Who’s Your Favorite Silent Film Star?

MovieFanfare Movie Poll of the Week

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  • http://bitactors.blogspot.com/ Bit Part Blogger

    I voted for Chaplin, because he is my favorite, but I certainly hope Mary Pickford moves up on the list. She was so important to the film industry, and she was also one of the most famous people in the world during her silent career.

  • Wayne P.

    Lon Sr. is so nice I’d love to vote for him twice!  Who else is known as the Man of a Thousand Faces?

  • Kari Elswick

    No Pitts, Lawrence, Linder, or Dietrich? Too hard to choose just 1 i think, maybe break it down by genre to make it easier on us :)

  • Barbaramoss1

    WHY is Harold LLoyd not on this roster of silent film stars????????He was one of the most prolific silent film stars in the same popularity and even more productive than any of them.
    Have you seen the movie “Speedy”????brilliant.
    The opening scene is a complete panoramic view of New York City 1928.
    It is exciting, funny, creates pathos, and the movement holds you for close to two hours.  You start to forget you are reading it.

    • Billyb34usa

      What list are you reading? He got 9% of the vote.

  • Steve in Sacramento

    I’m no silent film expert, but I do love Keaton so voted for him.

  • Hal

    I was named after Harold LLoyd in 1948………………..Harold Leopard, Cape Coral Florida.

  • Dardavis01

    No Myrna Loy or Jean Arthur?

    • Billyb34usa

      Neither would be considered ‘silent screen’ stars. Jean Arthur made movies into the mid-50′s (Shane)

  • Kay

    This poll is about SILENT screen stars – although some did appear in a few silent movies (Loy, Dietrich, etc.), they are basically stars of the “talking” era.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PODTFFPVEUXYHXVGNS5G5FWKGI DIRK

    Didn’t Harold Lloyd have a deformity in his hand??  And he was still able to do all those amazing, death-defying stunts!! Pure genius!!! 

    • rufnek

      As I recall offhand, Lloyd lost 2-3 fingers on one hand when something he was holding exploded–think it may have been related to a movie scene. He wore gloves to hide his injury.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/PODTFFPVEUXYHXVGNS5G5FWKGI DIRK

        Thanks Rufnek, I thought I remembered hearing about his disability, but wasn’t sure what it was.

      • Tim

        Offhand…funny!

  • Candy Danaher

    You forgot Richard Barthelmess. (So has almost everyone.)  He was one of the biggest stars of the silent era.  He was Emil Jennings’ competition for the first Best Actor Oscar.  Lillian Gish said he had the most beautiful face of any man who ever went before the camera.

    • Susie H.

      I am also a Richard Barthelmess fan. Not only (like Garbo, Barrymore, etc.) did he do “Talkies”, but he was great in the silent movies. I like his understated approach to acting – real but not too much. (I first saw him in “Only Angels Have Wings”, and now anytime I see his name on a movie, I either DVR it, or watch it – depending on the time. Seems he got better parts (and more) in silent films. (Perhaps that is because I haven’t seen them all.) Any suggestions on his movies you really like? Thanks, Candy.

      • Wayne P.

        Check him out in Way Down East…an excellent DW Griffith silent made in 1920.  Its got a great scene with Lillian Gish on an ice floe, with RB coming to the rescue…but will he make it before she goes over the falls?!

      • Candy Danaher

         A few of my silent favorites are Broken Blossoms, Tol’able David, Shore Leave, and The Patent Leather Kid (if you can find it). My talkie must-sees are  The Last Flight, The Finger Points, The Midnight Alibi, and Heroes for Sale.

  • Bbktb

    Louise Brooks!!!!!

  • frillbot

    Up until a few years ago, the only thing I knew about Harold Lloyd, was that he was the guy in the glasses hanging from the big clockface.  Then TCM had a marathon weekend of his “remastered” films.  He was hilarious.  I especially LOVE Jobyna Ralston in “Girl Shy” ( my favorite Lloyd comedy )….There’s a nice little Jobyna Ralston Tribute on YouTube.   I finally ordered the 7 disc “remastered” box set thru the TCM website last year.  GREAT set!  There are several OLDER box sets available.  Look for the one called “The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection”……There are a bunch of his best silent films & a few talkies (I don’t care for those so much…) with commentary, a photo gallery…..an option to listen to the original musical scores….OR the “remastered” ones.   Jobyna was one of his regular “leading ladies”….He Married the other one.  I think it was the thumb & index finger that he blew off in a firecracker accident early in his career.   He had a specially made glove for…I believe it was his left hand.  Did all his own stunts.  

  • rufnek

    If I have to pick only one, I go with Keaton–he always cracks me up, although Chaplin gave me my biggest laughs ever one time when I was isolated and down and out and saw a screening of his Gold Rush film. Love Lloyd’s stuff–his stunts were almost as breathtaking as Keaton’s. But neither could match the physical stamina of Douglas Fairbanks in some of his films–for instance an on-foot chase scene in Zorro that exhausts me just watching it. Lon Chaney was in a class by himself, even without make-up. His role as a Marine sergeant set the bar too high for John Wayne. William S. Hart was the ultimate cowboy–again much better than Wayne. (Tom Mix was a great cowboy who pulled off some amazing stunts, yet wasn’t on this list of contestants.) And when it comes to real acting ability in dramas, no one could touch Lillian Gish–even years later she dominated scenes she played with children and Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter. But my favorite of them all is Keaton. 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/PODTFFPVEUXYHXVGNS5G5FWKGI DIRK

      Thanks for the mention of TOM MIX and if you are ever near Tulsa, run up to Dewey, OK — near the Kansas border — and see his Museum there with his stuffed horse Tony.

  • Billyb34usa

    Fatty Arbuckle should have been on the list. He was acquitted, you know.

    • Susie H.

      Acquitted or not – should not affect the actor’s ability. (I, personally, don”t think he was THAT good – to be on the list.) Someone to mention, but I don’t find him that entertaining. Some good ones are on this list, though!

  • Billyb34usa

    And, where’s Laurel and Hardy…they did a number of silents before talkies came in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Small/750037816 John Small

    I agree – omitting Laurel & Hardy was just plain dumb.

  • TrippyTrellis

    Louise Brooks!

  • Terry1946

    My vote goes OVERWHELMINGLY to none other than Louise Brooks!

  • Ascoleri

    Where is Louise Brooks – that’s where my vote goes.

    • Terry1946

      Where is she?  She was a silent film screen actress and the greatest!  She has been dead now for several decades.  She faded out as many of them did although it wasn’t due to the sound of her voice.  She made some sound films in the 30s, but then just faded away.  Google her and you will see her beautiful looks.  Black hair that is short-cropped with a frontward flip and bangs, gorgeous features, flapper skirt, etc.  Her on-camera facial expressions were her true trademark…especially during that time of film-making!  I have seen her perform on TCM in a couple of old silents and could NOT take my eyes off this woman!  She always played to seductress, of course, and to the HILT!

  • Hlucas103

    I would have voted for Ramon Navarro…….

    • Susie H.

      I agree – he was a bad one t/b left out. I think he (Navarro) was as good as Valentino – for their respective capabilities…That is just me…though, if Valentino had lived longer…..coulda, shoulda, woulda?!

  • Derek

    A list of silent movie stars isn’t complete without Constance Talmadge, Miriam Cooper and Ronald Colman to name but three

    • Wayne P.

      Ronald Colman and William Powell each took good turns in “Romola” 1925.  John Gilbert was one good silent actor who never did, like these two greats, make the transition well to talkies…his voice was the problem some critics said!

      • Piney

        I second that Ronald Colman should be on this list. “The White Sister” has to be one of my faves

  • Bjodrie

    Laurel and Hardy.(Their silents were good.I do think they were even better in talkies.)Trivia,Believe it or not their last silent was made during the 1940s.The Tree In A Test Tube.

  • Ron Phlegar

    Laurel and Hardy should have been on the list, although it’s probably true that they became even more popular in their talkies. Of those listed I chose Charlie Chaplin.

  • Christinekay

    I haven’t voted on this poll because I just couldn’t make my mind up – do I choose Lon Chaney (master of disguise), Clara Bow (epitome of the It Girl), Mary Pickford (sweetness and light but a good head for business in real life), Valentino (Latin lover), Douglas Fairbanks (swashbuckling as it should be done) or Chaplin/Keaton (classic comedy) … not to mention the considerable talents on display on the rest of the list.  I think the silent era was a fascinating one, not just because the medium itself was  developing each year, but because the personalities then were so fascinating.  We have Theda Bara – not the world’s greatest actress, but who could fail to be dazzled by a woman who portrayed Cleopatra with a bra made from coiled snakes?  James Murray – so convincing in Vidor’s “The Crowd” but whose brief career was almost a rerun of his most famous screen persona?  Barbara LaMarr – The Too Beautiful Girl, as she was known, who had five husbands by the time of her death in her early thirties?  They could be over the top at times, but could today’s stars match them – or ever dare to do so?  Hollywood in the silent era was like a train with the brakes off – and all the more interesting for it!

    • Khpburn

      It sounds like you know your movie stars! That is wonderful. I like how you talked about the silent greats. Most people only remember Valentino, Chaplin, Keaton. We forget about Gish, Norman and also Helen Hayes. She was in a few silents as we’re Oliver & Hardy, before talkies.

      Something tells me you like the Good Old Movies, just like I do. Those wonderful classics.
      Just thought I would make mention of how much I liked your post.

      • Christinekay

        Thank you so much for your comments!  Yes, I do love the silent era and always have.  

    • Wayne P.

      Mercy (were the) snakes alive!? :)  As Andy Griffith would say in his classic comedylogue on Cleopatra: “Mistress, mistress…snake bite, snake bite…heres what you do…and Cleo says, but I meant to…”

    • Pandora3301961

      So true – Todays stars pale in comparison – On screen and off – It’s a shame people don’t know the old greats, enjoyed your post.  Here’s a toast to all the old stars – The ones you and Khpburn mention and Wally Reid, Arbuckle, and all the rest too>

  • Makumba

    Charlie Chase would have been high on my list.

  • Joe Wirt

    Why didn’t you include ANTHONY QUINN the most veratile actor among this group?
    He could play any part and do it with pashion IE  ”LA STRADA” with conviction  ie “VIVA  ZAPATA”,
    “SHOES OF THE FISHERMAN” “ZORBA THE GREEK” ad infinitum..

    • http://www.facebook.com/cdmalin David Malin

      The poll is for silent film actors– Anthony Quinn doesn’t qualify.

      • Susie H.

        I  wondered about that, too….perhaps you mean Adolph Menjou? (I don’t know why – but, if you don’t watch too many silent films, one COULD mix them up as they kinda do look alike – giving you the benefit of the doubt. (I thought that was who you meant, until you named the movies!)

  • Gary

    No question about Chaplin and Keaton, but for my money, Lon Chaney, Sr. might have been the greatest actor of all time. The physical contortions he went through, just to mention one item, were incredible. Plus his performances in many films were just outstanding. 

  • golden1

    Mary Pickford was the first real film superstar.  I didn’t know until I saw a documentary a few years ago. She made some incredible films.  It’s a shame that she’s all but forgotten. I’d like to see TCM do a retrospective of her films.  I think we’d all be very surprised.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/4TU5PUHEFAT6KFUIMHCB3Y2IFQ oscat

    hard to decide I picked Keaton but like mabel Normand, Clara Bow and Louise Brooks as well as Marie Dressler and of course  Pickford

  • Srb

    How about Andy Devine. He went of to be a great character actor in talkies.

  • OZ ROB

    Here at our place we have Silent Sunday night at the movies, Just love slipping into the silent realm, the artists and films have a wonderful  unique aura, quality to them..I voted for Charlie only because i think his originality influenced many of the artists and film makers of the era..”A Dogs Life ” 1919 is a great,simple little movie that I think can still out entertain most recent films..Worth a mention from my collection is Harry Langdon,,Erich von Stroheim,,Dolores Costello…..

  • Looseleafhead

    The question is who is your favorite, not who is the greatest. My favorite is Mary Pickford.

  • MD

    Picked Buster.
    Would have considered Louise Brooks had she been an option.

    • Carolyn Ferrante

      MD — You could have added her name. Yes, she was one in a million!

  • Pacerdad

    HAROLD LLOYD is the best on this list!  He helped define what a comedy movie is supposed to look like.  I find watching him more enjoyable than watching Chaplin.  Keaton would have been a close second.  I do think he was very good.  All three of these men were genius’s to their respective craft.  They in turn, helped on another out without realizing it.  I still consider “Safety Last” one of the best motion pictures….ever.  Also, Keatons’ “The General”.  A marvelous film.

    • classicmoviemom

      Absolutely Harold Lloyd.  The only silent film actor I can watch without losing interest. My 9 year old grandson likes him too–especially The Champion. I can hardly wait to show him “Safety Last”.  I also highly respect both Keaton and Chaplin, but by far Lloyd is my favorite.

  • Big Fun

    I agree with all of the Brooksie fans, second choice would be Clara Bow.

  • Bonnerace

    OH, WOW, MAN……Chuck Norris……read the options carefully,electronic generation..

  • Blair Kramer

    In comedy, Chaplin is certainly first,  Keaton second.  In drama, there is only one: Chaney.

  • William Grove

    Not being an expert on silent films, I picked Chaney (a name that sends shivers even today). He was the first method actor, I think.

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  • Henrycaron525

    Chaney was the greatest silent film star, but Conrad Veidt was so good ( I know he made the transition to talking films), but we can’t forget about his performances in classics like “The Cabinet of DR. Caligari, Waxworks and The Man Who Laughes” to name just a few. great actor who died to soon.

  • Mike

    Lillian Gish! That Exquisite Face! A great actress who could do more with a look than most others could do with 20 pages of dialogue. A long career that segued into character parts. She still had it, all the way up to and including “The Whales of August”.

    • Beansarelli

      Mike, I totally agree.  Gish is unparalleled in her ability to portray real emotion.  I was just watching a double header last night of Orphans of the Storm and Broken Blossoms.  Watching her hiding in the closet from her brutal father like a trapped animal in her fear – how DID this woman not ever actually win an Academy Award?  Shame on the academy, they stooped to an honorary Oscar in the 70′s.  I wish I could have seen her on stage – I would have loved to see her in Trip to Bountiful!  She was kind enough to send me an autograph after Whales of August.  It remains one of my most prized possessions.    

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1307506993 Schuyler V Johnson

    Not listed, but for her performance in Greed, Zasu Pitts

  • Pandora3301961

    You really need catagories (and many more choices) here – I picked Valentino because he was (and in some ways still is) so iconic of the era but so many went unmentioned Louis Brooks, Colleen Moore, Wallace Reid, etc….Silents are still my favorites!

  • Jim

    All of the above and then some! But I picked Keaton — he seems to grow greater and greater as time goes by…

  • jpp452

    My FAVOURITE, hands down, is Joseph Frank ‘Buster’ Keaton.  His innovation and skill as comedy actor/writer/director places him head and shoulders above all the others, including Chaplin (sorry Charlie).  You might wonder why I consider ‘The Great Stone Face’ a great actor.  His expressive eyes and body language more than made up for the melodramatic mugging of so many of the others.  Today’s Gromit (of ‘Wallace and …’) is an animated reincarnation.  [Keaton reincarnated as a dog?]

    This poll is about “favourites”, not “best”.  I’ve told you mine, and why.  However, I can’t resist some comentary on others.

    So far, three of the top four in the list (except Chaney) are in exactly the order I would have picked them.  Instead of Chaney, I would have picked the team of Laurel & Hardy whose silents, I believe, exceeded in quality their sound films.  Amongst so many, “The Battle of the Century” is a must-see. 

    Among “other” actors, let’s not forget comediennes Anita Garvin and the tragic Mabel Normand.  Despite a curtailed career, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was a brilliant pioneer of silent comedy and hand-up-the-ladder to Buster Keaton.  Charlie Chase was another brilliant comedian at the Roach studios.

    Drama?  My favourite dramatic actor (and, I believe, the best of his generation) is Emil Jannings (“The Last Command”, “Faust”, “The Last Laugh”, “The Blue Angel”).  When sound came, his heavy German accent killed his Hollywood career — especially in the unfortunate 1930s when Germany was not exactly admired.

    As to the others:  I don’t think much of Chaney, Sr.  He was famous for his make-up, not his acting.  On film, he was as unsubtle as they come.  Valentino was awful — his acting “skill” consisted of flaring his nostrils.  On my good list –  Fairbanks, Sr. (see ”The Thief of Baghdad”), Mary Pickford, Marie Dressler, Wallace Beery, the Gish sisters and Swanson.  I haven’t seen enough of the silent work of Hart, Garbo and Bow to comment.  Regrettably, I have seen nothing of Louise Brooks (yet), either.

  • Donna

    Francis X. Bushman and Ramon Navarro

  • sophie

    ronald colman

  • Dermzillla

    George O’Brien; extraordinary in Sunrise, and terrific in The Iron Horse!

  • Briney

    Charlie Chaplin got my vote. But, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd are also tops on my list of silent film comedians. Charlie is able to make you laugh and cry, all in the same reel.  Great satirist. “Great Dictator” and “Modern Times,” two of my favorites. At four, my father had to take me out of the theater when Charlie popped his head out between cogs in a huge machine.  Scared the daylights out of me. 

  • Edithipp

    I held out for Marion Davies!  She is the whole package in silents; beautiful, funny, innocent, wise and a  great comedienne.

  • jeanpierre150

    Ronald Colman – he was great in silent movies, but then talkies came along and he had this incredibly beautiful voice!

    John Gilbert was good too, but was a victim of the studio system – there was nothing wrong with his voice – it was a light British voice, rather like David Niven’s.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=184104923 Melanie Young

    Lillian Gish FAR outshines most of the people on this list. She was brilliant in everything she was in. The scene in the closet from Broken Blossoms still haunts me. And anyone who can outdo Bette Davis (Whales of August) HAS to be outstanding!

  • mark zall

    1 name only says it all “GARBO”!

  • pineapple

    keaton wins

  • Antone

    I find it impossible to choose between Chaplin & Keaton. Perfect 10 equals perfect 10 no matter how you analyze it. I gave my vote to Keaton based on sentiment. Chaplin was able to segue into talkies with little problem, but Keaton was finished as a star and a sober person after the changeover. I never learned to appreciate silent melodramas Their overly stylized and exaggerated gestures are as foreign to me as kabuki.

  • Carolyn Ferrante

    I discovered Louise Brooks about two years ago. I’ve since read her biography and own two of her movies. What a doll!

  • Antone

    My bad [as my favorite 21-year old waitress would say]! There is one silent non-comedy that I enjoyed very much. Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is fascinating, entertaining and quite prescient. He envisioned a world ruled by oligarchies, which seems to be the prevailing trend today. Several performers, whose names I don’t know, were excellent but wouldn’t displace Chaplin or Keaton atop my list.