Silent Movies

Harold Lloyd in Never Weaken
This is going to be the first post from Vienna. My uni hasn’t started yet so I have to spend a lot of free time. I went to the Austrian Filmmuseum in Vienna to see some silent movies tonight. It was wonderful to see them on the big screen without music, just the silent films and a well entertained audience. There was this nice old couple, for example, and the old woman doesn’t seem to understand English which was the language of the titles, of course. Her husband explained the action to her then into the silence and he really had an old voice. It was so cute and made the films so much more funny, because it was obviously what’s going on. It was such a nice situation.

I think the old silent movie stars are so good actors, and I as an animator can learn so much from them. They screened two Harold Lloyd films, “Number please” (1920) and “Never weaken” (1921), then “Lizzies of the field” by Mack Sennett (1924) and at last, “Big Business” (1929) with Laurel and Hardy.
What you can see best at them is what our tutor calls “internal movement”, the way they think, how they do react on what is happening and their emations generally. They make their motives and ideas totally clear without using words. This is what an ideal animation should be, shouldn’t it? I found it very often that anmation is much better because of the sounds and music and words you use. But in the silent movies, you can’t use one of those tricks. It would be nice to try a silent story, only the pictures, especially when the audience expect sound effects.
So “Never weaken” is so funny and I think it’s because of the missing sound. If you imagine that movie with a kind of Tom & Jerry sound effects, it wouldn’t be as funny as it is. It sharpens your visual senses if you haven’t anything you could listen to. It was a wonderful cinema experience tonight. If you ever have the chance to see those, take it!

05. October 2008 by Jessica
Categories: Stuff | Tags: , | 3 comments

Comments (3)

  1. I remember seeing an interview with John Ford, who began directing in the silent era before becoming THE classic western director, and he said silent movies were too hard to make because you have to move the camera around so much to get the story across purely visually.

    You have to take what he says with a grain of salt though…. he’s known for being gruff and outspoken but t the same time very understated about his own talent and hard work. He also likes to claim that he never put any effort into getting a nice camera angle, just posed his actors and started shooting, but his films put the lie to that. Especially the earlier ones are filled with beautiful compositions.

  2. Love that pic!

    yeah theres alot to learn from those old films 4 sure.


  3. Yeah – the feed is back!

    This year’s “Film + MusikFest” of the Murnau Society opens up with Harold Lloyd’s “Safety Last!” and I’m quite curious – although I definitely prefer Buster Keaton over any other silent movie actors. But I also really enjoyed the live orchestra music in the past two years, so I won’t enjoy it in pure silence.

    By the way – “Never Weaken” is publicly available from