Thursday, December 29, 2016

Sara K Joiner: Early Days of the Movies

2016 has been a rough year, especially when thinking about well-known individuals who have died. From David Bowie and Alan Rickman to Prince and Anton Yelchin to George Michael and Carrie Fisher, lots of people around the world have lost someone they didn't know personally but who meant a great deal nonetheless.

I've spent a lot of time this year mourning strangers who were friends. And now I have to add Debbie Reynolds to that list.

I was about nine years old when I saw Singin' In the Rain for the first time. I loved it! Not only is it my favorite movie musical, it's also my favorite movie about the movies and one of my favorite movies in general. Set during the transition from silent films to "talkies," it introduced me to a world I knew nothing about. It showed history happening to people who lived it.

Recently, I read I Don't Know How the Story Ends by J.B. Cheaney. Although set earlier, it reminded me of Singin' In the Rain. It's about a young girl who spends a summer in Los Angeles with her extended family in 1918. Her step-cousin is infatuated with the movies and ropes her into "starring" in the picture he's making. Cameos from Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Mack Sennett and D.W. Griffith pop up throughout. There's a great discussion of Griffith's classic Intolerance. It gives readers a lot of details for further entertainment, including the actors and directors mentioned plus movies to watch.

I Don't Know How the Story Ends is a great book for middle grade readers, especially if they love the movies. Watch it with Singin' In the Rain for a good look at the full span of the early days of filmmaking. And don't forget to watch a silent film or two, as well. They're treasures.

Sara K Joiner is the author of After the Ashes. She is also a librarian.


  1. Thanks for this post, Sara - Singin' In The Rain was recently on TV and I've recorded it. I, too, saw it when I was about ten years old. Then I had no hearing aids (too deaf, they said...), and of course nothing was captioned. I'm looking forward to the dialogue and lyrics.

    I'm not familiar with 'Intolerance', must try to find it.