Say It Ain’t So, Grace! : Week of May 15th, 1920

mp_mybestgirl
Pickford and pots, a few years later (My Best Girl, 1927)

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley felt that she needed to relive her conscience with a confession:

It’s about those pictures and publicity stunts in general. Remember, for instance, the picture you saw once of Mary Pickford wearing a smile and a Sassy Jane and which showed her holding a ladle in one hand and a frying pan in the other, while underneath was inscribed the legend “Mary Loves to Cook?’

Well, she doesn’t. Not a darned bit. I helped to pose that picture, and I know. Even while she was doing it she told me the truth about her cooking. Every once in a while she lets the regular cook get the family breakfast. I liked Mary for being frank that way.

Good for Miss Pickford, leaving it to the professionals! Nevertheless, this shows that film publicity folk have been creative since the very beginning. Kingsley went on with more revelations that probably didn’t shock her readers any more than they do you:

Then take Pauline Frederick. You remember that picture of her standing up in the front of a yacht with her dress all open at the chest and her hair blowing out? Well, she can’t sail a boat any more than a hairdresser can. She gets awfully seasick, too, and all she thought about that day, she says, was getting the picture-taking business over before anything awful, well, you know, happened.

bblythe
Betty Blythe didn’t care for bagpipers

Kingsley also debunked the notion that Lillian Gish owned a pet alligator (“she says they smell too bad”) and that Betty Blythe started a fund for ancient bagpipers (“as she rightly says, what did bagpipers ever do for her?”), then she concluded that there was no end in sight:

Oh, I hear the telephone! It’s the editor, who wants me to come and help pose Clara Kimball Young as another ‘most perfectly formed woman in the world’! Well, I know she is, but why pick on me? Page Eddie Schallert!

Schallert was her fellow film writer at the Times. Like the photographs, Kingsley’s ‘expose’ was harmless fun, allowing her readers to feel as if they were wise to the way Hollywood works.

Unfortunately, the only photo I’ve been able to track down that resembles any of the ones she mentioned looks like it’s from the same Pauline Frederick photo shoot (this picture is windless), but it must be purchased from Getty for the low, low price of $175 for a small copy or $499 for a large one. Here’s the link, because that’s beyond this blog’s budget. I’ll give you a nice public domain ad for the film she was publicizing, Bonds of Love (1919), instead:

pfrederick_ad

Elsewhere this week, Kingsley reported that United Artists, which had already inspired a group of directors to form their own distribution company, was having the same effect on four screenwriters:

News of one of the most important producing combinations ever formed in the film world came to light yesterday. Four of the most famous picture writers have an organization to make their own photoplays. The combining authors are John G. Hawks, John Lynch, C. Gardner Sullivan and Monte Katterjohn. It is understood that a former official of the Mayflower [Isaac Wolper] is sponsoring the new outfit and that a tremendous amount of eastern capital is backing it. The new organization will begin work about September 1.

The four men named are among the best known in picturedom. They have perhaps more screen successes than any other film authors in the business, and the announcement of their combination to make their own productions is therefore of unique importance.

Film history can be forgiven for forgetting about this, because there’s no record that the company lasted long enough to even get a name. Isaac Wolper soon went to work with director Herbert Blache, and J.G Hawks signed a new contract with Goldwyn. The writers went on to many more years of success in Hollywood, ranging from Katterjohn’s script for The Sheik (1921) and Hawks’ adaptation of The Sea Hawk (1924) to Sullivan’s work on All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). Their announcement didn’t say, but they probably wanted the same thing the United Artists did: artistic control and more money. It’s interesting that the actors succeeded where directors and writers failed.

modernsalome
A Modern Salome

This week, Kingsley proved that she could sometimes fall for publicity when she noted the appearance of a new actress:

A beautiful new star appears on Broadway this week. She is Hope Hampton, and she is on view at Tally’s. That A Modern Salome, the picture in which she appears, is a poor story, badly directed, is a misfortune, but one which doubtless the young woman’s beauty and undeniable talent will later overcome. For this is her very first picture, in fact, the first time she has been before the camera…It’s hard to tell what A Modern Salome is all about, so poor is the continuity.

Now Hampton is remembered for an unflattering reason. She became film executive Jules Brulatour’s third wife in 1923, and he financed both her film career (including A Modern Salome) and later, her opera career, neither of which were distinguished. So that’s why people think Orson Welles used her as the template for Charles Foster Kane’s second wife.

 

 

 

“Four Authors May Form Own Company,” Exhibitors’ Herald, June 5, 1920, p. 48.

“J.G. Hawks Signs Contract to Continue as Head of Goldwyn Editorial Forces,” Moving Picture World, November 6, 1920, p.92.

 

 

One thought on “Say It Ain’t So, Grace! : Week of May 15th, 1920”

  1. Such a fun post. I like all the winks to the reader to make them think they are in the know and that they have some behind the scenes tidbits.
    I like that photo of Mary from “My Best Girl”–I watched it a month ago, and today I watched some of the extra features on the DVD—newsreel footage of Mary and Buddy Rogers at their wedding, and other places.

    Liked by 1 person

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