A Guide to Silent Westerns

A Guide to Silent Westerns

A Guide to Silent Westerns

A Guide to Silent Westerns

Synopsis

This comprehensive film guide lists the screen credits and provides synopses of more than 5,400 silent western features, documentaries, shorts and serials released from the 1890s through 1930. These westerns came from both the major and lesser known American film studios, many long defunct. Four appendices include a list of all the serials included in the book, a list of all the northern westerns, a list of the titles and stars of the major western series, and a list of the important western epics. The work is completed with an actor/director/screenwriter index.

Excerpt

Before beginning work on this guide, the author examined numerous books, both in and out of print, dealing with silent western movies. Although many of these volumes were informative, they each revealed a major deficiency -- none extensively covered the numerous one-, two- and three-reelers, the full-length features and the serials. In addition, no survey of westerns delved into the historically important paper print collection in the Library of Congress.

Since there was no copyright procedure for films, early movie studios, desperate to protect their properties, submitted paper prints of their works and copyrighted them under the copyright laws pertaining to photography. These 3,000 films, produced from 1894 through 1915, range in length from only dozens of feet to full-length features. They have only recently been restored and cataloged in Kemp R. Niver Early Motion Pictures (1985). The films shed considerable light on early film techniques, players and studios, offering researchers and historians plenty to argue over for several years. Unfortunately, only a handful of these "treasures" fall into the western genre, and they are included in the present guide.

A Guide to Silent Westerns lists the screen credits of more than 5,400 silent features, documentaries, shorts and serials released from the 1890s through 1930. Information about the earliest films is difficult to obtain. Many of these westerns did not list screen credits. Also, these films came from both the major and lesser known American film studios, many long defunct. Because releases from many of the latter studios often were not reviewed by the major trade journals of the period, information about players, directors and writers is often unavailable.

The term "western" is hard to define. Someone once commented that a western had to have a horse in it. The genre generally applies to that post-Civil War period beginning with the great cattle drives and ending around 1890. However, the western may also include tales about early California or Mexico, the various Indian tribes along the Eastern seaboard, the Northwest Mounted Police, the building of the railroad, the gold rush of 1849 and the search for gold in the Yukon. This book includes many of these peripheral westerns, especially those starring major screen personalities. Other films which seem to have even less in common with the genre, such as northern westerns, are listed in a separate appendix.

The author hopes that the reader will find the four appendixes and Index helpful. Appendix A lists all the serials included in the main body of the work. Appendix B, as noted earlier, lists all the northern westerns, including those not covered in the main section. Appendix C specifies the titles and stars of the major western series. The individual films appear alphabetically in the main body. Appendix D presents the author's arbitrary list of important silent western epics. Film historians generally agree that The Covered Wagon (1923) was the first significant and influential western epic. But earlier . . .

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