One hundred years ago this week, news about the influenza epidemic ran throughout Grace Kingsley’s columns this week:
- Leading man Harold Lockwood died of pneumonia caused by influenza on October 19th in New York City. He had been appearing at Liberty Loan events while shooting The Yellow Dove; some obituaries blamed overwork for his death. He was 30 years old.
- Similarly, Metro director John Collins died from pneumonia following the flu on October 23 in New York. He was only 28. His wife, actress Viola Dana, also had a bad case but she recovered.
- More fortunately, reports of actor William Russell’s death were incorrect: he had suffered from the flu, but he recovered.
- Actors reportedly had a variety of reactions to the theater shutdown, from “Well I was going to take a vacation anyway,” to “I tell ‘em, when they get ready for me to go back to work they can just come get me out of the County Jail. I’ll be in there for debt.”
- Kingsley heard a story from Dorothy Gish. She was tired after a long day of work, and took a crowded streetcar downtown.
“I got a seat, too,” she said. “Three men got right up and went out on the platform.”
“How did you manage it?” someone asked.
“Just sneezed,” explained Dorothy.
Karma caught up with her: on November 6th Kingsley mentioned that Dorothy Gish was suffering from the flu. Luckily, she recovered.
Kingsley reported that not all film production had ceased despite the epidemic and economic problems (it seems that hope springs eternal in film producers). One company was hard at work:
The Brentwood Film Corporation is the latest producing organization to enter the Hollywood field, planning to do a series of features with all-star casts. The Brentwood people have leased the Mena Film Corporation at no. 4811 Fountain Avenue, Hollywood, and the first picture is now well under way under the direction of King W. Vidor…The Turn in the Road is the title under which the first Brentwood feature will be released, about the end of November.
Brentwood Film was a group of nine doctors who wanted to make movies, so they might not have known what the rest of the industry was doing.
This was King Vidor’s first feature-length film. It didn’t premier in Los Angeles until the end of December, but it sold enough tickets to get picked up for distribution by a larger company, Robertson-Cole. It’s a lost film. Vidor went on to a long and successful career; his work included The Big Parade (1925), The Crowd (1928) and War and Peace (1956).