17 Great Silent Movie GIFs from @SilentMovieGIFs

You might be following Puppy Twitter, Weird Twitter, or Cupcake Twitter, but are you following Silent Movie Twitter?

If not, you might be missing one of its best accounts, @silentmoviegifs. Created in January 2016 by Don McHoull (@dmchoull), @silentmoviegifs is literally what it says it is: GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format) of visually compelling or hilarious moments from the earliest days of film. These GIFs include everything from stop-motion animation, to the earliest camera tricks of Hollywood’s first cinematographers, to epic stunts by Buster Keaton and sleights-of-hand by Charlie Chaplin.

McHoull first got the idea of making these GIFs available to the wider internet after seeing a trending GIF on Reddit from The Bellboy, featuring Buster Keaton cleaning a nonexistent window. McHoull, a film buff, was excited to see a century-old comedy still attracting millions of views, but was dismayed at the poor image quality of the GIF.

Since he possessed a Blu-ray set of high-quality Buster Keaton short films, and Photoshop, McHoull took it upon himself to provide the internet with better-looking GIFs from the Silent Era. After all, the two types of media are a match made in heaven: “Silent movies translate really easily into GIFs,” McHoull told NYFA, “because the jokes and the ideas being expressed are all being done a purely visual way.” He made sure to add, “Not to discount the role of music in the silent cinema experience.”

McHoull quickly found an online audience eager to see highlights from the Silent Era they may have otherwise never thought to seek out. As of June 2018, @silentmoviegifs has nearly 60,000 followers, including Guillermo del Toro, Rian Johnson, Natasha Lyonne, Taika Waititi, Edgar Wright, Patton Oswalt, Seth Rogen, and Neil Patrick Harris.

He continues to source his GIFs from Blu-rays and DVDs, proving that the preservation and restoration of older film is essential to remembering the art form in its very beginnings. He uses YouTube and other lower-res sources if he must, but adds that Toronto’s video stores are a “secret weapon” of his.

“In particular one, Bay Street Video, has a very good selection of silent films for rent,” McHoull revealed. “Video stores and silent films are both things that a lot of people would regard as obsolete, but for me at least they still offer something that their supposed replacements don’t.”

Not all of his GIFs are straight clips from silent films. McHoull will also take the time to painstakingly create supercuts of particular actors or genres. One of his latest projects includes a supercut of elaborate train stunts from the Silent Era, before CGI and other special effects could really be used to simulate such sequences. When asked if he had a favorite GIF, McHoull told us it was difficult to say, but named one of his most time-consuming supercuts — an evolution of Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp character.

Starting with McHoull’s Evolution of the Tramp then, here is just a small sample of some of our favorite GIFs from @silentmoviegifs:

Charlie Chaplin

Buster Keaton

Clara Bow

Louise Brooks

Willis O’Brien

Charlie Chase

Laurel & Hardy

Gloria Swanson

Mary Pickford

Charley Bowers

Fritz Lang

Dorothy & Lillian Gish

Auguste Lumière

 

Lois Weber

Sessue Hayakawa

Greta Garbo

Harold Lloyd

These are just a few gems from @silentmoviegifs. NYFA encourages everyone to check out the account for the rest. McHoull is the first to tell you he isn’t in this for fame and fortune, and recommends other Twitter accounts to silent movie buffs as well, including @MoviesSilently and @silentlondon.

He’d also tell you not to limit yourself to Twitter, recommending YouTube as a great source for silent movies, as well as Imgur and Reddit (including his own subreddit), telling NYFA that when it comes to GIFs, they have several technical advantages over Twitter.

Watching the earliest movies put to film is a great way to study and learn the art of cinema, and any serious film student should consume as many silent films as they can, however they can. And the next time you’re in Toronto, maybe rent a few from Bay Street Video.

 

17 Great Silent Movie GIFs from @SilentMovieGIFs by