Week of October 7th, 1916

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Douglas Fairbanks

One hundred years ago this week, summer vacations were over and actors were telling Grace Kingsley about their time off. Douglas Fairbanks chatted with her and she wrote:

Fairbanks really is the Fairbanks of Manhattan Madness, that is, he prefers a wild horseback trip through the mountains of Wyoming to a wild night on New York’s Broadway. Just before coming to California he made a trip on horseback through Wyoming and Colorado. Also he took a New Yorker with him. ‘I purposely chose an anemic Broadwayite who had never been West, not only because I thought it would do him good, but because I thought it would be fun for me. The first day he surprised me by riding thirty-five miles. Well, I thought, tonight we’ll see some fun. But, bless you, it never fazed him and I didn’t dare tell him I was a bit stiff and sore. Next day I had to take it easy, but that pale-faced tenderfoot just jogged right along. So it was all the way. I guess he had as much fun as I did, maybe a little more.’

This is a very well-crafted story to give to a reporter. He isn’t bragging that he rode 35 miles in a day, instead he gets to be amazed that the tenderfoot kept up. His self-deprecation (admitting he was wrong about the New York man’s toughness) made him even more appealing. Douglas Fairbanks was really good at being a movie star.

I haven’t been able to find out who the anemic Broadwayite was; Tracey Goessel doesn’t mention the trip in her recent biography, and in the interview Fairbanks did with Kitty Kelly in the Chicago Daily Tribune (September 19, 1916) on his way to Wyoming, he’s only called “a city man.”

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Myrtle Gonzales

Myrtle Gonzales tried to take a restful vacation In San Diego but so many old friends kept her socializing night and day that she was grateful to come back to Universal City for a little peace and quiet at work. Gonzalez usually played hardy, outdoorsy heroines in her 78 films; sadly she died just two years later in the flu epidemic.

This week Kingsley’s favorite film was one that was much better than its “cheaply sensational” title would suggest. The War Bride’s Secret “deals with a girl, who, having secretly married her lover on the eve of his leaving for the war, finds that she is to become a mother, and hearing of her husband’s death, consents to wed a fine broth of a Scotsman who long admired her. It is when the supposedly dead husband returns, Enoch Arden like, two years later, after she has learned to deeply respect and honor her second husband, that the real inner drama begins.”Kingsley thought it was “vividly realistic…one of the few really inspired picture plays.” Other critics admired it too; G. Graves in Motography thought the filmmakers’ skill made “the picture thoroughly engrossing and worthwhile.” Of course it’s a lost film.

The screenwriter was Mary Murillo, who often wrote about women with moral dilemmas. She would have been forgotten if it were not for Luke McKernan, who in 2009 wrote an inspirational blog post on how and why obscure people should be researched, “Searching for Mary Murillo.” Of course he couldn’t let the subject go, and he wrote a follow-up in 2015, “Gaston, Maurice and Mary.”

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The Dawn of Love

Kingsley’s best line this week was in her review of The Dawn of Love: “When Messers Rennold Wolf and Channing Pollock wrote this picture play, they evidently decided not to leave out a single exciting thing they had ever heard was done in a picture.” Ouch. The excitement was mostly a cliff top fight that ended with the villain falling to his death, but there was also smuggling and police brutality. All of the writers survived this review just fine: Wolf and Pollack were successful Broadway playwrights (Ziegfeld Follies, My Best Girl) who wrote a few film stories on the side, and the woman who adapted their story into a scenario, June Mathis, went on to write Greed (1925), Ben-Hur (1925), and Rudolph Valentino’s best films.

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Finally, Kingsley recorded exactly what Charlie Chaplin ate at the Alexandria Grill after attending a vaudeville show at Clune’s Auditorium: a sardine sandwich and a glass of buttermilk. Tastes in nighttime snacking have changed a lot since 1916.

 

 

 

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