Only July, and it’s been summer long enough: Week of July 17th, 1920


One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley did her bit to encourage movie attendance:

Speaking of cool summer resorts, there are a whole flock of them right in our midst. If you don’t happen to feel like boarding a crowded car for the beach, or the parks, you’ll find a deliciously cool retreat in almost any theater you want to enter. Managers are wisely seeing to it that, no matter what the expense, their houses are cool. That the public is aware of this effort was evidenced by the fact that yesterday, despite the heat, the theaters held the usual crowds.

Theater cooling systems in 1920 weren’t quite modern air conditioning (that came along in 1922), but plainly they were better than the 88 degrees that Kingsley was dealing with outdoors. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s History of Air Conditioning, early systems were heating systems modified with refrigeration equipment. They produced hot, muggy conditions in the balcony and temperatures that were so low downstairs that people wrapped their feet in newspapers.

By then, everyone took the cooling system for granted – they didn’t bother to mention it in the advertising

One thing that hasn’t changed, what’s playing matters less when the weather is awful:

Just across the threshold of the California, for instance, one stepped into a deliciously cool auditorium where two charming pictures and some good music took one’s mind entirely off the heat outside.

The films were Madge Kennedy in The Truth (“a frothy thing, but amusing”) and a Booth Tarkington ‘Edgar’ short, Edgar’s Jonah Day (“abundantly amusing” but “several degrees less fanciful” than the others). It sounds like Kingsley was just particularly annoyed with the weather this week. Poor woman, she had a long time to wait for improvement: it stays hot and miserable in Los Angeles until around November first. It’s a good thing she had the theaters to visit.


Kingsley also had a story about annoying neighbors. Honeymooners Priscilla Dean and Wheeler Oakman moved in to their new house on Hawthorne Drive in Hollywood, and

Next morning the exclusive neighborhood was horrified to hear indignant squeals, pitiful squeals, pleading squeals and also strident squeals proceeding apparently from the newcomers home.

“Are they going to keep pigs?” exclaimed the horrified neighbors. And while impromptu indignation meetings were held up and down the block among outraged housekeepers the lone piglet responsible for the excitement continued his squealing, but with the noise shifting. This time it came from the next block, where Tod Browning lives. The shift occurred on the director’s birthday and it turned out the pig was a present to Browning on behalf of the Outside the Law company, before whom he had incautiously expressed his deep longing for a porker, in order to do some ranching on a small scale.

And now Browning has to keep his word and buy a ranch.


Now Tod Browning is remembered for helping to create the horror genre with films like Dracula (1931), Freaks (1932) and ten Lon Chaney films. His 1995 biography is called Dark Carnival: The Secret World of Tod Browning, Hollywood’s Master of the Macabre. However, once upon a time his co-workers went to a lot of trouble to give him joke birthday presents.






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