2014).

    The late Steve Neale was Emeritus Professor of Film Studies at the University of Exeter, and a Series Editor of Exeter Studies in Film History. He was the author of Genre and Hollywood (2000), co-author of Epics, Spectacles and Blockbusters: A Hollywood History (2010), editor of The Classical Hollywood Reader (2012), co-editor of ‘Un-American’ Hollywood: Politics and Film in the Blacklist Era (2007) and Widescreen Worldwide (2010), and a contributor to Film Moments: Criticism, Theory, History (2010) and to Film Studies and Movie. He was recipient of BAFTSS’s Outstanding Achievement Award in 2017.

    Douglas Pye is Senior Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of Film, Theatre and Television at the University of Reading. He is the author of Movies and Tone (2007), co-author of 100 Film Musicals (2011), and co-editor of The Long Take: Critical Approaches (2017), Style and Meaning (2005) and The Movie Book of the Western (1996). He co-edits with John Gibbs the series Palgrave Close Readings in Film and Television and is a member of the editorial board of Movie: a journal of film criticism.

    Sara Ross is an Associate Professor and the Director of Undergraduate Programs for the School of Communication and Media Arts at Sacred Heart University. Her research interests include late silent film, romantic comedy, and the development of female characters in Hollywood. She has published articles on these and other topics in Aura, Camera Obscura, Film History, Modernism and Modernity, and a number of anthologies.

    Martin Shingler is a Senior Lecturer in Radio and Film at the University of Sunderland. He is the author of When Warners Brought Broadway to Hollywood, 1923–1939 (2018) and Star Studies: A Critical Guide (2012), co-author of On-Air: Methods and Meanings of Radio (1994) and Melodrama: Genre, Style and Sensibility (2004), and co-editor of the BFI Film Star book series.

      • 384 Pages