Thursday, August 15, 2019

Born Today August 15: Gertrude Shipman

1880 (or 1878)-1960

Born in Pittsburgh on this day in 1878, Gertrude Shipman would become, if ever so briefly, an actress in early narrative films. Serveral sources cite that she actually started in films in 1909, the earliest film that I can find that she is credited with acting in dates from 1912: Camille. The three other film that she is known to have appeared in are: Arizona (1913), Checkers (1913) and The Price He Paid (1914), the last of these she had a starring role.  Prior to her work in films, she had been a stage actor. Shipman was married to silent era director Lawrence B. McGill; together they were parents of newspaper man and radio writer/producer Jerry McGill. After her husband's retirement from the film industry (he was eleven years her senior), the couple settled in Florida. They both died there, decades apart.  She is buried along side her husband, who preceded her in death by 32 years, in the Laurel Grove Cemetery, which is located in Waldo, Florida--a small town to the northeast of Gainesville in Alachua county.  

[photo: Find A Grave]

Find A Grave

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Born Today August 10: Robert G. Fowler


Aviation pioneer Robert George Fowler was born on this day in San Francisco.  Fowler was the first person (west to east) to make a transcontinental flight, albeit in in stages. The journey was undertaken in a Wright biplane equipped with a Cole Motor manufactured for automobiles (Fowler had actually trained with the Wright's). The flight started in San Francisco and eventually ended in Jacksonville, Florida and took some considerable time to complete  (the effort began on the 11th of September in 1911 and ended on the 8th of February, 1912). It was during this time that he was the subject of a short "newsreel" type film entitled Robert G. Fowler, Trans-Continental Aviator; the film was produced by the Champion Film company and was released in February of 1912. Fowler would go on to break other flying records after this and even provide for the advancement of aerial photography. Fowler died at his home in San Jose, California on the 15th of June in 1966 at the age of 81. He is buried, along side his wife, at the Santa Clara Mission Cemetery.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Born Today August 4: Jay Hunt


Veteran silent director Jay Hunt, who is probably best remembered for his character acting in 1920's westerns, was born on this day in Philadelphia. Before Hunt became a recognizable older western star, he was a prolific film director (he also dabbled in scenario writing). It appears that his entrance into the world of film making came in 1911 as the director of the short melodrama The Life Boat produced at Vitagraph. He made just one film with another company (The Musician's Daughter--1911--for Eclair) before landing an in-house directors job at Champion (distribution by Universal). The first film that he directed there was Mrs. Alden's Awakening (1912); he stayed with the company for a year.  Hunt made his acting debut in 1913 in a Fred Balshofer directed melodrama--Her Legacy--made for Kay-Bee, a company that Hunt himself had directed for. Hunt also penned his first scenario in 1913; The War Correspondent, as script based on a story by William H. Clifford. Hunt also directed the film, which starred Gayne Whitman. Hunt became a fixture in directing "second string" melodramas--what we would call "B movies"--and by 1914 had close to twenty directing credits to his name. He was also, by this time, employed by Broncho Films, where he would remain for the next couple of years. At Broncho, though he mostly stuck to melodramas, he also began to direct adventure films that increasingly had a western theme to them. The Sheriff of Bisbee (1914) was an early example.  During his tenure as director (with something in the neighborhood of 80 films to his credit), he was involved in very few feature length productions, with The Promise, dating from 1917, being the most prominent amongst them (he was reportedly involved in some type of directing role in the Ince brothers 1915 large production Civilization--he is listed as an uncredited director, along with three other directors on IMDb--the film was known to been directed by a "team"--so it's possible he had some role--I have no idea how this would be confirmable over 100 years later).  It appears that Hunt didn't direct (or act) at all in the year 1918, and by the end of his directing career (1919-1920), he was directing nothing by westerns. His last direction credit is for a Texas Guinan  short western vehicle made for Bull's Eye (for whom had worked most of his later directing years) called The Night Raider in 1920 (not to be confused with The Night Rider--which he also directed).  He then retired from directing, but continued in motion pictures as an actor. Although he had done some work as an actor in the 1910's (including in a few films in which he directed himself), he had never been primarily anything other than a glorified extra. His second career as a character actor in westerners in the 1920's landed him roles that he would be remembered for. Many fans of these "b grade" western adventure films had no inkling of Hunt's career as a director; had no clue that the largest portion of his career was spent behind the camera, not in front of it. He was popular enough to have continued into talking pictures, in fact. He first showed up as a "grizzled" character in Sunset Productions Wanted By The Law in 1924 (he is listed as an extra in Universal's huge production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1923). In all, he racked up close to 20 acting credits during the 1920's; though, as stated, the vast majority of these were westerns, the last silent film in which he appeared was a comedy: The Harvester in 1927. Hunt appeared in four films in the 1930's; his last film appearance was in the 1931 western The Cheyenne Cyclone. He died the following year in Hollywood on the 18th of November at the age of 77. 

Still from The Promise