Lesson 1 Research Activity
Film as an Art

Movies Without Pictures

There are no movie assignments for this lesson. Before we look at films, letís spend some time thinking about all the arts that came before―all the arts that make moviemaking the ultimate art that it is.

For 30 years, writer and entertainer Garrison Keillor has kept the old art of the radio program alive with his PBS series A Prairie Home Companion. Thatís longer than the entire "Golden Age" of network radio entertainment (1926-1952)! Keillor is very sensitive to the unique qualities of radio drama (movies without pictures), so pay close attention to the way he uses sound effects and exploits the freedom the lack of images provides.

Student Materials

You will need one of the following:

Time Estimate

2 hours


Check your local NPR schedule for A Prairie Home Companion. The show is broadcast live on Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. ET. If your local NPR station does not carry it, you can listen to it on the Web at www.PrairieHome.org. Archived shows are also available there if the broadcast hour is not convenient for you. Find a convenient time and place to listen to a show, and enjoy!


On the class message board, please post your responses to the following questions.

  1. Keillorís show is a unique relic of the Golden Age of radio. What did you think of his radio dramas ("imageless movies")?
  2. Have you ever listened to a radio show before? As compared to a movie or a television variety show, what did you find most unusual about A Prairie Home Companion?
  3. Perhaps the main entertainment value of movies is that they tell interesting stories. With A Prairie Home Companion, we have an example of an art form that tells stories―but without any pictures to accompany them. How much did you really miss the pictures?
  4. Can you think of a movie youíve seen where the soundtrack was of primary importance and the image track was secondary?