Thursday, December 31, 2015

One Minute, Please, To Change Reels -- December 31, 2015

Philadelphia Daily Ledger, 31-December-2015

I wish everyone a happy and peaceful New Year.  Father Time changes the reel from 1915 to 1916. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas Books -- December 29, 2015

I was lucky to receive three movie-related books for Christmas.  The heavyweight champ (15.4 pounds, according to Amazon), is The Charlie Chaplin Archives, edited by Paul Duncan, a selection of items from the actual Chaplin Archives including photos, stills, scripts and memos.  I'm looking forward to it. 

The smallest book (5"x7") is 100 Silent Films by Bryony Dixon.  When I was a young film fan, I enjoyed books like this, which would try to identify a list of films that people should see.  Sometimes they tried to identify the best movies, or silent movies.  I think that is an exercise in uselessness.  This book has an alphabetical list of 100 movies, devoting 2 or three pages to each.  I have skipped around a bit and enjoyed what I have read. 

The longest title was Distressed Damsels and Masked Maruaders/Cliffhanger Serials of the Silent-Movie Era by Ed Hulse.  I have so far only had an opportunity to glance through it, but it should be fun. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Phunphilms Produced by Rolin -- December 28, 2015

Moving Picture World, 11-December-1915

Rolin was a company founded by Hal Roach and Dan Linthicum. Harold Lloyd was their first comedy star. Bebe Daniels was their cute leading lady and Snub Pollard was Snub Pollard.

Lonesome Luke resembled Chaplin with some variations, like a thin mustache instead of a toothbrush, and tight pants instead of baggy. Luke appears in the image above.  I assume that the damsel in distress is Bebe Daniels. Snub appears in the image below. 

The films were released by Pathé.

Funny spellings like Phunphilms were popular in the Teens.  There was the Kissel Kar, for example.

Moving Picture World, 25-December-1915

Friday, December 25, 2015

News of the Week December 25, 1915 -- December 25, 2015

The 25-December-1915 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"King George of England and the Prince of Wales in Northeastern France.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  The man with the beard is King George V.  The other man is a French officer, not the Prince of Wales.

"Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ford just before the Oscar II sailed.   Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  Henry Ford was opposed to the war and wanted to inspire a peace conference.  Pacifist Rosika Schwimmer persuaded him to finance a Peace Ship to sail to Stockholm.  Oscar II sailed from New York on 04-December-1915.  Vicious fighting among the pacifists and an outbreak of influenza caused many problems.  Discouraged, Ford sailed back to the US. 

"Submarine ordered for Allies held in Charleston Navy Yard.  Copyright, 1915, Paramount News Pictures."  This is our first item from Paramount News Pictures.

"U. S. S. Milwaukee in new $1,000,000 dock at Oakland, Calif.  Copyright, 1915, Mutual Weekly."  Protected cruiser USS Milwaukee (C-21) was built by San Francisco's Union Iron Works.  Oakland had just wrested control of its port from the Southern Pacific Railroad. 

"Baby carriages parked outside of a motion picture theater in Watts, Calif.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."

"Peace ship Oscar II leaves for Europe.  Copyright, 1915, Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  See the item above about the Peace Ship.

A Christmas Carroll -- December 25, 2015

Moving Picture Magazine, January, 1929
Merry Christmas, everyone.  Peace on earth and goodwill to all.

Nancy Carroll started acting in silent movies, became a big star in early musicals, and developed into a strong dramatic actress. Personality conflicts with Hollywood producers shortened her career on film, but she spent the rest of her life working on the stage and in television.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Merry Christmas from Metro -- December 24, 2015

Moving Picture World, 18-December-1915
Metro Pictures Corporation wishes a Merry Christmas to its stars.  Stars include Ethel Barrymore and her brother Lionel,  Francis X Bushman and his frequent co-star, whom he later married, Beverly Bayne and Mary Miles Minter. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Spirit of Christmas And Its Practical Application -- December 23, 2015

VLSE (Vitagraph-Lubin-Selig-Essanay) was an effort by pioneer producers to compete with Paramount and Triangle. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Greetings to the Trade from Paramount Pictures Corporation -- December 22, 2015

Moving Picture World, 18-December-1915

Paramount Pictures Corporation extends "Greetings to the Trades/Christmas 1915." 

Friday, December 18, 2015

News of the Week December 18, 1915 -- December 18, 2015

The 18-December-1915 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"Seeking pearls in slime of White River, Arkansas.  Copyright, 1915, Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  People harvested pearls from freshwater mussels.  Production reached its peak in the 1920s.

"Results of the terrific tornado at Great Bend, Kansas.  Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  Great Bend, Kansas was hit by a huge tornado on 10-November-1915.

"Immense shell used on U. S. Warship.  Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  I think the Navy's biggest guns were 14-inch/50 caliber guns on the New Mexico class.

"Immense casting for world's largest telescope hauled to Carnegie Observatory, Mount Wilson, Calif.   Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  I assume this is part of the Hooker telescope at the  Mount Wilson Observatory, which had the largest aperture of any telescope.

"Ships ply at last on the Buffalo-Troy Canal after sixteen year's work and immense expenditure.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  I guess this could be part of the New York State Barge Canal. 

"Earl Cooper wins Exposition auto race.  Copyrighted, 1915, Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  On 26-November-1915, Earl Cooper won a 100-mile dirt track race at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.  Barney Oldfield got passed in the 98th lap and finished second. 

Whatever Success I Have, I Shall Attribute to Mr Chaplin -- December 18, 2015

Photoplay, December, 1915

Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance enjoy some time on the beach with Eddie Foy and someone alleged to be Roscoe Arbuckle.

Moving Picture World, 18-December-1915
"Burlesque on Carmen" became controversial when Essanay padded it from two reels to four with extra footage.

Photoplay, December, 1915
A Photoplay article had some nice photos of Edna. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder -- December 16, 2015

On December 5, we went to the Golden Gate Theater to see A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, a musical by Robert L Freedman and Steven Lutvak.  It was a cold dark night and we encountered heavy traffic on the 280 Extension.  Sixth Street was crammed with cars.  We went over to Fifth on Folsom and found it was crowded, too.  When we got towards Fifth and Mission, we saw a sign on the corner of the garage saying that it was full.  My wife and daughter consulted their smart phones and one suggested Ellis/O'Farrell.  We kept going on Fifth and Fifth Street North to O'Farrell and got to the garage.  They were doing valet parking to fit more cars.

We had dinner at Boudin's in the basement of Macy's and then walked over to the Golden Gate.  There was a big line the block before Taylor, but I figured it was for the Warfield. 

There was a good crowd.  We were surprised that there were children there.

The show was inspired by Arsenic and Old Lace.  The writers could not get the rights, so they went to the original novel.

There was a nice flexible set with a stage within the stage.  Character names were changed.  The main character was Monty Navarro, played by Kevin Massey and the aristocratic family was called D'Ysquith.  John Rapson does the Alec Guiness part, playing the eight members of the family who die, and one surprise member.  Sibella, played by Kristen Beth Williams, kept her name.  She is not Joan Greenwood, but she looked good and sang very well.

We were happy we went. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Grauman's Chinese -- Jack Benny -- December 14, 2015

Jack Benny, star of stage, screen, and radio, left his footprints in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese on 13-January-1941. "My heart belongs to Mary (his wife, Mary Livingstone) but my feet belong to Grauman." I love his radio show. DSCN4146.

His best movie was To Be or Not To Be with Carole Lombard, but he made many others.  This was the only Jack Benny movie directed by Ernst Lubitsch. 

I took this on 18-July-2009.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Frank Sinatra 100 -- December 12, 2015

Francis Albert Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey on 12-December-1915.  His father was Sicilian and his mother was Genovese.  An old Italian would tell you that this explains a lot.

I appreciated his movies before I appreciated his music.  MGM put him in several musicals.  My favorite is On the Town.

"The House I Live In" is a one reeler which makes a statement against prejudice in general and antisemitism in particular.
Sinatra did not star in 1953's From Here to Eternity, but it helped to bring him back from a low point in his career.
In 1954, Sinatra played an assassin in Suddenly.  He was convincing.
In 1962, Sinatra tried to stop an assassin in The Manchurian Candidate, which he also produced.  It was a wonderful movie which wasn't shown for a long time. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

News of the Week December 11, 1915 -- December 11, 2015

The 11-December-1915 Motography featured "News of the Week as Shown in Films," with items from current newsreels.

"Launching combination auto boat at San Francisco, Calif.  Copyright 1915, Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  Delia The Motor Duck was designed and built by Michael de Cosmo in San Francisco.

"Dr. H. J. Haiselden, who refused to save the life of a mentally defective baby.   Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  On 12-November-1915, Harry John Haiselde, chief of surgery at the German-American Hospital, refused to perform surgery that could have saved the life of a newborn with birth defects.  This sparked a big debate, and he played himself in a 1917 movie.

"Troops of Winnipeg, Canada, just before leaving for the scenes of war.  Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  Canada provided an important part of the British Empire's forces in the war.

"Mimic hotel burned as part of harvest festival at Atlanta, Ga.  Copyright 1915, Hearst-Selig News Pictorial."  Suffragettes marched for the vote at the 1915 Atlanta Harvest Festival.

"Largest engine in the world put into service.  Copyright 1915 by Pathe News."  This does not look like the Virginian's triplex 2-8-8-8-4 locomotive.

"Liberty Bell leaves San Francisco for Philadelphia.  Copyright 1915 by Universal Animated Weekly."  The Liberty came to San Francisco for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Two Triangle Houses -- December 10, 2015

Moving Picture World, 27-November-1915
The Triangle Film Corporation was founded by Harry and Roy Aitken to distribute films produced by three of the leading men in Hollywood, Mack Sennett, Thomas Ince and DW Griffith.  Each was supposed to supervise (produce) a movie for each weekly program. Manhattan's Knickerbocker Theater hosted the first program.  I like the advertising on the walls of the Brooklyn house. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

From Chaos to Cliff -- December 8, 2015Ph

Photoplay, December, 1915

I don't know if this is the Famous Players studio on 26th street that is shown burned above.  The spot shown on 225th Street is not the Astoria Studios. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

In Harm's Way -- December 7, 2015
74 years ago a sneak attack by forces of the Japanese Empire sank much of the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in the territory of Hawaii. The Japanese Empire came to regret doing this.
Otto Preminger's In Harm's Way was the last big World War Two epic shot in black and white.  It starred John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Patricia Neal and a host of others.  Critics didn't like the movie and Kirk Douglas thought the special effects in the final battle were amateurish, but I enjoyed.  It starts in Hawaii before Pearl Harbor and shows how the US Navy adjusted to war.  I assume that Saul Bass designed the poster. 

Eli Wallach 100 -- December 7, 2015

Today is both Pearl Harbor Day and actor Eli Wallach's 100th birthday, so he celebrated his 26th birthday on the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked.

He lived to be 98.  I'll just recycle what I wrote in 2014:

Actor Eli Wallach died at age 98.  He was a pioneering method actor and a World War II veteran.  He performed in Tennessee Williams (Baby Doll), Arthur Miller (The Misfits), Joseph Conrad (Lord Jim) and Mario Puzo (The Godfather Part III), but people who heard about his passing talked about The Magnificent Seven and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.  They especially talk about Tuco in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

They remember scenes like Tuco in the bubble bath.  The one armed man enters the room.  "I've been looking for you for 8 months. Whenever I should have had a gun in my right hand, I thought of you. Now I find you in exactly the position that suits me. I had lots of time to learn to shoot with my left."

Tuco shoots him with a gun he held in the bubbles.  "When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk."

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Tom Mix in The Great K&A Train Robbery -- December 5, 2015

This post is part of The "Try It, You’ll Like It!" Blogathon, hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently ( and Janet at Sister Celluloid (  They want to put together a list that can be used by anyone to proselytize for classic films.
 I became interested in silent films when I was very young, perhaps because I watched The General on television with my grandfather and he told me how much he liked Buster KeatonI don't think anyone else tried to get me interested.
On the other other hand, I have tried to share my love for silent and other classic films with many people over the years.  One of the first dates I took my wife on was to a Charlie Chaplin festival at the Surf Theater in San Francisco.  When she cried at the end of City Lights, I knew she was a keeper.

I am happy that my daughter's two favorite movies are Bringing Up Baby and Roman Holiday.   They aren't silent, but I try to be broad-minded. 

Moving Picture Magazine, November, 1928
I was able to introduce several people to silent movies in a great environment by taking them to the Friday night shows at San Francisco's Avenue Theater.  Several friends saw silent movies accompanied on the Mighty Wurlitzer by Bob Vaughn.  Wings made a big hit with my high school friends.

Nowadays the Avenue Theater is a church.  There aren't many public places left to go see old movies, but we have Turner Classic Movies, streaming video and DVD/Blu Ray disks.  I have had some luck showing people items from Ben Model's Accidentally Preserved series.  My wife used to teach public speaking and acting during the summer.  She always showed the acting class at least one silent comedy so they could get the idea of non-verbal acting.

Cine-Mundial, February, 1921

When Fritzi and Janet announced this blogathon, I tried to think of a good movie to write about, one that could get people interested in old movies.  I thought, who made movies that everyone found entertaining?  Who was a big star in the silent era, but isn't so well known now?  I thought of Tom Mix.

Tom Mix was the biggest cowboy star in silent movies.  In fact, he was one of the biggest stars of all.  He told many stories about his early life and most of them were not true.  His name really was Tom Mix.  He was not born in the west; he was born in Mix Run, Pennsylvania.  He did serve in the US Army during the period of the Spanish American War, but he was not one of Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders and he did not serve overseas.  He did not serve in the British Army or Boer army or break horses for either side during the Boer War.  He did not serve during the Boxer Rebellion.  He was not a federal marshal, although he was a deputy sheriff for a time.  He was not a Texas Ranger until a governor gave him an honorary appointment during the 1930s.  He did serve as a cowboy on the Miller Brothers' 101 Ranch and became part of their traveling wild west show.  Mix displayed wonderful talents for riding and shooting.  He was also a great showman.

In October, 1909, Tom Mix left the Miller Brothers to join the Selig Polyscope Company to make western movies.  First he played supporting parts and did stunts, but in a few years he was writing, directing and starring in movies like "An Angelic Attitude" and "Way of the Red Man." These are entertaining movies but fairly primitive.  Tom was not a very good writer or director.

In 1917, Mix left Selig and went to the Fox Film Corporation.  Mix made features for Fox, and the well-budgeted films became very popular.  There was always lots of action, lots of humor and Tony the Wonder Horse.  Most of his Fox films were destroyed in a 1937 film vault fire.  The Great K&A Train Robbery from 1926 is one of the small number that survives.  It is a good one. I decided that I would write about it for this blogathon.  

The Great K&A Train Robbery would be an excellent film to introduce people to silent movies for several reasons:

Please Note:  I was going to do some screen captures, but my dvd/blu ray drive is hors de combat

1.  Settings that are real and beautiful.  

At the beginning of the film, an intertitle says "The exterior scenes of this production were photographed in the Royal Gorge of Colorado, U.S.A."  Royal Gorge is a deep and narrow canyon on the Arkansas River.  Most of the exteriors feature the river, the walls of the canyon, and the railroad that ran through it.

2.  The railroad that ran through it. 

The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad fought for two years with the Santa Fe Railroad to determine who would build a railroad line through the narrow gorge to reach the boom town of Leadville.  The federal government intervened and the Denver and Rio Grande built the line, but had to give the Santa Fe trackage rights so they could use it, too.  The line opened for service in 1880.

The scenes of railroad action in the gorge are of particular interest to my fellow railfans because, when the Union Pacific Railroad took over the Denver and Rio Grande in 1996, it abandoned the Royal Gorge line.  In 1998, the Union Pacific sold part of the line to the Royal Gorge Railroad, a tourist train operator.

The railroad scenes also include big steam locomotives, many types of passenger, express and freight cars, a handcar, and other pieces of equipment.

3.  Lots of real action. 

The movie races along at a rapid rate and the only obvious special effect that I saw took place when Tom Mix was carrying the heroine on a horse.  The background appeared to be a cyclorama.

Film Daily, 05-October-1926
Otherwise, things were done for real.  This ad shows Tom Mix sliding across the Gorge on a rope.  That is really Tom Mix.

4.  Signs of the times when the movie was made. 

Students of sociology will be interested in the way some of the characters are presented.

Cullen is the president of the railroad. An intertitle introduces another character: "Burton Holt -- Cullen's secretary.  If he's a college man -- it must have been Vassar.  Carl Miller"  Vassar was a girl's school.  Intertitles often told who played a character.  Carl Miller had played a role in Chaplin's The Kid.  Beyond the intertitle, he didn't act in an effeminate manner, but he did get scared easily and later was made to dress in a nightshirt while in the villain's hideout.

The steward in President Cullen's private car is introduced as "Snowball -- One of the few dark clouds without a silver lining."  Notice that the name of the African-American actor playing the steward, Curtis McHenry, is not mentioned in the intertitle.  He demonstrates many stereotypes that were popular at the time.  He leaps in fright when the conductor taps his shoulder.  The conductor asks if he is scared of the robbers.  "Who, me?  No suh -- this here cullud boy is all set.  Hold me up an' ah'll germinate."  He speaks in broken English.  He demonstrates a pistol that will pop out of the back of his jacket when he pulls a string.  Later this fires unexpectedly and he jumps off the back of the train and runs away down the tracks. 

A hobo is seen under a train car, relaxing on a nice hammock.  "Deluxe Harry -- Who wouldn't think of riding under anything less than the president's car.  Harry Grippe."  Hobos, men who travel the country looking for work or just to travel the country, have been part of American popular culture since the late 19th Century.   Keep in mind that a hobo is not usually a criminal like a tramp.  Deluxe Harry later turns out to have served in World War One under Tom Mix's character.  This scene appears to have been shot underneath a railroad car, which would have been very dangerous.

5.  The leading lady is Larry Semon's wife.

Dorothy Dwan was an actress who is best remembered today for playing Dorothy in her husband's peculiar production of The Wizard of Oz.  Larry Semon was a popular comedian who lost his footing in the 1920s.  He was making a comeback as a character actor when he died in 1928 at the age of 39.

Dorothy Dwan plays Madge Cullen, the daughter of President Cullen.  She is feisty, and fights hard when Tom chases her buggy in an effort to save her from a gang which plans to kidnap her.  He is a railroad detective who pretends to be a bandit.  She has romantic notions and looks at a book that has a picture of Dick Turpin, an 18th Century British highwayman.  Tom Mix had played Dick Turpin in a 1925 movie.

Cullen wants Madge to marry Burton Holt.  Madge is nauseated by the prospect. 

6.  Tony.
"Tony -- Whose human intelligence aids his master in his perilous work" introduce Tom's horse Tony, who really was a wonder. People who love horses, and even people who don't, will love Tony.

Film Daily, 06-April-1926
 Some of their movies centered around Tony, like Tony Runs Wild

Tom goes to spy on Cullen's hacienda.  He tells Deluxe Harry to watch Tony, because Tony always wants to go with Tom.  Tom gets spotted by ranch hands and a gunfight breaks out.  Tony breaks away and runs for the house.  Deluxe Harry runs after Tony.  Tony finds Tom and Deluxe Harry in the house.  They climb on Tony's back.  Tony jumps out of a window and falls ten feet or more into the deepest lily pond I have ever seen.  They all climb out of the pond and the men mount up again.  Tony jumps over the gate carrying two men and runs down the road.

Later, Tom rides Tony along the road across the rapids from the tracks.  Tom learns that the train is going to be robbed.  Tom climbs into a hanging bucket and rides it across the river.  Tony runs along the road until he finds a bridge where he can cross.  Then Tony runs along the tracks until he finds Tom. The delighted look on Tom's face when he spots Tony appears to be genuine. 

 7.  Tom Mix
Then there was Tom Mix.  He wasn't a great actor, but he was sincere.  His smile lit up the screen.  And look at his cultural influence.  Peter Blake and Jann Haworth designed the album cover for the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, inspired by a drawing by Paul McCartney. Among the celebrities in the collage is Tom Mix.  Look for the big white hat. 

The Great K&A Train Robbery would be an excellent film to introduce people to silent movies because it has something for many different potential audiences and it moves along so quickly that no one will ever get bored.

I watched it on a Grapevine DVD with a nice quality print and an orchestral track by Lou McMahon.  For comparison, the DVD includes one of Tom's primitive Selig shorts, "An Angelic Attitude" from 1916. 

This post is part of The "Try It, You’ll Like It!" Blogathon, hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently ( and Janet at Sister Celluloid (  Thank you to Fritzi and Janet 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.  

This post is my tenth blogathon post of 2015 and my 41st since 2007.  This is my 23nd blogathon.    This page has a list of all my blogathon posts.