Saturday, July 2, 2011

Shhhhh! Silents in the Library

An exhibition from June 25th - August 28th, 2011
Main Library, Fourth Floor & Sixth Floor History Center Exhibit Space

In our modern world, where moving images meet us in every size at every turn, from enormous billboards astride the freeway to the tiny screens on our handheld devices, it is perhaps difficult to imagine a time, a mere 130 years ago, in which the representation of objects in motion was nothing short of miraculous. From its earliest phases of development through its wild success as popular entertainment, cinema emerged from the shadows like a figure stepping forward from the fog, right here in the Bay Area.

In 1878, Eadweard Muybridge made a series of stop-motion photographs of a galloping racehorse in Palo Alto that led to the birth of the movies. Within two years, the world's first public moving picture exhibition took place at the San Francisco Art Association building on Pine Street. The Western genre and Charlie Chaplin's 'Tramp' character both have their roots in nearby Niles, CA. Through the 1920s, San Francisco served as set and setting for hundreds of silent pictures and was home to movie palaces that rivaled those of any city.

Shhhhh! Silents in the Library is a multi-display exhibition exploring silent film, both through its connections to the Bay Area and through the popular literature of the era. The most prominent part of the exhibition, Reading the Stars: The Silent Era, consists of books published about the movies, including vintage biographies, pictorials, how-to titles and even novels, poetry and self-help works written by some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Also included is a salute to The San Francisco Silent Film Festival (July 14-17, Castro Theatre) where scholars, preservationists and fans annually prove the festival's motto, 'True Art Transcends Time.'

This exhibition is made possible by The Friends of the Public Library and through the generous efforts of members of the city’s silent film community, especially Thomas Gladysz, Christy Pascoe, Donna Hill, Rory J. O’Connor, Brian Darr, David Kiehn, Stephen Salmons, Stacey Wisnia and the staff of SFSFF.

A Short List of Additional Reading

The Silent Film Era and the Bay Area:

Bell, Geoffrey. The Golden Gate and the Silver Screen. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press ; New York : Cornwall Books, c1984.

Kiehn, David. Broncho Billy and the Essanay Film Company. Berkeley, CA: Farwell Books, c2003.

Solnit, Rebecca. River of Shadows : Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West. New York: Viking, 2003.

Tillmany, Jack. Theatres of San Francisco. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, c2005.

General Reading:

Brownlow, Kevin. The Parade's Gone By. New York : Knopf, 1968.

Card, James. Seductive Cinema: the Art of Silent Film. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.

Everson, William K. American Silent Film. New York : Da Capo Press, 1998.

Kobel, Peter. Silent Movies: the Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture. New York : Little, Brown and Co., 2007.

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