Such Hard Work: Week of January 24th, 1920

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One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley had news from Mamaroneck, New York:

A highly interesting letter has just been received from Lillian Gish, star of D.W. Griffith productions, and of late director of Dorothy in a comedy entitled She Made Him Behave. Miss Lillian related just how it feels to be a director, also, how the company likes, or rather doesn’t like, New York.

“What do you think of my turning director? I never dreamed it was such hard work. It makes one get into condition where one can’t sleep or eat. I really don’t understand how the directors direct and live! I certainly understand why Lois Weber goes to the hospital between pictures. I have seen the picture so much that I don’t know whether it is good or bad, but Dorothy says it is her best.”

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The film’s title was later changed to Remodeling Her Husband and it was Lillian Gish’s only attempt at directing. It’s a lost film. The plot involved newlywed Dorothy Gish catching her flirtatious husband (James Rennie) in questionable situations with other young, pretty women and she eventually leaves him. After he threatens suicide, they reconcile. Variety was not impressed; they said the story “was not a world-beater but with the action Dorothy supplies it gets by with laughs.” (December 31, 1919)

Plainly, Lillian Gish didn’t enjoy directing at all and she never changed her mind about the job, even after her initial exhaustion wore off. Later in 1920, she explained to Motion Picture Magazine, “There are people born to rule and there are people born to be subservient. I am of the latter order. I just love to be subservient, to be told what to do.” So there was at least one person in Hollywood who didn’t want to direct!

She had no idea how much cold was in store for her (Way Down East, 1920)

Gish also reported on how the Griffith company were all faring in snow country:

“Here we are,” writes Miss Gish, “all the Gishes in New York, living out in the country in an old-fashioned house where the pipes freeze and the water won’t run in or out, and the heat—well sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t—it all depends. The snow looks perfectly beautiful, but I do miss my California. It’s a joke around the studio. If anyone starts to even talk about Los Angeles you see tears in the eyes of the property boys, the electricians and the actors. We are all of us having a good case of homesickness.”

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Griffith’s Studio

They had only been away from Los Angeles a few months, having left in September, so it’s no wonder they were homesick. The company was to stay in Mamaroneck for five years, until Griffith was forced to sell the studio to cover its debts. They had several more cold winters to get through.

This week, Kingsley also reported a piece of gossip I hadn’t heard before:

Lovely Constance Talmadge, picture star, is engaged to wed Irving Berlin, noted popular music composer, according to word just received from New York by intimate friends of Miss Talmadge in this city. Just how soon the marriage is to occur is not ready to be announced.

Miss Talmadge and Mr. Berlin have been acquainted for several months; in fact, she met him in New York during a visit some time ago, before she finally went East, and the two have been good friends for a long time, but no news of the romance developing between the pair has heretofore been disclosed.

In June, 1920 the Los Angeles Herald even reported that the two were married, but they never did. Instead she married John Pialoglou, a Greek tobacco importer, on December 26, 1920. It was a double wedding with Dorothy Gish and her Remodeling co-star, James Rennie. Gish and her husband stayed married until 1935, but Talmadge divorced Pialoglou in 1922.

After the divorce, Photoplay ran an article about Talmadge called “The Most Engaged Girl in the World.” (October, 1923) It listed five past fiancés: Irving Berlin, Irving Thalberg, the film executive, John Charles Thomas, a singer, Kenneth Harlan, a film actor, and William Rhinelander Stewart Jr., a millionaire and “society favorite.” Talmadge told them what she was looking for in a husband: a “good bad man. You know, the man who’s been a regular Bluebeard, but is willing to give it all up for our sweet sakes.” Given that, it’s not too surprising that her three future marriages didn’t work out.

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Ellin and Irving Berlin

Berlin had much better luck. He was happily married to Ellin Mackay for 63 years from 1926 until her death in 1988. It seems he knew quite well what Talmadge was like; when Anita Loos asked him for a suggestion for title for a script she’d written for her, he said “A Virtuous Vamp.”

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Kingsley’s favorite film this week as The Thirteenth Commandment, and she used it as a stick to beat tired movie tropes with:

Amidst the dreary desert of turgid trash, the pale piffle, the mawkish flapdoodle which the screen reviewer has weekly to drag wearily through, is found once in a while a resting place, a green and flourishing oasis in the shape of a story which is sane and wholesome and normal, and yet which really reflects life vividly in a mirror. Once in a while, in other words, some director will fold the much-worn and mangy tiger skin of purple passion away in moth balls, send the vampire home to rest up and get her face fixed against the ruination of another batch of weak-minded males; will send the sweet little ingénue back to the family flat to look after her husband and babies…

Such a story is The Thirteenth Commandment, adapted from Rupert Hughes’s story, in which Ethel Clayton is starring at Clune’s Broadway this week. Its theme is the eternal problem of civilized latter-day womanhood, the alternative of economic dependence or independence, done into a human, absorbing story with sidelights of natural and inherent and unforced humor, and with every character vividly and logically drawn.

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Ethel Clayton

Ethel Clayton played a small-town girl with extravagant tastes who learns the error of her ways when she moves in with her brother and sister-in-law. They teach her that 13th Commandment, “Don’t spend more money than you make.” A title card explains why they skipped a few numbers: “It’s called the thirteenth, because it’s so unlucky to break it!” Kingsley particularly enjoyed Clayton’s performance, saying “Miss Clayton as usual blends rare intelligence with fine dramatic feeling and gives us a portrayal many-hued in its revelations of the character of a young modern woman.” Sadly, it’s a lost film.

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Tsuru Aoki

Prohibition continued to beleaguer everybody this week:

We’ll say Tsuru Aoki is a real philanthropist. A physician recently prescribed champagne for one of the Universal actresses taking part in Miss Aoki’s picture. But, owing to red tape necessary to get the drink by prescription, also owing to its cost, it looked as if the suffering lady would have to do without any bubbles in her diet. Then came forward Miss Aoki and donated several bottles of champagne, and now the invalid is reported doing as well as could be expected.

Tsuru Aoki was a fine and generous person, but my question is: what disease could it possibly have been? Just like wine, champagne has health benefits. It contains the same antioxidants that prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce bad cholesterol and prevent blood clots, lowering the risk of heart illnesses and strokes. But researchers didn’t confirm the link until this century. I have no idea what the unfortunate actress suffered from – though it sounds like Miss Kingsley wanted a slight case of it, so she could have her own prescription.

 

“Constance Talmadge Weds Irving Berlin,” Los Angeles Herald, June 4, 1920.

Hall, Gladys. “Lights! Says Lillian!” Motion Picture Magazine, April–May 1920, p. 30-31, 102.

 

Three-dollar film tickets!?!: Week of May 17th, 1919

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One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley reported on the latest in inflation:

It has arrived at last—the day of the $3 picture. And D.W. Griffith’s Broken Blossoms, now being exhibited in New York at the Cohan Theater, is the picture that has done it. A telegram received yesterday at the Griffith studio announced the glad news that henceforth all desirable seats in the theater will be $3, and now all the other directors in town are sending hot telegrams to their New York offices.

From other than a financial standpoint the fact is interesting, as Mr. Griffith himself considers the picture his best work. Also, he was not sure of its success, since it is a tragedy, and the public, we are told, demands happy endings.

The distributors had used the strategy of charging $2 for during the early days of release for Griffith’s epics Birth of a Nation and Intolerance, but Broken Blossoms was an intimate film that only took 18 days to shoot. However, it worked: Blossoms was Griffith’s all-time third most profitable film after Birth of a Nation and Way Down East according to Richard Schickel. The reviews were just that good.

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To get an idea of how remarkable a $3 ticket was, average admission price in 1919 ranged from 10 cents in smaller theaters (300 seats) to 25 cents in larger theaters (1,100 seats and over) according to Richard Koszarski. Oddly enough, in 1915, the price theater owners paid for a chair itself was only $2.75!

The new record didn’t affect admission prices for most films (Griffith’s next release, True Heart Susie, was shown at ordinary prices) but occasionally big films like The Ten Commandments (1923) or Ben-Hur (1925) had a “roadshow release” following this model.

The audience didn’t just get a movie for their $3. At the premier, incense wafted over the audience and the theater was decorated in blossoms. There was a live prologue set in “a Chinese joss house filled with characters representative of the story and half concealed, half disclosed by nebulous mists of light save for a rich golden shaft that poured over a white girl lying on a divan,” plus an orchestra playing original compositions by Louis F. Gottschalk and D.W. Griffith to accompany the film, according to The Sun newspaper.

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A leghorn hat

Lillian Gish was also at the premier, but earlier she’d told Kingsley that before she hadn’t had the courage “to face a New York opening—that she never had been present at one of those fateful affairs.” But for this one, she managed to tough it out, with the help of a “great big leghorn hat” and a seat in the back of a box. She was glad she did, telling Kingsley that “after it was over, she confessed the occasion gave her the thrill of her life.”

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Broken Blossoms eventually came to Los Angeles in September, but they got the prologue and three orchestras for only $1.50. Kingsley got to attend and thought it was the “latest marvel of the master picture maker.”

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This week, audiences in L.A. were paying 15-25 cents for matinees and 25-35 cents for evening shows to see two of Hollywood’s biggest stars. They, and Kingsley, enjoyed both of their films very much. At the Kinema, Mary Pickford managed to surprise her with her skills:

you’ve never known Mary Pickford or Daddy Long-Legs either, until you’ve seen them in the marvelous picture brew which that amazingly clever young star has given us. Daddy Long-Legs was delicious as a story, delightful as a play, and is entrancing as a picture. A crowded house went fairly into raptures yesterday, and applause, even at that cold 12:45 performance, punctuated the picture…In short, Mary does as she pleases with us in this—and proves herself, incidentally, a surprisingly versatile actress.

Fritzi Kramer at Movies Silently says it’s still an excellent film.

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Kingsley had even more fun at Grauman’s:

Dashing Doug appears in a rip-roaringly funny and zip-zipplingly thrilly comedy at Grauman’s this week entitled The Knickerbocker Buckaroo, in which the hero leaps over all the obstacles which come in his path from New York all the way to Mexico. The story involves lost treasure….But what’s the use of trying to describe a Douglas Fairbanks comedy? Just take my word for it The Knickerbocker Buckaroo is one of the best and go see it.

Unfortunately, you can’t because it’s a lost film.

Elsewhere in her review Kingsley made a point about appreciating simple pleasures in movies:

Some of us may rave about the high-brows—but we’ll sneak away from the most soulful moment in any of their plays to see Bill Hart punch the nose of the villain who is rough-housing the heroine, while there are moods in which we are just crazy about the subjective drama of Galsworthy and Ibsen, aren’t we always not only willing, but anxious, to view the spectacle of Bill Farnum beating the tar out of the crook who has stolen the money from the poor old man?

Audiences now are the same as they were then, they’re just accustomed to more CGI in their fights.

 

 

 

 

“Broken Blossoms is Blend of Greek, Chinese, London and American Effects,” Sun, May 14, 1919.

“Broken Blossoms” Strong Griffith Drama at Cohan’s Theater,” Evening World, May 14, 1919.

Richard Koszarski, An Evening’s Entertainment, Berkeley: UC Press, 1990.

Richard Schickel. D.W. Griffith: An American Life. NY: Simon and Schuster, 1984.

 

 

Week of December 14th, 1918

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One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley got to see an unusual show before D.W. Griffith’s new film, The Greatest Thing in Life:

The prologue is one of the most beautiful and artistic spectacles of the sort that the stage has seen. So far as its meaning is concerned, a part of its artistry lies in the fact it settles nothing for you. What do you think is the greatest thing in life? is the query which trails the showing of the beauties of life and love and comradeship and self-sacrifice.

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Motion Picture News gave a detailed description of the half-hour long show. It opened with a dark stage, which is slowly brightened. Out of the hazy background came a voice:

“The greatest thing in life – what is the greatest thing in life?”

Second voice: “I haven’t the slightest idea.”

First voice: “the greatest thing in life is-is-is (soft music) wait-wait-wait, here come the singers and dancers, they know what life is. Light hearts of the world—music, dancing, wine, women, life itself-that is the greatest thing in life.’

After a tenor solo, the first voice said “Ah, the search for love eternal—that is the greatest thing in life, ” then a couple performed a modern dance. This was followed by an “ultra” jazz number, then four soldiers representing duty and heroism, then more dancers, representing shadows from the “land of the silver sheet” as a bridge to the film itself.

Motion Picture News said the piece entitled Voices got eight minutes of applause and calls from the audience of 3000 on opening night. Now the prologue is remembered, if at all, because of one of the forty performers. Rudolpho Di Valentina did that modern dance with Clarine Seymour. MPN had reported earlier “Rudolpho Di Valentina continues the merry dance in Griffith’s prologue to The Greatest Thing in Life, and the big audience applauds him at every program.”

 

 

In 1918, Valentino was an aspiring actor who’d arrived in Hollywood the year before. He’d had a few bit parts in films but his career didn’t take off until 1921 after he streamlined his name and starred in Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. If you’re interested in his early career, you can find an extract about it from Dark lover: the life and death of Rudolph Valentino by Emily W. Leider in The Guardian. To learn more about Valentino in general, visit Donna Hill’s site, Falcon Lair.

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Gish, studying, in The Greatest Thing

After seeing the prologue, Kingsley chatted with Lillian Gish and learned that she

entertains ambitions to go on the stage. But she’s very backward about discussing it, approaching the possibility in most modest fashion. “I don’t think,” she said, “I could possibly be ready for so great an undertaking before I’m 30—so I have some years to go. But—yes—I really want to go on the stage, and I really mean to do it when I feel I’m ready. In the meantime I’m studying, studying.”

 

 

This surprised me, because Gish had been a stage actress from 1902 to 1912: it was nothing new for her. After her film career slowed down, she did go on the stage. However, it wasn’t until seven years after she turned 30, in 1930, when she appeared in her first production after becoming famous, Uncle Vanya. But it seems like her stage career wasn’t second-best to being in films – she planned it.

This week, several film executives came back to Hollywood, and each and every one of them had big plans for expansion for their businesses in 1919.

  • S.L. Rothapfel said wanted to build theaters in Paris and London that would be similar to his New York theaters, the Rialto and the Rivoli. He said “There is no doubt American films will be more popular even than before the war, and there is no doubt that the thousands of photoplays now reposing on the shelves of American producers will be eagerly welcomed by the people of the allied countries.” (bad news for writers trying to sell new material!)
  • Samuel Goldfish (still not yet Goldwyn) told her that his studio would make fewer, but better pictures, taking more time and care with each of them. He hoped to add a number of new stars to his roster.
  • Winfield Sheehan, the general manager at Fox, said “To me, the outlook is splendid. I look forward to 1919 with every feeling that it will be one of the greatest in the history of the industry. The Fox Film Corporation is laying plans for the biggest year of its career. We not only intend to improve the high standard of our pictures, but we are going to make more of them. After four years of war, people must have amusement.”
  • Cecil B. De Mille concluded “in the five years that I have been producing I have never found conditions more satisfactory, nor promising a more brilliant future for the entire industry.”

Lucky for them, their optimism was well-founded: the industry did recover. 1919 was a much better year all around, but the troubles of 1918 weren’t quite finished.

 

 

People were still coming down with the flu. Actress Ruth Roland was ill at home with it, and work on her current serial had stopped until she recovered. Happily, she did. According to O’Leary, the number of new cases in Los Angeles was declining rapidly in December with a small resurgence after holiday celebrations. The epidemic was almost over.

 

 

They weren’t done with war movies, either. Kingsley reported on the audience reaction to Me und Gott, at the Alhambra:

That it strikes a popular chord was testified to yesterday by the applause and hisses that marked its devious progress. It has some really breathless moments, particularly that in which we wait for the munitions plant to blow up.

Unfortunately, the film was trying to teach people that German-Americans weren’t the enemy. It seems like the audience didn’t get the message, they just were there for spectacle.

 

“Griffith Himself Stages Prologue for ‘Greatest Thing in Life’ in Los Angeles, Motion Picture News, February 4, 1919, p. 88.

“News,” January 18, 1919, p. 410)

Pieter M. O’Leary, “The 1918-1919 Influenza Epidemic in Los Angeles,” Southern California Quarterly, v.86 no.4 (Winter 2004), pp. 397-8

 

 

 

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 November 25th, 1916

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Lillian Gish in The Children Pay

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley reported that a new film had struck a nerve.

This department is in receipt of several letters from various persons praising in the highest terms [writer] Frank Woods’ picture “The Children Pay” at Clune’s Broadway. The story deals with the sufferings and humiliations suffered by children whose parents are divorced. In fact, the picture seems to have had a wide appeal, not only because of its purpose, which is worked out in a natural and unforced way, but because of the fact that Lillian Gish has several fetching comedy scenes which apparently have caught the public taste.

The Children Pay told the story of Millicent (Lillian Gish) and Jean (Violet Wilky), sisters who have been separated because of their parent’s divorce. To reunite, Millicent marries her lawyer and takes custody of Jean. (Gish was 23 at the time, so it looked less like pedophilia.)

This was unusual because Kingsley rarely mentioned the response she got to her columns. She didn’t entirely disagree with the letter writers; her review said that despite the questionable legality of a minor girl being appointed guardian of her younger sister and marriage without her parents’ consent, the film was “a logical, human and appealing little story, though dragged out tiresomely in some scenes.” She agreed with the letter writers that Gish “shows herself possessed of a quaint but keen sense of fun, and it is very pleasing to view the young lady whom we have been accustomed to see weeping, playing a prankish part.” The review ran on Wednesday and she mentioned the letters on Friday, so the various persons were annoyed enough to write in right away.

Kevin Brownlow wrote that divorce had been the subject of films since Detected (1903) and while it was commercial, The Children Pay was the first film to treat it with concern and its victims with compassion (Behind the Mask of Innocence, p.34). The film has been preserved at the Danish Film Institute.

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The Prince of Graustark

Kinglsey liked some of the week’s other releases more than The Children Pay. Her favorite film was a “bright, clean-cut and sparkling romantic comedy” The Prince of Graustark because it “discusses no ‘problems,’ nobody chest heaves or emotes and there is no villain. It is simply a delightfully ingenious comedy, with a smashing surprise finish!”

It’s been preserved at the Eastman House, but in case you’re not planning a trip to Rochester soon I’ll spoil the surprise: Prince Robin must save his country from bankruptcy by marrying a neighboring princess. He refuses and sails to the United States where he meets a wealth financier who agrees to give him the money with the hope that he’ll marry his daughter Maud. He meets a woman whom he thinks is Maud, they go back to Graustark, but she’s not the financier’s daughter, she’s the princess! (I bet you didn’t see that coming!) The novel it was based on is fun, too, and it’s available on the Internet Archive.

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Thanksgiving was this week, but Kingsley didn’t miss a column and it barely rated a mention. Special holiday matinees were at the Morosco and Burbank Theaters, and backstage at the Majestic, where A Trip Through China was in its third week, the local Chinese community planned a Chinese Thanksgiving dinner with birds’ nest soup and chop suey for Benjamin Brodsky and his associates.

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Olga Petrova

This was also the week of salary news:

  • Mae Marsh was leaving D.W. Griffith and going to work for Samuel Goldfish, who planned to pay her $2000 per week.
  • Olga Petrova left Metro for Lasky, where she was to be paid $4000 per week.
  • Douglas Fairbanks was offered $10,000 per week to star in his own company, but his current contract with Triangle prevented him for taking it.
  • The Palace Theater in New York announced that dancer Maud Allan was to get $7500 per week, the largest salary ever paid a vaudeville attraction. She was to do a series of dramatic dances. She didn’t get to keep the whole $7500; she was responsible for paying her own orchestra and company.

According to the U.S. News and World Report, in 1915 the average man made $687 per year and the average woman made half that. So it’s no wonder people were astonished by entertainers’ salaries.

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Kingsley mentioned an actor’s fashion prediction. “Charles Ray, Ince star, has made the discovery that wrist-watches worn by men are not effeminate – not when you know how they originated and you wear them in the proper spirit—So there!” He pointed out that the custom started among soldiers fighting in the Boer War, who didn’t have a pocket to put them in. He continued “and believe me, the day is coming when more American men than you can count will agree that it is a convenience, not just a fad.”

Of course he was right, but it took soldiers fighting in World War 1 to really change public opinion, according to History.com. Wristwatches had been stereotyped because the first ones were pieces of jewelry worn by women (and obviously, if women do something it must be questionable).

 

Ray was a popular star until 1923, when the big-budget The Courtship of Miles Standish failed at the box office. He continued to act, but he filed for bankruptcy twice and ended up playing bit roles until his death in 1943.

Finally, Kingsley mentioned that inter titles had hit a new low, when one of the films playing that week included “the announcement of the fact that the heroine’s gentleness is softening the villain: ‘A softening influence has stripped the husks from the eagle’s heart.’” I haven’t been able to find out where it came from; none of the ten films playing seem an obvious candidate for this monstrosity. It’s useful to remember that people in 1916 were not fans of the purplest prose. They had standards, too.