One hundred years ago this week, on Thursday Grace Kingsley reported that Sid Grauman was planning an “added attraction” on election night at his theater, the Majestic: the presidential election returns (gathered from a private telegraph wire) would be displayed during the musical production, A Night at the World’s Fair. The next day, the Mason Operahouse announced that they would also have a direct wire, and patrons would be able to enjoy orchestra music from seven to midnight while the returns flashed on the screen. By Sunday, all of the theaters announced they would include election news in their programs.
In 1916 there weren’t many ways to hear the results of the presidential election. People who lived close enough to New York could have heard the first radio broadcast of election results from Dr. Lee De Forest’s lab. But in Los Angeles, besides the theaters and a few restaurants with telegraph lines, people could go to the L.A. Times Building at First and Broadway or to the branch office on Spring Street to see the results projected on screens, or they could telephone the newspaper office for them. The next day the paper reported immense crowds of nearly seven thousand people at each location had gathered to read the bulletins. They also put out multiple editions of the paper throughout the night. Their rival, the Evening Herald, also had a stereopticon bulletin board in front of their office as well as extra night newspapers.
However, this year all of the election watchers were disappointed: it was a very close race between the incumbent Woodrow Wilson and Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes, and nobody knew the final results until the following Wednesday, November 15th. In the November 8th 5 AM edition of the Times, they reported that Hughes had apparently been elected, but they warned that people should wait until more of the returns had been counted. This turned out to be good advice, because the election wasn’t decided until California finished counting ballots. When they did, Wilson won by the state by 3800 votes so he got the state’s 13 electoral votes and won the election.
Kingsley herself wasn’t allowed to vote. California women got the right to vote in local and state elections in 1911, but federal female suffrage didn’t come until 1920.
Kingsley reported that star J. Warren Kerrigan quit in the middle of filming Lois Weber’s The Mysterious Mrs. Musselwhite when his contract with Universal expired. They hadn’t come to an agreement about a new contract because Kerrigan wanted more money than they were offering. Universal said that there was “an understanding” that he’d complete the film but Kerrigan said that he’d given twenty days notice and he warned them that they probably wouldn’t finish it in time. According to Variety, Universal sued Kerrigan for $8,000 for breach of verbal agreement, but they never reported on the outcome. The suit was probably dropped.
Kerrigan’s hardball negotiation paid off: he left Universal and got his own production company with Paralta Plays. While his new studio was being built in early 1917, he went on a four month long tour of the United States to keep his name before the public. That’s when he made a comment that damaged his career. In Denver, a reporter asked if he was going to serve in the military and Kerrigan said no, because first “the great mass of men who aren’t good for anything else” should go, not artists like himself. He did continue to make films until 1924 (and he wasn’t drafted), but it hurt his popularity. He had invested in real estate and annuities, so he was able to live comfortably with his partner, James Vincent.
Lois Weber recast her film with up-and-coming actor Harrison Ford and re-shot all of Kerrigan’s scenes. It was re-named The Mysterious Mrs. M; Motion Picture News thought it was “a delightful business builder” when it opened in February 1917. The first two reels survive at the Library of Congress.
Kingsley’s favorite film this week was War’s Women, (aka The Despoiler or The Awakening) which was a melodrama about the horrors war inflicts on women that was “simple and elemental in its appeal and told with luminous clearness.” Enid Markey starred as a girl who sacrifices herself for the safety of the other women in her community, and Kingsley thought she “raises herself to the topmost rank of screen actresses.”
Markey didn’t get to be at the top rank of actresses, but she did have an exceptionally long career, from originating the role of the Jane in Tarzan of the Apes (1918) to playing Gomer Pyle’s grandmother in television. War’s Women is a lost film.
Kingsley’s funniest review this week was for Love and Hate, a melodrama about a homewrecker:
Stuart Holmes, the villain de lux of the films, has the proud distinction of being hated and knocked about by more fascinating screen ladies than any other film villain…By the by, Mr. Holmes now wears a toupee, probably the result of always loving the heroine, who, while a sweet woman in other ways, invariably spurns his affection. He’s a good-looking fellow, too, with lots of brains. If he could just keep from falling in love with the heroine, who is usually some other man’s wife, and get a girl of his own, he’d not always have to die in the last reel.
Coincidentally, Mary Murillo wrote Love and Hate and just a few weeks ago she’d written Kingsley favorite film of the week, which shows that a screenwriter can’t win ‘em all. It’s a lost film.
Like Markey, Stuart Holmes also had an exceptionally long career. He played villains through the silent era then moved into bit parts in talkies and television, appearing in over 500 films. He was also a sculptor and his work was on display at the Masquer’s Club and at the Oceanside, Bell and Claremont post offices.