Linda (1929): Giving Voice to a Silent Appalachian Film

Inspired by the pioneering work of J. W. Williamson’s Southern Mountaineers in Silent Films (1994), this paper seeks to present one of the gems of the Appalachian cinematic canon, Linda (1929), a silent film that has only recently begun to get critical attention after languishing for decades in obscurity. Linda has the rare distinction of being one of the few films of its era to boast a female director and producer, as well as another female, an accomplished Appalachian writer, who supplied its source material. The film will be introduced through the audiovisual support of brief video excerpts and stills, and analysis will focus on its plot, setting, themes, critical reception, and recent rediscovery. Discussion will reveal that Linda, although not entirely free of Appalachian stereotypes and stock characters, did provide a new and more favorable depiction of the region and its people, as well as offer thought-provoking perspectives on the role of women, domesticity, education, freedom, and duty in the mountains. Particular attention will be given to the eponymous heroine and her strong, empowering characterization, an element that has prompted film historian Gwendolyn Audrey Foster to conclude that “Linda is a richly rewarding feminist melodrama.”