Week of August 4th, 1917

 

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley reported on a frightening film set accident:

The sprightly and athletic Doris Pawn, who plays opposite Willard Louis in the latter’s first comedy for William Fox, under the direction of Charles Parrott, had a miraculous escape from suffering severe injuries or death while on location. Miss Pawn, who is a dare-devil horsewoman, was mounted on a spirited horse, and was told to ride down an embankment full speed onto a road in front of a camera.

After the situation had been explained to her by the director, Miss Pawn guided her horse to the top of the mound, and at the given word started down the hill. When she should have made her appearance a few seconds later, there was no sign of her. Parrott ran into the pathway and there found Miss Pawn lying on the ground, the horse having stumbled and fallen in such a manner Miss Pawn’s legs were pinioned beneath him. A call brought several of the assistants, who lifted the horse, releasing the girl. A hurried examination by a physician, who was summoned, disclosed the fact that Miss Pawn had sustained severe bruises on her hip and thighs and she owed her escape from broken bones to the fact that when the horse stumbled she fell on soft earth. After several days of attendance by a physician, Miss Pawn was again able to continue her part of the picture.

There’s no record of the film’s title; maybe it was never finished or released. There’s a hole in Charles Parrott’s (aka Charley Chase) filmography  from August 1917 to April 1918, and his biography only mentions his work with Hank Mann and Heine Conklin when he was at Fox. Miss Pawn got all of those bruises for nothing.

 

Doris Pawn was just one of so many people, now forgotten, who went to a lot of trouble to make films that have been lost. It’s really very depressing. However, Pawn picked herself up and had a long and perfectly good life. She’d learned her horse-riding skills growing up on her grandfather’s farm in Norfolk, Nebraska and she started out in films as an extra in 1914. She soon became a leading lady; later her most famous role was opposite Lon Chaney in The Penalty (1920). She retired from acting in 1923. She married three times; first to director Rex Ingram in 1917, second to insurance salesman Paul Reiners in 1928 and finally to drugstore owner Samuel Dunway in 1937. She died in La Jolla, California in 1988.

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Kingsley’s favorite film this week, The Show Down, involved that durable plot, “civilized” people shipwrecked on a desert island (it was good enough for Gilligan!). This was also a comedy and she thought it was very funny; it “merrily rings the bells at every shot.” Stranded after a German submarine sank their ocean liner, the group included the bestselling author of Back to the Primitive who longs for “the trackless ways of the jungle,” a philanthropist who wants to save the world, a bored society man and a spoiled young beauty. Of course the author complains about the food and refuses to go hunting, the philanthropist tried to “sell out” the group to the enemy, and the young people bestir themselves to get to another island and save the day. Kingsley wrote “the story is adroitly and snappily told, and is one of the best features, from every standpoint, that Bluebird has turned out.” It’s a lost film.

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Myrtle Gonzalez

Myrtle Gonzalez played the young woman and this was her last film; she got married and retired. Sadly, she died the next year in influenza epidemic.

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Robert Edeson, Rhea Mitchell, William S. Hart in On the Night Stage (1915)

An “old” film was re-released at the Garrick Theater this week, On the Night Stage. Kingsley observed,

the showing of this picture brings to light an odd little twist in the swift and fateful happenings of the ever changing element known as the film world. Two years ago, when the picture was made, it was supposed to star Robert Edeson, the well-known actor, but when the picture was shown, lo and behold! It was discovered a hitherto fairly obscure actor, William S. Hart, had walked right off with the big honors! While the preacher character played by Edeson was supposed to be the big part, the projection machine reveled the supremacy of Hart.

Hart played a bandit and the preacher’s rival for the love of the local dance hall queen. The film survives in several archives, including UCLA and Eastman House. Edeson went on to have a fine career. He wasn’t a big star like Hart, but worked continuously on screen and stage until his death at age 62 in 1931.

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Harold Goodwin, 1921

Kingsley gave an update on Harold Goodwin, who’d made a good impression in her favorite film last week:

Harold is the youth who hit the bullseye with his small boy role in The Sawdust Ring at Clune’s Auditorium last week. Now the story comes out that, when he had finished in that picture he wasn’t thought to have done much, and Triangle let him go. He silently gave up his actor hopes, and accepted a position in a shoe store. Last Saturday night he quit his shoe house job, with no less than four offers from film companies in his pocket.

He also went on to a long career in film and television.

Week of August 5th, 1916

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley reported on ambitious plans for a big new film studio. The Success Film Producing Company, with a capitalization of 7.5 million dollars, had been incorporated in New York the week before and they wanted to open a studio in Los Angeles by the end of August. They had bought film rights to several properties and had an option on a theater in New York, and they planned to buy more throughout the country. An article in Motion Picture News on September 2nd sounded much more suspicious of the enterprise, calling the reports rumors without forthcoming details. They also couldn’t find published records of the real estate deal for the theater. Like so many other projects, not much came of it and the company soon disappeared from the press. Motography did announce that Success hired Constance Collier as the lead in The Eternal Magdalene but they never made that film. Collier went on to a six-decade long career in the theater and film. The Eternal Magdalene was filmed in 1917 by a different brand-new production company: Goldwyn Pictures, a company that’s still around as part of M.G.M Studios. In the film business, you never know what will last and what won’t.

Kingsley’s favorite film of the week was Charlie Chaplin’s “One A.M.” She said:

the screen comedian has the magic power, as everybody know, of turning everything he touches into the gold of laughter. So that in One A.M. it is Chaplin as the star with the furniture as supporting company. The taxi speedometer is a veritable burlesque artist, the revolving table is a comedian of rare gift…even the poor old siphon bottle is a funster with finesse, and the trick bed is a clown. Besides, Chaplin has invented all the ways there are of not getting upstairs.

If you want to see what she’s talking about, it’s available on the Internet Archive.

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Filming Love’s Lariat

She also liked the feature that played with it, Love’s Lariat, starring Harry Carey, calling it “quite the most delightful, crisp little comedy we have had in many a day…more power to whoever wrote this play.” According to the AFI Catalog, the plot involved a cowboy who had to live in the East for a year as a condition of an inheritance and the writers were William Blaine Pearson and co-director (with Carey) George E. Marshall. Pearson worked on a few more Westerns and died in November, 1918 (an unverifiable source said it was pneumonia), but Marshall had much better luck. This was his first feature-length film as a director; his last was a Jerry Lewis vehicle Hook Line and Sinker in 1969. Along the way he directed over 80 features including Destry Rides Again (1939) and several Bob Hope comedies. Love’s Lariat is a lost film.

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Mae Marsh in Intolerance

Kingsley was much less impressed by The Marriage of Molly-O, saying that the piffling superficialities of the screenplay weren’t worthy of its star, Mae Marsh. That screenplay writer was D.W. Griffith, writing under a pseudonym.

Griffith got much better press farther along in the same August 7th column, when Kingsley mentioned that Intolerance was test-screened at the Orpheum Theater in Riverside under the title The Downfall of All Nations. She quoted some favorable reviews that called the film “soul-gripping,” and “a stupendous production.” Griffith and several of the stars, including Miss Marsh, Lillian Gish, Constance Talmadge and Robert Harron attended the screening. Two days later she reported that New York would get to see it before Los Angeles because Griffith had signed a deal to take over the Liberty Theater there for the 1916-1917 season.

Otherwise, it was a slow week for film news. Kingsley mentioned that William S. Hart had a particularly strenuous week of stunts, including falling from the back of a horse and rolling 500 feet down an embankment, but Hart said that now nothing short of eating a locomotive worried him. However, he was planning a vacation through Utah, Colorado and the Grand Canyon after the film was finished.

Week of July 22nd, 1916

One hundred years ago this week, Grace Kingsley reported that D.W. Griffith was starting work on a new film, and it might be about the Holy Grail. He was definitely staying in California, despite the rumors that he was moving to New York. However, none of this happened: he never made a Holy Grail film, and his next release, Hearts of the World, was mostly shot in England and France. He did eventually move to Mamaroneck, New York, in 1919.

(I’m going to leave this here, just in case seeing the words “Holy Grail” affects you like it does me)

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No one film stood out as her favorite this week, but she thought that Lionel Barrymore was brilliant as a devil-may-care young prospector in The Quitter, “a comedy of supremely piquant quality.” She seemed equally appalled by and interested in The Little Girl Next Door, that week’s film about sex trafficking: “Luridly sensational as to incident, oft-times improbably, yet possessed of a certain gripping power because of its peculiar appeal, the picture is supposed to reveal the methods of ‘white slavers.’ She noted the opulence of William Hart’s latest, The Captive God, and reported that the Ince Company’s sculpture department had used 300 tons of plaster. And she mentioned that Chaplin’s The Vagabond was held over for a third week.

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Fred Held

Kingsley admired the photography of Fathers of Men, which was shot in Northern Canada “under extreme hardship,” particularly the “wonderful frozen waterfalls, huge glaciers, vast snow plains, hoary rocks and, most beautiful of all, the fairy-like frozen webs which Jack Frost weaves on tree top and shrub.” Fred Held was the cinematographer who managed to capture it all and keep the camera from freezing. He was a pioneer in the New York film industry; according to a short 1913 profile in Moving Picture World he’d been working in film manufacturing for 15 years. His feature credits ended in 1920, but his occupation in later censuses was always listed as photography. Fathers of Men is so lost that it doesn’t even have a listing in the FIAF database.

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Roy Fernandez

In a slow week for film news, Kingsley reported that newly-minted actor Roy Fernandez had the only dog in the world with gold tooth, a bulldog named Peter. Fernandez was an artists’ model who had won Universal’s most handsome man contest. He was cast in Lois Weber’s next film, Idle Wives, but he didn’t appear in it. In September, Variety reported that he had returned to modeling. This sort of contest rarely produced stars (Francis X. Bushman seems to be the only exception) and the studios gave up on them.

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Dora Mae Howe

The most alien-to-2016 story of the week was the report that stage ingénue Dora Mae Howe had gained ten pounds since she joined the Burbank Theater company. She told Kingsley that it happened because every role had required her to eat something on stage. In her next play, The Fibber, it was candy and she wanted chocolate almonds. Now it’s impossible to imagine an actress admitting to eating candy, let alone gaining weight. Howe’s stage career lasted for a few more years; she married film character actor William Austin in 1929.