The era of silent film extends from the invention of the movie camera to the introduction of talkies with the premiere of The Jazz Singer in 1927. The stars of silent film were as big as the stars of any period in film history, but many of those careers came to a crashing halt with the arrival of sound. Some careers came to an end because the voice did not match the carefully conceived personality of the star, while others failed because they could not convincingly recite dialogue. Some of the stars of silent film remain among the legendary figures in the history of cinema even today.
The silent film era was notable for several comedians and one of the biggest stars was Harold Lloyd. Lloyd create a career for himself by playing an all-American male who many film goers could relate to. What audiences could not relate to but were totally fascinated by was Harold Lloyd's amazing athletic ability and the daring stunts that fill his movies. The most famous image of Harold Lloyd is him hanging precariously from a large clock on the side of the building, seeming to dangle high enough that a slip would kill him. Making Lloyd's athletic stunts all the more amazing is that he did every one with only three fingers on his right hand.
Valentino was the biggest male sex symbol of his day. He may also be considered the James Dean of his day except that he died decades before James Dean became a star. He excelled in exotic romances. His tragic early death from complications related to peritonitis before he was even 30 years old transformed him into a legend. The legends associated with his death are that thousands of grief-stricken female fans lined the path along his funeral procession, causing riots as they attempted to see his hearse. There were even reports that women had committed suicide in their anguish.
Mary Pickford was one of the first movie stars in history and for a time was considered the biggest star in the world. She captured the hearts of early film goers as the sweet heroine who was put-upon by a succession of evil men. In addition to being in on the ground floor of the creation of that new phenomenon called the movie star, she also set the stage for another Hollywood creation, the superstar couple, when she married Douglas Fairbanks in 1920.
Johnny Depp's Capt. Jack Sparrow owes a debt of allegiance to the original swashbuckling character, often portrayed by one of the most athletic and graceful movie stars of all time, Douglas Fairbanks. Fairbanks was the first action hero of the new medium and most of his films didn't even need dialogue cards for audiences to figure out what was going on.
John Barrymore was known as The Great Profile as well as the greatest actor of his era. In fact, that great actor title was mainly reserved for his stage performances but Barrymore's amazing talent shines through most clearly in the transformation scene of his silent version of Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in which he changes from Jekyll to Hyde without the use of special effects or time lapse photography.
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