Monday, September 30, 2019

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Who Had the First Picture Show? -- September 29,.2019

Moving Picture World, September 13, 1919

Who Had the First Picture Show?

None Other Than Comanches and Cherokees Who Saw
Their Stone Daubings Flash in Fire of Oil-Soaked
Shale in "No-He-Go-Mah," Place of Painted Rocks

By Phil Fox

THE first picture show in America — in existence years before the sunbeams flashed from the armor of La Salle and his intrepid troop as they tediously navigated turgid South-western currents — is still operating in Texas.

Before its vast amphitheatre it displays the greatest screen on the continent. Between the flash and shadow of its pictures, fierce Comanches and Cherokees, smeared with ochre, once danced and whooped with the scalps of their enemies hanging to their belts.


"No-He-Go-Mah," the Place of the Painted Rocks, is the earliest picture show in history and perhaps the only place in the world where pictures that move are portrayed naturally.

The Place of the Painted Rocks is located near Paint Rock in Conche County, Texas, and according to the legend of the town, for years untold Indian tribes have gathered for their ceremonials before a vast ridge of shale-like rock, burning and glowing perpetually through internal combustion.
Glow from Oil-Soaked Shales.

The flames from the burning, oil-soaked shale throw in weird relief the Indian sculpture and clay daubed paintings. The shale, which holds a high percentage of oil, was set on fire, possibly by lightning, ages ago. It smoulders and some times breaks into flames in the vicinity of the Indian paintings. During rainy weather nothing but a dull glow is seen, but during the summer nights, the light rays make the crude pictures twist and distort into fantastic shapes.

Some of the Pictures.

Two great hands, their imagery chipped slowly out of the rocks by some Indian's hands of bygone ages, seem to clutch and grasp at the spectator as the oil flames are fanned by the wind. An Indian figure, riding what seems to be a buffalo, has a steed which bucks and twists when the wind fans the smouldering shale fires.

The sun, a gigantic conception larger than the side of a house, glitters and throws off rays when the light effect is right. The moon is also carefully carved in respect to the light and shadows thrown from the natural illumination. And then there are some clearly later pictures. Possibly they were added by Indians who returned from some great adventure towards the Northeast.

Demons Once Exorcised.

There is the roughly chipped figure of a church with a cross which is so situated as to reflect the light. There is also a design which looks like a ship beneath which, when the shale flames rise, is a rippling sea. Other designs are grotesque and unaccountable.

The earliest settlers in Conche county say that their fathers' fathers have told them that the Place of the Painted Rocks was a sacred Indian ritual ground on which no white man could trespass.

The cowled monks of old Mexico, who a century ago ruled this territory, according to rumor, tried to exercise the demons which they declared infested this volcanic section and which were leading their Indian converts away from the true faith. After their efforts to extinguish the fires with sand and water the Indian dances for a while ceased. Later the fires broke out again, and the dances were resumed.

A Great Amphitheatre.

Some of the Eastern geological sharps who have flocked to Texas since the first oil discoveries declare that the Paint Rock vicinity is rich in mineral wealth. The amphitheatre of the first picture show of America, a vast bowl in the greensward, which has seated thousands, is being profaned by derricks. For miles around ground has been leased for oil drilling. One well is already spouting gas, while yet another is giving small production.

The picture show flames have not yet gone out.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Bessie Love, Winning Little Vitagraph Star -- September 27, 2019

Photoplay, September, 1919
I have always been fascinated by the career of actress Bessie Love. She was born in Texas. Her name was Juanita Horton. Her family moved to Los Angeles and she went to Los Angeles High School. Looking for work, she met director DW Griffith and got a small part in Intolerance. She appeared in movies with William S Hart and Douglas Fairbanks. She was a 1922 WAMPAS (Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers) Baby Star. She played many leading roles, most famously in The Lost World, but never broke through until the talkies came, when she starred in The Broadway Melody. Her career was hot again for a few years, but then tailed off. She continued to appear in small parts in movies until the early 1980s.

Moving Picture World, September 20, 1919
Moving Picture World, September 20, 1919
"Miss Love is seen as a young girl who tackles new and unexpected troubles with her sleeves rolled up."

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Barbara Britton 100 -- September 26, 2019
Actress Barbara Britton was born 100 years ago today, on 26-September-1919.  She appeared in a lot of westerns.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Money Making Eyes in the Money Making Play -- September 25, 2019

Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919
Clara Kimball Young was a big star. Among the cast of her Eyes of Youth was a young man named Rudolph Valentino.

Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919
Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919
Moving Picture World, 20-September-1919
Moving Picture World, 20-September-1919
Moving Picture World, 20-September-1919
Moving Picture World, 06-September-1919

Monday, September 23, 2019

Wide Exploitation Campaign Planned by Pathé -- September 23, 2019

Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919
Window displays and an eight-page book were among the exploitation items issued for Pearl White's The Black Secret.

Moving Picture World, 20-September-1919
Wallace McCutcheon, veteran of Biograph, was Pearl White's co-star in The Black Secret.  He was also her husband from 1919-1921.

Moving Picture World, 06-September-1919
Pearl White was moving to Fox. Both Pearl White and Tom Mix were known for doing their own stunts. I like the word "pufflicists."

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Apollo of the Suspenders -- September 21, 2019

Moving Picture World, 27-September-1919
Roscoe Arbuckle in a contemplative scene from "Back Stage."

Moving Picture World, 20-September-1919
Roscoe and his co-star, Luke.

Moving Picture World, 20-September-1919
Roscoe's leading lady in "Back Stage" was Molly Malone.

Moving Picture World, 20-September-1919
"One of the liveliest, funniest, fastest, most original, bound-to-be-the-most-popular Fatty Arbuckle subject ever released." Lots of hyphens.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

First Release Through United Artists Corporation -- September 19, 2019

Moving Picture World, 06-September-1919
United Artists was getting ready for its first release. Douglas Fairbanks and DW Griffith would have the first films ready for release by United Artists.

Moving Picture World, 20-September-1919
The founders of UA were often referred to as "The Big Four."

Moving Picture World, 20-September-1919
I like the pictures of Douglas Fairbanks and DW Griffith.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Diana Lewis 100 -- September 18, 2019
Actress and singer Diana Lewis was born 100 years ago today, on 18-September-1919.  In 1940, she married William Powell and they stayed married until his death in 1984.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Harold Lloyd in a Series of Special Two Reel Comedies -- September 17, 2019

Moving Picture World, 27-September-1919
100 years ago last month in August, 1919, Harold Lloyd suffered a terrible accident while posing for publicity pictures. A prop bomb turned out to be real. It took away the thumb and forefinger on his right hand. By September, he was making a remarkable recovery.

"Captain Kidd's Kids" was Harold's last movie with leading lady Bebe Daniels.

Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919
You don't see the phrase "not all cakes and ale" much nowadays.  It comes from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919
This is a nice portrait of Harold without the glasses.

Moving Picture World, 20-September-1919
This is a nice portrait of Harold with a co-star.

Moving Picture World, 20-September-1919
I don't think Snub Pollard and Mildred Davis made a movie without Harold, but I could be wrong.

Moving Picture World, 20-September-1919
Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919
"Despite Accident, Harold Lloyd Multiples
"Will Be Released Monthly After November 2

"UNHINDERED by the accident which recently befell Harold Lloyd, and which 'will keep him inactive tor a short time, Pathe is going through with plans made during the visit of Charles Pathe to America, to present the Rolin comedian in a series of special two reel comedies. Beginning on November 2, the initial multiple Lloyd feature will be issued and one a month will be released thereafter. Lloyd worked on these comedies for more than two months before the accident in the Rolin studio, and in the Pathe announcement this week is contained the information that he was far enough ahead of schedule to permit of the listing of the new offerings beyond the first of the year.

"Will Issue Two Reelers Monthly.

"The two reel subjects will be issued once a month instead of once a week, as heretofore, because it is impossible for Lloyd to produce comedies of this high class type in less than three weeks, working at top speed.

"Definite information has come from California, that the accident to Lloyd will in no manner impair his ability as a comedian. His injuries are much less serious than were at first expected, and he will be able to resume his screen work in time to round out the schedule of two reel productions planned for him. Hal E. Roach, president of the Rolin Film Company, and director of the Lloyd comedies, wired Paul Brunet, of Pathe Exchange, Inc., last week, to the effect that he was continuing the selection of stories for Lloyd pictures, and that he was in hopes of having the noted young comedian back in the studio in a short time.

"Lloyd will be surrounded by the most competent staff of comedians it is possible for Director General Hal. E. Roach to engage. In his company will be a bevy of beauties which will make the blase "beach bugs" of Long Beach, Cal., sit up and take notice. Mr. Roach who has as large a part in the success of the Lloyd comedies, will continue to direct the two reel subjects.

"In announcing the two reel comedies, Pathe indicates that exhibitors may contract only for six of the features at a time. No yearly contracts will be accepted."

Moving Picture World, 27-September-1919
Harold Lloyd had made two-reelers with Lonesome Luke, but went back to one-reelers with the glasses character to give it more exposure.  "Bumping Into Broadway" was the first two-reeler with the glasses character.

Moving Picture World, 27-September-1919
"His Royal Slyness" was Harold's first movie with his new leading lady, Mildred Davis.

Photoplay, September, 1919
"A Bebe Grown Up."  It is hard to realize that Bebe Daniels was fourteen when she first served as Harold Lloyd's leading lady, and was only 19 when she left to work for Cecil B DeMille.  "A pretty child when we first saw her, she has grown to be a beautiful woman, in the California sunshine and the Lloyd comedies."

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Jean Renoir 125 -- September 15, 2019
Director Jean Renoir was born 125 years ago today, on 15-September-1894.  Our local PBS station  showed La Grande Illusion and La Règle du Jeu each several times. I watched them each time they were on. I found his memoir, My Life and My Films in the Main Library and read it many times.

I wanted to see more of his films, but they were hard to find until I took a film class in college and then later when home video became available.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Packs the Theater at $2.00 a Seat -- September 13, 2019

Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919
The Miracle Man, based on a novel by Frank L Packard and a play by George M Cohan, was the movie that made Lon Chaney a star. Here we see him with Betty Compson in a detail from a larger page.

Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919
Stars of the film are shown on the page, but it does not mention Chaney's name.  It merely identifies him as "The Contortionist."

Moving Picture World, 06-September-1919
"Find one dead expression in this group and win a prize."  I like that.

Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919
Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919
Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919

"George Loane Tucker's Production of the Frank L. Packard Story for the Paramount-Artcraft Puts the Picture Among the Finest Examples of Screen Drama

By Edward Weitzel

"THERE is more than one miracle performed in George Loane Tucker's production of 'The Miracle Man,' the story as presented on the screen having the power to sway the emotions of the spectator with the compelling force of the deaf and dumb healer over the souls and bodies of those who come under his influence. Like every exceptional work of art, this Paramount-Artcraft picture made from Frank L. Packard's keenly dramatic and intensely human tale has one outstanding attribute which overtops every other quality: its power to work its will with the beholder. Neither as a piece of dramatic construction nor as a presentation of unusual phases of life that square with cold reason is it exempt from grave error, but these unfavorable conditions have little, if any, effect upon the firm hold of its emotional appeal; and it is another potent demonstration that human interest is the keystone of all forms of dramatic fiction.

"George Loane Tucker's Double Triumph.

"As the adapter of the story to the screen as well as the director of 'The Miracle Man,' George Loane Tucker has achieved a double triumph. Recognizing the rock upon which George M. Cohan wrecked his dramatic structure when he made the Packard tale into a stage play and also realizing that the scene of the miracle of the little lame boy's discarded crutches is the great dramatic moment of the entire picture in spite of the circumstances that it occurs when the action is only one-third over, scenarist Tucker has not relied upon the moral regeneration of the four criminals for the sole motive of the rest of the drama but has thrown a deeper romantic interest about the love affair between Tom Burke and Rose by using the young millionaire as Tom's rival and keeping the issue in doubt until the last moment. Several of the points in the last half of the story are overemphasized and the death scene of the healer could be shortened to advantage, but broadly considered the Tucker scenario is a work of great excellence.

"Like Drawings by Dore.

"Any attempt to set down a just appreciation of George Loane Tucker's efforts as the director of 'The Miracle Man' must concede him a full measure of praise in every detail of production and credit him with having distanced all of his previous contributions to the screen.

"Pictorially, the drama is a succession of compositions that have true artistic form. The conception and handling of the scenes in which The Frog is the central figure, the iron-nerved mendicant who preys upon the compassion of humanity, are daring and masterly. Only in the drawings of Dore for Victor Hugo's 'Hunchback of Notre Dame' can such criminal monstrosities be found. Surprise and fascinated horror grip the spectator when the crowded traffic is held up and through the rain and slime of a chill night on the grimy east side the distorted shape of a man is seen painfully dragging itself toward the gutter, the lower limbs apparently useless and their pitiable owner obliged to lie prone in the filth of the street.

"The word painting of the French novelist descriptive of the hurrying mob of crippled beggars returning to their underground haunt, and the glee with which the lame, the halt and the blind join in the wild debauch which celebrates their success at beguiling the charitable of their spare coins is equaled by the scenes in 'The Miracle Man' where The Frog appeals to the pity of the passerby and later on meets the three other members of his gang, exposes the vileness of his monstrous trickery and leads his companions in scoffing at the generosity that enables them to ply their nefarious trades.

"The Scene of the Miracle.

"The entire first third of this picture contains every possible element demanded by dramaturgic art : theme, character drawing, suspense, steady upward trend of movement and a climax that is as convincing and as inevitable as the answer to a problem in Euclid. From the time that Tom Burke confides to his pals his scheme to use the healer as the bait for their trap to catch humanity and fatten upon the suffering of the unfortunate until the supreme moment when the little cripple watches the faked miracle worked by The Frog upon himself and, upheld by the faith within his own feeble body and twisted limbs, throws away his crutches and walks tremblingly into the outstretched arms of the white haired old man at the top of the hill and The Frog and his fellow cheats realize they have seen a real miracle performed, the impulse driving the course of events forward is as resistless as the surge of the sea. It is doubtful if screen drama will ever know a more powerful moment than this climax to a bold stroke of criminal cunning — this triumph of goodness and trust over the forces of evil.

"Moral Blindness Is Overcome.

"All through the working out of the rest of the story there is a sense of diminished force, like the still reverberant but more distant peals of thunder after the height of the storm has passed. The coolness and skill with which Tom Burke accepts the demonstration of the healer's power to perform miracles, and directs the stream of banknotes and checks that flows from the grateful patients of the old man into the pockets of the crooks, are insights into the resources of the criminal that surround him with a new interest.

"Then follows the startling discovery, made by the thieves themselves, that the power of the healer has reached even them, and their moral blindness is yielding to the curative strength of the almost helpless being of those goodness and faith in humanity they had made a byword and a jest.

"This reformation of the entire gang is blended with the romantic interest previously alluded to between the girl Rose and Tom Burke and the cleverly devised element of suspense brought in with the arrival of millionaire Richard King, who sees in the girl of the underworld all that is best and fairest in womanhood and who shows her that love is a thing that protects and honors its object, not debases and destroys.

"The closing events, disclosing the death of the healer and the knowledge that Rose and Tom find the path to right living and happiness and will travel it as man and wife, bring the story to an ending that will meet with hearty approval.

"Three Star Performances.

"George Loane Tucker has evidently labored unsparingly upon every branch of production connected with 'The Miracle Man,' and nowhere is his good judgment more manifest than in his selection of the cast. Three of the performances in the picture are sufficiently meritorious to rank with any impersonation so far known to the screen. These performances are the Tom Burke of Thomas Meighan, the Rose of Betty Compson and The Frog of Lon Chaney.

"Admirable also is The Patriarch, as embodied by Joseph J. Dowling. The part as treated in the Tucker version of the story is not the positive figure the healer was in the spoken play. He is here both deaf and dumb, and failing eyesight leaves him almost totally blind before the end of the picture. He is also without any indication of mental vigor, a shadowy, mysterious figure who always remains in the background, notwithstanding his importance in the story. The subtle point made in the Cohan version, that the healer knew from the start his helpers were a gang of crooks but never let this fact be known to them, is so faintly hinted at by The Frog in the picture that the illusion is practically lost.

'But the healer still remains the mainspring of the action, a symbol of unseen power that compels belief in itself and in the humble instrument that does its bidding. It is the reaction of this power for good upon the love of Rose and Tom that puts the human touch into the story and guarantees it a warm welcome and many a word of praise."

Moving Picture World, 13-September-1919
 The Miracle Man is believed to be lost, except for an excerpt shown in a 1930s movie.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Billy Gilbert 125 -- September 12, 2019
Comedian Billy Gilbert was born 125 years ago today, on 12-September-1894.  He appeared in an enormous number of movies with a great variety of stars, and he always made the movies better.
He was Herring (Hermann Göring) in Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator. I love Herring's reaction when Hynkel tears off his decorations.
He was Professor Theodore von Schwarzenhoffen, M.D., A.D., D.D.S., F.L.D., F-F-F-and-F in Laurel and Hardy's "The Music Box," their only film to win an Academy Award.

In "Pardon My Scotch" with the Three Stooges, he was Senor Luis Balero Cantino, a singer.  The Stooges popped various pieces of fruit into his mouth while he tried to sing.