Checking In With Earlier Stories: November 16-30, 1922

Colleen Moore

One hundred years ago this month, entertainment news was slowing down a bit before the holidays. The most interesting things that Grace Kingsley wrote about were updates of stories she’d reported on before. She had been writing the same item about one popular leading lady since 1916, so it’s no wonder she sounded a little tired of it:

Once more is Colleen Moore discovered. She is the most discovered young lady in motion pictures. First D.W. Griffith discovered her and then Micky Neilan discovered that she was exactly the actress he wanted; later along came Rupert Hughes and did some discovering, featuring her in three big pictures. Then Ward Lascalle found Miss Moore was an excellent comedian, and starred her in Mary Roberts Rinehart’s Affinities, which goes on at the Symphony Sunday.

Colleen Moore, 1917

Since 1916, Moore had been a busy working actress – she was featured in six films in 1922 alone – but she wasn’t a huge star. Affinities didn’t make her one either. She played a wife neglected by her golfing husband, so she went on a picnic with a group of fellow sufferers. She and a golf widower are accidentally left on an island and wackiness ensues as they try to get home before anybody finds out and assumes the worst. Exhibitors’ Herald described it as “a comedy drama of the program type, pleasing in a mild way by virtue of its fast-moving propensities and various humorous incidents from time to time.” While it wasn’t a star-making vehicle, Exhibitors’ Trade Review did mention that “Colleen Moore displays her usual grace and charm.”

Lightning struck for her the following year with Flaming Youth. Helen Klumph, an L.A. Times reporter writing from New York, summed up her good fortune in December 1923:

’She who flaps last flaps best,’ is the verdict of exhibitors in the East who are watching Colleen Moore in Flaming Youth coin money for them. The success of the picture is phenomenal, inasmuch as it followed a long, long trail of mediocre and tawdry productions detailing the sins of us wild young people…Who would have prophesized just that sort of glory for out little Colleen? I would as soon have nominated elfish Baby Peggy to step into Gloria Swanson’s shoes.

Moore went on to make several hit films, including Ella Cinders (1926) and Her Wild Oat (1927). Kingsley was probably glad she didn’t have to announce the discovery of Colleen Moore ever again.

This month, Kingsley also had a short interview with Mary Pickford on the occasion of her new version of Tess of Storm Country running simultaneously at both the California and Miller’s Theater, because there was such a demand for tickets. The theaters claimed it was the first time that had ever happened. Pickford’s big announcement to Kingsley was that once again, her husband Douglas Fairbanks was thinking about retirement. She said:

Doug wants us to make a few more pictures, and then go and live abroad. In fact, he wants that we shall spend many years in travel. He wants for one thing, that we shall go to Africa and hunt big game. Can you see me hunting lions? I’ll tell you what I shall do. I shall wear a little cage, with just my legs and feet sticking out, so I can draw into it if I see a lion coming! Seriously, Douglas wishes us to spend several years in doing nothing but traveling, hunting, and seeing all the out-of-the-way nooks of the world. Of course I shall love that. In the meantime, however, we shall continue to make pictures.

They did take vacations between films.

Even big stars love to dream about quitting. Pickford had told Kingsley about her own retirement plans back in 1919. Neither Fairbanks not Pickford abandoned their career for many years. When Fairbanks eventually retired in 1934, he did travel the world, exactly as he’d planned, but Pickford wasn’t there: they had separated in 1933 and divorced in 1936.

Kingsley also featured what we now know was a tragic update: Famous Players-Lasky had extended Wallace Reid’s vacation. His wife, Dorothy Davenport said:

Wallace began feeling so much better, due to his exercises and outdoor travels, that he overdid somewhat on the punching bag, bicycling and horseback riding.

After the Thanksgiving holiday, she said she planned to take him to Palm Springs to recuperate. Unfortunately, at that point he wasn’t anywhere close to being able to travel and exercise. He had been badly hurt in a train accident while shooting Valley of the Giants (1919), and Davenport and the studio worked hard to keep the full extent of Reid’s injuries and subsequent morphine addiction out of the papers. He died just a few weeks later in a sanitorium, on January 18, 1923.

“Affinities,” Exhibitors’ Herald, October 7, 1922, p. 58.

“Affinities,” Exhibitors’ Trade Review, August 19, 1922, p. 817.

Grace Kingsley, “Flashes: Lascalle Busy,” Los Angeles Times, May 17, 1922.

Helen Klumph, “Colleen’s Flapper Queen,” Los Angeles Times, December 12, 1923.

North to Alaska: November 1-15, 1922

One hundred years ago this month, Grace Kingsley spoke to an adventurous and ambitious director:

Training right along with our best little traveling motion-picture companies, Norman Dawn, well-known picture director, yesterday announced his intention of taking a company to Alaska early next spring to make two pictures.

Mr. Dawn’s company will travel as far north as possible, leaving early in March, when the ice begins to break in the Bering Sea. He expects, indeed, to be able to reach Point Barrow, 200 miles north of Nome. He and his company will also visit the Probilof Islands and the Aleutians.

The company will travel in a chartered power launch, which will tow a schooner to be used in a spectacular wreck scene in the north. As an added feature, Mr. Dawn will make use of the Esquimoux and Indians of the north in many of the scenes where such natives are required.

The director will take the principals of his cast to the number of about eighteen. He says he wants no molly-coddles, however, as the work will be hard and may even be very dangerous.

Amazingly, he did quite a bit what he told her—it just took two trips instead of one.

Norman Dawn, 1906

Norman Omar Dawn’s early records are incomplete. Luckily, film scholar Raymond Fielding interviewed him in 1962 for a SMPTE article, and he rcorded some of the details. Dawn was born in a railroad camp tent in Humahuaca Canyon, Bolivia, where his father, also named  Norman, was helping to design and build Bolivia’s early railroad (Fielding said it was in 1886, but Dawn’s other vital records say May 25, 1884). His American parents took him to Salta, Argentina where his birth was recorded, and when he was three months old, he was taken to Monterey, California.* He lived there until his father died when he was ten, and then his aunt in Alhambra, California took him in.

His father had been an amateur photographer, which inspired the younger Norman’s interest in trick photography. In 1905 he became a still photographer for the Thorpe Engraving Company in Los Angeles. The following year he traveled to Paris to study art. He bought a Debrie camera and he returned to California in 1907. There he made his first film, Missions of California, using matte photography to fill in missing structures and make the crumbling buildings look whole. He sold his one-reel film to Gaumont, then he spent the next three years selling travel films like Gorges of the Yangtze and The Great Barrier Reef to Pathe, Keystone, and Universal as well as Gaumont. He began making fiction films in 1911 when he made a two-reel drama called Story of the Andes in Bolivia, which Gaumont bought. He returned to Los Angeles in 1911 and he became a special effects cameraman for Selig.

The Drifter is utterly lost: all that remains of it seems to be Dawn’s records

In 1913 he bought a half-completed negative called The Drifter that featured Bob Koffman, Valencia Martin and Eagle Eye. He took over producing and directing it and finished the two-reel film. He sold it on a states rights basis, and began alternating independent production work with special effects cinematography work for studios. He was hired as a director for Universal in 1919 and made several features there with Edith Roberts. He also patented his composite photography process in 1918, but he lost the case when he tried to sue other inventors for infringement in 1922.

Dawn at work with Edith Roberts

He married Katherine V. Madden on February 1, 1921 in Oakland. She was a member of the scenario department at Universal and they met when he was directing The Fire Cat (1921). She went on to appear in several of his films.

Sessue Hayakawa and Bessie Love in The Vermillion Pencil (1922)

In 1921 he finished his contract at Universal and moved to Robertson-Cole, where he made two features with Sessue Hayakawa as well as The Son of the Wolf, based on a Jack London story. It was set in Alaska but probably shot in the Sierra Nevada mountains and Yosemite (though in one article Dawn claimed he was leaving for in Northern Canada), and the results were pretty good. Film Daily praised the beautiful locations and photography, then summed it up: “because the picture is so good to look at folks are sure to overlook a somewhat weak story in this instance.”

By the time he was speaking to Kingsley in 1922 he had decided to return to independent production. Perhaps because Nanook of the North was proving to be so popular, he wanted to make a film set in the North but with more authenticity than his earlier movie. So in 1923 Norman Dawn, his wife, and the rest of the company set off for Alaska. He didn’t neglect his advance publicity, writing to Kingsley in late 1923 from Cantwell, Alaska. He said he was using a herd of 10,00 reindeer and over 200 dog teams. Because the days were short, they began shooting at ten and finished at two, when the sun went down, then they rehearsed after dark. At night the temperature dropped below zero, but they got to see the aurora borealis. They lived in log cabins buried in the snow. They didn’t travel as much as he’d originally planned, and experience wasn’t quite as bad as he’d anticipated in 1922.

He was back in Los Angeles by February 1924 and Kingsley reported he was previewing The Trail of Broken Hearts for exhibitors. He did sell it on a states’ rights basis. Re-titled The Lure of the Yukon, it wasn’t widely reviewed (when it played in Los Angeles in late December 1924, it was only mentioned as a coming attraction), however, George T. Pardy in Exhibitors’ Trade Review thought it was a good buy, especially for summer months when it would contrast with the “torrid dog days.” Pardy wrote, “it is well directed, crammed full of spectacular thrills and goes top-speed from start to finish.” Even if the plot about the Yukon gold rush “follows a pretty familiar course detailing the adventures of an unsuspicious old father, pretty daughter, married villain who tries to carry off the latter, a dashing hero who always turns up in the nick of time to foil the ruffian’s plans, and the hardships of the long frozen trail vividly outlined,” it was ”a fast-moving melodrama screened amid genuine Alaskan surroundings, a hummer of thrills and romantic urge, without a dull moment in it.” Lure of the Yukon is a lost film.

As soon as he sold Lure, Dawn mentioned to Kingsley that he planned to return to Alaska and shoot another one. He did wait until after Katherine Dawn gave birth to their son Forest Emerson Dawn on March 16, 1924, but just six weeks later the whole family, plus the cast and crew, were on the boat North.

Their second shoot was more difficult than the first one. Dawn wrote to Kingsley from Alaska in the summer of 1924, and told her “we have been to the ice fields beyond Nome, and made some thrilling scenes with polar bears and dog teams in the great cracks of ice.” Then they visited a volcanic area—a valley with seven volcanoes, “truly the greatest natural wonder of the world.” Even though the scenery was spectacular, “We were seven weeks in the volcanoes and glad to get out, for we had many thrilling and narrow escapes.”

They came back to Los Angeles in early October 1924. A few months later, Kingsley interviewed the film’s star, Arthur Jasmine, and he filled in more details about the arduous shoot for an article called “Arctic Rigors Endured.” The work was as hard and dangerous as Dawn had anticipated in his 1922 interview. Jasmine said that to get to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, they had to hike over thirty miles over pumice and volcanic ash with their 3200 pounds of provisions. It took three weeks. The 19-member group included all three Dawns and a nurse–they even brought the baby along for that part of the trip. Jasmine said:

We got into the valley on the Fourth of July, and it was pouring rain. There were great columns of steam issuing from the ground. The wind from the Bering Sea was so cold you couldn’t stand up in it, yet the ground was so hot you couldn’t lie on it.

He listed some of the other hardships: the mosquitos were ravenous, on rainy days when they couldn’t shoot they had no books to read because they were too heavy to bring along, and he stayed in the same clothes for seven weeks. Furthermore: “that midnight sun certainly did get on our nerves. Some of the people went a bit looney.” (Gee but I’m glad I don’t have either filmmaking or camping ambitions—that’s a whole lot of misery!)

Arthur Jasmine tried to find acting work after Justice of the Far North, but he was unsuccessful. He became a costumer and worked for Ted Thall United Costumes. He died in 1954.

Eventually the film was called Justice of the Far North. It was also sold on a states’ rights basis, and the few reviews that appeared were similar to the ones for Lure. Exhibitors’ Herald said, “It may do very well as a scenic because many sequences are beautiful for their ice and snow, their mountains and river falls, their volcanic eruptions and their lava flows.” However, “the action is slow; the acting is spotty; the story is ‘get -revenge-because-she was-unfaithful’ type; and many inconsistencies appear in the continuity.” At least this one isn’t completely lost: there’s a fragment at the British Film Institute.

Showgirl’s Luck (1931) starring Katherine Dawn.

After that second trip to the north, Norman Dawn (very sensibly) planned to make some films on tropical islands. Once again, he carried through with his intentions, making The Adorable Outcast (1927) on Fiji. He continued to travel around the world and make movies. In 1929 he went to Australia and made his, and the county’s, first sound film Show-Girl’s Luck, a musical. His final film was an independent production called Wild Women (1951).

During the war he went to work for Boeing Aircraft to make training and public information films.

Norman Dawn had an amazing career. He was an important pioneer in special effects photography; as Raymond Fielding wrote:

Because of the difficulties involved in determining technological precedence, Dawn has never claimed to have been the first to employ the processes which he developed independently for his own work. The dates on which he first employed them are sufficiently early, however, to establish him as one of the first and most active in this field.

Dawn was able to make exactly the sort of films he wanted to make, and travel the world while he did it.  George E. Turner in American Cinematographer called him “the most independent filmmaker in the industry’s history.” He died on February 2, 1975 in Los Angeles. His wife survived him for many years; Katherine Dawn died in July 1984 in Santa Monica.

While many of his films are lost, his papers are preserved at the University of Texas at Austin and they are remarkable. He made cards that resemble scrapbooks for many of his films, and the University has digitized them and made them available online. So if you want to be remembered, be sure to keep and organize your records and give them to a reputable library!

*Dawn doesn’t seem to have mentioned his mother to Fielding. There’s a story buried in the vital records that is the stuff of novels. Dawn’s mother, Olga De Mojean, left his father and South America fairly soon after his birth. She went to Jackson, Missouri where she married George Cundiff on January 25, 1886 (another reason I’m certain Dawn’s birth year was 1884). They had three children. By 1910 she was a divorced roomer living in El Paso, Texas but by 1914 she had moved to Los Angeles. She seems to have kept in touch with her eldest son because they shared a house in Venice, California (on the Grand Canal, no less!), and she had small parts in four of his Universal films. She later reconciled with George Cundiff: they were together in Santa Monica in the 1950’s. She died there in 1957.

“Beautiful Backgrounds and Northern Atmosphere that Interests,” Film Daily, May 15, 1921, p. 15.

“C.B.C. Buys Big Alaska Feature,” Exhibitors’ Trade Review, March 21, 1925, p.38.

“Coast Brevities,” Film Daily, November 9, 1924, p. 6.

Raymond E. Fielding, “Norman O. Dawn, Pioneer Worker in Special Effects Cinematography,” SMPTE, v.72 #1, p.15-23.

Grace Kingsley, “Arctic Rigors Endured,” Los Angeles Times, December 14, 1924.

Grace Kingsley, “Flashes: Dawn Heard From,” Los Angeles Times, August 20, 1924.

Grace Kingsley, “Flashes: Has Alaska Locale,” Los Angeles Times, February 9, 1924.

Grace Kingsley, “Flashes: Made in North,” Los Angeles Times, December 13, 1923.

Grace Kingsley, “Flashes: Producers Home,” Los Angeles Times, February 5, 1925.

Grace Kingsley, “Flashes: Shoots in Alaska,” Los Angeles Times, April 19, 1924.

Grace Kingsley, “Flashes: Tom Moore to Wed,” Los Angeles Times, February 3, 1921.

Motion Picture Studio Directory, 1921, p. 261.

“Produces Line-Up,” Los Angeles Times, August 17, 1922.

Earl Theisen, “In the Realm of Tricks and Illusions,” International Photographer, June 1934, p. 8.

“T.O. Service,” Exhibitors’ Herald, August 22, 1925, p. 53.

“Three New Stage Attractions Open,” Los Angeles Times, December 21, 1924.

Sundaes, Not Cigarettes: October 16-31, 1922

One hundred years ago this month, Grace Kingsley delivered a public service announcement:

Flappers, you who think it is smart to do all that the movie queen flappers do—listen! Smoking isn’t considered de rigueur any more in the best flapper film circles.

It simply isn’t done in the younger flapper set, smoking or antivolsteading! Not that she doesn’t have her fun, the flapper picture queen, and get quite wild at times. My goodness, doesn’t she have her dizzy Halloween parties with apple bobbing and everything? I’ll tell the world she does! She also occasionally enjoys a nut sundae orgy, with everybody staggering out of the Pig ‘n’ Whistle.

Virginia Brown Faire

To prove her point, she spoke to several young actresses, beginning with Virginia Brown Faire who told her that smoking spoils your looks by staining your teeth and “giving an expression of age to the mouth and chin.” What could be worse than that?

Helen Ferguson

Helen Ferguson found the whole process of smoking miserable and told about the one time she tried it, before auditioning for a vamp role:

I took half a dozen matches and a cigarette into the bathroom and tried to light the thing. I burned the eyelashes off of one of my eyes and got smoke in the other. And it made me sick in the bargain. After all, I didn’t get the role.

The club Davis mentioned was called “Our Club.” It was a social group for young women at the beginning of their Hollywood careers, and Mary Pickford was the honorary president. No drinking, smoking or gossip was allowed. Several of the women Kingsley quoted were members — maybe she just attended a meeting and talked to them there.

Other actresses chimed in. Mildred Davis pointed out that Mary Pickford didn’t smoke, and neither did any of the picture girls in their club. She continued “There’s such a lot of happiness in living, why smoke? Maybe if some day I’m an old, old maid, with just a cat and a parrot, I’ll smoke. But not now.” Edith Roberts said that she’d rather stick with her current addictions, chocolate and toasted marshmallows. May McAvoy mentioned that it’s an expensive habit and felt “that smoking detracts to a certain extent from feminine charm.” Carmel Myers had practical concerns, too: “I have trouble enough on my shoulders without always having to worry about my favorite cigarettes or whether I have any matches or not.”

Lois Wilson

It’s also remarkable that despite thinking it was quite nasty, they didn’t want to pass judgement on people who did smoke. For example, Lois Wilson said, “Not that I criticize the girl who does smoke, you know. It is a matter of personal opinion, and personal taste, that’s all.” It seems like nice girls can’t tell other people what to do.

Kingsley’s article wasn’t just a public health announcement to discourage smoking, it was part of the attempt to make Hollywood seem polite and decent during a time of raging scandals. It served the same purpose as Ethel Sands’ series of articles for Picture-Play Magazine. Kingsley concluded:

In short, contrary to some people’s ideas of film queens, it is the thing nowadays to be just a nice little girl, like any other little girl in the world, who likes tennis and golf, and who has a healthy mind and body.

Because in 1922, nice women did not smoke. However, this was changing. Rates of smoking among women went up in the 1920’s, from six percent in 1924 to sixteen percent in 1929, according to estimates in a Surgeon General report.

New York City’s Easter parade, 1929

Then in March 1929, advertising expert Edward Bernays hired a dozen women to stroll while smoking around New York City’s Easter Parade and tell journalists their cigarettes were “torches of freedom.” It looks like his campaign worked. In 1935, Fortune magazine did a national survey and found twenty-six percent of women under 40 and nine percent over 40 smoked.

So even though she was helping to make the film industry seem less of a cesspit than it was, at least Kingsley’s article might have kept some women healthy. She had much less to be ashamed of than Bernays!

“Beauty Rampant But No Scandal or Gossip Here,” Los Angeles Times, January 20, 1923.

“Easter Sun Finds the Past in Shadow at Modern Parade,” New York Times, April 1, 1929.

Elza Schallert, “The Girls of ‘Our Club,’” Picture-Play Magazine, June 1923, p. 29.

Women and Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General, Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2001.

No mall multiplex ever aspired to this: October 1-15, 1922

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley got to visit a brand-new theater, Grauman’s Hollywood, and she was mightily impressed. She promised readers that when they visited, they would “step right out of the humdrum of Main Street into the beauty and mystery and atmospheric charm of an Egyptian temple.” She didn’t stint on her adjectives when she described her first impressions:

At the risk of sounding like a regular press-agent, I’m going to say that a vista of exquisite beauty, filled with sparkling fountains, colored lights, huge bas-reliefs, softly tinted hieroglyphics, and flowers bursts on your view as you enter the long court leading to the pillared temple.

What a work uniform!

Lining the court on one side is a string of shops devoted to objects of art and refreshment, and decorated in keeping with the general scheme. Lining the other side are bas-relief figures, Egyptian paintings and fountains, while among the palms are placed ornamental stone garden seats. Entering the pillared portico, you come to the main entrance, and inside huge mirrors reflect the vista of beauty. Beyond is a huge lounge, flanked by luxuriously appointed rest-rooms and smoking apartments.

The theater itself is gorgeous in color and yet exquisitely toned. The stage and proscenium are calculated to give the illusion of depth, with pillars and a huge figure of the sphinx on either side. Above one seems to be looking into the blue depths of the sky with a sunburst crowning the proscenium. Every color is used in marvelous shades to and exquisite blending of effect.

It hasn’t been knocked down or converted to a flea market!

Remarkably, it’s still a movie theater. Until recently, the American Cinematheque and the annual Cinecon and TCM movie conventions held screenings there. Bill Counter at the Los Angeles theaters blog has written a through history of what came to be called the Egyptian Theater. The short version is that movie theater magnet Sid Grauman started building his first theater in Hollywood in 1921. He’d hoped to open it in November of that year, but like most construction projects, it took longer. It cost $800,000, and it was the first theater with an Egyptian decorative scheme.

He had plenty to smile about

Kingsley also mentioned the big plans for opening night, the premier of Douglas Fairbanks’ Robin Hood:

The opening of the theater Wednesday night promises to be the most brilliant occasion of the kind in the city. Well-known stage and picture stars, famous writers, artists and musicians will be among the guests of Mr. Grauman.

Mr. Fairbanks buys his ticket from Mr. Grauman

Of course she didn’t get to attend, her boss Edwin Schallert sent himself to the jam-packed event (the National Guard had to supplement the local police to keep the crowds in line, Exhibitors’ Herald reported). Schallert admired the theater as much as Kingsley did, calling it

a true theater of the picture type—one in which taste dominates. There is nothing of garishness about the interior. There is naught to distract the eye from the shadowy stage which is the playhouse raison d’etre.

He said the evening lived up to its promise: after “everyone in starland” heard speeches from several dignitaries and even Charlie Chaplin, who “indicated that too many speeches palled on him” (perhaps Kingsley didn’t regret missing them). Cecil B. De Mille then presented a laurel wreath to Grauman, on behalf of all the film folk.

Eventually the feature began, and Schallert thought it was even better than the event and the theater:

a panorama of fantasy, a magical pictorial procession, a gay, dashing pageant of daring exploits and chivalric deeds, seen through the mists of legends and lighted by the moonbeams of romance, Robin Hood, the long-awaited, the clarioned, unfurled the radiant tapestry of its presence last night in Hollywood…Certainly, this is the great picture of the year. Undoubtedly, too, it is the most artistic picture in the history of ocular narrative.

Purple prose was awfully common on the movie page back then! Nevertheless, filmgoers agreed that the movie was terrific and Robin Hood won Photoplay’s Gold Medal of Honor for 1922 as the best picture of the year. It sold plenty of tickets, too. Grauman’s Hollywood could seat 1760 people, and the film played until April 1923.

The theater was unique in another way: Sid Grauman had introduced a new plan with reserved seating and only two shows a day, not continuous showings. You could buy tickets up to a week in advance. It made movie-going into an event. Also, because it was the only theater where Robin Hood would be playing in Southern California until the end of the year, travelers wanted to be guaranteed admission. People liked it, the Times said three weeks after the opening. Demand was so high that the box office had to install a private branch telephone exchange at the theater. They took reservations by telegraph, too.

Future plans

Hopefully, it will be a theater again, once it’s current owner, Netflix, finishes their remodel. Happy 100th birthday to the Egyptian Theater!

This month, Kingsley also had some interesting observations about a new process, Prizma Color:

Just so everybody has been contending for a long time, with most marvelous plausibility, that colored photography wasn’t suitable for picture drama, and anyway that it couldn’t be done nicely. Whereas it’s just what the poor old drooping photodrama needed to pep it up and make it seem real once more, and lure folks into the theaters.

All of which is prefatory to telling you that The Glorious Adventure, which is at the California, is infinitely much more of a glorious adventure because it is done in glorious color. Never mind if in spots it does a wee bit resemble animated picture postcards. The stimulating effect of its colors on one’s senses and mind, the depth of perspective gained, the gorgeous beauty of many of the scenes, adds so incalculably to the convincingness and interest of the story that one is disposed to utter a Hallelujah whoop of joy.

Color photography does indeed bring the pictures far, far closer to the stage than they have ever been. It is quite likely that in future there won’t be orgies of color as there are in some spots in The Glorious Adventure, but that some system will be found to temper the hues to mood and theme—perhaps through dressing of actors and sets and choice of backgrounds; but in the meantime let’s be thankful for what the gods and J. Stuart Blackton have provided.

The Glorious Adventure had its American premier in New York City the previous April.

The Glorious Adventure was the first feature-length film shot in Prizma Color, which had been invented by William Van Doren Kelly and Charles Raleigh in 1913. Their company had been releasing short color films since 1919. The Prizma camera shot two strips of film simultaneously, one sensitive to red-orange and the other to blue-green. Both negatives were developed and printed on to one film, so it could be shown on any projector.

Now Prizma Color doesn’t look as good as it did to Kingsley (we’re spoiled by all the processes still to come). The trade paper reviewers saw more limitations with the process than Kingsley did. The writer for Exhibitors’ Trade Review said:

 The scenes during the great fire of London are pictured with splendid realism and the reflection of the flames on buildings and passers-by is quite the most convincing effect that has been produced by the use of color. However, in the matter of clothes and background throughout, the picture seems to suffer from ill-proportioned reds and bluish greens.

The great fire

Laurence Reid in Motion Picture News was even more specific about Prizma Color’s limitations:

While the figures are in movement their faces are almost indistinguishable. It is as if the colors merged too readily, leaving the spectator in a maze guessing their identities. Particularly this is noticeable in the long shots. The close-ups compensate for making the effort as the players in repose bring out the desired effect…Not so much success seems to have been made in bringing forth cerises, pinks, blues, oranges, and yellows. Red and green are dominant.

What seems really remarkable now is that some people were opposed to color in film. Kingsley quoted an expert filmmaker:

Mary Pickford told me once that she believed color photography would detract from the effect of drama. But just this once little Mary is wrong, at least as far as I’m concerned. The color rather induces keener perception and appreciation.

It was also all too much for Fritz Tidden of Moving Picture World:

The color photography has given many of the scenes much beauty, especially so as the period of the story was in a time when vivid costumes were the fashion. But at times there seems to be such an amount of coloring that the onlooker becomes rather bewildered.

Other than the opinions on the technical innovation, overall reviews ranged from “the story is a bit confusing, too many characters being introduced, many of whom really are immaterial to the main plot” in Exhibitors’ Herald to Kingsley’s enjoyment of a “regular swashbuckler, full of go.” However, she couldn’t stand the lead actress. Lady Diana Manners, who:

has the distinction of being the very worst actress on the screen. She never forgets she is Lady Diana. Neither fire, nor murder at her door, nor anything else, cause one quiver of astonishment of fear or hate or anything else to cross her aristocratic face.

Ouch! Other reviewers were more kind; Tidden felt she just lacked experience. If you’d like more information about Prizma Color, visit the Timeline of Historical Film Colors website. You can see scenes from the film on You Tube:

 

“Brilliant Assembly Attends Opening of Grauman Temple,” Exhibitors’ Herald, November 4, 1922, p. 33.

“Old Egypt Transplanted,” Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1922.

“Patrons are Pleased with Robin Hood,” Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1922.

Robin Hood Run Approaches End.,” Los Angeles Times, March 27, 1922.

Edwin Schallert, “Robin Hood Superb Film,” Los Angeles Times, October 19, 1922.

 

—————-

 

The Glorious Adventure,” Exhibitors’ Herald, May 13, 1922, p. 59.

The Glorious Adventure,” Exhibitors’ Trade Review, May 6, 1922, p. 1681.

Laurence Reid, “The Glorious Adventure,” Motion Picture News, May 6, 1922, p. 2592.

Fritz Tidden, “The Glorious Adventure,” Moving Picture World,” May 6, 1922, p. 91.

¡Basta!: September 16-30, 1922

This was the certain picture

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley did an interview with a studio executive in which he trivialized a legitimate complaint:

“Villains of the screen will have to be men without country,” said Irving G. Thalberg, director-general of Universal City, the other day, in course of an interview discussing the suggestion which has been made that a State Department for the motion-picture industry be appointed, in order to keep us out of trouble with temperamental nations.

The idea was suggested by some well-known picture men, when Mexico banned the entire output of one company until a certain picture in which Mexico’s dignity was rumpled, is withdrawn from the screen.

Mr. Thalberg has just transmitted an order from Carl Laemmle on the subject. “The national dignity of all peoples must be respected,” the order reads. “A villain must be a villain because of his actions, not because of his nationality.”

“Now that Mexico has taken drastic and expensive protest,” said Mr. Thalberg,” “other countries are noticing the tendency of American producers to make the villain almost anything but an American. It will be the work of the motion-picture State Department if appointed, to survey the international temperament and card index those delicate points which lure forth the national goat.”

You can see what bothered Mexico in the top left corner.

Laemmle’s order doesn’t seem so outrageous–in fact, it could make for more interesting movie plots–particularly when you learn that the film that provoked Mexico to ban the importation and exhibition of all Paramount films was a fairly mediocre and otherwise forgettable Gloria Swanson vehicle called Her Husband’s Trademark.*  The bandits who murder her n’er do well husband, allowing her to marry her True Love, did not need to be from any particular country. Mexico was especially irritated because only one month before the film was released in March, President Alvaro Obregon had notified the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA) that Mexico would forbid importation and exhibition of denigrating films, according to film historian Laura I. Serna.

So they were ready to do exactly what they promised and take some action. The Associated Press reported on April 28th:

Juarez customs officials today received orders from Mexico City barring all Paramount motion picture films from that country unless Her Husband’s Trademark, a picture starring Gloria Swanson, is withdrawn from circulation. Several scenes of fights with Mexican “revolutionists” are shown and the customs order says, “Mexico is placed in an untrue and shameful light.”

Paramount did not withdraw the film, so on May 1st Mexico refused to allow 236 Paramount films into their country, according to the L.A. Times. Moving Picture World added the details that that the Mexican postal service had advised the U.S. postal service that their President had ruled against the importation of Paramount films, and they would return all shipments.

Mexico continued to stand firm, and added Famous Players Lasky, Metro, and Educational Films to their embargo. In September, the MPPDA sent a special representative to Mexico City, Bernon T. Woodle, and after a month of negotiations in which he promised that Hollywood would stop making offensive films, they signed an agreement on November 6th lifting the ban and stipulating that some previously released films were exempted.

You’ve probably noticed that Hollywood continued to make offensive films. For a little while film producers moved settings to mythical South American countries, but that wasn’t particularly helpful. At least there was a tiny acknowledgement that some movies included ugly and thoughtless stereotypes.

Mexico really had a point. The conventions were so accepted that United Statsian (we do need a word for that) critics writing about Her Husband’s Trademark were blind to them and barely mentioned the offensive characters, or even worse, said “Mexican types are true to life,” as Exhibitors Trade Review did. Laura I. Serna wrote the Mexican diplomatic staff “complained that American films provided a one-sided view of Mexico as a nation of impoverished peasants completely given over to their baser instincts,” and the diplomats only wanted Hollywood to show that there was both good and bad there, as in every other country.

Irving Thalberg

The rest of the Thalberg interview wasn’t any better. He thought that all nations were being equally insulted:

Mexico, it is clear, does not like to have all villains in all western pictures look like Pancho Villa. England would perhaps be gratified if all Englishmen were not depicted as nit-wits or made to resemble a cross between a gopher and a rabbit. France has long been weary of screen Frenchmen who act like female impersonators, and Ireland is tired of having its men constantly called upon to confirm the Darwin theory.

Of course there were plenty of non-rabbity British actors like Charlie Chaplin in American films, and The Three Musketeers, which is chock-full of macho French characters, had just been a huge hit. It’s useful to know that people in the past were just as offended by stereotypes in movies as they are now, but the men in power could more easily get away with belittling them if they complained.

Pola Negri

This month, Grace Kingsley wrote about the arrival of another well-dressed star. Modern divas can line up for a master class in swanning into town from Pola Negri, and Kingsley did a good job of recording it:

The palpitating moment has passed. Pola Negri, rated by many critics as the world’s greatest film actress, has arrived among us. Miss Negri tripped off the train at Pasadena and you know her at once for that brilliantly fascinating, carefully artless heroine of Passion and Gypsy Blood.

Oh, it was quite carefully staged, that appearance. There were any number of maids and secretaries and others, who came out first until the suspense grew perfectly awful.

Then there she was, a vision in grey, her gown a long one of pan velvet trimmed with grey squirrel, while a little tippy-tilty hat shaded her face saucily, so that you barely caught the jade color of her eyes. But there were the red, red lips of that wonderfully mobile mouth, and the ivory skin, and the pearls of teeth flashing in what would have been a sweet grin of welcome in anybody except the screen’s greatest artist.

Unfortunately, the photo the Times ran was badly digitized.

A small, barefoot newsboy handed her a flower (Kingsley suspected it had been prearranged), then:

Cameras to the right of her, cameras to the left of her! Then we got a chance to speak to the famous lady. We learned already that she loathes short dresses and that Paris dressmakers are trying to make us think they thought of them first!

Miss Negri was very happy to be there except for the heat—she “loves California, aside from the fact that it isn’t Paris.” Furthermore: “She also wears the largest diamond I have ever seen on the middle finger of her left hand. We thought Pauline Frederick owned the largest diamond in the world, but Miss Negri’s is even larger.”

It’s a shame that current celebrities don’t put on such a show when they roll into town!

*Her Husband’s Trademark was so minor that neither the L.A. nor the N.Y. Times bothered to review it, they just mentioned it was playing. Film Daily’s title of their review offered a good summation: “Suitable Vehicle for Gloria Swanson but Otherwise Not Distinctive.” They went on to say that it “does not gain any laurels for itself. The basic idea is not new, for there have been other screen husbands who have used their beautiful screen wives to rope in unsuspecting business men as victims of unscrupulous deals.”

“Back From Mexico,” Film Daily, December 21, 1922, p.1.

“Bars Picture,” Morning Press, April 29, 1922.

“Companies Banned,” Moving Picture World, November 25, 1922, p. 316.

“Foreign Field Better,” Film Daily, July 7, 1922, p. 1, 4.

“Her Husband’s Trademark,” Exhibitors’ Trade Review, March 4, 1922, p. 1007.

“Mexico Bans Imports of American Films; Reason Kept Secret,” Moving Picture World, June 3, 1922, p. 462.

“Oppose Film in Mexico,” Los Angeles Times, May 3, 1922.

“Paramount Arranges for its Film Distribution in Mexico,” Moving Picture World, January 21, 1922, p. 299.

Laura I. Serna, “’As a Mexican I Feel It’s My Duty:” Citizenship, Censorship, and the Campaign Against Derogatory Films in Mexico, 1922-1930,” Latin American Film History, October 2006, pp225-244.

“Suitable Vehicle for Gloria Swanson But Otherwise Not Distinctive,” Film Daily, February 26, 1922, p. 18.

Cast and Crew Aflame: September 1-15, 1922

One hundred years ago this month, Grace Kingsley reported on her visit to a private screening and ended up describing an utterly unsafe workplace:

The very last word in picture conflagrations occurs in Reginald Barker’s Hearts Aflame. Because it is not only hearts that are aflame, but a whole forest, and part of the time, literally, the hero, played by Craig Ward, and the heroine, played by Anna Q. Nilsson.

A private view of these scenes proved hair-raising, even to the thrill-proof, hard-boiled critic. While looking at them yesterday, it was comforting to reflect that Craig Ward was safely out of the hospital, having just crawled forth at noon, and Anna Nilsson’s beauty will not be marred by her burns.

Anna Q. Nilsson and Craig Ward in Hearts Aflame

But it was not only the humans who went through the fire. Wild animals are seen making their escape, and the escaping didn’t need any rehearsing, either, says Mr. Barker.

The great fire scenes, though they set your hair on end, were quite carefully made to order—except, of course, the injury to the players, which was not contemplated at all, inasmuch as the fireman and engineer made the trip, and everything was set when Miss Nilsson took the throttle. However, you can never tell just what 6000 gallons of gasoline will do. That amount had been poured on the made-to-order forest and had been set off in a score of places simultaneously by the use of electric sparks. The trip was to take half a minute. But the flames sizzled at the window of the engine cab, Miss Nilsson did something all wrong to the throttle as she grabbed for a blanket to put around her legs, and the engine slowed down! However, with superhuman quickness, the star got going again, and everything was over.

Percy Hilburn, on a safer set

The cameramen, headed by Percy Hilburn, proved real heroes. They did their photographing of close-ups of the hero and heroine from little cabinets built each side of the engine’s boiler. How easily the film might have caught fire and made a holocaust of them nobody knew better than themselves. Yet they never quit, even when their little cabinets caught fire. And those cabinets were only charred boxes when they arrived at their journey’s end.

Good lord, this just seems horrifying. No entertainment is worth this kind of danger and destruction – not to mention the cruelty to animals and environmental damage. The scenes were shot in Pacoima Canyon, which is northeast of Sylmar in the San Fernando Valley. They spent eight weeks planning and preparing for the scenes, uprooting pine trees from the mountains and replanting them.

Even worse, the company had recently had a brush with fire danger only a few weeks earlier when they were on location in Canada.* Exhibitors’ Herald reported that the production had been “dangerously imperiled in a big forest fire near Cranbrook, B.C.” The Canadian fire wardens rescued the whole company. Some members had been burned by cinders but first aid was all that they needed, and they lost only a tripod and a case of unexposed film.

Apparently it didn’t teach them to respect fire: after they had that near miss, they still thought it would be a good idea to soak six acres of pines in gallons of gasoline, set them on fire and drive a train stocked with highly flammable nitrate film through it.  I honestly do not understand this. Does working on a movie break peoples’ brains?

Reginald Baker

Even Reginald Barker later admitted it was a bad idea, and he gave a sort of explanation of what he was thinking. He was interviewed by the L.A. Times when the film came out in early January 1923, and he said, “I wouldn’t duplicate that forest fire for $1,000,000. Knowing now what broad chances have to be taken to stage such a spectacle, I wouldn’t want to accept the responsibility for the lives that were risked. The thing kind of grew on all of us at the time, and we took chances without thinking, but to stand off now and plan the event with full knowledge of the risks to everybody involved is quite a different matter.”

The burning forest did impress the critics. Exhibitors’ Herald said “the fire scenes in the final reel are some of the most realistic and thrilling ever photographed.” Film Daily agreed, saying “Barker’s climax is certainly an unusually spectacular effort that is going to send them out wondering how they ever did it. Coloring in this sequence of the picture makes it all the more vivid and forceful. The shots showing the animals of the forest coming out of their lair into the shelter of the pools are mighty beautiful…The view of the locomotive ploughing through flames is another fine touch.” They predicted big box office.

The unsigned review in the L.A. Times reported that they were correct; the line outside the theater stretched down the block and the attendance was record-setting. While he or she thought the conventional plot was redeemed by good acting, it was the conclusion that set the movie apart: “This is by all odds the biggest blaze that has ever been screened. And you will be thrilled to the very center of your backbone watching Anna Q. Nilsson and Craig Ward dash through it on the antique steam engine, with the flames flying in their faces, and the trees and branches crackling and falling all around them.”

After all of their trouble, Hearts Aflame is a lost film.

Workplace safety really isn’t any better on film sets nowadays. There’s a truly horrifying list of film and television set accidents on Wikipedia, and Hearts Aflame isn’t even on it. In 2022, following cinematographer Halyna Hutchins’ death on the set of Rust and the subsequent investigation,  Variety Intelligence Platform put out a special report on production safety, and as the site observed, “if you’ve followed the related data and the general history of on-set deaths and injuries, such incidents have long resulted in similar questions and suggestions for how set environments can be fortified with proper protocols and legal consequences that ensure these production casualties become exceedingly rare… it’s imperative for the industry to address the reality of catastrophic on-set accidents not being random occurrences but rather the result of systemic issues that Hollywood has failed — and often fought — to properly address for decades.”

They can’t point to any actual changes being made. It seems like nobody is ever going to seriously consider if this sort of risk and danger is worth it.

This month Kingsley also took a special trip to see a movie from Sweden:

If Charles Dickens had been Swedish his “Scrooge” would have been much like The Stroke of Midnight, made by the Swedish Biograph and on view at Clune’s Broadway. It has the theme of redemption of a hardened man through a dream, only it is a New Year’s dream instead of a Christmas dream and is treated with the somberness characteristic of the Norseman. In fact, the Norse predilection for the tragic is appeased finally in the death of the heroine.

Yet despite this, there is a sort of authoritativeness about the picture, a grand, sweeping reality that carries you along with it. Maybe it is partly due to some of the finest acting the screen has seen; partly its stark revealment of human nature at moments, that courageous handling of a sordid theme for which foreigners are noted; partly due to the impressive treatment of the legend of the Grey Cart of Death which forms one of the mainspring of action… Despite the sinister story, the sordid settings, the fact that there is no love theme at all, the fans will find a fresh thrill in this picture. In fact, if you want to inject a little tragedy relief into the general saccharinity and hopeless optimism of you film entertainment, don’t miss it.

Astrid Holm and Lisa Lundholm

The movie she admired so much was a cut-down version of The Phantom Carriage, which is now regarded as a classic of world cinema and director Victor Sjöström’s masterpiece. It tells the story of Edit, a tuberculous-wracked Salvation Army worker on her deathbed who wants to see the man she tried to reform from alcoholism, David Holm, before she goes. At that time he’s drinking with buddies in a graveyard and talking about the legend of the Phantom Carriage, which picks up souls when they die. His friends try to drag him to her, he refuses, and he dies after getting hit on the head. The death cart appears, and his once happy, then dissolute life is shown in flashbacks. Then the carriage visits Edit, and she says she feels guilty for not saving him. He forgives her so she can die peacefully. Then the driver shows Holm his wife who is planning to poison herself and their children. He regains consciousness in the graveyard, rushes home, saves them, and convinces her that he has reformed.

Victor Sjöström

The American edit that Kingsley saw, which cut a 106-minute-long film down to 60 minutes, got rid of the flashback structure and begins with Holm as a drunk vagrant. The he visits Edit at the Salvation Army but he goes right back to his addiction.  He ends up drinking in the graveyard, where the carriage comes to get him.  It drives him to see Edit dying, then to his home where the poisoning is proceeding. He awakens in the graveyard, runs home, and saves his family and promises to reform.

Hilda Borgström and Victor Sjöström

Kingsley had no idea how much the film had been changed to try to cater to American tastes, and she even blamed foreign audiences for the film’s faults:

It seems to me there is always a certain naivete in the stories of the foreign pictures, a certain something that seems to be intended for a childish audience. It exists in this story.

It wasn’t their fault: it was the studio’s low opinion of their customers in the States. The studio who cut and released it, Metro, didn’t publicize that they changed it (though the New York Times reviewer guessed that it had been done because, “sometimes its continuity is broken—it has been badly edited for American circulation.”) Almost half the original was gone. It’s a wonder anything made any sense!

All aboard!

Kingsley had an opinion that I haven’t seen elsewhere: The Stroke of Midnight wasn’t depressing enough, and she blamed Swedes specifically for it.  She wrote: “I wonder whether the Swedish picture makers are answering a demand among Swedish film fans for saccharine finishes that this man’s vision turned out to be only a dream instead of a stark tragedy, as would be the evident logic of the tale.” Apparently, she wanted everybody to die and hop on board the phantom carriage. And she called Nordic people somber!

It sure was’t the L.A. Times ad that convinced her to see it.

Most of all, this review shows that Grace Kingsley took her job seriously, and made an effort to see innovative art films. At this time, many movies got no review at all in the L.A. Times and she didn’t visit Clune’s Broadway every week. She knew to go because the New York reviews had alerted her in early June. The unsigned New York Times review stated that ninety-nine out of a hundred directors would have made a dull film out of the story, but Sjöström was the hundredth director and it was “compellingly interesting.” Additionally, they praised the “acting that is intense and positively expressive and yet always restrained, as truly forceful acting must be.” Exhibitors’ Trade Review agreed that the performances were outstanding, as well as the photography, saying, “A remarkably fine enacted picture is The Stroke of Midnight, which has been produced by the Swedish Biograph Company. The story itself is the spookiest of spooky; ghosts, the cart of death, and possibly a few stray ectoplasms, all of which have been photographed with seemingly the greatest precautions to register the proper creeps.” Film Daily acknowledged it might have limited appeal because “many people avoid pictures which have no bright side.” Nevertheless “as a picture, it is decidedly worth seeing and will be best appreciated by the better classes, those who look at the advancement of pictures as an art,” as well as photography that was “probably some of the best double exposure work ever accomplished.”

For many years The Phantom Carriage was only available in bad prints, until the Swedish Film Institute did a restoration in 1975. It’s available on Kanopy.

*There’s wrong information on the Internet, you won’t be shocked to learn. Some sources like this 2013 Vancouver Sun article say that the gasoline-soaked forest was in Canada but reports from trade papers in 1922 make it clear that there were two fires: one in British Columbia before August 15th that trapped the company, and the other they set themselves in Pacoima Canyon on August 29th.

“Eberle to Make Visit of Studios,” Los Angeles Times, January 9, 1923.

“Film Stars Burned in Big Forest Fire,” Exhibitors’ Herald, August 26, 1922, p. 48.

“Fortune Spent on Film Scene,” Los Angeles Times, January 14, 1923.

Hearts Aflame,” Exhibitors’ Herald, January 6, 1923, p. 59.

“Looks Like Santa Was Good This Year With This One in Sight,” Film Daily, December 24, 1922, p.3.

“Twenty Acres of Pines Swept by Fire for Scene in Film, Hearts Aflame,Daily News Leader (San Mateo), March 19, 1923.

_____________

“An Interesting and Very Unusual Picture But Appeal May Be Limited,” Film Daily, June 4, 1922, p. 3.

“The Screen,” New York Times, June 5, 1922.

The Stroke of Midnight,” Exhibitors’ Trade Review, June 17, 1922, p. 185.

He Couldn’t Fib: August 1-31, 1922

Leo Carrillo

One hundred years ago this month, Grace Kingsley interviewed someone who couldn’t get away with making up the usual actor’s nonsense about himself because she’d known him for too long, theater actor Leo Carrillo. She wrote:

I knew the Carrillos in Santa Monica, before some of the younger Carrillos were born. Judge Carrillo was an impressive and truly dignified figure. The first time I ever saw Leo, he was a baby with ringlets and big brown eyes, and all the other children used to fight to take care of him. That has always been the way with Leo. His is a marvelously magnetic radiant personality.

Los Angeles used to be such a small town! After writing this blog for as long as I have, now it seems utterly remarkable that everything he told her checks out (you can’t lie when the reporter has known you since you were in diapers). His family actually did have deep roots in Southern California, as he told her in the interview. His great-grandfather was Carlos Antonio Carrillo, who in 1837 was appointed the first provincial governor of California for Spain.  His father, Juan Jose Carrillo, had been a county sheriff, judge and the mayor of Santa Monica from 1890 to 1897.

He married Edith Haeselbarth in 1905 in Manhattan. They had met backstage after his performance at Proctor’s 23rd St. Theater. She died in 1953.

Leopoldo Antonio Carrillo was born on August 6, 1881* and had 11 brothers and sisters. He really had been a cartoonist for the San Francisco Examiner (he told her about his miniscule salary there, just eight dollars a week) before he signed a contract with the Orpheum vaudeville circuit (the Hanford Journal of September 14, 1904 backs him up). He toured as a comic monologist who specialized in characters speaking in dialects until 1916 when Broadway impresario Oliver Morosco hired him for a play called Upstairs and Downstairs. The following year he got the lead in Lombardi Ltd. It was a huge hit, playing on Broadway for 296 performances then touring the United States and Australia for three years.

He continued to draw cartoons for Variety; this one is from 1908.

Kingsley was speaking to him because he was rehearsing a new play called Mike Angelo, which told the story of an art studio assistant who becomes a great artist. She thought he had another winner:

And all the matinee girls from 6 to 40 years are going to be crazy over Leo in Mike Angelo. Without giving the story away at all, I may say he is a quite appealing pathetic figure in the play as a studio roustabout and of course he is the hopeless lover, which alone will make all the ladies in the audience sigh to comfort him and wonder how the heroine can dally for a minute with the other fellow…Take it all in all, it looks as though Mike Angelo is going to be a credit to the City of Angels.

The play opened on October 2nd and Kingsley’s editor Edwin Schallert wrote the review. Before explaining his only middling opinion of the show, he reported on the tremendous reception Carrillo got:

 For Carrillo it was a gala homecoming. Friends, flowers, bravos made it so. There were salvos and cheers for him. A mighty wave of applause rose to meet him. It surged and swirled about him, halting action and word, and seemingly determined to bring him down from his pedestal whereon he posed as model in the artist studio. Truly, no reception in days and weeks has equaled Carrillo’s in enthusiasm. It was a glowing and glorious paean for the youth.

Los Angeles loved their hometown boy! However, despite praising Carrillo’s performance which had “an inimitable humanness, a sparkling aura of gayety and pathos, and Latinesque revelation of love, loyalty, faith and their opposites,” he found the play was “an artificial story of life in a painter’s studio…The first act is tedious, but once we have the action laid out things move at a fair pace.”

Carrillo and Duncan Renaldo in The Cisco Kid

Mike Angelo wasn’t as big a hit as Lombardi, Ltd., but it did did go to Broadway in January 1923 and played for 84 performances. Carrillo continued to be a fairly successful working actor. The following few years, he alternated between starring in plays on Broadway and touring in vaudeville. When sound came to film he dove right in. His first film was a Vitaphone short made in New York called At the Ball Game (1927). He made two more of them, then he moved back to Los Angeles where he appeared in over 90 films, mostly in supporting parts. He was most famous for playing the sidekick Pancho in six seasons of The Cisco Kid (1950-1956) television show, near the end of his career.

It’s a nice beach!

However, the reason that everyone in Los Angeles vaguely recognizes his name isn’t due to his acting career. In 1922, when telling of his house building plans, he said to Kingsley: “I mean also to aid in restoring some of the old landmarks. I think native Californians should do all they can to keep alive the priceless traditions of our State.” He was telling the truth about that too! In 1942, Governor Earl Warren appointed him to the State Parks and Beaches Commission, which he served on until January 1961. He played an important part in California’s acquisition of Hearst Castle, the Los Angeles Arboretum, and the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and he helped to restore Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles. After his death from cancer in 1961, they named the beach west of Malibu the Leo Carrillo State Park. His weekend retreat near Carlsbad has also been preserved, and you can still visit the Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park today.

I dunno. What do you think? Orville Caldwell in Mecca

Elsewhere this month, Kingsley had a story about another Los Angeleian who isn’t even half-remembered now, but once he was utterly perfect:

Orville Caldwell, if you don’t happen to know it, is accounted the most physically perfect actor of the stage, if B.P. Schulberg is to be believed. And the Schulberg judgement is backed up by no less expert an opinion than that of Elinor Glyn, who is credited with knowing what’s what when it comes to a question of physical perfection of the male variety. 

Mme. Glyn first saw Caldwell when he played the leading part in the famous Comstock and Gest spectacle Mecca in New York. When he made his appearance as the Sultan of Cairo, the noted English authoress blinked two or three times, gave a little gasp of delighted surprise, and then settled back in her orchestra chair for a three hours’ regard of the young man whom she exclaimed entirely personified her hero of Three Weeks.

He ignored this part of his career later in life (from Camera, February 16, 1924)

Orville Caldwell did go on to be the leading man in Schulberg’s The Lonely Road. However, his acting career never really took off, so he went on to other work.

Caldwell was born in Oakland, California on February 8, 1896. He acted in student plays while he attended the University of California at Berkely, then he served in the Navy during the first World War. After he was discharged he was hired at the Alcazar Theater in San Francisco, then he had the good fortune to be cast in the musical Elinor Glyn saw on Broadway.

With Marion Davies in The Patsy (1928)

After  The Lonely Road, he appeared in twelve films (most notably opposite Marion Davis in The Patsy (1928)) and returned to Broadway twice in 1924 and in 1925, but after starring in The Little Yellow House (1928), he gave up acting and became a stock broker. He didn’t have great timing: the Wall Street Crash happened in October 1929, and in the mid-1930s he supplemented his earnings by taking some bit parts in sound films. However, in the later 1930’s he became the assistant superintendent of service stations at the Associate Oil Company and quit acting for good. He was also active in Republican politics, and he was appointed First Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles in 1941. The L.A. Times story about his appointment didn’t mention his acting career at all—it jumped from his naval service to his oil company job. Maybe Elinor Glyn having any opinion at all about you isn’t useful for a political career. He served as Deputy Mayor until 1951, then he became the assistant county administrative officer. His last mention in the Times was in September 1961 when he spoke at the city planning department meeting to support a proposed film museum. Even when it was relevant, it seems that he didn’t mention his former movie career. Mary Mallory has a complete history of all the attempts (sigh!) to build a film museum in Los Angeles.

Doing First Deputy Mayor stuff. Here he is between Oscar Smith, the president of the Pacific Electric Rail Company, and actress Mary Murphy, inaugurating the new bus service that replaced the street cars (September 13, 1950). Public transportation has taken a long time to recover…

He and his wife Audrey retired to Santa Rosa, California and he died there on September 24, 1967.

Kingsley took her annual vacation August 6-22. I hope you have a nice summer vacation too!

*Some sources say that Carrillo was born in August 1880, but I think 1881 is the correct year. The 1880 census says his sister Diana was 7 months old in June 1880, and I sincerely hope that his mother didn’t get pregnant again that quickly.

“Leo Carrillo On the Stage,” Hanford Journal, September 14, 1904.

Edwin Schallert, “Reviews: Mike Angelo,” Los Angeles Times, October 3, 1922.

James W. Dean, “Girls! Meet Elinor Glyn’s ‘Hero,’ Now in Movies,” Norfolk Post, October 26, 1926.

“Economic Study Set for Filmland Museum,” Los Angeles Times, February 6, 1960.

“Film Museum Gets Support,” Los Angeles Times, September 12, 1961.

Worse Than Puns: July 16-31, 1922

Stacia Napierkowska in Missing Husbands

One hundred years ago this month, Grace Kingsley saw what she thought was a very odd movie:

Missing Husbands is an amusing title. But if any married lady thinks the picture of that name down at the California is going to help her out in paging her spouse, she is mistaken. Because the missing husbands referred to in this film are all in a private cellar mummery of one Queen Antinea of Egypt. That’s the kind of a kick she kept in her cellar.

It wasn’t her fault she thought it was some kind of domestic drama. Here’s the ad that ran the day before it opened.

Any lady living in Antinea’s vicinity, it seems, never had to be bothered about excuses given by her husband about sitting up with a sick friend or being at lodge. All she did was to get a search warrant out for Antinea’s house, and there she would find Jack or Joe downstairs in the mummery, all neatly congealed and done up in a case…Probably some of the ladies hardly noticed any difference in their mummified husbands in any way.

The ad that ran on opening day gave people a better idea what to expect.

She was a sort of lady Bluebeard, was Antinea, with a double duplex power of fascination like that of a steel magnet for a tin minnow, and any poor fish who came within the radius of it instantly forgot all about home and honor and the combination to his safe and cellar.

Ah, but there appeared on day a hero with an asbestos heart! Antinea could not melt him. She employed everything from the old tiger skin stuff to the Turkish pazaz,* but he melted no more than the iceless ice cream they’re serving nowadays.

Still she worked. I don’t know how she had any time to reign, she was so busy hailing him. Forgive the pun.** It’s not so bad as the picture. But the asbestos-hearted stuck around, he said, because he wanted to get a glimpse of an old pal, who had fallen under her spell. Antinea got the pal to try to kill the pure hero; then said pure hero got a butter knife out for Antinea, but she was too tough, or something, and it made no impression. There are seven reels, but nothing except the above happens.

Missing Husbands is another of those naïve foreign pictures using the vamp theme discarded by Theda Bara and Louise Glaum in the year 12 B.C., meaning Before Cellars. Well, well, you’ll probably get a kick out of Antinea’s cellar. The house seemed to yesterday.

Kingsley had some fun writing the review anyway. Missing Husbands was a seven-reel version of L’Atlantide, an eighteen-reel spectacle from Belgian director Jacques Feyder (I can imagine Kingsley’s ennui if she’d had to sit through the longer version). It had been a huge hit overseas: according to Fritz Tidden in Moving Picture World, it had played in Paris and London for over a year, and the book it was based on had sold 2 million copies in Europe.

The Eyes of the Mummy was playing at a competing theater this week, but the Times didn’t review it. I had thought that public interest in mummies didn’t really get started until King Tut’s tomb was opened, but I was wrong: that didn’t happen until November 4, 1922.

Missing Husbands wasn’t nearly as popular in the United States. It played in Los Angeles for one week. There wasn’t much response to it. At least people no longer felt threatened by foreign productions and there were no protests as there were for Caligari just a little over a year earlier. 

The reviewers in American trade papers found more good things to say about it than Kingsley did, though they also found it odd and foreign. Exhibitors’ Trade Review said:

As far as magnificent scenery and elaborate sets are concerned, the production is certainly able to share honors with some of our biggest pictures. The story is purely imaginative, weird and overpowering, yet so exaggerated and unreal on other occasions that it scarcely suffices to hold the interest and live up to the expectancies that have been created in the early part of the film…The most serious drawback is that European ideas of what constitutes a great drama is somewhat different from ours.

Film Daily wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, writing “the producers have evidently been ambitious to do something out of the ordinary and so far as that goes, they have succeeded…But the value of the picture to the box office is uncertain. It has not a universal appeal and the strong sex stuff is likely to get it into trouble in censorship neighborhoods.” They recommended seeing it before buying it, because “its appeal is bound to vary.”

Lillian Gale in Motion Picture News wrote the most positive review:

Missing Husbands is a novelty. Unique lighting effects that have never been surpassed are employed in depicting an unusual narrative. There is no particular rhyme or reason for the film, other than to entertain, a tale of romantic adventure, cleverly blended with rare dramatic contribution.

However, the writer for the New York Times was as bored as Kingsley was:

It is a film to which one responds, or fails to respond, with varying, or vanishing, emotions…the story often succeeds in creating the illusion of actual romance. But this illusion comes and goes, and finally disappears altogether before the end is reached, because, in the first place, the pictorial continuity is poor, and because it gets worse and worse as the story goes on, ending in a dull anti-climax.

L’Atlantide, the full version, was released on DVD in 2004, but the cut down version seems to be lost. Everybody’s favorite silent film reviewing German Count Ferdinand Von Galitzien really enjoyed the longer version.

In another story, Kingsley got a press release with a surprising way to publicize a movie: before it had even finished being made, the producers were already planning for its preservation! She wrote:

For the first time in history, and, more particularly, in the history of the screen, an art work is deliberately to be handed down to posterity with the purpose of perpetuating an art, a story, an illustrious name and a true picture in living scenes of one of the most crucial periods in the history and the evolution of the race.

The Rockett-Naylor Company of Hollywood makes the unique announcement that a copy of their fifteen-reel picture of the life and times of Abraham Lincoln, now in the process of production, has been offered the United States government and the National Lincoln Memorial Association for deposit in the Smithsonian Institution or elsewhere in Washington, D.C. with the proviso that it be kept sealed until February 12, 2109, the three hundredth anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.

The fifteen reels of film, together with a modern projection machine, with full instructions on how to operate it, will be sealed in a steel vault, specially constructed to preserve the film and machine in perfect working order, and with these will be deposited a copy of the working script of the picture an a few copies of the best books on motion picture production and practice.

The idea back of this is that in the 186 years to elapse between 1923 and 2109, tremendous changes will take place in motion picture production and exhibition and the donors of the Lincoln picture will take every precaution to insure the proper exhibition of their picture in 2109.

Because so many silent films are lost, we might think that all producers thought their work was disposable. But Rockett-Naylor told people that their movie was going to be so important, future generations would need to see it. Or at least they though the story would get them in the newspaper. You’ve probably guessed that the company didn’t actually do what they promised. A quick search of the Smithsonian’s catalog shows that they don’t have it, nor does the Abraham Lincoln Association. Even though The Dramatic Life of Abraham Lincoln was critically acclaimed (it won Photoplay magazine’s Medal of Honor in 1924), only two reels have survived. Still, that was a really novel sort of publicity.

“You still have a thrill coming:” July 1-15, 1922

Allakariallak, aka Nanook

One hundred years ago this month, Grace Kingsley had the rare opportunity to review a respected film:

Having seen Mack Sennett’s bathing girls, Pola Negri, Charlie Chaplin’s walk, Gloria Swanson’s duds, Foolish Wives, and The Four Horsemen, you think probably that you’ve seen everything in pictures. But you haven’t. Not by a jugful. You still have a thrill coming.

That thrill, high-powered, you’ll get from Nanook of the North at the Kinema. It’s the real life story of an Esquimeaux family, with all their primitive fight for life. I must even admit there were moments when it got on my nerves. That was when Nanook, the papa Esquimeaux, killed things, and the way he did it.

To me there was vastly more thrill in the lonely Nanook, hunger-driven, tripping alone but sure-footedly from one treacherous ice-block to another in a great dreary, solitary sea, in search of food; in the titan fight with the huge walrus; the battle of the Esquimeaux family with the storm, than in the whole kit and bolling of most so-called “great moments” in the cinema drama. And there is more actual drama, more vivid, hopeless pathos in that fight for life than in all the weepy Pollyanna stuff the screen has to offer. You can fairly hear the gale howl outside when the Esquimaux family, having stripped naked in its icy igloo, crawls under the sleeping skins. The wind sweeps a great, lonely, white world. And the dogs, after a little despairing howling, settle down outside to sleep with the snow drifting over their sinewy bodies.

She wrote about it in a way it usually isn’t written about now: she thought it was entertaining, not medicinally educational. Her review was also unusual, because most of the time she got sent to watch mediocre movies and had to find new words for adequate. So this was a treat.  

Her editor, Edwin Schallert, usually went to the well-regarded films.  I suspect he missed the bus on this one because Frederick James Smith, the L.A. Times man in New York City, wrote one of the few dismissive reviews of it. He thought Nanook was merely “an interesting novelty” even if “the glimpse of the high wind steadily sweeping over the plateau of ice makes the usual movie stuff look like a mere confetti party at Coney Island.” Instead, this week Schallert saw The Storm, a now-forgotten melodrama, and wrote that “despite its obvious faults, the picture can be recommended as exceptional…You may be disappointed. But most of it is worth the watching.”*

The rest of the reviews from New York were glowing. Fritz Tidden in Moving Picture World was already calling it a screen classic. Film Daily’s review was typical:

The film is wholly unlike anything that has ever been presented and for those who are continually crying for something new in pictures, Nanook of the North fills a long felt want… You will never know how much you don’t know until you have seen Nanook of the North.

Schallert did later join almost all the other critics in the United States in putting it on his top 10 list for Film Daily Yearbook, so he must have caught up with it later (Kingsley didn’t get asked to submit her top ten list). He had plenty of time to see it: it played in Los Angeles until August 11th.

After its four week run at the Kinema, it spent two weeks at the Alhambra. 

Kingsley’s review is also interesting because it gives some perspective on the context Nanook came out in: it didn’t play in college auditoriums, it was on a bill with a jazz ensemble, Sherwood’s Band, that she thought were very good, and a Mermaid comedy with “a laugh to the second or thereabout.” It was part of an evening’s entertainment. In addition, her list of memorable thrills from the movies has stood up pretty well: silent film fans still remember and admire Chaplin and Foolish Wives.

Allakariallak

Her piece also documents that the audience did believe that everything they saw was real. She wasn’t the only one; Film Daily said “it is not merely acted for the camera. They are really going about their regular routines.” Actually, Allakariallak was reenacting scenes for Robert Flaherty’s camera, and that’s the chief criticism of the film now. However, according to Robert Sherwood who was writing in 1923, Flaherty didn’t keep it a secret that it was restaged. For instance, the walrus hunt was a recreation of an earlier practice, and he said that the younger locals were fascinated when he showed them the footage, because they’d never seen it done before. This kind of reenactment didn’t bother Sherwood at all; our standards for documentaries have changed. I like what Joel Bocko pointed out, blogging at Lost in the Movies:

The Inuit subjects were delighted to be photographed, especially after Flaherty showed them some early footage. They are enthusiastic collaborators in Flaherty’s process and the film is always at least half true, because even if the actions are pre-determined, the people are real, in their attitudes and appearances.

Even with the controversy, Nanook of the North has continued to be highly regarded.  It was among the first group of 25 films added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1989. Film critics ranked it as the seventh best documentary ever made in the 2014 Sight and Sound poll. Finally, it is the only movie Kingsley ever wrote about ever to be parodied on the TV show Documentary Now.

*When Kingsley announced that The Storm was playing for its third and final week, she delivered her opinion on it without actually saying her boss was wrong: “The Storm is a story of two men and a woman snowbound in the fastness of far northern mountains for four months. One of the men hates women because he has never met any. He greets the girl’s arrival with open fear. The other knows the sex from a score of affairs. He has been hidden away in the mountains to escape all women. And within a week both men, friends at the beginning of their encampment, decide this particular girl is the most desirable person in the world, and become bitter enemies.”

 

Grace Kingsley, “Flashes,” Los Angeles Times, July 17, 1922.

Grace Kingsley, “Flashes,” Los Angeles Times, August 4, 1922.

Robert Sherwood, The Best Moving Pictures of 1922-23, Boston: Small, Mayard & Company, 1923.

Frederick James Smith, “Salome Slips Cog at Preview,” Los Angeles Times, June 18, 1922.

“The Ten Best Pictures of 1922,” Film Daily Yearbook, 1923.

Fritz Tidden, “Nanook of the North,” Moving Picture World, June 24, 1922, p. 735.

“A Totally Different Picture of the North that Shouldn’t Be Missed,” Film Daily, June 18, 1922, p.2

A Flapper Film Producer: June 16-30, 1922

(Many thanks to Rebecca Eash, Camille Scaysbrook, Donna Hill, and Mary Mallory for their helpful suggestions on how to track down Ray Carroll.)

One hundred years ago this month, Grace Kingsley reported on the founding of yet another hopeful production company:

Now we’re going to have a chance to see what frail woman can really do when it comes to competing in the picture production field with great, rude men. Ray Carroll begins the first of her Ray Carroll productions, starring Helen Eddy, at the Robertson-Cole studio on Monday, and the palpitating question as to who should direct the first of these productions was laid to rest yesterday when it was settled that William A. Seiter is the man for the job.

The first series of Ray Carroll productions in which Miss Eddy will appear will be called Love Coming of Age, and it is to be photographed, edited and shot by the same organization of experts who have been associated with Mr. Selter in all his recent screen successes.

Robertson-Cole was on something of a hiring spree: in addition to Eddy and Carroll, they had signed up Ethel Clayton, Carter De Haven, Harry Carey, Doris May, and Mal St. Clair. The trade papers disagreed on how many films Carroll’s new company agreed to make for them: some said four, and others six.

It took courage, energy, and optimism to try to be an independent female film producer in the early 1920’s – there were very few women with that job, like Cathrine Curtis  and Tsianina Redfeather. Ray Carroll had all of that. However, she has been much more difficult to research than those two. She gave interviews in 1922 to publicize their film, and just like Kingsley, writers emphasized the novelty of a young woman as a film producer, but she told them different versions of her early life. Maybe some of it was true, but I haven’t been able to confirm any of it with census records or city directories, because I have no idea what her birth name was.* One article said she was born on Christmas in New York City. In another, Joan Jordan for Photoplay melodramatically wrote that she:

came from every sort of dire poverty, from intense struggle, from the clamorous, clashing birthpangs of an immigrant family transported from European countries to fight for its very existence in the promised land of America. Italian and Russian blood mingled in her veins. She had seven brothers and sisters younger than she, all needing her help and support, and her education was a precious and wonderful thing snatched in night hours, in spare moments, yet very complete and clear for that very reason. But ambition in seething floods she did have, the capacity to work and the power to dream dreams and see visions. Her spirit was indominable.

Her publicity also probably inflated Carroll’s early writing experience, even though the articles agreed that her ‘real’ name was R. Carol Capleau or Kapleau. Some said she won prizes with her work when she was in high school in San Francisco, and others said she started submitting scenarios when she was attending the University of California, as a way to support herself. A few said she sold her first scenario to D.W. Griffith. Another said her first sale was to Vitagraph, a piece named “The Call of Blood” starring Earle Williams, but no such film is on his list of credits. Still others said she worked for Triangle or Cecil B. De Mille or a large company in New York, and in 1920 Moving Picture World said “Miss Kapleau has had a number of years’ experience in writing scenarios as well as being a playwright of recognized ability. Two of her skits are now appearing on the Keith Circuit in the east.” In a short 1922 article about the exotic woman producer, Motion Picture News said she had an even more extensive resume:

 She has spent most of the twenty-four years of her life storing up the sort of experience that would fit her for her present task. In addition to newspaper writing, pageant directing, exploitation and advertising work she has been employed in practically every branch of photoplay making, from the writing of original screen stories to the cutting of the finished film.

Most of that sounds awfully unbelievable to me. I did find one independent record: on May 17, 1918 a one-act play called “Never Again” was copywritten at the Library of Congress under the name Rochelle Carol Kapleau, a pseudonym for Ray Carol Kapleau of San Francisco.

Enid Bennett and Rowland Lee in Her Husband’s Friend (1920)

Nevertheless, in 1920 she did appear in some film credits. In February Moving Picture World reported: “Miss R. Carol Kapleau is the latest addition to the Thomas H. Ince scenario department.” During her time there she co-wrote (with Agnes Christine Johnson) the scenario for Her Husband’s Friend starring Enid Bennett. Based on the novel The Incubus by Marjorie Benton Cooke, it told the story of a young divorcee whose cheating ex loses all his money and is promptly run over by a truck. A friend of his secretly pays her alimony, but when she learns of his deception, she takes off in her car while he clings to its side. They get hit by a train and are hospitalized, where she agrees to marry him. Ooof. But Edwin Schallert of the L.A. Times enjoyed it:

The picture is a real screen curiosity. It gets by with such a lot. A husband is killed in a manner that evokes sympathy, and yet you can take up the subsequent thread of romance without a hitch. Maybe some will cavil at the tragic episode, but I’ll confess I can’t. And the ending—it’s too good a surprise to reveal. It’s enough to say that the man proposes to the widow while both of them are confined to their beds in a hospital—in the same room, if you please, because the nurse thinks they’re husband and wife!

Oh my stars and garters! However, J.M. Snellman said in Moving Picture World, that while the two accidents were “handled with skill and have much realism,” nevertheless “the play seems to drag somewhat between the big situations and the impression is given that it is padded by the long walks taken by the principle characters, which apparently have no direct bearing on the play except to denote that time is elapsing.”

Kapleau/Carroll also wrote the story for Love with Louise Glaum during her time at Ince. Glaum played a woman who was forced by poverty to be a rich man’s mistress. After a car wreak fortuitously kills the rich man but only injures her, she reconciles with her formerly impoverished true love who has discovered a copper mine.

Maybe Kapleau contributed to other films while she was there, because in a 1921 Picture-Play Magazine round up of women working behind the screen, Celia Brynn wrote that she made thirty-seven thousand dollars in 1920. That seems unrealistically high–perhaps she was exaggerating some more. Brynn thought that “Carol Kapleau is another living example of what a girl can do if she has perseverance, combined with writing talent.” She also reported that Kapleau was currently freelancing in addition to being the business manager of her chum, actress Helen Jerome Eddy “and the one is rarely seen without the other.”

Helen Jerome Eddy

Helen Jerome Eddy was born in New York City on February 25, 1897 and her family soon moved to Los Angeles. She acted in productions at the Pasadena Playhouse, and when the Lubin Studios opened nearby, they hired her. Her first film was The Discontented Man (1915). She usually played genteel, wholesome roles and was best-known as George Beban’s leading lady in films like One in a Million (1921).

Just like everything else in the articles about their partnership, there were different versions of when and how Carroll and Eddy met. It was somewhere between “lifelong chums” and meeting in the late 1910’s in Los Angeles. Joan Jordan in Photoplay said it was the latter, and “it was one of those friendships that form at sight…They took a bungalow, a very little bungalow, and decided to stick together for a while in fighting this motion picture battle of success. There they shared the cooking, the marketing, the housework and the expenses. Whoever was working paid the bills, and the other one did the housework.”

Joan Jordan interviewed Carroll and Eddy at home after reading in the newspaper that they were going to start their own company. Their story stood out amongst the routine business of film and she wanted to know more. She said “it is the very clean, sweet, fine story of two girls who through sheer endeavor and optimism made their dreams come true.”

Then a production slump came. According to Jordan, Eddy dreamed of making “beautiful pictures, picture with a fine high thought and a theme back of them. And Ray Carroll was to write those stories for her, to produce them herself, to supervise their artistic construction.” Carroll realized the slump presented an opportunity because distributors needed more pictures. So they took their savings, deferred their salaries, and convinced Robertson-Cole to distribute their productions. Eddy said, “We can make now the kind of pictures we have always dreamed of—pictures that we hope will make people happy, more confident, more trustful…we’re going to work ourselves to death to give the people what we hope they want.”

They got to right work on the film they eventually called When Love Comes. As Eddy finished up The Flirt (1923) in mid-May, Carroll supervised the construction of several streets of a New England village. She did an interview with the L.A. Times in her brand-new office. The reporter seemed impressed by her, writing:

Bobbed-haired, girlish and intensely earnest, Ray Carroll has completed the organization of the company that will make pictures bearing her name. Helen Jerome Eddy, whose sympathetic screen characterizations will play an important part in at least the most ambitious of the productions, will star in the picture about to be filmed, a story of New England life. The worlds “Ray Carroll Productions” are already lettered on the door of the suite at the Robertson-Cole studios which serves as the executive offices of the organization.

Miss Carroll, who is well under 25, has lost none of her youthful enthusiasm in the climb that has placed her at the head of her own company. Her venture is the result of her belief that there is a constantly growing demand for a higher class of picture—a variety of production that centers around such human roles as have won for Miss Eddy a place of her own upon the screen.

Miss Carroll began the study of picture-making on the theory that the easiest way to learn the requirements of any branch of the industry was to work in that branch. And that is exactly what she has done.

“I became a producer primarily because this work offers a fascinating means of earning a livelihood,” she declared yesterday. “I am interested in every branch of picture making an expect to have great fun in my work. My unbounded confidence in the success of the present enterprise is based, to a great extent, on my faith in Miss Eddy. I believe the public is growing tired of the eternal flapper.” **

Can you imagine the paper running a picture of Samuel Goldwyn doing his grocery shopping? (Los Angeles Times, July 9, 1922)

They didn’t neglect to do publicity while the filming was under way. In July, they invited the trade press to a luncheon served on their New England street set, hosted by Eddy. After they ate, a weekly news service filmed the writers posing “more or less awkwardly” according to W.E. Keefe in Moving Picture World.

Gordon Gassaway interviewed Eddy for the January 1923 issue of Motion Picture Magazine, and he left a snapshot of life on the set. He wrote that “the whole company was working like a large family putting up fruit.” He saw her shoot a scene in which she discovers that her father has died, and he was impressed by her acting, saying, “she has taken a plain girl and made her attractive to thousands of people who wouldn’t otherwise look at a plain girl.”

They went to her dressing room for the interview, and Eddy changed his preconceived notions about her. Gassaway said, “I have discovered that the goodness is there—but not too good. She’s human, boys, she’s human!” After a bit “the door burst open and producer Ray Carroll stuck in her head. “Aren’t you folks ever coming back to the set?” she inquired. “They’re all lit up and ready to shoot.” Ray Carroll is jealous of her star’s every minute, you can see that.

“My eyes have the Ebie Gebies today,” Helen said, as we wended back to the parlor set.

“Ebie Gebie,” Miss Carroll explained, “is our word for any and everything. When the lights flicker, they have the Ebie Gebies. When the camera gets cantankerous, it, too, has the Ebie Gebies.” That is the spirit of play which you will find poking its nose into the really hard work of any thoroughly happy picture company. And the Eddy company is happy.”

They finished shooting the film and it was ready for distribution by early September. Here’s the AFI Catalog plot summary:

When his design for a new dam is rejected, Peter Jamison prepares to leave town and proposes to Jane Coleridge, but her father’s sudden death prevents Jane from meeting Peter. Five years pass, and Peter returns with his daughter and the explanation that his wife, Marie, deserted him. Peter and Jane’s love grows anew, then Marie reappears and causes trouble for Jane. Marie dies in a dam burst.

FBO didn’t skimp on the trade ads

When Love Comes was released in New York City in December, 1922. The trade press wasn’t very enthusiastic. The consensus was that it was a slow, but nevertheless Eddy was appealing and there could be an audience for it. The piece in Exhibitors’ Trade Review was typical: “This picture holds good human interest. It is a little draggy at times but should not fail to be thoroughly enjoyed if shown before an audience who does not crave a wild rush of excitement all of the time.”

Laurence Reid in Motion Picture News said that sixty minutes of it was too much, writing, “An often told story is this—which hardly calls for six reels to give it proper expression. Since it is based upon a theme of misunderstanding with an interloper brough into the plot to give it substance, it is safe to say that it will appeal to one’s sentiment if it does not excite one’s imagination.” However, he praised Eddy’s “sincere performance as the sorrowful girl,” and thought it could be “a good little attraction for the neighborhood theater.” ‘Fred.’ in Variety agreed, finding it “more or less tiresome,” nevertheless “for the regular daily change houses the picture will serve nicely.” The New York critics really had a low opinion of viewers outside of the city!

Film Daily had the worst review: “Considering the fact that apparently very little has been spent upon it and the situations are all more or less familiar, When Love Comes manages to come out pretty near the average mark.” They complained about the production standards, saying “the picture looks as though it had undergone considerable cutting, and it has not been done any too well. There are big jumps in the continuity.” They also though the special effects were cheap, noting “even the flood hasn’t been worked up into a thrill, a very poor miniature serving for the breaking of the dam.” But they couldn’t resist insulting a large part of the audience: “if you cater largely to women folks, you can probably satisfy them well enough with it.”

A ’woman folk’ did like it the more of any of them; Mary Kelly in Moving Picture World wrote:

It belongs definitely in the class of features that rely upon emotional appeal rather than material display. It is a love story, simply and effectively told and will be refreshing to those who criticize the screen for placing too much emphasis upon superficial glamour and beauty without talent. There is a particular class of patrons which will be most enthusiastic over this. The romance and disappointment of an old-fashioned girl is the theme.

She thought the story was particularly suited to Eddy, and her “charm of naturalness is the chief inspiration of the picture.”

When Love Comes didn’t open in Los Angeles until March 1923, where it was on a vaudeville bill at the Pantages. The partners worked hard to get it seen. Ray Carroll wrote and directed a playlet for Helen Jerome Eddy to star in called Case Number Twenty-Nine. They were interviewed by Kingsley’s co-worker Kenneth Taylor, and Eddy told him that the theater owner Alexander Pantages had asked her to make a personal appearance with the film. They auditioned the playlet for him, “and Miss Carroll, who witnessed the rehearsal from the wings, asserts that they went through it without a hitch, completely losing themselves in the parts. And she also asserts that she peeked out at Mr. Pantages and found the vaudeville magnate weeping copiously—not at it, but with it. So there was no question whether the act was good or not. It was signed at once.”

The Times’ unsigned review of the Pantages show thought that Eddy was terrific:

She is shining brilliantly at Pantages this week in Ray Carroll’s tense little playlet Case Number Twenty-Nine, in which she plays a young mother, whose child the law threatens to take away from her because she cannot support it. Her vividness makes you feel all the scenes she describes, her emotional powers are volcanic; her gentler moods, her tenderness, are endlessly appealing…Case Number Twenty-Nine tears your emotions more than anything I’ve seen in a long time. 

The reviewer mentioned Eddy was also on the bill in When Love Comes, “a human little picture drama,” and they admired her performance in that , too, adding “nearly all the film actresses I know ought to go to school to Helen Eddy to learn how to put thought and feeling over through the eyes.”

Taylor’s article said that Eddy was still under contract to Carroll. However, that changed the following month. On April 14th, Grace Kingsley reported that J.L. Frothingham had taken over Eddy’s contract from Carroll, and planned to manage her career, adding her to a roster that included Marguerite de la Motte and Barbara L Marr. He also planned to star her in a series of films, and they signed a 3-year contract. The films didn’t get made (his last production was in 1922), and after the initial announcement, there was nothing more in the press about it.  However, the Carroll/Eddy partnership was finished.

Eddy continued to star in wholesome movies like An Old Sweetheart of Mine (1923) and The Country Kid (1923). Between films, Eddy toured vaudeville with Carroll’s playlet, slightly retitled. Billboard had a review when it was at the B.S. Moss’ Regent Theater in New York on August 7, 1924 and they thought it was fine, if old-fashioned:

Helen Jerome Eddy and Company in Case No. 26, by Ray Carroll, did well enough for that type of sketch which is gradually becoming more or less extinct. The locale is a juvenile court, and a hardened masculine court clerk, although a woman, endeavors with all her might to have a baby taken away from its mother who must work all day and is unable to watch over the girl of six as much as is deemed necessary. Miss Eddy has a pleasing quality to her voice and works admirably.

Eddy had a long career alternating film work with stage work, often with the Pasadena Community Players. When there was an actors strike in in 1929, Eddy and her life partner Cyprian Beach opened a tea room in Pasadena called The Frog Footman, telling the Times that they needed the money to feed their five cats, one wire-haired terrier, two ducks and two monkeys. They were together until Beach died in 1951. Helen Jerome Eddy retired from acting in 1947, and had a successful real estate career in Pasadena. She died in 1990, age 92.

I’m not certain what happened to Ray Carroll next. Someone this energetic, ambitious and broke must have done something. If she was the Carol Capleaux listed in the 1925 New York State Census, then at that time she was a writer living in New York City. She married Joseph Raymond Parker in 1927. They had a son, Joseph Richard Parker on December 2, 1928 and moved to Glendale, California at some point before 1940.

Just like the other female producers I’ve written about, Ray Carroll only got this one chance and never made another movie. It wasn’t only because of misogyny: the industry was consolidating into large studios and it was getting harder for all independent producers to make films. As a final sad note, When Love Comes is lost. At least it seems like they enjoyed the planning and dreaming, and the actual work of making it.

 

*Because many immigrant families changed their names after some time in the United States, I did try all sorts of variations of Rachel Carol Kaplow, Kaplowsky, Kaplowitz, Cappelletti, and Capelli. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn someday that some of the many Kaplans I found were related to her, especially if she did have seven siblings. Then again, her chosen name may not have had any resemblance to her family name: I would have never guessed that Jackson Rose was originally Ike Savitsky, if the Ancestry.com algorithm hadn’t helped me out.

** She was quite wrong about that—the movie now known for setting off the flapper trend, Flaming Youth, didn’t even come out until November 12, 1923.

 

Celia Brynn, “Ladies Day,” Picture-Play Magazine, June 1921, p.74.

“B.S. Moss’ Regent Theater, NY,” Billboard, August 16, 1924, p. 15.

“A Fair Picture with a Thoroughly Appealing Star,” Film Daily, December 10, 1922, p. 12.

‘Fred.’ “When Love Comes,” Variety, January 5, 1923, p.43.

Gordon Gassaway, “Without Wings,” Motion Picture Magazine, January 1923, p. 63, 106.

“Girl is a Writer-Producer,” Kansas City Star, January 4, 1923.

“Girl Starts Own Film Unit,” Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1922.

“Helen Eddy Deserts,” Los Angeles Times, April 30, 1923.

“Helen Eddy Returns to Legitimate,” Los Angeles Times, March 14, 1923.

“Helen Jerome Eddy Coming ‘In Person,’” Seattle Star, December 10, 1924.

“Helen Jerome Eddy, A New Type of Star,” Motion Picture News, August 12, 1922, p. 738.

“Helen Jerome Eddy; Silent Screen Actress Played High-Class Heroines,” Los Angeles Times, January 31, 1990.

“Ince Adds to Scenario Staff,” Moving Picture World, February 21, 1920, p.1243.

Joan Jordan, “The Girl Picture Magnates,” Photoplay, August 1922, p. 23, 111.

W.E. Keefe, “News of the West Coast,” Moving Picture World, July 29, 1922, p. 371.

Mary Kelly, “When Love Comes,” Moving Picture World, December 16, 1922, p. 668.

Grace Kingsley, “Flashes: Bright Cluster,” Los Angeles Times, April 20, 1922.

Grace Kingsley, “Flashes: Finds New Star,” Los Angeles Times, April 14, 1922.

Grace Kingsley, “Flashes: Real Humaness,” Los Angeles Times, March 19, 1923.

Lannie Haynes Martin, “Frog at Door Put to Work,” Los Angeles Times, September 16, 1929.

Laurence Reid, “When Love Comes,” Motion Picture News, December 16, 1922, p. 3064.

Edwin Schallert, “Reviews: Her Husband’s Friend,” Los Angeles Times, November 2, 1920.

J.M. Snellman, “Her Husband’s Friend,” Moving Picture World, December 4, 1920, p. 643.

“Takes Over Eddy Contract,” Film Daily, April 20, 1923, p. 2.

Kenneth Taylor, “Fate Fulfills Early Dreams,” Los Angeles Times, March 18, 1923.

“This Flapper to be a Film Producer,” San Francisco Call, August 12, 1922.

“This is Positive,” Motion Picture News, September 2, 1922, p. 1121.

“When Love Comes,” Exhibitors’ Trade Review, December 16, 1922, p.151.