Saturday, October 13, 2018

Born Today October 13: Helena Pickard


Famed British actress of the stage and screen Helena [Marie] Pickard was born on this day in Sheffield, England. Though she started her career on the stage, she quickly also found herself in motion pictures in her early 20's.  Her work in silent film is confined to one film dating from 1924; she had a starring role in the comedic short The Clicking of Cuthbert produced by the UK company Stoll.  She did not appear in another film until 1930 when she appeared in an uncredited role in the now lost early British talkie Lord Richard in the Pantry.  Her first talking picture credit came in 1931 in the short comedy Cupboard Love.  She would make her televised debut in the also lost BBC two and one-half hour When We Are Married  in 1938 (the film was based on a J. B. Priestly play--his novel is responsible for the the James Whale horror comedy The Old Dark House).  She made her television series debut in the 1950's ABC/ITV joint production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1956 (unfortunately also lost).  She also worked in radio for the BBC as well. And since this is October, and Halloween is on the way, it is also worth noting that she made an appearance in John Brahm's 1944 remake of The Lodger, which starred her husband, famed British actor Cedric Hardwicke.  Her marriage to Hardwicke ended in divorce in 1950 and she remarried a banking financier in 1956. She ended her own life, probably on purpose, by ingesting an over-dose of sleeping pills on the 27th of September just shy of her 59th birthday--at the time she had been living in the Oxfordshire area.  She was buried in a non-cemetery burial somewhere in the region (possibly on the estate of her husband Herbert Rothbart or his family?).  She was the mother of beloved British character actor Edward Hardwicke, who is best remembered for his portrayal of Dr. Watson, to Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes, on the Britain's Granada TV.  

In The Lodger

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Born Today October 11: Luis Firpo


Argentinian boxer Luis Ángel Firpo was born in Junin barrio of Argentina's capital city of Buenos Aires. He is an historical figure known for his boxing skills and his colorful nickname of "The Wild Bull of the Pampas."  During the height of his career in the early 1920's, he appeared in two films: one a documentary and one as an actor.  The first of these was a short entitled Will He Conquer Dempsey, made in 1923 and featuring him and his principle rival Jack Dempsey--though the documentary was principally about Firpo.  The bout, which took place in New York on the 14th of September is the stuff boxing history is made of; Firpo almost won, but was eventually defeated by Dempsey after Firpo had literally knocked him out of the ring, sending him head first into a reporters typewriter! The second silent that he appeared in was an Argentinian short fictional film entitled La vuelta del toro salvaje released in 1924 and titled after his nickname--the film partially fictionalized his life to date.  In his lifetime, he appeared as an actor in just one other film in the 1950's; also an Argentinian drama.  Firpo retired from boxing in 1940, but went on to be a boxing manager; he was also a large scale rancher.  He died on the 8th of August 1960 at the age of 65.  He was interred at La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, in a large customized mausoleum.  

More Mèliés Tricks

Back from dealing with Hurricane Michael yesterday, and wanted to share a little Mèliés flummery to express my sense of relief! This dates from 1903 and shows his prowess at careful film editing at it's best. 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Silent Horror Of The Day Embed--Mèliés The Vanishing Lady (1896)

This was not Mèliés' first horror film, but it was close.  He is credited with making the very first horror film earlier in 1896 (there is one Edison short from the year before that counts as the first horror just wasn't intended to be when it was produced). This, like many of Mèliés' films, has several titles in both French and English.  It is one of is his rather delightful and macabre trick films--he was the master of them!

Silent Era Halloween Images

This year I am posting up creepy Halloween photographs from the silent film era (not necessarily from silent films). I am starting off from this one.  I have looked and can't find the exact year --though it was taken some time during the 1920's. Bonus image below...the 1950's weren't much less creepy when it came to Halloween costumes! Happy October 1!!

Sunday, September 30, 2018


For other silent titles coming up on TCM in October click here.

October 3rd Primetime on TCM: Lon Chaney [Sr.]

Oct. 3 @ 8PM Nitehawk Cinema trailer

9PM Trailer

10:45PM TCM Clip

Oct. 4 12:30AM Clip

Oct. 4 2:15AM Clip

Oct. 4 4AM Clip

Oct. 8 12 Midnight YouTube Full Length Film

Oct. 15 Midnight Opening

Oct. 22 12:30AM Trailer

Oct. 30 6AM Trailer

Oct. 30 7:15AM Clip

Oct. 30 11:45AM Clip

Monday, September 24, 2018

Born Today September 24: Marcus (Mark) Hanna


American businessman, turned Republican politician, Mark Hanna was born Marcus Alonzo Hanna on this day in New Lisbon (now just Lisbon) Ohio into a Quaker family of a physician and wife.  As a historical figure, there is little reason to try to go into any sort of detail concerning his life (links are provided below); suffice to say that that the films in which he appeared are strictly historical in nature.  Hanna appeared in 4 documentary news-reels toward the very end of his life.  The first of these was Republican National Committee of 1900, shot by the American Mutoscope & Biograph co. The other three shorts are as follows:

President McKinley Inauguration  (1901) [also Biograph]

Hanna died while still serving in the U.S. Senate in a Washington D.C. hotel, after a bout of typhoid fever weakened his heart on the 15th of February. He was 66. He is interred in a fancy family mausoleum located in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, OH. 

Silent Films On TCM: October 2018

Oct 4 8:30 AM Info 

The Following Two Film Part of Primetime Funny Ladies Evening (starts Oct. 4 @ 8PM)

Oct. 5 1:45AM TCM Clip

Oct. 5 3:15AM Film on YouTube

Oct.14 12 Noon Trailer

Oct. 29 12AM Trailer

Oct. 29 1:15AM TCM Intro

Oct. 29 2:30AM TCM Clip

Oct. 29 3:45AM Clip

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Born Today September 23: William Archer


Writer and critic William Archer was born today in Perth, Scotland in the UK.  A part of his childhood was spent in Norway; while there he became interested in the native writer Henrik Ibsen. He later attended the University of Edinburgh and received an M.A. from there in 1876.  A year before this, he started writing for the Edinburgh Evening News.  By 1879, he had made the move to London and was the senior dramatic critic for the London Figaro.  He later moved over to The World, a bi-weekly paper that was published up until 1920. He worked as a critic at the publication until 1906; in other words, during it's most popular run.  Archer used the position to advocate for the staging of Ibsen plays in the British capital--with much success. One of the aspects of his life that he is well known for today, is his introduction of Ibsen to the British stage.  Archer himself was also a playwright (which constituted only a small portion of his writings--he also penned biographies and studies of literary works).  Archer, through an extra-martial relationship with a popular actress, became quite influential in the theater community--this was furthered by his friendship with George Bernard Shaw.  Archer's own success in the theater would not come until after the cessation of World War I (the war had taken his only child--his son Tom--during the war he had actually worked as a writer for the British war propaganda department).  In 1921, his play The Green Goddess--a melodrama--was staged at the Booth Theater in New York--it's production was a success and the play became instantly popular.  It is this play that, in 1923, was turned into a film. The film shared the play's title and was directed by Sidney Olcott and featured Alice Joyce.  This was the only film of his work filmed during his lifetime, and the only one in the silent era.  In fact, all of the films that he is credited with as source material for adapted screenplays of his dramatic works comes from this one play.  Other works used in films come from his personal translations of Ibsen.  The UK production The Green Goddess (1930), directed by Alfred Green, was a Vitagraph full sound talkie (the play was used twice more in films released in 1939 and 1943--one a short).  The last time (to date) that his work was used for a film came with the made for television A Doll's House, a live performance presented in real time on the BBC--the film is amongst the lost (his contribution to another made for television movie based on translations of Ibsen had come earlier--in 1950--also on the BBC).  Archer died suddenly in a London nursing hospital after surgical complications arose after he under went a procedure to remove a cancerous kidney tumor on the 27th of the December in 1924. He was 68 years old.  I can find no information on his interment. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Born Today September 15: Agatha Christie


The world's most famous mystery novelist Agatha Christie was born Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller (she was later Dame Agatha, Lady Mallowan) on this day in Torquay, Devon, England. For such a towering literary figure, there is little point in my attempting to write up a synopsis of her life.  Suffice to say that she was born into a well of family, to a mother who was born in Belfast and a father who came from an "upper crust" American family.  She was the baby of the family and gained the surname "Christie" when she married Archibald Christie in 1914 with whom she had one child--a daughter.  The couple would divorce in 1928 and she would marry Sir Max Mallowan in 1930--this is how she gained the title of Lady Mallowan, but for professional purposes, she kept her first married name for publication.  She also published romance novels under the pen name Mary Westmacott.  Her mystery play The Mousetrap holds the world record for being the longest running play in history.  She had actually began to write before her first marriage, but was not published until 1920; and that was The Mysterious Affair at Styles--introducing the world to her exacting Belgian detective: Hercule Poirot.  Since this blog in concerned with silent films and films of the 1920's, I will just jump to the two films of her work that were produced in 1928 and 1929 respectively.  The first was, not surprisingly, a British mystery feature based on her story "The Coming of Mr. Quinn": The Passing of Mr. Quinn.  The other film, Adventures, Inc. (Die Abenteurer G. m. b. H.) is from Germany and is based on her novel The Secret Adversary.  Both of these films are silent.  It would be a further two years on, when Alibi was released in 1931, that a talkie would be made using her work.  Her works are so adaptable, that it is hardly surprising that her writing would be a source for early television.  In fact, one of her works made it into one of the earliest television programs in the UK, via the stage.  In 1937 her short story "The Wasp's Nest"--a Poirot mystery--was the featured in an episode by the same name in the series Theater Parade. The series featured filmed plays of actual theatrical performances of works of literature.  The stage adaptation featured in the episode was adapted for the stage by Christie herself.  As of this writing, four projects are in various stages of production adapting her work for the small and large screen.  One of them, Death On The Nile--slated for release next year--is a return to the screen of Kenneth Branagh as Poirot. Another, Witness For The Prosecution was just announced, and is set to be directed by Ben Affleck.  The other two projects are destined for television.  The most recent release, again as of this writing, The ABC Murders is a mini-series made for the BBC and stars John Malkovich as Poirot.  Christie died in her Oxfordshire home from natural causes on the 12th of January 1976 at the age of 85. She is buried in the graveyard of St. Mary's in Cholsey.  She is the best selling author "of all time" as her website proclaims.  This is actually an understatement.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Born Today September 9: J. C. Buckstone

Buckstone on the stage in 1902.


Actor J. C. (John Copeland) Buckstone was born on this day in the Sydenham area of London.  Buckstone was a popular stage actor, who also dabbled in stage adaptation writing.  He was the son of the famous stage actor and writer J. B. Buckstone (who is said to haunt the Royal Haymarket Theater...Patrick Stewart claims to have seen him!). One of the younger Buckstone's plays was made into a film in 1901.  Buckstone had penned a popular stage adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol; a short film was produced from the play (half of that film survives and has been released on DVD) entitled Scrooge, or Marley's Ghost starring an actor named Daniel Smith in the title role.  Buckstone actually appeared in two films towards the end of his career in 1913. Predictably, one them was a Christmas Carol adaptation: Old Scrooge (also available on DVD)--a version of his adaptation, further adapted by actor Seymour Hicks, who plays Ebenezer Scrooge in the film (note: he famously reprised this role in the classic talkie version of the story in 1935).  Buckstone also appeared in the first of two 1913 adaptations of T.W. Robertson's play David Garrick--a film that also features Hicks in the starring role.  For the most part, Buckstone's acting career was one on the stage, rather than in front of the film camera.  He passed away in London on the 24th of September in 1924--just a little more than two weeks after his 65th birthday.  I can find no information as to his burial.

Scene from the 1901 film

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Born Today September 6: Charles Giblyn


Prolific director (and actor) of and in silent films, Charles Giblyn was born on this date in Watertown, New York. Though mostly known as one of the founders of the Motion Pictures Director's Association dating from 1915, he was first an actor on the stage; he is known to have starred in a few Broadway productions at the turn of the 20th century. His first credit as a director dates from 1912 with the short western An Indian Legend, which came out in October and was produced by the Broncho Film Co. [affiliated with Essanay] and distributed theatrically by Mutual. Ironically, since he started out as an stage actor, it would be two years later that he would appear as an actor in a film (that he directed, of course): The Silent Messenger is a short drama about Italian village life where Giblyn plays a rather major role of the village doctor.  Probably his most notable (tongue-in-cheek) acting role had to be in the part of "Le Monde--The Film Star" in the Victor comedy The Nightmare of a Movie Fan (1915)--a film that he, of course, also directed.  Giblyn also dabbled in writing. His first produced (and self directed) scenario was The Brand Of Cain in 1914, a Powers Pictures Plays film. Giblyn's years active as a director span between 1913 and 1927 and number around 100, but the lion's share of those came between the years 1913 through 1916.  As film lengths stretched into the more modern "feature length" time frame (over 60 minutes), the number of films he directed gradually became less and less after 1917.  Over the years, he also worked for a number of different production houses; for example, the 1 hour and 10 minute lost drama The Price She Paid, which starred Clara Kimball Young (who he shares a birthday with), was written and directed for her company and distributed by Selznick Distributing.  In 1922, he founded his own production company, Albion.  Just before this, he was working at Fox--his stint there in the early 1920's looks to be his longest stay with a company (this is where he directed Pearl White in several films--see photo below).  The first film that he made under his own production umbrella was A Woman's Woman (1922) based on a Nalbro Bartley novel.  He would direct just six more films after this, the last of which was the Ladies Beware in 1927.  Many of the films that he directed have not survived; probably the most famous of these is the June 1925 release The Adventurous Sex starring Clara Bow.  One of his films that does survive that has a bit of a reputation outside the world of silent film buffs, is the dramatic horror film The Dark Mirror made for Famous Players-Lasky, which was released in May of 1920 and distributed by an early incarnation of Paramount.  After Giblyn quit directing, he continued to act in films.  He appeared in films from 1927 through 1934, with most of his roles coming in early talkies.  His first speaking role came 1929 in one of Warner Oland's first Fu Manchu full sound talkies The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu.  He also had a role in William A. Wellman's Woman Trap, also in 1929.  Most of the roles that he took after this point were in uncredited parts; the last film that he appeared in was This Side Of Heaven in 1934.  The film was released just weeks away from his death on the 14th of March in Los Angeles.  He is interred in the mausoleum at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Giblyn was married to silent actress Ernette Tamm, who, though she has only one credit on IMDb, actually appeared in several silent films before retiring. She is interred with him, but there is not marker for her on the tomb. 

Seen here on the left with actress Pearl White on the set of The Tiger's Club (Fox) in 1920.

Photo: Find A Grave


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Born Today September 4: Joseph F. Poland


Screenwriter Joseph Franklin Poland, whose career spanned from the early silent era all the way through 1950's as an active writer (he wrote so many scripts, that many were produced for the first time after his death) was born on this date in Waterbury, Conn.  His first writing credit for a short story comes in 1913 with the short comedic western The Taming of Texas Pete , a film made for Selig Polyscope.  This was is his only credit for that year; additionally he had only one credit for the following year with American Film Manufacturing's The Smoldering Spark (1914).  By contrast, he penned six films in 1915; after this, he was never out of work for the remained of his life. By the dawn of the the 1920's, he had written dozens of films--most of them short melodramas.  His scripts were purchased and produced across of wide range of production houses from Fox to Thomas H. Ince's company.  During the 1920's, he scripted nearly 50 films, with Universal's It Can Be Done (1929) representing the first of his scripts used in a film with sound (it is a partial silent, with some talking sequences and sound effects--including music--by MovieTone).  The Leo McCarey comedy The Sophomore (1929) was the first full sound picture made of one of his screenplays; and Salior's Holiday (1929) starring Alan Hale Sr. --a film that he worked on anonymously--was the last film of his writing materials to be made in the decade.  He would not pen another film for five years, when the Gene Autrey musical western Sagebrush Troubadour was released in 1935.  In the 1940's, he penned, amongst many, many other genres, a number of B-grade pot-boilers, including some Dick Tracy adventures. In 1950, his work made it's television debut, with screenplays for three episodes of the popular western The Lone Ranger, starring Canadian Mohawk actor Jay Silverheels and Clayton Moore.  Though Poland passed away in Los Angeles on the 23rd of March, 1962--his work was produced for a further 12 years, with the last film coming in 1974 with The Three Stooges Follies. He was either buried or cremated at Grand View Memorial Park in Glendale, Ca.  He was 69 years old at the time of his death.


Sunday, September 2, 2018

Born Today September 2: James H. Wilson


Army Major General (2 Star) James Harrison Wilson was born on this day in Shawneetown, Illinois.  He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1860...just one year before Civil War broke out in the U.S. His specialty was "topographical engineering," but his initial service in the Civil War was as an aide.  He served under both Generals McClellan and Grant. He served throughout the conflict and saw heavy action in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. He was in command when his battalion of men captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the Swiss born Heinrich Wirz, commandant of the infamous prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia. After leaving Army service in 1883, he worked as for a time as a construction engineer in the railroad field.  He then moved to Wilmington, Delaware; where as a private citizen, he took up (amongst other endeavors) writing.  He was persuaded to return to the Army in 1898 to service in the Spanish-American War and was later sent to China, where he served during the infamous Boxer Rebellion in 1901 as a brigadier-general, before retiring again from the service in early 1902.  He represented then President Theodore Roosevelt and the country at the coronation of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom. As far as film is concerned, it is his service in China that brings him to this blog.  He is featured in the Amercian Mutoscope & Biograph documentary short The War in China (1901), which also features Maj. Gen. Adna R. Chaffee and Minister Edward H. Conger.  Wilson passed away on the 23rd of February, 1925 in his adopted home town of Wilmington at the respectable age of 87.  He was laid to rest at the Old Swedes Churchyard there. For more about his military life and for a really interesting list of his written works, please check out his Wikipedia page.

Appreciative of Find A Grave member Kimberly for the free photo use!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Born Today September 1: James J. Corbett


The man who be a World Heavyweight Champion of boxing, James John Corbett, affectionately known as "Gentleman Jim," was born on this day in San Francisco, California.  He would eventually become an actor, but he very famously appeared in an early Edison Short Corbett and Courtney Before the Kinetograph in 1894, with fellow boxer Peter Courtney.  Edison later recalled in 1930 that the film was the very first film the company made for public exhibition (which was true-ish enough).  Unlike Courtney, who is known to film only by his appearance in the above referenced title, Corbett had a eye for the theatrical and an aim to capitalize on it after his boxing career was ended.  In addition to giving what we would call motivational speeches today, he also took to appearing in minstrel shows and eventually made his way back in front of the motion picture camera (he had appeared in a number of exhibition reels after the Edison Black Maria experience--as early as 1897).  He starred, largely as himself--and billed by his nickname-- in the 1913 western The Man From the Golden West.  His roles on film were few and far between, but by 1916, he was commanding the leading role.  In all he appeared in just nine films (as far as anyone has been able to document to date)--and that includes the famous Edison 6 part (1 minute each) film (only 1 part of the film remains, but it is viewable on DVD format and can be viewed on YouTube).  He had a role in the Edward Dillion feature comedy The Beauty Shop released in 1922 and did not appear again in film until the coming of the talkie in the late 1920's.  Perhaps one of the most surprising things about Corbett, was his writing; he appeared as himself in a 1910 Vitagraph produced biographical short that he penned about his life (to date): James J. Corbett; or, How Championships Are Won and Lost (that same biographical material was later used in a film about his life starring Errol Flynn in 1942, appropriately titled Gentleman Jim). His role as a member of the minstrel show entertainers in the early all sound musical production Happy Days in 1929 directed by Benjamin Stoloff was his first in a sound picture. His last film appearance came in 1930 in the Murray Roth short At The Round Table (the film also had an appearance by DeWolf Hopper Sr.--the father of William Hopper and ex-husband of his mother Hedda). Corbett died three years later in Bayside, New York on the 18th of February at the age of 66.  He was subsequently interred at Brooklyn's Cypress Hill Cemetery. His boxing career is the most interesting part of his biography, so I highly recommend reading up on it if you are interested in sports. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Born Today August 29: John E. Ince


Eldest Ince brother John Edward Ince was born on this day in New York City to immigrant vaudevillian parents from England. Though John in remembered mostly as an actor, he was also a prolific director--with over 50 titles to his name; and, after the sudden (and some say mysterious) death of his brother Thomas, a producer.  He, along with all of his siblings, were started on the stage at a young age and he remained a stage actor of merit throughout his life; he did not make his film acting debut, however, until the age of 35 in 1913.  He appeared as "Big Bill" in the Lubin Manufacturing short The Girl of the Sunset Pass, along with Edgar Jones and Clara Williams.  After he started acting in films, he instantly became a prolific presence in Lubin shorts, appearing in nearly two dozen shorts in 1913 alone.  He directed for them as well; in fact, his debut in the film industry actually came as a director the year before when he directed Arthur V. Johnson and Lottie Briscoe in the dramatic short The Spoiled Child (1912) [he first directed himself in The Hills of Strife in 1913].  He was a frequent  film actor up through 1915, after which, he decided to concentrate  exclusively on his directing [the last film that he appeared in--which he also directed--was In Love's Own Way (1915) with Mary Charelson].  Interestingly, for all of his creative input in the films under his direction, he has only one screenwriting credit for the feature length family feud film Her Man, made for Advanced Motion Picture Corp and distributed by Pathé Exchange in 1918 (the screenplay was an adaptation of a Charles Neville Buck novel); the film starred Elaine Hammerstein.  He didn't appear again in a film until 1921, when he made up one-half of cast of John Gorman's crime drama Fate.  Throughout the decade, he appeared sparsely in films, with the bulk of his time spent on his new found passion of production.  After his brother Ralph's death in 1924, he started his own company, John Ince Productions, that produced 5 films in the 1920's--the first of which, The Great Jewel Robbery, (self directed) in 1925.  Of those five titles, one of them--That Old Gang of Mine--was written and directed by that rarest of filmmakers in the silent era: a female director.  The film, a comedy, was the work of playwright and stage director May Tully--it represented her final work in life, as she died in 1924 and the film was released by Ince's company the following year.  The last silent film in which John Ince acted came out in 1927; Wages of Conscience was also directed by Ince, but was made for Superlative Pictures.  The last film that he personally produced was the 1928 western short The Rustler's End, which was directed by Robert J. Horner--a curiosity in the lower end Hollywood world of B-pictures (he has been called the "Ed Wood of the 1920's").  After this, he was absent from films for a few years, returning as an actor in the George Archainbaud talkie Alias French Gertie in 1930.  This was the first film Ince had any association with that incorporated sound of any sort.  He would continue in films, but only as an actor (many of his roles uncredited), for almost 20 years. His last film came in 1949 in the Jack Irwin b-crime feature Gun Cargo, which was released close to two years after his death.  Ince passed away after a bout of pneumonia on the 10th of April, 1947 at the age of 68, having outlived both of much more famous younger brothers by many years.  Nothing is noted as to his burial or interment, but his much more famous brother Thomas had been cremated after a lavish open casket funeral, so it is at least as likely that his older brother was cremated as well.  

Main poster for his adapted film Her Man from 1918.


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Born Today August 19: Lawrence D'Orsay


Prominent late 19th century stage actor, turned 20th century film actor Lawrence (or variously Lawrance--this is the spelling he used in autographs) D'Orsay was born Dorset William Lawrance in Peterborough, England (which is located in Cambridgeshire/East Anglia--the important ancient settlement of Flag Fen located not far from his birthplace).  Like so many artistic types that ended up in the theater in one form or another, his family had intended him to study law.  He became an actor instead. The lion's share of his career was spent on the stage, where he was noted as a highly entertaining actor of comedy. His type-casting from plays as the "upper crust" type carried over into many of his film roles as an older gentleman of means.  He first appeared on the silver screen at the age of 59 in 1912 in the American Film Manufacturing Co.'s The Border Detective.  His next film appearance came in a role for which he was already famous from the stage, that of Lord Cardington in Universal's The Earl of Pawtucket in 1915; the film was based on the Augustus Thomas play of the same name that D'Orsay had starred in on Broadway. His last film appearance came in 1926 in one of D. W. Griffith's forgotten efforts of the mid to late twenties The Sorrow of Satan as Lord Elton. In all, he is credited with appearing in 8 films, most of them in the 1920's; but first and foremost: he was a man of the stage.  D'Orsay died in London on the 13 of September in 1931, not long after his 78th birthday.  There is no information on his burial. 

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Born Today August 18: Jack Pickford


Jack Pickford, "the Pickford brother," an actor and director in his own right, was born John Charles Smith on this day in Toronto, Canada (he was known, most famously as being "Mary's little brother" in the press for most of his short life--for good or bad [I think bad...]).  As a young boy, he was pulled into the performance life of his two older sisters: Gladys (who would become Mary Pickford) and Lottie.  Though he is remembered now as the brother as the possibly the most influential woman in early Hollywood (Mary), he was well possessed of talent in his own right.  He is was, by all accounts, an engaging and charming child presence on and off the live stage from a young age.  To be sure, when Gladys Smith was transformed into Mary Pickford around 1909/1910, the entire family benefited; as she saw to this personally.  Jack first appeared as an extra in films for Biograph, the company that "discovered" Mary, in 1909. He was a member of the crowd in D. W. Griffith's The Message (1909) [another credited member of the crowd is Mack Sennett].  What we know of the film, which was released in early July, comes largely from a synopsis written Moving Picture World. This dates his entrance into film acting about six months after that of famous elder sister, his age would have been 12. He is credited with appearing in four more films from 1909--all of the Griffith films; in fact Griffith was said to be fond of Jack Pickford, and was impressed with his talent.  It appears that the first film in which he appeared with Mary was one of these films: To Save Her Soul (1909), in which he played a stagehand (the film also includes Griffith's own wife Linda Arvidson and Mary's future first husband Owen Moore in "the audience").  After the invention of "Mary Pickford" at Biograph, his career hewed close to hers--appearing in numerous Griffith films featuring her in early 1910.  Jack stars in his own right in Biograph's The Kid in 1910, the film was directed by Frank Powell and may or may not have featured an appearance by his more recognizable older sister; nonetheless, this was a starring role for him in his own right (the film also featured Florence Barker, one of the film industry's early tragedies, dying at the young age of 21 of pneumonia). For a short while in 1910, Jack was a regular in Powell's films. Throughout the rest of 1910, he would show up in numerous Biograph films in a small or extra roles that both featured and didn't feature his increasingly famous sister. The first film that he in which he appeared that has any significant historical interest is Griffith's His Trust Fulfilled, which was released in January of 1911.  His first non-Biograph film came in The Sneak in 1913 for the competitor film studio founded, in part, by a former Biograph sales manager:  Kalem Co.--the film stars Tom Moore, brother of Owen, so it's likely that Tom got him the job. He continued to appear in a spate of Biograph films steadily through 1913; during this period of time, Griffith headed up Biograph's move west to Hollywood. Jack's tagging along with this move accounts for his early appearance in the soon to be movie mecca out west.  He was, from the beginning, a needy sort and that led to troublesome behavior. He is thought to have developed a problem with drink before his 18th birthday (the family's father was an alcoholic of massive proportions, so the condition was inherited for sure).   In 1917, the year his sister signed her monster contract with First National, Jack finally scored his starring role; it came in the Famous Players produced--Robert Vignola (in part) directed--adaptation of Charles Dickens Great Expectations. He also starred in the title role of Tom Sawyer in 1917--making the romp The Ghost House, directed by William de Mille (brother of Cecil), along the way.  In 1918, he was packed off, via the US Navy, to World War I, getting into enough trouble as to almost receive a dishonorable discharge. Upon his return from the war, he resumed his film career with an eye toward production, founding his own namesake company. In the years following, he would also direct two films.  They were: Through The Back Door and Little Lord Fauntleroy both in 1921 and both of which he co-directed with Alfred E. Green; they also starred his sister Mary and were produced by her. He wasn't very successful in the directing endeavor, but he may have had more success had his first wife, Olive Thomas, not died a death that is still whispered about today. She died by what appears to be a truly accidental poisoning in Paris on the 10th of September 1920, five days after ingesting mercury bichloride. Though he would marry twice more and would continue in the film business, there could be little doubt that the event must have affected the rest of his life in the negative.  By 1923, he was back to appearing in films that can only be labeled as "B movies," some of which were made by his production company Jack Pickford Productions.  Of interest is his appearance in the pretty famously lost 1923 Paramount comedy Hollywood, which amongst other notable cameos, has an appearance by--post scandal--Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. Jack also appeared in the 1926 mystery/horror/thriller The Bat, produced--and probably directed--by Roland West. He found himself in a film utilizing sound for the first time in 1928 in the crime drama Gang War, which was the final film of that decade that he had anything to do with.  The last film he appeared in was the 1930 short all sound Warner production All Square; still playing--at the age of 35--the young man. "The Faithful Son." Pickford died three years later in a American hospital in Paris on the 3rd of January--cause of death was listed as multiple neuritis, which can be caused by extreme alcoholism and vitamin B-12 deficiency (also a side effect of excessive drinking).  The last time that his sister saw him in 1932, he was notably emaciated and looked frail for his years.  He was just 37 years old. Mary had his body shipped back to California, where he was interred in the family plot at Forest Lawn in Glendale.