Week of April 27th, 1918

greatloveposter1
Coming soon!

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley chatted with D.W. Griffith about his plans for his next film, which was to be “another huge war drama”:

The new picture will present an entirely different angle, however, from that of Hearts of the World. For instance, it is not intended to have in it a single battle scene—it will merely use the world war as its background—and quite likely it will have a psychological aspect. But the fans need feel no fear at this announcement, since its outstanding feature will be a poignant love story.

As near as now known many of its scenes will be laid in France. But Mr. Griffith has three distinct stories under consideration for the first of his Artcraft releases following Hearts of the World, so that his next may be a blending of three plots. In fact, he is now rehearsing three plays at one and the same time, in an endeavor to pick out the most available material in each plot.

The settings for the three plays vary widely, with one opening in Canada, another in Hawaii, and the third with either England or Scotland as the background. George Seigmann, Griffith’s assistant, is having his troubles trying to provide the settings for the three different locations. He says he is only hoping that Griffith doesn’t finally decide on still another story with the location in Iceland!

Mr. Griffith said yesterday that perhaps before he gets through with the rehearsals he may take the meat of the three different plays and weave an entirely different fabric.*

It sounds like he was workshopping his script, the way modern directors like Mike Leigh do. The now-lost film was eventually called The Great Love. Nothing set in Hawaii was in it, but the love story and the lack of battle scenes remained. According to reviews it was about an American (Robert Harron) so eager to fight in the war that he enlisted in the Canadian army and was sent to England. There he fell in love with a nurse (Lillian Gish), but her father wanted her to marry another (Henry Walthall), who was secretly a German collaborator. The collaborator conveniently shot himself after he failed to lead bombers to a munitions factory, and the lovers were reunited. Kingsley knew that any early description might not resemble the finished film; she pointed out “trying to prognosticate what a new Griffith picture will be like, or when it will come, is like trying to date up an earthquake!”

 

 

Audiences only had to wait four months. The Great Love premiered in Los Angeles on August 12th, and L.A. Times reviewer Antony Anderson thought it wasn’t quite as good as Hearts, but it was still Griffith and “when Griffith directs a photoplay his hand gives the touch of magic that forever sets the play as something apart and different from other picture plays.”

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Marc Klaw

Kingsley reported that waiters were taking the new rules about alcohol very seriously. Marc Klaw, New York theater impresario was vacationing in town, and he complained to her:

“They not only want to tell you out here not only what to drink but when to drink it,” said Mr. Klaw, “and last night at 9 o’clock, in one of the local cafes, a large, strong waiter came and took my glass of wine away from me. When you stop telling people out here what to do and what not to do, and commence buying Liberty Bonds, I’ll believe your reformers are on the square.”

He was wrong about the Liberty Bonds: Westerners were buying lots of them. William S. Hart had just returned from a very successful two-week, nineteen city bond selling tour. He sold about 2 million dollars worth of them, and “Hart was fairly mobbed by his admirers, buttons being torn from his clothing and his red bandana handkerchief shredded to ribbons to be kept by the crowd as souvenirs.” But two ladies did their part to keep him humble. According to Kingsley:

He is the owner of a might fine bulldog, which insisted on going along. “I let him sit on my lap,” said Bill. “He is one of those big clumsy fellows about my size with a face that looks like the north end of a freight train going south. When we were crossing the street the traffic was blocked. There were two women standing near the car and one of the remarked ‘My, look at the face of that ugly brute.’ The dog’s face was only about six inches from mine, and to make it worse the other woman said ‘Which one?’”

 

 

William S. Hart and a bulldog from 1920 (not his bulldog). I can see a resemblance!

Hart also told her that Liberty Loan drives were very hard work. He said that after his tour, “any time I’m wanted to go to war, I’m ready.”

 

*Woven meat fabric? I think her metaphors got away from her.

 

 

 

 

Week of March 16th, 1918

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One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley interviewed D.W. Griffith in his office at the Fine Arts studio. He described what women were doing for the war effort in England, and he had some surprising ideas, for someone known for his girlish Victorian characters:

Maybe it sounds strange to you; but, you see, women are taking the places of men wherever possible, even right behind the firing line…I cannot tell you how much the men appreciate it and respect them for their cheerful unselfishness. They are even serving as officers’ chauffeurs, both in France and in England. I rode behind one, and she beat the mechanic at his own game in an emergency. A fine spirit of camaraderie is growing out of it all—a spirit I feel sure will be a source of permanent understanding between men and women.

Women are becoming economically independent at a great rate. What will the men do when they get back home? Are they going to be content to keep on letting women run things? Well, mark you this, I heard a British Tommy say one day ‘Bless the bloomin’ women, they’re doin’ all right! Let ‘em keep on, I say. What do we care, so the work’s done right.

The brightest outlook for women due to this war is—that they will understand. That’s been the real handicap and the unhappiness of women—they haven’t known life as it really is. The war is teaching it to them. The daughters of this war will understand.

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Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps mechanics at work on a car engine at Abbeville, France

Kingsley was too polite to question his idea that only fighting, pain and suffering is ‘real life.’ The war did temporarily open up new job opportunities for women, but Griffith was too optimistic: after the men came home, they were dismissed from their jobs. There wasn’t much change in assumptions about gender roles, either, according to history professor Susan Grayzel, who wrote “New forms of social interaction between the sexes and across class lines became possible, but expectations about family and domestic life as the main concern of women remained unaltered.”

 

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The Fair Barbarian

Kingsley’s favorite film this week was The Fair Barbarian. This “highly diverting and amusing comedy” told:

“how a sleepy town in England called Slowbridge—‘where the only thing that travels fast is gossip’—was jolted into the knowledge it is alive, and speeded into high by an American girl…To be sure this apostle of pep from Bloody Gulch, Montana, does a few things not usually done in good society, such as breaking a memorial window in a spirit of girlish glee still she’s so adorably pretty and elfish you’d forgive he if she drank all the communion wine when it is passed!”

The film’s press book helpfully pointed out that it was based on the work of Frances Hodgson Burnett, just like Mary Pickford’s recent success, The Little Princess. Its star, Vivian Martin, usually played parts that were similar to Mary Pickford’s. When films about spunky girls became less popular, she returned to her earlier job: Broadway actress. She later married Arthur Samuels, the editor of Harpers Bazaar. The film has survived at the Cinematheque Francais.

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No need to hurry! (The Bell Boy, 1918)

Buster Keaton once told interviewer George Pratt in that “as a rule, Schenck never knew when I was shooting or what I was shooting. He just went to a preview.” But Kingsley reported that he wasn’t a completely laissez-faire producer:

One of the subjects for which Joe Schenck came West, it develops, is to ascertain whether Fatty Arbuckle may not be speeded up in his work. Mr. Arbuckle, it appears, has been making only eight or ten pictures a year, and Mr. Schenk has discovered that he could easily dispose of Arbuckle comedies one every two of three weeks, that in fact, the public is clamoring for them.

“The makers of comedy are in luck,” said Mr. Schenck yesterday. “So far from the war having damaged the sale of really good comedies, the demand for them has increased. Naturally this is so, when the world is looking for something cheerful to take its mind off the world war, its excitements and depressions.”

Whether Mr. Arbuckle can be persuaded that art can be speeded up, remains to be seen.

She was right to be skeptical: Arbuckle released 6 shorts in 1918 and 7 in 1919. But they’re still being enjoyed by audiences, so they were good value for money!

 

 

 

 

 

Week of March 9th, 1918

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One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley announced an upcoming film premier:

When D. W. Griffith’s tremendous war masterpiece, Hearts of the World, is presented for the first time tomorrow at Clune’s Auditorium, it will be witnessed by one of the most brilliant audiences which has ever been assembled in this city. A fascinatingly heterogeneous audience it promises to be, also; for mingling with the famous picture stars and directors and well-known society folk will be military officers and soldiers and many civil authorities, including Mayor Woodman. The military people will be there to study the applied technique of war, the stars and picture directors the technique of picture-making.

Those who have been privileged to see the film, the battle scenes of which were actual occurrences photographed at the French battle front, declare it is stupendous from this standpoint, yet Hearts of the World remains intrinsically human—a fabric of multicolored human passion.

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Billy Bitzer and D.W. Griffith inspect the negative (Los Angeles Herald)

The article was called “It’s Now Here” since nobody needed to be told what ‘it’ was. Kingsley had been following the film’s progress for over a year; nothing else got so much attention. She wrote about Griffith’s initial plans to go to France, a report that he’d be staying there indefinitely, his meeting with George Bernard Shaw when he was in London and his daily schedule as he finished up the film. Everyone had been anticipating it for a long time. However, she didn’t get to write about the finished film; Antony Anderson got that assignment. He was suitably impressed:

heartsLATThe modern epic—the tremendous story of love and war—was swiftly flashed, last night, before a vast assembly of men and women thrilled and exalted by the gripping power, the overwhelming beauty and poignant pathos of David Wark Griffith’s masterpiece in photoplay, Hearts of the World.

For the story is big, beautiful, tragic and terrible. The wanderings of Ulysses, ever straining his weary eyes toward home and Penelope, hold no keener woes than those of the Boy in the trenches who loved and longed for the Girl in the village of France. But, like Ulysses, the Boy came back to his beloved at last—oh, he came back!—or the tale of his sufferings and hers would have been too heartbreaking, we could not have endured it.

How nice, he’d read the classics. He also reported on the audience reaction:

Clune’s Auditorium was packed as full as it could hold—packed full and overflowing. Everybody was there who could possible beg, borrow or buy a ticket of admission—the great man and the small, the plutocrat and the proletariat, women of fashion, stars of the screen—everybody. For all seemed to know, through some subtle prescience, that Hearts of the World is a play for everybody, a great story of universal appeal.

But on the whole it was not a sad nor somber assemblage. Having determined to grace this first night with their presence, women of wealth and fashion resolved also to make it a brilliant, happy event, and to show by their cheerful attitude of dress and countenance that they fully appreciated Mr. Griffith’s patriotic effort in placing this remarkable play before the American people, now waiting to be instructed in the realities of the war under which the world staggers…The enthusiasm throughout was intense, and the play swayed the vast audience from smiles to tears, and back again.

Audiences at the New York premier on April 4th were just as enthusiastic, according to Arthur Lenning in Film History.* He wrote that at the end, “pandemonium broke out. Spectators stood and cheered and shouted for Griffith. Finally, he appeared on the stage, and moved by the wonderful reception, he said he had no speech to make.” He tried to ask for prayers and support for the men still fighting, but his voice broke and he couldn’t finish.

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Hearts made a decent profit, despite the influenza epidemic and the armistice (people don’t want to see war movies right after a war). Lennig found a March 1919 financial report in Griffith’s files that reported the film’s cost, plus prints and exploitation expenses, was $555,715 and the net receipts were $952,788 for a total profit of $397,073. So it was not as successful as Birth of a Nation (he was still earning money from that in 1917) but much better than Intolerance.

It’s still an important film. You can find modern reviews at Silentology and at Nitrate Diva .

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Grace Kingsley took two days in a row off this week! This was the first time she’d done that in the almost two years I’ve been using her work as the basis for this blog. There wasn’t much else going on in her columns this week: she interviewed the principle singers of the Boston English Opera Company for the Sunday paper (they performed English-language translations to try to make opera attendance painless), reviewed Julian Eltinge’s charming and delightful new film The Widow’s Might (she especially liked his excuse for dressing as a woman—he’s disguised and on the lam after trying to steal some evidence) and mentioned that Joseph Schenck was in town to help Roscoe Arbuckle select a new site for his studio. I hope she enjoyed her time off!

 

 

*Arthur Lennig, “Hearts of the World,” Film History, v. 23 issue 4 (2011), p.428-458.

 

Week of February 9th, 1918

One hundred years ago this week, the war was again intruding on Grace Kingsley’s columns in all sorts of ways:

If you chance to see three score pretty young women, clad in regimentals, marching down the street with flags flying and the band playing, don’t be frightened; they won’t hurt you. The pretty girls in regimentals will be the first company of feminine soldiers organized in any picture studio in the world.

Josie Sedgwick, an up-and-coming actress at Triangle Studio, came up with the idea and executed it. She and other actresses at the studio, including Olive Thomas, Texas Guinan and Gloria Swanson, spent their evenings drilling, supervised by a regular army officer and chaperoned by the studio matron. Their goal was to perform at entertainments to raise money for the Red Cross and other war relief.

“We girls all want to do something for our country,” said Miss Sedgwick, “and we don’t feel as if merely knitting and making surgical bandages is enough, though we do that too…Our uniform? Well, we wanted trousers, but you know some girls can wear trousers and some can’t, so we decided on short shirts and leggings, with khaki shirtwaists and cute little caps.”

I haven’t been able to find any other mention or photos of the drill team. No wonder Triangle was running into business difficulties, if they couldn’t capitalize on pictures of young ladies in cute little caps.

Some film workers were leaving to serve as real soldiers. Wheeler Oakman, former Selig star, enlisted in the army, giving up “a long-term contract at a large salary with Metro Picture Corporation”. Kingsley said he was the first leading man actually under contract in Los Angeles to voluntarily do his bit.* He said, “I’m going into the regulars as a plain private…There’s a fine bunch of ‘grizzlies’ down at Camp Kearney, and I’ll be glad to be among them and to learn the ropes from them.”

That was exactly what he did: as part of the 144th Field Artillery, aka the California Grizzlies, he shipped out from New York as a private on August 15, 1918 and served in France until his unit was sent home from Bordeaux on December 23, 1918. He’d been promoted to corporal.** He came home safely and went back to acting. He worked steadily, often playing villains and henchmen, until his death in 1949.

Western star William S. Hart found a different way to express his patriotism:

It’s not kosher to make any unpatriotic cracks before Bill Hart, as a certain inhabitant of this town can tell you. Mr. Hart was dining at a restaurant the other night, which happened to be a porkless night. In came a loud-spoken stranger and demanded ham and eggs. The waiter explained to him courteously that it was a porkless day. The stranger arose from the table, flung down his napkin, and made some unpleasant remarks about the food conservation measure and started to leave.

As he went past Hart’s table, Bill looked up, fixed the stranger with his glittering eye, and drawled in a clear, high voice: “Shouldn’t think a pig would mind a porkless day!”

The stranger gave him a malevolent look, but sizing up Bill’s strong jaw and broad shoulders, took a second thought and dropping his grandiose manner, sneaked out.

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Saturdays were the porkless day. The United States Food Administration had been asking people to conserve food by abstaining from eating meat on Tuesdays and wheat on Wednesdays since October, the added the porkless Saturdays was added on December 13th. It was a voluntary program, but Mr. Hart probably wasn’t the only one to ‘encourage’ compliance.

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D.W. Griffith reading the rest of the paper

Finally, D.W. Griffith was hurrying to finish Hearts of the World, but then somebody handed him a newspaper with the headline “War to Last Six Years.” He promptly said, “Come on boys. We’ve got time. Let’s go to lunch.”

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Teddy

Kinglsey also offered some comic relief this week, with a story abut Teddy the Dog:

Talk about leading a dog’s life! Teddy, the wise canine actor of Mack Sennett’s comedy company, not only pays for his own license, but he pays an income tax on his salary!

A few months later, she was able to spin this anecdote into a one-page Photoplay article, “A Dog That Pays an Income Tax” (June 1918 p.62). That’s being a professional writer.

 

 

 

*I haven’t been able to confirm that he was the first.

**U.S. Army Transport Service Passenger List, August 15 1918 and December 23, 1918.

 

 

A research note: Digitization is helping me find amazing things. In the Wheeler Oakman story, he mentioned that his father Frank Eichelberger had fought for the Union army and was captured at Chickamauga. Knowing how actors can sometimes exaggerate things, I did some searching to see if it was true and found Pvt. Frank Eichelbergers’s testimony on how horrible being a Confederate prisoner was in a digitized book called Narrative of Privations and Sufferings of United States Officers and Soldiers while Prisoners of War in the Hands of the Rebel Authorities by United States Sanitary Commission, published in 1864. I would have never known to look for such a book. Hooray for all the people who do the very dull task of digitization!

 

Week of November 3rd, 1917

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One hundred years ago this week, D.W Griffith returned to Los Angeles from his trip to France and England and he dominated Grace Kingsley’s columns. She went to the station Friday evening to meet his train, and “he looked as calm and freshly groomed as though he had just returned from a tea party, instead of having taken part in the tremendous action being staged ‘over there.’” Of course he gave her an interview and described what he’d seen:

I was within fifty yards of the Roches, on the Ypres front, at one time. How did I feel? Well, I was so frightened I didn’t know what was happening. Yes, I was actually under fire, and men were killed within a few feet of me. I wore the war helmet and the gas mask. At one time we were in a dugout, with a big gun, and even as we were leaving the long range guns were trained on the spot, and the gun was shot to pieces in a few minutes.

Kevin Brownlow has seen footage of Griffith at Ypres, and described it in his book The War The West and the Wilderness (p. 144). It doesn’t quite match Griffith’s story:

The center of Ypres by 1917 has been so heavily shelled that the cathedral-like Cloth Hall has been blasted to a slender Islamic minaret. The other buildings, too, have been knocked into such extraordinarily delicate fingers of stone that there seems no way for them to remain vertical. Into this chilling scene steps a tall, jaunty figure in a smart tweed suit of an English cut, a bow-tie—and a tin hat. It is David War Griffith…

Griffith, dressed for a grouse shoot, appears to be on a thoroughly pleasant outing in the midst of the bloodiest war in history.

Maybe the camera was off when they were under fire? Kingsley asked Griffith how he thought the war would end and he was accurate:

I could make a lot of prophecies, but I won’t. I’ll merely say that I feel sure that even if Russia drops out for the time being and Italy is beaten, Great Britain, France and the United States will win the war.

sfquarterly Griffith gave lots of interviews about his trip, and several of them have been collected in the Silent Film Quarterly, Spring 2017.

Kingsley also asked if the rest of the company was frightened, and he answered “Yes I guess they were pretty frightened, and Dorothy said if the soldiers were as scared as she was when she heard those cannon they’d all run into the sea and that would be the end of the war.” Sensible Dorothy! On Monday Kingsley let the Gish sisters speak for themselves, and they told her:

 

We passed through village after village which were partially demolished, but the inhabitants were living very contentedly*  in the undestroyed parts of the towns…We traveled in automobiles, and there was a constant stream of travel, going in both directions—soldiers, ambulances, horses, cannon, trucks and trucks of provisions and ammunition.

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Lillian and Dorothy Gish

But the air raids in London were much more exciting. A bomb burst just a short distance from the Savoy Hotel, where we were stopping, at 12 o’clock one night, just as we were retiring. It struck a trolley car and killed a dozen people…And in the morning, we found a ‘dud’ under the windows of the Savoy. If that bomb had done its duty, we wouldn’t be here to tell the tale!”

“You feel ashamed,” explained Lillian, “to think of your own petty ambitions in the face of all that. I wonder if after this war, the women of the whole world won’t rise in their might and declare there shall never be war any more?”

 

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It’s a shame her prediction didn’t come true, too. By Tuesday Kingsley was reporting that Griffith was back to work and planning to shoot some additional scenes for his war film, maybe at the Lasky studio. Then on Thursday Kingsley wrote that he was planning to build his own studio, probably at LaBrea and De Longpre, near to Chaplin’s. He was in talks with an architect, and it was to be up-to-date in every particular. He never did build a new studio in Los Angeles; instead he used the stages at his old Fine Art studio three miles away from La Brea. He didn’t build his own studio until 1919, in in Mamaroneck, New York.

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Scarlet Pimpernel

Kingsley’s favorite film this week was The Scarlet Pimpernel:

 Those of us who in other days chewed our fingernails and panted over the exciting scenes of the Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel will be delighted with its excitements as transferred to the screen by Dustin Farnum, Winifred Kingston, William Burress and company…A fundamentally intriguing and effectively staged photodrama this, with much excellent photography to its credit.

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That excellent photography was by Dev Jennings, who went on to be Buster Keaton’s chief cameraman. You can learn all sorts of things about him in my book, Buster Keaton’s Crew. (every home should have one!)

 

 

Kingsley gave a moral to the story that I hadn’t considered before: it “only goes to show that when you join the Knights of Pythias or the Elks, you’d better let you wife know about it.” This was first filmed version of Orczy’s novel. According to the IMDB, there have been 4 other versions completed and 3 more are currently in development. Those Frenchies will be seeking him everywhere for a long time. This version, however, is a lost film.

Kingsley related a story from “Rosalie Ashton, the clever young scenario writer at Fox Studio.” She had gotten a job application:

I am a young man of 24, five feet eleven in perfectly good stockinged feet, weigh 150 pounds, typical young American of the Douglas Fairbanks type, and my friends tell me I am robbing the screen if I do not get into the movies. I am an aesthetic dancer, light and graceful on said feet. Won’t you please give me a chance to prove that I can act?

Miss Ashton answered:

My Dear Sir: We regret to advise that at the present writing there is no vacancy…However, permit me to say that our beloved Uncle Sam is badly in need of virile, health young Americans of about five feet eleven inches, in good physical condition, and, since you are so light and graceful on your feet, you would be adept in dodging bullets.

However, the joke was on her. The day after that story appeared, Ashton was getting her own chance to serve her country: she’d been asked to go the France to be an interpreter for the government. She left for Washington, D.C. the next day. Fate laughs at smart-alecks.

Rosalie Ashton was a former New York Times and magazine writer who had a brief screenwriting career in the late teens. She co-wrote films like The Undertow, Humility and The Trail That Leads Nowhere. She wasn’t an interpreter for the government for very long: in February 1918 she was hired by Goldwyn’s scenario department.

 

*I’m guessing that might not have been the word the French people would have used.

Week of April 7th, 1917

 

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Shooting The Escape (1914). Billy Bitzer, D.W. Griffith, Henry B. Walthall

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley reported that opportunities in Hollywood were drying up for scenario writers:

That about 50 per cent of the ordinary present-day writers of ‘original’ scenarios are doomed to extinction by the mere process of elimination, seems to be a foregone conclusion… And nowadays the weeding-out process has begun in the scenario departments of all the big producing companies. Only such as have already gained distinction or who have shown unusual ability are retaining their jobs.

Instead of hiring people to write original stories, companies were adapting existing material. She cited Selig’s version of Rex Beach’s The Spoilers and Griffith’s “picturization” of The Escape as early successes, then Birth of a Nation from Thomas Dixon’s work proved they could be financial and artistic successes.

Of course, original stories weren’t replaced by adaptations, and somebody had to do the adapting. Instead, this was part of the industry-wide contraction that lasted until after the war concluded. Film has always been an uncertain career.

Her favorite film this week happened to be an adaptation, one based on a Robert Louis Stevenson story. She liked The Bottle Imp because it was so different from anything else she’d seen. Sessue Hayakawa starred as the imp who lived in a magic bottle, “the owner of which must not be caught dead with it, or his soul will be destroyed, but who, while he possesses it makes its imp the servant of his will.” She said “There are many spectacular scenes, such as the magic building of a palace before your eyes and the beautifying of diverse ugly people.” Julian Johnson in Photoplay agreed completely, exclaiming, “would that there were more photoplays of imagination such as The Bottle Imp!” It’s been preserved at the Eastman House.

The war was very much on everyone’s minds; Kingsley reported that during the afternoon vaudeville show at the Orpheum, “the smiling audience was looking up in expectation of Lew Dockstader’s appearance; the stage manager stepped forth in wholly untheatrical manner and stated that two army officers in the audience, naming them, were wanted at once at their barracks. That was all – but there was a hushed silence for a full half minute, while we were in the grip of the realization of war.” She also mentioned that at every vaudeville house patriotic musical numbers were played, and the crowds stood up.

If only actors knew more about film history, they could save themselves from so much misery! Jane Gail, the leading actress from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea told everyone that working underwater was no fun. She had thought it would be wonderful to see the bottom of the sea, but “I wouldn’t do it again. I’d rather fall over a cliff or out of a balloon than ever go through that experience again.” She married a writer and stopped acting in 1920. Kinglsey reviewed the film later that week and thought the dry land scenes were dry indeed, but the wet bits were gripping and dramatic.

Week of March 17th, 1917

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Buster shows how it’s done

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley noticed a new trend at live theater performances: “the habit of applause on the part of the audience appears to be dying out.” She theorized about what was causing it. At the top of the list was moving pictures, because there was no need to cheer for absent actors so people had gotten out of the habit. However, the new, quieter acting style and less melodramatic plays were also part of the problem; she wrote “can you fancy loud cane-whackings on the floor as an expression of gratification at the voicing of a Shaw subtlety, or some of the finer passages of an Ibsen drama?” It had gotten so bad that some theater owners were rumored to hiring professional applauders, to make the performers feel better. Who knew that styles of applause went in and out of fashion?

Kingsley’s favorite film this week was a Pauline Frederick film Sapho,

the story of the little street gamin, the flower girl of Paris, who captured one lover after another, is done so as to be entirely convincing…The transition in the girl from the gay butterfly to the sincerely loving woman is accomplished by Miss Frederick with no hypocritical show of demureness.

Sapho was based on a novel by Alphonse Daudet that was frequently adapted, first as a short in 1908, then as a feature in 1913 and then just the year before with Theda Bara in the title role. Other critics agreed that this version was particularly good; George N. Shorey in Motion Picture News even said it “will never be more finely interpreted than in this Famous Players production.” It’s a lost film. Frederick was respected as one of the best actresses of her time; to learn more visit Greta deGroat’s site.

 

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Out of the Wreck

Kingsley took personally a bit of business in a film about political corruption called Out of the Wreck.

The author evidently had a weird idea of newspaper people. The woman in the story apparently always kissed her city editor good morning, and then perched on the arm of his chair for an hour or so!

That wasn’t her only problem with the film; despite the good directing, acting, and photography, she thought the story was “patched together out of the scenario barrel.” It’s been preserved at the Library of Congress.

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Billy Bitzer

Kingsley told a story that proves nobody was surprised when cameraman Billy Bitzer wasn’t able to go to France to shoot the war scenes for Hearts of the World. Griffith wired him to come to New York and from there go to England with him. Bitzer replied “Can’t, I’m German.” Griffith answered “Well, change your name and come on.” Bitzer’s retort: “Might change my name but how can I change my face?” Bitzer did eventually travel to England, but Griffith had to hire another cameraman to visit the front lines.

Kingsley told a cute story about mistaken identity this week:

Harriette Lee, in some poses, especially close up, is a dead ringer for Mabel Normand. The other night both young women were dancing and supping out at Vernon. Three persons in succession passed by Miss Lee’s table, bowing and greeting her as Miss Normand. Each one, on pausing for another look (you always look at as long at Mabel as you can, naturally) in turn apologized, saying, ‘Oh, I beg your pardon!’ Miss Normand really was present at a near-by table, and when the last visitor made his apology, she called out ‘If people don’t stop apologizing to this lady because they’ve accused her of looking like me there’s going to be trouble.’

Harriette Lee was a vaudeville performer, and Kingsley had reviewed her favorably earlier in the week, saying “female ‘nuts’ are rare on the stage, but Harriette Lee is quite the most delicious one growing on the vaudeville tree. She and her partner, Ben Ryan, kid their way through an act that must be seen to be appreciated.” The husband and wife team had originated the “Dumb Dora” act that George Burns later credited as the basis for his act with Gracie Allan.