Arts and Entertainment

Buster Keaton wasn’t just a born star – he was a revolutionary film-maker

Things they said in silent movies

When I was a boy of 10 or 11 we had a French teacher called Joe Richardson who used to lure some of us into his study and close the door and draw the curtains and show us silent films.

CENTREPIECE / Red rushes for me

As if you didn't know, 1995 marks the Centenary of Cinema (see pp16-17), an occasion which the ICA is using to usher in its celebration of rare Soviet cinema. Featured directors include Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera, which boasts a cornuc opia of techniques which must have inspired the path Oliver Stone stumbled down for Natural Born Killers.

Garbo lines sold

Nine letters written by Greta Garbo were sold for pounds 7,188 at Christie's, London.

OFF WEST END / Hanging by a thread

It isn't easy to write about Shiny Nylon, a new production from the Women's Playhouse Trust. To see it, you have to travel to a remote corner of east London, beyond the Isle of Dogs, where you sit in a freezing cold Victorian shed wondering what on earth is going on while a woman in a velvet dress stalks up and down waving a large nickel-plated automatic pistol and shouting 'Tell me what you feel, you dumb fuck,' over and over. This is, you feel, not a good starting-point for a review. On the other hand, maybe it's all the review Shiny Nylon needs.

Letter: Messing about with Laurel and Hardy

Sir: After reading the article concerning the Laurel & Hardy Museum ('That's another fine mess you've got me into', 5 January) there are certain points I would like to clarify.

Door closes on memory game

NATASHA DIOT, 16, was annoyed at herself for forgetting the door. If she had remembered to go through that door, she would have found the four playing cards she left in the room behind it. Then she could have remembered the whole pack, but even that would not have stopped Dominic O'Brien from retaining his title as World Memory Champion at Simpson's restaurant in the Strand in London yesterday.

CINEMA / Farewell serenade to the queen of silents

LILLIAN GISH would have been 100 in October. Her death in February brought to an end one of the most illustrious careers in the history of cinema. To some extent, as film historian Kevin Brownlow has pointed out, her career is the history of cinema. Gish's first film was D W Griffith's An Unseen Enemy in 1912; her last The Whales of August, 75 years later. As a tribute to 'The First Lady of the Silent Screen', Brownlow is holding a rare screening of three of her finest films, including The Wind (1928, above), at the Camden Parkway (071-267 7034) at 3.30pm today. There is a live orchestra conducted by Carl Davis. Tickets: pounds 6- pounds 15. Lorenzo Conti

OUTSIDE EDGE / The Epsom autograph-hunters searching for Rin Tin Tin's co-star

WHEN Austin and Howard Mewse, 20-year-old twins from Epsom, write to Hollywood, Hollywood jumps. It all began in 1986 when the brothers dropped a line to Lillian Gish asking for her autograph. Gish's reply, which arrived in a tea-stained envelope, was unexpectedly lengthy and triggered a correspondence that was to continue until her death. 'Her last letter came four days before she died,' says Austin. 'It was short, which was very unusual for her'.

Letter: Silent epic reveals cinema's potential

Sir: Your article stating that the British prefer to watch films in their own home is borne out by our own experience ('Britons prefer films at home to cinema visits', 25 May). As a tribute to Lillian Gish, who died earlier this year and whose career (1912-87) spanned almost the entire history of the cinema to date, we are staging a presentation of her greatest film, The Wind (1928), in London. This has always been one of the most popular films in the live cinema repertoire; when we last showed it in public in 1984, it packed out the theatre.

Obituary: Lillian Gish: Correction

Despite Lillian Gish's claim that she was born in 1896, which was given credence in the reference books and in yesterday's obituary by Gilbert Adair, the American Film Institute has established from her birth certificate that she was born in 1893.

Obituary: Lillian Gish

IT IS somehow appropriate that Lillian Gish's amazing life should end in winter, writes Kevin Brownlow (further to the obituary by Gilbert Adair, 1 March). For it was in the snow scenes of DW Griffith's Way Down East (1920) that she established the combination by which she is remembered; brilliant acting combined with great heroism. Griffith's elaboration of the old stage melodrama required Lillian to lie on an ice- floe and drift towards the falls.

Lillian Gish: Queen of the silent screen

LILLIAN GISH, one of the queens of the silent era, has died in New York, writes Andrew Gliniecki. She was 96.

Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest

(Photograph omitted)

TELEVISION / Briefing: Famous for 50 minutes

If David Frost has hosted 25 shows with his name in the title, Clive James must be fast catching him up. In his latest offering, CLIVE JAMES - FAME IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY (9.30pm BBC1), his name even precedes the actual subject. With the aid of copious clips, he examines the influence of the media on celebrity since the turn of the century. Theodore Roosevelt was one of the first to realise the power of moving pictures; he starred in a Presidential campaign film that culminated in his chopping down a tree that landed on the cameraman. Charlie Chaplin became the most famous figure on earth, and Rudolph Valentino the most desirable. His fame also proved his undoing, however; an illness became fatal when his advisers failed to find a doctor celebrated enough to treat him. As Beatrice Ballard's comprehensive first episode (of eight) shows, once the fame genie is out of the bottle, it is very hard to put back.

FILM / A very Dickie Chaplin

IF THERE is anything you don't understand about Chaplin, just make sure you stay until the final credits. As each performer is named, his or her character is explained one last time, just in case you missed the point: 'Mildred Harris was his first wife . . . ' This look-and-learn tone rings throughout the film, which is made from chunky flashbacks. The ageing Charlie - at least I take the buttering of his head with speckled rubber to indicate old age - sits in Switzerland and chats to his editor (Anthony Hopkins). Ostensibly they are picking over the fine points of Chaplin's autobiography, but their true purpose is to light our path through the narrative. As each stage of Chaplin's life comes up for inspection, the editor greets it with admiring blurb: 'My God, Charlie, you were the most famous man in the world, and you weren't even 30]' Sometimes information is simply dumped in our laps. When he first mentions J Edgar Hoover, Charlie is told: 'I think you should make it clear that this was before he became head of the FBI . . .'
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