Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Our Teddy -- February 19, 2019

Moving Picture World, 01-February-1919
Belated happy Presidents' Day everyone.  Yesterday I was participating in a blogathon.

Former president Theodore Roosevelt died at his family home, Sagamore Hill, near Oyster Bay, New York 100 years ago last month, on 06-January-1919. He was only 60 years old. Vice President Thomas R Marshall said "Death had to take him in his sleep, for if he was awake there'd have been a fight."

Perhaps it is cynical of me, but I'll bet the producers of The Fighting Roosevelts, a movie about TR and life before the presidency, were not prostrated by the news. It probably helped business.

Moving Picture World, 01-February-1919
Across the top, we see photos of the real TR giving a speech.  Below we see scenes from the movie, including:
Roosevelt in the Legislature at twenty-three 
Roosevelt applying the law as New York Police Commissioner
Roosevelt selects future Admiral Sims
Roosevelt becomes a democrat among democrats in the far West
Roosevelt tenders Pres. McKinley his resignation as Asst. Sec'y of the Navy and goes to command the Rough Riders
Roosevelt floors a desperado

Moving Picture World, 01-February-1919
"The biggest box-office attraction since motion pictures began."

Moving Picture World, 01-February-1919
Moving Picture World, 08-February-1919
"The public will think it is a war picture..." so they changed the title.

Moving Picture World, 08-February-1919
I like this suggestion for a series of advertisements.

Moving Picture World, 22-February-1919
CLEAN UP CAMPAIGN FOR OUR TEDDY


Manager Shackman, of New York's Eighty-first Street,
Demonstrated the Value of Showmanship in Putting
Over Big Feature in House with Neighborhood Location

APPROXIMATELY five thousand new patrons of the class who rarely attend a motion picture theatre, four days of capacity business in a house seating twenty-four hundred, and a special Saturday morning matinee for school children which brought crowds so great that a detail of nine policemen was required to preserve order, are the results obtained by S. A. Shackman, owner and manager of the Eighty-first Street Theatre, at Eighty-first, street and Broadway, New York City, from an unusual campaign to put over "Our Teddy," the six-reel screen version of the life and accomplishments of Colonel Theodore Roosevelt, made by McClure Productions, Inc., and distributed by First National Exhibitors' Circuit.

Mr. Shackman changes his program twice a week. This gives him a three days' run for the first half, and four days for the second half of each week. "Our Teddy" was booked to open on Thursday and to close on Sunday night, making a four days' engagement. His theatre is in the heart of a thickly settled district, populated by well-to-do families, in the upper West Side.

Moving Picture World, 22-February-1919

Going Out for New Patrons.

For appeal to this class of patronage he has found that dignity and a certain element of conservatism are essential. His regular advertising mediums include car cards on the Broadway surface lines, five line insertions daily in the New York Times as the morning newspaper, and the Evening World for the afternoon publication, with larger space in the Sunday editions of both ; advance slides, and a variety of lobby display cards, hand lettered and arranged by himself. Supplementing these is the house program of sixteen pages, containing current and advance announcements. Occasionally he uses blotters for distribution to out-going patrons and among the apartment houses in the neighborhood. Window card displays in a dozen choice locations complete the list of regular methods of advertising and publicity.

"Here is a chance," Mr. Shackman said to his assistant, Mr. Gerard, after he had booked the Roosevelt picture, "to bring new patrons to the theatre. I believe that this production will appeal not alone to the 'regulars,' but to the thousands who still believe that motion pictures are beneath average amusement standards. There is the opportunity in 'Our Teddy' to interest them in screen entertainment. The possibility of results easily is worth the effort."

Made Study of Subject.

He then proceeded to analyze the production for novel advertising ideas. He had just been advised that a song had been written under the title of "Good-bye, Teddy Roosevelt, You Were a Real American." After reading the verse and chorus he hit upon the first of a series of new promotional plans that added five thousand potential "regulars" to his clientele.

The concluding scenes of "Our Teddy" show Colonel Roosevelt and his four sons in double exposures over a service star. The action pictures the part taken by each of the four boys in the world war.

With this for his premise Mr. Shackman began a search for a quartet of wounded soldiers. Commanding officers at several Base Hospitals in New York were consulted and four wounded men were finally located at Bast Hospital No. 1. They had sung in the hospitals in France during their convalescence.

Put Novelty in Lobby Display.

Beginning with the matinee on the Sunday preceding the opening of "Our Teddy," Mr. Shackman introduced them as "Pershing's Overseas Quartet.". Specific reference was made to the Roosevelt picture, and then the quartet sang the song while announcement and scene slides from the film were thrown on the screen. This was repeated at every performance.

Variety and novelty were sought for the lobby display. The idea finally approved by Mr. Shackman provided for a display portrait of Theodore Roosevelt, hung from the marquee and facing the street. In an apartment house opposite he placed a spot light which threw a strong light on the portrait after dark each night.

Made Use of Spot Light.

This received a great deal of attention from pedestrians on the opposite side of Broadway, and from a heavy automobile and surface car traffic. A similar portrait, draped with flags, was hung in the center of the marquee above the sidewalk for the attention of passers-by on the theatre side of Broadway.

He used a different style of lobby display, alternating the arrangements of material in the cards so that it appealed both to his regular patrons and to the new clientele he was seeking. Some of the frames contained lobby display photographs, while others were mounted with newspaper and magazine clippings, surrounding large portrait photos of the former President. These latter displays were given preferred position in the frames facing the streets at either side of the lobby.

School Campaign Well Planned.

The public schools were considered for a semi-educational and semi-entertainment appeal to the pupils. Mr. Shackman learned that within a radius of ten blocks of the theatre were schools with a registration of ten thousand children. A personal appeal was made to the principal of each of nine schools, and permission was obtained from them individually for the distribution of ten thousand blotters, announcing a special school children's matinee at 11 :30 o'clock Saturday morning.

To add interest to the occasion he extended an invitation to the New York Council of the Boy Scouts of America for its members to attend the special matinee as his guests. The New York Council has a band. He sought the leader, and arrangements were made for the band of thirty-five pieces to give a short patriotic concert as an overture for the picture. This fact was made a part of the copy on the blotters sent to the schools.

"A surprising feature of the school plan," said Mr. Shackman, "was the marked willingness of the principals to co-operate with me. They looked upon the production as something that every school pupil should see, and the fact that I was arranging a special matinee seemed to them to be the ideal way of presenting the picture to the children." There is an established rule in all New York public schools prohibiting the distribution of advertising matter of any character to the pupils, either outside the school or in the class rooms. Mr. Shackman's blotters were given out in the class rooms, at the direction of the principals, by the various class monitors.

Used Blotters to Advantage.

A cartoon by R. M. Brinkerhoff, picturing in entertaining style his impressions of the production, was the illustration used on the blotters, which were printed in two colors. The blotters were distributed on Tuesday, two days before the picture opened its four days' engagement. There was a practical legitimate purpose in this. Mr. Shackman was confident that every pupil would preserve the blotter for personal use, and that every one of the ten thousand would be certain to tell their parents about the matinee.

He was right. They did both; more effectively than he had dared to hope.

As a further effort to win the "once-in-a-whiles" Mr. Shackman increased the size of his newspaper space in a four days' campaign, starting on Wednesday, and continuing until Saturday. He used ads two columns by two inches in the Times and the Evening World. The copy was written to interest all classes of readers. Small line cuts of the situations drawn in cartoon by Brinkerhoff were used to illustrate the text.

Moving Picture World, 22-February-1919

Making Music Do Its Share.

Walter Davidson, musical director for the Eighty-first Street Theatre, arranged a musical score which included the "American Patrol" for the overture, various other patriotic airs, including "A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight," and an orchestral accompaniment of "Good-bye, Teddy Roosevelt, You Were a Real American." The enthusiasm of the audiences during the first half of the week satisfied Mr. Shackman that the "Pershing Quartet" would contribute to the atmosphere of the production by singing this song as an introduction, and again with the closing scene.


Got Capacity Opening.

The production started on Thursday to capacity business. On Friday the treasurer notified Mr. Shackman that the advance sale for Saturday and Sunday was far above normal. On Saturday morning, with the special matinee scheduled to begin at 11 :30 o'clock, Mr. Shackman arrived at the theatre at 9:30 o'clock to find the lobby and street jammed with children.

Moving Picture World, 22-February-1919
By 10 o'clock the crowd had grown to such proportions that it was becoming unmanageable, and he telephoned to a police station for assistance. Nine policemen responded, and they were kept busy for nearly two hours.

Sees Hundreds of New Faces.

"The production proved a truly wonderful attraction," said Mr. Shackman. "Mr. Gerard and I watched carefully at every matinee and evening performance, and we saw hundreds of new faces in line at the box office, people whom neither of us could remember ever having seen in the house before. I had arranged the remainder of my program so that these new patrons would be thoroughly pleased with the entire show. I wanted to convince them that the Eighty-first Street Theatre would be well worth their future consideration.

Children Were Home Advertisers.

"Undoubtedly the blotters distributed in the schools sent into the homes of thousands of families the news that the life of Colonel Roosevelt would be told in motion pictures at my house. I am positive that hundreds of fathers and mothers and older brothers and sisters of the school children came to the theatre before Saturday to satisfy themselves.

"It is too early yet to say how many new patrons will result from the campaign and the production, but I am satisfied that the number will be sufficient to more than justify the attempt."


Monday, February 18, 2019

Comique: Roscoe, Buster, Al and Luke -- February 18, 2019

Motion Picture Studio Directory and Trade Annual, 1918
This post is part of the Fifth Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon, hosted by Lea at Silent-ology. For the first annual blogathon, I wrote about Buster Keaton's time in vaudeville: The 3-4-5 Keatons. For the second annual blogathon, I wrote about Buster Keaton and the Passing Show of 1917, the show he signed for after leaving vaudeville. For the third annual blogathon, I wrote about Buster's transition from vaudeville to the movies, Buster Keaton: From Stage to Screen.   For the fourth annual blogathon, I wrote about Buster Keaton's time in the US Army: Buster Keaton Goes to War.

This time I chose to write about the Comique Film Corporation, the production company that gave Buster Keaton his first chance to work in motion pictures.

Be sure to click on most images to see larger versions.

I first became interested in Buster Keaton when I watched The General with my grandfather and he told me how much he had always liked Buster Keaton.

When I discovered that the Anza Branch Library had a shelf of books about movies, I found two books about Buster Keaton, Buster's memoir My Wonderful World of Slapstick and Rudi Blesh's Keaton. I read both and I enjoyed learning about his career in vaudeville and his career in the movies.

Buster had been part of the family's rough-house acrobatic comedy act since he was a young child.

Roscoe Arbuckle, who did not like to be called "Fatty," was a skilled comedian who started his movie career with Selig and Universal before he came to Keystone in 1913. While there, he made many movies with Mabel Normand. They were a good team. He also helped Charlie Chaplin learn the ropes of working in movies. Like many of Mack Sennett's stars, Arbuckle left to get a raise.

Motography, 07-October-1916
"The name of Mr. Arbuckle's concern will be the Comique Film Corporation and J. M. Schenck of the Loew enterprises be associated with him."  I find this interesting: "Mr. Arbuckle has a rather new idea in the starting of a company in that he is not going to have any stock company of players.  His entire force is going to consist of three people, himself, Al St. John and a girl -- and he didn't tell who the girl was, perhaps he doesn't know himself.  The rest of the players will be picked up as needed and dropped again after they have served their purpose."

New Movie Magazine, March, 1932
Joe Schenck was born in Russia.  He came to the US in 1892.  Joe and his brother Nick went into the amusement business, eventually owning the famous Palisades Park in New Jersey.  Joe and Nick became partners with Marcus Loew in operating movie theaters.

www.listal.com
In 1916, Joe married Norma Talmadge, who was becoming a big star at Vitagraph and Triangle.  In 1917, Joe became her producer and head of the Norma Talmadge Film Corporation.  They soon formed the Constance Talmadge Film Corporation to make movies with Norma's sister.

Exhibitor's Herald, 10-May-1924
Schenck's studio manager was Lou Anger, who had been a "Dutch" comic in vaudeville.  Dutch comics  used heavy German accents.  Anger persuaded Roscoe Arbuckle to sign a contract with a new production company named Comique.  Comique would share a studio with the two Talmadge companies.  Roscoe's nephew, Al St John, came along.

Motion Picture News, 07-April-1917
The Comique productions would be released through Paramount.  Anticipating big demand, this ad says "All any exhibitor has to do to get my comedies is to pay for them, whether he is now doing business with the Paramount Exchange or not."

Moving Picture World, 25-January-1919
Roscoe's dog Luke had worked with him at Keystone and then appeared in many of the Comiques.

Buster Keaton left his family's vaudeville act in January, 1917.  In February, Buster was in New York. He visited agent Max Hart and told him he was trying to find work as a single act. Hart was enthusiastic; he took Buster to see JJ Shubert, who offered Keaton a part in a big Broadway revue, The Passing Show of 1917, at $250 a week. Buster started to try to figure out how to do a single act.

from Buster's My Wonderful World of Slapstick: "But just a day or two before rehearsals were to start, I ran into Lou Anger, a Dutch comedian who had worked on vaudeville bills with us many times. Anger was with Roscoe (Fatty) Arbuckle, the screen comedian..."

Motography, 21-April-1917
Lou Anger took Buster to the busy studio, where they found Roscoe Arbuckle directing his first Comique production, "The Butcher Boy," set in a general store.  Roscoe gave Buster a role.  He would enter the store, where Roscoe and Al were throwing bags of flour at each other.  Roscoe threw one, Al ducked and Buster got hit in the face.  Roscoe's dog Luke also had a part. Roscoe directed "The Butcher Boy" and all of the other Comiques.

Motion Picture News, 26-My-1917
Buster Keaton did not appear in the second Comique production, "A Reckless Romeo."

Motion Picture News, 12-May-1917
George N Shorey's review of "A Reckless Romeo" is not positive.

Moving Picture World, 07-July-1917

While Buster Keaton did not appear in "A Reckless Romeo," he made up for it by appearing in two different roles in the third Comique film, "The Rough House."  This ad has a nice picture of Roscoe peeling spuds.

Moving Picture World, 14-July-1917
I think Roscoe is supposed to look like an auctioneer with a gavel in this ad.

Motion Picture News, 18-August-1917

"His Wedding Night" was the fourth Comique production.  I like the image of Roscoe, Alice Mann and Al.  Buster played a delivery boy.  .

Motion Picture News, 04-August-1917
Buster appears in drag.  Note that "Buster" is in quotes.

Motion Picture News, 29-September-1917
Moving Picture World, 06-October-1917
The next Comique production was "Oh! Doctor," which is sometimes listed as "Oh Doctor!". Roscoe poses with Alice Mann, who was playing a vamp.

Moving Picture World, 29-September-1917
Roscoe plays a doctor, and Buster plays his son.

Moving Picture World, 13-October-1917
Roscoe is trapped in the coils of the vamp's dress.

Moving Picture World, 13-October-1917
Once Roscoe finished his next movie, set at Coney Island, Comique was going to move to California.

Moving Picture World, 03-November-1917
In this ad for "Fatty at Coney Island," Roscoe poses in drag with Al St John. Roscoe's dog Luke makes a cameo appearance.

Moving Picture World, 20-October-1917
Buster appears in this illustration.  This movie is famous as one where Buster laughs.

Moving Picture World, 10-November-1917
Moving Picture World, 24-November-1917
Comique had moved to California and Roscoe had created an elaborate town set for his next movie. The use of the word "Jazz" in the name of the town is fairly early.

Moving Picture World, 08-December-1917

"A Country Hero," the first Comique production on the West Coast, is thought to be Buster Keaton's only lost film.

Moving Picture World, 08-December-1917
"Clean and Extremely Entertaining."

Moving Picture World, 29-December-1917
Roscoe and Al appear with a locomotive which has mashed an automobile.

Exhibitors Herald, 28-September-1918
The most famous American propaganda movie of World War One is "The Bond," a one-reeler produced and paid for by Charlie Chaplin. It was intended to encourage people to buy Liberty Bonds to support the war effort. I did not know until recently that it was one of a large group of such films starring many Hollywood luminaries including Sessue Hayakawa, Mary Pickford and Roscoe Arbuckle.

Moving Picture World, 05-October-1918
Roscoe's film was "A Scrap of Paper."  According to the IMDB  (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0463180/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_29), Roscoe confronts the Kaiser and the Crown Prince, played by Al St John, and tells them that scraps of paper (Liberty Bonds) will defeat Germany.  Buster Keaton did not appear in this movie.

Moving Picture World, 16-February-1918
Buster Keaton had a significant role in "Out West," an ambitious and funny western.

Moving Picture World, 12-January-1918
Scenes were shot in the desert and in a wild canyon near Long Beach.

Moving Picture World, 02-February-1918
"'Fatty,' stranded in a desert, subdues the bad men in 'Mad Dog Gulch' and with the help of a pretty girl reforms them all." Alice Lake was the Salvation Army girl.

Motion Picture World, 30-March-1918
"The Bell Boy" is one of my favorite Roscoe Arbuckle/Al St John/Buster Keaton movies. I wrote about half the movie for a blogathon in 2015. Some day I shall have to write about the other half:
Roscoe Arbuckle and Buster Keaton in "The Bell Boy"
http://bigvriotsquad.blogspot.com/2015/10/roscoe-arbuckle-and-buster-keaton-in.html

Motion Picture World, 30-March-1918
I particularly like the horse-drawn streetcar.

Moving Picture World, 13-April-1918
Buster Keaton was given a draft status of 1-A, meaning he was eligible to be drafted. "When Buster goes the screen will lose one its newer favorites; one who has more than made good from the first jump -- and he's more than a powerful jumper."

Hickory NC Daily Record, 20-August-1920
I couldn't find a trade ad for the next Comique production, "Moonshine."  Roscoe and Buster played Internal Revenue agents.  Al St John was a moonshiner.

Moving Picture World, 04-May-1918
Roscoe and his company were stuck in the mountains while making "Moonshine."

Alaska Daily Empire, 26-February-1919
"Good Night Nurse," the next Comique production, was billed above the feature Rimrock Jones which starred Wallace Reid.

Moving Picture World, 20-July-1918
Roscoe's wife commits him to a sanitorium (think rehab) to cure his drinking problem.  Buster Keaton was a doctor and Al St John was his assistant.

Moving Picture World, 20-July-1918
Roscoe gets away by dressing in drag.  Notice that Buster Keaton is smiling.

Paramount Comedy Releases Press Books (Sep 1918-Sep 1919)
Gordon Ramsey might not approve of Roscoe's kitchen in "The Cook."  Buster Keaton is his assistant and Alice Lake is the waitress.  Al St John tries to rob the place.  Roscoe's dog Luke plays a part.

Moving Picture World, 17-August-1918
One of the highlights of "The Cook" is Buster's Egyptian dance.

Moving Picture World, 07-December-1918
The Rialto Theater in Butte, Montana ran this ad for a double bill of Zane Grey's Riders of the Purple Sage and Roscoe Arbuckle's "The Cook."

Moving Picture World, 10-August-1918
Lou Anger announced a move to the Diando studios in Glendale "For the production of at least one picture at the plant."

Moving Picture World, 31-August-1918
"The Cook" was Buster's last Comique appearance for \a while as he left to do his duty to his country.
Paramount Comedy Releases Press Books (Sep 1918-Sep 1919)
"The Sheriff" does have Al St John or Buster Keaton.  Roscoe's leading lady is Betty Compson.  Roscoe's dog Luke appears.

Moving Picture World, 19-October-1918
Roscoe gets his law enforcement ideas from the movies of Douglas Fairbanks and William S Hart.

Paramount Comedy Releases Press Books (Sep 1918-Sep 1919)

"Camping Out" featured Roscoe and Al, but not Buster and Luke.

Moving Picture World, 28-December-1918
"Camping Out" was filmed on Catalina Island.

Moving Picture World, 11-January-1919
"The Village Chestnut" was a Mack Sennett production starring Louise Fazenda.

The Maui News, 30-May-1919
I haven't found much about "The Pullman Porter," which featured Roscoe and Al.

Paramount Comedy Releases Press Books (Sep 1918-Sep 1919)
In "Love," Roscoe and Al fight for the hand of Winifred Westover.  Buster was still in the Army and Luke did not appear.  This is the only non-Keaton Comique that I have seen.

Moving Picture World, 04-January-1919
Roscoe Arbuckle's new studio on Alessandro Street.

Paramount Comedy Releases Press Books (Sep 1918-Sep 1919)
I haven't found much about "The Bank Clerk."

Paramount Comedy Releases Press Books (Sep 1918-Sep 1919)
In "A Desert Hero," Roscoe became the sheriff of a town where the sheriffs had a life expectancy measured in minutes.

Moving Picture World, 30-August-1919
Buster was back in "Back Stage," one of the funniest Comique productions.

Moving Picture World, 12-July-1919
"Buster Keaton is back in the cast, with Al St. John, Mollie Malone and others to add to the hilarity."

Moving Picture World, 29-November-1919
"The Hayseed" featured Roscoe, Buster and Luke, but not Al.

Film Daily, 16-November-1919
Roscoe poses with Luke.

Moving Picture World, 17-January-1920
"The Garage" was the last movie featuring Roscoe, Buster and Luke.  Al St John did not appear.  It is one of the funniest Comiques.

Moving Picture World, 10-January-1920
"Things get underway with a high-speed action..."  The movie is very well paced.

Moving Picture World, 24-January-1920
"'The Garage' is the last comedy 'Fatty' made before his sojourn in more serious photodrama."  The higher-ups at Paramount had decided that Roscoe should star in feature films.  Joe Schenck handed the Comique company to Buster Keaton.  Roscoe made successful feature films until his scandal broke.  Buster Keaton made one of the two greatest series of short silent comedies.  The other was Chaplin's Mutual series.  Buster and Roscoe would work together a few more times.  Al St John was starring in short comedies for various producers and went on to become a beloved sidekick in hundreds of B Westerns.  Luke died in 1926.

If you want to see any of the Arbuckle-Keaton movies that are known to survive, I strongly recommend Kino's Arbuckle and Keaton Volume One and Volume Two. They have a nice score by the Alloy Orchestra. Get both volumes if you can.

This post is part of the Fifth Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon, hosted by Lea at Silent-ology. Thank you to Lea for all the hard work. Thank you to everyone who visited and I encourage you to read and comment on as many posts as you can. Bloggers love comments.