The Silent Era

Al Jolson's line "You aint heard nothing yet" in the 1927 film The Jazz Singer marked the birth of the talkie and the end of the silent era. Still, the early years of the cinema not only gave birth to an art form, but also laid the foundations for the cinematic industry. Pioneering director D.W. Griffith set the standard to which all who followed him would be measured with the epic dramas The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916). The world laughed in unison to the slapstick antics if comic geniuses Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. The two actors proved to be principle players in the formation of the Hollywood Star system, still in place today. The star system was a means by which major studios insured return on their investment. By 1920 there were a number of stars including Chaplin, Keaton, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and Lillian Gish, whose mere presence in a feature film guaranteed its success at the box office. In attempt to undermine studio control, Chaplin, Fairbanks, Pickford, and director Griffith formed United Artists in 1919. The company was created for the purpose of distributing only films that these artists created.