Seven months to wait! Week of August 28th, 1920


One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley gave some remarkably early publicity to a big-budget film that wouldn’t even have its Los Angeles premier until March 9, 1921. She began by pointing out one of the problems the advertising needed to overcome:

There are a lot of film fans who aren’t going to become excited over the title, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Maybe the soda jerker and the truck driver and the waiter never heard of the Ibanez novel and don’t know a thing about it. As Fatty Arbuckle remarked the other day, “Those guys will probably think the four horsemen mean Tom Mix, Bill Russell, Bill Hart and Harry Carey.”

But when those worthies see the picture—ah, then, I’ll vouch for it, they’ll one and all pronounce it a knockout.

It hadn’t occurred to me before, but the title really isn’t a strong selling point. Now silent film fans know that Four Horsemen was one of the biggest hits of the 1920’s, but at the time, the studio had reasons to worry about it. The biggest problem was that people were sick of war films. Even Mack Sennett joked about it in his ads:


Kingsley explained that this film was different from the rest:

The regenerating influence of the war really is the motif of the story. So that when you hear the name The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, you need not throw up your hands and cry “Another war picture!” Metro isn’t going to do it that way. While the story is a story of the war, it’s not, for the most part, about the war, if you recognize the distinction. Rather, it’s a record of the reaction of the war on a group of intensely human and interesting characters.

Kingsley got to interview the film’s director, Rex Ingram, and the scriptwriter, June Mathis. Even though they promised it wasn’t an ordinary war picture, they said they battle scenes would be historically accurate; former army officers had been hired to make sure it was all correct.

“There are experts for everything. And all the experts disagree, declares Ingram, tearing his hair. “If war is hell,” said Ingram, “making war pictures is purgatory. I had Rudolph Valentino in Seventy-fifth Infantry uniform and one of the war experts came to me and told me there was no such regiment as the Seventy-fifth French Infantry. We were about to yank Rudy out of his clothes, when along came another expert and told me that there was such a regiment, just as I had thought. We investigated and found he was right, so Rudy didn’t have to change his clothes after all.”

“Of course, a lot of them were in the war,” said Miss Mathis, “ but most of ‘em were too excited to know what it was all about.”

All of that trouble paid off. As usual, Kingsley didn’t get to go to the premier of an important film, but her boss Edwin Schallert did and the realism is what impressed him the most:

In the realism of its characters and the quality of its atmosphere, the Four Horsemen reflects superlative credit on its makers. An interest that would otherwise be remote is pertinent simply through an accuracy of delineation, that causes you to fall under the spell of actuality. The feature bears the stamp of authority which grows out of the fact that it represents expert work, not the experting of one or a few, but of many.


Kingsley was right that the non-novel reading public would buy lots of tickets for the film. It played to capacity houses from March 9 to May 3 at the 900-seat Mission Theater.

In other publicity news, Kingsley reported that former film and current theatrical star Olga Petrova was making sure that she would have press coverage, even when she was on vacation.

Mme. Olga Petrova doesn’t believe in taking so important a step as going to Europe, where just anything may happen, without having a personal representative and a special writer along. She has chosen a famous one, viz. Louella Parsons, formerly film editor of the New York Telegraph. The two left for Europe last week and will remain abroad several months.

Publicity during a trip to Europe had recently worked out awfully well for Pickford and Fairbanks, but Petrova didn’t get the publicity boost she hoped for. Parson’s biographer Samantha Barbas explained, “A cold, formal and often temperamental woman originally from Britain, Petrova began to irritate Louella, and Louella, the quintessential tacky tourist (she constantly snapped photos and was “everything you have ever read about the typical American abroad,” she admitted), soon annoyed her friend. After a fight, the two parted in London.”

Oh well. Petrova’s career managed quite well without a writer along.

George McDaniel

Finally, Kingsley discovered a new use for homemade beer:

The greatest inventions after all are usually the simplest, says George McDaniel, picture star. Take home brew, for instance. It recently made a record for itself as a burglar alarm in the home of Mr. McDaniel. Burglars broke into the McDaniel residence in Glendale last Saturday night, and just as they were loading the family silver into a gunny sack, one bottle of home brew exploded like a pistol shot, causing the burglars to leave hurriedly just as McDaniel appeared on the scene.

Strictly speaking, home brewing was illegal during Prohibition, but Kingsley wasn’t the least bit worried about letting the police or the public know an actor had an illicit substance in his house. From the beginning, nobody respected the Volstead act.



Samantha Barbas, First Lady of Hollywood, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.

“Notable Success of The Four Horsemen” Los Angeles Times, April 21, 1921.

Edwin Schallert, “Reviews,” Los Angeles Times, March 10, 1921.


The pictures didn’t get one of them: Week of August 21st, 1920

The Creole Fashion Plate

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley told of yet another performer lured to Hollywood:

Just wait long enough and the pictures will get ‘em all. From the king to the ashman, they fall for the movies. Now it’s the Creole Fashion Plate, which has been creating a furor at the Orpheum during the past fortnight, and whose name has been discovered to be George Peduzzi.

The company for service in which Mr. Peduzzi will park his remarkably beautiful voice is that of Morris R. Schlanck, who has the comedian, Hank Mann, under contract. Schlanck and Mann attended the Orpheum performance one day last week, and at once saw in Peduzzi a good picture prospect. A 400-foot screen test was taken of him at the Hank Mann studios in Hollywood, and he was at once engaged under a two-year contract…At the expiration of his present season he will return here to work. A five-reel story is even now being prepared.


Unfortunately, it was not to be. On May 2, 1921 Kingsley reported:

George Peduzzi, remembered here as the sensation of the Orpheum bill during two weeks of last summer, when styled “The Creole Fashion Plate.” who won by personal charm as well as by a remarkably beautiful voice, is not to go into pictures after all. According to word received here by his friends, Mr. Peduzzi is to spend a season in London, appearing there in music halls.

The CFP never did make a movie, which is a shame, because he might be less forgotten now if he had. George Francis Peduzzi was born in Baltimore on June 13, 1897. When he was 16 he joined a minstrel show and became a touring vaudevillian. Three years later, he debuted his solo act, Creole Fashion Plate. He sang and wore beautiful costumes made by his mother, Mary D. Hoffman Peduzzi, who traveled with him as his assistant. He changed his name to Karyl Norman in 1922, taking his deceased father’s first name, Norman, as his surname. He wrote many of his own lyrics and also appeared in musical comedies, including That’s My Boy and The Tuneful Song Shop.

His act impressed the critics; an unsigned L.A. Times review in 1925 said:

“Karyl Norman is today probably the greatest female impersonator on the international stage. His ability to create the illusion of femininity is almost uncanny. He has youth and slenderness, which are merely incidental to his mastery of the gesture, poise and physical features of the deadlier species. And his remarkable double voice, which varies from the lucid heights of a soprano to the husky strength of a baritone, distinguishes him from all other impersonators, past or present.”

It’s interesting how mainstream female impersonators were in 1920’s vaudeville – Julian Eltinge and Bothwell Browne were also big stars. Perhaps to make straight audiences more comfortable with sexual ambiguity, Norman paid lip service to traditional ideas of masculinity in a 1922 interview with the L.A. Times:

“I am a regular fellow and I do most strenuously object to any suggestion that because a man impersonates women, there must be something feminine about him,” and he illustrated the negative of this with a clenched fist hit roundly upon the make-up table in his dressing room. George, or Karyl, is an enthusiastic fight fan, a great rooter at football games, and ardent baseball patron and an amateur player of no mean ability.

Karyl Norman, from a Finocchio’s Club program

It sounds excessive now, but he knew what his audience wanted to hear. Karyl Norman continued to tour into the 1930’s, but as vaudeville declined he became a nightclub entertainer. His mother died in 1938. During the 1940 Census he was living in Detroit, and gave his occupation as Master of Ceremonies in a nightclub. His World War 2 draft registration said he was working at Club Frontenac in Detroit. In 1946 he toured Australia as part of the cast of Make it a Party. His last appearance was at the Ha Ha Club in Hollywood, Florida. He died of heart disease in that town on July 23, 1947.

Eugene Gaudio

Kingsley had a story that showed how financially precarious working in film could be. Respected cinematographer Eugene Gaudio died following an operation for appendicitis, and his family had money trouble. So:

Many celebrities of the film world have made requests of Mme. Nazimova for tickets to the benefit-preview of Mme. Peacock, which she is giving Saturday evening at the Irish Theater in Hollywood as a tribute to the late Gene Gaudio, once her cameraman.

The suddenness of Gaudio’s death left his affairs in an unsettled state, thus the star conceived the idea of showing her latest picture as a benefit for the family and as a testimonial of her high regard for the man who served her during the making of five pictures.

Jennie Gaudio’s 1923 passport photo for a trip to Italy

His family did sort out their money problems and go on to a comfortable life. Jennie Gaudio and their son Joseph (b.1911) and daughter Mary (b. 1912) lived in a nice Mid-City area of Los Angeles on North Ogden Street and the kids attended Fairfax High.

Another of Kingsley’s stories highlighted the physical precariousness of filmmaking. One film director had a really bad idea:

In The Sage Hen, which Edgar Lewis is making for Pathe, and work on which was begun yesterday with Gladys Brockwell in the leading role, there will be attempted by the hero or his double, for the first time in picturedom or out of it, for that matter, the daring feat of going over the Yosemite Falls in a boat. The drop is about 128 feet, but the depth and width of the basin below makes the feat possible for an accomplished swimmer, according to Mr. Lewis and his assistant, Clifford Saum.

Mr. Saum recently made the trip to the valley and after careful calculation has decided the thing can be done. Already twenty expert swimmers have volunteered to perform the feat, despite the difficulty.

Yosemite Falls. Nobody should go over this, for any reason.

I’m guessing that Mr. Saum saw the falls during their peak flow in May, but by September they’re much drier so fortunately they didn’t do it. In the Motion Picture News review of the film, Matthew A. Taylor mentioned what they replaced it with: “There is a shot of a man going through the rapids of a river in a canoe which is a wonder.” I imagine that was dangerous enough. The story of an unwed mother who gives up her son and is saved by him twenty years later is a lost film.

Finally, this week Kingsley indulged in a little self-promotion:

That catchy record of the doings of picture folks, the Picture Play Magazine, is branching out these days with an entirely new departure in the way of stories. These are of broader interest than the ordinary fan story…A series of articles telling of the romances of great film stars is shortly to be published.

She didn’t feel the need to mention she was writing those great romances. Here’s the first one:




“Impersonates Woman But is Real Live Chap,” Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1922.

“Karyl Norman,” Variety, July 30, 1947, p.50.

“Orpheum Star at Heights as Impersonator,” Los Angeles Times, July 19, 1925.

The Sage Hen, “ Motion Picture News, January 22, 1921, p.921.

Vacation time! Week of August 7th, 1920


One hundred years ago this week, during the hottest part of the summer, film news had slowed to a trickle. Grace Kingsley found herself reviewing a movie made in 1918 that had been plucked from the shelf, dusted off and put in a theater. To her surprise, she enjoyed it! She put her finger precisely on why it was worthwhile:

You’ll sometimes see a play that is a perfectly good play, and yet somehow you don’t care a hang about it—and then again you’ll see a play that isn’t a good play, judged by many high-brow standards, but you’ll sit on the edge of your seat until it is finished.


High-quality trash is hard to come by! At the moment, the film was called The Married Virgin, so you know it wasn’t afraid of melodramatic tropes. Kingsley summed up the plot:

The cold-blooded, fascinating rascal of a fortune-hunting Spanish count, beloved of the married woman several years his senior, plots with her to wed himself to the woman’s step-daughter in order to get her money so the two can elope.


That’s not nice! What could possibly happen next? The Married Virgin (a.k.a. Frivolous Wives) survives at the Library of Congress, and people still watch it because that rascally Spanish count was played by Rudolph Valentino, back when he was still called Rodolfo Di Valentina (Kingsley thought his performance was “true to life”). People still enjoy it the same way she did; Fritzi Kramer at Movies Silently wrote “the movie is never boring and is a prime example of an over-the-top silent melodrama…Still, if the film is bad, it is entertainingly bad.”


After that review, Kingsley abandoned her typewriter and escaped the newsroom for two whole weeks. The blog will follow her excellent example. I hope you all can take some time off from your regular work and find something entertaining to watch, too.