Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Born Today June 28: Valeska Suratt


Silent film starlet and fashion icon Valeska Suratt (yes that was her birth name) was born on this date in Owensville, Indiana.  When she was aged 6, her family moved to Terra Haute (a town that is sometimes mistakenly listed as her birth place), she grew up attending schools there, but dropped out in 1899 to go to work in a photography studio.  She eventually made her way to Indianapolis and went to work in the hat department of a department store there.  Eventually she moved to Chicago, which is where her stage career began.  Working in vaudeville until 1906 when she made her Broadway debut in a musical; she would go on to be one of the city's biggest star--due in no small part in her own successful self-promotion.  In fact, she became such a sex symbol that the mayor had one of her productions shut down, deeming it "Salacious."  All during this time, she was noted for her high sense of fashion, both on and off the stage.  And today she is well remembered pretty much for that alone.  That is due in part to the sad fact that not one single film appearance that she made has survived--none.  Yet, one cannot pick up a book on silent films without encountering her photographs in various fashion "get-ups"--many of which were deliberately intended to be "vampy."  Her fashion promotion earned her the nickname "Empress of Fashions."  Suratt signed with Fox in 1915 and made her film debut in The Soul Of Broadway, with Herbert Brenon in the directing chair. What follows below is the complete list of her films, again, all of them sadly lost; and a few of her more memorable fashion moments caught in photographs.  Suratt herself did not make any more motion pictures after 1917 and her star began to fade throughout the 1920's.  The nail in the coffin of her career came when she and Mirza Ahmad Sohrab sued Cecil B. DeMille in 1928 claiming that he had stolen the scenario of King Of Kings--which he had made into a film in 1927--from them.  The suit was settled out of court in 1930, with a gag order attached to it; so no one really knows the outcome (I suspect there was a payout).  The outcome of this case effectively blacklisted Suratt--one of the first of it's kind in Hollywood--it certainly ruined her career!  She was found a short time later living in a run down hotel in New York.  A benefit for her was held by novelist Fannie Hurst, which raised around $2,000.  Suratt disappeared with the money, returning to the same squallid hotel a few weeks later in the same state she was in before the benefit; apparently, she had lost all of the money on gambling.  At one point she tried to sell her self penned memoir to William Randolph Heart; but the manuscript contained so many outlandish claims--such that she was the Virgin Mary and the mother of Jesus--that the attempt failed.  This might give away that she was suffering from some sort of mental illness that was only getting worse; this especially worth speculating on given that her actual faith was Bahá'í.  Not much is known about her life after this, she eventually somehow wound up in a nursing home in Washington D. C., where she died at the age of 80 on the 2nd of July 1962.  She was buried in the Highland Lawn Cemetery in Terra Haute, Indiana with her mother.

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*Alphabetical By Cemetery

Père Lachaise, Paris France

Tomb of Daniel-Françoise Auber

Tomb of Alberto Blest Ganna

Tomb Of Frederic Chopin

Tomb of Adolphe d'Ennery

Tomb of Felix Faure

Tomb (on the left) of Louis Joseph Hérold

Tomb of P. J. C. Janssen

Tomb of Charles Nodier

Tomb Of Pierre Paul Prod'hon

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


Graves Of Silent Stars

*sorted by Cemetery

Calvary Cemetery Kansas City

Jeanne Eagels under her birth name of "Eagles"

Kensico Cemetery Valhalla New York

J. Gordon Edwards

May Irwin

Born Today June 27: May Irwin


Canadian born actress, singer and vaudevillian May Irwin was born Georgina May Campbell on this day in Whitby, Ontario, Canada.  After the untimely death of her father, her mother encouraged her and her sister to take up singing and other performance to help make ends meet.  They were eventually billed as "The Irwin Sisters" and made a formal debut over the border  of the United States in Buffalo, New York.  The were eventually booked to perform in New York City.  Though they were finding more and more success, May struck out on her own around the age of 21.  In 1883, she joined a stock company and made her debut on the theatrical stage.  In 1884, she made her stage debut in London, England.  At this time, she was making a whopping $2,500 a week!  By the 1890's she had developed signature performance numbers on the stage, one of which ended in a kiss with her fellow performer John C. Rice.  This is where movie making history steps in.  One night, one Thomas Edison happen to catch their act and decided he wanted to memorialize the kiss for his Kinetoscope production.  He was well aware that no one had filmed an actual kiss yet; probably because it was deemed too risque for the times.  So the very famous Edison short The Kiss became the first kiss filmed for a motion picture; it dates from 1896.  As far as Edison shorts goes, this is by far one of the most famous!  She appeared in only one other silent film and that came in 1914 with Mrs. Black Is Back, which was based on a play that she had been the star of on the stage.  Her likeness from The Kiss appeared in the 1936 sound documentary Fashions In Love as archive footage.  She died two years later on the 22nd of October from pneumonia in New York City at the age of 76.  She is buried in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York

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Monday, June 26, 2017

Born Today June 26: Jeanne Eagels


Silent movie star Jeanne Eagels was born Eugenie Eagles in Kansas City, Missouri to a carpenter; despite that when she changed the spelling of her name she claimed that her father was a Spanish architect and that she was born in Boston.  In her home town, she attended a private catholic school and later a public school, but quit school just after her first communion to work in a department store.  She then started to appear in local plays in the area.  She left Kansas City when she was 15 years old having secured a gig with the Dubinsky Bros. traveling show, which toured in the Midwest.  She married one of the Dubinsky's while still a teenager.  She would often appear along side him on stage.  In 1911, she moved to New York and became a chorus girl, eventually joining the Ziegfeld Follies, becoming a Ziegfeld Girl.  There she had several actor coaches as well.  She also had a number of successes in plays there.  Many sources cite that she first appeared on a set for film acting in 1915 for a Thanhouser production released in 1916 (the film was The World And The Woman (1916)).  She actually made her film debut in 1913 in The Ace Of Hearts which was made for the Ryno Film Company.  She stayed with Thanhouser through 1917.  She subsequently made one film in 1918 for World Film and another in 1919, The Madonna Of The Slums, for the stage Women's War Relief Fund.  After this, she became ill (this may have been from the lose of a child from her first marriage--either the boy died or was given up for adoption).  She spent time convalescing in Europe, before returning to the stage on Broadway.  Throughout most of the 1920's Eagel's career was on the stage.  Things were at times tumultuous during her time on stage; she was increasingly turning to various forms of self-medication, starting with drink.  She would not return to film acting again until 1927 when she appeared in Man, Woman And Sin.  She planned to return to stage work in 1928, but she was banned from appearing on stage for 18 months because of her increasingly outrageous behavior while performing.  She instead returned to make two more films, both early talkies.  She appeared in The Letter and in Jealousy (her last performance in any vehicle), both were Paramount films and both were released in 1929.  Sometime in the mid-1920's she became a user of heroin, as a result she began to have various health related issues.  Back in New York, she underwent eye surgery, as she had other ailments at the time, such breathing issues, and it took longer than normal to recover in the hospital from the surgery.  In a follow up appointment on the 3rd of October, 1929, she--with her secretary assisting--arrived her doctor's office.  During the appointment, she began convulsing violently and died a short time later.  She was 39 years of age.  Three autopsies all concluded that she had over-dosed on her own, probably by accident.  Though some speculation surrounds whether doctors at hospital where her last appointment became confused as to whether she had been give a sedative and doubled or even tripled the sedative administered, there by causing an over-dose death.  Whatever the case, it was most certainly an accidental death.  She was given a funeral service in her adopted home town in New York and then shipped back to Kansas City, where she was given a second funeral and buried in Calvary Cemetery there.  Her mother put the corrects spelling of her last name on her grave marker.

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Born Today June 25: Annegrethe Antonsen

Still from her first film: His Great Duty (in English) 1910


Danish silent film actress Annegrethe Antonsen was born on this day in Over Barrit, Denmark.  She only made four films appearances, starting in 1910 with His Great Duty, a Nordisk film.  She next appeared in Et gensyn (1910), a Regia Kunstfilms production.  Her third film was the short Norwegian drama film Dæmonen (1911).  Her last film appearance came in Pigen fra det mørke København in 1912.  Antonsen died in 1930 on January 9 at the age of 74.  There is no information concerning her burial.  


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Born Today June 24: J. Gordon Edwards


Canadian born silent film director J. Gordon Edwards was born on this day in Montreal.  Like so many silent film pioneers, Edwards got his start in the theater; first as an actor, then as a director at the Suburban Garden Theater in St. Louis, Missouri.  He would go on to be Theda Bara's favorite director, whom he directed some 22 times.  He made his film debut in 1914, directing St. Elmo for Balboa Amusement.  He was then hired by Fox, where he was trusted with a good number of their largest budget films.  The first film that he made for them was The Celebrated Scandal in 1915, starring Betty Nansen.  He added writing to his list of accomplishments in 1915 with Blindness of Devotion.  He first directed Bara in 1916 in Under Two Flags (like so many Bara/Fox films, this film is lost); the film represents his only producer credit.  One of his most important films with Bara came in 1917 with the now also lost Cleopatra.  In 1921, he directed the huge epic The Queen Of Sheba, complete with a very elaborate chariot race (again, it is another lost Fox film)--the film represented one the largest budgets in the then hence-to history of the famed studio.  His last time in the directing chair came with It Is The Law in 1924.  Edwards died the following year in New York City from pneumonia on New Year's Eve (1925) at the age of 58.  He is buried in a very elaborate tomb resembling the Taj Majal in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, New York.

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Born Today June 22: Edgar Lewis


Silent actor turned director Edgar Lewis was born on this day in Holden, Missouri.  He started out on the stage and graduated to film acting in 1911 when he appeared in The Violin Maker Of Nuremberg.  Though he started directing just two years later, he never stopped taking jobs in front of the camera.  His directorial debut came with Hiawatha (1913), though he is uncredited.  His first credited directing job came with his next film in a short western in which he directed himself: The Sheriff (1913).  In 1915 he added scenario writer to his list of credits with A Gilded Fool, a film that he also directed, which was made at Fox.  And in 1919 he got into that most silent film form of promotion, becoming a "presenter" on Caliber 38 (1919), which he directed under his newly founded Edgar Lewis Productions.  The following year he and his company got into full production mode on Lahoma (1920), a western that he directed and was set in his home state of Missouri.  His first sound film, a DeForest Phonofilm,  was Unmasked in 1929; he directed this now lost film.  The last film that he directed came in 1930 with the comedy Ladies In Love; though he continued to act.  The last film that he appeared in was a small uncredited role in Riding Wild; a Tim McCoy western released in 1935.  This was just three years prior to his death on the 21st of May 1938 in Los Angeles. He was 68.  He is buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017


List Of Partially Lost Films


Condition:  Only reels 3-6 and 9-12 are known to absolutely survive, it is possible that reel 8 may be incomplete.  All of the surviving bits of the film are silent.  Housed at the Library of Congress.


Condition: a print is held by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City.  There is no information as to it's length or condition.


Condition:  This is and American production under the direction of transplanted Swedish director Victor Sjöström for MGM.  For the longest time in was a famous listing on the American Film Institute's list of lost films--and basically it deserves to remain there.  Approximately 9 minutes of the film were discovered in the Swedish Film Institute's vault.  That fragment has been restored and were screed on the 27th of February in 2011.

Dödskyssen (KISS OF DEATH) (1916) IMDb SILENT

Condition:  Only 30 minutes of this Sjöström film survives.

Still from the film with Jeanne Eagels and Frederick Warde

Condition:  Only a shortened version of the full length film survives today.  It is a watchable version, and has been screened multiple times.  An online version of this Thanhouser production can be found at Free Classic Movies.


Condition:  Most episodes have been recovered and remastered. 

Surviving still from the film.


Condition: 4 of the 5 original reels survive at the Library of Congress.  This represents the very first American full feature length film.  

Born Today June 21: Aubrey M. Kennedy


Silent film writer, director, independent studio founder, and major studio executive Aubrey M. Kennedy was born on this day in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Kennedy, along with his partner Elmer Bosoeke, founded the Santa Barbara Motion Picture Co.; Kennedy would go on to found his own production company The Aubrey Kennedy Pictures Corp. which only produced one film in 1932.  The first film that he made was wholly his project alone, he both wrote and directed The Yellow Menace in 1916--it was a serial.  Though a life long studio executive, Kennedy was only active in direct film making from the years 1916 to 1933.  He definitely wrote or adapted three of the four films or serials that he directed; it is probable that he also wrote Liquid Gold (1919).  In all, he wrote or adapted works for six films or serials.  One of them, The Masked Rider, was a very violent 15 part serial that represents the earliest known surviving appearance on film by Boris Karloff, playing a Mexican.  The film was presumed lost until an almost complete print was found in the home of a former projectionist in Pennsylvania in 2003; one part was beyond repair and due to editing from the projectionist himself, other parts were simply missing.  Still quite the find!  The last film that he directed came in 1920 with Sky-Eye.  The last film that he wrote for was his first production credit and the first sound film that he had worked on; The Face On The Barroom Floor was released by Kennedy's own company in 1932.  The film that he worked on directly was Playthings Of Desire in 1933, which he produced.  He was then hired by Goldwyn to be their studio manager.  Kennedy died on the 20th of October 1953 in Alameda County, California at the age of 66.  There is no information as to his burial or cremation.

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