Thursday, March 21, 2019

Four Star Chaplins! -- March 21, 2019

Moving Picture World, 08-March-1919
100 years ago this month, in March, 1919, Essanay was trying to squeeze money out of its Chaplin films. Note that this ad touts new prints, which makes me think that the old prints were already worn out.

Moving Picture World, 01-March-1919
The new prints were doing well.

Moving Picture World, 08-March-1919
Moving Picture World, 22-March-1919
The reissued films were showing in first run theaters.

Moving Picture World, 15-March-1919
When President Woodrow Wilson sailed back from the Peace Conference in Paris, one of the movies shown was Chaplin's Mutual, "The Adventurer."

Moving Picture World, 01-March-1919
Chaplin cancelled a planned trip to Europe, hoping to quickly finish his films for First National release so he could start making movies for United Artists.

Moving Picture World, 01-March-1919
 A huge crowd of soldiers wanting to see "Shoulder Arms" blocked the path of the manager and ticket seller to the box office of an Iowa movie theater.  An officer saved the day by ordering the men to attention and putting them in two lines.  The manager said there were 740 soldiers in the lines.

Moving Picture World, 08-March-1919
Chaplin posed with his good friend Douglas Fairbanks in some sort of cycle car.

Moving Picture World, 08-March-1919
Chaplin's wife Mildred Harris left for New York.  "Chaplin, who intends to finish the comedies yet to be made for First National Exhibitors in record time, did not accompany his wife, but may join her later and return to Los Angeles with her."

Moving Picture World, 08-March-1919
The Post Theater at Camp Greenleaf near Chickamauga Park, Georgia, showed Shoulder Arms all day.  The theater was packed the whole time.

Moving Picture World, 15-March-1919
World Films offered to book "Shoulder Arms" and The Better 'Ole, a British production based on Bruce Bairnsfather's stories about trench life which featured Old Bill. This production was made in Britain and starred Charles Rock as Old Bill. In 1926, Chaplin's half brother Sydney played Old Bill in an American production.

Moving Picture World, 15-March-1919
Chaplin's favorite villain Eric Campbell died in an auto accident in late 1917 ( .  Chaplin engaged a new heavy for "Sunnyside," Thomas A Wood.  Wood had played small roles in some of Chaplin's Mutuals, and went on to play more small parts in Chaplin's later shorts for First National, and in The Gold Rush.

Moving Picture World, 15-March-1919
The life of Chaplin's leading lady, Edna Purviance, was threatened by a faulty heater.

Moving Picture World, 15-March-1919

"Miss Harris has come to New York for the purpose of combining a brief rest with a shopping tour."

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Tom Mix Goes to the Verge of Death -- March 19, 2019

Moving Picture World, 29-March-1919
100 years ago this month, Tom Mix was ignoring a bear and hugging a lady.

Moving Picture World, 01-March-1919

"Picturesque Fox Cowboy Insists on Real Thing in "The Coming of the Law" — First Shot Passes Between Necktie and Throat — Realism Rules in All Pictures

"HOW far should a motion picture star go to attain realism in his pictures? This is a moot point about which rages the debates of those who maintain that there cannot be too much realism and those who assert that the films are too minute in their exposition of action and should leave more to the imagination.

"How far should one go to get realism?

"Tom Mix, the cowboy star, goes to the verge of death — often and deliberately.

"In scenes in which guns are used Mix insists that real bullets be fired; if the script calls for him to jump, on horseback, from the roof of a house, Mix jumps — and does not let anybody jump for him; if the story demands that he ride through a plateglass window, Mix rides — and the window is of real glass, that cuts and lacerates. Mix is acclaimed in publicity copy as "the man who never fakes"; and film folk in Hollywood read the soubriquet and say it is true talk.

"Insists Knot in Tie Be Shot At.

"One of the most recent demonstrations of Mix's scorn for substitutes was given during the filming of "The Coming of the Law," a forthcoming picture. In this production the script demanded that one of a gang of bandits should shoot a bullet through the hero's necktie at the point where it knotted.

"When it came to filming this part of the picture it was suggested that a cut-in could be used and thus obviate the necessity of having Mix used as a target. But Mix would not listen to this proposal. He insisted that a real bullet, from a real rifle, fired by a real marksman, should clip his necktie.

"Accordingly, when the scene was taken Mix stood up in the open so that he would give a clear side view. He selected Pat Chrisman, one of his company, to do the shooting, as Pat is an expert rifleman. The director and the other members of the company stood about in fear that a tragedy would result.

"Indeed it came near to being a tragedy. For the first bullet from Chrisman's rifle passed between Mix's necktie and his throat, close to the skin, and making a hole in his shirt.

"'Try it again,' said Mix imperturbably. 'A little to the right.'

"Chrisman shot again, and this time cut the necktie through the knot.

"Rides Broncho Through Window. 

Moving Picture World, 01-March-1919

"In 'Hell Roarin' Reform' Mix had to ride his horse through a plate glass window.

"'We can use a property window for that,' the director said.

"'Property nothing!' exploded Mix. 'What's the matter with a real window?'

"So a real window was smashed for art. And Tom Mix was badly cut about the neck and arm as his horse galloped through the window and the glass showered down in sharp-edged sheets.

"It was in making 'Hell Roarin' Reform,' by the way, that Mix was nearly choked to death. It hapened this way : In this picture bandits are supposed to lasso him and drag him over the ground between two horses. So that Mix, as he was being dragged, could be photographed properly, a compromise was made, and instead of being dragged by horses, Mix was dragged by an automobile, on the rear of which was a platform carrying the cameraman.

"Nearly Choked to Death by Lasso.

Moving Picture World, 01-March-1919

"When this stunt was first tried, the noose slipped from Tom's shoulders and went up about his neck. Instantly realizing his peril, Mix braced his head down into his shoulder in such a way that the noose could not slip tight and strangle him. The stunt was then tried over again, and the automobile, with Pat Chrisman at the wheel, started off at a rate that was nearly breakneck — for Mix. For it was only by the greatest of vigilance and agility that he was able to hold his head so that his neck would not be snapped as he was whirled along over the high spots.

"In this scene, too, Mix suffered serious abrasions about the neck and face. But because of his remarkable health his cuts and bruises healed quickly. One day you see him badly cut up; the next day the wound is nearly healed, and the third day it has nearly disappeared.

"Probably one of the most daring stunts Mix ever performed was when he allowed another cowboy to shoot at the sheriff's badge over his heart. In this picture Mix was supposed to be inside a stage-coach that had just rolled down the mountainside. When the coach reached the bottom Mix stepped out — stunned and bewildered by his shaking up. While he stood there, getting his bearings, a Mexican bad man was supposed to shoot at him from a clump of bushes near by, and hit a watch which was in his breast pocket ; the watch, of course, was supposed to save Mix's life.

"Uses Mix's Badge as Aiming Point.

"For this scene Mix wore a sheriff's badge, so that the marksman in the clump of bushes would have a mark to shoot at. Then under his coat he wore a small stove cover, less than six inches in diameter.

"When the director yelled camera, Mix emerged from the smashed stage-coach and stood, as if dazed, a minute. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out his watch. After noting the time he put the watch back. An instant later the bad man's rifle spoke from the clump of bushes. Mix clapped his hand to his chest and pulled out his watch, which was badly smashed.

"Had the marksman deviated a few inches to the left Mix would have been shot through the left lung, just above the heart — a wound that undoubtedly would be fatal. If the marksman had shot low Mix also would have been seriously wounded, and if the shot had been high the bullet probably would have smashed his shoulder. The only non-fatal mistake would have been to shoot a little to the right. This would have given Mix merely a flesh wound in the side.

"Now, officials of the Fox Film Corporation state that Mix's insistence that there be no faking in his pictures has this big advantage — the camera can record a continuous action, thus making unnecessary the cut-ins that prove the picture has been faked.

"But at the same time, they point out, it has this grave disadvantage: They never know when a wire is coming from Los Angeles announcing that Tom Mix has been killed in making a picture."

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Happy Saint Patrick's Day, 2019 -- March 17, 2019

Happy Saint Patrick's Day, everyone

We recently celebrated what would have been the 100th birthday of curvaceous actress Carole Landis, who was a popular pin-up during World War Two. She appeared in some very good movies and toured to entertain soldiers in the South Pacific. With her career in decline and a complicated life, she committed suicide in 1948 when she was 29 years old.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Witchita Theater -- March 15, 2019

Moving Picture World, 15-March-1919
Beautiful House Built During War Marks Most Advanced Step in Construction and Equipment — Runs Pictures Exclusively, Although Fully Equipped to Present Dramatic Attractions

THE Peerless Theatre Company has given to Wichita, Kan., one of the prettiest moving picture houses in the west — -with distinctive features that make this enterprise a valuable accession to the country's architecture and industry.

It is a fine example of a building designed exclusively for moving picture exhibitors. Its cost, $150,000, indicates that the owners have "done the thing up right." And the comment of the owners, "We would have been willing to spend another hundred thousand on it," indicates that it pays to go to trouble and expense to surround moving picture presentation with artistic and suitable environment.

It is distinctive moving picture theatre architecture. The keynote of the design, the central idea in the interior arrangement and the most prominent feature, is seen in the clock in the proscenium arch. Every person who visits the theatre notices this clock; columns of articles have been written on it. The clock is not obtrusive. It exactly fits its place in the arch — and because it seems to belong there, the public comments the more enthusiastically.

The Clock and Its Purpose.

And this it is what makes the theatre seem so distinctively a moving picture theatre — the feature that establishes the Wichita theatre as an example of the new architecture. This clock is not put somewhere where it will be seen: it is there because that is the place for it. And all the surroundings harmonize with its settings, the entire interior seems built around the clock.

The Wichita Theatre, built in the summer of 1918— one of the few structures erected in Wichita during the war — was completed in November and opened December 23. It is concrete and steel, with terra cotta exterior; 50 by 140 feet, auditorium 45 feet high, full sized stage, full rigging loft; 1,350 seating capacity. The booth is outside the auditorium; has two Simplex machines ; is fully plumbed. Fire exits have concrete stairways.

There is a row of boxes level with the balcony, extending to the stage. The interior is Italian renaissance; walls, plastered, painted buff and gray, with quiet ornamentation of floral cartouches, the decoration producing a silk damask, effect.

Everything in Harmony.

The ornamentation is, also, distinctively "moving picture theatre effect." There are no such striking figures or pictures as will in themselves attract attention; but an atmosphere of artistic quality, carried out in every item, from the silk plush curtain of old blue and old rose with gold arabesque designs, to the metallic-pedestal candelabra with their church effect, and the gold-lettered "W" on the end of each seat-row.

Indirect lighting is through colored glass windows in the ceiling. On the end of each seat-row is a hidden light illuminating the Wilton-velvet carpets on the steps. The visitor meets one feature after another — nothing so radical as to be peculiar, but all exactly harmonious and satisfying, from the time he enters through the marble foyer. Domestic marble, because of the war — perhaps fortunate, for it is beautiful marble.

There is one novelty — goldfish swimming in the globes of the inverted lights of the foyer, which nobody forgets.

Wichita calls herself the "Peerless Princess of the Plains." And this new Wichita theatre is indeed a gem in her diadem! Its exterior is as distinctive as its interior — but more striking, for it is set in the midst of buildings of conventional, or modern business block architecture.

The exterior front is finished in terra cotta, Spanish Mission style, with red terra cotta gables, terra cotta facings, with windows that inspire thoughts of romance. At night, spot lights from across the street illuminate the front. There are no lights on the building itself to distract attention.

Perfection in Ventilation.

The ventilating system of the new theatre, while not peculiarly adapted to moving picture houses, finds its best use in such a house. Air is received from forty feet above street level, is washed by passing through sprays, goes into a heating chamber in winter where it passes over coils, and is distributed throughout the house, chiefly through mushroom ventilators under alternate seats. Foul air is drawn out through exhausts near the floor, and also through ventilators in the ceiling. The fans driving air into the auditorium and the exhaust fans, change the air every 10 minutes.

There is a lounging room on the second floor; from which small retiring rooms are open, for men and for women. There is no large smoking room — but men are allowed to smoke in the upper balcony, during performances. The manager's office opens from the lounging room. The chairs, made on original specifications, are most comfortable when one is sitting erect.

Straight Picture Programs.

All the fixtures, indeed every item in the building except the projecting machines, were made on special designs, developed by the officers of the company and Carl Boiler, the architect. The theatre has several sets of scenery; the screen is adjustable and can be moved about the stage.

The Wichita Theatre runs pictures only — seven reels, changing Monday and Thursday; occasional short features, occasional news reels, but no definite program. It holds itself open for seven-reel pictures, when such appeal. It emphasizes its music, a twelve-piece orchestra playing matinee and night.

The orchestra leader, Milo Finley, was formerly leader of the Shubert Theatre orchestra in Kansas City; his assistants are high class. For relief, violin, cello and piano are used. Concerts are to be given every Wednesday evening, between the first and second shows, lasting forty minutes.

The Wichita Theatre is owned by the Peerless Theatre Company, organized by J. H. Cooper. W. D. Jochems, of Wichita, an attorney, is president of the company, Mr. Cooper, vice-president; C. C. McCollister, secretary-treasurer and manager. Mr. McCollister formerly owned the Star, which is now owned by the Peerless company, and he continues to manage the Star with the Wichita. The Wichita Theatre has twenty-six employes. Its prices are 15 cents matinee, 20 cents night. It is full most of the time.

Moving Picture World, 15-March-1919

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Under Four Flags -- March 13, 2019

Moving Picture World, 08-March-1919
The United States joined the First World War in April, 1917. Learning from the British, the United States put its propaganda efforts into the hands of one organization, the Committee on Public Information, also called the Creel Committee, after its chairman, George Creel. The Creel Committee produced "Under Four Flags," "This Great Victory Picture of America and the Allies..."

Monday, March 11, 2019

Teddy Birds -- March 11, 2019

Moving Picture World, 08-March-1919
Former president Theodore Roosevelt died at his family home, Sagamore Hill, near Oyster Bay, New York, on 06-January-1919.

I can't find much about CL Chester, but he produced a series of movies about nature with Outing Magazine.  The second edition was "Teddy Birds," about Theodore Roosevelt and his interest in conservation and nature.

Moving Picture World, 01-March-1919
The producers of The Fighting Roosevelts, a movie about TR and life before the presidency, changed its name to Our Teddy and did well with "The Famous Roosevelt Picture."

Moving Picture World, 01-March-1919
President Roosevelt's estate gave its share of the profits to various war charities.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

DVD: Kidnapped -- March 9, 2019

Moving Picture World, 29-September-1917
Moving Picture World, 29-September-1917
Fritzi, the proprietor of the wonderful blog Movies Silently, is now a DVD producer.  For her first production, she had a brilliant idea which requires a little bit of explanation.

Moving Picture World, 03-March-1917
On 11-February-1917, inventor Thomas Edison turned 70 years old.  He received a testimonial banquet from his employees in West Orange, New Jersey.  The article's history is not entirely accurate.  I highlighted some of the text of the article.  

"Trade Honors Edison, Its Creator, on Natal Day

"First Real 'Feature' Made and Modern Conquest Subject
"Shown at Testimonial Banquet to 'Father of Pictures'

"A SHOWING of the first great 'feature' motion picture ever produced was one of the striking features of a testimonial banquet that was tendered to Thomas A. Edison, in honor of his seventieth birthday, at Orange, N. J., by the employees of the Edison Affiliated Industries. The banquet to (the - JT) famous inventor, who devised the first motion picture camera as well as the first machine designed to project moving pictures on a screen, was given by the various divisions of the vast Edison industries, for the purpose of emphasizing the high regard in which Mr. Edison is held by those who are engaged in the production of the various devices that owe their existence to his rare genius and unremitting toil. The Edison studios of Bedford Park, N. Y., were strongly represented at the banquet and contributed largely to the entertainment that followed the dinner.

"The affair was of decided interest to the motion picture world not only because of the showing of the historic first 'feature' production, but because it marked the first public showing of Edison Conquest Pictures, new productions that have been made on lines laid down by Mr. Edison, and that represent his conception of ideal motion pictures. The contrast between the first actual photoplay ever produced and the new productions of the Edison studios was highly impressive.

"The first feature production that ever was made, the picture that was shown last night, was 'The Great Train Robbery,' a photoplay that will be remembered by many of the pioneers in the film industry, and the forerunner of all Western thrillers. It was released November 30, 1903, and it marked a decided advance in the evolution of the silent drama. It was the first story with a definite plot to be produced as well as the first production to reach the length of one-reel. Previous to that time, only short subjects, ranging in length from twenty-five to three hundred feet, had been made. 'The Great Train Robbery' was approximately seven hundred and fifty feet in length, a stupendous production for that era.

"The popularity of the production is indicated by the fact that estimates show that it made approximately $400,000 for the Edison Company, a record that few productions have approached.

"Four of the new Edison Conquest pictures, including a production of Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Kidnapped,' were included in the program. Motion picture authorities present were authority for statements that the new pictures are going to make a big advance in motion picture production.

"Among the figures of prominence in the film world who were present were. W. W. Hodkinson, who will direct the distribution of Conquest Pictures; George Kleine, of the Kleine-Edison-Selig-Essanay, through which a series of five-reel Edison master-pictures are being released, and L. W. McChesney, manager of the Thomas A. Edison,. Inc., studios.

"The divisions that united in giving the testimonial banquet to Mr. Edison were: The Motion Picture Division, of Bedford Park; the Musical Phonograph Division, the Storage Battery Division, the Dictating Machine Division, of Orange; the Primary Battery Division, of Bloomfield, N. J., and the Chemical Manufacturing Division, of Silver Lake, N. J."

Motion Picture News, 24-March-1917
Thomas Edison, or his ghostwriter, said:
"We have all heard a great deal during the past few years about the growing demand for better films for motion picture patrons of all ages. I have felt from the very start that little would be accomplished toward meeting this demand seriously until some responsible producer thought more of the future good of the business than the present gain. I have assumed the investment necessary to produce a better grade of clean and wholesome films with full confidence that the American people will support 'EDISON CONQUEST PICTURES' so that they may ultimately produce a fair return on their original cost. These pictures are free from all features which have made the motion picture objectionable to many people and may be viewed by the entire family.


The idea behind Conquest Pictures, made by the Edison Company and distributed by K-E-S-E (Kleine-Edison-Selig-Essanay) was to provide theaters with a complete package, a feature film and a set of short subjects.  The Conquest idea was not Edison's, but was conceived by George Kleine (The "K" in K-E-S-E).

Motion Picture News, 24-March-1917
The Conquest slogan was "The Open Road to Romance and Knowledge."  I'd like to know what a barefoot boy with a bindle has to do with conquest.

Moving Picture World, 29-September-1917
Conquest Program No. 9 was a package made up of a five-reel feature adaption of Robert Louis Stevenson's popular adventure novel Kidnapped and four short subjects, a scenic view of Provincetown, Massachusetts, a silhouette version of "Little Red Riding Hood," a microscopic view of pond life, and "Friends, Romans and Leo," a one-reel comedy.

Fritzi had the idea of recreating the program.  All five movies still exist, against great odds, and she was able to assemble them into a new package on a DVD-R.  Maestro Ben Model provided a suitable piano accompaniment for each element. Fritzi raised money for the production through a Kickstarter campaign.

The full title is Kidnapped: A Complete 1917 Night at the Movies.  I find it interesting that no one seems to have thought of doing a complete program like this.  I suppose the poor survival rates of silent films makes it difficult to put together a group like this.

Moving Picture World, 06-October-1917
"The program is about the average quality of Conquest programs."

'Friends, Romans and Leo" was a comedy about a slave, played by Raymond McKee, who saved the Roman Emperor from a moneylender and won the hand of the Emperor's daughter.  It had many anachronistic jokes. The lion was funny. Alan Crosland directed.

"Little Red Riding Hood" was an adaption of the fairy tale done in silhouette.  When I hear of a silhouette film, I think of Lotte Reiniger's animated movies, but this film was done with live action. I noticed that in close shots, we could see some of the features of the actors.

Moving Picture World, 13-October-1917
"Quaint Provincetown" had some interesting views of life in a town inhabited by fishermen and artists.  It had no narrative flow.

Moving Picture World, 06-October-1917
"Microscopic Pond Life" was well photographed and nearly as exciting as you might expect.

The feature, Kidnapped, moves swiftly through the events of Stevenson's novel.  Raymond McKee was too old to play David Balfour, but he was fun to watch.  Joseph Burke played David's Uncle Ebeneezer in an over-the-top way, which was appropriate for the part.  Robert Cain was suitably colorful as Alan Breck.  The settings were frequently beautiful.  Alan Crosland directed.  So Raymond McKee and Alan Crosland were involved in this movie and "Friends, Romans and Leo."

Kidnapped: A Complete 1917 Night at the Movies is worth seeing and it makes a nice companion to the Kino box set Edison - The Invention of the Movies: 1891-1918.  I recommend it highly.

You can order it from Amazon.

I should take this opportunity to mention that Fritzi has also created a podcast which is worth a visit: