Thursday, September 28, 2017

Born Today September 28: Alice Hollister


Alice Hollister, exclusively a silent film actress, was born in Worcester, MA on this day.  Hollister is her married name; as of now her maiden is unknown, but it is thought that she was the daughter of French-Canadian parents.  She got her last name from marrying, at the age of seventeen, George K. Hollister, who would become an important early cinematographer at Kalem.  Studios back then, like wealthy individuals, would send crews south for the winter.  The Hollister's relocated there seasonally with their two young children.  It was during the "over winter" in Florida of 1911 that Alice would appear in her first film: By A Woman's Wit, directed by Sidney Olcott.  Also appearing in many of the "warmer climes" films were the Hollister's two children: George Jr. and Doris.  Most of the films that she appeared in before 1916 were studio shorts.  An exception would be From The Manger to the Cross, or, Jesus of Nazareth (1912), which would be her first full length film (also directed by Olcott),  and was shot entirely on location in the Middle East--not least of which was in Bethlehem. In 1913, she got the chance to play the Vamp role--unusual for a married actress (but then again here husband was the cinematographer....)--in The Vampire; the film featured choreography and trained dancers to perform "The Vampire Dance" (somewhere, buried in the film is supposedly an uncredited appearance by Robert Vignola, the director of the film). [She would appear in the type one more time in The Vampire's Trail in 1914.]  By 1916, her career began to slow.  From this time forward, she would only appear in a couple of films a year, with 1924 and 1925 accounting for only one film in each year.  Her last film appearance came in The Dancers (1925), a Fox production.  She then retired to family life.  Her husband died in 1952, but she lived until the age of 83.  She passed away on the 24th of February in 1973 in Costa Mesa, California.  She is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.  

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Born Today September 27: Olive Tell


Olive Tell was born in New York City probably on this date in 1894--though some records either record her birth as unknown during that year or another date altogether.  Olive graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1915, and, along with her acting sister Alma, began appearing on stage as a duo.  They frequented Broadway with their act, and became quite well known.  She was accomplished enough to be recognized as a "bankable" talent in film from the start.  She made her film debut in 1917 in The Silent Master, a film made for the Robert Warwick Film company and distributed by the new Selznick Distribution.  At first, Tell despised movie acting--a not uncommon sentiment amongst actors of the stage at the time--but unlike many stage actors who opted out of that line of work after their first taste of it, she continued to take roles in films.  In fact, she had steady film work through the first World War, but her appearances began to slow considerably after that.  Her last film before a multi-year hiatus was World's Apart in 1921.  She wouldn't appear in another film until 1925 with Chickie.  One of the reasons for her absence was that her first husband was killed in the war.  In 1926 she married for the second time, this time to a movie producer--Henry Hobart--who moved the couple out to Hollywood.  While there, her film career was revived, though was never prolific.  Possibly because of her husband's connections, she also never acted in a silent film after 1928.  She appeared in 3 films and 1 short in 1929, starting with The Trial Of Mary Dugan; all of them had full sound.  During the taking era of the early 1930's, her on-screen appearances picked up considerably, especially in 1931.  She had a goodly number of roles between 1930 and 1936; after this, however, she only made two more film appearances, the last of which was in an uncredited part in the 1938 George Cukor film Zaza.  Sometime after this point, she returned to New York, where she would remain until her death at the age of 56 on the 6th of June 1951.  Her burial is unknown.  

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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Born Today September 24: Winfield Sheehan


Winfield R. Sheehan, who is mostly and rightly remembered (when he is remembered at all) as a rather hard boiled Fox studio man; he was born on this day in Buffalo, New York.   When just a teenager, he served during the Spanish-American War, after wards going to work as a reporter for the New York paper The Evening World, reporting on police matters.  He later worked for both the Fire Commissioner and Police Commissioner in New York--this later work would lead him into the world of motion pictures, and would bring out  a resolute character in him--which would come into play with his time at Fox.  His most lasting effect on the system was the role that he played in the breaking of the Motion Picture Patents Company, also known as the Edison Trust, established in 1907 at the behest of the then major studios in New York.  When Fox got it's start with William Fox  establishing a new studio in New York, he enlisted the help of the police commissioner's office--of which Sheehan was a secretary--to help bust the MPPC.  This firmly established Fox as a major movie making player, and William Fox did not forget Sheehan's involvement in it.  His first involvement directly in the film business was to become the personal secretary to William Fox.  Followed by his first film making experience, which came in 1916 when he was assigned General Manager of A Daughter Of The Gods a now lost film starring Australian Annette Kellerman.  He then got into production work--a line of work he would remain in for the rest of his life-- serving for the first time as an executive producer on The Woman and the Law in 1918.  He would not get credit for any more production work until 1929, serving in the interim as studio General Manager and vice president; then taking up the job of Fox's chief of production sometime probably around 1926 or later, staying in the job until 1935, when the merged studio of 20th Century Fox put Darryl J. Zanuck in the job.  He worked in the shadows in production in The Black Watch a fully sound film (MovieTone) directed by John Ford and featuring Victor McLaglen and Myrna Loy.  Some of his last work at Fox involved production on a number of Shirley Temple films.  After his replacement at the studio, he went into independent production.  The last film that he produced was Captain Eddie a Fred MacMurray film directed by Lloyd Bacon in 1945.  He got the film produced through an independent studio with the partnership of 20th Century Fox.  Sheehan died that same year in Hollywood, CA. on the 25th of July.  He is buried at Holy Cross cemetery in Culver City. 

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Born Today September 21: H. G. Wells


Herbert George Wells was born in Atley House in High St., Bromley, Kent, England in the U.K. on this date to a then shop keeper and professional cricketer father and domestic servant mother; he was the fourth and final child for the couple.  The family struggled with money.  In 1874, an accident left Wells with a broken leg and bedridden; his father began to bring him books from the local lending library to read to pass the time.  This inspired in him a desire to write.  Later that year he entered the private school Thomas Morley's Commercial Academy (a school founded in 1849).  Wells later remembered that the instruction was erratic and focused teaching copperplate handwriting and math courses of interest only to tradesmen.  He continued at the school until 1880, when he was basically forced to quit.  In 1877, his father fractured a thigh and was unable to continue his primary career as a professional sportsman.  The family then sought to send out the sons into active apprenticeship.  For 3 years Wells languished in an apprentice position with the Southsea Drapery Emporium.  Although the experience was a bleak one, it would inspire at least two of novels.   In 1879 things turned more toward Wells' interest, when his mother was able, through a relative, to secure for him at the National School and a pupil-teacher.  Unhappily, this did not last long and Wells had to return to apprenticeship work as a chemists assistant; this was not an area that interested him at all and the situation did not last long.  His mother, however, was given a position in the home of prominent family in Sussex that allowed room and board for family.  He availed himself of this, and was given access to the house's vast library, which he devoured eagerly.  In 1883, he persuaded his parents to release him from the life of apprenticeship and took an opportunity by Midhurst Grammar School to work there as a pupil-teacher (he had attended the school previously for a very short time).  He spent time there in self-study and teaching science and Latin.  This earned him the chance to study at what was then the Normal School of Science (now the Royal College of Science) under Thomas Henry Huxley.  He would go on to make a deep impact in the area of the societies of the sciences and public discourse (such as debating).  It would be several years before he kindled an active interest in writing, which came around 1886 or 1887.  He left the school in the year 1887 and soon moved to an area that would go on to inspire his novel War of the Worlds.  His earliest novels, which he called "scientific romances" rank amongst his most well known today.  Along with War Of, they include:  The Invisible Man, The Time Machine, the Island Of Dr. Moreau and  The First Men In The Moon.  He would go on to have enormous popularity and influence during his lifetime; with his writing being almost incidental to his greater ideas of social reform and notions of future innovations in the real world.  He was in his writing a sort of Da Vinci; and turned out to be quite accurate in many mechanical predictions that he made in the world of industrial invention (he was off by some estimates--like air travel--in time frame, but he, nonetheless, was right about a great number of time lines).  Wells, of course, lived long enough to see so many of these technological milestones take place.  And not the least of these technological wonders was the invention of the projected moving picture.  Indeed the first film to be rendered from Wells' work came when he was 36 years of age, and remains one the most famous of early films:  Méliès A Trip To The Moon, which also drew most heavily from the work of Jules Verne. Made in 1902, the film was for it's time astonishingly long:  13 minutes.  His work wouldn't be used again until 1908 (not credited), and it would not be until 1909 that a film fully utilizing his work was made--this time the film took on his work exclusively.  Produced in France by Pathé Ferés, Le voleur invisible was based on the novel The Invisible Man.  One of the directors was Segundo de Chomon, who, a year earlier had undertaken a remake of Mélies film in An Excursion To The Moon.  In all, 13 films were produced from his work during the silent era.  Three of these, a comedic trilogy, starred one Elsa Lanchester who would go on to fame as the bride in James' Whale's Bride of Frankenstein (in which she also played it's writer Mary Shelley...speaking of literature).  [See The TonicDaydreams, and Blue Bottles.]  The first sound film made from his work is a famous pre-code horror film based on The Island Of Dr. Moreau, in Island Of Lost Souls (1932) which starred Charles Laughton.  Of course, the next film made from his work is as famous as as any film from the era gets; Universal's James Whale directed The Invisible Man from 1933 stars Claude Rains as the mad scientist and his invention of monocane--the invisibility drug.  The film sparked a franchise for Universal.  In fact, many horror films from the 1930's and 1940's used his work as source material. For example, the United Kingdom's Ealing studios gave us Dead of Night starring Redgrave brother Michael in 1945 the year before Wells' death.  While he did live well into the era of movies (!), he did not survive to see the growing influence on the small screen of television.  His work made it's television debut early in ABC's Actor's Studio in the 1948 episode The Inexperienced Ghost.  He work was famously used in the 1950's science fiction craze, most famously in the 1953 War Of The Worlds.  Rod Taylor was in a Wells film--The Time Machine (1960)--before he met birds in Hitchcock's film of 1963.  Two infamous films (each in their own way) have been made from The Island of Dr. Moreau.  And Stephen Spielberg filmed his version of War Of The Worlds in 2005 with Tom Cruise.  His work has even met Abbott and Costello.  The most recent aired or released use of his work came last year in the mini-series The Nightmare Worlds of H. G. Wells in the U.K.  There are three titles set for future release of his work.  One is an episode of an independent television series and the other two are major film remakes by Universal with no set time frame for production or release.  This is no way begins to cover his works produced for the radio--by far the most infamous was the 1938 Orson Welles produced War Of The Worlds broadcast that had US citizens believing that the planet was actually being invaded by aliens. Wells was himself interviewed by the same crew (Welles on Wells so to speak) two years later.  Wells made an appearance in one silent film as a celebrity guest in They Forgot To Read The Directions in 1924.  H. G. Wells, who had suffered a good deal of his last years with diabetes, died on the 13th of August in 1946, probably at his flat in London.  He was cremated at the famous Golder's Green and his ashes were scattered at sea near Old Harry Rocks in Dorset.  For more on his very complicated life history, please see Wikipedia below.

From Le voleur invisible (1909)

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Born Today September 20: Dark Cloud


Silent First Nations (that is Native American here in the US) actor Chief Dark Cloud was born Elijah Tahamont in the St. Francis Indian Village, (which is located near the Abenaki stronghold of Odanak in Quebec, Canada) on this day.  His "Christian name" was inherited from his father.  He was a member of and chief of the Canadian Abenaki's, and one of the first Native actors to decry stereotypes of American Aboriginals in films.  Like many natives of his time that wished to "better" themselves, he attended the Native founded Dartmouth and eventually became a lecturer of some popularity.  He also became a model for the western artist Frederic Remington.  He went to work for the American Mutoscope and Biograph Co. in 1910 and made his first film appearance that same year reportedly in D. W. Griffith's The Broken Doll.  His first credited role also came that year The Song Of The Wildwood a film more or less about a native custom dance in which he is definitely the only Native actor, starring along side of Mary Pickford (the film also features the likes of Dell Henderson and Mack Sennett). In 1911 he had the chance to play a part that actually was based on Natives from the east when he played the father of Uncas in the second production that year of The Last Of The Mohicans  (1911/II), which was filmed at Lake George, New York.  When Griffith's company moved westward in 1912, Dark Cloud was one of the actors to follow him there. For the most part during his rather brief acting career he played strictly Native American parts, most often in full plains gear that never had any association with the Band of Abenaki that he came from back east. The exception to this was when he appeared in a film about "the other Indians" in 1914--The Mystery Of The Hindu Image (a copy of the film has been restored by the George Eastman House).  He had a bit part as a general in Griffith's shameful epic The Birth Of A Nation (1915), being one of only three cast member that were actually alive during the Civil War.  Though many fanciful rumors abounded concerning his untimely death at the age of 62 on October 17, including that he had accidentally drown; and, more dramatically, that he was killed by a jealous husband--he turned out to be just another tragic statistic of the so-called "Spanish Flu" of 1918.  Several films that he appeared in were released in the next two years after his death; the last of which was The Woman Untamed (1920) in which he plays a South Seas Islander "witch doctor."  He is proudly buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  Tahamont was married to Margaret Camp who appeared in some of his films billed as Dove Eye, though it is far from clear if she was actually of Native ancestry.  One of their daughters, Beulah, also became and actress of the stage and screen.  One of her daughters was at one point in her life married to Espera Oscar de Corti, better known as Iron Eyes Cody or "The Crying Indian"--though he was actually Italian/Sicilian.

IMDb (note that his birth year if wrongly given here)


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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Born Today September 19: Ernest Truex


Character actor of the large and small screen Ernest Truex was born on this date in Kansas City, MO.  Truex started acting very early in his life, making stage appearances from the age of 5.  He made his Broadway premiere in 1908 and by 1915 he was a bit of a fixture.  He made his film debut in the Mary Pickford comedy Caprice in a supporting role in 1913, which was directed by J. Searle Dawley during his time at Famous Players (the film is amongst the lost).  He did have steady work (probably as much as he would like--as evidenced by his not having to take any bit parts in silent films) during the silent era, but it would not be until the dawn of talking films that his on-camera career would really take off.  No surprise, given that he was a very successful stage actor.  By 1923, he had had enough of silent acting and retired from films--he would not reappear until 1933.  The last silent film that he starred in--and star in he did, as he had top billing--was Six Cylinder Love (1923), a film made at Fox. He spent the years in between on major stages in the US and in London.  The next film that he starred in was Whistling In The Dark, an MGM comedy.  He quickly settled into the character actor parts that required the steady, reliable--read boring--type, a typical foil in comedies.  For example, he plays a straight part as a fellow reporter in His Girl Friday.  Truex made his television debut in 1948, it was the beginning of what would be a very long "small screen" career.  Some of the notable shows on which her appeared include: The Twilight Zone, Hazel, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Bonanza and Petticoat Junction.  His second appearance in 1966 on Junction would be his last appearance in front of the camera.  He appeared in the episode Young Love, which aired on the 13th of September (his last film was Fluffy in 1965, a Tony Randall and Shirley Jones comedy).  Also in his career, he had one lone writing credit in films to his name; returning to the silent era, he wrote the comedic short The Bashful Lover in 1922--a film in which he also starred.  Truex died of a heart attack at the age of 83 on the Fallbrook, California.  He was cremated and his ashes were scattered.  

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Monday, September 18, 2017

Born Today September 18: Vernon Steele


Actor Vernon Steele was known as a "British actor," but he was, in fact, born in Santiago, Chile on this day in 1882.  He was the son of a music professor of Italian descent and an English mother, he was christened Arturo Romero Antonetti (he often used the "R" as an initial before Vernon--he is credited this way in some sources).  His family relocated to Great Britain when he was young.  He got his start on the stage and was a lifelong performer on Broadway.  He appeared in his first film in 1915, the Clara Kimball Young film Hearts In Exile, a full length feature (59 minutes) directed by James Young for World Film.  He appeared regularly in films up through 1923 ; he then had a hiatus in film appearances between 1924 (in which he acted in only two pictures) and 1929--years he spent on the stage, mostly Broadway.  When he returned, he had a role in the all sound Big News in 1929.  He then acted intermittently in film all through the 1930's and 1940's.  He last film appearance came in 1949 in Vincent Minnelli's Madam Bovary  in which he played the priest.  His last appearance in front of the camera came on an early television series The Life Of Riley in the episode Night School in 1949.  Steele died in Los Angeles 6 years later on the 23rd of July of a heart attack, he was 72 years old.  He was cremated and his ashes were placed in a vault at the Chapel of the Pine Crematory also in Los Angeles.  

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Sunday, September 17, 2017

Born Today September 17: Frank C. Griffin

Griffin is the man sitting on the signing desk.


Silent film director Frank Charles Griffin was born on this day in Norfolk, Virginia.  Griffin started out as an actor in 1911 with a role in Susceptible Dad made for Solax and released as split reel with another comedic short Nearly A Hero.  In 1913, a scenario he penned was produced into a film at Biograph; the comedic short Mr. Spriggs Buys A Dog was directed by Dell Henderson.  The first film that he directed was A Brewerytown Romance a year later, it was made at Lubin Manufacturing, and was yet another comedy short that Griffin wrote.  Between 1914 and 1924, the year of his retirement, he had directed close to 30 films; most of these were what we consider "shorts" today.  In fact, the last film that he directed in the silent era, and before he hung up the director's chair, was his only full length film, and it was co-directed with Charles Hines.  Conductor 1492 was a comedy about a young Irish immigrant played by Johnny Hines, brother of Charles. Griffin did continue to writer for the pictures and contributed to the writing on Ella Cinders (1926).  He has two producer credits to his name from 1927, one of which was a George Archainbaud film.  He returned to directing in the early 1930's, taking up two shorts that he wrote, both starring Chester Conklin.  They represent his only work in direction in sound films.  He continued to write, and was a bit of an early script doctor, up through the mid-1930's.  The last film that he contributed to was Man On The Flying Trapeze (1935), a W. C. Fields film.   He seems to have retired completely after the year 1935; he died in Hollywood on the 17th of March 1953 at the age of 66.  There is no information as his memorial.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Born Today September 15: Louis J. Gasnier


French born director Louis Joseph Gasnier was born on this day in Paris.  Accounts vary greatly as to when he began his film career.  Gasnier himself claimed that his association with Pathé Frères went all the way back to 1899 (and he may well have been telling the truth--Pathé Frères was notorious for not giving credit space on it's early films.  The earliest film that he can be associated with is First Night Out in 1905.  The film is thought to also be the first film of  Max Linder--himself a very important comedian of the silent era.  The writing credits go to Gasnier.  He would not make another film (that anyone knows of) that year, and in fact, did not receive steady work from the company until 1908 (he did make a handful of Linder films in the interim time period).  By 1910, Gasnier had made a career of directing "Max" movies.  1911 brought the establishment of a Pathé studio in Fort Lee, NJ and Gasnier managed to get attached to it.  His first directing job came on a real hit, the serial The Perils Of Pauline, which was co-directed with Donald MacKenzie, was a raging success worldwide.  This propelled him into the executive vice-president position of the studio, but he resigned in 1916.  Not before putting Pearl White in another successful serial The Exploits Of Elaine; a serial co-directed, with one of the directors being George B. Seitz.  There are some sources that claim that between 1905 and 1914 Gasnier made more than 200 films.  The number of record is no where near this number; which suggests that it is likely a mixture of embellishment and truth--with some of his films (mostly French, but likely many Italian) that have gone uncredited and, indeed, uncounted.  Even the rest of Gasnier's silent catalog is unfortunately filled with lost films (some fortunately have been recovered in the last decade).  

At work directing

He next teamed up with George Seitz to form Astra Films (which used Pathé as their distributor).  The first film known to have been produced by the company was The Shielding Shadow in 1916 (a film which also featured direction from MacKenzie).  By 1919 the company had dropped Pathé as it's distributor and by 1920, Seitz was gone and the company was re-branded Louis J. Gasnier Productions--it was hopelessly short-lived.  It's first film(one of three) was the Lew Cody vehicle The Butterfly Man (1920), co-directed by Ida May Park.  Gasnier was then picked up by to direct for Preferred Pictures by B. P. Schulberg, his time with the production company were his most productive and memorable.  His name received headline status on posters and other promotional materials.  He stayed with the company, often bringing in people he had worked for in the 1910's, such a Pearl White, until the company went bankrupt in 1925.  In his time with the company, he worked with many up and coming actors (Clara Bow starred in Parisian Love, a film that was lost until a copy turned up in the 1990's). The only work that he could find after the bankruptcy was at the second rate Tiffany Pictures. His first film there was Pleasures of the Rich in 1926 (like so many of his films, this is not surprisingly lost).  He was then plucked from relative obscurity (possibly by Schulberg) to go to work for Paramount, making one film--Fashion Madness (1928)--for Columbia along with way.  His first major film for Paramount, Darkened Rooms (1929), hit a big snag when star Gary Cooper--who really didn't like Gasnier--had to be replaced by Neil Hamilton.  The film also marked Gasnier first sound film--with full sound by MovieTone. He continued to work for Paramount into the 1930's.  His contract, though was not renewed, so he found work with film producer George A Hirliman.  The produced a film called Tell Your Children (probably in 1936) that later became infamous under the title Reefer Madness (it was basically not screened until 1938).  Hirliman was able to launch his fledgling production venture into a full operating studio and Gasnier, nearing his retirement age, elected to stay on.  The last film that he directed before he retired at age 65 was Stolen Paradise.  He retired in his adopted California, but did not find life easy.  Nearly destitute by the 1950's, he took to taking bit, uncredited acting roles as an elderly Frenchman in big productions to make money.  They last of these appearances was in Hell Is For Heroes, a 1962 Steve McQueen war film.  Gasnier died on the 15th of February 1963 in Hollywood at the age of 87.  There is no information as to his burial or cremation.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Born Today: J. B. Buckstone


British comic, actor and writer J. B. Buckstone (John Baldwin) was born on this day in London.  He was first sent to school at Walworth Grammar School and had a brief apprenticeship with the Navy at age 10, but promptly returned to school thereafter and eventually wound up studying the law.  He did for a time work for a solicitor but had turned to acting by the age of 19.  He joined a traveling troupe of actors in 1821 and toured for 3 years.  He found a mentor in the renown Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean; this helped facilitate his first appearance on the stage in London on 30 January 1823.  In 1824, he found his first success as an actor and also began to write plays himself during this year.  In 1826 one of his own plays debuted; and the following year he debuted at the famed Adelphi Theater; he remained there until 1833.  During this period of time, he wrote the bulk of his own plays, many of which were produced at the Adelphi.  As he gained more and more success with his acting career, time did not permit that he continue to write on a regular basis.  1833 saw him appear for the first time a the Haymarket Theater (Royal Theater), the venue for which he famous for to this day owed to the general acceptance that he haunts the place.  Several of his plays dating from his most prolific writing period became big hits at the theater, and he would go to to become the manager.  After moving around quite a bit in the 1840's--including a return to the Adelphi and a not so successful try of fame in the U.S., Buckstone returned to the Haymarket 1848.  By 1856 he was the theater's lessee and continued on in this until 1877.  He did still carry on writing small plays and farces for production at the theater--all of which had  a comic bent--all quite popular with audiences.  It was Buckstone who introduced the the 2PM matinee at the theater in 1873--an innovation that stuck.  Though he had known great success during his career, his health had begun to fail him; and, in fact, at the time of his death, he had been ill for a number years already.  By the mid 1870's his company began to break up; by 1877 he was bankrupt and had to relinquish the theater--an event that could only have added to his illness.  Buckstone died two years later from his ill-health on the 31st of October in 1879 (for those of us Halloween nuts, this is seemingly fitting!).  I can find no information as his burial, but he has long been reported as ghost that the Haymarket, with Sir Patrick Stewart seeing him in the wings during a recent production of Waiting For Godot.  Two of Buckstone's children also became actors and appeared in early films.  The reason for his inclusion here stems from two silent films that were produced using his plays as scenario material, both of which were UK products.  The first of these was a production of Jack Sheppard in 1912.  The second dates from 1921: Married Life was produced by Ideal.  To this date, these are the only two films that have ever been made using his writing as source material.  In all, during his period of writing, Buckstone wrote over 150 plays.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Born Today September 10: Al St. John


Actor and stunt man (comic side kick) Al St. John was born on this day in Santa Ana, California.  He was the nephew of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, who was his mother's brother.  In all likelihood his uncle helped secure him jobs at Mack Sennett's early studio, however his multi-talent in both acting and in stunt type slapstick work is what got him noticed quite on his own.  He was known for being a very able acrobat as a young man and he also possessed great comedic timing.  St. John became a foil for some of Arbuckle's "clueless" roles--he was the trickster character that tumbled (literally) around Arbuckle's characters lack of understanding of surroundings.  St. John was also an original member of the Keystone Kops

A still from the 1919 Love. A good example of his mad-cap approach to character mischief.

He became in demand for these types of roles providing both comic relief and character tension, pretty quickly after he started acting, but exactly when he got his start is still a bit of a mystery.  It is thought that his first film was The Jealous Waiter in 1913--a Mack Sennett film that starred Fred Mace.  While working for Sennett, St. John also got to work with the up and coming Charlie Chaplin.  When Arbuckle left Sennett's studio to start his own production company, he took his nephew with him.  At the company, Arbuckle began to make films with another up and comer Buster Keaton.  Both St. John and Keaton were played off of one another as a vehicle for "Fatty" to slapstick his way through to the film's climax.  St. John also possessed talent for writing, he wrote some 8 film scenarios that were actually produced, the first of which was Speed, a film that he also directed.

Keaton (left) and St. John (right) in Out West (1918); Fatty weilds the preverbial break-away bottle.

St. John actually turned out to be as important to Arbuckle as his uncle likely was for him.  When Arbuckle was basically framed for a death he nothing to do with, he was blacklisted from business (despite his multiple acquittals), he secretly was able to direct his nephew under a pseudo-name through out much of the 1920's and even into the 1930's before his untimely death.  St. John himself, though not having any real live stage experience was able to make the transition to talking films with relative ease.  In the late 1920's he would find himself working with the likes of Tom Mix at Fox.  His first sound film was She Goes To War in 1929, a Henry King world war drama with a mono version and silent version.  His next film, The Dance Of Life (1929) was presented with full sound by MovieTone and had one sequence in the 2-Strip Technicolor process.  The first film he made in the 1930's--Hell Harbor--was another King film featuring the tragic Lupe Velez in the leading role, with St. John forming one part of a comic duo of Bunion and Blinky (played by Paul Burns).  St. John continued to play comedic rube types, increasingly with a western bent (it should be noted that he was a very capable stunt man!).  He took on the character of "Fuzzy" in Billy the Kid films (he was often credited as "Fuzzy St. John" after this) and created the character of Stoney (which was much more well known as a character played by other actors).  It would be Fuzzy, however, that would be his movie fate, even after the Billy the Kid movies had run their gambit.  Though St. John acted on film until the early 1950's, he never did make a television debut.  The last film that he appeared in was The Frontier Phantom, a Lash La Rue film in which he played Fuzzy Q. Jones in the film and was billed Fuzzy St. John in the credits.  He did not stop entertaining however.  For the next ten years or so, he appeared in various Wild West shows, finally ending up in a regional show in the southeast.  He suffered a major heart attack while waiting to take the stage in Lyons, Georgia; he was 70 years old.  His remains were cremated at Vidalia, GA and his urn was reportedly sent to the Double F. Ranch (a horse farm) in Homossasa Springs, Florida.  In 2006, the Museum of Modern Art showcased many of St. John's films in a 56 film retrospective on his ill-fated uncle Roscoe.  


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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Born Today September 9: Paul Capellani


French born actor Paul Henri Capellani was born on this day in Paris.  He was the younger brother of Albert Capellani and the uncle of director Roger Capellani, Albert's son.  Interested in the dramatic arts (and art in general), Paul studied at a drama conservatory run by Charles Le Bargy from 1897 to 1901; he made his stage debut in 1902.  By 1904, he was acting in Shakespeare plays on the stage.  He made his film debut at Pathé in 1908 in Engulfed in Quicksands, a film directed by his brother.  Paul was also interested in sculpture and was quite the promising young artist in this regard as well.  Between 1908 and early 1915 he appeared in a large number of films under the Pathé umbrella, very many of them directed by his brother Albert.  He also dabbled in writing--mostly adaptations of existing literature into film scripts--however he had one original scenario produced in 1910 with Les caprices de Marion. In 1915, he followed his brother Albert to World Pictures in the U.S., and appears in Albert's film Camille (1915) starring opposite of Clara Kimball Young. Mostly following his brother's career Stateside, he increasingly became disillusioned with the cinema acting experience in the U.S., especially after his brother's--and hence his--contract was up at World Film.  He returned to France in 1919 to continue his stage career; though he also resumed his French cinematic career as well.  He continued to act sporadically in films from 1919 to 1922, when he reignited his interest in working in sculpture.  He was only in three more films after this point, two of them 1930's mono talking pictures.  The last film in which he appeared was La lettre (1930).  Paul Capellani remained an artist for the remainder of his life, after having moved to Cagnes-sur-mer France in 1930.  He died there on the 7th of November in 1960 at the age of 83.  I can find no information as to his burial.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Born Today Sept. 8: Kenneth MacDonald


American actor Kenneth MacDonald (sometimes spelled "McDonald") was born Kenneth Dollins on this date in Portland, Indiana.  Like so many actors of the day, he started out on the stage and is well known for his rising popularity in the 1930's Hollywood scene; but he was in at least one film during the silent era dating from 1923.  He starred in the Western dramadey Slow As Lightning (which for the time being is available on Amazon Prime); the film features some action sequences that look a great deal like slapstick, despite that the plot is of a more serious bent than straight physical comedy.  This would serve him well later on, as he is probably best remembered to fans who are not hard core western aficionados, as being the villainous foil in the Three Stooges shorts.  He has been associated with other silent westerns in the 1920's but it is unclear if he is the same person that appears in these films, or another actor with a similar or identical name (it would be great if someone could get to the bottom of this one). Though his voice was sometimes compared to Boris Karloff, he found a much more comfortable niche in character acting throughout the bulk of his career, which included many television roles and appearances. When he began to appear in pictures for a living in the early 1930's, he at first toiled in bit parts.  His first sound film, for example, was Dirigible in 1931, starring Jack Holt and Fay Wray, his role as Lt. Fogarty went uncredited.  Throughout the 1930's he had a few credited roles, but it was not until after 1938 that his fortunes in this regard changed (though, he was known to take up smaller roles in films throughout the classic Hollywood period).  MacDonald made his television debut in 1950 on The Gene Autry Show; by 1952 he was a bit of a television fixture.  A goodly number of shows that he appeared in were indeed westerns.  The last appearance the MacDonald made in front the camera before his sudden death was in the episode The Test in the series The F.B.I..  Though he had been suffering from lung cancer that had recently spread to his brain, and he was living as a result of this in Motion Picture & Television Country House (located in Woodland Hills) and Hospital, MacDonald died suddenly of a heart attack on the 5th of May in 1972 at the age of 70.  He is buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Woodland Hills) Hollywood Hills location.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Born Today September 7: Émile Chautard


Director and actor Émile Chautard was born on this day in Paris, France.  He started acting on the stage of Paris and quickly transitioned to film--one source gives that he entered films in 1905, but there is little recorded information to back this up.  He is known for sure to have appeared in Fouquet, l'homme au masque de fer (1910) an historical short in which he played King Louis XIV of France.  The film was a Pathé Fréres production.  He is credited with his first directorial outing that same year as well; Barberine--a comedic short--was produced under the original Eclair company (which started in the 1900's as a French production company)--this would wind up being an important connection for Chautard.  Chautard continued on as an in-house director for Eclair, directing numerous shorts for them between 1910 and 1913!  In a few of these, he directed himself; and at least one title, An Accused Inheritance (1911), he both wrote and acted in the film that he also directed (though he had been writing since 1910--his first filmed scenario was After the Fall of the 'Eagle' (1910)). In 1913, Chautard became the head of film production for the entire French Eclair studio, but the call of film from across "the pond" was too strong and he left for the United States in 1914, landing at World Film at the end of that year.  The last film that he made in France was L'indépendance de la Belgique en 1830 in late 1914.  His first English language US production was The Arrival of Perpetua in 1915.  By this time World Film had amassed a whole staff of French auteur directors and Chautard's managerial experience helped  propel him into a role of mentor at the company (his most well known apprentice was Josef von Sternberg).  By 1918 he was free and clear of contractual obligations at World, he worked for various other production companies, eventually starting his own, short lived, production venture.  The one film that he managed to get produced on his own was The Mystery of the Yellow Room (1919).  Chautard remained in the director's chair through 1924, with Untamed Youth being his last turn as a director.  Chautard remembered his early acting roles with fondness and turned back exclusively to acting in 1926 in Paris At Midnight, a film featuring Lionel Barrymore.  He continued to act well into the talking era, with Marianne being his last silent film appearance in 1929 (ironically a remake of a film that he had appeared in that had sound [see below] in 1929 (1929/II on IMDb)) .  He had already worked on films featuring sound, however.  He worked on several partial silents, with Lilac Time in 1928 apparently being the first.  His first full sound film also came early, with Marianne--the original to the remake mentioned above (he also acted in the early sound horror House Of Horror in 1929 that had two versions--one with sound, the other silent). He continued to act well into the 1930's; in fact, right up until the time of his death.  Chautard died on the 24th of April in 1934 in Los Angeles of organ failure at the age of 69 (at least one source erroneously gives his birth year as 1881--which would have put him at just 53 when he died--this is ridiculous considering that he was, for a time, the step-father of George Archainbaud).  The last film that he appeared in was Villa, Villa! in 1934.  He is interred at The Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Born Today September 6: June Marlowe


Actress June Marlowe was born Gisela Valeria Goetten to German immigrant parents in St. Cloud Minnesota.  She was best known for her role of Mrs. Crabtree in the Our Gang series in the early 1930's, where she donned a blond wig to match the hair of child star Jackie Cooper; but she actually made the majority of her film appearances in the 1920's.  Her first film Fighting Blood, dating from 1923, saw her in such a minor role that it went uncredited.  Her first credited role came in 1924 in the role of Kitty Reid in When A Man's A Man.  She was in several films in both 1924 and 1925, including opposite both Rin Tin Tin (yes, Rin Tin Tin!) and later John Barrymore.  One of the Rin Tin Tin films that she appeared in was Clash Of The Wolves (1925), which was nearly lost to history but survives today thanks in no small part to the National Film Preservation Society.  She was one of the WAMPAS Baby stars of 1925 (one can assume that being in this situation, she was "presented" with a "proper" screen name by one of the male studio big-wigs that ran these virtual harem of young girls in the mid-1920's on).  Marlowe did not possess what the studios thought was an acting voice pleasing in the dawning sound era,  and this must have greatly effected her confidence.  Probably as a result, in late 1929, when more and more of the largest studios--like Universal--were experimenting with full sound films, Marlowe made two films for a German production company under the studio umbrella of Universal--both were silent pictures.  Her first sound film--The Lone Defender (1930)--was another Rin Tin Tin film in which she played the Hispanic Dolores Valdez.  She then fell into making shorts with the like of Charly Chase, which landed her the role that she is known for today in 1930 in Teacher's Pet.  Hal Roach also paired her up with the budding film sensation that was Laurel and Hardy.  By this time, her interest in continuing an acting career waned; her last appearance in front of the camera came in 1932 as Mrs. Crabtree one last time in Readin' and Writin'.  She then quit to become a housewife, having married a Hollywood businessman in 1933.  She remained content with this life; though later in life, she became a writer of children's stories.  She died from complications due to Parkinson's in Burbank on the 10th of March in 1984 at the age of 80.  She was originally buried at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery, but was later moved to the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, which has a mausoleum in it's basement.

Original marker buried with her brother Louis at San Fernando

Niche in Mausoleum at Lady of the Angels

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