Read-Aloud Movies

Are you tired of searching for a family-friendly film to watch with your kids? I have a suggestion. Try a silent comedy.

Silent? I hear you asking. As in no sound? As in black and white? As in old and boring?

Try: as in good, rollicking, clean fun.

I’ve been a fan of silent movies since I took a class on them in high school, of all places. Over the years, I’ve tracked down classic comedies by Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd and watched them with my kids. But when I saw them in our local theater accompanied a live orchestra playing the original scores, I came to see how entertaining and still relevant those films were. The theater was like a time machine. Here I was, surrounded by jaded, modern, sophisticated moviegoers; and all of us were gasping and laughing like the original audiences must have been. What a delight!

Here’s what makes silent films special:

- innocence. Not only are they free from the language and innuendo of modern comedies, they even avoid the bathroom humor that Hollywood thinks is necessary for laughs. There’s a naiveté to them that I find charming.

- humor. The jokes tend to be simple, since they couldn’t rely on complex word play. Much of it is physical humor, which really appeals to kids. And there’s such wonderful planning and choreography evident in the stunts and fights. They’re uproarious.

- reading. Here’s a benefit you may not have considered. The dialogue is all written, so your young readers can have practice reading aloud. The words are up for longer than you would expect, so there’s plenty of time to read them together. Or you could read them aloud and add voices for the different characters!

The catch in all this is that silent comedies can be hard to find. But start with your local movie store or library. If you have access to Turner Classic Movies, watch the late night listings. And online services like Netflix are a great source, too. If you need help choosing a film, I've posted a beginner’s guide here on my site.

Want to know the best thing about movies being silent? You don’t miss any dialogue when you laugh out loud.

Bruce Van Patter

all material ©2006 Bruce Van Patter