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Although the first films were silent, during the years after 1910, going to the cinema was becoming more and more popular.
Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton were busy making audiences laugh.
Rudolph Valentino, an Italian actor, became the ‘great lover’ of the silent screen, and millions of women sent him love letters after films like The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and The Sheik (both 1921). Sadly, he died in 1926 when he was only thirty-one.
Douglas Fairbanks was the star of some of the best adventure films… and audiences loved the beautiful Clara Bow.
One very famous silent film was The Birth of a Nation, directed by D. W. Griffith. It was first shown in 1915 and was almost three hours long. It was about the American Civil War, and a lot of people who had never been inside a cinema before came to see this film.
The first ‘serial’ - a film shown a bit at a time, usually one bit (or ‘episode’) each week - arrived in 1912. Audiences rushed back each week to see the next episode. A favourite serial was The Perils of Pauline (1914) starring Pearl White. Pearl had to fight Indians in one episode, was pushed off the Rocky Mountains in another, and was blown up at sea in another. But she always seemed to escape for another exciting day.
By 1916, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin were each earning $10,000 a year. By 1918, both had contracts for more than $1 million a year.
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