Sunday, June 30, 2019

Silents On TCM For The Month Of July

July 1 12AM--Midnight (year: 1924) Trailer

The next three titles comprise the primetime Out Of This World focus. July 2 starting @ 8PM

July 2 8PM (year: 1902) Film

2 July 8:30PM (year: 1927) Trailer

2 July 11:30PM (year: 1929) Trailer

3 July 11:30AM (Year: 1927) Film

8 July 12:15AM (Year: 1926) Preview Clip

8 July 7:15AM (Year: 1922) Trailer

22 July 12:15AM (Year: 1932) Clip

29 July 12AM-Midnight (Silent Sundays) Trailer

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Born Today June 26: Zena Keefe


Silent film actress Zena Virginia Keefe was born on this day in San Francisco, California.  She was a child stage actress in her. According to Moving Picture World, she made her film debut as "Mattie" when you was 15 years of age in the Vitagraph short All is Fair in Love and War released in early 1911 [though at least one source claims that she worked for Fox at the start of film career]. Her film career lasted through 1924. She stayed with Vitagraph for what in those time would be considered an eternity--through 1915--in a world where the standard player contract was for 1 year; having a bit part in their The Spider's Web (1912) along the way. Her last film for them--Putting Pep in Slowtown--was released in March of 1916. Her first real major role in an actual feature came in the Paragon produced drama Her Maternal Right also in 1916. She next appeared in Albert Capellani's huge epic La vie de Bohème (the film is 112 minutes long) in 1916; it stars amongst others: Alice Brady, Frederick TruesdellJune Elvidge, and Capellani's brother Paul. Also in 1916, she was cast in the serial Perils of Our Girl Reporters. By 1917 she was a leading lady, albeit in smaller productions from various companies that included World Film and Albert Capellani Productions. As an child/teenage actress, she had been known to the Ince Brothers and the first major production that she had the leading lady role in the 1920's was directed for Ralph Ince for Selznick Pictures; she played opposite matinee idol Eugene O'Brien in the melodrama His Wife's Money (1920). By 1921 she was a big enough star to appear in one of Federated's Screen Snapshots. In all, she appeared in some sixteen films in the 1920's, when she retired in 1924. He last film was Trouping With Ellen, a romantic comedy made with Eastern Productions.  It's pure speculation as a why she retired. She had reportedly been unhappy with not gaining more acting work during her adult career. She was also married, so perhaps that played a role.  She instead lived in Danvers, Massachusetts, with her husband and daughter, where she died at the age of 80 in 1976 on the 17th of November. She is interred at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA in the Columbarium there. A very attractive young woman, also she posed for some fashion photography.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Born Today June 25: Fred Belasco


Fred Belasco, born Isaac Frederick Belasco on this day in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, was best known as a stage actor, who became a fixture in the San Francisco area by managing the Alcazar Theater. Belasco did, however, appear in one film in his lifetime: The Pinnacle in the part of Paul Schall; it's an IMP film directed by Richard Stanton (it was the director's last film), which was released in 1916--just four years prior to Belasco's death. Belasco died on the 21st of December in 1920 at the age of 58 in San Francisco. He is buried at Colma's Hills of Eternity Memorial Park in San Mateo county.  

[Source: Find A Grave]

Monday, June 24, 2019

Born Today June 24: Phil Harris


Song and dance man, actor and American comedian Wonga Philip (Phil) Harris was born on this date in Linton, Indiana to circus performers.  He may have been born in Indiana, but he grew up in Nashville, Tennessee--a place that would have a profound affect on his life.  It is hardly surprising that his first performance job came with the very circus that his parents worked for, in the capacity of a boy drummer in the circus band of which his father was a bandleader.  This started him off squarely down the path of music.  By the 1920's, he was playing music professionally in San Francisco, where he formed his first band/orchestra.  The group secured a contractural engagement there at the St. Francis Hotel some time after 1925, that situation would last into the 1930's, quite impressive considering the coming of the depression. The contract ended when his orchestra disbanded in 1932, but he had an additional gig playing drums in yet another band at the time.  Harris made his first film appearance, yes, as a drummer, in 1929 in Why Be Good?--the film was released in two formats: one silent and one in mono with Vitaphone sound.  It was directed by William Seiter and starred Neil Hamilton and Colleen Moore. He wouldn't appear in another film until 1933, but it could be described as the most historically important film appearance of his career. He was the subject of the short So This Is Harris!, a comedic musical short directed and partially penned by Mark Sandrich, it would go to win the Oscar for Best Live Action Short.  His first full length full sound film appearance also came in 1933 with Melody Cruise.  What Harris is really known for his both his band-leading orchestral work and the proditious time his spent on the radio, which he started in 1936 on The Jell-O Show Starring Jack Benny when he became the show's band leader.  He and his orchestra, in the meantime, were also the subjects of numerous short films during this time as well.  Also, in 1942, he and his entire orchestra enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served until the end of World War II.  Harris made his television debut in the made-for-television musical Saturday Spectacular: Manhattan Tower; and, in 1958, he made he first appearance in an actual television series Shower of Stars in the episode Jack Benny Celebrated Celebrates his 40th Birthday, in an homage to his long time radio boss (by this time, Harris had moved on in radio, co-hosting a comedic family show with his wife Alice Faye).  He did eventually get into a few acting jobs on television as well, and later in life, he added voice work to his list of credits.  He is well remembered for his turn in the 1967 animated version of The Jungle Book as the voice for Baloo The Bear.  He continued to work in television, both in live parts and in voice-over, unitl 1981, when he retired.  He was persuaded to come out of retirement, however, in 1991--then in his late 80's--for one last voice role in the animated Rock-A-Doodle.  Harris died of a heart attack brought on by worsening heart failure at the age of 91 in Rancho Mirage, California on the 11th of August 1995.  He was cremated and his ashes were kept privately by his wife, until her death 3 years later, when both of their urns were interred on display at Forest Lawn Memorial Park's Palm Springs Mausoleum (now called the Cathedral City location).  

For More:

Leave Virtual Flowers @ Find A Grave

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Born Today June 24: Irvin S. Cobb


American humorist, author, columnist and occasional actor Irvin Shrewsbury Cobb was born on this day in Paducah, Kentucky.  Cobb was known to be the "epitome" of the southern "character."  He had a number of wild stories about his family history that were clearly contrived, often ignoring real accomplishments of his ancestors.  For example, his maternal grandfather is credited with the discovery that the use of the mixture morphine-atropine with a hypodermic would stop cholera.  True as it is, such facts were apparently of no interest or use to the man who would later in life be dubbed the "Duke of Paducah."  Ironically, he would have to relocate to New York City to find the beginnings of success with his writings (I say ironically, because as southerner myself, I am familiar, even in my lifetime, of southern "views" of "yankee" cities like New York).  By 1911, he was working at the Saturday Evening Post.  He was their principle reporter covering World War I, marking one of the only times in his career that his writing turned deadly serious.  In what would be another irony, for someone who was considered toward the end of his life to inappropriately using racial humor (one of the reasons he fell very out of fashion in the 1940's), many of his articles covering The Great War for the Post centered on Harlem Hellfightters in a positive light (his book The Glory of the Coming was born out these published articles). Even before this period in his life, producers of motion pictures were using his writing for scenarios in film; a fact most certainly not lost on Cobb!  Never to be left out of any endeavour, when the films came looking for source material, they got more than just ideas for scripts...they got Cobb himself.  The first film (as far as anyone knows) to bear his name was a scenario that he penned in 1914 for Our Mutual Girl, No. 30 was indeed the 30th installment of a short melodrama series produced by Reliance Film Co. for actress Norma Phillips  aka Margaret, Our Mutual Girl. He, in fact, penned No's 31, 32 and 33 in the series as well. The first credit that appears for an actual adaptation of his work appears in the writing for the 1915 serial Graft, a Universal Manufacturing production; Cobb also appeared in a film for the first time in 1915 as well--taking on the role of "American tourist" in the Cecil B. DeMille directed The Arab (it would be the first of several acting appearances for Cobb during his life, most made in the sound era featuring him in shorts produced for him...sort of as himself--he only made one other film appearance in the silent era in 1920 Go and Get It--a horror mystery knock-off in the general vein of Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue). It should be pointed out that Cobb first began making appearances in film in early 1914 starting episode 24 of Our Mutual Girl in what would later be known as "cameos."  Throughout the silent era, several of his stories were adapted to the screen, especially years 1916 to 1920. Just a sampling of actors that appeared in films based on his work include: Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, Irene Rich and Will Rogers. For a short period in 1921, he spent time writing directly for films. By the late 1920's the use of his stories had fallen out of favor and only two films were produced based on his work, the last of which was an early talkie by Paramount: Walls Tell Tales in 1928 (the last silent film produced from his work was Turkish Delight, produced by DeMille Pictures in 1927). It would take until 1933 for his work to appear in a production in the new era of sounded films; that came with The Woman Accused.  From there, only six more films have been produced adapting his writing, four of them in 1934, one in 1938 and the last in an 1953 anthology. The last time his work was adapted for a script, was also the first time and only time--to date--that it has been used for television in a 1955 episode of the CBS series DangerThe Belled Buzzard. Despite all of his southern bluster, Cobb spent the vast entirety of his career in New York City, which is where he died on the 11th of March in 1944. His cremated remains were returned to Kentucky, where they were buried at Oak Grove Cemetery in Puducah.

[Source: Find A Grave]

[Source: Find A Grave]

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Born Today June 20: Jacques Offenbach


German born composer Jacques Offenbach was born Jakob (or Jacob depending on the source) Offenbach on this day in Cologne.  His Jewish father was a well known cantor who earned a living by singing in synagogues and by playing violins in cafe's (his original surname was Eberst, but owing to his well known musical presence in the area, he adopted the surname Offenbach after his place of birth--he was known to town-folk basically as "the musician from Offenbach").  It stands to reason that young Jakob would be exposed to music from his earliest age. He took up the violin under his father's instruction at the age of six. By the time Jakob was old enough to attend lessons, his father--Isaac--had a permanent situation with a local synagogue, and therefore could afford to pay for music lesson for his young son (who was by this time growing more and more interested in composition). Jakob had lessons with the cellist Bernhard Breuer, this would eventually lead to Jakob's gaining a professional position playing the cello.  In the meantime, he was composing his own works for the instrument, and by the time he was in his teens had penned several works of immense complexity.  In addition, in a family of 10 children and musician father, it is to be expected that several of them are bound to wind up with talents for musical performance.  Jakob and at least two of his siblings, a brother and a sister, performed locally at the direction of their father. Eventually all of this would lead Offenbach to the very prestigious Paris Conservatory, the admissions standards being so strict for someone of Offenbach's background, it is a near miracle that not only did he gain acceptance, but so to did his brother Julius. This is when his first name was changed to it's French form. He quickly became known as a cello virtuous, and keep in mind that he was barely 16 years of age by this time (having gone to Paris at the very young age of 14).  Offenbach's life from this point is highly varied and quite interesting (follow links below). As his career moved along, he fell into a number of different modes of composition; one of the most popular was comic opera, the modern of which he is given credit for it's invention.  It is from these works, that early talkies of the late 1920's drew musical inspiration.  Offenbach's work however dates back much further in film history to 1908, to that most bizarre of movie "inventions"--the silent musical.  These are not merely silent films that have been reproduced for video tape or disc release that use works of famous composers in the public domain--these are works that specified works be played along with the film from the get-go. Many drew scenarios straight from operatic works as well. The short Brazilian film Barcarola is the first film to use any of Offenbach's works (drawn from The Tales of Hoffman)--it both draws inspiration from and stipulates music for a piece written into an opera by the composer. Something similar is apparently going on with the 1915 German film Ein Frauenherz. It was most certainly the case with Die Harmonie-Films dating from 1917, another German film produced exclusively for music showcase. As for those early talkies, the first of those was produced by Warner Brothers as an sound exhibition film by the studio; Bernado De Pace featured the vaudevillian musician of the same name playing tunes on the mandolin (his nickname was "The Wizard of the Mandolin")--the film features a number of the other composers, including Franz von Suppé). The same general concept was applied to Banjoland in 1928; another Warner's film.  In 1929, two films featured his work. One was the short Warner's production Little Miss Everybody, the other was the huge production that was MGM's The Hollywood Revue of 1929.  Rolling right along into a new decade and the dawning of the full adoption of the new technology of sound, his work was featured in three films in 1930 (the first of these was an Ub Iwerks animated short [I LOVE Iwerks' stuff!!] Fiddlesticks featuring Flip the Frog).  It took nearly twenty years for his music to make it to the small screen of television; in 1948 the BBC produced an 1 & 1/2 hour television feature length adaptation of his La vie parisienne. In 1954 his music first made it's way into a television series, when it was featured in a 4th season episode of The Colgate Comedy Hour.  It has since been featured almost countless films, some of which are quite famous and many episodes of well known television shows (Happy Days, Month Python's Flying Circus, The Ren & Stimpy Show  and The Simpsons just to name a few).  The most recent film to feature his work is 2018's Turner Risk.  Offenbach died at the age of 61 in Paris on the 5th of October. By this time he was a beloved French citizen and was given a state funeral. He was subsequently buried in Montmatre Cemetery in what became a family plot. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Born Today June 19: Francesco Dall'Ongaro


Nineteenth century Italian writer Francesco Dall'Ongaro was born on this day in Mansuè in the Kingdom of Italy (now the town of Veneto). Dall'Ongaro originally undertook the education to take holy orders to become a priest, but he instead became deeply interested in (political) journalism, eschewed his orders and took up political activism in Trieste. He, and his fellows, were "revolutionaries" agitating for the over throw of empirical rule and replace it with a secular republic. As time went old, he became more and more involved in active politics. He was eventually involved in in the movement that founded the Roman Republic. That republic was extremely short-lived, after which Dall'Ongaro fled to Switzerland where he continued political journalism and opinion publications in the revolutionary vein. He would eventually make his way through France, and on the Belgium, before returning to his native Italy in 1860.  During his exile in Europe, he was writing, publishing and corresponding the whole time.  Upon his return to Italy, he took up a position of professor of literature in Florence, was a collaborator with Niccolò Tommaseo and a frequent correspondent with Dumas.  He then transferred to a position in Naples, which is where he died at the age of 64 on the 10th of January. During his lifetime, though he was known in Europe almost exclusively for his political writings, he also penned novels, poems and plays. There have only been a handful of films that have had screenplays adapted from his work, the first of which was the Italy 1907 short Venetian Baker; or Drama of Justice (Il fornaretto di Venezia).  This is in fact the only work that has been rendered into film; and all of the productions have been Italian. It was filmed one additional time during the silent era, some seven years later, by Leonardo Films: Il fornaretto di Venezia (1914). The work was not filmed again until 1939 (25 years later); it was obviously the first time the work was rendered into sound and it had a wide theatrical release in it's home country (film information here). It was filmed again in 1952 and it was most recently in 1963. There are currently no up coming projects featuring Dall'Ongaro's work. I can find no information on his burial.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Born Today June 18: Joseph W. Smiley


Early silent actor turned director Joseph W. Smiley was born on this day in Boston. He was hired at Lubin early on and became a fixture there. However, his first appearance in film came in 1911 in the King Baggot short Pictureland, an IMP production.  At IMP, he very quickly moved over the directors chair that same year, directing the short melodrama Phone 1707 Chester, also starring Baggot. He stayed at IMP for the remainder of 1911 both as an actor and as a director, going to work as a director at Lubin the following year. His first film with them was the short comedy The Preacher and the Gossips (1912).  He stepped back in front of the camera at in 1913, directing himself in the gambling drama A Son of His Father. Somehow, Smiley wound up either acting and/or directing a number of films that can only be called fore-runners of the thriller and "near horror"--also "vamp" like roles of devising women.  (See: The Living Fear (1914), The Sorceress (1914), Marah, the Pythoness (1914), and A Strange Melody (1914)). In one case, The Gray Horror, he directed himself in an actual horror film, which also starred Lila Leslie aka "Marah-The Pythoness" or Mrs. Joseph Smiley in real life (an actress from Scotland). Smiley left Lubin after 1915 and directed only two additional films with other companies in 1916, the last of which was Energetic Eva that was both starred in and produced by actress Eva Tanguay.  He did, however, continue to act. Most of his subsequent film appearances came between 1916 and 1921; but he did appear in films all the way through the 1920's and even made one appearance in a pre-code independent melodrama in 1931.  He was directed by a number of recognizable silent directors including: Romaine Fielding, Robert G. Vignola, Maurice Tourneur, Dell Henderson & Travers Vale...he was even in one Albert Capellani film in 1921. The last silent that he appeared in is a lost W. C. Fields domestic comedy The Potters in 1927.  As mentioned above, Smiley appeared in one film in 1931; an independent religious melodrama mostly shot in New York: Corianton.  He then retired in the New York area, dying in 1945 on the 2nd of December at the age of 75.  There is no information as his burial in currently published records on line. 

With Lawrence Gray & Gloria Swanson

Monday, June 17, 2019

Born Today June 17: Aenne Willkomm


Influential German costume designer Aenne Willkomm (name sometimes spelled Änne) was born on this day in 1902. Her early life is basically a complete mystery, save that her birth place is given (curiously) as Shanghai, in what was then empirical China. She seemingly came to the 1920's film industry in Germany from out of the blue--and left just as quickly before the end of the decade. She was the costume designer on five very influential films in the mid-1920s (two in 1924 and three in 1927). The first of these was Fritz Lang's Die Nibelungen: Siegfried (which is sometimes listed as two separate films).  But, by far the most well known film that she designed for was Lang's science fiction nightmare Metropolis in 1927; her designs for that film are instantly recognizable even today--though very few people know that they are looking at the work of a single designer. The last production that she designed for was Gerhard Lamprecht's Betrayal (1927), before marrying Lang's film set designer/architect/production designer Erich Kettelhut and retiring from designing altogether. The couple lived together in Hamburg and died some three months apart in 1979 (by this time Hamburg, was of course a city in West Germany). Willkomm herself died on the 20th of June, just three day after her 77th birthday. She is buried, with her husband Erich, at the historic Ohlsdorf Cemetery in Hamburg. [The other two films that feature her designs are: My Leopold (1924) and Schwester Veronica (1927).] Just a few of her highly original, beautiful designs--many of them well known--are posted below (the sketches all bear her signature). 

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Born Today June 15: Daniel M. Ransdell

[source: United States Senate Historical Office]


Another historical figure that has an entry here due to their happenstance appearance in an early "actuality" by Edison & Co. Daniel M. Ransdell was born on this day, probably in or somewhere near Indianapolis, Indiana. He certainly grew up on a farm there; the son of a local Baptist minister who schooled his children so well from an early age, that by the time the younger Ransdell was a teen, he was teaching classes himself in a number of local schools. He later attended Franklin College, though his education there was abruptly ended by his insistence on joining the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War (his family was unusual in their general opposition to Lincoln and his decision to follow the path to conflict to end the secessionist impasse [owing to their geographical locality]--his father was apparently a staunch Democrat and fiercely disagreed with Lincoln's approach to the conflict and his Republican party). Ransdell lost an arm in the Union advance on Atlanta, and was lucky to come away with his life.  After the war he resumed both teaching and his education. This is when politics entered his life. He was a protege of Benjamin Harrison, who would become the 23rd President of the United States--and by this time, a member of Lincoln's Republican party. Harrison had a great use for Ransdell, who genuinely seemed to have affection for the rather "cold" Harrison. He was certainly able to gather people to Harrison's side; and it is a bit doubtful that without Ransdell, Harrison would have made it all the way to the White House (Ransdell was one of the persons present at Harrison's death bed--he had also served as best man at Harrison's second marriage ceremony).  Nonetheless, it was because of Harrison that Ransdell eventually made into the United States Senate as it's 14th Sergeant at Arms (read more about that here) in 1900. Ransdell was sworn in on the 1st of February. He served in that capacity until his death twelve years later in 1912. The one and only film ("actuality" as Edison and team had coined them--we call them short documentaries today) that Ransdell appeared in came in 1901: President McKinley Taking The Oath.  (This film has made an appearance here before under the entry on Chief Justice Melville Fuller, who is administering the oath to McKinley.) As mentioned, Ransdell died while still serving as Senate Sergeant at Arms at the age of 70 on the 28th of November. There is no information on his burial. 

U.S. Senate Site Bio

U. S. Senate Site Serg.-at-Arms History & information


Saturday, June 1, 2019

Silent (& Early Talkies) On TCM--June 2019

3 June 12AM-Midnight TCM Clip (Year: 1926)

3 June 9:45AM Except (Year: 1929, talkie)

3 June 8PM Clip (Year: 1929, part of TCM's Primetime celebration of Hollywood Hair Hall of Fame)

17 June 12AM-Midnight Trailer (Year: 1926)

23 June 11:45PM Full Film

24 June 12:30AM TCM Clip

24 June 8PM (Trailer--part of another Primetime nod to the Hollywood Hair Hall of Fame, quite amusing actually, since "the kid" here grew up to be "Uncle Fester")

1 July 12AM-Midnight Clip