Leonard Maltin on how Hollywood reshaped public perception of silent cinema

“Just a few years after the birth of talkies in 1927, Hollywood seemed to have made a concentrated effort to reshape people’s thinking about silent film; in doing so, it eradicated both memories and perceptions of the silents’ power to move and inspire an audience. In an effort to embrace modern and forward thinking, Hollywood turned an art form into a joke.

Pete Smith produced and narrated a series of M-G-M short subjects called Goofy Movies beginning in 1933. He transformed silent film dramas into broad comedies, using sarcastic narration and non-sequitur interpretations of the actors’ dialogue. A decade later, Richard Fleischer created a similar series for RKO called Flicker Flashbacks, drawing on some of the earliest, most primitive silent shorts as raw material.

Overnight some actors were regarded as “old timers.” By 1935 it was a novelty to gather veterans of the silent era for reunions, or cast them for the sheer novelty value of their presence.”

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