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Gene Vazzana
(1940-2001)

I first met Gene Vazzana in the spring of 1993 after having responded to his ad in Classic Images seeking fans of silent films. He was about to begin publishing The Silent Film Newsletter, which was devoted to the art of the silent film. His passion for silents was reflected in every issue. Initially unillustrated, he later added photos and drawings, turning out one of the best-designed publications around. While I had been exposed to the silent film early in life, Gene’s knowledge and love of the art form greatly increased my interest and understanding of it.

In the next four years, we became good friends, attending many memorabilia shows and silent film screenings from MoMA to Betzwood, PA, together. Gene published a number of my pieces in his newsletter, which became The Silent Film Monthly in 1995 and finally, The Silent Film Annual in 1999. He never made money on this venture, but he didn’t care if he did or not, so long as he disseminated material on the silent era to fans worldwide. He returned to his home town of Oakmont, PA in 1997, having had enough of the trials and tribulations (mostly the noise) to be found in New York. We kept in touch by phone and e-mail.

Prior to becoming an editor, he had begun work on his magnum opus, The Silent Film Necrology, which was published by McFarland in 1995 to wide acclaim. He never stopped working on that, either, even though diagnosed with stomach cancer, making revisions and additions up until late 2000, when he submitted the updated version to the same publisher. Such was his dedication that Gene also managed to produce one last issue of the SFA, dated 2001, before his untimely passing on New Year’s Day, 2001. While his death was not unexpected, it still came as a shock. He was a great friend, and I shall miss him terribly. The void in silent film scholarship his passing has made will be extremely difficult to fill. Rest in peace, Gene, and enjoy viewing all those lost silent films up there. — Philip Leibfried
 
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