Saturday, July 31, 2021

Lyman H Howe's Famous Ride on a Runaway Train -- July 31, 2021


Moving Picture World, 23-July-1921

Lyman H Howe was a showman and a former railroad worker. He produced many short films. His most famous was "Ride on a Runaway Train," which he released in 1921. A print of the film turned up in New Zealand the the US Library of Congress restored it and synced it with a soundtrack disk. I see bits of the Mount Lowe incline, the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway and the Mauch Chunk Switchback Railway.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

The Sheik -- July 29, 2021

Moving Picture Weekly, 09-July-1921

Paramount announced that Rudolph Valentino would play the lead in George Melford's The Sheik. "The part is considered absolutely ideal for Valentino, who is a dashing and colorful actor with unusually good looks and much ability."

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Barbara La Marr 125 -- July 28, 2021

Actress Barbara La Marr was born 125 years ago today, on 28-July-1896. She began her Hollywood career as a screenwriter, but she moved into acting. She had important roles in The Three Musketeers with Douglas Fairbanks and Rex Ingram's The Prisoner of Zenda. Drinking and partying damaged her health, and she died in 1926.

We need a biopic about Barbara La Marr. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Oscar Micheaux -- He Has Begun the Direction of Two New Pictures -- July 27, 2021


Dallas Express, 02-July-1921

Oscar Micheaux was a pioneer in producing what were known as race films. 100 years ago this month, he passed through Dallas on his way to New York, "where he has begun the direction of two new pictures. Mr. Micheaux will be East until September, and will go to London, England, where his corporation proposes to open a foreign office."

Monday, July 26, 2021

Vitascope Hall 125 -- July 26, 2021

Transactions of SMPE, September, 1925

Vitascope Hall, said to be the first permanent theater dedicated to showing movies, opened 125 years ago today, on 26-July-1896. The theater, at Canal and Exchange Streets in New Orleans, was founded by William (Pop) Rock and his partner, a man named Wainright. I don't know how often Vitascope Hall stayed in business, but a few years later, Pop Rock became president of the Vitagraph Company, a pioneer film production company. This is an excerpt from FH Richardson's "What Happened in the Beginning" from the September, 1925 issue of  Transaction of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers.

Vitascope Hall

I now present a photograph of "Vitascope Hall," opened by Messrs. Rock and Wainwright as a strictly motion picture theatre, in June 1896. Its location was the corner of Canal Street and Exchange Place, New Orleans, Louisiana. They showed, among other things, the "May Irwin Kiss," "Waves of Dover," also a lot of short scenic stuff. Admission was ten cents. For ten cents additional patrons were permitted to peek into the "projection room" and for another ten cents they were presented with one frame of old film. 

The projector used was the Armat Vitascope, then being produced by Thomas A. Edison, and, for business reasons, called the "Edison Vitascope." That last is on the authority of projectionist Reed, who had it direct from Mr. Rock, who himself purchased the projector.

The theatre was a store room fitted with a screen, wooden chairs, an enclosure for the projector, a ticket booth and a name -- Vitascope Hall. It seated about four hundred people. In the photograph you see its operators, Messrs. Rock and Wainright, standing in front, together with its projectionist, William Reed. Mr. Rock is at the extreme right, with Mr. Wainright next to him. Mr. Reed is at the extreme left. The names of the others are unknown. You will observe that "Li Hung Chang" was the bill on the day the photograph was taken.

Vitascope Hall Program

Here, gentlemen, is the printed program of that little theatre of far-off days. Doors open 10 to 3 and 6 to 10.

Moving Picture World, 13-August-1921

I used the version from Motion Picture World because it is reproduced more clearly than the version in the magazine.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Pep/Punch/Personality -- July 25, 2021

Exhibitors Herald, 09-July-1921

Brownie the Dog starred in Century Comedies, ably supported by Baby Peggy Montgomery, who died just last year. "The Most Wonderful Animal in the World."

Moving Picture World, 16-July-1921

Reelcraft Pictures Corporation offered Mirth, Sun-Lite and Aladdin Comedies, which it touted as having "Pep/Punch/Personality."

Moving Picture World, 02-July-1921

By 1921, most of Mack Sennett's biggest stars, Charlie Chaplin, Mabel Normand, Roscoe Arbuckle, were long gone, although Mabel returned later in the year to make features. He continued to produce short comedies, many, like "Call a Cop!," starring Eddie Gribbon and beautiful Marie Prevost.

Photoplay, July, 1921

Moving Picture Weekly, 09-July-1921

Ben Turpin was Sennett's biggest star during this period.

Moving Picture World, 02-July-1921

Moving Picture World, 16-July-1921

The Christie Film Company was a major producer of short comedies from 1911 to 1933. Al Christie was the director and Charles Christie ran the business. The Christies featured situation comedy more than the slapstick favored by Mack Sennett and Hal Roach. "Class, Fun and Cleanliness."

Moving Picture World, 23-July-1921

Friday, July 23, 2021

Chaplin -- It Took Charlie a Year to Make It -- July 23, 2021


Moving Picture World, 23-July-1921

100 years ago this month, Chaplin's feature, The Kid, was still going strong. 

Brownsville Herald, 06-July-1921

Moving Picture World, 30-July-1921

Chaplin finished his next film for First National, a short called "The Idle Class." Chaplin played a dual role, a rich drunk and the Tramp.

You can tell Chaplin was having financial success because he received an extortion demand from the Black Hand.

Photoplay, July, 1921

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Danny Glover 75 -- July 22, 2021

Happy 75th birthday to actor, activist and San Francisco native Danny Glover. He was born on 22-July-1946. He went to George Washington High School, up the hill from where I grew up. He went to San Francisco State during the tumultuous period and participated in the strike which led to the creation of the Department of Black Studies. He has worked for peace in many countries. 

He is dyslexic.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

"Juggling Bill" Fields Becomes a Straight Comedian -- July 21, 2021


New York Tribune, 24-July-1921

After a long career in vaudeville, WC Fields made his film debut in 1915, but then returned to the stage and the Ziegfeld Follies. He did not appear in another movie until 1924. This article claims that Fields did not drop the juggling from his act until 1921. Could be.

"Juggling Bill"
Fields Becomes a
Straight Comedian

For years -- at least long before the coming of the Volstead law -- W. C. Fields hiccupped his inebriate way in and out of the scenes of Ziegfeld's annual summer pleasantry, "The Follies," juggling hats, canes, tennis balls, golf balls, hat racks, plates, dishes and cigar boxes. He was a fixture, and every year he had a surprise for Broadway audiences.

This year at the Globe, where "The Follies" is playing, Mr. Fields is revealed as a straight comedian. He does not juggle a single juggle. Fields has always been a comedian, but he didn't know it until Mr. Ziegfeld suggested to him that he was just as good without his juggling as he was with it.

"Anyway, Bill, I'm going to try you at it," Mr. Ziegfeld told Fields six months ago. And Fields was glad to be relieved of the grind of juggling rehearsals, but he approached his new sphere with great misgivings. He didn't think he could do it. But he did.

Just now Fields does not believe he will ever go back to juggling, but of course he will, for juggling, as any juggler will tell you, is a sort of habit-forming industry -- once started, you juggle all your life.

Fields began to juggle at the age of eight. He has juggled around the world, appearing at various times in London, Berlin, Paris, Melbourne, New Zealand, China, Japan and Cuba. He first ran away with a circus, but his parents yanked him back when he was two days out. He had hired out as assistant to a cannon ball juggler when his parents wanted him to study law.

Fields finally did take a job in a drugstore, sweeping out and running errands and waiting on customers when the boss went to dinner.

One day the boss returned, walked behind the prescription case, and then his hair did a splendid imitation of a comedy fright wig. It stood on end. Fields was juggling three bottles of powerful acids. When the druggist crept out and walked around the block expecting to return to find his assistant beyond human help he found him instead, at the cigar counter juggling cigar boxes.

That ended Fields's career as a pharmacist, and after playing a few small-time vaudeville houses he went to Europe. It was in Paris that Ziegfeld first saw him and put him in "The Follies." where he has been for eight years.

In the present edition of that summer revue Fields is showing that he is a real straight comedian. In the scene with Raymond Hitchcock, Ray Dooley and Fannie Brice he holds up his end of the fun-making with them all.

"It is a great relief," says Fields, "to get away from juggling for just one season. I had to keep practicing at least six hours a day. I had to keep the hours of an athlete, and, all in all, it was a tough existence. I feel that I am at last having a real vacation."

Monday, July 19, 2021

Buster Keaton -- The Assassin of Sorrow -- July 19, 2021

Exhibitors Herald, 09-July-1921

Buster Keaton married Natalie Talmadge on 31-May-1921. Her two sisters, Norma and Constance were big stars. People direct a lot of prejudice against Natalie, but I suspect that Buster was a hard person to live with at that time. The groom looks thrilled.

Seattle Star, 08-July-1921

I am pretty sure this is the only place where I have seen Buster called "The Assassin of Sorrow." Harry Carey was a popular Western star. Christmas Eve at Pilot Butte was the book that the movie Desperate Trails was based on. 

Moving Picture World, 30-July-1921

Metro released the first season of Buster's starring two-reelers. First National released the second season.

Richmond Palladium and Sun-Telegram, 30-July-1921

Saturday, July 17, 2021

New Horror Films With Their Own Soundtracks -- July 17, 2021

Vampirella 51, 1976

When I was young, I read Warren Publishing magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland and Vampirella. The magazines always carried ads for back issues, posters and movies. I didn't have a film projector, so I read the ads with envy. Eventually, I got a Super-8 projector, but I didn't have enough money to buy any of these films. A friend had Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and I was fascinated by the way it had been cut down to less than 20 minutes.

They offered a selection of films with sound. A 33rpm record came with each movie. Synchronization would have been iffy. This group includes "Cosmic Monsters," adapted from a 1958 giant bug movie and four movies adapted from a television series: "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea -- The Octopus," "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea -- The Atomic Cloud," "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea -- Sea of Mines" and "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea -- The Frogmen." I remember that my sister liked to watch Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Adventures of Bill and Bob and Breezy -- July 15, 2021

Moving Picture World, 16-July-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 Magazine, July, 1921

Another director's son who starred in movies was Breezy Eason, who was B Reeves Eason Jr, son of director B Reeves Eason Sr.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

La Doublure -- July 14, 2021

In honor of Bastille Day, here is a movie that I caught once on cable, enjoyed immensely, and have never seen since. The English title is The Valet. The French title is La Doublure, which must be a French slang term for something like a beard. Daniel Autiel, who is good in everything, plays a billionaire factory owner who is cheating on his wife with a supermodel, Alice Taglioni. Gad Elmaleh is a lowly valet parker who gets dumped by his girlfriend because she needs a pile of money to keep her bookstore open. The billionaire pays the supermodel and the valet to pretend to be a couple so he can arrange for a quiet divorce. The reactions of the valet's friends, family and co-workers are hilarious. In the end, the billionaire loses out, but the others learn something and grow into better people.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Cheech Marin 75 -- July 13, 2021

Cheech Marin was born 75 years ago, on 13-July-1946. When I was young, we all listened to Cheeck and Chong's albums. We struggled to understand some parts. Many of us could recite "Sister Mary Elephant" from memory. Cheech went on to have a long career as an actor. I thought he was the perfect choice to play Pancho in the television adaption of The Cisco Kid.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Rialto Theater of Louisville -- July 11, 2021


Moving Picture World, 02-July-1921

The Rialto Theater in Louisville, Kentucky was beautiful. It opened in 1921, closed in 1968 and was torn down in 1969.

Kentucky Irish American, 02-July-1921

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Sue Lyon 75 -- July 10, 2021

Actress Sue Lyon was born on 10-July-1946. She would have been 75 today. I was surprised to find that I did not write anything about her when she died in 2019. She is most famous for playing Dolores Haze in Stanley Kubrick's adaption of Lolita, but she made other movies.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Tom Mix and Tony, Film Star and Pony -- July 9, 2021

That is not a flattering drawing of Tom Mix.

Imperial Valley Press, 23-July-1921

Before air conditioning, theater business tended to decline or shut down during hot weather. Some theater owners in warm areas countered by creating open air theaters called airdomes or air domes. They were not drive-ins. Customers sat in chairs and enjoyed the evening breeze. The Palace Airdome was in the town of El Centro in the too darn hot Imperial Valley.

Moving Picture World, 23-July-1921

Tom Mix pays a visit to the Washington, DC office of Secretary of the Navy Edwin C Denby, who later played a major role in the Teapot Dome Scandal, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D Roosevelt. In August, 1921, FDR would be stricken with polio. 

Moving Picture World, 16-July-1921

"Tom Mix and Tony, Film Star and Pony," took part in a banquet in New York City.

Richmond Palladium and Sun-Telegram, 30-July-1921

South Bend News-Times, 15-September-1921

Buck Jones was Fox Film Corporation's second-tier cowboy star. He went on to have a strong career, well into the talkie era.

Moving Picture World, 30-July-1921

Art Acord was another contemporary of Mix, who appeared in many silent films, but did not make the transition to talkies. He served in France during World War One and was decorated for bravery and won an Army boxing title. Some folks suggested that he should fight heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey. That would have been a massacre.

Moving Picture World, 23-July-1921

I don't believe I have ever heard of Harry McCabe. He appeared in one more movie after Harry McCabe. He died in 1925.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

William S Hart -- Surcharged With Infinite Pathos -- July 7, 2021


Moving Picture World, 02-July-1921

Lambert Hillyer directed William S Hart in The Whistle, a William S Hart Production released by Paramount.

Moving Picture Weekly, 09-July-1921

I like the image of the whistle.

Rock Island Argus, 16-July-1921

Square Deal Sanderson was a 1919 production. "On the square, but bad as ever."

Moving Picture World, 23-September-1923, 16-July-1921

"A Bowl Bad Man."?

Moving Picture Weekly, 02-July-1921

I hope Bill Hart would not object if I mention one of his contemporaries, Harry Carey. I like Harry Carey. John Ford directed Desperate Trails for Universal release.

Omaha Bee, 17-July-1921

Note that Omaha's Moon Theater advertised its "Gigantic Arctic Cooling System." Uncooled theaters often had to close during the summer. "Human Harry Carey."

The Pullman Herald, 08-July-1922

"If Only" Jim was a 1920 feature directed by Jacques Jaccard. "Humaner Than Ever Harry Carey."