When I saw the press release from the Academy, this announcement made me very happy! For those of you who may not know—-Kevin Brownlow is perhaps the most important and influential film historian who has ever lived. He was born in 1938 and studied silent film at a time when many of the key artists from the era were still alive. He has written numerous books on film history that are crucial reading to anyone who is passionate about film. His book “The Parade’s Gone By” is considered the most seminal book ever written on the subject. He has also made several documentaries including the 13 part documentary series “Hollywood” as well as documentaries on Greta Garbo, Lon Chaney, D.W. Griffith, Univeral Horror and many more! In the “Hollywood” documentary, Brownlow interviews not just the movie stars, but men who worked in the sound departments, stunt men, assistant directors and many other behind the scenes technicians. He understands that every member of a film crew can hold a crucial piece of information about the past.
Mr. Browlow is also very humble about his many achievements and incredibly generous in assisting others with questions and research. He has also been instrumental in film preservation. There are numerous classics that might not exist today had it not been for his efforts to save them. His whole life has been dedicated to furthering film history and this Oscar that is well deserved indeed!
Nearly two years ago I went on a trip to London and a historian that I’m friends with asked if I would drop a book off at Mr. Brownlow’s office. I showed up at his doorstep with the book and was hoping to get a few moments of his time to ask him some questions. After receiving the book, Mr. Brownlow suggested that we go down the street for tea. We spent the next hour discussing silent film while drinking tea and eating plum pie. He patiently answered all of my questions. I will always be eternally grateful for that time. I felt like a devout Catholic who just spent an hour privately with the Pope. It was one of the most memorable afternoons I’ve ever spent.