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Behind the Mask of Innocence: Sex, Violence, Prejudice, Crime: Films of Social Conscience in the Silent Era

Behind the Mask of Innocence: Sex, Violence, Prejudice, Crime: Films of Social Conscience in the Silent Era

by Kevin Brownlow

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Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The silent movies most known by film-goers paint a charming picture of a relaxed, innocent bygone America. Yet documentary filmmaker Brownlow has unearthed hundreds of forgotten silents that realistically delved into social and political issues: police corruption, white slave rackets, racial tensions, slum conditions, strikes, divorce, venereal disease. Many of these silents took a progressive standpoint softened by melodramatic devices; there were also racist films, Red Scare films, prejudiced caricatures of immigrant groups. By the 1920s, conservatism set in, censorship was widespread, the ``star system'' was in full swing and the socially conscious silents vanished. Brownlow's spellbinding canvas is peopled with the likes of D. W. Griffith, Margaret Sanger, Henry Ford, Upton Sinclair, temperance firebrand Carry Nation. Packed with 250 photographs, this volume caps a trilogy begun with The Parade's Gone By and The War, the West, and the Wilderness. (Nov.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Brownlow is the preeminent historian of the silent film era, and this volume completes his trilogy, which includes The Parade's Gone By (Univ. of California , 1976) and The War, The West, and the Wilderness ( LJ 11/15/78). The title refers to the popular conception that silent films were strictly escapist entertainment, when in fact hundreds dealt with the social issues of their day. Brownlow organizes his study by subject--Matters of Sex, Prohibition, Crime, Women's Suffrage, and, the best chapter, Foreigners, which deals with the images of immigrant groups. This work's value cannot be underestimated, especially because the au thor has tracked down descriptions of scores of ``lost'' films and interviewed dozens of participants who have since died. A handsome volume, essential for informed laypersons.-- Thomas Wiener, formerly with ``American Film,'' Washington, D.C.

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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1st ed

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