Friday, January 31, 2020

TCM--31 Days Of Oscar (February 2020)

18 Feb. 7:15AM [Year: 1929 {the print dates from 1934}] Clip


Feb. 1 7:45AM [Year: 1939, stars Merle OberonTrailer

Feb. 2 6:30AM [Year: 1939] Trailer

Feb. 2 12PM [Year: 1941, stars Mary AstorTrailer

Feb. 9 5:45PM [Year: 1944, features Norma VardenTrailer

Feb. 11 4:15AM [Year: 1946, stars Barbara Stanwyck Trailer

23 Feb. 5AM [Year: 1951, stars Ethel BarrymoreTrailer

23 Feb. 8:30PM [Year: 1947] Trailer

Born Today January 31: André Antoine


French actor and director of both stage and film Léonard-André Antoine was born on this day in Limoges, France. Antoine got his start in theater at an early on doing odd jobs (supporting himself in at least one other job as a secretary/clerk). He worked his way up to production the hard way, namely by proposing his staging a work by Zola, that offerwas rejected by the theater.  Undeterred, he decided that he would just build his own theater instead. In 1887, at the age of 29, he founded the Théâtre Libre ("Free Theater") in Paris. His idea, which led to it's name, was that his theater would specialize in the staging of new plays and works adapted for the stage that had never been presented before. The production house managed to stay in business for nearly 10 years, closing in 1896. His approach to novel material eventually led him to advance a style of direction known to us today as Mise-en-scène, of which his considered to be complete founder of, despite it's use in and very close association with German expressionist cinema. He is considered the "father" of modern stage directing--which stemmed from his obsession with presenting realism on the stage. Antoine undertook his stage and film direction in the same manner--with a high focus on visuals, bolstered by presentation of realism roght down to the plants and costumes.  This naturalistic philosophical approach to acting/directing/production, also lead Antoine into the world of theater criticism.  His list of theater productions is so vast, I wouldn't dare attempt any detail of them here (!), so I will jump straight to his much smaller list of films that he directed. (See the for yourself here)  His film directorial debut came much later in his career in 1917, at the age of 59 in his filming of Dumas' The Corsican Brothers (Antoine had made an appearance as himself--and was one of the subjects of--the anti-German documentary Those of Our Land two years prior).  Between the years 1917 and 1924, he directed nine films in all; with two in 1921--Mademoiselle de La Seiglière & La terre-- that he personally adapted from works of literature.  The last film that he directed was from an original screenplay by playwright Gustave Grillet  L'Hirondelle et la Mésange (The Swallow and the Titmouse) in 1924. At 66, his career in his field was far from over. In 1928, Antoine published two important memoir works on his time in theaters that he both created and managed. He subsequently periodically published works of criticisms in various theatrical journals into the 1930's.  Around the age of 75, he seems to have retired to the coast to Loire-Atlantique, where he died ten years later on the 23rd of October (some sources list his death on the 19th) in 1943--he was 85. With all of his behind-the-scenes work from building/managing theaters, adapting works for both stage & screen, and writing important memoirs & works of criticism, it is easy to forget that Antoine was also a very accomplished actor as well.  I can find no information as to the location of his interment. 

Still from La terre (The Earth) 1921



Thursday, January 30, 2020

Born Today January 30: Seymour Hicks


Though Seymour Hicks is most immediately identifiable as a British actor, and one closely associated with the character of Ebenezer Scrooge from 1935 (he was first filmed in that role in 1913), which he played when he was 64, Hicks was actually born in the Channel Islands. Precisely: St. Hélier, Jersey.  This may seem like a difference without a distinction, but in Hicks' case it meant that he also had a very successful acting career in France, as well as the UK. Born Edward Seymour Hicks on this day; by the end of his career, he was not just a highly regarded and knighted actor, he had also produced both films and plays, was an accomplished musician and writer of both plays are screenplays. Hicks started acting as a child while at school in England and he made his professional debut on the stage at the age of 16.  By the age of 20, he was already a member of an acting company that toured in the United States.  He was one the first actors to portray Dr. Watson of Sherlock Holmes fame, though not in a staged performance of Conan Doyle's original material, but rather in a parody of his famous detective penned in part by Hicks himself.  Long before his film career (which really became a kind of addendum to his greater acting career), Hicks had already done just about everything that a person could in the world of theater, including managing and even building not one, but two, theaters that are still standing today (The Hicks--now The Gielgud--in London and The Aldwych in Westminster). Even after his film appearances began, he and his actress wife Ellaline Terriss continued in theater.  Mentioned above, Hicks appeared in Old Scrooge in 1913; this actually his film acting debut; he also adapted the Dickens piece for the film as well (Hicks first appeared as himself on film in 1907 in the comedic short Seymour Hicks Edits 'The Tatler').  He also appeared in the 1913 film David Garrick.  Both films were directed by Leedham Bantock.  Hicks' film career ran from 1913 until 1949, during this period of time he only appeared in a little over 20 films, with only five of them in the silent era. His writing credits in the field number almost as many.  He did not appear in a feature length film until 1927 (his last silent film), when he had a small part in the war drama Blighty, the star of which was his wife Ellaline.  Hicks also managed to direct a couple of films, the first of which officially is also his first talking film:  Sleeping Partners in 1930--Hicks, also adapted and starred in the film (Hicks is one of two uncredited directors on the 1923 picture Always Tell Your Wife--on which he garnered his only producer credit, when director Hugh Croise stormed off the set--the other uncredited director was a little known new comer to films: Alfred Hitchcock).  Hicks' last film appearance came in a film that was released after his death in 1949 in Silent Dust which was released in December of that year.  Hicks had died earlier in the year on the 6th of April at the age of 78. He is  buried at Fleet Cemetery in the English township of the same name, located in Hampshire. 

Still from Old Scrooge (1913)

[Source: fionamac (Find A Grave)]


Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Born Today January 28: Ujházi Ede


Pioneering Hungarian actor Ede Ujházi (also spelled Újházy and often credited as Ujházi Ede as the Hungarians put the family name before the given name) was born on this day in Debrecen.  He came from lesser noble family, his father was a prominent doctor in Debrecen and Ede was himself given a very high formal education with the idea that he would follow in the family's place of prominence in the area with his chosen profession.  He decided, much to the chagrin of his father, to pursue acting instead (it's a profession that is still frowned upon in nobility to this day!).  In 1864 at the age of 23, he joined the Imre Szigeti theater in Sopron. He obviously displayed early natural talent for the stage, as he quickly advanced to the National Theater in Cluj, and in 1867, at the age of 26, he signed an acting contract for 3 years with the Kassa company. Finally, in 1870, at just the age of 31, he became of formal member of the National Theater, culminating in 1888 with his becoming the playmaker for the National Opera House. He was known for pioneering an acting style based on realism and is considered one of the inventors of "realistic acting"--though not one that is widely celebrated as such.  He was famous for his low booming voice on stage, and I have never a photo of him past the age of 40 where he didn't have a cigar stuck between his teeth.  Being a man almost exclusively of the stage, he only made one film appearance that we know of (there may have been a few others that have not been preserved in the records, but in any case it would still only be a handful of performances).  His only known film performance also came very late in his life. In 1912--at 71--he appeared in the short comedy Gazdag ember kabátja--which is the only known directorial effort by Hungarian actor Endre Kruppka.  Ujházi died three years later on the 14 of November in 1915 in Budapest at the age of 74.  He was buried at Budapest's very famous Kerepesi Cemetery (also known as Fiumei Road Cemetery).  During his lifetime, Ujházi was made a Knight of the Franz Joseph Order. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Born Today January 23: Holbrook Blinn


Holbrook Blinn, born on this day in San Francisco, was more a man of the stage than of the moving picture, but before his untimely death, he did make more than 25 appearances in films. Blinn's mother was a well known stage actress of her time and she brought Holbrook on the stage at the age of at least 6 or 7. He apparently travelled with her and appeared in "high" theatrical works across the U.S. and across the Atlantic in London as a child actor.  By the time he reached his twenties, he was a fixture on both Broadway and in the West End. He is listed in several publications as one of the finest live actors of his time. He was also an accomplished theater director as well.  He did not make his film debut however until he was in his forties.  He is known for sure to have taken top billing in the 1915 picture The Boss, directed by Emile Chautard and based on an Edward Sheldon play. The film was produced by the William A. Brady Picture Plays, and he and Brady must have not only known each other from the theater, but must have also been friends (they are also both buried in the famous--possibly infamous--cemetery of Sleepy Hollow). [Note: there is a possibility that Blinn appeared in the Maurice Tourneur directed The Wishing Ring: An Idyll of Old England in 1914.] For a stage actor/director, Blinn was surprisingly prolific in motion pictures between the year 1915 and 1919. His appearance is the 1920's were fewer and further between, with a notable absence of any appearances between late 1919 and late 1923, when he turned up in a Mary Pickford film called Rosita--a romantic comedy mostly directed by the great Ersnt Lubitsch.  From that point on, he only made eight more film appearances, several of them with Marion Davis. Notable amongst the films are the following: The Bad Man (1923) in which stars as a Mexican in a western--certainly playing against type, Yolanda (1924) and Janice Meredith (1924).  His last film appearance came in the big city melodrama The Telephone Girl directed by Herbert Brenon, in which he took top billing opposite Madge Bellamy and released at the end of March. Quiet well off, Blinn owned a small country home/estate called Journey's End in Croton-on-Hudson, New York (located in Westchester county). One afternoon while vacationing there, he was thrown from the horse that he was riding. The fall did not kill him, and, in fact, he appeared to be recuperating well, until a secondary infection set in and caused respiratory failure on the 24th of June. Blinn was 56 years of age. As mentioned above, he was interred locally at Sleepy Hollow (formerly Tarrytown cemetery) with a large colonnaded marker that reads "Journey's End."  Blinn's life as a well-to-do stage actor was not free of controversy. In 1919, he was caught on the wrong side of a nasty strike on Broadway by actors who were attempting to form an union.  Blinn served as president for the so-called "Actor's Fidelity League" loyal to powerful Broadway producers. In the end, they all failed and the union Actors Equity was born.  This turbulant time on Broadway most likely accounts for his absence in film in the early 1920's--as the the two events over lap.



Find A Grave Entry

Monday, January 20, 2020

Born Today January 20: Norma Varden


Legendary character actress Norma Varden was born Norma Varden Shackleton on this day in London, England.  She was recognized very early on in life as a musical (piano) prodigy, and she studied music in Paris during the period of time in her life that would correspond with Junior High School here in the States.  She did make several public music performances, but became enamored of acting as a teen.  She then spent time studying in her home town at the Guildhall School of Music, and despite it's name, she took her first acting lessons at this academy.  Her public acting debut came in the role of Mrs. Darling in Peter Pan. This would mark a trend for her she would follow throughout her long career, that of playing roles older (sometimes much older) than she actually was in real life. She made her formal West End debut in 1920 and was by this time a specialist in performing Shakespeare.  Her earliest film roles where, however, in uncredited roles--all but one of these was in the 1930's.  The one film that she appeared in the 1920's came in a bit part in the 1922 film the J. Stuart Blackton production (he both wrote and directed) The Glorious Adventure as an extra as "court lady"--she was just 24 years old.  She would not appear in another film until 1931, again in an uncredited role in the dramedy The Chance of a Night Time.  Her first credited role came in 1933 in the British holiday farce Turkey Time. Varden spent the decade of the 1930's gaining in popularity in the British film industry, but with out break of war, she made the decision to flee to the United States. Her first American film appearance came in MGM drama The Earl of Chicago in 1940, which featured quite the male cast of Robert Montgomery, Edward Arnold and Reginald Owen.  Her move to Hollywood meant that she had to carve out a film career for herself all over again, and spent her first few years in the American film industry back in uncredited small parts.  By 1944, she had worked her way back up to named role status. She had credited role in the two hour sport extravaganza National Velvet (1944); and, next appeared in one of her "matronly roles" of Aunt Martha in the Veronica Lake musical comedy Bring on the Girls (1945).  She had a bit part in the rare "film noir horror" The Amazing Mr. X. (1948)--one of my personal favorite horror films of the 40's. Varden made her television debut in 1952 in the season 1 episode Silent Butler of the series Mr. & Mrs. North.  She next made a guest appearance in the season 2 episode The Ricardos Change Apartments of I Love Lucy in 1953.  Perhaps her most famous "older woman" role ever was that of Lady Beekman in Howard Hawks' 1953 musical comedy Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  From there on out, aside from a few film appearances here and there, she mostly stuck to guest appearances on television shows. One of a few exceptions to this was the recurring role of Harriett Johnson on the comedy series Hazel.  Just a very small number of shows on which she appeared include: Mister Ed, Bonanza, The Lucy Show, Batman, The Beverly Hillbillies and Bewtiched. In 1969, she decided to retire and as a result her last acting role came in the unsold pilot for the proposed series Doc, which aired on NBC on the 28th of July of that year.  Additionally, all through he time in Hollywood, right up to her retirement, she also worked in radio. She lived in the greater Los Angeles area from her retirement until her death, having become an American citizen in 1949.  She passed away in Santa Barbara on the 19th of January--just one day shy of her 91st birthday.  Her ashes are interred there in a niche at the Santa Barbara Cemetery (for some reason Google puts her in cemetery of the same name in New Mexico--not correct). 

Image: Ginny M [Find A Grave]

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Born Today January 9: Jan Buderman

Bruderman is apparently the gentlemen on the far left.


Dutch actor of the stage and silent screen Jan Buderman was born on the is day in Amsterdam in 1851.  He is mostly an unknown to us today; and I can find little evidence that any his 8 known film appearances have survived into modernity. The vast majority of Buderman's career was spent on the Dutch stage, and it appears that he didn't travel much, even for work, outside of The Netherlands.  He was 58 years old when he made his film debut in 1909; this came in the Louis Chrispijn Jr. short 999 + 1 (ultimately, his film career lasted just a shade under ten years).  He made his feature film debut in 1911 in De bannelingen, a drama based on a play that Buderman may well have appeared live in on stage; the film is remarkable for it's time in that it was co-directed by a woman: Caroline van Dommelen, who was much more well known as an actress (and she is the star of this film as well). He would not appear again in a feature length film until 1918, when he was cast in a war trilogy based on the very recent events from World War One in a film series titled War And Peace (the series is not a Tolstoy adaptation however). The first film was Oorlog en vrede-1914 and ended with Oorlog en vrede-1918 (the second film in the series was Oorlog en vrede-1916)--the entire series was directed by Maurits Binger.  The last of these three films was also Buderman's swan song. He died just two years later in 1920 on the 24th of March at the age of 69 where he was born. He buried at New Eastern Cemetery (Nieuwe Oosterbegraafplaats). 

Monday, January 6, 2020

Born Today January 6: Fred Niblo


Actor/Performer turned Director Fred Niblo, was born Frederick Liedtke on this day in York, Nebraska (sources that cite his birth name as Frederico Nobile are not correct). His early career in live theater and vaudeville gave little clue to the importance he would later have on silent cinema. He took on the name Fred Niblo very early on as a stage name; and he spent 20 years performing around the globe as a monologist using this name (this is a person that gives dramatic readings in a live solo setting--if anyone has ever watched the fourth season of American Horror Story: Freaks, then you are familiar with the concept). During this period of time he married the sister of "Broadway man" before he became a fixture on Broadway George M. Cohan. This occasioned Niblo becoming the manager of the family stage act the Four Cohans. It would be another 15 years until he would actively get into motion pictures (his first credit actually comes as a writer in 1913 for the short The Gangsters , a film starring Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle). His active entry into films proper actually occurred in Australia, rather than in his native U.S.; and it was in Australia that he made his first two films. He started out as a "do it all man."  He wrote, directed and starred in both films.  The first of these was the comedic drama Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford, which was released in January of 1916.  The second of these films, also released in 1916, was the comedy Officer 666.  His first film appearance in a film which he didn't direct came in 1918 Coals Of Fire, a Famous Players-Lasky production directed by Victor SchertzingerIt was also in Australia, that Niblo was hired by domestic film producers Thomas H. Ince Corp.;  and the first film that he made for them was also shot in Australia: The Marriage Ring was released in August 1918; it was also the first film that he directed in which he did not himself act. Niblo would eventually make his way back to the states, landing back in his old haunt of New York City. He would continue to make films for Ince there, sometimes using the city as a prop for a few on-location shoots.  He is also responsible for the rare "horror" film made for Ince; in 1919 he directed Enid Bennett (whom he had met and married in Australia after the tragic early death of his first wife Josephine Cohan) in The Haunted Bedroom Many of Niblo's later 1910's  and early 1920's films starred his second wife Enid. The first film that enthusiasts usually remember when his name as a director comes up is the 1920 Douglas Fairbanks outing The Mark of Zorro.  This film marks a turn to refinement in his directing style. He made fewer films during a year's time--spending instead more time in the crafting of his films.  He would eventually get into the production side of the business as well. His first project in that regard came on perhaps his most famous film of them all: Blood and Sand in 1922.  While Blood and Sand is a fine film--very, very well crafted--the fact that it stars Rudolph Valentino probably accounts for it's extreme fame beyond your average silent film buff (Niblo would direct that other Latin Lover  Ramon Novarro in 1924 as "the lover" in a Bess Meredyth adaptation of  Thy Name Is Woman & also in The Red Lily in 1924). After Blood and Sand, Niblo moved over to Louis B. Mayer company; with the melodrama The Famous Mrs. Fair (1923) representing the first title he directed for them.  The truly giant job of his career was as the director whose name appeared in the credits of one of the most expensive films shot to the date--it remains, adjusted for inflation, one of the most expensive in film history:  the epic Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ in 1925. Famously shot on location in Italy, the film actually had a bank of directors, who all had assistant directors under them; a couple of them, such as Rex Ingram were actually famous in their own right. It must have seemed in MGM's best interest to have just one director listed on posters (and I personally wonder about Irving Thalberg's possible influence here...but that is just my own speculation), but such a large project with multiple shoots going on in different locations simultaneously, could not have be pulled off at that time by just one person (or really anyone now either for that matter). Luckily history has provided us with the names of the other uncredited directors; not to say that this in any way diminishes Niblo's directorial accomplishment on the project. The film is an amazing work of art, and all concerned provided their best work.  What is interesting to me, is that Niblo was a really good director, but of more "intimate" pictures; Ben-Hur was certainly a rather large departure for him and his directing style to date. And, this was a style that he returned to the following year in the romantic drama The Temptress which stars the great Greta Garbo (he direct her again in 1928 in The Mysterious Lady).  The same can be said for his direction Norma Talmadge in Camille, which also dates from 1926.  The last film that he directed in the 1920's, and his last fully silent film, was Dream Of Love released in December of 1928; the film starred Joan Crawford.  Niblo didn't make another film until 1930, when he helmed (apparently with some "help" from Lionel Barrymore) the John Gilbert film Redemption, which was  a partial silent and by this new decade of "all talkies," a rather strange artifact for a new release.  His first all talking film also dates from 1930; ironically it was both a "b film" and a western--two types of films that he was not accustomed to working on. The film was Way Out West and starred William Haines. He only directed four more films after this, the last of which was Blame The Woman, which was a co-direction with Maurice Elvey.  He then retired from the industry. In all his time as a director, virtually no actor had a bad word to say about him. He was apparently very respectful of and patient with them. He lived another 16 years, dying in New Orleans on the 11 of November in 1948 at the age of 74 after contracting pneumonia. He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale along with the ashes of his second wife. Niblo only child with his first wife was Fred Niblo Jr.; he became an important writer of screenplays, mostly in the 1930's and 1940's. 

[photo: A.J. Find A Grave]

[photo: Scott G. Find A Grave]

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Born Today January 4: George Albert Smith


George Albert Smith, giant of early cinema, was born on this day in the Cripplegate area of London, England. Early on during his lifetime, Smith was largely a stage performer of various sorts, including hypnotism performances and public psychic readings. He first got into early pre-cinematic exhibitions through lecturing on magic lanterns.  Smith was born into a family that had artistic endeavors in it's background--his father, who died when was relatively young, was both a writer and visual artist. Smith was a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, and also was, rather controversially, a member of the Society of Physical Research (it is controversial because the grounds on which he was granted admittance were based on a stage act that was later proven to be a performance sham).  Still, Smith's contribution to early cinema is extremely important!  Amongst his many achievements is one of the earliest successful colour film processes to be used commercially (Kinemacolor was the very first successful colour film process to be invented--though others, not widely used, predate it).  Like his extremely well known counterparts in France, Georges Méliès and Alice Guy, he also advanced the notion of narrative film-making at it's earliest dates.  In 1892, after departing the Society of Physical Research, he next moved on the public exhibitions of various sorts, after having secured a lease on St. Ann's Well Gardens in Hove. He turned the gardens into what can only be called an amusement park, not only staging exhibitions of hot air ballooning and parachute jumping, but also mocking up all sorts of weird amusements, including what he tried to pass off as a hermit living in a cave located on the property. It was at this time that he started giving public screenings of magic lanterns. This led to him furthering his career in the field of projections, by his being allowed to lecture on and demonstrate magic lanterns at the Brighton Aquarium; his success in at this gave him an intimate background for his later skills in film editing. And, it wasn't long before he discovered motion pictures. In 1896 he saw his first program of Lumière films and caught the film making bug. He and a business partner not only acquired their own film making apparatus, but they also went into the repair side of film making, becoming one of the first outfits to set up shop repairing film manufacturing equipments.  By 1897, he was shooting his own films. As near as anyone can tell, the ultra short documentary Yachting was his first film, though The Miller and Chimney Sweep is often cited as such (and it may actually be his first--historical records of the exact dates of his earliest films are not intact as far as my research thus far indicates). Despite that many of his earliest motion picture efforts can be counted as "documentary" in nature; many more--from the very start--involved narratives or stories--most of them comedic in nature.  That is certainly the case with The Miller and Chimney Sweep (other examples are The Maid in the Garden, Weary Willie and Comic Shaving).  In this regard, many have credited Smith's wife, Laura Bayley, who was a seasoned actress in burlesque and pantomimes--AND who very likely directed some of the films that Smith is given credit for.  Owed to his love of the French cinema pioneers in general and of Méliès in particular, Smith unintentionally contributed to the earliest films that can be categorized as "horror." The most famous of these are: The X-Ray Fiend (1897)-which features his wife Laura, The Haunted Castle (1897) and Photographing a Ghost (1898). Of just this short list, two things are remarkable; the first is that The X-Ray Fiend was thought completely lost at one point--having a film from the 19th century found in condition as to allow it to be restored is astonishing!  The second, is that The Haunted Castle is in fact a remake of an 1896 Méliès film, that makes it the very first "horror remake" in film history--and,it is quite possible that it is the very first film remake period.  In all, Smith is credited with directing over 300 short film titles between the years of 1897 and 1912 (as mentioned above, some of these may have actually been directed by his wife). They are FAR too numerous to give a detailed run down of them in this short birthday bio; please follow the links given below to explore more! 👇 Aside from the shear number of films that Smith actually made, along with his inventing so many firsts in the realm of shooting and editing film, and his contribution to the rise of narratives within film, by far the most important contribution that he made within his own career was that of the invention of...or rather the perfection of...Kinemacolor.  Most of the successful implementation of the invention had actually been the work of very important, but relatively unknown, inventor and cinematographer Edward Raymond Turner. The process--first dubbed the "Lee-Turner Process"--was already well under development when Smith was brought on board to finish it by influential American ex-pat film producer and distributor Charles Urban.  The main perfection of the process came when Smith decided to leave off Turner's 3-color approach in favor of a 2-color formula based on red and green. The result was the world's very first stable and usable motion picture color process. The very first film shot and later publicly screened using Kinemacolor was A Visit To The Seaside--shot in 1908 and first projected in 1909 (Smith shot at least two earlier films as test products before Seaside--the first of which was Tartans of Scottish Clans dating from 1906) [A portion of A Visit can be seen below--the original film was some 8 minutes in length.]  The process was became the industry standard and was pretty widely used for some six years.  Ironically, it was his decision to go with a two-color filter system in the color process that ended his career. At the time that Kinemacolor was perfected around 1905, there were a number of other inventors in England that were working on a colour film precess. One of them, William Friese-Green, had a credible claim to an earlier process that was almost identical--he filed a patent lawsuit against Smith and his studios in England, which he won. This put Smith and both his studios, one in Hove and one in Nice, France, out of business. Smith did not attempt to return to the film business after this, though he lived for another 45 years.  He resided most of that time in obscurity, until British film enthusiasts rediscovered his work after World War II.  In 1955, he was made a Fellow of the British Film Institute.  Smith died at the age of 95 (!) on the 17th of May in Brighton.  As of this writing, I can find no information on his burial.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Born Today January 3: George B. Seitz


Though George Brackett Seitz is remembered in film history as a prolific director, he is just as famous as writer (principally a playwright) outside of movie circles. Born on this date in Boston, Massachusetts, where he started his writing career for popular culture magazines penning short fictional stories, he is most famous for his work on the fairly famous serial The Perils of Pauline in 1914. He was also involved in another well known serial: The Exploits of Elaine, also dating from 1914; only in this case, he actually appeared in the production, as well as penning some of the episodes--additionally he directed at least one of the episodes, thus making the production both his acting and directing debut. Sietz subsequently became deeply involved in the earliest studio system largely located in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Despite starting as a writer and having more than a dozen screenplays produced into films, he became better known as a director, racking up more than 100 titles during the span of his long career in the industry.  The first film that he directed completely on his own came in 1917 with action serial The Fatal Ring, which also starred Pauline star Pearl White  (this is one of the "offenders" in the world of film that gave us that tired old stereo-type of silent film...that of being tied to railroad tracks). Perhaps his most famous turn in the director's chair came, ironically, on a film that was lost: Seitz directed The House of Hate in 1918--giving us some of the most enduring stills of an early on-location shoot in the Fort Lee area.  [The serial has been recovered in part from Russia from an archived collection belonging to Sergei Eisenstein]. All of his ten acting credits--the latest of which was in 1921 (The Man Who Stole the Moon) came in productions that he also had a hand in directing--very many of them were serials that he also either wrote all or part of. His last confirmed active producer credit came in 1923 on yet another Pearl White serial: Plunder, which he also directed.  His directing career, however continued on quite prolifically and unabated for two decades. Some of his films in the late 1920's contained innovations in both colour and/or sound. Court-Martial (1928), for example sported sequences in the so-called "two strip Technicolor" process.  Likewise, The Circus Kid (1928) was one of the first films to contain both a talking prologue and sound effects/music throughout the entirety of the film. Despite that he worked on such groundbreaking projects in 1928, he did not make an all talking film until 1930 with Murder on the Roof.  Seitz worked all the way up until the time of his death in 1944. His last job in film direction came in 1943 on the romantic comedy Andy Hardy's Blonde; the film was released in January of 1944 (in the later part of his directing career, he specialized in directing a large number of the Andy Hardy pictures of the 1930's and early 1940's).  Seitz passed away on July 8 at the age of just 56 in Hollywood.  He is buried in the place of his birth at the Jamaica Plain Cemetery. He was the father of George B. Seitz Jr., who also worked as a writer and director in the motion picture industry (in the 1950's).  One of the things that I personally find interesting about Seitz's legacy is that his plays, though largely comedic products of their time, have also largely been left unproduced over the years; and there have been zero television productions of his Broadway work. It is unusual to say the least. 

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Born Today January 2: Bayard Veiller


Though Bayard Veiller, who was born on this day in Brooklyn, New York, wrote for the "pictures," he was--first and foremost--a playwright, getting his start writing for Broadway. His first motion picture credit, however, did come early in his career in 1915 with the adaptation of his play The Fight by George Lederer's company Stage Filmotions Inc. It wasn't until the 1920's that he actually began to work directly for the motion picture industry.  He made his directorial debut with The Last Card in 1921, a murder melodrama made for Metro; having gained his first production credit the year before with the Metro comedy Cinderella's Twin (1920).  All through his career in in the industry, he continued to write plays that were successfully produced on both sides of the Atantic (Veiller was for a time married to English stage & screen actress Margaret Wycherly--who was the star of The Fight).  This meant that his work has continued to be produced for both the small and big screen even long after his death.  The last of his seven directing credits came in 1929 with the talkie The Trial of Mary Dugan--a film based on one of his own plays, and made for MGM (Veiller had stayed with Metro and became an MGM employee after it's merger with Goldwyn & Mayer). After retiring from directing, he had a much more prolific career as a producer than he previously had; fully nine of his twelve production credits came in the 1930's--the last of which was on the Fred MacMurray action thriller Car 99 in 1935. Although Veiller died in New York City on the 16th of January in 1943 (aged 74), his work has been produced for television since then. The first production of one of his works in a television series came in 1949--six years after his death.  One of his stories was produced for the Kraft Television Theatre with the episode Within the Wall, which aired on the 9th of the July.  The first made-for-television film of his work came in 1954 in Italy with RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana's Il processo di Mary Dugan, which aired on the 26th of November. The most recent adaptation of his work dates from 1980 on the Spanish television series Estudio 1La silla número 13, which aired on the 29th of June of that year. Veiller's son with Wycherly, Anthony Veiller, was himself a writer/producer in the motion picture industry.  As of this writing, I can find no information as a burial place or memorial.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Born Today January 1: Frank Hall Crane


Born on New Year's Day, Frank Hall Crane was primarily an actor of the stage and screen, though he also directed around 50 films and even penned a few scenarios. He was born in San Francisco, California.  He made he film debut in 1909 in Chicago 's own Essanay studios' Ten Nights in a Barroom; he made his directorial debut two years later directing the short drama The Late Mrs. Early (1911) for Comet Film Co.  In the time in between, he appeared in more than 20 of the 80 some odd films that he acted in during his career--1910 was probably the most prolific in his long career.  Amongst some of the more interesting productions that he appeared in during this time were numerous films based on famous works of fiction, including:  Jane EyreThe Winter's TaleUncle Tom's Cabin and Rip Van Winkle--all Thanhouser productions (interestingly, he would, himself, direct a version of Jane Eyre in 1914 for IMP). After he got into directing, his acting work slowed, as he was apparently a director who did not feel comfortable directing himself.  In 1915, Crane directed his own written adaptation of a Edgar Smith play, a comedy entitled Old Dutch (the film stars Lew Fields, who was also born on January 1st). Between 1911 and 1926 he directed more than 50 titles; and even though his acting slowed--mostly notably during the earliest years of his directing career--it never ceased completely; though there is a sizable hole between the years of 1922 and 1926; and, in fact, it was in 1926 that he directed his last film.  Tons of Money was a comedy directed in the UK for the independent company Walls & Henson. His acting career, however, continued well into the sound era. The first film that he appeared in that had any sort of sound was a partial silent from 1929 entitled Children of the Ritz, a First National picture directed by John Francis Dillion (the film was more widely distributed in a fully silent version). The first full sound film in which he appeared was the b-grade "Mountie western" Mason of the Mounted in 1932 in an uncredited role. In fact, most of his roles in the 1930's were in small uncredited parts. His last screen appearance came in 1938 in the Melvyn Douglas comedic mystery There's That Woman Again.  Crane then retired to Woodland Hills, where he passed away ten years later in 1948 on the 1st of September at the age of 75.  I can find no information at this time as to a burial site or memorial.