Who Were the Famous Directors of the Silent Movie Era?

The silent movie era was an interesting and important period in the film industry, as it is through the limited features and resources of silent movies that we see the potential of adding sounds and color into them, thus motivating many directors, producers, and film-making companies to improve upon the technology to bring us the movies that we watch today. SO, without silent films, there wouldn’t be any movies, theatres, and even Hollywood in today’s era.

There have been hundreds of different directors that wanted to try creating a movie during the silent movie era, but only a few became successful. Here are some of the famous directors in the period of silent films.

Alice Guy

Many silent film enthusiasts probably know Alice Ida Antoinette Guy-Blaché, better known as Alice Guy, as she was not only the first female director but also one of the pioneers of silent movies. It is even speculated that between 1896 and 1906, she was the only women that directs movies. Born on July 1, 1873 in France, Alice Guy first worked as a stenography-typist in 1894 while also serving as a secretary for businessman Felix-Max Richard. The businessman’s company was then sold to Leon Gaumont and three other men, and they would then become one of the pioneers of the motion-picture industry in France after producing many films.

Through the company, Alice Guy was able to direct her first film titled “La Fée aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy)” in 1896. Guy would later direct dozens of films, with her last movie being Tarnished Reputations in 1920, which is co-direct with her husband Herbert Blaché and another filmmaker named Léonce Perret.

Cecil B. Demille


It is a known fact that Hollywood wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for Cecil B. Demille, a director and producer that is considered by many to be the founding father of American cinema due to how he brought the United States’ film industry in the spotlight. Born on August 12, 1991 in the state of Massachusetts, Cecil B. Demille began his career as a stage actor in the early 1900s, but later moved to directing and writing stage productions until 1912. By 1913, he lost interest in theater and began working as a director under the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company, with his first film being The Squaw Man, which was released in 1914.

Demille would then direct some of the most commercial successful films in Hollywood, like The Ten Commandments (1923) and The King of Kings (1927). The success of his films in mainly attributed to his uses of complex narratives that are not seen yet in many silent films during his time, and it could be said that he inspired other silent film directors to also do the same style of writing and directing.

King Vidor


King Vidor is another iconic American director that became one of the few successful filmmakers in Hollywood during the silent movie era. As opposed to Demille’s epic narratives, King Vidor’s style of writing his films involve social issues that are more relatable to the working class people of the United States during the 1920s up to the 1950s. However, Vidor also explored other genres and themes in making his film, thus allowing him to be one of the most versatile directors in the era.

Furthermore, he is also describe by many to be an “actor’s director,” as he would often allow his actors to perform to the best of their abilities without any restrictions. Interestingly, many of the actors that he directed were nominated and won during the Academy Awards, and these actors include Anne Shirley, Jennifer Jones, Lilian Gish, and Wallace Beery.

Ernst Lubitsch


Ernst Lubitsch is a German-born American director and producer that became successful in the industry because of “the Lubitsch touch,” a style of filmmaking that the director applies that is unique to him. Most of the films that he directs have a touch of the literary genre called “comedy of manners,” wherein social issues would often be presented as a satire. Lubitsch was born on January 29, 1982 in Berlin, Germany, where he was trained by his father to be a tailor. He would soon leave the tailoring business and start his career in the theater in the 1910s.

After his stint in theater, he would then star in various movies, including The Ideal Wife (1913) and his last movie appearance as an actor in Sumurun (1920). From then on he would begin to write and direct several successful movies like Trouble in Paradise (1932), To Be or Not to Be (1942), and Heaven Can Wait (1943).

Charlie Chaplin


Although most people know Charlie Chaplin as the best actor of the silent film era, he is actually considered to also be one of the best directors of that period. In fact, Chaplin directed most of the famous movies that he starred in, such as The Kid (1921), The Gold Rush (1925), City Lights (1931), The Great Dictator (1940), and Limelight (1952). Born on April 16, 1889 in London, England, Charlie Chaplin started at the bottom when his family lived in poverty. Through hard work and determination, Chaplin was able to be given jobs in acting at the age of 19, and his career as an actor further flourish when he went to America.  You might want to catch a couple of his movies on a rainy day.

During his career in the film industry he was nominated for several Academy Awards , although he was never nominated for his role as a director in some of his movies. Most people describe Chaplin’s directing style as “underrated” since it has never been shown in the spotlight as much as his acting career. His unpopular directorial roles may have been attributed to his simplistic style that has been abundant in many silent films during his era, which didn’t allow his films to shine or stand out among the rest. However, his contributions to the film industry as a director have been celebrated in recent years thanks to many documentaries and books directed and written for him that showcased his talent in writing and directing.