Friday, June 30, 2017

Born Today June 30: June Elvidge


Star of the silent silver screen June Elvidge was born on this day in Minneapolis, Minnesota. June's specialty in films was in "vamp" roles--though not nearly as well known as Theda Bara, or even Valeska Suratt, she was very good in the type.  She made her stage debut in 1914 in New York City. She made her film debut in 1915 in the role Mrs. Van Allen in The Lure Of Woman (most of the film survives in a print housed at the Library of Congress).  Her years active in the movie industry spanned between 1915-1924.  Not all of the films that she appeared in were genres requiring a vamp role; for example, she appeared a couple westerns, with The Law Of The Yukon probably being the most well known for it's time.  The last film that she appeared in was in 1924's Chalk Marks.  She retired from film acting but toured for an additional year on the vaudeville circuit, before retiring altogether from acting in late 1925.  She died in a nursing home in Eatontown, New Jersey on the 1st of May 1965 at the age of 71.  There is no information as to her burial or cremation.

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Born Today June 29: F. S. Armitage


Relatively unknown but innovative early cinematographer Frederick S. Armitage was born on this day in Seneca Falls, New York. Very little is known about Armitage's life: early or late.  He went to work for the American Mutoscope & Biograph Company using their patented Mutoscope hand cranked camera.  Many sources state that his earliest film credits date from 1898, but it appears that he has one credit from 1897.  He apparently shot Trout Poachers with the Mutoscope camera.  From the start he demonstrated a knack for camera innovations--he was obviously influenced in some way by Melies, but it is unclear where he would have had a chance to view any of the French shorts.  Amongst the myriad to tricks that he used involved deliberate over-exposure, time-lapse photography, various types of superimpositions, and reverse negatives.  It has been confirmed that he was solely responsible for one of my favorite "trick actualities" of all time, The Ghost Train dating from 1901 (I have included it in the annual Countdown To Halloween--this post dates from 2012--so much has been discovered about this little film since then (!) including the corrected year.). Many of his films have interesting names for a cameraman that was supposed to specialize in actualities.  He shot the likes of The Demon Barber (1899)The Wizard And The Spirit Of The Tree (1899) and The Ballet Of The Ghosts (1899), just to name a few.  He was quite the prolific filmmaker, having shot some 188 films for Biograph by the end 1899 alone--by the end of his career, the number swelled to over 400.  By the early 1900's he was working with another early innovator in the world of cinematography A. E. Weed, uncle of the Marvin Brothers at Biograph: Harry and Marvin, and a company founder in his own right.  He was one of several camera operators on the well covered boxing match of Jefferies-Sharkey Contest (1899), virtually unprecedented in the world of film at the time; the bout lasted for 22 rounds and the film was 135 minutes in running time!  In 1899 he formally directed his first film 'King' And 'Queen,' The Great High Diving Horses, filmed at Coney Island; the film was a great success for the company.  In 1900, he also became a producer in the truest sense of the word, producing the highly edited film Neptune's Daughters, which featured some of his own earlier camera work, including the above mentioned The Ballet Of The Ghosts--the film survives incredibly (I am so pleased to have a copy in my collection!).  The last film that he is known to have worked on at American Mutoscope was Bargain Day, 14th Street, New York in 1905; he then left the company.  He next landed at Edison working on the 1908 The Boston Tea Party a film directed Edison Co. giant Edwin S. Porter.  He worked for director/producer Ivan Abramson on Her Husband's Wife (1916/I) for Abramson's own Ivan Film Productions.  The last film that he worked on came the following year with Trooper 44, a film directed by Roy Gahris for the E.I.S. Motion Picture Corp.  It seems that Armitage retired after this, but then again, so little is still known of his life.  Interest in his work has been on the rise for a few decades, and since the early 2000's much more biographical material on his life has fortunately surfaced, as some of his work has also been uncovered at the Library of Congress.  What is known to history is that Armitage died on the 3rd of January in 1933 in Ecorse, Michigan--so that at least gives a clue about retirement speculation.  He was only 58 years old.  

For More:

Wikipedia (great list of links!)

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.  This lead to making her way 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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Leave Virtual Flowers @ Find A Grave



*Alphabetical By Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery  Arlington, Virginia

Grave of Adna R. Chaffee
Assistens Cemetery Copenhagen, Denmark

Grave of Hans Christian Andersen

Cimetiére du Chateau Nice, France

Tomb of Aleksandr Herzen

Forest Home Cemetery Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Grave of Charles King (Major General)

English Cemetery Lisbon, Portugal

Tomb of Henry Fielding
Friedhof Sihlfeld (link is translatable) Zurich, Switzerland

Grave of Gottfried Keller

Graceland Cemetery Chicago, Illinois

Grave of Melville Fuller

Grave of William Allan Pinkerton

Harleigh Cemetery Camden, New Jersey

Tomb of Walt Whitman

Holy Trinity Church Stratford-Upon-Avon, England

Grave of William Shakespeare

Jean-Gautherin Bourgogne, France

Grave of Claude Tillier

Kensal Green Cemetery, Ladbroke Grove, Kensal Green, Great London, England

Grave of Michael William Balfe

Tomb of Prince George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge

Laurel Grove Cemetery Savannah, Georgia

Grave of James Pierpont

Montmatre Cemetery Paris, France

Tomb of Jean-Léon Gérôme

Tomb of Jacques Fromental Halévy

Tomb of Henri Meilhac

Tomb of Henri Murger

Tomb of Sheridan Le Fanu

Novodevichy Cemetery Moscow, Russia

Tomb of Nikolai Gogol

Oak Hill Cemetery Crawfordsville, Indiana

Grave of Lew Wallace

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

Private Burials or Unique Singular Burials

Tomb of Dante Alighieri, Ravenna Italy

Tomb of Ulysses S. Grant (and wife), Riverside Park New York City

Fritz Reuter in public park space of the town of Eisenach Germany

Riverside Cemetery Cleveland, Ohio

Grave of Avery Hapwood

Saint Elizabeth's Church Marburg, Germany

St. John The Baptist Churchyard, Aldbury, Hertfordshire, England

Grave Of Mrs. Humphrey Ward

St. Mary's Churchyard Graves, Willesden, Great London, England

Tomb of Chalres Reade

St. Michael and All Angel's Chruch, Haworth, Yorkshire, England

Tomb of Charlotte Bronté, family crypt

Svyatogorsky Monastery, Mikhailovskoye, Russia

Tomb of Alexander Pushkin

Teddington Cemetery Teddington, Greater London, England

Grave of R. D. Blackmore

Tomb of Leo XIII

Tomb of Pope Pius X

Vienna Central Cemetery Vienna, Austria

Grave of Franz von Suppé