“My god, your predecessors did a terrible job of preserving the silent era,” - Kevin Brownlow at the Governors Awards, (The Wrap)
There is no doubt the studios were downplaying the silent era, after talkies started in the 1930s. With few exceptions (like Charles Chaplin saving his own film work, as his family - Roy Export - are still doing) the bulk of silent films were being left to turn to powder in film vaults, or dumped totally.
Kevin Brownlow, with David Gill, changed that, by saving this important film history, from disappearing totally. I know from my own research, archives that discount anything before the 1930s in film making, as part of policy, and don't save anything on films before 1930. I was told, anything before 1930 was primitive and not worth saving. How wrong they are.
As the acclaimed 'Hollywood Series' has proved, silent films were more than just silent comedies, but an era rich in storytelling, and the foundation in the making of the film industry. Stars of the 'talking era' owe the silent film makers a great deal, in their own careers. (Many even started their careers in silent films.) It was the only time we had a true international language (something we don't have now, and could use more now, then ever).
So, finally, great to see an industry embrace their real beginnings, by honoring someone who helped save the history for the current generation to learn and treasure.
The Governors Award Dinner gave everyone a chance to be free to say what they wish, instead of having the television camera broadcasting every word. And Mr. Brownlow was right. The industry did do a 'terrible job' in saving it's silent film past.
Thankfully, it took a teenager in England, to discover there was something to be saved from that past, and in the process, became a lifelong passion, that was rewarded last night, from the industry that had the least interested in it, in its past.
More links about the special Oscar event from November 13, 2010:
The Wrap - By Steve Pond
Governors Awards: 4 Oscars, 4+ hours, and No Godard, But It's Fun
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - official site
Kevin Brownlow Honorary Award - LINK
2010 - Governors Awards - LINK
The Hollywood Reporter - by Gregg Kilday
Academy Honors - LINK
Few more links of interest
Charlie Chaplin being honored with an Oscar in 1972 for his lifetime of work:
The Hollywood Series - LINK
Ann Harding interview with Kevin Brownlow -
English | French