One hundred years ago this week, movie news was stuck in the late July doldrums and Grace Kingsley was at her desk, reporting on other people’s plans to get out of town. Actress Ruth Renick was off to Montecito and Virginia Valli was touring Southern California in her car. Among the directors, Frank Lloyd was sailing to Hawaii for a month, and Rex Ingram was mapping out of tour of Europe, where he planned to make movies.
Kingsley didn’t just have to write about other people’s fun, the movies she had to review weren’t particularly good. Little Italy was “a sort of jitney Romeo and Juliet with two American-born young Italians of rival families.” However, the film begins with their wedding, and she thought there wasn’t a good reason for the feud to continue. Eventually a baby solves everything. Kingsley observed “how many a suffering scenario writer, up a stump as to finishing a story, has been found with child, and all was sweetness and light!”
She also sat through Raoul Walsh’s The Oath, which to her was “another fine superstructure built on sand. Built so that it topples at a comic and absurd angle, just when it should be most compelling.” This one was about a Jewish girl who marries a gentile boy, but it descended into melodrama when the boy is suspected of murdering his father and the girl “goes around tearing her hair and beating her breast for no reason whatever, except to spin the yarn out to five reels, and at the end she goes and stands on a rock like a bathing beauty, waiting to suicide.”
Finally, she endured The Fighting Lover, a mystery involving diamond theft starring Frank Mayo that had a real problem: “The scenes are always so very dark that you haven’t an idea of what is happening.”
Matters were so dire, that she was reduced to complaining about the stuff publicists were pitching her:
Whatever would the poor publicity men do nowadays without the stories concerning—
* The faithful old gate man who didn’t know the picture producer on his own lot, and tried to put him off, but was so much appreciated that he got promoted to being inside doorman?
* The joke about “stills” and prohibition?
* The heroine rescuing the heavy man from a watery grave?
* The crowd not knowing it was a picture being taken, etc., etc.
* The father that found his long lost when he sighted her working as an extra in a picture?
* Not to mention the young ladies who get lost and wander away into the brush?
Luckily, Kingsley had only two more weeks until her vacation began.
I hope your summer is more fun than hers was!