Trading Slapsticks for Six-Shooters: Week of February 21st, 1920


One hundred years ago this week, Roscoe Arbuckle was hard at work on his first feature-length film, The Round Up, and Grace Kingsley got to visit the set.

‘Fatty’ Arbuckle has parked the pies and gone in for melodrama and a regular hissing hate for the villain! Afar from the soft swish of the sweet custard pie through the air, or the dull, sickening thud of the husky mince, out at the Lasky studio ‘Fatty’ is now busily engaged in gouging large chucks of art out of the silent drammer. He’d just come in from killing a coupla outlaws, the other day.

She asked him how the work was going, and he said “I don’t mind telling you riding a horse is distinctly my idea of a dud when it comes to the pleasure stuff. I’ll never do it for my own amusement, not yet for the horses, I’ll say.”

The Sheriff (1918)

She didn’t remind him that he’d ridden horses in his two-reelers (he’d even played a sheriff before in a short she’d particularly liked, The Sheriff.) But the length of the film wasn’t the only departure for him:

But oh, my, yes, he does real soul stuff in the picture, like giving away the girl to the other fellow and then going away and killing the villain. No, he hasn’t killed him yet. Says he’s going to do that up in Death Valley so they won’t have to bury him.

Of course she asked him the most important question: why was he leaving slapstick comedy? He answered:

“Because,” says ‘Fatty,’ “comedy drama is twice as easy to do, doesn’t cost any more, and you get twice the credit. You can work your head off in comedy,” he says, “and people forget all about you the minute they’re out of the theater.”

She didn’t buy that, commenting “Forgotten! Ye gods! Some of us would like to be ‘forgotten’ the same way ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle is!”


When she got to review the movie in September, she discovered that he didn’t really abandon physical comedy, it just gave him another tool as an actor:

Roscoe Arbuckle is still a comedian. But far from his jazz comedy experience spoiling him for stories like The Round-Up, it has, on the other hand, crystalized and quickened his comedy methods, has made of him a really brilliant player who never misses a trick…His drollery is of the really human sort, is natural and incidental more genuinely enjoyable than the old because more convincing.

She thought that the rest of the movies was good, too: “The Round-Up is a thriller from the top floor of the thrill factory.”

Roscoe Arbuckle was the second slapstick comic after Mabel Normand to move from two-reelers to features (Mack Sennett had produced a few, like Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1914), but didn’t quit making shorts). Arbuckle’s studio had good reason to make the change. Motion Picture News reported that Paramount-Artcraft did it because of “the insistent demands of exhibitors…During the last two seasons Arbuckle’s popularity has increased greatly. Indeed, the fat comedian is said to have become such a box-office attraction that an increasingly large number of exhibitors have advertised the Arbuckle comedies as features.” (March 27, 1920) Plus, as Steve Massa points out in Rediscovering Roscoe, features had prestige that ‘vulgar’ slapstick shorts lacked.

Still, it does seem odd that they didn’t put him in a comedy first, but the studio didn’t have a script ready, so they kept him busy with a supporting role in this Western. Nevertheless, his fans stuck with him, according to Kingsley’s report from the film’s opening day at Grauman’s theater: “All the Arbuckle fans—and who isn’t one, I ask you like your Sunday school teacher—have been waiting with their tongues hanging out for the first of these special features…The fans lined the sidewalk for two blocks all afternoon and evening yesterday, waiting to get in.” (September 6, 1920)


Nevertheless, he didn’t stick with Westerns; his next film was a comedy/drama called The Life of the Party. He played a lawyer who gets mixed up with corrupt mayoral politics and an idealistic young woman.

The Round Up is available on DVD. Here’s a trailer for it:




Kingsley’s favorite film of the week was The Willow Tree, despite having some reservations about how the story had been modified:

The willow tree of Metro’s Willow Tree is not a weeping willow, as it was in the Benrimo-Rhodes play of the stage. In fact, Metro, June Mathis and Henry Otto have turned that near-tragedy into an almost-comedy. But they’ve given us a picture-perfect production, in a series of exquisite pictures, and a really delightful little play. So, if you can forget all the delicate whimsy, the wistful fancifulness and appeal of the stage play, why you’ll like this new Willow Tree. Ah, if it were only some dramas I’ve seen that were being turned into comedies.

It was transformed from a tragedy by removing one plot point: the heroine (Viola Dana) doesn’t have an “intimate relationship” with the foreign man who returns home to serve in the army. Kingsley suspected a fear of the censors caused the change. So she wasn’t nearly as upset as say, Cho-Cho-San in Madame Butterfly, and

she herself keeps right along tranquilly living at the old place after her lover has gone to war, serene apparently, in the faith that no picture company is going to let a perfectly good $1500-a-week heroine die an old maid in the last reel; and sure enough her lover does come back!


The film has been preserved at the Eastman House and current audiences would probably have a different problem with it. Viola Dana was in yellow face, playing a Japanese woman, but it didn’t occur to people then to think that was cultural appropriation. Kingsley’s only comment about her performance was that Miss Dana managed to be both ingénueish and dramatic, and “really effective in the big moments.”

Just two months later, Picture Play Magazine ran an article about the recent “wave of Oriental pictures that have surged across the screen.” It pointed out that the trend began with Nazimova in The Red Lantern, then was continued by Richard Barthelmess in Broken Blossoms and Miss Dana in The Willow Tree. It concluded with an innovation: an actual Asian person starring in a story about Japan. Tsuru Aoki was the lead in The Breath of the Gods, which “easily holds its own among these pictures.” Of course one film didn’t change things and the practice still hasn’t stopped. This article is a snapshot of what actresses like Miss Aoki and later, Anna May Wong, were up against when they tried to have a career in Hollywood.

Kingsley also saw the new, action filled Tom Mix film, The Cyclone, and she noticed something really unusual:

Tom Mix is always worth going to see. Which leads me to wonder why yesterday’s audience was made up almost exclusively of men. Of course, it was partly accounted for by the weather*; but, while the house was almost full when I was there, the usherettes and myself were the only women in the audience. Can it be the women like only to see the ‘pretty’ heroes?

I don’t think that was it. Earlier in the review she mentioned that co-star Colleen Moore’s job was to look appealing and faint at the right time so the villain can more conveniently kidnap her. Kingsley pointed out “By the way, I never knew a western girl who would faint at danger; but there are so many heroines in pictures who do it that I think they must have imported a carload on purpose.”

I don’t know any frequent fainters either. Gee, maybe that’s why women didn’t want to go to that movie – they would rather see hardy and interesting women like themselves.


*The weather that might have kept filmgoers away was rain for most of the day, and a high temperature of only 63 degrees. Did she think there was a limit to western girl toughness?


Barbara Little, “To The Tune of Temple Bells,” Picture Play Magazine, April 1920.

Steve Massa, Rediscovering Roscoe, Orlando, FL: Bear Manor Press, 2019.



“Los Angeles Did Not Forget”:Week of November 8th, 1919

Hamburger’s had everything you needed

One hundred years ago this week, the first anniversary of Armistice Day was celebrated in Los Angeles. Mayor Snyder proclaimed it a general holiday, and asked stores and offices to close for it. (It didn’t become a legal holiday in the United States until 1938.)

The city had a busy day planned. Happily, all of the soldiers and sailors had been demobilized by then so they could be there to celebrate, too. The main event was at Exposition Park starting at 2 pm; it included a band concert, songs from the community chorus, speeches and flag dedications. More than fifty thousand people attended (far fewer than the half million that crowded the streets of downtown for the unofficial celebration when the war ended a year earlier). LA Times reporter Otis M. Wiles described the celebrants:

Los Angeles did not forget. Though a year of peace on earth had brought happiness back to the little cottage on the hillside and the mansion on the boulevard, the scenes that were revealed at the dawning of November 11, 1918 had not been erased from the minds of those crowding the gates of Exposition Park…

Scattered through the jubilant throng were many happy scenes, the olive drab uniform of the soldiers and the blue of the gobs mingling with the gaily-colored gowns of happy women and girls. Tanned doughboys bounced little tots on their knees. Mother clung to the arms of their boys who had returned to them. Red Cross nurses and canteen workers flitted through the crowds, selling tickets to the American Legion Victory Ball. But here and there was seen a veil, hiding a sorrowful face of one whose son had not returned. And many gold stars shone like the star of Bethlehem from black bands on many sleeves.

There were more events in other parts of the city, including an eagle show at the Selig Zoo, aviation stunts at the Mercury Field, a rally at the Bible Institute, and in the evening, the dance the nurses were selling tickets to at the Shrine Auditorium. The Victory Ball was organized by the American Legion to raise money for the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Replacement Bureau, a group that helped veterans find jobs. It had been a taxpayer-funded enterprise, but the Legion was about to take it over in January, 1920.

Helen Walker of the Merchant Marie helped advertise the Ball

That’s where film stars would be doing their part, as Grace Kingsley reported:

Up at 324 Byrne Building, headquarters for the Big Victory Ball and Peace Pageant which the American Legion is giving at Shrine Auditorium tonight the telephone never stops. And it’s all on account of the “lucky dances” they are going to feature. Ever since the papers announced that Madge Kennedy, Betty Blythe, Carroll McComas, Gladys Brockwell, Enid Bennett, Antoine Moreno, William Russell, Tom Forman, Bryant Washburn and Wallace Reid would take part in a dance in which names drawn from a box would determine who the stars’ partners would be for the dance, the telephone has never stopped.

“Is it true that I’ll be able to dance with Wallace Reid, if I come to your dance at Shrine Auditorium?” a sweet young voice will ask when the receiver is lifted. When assured that she has that chance, confused sounds of delight ensue from the other end of the wire.

The Ball was a big success: over seven thousand people attended. The paper reported that everybody was so eager to dance, that when the band struck up a tune before the Peace Pageant, they all jammed the dance floor and the authorities had a terrible time getting them to sit back down again.

A few days later, Kingsley said that Blythe and Russell provided a little show for the people who didn’t win a dance with a star:

When you’re going to do a Brodie,* take a quiet spot—advice from Betty Blythe and Billy Russell, who should know. You see, while waiting for Charlie Condon to find a lost overcoat at the Shrine Auditorium ball the other night, the two stars seated themselves clubbily and dramatically on a table in the hall. And just as they were striking the most beautiful poses before the admiring eyes of a hundred fans, down came the table beneath them.

Ouch! No permanent damage was done to the actors.


This week, Grace Kingsley mentioned a story that shows there was once an alternate scene in Roscoe Arbuckle’s The Garage:

Huh! Those smarty aleck scenario writers had better look to their laurels! Molly Malone, Roscoe Arbuckle’s leading woman, yesterday thought up a remark right out of her own head, so clever it is going to be used as a subtitle in Mr. Arbuckle’s current comedy. And she did it right in the middle of a scene, too.

It seems that the scene was a thrilling one, in which Miss Malone’s clothes are supposed to be burned from her. The action occurs in the interior of the house and Mr. Arbuckle calls out to her after her clothing is destroyed:

“Jump out of the window, Molly, jump!”

“I can’t,” called back Miss Malone, “the board of censors won’t let me!”

Students of Arbuckle’s films know that there’s no such scene in the final film. In the version available now, Malone is taking a bath when she realizes that the building is on fire, gets dressed, goes to the window and jumps into a net and bounces into the telephone wires. Buster Keaton and Arbuckle rescue her from them, she collects their car and they fall in and drive off.

Malone has plenty of clothes on in the final cut

Maybe her remark helped them realize her lack of clothing was too much for the censors, so smarty scenario writer Jean Havez re-wrote the ending.



Happy Armistice Day to all. Blog readers don’t forget, either.



*Steve Brodie claimed that he jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge; after that, spectacular falls were called Brodies.


“Armistice Day Made Holiday,” Los Angeles Times, November 5, 1919.

“Brilliant Victory Ball Concludes Celebration,” Los Angeles Times, November 12, 1919.

“To Honor Those Who Offered All,” Los Angeles Times, November 11, 1919.

Wiles, Otis M. “Write Peace in Blood and Gold,” Los Angeles Times, November 12, 1919.

Sneaky Paramount: Week of June 14th, 1919


One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley inadvertently helped a major studio divert attention from a questionable business practice. She reported on Jesse L. Lasky’s (Paramount’s first vice president) announcement that they were instituting “selective booking”:

a new policy in the making and distribution of Paramount and Artcraft pictures, which promises to result in even a wider circulation of these pictures than before, and a use of even greater care in the selection of the production work itself. Motion pictures are not bits of machinery, but represent today a medium of free artistic expression…Each picture [will] stand on its own merit before the exhibitors and the public.

Selective booking was simple: exhibitors got to rent only the films they wanted to. Lasky promised that it would improve the quality of films, because exhibitors would chose the good ones and producers couldn’t sell bad ones, so they wouldn’t make them.

Kingsley didn’t quote all of his remarks, but Moving Picture World (June 28, 1919) published more of them and she wisely left off some wild over-promises. He said:

each production released under the Selective Booking Plan will have been created as a unit by itself. From now on, unlimited time, money and facilities will be accorded the producers of each film. For the first time in the history of the motion picture, genius will be given absolute and unlimited opportunity to assert itself. The directors will be working months in advance of release dates and the baneful element of haste will be eliminated.

Of course, that wasn’t true. However, unlimited time and money usually aren’t good for films or any other creative enterprise – limitations can help curb self-indulgence!

Noted exhibitor Sid Grauman though it was a terrific idea, saying to the Los Angeles Herald (June 17, 1919): “I believe Paramount-Artcraft corporation, by introducing the selective booking system, is doing more for the exhibitor, the producer and the photoplay industry at large than can at this time be realized.”


Paramount did a lot of publicity about their new plan, including taking out a multi-page ad in Moving Picture World explaining it. They included a list of the recent and soon to be completed films were going to be released under the plan:


However, this wasn’t actually how Paramount was releasing most of its films. In 1918 they had begun to introduce block booking. The studio had the biggest stars under contract, and according to Richard Koszarski:

Paramount was able to insist that prospective exhibitors interested in, say, the Pickford films, acquire them in large blocks along with a quantity of less attractive titles. These block-booking arrangements typically included groups of from 13 to 52 or even 104 titles. Paramount salesmen offered a variety of different product lines, from the top-quality Artcraft releases of Pickford, Fairbanks, and Hart to the more modest Realart productions, in which stars such as Bebe Daniels were being developed. Because these films had not yet been produced, exhibitors were required to “buy blind” from a sketchy prospectus or campaign book.

Other studios followed their example and by the 1930’s it was standard operating procedure. Block booking guaranteed an outlet for everything a studio made, and exhibitors had to take the risks. They were forced to end the practice after the Supreme Court found that it violated anti-trust laws and outlawed it with their decision in the United States v. Paramount case in 1948.


Kingsley enjoyed an unusual film this week:

A picture which I predict will prove something of a sensation before the week is out is Super-Strategy, which is likewise rather an oddity in pictures…We are so used, a lot of us, to remembering those stories of the Bible, supremely rich in drama as they are, as factors in our young Sunday-school lives, either to be avoided, or, on the feat of memorizing the same, to be rewarded with beflowered tickets. In Super-Strategy a number of these same stories have been put to amazingly vivid, dramatic, and at the same time entirely appealing human film form by the director of this unique photoplay. We had forgotten, for instance, how full of drama is the triangular story of Abraham, Sarah, his wife, and Pharaoh; and maybe we never realized how tender is the story of Joseph’s love for Mary, how tragic the incident of his finding her with child. The crucifixion, too, and the resurrection are managed without a trace of clap-trap such as too often mars attempts of this sort in the films.

She admitted, “the whole story is necessarily episodic, but each episode is tremendously absorbing and a human story in itself.”


She was wrong in her prediction: Super Strategy was more of an oddity than a sensation. During its 1918 release in New York it was called Restitution, and the critics there didn’t like it. Peter Milne in Motion Picture News wrote, “such a weird conglomeration of historical data new interpretations of Biblical records, marvelous though quite plainly mechanical scenic effects, and wildly imaginative, almost childish ideas assembled in the span of any number of reels has certainly never been seen before. What the producers have aimed to show is that his Satanic Majesty has been responsible for all the wrong in the world.” (June 15, 1918) Robert C. McElravy in Moving Picture World couldn’t pan the Bible, but he didn’t like the picture: “this subject is one of tremendous scope and many excellences, but its entertainment value is questionable.” (June 8, 1918)


Super-Strategy was the only production of the Mena Film Company. The company’s officers were part of the Bible Student movement, a faction of which changed its name to Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1931. In 1914 other Bible Students had produced an eight-hour film presenting their beliefs entitled The Photo-Drama of Creation, but the 1918 film was aimed at a more mainstream audience. They hired Hollywood actors and cameramen and selected Howard Gaye to direct. He was most famous for playing Christ in D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance, and he reprised the role in this. This was the only movie he directed, then he went back to acting. It’s a lost film.


Once again, Kingsley proved she was a pro: she turned the trivial tidbit that Roscoe Arbuckle had moved into the house on West Adams in Silverlake recently vacated by Theda Bara into a whole column that worried he might become highbrow due to the lady’s lingering influence. It was remarkably silly. She wrote:

There have been awful rumors that “Fatty” is slowly but surely sinking from the estate of a rude, two-fisted guy with a wicked wallop in his right and a preference for near beers over pink teas, into a cultured state just too darned refined for anything…No more wild, rude games of poker! Instead Caruso on the Victrola! No busting of Mrs. Miner’s [the house owner’s] best china as an outlet for joyous, man-like emotions—but a little stroll in the tiny Japanese garden.

However, all was not lost: he had installed a punching bag in the side garden. The I Am Not A Stalker blog has several recent photos of the house, and it’s gorgeous.




Richard Koszarski. An Evening’s Entertainment: The Age of the Silent Feature Picture, 1915-1928. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press. 1990.




Pickford’s Dream House: Week of May 3rd, 1919

Her plans included a library (still from The Hoodlum)

One hundred years ago this week, while visiting Mary Pickford on the set of The Hoodlum, Grace Kingsley got an earful about a house building project:

“That’s one thing I’ve always wanted—my own room—and now I’m going to have it. I guess the first thing people always think of when they’re building a house is a nice big fireplace, so we’re going to have a whole flock of ‘em, including one in my room…I’m going to have a pretty room, all done in dark-colored enamel furniture, relieved with bright colors.”

Her mother Charlotte wanted a lot of bay windows and window seats, but Pickford made a good point about them: “I just can’t see ‘em myself, but mother has overruled me. So bay windows and window seats there will be. Window seats look so cosy—and aren’t. Nobody ever uses ‘em. They are something you just look at and say to yourself, ‘Well, I’ll start sitting on those things next week.’”

Pickford had been talking about buying a mountain and building a house on it for awhile, and she said she’d found one overlooking Santa Monica Bay. She told Kingsley she’d made plans on paper, and it would be “somewhat in the old English style, with thatched-roof effect. It is to be in gray and white with a green roof, and it is to have twelve rooms and four baths.” Those rooms would include suite for her niece (bedroom, playroom and bath) right next to next to a bedroom for her sister, Lottie Pickford Rupp.

Mary Pickford and her family never did live in a house overlooking the bay. According to the 1920 Census (taken January 4th, 1920) they and their six servants were all living in a very nice rented house at 141 Westmoreland Place in West Addams, near Hollywood. Paradise Leased has a post about the neighborhood.

This was her next house

So why did she go to the trouble of telling Kingsley this story? I think it’s an example of how good she was at controlling her own publicity. She needed to repair her reputation, because a year earlier she’d been in the news for having an affair with Douglas Fairbanks when they were both married to other people. Here she’s a good girl, planning a home for herself, her mother and sister while her then-current husband, Owen Moore, is never mentioned. She divorced him on March 2, 1920 and married Fairbanks on March 28, 1920. This story is another piece in the puzzle of how she survived what might have been a career-ending scandal.


Kingsley’s favorite film this week was For Better, For Worse, the new Cecil De Mille movie that she thought was “one of the smashing picture hits of the year.”

How well Mr. De Mille ‘puts over’ his stories, as they say in vaudeville! We’re freshly impressed with the fact with every picture of his. In this one, there’s not an iota of dramatic value that is lost, there’s not a second of poignant situation from which every drop of effectiveness is not wrung. All gained by a cunning holding of suspense by a hundred telling touches, by flawless acting on the part of a cast picked each for faithfulness to character, and lastly, by faultless photography.

Swanson’s outfits were fabulous in this one, too

It starred Gloria Swanson, but this one hasn’t been as fondly remembered as their other collaborations like Don’t Change Your Husband (1920), probably because the melodrama seems thick, not poignant now (she marries a soldier leaving for war instead of her true love, a doctor who does more good at home; she realizes her mistake after she injures a child in an accident and he successfully treats her; her disfigured husband does come home but he wants to leave her for his own true love so everybody ends up with the proper person – it’s a lot). It’s been preserved at the Eastman House.

With friends like these…

On Wednesday Kingsley reported that Buster Keaton was back in town after serving in France, and by Friday she already had a story about a prank on the Arbuckle lot:

The rotund comedian had been working over at the Sennett in a very noisy comedy, next to another equally noisy Sennett comedy. When he came back to his own quiet studio, he complained his ears hurt him a bit, and he was afraid he was losing his hearing. That started it.

As soon as his company began working, he told them he couldn’t hear them—that he wished they’d speak a little louder. His leading woman came over and told him she was speaking as loud as she could and what was the matter with him anyhow? He looked around, troubled. “Louder!” he exclaimed. The whole company went through motions as though yelling at the top of their lungs. Just then a fire engine went by with a clang, and Fatty was on.

Dealing with co-workers like that was an occupational hazard for silent comics! Kingsley didn’t say who thought up the prank, however, Keaton had sadly lost some of his hearing while serving. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d used his own problem as inspiration.


In her review of Pitfalls of a Big City, Kingsley gave a plaintive wail:

Why doesn’t somebody invent a new crook play? Why does the girl or guy always decide to ‘go straight,’ and then ‘go back to the old life,’ for fear ‘me pal will squeal on me and me little innocent kid sister will find out about me?’

I’m sure she wasn’t holding her breath for new plots any time soon.








Week of September 21st, 1918


One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley used her Sunday column (usually devoted to an interview) to write an appreciation of Roscoe Arbuckle in The Sheriff:

Up the street gallops Fatty’s steed with the whooping cowboys close at his heels. They’re gaining on him, and he wants to escape, so he does exactly what you’d never expect a man built like Fatty to do. He makes a flying leap right up the side of a church and bounces onto the roof. After which you realize that Fatty isn’t really fat at all—that he’s made of India rubber. He bounces to the belfry and hangs on to the church spire.

Then you laugh until you weep, probably. For the spire suddenly bends in his grasp, then sways this way and that under Fatty’s weight, while the chubby comedian dodges the bullets from the guns of his pursuers.

And right there is where you “get” Fatty, and realize there are other ways to Boswell a man besides using long words to write about him. For in The Sheriff, Fatty admittedly give us a perfectly delicious and at the same time the most kindly and gentle of satires on the world’s most famous athletic comedian. In fact, Arbuckle takes the ‘ire’ out of ‘satire.’ And to Roscoe Arbuckle’s genius must go a huge share of praise for his radiant and cheerful comedies, in which he provides the warm glow of humor around which humanity eagerly hovers in these stressful days.

Unfortunately, this cheerful comedy can’t help our current stressful days: it’s a lost film. So Kingsley’s description of his impressive stunt work, as well as the publicity and other materials written about the film, are all we have left. It seems that Arbuckle’s sheriff was a Douglas Fairbanks super-fan who must rescue his kidnapped sweetheart. I’m sorry we don’t get to see that!

Arbuckle and Betty Compson

Kingsley had a point about what makes Arbuckle films so enjoyable: they aren’t mean, the way some slapstick comedies can be (I’m not sure I’ve recovered from a Ham and Bud short I saw a few years ago that involved gassing a houseful of people). I’m glad that Kingsley called the character he played Fatty, but the filmmaker was Roscoe, which was exactly what he wanted.


After months of anticipation, Kingsley got to see a preview of Charlie Chaplin’s new film:

I have no hesitancy in saying the world is going to pronounce it is the greatest picture comedy that has ever been made. And the preview was perfectly ‘dry’, too! If one were disposed to go into a high-brow analysis of it, one would say that Chaplin has succeeded by his artistry in fairly creating a new art form. For, despite the fact that Shoulder Arms has a ripple of laughter running all through it, which rises to the happy crescendo of laugher in its boisterous moments, it has all the time a resonant undertone of war’s rumblings and war’s mighty pathos.

Chaplin was clever to let her see it early – he thought she was important, even if her editors didn’t let her review the big films. Kingsley was one of the first critics to call Shoulder Arms great, but other film writers at the time admired it nearly as much. Peter Milne in Picture-Play Magazine said it was “proof conclusive that Charles Spencer Chaplin is the king of all comedians” (February 1919) while Film Daily gave it the highest praise possible from a trade paper: “if you don’t clean up with this Chaplin, you should get out of show business.” (November 17, 1918)


Kingsley’s favorite film in the theaters this week was yet another re-release. The intervening three years had turned it into an unusual film for its leading lady:

My goodness, how we used to sob over the sorrows of those lovely and hapless virgins, The Two Orphans, in the good old days of beer-barrel thunder and paper snowstorms! But there was something vital and fascinating in the old drama, else it never would have played all through the years. And now screen magic has touched it, as it touches so many of the beautiful old stories, and has turned it into quite a fresh new play by reason of the showing of the scenes that heretofore we’ve been obliged merely to conjure up in our imaginations, due to the limitations of the stage. The Two Orphans is on view at Miller’s this week, with no less a persona than Theda Bara in he leading role. The story is beautifully played—even if it is hard to imagine Miss Bara an orphan after the opulent orgies of Salome.

Orphans was made a few months after Bara made such an impression as a vamp in A Fool There Was in 1915, but before her studio typecast her. This lost film was based on the same play as Griffith’s Orphans of the Storm (1921); Bara played Henriette, the sighted orphan who gets kidnapped. The blind orphan, Louise, was played by Jean Sothern, who’d already quit acting in films by 1918. Bara’s popularity in 1918 must have been immense, because the film hadn’t done well at the box office when it was originally released, so it’s a little surprising they’d try it again. Maybe wartime austerity was another reason Fox mined their back catalog. Bara’s next picture in 1915 was a return to bad women with Sin, which was a great big hit and sealed her fate as a vamp.

Kingsley mentioned an unusual contribution to the war effort:

That athletic hero, Douglas Fairbanks, set a wartime example of abstemiousness by disposing of his automobile, and will be the first star in Los Angeles to go riding in his own handsome carriage. He has a fast trotting and racing pony, which will draw his equipage down Broadway.

It’s a shame that they didn’t print a picture of him and his carriage, navigating the streets of downtown Los Angeles. But here’s a nice one of Fairbanks in 1918 with the car he wasn’t using instead.


Week of September 7th, 1918

Moving Picture World, June 14, 1919

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley mentioned a man that might be the first Korean-American actor in Hollywood:

A Chinese imitator of Charlie Chaplin is the latest thing in Filmland. His name is Chai Hong and he works for the L-Ko Company. His impersonation occurs in a scene of Playing Movies, a comedy directed by Jim Davis, wherein Hong, seeing a picture company at work, decides he can be Charlie Chaplin.


It’s not Kingsley’s fault that she thought he was Chinese: that’s how they sold him. Chai Young Hong was part of the first wave of Korean immigrants to the U.S. who came to work on the Hawaiian sugar plantations.* By 1918 he was in Los Angeles, possibly working as a bellhop at the Alexandria Hotel,** then he went to work for L-Ko Komedies. His first part was a bit as “The Chinese Man” in The Blind Pig, but he was already the lead in his third film. Moving Picture World announced:

A genuine Oriental makes a bid for popularity in the comedy field in the L-Ko comedy, A Clean Sweep. His name is Chai Hong, and according to Julius Stern, head of the L-Ko aggregation, he is due to make a decided impression on photoplay fans. Chai Hong has a style peculiarly his own…The L-Ko’s new comedian enacts the role of a Celestial laundry magnate, who helps to run smoothly the course of true love as it exists between the daughter of a neighboring ‘lady barber’ and the son of a nearby butcher. (July 27, 1918)


Later in the same issue they reviewed it and said it was “full of funny tricks and amusing slapstick situations and winds up with a hilarious chase, in which the family washing is carried through the streets between two autos.”

The film Kingsley mentioned became A Movie Riot. Moving Picture Weekly (Universal’s trade paper) gave a disjointed plot summary:

School is out because the village schoolmaster has had his digestion spoiled by the children continually making him sick with their antics. So the two worst culprits, Hoptoad Hal and Tadpole Ted, went to work on the farm. What should arrive but the Fillibuster Film Company to stage a few scenes of their great drama, The Romance of a Young Butcher?

Right here Charlie from the Orient makes his presence felt and Lady Vere de Voop simply cannot escape the tender advances of the young but worldly-wise butcher. Of course, the kids get continually in the way as they always do when love scenes threaten. Then movies begin to riot all over the place and even ‘the child’ and the storm—just like Way Down East. But just before you begin to cry the happy ending comes. (April 5, 1919)

That doesn’t make very much sense, but Moving Picture World reviewed the short and said “there is not much plot, but several good features. The burlesque melodrama is funny, and the rescue of the baby from the miniature train by a dog makes an exciting close.” (May 17, 1919)


He’s in the 1920 Census and the 1920 LA City Directory


Hong wasn’t a Chaplin imitator dressed in baggy pants like Billy West, it just looks like they were implying that he was as funny as Chaplin. He worked for L-Ko until it went out of business in 1919, then he moved to another comedy company distributed by Universal Films, Rainbow Comedies, until 1920. Unfortunately, few of his film survive. According to the IMDB, over the next two years he had three small parts for independent companies. After that, he disappeared. There are Chai/Charles/CY Hongs in, but their birth years don’t match his. I hope he had a happy life.


He got to make a personal appearance in Los Angeles on July 15, 1919.


Kingsley’s favorite this week was Theda Bara’s last big film:

Score another one—high up, this time—for Theda Bara, J. Gordon Edwards, William Fox. All for Salome, which without a doubt is the greatest Biblical spectacle so far made in the history of films. And one of the greatest photodramas ever made…the spectacle is so interwoven with the human drama of it as to amount to a triumph. There is the miracle wrought by John the Baptist when the thunderbolt blasts its way into the king’s palace, there is the majesty of John and his rabble followers in the wilderness; there is the mad dance of the seven veils; there is the execution of John and the pitiful bloody head held aloft; there is the devastating tornado which tears the palace twain, and last there is the death of Salome on the spears of the soldiers.

And for me—and, probably for thousands of others—Salome, the alluring, the cruel, will always be the colorful, intricate characterization of Theda Bara. The house was packed from pit to dome with a brilliant and enthusiastic audience.

There was no way anybody could predict that Bara’s popularity would be ending just next year.


Miller’s Theater revived an older comedy two-reeler this week, and Kingsley wasn’t happy about it:

Fatty Arbuckle’s picture, Fatty and the Studio Stars, is a Keystone of the vintage of 1915, and serves principally to illustrate by mental comparison what a lot Mack Sennett and Fatty Arbuckle have learned since than.

That’s undoubtedly true, and it’s a good reminder of how rapidly filmmaking developed then. However, now people like it much more. Known as Fatty and the Broadway Star, Brent Walker in Mack Sennett’s Fun Factory says it “offers a glimpse of the Keystone lot circa Fall, 1915. Arbuckle plays a hapless sweeper who manages to disrupt a series of shoots on the lot, with every major Keystone star appearing as themselves (with a special emphasis on the Broadway performers, naturally). In an interesting dream sub-plot, crooked stage manager Al St. John ties up Sennett in his office while his cohorts set fire to the building.” I’d like a glimpse of that!




*The National Association of Korean Americans has more information on their website.

**Jenny Cho, Chinese in Hollywood, Mt. Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2013, p.18. She didn’t cite a source, but it’s certainly plausible that he was a bellhop.








Week of August 17th, 1918


Helen, Phillips and Kate Keller

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley reported:

The mother and soldier brother of the famous Helen Keller are to visit Miss Keller next week, and will watch her work in the big feature picture which she is making at Brunton studios.

Her family didn’t just visit, they appeared in the film. Deliverance was a fictionalized version of Keller’s life from the fever that left her blind and deaf at 18 months, through her childhood when Annie Sullivan taught her to communicate, to her graduation from Radcliffe and her adult life, which included writing, lecturing and advocacy for disabled people. Because Hollywood couldn’t make a movie without a love story, they included a dream sequence with an actress playing Keller as Circe, beckoning Ulysses to her island (when she found out about that bit, she laughed a lot).

According to Keller’s biographer Dorothy Herrmann, she made the film because demand for her on the lecture circuit was dwindling and she was broke. Herrmann called the film “a hodgepodge, an early docudrama that combines actual footage of Helen, symbolism, and a fanciful plot line…Deliverance remains an important historical document, capturing a still beautiful and luminous Helen—dancing, reading Braille, answering her correspondence, strolling serenely in the garden with her hovering, ambivalent mother, and taking a ride in a fragile biplane, despite the protests of her family.” Seven of the film’s ten reels have been preserved at the Library of Congress.

It was a box-office failure. Keller was still broke, so she “had no choice but to accept the offer of which they had a lifelong horror,” vaudeville. She and Anne Sullivan Macy worked up a twenty-minute act and they toured, performing it twice daily from February 1920 to the spring of 1924. Sullivan Macy introduced Keller, and then told the story of teaching her to speak. Next Keller demonstrated, giving an inspirational speech in an “odd, barely comprehensible voice.” Show business wasn’t as bad as they feared. Keller later wrote “I found the world of vaudeville much more amusing than the world I had always lived in.” Plus, they were a hit: for a while they were some of the highest-paid performers in vaudeville, headlining for two thousand dollars a week. It paid better than lectures had, and they only had to be on stage for twenty minutes instead of ninety.


Kingsley unexpectedly had a lot of fun at a movie this week:

It was a plum wild and wooly afternoon on the Rialto, yesterday, as far as I was concerned, with western film whooping ‘em up. Over at the Symphony, Harry Carey is appearing in Hell Bent, which is a western with a ‘wengence.’ If you want to forget the h—* whom you want for the next Governor, and other painful subjects, if you want to feel the winds of plain and mountain on your fevered brow, go to the Symphony. There is some wonderful riding stuff in a wonderful mountain country; there is a desert bit, with mirages and sand-storms, and Harry Carey does some marvelous stunts including climbing hand over hand on a rope up the side of a steep cliff and rolling down a mountain side tied to a horse’s back. Altogether as breezy and entertaining a western as we have had in some time.

Someone she didn’t mention is the reason the film is remembered today: it was directed by John Ford, his eighth feature. It seems like he already knew what he was doing.


A disturbing film played at Miller’s Theater this week, entitled At the Mercy of Men. Set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution, a woman is forced to marry her rapist. Kingsley did say it was “a wrong afterward righted in so far as the law could do it” (I’d prefer a long stint in prison for the attacker). Eventually they fall in love and that’s supposed to be the happy ending. Its working title was Ruthless Russia, but the Russians were Allies during World War 1, so it wasn’t made as anti-enemy propaganda. I’m astonished that anybody thought this was a good story to tell. It’s a lost film. Happily, both actors went on to better things. Alice Brady played many socialites in 1930’s comedies including Aunt Hortense in The Gay Divorcee (1934). The rapist was played by Frank Morgan, Mr. Matuschek of The Shop Around the Corner (1940) and of course, the Wizard of Oz.

Luckily, Kingsley saw a second movie at Miller’s this week. A “welcome addition to the bill” was a re-issue of “probably one of the best comedies ever made:” Fatty and Mabel Adrift. The short from 1916 will still give you some relief from painful subjects, and it’s on the Internet Archive.




*It seems that it was OK to write “hell” in the newspaper when it referred to a place, but not as a swear.


Dorothy Herrmann, Helen Keller: A Life. New York: Knopf, 1998.




Week of August 10th, 1918


One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley recorded the patriotic fervor of the times in a movie review:

To Hell with the Kaiser isn’t merely the name of a photodrama. It’s an American state of mind. Therefore it would be absurd to expect any red-blooded American to sit down and write a cool analysis of any picture with that name.

It breathes the very spirit of American pep and dash and optimism. It is like a draught of champagne in a dry town. It radiates victory. Some dyspeptic old critic may take a wallop at it, but he can’t hurt it any. The crowds will go see it just the same…Even the possible pale-blooded old critic, snouting after faults, who may allege the thing’s too episodic, that the “dramatic verities” are not preserved, that the American girl is quite too impossible clever, that the patriotism is flamboyant, will have to acknowledge the play’s got a soul and a soul of flame.

For, not content with bringing events down to date, it soon flies the track of events and soars into the illimitable blue of the imaginable future. And it’s so adroitly done—that moving on from the tragedy of the past to the blinding hope of the future. So that when the story leaps at last into buoyant comedy, it seems quite the most natural thing in the world.

That ‘imaginable future’ involved Kaiser Wilhelm getting captured by the Allies, committing suicide and going to hell where Satan, impressed by his horrible deeds, abdicates in his favor. While that’s an understandable revenge fantasy, it’s hard to imagine it as a comedy. The film is lost, so we can’t see how they managed it.


At the time it was extremely popular. The theater had held a preview night for eight hundred soldiers and sailors and they “cheered themselves hoarse” according to Kingsley’s report. Three bands wound up the evening with a rousing rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.”


I couldn’t find a record of the box-office returns, but looks like film did well until the war ended in November. After that, Metro tried their best to keep selling it in December:


Kingsley had a very good time at another movie this week:

The Cook assays about three laughs a minute—that is, unless you just get one laugh out of it and that continuous. In fact, Fatty put the ho-ho in hokum. There is the Salome dance with Fatty wearing all the scullery furniture except the kitchen stove.

Keaton167 copy
The Country Hero

The Salome burlesque was an extremely durable bit of business. Arbuckle and company had first filmed it for The Country Hero in 1917; it’s lost, but from the photos it looks like Buster Keaton performed the Salome role. In The Cook, the dance was contagious – a dancer in the restaurant inspired Keaton to imitate her, then Keaton inspired Arbuckle. This was Buster’s last film with Arbuckle before he left to serve in the army. Keaton next used it to entertain the troops when he was part of the 40th Division Sunshine Players. Then the bit acted as a sort of welcome home from his time in the military when it turned up again in Backstage, Keaton’s return to film work in 1919. It was part of “The Falling Reign” portion of stage show in the short. They used more of the Salome story, with Keaton playing the taunting temptress and Arbuckle playing the king who wants to dump her.

Later, when Buster made personal appearances to support College in 1927, he did it again, calling his act “The Song of the Dance.” Finally he used a version of it in The Hollywood Revue of 1929. Like all good vaudevillians, he didn’t let proven material go to waste. No matter which version you see, it’s still a hoot.

Kingsley reported big news for people who know that Christmas won’t be Christmas without presents:

Louisa M. Alcott’s Little Women, that classic of girlhood’s library, is to be made into a film, after all, despite the difficulties W.A. Brady had in securing screen rights. Mr. Brady will make an elaborate production of the story, on which work has already commenced. The scenes are being made in Concord, Mass., in the very house sacred to the memory of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.

William Brady, a very successful theatrical and film producer, had presented it as a play during the 1912-13 season, so he was familiar with the material. This was second of many, many film adaptations of the novel (the first was a 1917 British production). From the plot description in its Paramount Press Book, it looks like Jo still sacrifices her hair and Beth dies, but Amy doesn’t burn Jo’s manuscript (the worst crime in girls’ literature!) and Jo doesn’t try out independence and move to the city – Prof. Baer already lives in Concord. They really did shoot some of it in Orchard House, so it’s particularly sad that it’s a lost film. If you’d like to see what the rooms look like now, the Alcott Museum has a virtual tour.




Week of July 20th, 1918

Ad from the L.A. Times, August 25, 1918

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley reported on the latest scheme aimed at aspiring screenwriters:

Founding schools to teach would-be writers how to write for the screen has become one of the greatest little indoor sports of the age. Any tired waiter who liked pictures or any blacksmith out of a job felt that he was the very little brightness who would tell the seeking soul just how to write scenarios for the picture producers…And now, Miss Scenario Writer, no need to shed any more hot scalding tears on account of viewing your very own pet idea which you sent to the Phony Film Company that for which you were never paid.

That is, these things aren’t going to happen any more if the Palmer Photoplay Corporation, which has just come in to being and which promises to fill a long felt want in the picture producing world has anything to say about it.

The PPC “proposes to smooth out all those crinkles in the road which lies between the freelance scenario writer and the picture producer.” They told her it was not a screenwriting school, but it actually was. At least it was conducted by people who had written professionally. One founder, Frederick Palmer, had been a staff writer for Sennett, Triangle, Fox and Universal. His co-founder, Roy Manker, had been a newspaper writer. He told Kingsley “We feel certain that there are scores of persons with ideas and imagination, and with the will to write scenarios, who could be trained to do so properly if willing to do the required work.”

Kingsley outlined how they intended to proceed:

According to the plan under which the Palmer Photoplay Corporation will work, the writer who feels he has a scenario in his system may confide the fact to the organization, making his communications by mail, as no personal interviews are desired, whereupon the organization will send him a prospectus stating the form a partnership.

‘Partnership’ is an interesting euphemism for a screenwriting course by mail. The aspiring writer was to receive notes for improvement and submit more drafts until the scenario was acceptable “both in form and in matter.” Then the Corporation put its stamp of approval on it and gave him or her a list of studios that were likely to accept it, leaving the writer to send it out (later they started a sales department). Neither the ads nor any of the contemporary articles about the company mentioned how much they charged for their services.

In 1920, the PPC published a handbook and a plot encyclopedia.

photodramatistIt was the largest and most successful screenwriting school of its time, according to film historian Anne Morey.* By the early 1920’s, she said that with the typical year-long course of instruction, subscribers received several books, twelve lectures, newsletters, a monthly magazine The Photodramatist, and five screenplay critiques. Rates ranged from $76.50 to $90, depending on which plan the student chose.

The company’s downfall began in 1923, with plans for expansion into film production. They did manage to make two films in 1924, Judgment of the Storm and The White Sin. Even though the films acted as an advertisement for the school, it stopped teaching screenwriting and shifted to teaching short story writing in 1925. So they were less fly-by-night than most. Things really hasn’t changed much— just like in a gold rush, it’s much better to be the person selling supplies to aspiring miners; in Hollywood it’s a safer bet to be teaching aspiring filmmakers.


Kingsley’s favorite film this week was a change of pace for its star:

It looks now as if William Russell would henceforth be Bill Russell. William was the boy with the long, dreamy eyelashes, who took himself and his girl oh, so, seriously…It is in Up Romance Road, at Miller’s this week, that there emerges from the drab chrysalis William, the bright comedy butterfly Bill. Fresh, crisp, delightfully amusing is the story from the fanciful pen of Stephen Fox, which has to do with a young man who is bored with life because events roll too smoothly for him, and who therefore starts out to formulate a plot like those you see in the ‘movies.’ There are delicious touches of whimsy, as when hiring a band of ruffians to kidnap his girl—‘Can you boys furnish references as good, reliable crooks, not from relatives?’ he asks.

He gets mixed up with a real band of crooks, but they aren’t too threatening – he’s able to knock them all out even though he’s tied to a chair, and they forgot to wind up the clock on the bomb they set. She concluded that it was “a rich, new, refreshing comedy vein, this, which it will pay to work.” It’s a lost film.

William Russell

William Russell didn’t change his name, and he went on to act in all kinds of films, from comedies like Goodbye Girls (1923) to crime dramas like State Street Sadie (1928) before he died of pneumonia in 1929. However, the most famous people from this production were its director and screenwriter.

Director Henry King went on to a decades-long career, making a wide variety of films from Tol’rable David (1921) and Stella Dallas (1925) to talkies like Twelve O’clock High (1949) and Carousel (1956). Stephen Fox was a pseudonym for Jules Furthman (he temporarily used a different name because he thought his real name sounded ‘too German’ during the war). He went on to an equally long career, writing everything from Shanghai Express (1932) to The Big Sleep (1946). He was married to Sybil Seeley (Buster Keaton’s co-star), from 1920 until his death in 1966.

I must tell my brother Bill that he’s a bright comic butterfly. His computer science students will be thrilled.


Kingsley reported on a perk of being famous. Dorothy Dalton, star from the Ince studio, returned from vacationing in New York where

she took a little time off in order to entertain photoplay magazine editors and others of the pen-pushing tribe, who forthwith splashed ink trying to tell how charming her eyebrows and dimple are.

‘Frankly,’ said Miss Dalton the other day, ‘I don’t just hate to hear such things, principally because it in part compensates for having been voted the ugliest girl in the third grade. I had freckles, wore my hair in two tight pigtails, and had first and second teeth crowding each other for window display honors.

I know we’re much more sensitive now, but they couldn’t possibly have had votes for ugly students in school, could they? Her description of her young self sounds adorable, like a Norman Rockwell model. Dalton went on to star in more dramas like Moran of the Lady Letty (with Rudolph Valentino) and she retired in 1924 when she married theatrical producer Arthur Hammerstein, the lyricist’s uncle.

He plays one in the movies.

Kingsley’s biggest bunch of nonsense in the week was an item about Roscoe Arbuckle:

With his willowy figure draped in a baby blue bathrobe revealing the beautifully rounded curves of his body, Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle, the rotund motion picture comedian delivered another secret on how to grow thin, while answering letters from frantic seekers of the truth.

“I can assure my readers that ice or roller skating will be a great aid in reducing, providing one does not remain too long in a sitting position,” said Doctor Arbuckle. “It is absolutely necessary to stay on one’s feet in order to get proper results.”

conlonI suppose a little exercise isn’t a bad idea for most people, but honestly, nobody would write to him for diet advice: he was fine exactly as he was. (I would believe it if someone asked him for advice on dancing or practical jokes – he knew a lot about both.) This was all a set up for something that I think was supposed to be a joke: since people believed that cold-water baths helped people to reduce, skating on thin ice would lead to a dunking and weight reduction. Paul Conlon, his publicist, was really having an off day. Then again, he did manage to get Kingsley to include this…




* Anne Morey, “Fashioning the Self to Fashion the Film: The Case of the Palmer Photoplay Corporation,” In: Hollywood Outsiders: The Adaptation of the Film Industry, 1913-1934. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.

Week of March 16th, 1918


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.

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.”


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.

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!