One hundred years ago this month, entertainment news was slowing down a bit before the holidays. The most interesting things that Grace Kingsley wrote about were updates of stories she’d reported on before. She had been writing the same item about one popular leading lady since 1916, so it’s no wonder she sounded a little tired of it:
Once more is Colleen Moore discovered. She is the most discovered young lady in motion pictures. First D.W. Griffith discovered her and then Micky Neilan discovered that she was exactly the actress he wanted; later along came Rupert Hughes and did some discovering, featuring her in three big pictures. Then Ward Lascalle found Miss Moore was an excellent comedian, and starred her in Mary Roberts Rinehart’s Affinities, which goes on at the Symphony Sunday.
Since 1916, Moore had been a busy working actress – she was featured in six films in 1922 alone – but she wasn’t a huge star. Affinities didn’t make her one either. She played a wife neglected by her golfing husband, so she went on a picnic with a group of fellow sufferers. She and a golf widower are accidentally left on an island and wackiness ensues as they try to get home before anybody finds out and assumes the worst. Exhibitors’ Herald described it as “a comedy drama of the program type, pleasing in a mild way by virtue of its fast-moving propensities and various humorous incidents from time to time.” While it wasn’t a star-making vehicle, Exhibitors’ Trade Review did mention that “Colleen Moore displays her usual grace and charm.”
Lightning struck for her the following year with Flaming Youth. Helen Klumph, an L.A. Times reporter writing from New York, summed up her good fortune in December 1923:
’She who flaps last flaps best,’ is the verdict of exhibitors in the East who are watching Colleen Moore in Flaming Youth coin money for them. The success of the picture is phenomenal, inasmuch as it followed a long, long trail of mediocre and tawdry productions detailing the sins of us wild young people…Who would have prophesized just that sort of glory for out little Colleen? I would as soon have nominated elfish Baby Peggy to step into Gloria Swanson’s shoes.
Moore went on to make several hit films, including Ella Cinders (1926) and Her Wild Oat (1927). Kingsley was probably glad she didn’t have to announce the discovery of Colleen Moore ever again.
This month, Kingsley also had a short interview with Mary Pickford on the occasion of her new version of Tess of Storm Country running simultaneously at both the California and Miller’s Theater, because there was such a demand for tickets. The theaters claimed it was the first time that had ever happened. Pickford’s big announcement to Kingsley was that once again, her husband Douglas Fairbanks was thinking about retirement. She said:
Doug wants us to make a few more pictures, and then go and live abroad. In fact, he wants that we shall spend many years in travel. He wants for one thing, that we shall go to Africa and hunt big game. Can you see me hunting lions? I’ll tell you what I shall do. I shall wear a little cage, with just my legs and feet sticking out, so I can draw into it if I see a lion coming! Seriously, Douglas wishes us to spend several years in doing nothing but traveling, hunting, and seeing all the out-of-the-way nooks of the world. Of course I shall love that. In the meantime, however, we shall continue to make pictures.
Even big stars love to dream about quitting. Pickford had told Kingsley about her own retirement plans back in 1919. Neither Fairbanks not Pickford abandoned their career for many years. When Fairbanks eventually retired in 1934, he did travel the world, exactly as he’d planned, but Pickford wasn’t there: they had separated in 1933 and divorced in 1936.
Kingsley also featured what we now know was a tragic update: Famous Players-Lasky had extended Wallace Reid’s vacation. His wife, Dorothy Davenport said:
Wallace began feeling so much better, due to his exercises and outdoor travels, that he overdid somewhat on the punching bag, bicycling and horseback riding.
After the Thanksgiving holiday, she said she planned to take him to Palm Springs to recuperate. Unfortunately, at that point he wasn’t anywhere close to being able to travel and exercise. He had been badly hurt in a train accident while shooting Valley of the Giants (1919), and Davenport and the studio worked hard to keep the full extent of Reid’s injuries and subsequent morphine addiction out of the papers. He died just a few weeks later in a sanitorium, on January 18, 1923.
“Affinities,” Exhibitors’ Herald, October 7, 1922, p. 58.
“Affinities,” Exhibitors’ Trade Review, August 19, 1922, p. 817.
Grace Kingsley, “Flashes: Lascalle Busy,” Los Angeles Times, May 17, 1922.
Helen Klumph, “Colleen’s Flapper Queen,” Los Angeles Times, December 12, 1923.