Saturday, October 31, 2015

Theda At A Costume Party! Happy Halloween Everyone!

This is a photo of Theda Bara with film director hubbie Charles Brabin many years after she quit acting at "fancy dress party," given by Basil Rathbone.  Here is the US, of course, we call it a costume party.  It wasn't held on Halloween however; the event took place on 19 April 1938.  Still great Halloween photo too!  Found on The She Devil live journal--no further information could be found on who took the photo.  Would be really cool if it was Rathbone himself!

Silent Horror Montage

I stumbled on this on YouTube this morning--wonderful Montage from 4 silent horror films, two by Melies from 1896, one my Chomon from 1908 and quite a lot from the the truly demented Swedish/Danish film Haxan:  Witchcraft Through The Ages, by Danish born director Benjamin Christensen (for more information watch it over at YouTube).  Happy Halloween!!  Oh, and Feliz Dia de la Brujas to folks in down Mexico way!

Here is a link to my own photo tribute to Haxan from Halloween two years ago.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Name The Actor

Born Today October 28: Elsa Lanchester

1902 (London, England)-1986 (Los Angeles US)
People know Elsa Lanchester as the "Bride of Frankenstein," especially at this time of year, so near Halloween, when there is a lot of screening of classic Universal Monsters films. But Elsa got her start in films in the late 1920's when she herself was in her 20's.  She was born Elsa Sullivan Lanchester in the Lewisham area of London on this day into a "Bohemian" family. Her surname was take from her mother, with her middle name being the surname of her father, because her parents formally refused to legally marry.  She had one older brother five years her senior who also went into performance, albeit it a puppeteer & marionette company owner:  Waldo Sullivan Lancnester.  Elsa was schooled in Paris up until the start of World War I under Isadora Duncan.  She was then sent off to a domestic boarding school to teach dance; she was only 12 years old at the time. Her desire in life was to become a classical dancer, a dream that was not to be. She instead started her own nightclub act, singing and dancing revivals of Victorian ballads.  This would be her gateway into theatrical work. She made her film debut in 1925 in the melodramatic comedy The Scarlet Woman: An Ecclesiastical Melodrama, a student film made completely for the fun of it. The film was written by and featured Evelyn Waugh--the writer of Brideshead Revisited and was a friend of Lanchester (and with whom she shared a birthday); though completely an amateur effort, it brought some attention to the participants, Lanchester including.  Her first professional film appearance came in 1927 in the T. Hayes Hunter directed One of the Best.  She appeared in four films in 1928, in the one major production--The Constant Nymph--she went uncredited, but the other three was rather special. She appeared as "herself"--or rather "Elsa" in three short films written especially for her by H. G. Wells himself. The Tonic, Day-Dreams, and Blue Bottles were all comedy shorts and placed into script form by one of Wells' sons Frank.  All of these films were silent, but her last film appearance of the decade was in a DeForest Phono sound film Mr. Smith Wakes Up, another comedy short and released in February of 1929; it was based on a radio play penned by Vivian Tidmarsh. The 1920's were also a decade of other performance successes for Lanchester. For starters, she made several appearances on the serious London stage ("High Theater"); it was in one of these productions that she met future husband Charles Laughton, with whom she had a long and contentious marriage. She also was signed by Columbia to go into the recording studio to cut some records--the first of which was released in 1926.  Lanchester passed away at the age of 84 on Boxing Day (December 26) of 1986 in her adopted home town of Los Angeles. She was cremated and her ashed were scattered over the Pacific Ocean.

You might know her better as....


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Born Today October 14: Lillian Gish


Just a bare basics here today.  She was a giant in silent movie era and is known as "The First Lady Of American Cinema."


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Born Today October 13: Irene Rich


Born Irene Francis Luther in Buffalo, New York into a well off family, but when the father suffered of "reversal of fortune," this sent the family off looking for opportunities; first to a mining town Idaho, then settling on Spokane, Washington. [It is often reported that the family went to California, they never lived there.]  While living out west, she married a young traveling salesman in 1909, after reportedly hearing that her parents where talking about sending her to boarding school.  The marriage produced one daughter named Frances, and the young family moved to the Bay Area around San Francisco; they were divorced after two years of marriage.  She next married Charles Henry Rich, a lieutenant in the US Army; she had one daughter with him, Martha, and he adopted Frances, giving her and her daughter the last name--hence her stage name.  This marriage lasted 4 years.  Irene then entered studies for and went into real estate to support her two daughters; she eventually ended up in Hollywood in 1918.  She was 27 years of age.  Her first work, like so many untrained actors in the 1910's came as an extra.  Her first appearance on the "Silver Screen," came as in that capacity in 1918 in A Desert Wooing.   Her first credited role came that same year in The Girl In This House (yet another lost film).  She eventually went to work (at least part time) for Will Rogers starting in 1920.  This working relationship with Rogers lasted into the talkies.  She was often cast in roles as a society type-- in regards to the Roger's pairing it was the perfect foil for some of Roger's "simple Oakie" type characters.  In the 1930's she took to the radio and became a very popular character there; while continuing to act in what was by then full sound films.  Clearly, she had significant voice talent.  She also took to the stage a couple of times in the 1930's as well.  Her last appearance film came in 1948:  Joan Of Arc.  Her last appearance in any acting role came in 1949 with her only television appearance The Chevrolet Tele-Theater.  

Rich in very late Vamp look in the 1920's

Irene Rich died of heart failure in Hope Ranch, California on the 22nd of April 1988 though some sources cite that are ashes were interred in Calvary Cemetery, Los Angeles, the cemetery says that her ashes were scattered in an unmarked location within the property.  Her daughter Frances Rich followed her mother into film acting briefly in the 1930's, before quitting to become a sculptor.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Early Macbre With Nudity

Born Today October 12: Josephine Hutchinson


Born in Seattle Washington, her mother Leona Roberts must have had ambitions for her daughter in the form of acting.  Apparently, Leona had some sort of connections in the theater/movie world and it is said that it was she that got Josephine her very first film role, and the only one in the silent era.  That came in a 1917 Mary Pickford film The Little Princess.  Josephine went on to study The Cornish School of Music and Drama in her home town, and later moved to New York City to begin acting on the stage.  She never had another silent era film appearance.  Her next film came in the 1934 Happiness Ahead in which she had a starring role.  There is one thing of that I can not pass up mentioning, and that is that her mother followed her into acting, not the other way around.  Apparently she had talent, but not to the extent of her daughter.  Leona Roberts' (credited by her maiden name) is best remembered for her role as the gossip in Gone With The Wind  (1939).  Josephine, herself,  went on to have an extensive career in both film and television, including a part in Hitchcock's North By Northwest (1959) and guest staring on tons of television programs starting in the mid-1950's.  For Countdown to Halloweeners out there, she was in a rather iconic episode of the original The Twilight Zone,--"I Sing The Body Electric," assaying the role of "Grandma Robot."  More importantly, she took the role of Elsa von Frankenstein in Son Of Frankenstein (1939)--same year as Gone With The Wind....

As Elsa von Frankenstein (1939)

Hutchinson passed away in a New York City nursing home 4 June 1998 at the age of 94.  Her last acting appearance having come in 1974 on an episode of Little House On The Prairie.  She was cremated and her ashes were scattered, at her request, in Oregon.

As "Grandma Robot" (1962)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Born Today October 11: Lowell Sherman

1885 or 1888-1934

Born Lowell J. Sherman in San Francisco to theater parents, most probably in the year 1885 (but many sources list 1888 as the year of his birth); his father was a theatrical agent, while his mother acted on the stage.  Like so many children born into theatrical families, he began his stage career young on touring companies.  As an adult, around 1904, he starting acting on Broadway in several productions; one of which, A Girl of the Golden West, was a huge hit in 1905.  His first appearance in film came in 1914 in the full feature length Behind The Scenes.  In the 1910's he was frequently cast as light cads and playboys; this all changed when, in 1920, D. W. Griffith cast him as an out and out bad guy, a predatory (possible statutory rapist) in Way Down East.  He went on to have a very prolific acting career throughout the 1920's, both on and off screen. Though he was a very good actor and much sought out, was always very reliable, he found acting not so fulfilling.  He is quoted as saying later on in his life: "Nothing becomes so monotonous as acting on the stage, especially if you are successful...working in the movies seemed even duller."  He then went on to become one of the very first silent era actors to make a very successful transition into directing films.  His directorial debut came in a very early talky in 1928 entitled Phipps.  He did continue to act in films until 1932, but from 1928 until 1935 he had 15 directorial credits, some of which he directed himself in.  If his last credit seems odd, a full year after his death, that is because he was in the early stages of directing Becky Sharp, when he unexpectedly died of double pneumonia in 1934 and the project was taken over by Rouben Mamoulian.  He was either 49 or 46 (probably 49) when he passed.  He is interred, like so many others Forest Lawn Memorial Park, including Mamoulian himself.  Sherman in entombed the memorial mausoleum section of the cemetery, like Carole Lombard and Clark Gable, but not near them.  He is, however, very near American film music composer Ralph Rainger.  IMDb.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Born Today October 10: Giuseppe Verdi


Please See:  Wikipedia

Sometimes, life just gets in the way.  Things come up.  I will say that as a famous composer--very famous--he is also credited The Last Days Of Pompeii (1913), just like our famous music man of yesterday.  It should be noted however though, I did not have the time to research if this credit was original or not.  Sometimes, silent films go through periods of time when famous classical works are used as soundtracks when they are in a state of "let's just put this out cheaply" by companies because of public domain allowances.  I can think of a one print of Metropolis (1927) where this was painfully the case (more on that at another time).  He is entombed at the Cimitero Monumentale de Milano in Italy.

For Halloween Countdowners, here's a film viewed on "Vincent Price Day" in our household celebration to the countdown to the Great Pumpkin--posted over on my live blog Scare Me where his music is featured:

Featuring an all star cast of boogeymen!

See Also:

Friday, October 9, 2015

Born Today October 9: Camille Saint-Saëns


Born in Paris into a well off and influential family, there is really no point going into his life in depth on a silent film blog, as he is an extremely well known romantic era composer.  I will stick to the early Hollywood credits and provide links below for further reading.  Obviously, as such and important, prolific and varied composer, well known for concerto pieces for various instruments, as well a full operas (never mind a myriad of other types musical forms, such as symphonic works), he is going to have a lot of credits in film soundtracks over the years!  So it would be the logical assumption that the earliest films to utilize his work would in the late 1920's with the making of the earliest talkies, but in his case, his first credit actually comes in 1913!  He is credited under "soundtrack" in one of the earliest epic films and one of the most influential films of the silent era:  The Last Days Of Pompeii--a real "game changer" after it's release.  It is widely credited as being the first real epic--88 minutes in time length, a virtual eternity for 1913!  For example, at the time director D. W. Griffith was still turning out shorts!  The credit Saint-Saëns gets here, is for some of his operatic work as dances.  He has a few other credits in the silent era, before getting a music soundtrack credit finally in a talky in 1929.  As to other credits, he is featured in the 1915 documentary Those Of Our Land (an English translation of a French title) about famous Frenchmen of the time.  He also composed some works directly for films in the silent era, starting 1908 (obviously for a live organist to play). The first credit he gets for actually being included in a real soundtrack came in 1929 full talky The Country Gentlemen, sound provided by Vitaphone.  Here's one interesting recent credit...for all the Countdown To Halloween folks!

Sketch of him as boy at his favorite instrument  The organ.

It is also notable that he was one of the only major composers of his time to be very interested in recorded music; and in 1904 he made an operatic record (yes the kind that went on a turn table) with the The Gramophone Company (which was founded in 1897).  He literally worked right up until the time of his death in 1921, having given a recital in Paris a month before his passing.  A little less than one month later he traveled to Algiers, as Algeria the country was still then a French colony called "Alger," with intention over-winter there.  Not there long, he died at the age of 86 of a heart attack.  His remains were transported back to Paris where he was given a state funeral and then interred in Paris' very famous Montparnasse Cemetery.

[Source:  Find A Grave]

Family crypt [Source:  Find A Grave]

For More:

Also, check on YouTube

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Silent Wierdness: The Ghost Train (1903)

Silent Wierdness: The Ghost Train (1903): This is a "real life trick photo film" that was produced by the  American Mutoscope & Biograph Co. , the filmmakers working ...

I am reblogging this because it's just one of my favorite early "trick films."  Many members of my family worked for railroad companies in the early part of the 20th century on into the the 1960's.  Besides, it's an extremely early form of reverse negatives in motion pictures.  

Born Today October 8: Rouben Mamoulian


Born in Tiflis, In the Empire of Russia (Tiblisi the capital of the Republic of Georgia) as Rouben Zachary Mamoulian to Armenian parents who were possibly of Jewish ancestry; he would eventually go on to be a director of films in Hollywood by way of stage work in London and New York City.  He arrived in London 1922 and directed plays there.  In 1923 he was hired by Vladimir Rosing to serve as the head of the drama school at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York and directed both theater and opera there.  This is when is first involvement in film came.  Famous choreographer Martha Graham was recruited by him to come the the Eastman School and she is known to have been involved in experimental two color short film in 1926 The Flute Of Krishna (another title that I am proud to have added to IMDb years back), he is known to have been involved in the project in some form--certainly at least as producer; however, it has been long thought that he was also the director.  It was Graham who said that Mamoulian was "getting a bad, a very bad deal" at the school and he left for New York City the summer of that same year to direct (many say brilliantly) on Broadway. She, herself, left shortly there after as well for the same reasons.

His first Broadway directed production Porgy hit Broadway in 1927.  He first film director credit came in 1929 with the early talkie Applause.  Shot in New York for Paramount.  This opened up a new door for another area of direction for him, although he continued a much more successful career directing on Broadway.  For example, he was the first director to stage Oklahoma on Broadway.  He went on the have a regular film directing career all through the 1930's and 40's.  Then he got caught up in the whole Hollywood Blacklist affair, and there was hiatus in his film directing; I don't believe, though that he was actually ever blacklisted himself.  A lot of Hollywood workers that were blacklisted had Jewish ancestry.  It remains one of the darkest stains on both the Hollywood film business, and this country in general  In later film projects, he was known to be a very decisive, leave me alone and let me do things my way, kind of director.  He, was after all primarily a stage director.  The studios didn't appreciate this approach and he was fired from some very high profile projects, one of the most famous of which is Cleopatra (1963)--where he was replaced by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.  Another, earlier firing, from the filming of Porgy And Bess (1959), must have stung, since it was he back in 1927 the he had such a hit with that same play on Broadway.  After the 1963 firing, he decided he was done with film directing. As a side note: in 1931 he directed Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde starring Frederic March.  This is not just a Fright Month mentioning for the Countdown To Halloween, as this was the first horror movie ever to win an Academy Award, with the Best Actor Oscar going to March; it nominated for two more.  It is widely considered to be the best filmed version of the novel, and, I believe, the first talky film version of it too.

Mamoulian passed away of natural causes at the ripe old age of 90 on the 4 of December 1987 in Los Angeles.  He was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, main cemetery located in Glendale, California.

Frederic March as Mr. Hyde

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Not So Silence Wierdness: Silent Cinema In The Modern Age

From The Abominable Dr. Phibes. 

Born Today October 7: Andy Devine


Born Andrew Vabre Devine in Flagstaff, Arizona; his parents moved with him to Kingman, AZ when he was 1 year old where he grew up, was and affectionately known as simply as Andy.  He attended Northern Arizona State Teacher's college (now Northern Arizona State), where he was a football star.  This led to him to play semi-professional football under the strange pseudonym "Jeremiah Schwartz;" I am assuming that he did this because he developed acting ambitions when he was in college and wanted to use his real name as an actor.  After college, he did, in fact, move directly to Hollywood.  Ironically though, it was his football notoriety that led to his first break out role in The Spirit Of Notre Dame in 1931.  He did manage to get roles as extras in 15 films in the 1920's, however.  His first credited role came in the 1928 Red Lips.  He went on to have a very long career in Hollywood, becoming one of America's most recognized character actors with a penchant for comedy.  He starred in a lot of westerns and television, including one episode on the original The Twilight Zone; he also had on uncredited appearance in the Batman series as "Santa."  He passed away of leukemia on the 18th of February 1977.  He worked right up until the time of his death.  He was cremated and urned.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Related To Vamps

This is actually a cigarettes case with the image of the most famous vamp of all time.  I don't smoke, but I would love to have one these.  My grandfather, who smoked himself into the grave would have loved it!  He was the biggest influence on me when it came to to silent film.  He was born in 1897 (he was a lot older to my grandmother!), it was he who introduced me to silent film as a very little girl.   He was also a professional photographer and artist.  This is just the sort of thing that I would have loved to give him on his birthday as a kid.  Since this is participation in the Countdown To Halloween post, I will share that his favorite Halloween costume was dressing up as Groucho Marx.

[Source:  I've tried to trace the the source of the photo and case and cannot locate a thing.]

Born Today October 6: Carole Lombard


Born Jane Alice Peters, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, her parents divorced when she was 8, and her mother moved her to Los Angeles.  The story goes that she was spotted on the street playing baseball with neighborhood boys by a film director, which may or may not have been Allan Dwan, and made her screen debut at the age of 12 in the Dwan directed A Perfect Crime (1921).  The experience left her with an acting bug and she signed a contract with Fox Films when she was 16.  In between this time, she appeared in several stage productions and had two bit parts that went uncredited in two short films.  As she was credited in her first film by her birth name, it was probably some Fox studio executive who decided to change her Carole Lombard upon the signing of her contract with Them.  There she played mainly bit roles.  Fox dropped her after she was in a car accident and was left with a scar on her face (nice uh?), so she went to work with comic producer and director Mack Sennett.  For an actress who had no formal training when she made her film debut (although, as mentioned, she did spend a little time on stage, before returning to film 3 years later), she showed every sign that she possessed genuine acting talent and made a fine transition into on screen speaking roles.  So much so that she became a super star.  She even received Best Actress In Leading Role Oscar nomination in 1937.  Her life, along with her mother's and 20 other people (15 of whom were army servicemen) was tragically cut short, when a plane they were traveling on crashed just outside Las Vegas on 16 January 1942.  She was only 33 years of age.  They are were returning to California after going on a war bond promotional event in her birth state of Indiana.  She had previously been married to William Powell, and at the time of her death she was married to Clark Gable.  She was entombed as Carole Lombard Gable.  When Clark Gable himself passed away in 1960, he had made plans to be entombed next to her, which he is at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in Los Angeles. IMDb.

Scare Me On Fridays: Currently On: Evil Dead 2 (1987)

Scare Me On Fridays: Currently On: Evil Dead 2 (1987): I recently posted over Silent film blog about silent images in modern films, in that case about  Bram Stokers Dracula (1992) ; this ...

Reposted because it contains some comparisons to silent film with links.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Born Today October 5: John Alton


Born Johann Jacob Altmann in Sopron in what was then Austria-Hungary, the town in actually located in Hungary.  His father Sam had actually immigrated to the United States in the 1880's and had changed his last name to Alton, but returned to Hungary and changed his name back to Altmann.  Johann himself came to the US in 1919 to live with a wealthy uncle in New York, so he could attend college.  He got into the motion picture industry by being grabbed off the street as he was passing by Heart's Cosmopolitan Studio's on 2nd Avenue. A gateman approached him and proclaimed "you are just the man we are looking for."  He was then made a dress extra and appeared next to Marion Davies and paid $12.50 for the part (no one seems to know which film this was).  This gave him an instant film bug and he promptly ended his involvement with academics.

He most likely moved to Hollywood in 1923.  What is known is that by 1924 he landed a job at MGM as lab technician.  He was a work your way up through the ranks kind of man.  When Paramount offered him a job as cameraman, he jumped at it.  This is when his only silent era credit comes, with going to France with Ernst Lubitsch to film backgrounds for Lubitsch's The Student Prince In Old Heidelberg (1927).  It is around this time he claimed to discover Maurice Chevalier.  In 1932 in left for Argentina, where amongst shooting Spanish language films there, he also designed the that countries first sound studio.  He  returned to the US in the late 1930's and worked as a cinematographer in B-Noir movies.   He then went one to be most sought out cinematographers  in the business.  In 1951 he won an Academy Award for his shooting of the ballet sequence in An American In Paris, the first Hungarian born person to do so.  He also penned a book about the shooting of films in 1949, one of the first cinematographer's to do so.  He also served for the US in World War II.

He passed away on the 2nd of June 1996 at the age of 96.  Details of his burial are unknown

My, My Theda!

Born Today October 4: Buster Keaton


Born Joseph Frank Keaton in Piqua, Kansas into a vaudevillian family, so like Mickey Rooney, he was basically an actor from birth, though his parents, unlike Rooney's, waited until he was three years of age to put him on the stage.  He is said to have been given the nickname "Buster" accidentally by Harry Houdini (though his age changes from source to source to anywhere between 6 months to 18 months of age, with 3 years being cited at the oldest age in other sources); when he took a tumble large down a flight of stairs, when he sat up unharmed, Houdini reportedly said "he's a real buster."  Another version cites (this with Joseph at the age of 3) that Houdini him picked up and remarked to his father Joe Keaton, "that was a real buster."  The story may not be true, or some elements of may not.  However, Joseph/Buster's father Joe did have a traveling show with Harry Houdini called "The Mohawk Indian Medicine Show," so it's probable that that at least some or all of it is true. It was his father who liked it as a name, and why not?  His son--that is Buster-- was actually Joseph Keaton the 6th!  Keaton himself said that this story was true, but he was, after all a serious trickster!  Links below can detail some of the elements of his vaudevillian upbringing, including issues with schooling, etc.

A six year old Buster in stage act with his parents.

For someone so well remembered as a silent film star and innovator of techniques and gags in films that were not based on film trickery (editing, etc.) his father Joe was well known to have disapproved of the film medium altogether, and Buster obviously had reservations about it as well.  This was proven when he met Roscoe Arbuckle (you know Fatty) in 1917 at the Talmadge Studios in New York City, suspicious of the medium he actually asked borrow a camera (no small request at the time) to take a camera to his hotel room.  Once there, he actually dismantled it and reassembled it and returned it to Talmadge intact and agreed to embark on film work.  His first film appearance came later that year with the release of The Butcher Boy appearing along side Arbuckle.  From there on out his notoriety rose amongst filmmakers, and thus this lead to career in the silent era that truly legendary.  Can't say much more about such a giant of the silent era is just one post.  I will note that he was a defender of Arbuckle in regards to the death of Virginia Rappe (a case for an entirely other post or posts!)

From The Cameraman (1928) 

A joke film about his having actually destroyed the camera he borrowed in 1917
Just as a note:  the man famous with a nickname in the first place had at least two other nicknames (nicknames for a nickname?): Malec, and the most famous, and my personal favorite, The Great Stone Face (is that ever true, just google image him!).  He claimed that he used the stone face, because in vaudeville as a child he was basically what we would refer to as a "stunt man" today.  He was having so much fun he couldn't stop smiling and giggling, so developed deadpan type look (who knows if this was direction from his parents) When his film career was taking off, he said further developed it. He was known for not wanting to be photographed smiling.  People who worked with him said he often laughed and smiled. 

From The General, a genuine stunt he directed himself.  

One thing is absolutely sure, he really isn't given the credit that he deserves as a truly original stunt man. That's a another post for sure!   I should also not that he served in WWI, losing part of his hearing as a result.He passed away from lung cancer on 1 February 1966.  He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills.

For More:

For silent info IMDb (he has only five credits here for stunts)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Silent Wierdness: The Haunted House (1908)

Silent Wierdness: The Haunted House (1908): If this looks like a Meliésé's not.  It is a film by early Spanish "trick" film maker  Segundo de Chomon , who, th...

Several Countdowns from years back I embedded some early horror films, I figured it would be easier to just reblog them here rather than create a whole new embed post.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Born Today October 3: Warner Oland


Born Johan Verner Öhlund in Nyby, Sweden (a tiny little place at the time), his family immigrated to the U.S. in 1892.  After finishing school, he went straight to Broadway, where he worked through most of his 20's. He relocated to California in the early 1910's. It was at this time that he took the stage name Warner Oland, although he was affectionately known by his nickname "Jack," which no doubt derived from his birth name of Johan. He first worked on the stage there, while making attempts to break into the film industry, which he finally did in 1912 a two part, two reel film entitled Pilgrim's Progress.  From there on out he went on to have an extremely successful career in Hollywood films.  In the case of actors who are not specialist on the stage, such as he was, he was able to make the transition to silent film and back again to speaking parts when talkies came along.  He had a major role in the legendary early talkie The Jazz Singer in 1927.  He became somewhat of a specialist in "yellow face" (similar term to the more well known "black face," but in this case it means playing Asian--this took much longer to be frowned on in Hollywood and still a sore topic of debate and conversation today) due to turn as Fu Manchu.  As a result of this he landed the role of Charlie Chan in 1931, a character that had formerly been played by actual Asian actors.  This lead to a slew Chan movies that proved financially lucrative for Fox; unfortunately for them this came to an abrupt end. He lived in Southborough, Ma. as his primary residence for many years with his wife Edith in a very old well preserved farmhouse there, despite his Hollywood career.  He and his wife became involved in a bitter divorce after 30 years of marriage based on finances (filed by her) in 1937-1938, with a settlement finally coming favoring his wife on the day he set sail for Europe (she had, apparently, endured years of serious alcohol and some undisclosed "mental problems" on his behalf--the nature of which Fox kept under serious wraps due the the Chan character).  What is known is that he intended to return to his mother's home in Sweden; some sort of reconciliation deal was made with Edith (she must have genuinely cared for him) and then he contracted a very serious case bronchial pneumonia, and was transported to a hospital Stockholm, it was discovered by Swedish doctors that he was also suffering from emphysema, but who knows for how long.  He passed away on 6 August 1938 at the age of 57.  His wife had his remains cremated and transported back the Massachusetts for burial in the Southborough Rural Cemetery.  He seems to have been a extremely talented and rather tragic figure.  For his Chan roles, he is said to have took time to time to learn "Chinese." (that may or may not be true). If even half the stories of what he is reported to have said or done are true, it seems he suffered from some sort of schizophrenia.  On one occasion close to his departure from the US, he walked off a set and didn't return, he was apparently over-heard telling a studio executive that the set was possessed by voodoo, and he feared that he would get pneumonia.  Ironic in a way, since that is what he ultimately died of; but it was probably the on-set of the emphysema that was really troubling him (I'm not even going to get into the miniature schnauzers!).  He is buried in the Southborough Rural Cemetery in Southborough, MA.  Since this is the Countdown To Halloween it is worth noting that in the silent era he starred opposite the great Vamp herself Theda Bara in the 1915 Sin, and also appeared in "yellow-face" in the 1935 Werewolf Of London.  Let's hope he has found peace. 

With Theda

The Silent Image In Modern Film: Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)

There is a fine tribute to the earliest projected films in this plushly shot horror epic of the early 1990's.  It comes in as a scene in a cinema parlor in the heart of 1890's London.  As Mina (Winona Ryder) and The Count (Gary Oldman) enter the room, the projection that is just ending is normal; then as other films start up, the images on the screens eventually morph into silent images that behave like good old fashioned Stop Motion Animation obviously being projected straight through the devices from the vampire himself--echoing similar "silent looking" images from the beginning of the film.  (Watch also for the morphing of the woman in an upright casket into skeleton like figure, just before "vampire projection" starts.) After the wolf clears the cinema, the projections then seem to return to normal.  I believe one of the images at this point are of the ultra short film entitled The Ghost Train, which would bit funny since it wasn't shot until 1903--but I can't be sure.

"No Limits To Science"

 The device in question is the Cinematograph, a device invented by Léon Bouly that was patented by him in 1892, but most closely associated with, and seriously perfected by The Lumiére Brothers.  It was invented to be both a motion picture camera and a projector.  It was designed to trump Edison's Kinetoscope, which was an all together different sort of machine that certainly lacked a projection device of any sort.  The cinematograph became wildly popular, and widely know throughout the world, including remote parts of Asia.  The most important cultural impact of the cinematograph was that it was available to the poorest of people, hence Mina's snobbish quip "how can you call this science?"  It is the sort of place that a young woman of her station should not be frequenting.  Of course, it doesn't help that what is playing when they walk in are the earliest forms of "blue movies"--an early form of pornographic film.  Still "The Count" is right, science it was!  

In fact, throughout the film other images invoke the silent era of cinema, and even employ parlor and stage tricks found in earlier 18th phantasmagoria.  For example, during the beginning of Jonathan Harker's (Keanu Reeves) stay in Dracula's Transylvania castle we see a shadow play that was a common parlor and stage trick from the late 18th and early 19th century.  According to Coppola he used what he termed as a "shadow wrangler" to complete the effect--literally a shadow mime off camera to cast an alternate movement behind Oldman as the scene was shot.  This can clearly be seen in the two clips below. 

Another easily spotted trick employed in the film that references silent "trick films" (most produced in the 1890's and very early 20the century) found in earliest staged film is the use of reverse motion--or the simple use of film in reverse.  This was employed in the case of Lucy The Vampire (Sadie Frost) returning to her casket after being confronted by by Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins) and his rather over sized cross.

More Images:

Image obviously an homage to Nosferatu (1922)

Echoing The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari

Vampire about town at dusk.  From a part of the film that is shot to mimic old hand turned motion picture cameras.

  For More:

Director Francis Ford Coppola talks Old Hollywood Magic in the film in an article from this past August over at Entertainment Weekly.