The Classic Movie History Project: Cinema 1927

Classic Movie History Project

This post is for The Classic Movie History Project Blogathon 1915- 1950 hosted by Movies, Silently. To check out all of the contributors for this intriguing project click here.

I recently did a feature called No Volume Needed November where I watched and reviewed the horror films of the 1920s. There were not a whole lot of horror films made through the decade but the thinnest year was 1927; according to IMDB there were only eight horror films made that year. I concluded the feature with my twenty favourite horror films from the decade and two of those films were 1927 entries; The Cat and the Canary and The Unknown.

The Cat and the Canary

The Unknown

I have not the faintest clue as to why the year 1927 is particularly thin on films from the horror genre. IMDB lists twenty genres for the year: this is how the films broke down:

Drama = 454
Comedies = 269
Romance = 177
Westerns = 151
Action = 67
Adventure = 57
Crime = 49
War = 27
Mystery = 21
Thrillers = 15
History = 12
Horror = 8
Sport = 7
Family = 6
Musicals = 6
Biographies = 4
Fantasy = 3
Animation = 2
Music = 1
Sci-Fi = 1

There were some historical film-related events that happened during 1927…

The Jazz Singer

Alan Crosland’s Jazz Singer premieres; the first feature-length movie with synchronized dialogue sequences.


Fox Studios puts Movietone to use for F.W. Murnau’s film Sunrise. According to Wikipedia: The Movietone sound system is an optical sound-on-film method of recording sound for motion pictures that guarantees synchronization between sound and picture. It achieves this by recording the sound as a variable-density optical track on the same strip of film that records the pictures. Although sound films today use variable-area tracks, any modern motion picture theater (excluding those that have transitioned to digital cinema) can play a Movietone film without modification to the projector. Movietone was one of four motion picture sound systems under development in the U.S. during the 1920s, the others being DeForest Phonofilm, Warner Brothers’ Vitaphone, and RCA Photophone, though Phonofilm was primarily an early version of Movietone.



Fritz Lang’s visual extravaganza Metropolis premieres; the only science fiction film released in 1927. For more images from Metropolis click here.

the pleasure garden

Director Alfred Hitchcock releases his first film; The Pleasure Garden although made in 1925 the film was not released until 1927 in England.


Louis B Mayer forms The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.


Grauman’s Chinese Theater opens in Hollywood California. According to Wikipedia: TCL Chinese Theatre is a cinema on the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. Originally Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and renamed Mann’s Chinese Theatre in 1973, the current name of the theatre became official on January 2013 after TCL Corporation purchased the naming rights. The original Chinese Theatre was commissioned following the success of the nearby Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, which opened in 1922. Built over 18 months, from January 1926 by a partnership headed by Sid Grauman, the theater opened May 18, 1927, with the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s film The King of Kings. It has since been home to many premieres, including the 1977 launch of George Lucas’s Star Wars, as well as birthday parties, corporate junkets and three Academy Awards ceremonies. Among the theater’s most distinctive features are the concrete blocks set in the forecourt, which bear the signatures, footprints, and handprints of popular motion picture personalities from the 1920s to the present day.


William A. Wellman’s Wings premieres. Wings would be the only silent film to win an Oscar for best picture.

There is no debate that 1927 seen the single most significant film-related event of the decade. The addition of sound changed the face of motion pictures forever. It did not take long before silent films were phased out completely. According to the U.S. Library of Congress approximately 70% of American made films from the silent era have been lost with no possibility of recovery. Having experienced several silent horror films recently this saddens me deeply. So many of these films are unique and gorgeous visceral experiences unlike anything that came after them. As a film lover preservation is of the utmost importance. We certainly did not learn our lesson over the years. I am currently delving deep into sixties underground and exploitation cinema and the amount of lost films from this period is quite astounding.

According to Internet Movie Database these are the twenty-five most popular films from 1927…

Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang starring Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel and Gustav Fröhlich.

Wings directed by William A. Wellman starring Clara Bow, Charles Rogers and Richard Arlen.

Sunrise directed by F.W. Murnau starring George O’Brien, Janet Gaynor and Margaret Livingston.

The Jazz Singer directed by Alan Crosland starring Al Jolson, May McAvoy and Warner Oland.

King of Kings

The King of Kings directed by Cecil B. DeMille starring H.B. Warner, Dorothy Cumming and Ernest Torrence.

The Lodger

The Lodger directed by Alfred Hitchcock starring starring June, Ivor Novello and Marie Ault.

London After Midnight

London After Midnight directed by Tod Browning starring Lon Chaney, Marceline Day and Henry B. Walthall.


It directed by Clarence G. Badger starring Clara Bow, Antonio Moreno and William Austin.

The Ring

The Ring directed by Alfred Hitchcock starring Carl Brisson, Lillian Hall-Davis and Ian Hunter.

7th Heaven

7th Heaven directed by Frank Borzage starring Janet Gaynor, Charles Farrell and Ben Bard.


Napoleon directed by Abel Gance starring Albert Dieudonné, Vladimir Roudenko and Edmond Van Daële.


Downhill directed by Alfred Hitchcock starring Ivor Novello, Ben Webster and Norman McKinnel.

The Unknown directed by Tod Browning starring Lon Chaney, Norman Kerry and Joan Crawford

The Cat and the Canary directed by Paul Leni starring Laura La Plante, Creighton Hale and Forrest Stanley.


Underworld directed by Josef von Sternberg starring George Bancroft, Clive Brook and Evelyn Brent.

West Point

West Point directed by Edward Sedgwick starring William Haines, Joan Crawford and William Bakewell.

the kid brother

The Kid Brother directed by Ted Wilde and J.A. Howe starring Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston and Walter James.

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom’s Cabin directed by Harry A. Pollard starring Margarita Fischer, James B. Lowe and Arthur Edmund Carewe.


College directed by James W. Horne starring Buster Keaton, Anne Cornwall and Flora Bramley.


Love directed by Edmund Goulding starring John Gilbert, Greta Garbo and George Fawcett.


Chicago directed by Frank Urson starring Phyllis Haver, Victor Varconi and Virginia Bradford.

*No picture was available for The Arcadians that I was satisfied with.

The Arcadians directed by Victor Saville starring Ben Blue, Jeanne De Casalis and Vesta Sylva.

The Way of All Flesh

The Way of All Flesh directed by Victor Fleming starring Emil Jannings, Belle Bennett and Phyllis Haver.

The Drop Kick

The Drop Kick directed by Millard Webb starring Richard Barthelmess, Barbara Kent and Dorothy Revier.

My Best Girl

My Best Girl directed by Sam Taylor starring Mary Pickford, Charles Rogers and Sunshine Hart.

23 Responses to “The Classic Movie History Project: Cinema 1927”

  1. All this wonderful old school poster art. * v *

    • I love actual artwork on movie posters; what a sadly pushed aside bit of spectacular; the posters for the German silents are especially nice.

  2. A good poster still does its job. The visuals brought up fond memories and have me more interested than ever in the titles (too many titles) I have yet to see.

    • I definitely agree; I am a poster junkie. I love how the older posters tended to feature artwork as opposed to a scene shot or a picture of the cast.

      • theartisticpackrat Says:

        This is true, but I have noticed that there are a lot of older posters that are essentially photographs of the cast or merely painted portraits of the actors. There are still many great posters, and I agree with you that it’s a bit of a lost art. Also, even though some are just painted portraits of the cast, they at least look better than the mere photograph posters we get today.

  3. I really enjoyed reading your post for the year 1927. Love the accompanying poster artwork too. You chose some beautiful ones! I had never realised that there were few horror flicks released in 1927. The Cat and the Canary is brilliant!

    • Thank you Catherine. It turned out to be a little more of an “image odyssey” than I anticipated it to be. Weirdly thin on horror in 1927 but to be honest I was surprised how few horror films where made during the twenties at all, and so many of those have been lost forever.

  4. Loved the movie posters – you’ve done a wonderful job of curating them for us. I didn’t realize there were so many wonderful movies made in 1927. You’ve made me see that year in a whole new light.

  5. You give a good idea of the riches of 1927. That was a nice selection of movie posters. Thank you for sharing.

  6. theartisticpackrat Says:

    Oh, and I also didn’t know about the lack of horror films in the 20s and 1927 in particular. Interesting.

    • So many of the silent films that have any popularity today are horror titles…PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, NOSFERATU, VAMPYR, and so on…that it might inflate our idea of the genre’s popularity in its day. This may have to do with the enduring success of the genre and the devotion of its fans.

  7. Metropolis might’ve been 1927’s sole sci-fi release, but what a release it is!! Interesting to note that horror wasn’t a popular genre, I wonder which year produced the most?

    • I love Metropolis so much; a personal favourite from this era (or any other for that matter). If I am not mistaken I believe 1920 had the most horror films.

  8. I assume iMDB’s rankings are based on how the movies are ranked by their contemporary visitors; hard to believe that Hitchcock’s early films were that big a hit in their day. Also, THE WAY OF ALL FLESH, in spite of the fact that it was one of Emil Jannings’ Oscar-winners for Best Actor, has, like most films of the silent era, presumably disappeared. Turner Classic Movies made a big deal of a small snippet from the end having been rediscovered, in a program they put together of bits and pieces of formerly “lost” films that had resurfaced.

  9. Terrific post on an extraordinary year for films! When I was deciding on movies to cover for my silent film retrospective last September, I was surprised by the sheer volume of great titles from 1927 alone.

    • Thanks Barry! There is so much goodness from the silent film era. I was extremely impressed by what I watched during my silent horror film feature.

  10. Great post! There are some films I still need to watch from 1927, such as Underworld and The Ring. I din’t know The Pleasure Garden was released only two years arfter filming!
    You chose wonderful pictures to go with the post, I really liked it.
    Don’t forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! 🙂

    • Greetings Le and thank you! I would like to do something like this for each year of the 1960s… I will be catching up on everyone’s contributions on the weekend.

  11. Ah, great year and great posters… and great post! I keep forgetting how many amazing films came out in 1927, what an embarrassment of riches! Thanks so much for your affectionate tribute to the year that changed everything!

  12. What a great project. Thanks for sharing. Very illuminating.

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