Silent Film 101 - Actors

Brand new to silents? Wondering where to start? This section has quick, bite-size info on films, performers, directors, etc.

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Silent Film 101 - Actors

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In this thread are small blurbs of the different male performers of the silent era, from leading men to character actors, comedians to cowboys. There will be a separate post for each actor, listed here in the OP alphabetically for easy navigation. This and the actresses thread are going to be long term projects. Stay tuned!


List of actors:


Roscoe Arbuckle
Richard Arlen
George Arliss
John Barrymore
Richard Barthelmess
Clive Brook
Francis X Bushman
Lon Chaney
Charlie Chaplin
Sydney Chaplin
Charley Chase
Ronald Colman
Chester Conklin
Ricardo Cortez
Laurence Criner
Richard Dix
Douglas Fairbanks
Charles Farrell
John Gilbert
William Haines
Robert Harron
Bill Hart
Sessue Hayakawa
Al St. John
Buster Keaton
Harry Langdon
Max Linder
Harold Lloyd
Percy Marmont
Thomas Meighan
Tom Mix
Antonio Moreno
Ramon Novarro
Wallace Reid
Theodore Roberts
Charles "Buddy" Rogers
Larry Semon
Erich von Stroheim
Conway Tearle
Ernest Torrence
Ben Turpin
Rudolph Valentino
Conrad Veidt
"Some people travel through life making friends wherever they go, while others — just travel through life." ~ Go West (1925)

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Re: Silent Film 101 - Actors

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Douglas Fairbanks
1883 - 1939

After acting on Broadway in the early 1900s, Douglas Fairbanks started his film career in 1915 at Triangle Pictures, joining Paramount soon after. In 1919, he, Mary Pickford, D.W. Griffith and Charlie Chaplin founded United Artists. In 1920, he and Pickford married; the couple became known as "Hollywood royalty", and entertained guests at their famous Pickfair estate in Beverly Hills. His athletics and exuberant performance were apparent in his early career, but it wasn't until 1920 with The Mark of Zorro that Fairbanks established himself as a swashbuckling hero in the costume adventure films for which he is best known today. Throughout the twenties, he set many of the standards for the swashbuckler genre through films such as Robin Hood and The Three Musketeers. In 1926, he released The Black Pirate, shot entirely in two-tone Technicolor. His final silent performance, the part-talkie The Iron Mask, was released in 1929.

Key films:

Mystery of the Leaping Fish (1916)
Wild and Woolly (1917)
The Mark of Zorro (1920)
The Three Musketeers (1921)
Robin Hood (1922)
The Thief of Baghdad (1924)
Don Q, Son of Zorro (1925)
The Black Pirate (1926)
The Gaucho (1927)
The Iron Mask (1929)
"Some people travel through life making friends wherever they go, while others — just travel through life." ~ Go West (1925)

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Re: Silent Film 101 - Actors

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Charlie Chaplin
1889 - 1977

English-born Charlie Chaplin started his career with Keystone Studios. He debuted his iconic Tramp persona in 1914 via two films: Mabel's Strange Predicament (shot first but released later) and Kid Auto Races at Venice (shot later but released first). During the next several years, he signed with Essanay, Mutual Films, and First National. In 1919, he, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith co-founded the distribution company United Artists. After finishing his contract with First National, Chaplin wrote and directed (though only played a bit part in) his first independent film, A Woman of Paris, intended as a starring vehicle for frequent co-star Edna Purviance. He starred in three features in the 20s: The Kid for First National, and The Gold Rush and The Circus for United Artists. Though sound films had already taken over, in the 1930s he released his last two silents: City Lights and Modern Times. The Great Dictator, his first talkie, was released in 1940.

Key films:

Keystone:
Mabel's Strange Predicament (1914)
Kid Auto Races at Venice (1914)
Tillie's Punctured Romance (1914)

Essanay:
His New Job (1915)
A Night Out (1915)
The Tramp (1915)

Mutual:
The Vagabond (1916)
The Pawnshop (1916)
The Rink (1916)
The Immigrant (1917)
The Adventurer (1917)

First National:
A Dog's Life (1918)
Shoulder Arms (1918)
The Kid (1921)

United Artists:
The Gold Rush (1925)
The Circus (1928)
City Lights (1931)
Modern Times (1936)
The Great Dictator (1940) [talkie]
"Some people travel through life making friends wherever they go, while others — just travel through life." ~ Go West (1925)

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Re: Silent Film 101 - Actors

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Rudolph Valentino
1895 - 1926

Italian-born Rudolph Valentino started as a film extra in 1914. He had his breakout role in 1921 with The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, playing a handsome, tango dancing Argentine. That same year, he starred in his best known role as Ahmed in The Sheik. With his smouldering on-screen presence, Valentino epitomized the Latin lover type, and he was wildly popular with female movie-goers. Throughout the 1920s he played romantic leads opposite actresses such as Gloria Swanson, Nita Naldi and Vilma Banky. In 1926, Valentino died from peritonitis at only 31; his death came as a shock and garnered wide-spread media coverage, with his funeral attracting over 100,000 mourners. His final film, The Son of the Sheik, which he had been promoting on a nationwide tour at the time of his death, went into general release two weeks later.

Key films:

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921)
The Sheik (1921)
Blood and Sand (1922)
Beyond the Rocks (1922)
Moran of the Lady Letty (1922)
Monsieur Beaucaire (1924)
Cobra (1925)
The Eagle (1925)
The Son of the Sheik (1926)
"Some people travel through life making friends wherever they go, while others — just travel through life." ~ Go West (1925)

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Re: Silent Film 101 - Actors

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Lon Chaney
1883 - 1930

After a decade on the stage, Lon Chaney entered films in 1913, acting in various character roles for Universal before signing with MGM in 1925. In 1919, he - as well as his co-stars Betty Compson and Thomas Meighan - rose to stardom with the film The Miracle Man (now lost save for a few fragments). Throughout the 1920s, Chaney played several iconic roles, including the titular characters in The Phantom of the Opera and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Chaney was also known for his collaborations with Tod Browning, who directed him in films such as The Unholy Three, The Unknown as well as the infamously lost London After Midnight. One of the most legendary character actors of the silent era, Chaney's skill in makeup artistry combined with a mastery of pantomime led to the nickname "The Man of a Thousand Faces". In 1930, Chaney starred in the sound remake of The Unholy Three (not directed by Browning). It was his final film and only talkie; a month after release he died of throat cancer at 47.

Key films:

The Wicked Darling (1919)
Oliver Twist (1922)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
He Who Gets Slapped (1924)
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
The Unholy Three (1925)
Tell It to the Marines (1926)
The Unkown (1927)
Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928)
West of Zanzibar (1928)
Where East is East (1929)
The Unholy Three (1930) [sound remake]
"Some people travel through life making friends wherever they go, while others — just travel through life." ~ Go West (1925)

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