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A question for the silent fans out there:


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I am still fairly new to silent films. Now that I am interested in watching them, I have a question:

 

When you watch silents, especially if you have the recorded or in your personal collection, do you play music while watching ? Or do your recorded ones already have music accompanying them ?

 

Or how do you choose what music to play while watching ? Or do you watch in silence ?

 

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99% of the time, I watch it with whatever music it was broadcast with, or is provided with the DVD/Blu ray. On the very rare occasion that there is no music on the soundtrack, I'll play my own music, but I've only done that once or twice. 

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Silent films are slowly being forgotten, I'm glad you are taking an interest in them! I love silent films, and my personal preference is to just watch them without music, if it had music with it, I usually mute it. I do think it depends on what your personal preference is though. I like it completely silent because a lot of the music that comes with it is sometimes not very good, or doesn't go well with the movie. It also distracts me from the unique little details that I notice in the film when all my attention is on the screen and what I see, not what I hear. I feel that sometimes the music influences how I see the movie; sadder music can make the film more melancholy, happy music can take some of the tension and drama out of scenes that stand out when watched in silence. However, some films can be enhanced by the right music. I listen to some dramatic instrumental music for one scene in Monsieur Beaucaire (1924) and it really makes it exciting! And some silent movies need a little music to make it perfect. I watch Moran of The Lady Letty (1922) with the music TCM put with it and it's really nice. I sometimes just think of a certain silent film when I hear instrumental music sometimes, so I use it for that film. I might be able to recommend some music if you have a hard time finding some. One more thing: when I do use music I keep it kind of soft, just loud enough to hear in the background so your main focus can be on the film. Hope this helped! Good luck with your movies!

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This is a great question.  As silent films were never really silent, but had live music performed in accompaniment in theaters, something very important would be missing if one watched in silence.  On the other hand, the wrong score can completely ruin the experience, so I can understand Natalie's POV.

 

I've been lucky enough to see many silents in theaters (and hotel basements) with accompaniment by the Mighty Wurlitzer organ, small and large orchestras, and piano.  The live experience cannot be beat, and I admit, watching at home can be less than satisfying.

 

Don Juan (1926) and Our Modern Maidens (1929) both are on DVD with synchronized music scores, including appropriate sound effects.  They are a good place to start, working backwards from there.

 

New scores added to silents can be great or problematic, depending on your point of view.  For example, the Buster Keaton silents seem to get new scores every time they're released in a new format (VHS, Laser Disc, DVD and even BluRay) and they are, for me, getting worse all the time.  Way too busy, and trying too hard to be clever.  The Club Foot Orchestra is one of the worst offenders, I think, and their version of Sherlock, Jr. (1924) is horrendous.

 

I feel some of the best scores available are composed or performed by Philip Carli, Ben Model (piano) and Carl Davis (orchestral).  I also enjoy Gaylord Carter (organ), but he's not everyone's cup of tea.

 

To GGGGerald:  Could you share which silents you have watched so far, and what kind you prefer (comedy, drama, etc.)?  Hope you're enjoying discovering new films to watch.

 

 

 

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Hi BelleLeGrand1,

  This is slightly off topic, but if you don't mind saying, how did you find theaters that showed silent films? I only ask because I have ben asking around at theaters everywhere forever, and I have yet to find a theater that shows silent films! I ask, and they either give me a lengthy explanation why they do not show silent, or they look at me like I've lost my mind. I have tried asking theaters that show retrospectives, and they have not shown silent films either. I am desperate to view one of my beloved silents on a big screen. It may just be my area of the country, I hear that in California they have a lot more theaters etc. that will play silent films. I just wondered what kind of theaters you went to that showed silent movies, where they mostly older theaters that showed classic films, or somewhere else? If you don't feel comfortable saying, its completely fine, I just wondered since I've been looking for so long  :)

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I do agree that many films can be enhanced by the addition of music, for example, Son of the Sheik (1926) was even more magical when I watched it listening to the music it came with softly in the background. It is not quite so dramatic without the music. There is one film, however, that I never listen to music with: Cobra (1925). I can't stand the music track with that one, it ruins the marvelous story and takes away from the subtle expressions the actors use in it. But I can definitely see how many films are made better with a soundtrack, and I agree that it can make the movie experience even better!

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Hi BelleLeGrand1,

  This is slightly off topic, but if you don't mind saying, how did you find theaters that showed silent films? I only ask because I have ben asking around at theaters everywhere forever, and I have yet to find a theater that shows silent films! I ask, and they either give me a lengthy explanation why they do not show silent, or they look at me like I've lost my mind. I have tried asking theaters that show retrospectives, and they have not shown silent films either. I am desperate to view one of my beloved silents on a big screen. It may just be my area of the country, I hear that in California they have a lot more theaters etc. that will play silent films. I just wondered what kind of theaters you went to that showed silent movies, where they mostly older theaters that showed classic films, or somewhere else? If you don't feel comfortable saying, its completely fine, I just wondered since I've been looking for so long  :)

 

Thanks for asking, Natalie.  The list of venues where I've seen silents is a little long to post here, some sadly are no longer valid,  (if you're interested I can PM), but here's a few links to festivals you may want to check out.

 

Unfortunately, this one, in Rome, NY, is coming up this weekend:  http://www.romecapitol.com/capitolfest.html

 

Cinevent (Columbus, OH) usually takes place Memorial Day weekend, or the weekend after:  http://www.cinevent.com/index.html

 

If you like Buster Keaton, here are two annual celebrations: 

 

The Damfinos, in Muskegon, MI (where he spent summers in his youth):  http://www.busterkeaton.com/

 

Annual BK Celebration in Iola, KS (near his birthplace, Piqua, KS)

 

Hope this helps.

Edited by BelleLeGrand1
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Thank you so much BelleLeGrand1!

   I can definitely use that info, thanks! Especially the one in Columbus, I had no idea about that one, I could absolutely get to that one! Thank you thank you thank you! I'm super excited to go to some of those! I didn't think I was ever going to find a place that showed silent films near me! Thanks!

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Thank you so much BelleLeGrand1!

   I can definitely use that info, thanks! Especially the one in Columbus, I had no idea about that one, I could absolutely get to that one! Thank you thank you thank you! I'm super excited to go to some of those! I didn't think I was ever going to find a place that showed silent films near me! Thanks!

 

You're more than welcome.  Glad to know I could be of help.  When I get a chance, I'll drop you a line and pass on more info about Cinevent. 

 

And, excuse me if someone else beat me to it, but welcome to the boards!

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This is a great question.  As silent films were never really silent, but had live music performed in accompaniment in theaters, something very important would be missing if one watched in silence.  On the other hand, the wrong score can completely ruin the experience, so I can understand Natalie's POV.

 

I've been lucky enough to see many silents in theaters (and hotel basements) with accompaniment by the Mighty Wurlitzer organ, small and large orchestras, and piano.  The live experience cannot be beat, and I admit, watching at home can be less than satisfying.

 

Don Juan (1926) and Our Modern Maidens (1929) both are on DVD with synchronized music scores, including appropriate sound effects.  They are a good place to start, working backwards from there.

 

New scores added to silents can be great or problematic, depending on your point of view.  For example, the Buster Keaton silents seem to get new scores every time they're released in a new format (VHS, Laser Disc, DVD and even BluRay) and they are, for me, getting worse all the time.  Way too busy, and trying too hard to be clever.  The Club Foot Orchestra is one of the worst offenders, I think, and their version of Sherlock, Jr. (1924) is horrendous.

 

I feel some of the best scores available are composed or performed by Philip Carli, Ben Model (piano) and Carl Davis (orchestral).  I also enjoy Gaylord Carter (organ), but he's not everyone's cup of tea.

 

To GGGGerald:  Could you share which silents you have watched so far, and what kind you prefer (comedy, drama, etc.)?  Hope you're enjoying discovering new films to watch.

 

Just various shorts, films that TCM has shown through the years. TCM showed some last month as part of the African American films series and I saw a few of those like the version of "Ten Nights in a Barroom".

 

Falling Leaves (1912) was really touching. Metropolis (1927) was great.

 

I like the German Expressionist style also. I am still new to it all.

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I like the German Expressionist style also. I am still new to it all.

 

If you haven't yet, check out Murnau, namely NosferatuFaust, and The Last Laugh.

 

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Waxwork are both good.

 

And Fritz Lang: Die Nibelungen, Spies, Woman In the Moon, Dr. Mabuse.

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GGGGerald--A few more titles:

 

1925's "Phantom of the Opera", with Lon Chaney Sr.  This is one to watch with a cd of Wurlitzer pipe organ.

 

1925's "The Lost World"--Willis O'Briens' stop-motion animation, pre "King Kong".

 

1927's "The Cat and the Canary--the Original "spend a night in a haunted house" film.  

 

1928's experimental short "The Fall of the House of Usher"--director was James Sibley Watson.

 

All can be found online.

 

I like watching silents with music appropriate to the genre--as has already been mentioned, the wrong music can spoil a film.  Some prints have electronic scores written for them.  If my choice is watching with an electronic score or Silent, I choose silent.

 

Enjoy the movies..

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Just various shorts, films that TCM has shown through the years. TCM showed some last month as part of the African American films series and I saw a few of those like the version of "Ten Nights in a Barroom".

 

Falling Leaves (1912) was really touching. Metropolis (1927) was great.

 

I like the German Expressionist style also. I am still new to it all.

 

In addition to what's already been suggested:

 

G.W. Pabst's Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, both (1929) and both starring the iconic Louise Brooks.

 

Hope you continue to enjoy finding new silents.

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Here's a few silents that I really enjoyed or found interesting:

 

Cobra (1925) : I really recommend this one, I loved the characters and how they were developed throughout this dramatic film, I loved the actors, and I loved the message.

 

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927): this one is very different from any of the other silent films I've ever watched. Its very interesting to see how your perception of the characters change over the course of the movie, sometimes very quickly.

 

The Conquering Power (1921): For some reason, this movie reminded me of a Washington Irving story; I looked in my collection and didn't find a book of his that had this title, but it still was a good movie.

 

It (1927): This was a really fun movie, Clara Bow was so charming in this, its very good.

 

The Eagle (1925): This is one of my favorites, it made me laugh and kept me interested. Sort of a "Robin Hood" plot with some twists. It has two of my favorite actors in it: Rudolph Valentino and Vilma Banky!

 

GGGGerald, I hope you find some great movies, it sounds like you've already found a few that you like, have fun!

 

~Natalie  :)

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