Methodists and Movies: Week of April 26th, 1919

selfcensorship
Self censorship, at its finest

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley reported that the pictures were going to church:

Now that the Methodist-Episcopalian church has officially decided that there’s nothing intrinsically wrong about motion pictures, it does seem as if the last objection to the flickers had been removed. In fact, the breach between pictures and the church would seems to have been entirely healed, for when the church above mentioned gathers its delegates together in June at Columbus Ohio, motion pictures will be part of the program.

It seems a picture pageant is to be prepared, showing the hundreds of Hindus, Japanese and Chinese who are to be present at the meeting, and who will work in the interests of foreign missions. Just what other action will be taken by the meeting is not known, but it has been whispered that pictures of a suitable nature may later be adopted as a part of entertainments and lectures given in the Methodist church.

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Charles Edward Locke

It seems it wasn’t all Methodists who objected to the pictures, it was mostly one in Los Angeles: Charles Edward Locke, pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal Church. He had given a fiery sermon about them on July 7th 1918. Kingsley misremembered it a bit, because he didn’t condemn all films. He conceded that motion pictures had great possibility for instruction, and “the desire for recreation and amusement is legitimate and within certain bounds be encouraged.” Why, he had even recommended films from the pulpit that would provide uplift. However, he had also “severely criticized and denounced the increasing tendency to prostitute the high art of the motion picture into an insidious debauchery of the young and old.” Furthermore, “pictures have never been so daring and prurient and salacious and indecent as they are today.” His knickers were in quite the twist.

It got even better. Knowing which side his bread was buttered on, Locke blamed filmmakers, saying “the producers and not the patrons are wholly responsible.” He told of “a gentleman who is fond of elevating pictures and who visits most of the motion-picture houses tells me that he is almost continuously offended by the inexcusable introduction of scenes which are utterly degrading and repulsive.” Poor man, it must have been exhausting to be continuously offended. How terrible that the big mean theater owners forced him to hand over his quarters and then marched him into such dens of inequity!

To solve the problem, Locke declared “a censorship should be established as will make it impossible for these despicable creatures to carry forward their schemes of moral degradation.” He asked his congregation to call on the Mayor and City Council for “immediate legislation that will raise the moral standard of motion pictures and that will prohibit the exhibition of flagrantly offensive films.”

There’s no evidence that anything came of this. The reports from Council meetings said that they was busy arguing over if their new blue laws that closed stores on Sundays should apply to drug stores too, and whether a new road should be built to the harbor. Los Angeles citizens were too busy worrying about the war to spend time on film censorship. The next Sunday, even Locke had forgotten about it, and he preached an equally fiery sermon against the Kaiser. But it seems to have stuck in Kingsley’s head, so she could be glad the Methodists gotten over their objections to the pictures.

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The meeting that Kingsley mentioned was a very big deal indeed. Held June 20th to July 13th, the Centenary Celebration of American Methodist Missions attracted over 100,000 visitors to Columbus, Ohio where they walked through eight large pavilions displaying missionary work from around the world. It was a Methodist World’s Fair. They also had popular entertainment, including a Ferris wheel, a Wild West show, concerts by the Cincinnati Symphony, and a ten-story film screen, where they showed both ethnographic films about their missionary work, and movies from Hollywood. In 2012, Christopher Anderson published two books about it.

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Kingsley had a cute story about D.W. Griffith’s newest protégé:

Carol Dempster, the lovely new Griffith star, who is playing the leading role in The Girl who Stayed at Home at Graumans, has a devoted and solicitous admirer in her small nephew, Dempster Glines. Dempster went to the show the other night and nearly broke it up. Whenever the bullying Germans grabbed Carol, he shouted aloud, “Quit that! You let my auntie alone!” And when the wicked German was finally shot, the youngster shouted, so his voice carried to the uttermost parts of the gallery, “Hooray! Give it to him! Give it to him good!”

I’m glad Carol Dempster had family who stood up for her: film fans haven’t always been kind to her memory. Dempster was 6 years old in 1919. He changed his name to James when he grew up, tried acting, worked as a shipping clerk and served in the National Guard during the Second World War.

Another young actress, Bessie Love, was looking forward to a notable achievement:

Little Bessie Love ought to be awarded the palm for thoroughness. What do you think? Little Bessie is to graduate from the Los Angeles High School in June!

You see Bessie quit school at the beginning of her senior year, just three years ago, to become a picture actress. And she worked so hard for a while that she had no time for school. Then she began to wish she had finished the isms and ologies she had forsaken, so she began to attend night school. And now her teachers do say that she has qualified herself to receive, with the graduating class which goes out into the cold world in June, a sheepskin duly equipped with the credentials which ought to bear on them, if they do not, the legend, “For a good little girl.”

Calling a 20-year-old woman a good little girl is awfully infantilizing, but that’s how she was sold in the ads for her films. Kingsley herself only got to complete one year of high school before she had to go to work as a stenographer.

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Kingsley’s best line this week was in a review of All For A Kiss, the musical comedy at the Burbank Theater that she thought rivaled shows at New York’s Winter Garden. It actually had a plot, and:

It’s a cunningly devised plot, too—that is, I mean it is cunning devised so as to hang on it as many bathing suit scenes and tropical island costumes and hula dances and comic numbers by the three comedians as possible.

You really don’t need to know anything more about it: this entertainment was thoroughly free from any moral uplift. Rev. Locke probably didn’t attend.

 

 

***********

Here’s a digression from this week’s news that I stumbled on while researching Rev. Locke. In his anti-film sermon he mentioned one particularly evil example that

resulted in action looking toward a proper censorship by the City Council, but the purposes of their wise legislation were defeated by assurances from the large picture producers that if the whole matter were left to them the evil tendencies would be corrected. The Council was betrayed.

Of course I had to see what that was about. On December 21, 1917 Mayor Woodman had ordered Free and Equal to be suppressed because it was “immoral.” A delegation of 50 producers, distributors and exhibitors showed up at his office right after Christmas, denounced that exhibitor as a “wildcatter,” and begged for the whole industry to not be punished for one irresponsible person. The said they’d already started a committee of their own, and would do the censoring themselves. The Mayor promised to wait two weeks before he did anything, and it seems that everybody promptly forgot about the whole thing, except for Rev. Locke.

free_equalLAH
It played only one night

Remarkably, it wasn’t sex or violence that they were censoring; it was a film about intermarriage between black and white people. (Once again, the past is a foreign country!) Now lost, Free and Equal told the story of a white judge who believes there will be equality if black and white people can marry – until his daughter marries a mixed-race man who is committing bigamy. Then the husband murders another young woman as he was getting ready to rape her, mostly because they’re dealing in hypersexual racist stereotypes but also partly because it was a Thomas Ince melodrama from 1917. He ends up in prison and the judge quits believing in equality. It was certainly a reprehensible film, but the NAACP dealt with it in a much smarter way when it finally did get shown, as the anonymous AFI Catalog writer reported:

According to information in the NAACP Papers at the Library of Congress, the National Office of the NAACP sent an official to the opening on 19 April 1925, after having received over a period of a few months “more or less mysterious intimations” about the film “which was characterized as being much worse than The Birth of a Nation.” The official judged the film to be “very offensive,” and surmising that “the intimations sent us were a bid for publicity,” the NAACP decided to take no action to protest the film. After a week in New York, it was withdrawn.

 

“Film Men Ask To Aid Mayor,” Los Angeles Times, December 27, 1917.

“Mayor Orders a Film Suppressed,” Los Angeles Times, December 22, 1917.

“Must Prohibit Vicious Films,” Los Angeles Times, July 8, 1918.

 

 

Week of January 18th, 1919

 

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J.A. Quinn

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley reported on an ambitious new reform project:

The Motion Picture Co-Operative Association, established by J.A. Quinn, and of which he has been elected president, and which embraces all branches of the industry, exhibitors, producers, distributors, directors, authors, actors and camera men, is now, according to Quinn’s announcement, fully under way, with offices in the Fay Building. This association is the direct culmination of the general upheaval of conditions in the motion picture industry during the past few months, and is established to regulate the entire industry, so that better pictures, stories and casts will be the rule.

One part of the MPCA particularly interested Kingsley:

One of the most important and comprehensive departments to be established by Mr. Quinn is the “service department.” Through the co-operation of exhibitors all over the country, a system of reports will be made upon each production, covering the value of the picture relative to its rental, and the drawing power of each actor.

People in the film industry knew that collecting data would be useful, but nobody had attempted to compile this kind of industry-wide box office statistics. Quinn seems to have quickly given up on the idea; it wasn’t mentioned in any subsequent articles. It was more work than he realized, probably.

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Variety, 1946

Nevertheless, the industry still wanted and needed to know what was selling tickets. No organization attempted this enormous task, instead, the trade paper Variety took it on. In the 1920’s they reported on estimated weekly grosses from individual big-city theaters. Their reporters got the numbers from either cooperative house managers or estimates from rival house managers or sales managers, so it wasn’t necessarily scientific. They had a Tuesday deadline, so they took what they could get. In the 1930’s, both Variety and the Motion Picture Almanac compiled an annual list of film grosses. In 1946, Variety began publishing a weekly National Box Office Survey with data from 25 American cities. In 1976 a company called Centralized Grosses was founded, which, after a series of acquisitions, has become Comscore which compiles box office data today.

However, Quinn continued with his efforts to make “better pictures.” His vague program initially sounded good – who doesn’t want better films — and he signed up lots of famous people to his advisory boards including D.W. Griffith, Thomas Ince, Mary Pickford, Maurice Tourneur, Lois Weber, Douglas Fairbanks and Mabel Normand.

Things began to go South at the MPCA’s second meeting in July held in New York. Quinn stood up and declared the motion picture industry was “the biggest joke in the world” and “rotten to the core.” He spelled out exactly how he wanted to change things in a letter to the Los Angeles Times editor, published August 3rd:

The business improved till about four years ago when we had such reliable production companies as the Biograph and Vitagraph organizations, which made a specialty of producing one and two reel features, and were delivering better stories, more sincerely and convincingly explained in one and two reels then they are now telling in five and eight reels.

There is not one producer or director in the moving-picture industry who does not need supervision and we stand ready to take three of any of their pictures which they have made in rotation and before a representative committee show where the pictures can greatly be improved by cutting, re-editing, recasting and in most cases, entire reconstruction.

He was certainly confident that he had all the answers. He also thought that everyone was getting paid too much, not just undeserving actors (he loathed the star system) but also supervisors and writers. He blamed the end of the Motion Picture Patents Company* and the rise of independent producers for the current “hog eat hog” situation: “fortune after fortune was, and is now being, burned up by the different independent producers in their present attempt to bunk the public and exhibitors into believing that each one was or is better than the other.”

Quinn ended his speech in New York by shouting “They think they can stop me from telling what I know about pictures, but I’m started now, and by God, the only way they can stop me now is to kill me.”

yankeedoodle
So much abbreviation!

Meeting attendees weren’t impressed. The Exhibitor’s Herald reporter observed, “nobody in the industry showed any disposition to stop him by killing him or any other method.” Jesse Goldberg, general manager of Frohman Amusement Corporation, stood up and said, “There is no more iniquity in the studios of the picture business than there is in any place else in the world…You talk of the public wanting clean films. Look at what Yankee Doodle in Berlin did at the Broadway. The box office was broken down and women fainted in the crush. And why? Because your clean picture-loving public knew that a number of pretty girls in abbreviated bathing suits would appear. If you want work to do, change the taste of the public.”

Wid’s Daily also weighed in on the meeting, concluding, “you cannot standardize anything—not morals, not drama, not box office receipts. You can only be tolerant and not fail to much in appreciation of what seems to hold the attention of about twenty-five million people who patronize every day the motion picture theaters of America.” This seems like useful advice for all reformers!

Quinn kept going, but he decided try a different angle. In 1920, he changed the name of his organization to The Motion Picture and Theatrical League for Better Pictures. It aimed to “stimulate the production of better pictures by the force of concentrated, organized public support of meritorious films and by the discouragement of untruthful advertising.” This scheme seems to have fizzled out in 1922.

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Quinn’s Rialto, May 28, 1917 (opening day). Quinn sold it to Sid Grauman in 1919.

John Archibald Quinn was quite a character. Born in Penetanguishene, Ontario, Canada in 1880, he became a theater owner in Arizona before he moved to Los Angeles in 1911 where he ran four theaters. Incidentally, while he was shouting for reform he was divorcing his wife of 16 years, Lena Wooton Quinn, to marry Lillie Riemann as soon as it was final in December 1919 (she divorced him in 1926).

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John and Lillie Quinn, 1923

After the Better Films project ended, he came back to Los Angeles and became the director of the West Side Improvement Association, whose aim was to coordinate business development from Main Street to the ocean. This didn’t go well, and in November 1929 he was in debtor’s court, stating that he lived on borrowed money and he hadn’t had a salaried position in ten years. At that time he was also involved in a bizarre and unsuccessful scheme to get the Chief of Police thrown out of office with false testimony from a French dancer. In the 1930 Census he was living in Alhambra with no employment but in the 1940 census, he was in Sierra Madre and said he was the director of the Los Angeles Tax Payers Association. He died in 1945.

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William Jennings Bryan

Kingsley mentioned an unusual potential vaudeville act:

Grape juice seems destined to take an upward flight in popularity and price. William J. Bryan, described by one New York publication as “Nebraska’s continuous spotlight,” is to go into vaudeville, receiving $2500 per week. He will open in New York, at the Palace, early next month, and is said to be signed up for a coast-to-coast tour.

Bryan, a temperance advocate, former presidential candidate and ex-Secretary of State did no such thing. Variety chased down the story’s origin: “The negotiations for the appearance of William Jennings Bryan did not proceed beyond their preliminary stage, which amounted to Evangeline Weed** submitting Bryan’s name to the big time managers, who rejected it.” It’s fun to speculate on what would his act have been like. He was a famous orator, but vaudeville managers plainly thought that politics didn’t fit among the comics and singers. He didn’t start his crusade against teaching evolution until the 1920’s, so that wouldn’t have been part of it.

ua_founding
Coming soon!

Kingsley had a chat with Syd Chaplin, and got the first hints of a story that would be big in the coming weeks.

Never before in the short but eventful history of the Big Five, which includes D.W. Griffith, Mary Pickford, Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and William S. Hart, have the members of the world famed aggregate been so closely affiliated and so strongly set on carrying out their plan of organization as at present. “We are at present merely working out the details of our plan,” said Mr. Chaplin yesterday, “and we expect to have a detailed statement to make within a few days.

This was the founding of United Artists, and there will be more about it.

 

 

 

*The MPPC was broken up in 1915 because it violated the Sherman Antitrust Act. This is the first time I’ve seen someone lamenting its end.

**Evangeline Weed ran a “personality school” to train actors, and was an aspiring Broadway producer. (Harvard Magazine, December 1919, p.31)

eweed

 

 

“All Off for Bryan,” Variety, January 17, 1919, p. 1.

“Another ‘Movement,’” Wid’s Daily, March 24, 1920, p.1.

“Effort to Ruin Davis Revealed,” Los Angeles Times, November 7, 1929.

“Exhibitor’s Views on Film Producing,” Los Angeles Times, August 3, 1919.

Golden, Herb. “How box office reporting was built,” Sime’s Site, http://www.simesite.net:80/muggs.asp?articleid=313

“Groups Unite on the West Side,” Los Angeles Times, March 30, 1924.

“I Don’t Know Where I Live,” Los Angeles Times, November 5, 1929.

“Limelight Gradually Dimming on J.A. Quinn and his Reform Plans,” Exhibitors Herald and Motography, July 19, 1919, p. 30.

“Quinn-Goldberg,” Wid’s Daily, July 14, 1919, p. 1, 4.

Week of April 20th, 1918

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One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley reported on the Western expansion of another group dedicated to doing their part for the war effort, Stage Women’s War Relief. She interviewed actress Louise Closser Hale, the vice-president and one of the original founders of the group in New York, who was in town to help establish the new branch. Kingsley wrote:

The motion-picture people of the West are responding splendidly, according to Mrs. Hale, to their opportunities for rendering noble aid to the stage men gone to war.

One of these projects, which sounds modest enough, is the workroom now being established in the Mason Operahouse Building; and if the Los Angeles branch approximates the work of similar service rooms in New York and other cities, its work will be of tremendous importance. The service room is a very democratic institution—all varieties of stage workers from stars to scrub women labor together for the common cause. No surgical bandages are made, but sewing, knitting and crocheting are done, all according to patterns furnished by other local war reliefs and every article made is turned over to the Red Cross and other relief agencies. No workers outside the profession are permitted to work here, however, no matter what their station or calling.

“One of our first beneficiaries,” said Mrs. Hale, “was a baby born after its father—a Fox director—was called away to war. We were very excited about it, and I am sure the youngster received about three times as many clothes as it needed.”

Hale and Olive White Farnum were planning a big meeting at the Morosco Theater on Friday, April 26th to kick things off. In addition to the workroom, they wanted to launch a series of benefits and bazars, and the proceeds would go to stage and screen soldiers and their families.

The SWWR Western branch was a success. To raise money they did hold all-star benefit shows, as well as flag drives, garden fetes, and they even auctioned kisses from actresses at their show at the Hotel Alexandria. They also organized entertainment for sailors and soldiers; their first show was at the Submarine base in San Pedro on May 9th. In addition, they opened a tea room that was free for service members

The group held their last meeting where they began, at the Morosco Theater, on December 4th. There they decided to take a new name and purpose. Calling themselves the Players Welfare League, they decided to help stage people down on their luck. They immediately started planning fundraising. Unfortunately, interest in the group petered out, but in 1939 as World War 2 began, the government asked women from the New York branch to reactivate their group. They did, starting a new workroom, raising money, training speakers to sell war bonds and running Stage Door Canteens, which provided food and entertainment for service members. The group got a new name: The American Theater Wing. After the war they began giving grants to theater companies and educating people about live theater, but they’re best known for their annual awards, the Tonys and the Obies.

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Kingsley’s favorite film this week was a “corking” comedy, Twenty-One, starring “that fascinating screen persona, Bryant Washburn.” He had a dual role: a tough prize-fighter and the mollycoddled youth who wants to be a prizefighter. As she pointed out, “naturally (in picturedom) he gets his chance.” The two change places, but the fighter likes the youth’s job so much that he refuses to change back. So the young man must not only fight in the ring, but he also has the beat up the fighter to get his own place back. She really enjoyed it: “the picture is done with sparkle and Washburn invests it with his usual delightfully unctuous humor.” It’s a lost film.

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Kingsley reported on D.W. Griffith’s comeback success:

When Hearts of the World, Griffith’s latest film masterpiece, began its seventh week at Clune’s Auditorium last night, the audience numbered just twenty less than on the opening night. The film has broken all records at Clune’s Auditorium and has established new records for Griffith’s productions. The end of the run is not in sight.

The photos the New York Post Office doesn’t want you to see!

Kingsley told a story of excessive war rationing:

Again has Annette Kellerman been made to realize that a fine head of hair does not constitute a bathing suit in the eyes of the law. Photographs of Miss Kellerman in her latest Fox picture, Queen of the Sea, and nothing much else, caught the eye of the New York post office authorities, and she has been called upon to explain why she has Hooverized so painstakingly in the matter of bathing suits.

Now the lost film is remembered for being the first movie to be shot on  panchromatic negative film, not for running into trouble with censors. However, I did learn that it’s still illegal to mail what the U.S. Postal Service considers lewd or filthy matter. According to their basic standards for mailing services/domestic mail manual, “obscene, lewd, lascivious, or filthy publications or writings, or mail containing information on where, how, or from whom such matter may be obtained, and matter that is otherwise mailable but that has on its wrapper or envelope any indecent, lewd, lascivious, or obscene writing or printing, and any mail containing any filthy, vile, or indecent thing is nonmailable (18 USC 1461, 1463).”

However, I suspect they don’t think Miss Kellerman is filthy, vile or indecent any more.

 

 

Week of November 17th, 1917

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One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley noted that an unusual documentary film was still playing:

Birth seems in for a run at the Majestic, the third week commencing yesterday. Women are intensely interested in these vital facts of life as portrayed in the film, and while a few may come out of morbid curiosity to view the scene wherein a life is brought into the world, most of them go out of a real desire to learn how to care for the youngsters that are theirs or that they hope for.

She had gone into more detail in her initial review on November 5th:

Oh screen, what thrill is there left for you? Yesterday at the Majestic, a crowd of women which packed the theater gasped as they witnessed a real birth on the screen! It was no half-lighted affair, either, but a whole breath-taking business in a clear light…Despite the frankness of the film, there is, after all, nothing revolting about the picture, at least, to a woman, for, after all, it is merely a part of the great drama of nature. In fact, the whole thing is only a common sense revelation which it will do no harm to any woman to view.

The film’s advertising did emphasize the sensational scene, but all of the reviewers agreed with Kingsley: it was primarily an educational film. Keeping men out seems to have been a successful promotional gimmick. After a few days into the Los Angeles run, the theater allowed the audience to vote on letting men in; they overwhelming voted “yes” so men were admitted but they had to sit in the balcony.

 

In 1917 there were no restrictions on showing childbirth on film; that wasn’t forbidden until the Motion Picture Production Code went into effect in 1930. In 1938, there was a much bigger fuss among censors over a similar film, Birth of a Baby, a documentary mostly about prenatal care. Despite being endorsed by the AMA, the YWCA, the U.S. Public Health Service and Eleanor Roosevelt it couldn’t get a seal from the Hayes Office and it was forbidden by some city and state censorship boards.

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Now every episode of Call the Midwife presents realistic-looking childbirth scenes, but something about the film that Kingsley didn’t mention is much more disturbing: it was made by the Eugenic Film Company. The eugenics movement wanted to make “better babies.” If their goal was to improve infant health through excellent pre- and postnatal care, as Birth advocated, that would have been great. However, they strove to improve humanity through selective breeding and prevent “the unfit” from reproducing. It led to compulsory sterilization laws that mostly affected poor, nonwhite and mentally disabled women. California was a leader; by 1921 80% of all forced sterilizations were happening here. The movement is mostly now associated with inspiring Nazi death camps.

 

Kingsley spoke to director Chet Whithey, who was “fervently glad to be back on the western Broadway,” because studios in New York were more crowded and photographing on the streets was nearly impossible. He said, “it all resolves itself into tipping the cops with one hand and keeping you limousine-enclosed camera away from the crowd with the other. The wealthy people are not so nice about permitting their property to be used as are the western millionaires.”

Despite the problems, he had gotten good results and his film Nearly Married was Kinglsey’s favorite this week. An “airy soap bubble of comedy,” it involves a divorcing couple trying to reconcile, but they’re thwarted by a professional co-respondent, legal quirks and other complications. She thought, “all the honey of humor has been extracted from the comedy flower.” It’s been preserved at the Library of Congress.

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Brownie Vernon told Kingsley a story about her the hazards of shooting on location in downtown L.A. for Fear Not. She needed to make a costume change, so she ran into a building.

She went into a back room, empty apparently except for some long cases, and locked the door. As she proceeded to dress Miss Vernon’s eyes became accustomed to the light, she also discerned there was an odor of drugs in the place, and then glancing around she discovered a man lying in one of the cases. This was awfully embarrassing to Brownie. Then she saw another man occupying another of the boxes. She was blushing a deep crimson by this time. Suddenly she realized that all these men were ‘dead ones’!

Without any lost motion whatsoever she seized her garments and tore out of the gruesome place. The other members of the company, waiting outside, caught only a fleeting glimpse of the young actress as she dived into a nearby limousine. There were no dead men in the machine—but neither were there live ones—and Brownie completed her toilette in the car she usurped.

At first, she thought she had discovered a wholesale order of crime, but on going around to the front door of the house she had invaded the mystery was quickly explained. A sign in the window read: “Blank and Blank, Undertakers.”

Modern actors with trailers to change in have no idea. This didn’t put Agnes “Brownie” Vernon off of adventures; a few years later she moved to Australia to make a few films in their nascent industry.

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A Country Hero

Kingsley had a report about another star’s challenges at Balboa Studio from the set of A Country Hero:

“Fatty” Arbuckle had two chairs and an upright piano broken over him while carrying on a stage fight with five men. But as “Fatty” is his own director and instigator of most of his own film troubles, he has only himself to blame.

Anything for his art might have been his motto. A Country Hero is a lost film, but a contemporary review says there’s a scene with lots of furniture getting smashed, including a piano. Lea at Silent-ology gives a round-up of what’s known about the film.

 

Kinglsey’s best line this week was in a review of A Painted Madonna: “according to moving pictures, a girl has only to make up her mind to lure men to their doom and to get a lot of money while she is about it, to have the thing an accomplished fact.”

So there was a second educational movie playing in Los Angeles this week! Here’s some trivia: the woman who played that painted Madonna was billing herself as Sonia Markova, a Russian actress. She was actually Chicago-born Grace Barrett, who usually acted under the name Gretchen Hartman. She’d been acting in films since 1911, but some of the press bought her temporary name change. She married actor Alan Hale in 1914, and they stayed married until his death in 1950. They had three children, including Alan Jr. Yes, the Skipper’s mom once lured men to their doom.