Too Little Time: Week of October 11th, 1919

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Mayor Snyder, Queen Elisabeth, King Albert

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley reported that Hollywood was preparing for some royal visitors:

In fact, there are three greatly thrilled picture stars in town today. They are Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford. And no wonder. For all are to entertain no less a person than King Albert of Belgium.

His Majesty, it seems, delights in doing the unexpected. Yesterday [Tuesday, the 14th] a member of the royal party got Fairbanks on the phone from Santa Barbara and asked if it could be arranged for Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin to meet the royal party at Fairbanks’ Beverly Hills home tomorrow. Of course, the world’s most famous smiler smiles his best and said, “Oh yes, indeedy!” and at once started making arrangements for entertaining the royal visitor and his party.

This would have been totally unexpected for the mayor’s General Reception Committee: they had given the newspaper an outline of their plans for the King’s visit on October 10th, and there were no stops in Beverly Hills on it. Plus, they weren’t even due to arrive in Los Angeles until Friday, not Thursday! However, if you were a king or queen, isn’t that exactly who you’d want to meet in 1919?

Another studio told KIngsley they were getting ready, too:

The royal party will be guests of honor at the Lasky studio Friday morning, according to the plans of the committee in charge of the programme. In honor of the occasion, Houdini, king of magicians and one of the galaxy of stars now at work at the Famous Players-Lasky headquarters, will stage his famous underwater extraction trick in the studio tank.

Everyone at the studio was anticipating the visit; leading man Thomas Meighan was working on Why Change Your Wife and he was in a big hurry to finish his scenes as a recovering accident victim, because he didn’t want to meet the King and Queen while wearing pajamas with a bandaged head.

Unfortunately, Meighan didn’t need to worry; King Albert, Queen Elisabeth and Crown Prince Leopold only got to spend five hours in Los Angeles on Friday so they didn’t get to meet the three biggest stars of the time or go to Lasky, and they had to make do with a stop at the Ince studio. It seems like what they told Kingsley was just wishful thinking.

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The royal family

The King and Queen of Belgium were touring the United States to thank everyone for their support during the war, and to interest American businesses in investing in their country (the Times even helpfully published a list of opportunities). But they also took in some American sights, including San Francisco and Yosemite. They were greatly admired: during the war he had fought on the front with his troops, and she had worked as a nurse.

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Along the parade route

On Friday, October 17th, the royal train arrived at the Southern Pacific Depot at 9 am (they were already half an hour behind schedule). Both Mayor Snyder and the King gave speeches, a choir sang the national anthems “America” and “La Brabanconne”* and Queen Elisabeth to give medals to six women who raised money for Belgian relief. Then they had a parade through downtown, with the royal party at the head of it and the Ninety-First Division plus returned soldiers behind. After that, they began their driving tour of the city.

Their first stop was at the Ince Studio, and Thomas Ince had prepared a short program to fit the limited amount of time they had. However, the King was quite interested in re-starting the Belgian film industry, and the Times reported:

Though King Albert and his party were scheduled to stay at the film studio but twenty minutes, they remained there almost an hour.

During his visit at the studio the King saw a man jump from the railing of a steamer into a frothing sea; he saw a quarrel between two lovers who were finally reconciled with a kiss—for the King’s benefit; he saw another woman plead with a vampire for her husband who had been stolen by the vamp; he saw anther act staged in a barn; he saw a submarine crew die in a wreak. During the tragic submarine death scene, Queen Elisabeth displayed more interest in a small, hairless pup that was snoozing on the sidelines.

King Albert asked no questions about the emotional stunts of the actors, but when he was escorted into the mechanical rooms, the cutting and the drying and developing rooms, immediately he fired many questions at his guides. He was interested and he wanted to know everything about the constructive side of film making.

Motion Picture News said that they saw Douglas MacLean and Doris May work on Mary’s Ankle, Herbert Bosworth in the submarine movie Below the Surface, and several scenes with Charles Ray. He was making Paris Green at the time.

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Charles Ray

Next they went to Chaplin Field, where they saw some aerial maneuvers. Then they toured more of the city, stopping to visit some school children, and then it was already time to go. They got back on their special train and went to the Grand Canyon, skipping a lunch held in their honor in Pasadena. The Mayor went, but the 5,000 attendees were disappointed (the Belgian ambassador to the U.S. later sent an official expression of regret to the Pasadena and Glendale mayors).

So one should plan on staying for more than five hours if you want to see L.A.! If you’d like to know more about the royal visit, check out the Homestead Museum blog post and Marc Wanamaker’s post for the Culver City Historical Society

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This week there was a tie for Kingsley’s favorite film. She enjoyed “a buoyant, refreshing tale” with Tom Mix and Frankie Lee:

Just you wait until you see him in Rough Riding Romance at the Symphony this week, and you’ll decide, with me, that if he keeps on getting stories like this he’ll have all the other India rubber heroes on the run.

“There ain’t no such thing as romance,” says Tom, but Frankie just at that minute points out a mysterious lady, who has stopped off at the train stalled at Cow Hollow, and whom Tom then and there picturesquely rescues from the attentions of the Hollow’s worst bad man.

But oh, what a joyous time that large audience had! I don’t know when I’ve heard and seen a crowd of people enjoy themselves more than when Tom, having grabbed an heirloom saber off the wall, drives Tony [his horse] down among that crowd of plain and assorted villains, and just naturally scares the pie out of them!

Rough Riding Romance has been preserved at the Library of Congress.

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Why Smith Left Home

However, Kinglsey also had a very good time at quite a different movie, a jazzed up bedroom farce called Why Smith Left Home with Bryant Washburn and Lois Wilson. She observed how times had changed: “Now-a-days, to keep up with the stage boudoir plays, we’re taking all those old farces with their coy references to sleeping quarters, and putting ‘em in pictures with the beds all freely shown as the dining room table.” My goodness!

The “very hilarious hour of entertainment” involved a sturdy running gag:

The hero and heroine decide to wed, despite the farcical objections of the heroine’s aunts. But the bridegroom remains kissless, though willing and anxious, right up to the last foot of film. It is the constant efforts of these two to get a chance to be alone, a purpose thwarted by everything and everybody, including hotel fires, train wreaks, earthquakes, blackmailing maids and irate things-in-law, which make the comedy.

Why Smith Left Home has also been preserved at the Library of Congress, but it’s missing its third reel.

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Salome vs. Shenandoah

Kingsley also had some important costume news:

Concerning next week’s premiere showing of Mack Sennett’s latest special production, Salome vs. Shenandoah, comes a bit of news that should immensely please devotees of laughter. Charlie Murray is going to present an act in conjunction with the production, in which fourteen comedians will appear dancing, all garbed in the same attire as that which Phyllis Haver wears as Salome in the film. In addition to this, Murray, Ben Turpin and Charles Conklin will wear the same costumes as in the film and will sing and play on the lyre an original song composition of Murray’s.

Charlie vouches for the information that Ben Turpin will positively wear nothing but a tiger’s skin and a shepherd’s staff. As for himself, his innate modesty forbade him making any statement regarding his own appearance further than to state he will wear something.

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What a show! According to Brett Walker (Mack Sennett’s Fun Factory), the two-reeler is set in a small-town theater, where a troupe attempts to stage a Biblical tale and a Civil War epic simultaneously, with Ben Turpin cast as both John the Baptist and a Confederate spy. It was similar to Sennett’s earlier successes that made fun of melodramas, East Lynne with Variations and Uncle Tom Without a Cabin. Even though they were shorts, they were the main attraction on their theater bills. That was true in Los Angeles; Salome vs. Shenandoah played with In Mizzoura, a Western about a sheriff with romance troubles and a highwayman on the loose that didn’t get much notice.

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If Sennett’s ad is at all true, it was a terrific movie.

 

 

“Advance Agent of Belgium’s Royal Pair,” Los Angels Times, September 7, 1919.

“Approve Plans For Welcoming Royalty,” Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1919.

“Belgian Royalty See Pictures in the Making on the Ince Lot,” Motion Picture News, November 29, 1919, p. 3952.

“Belgian Rulers to Come Here,” Los Angeles Times, September 24, 1919.

“Child Army Acclaims Hero King,” Los Angeles Times, October 18, 1919.

“City To Greet Royal Visitors,” Los Angeles Times, October 17, 1919.

“Southland Lavishes Its Warmest Hospitality Upon Regal Visitors,” Los Angeles Times, October 18, 1919.

 

*”La Brabanconne” is still Belgium’s national anthem, but “The Star Spangled Banner” didn’t become the United State’ anthem until March 3, 1931, after the Veterans of Foreign Wars petitioned Congress for it.

 

How Quickly They Forget: Week of October 4th, 1919

They were so happy, just last December!

One hundred and one years ago this week, all of the theaters in Los Angeles were about to be closed to help prevent the spread of influenza. They didn’t re-open until December 2nd. One year later, neither Grace Kingsley nor anybody else wrote about the anniversary. Only three very short articles about flu appeared in the LA Times in late 1919: two reporting that the State Board of Health said the return of the epidemic was improbable, and one about insurance payouts for flu deaths. The trade papers also ignored the anniversary, except to give theater closures as a reason that revenues were down the previous year.

This was the beginning of people forgetting all about the epidemic, which now seems to be the first thing everybody mentions if they do cover it. For instance, The Guardian’s article on the hundredth anniversary was called “A century on: why are we forgetting the deaths of 100 million” and the Backstory Radio podcast episode was titled Forgotten FluNobody paused to be happy that they got to go about their ordinary business. Perhaps they were saving it for the Armistice Day celebrations coming up next month.

No surprise, Kingsley’s favorite film this week came from her favorite actress:

That amazing young woman, Mary Pickford, has done it again! She has succeeded in The Hoodlum, which is at the Kinema this week, in again putting over a film blue-ribboner. The surprising thing about this young lady is that she never fails to surprise you…In fact, Miss Pickford seems to be slowly but surely evolving a fresh, new quality—a power that has nothing whatever to do with pouts and curls, but depends on a really brilliant mind, a keenness of dramatic perception, and an unlimited sense of humor and of fun.

The Hoodlum tells the story of a spoiled rich girl who goes to live with her sociologist father in the New York slums. There, after learning how to play craps and shimmie, she meets a wrongfully accused young man whom she is able to exonerate by stealing papers from her grandfather. However, as Kingsley noted, that wasn’t the attraction:

But the plot, ha ha! Like the dentists’ ads say, doesn’t hurt a bit. It’s Mary Pickford’s bubbling, genuine humor, which will charm dull care away if you’ll let it. That a lot of people want to let it was shown by the crowds which besieged the Kinema yesterday.

The Hoodlum is available on DVD.

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Kingsley had news of Pickford’s soon-to-be husband as well:

That arch kidder, Douglas Fairbanks, made the life of Charlie Chaplin more or less miserable, the other night down on Broadway. Charlie and Doug had been dining together, and as they sat in the machine awaiting the coming of other friends to join the party, Douglas would ever and anon arise in his seat, wave his arms, and announce to whoso would listen:

“This is the great Charlie Chaplin! None other! Take a good look at Charlie Chaplin!”

Poor Charlie shrunk back inside his overcoat, and looked as if somebody bit his dog.

Oh, Mr. Fairbanks. It’s only surprising that the story doesn’t end with “so Charlie bopped him in the nose and no jury would convict.”

From a review of The World to Live In I learned a new word: tinpanner, which is a young woman who consorts with rich old men. It was invented by W. Carey Wonderly, the author of the 1918 novel the film was based on. Another writer, Owen Johnson, tried to call them “salamanders” in his 1913 novel of that name (and 1916 film), but neither word caught on the way the term Jack Lait came up with did in his 1916 book, Beef, Iron & Wine: gold digger. The Oxford English Dictionary says that was the first time it was used in that sense (and tinpanner isn’t in the OED at all). I guess Wonderly was playing off of that, since you use a tin pan to find gold in a stream. While is seems like there can never be enough words to insult women with, “gold digger” is easier to catch the meaning of if you don’t already know it. I can see why it won out.

Nevertheless, The World to Live In wasn’t a bad little movie, even if it utterly failed as a cautionary tale:

But if the author didn’t want all our little Maudie Freshies to go right out and be tinpanners, he shouldn’t have made this one have such an awfully good time, with numberless rich and devoted beaus, and come out all unscorched and unscathed as she did, from numberless fascinating adventures.

Gee, just like Anita Loos did a few years later in her book, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. In this story, Rita Charles (Alice Brady) meets a handsome settlement worker (William P. Carelton) with a “noble pompadour—why is it, pompadours look so noble in pictures?” and marries him, ending her tinpanning ways. Overall, Kingsley thought this now lost movie was very entertaining and not in the least profound.

 

 

Somebody Loves a Fat Man: Week of September 27th, 1919

 

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Walter Hiers

One hundred years ago this week, Kingsley interviewed an up-and-coming actor and wrote:

“What did I tell you? That fat rascal, Walter Hiers, is climbing right up toward stardom. Next to Arbuckle, Hiers is doubtless the funniest heavyweight film man in the world.”

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Hiers had just gotten a supporting role in Going Some, a comedy about a footrace and two rival ranch families. Alas, playing Berkeley Fresno didn’t make him a star, but he was an actor who worked regularly throughout his twenty-year long career, which is better than most. Kingsley highlighted the most interesting thing about his earlier roles:

Mr. Hiers holds an odd record in one respect. Nobody loves a fat man is a truism, you know. Mr. Hiers will tell you it’s true, anyhow for the purposes of screen comedy. He says he has been refused exactly eighty-nine times in pictures, and this doesn’t count the number he’s been refused by the same girl in the same picture, either!

“Why, do you know,” said Hiers, “I’m actually scared to propose to a girl in real life. That mimic failure of mine on the screen has got my goat. I’ve been declined with scorn, with contumely, with everything the screen could register, including pots and pans. I’ve been refused in the moonlight and under the scorching sun, and even in the dark where they couldn’t see me.”

Poor guy! Arbuckle himself usually got the girl in the end; Hiers just needed different writers. In 1922 he overcame the anxieties those “mean old scenario writers” who put “ice down Cupid’s back whenever Mr. Hiers appears” gave him and he proposed to Adah “Peaches” McWilliams. A newspaper writer had the nerve to ask her why she said yes, and she replied:

“They say ‘Nobody loves a fat man.’ I just wanted to be contrary. But why shouldn’t a girl love a fat man? When I go to the beach I’ll just walk along in Walter’s big shadow. When we pass through a crowd, I’ll just walk behind him and not be jostled. He likes the old-fashioned waltz, and if I’m terribly tired he can take me across the floor on his feet. They can stand it.”

She probably couldn’t get away with saying “Why ever would you ask such a question?” They married on January 12, 1923 and were together until his death from pneumonia in 1933. His grave maker says “Beloved Husband.” If you’d like to know more about Hiers, Thanhouser has a short biography.

Kingsley’s favorite film this week was The Dragon Painter. She wrote:

Either Sessue Hayakawa is the most exquisitely artistic producer of screen plays in the world today, or else the Japanese settings lend themselves so beautifully to dramatic production that we are lured into believing this is true…I mean simply that he has the power, above anyone I know, to project those stories upon the screen amid the most ideally suitable and beautiful settings—settings which, besides charming with their loveliness, include even touches of mood; and yet he does this by some magic means which enhances the spectator’s feeling for the drama, rather than distracting his attention….As to this play, it is a film poem.

The Dragon Painter was thought to be lost, but a print was found and restored by the Eastman House. Both Fritzi Kramer on Movie Silently and Tristan Ettleman on Medium still think it’s gorgeous and they illustrated their articles with screen grabs, so you can see too. In 2014 it was added to the Library of Congress’ Film Registry, and Daisuke Miyao wrote an essay for them on that occasion.

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While Kingsley’s Dragon Painter review was thoughtful, her review of her least favorite film this week was more fun to read. She suffered through The Sundown Trail and wrote:

I cannot remember any “Western” situation that is left out of the story, though there may possibly be one or two. The result is a rather jolty course of narrative.

There is a western mining town without any ‘wimmin,’ and though there were many of the sex in the next town, they weren’t the ‘nice’ kind, and while the citizens of Sundown drank their liquor neat and gambled oh, like anything, they just couldn’t abide scarlet ladies. If they had, you see, there wouldn’t be any story. So they voted one night to import some from old Virginia…There was also the ragdoll heroine, a widow whose child was stolen. She lost her mind about it, away off up in the mountains, but it didn’t matter much because it didn’t seem to be much of a mind anyhow.

Oooof – she’d really had enough of vapid heroines. It’s a lost film. The Sundown Trail had one redeeming quality: Clyde Fillmore’s broad shoulders were “good to look at.” He played the slick gambler Velvet Eddy. He happened to be in town at the Morosco Theater, in the long–running play (14 weeks so far!) Civilian Clothes. He had a long career on stage and screen and was most famous for starring in von Stroheim’s Devil’s Pass Key.

Kingsley mentioned that screenwriter June Mathis asked leading man Bert Lytell if he’d heard from female impersonator Julian Eltinge lately. He said:

“No, but he sent me a fine bottle of whiskey before he went away—I’m saving it for medicinal purposes, of course,” responded Lytell.

“Oh, don’t do that,” said Miss Mathis, “sell it and go to Europe why don’t you?”

People were definitely not happy about liquor prices after Prohibition!

 

 

 

James W. Dean, “Who Loves a Fat Man?” Logansport Pharos-Tribune, September 8, 1922, p.3.

 

 

 

 

 

Immortalize Your Lawn: Week of September 20th, 1919

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One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley mentioned a brand new trend:

Did you know that in all likelihood your home is ticketed and plotted and mapped and pigeonholed, that your favorite monkey tree in the front yard is spotted and what you consider the privacy of your back yard is known all about in certain quarters? Well they are.

No, not by enemies of your country. By the motion picture producers. Why, even your front door may become the front door of the handsome hero’s home, and the villain may pursue the heroine over your front lawn at any moment, your more or less humble front door and your lawn thus gaining immortality in the deathless fillums. But don’t worry. Your permission will be graciously asked and you’ll be properly paid for the use of your property.

Renting out your house wasn’t always easy money, there were horror stories too: a crowd of extras trampled a lawn and left their lunch trash all over one Hollywood home, and a Beverly Hills estate was left with a grave dug in the front yard! But she assured her readers that “in 999 cases out of 1000, however, directors are careful to see that no damage is done to property loaned them.” Furthermore, “damages, if any, are promptly repaired or paid for.”

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She said that this was a new way to make films:

Once on a time the picture players, whole car loads of ‘em, used to start out and find their own locations. But now that so much of the West had been “shot,” picture directors must be more skillful in finding locations.

So that brought about the beginnings of a specialized occupation, location scout. She gave Universal Studios’ system as an example:

Take Universal City, for instance. No matter what demand may be made upon the location bureau of the production office, the sort of place desired is sure to be found catalogued, because a crowd of scouts is out all the time nosing about to find “locations,” photographing them when possible, describing them and bringing the data into the location office.

All film jobs were becoming more specialized as studios replaced independent productions. It was a more efficient way to make movies, but I bet some people missed piling into a car and looking for a nice place to shoot.

Now that independent production is more common than studio, the film office of Los Angeles, Film LA, has put together Locoscout, a database of places to film in Los Angeles. You can be a DIY location scout!

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This week, after Kingsley submitted her Sunday columns, she took a vacation—her first in more than three years. She was able to go because Edwin Schallert was there. He had been a theater and music critic for the Times since 1916 until July 1917 when he joined the army to fight in World War 1. He returned to the paper in April 1919, and he got his old job back, adding films to his portfolio. This didn’t threaten Kingsley’s job: there was more than enough movie news for both of them to cover. She was back doing her regular news column on September 29th.

 

 

Griffith’s Latest Marvel: Week of September 13th, 1919

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One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley reported on the biggest film premier of the year, Broken Blossoms:

That drama outside the drama—the unfolding of genius! That’s what one thought last night, watching that latest marvel of the master picture maker, D.W. Griffith, and feeling the undercurrent of reaction to the master touch which thrilled through the tremendous crowd that had surged through the doors of Clune’s Auditorium until it packed the great place from topmost galleries—yes, even rafters—and nearly spilled into the orchestra, in order to view the premier of Broken Blossoms. Although everything was reported sold early in the day, crowds were turned away.

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She wrote about its New York premiere in May (it really took a long time to get to Los Angeles!) But this event was just as impressive, with loads of movie stars in attendance, from Arbuckle to Walthall. It made for “a discriminating audience, too, one made up of artists in all lines, which was exactly attuned to respond to all the Griffith subtleties. And at the end, when the crowd howled for Griffith, I’m sure that beneath and beyond all its artistic appreciation was the big generous sense: “This D.W. Griffith is our Griffith, and we’re proud of him!”

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The ads practically wrote themselves

She was ready to call it his masterpiece; Birth of a Nation and Intolerance were just steps to get to it. The LA Times chief critic, Edwin Schallert, placed it in an even larger context. Broken Blossoms

is to the future of pictures what the solemn tragedies of Sophocles are to the drama of all ages…He has ennobled the sordid surroundings of one of the lowest quarters of civilization with the poetry of beauty, and against this strangely fascinating background has painted a conflict of lives, and hope, and love and death, whose highest summits reach to where no art has soared in recent days except that of music.

Words are futile to describe the poignant appeal of Mr. Griffith’s story of love and death.

That is a tough review to live up to!

Other than Broken Blossoms, it was a fairly uneventful week. Kingsley even wrote a story about what jobs four women of the musical Chin Chin chorus wanted to do if they were men—the answers were sailor, jockey, cowboy and chauffeur.

She did mention a question that had come up in her office:

What will the male critics do next week, when Are You Fit To Marry is shown at the Symphony Theater “for ladies only.”

Since she was on vacation next week, they solved the problem at the Times by not reviewing it at all. Maybe they felt that enough had been written about the eugenics movement.

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Fairbanks’ Itchy Feet: Week of September 6th, 1919

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One hundred years ago this week, Douglas Fairbanks again felt the need to tell Grace Kingsley his travel plans, which included:

a trip to New York in November, whence, after making a picture in the East, he will go to Europe, visiting England, France, Switzerland, Italy and even Sweden and Denmark and the smaller nations.

He wanted to bring along Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., who had been visiting him all summer but had returned to school (there was no mention of what his ex-wife thought about it). He thought he might make some films while he was abroad, too.

This resembles his travel plans from early August, and Kingsley remembered to ask about them:

Concerning the trip to South America which Mr. Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin contemplate taking together, the two have decided to put that off until after Fairbanks’ tour abroad.

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Kathleen Clifford

He really wanted to get out of town, even though he was in the middle of casting his next film. He had chosen a leading lady, but he wasn’t ready to tell Kingsley yet (it was Kathleen Clifford, and the film was When the Clouds Roll By).

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Unlike the South America trip, he actually did go to Europe the next year and visited everywhere on his list, substituting the Netherlands and Germany for the Nordic countries. However, he had a different companion. He married Mary Pickford on March 28, 1920 and on June 12, 1920 they set off on their honeymoon, sailing to Southampton, England. British Pathe Newsreel filmed their arrival and the crowds that swarmed them:

Mobs of fans followed them wherever they went, making seeing the sights impossible, with one exception. According to Fairbanks biographer Tracey Goessel, they got a break in Germany—their films hadn’t been shown there during the war, so they weren’t noticed except in American-occupied Coblenz. But after a day without being recognized, Pickford realized she didn’t like it and said “Let’s go someplace where we are known. I’ve had enough obscurity for a lifetime.”

British Pathe caught up with them again at their last stop in Paris, and you can see that obscurity was not a problem there:

I feel claustrophobic just looking at the newsreels! They arrived back in New York on July 29th.

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Kingsley’s favorite show this week was at Grauman’s, where Mack Sennett’s Uncle Tom Without a Cabin and Love Insurance with Bryant Washburn were playing; she said, “let’s stipulate right from the outset that these two form a combination that assay more laughs to the square inch of film than any program it’s been our joy to witness in many a long day.”

She described Love Insurance as

“a sprightly and ingenious story, this, involving an English lord engaged to marry a wealthy American girl, but who is afraid of losing her, and therefore takes out insurance in Lloyd’s against such a mishap. Bryant is the boy sent to watch over the interests of the insurance company and see that the marriage comes off according to schedule. There is a mounting comic interest in the march of events—and at least two big surprises at the end! It’s these really brilliant little screen comedies which are lifting the screen above the slush and mush.”

This version is lost, so I’ll spoil the surprises: he wasn’t really a Lord, and the girl ends up with Washburn. It got remade twice more, once with Reginald Denny as The Reckless Age (1924) and once as One Night in the Tropics (1940) with Allan Jones and Abbott and Costello.

She really enjoyed the two-reeler on the program, too:

Uncle Tom Without His Cabin is the funniest kind of burlesque on barnstorming companies, and must be seen to be appreciated. It hits off the mannerisms of actors behind the scenes in a way to amuse both the profession and outsiders, and drolly satirizes the trials and tribulations of the barnstormers.

The short did so well at this theater, Sennett made an ad out of it!

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Brett Walker, in Mack Sennett’s Fun Factory, wrote that it was one of their best remembered and most popular films, and it helped make Ben Turpin a star.

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Dorothy Gish in Nobody Home

Kingsley also really enjoyed seeing Dorothy Gish in Nobody Home, which was “a fresh, brisk little comedy, about a superstitious girl who won’t make a turn in life without consulting the cards.” She gave Gish quite an unusual compliment:

Dorothy ‘s hand and feet are funny; she can get more comedy over in the crooking of a finger-tip, the twinkle of a heel, than most comediennes can throughout the playing of a whole humor feature.

Unfortunately, it’s a lost film.

 

A Second Chance: Week of August 30th, 1919

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Georgia Woodthorpe

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley gave us a story that showed that the best trope in fiction can sometimes come true:

When harsh parental edicts thirty-six years ago tore apart two newly-married San Francisco elopers known at the time as Billy Wallace and Georgie Woodthorpe, they did not extinguish but only banked love’s fires, which now have flamed again to reunite Mr. and Mrs. William T. Wallace in a home of happiness in Portland, OR, the two being wed there a few days ago…

Back of the remarriage which took place recently lies the unusual romance of the quickly-thwarted marriage of 1883, the interval of the marriages of the two to others, the rearing of children, and the smoldering of the love that brought the couple together again. During that time Mrs. Woodthorpe-Cooper made a name on the stage, appearing with both [Edwin] Booth and [Lawrence] Barrett.

The romance started when the two were schoolmates. Both ran away from their homes in San Francisco to San Jose, where they were wed, but swift parental interposition prevailed before the marriage was a day old, and finally Mrs. Wallace consented to divorce her young husband.

Aside from a brief meeting seven years ago, they had not seen each other until last February.

All that’s missing is a “you pierce my soul” letter (hooray for Captain Wentworth!). William Wallace had become a paving contractor in Portland Oregon, while Georgia Woodthorpe married Fred Cooper, a theater manager, and kept acting on the stage. Cooper died in 1912. Woodthorpe had started working in the movies in 1918, and she continued after her third wedding. Her most memorable role was as the lodge keeper’s wife in The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921). Mr. and Mrs. Wallace were together until he died in 1926; she died a year later.

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Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, Charles Coburn in The More the Merrier

However if that early romance hadn’t been thwarted, we wouldn’t have The More The Merrier (1943), which would be awful. The Coopers had three daughters and a son; one daughter, Georgie Cooper, married John Stevens and they had two sons, John and George, who became a film director. He made quite a few other movies that people like at lot, including Swing Time (1937), Gunga Din (1939) and Shane (1953). I’m selfish enough to be glad everything turned out the way it did.

Kingsley’s favorite film this week was Wagon Tracks, a “great desert screen epic.” She enthused:

Never has William S. Hart appeared to such splendid advantage as in this smashing drama of the California desert. In fact, it seems as if all of his former efforts were mere training for this big epic of the outdoors. His vigorous downrightness of characterization, his power to convey deep dramatic feeling, and to impress with a sense of utter sincerity, have never revealed themselves so incisively as against the backdrop of the masterpiece of Mr. [C. Gardner] Sullivan’s—this strikingly original story of the pioneers who faced death in the olden days in order to build our empire in the West.

Hart played Buckskin Hamilton, a wagon train guide, who gets revenge for his brother’s murder. It’s been preserved, and it’s available on DVD.

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Alice Brady in His Bridal Night

Kingsley’s least favorite film this week was His Bridal Night, a not-very naughty bedroom farce (“don’t be frightened—they spend the evening in a decorous sitting room”). After the show she overheard:

“It might have been worse!” sighed a fat lady behind me yesterday. “Or better!” responded her escort.

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The Syd Chaplin Airline Company

Mr. Chaplin’s publicists were working overtime this week. On Monday Kingsley reported:

Laying aside for the time being his high-brow aspirations to play Hamlet and consenting to be the idol of high-brow, low-brows and no-brows for awhile yet, Charlie Chaplin announced yesterday that today he will commence the making of a new comedy along the lines that have made and kept him famous, and in which, despite his detractors, he is known as a real artist. The theme which Chaplin’s comedy will have is one in which the public is becoming more and more interested, viz. aviation. One scorns, of course, to suggest that an aviation comedy made by Charlie Chaplin will boost Brother Syd’s airplane business!

She’d heard a rumor that it was to be called Sky Jazzing. However, it never got past the tell-the-newspaper-about-it stage, and Chaplin kept working on The Kid. Syd Chaplin did help start the first privately owned domestic American airline, but he got out of the business about a year later, when the government started taxing it and requiring pilots’ licenses.

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Chaplin at work

On Thursday, she ran a sweet story about Reginald Over, a Chaplin superfan who talked his way into the studio by claiming he had a camera innovation. After Chaplin finished shooting his scene and came over, Over immediately confessed that he didn’t, but he said:

“For the past three years I have religiously visited the studios where you have been working; wanted to see you in action. Never got a ‘look in.’ Thought it about time to invent something. So sorry to have troubled you. Mr. Chaplin, many thanks for the entertainment. Good-bye.”

He turned to go, but Charlie invited him to stay for tea.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any Reginald Overs living in Los Angeles at the time. But it would be nice if the story were true.

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Kingsley attended these fights on August 26, 1919

A few weeks ago, we learned that on Monday nights, film people went to the theater. This week Kingsley reported that Tuesday night was fight night for the male part of Hollywood. Professional boxing was illegal in Los Angeles until 1924, so they all trekked to Vernon, a tiny unincorporated town five miles south of downtown L.A. She infiltrated Jack Doyle’s boxing ring there, where she heard “a great roar, the loudest human noise you have ever heard.” The stars she saw did their part to contribute to it:

  • “Bryant Washburn, who, you know, always plays the polite, home-broken husband, never misses a Tuesday night. Washburn is always loaded down with cigars when he arrives, because he invariably forgets to take his cigar out of his mouth when he commences to holler—says he never knows when an attack of hollering is coming on—and so drops cigar after cigar to the floor, and has to light another.”
  • “Charlie Chaplin forgets he’s a great artist when he arrives at the ringside. He hollers the loudest when he disagrees with the referee, which is nearly always.”
  • “Monte Blue puts his hands over his ears when there’s a din—and then hollers his own head off!”

There were a few exceptions, such as Tom Mix. Every Tuesday,“Tom sits as solemnly and quietly as if he were in church.” In addition, Roscoe Arbuckle had the most remarkable reaction to the din: “Fatty goes to sleep—but always wakes up just at the right places!”

Maybe in the coming months, we’ll find out what they did with themselves the rest of the week.