Monday, September 24, 2018

Born Today September 24: Marcus (Mark) Hanna


American businessman, turned Republican politician, Mark Hanna was born Marcus Alonzo Hanna on this day in New Lisbon (now just Lisbon) Ohio into a Quaker family of a physician and wife.  As a historical figure, there is little reason to try to go into any sort of detail concerning his life (links are provided below); suffice to say that that the films in which he appeared are strictly historical in nature.  Hanna appeared in 4 documentary news-reels toward the very end of his life.  The first of these was Republican National Committee of 1900, shot by the American Mutoscope & Biograph co. The other three shorts are as follows:

President McKinley Inauguration  (1901) [also Biograph]

Hanna died while still serving in the U.S. Senate in a Washington D.C. hotel, after a bout of typhoid fever weakened his heart on the 15th of February. He was 66. He is interred in a fancy family mausoleum located in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, OH. 

Silent Films On TCM: October 2018

Oct 4 8:30 AM Info 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Born Today September 23: William Archer


Writer and critic William Archer was born today in Perth, Scotland in the UK.  A part of his childhood was spent in Norway; while there he became interested in the native writer Henrik Ibsen. He later attended the University of Edinburgh and received an M.A. from there in 1876.  A year before this, he started writing for the Edinburgh Evening News.  By 1879, he had made the move to London and was the senior dramatic critic for the London Figaro.  He later moved over to The World, a bi-weekly paper that was published up until 1920. He worked as a critic at the publication until 1906; in other words, during it's most popular run.  Archer used the position to advocate for the staging of Ibsen plays in the British capital--with much success. One of the aspects of his life that he is well known for today, is his introduction of Ibsen to the British stage.  Archer himself was also a playwright (which constituted only a small portion of his writings--he also penned biographies and studies of literary works).  Archer, through an extra-martial relationship with a popular actress, became quite influential in the theater community--this was furthered by his friendship with George Bernard Shaw.  Archer's own success in the theater would not come until after the cessation of World War I (the war had taken his only child--his son Tom--during the war he had actually worked as a writer for the British war propaganda department).  In 1921, his play The Green Goddess--a melodrama--was staged at the Booth Theater in New York--it's production was a success and the play became instantly popular.  It is this play that, in 1923, was turned into a film. The film shared the play's title and was directed by Sidney Olcott and featured Alice Joyce.  This was the only film of his work filmed during his lifetime, and the only one in the silent era.  In fact, all of the films that he is credited with as source material for adapted screenplays of his dramatic works comes from this one play.  Other works used in films come from his personal translations of Ibsen.  The UK production The Green Goddess (1930), directed by Alfred Green, was a Vitagraph full sound talkie (the play was used twice more in films released in 1939 and 1943--one a short).  The last time (to date) that his work was used for a film came with the made for television A Doll's House, a live performance presented in real time on the BBC--the film is amongst the lost (his contribution to another made for television movie based on translations of Ibsen had come earlier--in 1950--also on the BBC).  Archer died suddenly in a London nursing hospital after surgical complications arose after he under went a procedure to remove a cancerous kidney tumor on the 27th of the December in 1924. He was 68 years old.  I can find no information on his interment. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Born Today September 15: Agatha Christie


The world's most famous mystery novelist Agatha Christie was born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller (she was later Dame Agatha, Lady Mallowan) on this day in Torquay, Devon, England. For such a towering literary figure, there is little point in my attempting to write up a synopsis of her life.  Suffice to say that she was born into a well of family, to a mother who was born in Belfast and a father who came from an "upper crust" American family.  She was the baby of the family and gained the surname "Christie" when she married Archibald Christie in 1914 with whom she had one child--a daughter.  The couple would divorce in 1928 and she would marry Sir Max Mallowan in 1930--this is how she gained the title of Lady Mallowan, but for professional purposes, she kept her first married name for publication.  She also published romance novels under the pen name Mary Westmacott.  Her mystery play The Mousetrap holds the world record for being the longest running play in history.  She had actually began to write before her first marriage, but was not published until 1920; and that was The Mysterious Affair at Styles--introducing the world to her exacting Belgian detective: Hercule Poirot.  Since this blog in concerned with silent films and films of the 1920's, I will just jump to the two films of her work that were produced in 1928 and 1929 respectively.  The first was, not surprisingly, a British mystery feature based on her story "The Coming of Mr. Quinn": The Passing of Mr. Quinn.  The other film, Adventures, Inc. (Die Abenteurer G. m. b. H.) is from Germany and is based on her novel The Secret Adversary.  Both of these films are silent.  It would be a further two years on, when Alibi was released in 1931, that a talkie would be made using her work.  Her works are so adaptable, that it is hardly surprising that her writing would be a source for early television.  In fact, one of her works made it into one of the earliest television programs in the UK, via the stage.  In 1937 her short story "The Wasp's Nest"--a Poirot mystery--was the featured in an episode by the same name in the series Theater Parade. The series featured filmed plays of actual theatrical performances of works of literature.  The stage adaptation featured in the episode was adapted for the stage by Christie herself.  As of this writing, four projects are in various stages of production adapting her work for the small and large screen.  One of them, Death On The Nile--slated for release next year--is a return to the screen of Kenneth Branagh as Poirot. Another, Witness For The Prosecution was just announced, and is set to be directed by Ben Affleck.  The other two projects are destined for television.  The most recent release, again as of this writing, The ABC Murders is a mini-series made for the BBC and stars John Malkovich as Poirot.  Christie died in her Oxfordshire home from natural causes on the 12th of January 1976 at the age of 85. She is buried in the graveyard of St. Mary's in Cholsey.  She is the best selling author "of all time" as her website proclaims.  This is actually an understatement.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Born Today September 9: J. C. Buckstone

Buckstone on the stage in 1902.


Actor J. C. (John Copeland) Buckstone was born on this day in the Sydenham area of London.  Buckstone was a popular stage actor, who also dabbled in stage adaptation writing.  He was the son of the famous stage actor and writer J. B. Buckstone (who is said to haunt the Royal Haymarket Theater...Patrick Stewart claims to have seen him!). One of the younger Buckstone's plays was made into a film in 1901.  Buckstone had penned a popular stage adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol; a short film was produced from the play (half of that film survives and has been released on DVD) entitled Scrooge, or Marley's Ghost starring an actor named Daniel Smith in the title role.  Buckstone actually appeared in two films towards the end of his career in 1913. Predictably, one them was a Christmas Carol adaptation: Old Scrooge (also available on DVD)--a version of his adaptation, further adapted by actor Seymour Hicks, who plays Ebenezer Scrooge in the film (note: he famously reprised this role in the classic talkie version of the story in 1935).  Buckstone also appeared in the first of two 1913 adaptations of T.W. Robertson's play David Garrick--a film that also features Hicks in the starring role.  For the most part, Buckstone's acting career was one on the stage, rather than in front of the film camera.  He passed away in London on the 24th of September in 1924--just a little more than two weeks after his 65th birthday.  I can find no information as to his burial.

Scene from the 1901 film

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Born Today September 6: Charles Giblyn


Prolific director (and actor) of and in silent films, Charles Giblyn was born on this date in Watertown, New York. Though mostly known as one of the founders of the Motion Pictures Director's Association dating from 1915, he was first an actor on the stage; he is known to have starred in a few Broadway productions at the turn of the 20th century. His first credit as a director dates from 1912 with the short western An Indian Legend, which came out in October and was produced by the Broncho Film Co. [affiliated with Essanay] and distributed theatrically by Mutual. Ironically, since he started out as an stage actor, it would be two years later that he would appear as an actor in a film (that he directed, of course): The Silent Messenger is a short drama about Italian village life where Giblyn plays a rather major role of the village doctor.  Probably his most notable (tongue-in-cheek) acting role had to be in the part of "Le Monde--The Film Star" in the Victor comedy The Nightmare of a Movie Fan (1915)--a film that he, of course, also directed.  Giblyn also dabbled in writing. His first produced (and self directed) scenario was The Brand Of Cain in 1914, a Powers Pictures Plays film. Giblyn's years active as a director span between 1913 and 1927 and number around 100, but the lion's share of those came between the years 1913 through 1916.  As film lengths stretched into the more modern "feature length" time frame (over 60 minutes), the number of films he directed gradually became less and less after 1917.  Over the years, he also worked for a number of different production houses; for example, the 1 hour and 10 minute lost drama The Price She Paid, which starred Clara Kimball Young (who he shares a birthday with), was written and directed for her company and distributed by Selznick Distributing.  In 1922, he founded his own production company, Albion.  Just before this, he was working at Fox--his stint there in the early 1920's looks to be his longest stay with a company (this is where he directed Pearl White in several films--see photo below).  The first film that he made under his own production umbrella was A Woman's Woman (1922) based on a Nalbro Bartley novel.  He would direct just six more films after this, the last of which was the Ladies Beware in 1927.  Many of the films that he directed have not survived; probably the most famous of these is the June 1925 release The Adventurous Sex starring Clara Bow.  One of his films that does survive that has a bit of a reputation outside the world of silent film buffs, is the dramatic horror film The Dark Mirror made for Famous Players-Lasky, which was released in May of 1920 and distributed by an early incarnation of Paramount.  After Giblyn quit directing, he continued to act in films.  He appeared in films from 1927 through 1934, with most of his roles coming in early talkies.  His first speaking role came 1929 in one of Warner Oland's first Fu Manchu full sound talkies The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu.  He also had a role in William A. Wellman's Woman Trap, also in 1929.  Most of the roles that he took after this point were in uncredited parts; the last film that he appeared in was This Side Of Heaven in 1934.  The film was released just weeks away from his death on the 14th of March in Los Angeles.  He is interred in the mausoleum at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Giblyn was married to silent actress Ernette Tamm, who, though she has only one credit on IMDb, actually appeared in several silent films before retiring. She is interred with him, but there is not marker for her on the tomb. 

Seen here on the left with actress Pearl White on the set of The Tiger's Club (Fox) in 1920.

Photo: Find A Grave


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Born Today September 4: Joseph F. Poland


Screenwriter Joseph F. Poland, whose career spanned from the early silent era all the way through 1950's as an active writer (he wrote so many scripts, that many were produced for the first time after his death) was born on this date in Waterbury, Conn.  His first writing credit  for a short story comes in 1913 with the short comedic western The Taming of Texas Pete , a film made for Selig Polyscope.  This was is his only credit for that year; additionally he had only one credit for the following year with American Film Manufacturing's The Smoldering Spark (1914).  By contrast, he penned six films in 1915; after this, he was never out of work for the remained of his life. By the dawn of the the 1920's, he had written dozens of films--most of them short melodramas.  His scripts were purchased and produced across of wide range of production houses from Fox to Thomas H. Ince's company.  During the 1920's, he scripted nearly 50 films, with Universal's It Can Be Done (1929) representing the first of his scripts used in a film with sound (it is a partial silent, with some talking sequences and sound effects--including music--by MovieTone).  The Leo McCarey comedy The Sophomore (1929) was the first full sound picture made of one of his screenplays; and Salior's Holiday (1929) starring Alan Hale Sr. --a film that he worked on anonymously--was the last film of his writing materials to be made in the decade.  He would not pen another film for five years, when the Gene Autrey musical western Sagebrush Troubadour was released in 1935.  In the 1940's, he penned, amongst many, many other genres, a number of B-grade pot-boilers, including some Dick Tracy adventures. In 1950, his work made it's television debut, with screenplays for three episodes of the popular western The Lone Ranger, starring Canadian Mohawk actor Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore.  Though Poland passed away in Los Angeles on the 23rd of March, 1962--his work was produced for a further 12 years, with the last film coming in 1974 with The Three Stooges Follies. There is no information on his burial or cremation.  He was 69 years old at the time of his death.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Born Today September 2: James H. Wilson


Army Major General (2 Star) James Harrison Wilson was born on this day in Shawneetown, Illinois.  He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1860...just one year before Civil War broke out in the U.S. His specialty was "topographical engineering," but his initial service in the Civil War was as an aide.  He served under both Generals McClellan and Grant. He served throughout the conflict and saw heavy action in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. He was in command when his battalion of men captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the Swiss born Heinrich Wirz, commandant of the infamous prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia. After leaving Army service in 1883, he worked as for a time as a construction engineer in the railroad field.  He then moved to Wilmington, Delaware; where as a private citizen, he took up (amongst other endeavors) writing.  He was persuaded to return to the Army in 1898 to service in the Spanish-American War and was later sent to China, where he served during the infamous Boxer Rebellion in 1901 as a brigadier-general, before retiring again from the service in early 1902.  He represented then President Theodore Roosevelt and the country at the coronation of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom. As far as film is concerned, it is his service in China that brings him to this blog.  He is featured in the Amercian Mutoscope & Biograph documentary short The War in China (1901), which also features Maj. Gen. Adna R. Chaffee and Minister Edward H. Conger.  Wilson passed away on the 23rd of February, 1925 in his adopted home town of Wilmington at the respectable age of 87.  He was laid to rest at the Old Swedes Churchyard there. For more about his military life and for a really interesting list of his written works, please check out his Wikipedia page.

Appreciative of Find A Grave member Kimberly for the free photo use!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Born Today September 1: James J. Corbett


The man who be a World Heavyweight Champion of boxing, James John Corbett, affectionately known as "Gentleman Jim," was born on this day in San Francisco, California.  He would eventually become an actor, but he very famously appeared in an early Edison Short Corbett and Courtney Before the Kinetograph in 1894, with fellow boxer Peter Courtney.  Edison later recalled in 1930 that the film was the very first film the company made for public exhibition (which was true-ish enough).  Unlike Courtney, who is known to film only by his appearance in the above referenced title, Corbett had a eye for the theatrical and an aim to capitalize on it after his boxing career was ended.  In addition to giving what we would call motivational speeches today, he also took to appearing in minstrel shows and eventually made his way back in front of the motion picture camera (he had appeared in a number of exhibition reels after the Edison Black Maria experience--as early as 1897).  He starred, largely as himself--and billed by his nickname-- in the 1913 western The Man From the Golden West.  His roles on film were few and far between, but by 1916, he was commanding the leading role.  In all he appeared in just nine films (as far as anyone has been able to document to date)--and that includes the famous Edison 6 part (1 minute each) film (only 1 part of the film remains, but it is viewable on DVD format and can be viewed on YouTube).  He had a role in the Edward Dillion feature comedy The Beauty Shop released in 1922 and did not appear again in film until the coming of the talkie in the late 1920's.  Perhaps one of the most surprising things about Corbett, was his writing; he appeared as himself in a 1910 Vitagraph produced biographical short that he penned about his life (to date): James J. Corbett; or, How Championships Are Won and Lost (that same biographical material was later used in a film about his life starring Errol Flynn in 1942, appropriately titled Gentleman Jim). His role as a member of the minstrel show entertainers in the early all sound musical production Happy Days in 1929 directed by Benjamin Stoloff was his first in a sound picture. His last film appearance came in 1930 in the Murray Roth short At The Round Table (the film also had an appearance by DeWolf Hopper Sr.--the father of William Hopper and ex-husband of his mother Hedda). Corbett died three years later in Bayside, New York on the 18th of February at the age of 66.  He was subsequently interred at Brooklyn's Cypress Hill Cemetery. His boxing career is the most interesting part of his biography, so I highly recommend reading up on it if you are interested in sports. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Born Today August 29: John E. Ince


Eldest Ince brother John Edward Ince was born on this day in New York City to immigrant vaudevillian parents from England. Though John in remembered mostly as an actor, he was also a prolific director--with over 50 titles to his name; and, after the sudden (and some say mysterious) death of his brother Thomas, a producer.  He, along with all of his siblings, were started on the stage at a young age and he remained a stage actor of merit throughout his life; he did not make his film acting debut, however, until the age of 35 in 1913.  He appeared as "Big Bill" in the Lubin Manufacturing short The Girl of the Sunset Pass, along with Edgar Jones and Clara Williams.  After he started acting in films, he instantly became a prolific presence in Lubin shorts, appearing in nearly two dozen shorts in 1913 alone.  He directed for them as well; in fact, his debut in the film industry actually came as a director the year before when he directed Arthur V. Johnson and Lottie Briscoe in the dramatic short The Spoiled Child (1912) [he first directed himself in The Hills of Strife in 1913].  He was a frequent  film actor up through 1915, after which, he decided to concentrate  exclusively on his directing [the last film that he appeared in--which he also directed--was In Love's Own Way (1915) with Mary Charelson].  Interestingly, for all of his creative input in the films under his direction, he has only one screenwriting credit for the feature length family feud film Her Man, made for Advanced Motion Picture Corp and distributed by Pathé Exchange in 1918 (the screenplay was an adaptation of a Charles Neville Buck novel); the film starred Elaine Hammerstein.  He didn't appear again in a film until 1921, when he made up one-half of cast of John Gorman's crime drama Fate.  Throughout the decade, he appeared sparsely in films, with the bulk of his time spent on his new found passion of production.  After his brother Ralph's death in 1924, he started his own company, John Ince Productions, that produced 5 films in the 1920's--the first of which, The Great Jewel Robbery, (self directed) in 1925.  Of those five titles, one of them--That Old Gang of Mine--was written and directed by that rarest of filmmakers in the silent era: a female director.  The film, a comedy, was the work of playwright and stage director May Tully--it represented her final work in life, as she died in 1924 and the film was released by Ince's company the following year.  The last silent film in which John Ince acted came out in 1927; Wages of Conscience was also directed by Ince, but was made for Superlative Pictures.  The last film that he personally produced was the 1928 western short The Rustler's End, which was directed by Robert J. Horner--a curiosity in the lower end Hollywood world of B-pictures (he has been called the "Ed Wood of the 1920's").  After this, he was absent from films for a few years, returning as an actor in the George Archainbaud talkie Alias French Gertie in 1930.  This was the first film Ince had any association with that incorporated sound of any sort.  He would continue in films, but only as an actor (many of his roles uncredited), for almost 20 years. His last film came in 1949 in the Jack Irwin b-crime feature Gun Cargo, which was released close to two years after his death.  Ince passed away after a bout of pneumonia on the 10th of April, 1947 at the age of 68, having outlived both of much more famous younger brothers by many years.  Nothing is noted as to his burial or interment, but his much more famous brother Thomas had been cremated after a lavish open casket funeral, so it is at least as likely that his older brother was cremated as well.  

Main poster for his adapted film Her Man from 1918.