Week of November 10th, 1917

menu

smallsuet1917 Thanksgiving menu for Camp Williams, France, from the George C. Marshall Foundation Library. It’s not radically different from a 2017 menu, except for the dessert: suet pudding instead of pumpkin pie. Suet pudding involves suet (beef or mutton fat), flour, bread crumbs, raisins, and spices (it sounds nicer when its called Spotted Dick or plum pudding).

 

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley was reporting on stars’ plans for the upcoming holiday:

Despite the war and the various vicissitudes of life, the picture play people are planning to enjoy themselves at Thanksgiving time. Their Hooverizing* for the most part will take the form of expansive hospitality.

Most of them were looking forward to a big meal with their friends and families, including Charlie Chaplin, Roscoe Arbuckle and the Gish sisters. However, some had alternate plans:

  • Both Tom Mix and William S. Hart were arranging big dinners for their film companies;
  • Dorothy Phillips, who had been working night and day, was looking forward to spending the day at home, thankful for a little extra sleep;
  • Franklyn Farnum and Gladys Brockwell both intended to go hunting;
  • Edith Storey wanted to continue her custom of taking a long hike, then dining wherever she found herself;
  • The Fox kiddies (Virginia Corbin, Violet Radcliffe, Francis Carpenter) “all declared in a chorus they meant to just eat all day long—but their parents bring me private information to the contrary;”
  • Lon Chaney planned to treat his wife to a café dinner.

 

 

The war was affecting some peoples’ festivities:

  • Triangle Studios was sponsoring benefit shows for patriotic charities featuring their stars, including Texas Guinan, William Desmond and Alma Reuben;
  • Mary Pickford hoped to dine with the 600 soldiers she “adopted” at Camp Kearny;
  • “Jackie Sunders, though lonely without the brother who has gone to the front, will try and keep Popper and Mommer Saunders from thinking about it.”

Finally, only one star was willing to admit how Los Angeleians really spend the day: Viola Dana “intends to stay out of doors as much of the day as she has left over from dinner, and look at the snow-clad mountains and gloat over the fact she doesn’t have to trot around in the New York slush.”

 

 

Kingsley’s favorite film this week was The Outsider:

A barrage of mystery surrounding a plot is the proper thing nowadays on both stage and screen, and The Outsider has one guessing from start to finish…it tells of robbers robbing other robbers, and has as many ingenious twists as a Sherlock Holmes story.

She thought it was “the best picture Metro has shown in many moons.” She also mentioned “by the way there is a lot of beautiful photography in this picture.” Unfortunately, it was cinematographer John M. Bauman’s second to last film. A former Thanhouser cameraman, after he shot Life’s Whirlpool (1917) he quit the film business and went to work as a salesman for the Storage Battery Company. I guess good reviews don’t pay the bills. Happily, The Outsider survives at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

 

 

In her review of A Mormon Maid, Kingsley used the cinematography to deliver a frank opinion about the rest of the film: “there is some bewilderingly beautiful photography in the picture—so lovely, in fact, that it almost takes your mind off the story.” That might seem like an exaggeration until you learn that the DP was Charles Rosher, and unlike poor Mr. Bauman, he went on to have a spectacular career. He soon became Mary Pickford’s chief cameraman, and he and Karl Struss won the first cinematography Oscar for their work on Sunrise (1927). Later he shot Technicolor films like Showboat (1951) and The Yearling (1946), for which he won his second Oscar.

 

 

On Saturday, Douglas Fairbanks and his A Modern Musketeer company returned from a location shoot at the Grand Canyon. Director Allan Dwan told of Fairbanks’ first impression:

“Oh, I’m so disappointed!”

“Disappointed? Why?” asked Dwan.

“Because I can’t jump it,” explained Fairbanks.

If anyone could, it would have been him.

 

 

Kingsley told of one star’s sensible plan for keeping nervous drivers off the road. Louise Fazenda:

owns a fine automobile, but she is afraid to run it. ‘I just let it stand in front of my bungalow so folks will know I own one,’ she confided, ‘but when I want to ride, I hire a machine with a chauffeur attached.’

If only more bad drivers did the same!

 

*Herber Hoover at that time was in charge of the U.S. Food Administration, and he was calling on all Americans to economize on food for the war effort.

 

Week of October 21st, 1916

griffith_photoplay
D.W. Griffith (from a 14-page long article in Photoplay about Intolerance)

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley interviewed D.W. Griffith and he did his best to sell his current release:

David Griffith, producer of Intolerance, which is hailed as the greatest motion picture ever made, wants it distinctly understood that Intolerance isn’t ‘high-brow,’ in spite of all its historical atmosphere and embodying of historical fact. Mr. Griffith smiled his quizzical, enigmatic little smile, the other night, as he explained that he himself had some horrible doubts that it might be ‘high-brow’ until he found that ‘Kid’ Broad and ‘Spike’ Robinson, honorable prize fighters both*, to use their own phrase ‘just ate it up’. ‘Really, the main interest is the love story,’ said Mr. Griffith.

Kingsley pointed out how shrewd he was calling it Intolerance, so nobody would dare to attack it for fear of being labeled intolerant, and Griffith laughed and answered “Well you said that. I didn’t.”

He complained that the film wasn’t getting enough publicity because corporation-owned magazines were making excuses not to write about it and only three publications were printing stories. This simply wasn’t true, but Kingsley was too polite to say so.

heir_photo
Anita King and Thomas Meighan

Kinglsey’s favorite film this week was The Heir to the Hoorah (the Hoorah was a mine). She wrote “if you want to see a picture thoroughly human, charming and natural, yet holding enough of the unusual in plot to add a stimulating sauce piquant, you must view The Heir to the Hoorah.…Miss King, as the young girl whose society mother goes husband hunting for her, reveals a depth of sincerity and an understanding of dramatic values which she has had no opportunity heretofore to display. There are no false notes…Thomas Meighan is strong and effective as ever in the role of the rough young millionaire mine owner who marries for love.”

anita_king1918
Anita King

Several of the people who worked on Heir went on to successful careers: its director William C. de Mille made some fine dramas in the 1920’s including Miss Lulu Bett (1921); its cinematographer Charles Rosher shot Mary Pickford’s best films as well as Sunrise (1927), then he became an expert in Technicolor and shot many films for M.G.M including The Yearling (1946) and Show Boat (1951); and Thomas Meighan was a major leading man of the 20’s. But the least well-known of the people involved also had an interesting life. Anita King was a former racecar driver. In 1915 she had become the first woman to drive alone cross-country from Hollywood to New York City; the publicity stunt for Paramount Pictures took 49 days. She quit acting in 1919, married twice and became a thoroughbred racehorse owner.

An incomplete version of Heir is preserved at the Library of Congress.

chaplin_mutual

An early sign of Chaplin’s seriousness about his filmmaking appeared on the 27th:

“Charlie Chaplin, whose contract with Mutual expires in January, has been offered a renewal on the old terms. But Chaplin, it is said, is holding to the idea of being given more time for the production of his pictures, claiming he cannot do his best work under the present time limit.”

Chaplin did get what he wanted from Mutual: he kept the old financial terms of his contract (they were paying him $10,00 a week, making him one of the highest paid people in the world) but instead of producing one two-reel film every four weeks, he made only four films before the contract ended in October. However, they were four of his best films: Easy Street, The Cure, The Immigrant and The Adventurer.

Kingsley gave an update from The Spirit of ’76 production (discussed in my September 16th blog post):

A Harvard professor who happened to the in the mountains of Northern California when Mr. Robert Goldstein was there with his company making exteriors for his historical pageant “The Spirit of ’76,” was much interested in the work and especially in the title of the play. Mr. Goldstein told him that it was a historical picture and gave him the script to look over. Meeting him the next day he asked what he thought of it. ‘Well’, said the professor, ‘I feel as Mark Twain did when he saw Adam’s tomb in Palestine. He said he guessed it was all right, as nobody was there to deny it.

Poor Mr. Goldstein didn’t seem to recognize the professor’s joke. The Harvard man was wise not to comment on or expect historical accuracy in film – it hasn’t been there since the beginning.

Goldstein also lied to Kingsley, claiming that novelist Jack London was helping them with their production. That’s impossible because at that time London was dying a painful death from kidney failure, and he only had a month to live.

how_scen

Finally, a film company asked for submissions from the public.

The Oliver Morosco Film Company announces it want strong, dramatic stories for its stars…The company offers to pay $1500 each for complete stories adapted to its needs, or upon which a complete photoplay may be founded. This story may be either in synopsis form, 500 to 2000 words each, or may be in the form of a book or story. The company especially desires modern society dramas with comedy relief, with carefully worked-out and logical plots, happy surprises, small casts and good acting parts, rather than the general run of ‘mechanical dramas’.

They might have regretted this announcement after they saw what arrived in the mail. In 1914 Kingsley had written a story, “How’s Your Scenario,” where she described how every barber, milliner, bank president, and travelling salesman had a script in his or her back pocket. Then she told the strange stories of some of the amateurs that scenario departments had to discourage, like the man who said he was qualified to write thrilling pictures because he’d actually been in a cyclone and a car wreak (they advised him to get an accident insurance policy instead of a writing career). Some things about the film industry haven’t changed a bit.

 

* Former prize fighters is a more accurate description: by 1916 they were both actors. William M. Thomas (aka Kid Broad) went on to play boxers in a few films and Walter Charles Robinson had been working with Griffith since 1910.