Thursday, August 15, 2019

Born Today August 15: Gertrude Shipman

1880 (or 1878)-1960

Born in Pittsburgh on this day in 1878, Gertrude Shipman would become, if ever so briefly, an actress in early narrative films. Serveral sources cite that she actually started in films in 1909, the earliest film that I can find that she is credited with acting in dates from 1912: Camille. The three other film that she is known to have appeared in are: Arizona (1913), Checkers (1913) and The Price He Paid (1914), the last of these she had a starring role.  Prior to her work in films, she had been a stage actor. Shipman was married to silent era director Lawrence B. McGill; together they were parents of newspaper man and radio writer/producer Jerry McGill. After her husband's retirement from the film industry (he was eleven years her senior), the couple settled in Florida. They both died there, decades apart.  She is buried along side her husband, who preceded her in death by 32 years, in the Laurel Grove Cemetery, which is located in Waldo, Florida--a small town to the northeast of Gainesville in Alachua county.  

[photo: Find A Grave]

Find A Grave

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Born Today August 10: Robert G. Fowler


Aviation pioneer Robert George Fowler was born on this day in San Francisco.  Fowler was the first person (west to east) to make a transcontinental flight, albeit in in stages. The journey was undertaken in a Wright biplane equipped with a Cole Motor manufactured for automobiles (Fowler had actually trained with the Wright's). The flight started in San Francisco and eventually ended in Jacksonville, Florida and took some considerable time to complete  (the effort began on the 11th of September in 1911 and ended on the 8th of February, 1912). It was during this time that he was the subject of a short "newsreel" type film entitled Robert G. Fowler, Trans-Continental Aviator; the film was produced by the Champion Film company and was released in February of 1912. Fowler would go on to break other flying records after this and even provide for the advancement of aerial photography. Fowler died at his home in San Jose, California on the 15th of June in 1966 at the age of 81. he is buried, along side his wife, at the Santa Clara Mission Cemetery.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Born Today August 4: Jay Hunt


Veteran silent director Jay Hunt, who is probably best remembered for his character acting in 1920's westerns, was born on this day in Philadelphia. Before Hunt became a recognizable older western star, he was a prolific film director (he also dabbled in scenario writing). It appears that his entrance into the world of film making came in 1911 as the director of the short melodrama The Life Boat produced at Vitagraph. He made just one film with another company (The Musician's Daughter--1911--for Eclair) before landing an in-house directors job at Champion (distribution by Universal). The first film that he directed there was Mrs. Alden's Awakening (1912); he stayed with the company for a year.  Hunt made his acting debut in 1913 in a Fred Balshofer directed melodrama--Her Legacy--made for Kay-Bee, a company that Hunt himself had directed for. Hunt also penned his first scenario in 1913; The War Correspondent, as script based on a story by William H. Clifford. Hunt also directed the film, which starred Gayne Whitman. Hunt became a fixture in directing "second string" melodramas--what we would call "B movies"--and by 1914 had close to twenty directing credits to his name. He was also, by this time, employed by Broncho Films, where he would remain for the next couple of years. At Broncho, though he mostly stuck to melodramas, he also began to direct adventure films that increasingly had a western theme to them. The Sheriff of Bisbee (1914) was an early example.  During his tenure as director (with something in the neighborhood of 80 films to his credit), he was involved in very few feature length productions, with The Promise, dating from 1917, being the most prominent amongst them (he was reportedly involved in some type of directing role in the Ince brothers 1915 large production Civilization--he is listed as an uncredited director, along with three other directors on IMDb--the film was known to been directed by a "team"--so it's possible he had some role--I have no idea how this would be confirmable over 100 years later).  It appears that Hunt didn't direct (or act) at all in the year 1918, and by the end of his directing career (1919-1920), he was directing nothing by westerns. His last direction credit is for a Texas Guinan  short western vehicle made for Bull's Eye (for whom had worked most of his later directing years) called The Night Raider in 1920 (not to be confused with The Night Rider--which he also directed).  He then retired from directing, but continued in motion pictures as an actor. Although he had done some work as an actor in the 1910's (including in a few films in which he directed himself), he had never been primarily anything other than a glorified extra. His second career as a character actor in westerners in the 1920's landed him roles that he would be remembered for. Many fans of these "b grade" western adventure films had no inkling of Hunt's career as a director; had no clue that the largest portion of his career was spent behind the camera, not in front of it. He was popular enough to have continued into talking pictures, in fact. He first showed up as a "grizzled" character in Sunset Productions Wanted By The Law in 1924 (he is listed as an extra in Universal's huge production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1923). In all, he racked up close to 20 acting credits during the 1920's; though, as stated, the vast majority of these were westerns, the last silent film in which he appeared was a comedy: The Harvester in 1927. Hunt appeared in four films in the 1930's; his last film appearance was in the 1931 western The Cheyenne Cyclone. He died the following year in Hollywood on the 18th of November at the age of 77. 

Still from The Promise

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Silents On TCM: August 2019 (Summer Under the Stars)

August: Summer Under The Stars--31 Days, 31 Stars!


TCM Homepage

For a compleat listing of the stars of Summer Under the Stars, please see the bottom of this post. 

August 19 Features Buster Keaton (part of TCM's Summer Under the Stars). Starts @ 6AM

19 Aug. 6AM Film Info. (Year: 1926)

19 Aug. 7:30AM Film Info. (Year: 1928)

19 Aug. 9AM Film Info. (Year: 1929)

19 Aug. 8PM & 20 Aug. 12:30AM Trailer (Year: 2018)

19 Aug. 10PM Film Info. (Year: 1927)

19 Aug. 11:30PM Film Info. (Year: 1924)

20 Aug. 2:30AM Film Info. (Year: 1925)

20 Aug. 3:45AM Film Info. (Year: 1928)

20 Aug. 5AM Film Info. (Year: 1924)

22 Aug. 6AM Film Info. (Year: 1929--Talkie) 
[Kicks off Summer Under the Stars: Leila Hyams]

22 Aug. 9:15PM Film Info. (Year: 1929-Talkie)

26 Aug. 6AM Film Info. (Year: 1924) [Kicks off Summer Under the Stars: Mary Astor]

The Stars of Summer Under the Stars

1:   Henry Fonda
2:   Ruth Hussey
3:   Marlon Brando
4:   Shirley Temple
5:   Melvyn Douglas
6:   Lena Horne
7:   James Stewart
8:   Ava Gardner
9:   Red Skelton
10: Rita Moreno
11: Humphrey Bogart
12: Ann Sothern
13: Brian Donlevy
14: Liv Ullmann
15: Rod Steiger
16: Irene Dunne
17: Errol Flynn
18: Audrey Hepburn
19: Buster Keaton!
20: Dorothy McGuire
21: Joel McCrea
22: Leila Hyams
23: Fred Astair
24: Shirley MacLaine
25: Dustin Hoffman
26: Mary Astor!
27: Walter Brennan
28: June Allyson
29: Paul Lukas 
30: Susan Hayward
31: Kirk Douglas

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Born Today July 3: Alberto Lazzoli


Brazilian musician, composer and conductor Alberto Rossi Lazzoli was born on this day in São Paulo.  He is principally remembered for being an important Latin American conductor of and composer for radio orchestras in the mid 20th century; but he was also a composer of film scores as well--including direct film scoring--with the oboe being his instrument of choice.  To date, just four films have featured his music--all of them pre-1950 and all of them featuring scores that he wrote directly for each production.  The first of these was a late Brazilian silent film Human Clay (Barro Humano) from 1929, a melodrama directed by the then up and coming Brazilian director Adhemar Gonzaga.  Lazzoli was hired to write the score for the film directly (the film is now profoundly lost, with only a poster and a a few stills left for viewing). The other three films that he scored date from 1939, 1945 and 1947; the last of which was a romantic comedy entitled Querida Susana (1947).  In his lifetime he had also been a performer, a symphonic soloist, a pioneer of Brazilian radio and, most importantly, a teacher (professor) of music for others. Lazzoli died in Rio de Janeiro on the 4th of December; he was 81 years of age. 

Production still from Barro Humano

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Silents On TCM For The Month Of July

July 1 12AM--Midnight (year: 1924) Trailer

The next three titles comprise the primetime Out Of This World focus. July 2 starting @ 8PM

July 2 8PM (year: 1902) Film

2 July 8:30PM (year: 1927) Trailer

2 July 11:30PM (year: 1929) Trailer

3 July 11:30AM (Year: 1927) Film

8 July 12:15AM (Year: 1926) Preview Clip

8 July 7:15AM (Year: 1922) Trailer

22 July 12:15AM (Year: 1932) Clip

29 July 12AM-Midnight (Silent Sundays) Trailer

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Born Today June 26: Zena Keefe


Silent film actress Zena Virginia Keefe was born on this day in San Francisco, California.  She was a child stage actress in her. According to Moving Picture World, she made her film debut as "Mattie" when you was 15 years of age in the Vitagraph short All is Fair in Love and War released in early 1911 [though at least one source claims that she worked for Fox at the start of film career]. Her film career lasted through 1924. She stayed with Vitagraph for what in those time would be considered an eternity--through 1915--in a world where the standard player contract was for 1 year; having a bit part in their The Spider's Web (1912) along the way. Her last film for them--Putting Pep in Slowtown--was released in March of 1916. Her first real major role in an actual feature came in the Paragon produced drama Her Maternal Right also in 1916. She next appeared in Albert Capellani's huge epic La vie de Bohème (the film is 112 minutes long) in 1916; it stars amongst others: Alice Brady, Frederick TruesdellJune Elvidge, and Capellani's brother Paul. Also in 1916, she was cast in the serial Perils of Our Girl Reporters. By 1917 she was a leading lady, albeit in smaller productions from various companies that included World Film and Albert Capellani Productions. As an child/teenage actress, she had been known to the Ince Brothers and the first major production that she had the leading lady role in the 1920's was directed for Ralph Ince for Selznick Pictures; she played opposite matinee idol Eugene O'Brien in the melodrama His Wife's Money (1920). By 1921 she was a big enough star to appear in one of Federated's Screen Snapshots. In all, she appeared in some sixteen films in the 1920's, when she retired in 1924. He last film was Trouping With Ellen, a romantic comedy made with Eastern Productions.  It's pure speculation as a why she retired. She had reportedly been unhappy with not gaining more acting work during her adult career. She was also married, so perhaps that played a role.  She instead lived in Danvers, Massachusetts, with her husband and daughter, where she died at the age of 80 in 1976 on the 17th of November. She is interred at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA in the Columbarium there. A very attractive young woman, also she posed for some fashion photography.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Born Today June 25: Fred Belasco


Fred Belasco, born Isaac Frederick Belasco on this day in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, was best known as a stage actor, who became a fixture in the San Francisco area by managing the Alcazar Theater. Belasco did, however, appear in one film in his lifetime: The Pinnacle in the part of Paul Schall; it's an IMP film directed by Richard Stanton (it was the director's last film), which was released in 1916--just four years prior to Belasco's death. Belasco died on the 21st of December in 1920 at the age of 58 in San Francisco. He is buried at Colma's Hills of Eternity Memorial Park in San Mateo county.  

[Source: Find A Grave]

Monday, June 24, 2019

Born Today June 24: Phil Harris


Song and dance man, actor and American comedian Wonga Philip (Phil) Harris was born on this date in Linton, Indiana to circus performers.  He may have been born in Indiana, but he grew up in Nashville, Tennessee--a place that would have a profound affect on his life.  It is hardly surprising that his first performance job came with the very circus that his parents worked for, in the capacity of a boy drummer in the circus band of which his father was a bandleader.  This started him off squarely down the path of music.  By the 1920's, he was playing music professionally in San Francisco, where he formed his first band/orchestra.  The group secured a contractural engagement there at the St. Francis Hotel some time after 1925, that situation would last into the 1930's, quite impressive considering the coming of the depression. The contract ended when his orchestra disbanded in 1932, but he had an additional gig playing drums in yet another band at the time.  Harris made his first film appearance, yes, as a drummer, in 1929 in Why Be Good?--the film was released in two formats: one silent and one in mono with Vitaphone sound.  It was directed by William Seiter and starred Neil Hamilton and Colleen Moore. He wouldn't appear in another film until 1933, but it could be described as the most historically important film appearance of his career. He was the subject of the short So This Is Harris!, a comedic musical short directed and partially penned by Mark Sandrich, it would go to win the Oscar for Best Live Action Short.  His first full length full sound film appearance also came in 1933 with Melody Cruise.  What Harris is really known for his both his band-leading orchestral work and the proditious time his spent on the radio, which he started in 1936 on The Jell-O Show Starring Jack Benny when he became the show's band leader.  He and his orchestra, in the meantime, were also the subjects of numerous short films during this time as well.  Also, in 1942, he and his entire orchestra enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served until the end of World War II.  Harris made his television debut in the made-for-television musical Saturday Spectacular: Manhattan Tower; and, in 1958, he made he first appearance in an actual television series Shower of Stars in the episode Jack Benny Celebrated Celebrates his 40th Birthday, in an homage to his long time radio boss (by this time, Harris had moved on in radio, co-hosting a comedic family show with his wife Alice Faye).  He did eventually get into a few acting jobs on television as well, and later in life, he added voice work to his list of credits.  He is well remembered for his turn in the 1967 animated version of The Jungle Book as the voice for Baloo The Bear.  He continued to work in television, both in live parts and in voice-over, unitl 1981, when he retired.  He was persuaded to come out of retirement, however, in 1991--then in his late 80's--for one last voice role in the animated Rock-A-Doodle.  Harris died of a heart attack brought on by worsening heart failure at the age of 91 in Rancho Mirage, California on the 11th of August 1995.  He was cremated and his ashes were kept privately by his wife, until her death 3 years later, when both of their urns were interred on display at Forest Lawn Memorial Park's Palm Springs Mausoleum (now called the Cathedral City location).  

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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Born Today June 24: Irvin S. Cobb


American humorist, author, columnist and occasional actor Irvin Shrewsbury Cobb was born on this day in Paducah, Kentucky.  Cobb was known to be the "epitome" of the southern "character."  He had a number of wild stories about his family history that were clearly contrived, often ignoring real accomplishments of his ancestors.  For example, his maternal grandfather is credited with the discovery that the use of the mixture morphine-atropine with a hypodermic would stop cholera.  True as it is, such facts were apparently of no interest or use to the man who would later in life be dubbed the "Duke of Paducah."  Ironically, he would have to relocate to New York City to find the beginnings of success with his writings (I say ironically, because as southerner myself, I am familiar, even in my lifetime, of southern "views" of "yankee" cities like New York).  By 1911, he was working at the Saturday Evening Post.  He was their principle reporter covering World War I, marking one of the only times in his career that his writing turned deadly serious.  In what would be another irony, for someone who was considered toward the end of his life to inappropriately using racial humor (one of the reasons he fell very out of fashion in the 1940's), many of his articles covering The Great War for the Post centered on Harlem Hellfightters in a positive light (his book The Glory of the Coming was born out these published articles). Even before this period in his life, producers of motion pictures were using his writing for scenarios in film; a fact most certainly not lost on Cobb!  Never to be left out of any endeavour, when the films came looking for source material, they got more than just ideas for scripts...they got Cobb himself.  The first film (as far as anyone knows) to bear his name was a scenario that he penned in 1914 for Our Mutual Girl, No. 30 was indeed the 30th installment of a short melodrama series produced by Reliance Film Co. for actress Norma Phillips  aka Margaret, Our Mutual Girl. He, in fact, penned No's 31, 32 and 33 in the series as well. The first credit that appears for an actual adaptation of his work appears in the writing for the 1915 serial Graft, a Universal Manufacturing production; Cobb also appeared in a film for the first time in 1915 as well--taking on the role of "American tourist" in the Cecil B. DeMille directed The Arab (it would be the first of several acting appearances for Cobb during his life, most made in the sound era featuring him in shorts produced for him...sort of as himself--he only made one other film appearance in the silent era in 1920 Go and Get It--a horror mystery knock-off in the general vein of Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue). It should be pointed out that Cobb first began making appearances in film in early 1914 starting episode 24 of Our Mutual Girl in what would later be known as "cameos."  Throughout the silent era, several of his stories were adapted to the screen, especially years 1916 to 1920. Just a sampling of actors that appeared in films based on his work include: Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Irene Rich and Will Rogers. For a short period in 1921, he spent time writing directly for films. By the late 1920's the use of his stories had fallen out of favor and only two films were produced based on his work, the last of which was an early talkie by Paramount: Walls Tell Tales in 1928 (the last silent film produced from his work was Turkish Delight, produced by DeMille Pictures in 1927). It would take until 1933 for his work to appear in a production in the new era of sounded films; that came with The Woman Accused.  From there, only six more films have been produced adapting his writing, four of them in 1934, one in 1938 and the last in an 1953 anthology. The last time his work was adapted for a script, was also the first time and only time--to date--that it has been used for television in a 1955 episode of the CBS series DangerThe Belled Buzzard. Despite all of his southern bluster, Cobb spent the vast entirety of his career in New York City, which is where he died on the 11th of March in 1944. His cremated remains were returned to Kentucky, where they were buried at Oak Grove Cemetery in Puducah.

[Source: Find A Grave]

[Source: Find A Grave]