Graham has been posting stuff from The Thanhauser Company and it is very good, some really fine examples of pre-Hollywood cinema. There are 58 surviving films online now, including some literary adaptations and some amazing snapshots of what life was like in 1910-1915. This one - Her Nephews From Labrador (1913) - is awesome and features these two guys from New Rochelle, NY who were infamous for their 1910s version of performance art.
If you’re interested, start with some of the shorter films and work your way up to the features. There are also a lot of films at The Internet Archive, but you kind of need to know what you’re looking for as the indexing at that site, great as the site itself may be as a digital library, definitely leaves something to be desired.
Some of my favorite easily available and studio-produced silent feature films:
- The Phantom Carriage - Victor Sjöström, Sweden (1922) - It just came out on Criterion
- Bed and Sofa - Abram Room, USSR (1927)
- Ingeborg Holm - Victor Sjöström, Sweden (1913)
- Flesh and the Devil - Clarence Brown, USA (1927)
- Way Down East - DW Griffith, USA (1920)
- The Unknown - Tod Browning, USA (1928)
And, of course, for the everyone-loves-it viewing, you can never go wrong with Buster Keaton. Mine is sometimes an unpopular view, but I prefer his films over Chaplin and Harold Lloyd, though I love what Chaplin continued to do after the silent period and call him a hero/genius for doing so.
Keep your eyes open for what’s playing on TCM. They’ve been doing a ton of silents lately, both features and long blocks of shorts, often blocks by particular actors or directors in chronological order. The silents are regularly played during the night when they know no one is watching, which is why the Baby Jesus™ invented the DVR.
TCM also plays some silent masterpieces that 90 years later are still caught up in ridiculous copyright disputes and don’t have real DVD releases in the states. For example The Wind (1928), which I wrote about last week, and Erich von Stroheim’s Greed (1924).