Saturday, June 14, 2014



Films blossomed in the 1920s. By the mid-20s, movies were big business. Throughout most of the decade, silent films were predominant.

The top box-office stars in the 1920s included Harold Lloyd, Gloria Swanson, Tom Mix, Norma Talmadge, Rudolph Valentino, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Colleen Moore, Norma Shearer, John Barrymore, Greta Garbo, Lon Chaney, Sr., and Clara Bow.

Mary Pickford developed into one of the biggest silent movie stars of the era. America flocked to the movies. Mary had been a child star and worked as a bit actress in 1909, yet only ten years later became one of the most influential figures in Hollywood. In 1916, she was the first star to become a millionaire.

Mary married another great star, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. Their wedding in late March, 1920 proved highly controversial since both of them divorced so they could marry each other. He presented her with a wedding gift, Pickfair, a twenty-two room mansion in Beverly Hills, setting the trend for stars’ lavish homes in the suburbs of W. Hollywood. Mary Pickford bobbed her long curly hair, one of moviedom's first fashion trends, in 1928. Pickford's Coquette (1929), her first all-talking film, won her an Academy Award, but she retired prematurely four years later.

Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. became an American legend starring in a series of swashbuckler and adventure/fantasy films, starting with The Mark of Zorro (1920), soon followed with his adventure Robin Hood (1922). and Arabian nights tale, The Thief of Bagdad (1924). Fairbanks' The Black Pirate (1926) with early two-color Technicolor and the superstar's most famous stunt of riding down a ship's sail on the point of a knife added to his legend. Fairbanks scored again with The Iron Mask (1929). The only film that co-featured both stars was a talkie version of The Taming of the Shrew (1929). Other 1920s Box-Office Stars:

Haunting and divine, Greta Garbo's first American film was The Torrent (1926), followed by The Temptress (1926). Her first major starring vehicle was with John Gilbert in Flesh and the Devil (1926). MGM renamed Broadway actress Lucille Le Sueur and christened her Joan Crawford in 1925. And Louise Brooks made her debut film in mid-decade with Street of Forgotten Men (1925).

Clara Bow, a red-haired, lower-class Brooklyn girl won stardom after a major publicity campaign. In The Plastic Age (1925), she played a flirtatious flapper. Bow’s stardom grew after Dancing Mothers (1926) and again after her smash hit Mantrap (1926). Campaigns promoted her with It (1927). She became known as The It Girl in the high-living age of flappers. Bow starred in the epic WWI film Wings (1927), and became the highest paid movie star at $35,000/week. But by 1933, Bow retired due to the revelation of a heavy working-class Brooklyn accent in the talkies, and a burgeoning weight problem.

Janet Gaynor received the first Best Actress Academy Award for her work in Seventh Heaven (1927). Janet also won an Academy Award for her exquisite acting in Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), considered the finest silent film ever made by a Hollywood studio.

Lon Chaney, Sr., the man of a thousand faces, starred in the The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), and in The Phantom of the Opera (1925) his signature role. The unveiling of the phantom's face, when Christine rips off his mask - was and still is a startling sequence.

Even the earliest films were organized into genres like swashbucklers, historical extravaganzas, melodramas, and even biblical epics. There were westerns like The Covered Wagon (1923)), horror films, gangster/crime films, war films, the first feature documentary, Nanook of the North (1922)), romances, mysteries, and comedies from the silent comic masters Chaplin, Keaton, and Lloyd.

America loved her movies from the 1920s until now.

ANNE GREENE delights in writing about wounded heroes and gutsy heroines. Her second novel, a Scottish historical, Masquerade Marriage, won three prestigious book awards. The sequel Marriage By Arrangement released November, 2013.  A Texas Christmas Mystery also won awards. Anne’s highest hope is that her stories transport the reader to awesome new worlds and touch hearts to seek a deeper spiritual relationship with the Lord Jesus. Anne makes her home in McKinney, Texas. She loves to talk with her readers. Buy Anne’s books at Talk with Anne on twitter at @TheAnneGreene. View Anne’s books, travel pictures and art work at

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  1. I remember some of those stars as they went on into the thirties and talkies and their movies were classic. My mother loved Clara Bow and Mary Pickford. I always thought Douglas Fairbanks Sr. was so handsome but then along came Clark Gable. :)

  2. My husband and I recognized many of the famous names you told us about. Thanks for the research and post. sharon wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com