This collection of 11 essays reveal the complexity of silent films and explore the era in which they were produced. Essentially, silent films conjure the names of Mary Pickford and a few white men, including Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith. The writers of these essays, however, demonstrate that minorities and women other than Pickford responded to the times through film. The contributors deal with changing American society at a crucial time, examining our hopes and fears as a nation during the silent-film era. The book introduces us to people, films, issues and concepts that few of us have encountered. One example is screenwriter June Mathis, who wrote over 100 scripts, brought Rudolph Valentino to stardom and supervised all productions at the Goldwyn Studios in 1923. Equally intriguing is Nita Naldi, whose career and tragic life speak volumes about America's combined fascination with, and fear of, ethnic minorities. Other key players in the drama of silent films include John Randolph Bray (animated cartoons), Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and female producer, writer and director Nell Shipman.
The contributors are: Kay Armatage, Jean Chateauvert, Maureen Funiss, Mark Langer, Anne Morey, Diane Negra, George Potamianos, Joanna Rapf, Thomas J. Slater, Sam Stoloff and Judith Thissen.