Series: Ask Parky

Ask Parky: Who are the remaining silent movie stars? | Film | guardian.co.uk



With Anita Page dying recently, who is the biggest silent film star left alive?

Sydney Loten, Colchester







The biggest extant star to debut in the silent film era is Mickey Rooney. Starting out as a midget in the short Not to Be Trusted (1926), he headlined a series of comic capers as Mickey Maguire (1927-34) before becoming one of MGM's most popular child stars. Among the other juvenile survivors are June Havoc, Virginia Davis (who took the lead in Walt Disney's Alice in Cartoonland series), future cinematographer Jack Cardiff and Helen Alice Myres and Diana Serra Cary, who were respectively better known as Baby Marie and Baby Peggy.

The oldest surviving screen performer is 104 year-old Dutchman Johannes Heesters, but his silent experience was limited to Cirque Hollandais (1924). More prominently, Marie Glory took the female lead in Marcel L'Herbier's L'Argent (1928), which is due out on DVD later this month, Barbara Kent played the innocent heroine opposite Greta Garbo's vamp in Clarence Brown's Flesh and the Devil (1926) and Daisy D'Ora appeared as Fritz Kortner's bride in G.W. Pabst's Pandora's Box (1928).

But the silent actress who went on to have the most significant film career was Isuzu Yamada, who followed an inauspicious start in the short Nikkatsu on Parade (1930) by working with many of Japan's finest film-makers, including Kenji Mizoguchi (Osaka Elegy and Sisters of Gion, both 1936) and Akira Kurosawa, with whom she made The Lower Depths, Throne of Blood (both 1957) and Yojimbo (1961).