Film history: Focus on The Roaring Twenties

Richard Dyer MacCan (b. 1945) is a British academic and author of several film books and essays who has taught at several Universities and who was editor of ‘Cinema Journal’ for ten years (1967-1976). The books listed right here (published from 1987 till 1997) all focus on the silent era and they all look at the infant years of American cinema (1896-1926) from a different angle, but presenting the entire history about what making movies was like a century ago. The pioneers, tycoons, studios, directors, producers, actors, stardom and the early days of the Hollywood studios all indicate that the first three decades of motion pictures were crucial as well as a major turning point in American culture. With all the idiosyncrasies, wildness, charm and freshness, this period still had its seriousness, conscious of being new – yet largely unsure of its goals. Hollywood was the 20th century’s new frontier, fortified with values and attitudes from the 19th century.

For some, success was no myth. By the time Douglas Fairbanks chose to play the leading role in “Robin Hood” (1922), all he had to do was snap his fingers to have built for him the biggest set since “Intolerance” (1916): the set was no myth and neither were the millions that came in at the box-office. In the 1920s, such personalities seemed to many people more alive and genuine and worthy of emulation than the political leaders of the decade.