|Matthew Sweet presents the weekly film programme. Join in the discussion by visiting the Radio 4 Arts message board. |
|Matthew Sweet is a writer and broadcaster with a doctorate in Wilkie Collins. He has been a director's assistant for the RSC, both film and TV critic of The Independent on Sunday, edited the Penguin Classic edition of The Woman in White, and has a monthly movie column in Red magazine. His first book, Inventing the Victorians (2001), put figures such as Julia Pastrana the Baboon Lady and the Bipenis Boy back into the story of the nineteenth century, and celebrated the achievements of the Victorian film industry.|
His next, Shepperton Babylon: The Lost Worlds of British Cinema (forthcoming January 2005), uses candid interviews with nonagenarian survivors to rediscover the gossip, scandals and tragedies of the British film studio system. In the course of his research, he has lolled on a chaise longue and shared macaroons with Olivia de Havilland, drunk neat Vermouth with a 96-year-old mistress of Fred Astaire, and heard from a 99-year-old silent film star what it was like when Thomas Hardy came on location with the crew of the 1921 adaptation of The Mayor of Casterbridge.
The first film he saw was The Land that Time Forgot (1974), in which the dream cast of Susan Penhaligon, Doug McClure and Keith Barron discovered a menagerie of dinosaurs living on a hidden island in the South Atlantic. Since then, he’s been a sucker for any movie that involves fibre-glass pterodactyls.
|British Silent Cinema Special: |
A scene from the 1929 film Piccadilly starring Anna May Wong
Eighty percent of British silent films are missing. Why? Because critics at the time decided they were without merit. Almost all the films were melted down and turned into waterproof paint. Matthew Sweet takes the radical step of watching the remaining movies and lures us into their not so silent world.
The DVD release of Piccadilly features a new jazz score by the composer Neil Brand. He explains why music is a vital component to the silent movie experience.
Sherlock Holmes: The Solitary Cyclist
The veteran Elstree screenwriter Ernest Dudley married into a family of silent cinema actors. Watching Janie Grahame perform in The Solitary Cyclist he tells us why there was more to that style of acting than meets the eye.
Kevin Brownlow, film-maker and historian; David Robinson, Charlie Chaplin's biographer and Nerina Shute, the fiery columnist for Film Weekly in the late 1920s give us their take on life behind and around the camera.
Britain's oldest living movie star recalls her time as the heroine of British Silent Cinema.
Please note that audio for this edition of Back Row will not be available on this website until after the programme's transmission on Radio 4 on Saturday 3rd July 2004 at 5.30pm.
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