Tuesday, November 17, 2015

History Repeats Itself: The "Stars of Silent Films Are Alive" Today (But not well!)

History Repeats Itself: The "Stars of Silent Films Are Alive" Today (But not well!)

Most will probably find the title of this blog to be a bit curious. But history is repeating itself right now and the "Stars of Silent Films" are "alive" today! Well, maybe not those exact people, but people who follow in their footsteps and fail to learn the lesson that they taught us....

History is truly repeating itself in front of our very eyes in the TV and radio world and the reaction of many TV and radio "stars" - and even broadcasting company management - towards the Internet.

And, just as it was in the 1920s, the silent film stars who were able to survive - and actually make more money, along with the production companies who profited handsomely from "Talkies" - the stars who survive and prosper will be the ones who embrace the new technology and use it to their advantage. 

The ones who do not, will fade away. (It's actually curious to think, that after all this time, there are mass media talent and company management who refuse to consider the internet as a profitable promotional tool or revenue stream, but I know a few... I understand if they are over 60-years-old. But under 60? I don't "get it." This seems like complete denial of reality.)

Silent films were big entertainment from about 1910 ("Birth of a Nation" in 1913 was the biggest grossing silent film of all time) until the beginning of the end in 1927 with Al Jolson's "Jazz Singer" and the abrupt ending of all Silent Films by 1937. 

So, from the advent of "Talkies," until the death of the Silent Movie Star, was only a few decades - or even less than 20 years, depending upon how you look at it.

When Talkies first arrived, many of the world's biggest stars refused to accept it. Even the great Charles Chaplin said of Talkies, "Talkies are spoiling the oldest art in the world— the art of pantomime. They are ruining the great beauty of silence. They are defeating the meaning of the screen." 

Yet, even Charles Chaplin could not deny progress and he stayed silent no longer. Just six days after Britain declared war on Germany, in 1939, he started work on "The Great Dictator". It would be a stroke of genius - as well as the acceptance of the inevitable - that helped solidify Chaplin's place as one of the greatest film makers of all time and a worldwide superstar - even to this day.

Many stars, though, simply refused to embrace the new technology and they faded away. 

It is said that many of the silent film stars insisted that their fame and talent was good enough and that their audience were loyal enough that they would never abandon them because they 'could speak with their eyes, therefore they didn't need sound or Talkies.'

In hindsight, anyone can see that this sort of thinking is foolish. 

I wonder why some of today's radio and TV stars refuse to do the Internet... I know a few who refuse to even do simple ones like Facebook or Twitter! I can understand not having the confidence in writing ability to not do a blog (how about taking, photos?) but not using FB or Twitter to keep your name in front of the audience and potential sponsors, is basically the same as "shooting yourself in the foot." 

Many of the old silent film stars obstinately refused the Talkies for the very same illogical, self-defeating and completely impractical reasons. 

I can't blame them for being artists, but I can blame them for being stupid.

They faded away, right? 

After long avoidance, some finally did try, but found they didn't have the voice to match the face...

What should we call a TV or radio star today who refuses to participate in the internet besides "someone in denial"?

From Forbes (April 10, 2014): 

"Perhaps the iconic pose of our era is someone squinting at a smartphone screen–replacing another iconic pose, the couch potato pointing a remote at the TV screen. That stark change is apparent in a new report that says for the first time, Internet ad revenues have passed those of broadcast TV."

From a guy who has worked in the mass media for over 30 years, I can tell you for a fact that, even though many won't say it, many of today's TV and radio "talent" and broadcasting station management think the exact same thing about the Internet: They foolishly believe they don't need it and they refuse to participate in it; as if it is "below" them... Just as the Silent Stars once did

They think TV and radio are going to survive in their current form for the next twenty years and giving them a livelihood; just like the Silent Stars believed about the Silent Film industry.

Starting to see a connection here? I do. And this is why I state that "History is repeating itself right in front of our eyes." 

Here's a list of 10 former Silent Film superstars who didn't make it through the transition to Talkies for various reasons.

The World Wide Web began in 1990 and now has mass acceptance. It's been 25 years now. Talkies destroyed Silent Films completely in about 25 years or so.

How many of us can see the writing on the wall? 

It figures that if you do not do the internet (Facebook, blogging, Twitter, Instagram), you'll be out of a job within 2 ~ 5 years. 

So, TV and radio star, ignore the internet at your own peril... 

They can predict the future by following the examples shown perfectly by the Silent Film stars who proceeded them: some adapted; some didn't.


Andrew Joseph said...

Hey Mike!
I had heard that some silent movie stars were not afforded the chance to do talkies because they simply lacked a voice that the public would like. Marie Provost had a thick New York accent which didn't fit her romantic stylings, and John Gilbert's voice wasn't manly enough for the so-called macho guys he was used to portraying...

Anonymous said...

Jerry Seinfeld: In around 1997, somebody interviewed Steve Case of AOL, and they asked him, "Who is your competition?" He said, "My only competition is Jerry Seinfeld. When that show comes on Thursday night, our connections go in the toilet. I'm only scared of Jerry Seinfeld." Then I left, but it didn't save him.
From: Top of the Rock: Inside the Rise and Fall of Must See TV

Fast forward to the 2010s:
Gabriel Iglesias: A SA prince requests Fluffy to do a show for an audience there. "How do they know me? Youtube." He has 2+million subscribers. Fluffy Visits Saudi Arabia

Anonymous said...

It is no less than incredible to read about these sorts of people. As they say, "The only thing we ever learn from history is that people learn nothing from history." - Dale in Dallas

Anonymous said...

You'd have to be blind or totally stupid not to see this. I produce a show on the East coast of the USA on 13 stations... Only an idiot could not see what's happening here.