Then a generation later we discovered that Buster Keaton was actually a great cinematic genius. We were less sure about Chaplin, but then Chaplin had never entirely faded; he'd been making movies into the '60s for Chrissake!
And now a a decade or two further on Paul Merton has a BBC series beating the drum for Keaton, Chaplin, Lloyd and Laurel and Hardy.
It seems like the silent comedians have to be rediscovered at regular intervals.
While I'm puzzled about the troughs, the period between revivals when we seem to forget just how good they are, this is probably how it should be.
This way they remain fresh.