Friday, December 31, 2021

Betty White, RIP -- December 31, 2021

Betty White died today, just shy of her 100th birthday. During World War Two, she participated in the American Women's Voluntary Services. She started working regularly on television in 1949. I remember her on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. We are going to miss her.

Happy New Year From Jack Benny -- December 31, 2021

Variety, 30-December-1921

Jack Benny, who was to become a star of stage, screen, radio and television, was born on Valentine's Day in 1894. 

At the end of 1921, he was a performer in vaudeville. In 1928, he appeared in his first movie. In 1932, he first spoke on radio, where he went on to become one of the biggest stars. He first appeared on television in 1949. His best movie was To Be or Not To Be.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Happy New Year From Harry Watson, Jr -- December 30, 2021

Variety, 30-December-1921

Handsome Harry Watson, Jr wishes everyone a happy new year. He played Musty Suffer in a series of short films for George Kleine.

Moving Picture World, 08-April-1916

Famous motion picture accompanist Ben Model dound the surviving Musty Suffer films and released them in two volumes:
The Mishaps of Musty Suffer, Volume One
The Mishaps of Musty Suffer, Volume Two

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes -- December 29, 2021

Motion Picture News, 31-December-1921

Hubert Willis played Dr John Watson and Eille Norwood played Sherlock Holmes in a series of short films and features made between 1921 and 1923 by Stoll Pictures. The producers replaced Hubert Willis in the last film, a feature based on The Sign of Four.

Motion Picture News, 24-December-1921

The Scotland Yard detective bureau had a special showing and enjoyed the films. 

Motion Picture News, 10-December-1921

Eille Norwood ("Eilly" is a phonetic spelling) was to visit the US late in December. 

Motion Picture News, 03-December-1921

The Alexander Film Corporation, US distributor of the movies, made a deal to acquire "five million copies" of the stories that exhibitors could hand out to customers a week before the films were to be shown. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Oscar Micheaux Presents a Great Colored Picture -- December 28, 2021

Evening Capital and Maryland Gazette, 17-December-1921

The Star Theater in Washington advertised two race films, The Black Thunderbolt starring ex-heavyweight champion Jack Johnson and Oscar Micheaux's The Gunsaulus Mystery. I can't find much about The Black Thunderbolt. The Gunsaulus Mystery was inspired by the alleged murder of Mary Phagan by Leo Frank. I have always assumed that "Gunsaulus" is a phonetic rendering of "Gonzales." 

Moving Picture World, 03-November-1921

Ernest Morrison, billed as Sunshine Sammy, had appeared in many of Hal Roach's short comedies with Harold Lloyd and Snub Pollard. Roach starred Morrison in "The Pickanniny." "Pickanniny" is a derogatory term for a child of African descent. Morrison went on to be a member of the Bowery Boys.

Motion Picture News, 17-December-1921

Harris Dickson was a lawyer and judge from the south. He wrote many stories about small-town life for the Saturday Evening Post. I was not entirely surprised to learn that he was prominent in the Anti-Miscegenation movement. Much of his output was what were referred to as "Colored stories." I have never read one of his stories, but I'll bet they contain the occasional stereotype.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Col. Selig's Serial Masterpiece -- December 27, 2021

Motion Picture News, 31-December-1921

Serial star Charles Hutchison sends his best wishes. Hutchison wrote, directed, acted and performed stunts in many Pathé serials (Pathéserials). He was especially good at motorcycle stunts.

Motion Picture News, 03-December-1921

Ruth Roland, who was born in San Francisco, was one of the great Serial Queens.

Motion Picture News, 17-December-1921

Motion Picture News, 03-December-1921

Elinor Field played the Jungle Goddess in Selig's serial of the same name. "Col. Selig's Serial Masterpiece."

Motion Picture News, 26-November-1921

Ben Wilson and Neva Gerber were a popular team in serials. The Mysterious Pearl is probably lost.

Motion Picture News, 10-December-1921

Motion Picture News, 24-December-1921

Motion Picture News, 26-November-1921

Motion Picture News, 10-December-1921

Motion Picture News, 26-November-1921

Sunday, December 26, 2021

In a Series of Two-Round Uppercuts -- December 26, 2021

Motion Picture News, 24-December-1921

Happy Boxing Day. I know Boxing Day has nothing to do with pugilism, but this seemed like a great opportunity.

The Leather Pushers was a series of six short films (not a serial) released by Universal. Reginald Denny played a boxer. Darryl F Zanuck wrote the screenplays. Edward Laemmle, one of studio head Carl Laemmle's many nephews, was the director. 

Motion Picture News, 24-December-1921

Motion Picture News, 24-December-1921

Motion Picture News, 24-December-1921

Motion Picture News, 31-December-1921

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Christmas, 2021 -- December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas, everyone. Peace on earth and goodwill to all my friends and relatives.

Actress Grace Bradley trims her Christmas tree. Grace Bradley was the wife of Hopalong Cassidy, William Boyd.

W. C. Fields, Comic, Dies at 66; Quips With Nurses To the Last -- December 25, 2021

Washington Evening Star, 26-December-1946

Ironically, WC Fields, who professed to hate children and Christmas, died 75 years ago on Christmas day, 25-December-1946. I wonder if the item in his will leaving money to help white orphans was a gag poking fun at racism, or was it actually racism? A "dropsical condition" is an edema, a swelling. Fields made his first two films in 1915, then returned to films in 1924. 

W. C. Fields, Comic, Dies at 66;
Quips With Nurses to Last
Dropsical Condition
Fatal to Juggler
Who Rose to Stardom

By the Associated Press

PASADENA, Calif,, Dec. 26. -- Bulbous-nosed W. C. Fields, 66, vaudevillian and movie comic, whose capacity for liquor finally became a matter of court record, died Christmas Day in a sanitarium where for months he had been under treatment for a liver ailment.

Nurses said he quipped with them until, a few hours before his death, he slipped into a coma.

Although he had been troubled by liver and kidney ailments for two years, physicians said the immediate cause of death was a dropsical condition.

Born Claude William Dukinfield in Philadelphia, January 29, 1880, he revised his last name, reversed his initials and graduated from a $5-a-week juggler to the Ziegfeld Follies and ultimately into films.

Nose Was Trademark.

Of his nose, a trademark sometimes believed connected with his love of strong beverage, he once said:

The Fields nose was this size before I ever learned there was such delight in experimenting with spirits frumenti."

Nine years ago, a physician sued Mr. Fields for $12,000 for 23 days of hospital treatment. Mr. Fields retorted in a cross-complaint that the doctor’s methods retarded his recovery, to which the physician replied that the comic’s habit of drinking two quarts a day was the impeding factor.

"Nonsense," Mr. Fields bellowed, in his best buffoon manner. "I never drank two quarts a day, not even in the good old days. Right now I'm a teetotaler."

The judge awarded the doctor $12,000, but the Appeals Court pared the figure to $2.000.

Frequent Gag Target.

He was a frequent target for gags from other comics and only yesterday -- on a special Christmas broadcast -- his close friend Bob Hope aimed a barb in Mr. Fields' direction, not knowing that the latter already was dead. Informed of it later. Mr. Hope said he made Mr. Fields a frequent target because the latter got "such a big kick out of it."

"I feel terrible about his death," Mr. Hope added. "He was one of the world’s great comedians. The world will certainly lose a lot of laughs."

Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in nearby Glendale, resting place of such movie greats as Jean Harlow, Marie Dressier and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., will be the scene of fujneral services. The time has not yet been set.

Left Home at 11.

Mr. Fields left home and school at the age of 11 after a dispute with his father.

For four years he existed with some other boys by doing odd jobs. He said he once had a job driving an ice wagon, but quit because he had to rise at 4 a.m. He determined to find a profession in which he would not have to get up in the morning.

The actor started juggling, while in his teens and declared he practiced sometimes 16 hours a day. His first professional job was in a summer park at Norristown. Pa., at $5 a week.

Advancing in the show business, Mr. Fields made a vaudeville tour of Europe and other continents. On his return from a trip to Australia he was discovered by Composer Gene Buck and brought to the attention of Florenz Ziegfeld, the great showman. For 10 years Fields was a member of the Ziegleld troupe of comedians that included Will Rogers, Eddie Cantor, Ed Wynn, Fanny Brice and Bert Williams. He also was in Earl Caroll’s "Vanities."

Entered Films in 1924.

In 1924 Producer D. W. Griffith was making "Sally of the Sawdust," a film version of Fields' stage success, "Poppy," and induced the comedian to recreate the role on the screen. Mr. Fields stayed for seven more pictures before he returned to Broadway.

He went back to Hollywood in 1932, this time to stay. Although he never received screen credit, he wrote much of his own material, using such pseudonyms as Charles Bogle or Mahatma Khan Jeeves.

Outstanding pictures in which Fields appeared included: "It's the Old Army Game," "Million Dollar Legs, "If I Had a Million," "International House," "Six of a Kind," "Alice in Wonderland," "Old Fashioned Way," "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch," "It’s a Gift," "David Copperfield," "Mississippi," "The Man on the Flying Trapeze," "Poppy," "You Can't Cheat an Honest Man," "My Little Chickadee," "The Bank Dick" and "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break."

Always A Showman.

The comedian had no use for a script. He would just get a fair idea of the movie story and ad lib it from there. The same was true on the air and many a radio executive spent frightening moments while Mr. Fields deviated from the written (and censored) script. A true showman, he was the master of any situation. During one theater engagement an assistant fell against a backdrop and brought the painting of houses on a New York street crashing to the stage. Fields saved the day by remarking. "They don't put up buildings like they used to."

About the only time he stuck to the script was when he played Micawber in the picturization of Dickens' "David Copperfield." "Even then I could think of some snappy ways to read the lines," he said.

Mr. Fields was married in 1901 and was never divorced. His wife Harriet, a nonprofessional, reared their only child. W. C. Jr., after they were separated. W. C. III, a grandchild. was born in 1943.

Washington Evening Star, 26-December-1946

Fields' Will Sets Up Fund
For College for Orphans

By the Associated Press

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 28. -- Comedian W. C. Fields, who died Christmas Day, bequeathed part of his estate for the benefit of orphans, Attorney Leo L. Schaumer said today.

Mr. Schaumer. counsel for the executrix, Mrs. Magda Michael, Mr. Fields' secretary for many years, said the will directed that a trust fund be set up to establish a non-denominational college here for white orphans.

Members of Mr. Fields' family also are beneficiaries, Mr. Schaumer said. He would not disclose the size of the estate or of the proposed trust fund. The will was drawn in 1943.

Funeral arrangements have not been completed.

Washington Evening Star, 31-December-1946

Private Rites Will Be Held
Thursday for W. C. Fields

By the Associated Press

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 31. -- Private funeral services for W. C. Fields, the comedian, will be held Thursday morning.

His widow, Harriet, from whom he was separated years ago, disclosed through her lawyer that an intimate friend would say a word of farewell and that only Mr. Fields’ closest friends would attend.

Burial will be in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale.

Announcing that the body would be placed in a mausoleum, the attorney for Mrs. Fields said: "We do not wish that he be cremated, as this is not favored by the Catholic Church. While we favored interment in the ground, he always opposed being buried in the earth and we are sure that he would be comfortable with what we have done."

Mr. Fields left instructions that his body be cremated.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Marion Davies -- Christmas Eve -- December 24, 2021

Motion Picture News, 31-December-1921

Happy Christmas Eve, everyone.

Cosmopolitan star Marion Davies appeared on the cover of the Motion Picture News' Holiday Number. Even though the issue is dated 31-December-1921, it would have come out before Christmas. 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Season's Greetings From Mabel Normand -- December 23, 2021

Motion Picture News, 31-December-1921

Christmas is coming.

Beautiful and funny Mabel Normand wishes us the season's greetings. Harry A Pollard was not Snub Pollard.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Make Christmas Week Century Week -- December 21, 2021

Motion Picture News, 17-December-1921

Century Comedies featured Brownie the Wonder-Dog, Baby Peggy, Lee Moran and Harry Sweet. Santa seems to approve.

Motion Picture News, 31-December-1921

Eddie Lyon, Lee Moran's former partner, appeared in Arrow Comedies. 

Motion Picture News, 31-December-1921

Harry Cohn, his brother Jack and Joe Brandt provided the initials for C.B.C. Film Sales Corp. The Hallroom Boys Comedies were a long running series of short comedies, based on a comic strip by Harold MacGill. At this point, Sid Smith played Percy and Jimmy Adams played Ferdy. Percy and Ferdie offer Season's Greetings.

Motion Picture News, 17-December-1921

Al St John, Roscoe Arbuckle's nephew, appeared in comedies for Fox. He was good at bicycle tricks.

Motion Picture News, 10-December-1921

Clyde Cook also appeared in Fox comedies.

Motion Picture News, 24-December-1921

Snub Pollard appeared in one-reelers produced by Hal Roach.

Motion Picture News, 03-December-1921

Neal Burns and Viora Daniel appeared in comedies produced by the Christie Brothers. 

Motion Picture News, 31-December-1921
No comment. 

Monday, December 20, 2021

Chaplin -- The Great Picture The World's Greatest Comedian Has Been Making For a Whole Year -- December 20, 2021

Richmond, Kentucky Daily Register, 24-December-1921

Christmas is coming.

The Alhambra and Opera House theaters in Richmond, Kentucky offered Charlie Chaplin's The Kid during Christmas Week.

Alaska Daily Empire, 29-December-1921

Juneau's Coliseum wished its patrons a Merry Christmas by showing The Kid

Klamath Falls Evening Herald, 10-December-1921

Klamath Falls' Strand featured Chaplin in "The Cure," a 1917 Mutual. 

The Pullman Herald, 09-December-1922

The Liberty in Pullman, Washington showed "The Adventurer," Chaplin's last Mutual. The feature The Witching Hour was directed by William Desmond Taylor. We will hear more about him. 

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Buster Keaton -- If You Want an Ocean of Laughs -- December 19, 2021

Casper Daily Tribune, 10-December-1921

"The Boat" was the first release of Buster's second season. It is one of the best. 

Motion Picture News, 10-December-1921

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Official Films -- The Gift You'll Never Regret Because They'll Never Forget -- December 18, 2021

Home Movies, November, 1946

Christmas is coming. 

For many years, Official Films and Castle Films were the two big distributors of home movies. 

For Christmas, 1946, Official Films offered a choice of eight films in 8mm or 16mm, and four Christmas carols in 16mm sound. 

"Christmas Night" was an alternate title for "Pals," an animated film from Van Beuren Studios, featuring Otto Soglow's newspaper cartoon character the Little King. I have always enjoyed Soglow's cartoons. "Toyland Adventure" may be an alternate title for Van Beuren's 1931 film "A Toytown Tale". "Brownie Bucks the Jungle" was made by Van Beuren in 1934 as "Mild Cargo," starring Cubby the Bear. "A Little Bird Told Me" was a 1934 Van Bueren production the included both live action and animation. "Rag Dog" was a 1935 Van Bueren production. "The Lion Tamer" was one of a pair of cartoons produced by Van Beuren which featured characters from the popular radio comedy Amos 'n' Andy. The creators of the show, Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden, provided the voices

I do not know the source of the live action films "The Stray Lamb" and "Who's Zoo.'

Friday, December 17, 2021

161,325 People Have Seen the Jeffries Johnson Fight Pictures -- December 17, 2021

James J Jeffries had been heavyweight boxing champion from 1899 to 1905, when he retired undefeated. He came back in 1910 to answer the pleas of racists who did not like Jack Johnson, an African-American, being heavyweight champ. They met in Reno, Nevada on 04-July-1910. Johnson dominated the fight for 15 rounds. Jeffries' corner threw in the towel so he would not get knocked out.

Many cities and states, fearing racial unrest, banned films of the fight. In 1912, Congress banned the interstate transportation of fight films.

I wonder how this print wound up in Illinois. 

"Made by a new process invented for the United States Army during the World War. Brings the fighters right in front of you. See these new 'Close-ups' just completed and running today..." What was this "new process" and how was it applied to an eleven-year-old film?