Week of August 25th, 1917


The future of film, 1917: Jack and the Beanstalk and Sirens of the Sea

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley wrote an essay about trends in Hollywood films, entitled “Fashions Change”:

Photoplay fashions come and go just like fashions in hosiery and hats. And the photoplay you like this week, next week may look as funny to you as Aunt Maria’s lace mitts in the old family album…

Vampires are passé. They may burn oriental incense in their boudoirs until the poor creatures put themselves out with the fumes, and we remain unmoved; they bewitch us not with their weird gowns; their most seductive squirms elicit only laughter from us; we don’t believe that men fall for the cigarette advertisement siren, and even if they do we’re sick of seeing her. No, sir, in order to be a big time vamp nowadays, a woman must show she has brains, also a sense of humor…

Then take the wild west drama. William S. Hart is the only man that can get away with it outside the 5-cent houses. He is just in his zenith, but that’s because there is something to Hart and his art besides a pair of chaps and a sombrero…

The ponderous mythical war play is no more, thanks be! No more are we forced to sit through long hours of hypothetical battles in which we have no interest whatever, and in which anemic saints from another and better land inject themselves into worldly affairs…

What is the outlook? In answer let me point to the Pied Piper of Picturedom, Jack and the Beanstalk and Sirens of the Sea, and to the other fanciful film plays that are being done these days. These lift our spirits above the war-soiled world into the realms of pure fantasy.

She was right about the coming and going part: none of the things she complained about stayed gone. Vampires became exotic temptresses like Pola Negri and Greta Garbo. The death of the Western has been announced regularly since then but it keeps getting revived. Those mythical war movies of the 1910s have nothing on the ponderous battles we get in comic book movies now. The trick seems to be knowing which bits of the past are ready to be recycled.

The difference between her essay on the future of film and the ones that are being posted online right this minute is her optimism. She thought that movies would only get better and better!



Kingsley’s favorite film this week was Jury of Fate, directed by Tod Browning. Not at all like the Lon Chaney films that made Browning famous later, his third film had “really fresh charm and ingenuity and quaint quality of the story.” Mabel Taliaferro starred in a dual role of twins Jacques and Jeanne; the father loved the boy and ignored the girl so when Jacques drowns his sister impersonates him. (It must have been impressive: just a few weeks ago, she had complained about too many double roles.) More melodrama ensued, but according the Kingsley, Browning “is to be congratulated on having pared down the story of all the superfluities in the way of action, and yet has given a clear and intriguing yarn.” It’s a lost film.

What, no Chaplin?


She reported on a dissatisfied customer at the Garrick Theater:

“Down the aisle with his dad wandered a 4-year-old youngster, but despite his youth he possessed a pair of lungs like a bellows.

“Charlie Chaplin here?” he shrieked.

“No dear, but—“

“Want to see Charlie Chaplin!” roared the boy.

“Well you can’t today, but some day—“

“Well, why ain’t he here?” blubbered the youngster, and he howled all the way down the aisle. “Cos (boo hoo!) – you know very well I wouldn’ ‘a come only I wanted to see Char—“

“If you don‘t quit I’ll spank you!”

“Well if you do, I’ll never bring you here to see him again! So there!”

The young man had a point: why does anyone bother going to the movies if there’s no Chaplin on the bill?

Week of August 18th, 1917

Paradise Garden, 1917

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley rewrote an effective press release:

“Have you a little vampire in your home?” This was almost a general call sent out a few weeks ago by producer Fred J. Balshofer and Harold Lockwood, Yorke-Metro star, when they were practically stumped in finding a beautiful and youthful vampire for a leading role in Paradise Garden….

“It can’t be done,” said the casting directors at the studios to which Balshofer and Lockwood applied. But someone had to be found to play the Marcia Van Wyck of the story. This girl is a beautiful young thing of the top rungs of society, who knows a lot about a number of things that grandma never dreamed of. Marcia is quite some girl and her vamping is of an entirely new and original variety.

And at last she was found—but, just for fun, the prodigy’s name is not to be disclosed until the picture is released. Then maybe—oh boy!—you’ll say the search was worth while.

The “baby vampire” who got the big build-up was Virginia Rappe, who is sadly now remembered more for the circumstances of her death than for her life. In 1921, she died a few days after attending a party in Roscoe Arbuckle’s hotel room, which lead to Arbuckle being accused of manslaughter and undergoing three trials. There’s been an awful lot written about it, but if you’d like to see a version that doesn’t demonize Rappe, look at this interview with Joan Myers.



Virginia Rappe

It’s melancholy to see the promising launch of Rappe’s career. Marion Howard, writing about Paradise Garden in Moving Picture World said, “watch Virginia Rappe, for she has a great future as vampire or heroine.” (November 3, 1917, p. 689) Unfortunately we can’t, it’s a lost film. Rappe did go on to star in shorts for Henry Lehrman Comedies.



Kingsley’s favorite film this week was Jack and the Beanstalk. She wrote: “Don’t miss it! Your being grown up won’t matter a bit. Even if you’ve grown crabbed and dull, this picture play, reviving the old fairy tale, will tap the dry rock of your imagination and turn loose the floods of youthful dreams. This picture play marks the beginning of a new era in the picturization of fairy tales…here we have splendid romance, thrilling adventure, spine-prickling excitement, rib-tickling humor.”

Jack and the Beanstalk

She reported that the audience loved it too: Miller’s Theater was jam-packed with children and “I’ve never in my life seen little ones sit quietly as they did through two hours and fifteen minutes of entertainment. I didn’t think it could be done.” The special effects particularly impressed her, and so did the performances of the child actors. She concluded, “it is quite impossible to convey on paper the wonderful charm and delightful thrill of the production.”

Other critics agreed with Kingsley. George W. Graves in Motography called it “one of the biggest film events of the year,” and he also thought that adults would like it as much as the children did. It was a big hit. The following week the theater manager told Kingsley that despite the long running time, it was almost impossible to get some of the children to leave the theater: they stayed for a second viewing. Fox soon released another kids’ film with the same stars and directors, Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp. An abridged version of Jack is at the George Eastman House Archive and sixteen minutes of its ten reels are on the Internet Archive.



Playing opposite Jack was a movie she liked so much less that she felt she needed to advise the protagonist: “if there a half-dozen people following you with guns, dynamite and other high explosives, who are always subjecting you to the uncomfortable process of being lassoed or thrown over a cliff or dropped down a well, wouldn’t you after a while suspect they somehow disliked you?” Apparently poor H.B. Warner playing John Howland in The Danger Trail took a long time to figure it out, but the scenic Canadian wilds were nice to look at. It’s a lost film.

fairbanks yosemite
Fairbanks on his peak

Kingsley reported that Douglas Fairbanks received a great honor: an official at Yosemite named a peak for him. He was shooting Down to Earth in the park at the time, and they held a short ceremony. Then “the energetic Douglas, overcome with emotion, not only thanked the official for the honor, but, looking upon the same as a sort of a challenge, proceeded to prove his appreciation thereof by executing a handstand plump on the edge of a dizzy precipice of the mountain.”

Thanks to Kathleen Kosiec and the Wisconsin Historical Society, we know it’s true. The spectacular photo above is part of their collection. However, she discovered that park officials didn’t formally name it, so it isn’t called Douglas Fairbanks Peak today. Sic transit gloria mundi. If you’d like to read Kosiec’s essay on Fairbanks, visit “Douglas Fairbanks: No Stuntman Required.



Week of August 11th, 1917


One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley told the story of a daring rescue by the biggest star in Hollywood.

Charlie Chaplin became a real hero yesterday when he saved little Mildred Morrison from a watery grave…It was down on the beach fronting Topanga Canyon, about 4 o’clock yesterday, that Charlie marked one up for himself in hero’s hall. The little girl whom Charlie saved is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Morrison of New Rochelle, NY. Mr. Morrison being a well-known New York banker and stock broker. Mrs. Morrison and her daughter are spending the summer at Santa Monica. They had gone with a party to spend the day at the beach near Topanga, and the little girl had wandered out onto the rocks at low tide, becoming marooned as the tide grew high.

Charlie’s company was trying to launch a boat, but the big waves were constantly capsizing it, and so the comedian sat on the beach watching. Suddenly he saw something moving, out on the rocks about thirty yards from shore. Next moment he realized it was a little girl frantically waving her tiny hands, and in a second more a huge wave had washed her from the rock. Charlie didn’t wait to take off his funny shoes or anything. He didn’t even think to discard his cane until he got into the water. He just took a big plunge into the high-rolling waves and in two minutes was at the little girl’s side. She grasped at him frantically, succeeding in clasping him tight around the neck, but her weight was nothing to the athletic Chaplin, and in a moment he had her under one arm while he struck out for shore.

The little girl was quickly revived, and when she looked up and beheld her rescuer—well, you can imaging what happened!

‘Really and truly Charlie Chaplin?’ she cried. And then—yes, it’s true—Charlie did just what any hero always does in such cases. He kissed the heroine!

This is an adorable story; unfortunately I suspect it isn’t true. The main strike against it is that I can find no record of a Mildred Morrison of New Rochelle, born around 1910 and the daughter of a banker named Joseph, anywhere in Ancestry.com. There were several Mildred Morrisons in the 1920 Census close to the right age; if the publicist got the name right and nothing else, then the most likely candidates were

• Mildred F. Morrison of Los Angeles, father Wylie, a tree cutter for the telephone company. Born August 3, 1908.

• Mildred Priscilla Morrison of Santa Monica, father Val. T., a wholesale drug supplier. Born May 25, 1912.

• Mildred Sue Morrison of Pasadena, father Thomas V. the owner of a motor supply company. Born April 19, 1911.

However, there’s another problem with the story. Chaplin was shooting The Adventurer at the time, so he was wearing a prisoner’s outfit, not the Little Tramp’s.


The story got picked up by other newspapers, and later ran in film magazines. There were fewer details in the later pieces – maybe they thought it sounded fishy, too. It’s even been blogged about at Discovering Chaplin. Now there’s only one way to find out what really happened: crank up the time machine!

Nevertheless, even if it’s fiction the story isn’t worthless. Film historian John Bengtson (with David Sameth’s help) used Kingsley’s story to track down the location of the film shoot for his book Silent Traces. He notes that Kingsley’s report bore “the signs of a publicist’s handiwork.” (I would also add, and the nice journalist’s need to fill up a Saturday column in the dog days of August.) You can find photos of the sight and more information at his web site. You’ll see that one aspect of the story was true: there are lots of rocks on that beach.

What’s even more important is that the movie is still around. You can find it on the Internet Archive.



Kingsley’s favorite film this week was the “high-voltage thriller” Durand of the Bad Lands. Dustin Farnum starred as a highwayman who’s “so busy rescuing deserted kids and distressed maidens there’s quite an impediment in his banditing. But it’s all extremely picturesque and thrilling.” She appreciated the “melodrama played in quick comedy tempo,” the scene when he uses his outlaw skills to “borrow” a cow to feed the kids, and the western judge who uses his six-shooters to keep order in the court. She found the film “as delightful, amusing and refreshing as if there had not been a million frontier picture plays before” which is high praise indeed. It’s a lost film; it was remade in 1925 and that’s lost too.


Kingsley’s best lines this week were in her review of The Long Trail. “Lou Tellegen holds a regular convention of troubles…Every little trouble that didn’t know where else to go just stopped and made its home with Mr. Tellegen, the French-Canadian trapper.” It was some consolation that she thought he looked very good in his Artic costume, particularly his becoming cap. The bulk of his troubles involved a shotgun marriage. It’s a lost film.


Respected theater actress Julia Arthur was in town this week with her patriotic vaudeville act Liberty Aflame, and Kingsley reported on some of her adventures. Arthur visited William S. Hart on his set and told her about the old days when she played Juliet to his Romeo. Kingsley wrote “as long as Julia Arthur remains in town, Bill Hart won’t need any press agent.” Arthur enthused “oh, if the public only knew Mr. Hart as we of the company knew him. He never played a role on stage or screen—this is the truth—that was any nobler or cleaner or finer than he actually is…And as for his acting, he was always splendid.”


Another old friend, vaudeville comic Trixie Friganza, gave Arthur a new experience: she took her out to a birthday lunch at a cafeteria. Arthur was unclear on the concept when she entered. She asked “How do you play this game? Is it a game of chance and do you draw lots and bet? How do you get food, anyway?” Friganza suggested “You might brain the attendant with your tray. Still, this isn’t usually done. I’d suggest you help yourself.” When they got to the meat station, Arthur asked her to distract the man with the big butcher knife in his hand while she got some cold roast beef for herself. Eventually they arrived safely at their table with their food, and she delivered a line worthy of a dowager countess: ‘Do they make you wash your own dishes here, too?”

Maybe it’s hard to believe a working actress had never been to a cafeteria, but Julia Arthur was married to B.P. Cheney, an industrialist and a director of the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe railroad. But the main thing I learned was that Trixie Friganza could really tell a story.

Week of August 4th, 1917


One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley reported on a frightening film set accident:

The sprightly and athletic Doris Pawn, who plays opposite Willard Louis in the latter’s first comedy for William Fox, under the direction of Charles Parrott, had a miraculous escape from suffering severe injuries or death while on location. Miss Pawn, who is a dare-devil horsewoman, was mounted on a spirited horse, and was told to ride down an embankment full speed onto a road in front of a camera.

After the situation had been explained to her by the director, Miss Pawn guided her horse to the top of the mound, and at the given word started down the hill. When she should have made her appearance a few seconds later, there was no sign of her. Parrott ran into the pathway and there found Miss Pawn lying on the ground, the horse having stumbled and fallen in such a manner Miss Pawn’s legs were pinioned beneath him. A call brought several of the assistants, who lifted the horse, releasing the girl. A hurried examination by a physician, who was summoned, disclosed the fact that Miss Pawn had sustained severe bruises on her hip and thighs and she owed her escape from broken bones to the fact that when the horse stumbled she fell on soft earth. After several days of attendance by a physician, Miss Pawn was again able to continue her part of the picture.

There’s no record of the film’s title; maybe it was never finished or released. There’s a hole in Charles Parrott’s (aka Charley Chase) filmography  from August 1917 to April 1918, and his biography only mentions his work with Hank Mann and Heine Conklin when he was at Fox. Miss Pawn got all of those bruises for nothing.


Doris Pawn was just one of so many people, now forgotten, who went to a lot of trouble to make films that have been lost. It’s really very depressing. However, Pawn picked herself up and had a long and perfectly good life. She’d learned her horse-riding skills growing up on her grandfather’s farm in Norfolk, Nebraska and she started out in films as an extra in 1914. She soon became a leading lady; later her most famous role was opposite Lon Chaney in The Penalty (1920). She retired from acting in 1923. She married three times; first to director Rex Ingram in 1917, second to insurance salesman Paul Reiners in 1928 and finally to drugstore owner Samuel Dunway in 1937. She died in La Jolla, California in 1988.


Kingsley’s favorite film this week, The Show Down, involved that durable plot, “civilized” people shipwrecked on a desert island (it was good enough for Gilligan!). This was also a comedy and she thought it was very funny; it “merrily rings the bells at every shot.” Stranded after a German submarine sank their ocean liner, the group included the bestselling author of Back to the Primitive who longs for “the trackless ways of the jungle,” a philanthropist who wants to save the world, a bored society man and a spoiled young beauty. Of course the author complains about the food and refuses to go hunting, the philanthropist tried to “sell out” the group to the enemy, and the young people bestir themselves to get to another island and save the day. Kingsley wrote “the story is adroitly and snappily told, and is one of the best features, from every standpoint, that Bluebird has turned out.” It’s a lost film.

Myrtle Gonzalez

Myrtle Gonzalez played the young woman and this was her last film; she got married and retired. Sadly, she died the next year in influenza epidemic.

Robert Edeson, Rhea Mitchell, William S. Hart in On the Night Stage (1915)

An “old” film was re-released at the Garrick Theater this week, On the Night Stage. Kingsley observed,

the showing of this picture brings to light an odd little twist in the swift and fateful happenings of the ever changing element known as the film world. Two years ago, when the picture was made, it was supposed to star Robert Edeson, the well-known actor, but when the picture was shown, lo and behold! It was discovered a hitherto fairly obscure actor, William S. Hart, had walked right off with the big honors! While the preacher character played by Edeson was supposed to be the big part, the projection machine reveled the supremacy of Hart.

Hart played a bandit and the preacher’s rival for the love of the local dance hall queen. The film survives in several archives, including UCLA and Eastman House. Edeson went on to have a fine career. He wasn’t a big star like Hart, but worked continuously on screen and stage until his death at age 62 in 1931.

Harold Goodwin, 1921

Kingsley gave an update on Harold Goodwin, who’d made a good impression in her favorite film last week:

Harold is the youth who hit the bullseye with his small boy role in The Sawdust Ring at Clune’s Auditorium last week. Now the story comes out that, when he had finished in that picture he wasn’t thought to have done much, and Triangle let him go. He silently gave up his actor hopes, and accepted a position in a shoe store. Last Saturday night he quit his shoe house job, with no less than four offers from film companies in his pocket.

He also went on to a long career in film and television.