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.



Too Little Time: Week of October 11th, 1919

Mayor Snyder, Queen Elisabeth, King Albert

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley reported that Hollywood was preparing for some royal visitors:

In fact, there are three greatly thrilled picture stars in town today. They are Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford. And no wonder. For all are to entertain no less a person than King Albert of Belgium.

His Majesty, it seems, delights in doing the unexpected. Yesterday [Tuesday, the 14th] a member of the royal party got Fairbanks on the phone from Santa Barbara and asked if it could be arranged for Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin to meet the royal party at Fairbanks’ Beverly Hills home tomorrow. Of course, the world’s most famous smiler smiles his best and said, “Oh yes, indeedy!” and at once started making arrangements for entertaining the royal visitor and his party.

This would have been totally unexpected for the mayor’s General Reception Committee: they had given the newspaper an outline of their plans for the King’s visit on October 10th, and there were no stops in Beverly Hills on it. Plus, they weren’t even due to arrive in Los Angeles until Friday, not Thursday! However, if you were a king or queen, isn’t that exactly who you’d want to meet in 1919?

Another studio told KIngsley they were getting ready, too:

The royal party will be guests of honor at the Lasky studio Friday morning, according to the plans of the committee in charge of the programme. In honor of the occasion, Houdini, king of magicians and one of the galaxy of stars now at work at the Famous Players-Lasky headquarters, will stage his famous underwater extraction trick in the studio tank.

Everyone at the studio was anticipating the visit; leading man Thomas Meighan was working on Why Change Your Wife and he was in a big hurry to finish his scenes as a recovering accident victim, because he didn’t want to meet the King and Queen while wearing pajamas with a bandaged head.

Unfortunately, Meighan didn’t need to worry; King Albert, Queen Elisabeth and Crown Prince Leopold only got to spend five hours in Los Angeles on Friday so they didn’t get to meet the three biggest stars of the time or go to Lasky, and they had to make do with a stop at the Ince studio. It seems like what they told Kingsley was just wishful thinking.

The royal family

The King and Queen of Belgium were touring the United States to thank everyone for their support during the war, and to interest American businesses in investing in their country (the Times even helpfully published a list of opportunities). But they also took in some American sights, including San Francisco and Yosemite. They were greatly admired: during the war he had fought on the front with his troops, and she had worked as a nurse.

Along the parade route

On Friday, October 17th, the royal train arrived at the Southern Pacific Depot at 9 am (they were already half an hour behind schedule). Both Mayor Snyder and the King gave speeches, a choir sang the national anthems “America” and “La Brabanconne”* and Queen Elisabeth to give medals to six women who raised money for Belgian relief. Then they had a parade through downtown, with the royal party at the head of it and the Ninety-First Division plus returned soldiers behind. After that, they began their driving tour of the city.

Their first stop was at the Ince Studio, and Thomas Ince had prepared a short program to fit the limited amount of time they had. However, the King was quite interested in re-starting the Belgian film industry, and the Times reported:

Though King Albert and his party were scheduled to stay at the film studio but twenty minutes, they remained there almost an hour.

During his visit at the studio the King saw a man jump from the railing of a steamer into a frothing sea; he saw a quarrel between two lovers who were finally reconciled with a kiss—for the King’s benefit; he saw another woman plead with a vampire for her husband who had been stolen by the vamp; he saw anther act staged in a barn; he saw a submarine crew die in a wreak. During the tragic submarine death scene, Queen Elisabeth displayed more interest in a small, hairless pup that was snoozing on the sidelines.

King Albert asked no questions about the emotional stunts of the actors, but when he was escorted into the mechanical rooms, the cutting and the drying and developing rooms, immediately he fired many questions at his guides. He was interested and he wanted to know everything about the constructive side of film making.

Motion Picture News said that they saw Douglas MacLean and Doris May work on Mary’s Ankle, Herbert Bosworth in the submarine movie Below the Surface, and several scenes with Charles Ray. He was making Paris Green at the time.

Charles Ray

Next they went to Chaplin Field, where they saw some aerial maneuvers. Then they toured more of the city, stopping to visit some school children, and then it was already time to go. They got back on their special train and went to the Grand Canyon, skipping a lunch held in their honor in Pasadena. The Mayor went, but the 5,000 attendees were disappointed (the Belgian ambassador to the U.S. later sent an official expression of regret to the Pasadena and Glendale mayors).

So one should plan on staying for more than five hours if you want to see L.A.! If you’d like to know more about the royal visit, check out the Homestead Museum blog post and Marc Wanamaker’s post for the Culver City Historical Society


This week there was a tie for Kingsley’s favorite film. She enjoyed “a buoyant, refreshing tale” with Tom Mix and Frankie Lee:

Just you wait until you see him in Rough Riding Romance at the Symphony this week, and you’ll decide, with me, that if he keeps on getting stories like this he’ll have all the other India rubber heroes on the run.

“There ain’t no such thing as romance,” says Tom, but Frankie just at that minute points out a mysterious lady, who has stopped off at the train stalled at Cow Hollow, and whom Tom then and there picturesquely rescues from the attentions of the Hollow’s worst bad man.

But oh, what a joyous time that large audience had! I don’t know when I’ve heard and seen a crowd of people enjoy themselves more than when Tom, having grabbed an heirloom saber off the wall, drives Tony [his horse] down among that crowd of plain and assorted villains, and just naturally scares the pie out of them!

Rough Riding Romance has been preserved at the Library of Congress.

Why Smith Left Home

However, Kinglsey also had a very good time at quite a different movie, a jazzed up bedroom farce called Why Smith Left Home with Bryant Washburn and Lois Wilson. She observed how times had changed: “Now-a-days, to keep up with the stage boudoir plays, we’re taking all those old farces with their coy references to sleeping quarters, and putting ‘em in pictures with the beds all freely shown as the dining room table.” My goodness!

The “very hilarious hour of entertainment” involved a sturdy running gag:

The hero and heroine decide to wed, despite the farcical objections of the heroine’s aunts. But the bridegroom remains kissless, though willing and anxious, right up to the last foot of film. It is the constant efforts of these two to get a chance to be alone, a purpose thwarted by everything and everybody, including hotel fires, train wreaks, earthquakes, blackmailing maids and irate things-in-law, which make the comedy.

Why Smith Left Home has also been preserved at the Library of Congress, but it’s missing its third reel.

Salome vs. Shenandoah

Kingsley also had some important costume news:

Concerning next week’s premiere showing of Mack Sennett’s latest special production, Salome vs. Shenandoah, comes a bit of news that should immensely please devotees of laughter. Charlie Murray is going to present an act in conjunction with the production, in which fourteen comedians will appear dancing, all garbed in the same attire as that which Phyllis Haver wears as Salome in the film. In addition to this, Murray, Ben Turpin and Charles Conklin will wear the same costumes as in the film and will sing and play on the lyre an original song composition of Murray’s.

Charlie vouches for the information that Ben Turpin will positively wear nothing but a tiger’s skin and a shepherd’s staff. As for himself, his innate modesty forbade him making any statement regarding his own appearance further than to state he will wear something.


What a show! According to Brett Walker (Mack Sennett’s Fun Factory), the two-reeler is set in a small-town theater, where a troupe attempts to stage a Biblical tale and a Civil War epic simultaneously, with Ben Turpin cast as both John the Baptist and a Confederate spy. It was similar to Sennett’s earlier successes that made fun of melodramas, East Lynne with Variations and Uncle Tom Without a Cabin. Even though they were shorts, they were the main attraction on their theater bills. That was true in Los Angeles; Salome vs. Shenandoah played with In Mizzoura, a Western about a sheriff with romance troubles and a highwayman on the loose that didn’t get much notice.


If Sennett’s ad is at all true, it was a terrific movie.



“Advance Agent of Belgium’s Royal Pair,” Los Angels Times, September 7, 1919.

“Approve Plans For Welcoming Royalty,” Los Angeles Times, October 10, 1919.

“Belgian Royalty See Pictures in the Making on the Ince Lot,” Motion Picture News, November 29, 1919, p. 3952.

“Belgian Rulers to Come Here,” Los Angeles Times, September 24, 1919.

“Child Army Acclaims Hero King,” Los Angeles Times, October 18, 1919.

“City To Greet Royal Visitors,” Los Angeles Times, October 17, 1919.

“Southland Lavishes Its Warmest Hospitality Upon Regal Visitors,” Los Angeles Times, October 18, 1919.


*”La Brabanconne” is still Belgium’s national anthem, but “The Star Spangled Banner” didn’t become the United State’ anthem until March 3, 1931, after the Veterans of Foreign Wars petitioned Congress for it.


Shimmie if You Want to: Week of June 28th, 1919

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley had it on very good authority that the new dance craze wasn’t immoral:

You may shimmie, if you wish! So says Marion Morgan, producer of the Morgan dancing act, which is creating a sensation at the Orpheum this week. And you may take Miss Morgan’s word for it, ‘cause she used to be a school ma’am in days gone by, of course no school-teacher would ever tell you to do anything wrong. And now that the dance has climbed up into the social class where it is referred to politely as the ‘lingerie tremulo” that makes it seem different, too.

Morgan pointed out that it was healthful exercise, and “dancing is really cleansing to the brain and body” but “there are shimmies and shimmies, you know—nice little expurgated wriggles that are not suggestive at all—and then there is the shimmie that is decidedly vulgar. That’s why I say shimmie if you like—and according to your lights…And if you are so vulgar that you don’t know when you are doing a vulgar shimmie—why, it probably won’t hurt you any!” In the late teens to early twenties the shimmie/shimmy did occasionally get banned at dance halls, and the censors in Boston didn’t let Mae West perform it on stage in 1921,* but it looks like the fuss died down fairly quickly.

Kingsley asked Morgan about it because a shimmie dance act had been selling a lot of tickets at a rival theater, the Pantages, for the last month. Nevertheless, Morgan didn’t seem to mind giving her opinion, possibly because her act was so different. Kingsley had reviewed the ballet she’d choreographed at the Orpheum earlier in the week, and she thought it was a sensation: “it was as though I were witnessing a play—but a play done in such exquisite fashion as to be a new sort of poetry. The subject of the ballet is historical, and is in three scenes, all staged with such real and vivid appeal to the imagination the spectator feels he is in the midst of the scene itself, rather than on the outside.”

Marion Morgan was a former dance instructor who ran a troupe which toured the vaudeville circuits, performing interpretive dances based on Egyptian and classical Greek and Roman themes. She also did choreography for films. In 1927 she became director Dorothy Arzner’s partner and they worked together on several pictures.

This week there was a demonstration of just how popular Charlie Chaplin was: his new film, Sunnyside, played in two theaters at the same time, which was very unusual then. Both the Kinema (1850 seats) and Tally’s Broadway (900 seats) were owned by T.L. Tally, and according to reports, Chaplin didn’t have trouble filling all those seats. Kingsley’s review didn’t hurt; she said, “Sunnyside has so many funny touches it has to be seen to be appreciated. All lovers of Charlie Chaplin—and if there is anybody who isn’t he keeps it in the dark nowadays—will rejoice in Sunnyside.” It spent one week at both theaters, then two more just at Tally’s Broadway. Now Sunnyside is not as well regarded as many of Chaplin’s other films; however, that’s stiff competition.

Because it was a short (its run time is between 29 and 41 minutes), they felt they needed to show other films with it – even though they didn’t bother to mention them in the advertising! Here are the neglected movies: at the Kinema, they showed The Haunted Bedroom, “a good old-fashioned mystery story,” according to Motion Picture News. Meanwhile, at Tally’s Broadway during the first week they ran a Chester travelogue called Up in the Air After Alligators,** which was about alligator hunting. For the second week it was a Major Jack Allen hunting short and for the third it was The Indestructible Wife. This was a particularly odd paring; Motion Picture News called it a “matinee picture…it is one of those soft, tender kind of attraction, whose predominating feature is artistic beauty.” It told the story of a society wife (Alice Brady) who liked to go to parties, but her husband (Saxon Kling) got tired of it so he had a friend kidnap her. He rescues her so she decides to stay home. I don’t get it. I wonder how many people stuck around to watch the rest of the bill – maybe more people saw them than would have otherwise.

Charlotte and Mary Pickford

Kingsley had news about another big star:

That Mary Pickford is going to retire, following the completion of nine pictures for which she has contracted with the Big Four, was the statement made by Mrs. Charlotte Pickford, Mary Pickford’s mother, according to a telegraphic dispatch received last night by this department from Boston, where Mrs. Pickford is at present, attending to details connected with the showing of a Pickford play.

“Only nine more pictures and Mary will settle down to enjoy the fruits of her hard-earned savings,” is the way Mrs. Charlotte Pickford put it. “It will take a number of months to complete the present pictures contracted for and then Mary is going to settle down to enjoy life, as I have entreated her to do for a long time. The pictures to come are to be the biggest and the best ever developed by her and she has been given free leave to spend all the money she likes to make the productions successful.”

Miss Pickford herself could not be reached last night, as she was absent from home, but her manager, F.E. Benson, states, when informed regarding Mrs. Pickford’s statement:

“I do not know of any such idea on Miss Pickford’s part. We are in the middle of a production and have a large number of stories already purchased. Of course, I don’t know what understanding Miss Pickford and her mother have regarding Miss Pickford’s retiring, but I am her manager, and I have heard no such talk.”

Of course Pickford was nowhere near retirement – that didn’t happen until 1933. It seems odd that Charlotte Pickford felt the need to alert the media about it. It could be that she though Mary really meant it. Regarding this year, Mary Pickford’s biographer Eileen Whitfield quoted the Chicago News: “Mary Pickford’s threatened retirement from professional life is becoming as chronic as Sarah Bernhardt’s farewell stage appearances.” Whitfield said that she talked about quitting because she was miserable, trying to decide if she should divorce Owen Moore and marry Douglas Fairbanks and she was quite worried about bad publicity if she did. Eventually she made up her mind, got her divorce in February 1920 and married Fairbanks a month later (and stopped threatening retirement).

Finally, this was the week when Prohibition went into effect and it was on everybody’s mind. Tom Mix said, “just think of all the family skeletons nowadays that will be moved out of closets to make room for that which cheers and also inebriates!”


*”Whirl of the Town,” Variety, April 22, 1921.

**The intertitles for the Chester travelogues were written by Katharine Hilliker, and her forgotten career is exactly what the Women Film Pioneers website was made for. She continued to work as a title writer and film editor on movies like Seventh Heaven (1927) and Sunrise (1927).




Mermaid Clothes: Week of May 31st, 1919

from the National Woman Suffrage Publishing Company

One hundred years ago this week, Congress finally passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution which would eventually allow all American women to vote. It still needed to be ratified by 36 states. Since state legislations weren’t in session year round, it took over a year but the 36th state, Tennessee, approved it on August 18, 1920 and it was signed into law on August 26th, in time for the presidential election

Grace Kingsley, who’s been able to vote since 1911, didn’t mention the big news for she was too busy on an assignment from her editor: getting Annette Kellerman, the Australian Mermaid, on record about clothing, since she was so famous for not wearing much of it. The two career women did as well as could be expected. Grace Kingsley had some jokes about how with a packed rehearsal schedule it was difficult to find Kellerman in street clothes. Kellerman politely answered her questions, but not without saying “doesn’t it seem a bit ridiculous to ask a mermaid about clothes?” She told her that she mostly wore tailored frocks, because that’s what her husband liked. Her advice to other women was “in general, women should dress to suit their personalities. But some people have awfully funny ideas of what their personalities are!” Happily, she included men in that, too.

Oh well, if entertainment journalists cut out all of the ridiculousness they wouldn’t have much to write about.

This week, Kingsley finally found one profession that doesn’t want to be in the movies. While shooting The Speed Maniac on location in San Francisco, Tom Mix and his director Edward Le Saint needed someone to play the part of a pickpocket, and they decided they wanted realistic casting. So Mix went to his friend, the captain of police Dan O’Brien. They looked in the holding cell and chose a likely candidate, However, when they asked him to be in their film, the pickpocket said “Where do you get that stuff? Mug me, would ye, so that I would been seen by all the coppers in the world. Ruin me in me profession! I should say not! Besides, picking pockets is a good enough job for me. I don’t want to be a picture actor. Picture actor! Hunh!” None of the other crooks wanted the job, so they made the second cameraman, Walter Williams, do the dirty work.

Kingsley mentioned that “the wife of Chaplin’s cameraman, Jack Wilson, on May 28, gave birth to a daughter at the Wilson home on Crenshaw Blvd.” Some months later, both Edith Wilsons got to meet the boss on the set of The Kid:

An excuse for a cute photo!


The Heiress: Week of April 5th, 1919

Nell Shipman

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley heard about some good fortune coming to an actress:

Some people do have all the luck. As though it were not enough to have her own company and a tremendous salary, now Nell Shipman, star of the Shipman-Curwood Picture Company, has become an heiress.

Miss Shipman, who has just returned from Canada, learned of her good fortune only a few days ago, when a letter from England apprised her of the fact that a grand-aunt on her mother’s side whom she did not even know, had died leaving Miss Shipman a fortune amounting in American money to something over $100,000.

A few days later, Kingsley did an interview with her, and got a corrected version of the story. It seems that Shipman hadn’t actually inherited anything yet, but she found documents (probably among her recently deceased father’s papers) that said she and her brother would be splitting her grandmother’s estate, which was valued at one million pounds.* Because her grandmother was in poor health, Shipman was already planning to make a film in the West Indies, because “the inheritance of the fortune would not prevent her going on with her work, but would merely offer her greater opportunities to pursue her profession.” She also had some charitable schemes.


Nell Shipman was counting her chickens before they hatched. Her grandmother, Eliza Jevons Foster-Barham, lived until 1924. Furthermore, her father was one of eleven children, so Shipman was well-supplied with surviving aunts and uncles as well as cousins who had a claim to the estate. There was no mention of any inheritance in Shipman’s autobiography, The Silent Screen and My Talking Heart.


This was a tumultuous time in Shipman’s life. She had been sick with influenza and nearly died during the 1918 epidemic. Her mother Rose had died in December, 1918 and her father Arnold died in March, 1919. Her only brother Maurice had been wounded fighting in France and he’d just traveled back to the States on a hospital ship, arriving in Hoboken on April 2nd. She had just spent two very cold months north of Calgary, Canada shooting what became her most successful film, Back in God’s Country. Later this year, she divorced her husband and business manager Ernest Shipman and moved in with her Back in God’s Country co-star Bert Van Tuyle. They decided to form an independent production company, Nell Shipman Productions. They went on to make The Girl from God’s Country (1921) and The Grub Stake (1923). You can learn more about her at the Women Film Pioneers site. The Boise State University Archives, where her papers have been preserved, also have a short biography.


Kingsley got to have a very good time at the movies this week:

Oh boy! Whenever you see by the signboards that Tom Mix has mixed in, there you’re going to find drammer that’s pep in the original package. And just the thrillingest, hair-raising-est, breeziest of ‘em all is Treat ‘em Rough at the Alhambra. It’s the essence of all other Wild West dramas boiled down, and yet having so distinctive a flavor of its own you won’t forget it. A crowded house saw it yesterday, and frequently got so excited it applauded.

It’s too bad that critics don’t get to be so enthusiastic these days. The thrills included great riding, roping and branding, as well as a cattle stampede during a prairie fire – and they were running straight for the heroine, of course. You might be able to find out if Tom Mix saved the day, because two reels have been preserved at the Eastman House in Rochester New York. Remarkably, this was just one of EIGHT films he released this year.

Not yet

Kingsley left a reminder that Prohibition was only eight months away. A wine merchant made a big delivery to one of the studios, because everybody was stockpiling supplies.

One of the stars, on his way home, stopped to pick up his little case of sherry. He was glancing around at the names on the cases.

“What are you doing,” asked a director. “Can’t you find yours?”

“Certainly,” responded the star. “I’m only studying my visiting list for next year.”

Unlike modern blind items, Kingsley gave no hint of who the star was.



*This wasn’t quite as heartless as it sounds. Her parents had moved from England to Canada before she was born, so she only met her grandmother once on a family trip.