One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley reported on ambitious plans for a big new film studio. The Success Film Producing Company, with a capitalization of 7.5 million dollars, had been incorporated in New York the week before and they wanted to open a studio in Los Angeles by the end of August. They had bought film rights to several properties and had an option on a theater in New York, and they planned to buy more throughout the country. An article in Motion Picture News on September 2nd sounded much more suspicious of the enterprise, calling the reports rumors without forthcoming details. They also couldn’t find published records of the real estate deal for the theater. Like so many other projects, not much came of it and the company soon disappeared from the press. Motography did announce that Success hired Constance Collier as the lead in The Eternal Magdalene but they never made that film. Collier went on to a six-decade long career in the theater and film. The Eternal Magdalene was filmed in 1917 by a different brand-new production company: Goldwyn Pictures, a company that’s still around as part of M.G.M Studios. In the film business, you never know what will last and what won’t.
Kingsley’s favorite film of the week was Charlie Chaplin’s “One A.M.” She said:
the screen comedian has the magic power, as everybody know, of turning everything he touches into the gold of laughter. So that in One A.M. it is Chaplin as the star with the furniture as supporting company. The taxi speedometer is a veritable burlesque artist, the revolving table is a comedian of rare gift…even the poor old siphon bottle is a funster with finesse, and the trick bed is a clown. Besides, Chaplin has invented all the ways there are of not getting upstairs.
If you want to see what she’s talking about, it’s available on the Internet Archive.
She also liked the feature that played with it, Love’s Lariat, starring Harry Carey, calling it “quite the most delightful, crisp little comedy we have had in many a day…more power to whoever wrote this play.” According to the AFI Catalog, the plot involved a cowboy who had to live in the East for a year as a condition of an inheritance and the writers were William Blaine Pearson and co-director (with Carey) George E. Marshall. Pearson worked on a few more Westerns and died in November, 1918 (an unverifiable source said it was pneumonia), but Marshall had much better luck. This was his first feature-length film as a director; his last was a Jerry Lewis vehicle Hook Line and Sinker in 1969. Along the way he directed over 80 features including Destry Rides Again (1939) and several Bob Hope comedies. Love’s Lariat is a lost film.
Kingsley was much less impressed by The Marriage of Molly-O, saying that the piffling superficialities of the screenplay weren’t worthy of its star, Mae Marsh. That screenplay writer was D.W. Griffith, writing under a pseudonym.
Griffith got much better press farther along in the same August 7th column, when Kingsley mentioned that Intolerance was test-screened at the Orpheum Theater in Riverside under the title The Downfall of All Nations. She quoted some favorable reviews that called the film “soul-gripping,” and “a stupendous production.” Griffith and several of the stars, including Miss Marsh, Lillian Gish, Constance Talmadge and Robert Harron attended the screening. Two days later she reported that New York would get to see it before Los Angeles because Griffith had signed a deal to take over the Liberty Theater there for the 1916-1917 season.
Otherwise, it was a slow week for film news. Kingsley mentioned that William S. Hart had a particularly strenuous week of stunts, including falling from the back of a horse and rolling 500 feet down an embankment, but Hart said that now nothing short of eating a locomotive worried him. However, he was planning a vacation through Utah, Colorado and the Grand Canyon after the film was finished.