Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Theda Bara as Cleopatra -- May 31, 2017

Moving Picture World, 05-May-1917
In May, 1917, everyone was looking forward to the Fox release of Theda Bara, "the world's supreme vampire queen," as Cleopatra.  Sadly, the movie is considered lost.  Lots of people hope it will turn up one day. 

Moving Picture World, 05-May-1917
Director J Gordon Edwards "has made all of Miss Bara's super de luxe pictures." 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Glory -- May 29, 2017

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.  I thought this was a good day to write about the 1989 film Glory, which told the story of the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first Union Army units made up of African-American soldiers. Matthew Broderick played idealistic Colonel Robert Gould Shaw. Morgan Freeman played Sergeant Major John Rawlins. Denzel Washington played Private Silas Tripp, an escaped slave. Andre Braugher played educated Corporal Thomas Searles, a friend of Gould's.

The regiment fought against discrimination by the Union Army during its training and initial deployment to South Carolina.  Gould fought for permission for them to fight in the line.  After applying a little righteous blackmail, he succeeded.  The regiment fought well, and wound up leading the charge against Fort Wagner near Charleston.  The attack failed and many in the regiment died, but they removed all doubt that African-Americans could fight.
Happy 100th birthday to President John F Kennedy.  He was a World War II veteran, who had served on PT boats in the Pacific Theater.  He loved boats.  One of my earliest memories is of my mother crying while watching his funeral on television.  When I grew up, many homes that I visited had a photo of him hanging on a wall.  Later reports indicated that he was not always a nice person, but he deserved to live and watch his family grow up.  Many people see his murder as the beginning of a very bad decade.  I enjoyed PT 109

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Kinematoscope -- May 27, 2017

From The Story of the Motion Picture: 65 B.C. to 1920 A.D. by Ben Jehudah Lubschez. 

I don't see how Coleman Sellars achieved  intermittent motion with this device. 


PARALLEL with the development of presenting the illusion of motion in pictures, was the study of the analysis of motion. It is this study which ultimately led, thru photography and in combination with the experiments in presentation of the optical illusion of motion in pictures, to the moving picture as we know it today. As early as 1852 a Mr. Wenham obtained a series of posed photographs showing the successive positions of a man working. These were later combined and shown by means of the Phenakistoscope with, of course, the unavoidable distortion and blur. The workman who posed for the pictures viewed the result and very indignantly asserted that he never worked like that! From now on, devices for taking and presenting photographs of motion phases were constantly appearing.

The most interesting of the early experiments, perhaps, were those of Dr. Sellers mentioned before. Most interesting because they were developed in such a scholarly way and led to the discovery of many of the essential principles involved. Dr. Sellers was a manufacturer of machines and machine tools in Philadelphia. He was disappointed in the woodcut as a method of illustrating the machines he manufactured, and was vitally interested in photography from its very beginnings. The photograph was better than the wood-cut for his purpose, but still it was not realistic enough, so he turned to the stereoscope; this was a great step towards his goal, it gave relief and separated the planes in his pictures.

Only one thing was left: if he could only show the levers and wheels apparently in motion! To this Dr. Sellers turned his thoughts, and with marked success as we shall see. He obtained posed photographs of his two sons, Coleman, Jr. and Horace Wells,— Coleman, Jr. busily driving a nail into a box and Horace watching his elder brother from the comfort of a rocking chair. In making these posed photographs with the old wet-plate process, the plates would often dry and become useless between exposures so Dr. Sellers perfected the glycerine bath which kept his plate moist for a comparatively long time and ultimately led to the manufacture of the so-called dry plate in use now, but all this was only a by-product.

The next step, after having the photographs of several phases of motion, was to have a way of presenting them in combination so as to show the illusion of apparent motion. Dr. Sellers tried devices on the order of the Zoetrope but both the blur and distortion were objectionable. He soon diagnosed the trouble and discovered probably the most important principle in the showing of motion pictures: that the picture of the series which was at the moment being viewed should be at rest during that moment, in other words, that the movement of the pictures themselves should be intermittent rather than continuous. In 1861 Dr. Sellers patented his Kinematoscope, the first use of "kinema" in this connection. It is interesting to note that this machine did not really employ intermittent motion, but a peculiarly arranged continuous forward motion which was apparently intermittent. The Kinematoscope was a paddle-wheel arrangement with the different photographs mounted on the surface of the paddles. The eyepiece was really the eyepiece of a stereoscope, and the photographs were the familiar double stereoscopic kind. By means of a knob, the pictures were turned towards the eyepiece, the eye gradually adjusting its focus to the advancing picture so that the effect was the same as if it were at rest. At a certain point one picture suddenly left the field of view and the next appeared.

Dr. Sellers obtained really remarkable results with the use of but few phases of motion, usually only three. Dr. Sellers in his patent application stated for the first time the fundamental requirements of showing the illusion of motion in pictures, "that it is absolutely necessary that the picture should be at rest during the moment of vision" and that there must be shown "a succession of pictures (taken in different positions of the moving object) with sufficient rapidity to insure the image of one being retained on the retina until the next is brought into view." Three years after Dr. Sellers' patent, Ducos obtained a French patent and also clearly stated the principle of persistence of vision involved. Dr. Sellers also provided in his patent application for another device to carry many more pictures than was possible with the paddle-wheel arrangement, and this was undoubtedly the prototype of the machines in use in amusement places throughout the country until quite recent years, machines with lens eyepieces and with the photographs turned or changed by motor or clock-work.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Linder Ill, Stops Work -- May 25, 2017

Motion Picture World, 05-May-1917

"Hits His Real Stride!" 

Motion Picture World, 05-May-1917
"Typical Linder Stuff in a Comic Picture Full of Laughter." 

Motion Picture World, 12-May-1917
"Max Linder's Masterpiece is 'Max in a Taxi'." 

Motion Picture World, 19-May-1917
"Owing to the illness of Max Linder, the announcement is made by George K Spoor, president of Essanay, that further releases of the famous European comedian's pictures have been indefinitely postponed." 

Motion Picture World, 26-May-1917
"More action than former releases."  I love the photo of Max, who appears to be sitting on the hood of a taxi. 

Motion Picture World, 26-May-1917
"Max Linder Reported Improved."  Despite this, the fourth Essanay production did not happen. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sir Roger Moore, RIP -- May 24, 2017

I was sad to learn of the death of Sir Roger Moore.  I enjoyed almost everything I saw him in.  I was very happy to read that he didn't like guns.

I didn't see The Saint when it was on its first run.  The first movie I saw him in was Live and Let Die at the Alexandria.  This was the first James Bond movie I saw in a theater.  I had seen Goldfinger on television, but I wasn't prejudiced in favor of Sean Connery.  It was interesting to see a different person play the part. 

I think the only other Moore/Bond movies I saw in the theater were The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker
 In 1976, Roger Moore played Sherlock Holmes in a television movie, Sherlock Holmes in New York.  Patrick Macnee played Doctor Watson.  I made sure to watch it. 

He did a lot of work for UNICEF and was knighted for it.  Well deserved. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Cure -- May 23, 2017

Motography, 12-May-1917

Some exhibitors were very happy with Chaplin's "The Cure." 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Greatest Show on Earth -- May 21, 2017

Tonight the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. the Greatest Show on Earth, will hold its final performance at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island, New York. My parents took me and my sister every year to see the circus at the Cow Palace. I can still smell it. 

Cecil B DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth was inspired by the 06-July-1944 Hartford Fire,which destroyed the big top, which been waterproofed with flammable materials, and killed more than 160 people. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Patria -- Keeps Bringing Them Back -- May 19, 2017

Moving Picture World, 05-May-1917
The Wharton Brothers produced Patria, a fifteen-chapter serial starring Irene Castle, for William Randolph Hearst.  Warner Oland, who made a career out of playing Asian parts, was a Japanese spy.  Baron Huroki and his spy ring wants to destroy American munitions plants, many of which are owned by Patria Channing, who was played by Irene Castle.  Milton Sills is a Secret Service agent who is after the spy ring.  At one point in the serial, the Japanese ally with Mexico to attack the United States.  While the film was being released, President Woodrow Wilson learned about the themes of the film and asked the producers to change the nationalities of many of the characters.

Irene Castle had become famous, with her husband Vernon, as a ballroom dancer.  He left the act in early 1916 to return to his native Britain, where he joined the Royal Flying Corps.  He was a successful pilot, earning the Croix de Guerre.  He was sent to Canada and then the United States to train new pilots.  He died in a flying accident in 1918.

Moving Picture World, 28-April-1917
 After Patria, Irene Castle went on to perform in feature films. 

Moving Picture World, 19-May-1917

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Exclusive Motion Pictures of the Sensational 6 Round Knockout -- May 17, 2017

Film Daily, 25-June-1938

Future heavyweight champ, Joe Louis, the Brown Bomber, fought former heavyweight champ, Primo Carnera, the Ambling Alp, on 25-June-1935.  Joe Louis may have been the greatest heavyweight boxer of all.  Primo Carnera was a giant, but he wasn't much of a fighter and he often lost when his fights were not fixed.  Joe Louis won by a KO in the sixth round. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tim Pigott-Smith and Powers Boothe, RIP -- May 16,2017
Sunday night we watched the Masterpiece Theater adaption of Mike Bartlett's King Charles III.  It lived up to the reviews of the production that came to San Francisco.  I had forgotten that it was in blank verse.  After it ended and before some cast interviews, my wife noticed a title that said it was dedicated to the memory of Tim Pigott-Smith, who had played King Charles.  I looked it up and learned that he had died last month.  I didn't see anything about it. 

I remember him from The Jewel in the Crown, many Shakespeare productions, and lots of British mystery shows.

Monday I learned that Powers Boothe had died.  When I first heard of him, I thought his name was a put-on, but it was his real name.  I first remember him from a television movie about Jim Jones.  The Chronicle ran a photo of Boothe wearing sunglasses that scared me.  He was good playing Philip Marlowe in an HBO series. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Mo-Toy Magic -- May 15, 2017

Moving Picture World, 05-May-1917
I have not been able to find out much about the Peter Pan Film Corporation and its Mo-Toy Comedies, but the movies appear to use object animation.  I was never very good at drawing, so I have always been partial to object animation.

Moving Picture World, 19-May-1917

Sunday, May 14, 2017

North by Northwest -- May 14, 2017

Happy Mothers' Day, everyone.  I'm grateful for my mother and my wife and my mother-in-law and sisters-in-law and cousins and friends. All excellent mothers.

Jessie Royce Landis played Clara Thornhill, mother of Roger, the hero of Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest.It was not a large part, but she made it clear how Roger grew up the way he did. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima -- May 13, 2017

100 years ago today, on 13-May-1917, three children tending sheep near the Portuguese village of Fatima saw a woman in white who asked them to pray the rosary and ask for an end to the war. Lúcia Santos and her cousins, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, saw the lady on other occasions and came to believe that she was Mary the Mother of God.

Gilbert Roland played a family friend who got his faith back because of the apparition.

I thought it was a pretty good movie, but Lúcia, who became a nun, said she didn't like it. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Flashlight -- May 11, 2017

Moving Picture World, 05-May-1917

I like the design for this Bluebird Photoplays ad for The Flashlight, which starred Dorothy Phillips and Lon Chaney.  It was directed by Ida May Park, whose name I don't remember seeing before.  The movie is probably lost.

Moving Picture World, 19-May-1917

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Grauman's Chinese -- Joan Blondell and Dick Powell -- May 9, 2017

In July, 2012 we paid a return visit to Hollywood and Grauman's Chinese Theater.  Sid Grauman was a San Francisco showman who came to Los Angeles and built three major houses, the Million Dollar, the Egyptian, and the Chinese. The theater has hosted many film premieres, but is most famous for the hand and footprints (and hoofprints and nose prints and other types of prints) in the forecourt.
Musical stars Joan Blondell and Dick Powell, who were married at the time, left their hand and footprints in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese on 10-February-1937.   "Thanks a million Sid" wrote Dick Powell.  "Thanks two million!" wrote Joan Blondell.
 Joan Blondell and Dick Powell at Grauman's Chinese.
Joan Blondell and Guy Kibbee.
 Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell and Dick Powell.


Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Merry Widower -- May 7, 2017

Film Daily, 26-July-1926

"The Merry Widower" was a 1926 short comedy produced by Hal Roach.  The film starred James Finlayson, who is best-remembered for supporting Laurel and Hardy and Ethel Clayton, who had been a big star in the late Teens.  

A note at the bottom of this ad says that it is a cornerblock provided to theaters to use in newspaper advertising.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Allá en el Rancho Grande -- May 5, 2017

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone. The 1936 version of Allá en el Rancho Grande was the first movie of Mexico's Golden Age of Cinema. It starred Tito Guízar and Esther Fernández.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Lorna Gray/Adrian Booth, RIP -- May 4, 2017

I was sad to learn of the death of beautiful Lorna Gray, who later appeared as Adrian Booth.  She made many movies for Columbia, appearing in shorts with the Three Stooges and Buster Keaton.  For Republic, she appeared in westerns and serials.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ormer Locklear, Premier Acrobat of the Air -- May 3, 2017

Aircraft Journal, 07-June-1919

After serving in the US Army Air Service during World War I, Ormer Locklear became a barnstormer who specialized in wing walking. He and his partner Milton (Skeets) Elliot toured the country thrilling audiences. The Great Air Robbery was Locklear's first starring movie role. While shooting his second starring movie, The Skywayman (great title), pilot Elliot was blinded by spotlights during a night dive and both men were killed. The producers left the scene in the movie.  

Josephus Daniels was the Secretary of the Navy. Harry Hawker, who had been chief test pilot for Sopwith, tried to fly non-stop across the Atlantic on 18-May-1919.  His plane crashed in the ocean and Hawker and his navigator had to be rescued.  Hawker criticized the first transatlantic flight, made in May, 1919 by a group of US Navy flying boats.  It was not a non-stop flight and it was not intended to be one. 

Ormer Locklear, Premier Acrobat of the Air

Thrilling Feats Performed by Him and Others Before the Memorial Day Spectators at Sheepshead Bay

Lieut. Ormer Locklear trifled with death standing erect on the upper wing of a speeding airplane and later jumped from one plane to another, May 30, at Sheepshead Bay Speedway.

Lieutenant Locklear’s feats were the most sensational in the view of most of the crowd, but the aerial antics of Lieuts. Shirley Short and Milton Elliott, his pilots, and of Jean Momenjoz, caused the worst shudders to army and navy aviators in the crowd. Lieutenant Elliott, especially, took a long chance on his skill with the stick, when, starting at a thousand feet he come downward, his machine rolling around, upside down, with wings vertical, tail downward, and every which way, seemingly absolutely out of control, but actually under the most rigid guidance. He finished less than 200 feet from the ground with an Immelman turn and a few other rotations which seemed like certain death.

Locklear’s Daring Feat

Lieutenant Locklear’s most daring trick came at the end of the program. Curtiss plane No. 7, with Lieutenant Elliott at the stick, on whose eye and arm Locklear usually depends most for his safety, went out of commission just before the aerial derby, so he went up in the plane of Lieut. H. B. Shields. Higher and higher the plane mounted, followed by another Curtiss plane piloted by Lieutenant Short.

Finally at probably a thousand feet Lieutenant Short dropped over the side a flimsy looking rope ladder, which was sent whirling backward by the force of the speed of the plane. Then the risky work began, the business of getting the two speeding planes sufficiently near and yet not near enough for the collision which would mean death for three men. To add to their difficulty the two pilots, their planes making better than 60 miles an hour, must get together at just the right time so that the public, sitting comfortably in the stands, could see the whole thing at as close range as possible.

Black against the blue sky the figure of Lieutenant Locklear suddenly appeared in the upper wing of Shields’ plane. He stood erect, his body inclined against the rush of air which would throw an average man to his face on the ground, his arms stretched outward and his head up, with eyes fixed on the swaying ladder dangling from the plane above. Slowly, almost imperceptibly the machines drifted together, while Locklear somehow retained his footing on the smooth, curving surface of the plane.

Has No Imitators

Then the ladder swung for an instant within reach. Locklear grasped at it, and as he did so the plane below dived downward and the one above loomed upward with his body swinging below the ladder. He had successfully accomplished once more the feat in which he has as yet no imitators.

Lieutenant Locklear had begun his exhibition in or rather on Lieutenant Elliott’s plane at a much lower altitude, walking out on the lower wing and thrusting one arm and leg outward into space, standing erect on the upper wing, sliding down to the tail and crawling up again and dangling by his knees from the axle of the plane with head downward.

The Aerial Derby

Four men started in the aerial derby, an alleged race of 20 miles in which the pilots, Domonjoz and Lieutenants Shields, Short and Micelli, rested themselves and their spectators by some straight flying. Little Domonjoz and his Bleriot, which, it is said, is a 1913 model, were left far behind by the other pilots. To soothe his feeling Domonjoz left the race flat and went further aloft to comfort himself and soothe his machine by a little more upside down flying. He refused to come down until long after the race was over and Locklear was about to perform his most dangerous trick.

The other pilots buzzed around the 2-mile track and over the stand about ten times, and then speeded up for the finish, making real speed for a few moments. Lieutenant Shields was officially first, with Lieutenants Short and Micelli following. The time was 16 minutes 45 seconds.


Resents Hawker’s Slur

Ormer Locklear, airplane acrobat, has wired to Secretary Daniels as follows:

“Like all red-blooded Americans, I resent the slur cast by Mr. Hawker on the great flight across the Atlantic by our naval fliers. To prove that Britain has no corner on courage among fliers I deeply desire to make an attempt to fly to Europe under conditions identical with those surrounding the Hawker attempt. I wish no convoys nor assistance from the government, except to be supplied with an able navigator. I am sure there are many men in your service who gladly will volunteer to make the trip with me. I am asking the American airplane and motor builders to join me in the attempt.

“I propose to defray all my personal expenses, pledge the London Daily Mail prize, if won, to the Red Cross, and agree not to accept one penny from any source as a reward.”

Locklear purposes to start within thirty days without any long drawn out preliminaries.

Monday, May 1, 2017

1900 - May 1, 2017

Happy International Workers' Day to all. 

I remember going to see Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900 in the theater.  It seemed strange to see Robert De Niro, Gérard Depardieu and Donald Sutherland in an Italian movie.  The story told of two boys born in 1901,  on the day that Verdi died.  One was the son of the landowner and the other was the son of a peasant.  They grew up friends, but after World War One, the new overseer was a Fascist, who made life terrible for the workers.  He got his after World War Two.  I would like to see it again.