Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Penalty -- September 30, 2020


Motion Picture News, 25-September-1920

The Penalty starred Lon Chaney as a criminal who seeks revenge for the loss of his legs. It was based on a novel by Gourverneur Morris. The movie was set and partially shot in San Francisco. 

Tulsa Daily World, September 26, 1920

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

An Assured Success in Any Theater -- September 29, 2020


Motion Picture World, 25-September-1920

United Artists was founded by Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and DW Griffith in 1919. Chaplin was busy making movies on his First National Contract, but Griffith, Fairbanks and Pickford all had movies released through UA 100 years ago this month. 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

William Conrad 100 -- September 27, 2020

Actor William Conrad had a long career in radio, movies and television. I probably first heard of him when he narrated episodes of Rocky and Bullwinkle. Later when I listened to old radio shows on KSFO, I heard him in Gunsmoke, where he played the original Marshall Matt Dillon, and in anthology shows like Suspense and Escape. Later I saw him in films noir like The Killers. I don't think I watched any of his television shows, even though Cannon was set in San Francisco. I enjoyed the Mad Magazine satire, "Cannonball." 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Who Could Think of Ducks With Chickens Around -- September 25, 2020


Motion Picture World, 25-September-1920

In his wonderful book The Silent Clowns, Walter Kerr suggested that Lloyd Hamilton was one of the great silent comics whose reputation has diminished. This is because many of the solo movies Hamilton made for Educational during the 1920s are lost. Perhaps this is also because he was not able to succeed as a star in feature films.

Please excuse the blackface. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Mickey Rooney 100 -- September 23, 2020

The wildly talented Mickey Rooney was born 100 years ago today, on 23-September-1920.  When he died in 2014, he was one of the last living people who had starred in a silent movie, in his case a series of Mickey McGuire short comedies.  He may also have been the last person alive who starred in a movie with Tom Mix, My Pal, the King.

He made many popular films with Judy Garland. 

I remember seeing  him on television when I was a kid and having trouble relating him to the young boy I saw in old movies. 

He was amazingly talented.  His career had a lot of ups and downs, but more ups.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Paul Muni 125 -- September 22, 2020

Extraordinary actor Paul Muni was born 125 years ago today, on 22-September-1895. He started acting in the Yiddish theater at 12. His performances were usually intense. He was an actor, not a personality. Many eople remember him most for his strong performances in Scarface and I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. Other people remember him for the biopics he starred in: The Story of Louis Pasteur, The Life of Emile Zola and Juarez

International Motion Picture Almanac - 1937-1938

Monday, September 21, 2020

Michael Lonsdale, RIP -- September 21, 2020

Actor Michael Lonsdale has died. He appeared in French- and English-language movies. The first movie I remember in was The Day of the Jackal

Get Out and Get Under -- September 21, 2020


Motion Picture News, 25-September-1920

100 years ago this month, Harold Lloyd was appearing in "Get Out and Get Under." The title came from a popular song about people having to fix their Model T Fords. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

She Shook a Wicked Shoulder -- September 19, 2020


Moscow, Idaho Daily Star-Mirror, 17-September-1920

The Chorus Girl's Romance, starring Viola Dara was based on F Scott Fitzgerald's' short story "Head and Shoulders."

Motion Picture News, 25-September-1920

The Chorus Girl's Romance was a hit so Metro decided that Viola Dana's next movie would be an adaption of Fitzgerald's "The Offshore Pirate." 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

A Riot of Romance and Realism -- September 17, 2020


Washburn, Wisconsin Times, 16-September-1920

Director Marshall (Mickey) Neilan made Go and Get It, a horror comedy featuring a gorilla with a human brain. The movie may still exist. In 1941, Paramount remade the story as The Monster and the Girl.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

And This Is the Greatest Western Ever Filmed -- September 15, 2020


Motion Picture News, 04-September-1920

100 years ago this month, Tom Mix was appearing in The Untamed. "This is the man -- This is the horse -- This is the dog -- This is the girl admitted to the friendship of the strange trio -- And This Is the Greatest Western Ever Filmed."

Sunday, September 13, 2020

A Larry Semon Comedy -- September 13, 2020


Motion Picture News -- 07-August-1920

Here is one from one hundred years and one month ago (I missed it last month). I like that orange picture of Larry, and the purple caricature. 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Babe Ruth -- How He Knocks His Home Runs -- September 11, 2020


Motion Picture News, 04-September-1920

Babe Ruth was a great left-handed pitcher who became an even better power hitter. He held the season and lifetime home run records for a long time. The ad for this short subject also mentions Babe's teammate "Pitcher Carl Mays/His Underhand Delivery Shown in Every Movement." This was added because the month before, Mays hit Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indian in the head. Chapman became the only major leaguer to die from being hit by a pitched ball. 

More about Carl Mays and Ray Chapman:

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Diana Rigg, RIP -- September 10, 2020

I was sad to learn that beauteous actress Dame Diana Rigg has died. Some San Francisco television station played The Avengers on Sunday (?) afternoons. I admired Patrick Macnee, who played John Steed as an old-fashioned gentleman.  I also admired his costar, Diana Rigg. I got confused when Diana Rigg was replaced by Linda Thorson. Later I learned about Honor Blackman. I didn't see any black and white episodes till many years later. In later years, I saw Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Rebecca, Mother Love and Mrs Bradley

Olive Thomas Loses Fight For Life Against Poison -- September 10, 2020


Indiana Times, 10-September-1920

100 years ago today, on 10-September-1920, beautiful actress Olive Thomas died in a Paris hospital, five days after she accidentally drank her husband's medication for syphilis. She was married to Mary Pickford's ne'er-do-well brother Jack. Some people did not believe that her poisoning was an accident. Some people lean towards attributing her suffering and death to murder or suicide. 

Olive Thomas Loses Fight For Life Against Poison
Beautiful Motion Picture Star Dies in Hospital Near Paris.

PARIS. Sept 10.—Miss Olive Thomas, famous motion picture actress, died in the American hospital at Neuilly at 10 o'clock this morning of mercurial poisoning.

Her husband, Jack Pickford. brother of Mary Pickford, was at the bedside.

The sensational rumors that have grown up about the incident have been denied from all sources.

Dr. Joseph Choate of Los Angeles, who was chief physician for Miss Thomas, gave the following account of the incident :
“At 4 o'clock Sunday morning Olive Thomas, by mistake, took a large quantity of an alcoholic preparation containing twelve grains of bichloride of mercury. It is estimated that she received at least six or eight grains of bichloride. Realizing the mistake she called her husband. It was only through the heroic efforts of Jack Pickford in giving first aid that Miss Thomas lived as long as she did.

“The effect of the poison was most rapid because of the alcoholic solution. The usual nephritis occurred within twenty-one hours. The first specimen showed two and one-half grams of albumen per liter, and the second and third specimens each ten grams per liter, which constitutes a world’s clinical record. Thereafter it was impossible to make tests, there being a complete suppression for four days.

"The very best medical talent was called on the case, including Dr. A. A. Warden, the eminent English physician, and Dr. F. Widal, a specialist on poisons from the University of Paris.

Olive Thomas came from Charleroi, a suburb of Pittsburg, when she was 18 and made her stage debut in the Ziegfeld Follies.

She was the first of the "baby vamps,” appearing in such a characterization in the screen version of “Upstairs and Down.”

She was married to Jack Pickford in the latter part of 1916.

Her record as a beauty is fortified by the late Raphael Kirchner and by Harrison Gray Fisher.

Fisher in September, 1916, termed her the prettiest girl in New York state.

Kirchner gave her the title of the most beautiful girl in America.

Evening Capital and Maryland Gazette, 30-September-1920

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Vitagraph Sues Semon for Heavy Damages -- September 9, 2020


Motion Picture News, 18-September-1920

Larry Semon was a big comedy star for Vitagraph, but the studio felt that he was spending too much time and money on his short comedies. 

Vitagraph Sues Semon for Heavy Damages

ONE of the largest cases in the history of the United States District Court of Southern California has just been filed by President Albert E. Smith, of the Vitagraph Company of America, who has sued Larry Semon, the famous screen comedian, for a total of $407,338,22. It is alleged the defendant deliberately increased the costs of his productions through delays, carelessness and waste to an unreasonable figure, with the aim of forcing the Vitagraph Company to release him from his contract. Semon, it is said, had a Vitagraph contract for $2,500 weekly when a competing company offered him $5,000.

The suit is unique in that Vitagraph does not ask that it be released from its contract, but insists the star make good the damages and continue his employment.

According to the terms of the contract, filed with the suit, Larry Semon was to make twelve two-reel comedies a year for three years, it is stated. Five pictures have been released, another has just been completed, and Vitagraph declares it is practically impossible for Semon to deliver more than a total of seven pictures during the first year. Semon's latest picture, "The Suitor," figures prominently in the suit inasmuch as it is charged that, aside from the usual studio expenses, more than $80,000 was spent, or approximately $42,000 in excess of what would constitute a reasonable outlay, it is reported. The suit was filed by Attorneys William M. Seabury of New York, General Counsel for Vitagraph, and George W. Fenimore of Los Angeles, resident counsel for the California Company. The legal point involved is said by the attorneys to be whether or not motion picture stars and directors can deliberately and willfully increase the cost of their productions to a prohibitive figure in the hope that the producers will cancel their contracts.

President Smith of Vitagraph, whose arrival from New York was simultaneous with his filing the suit, declares that Larry Semon has been placed in the position he holds as a motion picture star through the opportunities, advantages, and exploitation given him at an approximate expense of $500,000 by the company. It is charged that Semon, when refused his demands for a new contract at more than double the salary of his existing contract, notified his employer that he would do his utmost to avoid further performance of his obligations under the current agreement, and would strive to procure its termination and cancellation prior to the agreed date.

Semon's latest comedy, "The Suitor," not yet on the market, is mentioned frequently. It is alleged Larry Semon employed a company of stock and extra players and caused them to remain idle for a long period. It is further stated that for the short flashes of the dancing girls in the pictures, twenty of them were kept on the payroll for 33 days. Many other alleged wasteful instances are cited and the loss given as $12,338.22. The plaintiff holds that the picture, with reasonable diligence and care on the part of Semon, the director, could have been completed in thirty days, and Semon is said to have occupied eighty-three days.

Mr. Smith bases his greatest demand for damages, $365,000, on the alleged loss sustained because he will receive five less pictures the first year than called for by the contract.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Bound for Glory -- September 7, 2020

In honor of Labor Day, here is Bound for Glory, a 1976 biopic about Woody Guthrie. Hal Ashby directed and David Carradine played Woody. Most of the events in the movie are fictional but they reflect his real interest in social justice and helping migrant workers, who were mostly fellow Okies. Of course, the music is the best part.  

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Bobby Harron -- September 5, 2020


Photoplay, October, 1920.

Photoplay, November, 1920.

On 01-September-1920, Bobby Harron checked into the Hotel Seymour in New York. The next morning, he called the desk and said he had been shot. When the manager came to his room, Harron explained that a loaded pistol had fallen out of his luggage while he was unpacking. The gun fell to the floor and fired, hitting him in the chest. He refused an ambulance, asking for a doctor. A doctor was not available, so he allowed an ambulance to take him to the hospital. He died on 05-September-1920. While he was in the hospital, rumors started that he had shot himself on purpose because of losing roles and perhaps because Dorothy Gish had spurned him. We will never know, but I think it was an accident. 

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Injia-Rubber Idiot -- September 3, 2020


Motion Picture News, 04-September-1920

Henry (Pathé) Lehrman started out at Biograph, then went to Keystone with Mack Sennett, then left Sennett to found L-KO (Lehrman Knock-Out) Komedies. He left L-KO to produce Sunshine Comedies for Fox. Sunshine Comedies frequently featured pretty girls and lions. Lehrman left Fox to make comedies released by First National. Fox Sunshine still had plenty of pretty girls.

Motion Picture News, 04-September-1920

Clyde Cook was born in Australia, appeared in British music halls, starred in short comedies for Fox and later for Hal Roach, and had a long career playing small roles in silent and talkies.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Bobby Harron Shot by Falling Pistol -- September 2, 2020


Washington Times, 02-September-1920

On 01-September-1920, actor Robert Harron, who had starred in several movies directed or produced by DW Griffith, checked into a hotel in New York. After attending the premiere of Griffith's Way Down East, he returned to his room. The next morning Harron called the manager to his room. Harron was sitting in a chair. He told the manager that he was taking clothes out of a his trunk when a pistol fell out and fired when it hit the floor. The bullet struck Harron in the chest. He argued against calling an ambulance, but eventually went to a hospital. The police arrested him for having a firearm without a permit. 

Some people thought Harron may have been trying to commit suicide, having lost some leads in Griffith movies and having broken up with Dorothy Gish, but most people who knew him believed it was an accident. 



Screen Star in New York
Hospital Following Peculiar

NEW YORK. Sept. 2.-- Robert Harron, best known to moving picture fans as the hero in "Hearts of the World" and now starring in his own pictures, the Robert Harron Productions, shot himself accidentally early yesterday morning in his room at the Hotel Seymour and is in a critical condition in Belleview Hospital.

Harron who is twenty-nine years old and unmarried and whose good looks as depicted an the screen have evoked maidenly sighs the world over, was fighting hard for life when his managers got a late report from the hospital, and, though he had lost much blood, they entertained, some hope of his recovery.

If he gets well, he will have to face a charge of violating the Sullivan law for, as soon as he had received first aid, Patrolman Yarcznski placed him under formal arrest and he was moved to the prison ward at the hospital. An uncle, Thomas Harron, hurried from Mamaroneck when he heard of his nephew's misfortune. He went to the police station and the hospital for details of the accident and then hurried to Bellevue to be with the young star. At the station he said he would remain here to look after the young man's interests and furnish bail for him if he should be able to leave the hospital.

The police did not learn how Harron happened to have a pistol without a permit but the supposition arose that he probably had used it at one time or another in some of the many pictures in which he has appeared. He became a screen favorite at 14, while he was an office boy in the office of D. W. Griffith. Griffith saw the possibilities of his appearance and personality, and gave him a small part. His success ended his office boy days.

Harron, known among his associates as a quiet, winning, modest young fellow, was a great favorite at the hotel, and the accident caused profound regret there.

He had just dressed, preparing to go to the studio, where he was engaged in acting for "The Brass Bowl," and for some reason not learned, lifted some clothes from a trunk. The pistol fell to the floor and exploded, the bullet lodging in his chest.

He telephoned to the office for help and Manager Montgomery hurried to his room on the ninth floor. Harron was smiling and remarked through set teeth:

"I'm in a devil of a fix; I've shot myself."

Montgomery assured him his condition was no Joke, but Harron refused to allow an ambulance to be called, insisting upon the summoning of a local physician. Only when it proved one could not be found immediately did he consent that a call be sent to police headquarters for a Bellevue ambulance. Then he demurred at the stretcher and wanted to be taken downstairs in a chair.

Theodore Mitchell of Twenty-eighth Street, Beachhurst, L. I., last night furnished $500 bail in the ' Night Court before Magistrate Edgar V. Prothingham for the release as a prisoner in the hospital of Harron.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Richard Farnsworth 100 -- September 1, 2020

Actor Richard Farnsworth was born 100 years ago today, on 01-September-1920. He started working as a stuntman in 1937, and moved to acting in 1963. I enjoyed just about every movie in which I saw him.

He played a coach in The Natural. He played Matthew in a television adaption of Anne of Green Gables. I loved David Lynch's The Straight Story