Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Douglas Fairbanks -- The Nut -- March 31, 2021

Motion Picture News, 19-March-1921

Douglas Fairbanks' The Mark of Zorro was the first movie made from Johnston McCulley's novel The Curse of Capistrano

Motion Picture News, 05-March-1921

The Nut was Doug's last modern-dress movie until his second talkie, Reaching for the Moon, in 1930.

Motion Picture News, 12-March-1921

Motion Picture News, 19-March-1921

Motion Picture News, 26-March-1921

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

This Has to Stop -- March 30, 2021


San Francisco Wasp, 14-November-1883

The United States and particularly the State of California has a long tradition of anti-Asian prejudice. The San Francisco Wasp, a satirical magazine, featured many anti-Chinese cartoons drawn by George Frederick Keller. Ironically, Keller was an immigrant from Prussia, but he directed much of his wrath against immigration from Asia. Recently, we have seen many people attack elderly Asian-Americans. Other Asian-Americans are blamed for COVID-19. Some of the blame goes to our former president, who stoked the fires of hatred with phrases like "the Chinese Virus" and "Kung Flu." This has to stop.

Monday, March 29, 2021

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse -- March 29, 2021


Motion Picture News, 26-March-1921

The first film adaption of of Vicente Blasco Ibáñez's novel The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was written by June Mathis and directed by Rex Ingram. Mathis chose Rex Ingram as the director and cast Rudolph Valentino as Julio Desnoyes. Co-star Alice Terry later married Ingram. 

The 26-March-1921 edition of Motion Picture News had a large section devoted to the movie. Note how they spelled Valentino's first name in the image above. 

Motion Picture News, 26-March-1921

The producers had trouble finding a Tzigane Cynibalum for the tango scene. 

Motion Picture News, 26-March-1921

I found it interesting that the producers felt they had to explain the meaning of the world "Apocalypse." Eschatology was not a big deal among Americans early in the Twentieth Century. 

Motion Picture News, 26-March-1921

The Second Battle of the Marne was reenacted by people who were there when it happened.

Motion Picture News, 26-March-1921

Vicente Blasco Ibáñez approved of the movie. Note how they call him "Signor" instead of "Señor."

Motion Picture News, 26-March-1921

They spelled Valentino's first name correctly on the cast list, but not on the caption under his picture.

Motion Picture News, 26-March-1921

Joseph Swickard played Marcelo Desnoyers, a Frenchman who emigrated to Argentina to make his fortune. Many Europeans did this in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, including my grandmother's brother. Marcelo and his son Julio move to France after Julio's grandfather dies. Nigel de Brulier is Tchernoff, a Russian intellectual emigree in Paris. While he and Julio watch soldiers march to war, Tchernoff talks about the Book of Revelation and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Motion Picture News, 26-March-1921

The scenes of the Second Battle of the Marne were shot in the San Bernardino Mountains.

"Smoke" Turner was Bowditch M Turner. They spelled his name Browditch in the credits. Jean Hersholt often played professors or doctors.

Motion Picture News, 26-March-1921

"Book Is Sensation of Publishing World."

Motion Picture News, 26-March-1921

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse opened at New York's Liberty Theater on 06-March-2021.

Motion Picture News, 26-March-1921

The Metro Lithograph Company called for "clever ideas" for posters to promote the film.

Motion Picture News, 26-March-1921

Note that "Rodolpho Valentino" appears first in the cast list, above the director's wife, Alice Terry.

Motion Picture News, 26-March-1921

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Dirk Bogarde 100 -- March 28, 2021

Actor and writer Dirk Bogarde was born 100 years ago today, on 28-March-1921. He did intelligence work in the British Army during World War Two. He was one of the first Allied soldiers to enter the Bergen-Belsen death camp. He wrote memoirs, novels and journalism.

After the war, he became a successful leading man in movies.

In A Bridge Too Far, Bogarde played Lieutenant General Frederick "Boy" Browning, commander of the British I Airborne Corps.

A Twitter friend recently watched Luchino Visconti's Death in Venice and said "This Death in Venice movie is kind of depressing." I couldn't argue with him. I never went back and said he should read the novella.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Max Linder Scores a Hit -- March 27, 2021


Cine-Mundial, March, 1921

Max Linder was the biggest star in film comedy before Charlie Chaplin. Linder appeared in hundreds of early Pathé slapstick comedies in France. He became a major star before World War One. There is some confusion about what he did in the war, but he was wounded or became seriously ill and newspapers reported that he had died. This was not true, but the French film industry, the most powerful in the world before the war, had mostly shut down. Max took an offer from Essanay and came to America, signing a deal to make six short films. The first two did poorly and the third did only a little better, so that was the end of the series. Max returned to France and opened a cinema. He made a feature in France, and then headed back to the US. He made a feature, Seven Years Bad Luck, which did well at the box office.

Motion Picture News, 12-March-1921

Friday, March 26, 2021

The Adventures of Bill and Bob -- March 26, 2021


Motion Picture News, 05-March-1921

Director Robert N Bradbury produced a series of one-reel movies, The Adventures of Bill and Bob, starring his twin sons, Bob, Jr (later Bob Steele) and Bill. The boys hunt and trap in the wilderness.
Motion Picture News, 26-March-1921

The National Commissioner of the Boy Scouts of America endorsed the series.

Motion Picture News, 19-March-1921

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Nancy Kelly and Simone Signoret 100 -- March 25, 2021

Beautiful actresses Nancy Kelly and Simone Signoret were both born on the same day, 25-March-1921.

Nancy Kelly had a long career in radio and later in television. In movies, she appeared in Jesse James with Tyrone Power and Frontier Marshal with Randolph Scott.

Simone Signoret may be best remembered in the US for Diabolique. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Room at the Top.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

George Segal, RIP -- March 24, 2021

George Segal has died. He had a long career in comedies and serious films. So far, no one has mentioned The Black Bird which I went to see in a theater on its first run. I have not seen it since. It was sloppy and weird but funny. He played Sam Spade, Jr and Lee Patrick and Elisha Cook, Jr played the parts that they had in the Bogart movie. I always say I'll watch any movie with Elisha Cook, Jr.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

"The Kid" Coming -- March 23, 2021


Richmond Palladium and Sun-Telegram, 05-March-1921

Charlie Chaplin's first self-directed feature film, The Kid, co-starred Jackie Coogan. They made a wonderful team.

Motion Picture News, 05-March-1921

"Six Reels of Joy" was a widely used tagline, which had the benefit of advertising that this was not just another short film. "Special Hoover Relief Matinee" was a fundraiser for the American Relief Administration, which, under the leadership of future President Herbert Hoover, had saved millions from starvation during the war in occupied countries and after the war in Germany and Bolshevik Russia.

Moving Picture World, 24-February-1917

The poster advertises The Kid's opening at the Strand Theater in Minneapolis. 

Motion Picture News, 05-March-1921

"A giant six-reel super-feature that took a year to make." 

Motion Picture News, 12-February-1921

The A-Muse-U Theater in Clinton, Iowa used a Chaplin and a Coogan imitator to promote the movie.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Buster Keaton's Silent Shorts -- Reel One -- March 22, 2021

Motion Picture News, 25-December-1920

This post is part of the Seventh 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. For the fifth annual blogathon, I wrote about Buster Keaton's time making short comedies with Roscoe Arbuckle, Comique: Roscoe, Buster, Al and Luke. For the sixth annual blogathon I wrote about Buster Keaton's First Feature: The Saphead.

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.

After Buster Keaton's time making short comedies with Roscoe Arbuckle and serving in the US Army during World War One, Buster appeared in a feature that he did not help direct or write, The Saphead for Metro. 

After The Saphead, Buster started making a series of  nineteen two-reel comedies (actually, he made one before The Saphead, but it would be too complicated to explain). No one ever asks me, but I tell people that this series of comedies and Charlie Chaplin's series for Mutual are the two best series of silent comedy shorts ever made.  For the Seventh Annual Blogathon, I am writing about the Buster Keaton shorts produced for the first season, 1920-1921.

Motion Picture News, 02-October-1920

"One Week" was the first of the series to be released, but it was not the first one to be made. It is also one of my two favorites in the series. Buster wrote and directed, along with Eddie Cline. They wrote and directed all the movies released in this season, except for the last one released. Joe Schenk produced the whole series. 

The days of the week are marked by the leaves of a calendar. On the first day, Buster marries Sybil Seely. Their relationship is one of the nicest in his movies. "Handy Hank, the fellow she turned down" is the person who drives the bride and groom away from the wedding. No one has determined the name of the actor who played Hank. Hank hands them a letter. 

Buster's Uncle Mike has given them a wonderful wedding present: "a house and lot No. 99 Apple Street."

The house turns out to be a prefabricated structure that was delivered in crates and barrels. Buster and Sybil study the directions. 

On the second day, Buster is working on the house and Sybil is cooking breakfast. They kiss each other twice and look as if they mean it. 

Seeking revenge, Handy Hank alters the numbers on the crates.

On the third day, the sabotaged house is taking shape. Sadly, it is taking the shape of the droppings of a cubist dog. 

The house looks wrong to Buster, but Sybil paints two hearts with an arrow through them and Buster kisses her. Soon we have the famous scene of Sybil taking a bath. 

The print I watched may have been missing the transition from the third day to the fourth. 

On the fifth day, Friday the 13th, Sybil and Buster have a house warming party. Buster fights with Handy Hank. Buster is showing the guests a room upstairs when water starts coming though the ceiling. Buster opens an umbrella. In time, a mighty wind blows and makes the house start spinning. Buster can't get in. When Sybil and the guests are tossed out by centrifugal force, the guests leave and Sybil and Buster are left sitting on a box in the rain, which has grown into a biblical deluge. They kiss again.

On the morning of the sixth day, Buster and Sybil wake up sitting on the box. A man approaches them and says the sign was upside down. They were in lot 66. "You're on the wrong lot. Yours is across the railroad track." Sybil does not take this news well. They start preparing to move the house. 

Coincidentally, just a month ago, on 22-February-2021, a 139 year old Victorian house got moved several blocks in San Francisco. Lots of people watched in person or by live streams. People always enjoy watching a house move.

On the morning of the seventh day, the house is ready to move. It gets stuck on the railroad tracks. Buster took great pride in describing how he played with audience expectations in that gag. I won't spoil it for any poor soul who has not yet seen the movie.

Sybil and Buster give up on the house, but not on each other. They walk away hand-in-hand.

Moving Picture World, 09-October-1920

Motion Picture News, 20-November-1920

The series was a hit with exhibitors and their customers.

The next release in Buster's series was "Convict 13." The pace is not as good as it was in "One Week." Incidents with fish and a dog seem unnecessary. 

Motion Picture News, 09-Septmber-1920

Golf comedies were always popular.

"His best attempt to win her heart." Buster Keaton and Sybil Seely are golfing. She is good at it.  He is not. She watches him from what appears to be the terrace of a country club. It seems strange to watch Buster not be proficient at anything that involves physical skill. Buster is knocked cold when his ball ricochets off of a shed. 

A death row convict escapes a nearby penitentiary and he exchanges clothes with Buster, who is still unconscious. The warden plans to hang Buster right away. Sybil is the warden's daughter and she saves Buster. He knocks out a guard and takes his uniform. He locks up a powerful inmate, played by huge Joe Roberts, and becomes deputy warden. Buster saves Sybil from the powerful inmate and  knocks himself out. Then he wakes up and learns it was all a dream. 

Co-director Eddie Cline played the hangman. 

Moving Picture World, 09-October-1920

Virginia Fox followed Sybil Seely as Buster's leading lady. 

Moving Picture World, 23-October-1920

Buster's next release was shot under the title "The Backyard."

Motion Picture News, 25-December-1920

Buster's next release was released under the title "Neighbors." It tells the tale of two lovers, Buster Keaton and Virginia Fox, who are separated by a back fence and their families. Buster's father is played by Buster's father, Joe. Giant Joe Roberts played Virginia's father. 

"Neighbors" does not hold up as well as some of Buster's other comedies. Buster winds up in blackface twice, or perhaps one and a half times, and a stereotypical scene has an African-American family scared by a ghost.

Motion Picture News, 25-December-1920

Co-director Eddie Cline played one of the cops chasing Buster.

Motion Picture News, 05-March-1921

Many of Buster's co-workers on the series of shorts also worked on his feature films. 

Motion Picture News, 01-January-1921

After finishing "Neighbors," Buster's crew won the baseball championship of Hollywood. 

Motion Picture News, 05-February-1921

"The Scarecrow" was one film in the series that I did not see until I bought the Kino set. Buster and Joe Roberts are farmhands who share a room filled with labor-saving gadgets. The phonograph is a stove. The bookshelf is a refrigerator. Their breakfast is a wonderful scene. 

Both men are in love with the farmer's daughter, Sybil Seely. The farmer is Buster's father, Joe. 

Buster interrupts Luke the Dog, who was Roscoe Arbuckle's dog in real life, who is licking up the filling of a cream pie. Luke chases Buster, who thinks that Luke is rabid.  Luke chases Buster in and out of the windows and around the tops of the walls of a derelict adobe house.

Buster loses most of his clothes getting away from Luke. Buster meets Sybil and her father and runs from them. He pretends to be a scarecrow in the field. Buster and Sybil run away on a horse and then a motorcycle. They scoop up a minister, who marries them on the motorcycle. 

Co-director Eddie Cline plays a truck driver who runs into Joe Roberts. 

Motion Picture News, 08-January-1921

Buster may have been the first comic to appear on both ends of a bill, The Saphead as the feature and "The Scarecrow" as the short comedy.

"The Haunted House" follows a common story in comedy, a group of criminals makes a house appear to be appointed to keep outsiders away. A highlight is a stairway that turns into a slide with the throw of a lever. Buster broke his ankle on the stairway. "The Haunted House" also throws in a low-rent opera company that has been performing Faust

Motion Picture News, 17-March-1920

Buster plays a bank clerk. Virginia Fox is the daughter of the bank president. Joe Roberts is a bank clerk and the leader of the criminals.  Buster has a mishap with some glue. The bank robbers also have trouble with the glue. Buster gets accused of the robbery and flees. The opera company runs away from its unhappy audience. They all wind up in the haunted house. 

The president's daughter follows the evil clerk to the house. After much running around and waving of arms, Buster captures the crooks and rescues Virginia, her dad and a couple of sheriffs. 

Co-director Eddie Cline plays a bank customer.

Motion Picture News, 01-January-1921

Keep in mind that Buster broke his ankle mading "The Haunted House." This must have messed with their schedule.

"Hard Luck" was considered lost until 1986, when it was partly reconstructed. One major piece is missing. 

In "Hard Luck," Buster's character is suicidal. Harold Lloyd had attempted suicide in "Haunted Spooks." 

Buster has lost his job, his girl and his money. He tries to get hit by a streetcar and an auto and attempts to hang himself from a tree. He drinks whiskey from a bottle labelled "Poison." He volunteers for an expedition to capture an armadillo for the zoo. He recovers his confidence as he meets Virginia Fox at a country club fox hunt (!). Lizard Lip Luke, a bandit and train robber, appears with his gang. He is played by Joe Roberts. The gang invades the country club. Buster rescues Virginia from the clutches of Lizard Lip Luke. After a slight twist, we come to the missing ending. 

Motion Picture News, 26-March-1921

Motion Picture News, 16-April-1921

"The High Sign" was the first movie made in the series, but no one was happy with it, so they held it till almost the end of the first season before releasing it. It filled a slot while Buster recovered from his ankle, which had been broken in "The Haunted House." I remember when "The High Sign" was thought to be a lost film.

A high sign is a subtle hand signal, as we see in this example with Paul Newman in The Sting, used by members of a group to communicate secretly with each other. As you see in the example from "The High Sign," the high sign used by the Blinking Buzzards, a Black Hand-style gang of criminals, is a little less subtle.

Buster is thrown off of a train next to a beach-side amusement park. One of his greatest jokes follows, unfolding a never-ending newspaper which turns out to be a single sheet of paper. He finds a help wanted ad for a shooting gallery. Buster steals a policeman's pistol from his holster and substitutes a banana. 

Buster meets Al St John, his old friend and companion from the Roscoe Arbuckle movies.  Buster does some target practice, which doesn't go well.  The giant proprietor of the shooting gallery gives Buster the job. The proprietor is the leader of the Blinking Buzzards. Their next target is the town miser. They promise to kill him that day unless he pays a large amount of money.

The miser and his pretty daughter, played by Bartine Burkett, ask Buster to serve as his bodyguard. 

The proprietor has Buster join the gang, showing him the high sign and the secret knock. Buster is ordered to kill the town miser. There is a wild chase through secret passages in the miser's house. 

Motion Picture News, 26-February-1921

"The Goat" was the last movie of the first season. Buster and Mal St Clair co-directed this one. 

Buster is a poor guy who has to stand in a bread line. He gets mistaken for Dead Shot Dan, an escaped murderer. Buster gets chased by many policeman, including big Joe Roberts. My wife was walking by and she said "This must be 'Cops.'" I said no, it was just a bunch of cops.

Next year in Reel Two, I hope to write about the movies released in the second season, 1921-1922. 

This post is part of the Seventh 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.