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Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film - The Pioneers [VHS] (1980)

James Mason , Lillian Gish , David Gill , Kevin Brownlow  |  NR |  VHS Tape
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)


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Product Details

  • Actors: James Mason, Lillian Gish, Dolores Costello, Blanche Sweet, Jackie Coogan
  • Directors: David Gill, Kevin Brownlow
  • Format: Color, Black & White, HiFi Sound, NTSC, Full Screen
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: HBO Home Video
  • VHS Release Date: June 2, 1998
  • Run Time: 60 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6301931556
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #514,391 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

What started as a flickering curiosity shown in penny arcades soon grew into an art form. In just a few short years, Hollywood began turning out spectacular films, with original musical scores -- often performed live by a symphony orchestra, and shown in glittering picture palaces. In 1903, The Great Train Robbery drew wildly enthusiastic audiences who cheered and called for more. Twelve years later, D. W. Griffith produced The Birth of a Nation -- one of the greatest films ever made, and the first to prove the power of the medium. It provoked riots and demonstrations, brought audiences flocking, and gave birth to the financial fortunes of Hollywood. Includes rare footage and excerpts from Wings, The Wind, Noah's Art, and, in early Technicolor, The Black Pirate; interviews with Lillian Gish, Dolores Costello, Blanche Sweet, Jackie Coogan, King Vidor and much more.


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Documentaries don't get any better than this... June 13, 2004
Format:VHS Tape
I first saw this awesome series back in the early eighties, and as a young boy it completely captured my imagination and sense of wonder.
I would have to say this is the definitive history of early Hollywood and film making in general, essential viewing to anyone interested in film and its history, but the amazing thing is this documentary is so well written with such great love and attention to detail that it can easily engross the casual viewer. It is simply compelling stuff.
The greatest thing is this documentary was made in the late 1970's, just as all the amazing stars and behind the scene people were slowly fading away, leaving only their shadow captured in nitrate. They now may be gone, but their spirit lives on through this series.
I feel a secret envy when I listen to the silent stars and crew enthusiastically speaking about what life was like back then, it really was new territory they were treading. The film footage used in the series is great and there are many excerpts of lost/rare films. It's a shame that people think silent cinema is all high speed flickering car chases and cream pies in the face... this series shows how it developed from a primitive side show entertainment to a fully fledged art form capable of crossing cultures all over the world. We think we know about fame today... these early stars were WORLD famous in every sense, thanks to the fact the films they appeared in depended so much more on the actual image and less on the words. Title cards were easily translated.
I think there is one interview that captures it all... during the end of the "Stuntmen" episode, the old stuntman who was interviewed, verging on tears, looks to the interviewer and points to his heart, and says "I wish I could get what is in here, out....
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is it now...or never? September 6, 2006
Format:VHS Tape
The upcoming UK DVD release of this title has now been withdrawn, after several delays. I wonder what type of problems prohibit the DVD release of a 26 year old TV series, while seemingly everything else ever released on TV is in our DVD shops. The problems didn't seem to arise when releasing the title on VHS.

The series is still the best survey of cinema ever made. In particular it is an extremely valuable record of the achievements of silent film and the opinions of the actors who starred in those films.

A lot of people want this series on DVD. What a pity it is crumbling away on tape, soon perhaps to be lost for ever.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best... March 2, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
One of the finest documentaries on film period. I taped it off the air when broadcast, replaced those with the videos when they came out, then followed the videos with the laserdiscs. A complete labor of love and stunning in every aspect. If it came out on DVD, I would probably buy it again. By the way, if you had taped it off the air, each tape includes material that was cut for the television broadcasts.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking documentary/ Brilliant and British April 5, 2007
Format:VHS Tape
Before there was Ken Burns to do it, there was an extraordinary documentary about silent film. Absolutely riveting in its wonderful arcana, in-person interviews, stock photos and footage, narration by James Mason, and the terrific music by the brilliant Carl Davis, this series is a must-see for anyone who loves film and wants to know where it all started!! There are facts and anecdotes here to amaze, and break the heart as well. Mason's voice-overs are perfect....one minute he's the objective narrator, and the next moment, his inflection can have you chuckling, or tearing up at the stories of all the various players in the early days of Hollywood. And has there ever been a more beautiful score for television, or film for that matter, than the work of Carl Davis?? His opening title alone for the credits is gorgeous, and the producers then use different pieces that Davis has composed for these silent films. If only his music had been available to the original producers and directors for them to hear. Obviously, Davis must be one of the biggest fans of silent film of all time. If you can get a copy of this series, do so. It is never shown on television anymore, and it's a terrible thought that this series could be lost through neglect the way so much of the film from the 20's and 30's has been lost. It has been estimated that more than half of all silent film has disintegrated or been disposed of. Let's hope that the producers of this major documentary series re-release it on DVD as soon as possible for the many fans who remember it, and for the many more fans who will, I'm sure, be thrilled to discover it.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hollywood the Pioneers - where's the DVD February 9, 2004
Format:VHS Tape
I first saw this series 20 years ago on TV in Australia. I bought the only merchandise available at the time, the record and the book. Recently the series has been rerun (some dusty vault must have been opened) and reminded me of how marvelous it is. In this DVD age I WANT TO OWN THE DVD of this series. The video isn't good enough. Produce the DVD and I will purchase one for myself and one for my sister as a gift.
At least one other reviewer has screamed for the DVD - it can't be that hard guys......
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DVD where? May 11, 2005
Format:VHS Tape
I caught this series on TCM(Turner Classic Movies) some years ago and was astonished at the immensity of the documentary. This is really where I was introduced to Kevin Brownlow(and the now deceased Gill), as well as with "The Unknown Chaplin", which is the best thing I've ever seen on the comic, as the respective Keaton and Lloyd bios. Brownlow's TCM originals are quite good: "Cinema Europe", "Universal Horror", etc. However, none of them quite equal this. Why it has not been released on DVD, yet, is just plain odd. After all, this is the kind of thing for DVD-although I realize this isn't the same as episodes of "Friends" and the recent JLo bomb.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the most fantastic, fascinating
I own 6 of the 13 in this series - and bought them when they were available separately.
This is the most fantastic, fascinating, educational series of perfection a silent film... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Barbara Helen
5.0 out of 5 stars When...Oh When...Will This Ever Be Released on DVD!!!
This is without question one of the finest documentaries ever made. Do you want to really know what makes Hollywood tick??? Read more
Published 1 month ago by MrPepper67
5.0 out of 5 stars Decadence, false accusations, a ruined career, and censorship
This is Episode 3 of a 13 volume set which examines the early history of America's motion picture industry: from its inception in New York through Hollywood's silent era. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Marvin D. Pipher
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly, the greatest film documentary of all time
Incredibly comprehensive and fortunately so many of the silent era greats (or their wives) were still alive and are seen in very revealing and candid interviews. Read more
Published on March 29, 2012 by Gustav Mahler
5.0 out of 5 stars This
I saw this documentary in the 1980s and shelled out big bucks for the series on VHS. This by far is the best documentary I have ever seen about silent films. Read more
Published on December 29, 2011 by C. Ande
5.0 out of 5 stars Puzzled Over Delayed DVD Release
I have loved this series from the first time I saw it on Public Television in the early 80's. Unquestionably, it is THE definitive documentary of the birth and rise of Hollywood. Read more
Published on September 19, 2011 by William Olson
5.0 out of 5 stars You CAN get it converted to DVD for a reasonable price.
This is a superb -- nay, definitive! -- series. (The currently running TCM series on Hollywood is nice, but it can't hold a candle to this one. Read more
Published on November 23, 2010 by Sam's human
5.0 out of 5 stars The Parade's Gone By
There is little I can add to the other reviews except to say that this is the greatest documentary ever made about silent film and perhaps the greatest documentary ever made about... Read more
Published on August 1, 2010 by CHL
5.0 out of 5 stars BEST DOCUMENTARY ON THE SILENT ERA
This is a must have for anyone who wants to know more about early silent film history, techniques, actors/directors profiles............. Read more
Published on January 23, 2010 by A. Pasqualini
5.0 out of 5 stars DVD Available
I have searched forever for this great series on DVD...and I found it. It's available for 60 dollars from 'Yammering Magpie Cinema". Not sure why Amazon doesn't have it. Read more
Published on October 2, 2009 by Bruce Asbury
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