Silent London

A place for people who love silent film

News: Slapstick, Hippodrome, Neil Brand, Nanook and more

It’s a busy time! Here’s a roundup of the silent movie news I really want to share with you.

Bristol fashion

The Slapstick festival, our favourite reason to visit Bristol, is back in 2016, running from 20-24 January with a fantastic lineup of events topped by a special gala screening of Chaplin’s The Kid. But there’s so much more to the programme than that. I am looking forward to Kevin Brownlow’s favourite silent comedy westerns, Lucy Porter on the genius of Anita Loos, David Robinson’s lecture on the inside story of The Kid and a musical screening of Cecil B DeMille’s jazz-age drama Chicago (1927), as well as tributes to Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Ben Turpin and more. Read more and book here and don’t forget to support the Kickstarter campaign if you can.


Neil Brand – and friends
Neil Brand – and friends

Brand new

It would take a smarter woman than me to keep up with Neil Brand these days – he pops up everywhere from the BBC to the Royal Albert Hall to the good old BFI. The best way to keep tabs on his activities and make sure you don’t miss a show, is his website, which has just been thoroughly revamped. There’a google calendar of his upcoming events (very useful) and links to buy his DVDs, albums and books. Plus, there is an INCREDIBLY USEFUL page, titled So you want to programme a silent film? which is a clear, and authoritative guide to how to put on a silent film screening – from rights to music to marketing. If you are contemplating putting on a show – read this first. There is also a link through to Brand’s Originals site, which has some fascinating material about film music and musicians in the silent era. I hear that these pages will be getting their own makeover shortly.

Continue reading “News: Slapstick, Hippodrome, Neil Brand, Nanook and more”

Silent London’s epic fifth birthday tweetalong

The Birth of a Nation (1915)
The Birth of a Nation (1915)

It’s our birthday! Silent London is five years old today. Definitely school age and time to grow up, right? Thanks to all of you who have followed the blog, commented, contributed, pushed a like or retweet button or generally been fabulous over the years!

I wanted to find a suitably epic way to celebrate the fact that I haven’t give up or been shunted off the internet by blogger-hating meanies but until yesterday I was drawing a blank.

The Birth of a Nation (1915)
The Birth of a Nation (1915)

Then, the postman delivered a copy of the BFI’s latest Blu-ray to my door. It’s a biggie. It’s The Birth of a Nation. Love it, hate it, puzzle over it, misunderstand it, do what you will, you can’t ignore it. And yet sometimes it seems to be a film more talked about than, y’know, actually watched. So let’s watch it together, tonight, a hundred years after it was first seen, on the meaningless anniversary of a silent movie blog.

The Birth of a Nation (1915)
The Birth of a Nation (1915)

Continue reading “Silent London’s epic fifth birthday tweetalong”

Bonus silent movie emoji quiz: win a pair of tickets to Seventh Heaven

Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell in Seventh Heaven (1927)
Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell in Seventh Heaven (1927)

Silents-wise, this screening is surely the highlight of the BFI Love season: Frank Borzage’s gorgeously romantic Seventh Heaven (1927), with a brand new score by KT Tunstall, Mara Carlyle and Max de Wardener.

Seventh Heaven is a classic from the golden years of Hollywood silent cinema, with unforgettable performances by Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell as star-crossed lovers in a gritty, but somehow still beautiful Paris. Back in 1927 Mordaunt Hall was moved to laughter and tears by this film, saying: “It is obvious that this subject was admirably suited to the screen, but it should also be said that Frank Borzage in directing this production has given to it all that he could put through the medium of the camera.” 

It’s true. There is more emotion in 10 minutes of this weepie than most entire films, so this live music event should be unforgettably immersive. Here’s what the BFI has to say about the event:

Sonic Cinema has teamed up with the formidable talents of British musical powerhouses KT Tunstall, Mara Carlyle and composer Max de Wardener to present a brand new BFI-commissioned score to Borzage’s classic. Perhaps the most sublimely lyrical of all the silent-era romances, this tale of transformational love sees Charles Farrell’s sewage worker and Janet Gaynor’s street waif rise above poverty and war to be together. Martin Scorsese’s observation that Borzage’s films unfold in ‘lover’s time’ was never more apt, and the tender emotions Borzage captures build to an unforgettable, transcendental climax.

Continue reading “Bonus silent movie emoji quiz: win a pair of tickets to Seventh Heaven”

Emoji silent movie quiz: the answers

Girl Shy (1924)
Girl Shy (1924)

After a week of hard puzzling, it’s only fair to put you out of your suspense. Here are the answers to our silent movie emoji quiz. But first, a reminder of the puzzles …

The puzzles

Emoji silent film quiz, part one

Emoji silent film quiz, part two

Emoji silent film quiz, part three

Continue reading “Emoji silent movie quiz: the answers”

The silent film listings are back

Clara Bow Stepping Through Calendar

The Silent London Calendar is no more, sadly, but in its place is Silent Film Calendar – a bigger and better version, with listings for events all around the UK, and overseas festivals as well. It’s nothing to do with me I have to admit, but I am very happy to be able to tell you all about it.

From now on this will be the place for you to keep up to date with what is happening near you – and you can’t miss it cos I’ve added a link to the site at the top of Silent London. The entries for each event are very informative and give a link to the correct place to buy tickets. Plus, you can search by month and region, eg if you look for what is happening in Wales this month, you’ll find a very enticing screening of The Phantom of the Opera at Caerphilly Castle. That’s tomorrow, so hurry.

If you know about a silent film screening that the Calendar hasn’t listed yet, you can get in touch with them on

Quiz: emoji silent movies, part seven

The Cheat (1915)
What ever you do … don’t cheat!

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. Welcome to the seventh and FINAL part of our silent-movie emoji quiz, the most popular silent-cinema picture puzzle in my postcode.

What do you reckon to our final five? Easy? Even the last one?

Well, if you think you have worked out all 35 titles, send them in to, and you could be crowned the winner of this hotly contested competition. And who knows if there might not be a prize in it for you too?

Silent film emoji quiz, part seven

Make More Noise! Suffragettes in Silent Film DVD review: watch the world change in front of your eyes

Make More Noise!
Make More Noise!

Make more noise! More than a silent film? More noise than an Edwardian lady? No, more noise than the patriarchy.

Make More Noise! is the title of boisterous new compilation from the BFI, an anthology of films related to the British campaign for women’s suffrage. It contains newsreels of protests and personal appearances by the leaders of the movement, as well as short fiction and actuality films that reveal the changing role of women in British society. In the second category, you’ll spot Tilly films, and footage of women working in munitions factories and field hospitals. It’s a fascinating mix, beautifully programmed by Bryony Dixon and Margaret Deriaz and superbly scored by Lillian Henley.

This anthology pretty much had me at hello – the combination of early cinema and feminism is right up my street. But I’d like to think that Make More Noise! holds an appeal for people who aren’t pre-sold on the content that way. If you enjoyed Sarah Gavin’s very moving Suffragette, this programme gives you a more complete picture of the world of the characters in that movie – these are the films they would have seen at the cinema, the ideas they would have discussed at the dinner table, and just possibly, a glimpse of their future.

Enter a caption

Continue reading “Make More Noise! Suffragettes in Silent Film DVD review: watch the world change in front of your eyes”

Quiz: emoji silent movies, part six

Mabel Normand in Won in a Cupboard (1914) National Film Preservation Foundation
Mabel Normand in Won in a Cupboard (1914) National Film Preservation Foundation

The emoji quiz is nearly over, but don’t be sad. Get your thinking cap on instead, and riddle five more emoji-puzzles to be in with a chance of being the winner!

I’ll post five more puzzles tomorrow and then, if you have cracked all 35 or almost all of them, send me the titles to You might become the official silent film emoji champion, which is surely a title to be coveted.

Silent film emoji quiz, part six

Quiz: emoji silent movies, part five

Gloria Swanson in Manhandled (1924)
Gloria Swanson in Manhandled (1924)

Your morning commute will fly by if you spend it puzzling out these five silent film titles expressed using emojis. Won’t it? Welcome to part five of the quiz.

If you have all of them right so far, you’ll have 20 answers and when you’ve dealt with these, you will have 25. Wait until you have cracked all 35 puzzles and then send me the movie titles, in order, to to win internet fame and adulation! Or something.

Silent film emoji quiz, part five

Nosferatu: back on Blu-ray

Nosferatu (1922)
Nosferatu (1922)

Name: Nosferatu.

Age: 93 years young.

Remind me which one that is? Oh come on. Nosferatu is a classic – FW Murnau’s free-floating Dracula adaptation is one of scariest films of all time, and one of the most beautiful too.

Is that the one with hunchbacked shadow lurching up the stairs? Bingo.

Surely it’s not still hanging around? Nosferatu is back baby, and now it’s on Blu-ray too, courtesy of a new release from the BFI.

Oh, Nosferatu on Blu-ray? I got that already. Really?

Well, no. I saw that Masters of Cinema brought it out two years ago but I hadn’t got around to buying it yet. Ah I thought so. Well you could buy this version instead.

Nosferatu (1922)
Nosferatu (1922)

I might. Both releases are Blu-ray updates of each label’s previous DVD release of the film.

I’m all about Blu-ray. What’s the difference between the two packages though? The extras are different, and the score. MoC used the original theatrical score, and the BFI has used a more modern, but also orchestral, score by James Bernard. And yes, both are available in stereo and 5.1.

Continue reading “Nosferatu: back on Blu-ray”

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