One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley reviewed a feature film with an impressive innovation:
If you wish to realize just how incredibly a picture is enhanced by the use of colored photography, go and see “The Sultana”…Reduced to picture terms, the photoplay is a howling melodrama. However, it’s of the thrilling sort, with stolen jewels and bandits galore, and if you like that sort of story, you’ll find this the article deluxe. There are some beautiful outdoor scenes the colored method serves to bring out remarkably. Viewing this picture, a person will believe the day not far distant when the public will demand color photography – a state of things not at all desired by photoplay producers as all color processes are expensive. The Balboa studio is to be congratulated on taking this advanced step.
The color was added to the film by a stencil process called Pathecolor. The film was shot in black and white, then shipped to the Pathe factory in France where a stencil blocking out the parts that weren’t supposed to be stained for each color was cut for every individual frame of film. Then the film went through a staining machine, one trip for every color. It was terribly labor intensive, but it could produce beautiful results. The Sultana is lost, but here’s a sample from a 1920 newsreel.
For more information about Pathecolor, visit The Bioscope.
A new Chaplin film opened this week, so it’s not surprising that it was Kingsley’s favorite film. She wrote:
Maybe Charlie Chaplin has done something funnier than Behind the Screen. If so, I have failed to see it. Behind the Screen is an uproarious revelment of things in a motion picture studio…As ‘Props’ Charlie copes comically with striking stage hands, turns chairs and tables into comedians, eats his lunch through a steel visor to avoid facing the onions devoured by his brother ‘props’, lays a bearskin rug after treating it to a shampoo – and conducts a custard pie battle, trenches, forts and all, with a rival property man, beside other feats of valor.
She tells an awful lot of what happens in the film, but luckily, it’s hard to spoil physical comedy with a description. It’s available on the Internet Archive.
Actress Fannie Ward showed what a publicity whiz she was by telling Kingsley about the drug store clerk who refused to sell her alcohol, because she was plainly under 18 and her father or mother needed to accompany her. Fannie Ward was 45 years old in 1916, and even her husband thought the clerk was joking. It did make a flattering story.
The presidential election still hadn’t been decided, and actress Ruth Stonehouse was strolling on the Universal lot with a newspaper when she ran into director Captain Leslie Peacocke. She told him there was some exciting election news, and he just looked annoyed and said “Well, Carl Laemmle’s still president, isn’t he?” It must be nice to be able to ignore national politics!
Finally, Kingsley ran a sweet story about Broadway playwright and critic Channing Pollock and his fiancée, Anna Marble. She was vacationing in the Catskills, and one morning she got a telegram from him: “I’m coming up to marry you Saturday.” She wired back “Come and see if I care.” It turns out she did, and they stayed married until she died in 1948.