My Top 5 Favorite Silent Stars

Hola! I’ve been out of town for a awhile but am back just in time for the Five Stars Blogathon hosted by Classic Film and TV Cafe, celebrating National Classic Movie Day–my kind of holiday!

In true Silent-ology style, I decided to focus on my top 5 utmost favorites from the silent era, rather than film in general. So let’s count down to number 1:

5. Louise Fazenda

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And obscure performer today, Louise was once one of the most popular slapstick comediennes and was generally known for her persona of a playful country bumpkin. She embodies many of my favorite silent comedy tropes–Keystone zaniness, quaint costumes, rural hijinks, great performances, wacky pratfalls–and in real life was noted for her friendliness and tireless charity work. Regular readers know that I’ve been researching Louise’s life and career, and recently wrote a long piece about her here.

4. Colleen Moore

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Oh yes, Miss Flaming Youth herself! One of the major female stars of the Jazz Age, Colleen embodied the concept of the modern flapper–forever vivacious, fun-loving, and of course sporting a sleek bob and stylish clothes. To me, she seemed to retain more girlish innocence than rivals like Clara Bow, and her comic timing was excellent. She is forever one of my very favorites!

3. Robert Harronc4301-harron2

While he was unfortunately gone too soon, “Bobby” was one of the finest talents of the 1910s. Under the tutelage of D.W. Griffith himself, he gave sensitive performances in True Heart Susie, Hearts of the World, Intolerance, and many more–his range was astonishing. I love his quiet intensity and boyish, unassuming charm. Lillian Gish later said that “something about him caught the heart,” and I agree. I wrote a long piece on his life and career here.

2. Lillian Gish

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Not for nothing has Lillian been called the “First Lady of the Cinema.” Her extraordinary talents are well known to anyone with even a passing knowledge of silent film. Plus, she was a genuinely classy woman–at least one biographer attempted to find some sort of “dirt” on her, and basically ended up rending his garment in vain. You are everything, Miss Gish.

1..Buster Keaton

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I know, I know…this is a tremendous shock. Totally out of left field.

So if I did name my top 5 favorites from cinema in general? That’s unbearably difficult, but I might have to say Buster, Lillian, James Stewart, Lucille Ball…and Johnny Depp! With his liking for unique character roles and elaborate makeup/costume effects, he’s one of today’s actors that embodies a little of the old Hollywood spirit, I’d say. And it doesn’t hurt that his favorite actor is Buster, who often gets brought up in Depp’s interviews!

So what are your top five favorite silent actors? Or, just actors in general? Feel free to share!

35 thoughts on “My Top 5 Favorite Silent Stars

  1. 5. Myrna Loy
    4. William Powell
    3. Harold Lloyd
    2. Gloria Swanson
    1. Carole Lombard

    Loved your list!!

    Have you researched Douglas McLean? Like Louise Fazenda, he doesn’t seem to be well known today, except perhaps for being William Desmond Taylor’s neighbor.

    • I’ve looked into MacLean a little bit, he was certainly a popular guy back in the day and shows up in fan/trade magazines all the time. I’d like to do a piece on him sometime, or maybe include him in another list of obscure performers. Johnny Hines is another popular, now-forgotten performer who seemed to have a similar style!

  2. Awesome!! I’m sure you have seen Benny and Joon, in which Johnny Depp’s character was very much inspired by Buster Keaton! I absolutely adore Lillian Gish. I have not heard of the actors in #3, 4, and 5. I need to brush up on my silent film education!

    I have to compile a list for this blogathon. I am thinking and thinking, and it is so difficult! Well, I have to commit by tomorrow 🙂

  3. Another “What did you think of” question from me: What did you think of Lillian Gish in the cult classic NIGHT OF THE HUNTER? Personally, I found her as mesmerizing as the rest of the movie. Nice list, BTW!

    • Oh I adore her in Night of the Hunter (which is probably my second favorite movie of all time). What perfect casting! I liked your list too, especially #1. 🙂

    • Yes, who could possibly have been my #1? Alla Nazimova? Wallace Beery, perhaps? 😛

      Buster, Harold and Marion show up on a lot of lists, I’ve noticed!

  4. No surprises but:

    1. Lillian Gish
    2. Harold Lloyd
    3. Buster Keaton
    4. Emil Jannings
    5. Louise Brooks

    with honourable mentions for Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Chaplin, Dorothy Gish, Bebe Daniels and Lon Chaney.


  5. 1. Buster Keaton
    2. Charles Farrell
    3. Janet Gaynor (wish more of her films survived!)
    4. Rudolf Klein-Rogge
    5. Sybil Seely

    Also quite a fan of Harold Lloyd, Emil Jannings, Edna Purviance, Fritz Rasp and Gerda Maurus.

  6. I love that you honed on silent film stars. That’s one of my weak areas, so now I need to learn more about Louise Fazenda and Robert Harron. You can’t go wrong with your last two. Lillian Gish was fabulous, too, in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER.

  7. Hi 🌷 GlD you are back. This is a lovely selection of the best from the best. I have to read your post on Robert Harron. He sounds like a charmer too. I always enjoy reading your posts,.I have learned a great deal from you. Thank you Lea 😊

  8. 1. Buster Keaton
    2. Mary Pickford
    3. Greta Garbo
    4. Charlie Chaplin
    5. Harold Lloyd

    A list probably typical of the average 1920s movie goer.

  9. Another listicle! 😀 Man, this is a tough question. Here’s what I think today (at least what I think I think)—tomorrow I may think something different.
    1. Mae Marsh
    2. Harold Lloyd
    3. Lillian Gish
    4. Mabel Normand
    5. Thomas Meighan
    Runners-up: Sessue Hayakawa, Mabel Normand, Henry B. Walthall, Musidora, Erich von Stroheim, Mary Pickford, Ford Sterling, Buster Keaton, Lois Wilson, Roscoe Arbuckle, and…and…

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