The British Film Institute's YouTube channels offer a staggering amount (previously) of content on historical cinema, shorts, and discussion. Some short selections from the early and silent period of note - The Sick Kitten (1903) - How Percy Won The Beauty Competition (1909) - Tilly The Tomboy Visits The Poor (1910) - Suffragette Riot In Trafalgar Square (1913) - The Fugitive Futurist, in which a man on the run shows a device that can see far into the future (1924) - Vaudevillian legend Billy Merson Singing 'Desdemona'. Widely considered Britain's first sound film - (1927) Charley In New Town - part of an animated series from the Central Office, this one explaining the need for "New Towns." (1948) - Growing Girls, a filmstrip guide to puberty for young women (1951).
The wonderful, and fairly rare, 13-part documentary series from 1980 - Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film - is narrated by James Mason for Thames Television. Episode One - The Pioneers - [52 mins] [the rest are linked inside] shows:-
"the evolution of film from penny arcade curiosity to art form, from what was considered the first plot driven film, The Great Train Robbery, through to The Birth of a Nation, films showing the power of the medium. Early Technicolor footage, along with other color technologies, are also featured. Interviews include Lillian Gish, Jackie Coogan and King Vidor.*"[more inside]