The General (1927), 75 minutes, D: Buster Keaton, Clyde Bruckman
Not only is it considered Buster Keaton's greatest film, it is also widely recognized as one of the true masterpieces of American cinema. The visually-stunning silent film is undoubtedly one of the greatest comedies ever made, with non-stop physical comedy and sight gags, shot almost entirely aboard moving trains. Keaton created this great comedy out of an authentic episode of American history during the Civil War - a story about a famous locomotive, though in real-life the locomotive was stolen by the Confederates. The two things devoted Confederate engineer Johnny Gray (Buster Keaton) loves most in the world are his Southern belle sweetheart (Mack) and his beloved locomotive named The General. When Northern spies steal the latter (with his kidnapped, tied and gagged girlfriend on board) behind Southern lines (and taken North), the intrepid Confederate heroically risks his life. He masterfully hijacks another locomotive, pursues them, and single-handedly takes on the entire Union army in order to rescue both of his loves. Filmed against a backdrop of magnificently photographed Civil War battle scenes, it also contains one of the great chase sequences in movie history. The acrobatic stuntwork, Keaton's deadpan expressions, location photography and sight gags are remarkable.
The Jazz Singer (1927), 88 minutes, D: Alan Crosland
Legendary, milestone revolutionary film, known as the first sound motion picture - literally, the first feature film to utilize Synchronous Sound. In actuality, it was a part-talkie with only a few musical sequences and one ad-libbed, conversational sequence. With Al Jolson in his film debut. Precipitating a split with his orthodox cantor father (Warner Oland) and mother (Eugenie Besserer), young Jewish son Jakie Rabinowitz (Al Jolson) leaves his home, takes a new name - Jack Robin - and enters show business as a Broadway singer of popular/secular music. When his father falls ill on Yom Kippur, and the night of his Broadway opening, Jakie returns home and takes his dying father's place in the synagogue and performs the Kol Nidre. Contains the classic line: "You ain't heard nothin' yet!" Tunes include "My Mammy," "Dirty Hands, Dirty Face," "Toot, Toot, Tootsie Goodbye" and "Blue Skies."
The Kid Brother (1927), 82 minutes, D: J.A. Howe, Ted Wilde
Metropolis (1927, Germ.), 120 minutes, D: Fritz Lang, remade in 1984 with rock music and selective color tinting
A stylized, visually-compelling, melodramatic silent film set in the 21st century city of Metropolis - Lang's German Expressionistic masterpiece helped develop the science-fiction genre. The luxurious, futuristic city of skyscrapers and bridges is stratified and divided into an upper, elite, privileged class and a subterranean, nameless, oppressed, ant-like worker/slave class. Freder (Gustav Frohlich), the young son of a ruling, aristocratic capitalist Master Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel), discovers the miserable life of the proletariat when he notices a beautiful young woman Maria (Brigitte Helm) with a group of worker children and pursues her into the squalid, labyrinthine underground slums. The wistful, Christ-like young woman urges her comrades to peacefully await their salvation. After discovering their meeting, Freder's father instructs mad scientist Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) to create an evil robotic Maria look-alike that will manipulate the workers, preach rebellion, and cause their elimination. The false Maria goes beserk and incites the workers to revolt, causing a cataclysmic flood. Freder and the real rescued Maria lead the worker children out of danger, and Joh Fredersen is convinced to reconcile with the workers - Capital and Labor united in Love.
Napoleon (1927, Fr.), 235-378 minutes, D: Abel Gance
This silent film masterpiece by the legendary French filmmaker was restored to this length, but was originally intended as a biopic in six parts (of about 90 minutes each) about the life of French military leader Napoleon (Albert Dieudonné). The film is most notable for its revolutionary visuals called "Polyvision" - multiple cameras recording the action that was projected panoramically onto three side-by-side screens. The triptych finale is rightfully a milestone in film history.
Sunrise (1927), 97-110 minutes, D: F.W. Murnau
Subtitled, "A Song of Two Humans." An artistic, poignant, brilliantly-filmed, expressionistic, landmark silent regarding a love triangle. A country village farmer (George O'Brien) falls for the allure of a sophisticated, vampish seductress/temptress (Margaret Livingston) from the City, tempted by her under the moonlight in a swamp. He devises a murderous plan to kill his pure, innocent wife (Janet Gaynor) - by drowning her during a trip to the City. At the moment of attempted murder in the rowboat, he realizes his love for his wife and can't complete the act. In the City (of the Jazz Age), the couple makes up and he wins her back - but on the way home, a storm looms up and takes her from him -a seemingly-just punishment from Fate itself.
The Unknown (1927), 65 minutes, D: Tod Browning
Wings (1927), 139 minutes, D: William Wellman
The first Oscar-winning film for Best Picture, and the only non-speaking film ever to win the Academy Award. One of the most exciting silent dramas, with spectacular action and aerial photography of the dogfight/combat flying sequences (including actual WWI wartime combat footage), some of which are color-tinted. The film is the story of two American pilots from the same hometown who enlist together in the Army Air Corps in World War I. They are sent to France to battle the Germans. They both compete for the love of small-town girl next door (Clara Bow). Includes a remarkable death scene of one of the two flyers.