books, buster keaton, charlie chaplin, silent movies

Hollywood in the 1910s and 20s

Excerpts from Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton’s autobiographies:

Thomas Ince gave barbeques and dances at his studio, which was in the wilds of northern Santa Monica, facing the Pacific Ocean. What wondrous nights – youth and beauty dancing to plaintive music on an open-air stage, with the soft sound of waves pounding on the nearby shore.
– Charlie Chaplin

I sometimes wonder if the world will ever seem as carefree and exciting a place as it did to us in Hollywood during 1919 and the early twenties. We were all young, the air in southern California was like wine. Our business was also young and growing like nothing ever seen before.
– Buster Keaton

How amazing to have lived then, when everything was changing so quickly. Records and movies and were still novelties; it seems like everything they did was totally embraced by eager audiences. The concept of the “celebrity” had never existed before that, and suddenly Hollywood was the world’s quintessence of glamour and movie stars. I wish I could’ve seen LA before it became the urban, smoggy metropolis it is today.

Also, I am amazed at how involved these guys were in making their movies. They basically did it all; wrote the story, picked the cast and location, directed the picture, and starred in it. From Buster’s autobiography:

In those free-and-easy days we all had fun making comedies….We directed our own pictures, making up our own gags as we went along, saw the rushes, supervised the cutting, went to the sneak previews…In the silent days we could try anything at all, and did. We were not supervised by business executives who lacked a sense of humor. We were the ones who decided what should go into a script to make the audience laugh. All our bosses asked of us was that our pictures make fortunes, and our pictures did.

And a video of Charlie describing his studio as it was in the late 1910s:

Can you tell I’m fascinated by this stuff? Haha. Random note: I pass the old Chaplin Studio every time I go to the train station! Yay!

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