When you hear the term  ‘ silver screen’ the first image that comes to mind is a black and white film, which is what I thought the term alluded to.  After researching this however, I found out that it actually originated with the type of projection screen used at the time, the silver lenticular screen, but the name was so commonly used that it became the popular figure of speech for the cinema industry.

Mary Pickford

The movie business started in 1895 with the silent film, which lasted until 1936.  These movies had no recorded sound track and were accompanied by either a pianist, a theater organist or an orchestra and the  dialogued was mimed.

Talkies, or movies with a recorded sound track came into being in 1927 with the movie The Jazz Player starring Al Jolson.


Although Technicolor, the second major color process for film after Britain’s Kinemacolor, came into use in 1916, the process was incommodious  and prohibitive in cost and since it wasn’t possible to give the colors realistic hues at first, the switch to color was gradual, limiting it’s use to historical or musical films between the 1930s and 1950s.

Despite the possibility of color film, many directors preferred to use black and white stock so for the years between 1940–1966, one Academy Award for Best Art Direction was given for black-and-white movies and one was given for color films.  I must admit that in many cases, the use of black and white film did tend to give the work a more dramatic feel.



Between 1909 and 1926, the major movie picture studios were Universal,  Paramount studios, which had bought out the Lasky and the Famous Players studios,  Fox Films, Metro-Goldwin-Mayer and First National, later bought out by Warner Bros. who was propelled to the fore-front with the making of The Jazz Player.

Between 1928 and 1949, considered the Golden Age of cinema, the top five major players consisted of RKO (Radio-Keith-Orpheum), Loews/MGM, Paramount, Fox (later known as 20th Century Fox) and Warner Bros.  They were closely followed by Universal, Columbia and United Artists.

During the 1930’s, an average of 358 feature films were produced each year by these eight studios.  In the 1940’s,  although the four largest companies shifted their attention to the production of bigger budget A-list movies,  bringing the average down to 288 films a year, a whopping 96% of the box office market was controlled by these same eight studios.  This would account for the huge choice of movies available during these years.

This said, considering the vast amount of film produced during the silver screen era, it is no wonder I discover movies I’ve never viewed before and we shall no doubt discover more together.  I invite you then, if you are a fan of the genre, to bookmark my humble site as I will be updating it on a daily basis.

Caroline Sabourin


6 thoughts on “

  1. Wow.. such great information on the history of the film industry. Much of this I didn’t know before. Thank you for sharing this and giving me an education!

  2. This review of the Silver Screen era was informative for me. I like the motion pictures of Golden Age Cinema era a lot. I am a big fan of Turner Movie Classics (TMC). Watching that era of film now, puts you in a time capsule that takes you back to past in history that I would have loved to live in. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for this background history as I got some context. I read your “About Me” page and I didn’t even know that movies can be put on public domain so it means that you can actually download them for free like Gone with the Wind? How long does time have to pass before it is considered public domain for movies?

    1. That is a complex question. Technically, any movies made before 1923 are in the public domain. After that date, copyrights are good for 95 years, so if a movie was made in 1930, it in the public domain in 2026 unless the copyrights have not been renewed. That means you really do have to do some research to see if a movie can be downloaded and distributed legally. There is no definitive list of public domain movies per se. Hope this helps.

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