Dear Silent Hall of Fame Users:

    You have come to this website, because you like silent films and silent movie stars.  There are many places like this.  But unlike other sites, here at Silent Hall of Fame you can make a real difference.  You can help us show for the first time many films featuring your favorite silent stars that have not been seen in generations.  This will bring their names back into the public discourse.  But you can do much more than that: you can help your favorite silent stars receive belated recognition and glory.

    Until now there has never been an organization with the purpose to place a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for movie personalities from a century ago.  Silent Hall of Fame is this historic organization.  Silent Hall of Fame is the only organization of its kind.  We will make history and we invite you to become a part of history by sponsoring a silent movie star for the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  All contributions are tax deductible.

   Please use this button for a one-time donation. Use the button on the right-hand side for a recurring donation.

 

Rare Gems on DVD

    Our users have spoken, and we have listened. You want to see rare and hard to find films, and we have created for you the Silent Gems Collection, available on eBay. This DVD collection includes rare and for the first time available films with our stars, as well as other silent masterpieces. These are high quality films that are hard to find anywhere else. Please click on this link to see the collection: Silent Gems Collection

    This announcement, as well as the link, are approved by Google AdWords for Nonprofits. See also the Footnote at the bottom of this page.

Important Update:
You don't have to leave our website in order to obtain the films from our Silent Gems Collection. These gems are now available to our users as a reward for donation. For details click here.

 2 Out Yonder 191915 That Model from Paris 192621 For Better  for Worse 191924 The Woman God Forgot 19173 Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall 1924

 

OUR DOCUMENTARY

    We are proud to present to all silent film lovers our multiple award-winning documentary! In March 2015 it won the distinction "Award of Merit" at the San Francisco Film Awards. In May it won the Silver Award at the 2015 International Independent Film Awards. In September 2015 it won the Award of Recognition at the Accolade Global Film Competition. Of equal merit is the inclusion of the documentary in the Official Selection of the San Jose International Short Film Festival in October 2015. In December the documentary won the extremely prestigious Diamond Award at the 2015 California Film Awards. The amazing run of recognition for our documentary continued in 2016. In February it was included in the Official Selection of the Buffalo Niagara International Film Festival.

 Accolade Global Film Competition AwardSan Jose International Short Film FestivalCalifornia Film Awards smallSan Francisco Film AwardsInternational Independent Film Awards

Helen Holmes in The Girl and the Game

   Helen Holmes in "The Girl and the Game"

 

Helen Holmes (June 19, 1892? – July 8, 1950) was an American silent film actress, most notable for starring in the serial The Hazards of Helen.

This original article was created by Shirley Freitas, a direct descendant of Helen Holmes, and is the exclusive property of Silent Hall of Fame. 

 

We are excited to post on our site a biographical sketch of Helen Holmes, written by her great-granddaughter Shirley Freitas. Please join me in giving a heartfelt "Thank you!" to Ms. Freitas for her contribution to Silent Hall of Fame.

 

Helen Holmes was a fearless, competent, and independent woman at a time when the women’s suffrage movement was on the verge of finally gaining the vote for women. Her life and career reflected the situation of the feminist movement: she was admired and extolled for breaking new ground for women, but suffered the backlash against those values ten years later. By the 1920s women had the vote and the role model was no longer the spirited daredevil, but the vamp. As a Los Angeles Times columnist wrote in 1936, “There are no more serial queens…Helen Holmes, Pearl White and the others have long since retired, and the ladies of the serials now prefer to let their menfolk wear the pants.”

According to an Illinois birth certificate issued in 1942 at the request of Helen’s uncle, she was born on June 19, 1891 in Chicago. But neither year nor place is certain. Her birth year is often said to be 1894. In the 1930 census, Helen reported her birthplace as South Bend, IN.

She was the third child to Louis R. Holmes and Sophie Barnes, both from Indiana. Louis worked for the Illinois Central Railroad, later for the Chicago & Eastern Illinois. Helen attended a convent school in Chicago and modeled for Santa Fe Railroad posters. Her brother’s illness necessitated a move in 1910 to Death Valley, where Helen learned to pan for gold and reportedly lived with Indians for a time. When her brother died she went to Los Angeles. (Some biographies put her in New York acting for the theater, but are probably mistaking her for a Broadway actress of the same name.)

1912 was an eventful year for Helen. She met Mabel Normand and, through her, was “discovered” by Mack Sennett, signed by Keystone, and appeared in over 20 pictures over the next year or so. She also met the man who would become her creative and life partner, J.P. (Jack) McGowan.  The date of her marriage is a matter of some mystery; magazine articles have said 1912, 1914, and 1915, and no marriage certificate has been found.

Helen signed with Kalem Studios, where Jack had worked since 1908. The pace of movie making in those days was astonishing; for the next 18 months, Helen and Jack worked on at least 20 movies. Most were railroad dramas; Helen was known as the Railroad Girl even before the release of the first episode of The Hazards of Helen on November 14, 1914.

Their personal connections to railroads enabled Helen and Jack to give realism and accuracy to their films. Helen had learned as a girl how to drive an engine. Jack was born in the railroad junction town of Terowie, South Australia, and his father worked at a locomotive factory in Sydney.

Unlike other serials, Hazards episodes did not have cliffhanger endings; each episode told a complete story. But what set Hazards apart the most was Helen’s character. She rescued others more often than being rescued herself. “Helen” was quick-thinking, risk-taking, and had a deep sense of justice.

As described by writer Shelley Singer:

“Hazards of Helen stresses the heroine’s acts of daring and physical prowess. The heroine is a humble telegrapher compelled to perform feats of extraordinary courage when she pursues runaway trains and fleeing bandits in situations that showcase her extraordinary athleticism…matched by a keen intelligence. She is unusually observant about the goings-on in her station, meaning that she is often the only character cognizant of danger and the only one capable of staging a rescue…Helen is a woman of true strength and independence rare among serial heroines.”

Hazards was the longest-running of all the serials. Helen acted in all but two of the first 48 episodes, wrote at least one, and directed several when Jack was in the hospital. She was extremely popular, appearing in almost every issue of the movie magazines, sometimes on the cover. She performed many (though not all) of her own stunts. Some of the most breathtaking were: riding a balky horse down a steep cliff and plunging into the river; dropping from an aerial steel cable onto the roof of a boxcar going 20 mph; leaping from a burning building; jumping from the roof of one moving train to another; and dropping from a trestle into an automobile.

The dangers she faced were real. Filming an episode of The Lost Express, she barely escaped a burning train. In another, she was in a truck when the brakes gave out on a steep grade and crashed. She nearly lost an eye that was punctured by cactus thorns. According to family lore, so far unsubstantiated, she lost a thumb while leaping from a galloping horse to a moving locomotive.

In her off time she liked to race cars, sometimes entering using only an initial to bypass rules forbidding women competitors. She drove in her films, too. One author describes an episode of The Girl and The Game in which “Helen controls the wheel, while her three brawny male buddies are relegated to mere passengers.” Most spectacularly, in August 1917 for The Railroad Raiders, she drove a car from the San Pedro pier onto a barge 30 feet away. The fourth attempt succeeded.

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