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Silent Movie Title Cards

Title cards were short sentences written on black cards that were filmed and included in the silent movie in order to express something that could not be otherwise related by the actors in the movie.

The cards were hand-drawn on black cards and then filmed. They were then cut and pasted physically into the correct part of the film.

Example title card for silent movie

The first title and end title were usually prepared by an artist title maker. Some filmmakers sent all the cards to professional companies to be prepared; others hand-drew their own. The opening cards and closing cards often were fancier and prettier than the cards within the film. They usually had drawings, sketches or flourishes that were often hand-drawn and then filmed.

Example of title card

Cards within the movies were used to move the story forward. They were usually explanatory in nature, and were used to bridge time or give more information about a character. Initially, these cards contained long subtitles, but eventually filmmakers realized they had to keep them short so that moviegoers could read them quickly.

For example,
  • A time lapse of hours, days or weeks:
    "Two hours later…"
    "Later that week…"
    "Two weeks went by…"
  • An important thought or comment by one of the actors that is critical to the plot
  • An action by the character that is not in the film but is still important to the plot


Opening and Closing Cards
Think of your favourite modern movie. What does the opening look like? Are there any graphics or pictures? Draw a picture that would match the movie. Include one card for the Title and then a second card to list the actors and actresses.

Using a black piece of paper and a white marker, draw a sketch or line drawing to create your image. Usually these images went off to the side of the card, accenting the text that appeared.

Add the title, actors' names, and film crew on individual cards.


  1. As a group or with your class, watch a silent film. Once you have watched the movie, choose two or three title cards that reveal an important fact about the story. On the tape, find this portion of the movie. Pause the film.
  2. Have everyone in the class write a different subtitle, giving a statement or fact that would change the story. See who can come up with the funniest sub-title.
Alternate Subtitles
After you've watched the silent movie, think of additional subtitles you could add that would change the story completely.

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Dorothea Mitchell Biography
Canada's First Amateur Feature-Length Film: A Race for Ties
Port Arthur Amateur Cinema Society
The Fatal Flower Project | Educational Resources