Soundless Magic from a Bygone Era

Resplendent in his military uniform, Prince Regent Hirohito in 1921 watched the making of a movie in Tokyo. Amazed at this novel way of capturing his country's way of life, the Emperor-to-be gave the new medium official approval, spawning a government-sanctioned industry that created thousands of silent motion pictures. After the rise of Japanese militarism led to the havoc of World War II, most of the country's silent movies were considered lost to history. "Some of the surviving films were destroyed by American occupation forces," says Joseph Anderson, author of the 1983 book, The Japanese Film. "Only fragments...

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