Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Born Today September 23: Mickey Rooney


Born Joseph Yule Jr. in New York City to vaudevillian parents, he was literally born into "the business."  At the time of his birth, to a Scottish immigrant father, and an American mother of English ancestry, his parents were literally appearing in a Brooklyn production of A Gaiety Girl.  So basically he was a child actor, even an infant actor, as his first stage appearance came at the age of 17 months of age (one account puts him at 15 months).  During his acting career, he acted and on and in vaudeville, the Stage--including Broadway, radio, films and television.  He appeared in over 300 films.  He is listed in the Guinness Book Of World Records as having the longest movie career at 86 years of any other actor (male or female); if one were inclined to add his earliest work on, he might have the longest acting career in history.  As to how he came to the name "Mickey Rooney" from Joe Yule Jr. actually applies to the subject of this blog--the silents.  Obviously, being born in 1920 means that he was a seriously young child actor in that decade.  After his parents separated, his mother moved him to Hollywood (after moving from New York to Kansas City where she had relocated during a vaudeville slump, with husband traveling for work).  She took him to an audition call from Fox Fontaine for a dark haired child actor (according to legend she couldn't afford to have his hair dyed, so she rubbed his hair down with burnt cork), he got the part and his first role came in 1926 as Mickey McBan, a barely disguised version of the character he came to play formed from a strip cartoon (in that he is credited with same name as the character McBan).  This led to a contract for a series of short films based on the actual character named "Mickey McGuire," the cartoon character that Fox was, well, ripping off to begin with the McBan credit.  Because of this, Fox convinced his mother to have his name legally changed to the character's name, in a disgustingly slimy move on their part to get around paying royalties to the cartoon strip writers--his mother changed her last name to McGuire as well.  There was a very nasty law suit filed against the studio that they lost, which, I guess meant he was legally returned to his birth name (not at all sure about this, it's vague and the ligation was messy).  Well, there comes the "Mickey" part--and these are the movies that will be featured below in this post.  As to the "Rooney" part, that came when there was a series interruption of Mickey McGuire shorts which came in 1932 and his mother wanted to take him out on a touring vaudevillian Show, she wanted to bill him as "McGuire," and Fox was compelled to sue her to keep her from doing that because it was part of the legal settlement that he not be allowed to use the name in any way whatsoever.  So she suggested Looney, since he was known as a comedic actor, but the kid had enough sense to suggest "Rooney" instead, reminding his mother about lawsuits--it would have been a copyright infringement on Warner's Looney Tunes. Hence Mickey Rooney was born when he was 12 years of age.  Fatherless, a number early Hollywood big shots took on fatherly like roles as he appeared in films with them, people like Wallace Beery and Lionel Barrymore, but it was Louie B. Mayer that became the most important man in his younger life.  From there on, he had one hell of a reputation, if one is inclined to delve, you don't have to go too deep to find some truly dark stuff!  He was well known to have a terrible gambling problem and was married 8 times--none of them successful (he was separated from his last wife at the time of his death), but that's about as far I will go here, especially given that it's his child work in the 20's that this blog is concerned with.  On the other hand, it has to be pointed out that he worked right up to his death, not something often seen with actors in very advanced years.  Clearly he truly loved the entertainment business--he came in the world an actor and he left it the same way.  He died on the 6th of April 2014 at the staggering age of 93.  Vanity Fare called him "the original Hollywood train wreck."  Like so many other famous people in Hollywood, he is buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

The 1920's Mickey McGuire Shorts:

Not To Be Trusted (1926) (credited to Mickey McBan)

Mickey's Brown Derby (1929) (partial silent)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Born Today September 22: Erich von Stroheim


Born Erich Oswald Stroheim to observant Jews in Vienna Austria, he immigrated on his own to the US, entering through the famous Ellis Island where he claimed that his name was Count Erich Oswald Hans Carl Maria von Stroheim und Nordenwall, claiming to be the son of Austrian notability (which is amusing because non-Jewish Austrians (or Austro-Hungarians), like my own grandfather for example, spell "Carl" with a K [Karl], Jewish Germanics spell it with a C--that should have be a bit of a give away, that's quite apart from the whole "Stroheim"'s a great name though!!)  He entered the country essentially as that character type and went on to basically play that character in is early silent acting roles.  He seems to have been somewhat of a trickster sort, rather than a deliberate fraud.  In later speaking roles he spoke German with an American sounding accent; and fashion photographer Helmet Newton, himself a German speaker from birth, claimed that von Stroheim spoke "a very special kind of Prussian officer lingo, it's very abrupt, it's very, very funny."  He, personally claimed to have forgotten is native tongue on more than one occasion, who knows??  Sounds like quite the character me!  Most people who knew him ordinary situations claimed that he atcually had a "lower-class Austrian accent."  Below in an embed of radio comments he made upon the death of D. W. Griffith--listen for yourself and you decide. [nevemind tje prognaistic natire pf tje peiece] Though most remember him as a director and  for his auteur directorial style rather than as an actor--of which he did much more of than actual directing.  His first acting role dates from 1915, but it was his getting noticed by directorial giant D. W. Griffith that eventually lead to much larger roles; roles such as those mentioned above.  Of course, to be a director in the auteur style, he would by necessity have to also be a screenwriter (and producer and editor), but he went on to have credits in a number of different areas of film making including:  Costume designer, Art Department, Soundtrack performance, Wardrobe Assistant, Production designer.  He also has a number a of (un)credits as an assistant director, the most infamous of which would have to be Birth Of A Nation (1916) One of his "epics" Greed is infamous because his insistence that it be shot in Death Valley.  At least one person was hospitalized in fairly serious condition--if memory serves, several animals died.  Cameras had to be wrapped in ice towels just for shooting short bits at a time.  In his personal life--he was married three times, made one film in France with his "secretary" and had two sons:  that went on to work in the film industry.  By the time of his death in Paris, on 2 May 1957 at the age of 71, had been living in France for some time.  Have a funny little birthday notice for him over on my Scare Me site. Stroheim is buried in France in the village cemetery of Maurepas (Cimetére de Maurepas), Department of Yvelines.

[Source: Michel SCHIREIBER (Find A Grave)]

Silent Era Work:

Birth Of A Nation (1916) (on both Amazon Prime and Internet Archive--find soft things to throw at your telly!  Don't break the TV....)

Intolerance (1916) (this can be streamed from Internet Archive)

Panthea (1917) (lost film)

Blind Husbands (1919) (this Stroheim directed silent is currently on Amazon Prime)

C-V News: Filming Greed (1923) (not to toot my own horn, but I was the person who got IMDb to add this--it took two tries, despite that it is the print is archived as survived and the bloody thing is on DVD...ah IMDb!  Stroheim did almost get a lot people killed filming this in Death Valley!)

Greed (1924) (not to be confused with the 1917 film of the same title--this one almost got him into serious legal hot water--over, literally, hot temperatures!)

A Trip Through The Paramount Studio (1927)  (a TON of silent films stars on in this one!)

The Wedding March (1928) (partial silent, with soundtrack and sound effects by Western Electric)

The Honeymoon (1928) (early talkie)

Tempest (1928) (this was either a partial silent or there were two versions, with the other being in mono. This is also currently on Amazon Prime)

Queen Kelly (1929) (partial silent/mono or two version distrubuted.  Currently on Amazon Prime)

The Great Gabbo (1929) (Western Electric early talkie--and a personal favorite.  This can be streamed or cast from Internet Archive.  He sings in this one...)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Born Today September 20: Victor Sjöström


Born Victor David Sjöström in Silbodal Sweden, he is primarily known as a very prolific director of films, but, in fact, he was also a prolific actor as well, often directing himself in his own films.  He is well known as "The Father Swedish Film" and is regarded as one of the very best film directors ever.  He directed some very famous and influential silent films, especially in the 1920's that includes one of my favorite silent horror films of all time The Phantom Carriage (which he also wrote) in 1921.  Though born in Sweden he was only one year old when his father Olof moved the family the New York; when 6 years later his mother died, at just the age of 7 he returned alone to Sweden to live with relatives in Stockholm.  He started down the path toward making films, when at the age of 17 he started acting with a touring theater company. He left the stage to make his first film in 1912 and continued to direct films through the year 1937. In all he made 41 films in Sweden, many are probably and  sadly lost.  Though he started directing in Sweden, he made the move to Hollywood in the 1920's at the invitation Louis B. Mayer, where he went on to direct the likes fellow Swede Greta Garbo, Lillian Gish, Lon Chaney Sr. and John Gilbert, just to name a few. When in Hollywood he was credited as "Victor Seastrom." He made only two talkies in the US, with only one A Lady To Love (1930) actually made for US consumption.  Though his next film Die Sehnsucht jeder Frau (1930) was produced by MGM, it was in the German language and debuted in Finland; on this one he insisted that his real name be credited as director.  This marked his end in Hollywood, when he returned to Sweden to direct a further two films.  His last film Under The Red Robe (1937) was made in England, where he was once again credited as Seastrom (it is currently on Amazon Prime).  He then stopped directing films and returned to the theater in Stockholm.  He did, however, continue acting in movie, with his last role coming in the year 1957 in no less than the Ingmar Bergman directed Wild Strawberries.  In addition to being an incredibly talented actor and director, he was also very good writer of screenplays.  He passed away in Stockholm on the 3 of January in 1960 at the age of 80 and it interred at Norra begravningsplatsen (Northern Cemetery), where a number of other famous Swedes are buried including actress Ingrid Bergman is also buried.

In Hollywood with Lillian Gish and Lars Hanson, amongst other on an outdoor shoot.

His Very Prolific Silent Era Work:

Trädgårdsmästaren (1912) (a formerly lost film, it was also a banned film)

Barnet (1913) (short)

Vampyren (1913) (short)

Dödskyssen (1916) (partially lost film)

Name The Man (1924) (his first Hollywood film)

He Who Gets Slapped (1924) (this will be aired on TCM on the 28th of this month)

Confessions Of A Queen (1925) (partially lost film)

The Tower Of Lies (1925) (set in Sweden, filmed in California, I believe the above still may be a cast photo from this film.)

The Divine Woman (1928) (here he directed Garbo, it such a shame that only 9 minutes of this film survives!  At least we have the one reel!)

The Masks Of The Devil (1928) (sadly a lost film

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Born Today September 19: Ricardo Cortez


You would think with a name like Ricardo Cortez and the fact that he was born in New York City, he would be  Cuban, Puerto Rican or of some other Caribbean Latin ancestry.  In fact he was born Jacob Krantz to recently immigrated Austrian Jewish parents.  He mother was heavily pregnant with him when the couple made the move to NYC, so many sources incorrectly list his birthplace as Vienna.  The reason for his name change had nothing to do with him personally. With the popularity of the "Latin Lover" type, first made a character type by Rudolph Valentino, who was Italian and other actual Latin actors coming in to fill out roles; due to his genuinely Semitic dark skin color, Hollywood executives actually changed his name (possibly without his knowing it, or at least with some protest) to place him in roles of that sort.  Certainly he was a truly handsome man, and he did bear resemblance to Valentino.  But the incident reminds me a bit of the joke in the Coen Brothers Barton Fink, where Tony Shalhoub's character Ben Geisler mistakes Barton (John Tuturro) for an actor, notices his dark skin and makes a remark about "Indians" (meaning Native Americans), and Barton replies that he's there because he's a writer and Geisler replies "Think about it Fink! Writers come and go, we always need Indians!" (Interesting to me as a side note, because both characters are themselves Jewish).  Before going to Hollywood, and having that abrupt name change, he worked in New York on Wall Street by day and as a amateur boxer by night.  After the move to Hollywood, press kits on him were circulated stating that he had Spanish ancestry, but it wasn't long before rumors arose about his ancestry (now I wonder, did he start them???), so the studios then said he was actually French, finally they admitted his "Viennese" origin, which is why the confusion of his place birth has persisted.  He was married to tragic silent film starlet Alma Rubens until her untimely death in 1931 from pneumonia; but the couple had separated due to her on going drug abuse and instability, she was released from jail just shortly before she caught the cold that eventually led to her death at the age of 33 (she may have been one of the Hollywood Studios first victims of enticed drug addiction--that is a truly dark subject, that was thought to have developed after the silent era).   In all he appeared in 100 films, he was also the second actor to assay the role of Perry Mason, with Warren William being the first.  He went on, to star in films with the likes of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Al Jolson and one of the best horror actors of all time Boris Karloff.  Having worked on Wall Street before, when he retired from films he went back to New York and work as a stockbroker at the later infamous (as least for a while) Salomon Brothers.  As a moment of serendipity for me today, checking his credits, I found that archive footage of him was used in two Greta Garbo documentaries (both after his death)--her birthday was just a day before her, and I wrote about her just yesterday. He is interred at Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx.

Circa 1935

The Non-Latin Romantic's Early Films

The Fringe Of Society (1927) (scenes deleted, this had to be a real let down for him!  This was to be his first film afterall.  Also has to be one of the earlier cutting room floor incidents in feature films.)

The Next Corner (1924) (Lon Chaney Sr.)

A Society Scandal (1924) (a Gloria Swanson film--love her!!)

Feet Of Clay (1924) (hey the first Jaws film and directed by Cecil D. DeMille to boot.  Take that Spielberg!)

This Woman (1924) (thankfully now a formerly lost film!)  

In The Name Of Love (1925) (also starred Wallace Beery.  Lost film)

Torrent (1925) (this was Greta Garbo's first US film and the last time anyone was ever billed above her...that would by Ricardo Cortez)

The Sorrows Of Satan (1926) (not billed as a horror film, it was directed by D. W. Griffith--but it probably should have been.  Can be viewed as Christian propaganda these days.  At the time it was a over romanticized (surprised surprised) response to Theosophy.  It was adapted from a novel Check out the poster--it's awesome!)

Mockery (1927) (also with Lon Chaney Sr.)

Excess Baggage (1928) (lost film)

The Gun Runner (1928) (lost film)

The Younger Generation  (1929) (Frank Capra directed)

New Orleans (1929) (lost film)

Midstream (1929) (lost film)--was a partial silent with sound effect and musical soundtrack by RCA Photophone System)

The Phantom In The House (1929) (early talkie, sound by RCA Photophone System)

The Lost Zeppelin (1929) (this is a partially lost film that has further footage that has been found--some claim that it complete.  I haven't been able to confirm that.  Would love it if were true.  It is on DVD, but some footage may still be missing due to strange issues with subplots.  Or maybe, it's just a bad script)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Born Today September 18: Greta Garbo


Born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson in Stockholm Sweden.  She began her acting career there in 1920, in a bit part, though a lot of sources claim in actually came in 1924, since that was the part that got the attention of Louie B. Mayer.  In actuality she was in 5 Swedish films before the 1924 Gösta Berlings saga role.  Her first USA role came 2 year later, as she was first enticed to Germany to make one lone silent there in 1925.  She originally had no acting aspirations at all. She came from a working class family, so when for laborer father died when she was just 14 she was forced to quit school and go to work at a department store.  It was a commercial short film made for the department store at the age of 15 (the same referenced above) that got her into the business. Swedish comedy director Erik A. Petschler (incidentally also born in September) saw the film/commercial and liked her in the role, and the rest, again, is history.  Garbo became a very famous actress starring in many very high profile films in the 1930's, but she is just a famous for retiring completely from acting at the age of 35 in 1941; and she meant it!  She never returned to acting--period.  She lived a semi-secluded life alone, travelled quite a bit but always out of the spotlight.  If she can be said to have had a second career, really more like a hobby, she became an art collector and her collection was reportedly worth millions upon her death in New York City on the 15th of April 1990 at the age of 84.  One very fortunate thing is that almost all of her silents survive--rare for the 1920's when so many films were simply discarded by the studios--a practice they unfortunately kept doing all the way through to the early 1970's.

Garbo in her 1924 Swedish break-out role.
Her Silent Era Work In 3 Countries:

Herr och fru Stockholm (1920) (Her "Swedish" breakout role")

Luffar-Petter (1922) (playing a character named "Greta" and credited as Greta Gustafsson)

Gösta Berlings saga (1924) (her actual breakout role, currently on Amazon Prime.)

Der freundlose Gasse (1925) (her German film)

Torrent (1926) (her first US film)

Flesh And The Devil (1926) (this film was one of the first to have an alternative ending)

Love (1927) (this is actually the first Anna Karenina!  It was renamed for promotional purposes, and had two endings the classic tragic ending and an alternative happy ending.  Of course, she famously reprised the role in 1935 in a Selznick production.  Most people prefer this film to that one.)

The Divine Woman (1928) (partially lost film, only one reel remains (9 minutes) of the film.  It is available on DVD in the Garbo Signature Box Set)

The Woman Of Affairs (1928) (partial silent film, mono soundtrack and sound effects)

Wild Orchids (1929) (partial silent, with Western Electric soundtrack and sound effects)

The Single Standard (1929) (partial silent, Western Electric soundtrack and sound effects)

The Kiss (1929) (partial silent, Western Electric soundtrack and sound effects)

A Man's Man (1929) (as herself)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Born Today September 17: Dolores Costello AKA Goddess Of The Silent Screen


Born in 1903 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by 1909, she and her sister Helene, who was 3 years younger than her made their first film appearance in an early adaptation of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."  Interesting, a lot of sources on the film don't mention that their father Maurice was also in the film as Lysander.  It was probably because of their father that they became child actors at all, he was an actor and director in his own right (though the question marks come in as to whether he got where he was in Hollywood because of his daughters in the first place); Interesting, though,  Wikipedia page doesn't make any reference at all to her father's role in her's or her sister's acting careers.  Additionally curious to me because Dolores is the grandmother of Drew Barrymore.  So much is made of Drew's Barrymore family background in acting and movie making--almost nothing is ever made of her Costello ancestry on the same subject.  Even her Drew family ancestry, a well known theatrical family, is more a topic of conversation concerning her acting blood relations.  Dolores and her sister were contracted to the Vitagraph Film Company through the year 1915, possibly or probably arranged by their father.  Almost all of those films were shorts.  During that time, if my count is right she appeared in a staggering 33 films, many of them with her sister.  Their success together in film resulted in both appearing on Broadway.  After that contract ran out, she didn't appear in another film until 1923.  She went on to sign with Warner Brothers in the 1920's, which, is in part, how so was selected for a major starring role opposite John Barrymore, which how she met the man that would become Drew Barrymore's grandfather.  She became romantically involved with him probably  as a result of a later role that the pair starred opposite each other again in 1927, and they were married in 1928.  They went on to have two children together, Dolores Barrymore and John Drew Barrymore (father of Drew, and other children)--who went on to have a tumultuous career in Hollywood.  She quit acting in 1931 to devote time to her family, but resumed acting after her divorce from John Barrymore, but, all though she had ample speaking talent for the so-called "talkies" she quit acting permanently in the early 1940's, with her last role coming in Michael Curtiz's This Is The Army in 1943 (that film, as a matter of trivia also had Ronald Reagan in a role--it is currently on Amazon Prime, if anyone is interested).  Her need for having to quit acting were for reasons that don't often get talked or wrote about when it comes to early Hollywood.  Make up that was used on her during the silent years, especially when she was a child at Vitagraph ruined her complexion to the point that it was basically it could not be camouflaged.  So the rest of her life was spent in semi-seclusion due to Hollywood make-up ravaging.  She did, however, sucessfully manage an avocado farm in California.  One tragic thing that did occurr during the 1970's, her house was hit with a flash flood that destroyed most of her personal early Hollywood/John & Dolores Barrymore memoribilia, a true lose to the most talented family in acting and to history.  She passed away, suffering from emphysema on the first of March 1979.  She is interred at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles.  She certainly earned her nickname "Goddess of the Silent Screen!"

Dolores and Helene

The Career of The Goddess Of The Silent Screen

The Telephone (1910) (this was released as a split reel along with a the title A Day On The French Battleship "Justice")

The Geranium (1911) (the sister's father was also in this, along with Ralph Ince)

Some Good In All (1911) (Dolores was in this with her father minus Helene)

The Meeting Of The Ways (1912) (Maurice Costello also in this)

For The Honor Of The Family (1912) (their dad was also in this one)

Lulu's Doctor (1912) (another all family affair)

The Money Kings (1912) (yet another family affair, a note about IMDb here:  the poster they have posted for this really WRONG, laughingly so!  Most of these types of shorts didn't have full posters.)

Wanted...A Grandmother (1912) (another father daughter collaboration)

Her Grandchild (1912) (Dolores in the with her father, no sister)

The Hindoo Charm (1913) (Maurice Costello actually directed himself and his daughters here)

Fellow Voyages (1913) (Maurice Costello co-directed this with Eugene Mullin, with the family starring)

Some Streamer Scooping (1914) (now this really is a family affair, Maurice directing, daughters starring and joined by their mother Mae Costello)

Etta Of The Flootlights (1914) (Maurice co-directed his daughters and himself with Robert Gaillard)

Too Much Burglar (1914) (the same direction and cast here, except that the Gaillard is credited as "Robert Gaillord.")

The Evil Men Do (1915) (same exact credits here, complete with misspelled name)

The Heart Of Jim Brice (1915) (same credits as the last two films)

The Glimpses Of The Moon (1923) (full starring role for Maurice with just a bit part for Dolores.  Lost Film)

The Little Irish Girl (1926) (presumed lost film, there are some legitimate rumors that a copy may in the private collection, or stored someplace misnamed)

When A Man Loves (1927) (another role starring opposite John Barrymore, partial silent, sound effects and musical score by Vitaphone)

A Million Bid (1927) (partially lost film,  Michael Curtiz directed)

Old San Francisco (1927) (two version, one silent and one full mono sound with dialog by Mono, with sound effects and score by Western Electric Apparatus)

Tenderloin (1928) (partial silent, mono talking sequences by Vitaphone, lost film)

Glorious Betsy (1928) (two version one silent, mono sound version by Vitaphone)

Noah's Ark (1928) (Mono-Western Electric)

The Redeeming Sin (1929) (partial silent, the mono talking sequences by Western Electric, also a lost film)

Glad Rag Doll (1929) (also mono--Vitaphone Michael Curtiz directed, lost film)

Madonna Of Avenue A (1929) (another Michael Curtiz directed early talkie, sound by Vitaphone)

Hearts In Exile (1929) (another early talkie lost Michael Curtiz directed film)

The Show Of Shows (1929) (early musical, here she has a singing credit as well)