Week of March 31st, 1917


The coming war dominated Kingsley’s columns this week. On Monday, April 2nd President Wilson asked Congress to declare war on the German Empire, and they did it on on Friday, April 6th. Kingsley reported on how the film business was ready to assist:

  • The Federal government established a recruiting station on the Universal lot, and many actors had already volunteered.
  • The Lasky studio had formed a 125-men-strong company that drilled twice a week. Members included William and Cecil de Mille, Wallace Reid, and Donald Crisp.
  • Harry Harvey, the director of the Balboa Amusement Company, had bought two machine guns and was training men on their use.
  • The Navy selected Vitagraph’s “Womanhood, the Glory of the Nation” as a recruiting film. It told the story of a woman who raised an American army to fight a fictional war in Europe. The Navy hoped to station a recruiting officer and medical examiner at every screening.


Every male aged 21-30 registered – from up-and-coming comics to stars, no exceptions


However, the government quickly realized that the all-volunteer force wasn’t enough, so six weeks later on May 18th, Congress passed the Selective Service Act, which required all men living in the United States between the ages of 21 and 30 to register for military service.(1) So on June 5th they all went to went to an appointed place, answered some questions and signed the form. In Los Angeles they used the polling places, which was convenient because there was a municipal election the same day so men could vote and register. The Times reporter, John Lloyd, was almost poetic in his description:

Conscription aroused from its nap of fifty years yesterday, and summoned to the registry stations sixty-five thousand of the city’s warrior sons, who may be caught in the rip of the war tide and flung at the foe in France. Not a fistfight, nor brawl, nor riot disturbed the simple ceremony of the largest city in the West, calling forth the names of those selected for the greatest test…Some signed their names as if signing for their death, as figuratively it might well be, and some as though registering for a lark.

Hollywood also began to prepare for the inevitable results of war by helping the Red Cross. Lasky organized a Red Cross company; Mary Pickford, Mae Murray, and Kathlyn Williams were some of the participants. Keystone ran a successful fundraiser for the Red Cross at Levy’s Tavern. Actor/comic Charlie Murray (2) auctioned off a silver cup, netting $800. Then someone yelled “Fill it up with money!” and they collected another $428.

To dispel some of the gloom, Kingsley recommended His Father’s Son, a “sparkling little screen comedy” that starred Lionel Barrymore. While the plot lacked originality, she thought the intertitles were worth the price of admission. Barrymore played a spoiled rich boy whose father forces him to get a job. He gets hired by a detective agency to guard an emerald by impersonating a butler. He’s a fine guard but a bad butler. Kingsley thought that Barrymore’s comic ability was as good as Fairbanks’, and “no drop of comedy is wasted in this story.” It’s been preserved by Archives Du Film Du CNC (Bois d’Arcy).

Kingsley continued her vendetta against bad Theda Bara pictures with a review of Her Greatest Love. Her review for the lost film was such a hoot that I want to share it:

Banishing wives to Siberia can’t be a very common sort of sport even in Russia. Wherefore the event occurring in Her Greatest Love, Theda Bara’s vehicle at Miller’s this week, gives a new thrill to the jaded picture fan. You see, Theda’s husband in the picture is Walter Law. Walter appears as a wicked Russian nobleman with whiskers such as were never worn on land or sea. Theda was only 15 years old, and in short dresses, and she didn’t want to marry him at all, it seems, but in order to save the family name or to get into long dresses, or something, she finally consented. She loved Robert Hilliard, all sweet and gallant and clean-shaven; but in pictures you know a poor girl can’t do a single thing hardly that she wants to.

Discovering in reel no. 3 that her husband had a mistress, she went right up stairs, and in her agony changed her dress to something very neat and nifty with fox furs added, and she was going to leave him flat. But he told her he would send her to Siberia, and she said all right; that would be nice if he would fix up the plumbing in the castle and see that she had a good dressmaker. Anyway, that’s the inference, as she appears in wonderful dresses away off there in the frozen North, and the castle is a very spick and span castle, indeed. Of course, everything comes out all right, with the wicked husband dueled to death.

Poor Miss Bara – she didn’t deserve the scripts Fox was giving her. Later this year, she did get to star in the epic Cleopatra, so her career wasn’t finished yet.

(1) There were two more registration days, one on June 5, 1918 to catch the men who turned 21, and one on September 12, 1918 to register all men aged 18-45.

(2) Lea at Silentlogy wrote a post about Murray.

Week of March 24th, 1917

Chaplin and Fairbanks do their bit for Liberty Bonds

One hundred years ago this week, war-related news had spread to Grace Kingsley’s film business column.

In the present great national crisis a ‘mobilize the movies’ campaign was quite inevitable. Can you imagine any sort of catastrophe or adventure in which the ubiquitous motion picture would play no part? If the sacred second coming were to happen today there’d be pictures of the event on the market tomorrow! … And now it’s the impending war in this country which is being press-agented. That motion pictures may be of vast assistance in developing the country’s military resources is, of course, indisputable. The Associated Motion Picture Advertisers, Inc., are thoroughly convinced of this, and last week went so far as to institute a campaign throughout the country having preparedness as its object.

The Association, founded in 1916, was made up of the publicists from most of the producing companies. They planned to make two feature-length films and some shorts, as well as fourteen recruiting slides with slogans and patriotic appeals. They hoped that newspapers and magazines would donate advertising space.


AMPA had good intentions, but there’s no record of any results. The work they proposed to do, and more, was done by the Committee on Public Information, a government agency established on April 13, 1917 just days after Congress declared war. The CPI used film, advertising, posters, radio and public speeches to inform people about recruitment, rationing, war bond drives and why the war was being fought. Hollywood did its bit, especially helping to sell war bonds.

With so much worry about the coming war, its no surprise that Kingsley’s favorite film this week was optimistic and cheerful.

All of the grave maxims of the copy books, regarding the virtues and efficacy of economy and thrift, are gaily upset in Skinner’s Dress Suit…After all, the most dramatic moments of the lives of us workaday folks who make up the majority of the world’s population aren’t spent being ejected from our homes by cruel fathers, or in foiling the villain who has the ‘papers,’ or in dodging would-be seducers of our virtues. The men constituting our villains in real life are, viewed from some other man’s standpoint, pretty human sort of fellow—the really decent old gentleman for instance, who refuses to raise your wages because he thinks you aren’t worth any more than he his paying you…This is the prosaic sort of problems which are played upon with such jovial philosophy, such cheery optimism, such kindly satire and whimsical humor.

Skinners Dress Suit told the story of a young man who fails to ask for a raise at work despite his wife’s encouragement. He lies to her about it, and she makes him buy a dress suit so they can go out and celebrate. In his new outfit he’s able to meet rich people and negotiate a big deal for his firm, thereby earning a raise and promotion for real. It’s a lost film. It sold so many tickets that they made two sequels that year: Skinner’s Bubble and Skinner’s Baby.

Horace B. Carpenter

Kinglsey reported on a mystery:

Is any western writer responsible for the authorship of A Regular Guy? If so, let him at once speak up and receive a check from Artcraft. The story was recently accepted by Douglas Fairbanks, but the author of the scenario carelessly failed to place his name, address, laundry mark, or any other means of identification on his manuscript. And it certainly does pain Artcraft to have to go ahead and stage a thousand dollar scenario without paying for it.

The author did come forward and get his credit (and presumably his check). Horace B. Carpenter was a former newspaper writer turned actor who was currently playing leads at Famous Players-Lasky. This was the first scenario that he sold, but he went on to write and direct several Westerns in the 1920s. He continued to act in sound Westerns, primarily in bit parts, until his death in 1945.


The film’s title was changed to Wild and Woolley and the story suited Fairbanks to a T. (Anita Loos’ contributions to the script probably didn’t hurt, either.) Fairbanks plays an East-coast fan obsessed with Western dime novels. To cure him, his railroad president father sends him to Bitter Creek, Arizona where the townspeople want a rail line. To impress the young fan, they disguise their home as an Old West town with a fake train holdup and Indian raid. Then there’s a real raid and kidnapping. Gee, could anyone save the day? The Exhibitor’s Herald thought it was better than anything they’d done before, and Fairbanks’ biographer Tracey Goessel called it one of his best early films. In 2002 the Library of Congress selected it for National Film Registry, so it’s a “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant film.” It’s available on DVD.

Marshall Neilan

Film people in 1917 worked nonstop. Director Marshall Neilan even edited one while travelling on a train. Kingsley reported that he was about to leave for a location when the studio decided to move up the release date for the last film he’d shot, so he loaded his editing equipment and the film into a train car and did the work en route to Santa Cruz. Neilan made 9 features and one short in 1917. He’s most famous for his work with Mary Pickford; he directed Stella Maris (1918) and Tess of the d’Urbervilles (1924).

Sometimes working while you travelled could be too exciting. Kingsley wrote that when the train carrying the cast and crew of The Hidden Spring was coming back to Los Angeles from Jerome, Arizona, the train buckled on a turn on a steep grade and the last two cars became separated from the rest and slid down the mountain. Cameraman Tony Gaudio had just set up his camera on the back platform and he managed to turn the crank with one hand and hold on with the other for the whole trip. She mentioned that the camera got damaged, but the negative was fine. However, she didn’t’ report how Gaudio fared! He did go on to a long and successful career that included five Oscar nominations, one win (for Anthony Adverse (1936)) and collaborating on one of the best Technicolor films, The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). The plot description of The Hidden Spring doesn’t include a thrilling backwards train ride. Maybe the footage got used in another movie.

CORRECTION: Keaton met the camera on March 21st

Keaton’s datebook (Thanks for the image, Patty!)

Patty Tobais at the Damfinos has very kindly let me know that I’ve made a mistake. While Keaton met Lou Anger on March 19th, he didn’t actually go before the camera until March 21st. He wrote it all down in his day book.

I was relying on the story as told in Rudi Blesh’s biography, and I regret my error. Please consider it an early notice, so you can get ready for the big event on Tuesday.

Keaton met the camera today

One hundred years ago today, Buster Keaton was introduced to the moving picture camera. Considering what Keaton did with it, the day really ought to be an international holiday.

Childs Restraunt breakfast menu, 1917. Did he get rye, corn meal, buckwheat or wheat  griddle cakes? It’s been lost to history.

Monday, March 19, 1917 started out unremarkably for him. According to biographer Rudi Blesh, he got up early, restless and worried about his solo act. Twenty-one years old, he’d never worked onstage without his family, and he’d signed a contract to appear alone in The Passing Show, the Shubert’s Broadway variety show. It was the day before rehearsals were to begin. Unsettling news of the war in Europe filled the front page of the New York Times; three American boats had been sunk by German submarines, but Russia vowed to keep fighting alongside their allies, despite their revolution. Keaton went to a Childs Restaurant (it was a chain), ordered pancakes, but he couldn’t touch them. It was a cold morning (35 degrees) but dry and he went for a walk. He ran into Lou Anger, an old friend from vaudeville who was working for Roscoe Arbuckle. He talked Keaton into coming along for a visit to the studio. Anger introduced Arbuckle, who asked him to do a bit in the next scene of The Butcher Boy but Keaton turned him down. Arbuckle invited him to stay and see how they worked, then called for a twenty-minute break. He asked what he wanted to see first. The camera, Keaton replied. So they went over to the cameraman, Frank Williams.

Frank Williams
Frank Williams

Keaton and Arbuckle must have been persuasive, because most cameramen wouldn’t let a stranger (even worse, an actor) get anywhere near their equipment. Nevertheless, Williams let him, as Blesh put it, all but climb inside the camera, inspecting the gears, sprockets, and shutter. Then Keaton looked at the lights, the cutting room, and watched some dailies. Blesh continued, “This, he saw, was for him. As the last frame of the last rush faded on the screen, he stood up in the darkness. The twenty-minute break had been nearly an hour. ‘Let’s do that scene,’ he said.” And that’s how Buster Keaton became a filmmaker.

Grace Kingsley was busy working 3,000 miles away, so she had no idea that one of her soon -to-be favorite comics was getting his start in film. On this day she reported that theaters were going to stop using the American flag in advertising to restore some dignity to it “in the present grave crisis of national affairs” (Congress declared war on Germany just three weeks later, on April 6th) and she reviewed the week’s films, including Out of the Wreak (“another of those obvious stories, patched together out of the scenario barrel”) and The Barricade (“a new and refreezing twist on the defaulting broker theme”).

Two days later she mentioned that she’d gotten a letter from Arbuckle’s publicity man, Jimmie Tynan, who’d gone “east with Roscoe Arbuckle to try and get that man a little much-needed publicity.” He didn’t mention any clever recent hires, but he told her that while New York life was very exciting, they all missed California and “Mrs. Arbuckle’s sister had never seen snow before — and she hasn’t seen anything else since, in the way of climate, anyway.” No wonder the company moved back to Los Angeles in October. Minta Durfee Arbuckle’s sister Marie was born in Los Angeles in 1893, so the story might have even been true.

Unfortunately, when The Butcher Boy was released in Los Angeles in late April, Kingsley didn’t like it very much. She called it “pretty much the old jazz stuff as regards action and plot” but she conceded that Arbuckle in girls’ clothes is always funny. She didn’t mention the guy with the bucket at all.



1924 Chicago Tribune ad

[Of course I had to find out what Bulgarzoon on the Childs menu was. It was a yogurt drink like Kefir, according to Dining Chicago.]


Week of March 17th, 1917

Buster shows how it’s done

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley noticed a new trend at live theater performances: “the habit of applause on the part of the audience appears to be dying out.” She theorized about what was causing it. At the top of the list was moving pictures, because there was no need to cheer for absent actors so people had gotten out of the habit. However, the new, quieter acting style and less melodramatic plays were also part of the problem; she wrote “can you fancy loud cane-whackings on the floor as an expression of gratification at the voicing of a Shaw subtlety, or some of the finer passages of an Ibsen drama?” It had gotten so bad that some theater owners were rumored to hiring professional applauders, to make the performers feel better. Who knew that styles of applause went in and out of fashion?

Kingsley’s favorite film this week was a Pauline Frederick film Sapho,

the story of the little street gamin, the flower girl of Paris, who captured one lover after another, is done so as to be entirely convincing…The transition in the girl from the gay butterfly to the sincerely loving woman is accomplished by Miss Frederick with no hypocritical show of demureness.

Sapho was based on a novel by Alphonse Daudet that was frequently adapted, first as a short in 1908, then as a feature in 1913 and then just the year before with Theda Bara in the title role. Other critics agreed that this version was particularly good; George N. Shorey in Motion Picture News even said it “will never be more finely interpreted than in this Famous Players production.” It’s a lost film. Frederick was respected as one of the best actresses of her time; to learn more visit Greta deGroat’s site.


Out of the Wreck

Kingsley took personally a bit of business in a film about political corruption called Out of the Wreck.

The author evidently had a weird idea of newspaper people. The woman in the story apparently always kissed her city editor good morning, and then perched on the arm of his chair for an hour or so!

That wasn’t her only problem with the film; despite the good directing, acting, and photography, she thought the story was “patched together out of the scenario barrel.” It’s been preserved at the Library of Congress.

Billy Bitzer

Kingsley told a story that proves nobody was surprised when cameraman Billy Bitzer wasn’t able to go to France to shoot the war scenes for Hearts of the World. Griffith wired him to come to New York and from there go to England with him. Bitzer replied “Can’t, I’m German.” Griffith answered “Well, change your name and come on.” Bitzer’s retort: “Might change my name but how can I change my face?” Bitzer did eventually travel to England, but Griffith had to hire another cameraman to visit the front lines.

Kingsley told a cute story about mistaken identity this week:

Harriette Lee, in some poses, especially close up, is a dead ringer for Mabel Normand. The other night both young women were dancing and supping out at Vernon. Three persons in succession passed by Miss Lee’s table, bowing and greeting her as Miss Normand. Each one, on pausing for another look (you always look at as long at Mabel as you can, naturally) in turn apologized, saying, ‘Oh, I beg your pardon!’ Miss Normand really was present at a near-by table, and when the last visitor made his apology, she called out ‘If people don’t stop apologizing to this lady because they’ve accused her of looking like me there’s going to be trouble.’

Harriette Lee was a vaudeville performer, and Kingsley had reviewed her favorably earlier in the week, saying “female ‘nuts’ are rare on the stage, but Harriette Lee is quite the most delicious one growing on the vaudeville tree. She and her partner, Ben Ryan, kid their way through an act that must be seen to be appreciated.” The husband and wife team had originated the “Dumb Dora” act that George Burns later credited as the basis for his act with Gracie Allan.

Week of March 10th, 1917


One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley recounted a conversation she had with Mabel Normand:

Everyone has had a try at guessing why pictures on ancient subjects didn’t specially interest the picture fans. Many picture directors have wrung their hands and torn their hair because their favorite pictures depicting Horatius holding the bridge, or the sorrows of some ancient lady of Greece, didn’t get over, while the fact that the picture fans refused to get in a welter over the exciting things that happened in old Rome, has caused the loss of many a penny to fatuous producers. Miss Normand has hit the nail on the head.

“Tell you what it is,” said Miss Normand, the other day as she put on her make-up preparatory to some retakes in Mickey, “the whole secret of public appeal is that the spectator may be able to put himself or herself into the role of the hero or heroine. This trick of the public imagination is one that must be taken into account. When a young man sees a man on the screen, he can’t visualize himself in the role of the hero, if that hero wears queer-looking clothes and lives in a funny looking house and he can’t imagine being in love with a lady in duds all out of fashion.”

The nail that Mable Normand hit wasn’t about the box-office draw of costume dramas, instead she was describing a flavor of film theory that came to be known as spectator identification. It became very popular with psychoanalytic critics like Christian Metz and Tom Gunning. A helpful summary by Millie Schneider is at Spectatorship Theories.

But what Normand was really interested in was what sells movie tickets, and nobody has been able to figure that one out. The only correct answer seems to be William Goldman’s: “In Hollywood, no one knows anything.” However, the film she was working on did make plenty of money; in a 1939 interview Mack Sennett said Mickey made 8 million dollars, which would make it a top grosser in 1918.

Kingsley said they were talking about failed Roman history films but I haven’t been able to find what they were referring to. Cabiria came out three years earlier in the U.S. so it probably wasn’t that, and Cleopatra with Theda Bara didn’t come out until October 1917. They might have been discussing the Babylonians of Intolerance and Kingsley changed it to keep them out of trouble.

William Farnum and Florence Vidor

Kingsley’s favorite film this week was A Tale of Two Cities.

The Fox production completely preserves all the significance of the original, and despite the intricacy of plot and motif, Frank Lloyd, director, is to be congratulated on having given the world a clear, gripping and wholly admirable visualization of one of the greatest of Dickens’ stories. Here, indeed, are we given a fine sense of the tragic whirlwind reaping, which was the French Revolution, conveyed not with a weary repetition of battle scenes, but in a few magnificent flashes and intimate personal touches.

She admired William Farnum in the dual Carlton/Darnay role, but she saved her highest praise for one woman who didn’t even get a credit:

There is a girl not named on the programme, who does one of the most striking bits of acting to be seen in the whole photoplay – she who cheers Carlton’s last moments before execution. It’s only a flash—but in her face are depths of passionate understanding, of a love, hopeless but divine, as she, too, passes under the guillotine.

The actress was Florence Vidor, and that brief scene made her famous, according to E.V. Durling in Photoplay (August 1917). She had come to Los Angeles with her husband, the future director King Vidor, in 1915 and had previously played a few bit parts. She went on to work in some great films, including The Marriage Circle (1924) and Are Parents People? (1925). She quit acting when sound came. A Tale of Two Cities is available on DVD.


Kingsley’s funniest review this week was for The Secret of Eve.

So far as I’m concerned Eve still has her secret intact. It may be this Eve’s secret involves the kind of corset Olga Petrova (Eve) wears and how she manages to retain it under all circumstances. Even as the first woman, when Miss Petrova appears, partly conceled, partly revealed, behind some bushes, clad in some shimmery stuff, her lines reveal that she wears a neatly-fitting pair of stays. As a subsequent reincarnation of an Indian woman, she still wears the corset. And, of course, as the poor little shop girl later, she saves up her money to buy a corset, presumably depending on lacing herself tightly into it to keep herself from being hungry. She’ll go to heaven in that corset, or refuse the invitation.

She went on to call the film “a totally insincere, superficial bit of balderdash.” Peter Milne in Motion Picture News hated it too, writing “the worn portions of the story appear in danger of giving away altogether.” He didn’t mention Eve’s corset, therefore Kingsley’s review was funnier. It’s a lost film.

Ilya Tolstoy

Kingsley observed that “nothing is too odd or strange for vaudeville” when one of Leo Tolstoy’s sons had been booked by the Orpheum to do a fifteen minute lecture on his father’s life and works. Ilya Tolstoy toured the United States in 1917 and the title of his talk was “The Life and Ideals of my Father.” Vaudeville really did offer a variety!

This week there was an example of how language has changed. Kingsley mentioned that scenarist Capt. Leslie Peacocke had come up with a word for a male vampire: chicken-hawk. That meaning of the term didn’t stick. Unfortunately, the Oxford English Dictionary’s word history only recognizes the bird-who-kills-chickens meaning, and the Urban Dictionary doesn’t bother with dating their terms, so I don’t know when it came to mean either a man who enjoys the company of boys under the age of consent, or a war-monger with no military experience.

Week of March 3rd, 1917

Motion Picture Story Magazine (March 1914)

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley started her Sunday column by excoriating a bunch of busybodies:

Uplifters are born, not made. There are certain people in the world who are natural uplifters. These persons can’t see any movement in science, literature, art or any other department of existence, without entertaining a desire, figuratively speaking, to roll up their sleeves, spit on their hands and give the new movement a heave upward. From diet to divine healing, from prize-fighting to poetry, these people are always Johnny-on-the-spot, ready to tell those back of any particular enterprise exactly how to achieve the proper result. The stage used to be the subject of attack from the uplifters. Now it’s the pictures, with the Photoplay League as the attacking party. This organization has its headquarters in New York, and the films are the subject of endless “resolutions,” movings and secondings.

The Photoplay League, founded in September 1916, said its primary goal was to support “worthwhile” films, and encourage the public to see the ones that reached their standard. These standard-setters included nurse and co-founder of the NAACP Lillian D. Wald, stage actress Julia Marlowe, and artist Edwin H Blashfield. They also tried to organize local Leagues throughout the United States.

Trade ad for Vicar of Wakefield (I added the underline)

I couldn’t find any list they published, but Thanhouser used their recommendation in an ad for The Vicar of Wakefield. The League was given a lot of publicity by Photoplay Magazine in late 1918, but faded quickly after that.

Kingsley disagreed with their aims eloquently, pointing out how quickly films had grown in sophistication: “The day has gone by when prop boys were put in as directors and the corner grocery ablaze was sufficient ‘plot’ on which to compose a story while the cameraman ground. Hardly any art in the world has ever made such strides in a few years as motion picture making.” She noted that Intolerance and Joan the Woman were sufficient evidence of progress and concluded that film “needs not the priggish snifflings of an outside band of self-constituted censors to achieve its uphoisting.”

Kingsley wasn’t the only one (Photoplay, 1915).

This week, Kingsley enjoyed a bunch of two reel comedies that the League would probably not have approved of. The first was an example of the self-policing of the industry that Kingsley preferred to “priggish snifflings,” because one way to improve movies is to make fun of the really bad ones.

Villa of the Movies is one of those delightful Keystone travesties on melodrama which are something more than mere hanging together of thrilling and supposedly amusing incident. This one takes a keen shy at the melodramatic trash of the day which is being precipitated in the name of Mexican border war drama, and that is accomplished with broad good humor is all the more to its credit… the spy who wants to know a way to ‘get’ the brave general is advised by a traitor “Put dynamite in his guitar and tell him to sing Goodbye Forever.

Villa of the Movies was directed by Eddie Cline, who had a long career that included directing most of Buster Keaton’s two-reelers and W.C. Fields’ The Bank Dick. Except for a short detour to drama in the mid-twenties, his ambition was to make funny films: any uplift of the industry was purely a coincidence.

His Friend the Elephant

Kingsley also had fun seeing His Friend the Elephant.

There are more laughs to the square inch of film in the comedy at the Garrick this week than have been strung together in many a long day. “His Friend the Elephant” is a Christie Comedy in which Harry Ham, as the poverty-stricken hero, has a pachyderm left him as a legacy. His embarassments at the attachment of the elephant, which insists on following him everywhere; his efforts to get rid of it; its untimely appearance when he thinks he has got ridden of it – all make for hilarious comedy.

Al Christie had been making comedies in Hollywood since 1912, and his company specialized in films about funny situations, not slapstick. The company stayed in business until 1933, when it was bankrupted by the Depression.

The short that impressed Kingsley the most this week came from Max Linder:

He’s the French Charlie Chaplin, and if our memories serve us, he thought of a lot of things before Charlie Chaplin did. Max Comes Across is the title of Linder’s first Essanay picture, made in America. Of Linder’s work on has only to remark that he makes even an imminent attack of mal-de-mer very funny without offensiveness to prove that he really is more amusing than most of his bretheren of slap-stick. It is indeed in the manner of his doing—a truly Latin lightness and sureness of touch – Linder’s superiority lies. The slap-stick is turned into a magic wand.

Linder is often called a forgotten hero of cinema. He’d been making films since 1905 and his work not only influenced Chaplin, but also Sennett, Lloyd and most film comedians after him. Max Comes Across was his first film in two years: he’d been recovering from injuries he’d gotten while fighting on the Western Front in 1914. Still unwell, he didn’t like working in a foreign country, and he made only three films before he returned to France. This film isn’t available, but the other two he made in America, Max Wants a Divorce  and Max in a Taxi are in the Internet Archive.

Julian Eltinge, the female impersonator, was in Los Angeles touring with the play Cousin Lucy, and he was still able to make jokes about the war that was one month away. He declared he would help fight, saying

Attend the war? Well, I should say so. What terrors shall war have for me after all I’ve suffered from female apparel. Getting busted with a bullet can’t possibly have anything on lacing a thirty-four inch waist into a twenty-four inch corset; and, though war is hell, think of what a No. 4 French slipper feels like when worn on a No.7 foot!

If you’d like to know more about Eltinge, you can visit the site for a planned documentary film about him.