word craft


Story Behind the Story #44: Silent Movie


Silent MovieWhen I was a boy my usu­al Sat­ur­day Brook­lyn morn­ings meant movies at the neigh­bor­hood St. George The­atre. Sev­en car­toons. A west­ern. The March of Time news­reel, plus a chap­ter from some mul­ti-part ser­i­al. More­over, you received a gift for actu­al­ly leav­ing the theatre.

For twen­ty-five cents.

For birth­day par­ties my father rent­ed and showed silent 16mm silent movie shorts: Chap­lin, Buster Keaton, Lau­rel & Hardy, among oth­ers. These films had a writ­ten aspect, what were called “titles.” The titles pro­vid­ed dia­logue or nar­ra­tive infor­ma­tion. You had to read them.

When we went to reg­u­lar movies it was a dou­ble fea­ture: an A movie and a B movie. You walked in dur­ing the mid­dle of one movie, saw the com­plete sec­ond movie, then left the the­atre (“This is where we came in”) at the nar­ra­tive point when you arrived at the first movie. How we recon­struct­ed that movie as a whole I’ll nev­er know.

And at the Bor­ough Hall Movie The­atre I saw a hor­ror film which gave me a night­mare that repeat­ed itself (in my head) for a good num­ber of years—a mad sci­en­tist would give me an injec­tion and turn me into a fish.

Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times
Char­lie Chap­lin in Mod­ern Times

A few years ago I watched Chap­lin’s Mod­ern Times. The musi­cal score was per­formed by the full Den­ver Sym­pho­ny. A mar­velous experience.

All these movies were in black and white.

And all these the­atre dis­played what were called “stills”—photo images of the movie cur­rent­ly being shown.

Which is a long way of explain­ing how I came to write the pic­ture book, Silent Movie.

illus­tra­tion copy­right C.B. Mor­dan for Silent Movie

I had got­ten to know—and work with—an artist by the name of C. B. Mor­dan. He did fine black-and-white scratch board art that instant­ly remind­ed me of motion pic­ture stills. His art brought me back to my ear­ly movie-going days, and the pic­ture book was my attempt to cre­ate the rich expe­ri­ence of a silent movie.

Still love to watch them.

1 thought on “Story Behind the Story #44: Silent Movie”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Recent Posts