Week of December 30th, 1916

William Fox

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley’s work was cut off by a bad typesetter. Her story about why cowboy star Tom Mix had decided to give up stunts (he never did) after some nasty injuries was supposed to be continued on another page, but it wasn’t. Instead there was an announcement about a film preservation scheme:

“a motion picture mausoleum or “Hall of Fame” to cost a million dollars and endowed for a similar amount, to preserve historic photoplays is planned by William Fox, head of the Fox Film Corporation…The plan is to place in the mausoleum such films of contemporary scenes, movements of thought and development of human experience as will prove of the greatest historic value to the generations to come.”

Motography had gotten the same press release, but they published more of it. The mausoleum was to be built in Central Park, New York City, with immense vaults, a projection room and a library of screenplays and writings about cinema.

Like so many other big plans for film preservation, this went nowhere. The idea that films ought to be saved had been around since the beginning; their inventor, W.K.L. Dickson had pointed it out in 1894, according to historian Stephen Bottomore.* In 1898, camera operator Boleslaw Matuszewshi published a pamphlet, “Une nouvelle source de l’historie” that argued for the creation of a film archive. The first wasn’t founded until 1917 in London, when the Imperial War Museum’s Department of Film was created to preserve the moving picture record of World War I, and archives for fiction films didn’t get started until the mid-1930’s.

Why William Fox’s plan failed hasn’t been written about. Despite his importance to film history (he founded the still going concern Fox Films, built a chain of movie palaces and funded the development of sound on film technology) there has been only one incomplete attempt at his biography by Vanda Krefft. In 2010 she wrote a useful article about researching Fox for the Readex Report. HarperCollins planned to publish her book in 2012, but these projects always take longer than you hope.

Island of Desire

Kingsley’s movie reviews weren’t sabotaged by the typesetter, and this week she particularly liked Island of Desire (coincidentally, William Fox produced it). It was yet another desert island movie of which there were many in 1916, but this now lost film was especially entertaining:

As fascinating as Robinson Crusoe, as exciting as Treasure Island is The Island of Desire at Miller’s this week, with George Walsh and Margaret Gibson in the leading roles. Otis Turner is to be congratulated on giving us a new sort of desert island tale, which is imbued with the witching spirit of fancifulness, an atmosphere of real romance and adventure. And if only George Walsh would cut his hair, he’d be a regular guy! Certainly he has all the muscle and ‘pep’ not to mention the good looks demanded of a romantic hero…The hero and heroine are cast away on a desert island with some valuable pearls in their possession and these are the cause of a thickly mixed plot, pursuing thieves and what not. And as if this weren’t enough the poor hero and heroine are attacked by cannibals and rained upon by a volcano. When they attempt to take refuge from their numerous enemies in caves, some large-sized monkeys dispute their possession. I don’t know monkeys ever lived in caves, but anyway these monkeys did. Those who love swift moving adventure will revel in The Island of Desire.

Too much hair?

George Walsh’s hair length really seemed to bother people, and other critics complained even more about it. George W. Graves in Motography wrote “he would have made a much more convincing skipper and fighter of the Seawolf type, had not that great shock of hair bulging out back of his ears made him resemble so much a certain noted violinist,” and Peter Milne in Motion Picture News said “some of his scenes in which his lengthy coiffure is so pronounced are somewhat lessened in realism by this very fact. We think a hero must not be long haired to be romantic.” Now there’s plenty of gay panic still around, it just isn’t concentrated on hair length.

George Walsh, 1920

Walsh did cut his hair and had a fairly good career. His athleticism and comic timing made him a rival to Douglas Fairbanks and he was cast as the original Ben Hur (1925), but he lost the part when the director and screenwriter also got fired. He continued to get supporting roles, particularly in his older brother Raoul Walsh’s films, until he retired from acting and became a horse breeder and trainer.

Kingsley told a cute story about awkwardness between high- and middle-brow culture. Lydia Lopokova, a ballerina in town with Nijinsky’s troupe, asked Charlie Chaplin to tea. She was reading when he arrived with a book under his arm, so naturally he asked about her book. She said “Why, I suppose I ought to say Tolstoy, but the fact of the matter is it’s George Ade. (1) What is your book? Something frivolous, I suppose?” Chaplin paused and blushed. “Oh, don’t mind telling me,” said Mlle Lopokova. “You see, I’m often frivolous myself. What is it?” It was “The Reflections of Marcus Aurelius.” (2) Lopokova went on to dance with the Ballets Russes and she married economist John Maynard Keynes in 1925.

(1) a then-popular American humorist who wrote about Midwestern people, the Garrison Keillor of his time.

(2) a collection of notes for Stoic self-improvement by the Roman emperor.


Happy New Year, and it’s a great time to get your undermuslins in order with a visit to the January sales. See you at the discount rack!


*Bottomore, Stephen (2002). “’The sparkling surface of the sea of history’ – Notes on the Origins of Film Preservation”. In: Smither, Roger (2002). This Film is Dangerous: A Celebration of Nitrate Film. Bruxelles: FIAF, 86-97.

Happy Holidays!

One hundred years ago, Grace Kingsley celebrated Christmas by placing her first article in a film magazine. The piece was called “Christmas in the Western Studios” and it ran in the January 1917 issue of Photoplay. It was a snapshot of what the stars were planning to do for Christmas.

Several people were throwing big parties. Mabel Normand and Fanny Ward were jointly hosting a blow-out for their friends at Ward’s bungalow, with a huge tree and electrical effects installed by Normand’s studio electricians.

William S. Hart

William S. Hart invited a different group to his place: the cow-punchers of Inceville. Kingsley gave details:

The spacious dining room will be fittingly decorated to resemble the gambling hall of a Western mining town and the turkey will be eaten from tin plates, while the cider will be drunk from tin cups. Everyone will be dressed in typical Western regalia, including sombrero, chaps, spurs, silk neckerchiefs, lariats and six-shooters, and such bizarre adornments as stuffed and mounted rattlesnakes, horned toads and Gila monsters will lend an additional desert atmosphere to the occasion. The only woman to be present will be Hart’s sister, Miss Mary Hart, who, as hostess, will be garbed as a cow-girl.

Others did charitable work. Lousie Fazenda planned to bring a carload of gifts to a home for the aged and infirm, which was her annual habit. Roscoe Arbuckle was getting ready to visit a younger group:

Arbuckle, being built on the lines of Santa Claus, is much in demand for the role. He has promised to act in that capacity for the youngsters of one of the orphan’s homes. It is calculated that when the little ones find out who has been doling out their gifts instead of Santa, they’ll feel so happy that old Kris Kringle will feel himself entirely in the discard.

Two of the biggest male stars had much less tradition plans. Douglas Fairbanks told her that he’d be “eating, drinking and playing pinochle” for Christmas, because he’d be on the train from California to New York. The other was also avoiding gifts and parties:

Charlie Chaplin, the biggest laugh maker in the world – is his Christmas to be a merry one? Well, Charlie isn’t much of a laugher himself. His is a quiet sort of humor when he has any at all. For the most part, he his a quiet chap, given to spells of deep melancholy. Charlie is planning to spend Christmas Day with his brother Sid, eating dinner at the Athletic Club where he lives, and going out to the Country Club for a quiet game of golf afterward. Chaplin is becoming a golf player, and he seldom misses a holiday out there.

Kingsley herself worked on Christmas. She reviewed the vaudeville show at the Orpheum, and particularly enjoyed the musical playlet “Ma’mselle Caprice.” She continued to write for movie magazines until 1938.

This same article still gets written annually, only now the writer just has to check Twitter feeds. For instance, here’s Vulture’s version for Thanksgiving 2016.

I hope that your holiday is as happy as theirs was!


Week of December 23rd, 1916

Charles Dickens

One hundred years ago this week, two Los Angeles theaters were showing films appropriate for Christmas, which then as now, means Dickens adaptations. As Grace Kingsley noted, “Dickens’ stories are all particularly adapted to the screen, I think, owing to their clean-cut drama and vivid types.” She admired both of them.

The first was a version of Dickens’ most popular story called The Right to be Happy. Kingsley said:

The warm and radiant Christmas spirit as embodied in the well-loved “Christmas Carol” is preserved with wonderful effectiveness and artistry in the picture play at the Superba this week, and one laughs and weeps through the joys and sorrow of Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchett and Old Scrooge, and shudders realistically at the appearance of Marley’s Ghost. The picture is done in a really remarkable manner. There are no sumptuous settings, no famous names to carry it; yet, I got more joy out of this little photoplay than I have from half-a-dozen so-called features.

On Christmas morning, the Advertising Club sponsored a special screening of the film for the newsboys of Los Angeles. The Times called it “the treat of their lives.”

Competing for holiday filmgoers at a theater three blocks down Broadway was a larger production that Kingsley liked just as much:

Are you one who loves the appealing figures of the immortally wistful little Oliver Twist…If so, don’t fail to go to the Woodley this week and see how Marie Doro… and the others bring the familiar characters to life. No lay figures these, but real incarnations of the vivid beings whom Dickens, the great champion and lover of humanity, has made immortal. The Lasky Company is certainly to be congratulated. Not only is the photoplay picture perfect—even the old Cruikshank illustrations have been followed in some instances—but the very spirit of the brilliant genius of Dickens lives again.

By 1916 there had already been many filmed Dickens adaptations. According to Michael Pointer in Charles Dickens on the Screen, he was one of the first authors to have his work filmed when in 1897 the American Mutoscope Company made “The Death of Nancy Sykes,” from a gristly scene in Oliver Twist. Between then and 1916, adaptations had ranged from extracting the story of one character from a novel like Dolly Varden (1906) to attempts to condense whole books into seven reels, like David Copperfield (1913). Unfortunately, neither film that Kingsley wrote about survives but there are lots more to chose from. The IMDB says that as of this writing there have been 364 completed projects and five more in the planning stages.

Playing in the theater across the street from Oliver Twist was another adaptation from an author who didn’t have the good fortune to be timeless like Dickens. If he’s remembered at all today it’s because of his now-startling name: Winston Churchill. The American Churchill wrote bestselling historical fiction and in 1916 was much more famous than the man who at the time was a Member of Parliament. The British one had to publish his books as Winston S. Churchill, to avoid confusion.

The novelist had good luck with the film version of his work; Kingsley thought that the filmmakers had “made the Churchill characters live” so that “thousands who have enjoyed Winston Churchill’s novel The Crisis may well be expected to find distinct pleasure in the pictured version of the same.” The book, published in 1901, was a Civil War story set in St. Louis, where there was a mix of Northern and Southern supporters. The film is held at the Library of Congress.

There have been a few articles written about the writer, all amazed that there was another Winston Churchill.

Grace Kingsley didn’t write a year-end review of 1916, but neither did anybody else. A Lantern search turns up the first top ten films list on February 9, 1922, when Film Daily evaluated the movies from 1921 and put The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse at the top of their honor roll. They didn’t bother with any explanation or justification for the choices, but the next year they said the list was based on a survey of newspaper, trade and fan magazine critics.

Week of December 16th, 1916


Colleen Moore, 1917

One hundred years ago this week, a future star appeared in Grace Kingsley’s column for the first time.

D.W. Griffith has secured a new star, and she will presently appear in a Fine Arts production. She is a little eastern convent girl said to be possessed of great talent. Her name was originally Kathlyn Collins, but Mr. Griffith, considering the name not poetical enough for screen purposes, changed it to Colleen Moore.

Colleen Moore, 1929

It took five years and a haircut but Colleen Moore did become a big star. In Flaming Youth (1923) she helped start the flapper craze. Some details given to Kingsley were wrong: Moore’s original name was Kathleen Morrison, and her uncle, Walter Howey, was the one who came up with her new name.

Colleen Moores, undated

Even more remarkably, she was able to retire gracefully when it was over and have a happy life. Her autobiography, Silent Star, is well worth reading. Online, a good place to start for more information is the Colleen Moore site.


Kingsley’s favorite film this week featured an actress who fit the more robust, mature fashion for women of 1916. Kingsley wrote: “The Rise of Susan is highly improbable, but ingenious and therefore entertaining.” Clara Kimball Young “has a charm and appeal all her own, and she makes them felt in this story, in which, at first, as a modiste’s model, she is persuaded by a social climber to pose at the latter’s entertainment as a French Countess.”

Young was one of the biggest box-office attractions at the time and the second woman (after Mary Pickford) to have her own production company. She had an eventful life, which you can read more about at Clara Kimball Young by Greta de Groat or at the Women Film Pioneers site.

Chaplin, Eric Campbell and the offending lamp-post

On Saturday, Kingsley had alarming news about the most popular actor of the time, Charlie Chaplin, who

was rather badly injured in an accident at his studio yesterday. He was working in a picture called Easy Street, when a comedy lamp-post, without waiting for its cue, after the manner of comic furniture in Chaplin’s pictures, abruptly and without apparent reason fell over on Chaplin, the glass breaking and cutting his face, and the body of the post, which was of iron, catching its victim off his guard and crushing him. Chaplin was at once removed to his rooms at the Athletic Club, where, it is said, he will have to remain for at least a week.

This initial report of the injury sounds worse than the version in Chaplin’s autobiography, which didn’t mention that he was crushed. He only described his facial cut, which delayed filming because he couldn’t put make-up over it.

It seems that Brown Eyes of Buster Keaton’s Go West wasn’t the first bovine actor. Kingsley told about Frank Reicher at Lasky Studio, who was

confronted with a scenario which required the services of a cow. The cow was not merely to be atmosphere; that was the worst of it. According to the scenario, she was to ‘look up in mild surprise.’ What would cause a cow merely ‘mild surprise?’ Reicher was not familiar with the emotions of cows. Nevertheless, he went bravely forward. He does not state whether he showed the cow some of the latest German peace reports, or whether he read her futuristic poetry, but he got results. In delight he returned triumphantly to the studio. ‘I’ll be darned if she didn’t do it!’ he exclaimed, as he tacked a picture of his bovine Sarah Bernhardt to the wall.

Castles for Two (1917)

Reicher was probably working on Castles for Two (released March 1917), a story of a disguised heiress (Marie Doro) and a penniless lord (Elliot Dexter) who rescues her from a dangerous cow (you get only one guess as to how the story ends). The film has been preserved at the Library of Congress. Frank Reicher had a long film career, first as a director and later as a character actor, most memorably as the ship captain in King Kong (1933).

Kingsley had an educational line from her review of Olga Petrova’s The Black Butterfly: “All the unhappy betrayed girls of fiction who don’t get themselves in jail by killing the man always become noted stage luminaries.” For more useful advice if you find yourself in a fictional world, visit Seanan McGuire’s Fairy Tale Survival FAQ.

On Tuesday, Kingsley took a rare day off. In 1916, December was a slow film news time, before there were big Oscar campaigns.

Week of December 9th, 1916


They had bad jokes in 1916, too (from the Los Angeles Herald)


One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley told which film would be replacing Intolerance on January 1st at the 3,000-seat Clune’s Auditorium: The Eyes of the World. Pre-sale tickets were available by mail order only and requests would be filled in order of their receipt. This was extremely unusual, but it worked. They sold all 6,000 tickets for the two screenings on New Years Day, setting an attendance record according to Moving Picture World (February 3, 1917).*


It was a success with the Los Angeles critics, too. The unsigned review in the L.A. Times called it a “a master picture” that should be “added to the list of the few really great screen dramas.” Otheman Stevens in the Examiner said “it is intense in its action, mingling the most naturally intimate traits of humanity in a series of dramatic incidents, and saturated throughout with the ultimate of idealized romance.” George St. George in the Express wrote that “the story is handled in splendid style” and reported on the audience reaction:

climax piles upon climax and bursts in the tremendously dramatic fight on the narrow ledge of rock thousands of feet up the cliff. This scene is one of the most effective bits that ever has found its way into a picture, and it held the whole audience spellbound yesterday afternoon. There was absolute stillness in the theater while it lasted and a sigh of relief and a burst of applause as it finished.

Book ad,  1914

The film was adapted from Harold Bell Wright’s 1914 bestselling novel of the same name. It told the story of Aaron King, an artist who was pursuing fame and money by painting flattering portraits of society women. He meets Sybil, an innocent young woman, and after rescuing her from a kidnapping, paints his masterpiece: her portrait. It was unusual for a ten-reel long film of the time because it was a love story, not a war movie. Its producer, William Clune, later told Kingsley why he did that:

the future of the photodrama depends not upon great spectacle, but upon the portrayal of essentially human scenes. Time has proven that it is a grave mistake to permit spectacle to infringe upon the gripping personal drama. A good story needs no fireworks. (December 31, 1916)

He had an interesting theory, but it wasn’t the future of film and Eyes was the last movie he produced. He went back to running his chain of theaters.

The Eyes of the World is a lost film, but that’s not the only reason it’s been forgotten. The film, like the book, included some heavy-handed allegory that’s fallen out of fashion.** Here’s a sample conversation from the book between Aaron King and his novelist friend:



Before the film opened, Kinglsey mentioned it many more times in her columns including this story about the actress who played the society woman who commissioned a portrait:

Miss Kathleen Kirkham … gave up a big legacy to gratify her histrionic ambitions. She early developed a passion to make acting her life work, and her grandfather in Menominee, Michigan who opposed her desires, stipulated in his will that $100,000 was to be given her only in the event she abandoned her notions.

Kathleen Kirkham

Unfortunately, this story is too good to be true. While Kirkham’s grandfather, Jacob Leisen, was a wealthy brewer, any attempt to influence her career from beyond the grave would have had to have been awfully early: he died in 1900 when she was only five years old. Kirkham married an insurance manager and retired from acting in 1926. Incidentally, she was a cousin of director Mitchell Leisen (Easy Living 1937, Midnight 1939).

Insidiously naughty in 1916

Kingsley’s favorite film this week was The Pearl of Paradise. She called it

most beautiful and alluring, and at the same time the most insidiously naughty picture Broadway has perhaps ever seen is “The Pearl of Paradise” at the Superba this week. Not that there is anything the censor could put his finger on. There isn’t.

Margarita Fischer provided the naughtiness; she played a woman who grew up on a deserted island who’s hobbies were swimming and dancing in the moonlight naked. Kingsley particularly admired the cameraman’s work, saying “even in these days of remarkable photography, The Pearl of Paradise is noteworthy because of its lovely settings.” Unfortunately, there’s no record of who the cinematographer was. The Static Club (forerunner to the American Society of Cinematographers) had been fighting for cameramen to receive on-screen credit for their work since early 1914, but they hadn’t yet won the battle.

Kingsley also singled out Mabel Taliaferro’s work in The Sunbeam: “For radiance and delightful play of facial expression none can approach her, not even Mary Pickford.” She was playing a Pollyanna of the slums, part of the spate of movies about plucky girls who meddle in other peoples’ lives. Kingsley pointed out that

Pollyannas are apt to be wearisome and irritating in real life, with their monotonous optimism and their perfectly illogical jags of joy. But Miss Taliaferro manages not only to make you tolerate such a character, but to thoroughly sympathize with her.


That’s an accomplishment! Taliaferro was never as hugely successful as Pickford, but she had a good career. Her Broadway debut was in “Children of the Ghetto” when she was only two years old and she worked regularly on stage, screen and television until 1956. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Breaking into screenwriting has always been difficult. Under the heading “It’s no Use, Fellows” Kingsley reported that the Keystone studio had bought only two original scenarios in the past two years. One was written by one of their stage carpenters that they were afraid of losing if they didn’t buy it, and the other had a plot that was almost identical to one they were in the middle of filming, and they were afraid of being accused of plagiarism.

Coming soon! (The Butcher Boy, 1917)

We can start the countdown to the one hundredth anniversary of Buster Keaton going into movies. On December 15th, Kingsley reported that Joseph Schenck was building a large motion picture studio in New York where his wife Norma Talmadge and Roscoe Arbuckle would make films. In just a little more than three months, Keaton would visit that studio, spend an hour looking at the camera, lights, cutting room and dallies then decide it was for him. March 19th will be here soon: start planning the parties!


*It was a record for paid admissions – it beat Birth of a Nation and Intolerance because they didn’t let anyone in to Eyes for free.

**To defend Wright’s work a bit, none of the other books on Publishers’ Weekly top ten bestsellers list for 1914 are read very often now either. The only book published that year that has lasted is Dubliners by James Joyce.


Week of December 2nd, 1916


One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kinglsey told a cute story about one way to get out of a speeding ticket. Universal star Ruth Stonehouse was dressed for work in boys’ clothes when she got pulled over for speeding (she was doing 37 miles per hour). She had a hard time convincing the police officer that she really was a woman. The next day she ran over from work for her court appearance, again dressed as a boy, and the officer took her to the women’s court where “she created another sensation as the woman judge insisted she should go to the other court. After additional explanations…’Her Honor’ took the whole matter as a joke and dismissed the actress.”

This incident didn’t cause any problems for Ruth Stonehouse’s career. She even got to direct some shorts, and she kept acting until 1928, when she married Felix Hughes, a vocal instructor and Howard Hughes’ uncle. The Women Film Pioneers Project has an entry about her.



Now the most interesting thing about the story is that there was once a sex-segregated court in Los Angeles. Presided over by Georgia Bullock, the first female judge in California, the closed-door court “had a social worker orientation toward female defendants and expected to help rather than punish them,” according to legal historian Beverly Blair Cook. Judge Bullock thought that a wise and sympathetic woman judge could recognize a “good girl” and devise a suitable remedy. The court mostly saw women charged with vagrancy, prostitution and drug use, but also dealt with cases of men who failed to pay family support. The court ended in the early 1930’s and Bullock went on to be the first female Superior Court judge in California.*

Viola Roache

In other feminist news, theatrical actress Viola Roache said something that would still attract a mountain of criticism in 2016. Proudly a suffrage supporter, she said:

I believe in women working – every woman. Nobody in my family except myself has ever worked, and they are rather horrified at my views, but I feel I really have much more liberty (not to mention money) than they. Even though a woman marries, she should be economically independent.

Roache lived up to her beliefs. She worked steadily throughout her life, acting in theater, film and television until her retirement in 1958. She was married to actor/director Lionel Bevans until she died in 1961 and they had a daughter in 1913, actress Phillipa Bevans.

Viola Roache and Galway Herbert in Hobson’s Chocie

She was in town touring with Hobson’s Choice. The play first appeared in 1915 on Broadway where she had a smaller role in the original cast, but on tour she played the lead, Maggie, who gets out from under her dictatorial father’s authority by moving out and building her own, better business.

It’s not surprising that Kingsley would chose to include this quote. She had been working since she was a teen, and she kept her economic independence throughout her life, continuing to get paid for writing until she was 83.

Kingsley’s favorite film this week was ‘Dutch’ comics Kolb and Dill’s film version of one of their stage shows, Peck o’ Pickles. She thought “they at last take their place as real winners in the screen comedy game…Dill belongs in the class with Charlie Chaplin for being able to get comedy over by means of facial expression alone.” The plot description from the AFI Catalog helps explain why the film hasn’t gone down as a classic: it’s a mishmash involving a lottery ticket, spiked cider at a temperance picnic and a drunken time-traveling-to-the-Civil War nightmare. It’s a lost film. Also, portraying German-Americans as loud bumbling oafs in ugly suits with fake accents went out of style along with all of the other dialect comedy, never to return. Clarence Kolb (the tall skinny one) went on to play many crooked politicians and businessmen in the talkies, including the mayor in His Girl Friday (1940). Max Dill (the short fat one) stayed in live theater, mostly in San Francisco.


*For more information, see Beverly Blair Cook, “Moral authority and gender differences: Georgia Bullock and the Los Angeles Women’s Court,” Judicature 77(3), p.144-155.