Michael Putnam, Silent Screens. Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 2000. 102 pages.
Silent Screens is essentially a picture book of movie theaters from the 1980s with commentaries from personal essays on the “decline and transformation of the American Theater”. It follows how the small city theaters changed the American way of life. Silent Screens also documents the emotional attachments to these theaters and their lack of care after they were no longer in use. A few of the sources used, like Larry McMurtry see nothing emotional about the theaters, just once beautiful buildings ruined by time. Others, however, like Peter Bogdavnoich see the movie theaters of old as representatives of “a time of cultural innocence” (Putnam, xii). As I described it as picture book, already, I consider it a visual memory than a traditional book.
The intended audience is an audience that most likely doesn't know much about the history of movie theaters. The book only requires basic knowledge of movie theaters in general and a little of movie theaters from the 1980s. Silent Screens was written to an audience that desires to learn about the rise and fall of the early movie theaters with a very personal touch. It is less an intellectual list of facts and more of memoir-like look at the culture changing effects of the American theaters. Putnam succeeds in having the same functional audience as the intended audience. The book pulls in a perhaps younger crowd than most analytical books of a topic with its abundance of photos of old movie theaters. Part of the reason I chose Silent Screens over other books to review is because of its interesting photographs. The photos add interest to the book and also allow the audience to at least start to understand what Putnam and the others are writing of when they describe the mostly already gone theaters.
Peter Bogdanovich gives a very personal account of the movie theaters of New York City and small-town...