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.
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.
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.
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.
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.