Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Born Today April 14: Aluísio Azevedo


Aluísio Azevedo (born Aluísio Tancredo Gonçalves de Azevedo) is primarily known today as a "Brazilian novelist."  He was, in life, far more--even including diplomatic work. He was born on this day in Sao Luis in the Brazilian state of Maranhao. If his last name rings a bell, that might be because he is the younger brother of Artur Azevedo, the Brazilian playwright who is much more well known. Aluísio, in addition to being a writer of poetry, prose and plays, was also a gifted caricaturist.  Drawing and painting were his first love, and he began both as a child. As a young adult, moved for a time to Rio, the adopted home of his older brother to study and graduate from art school, but returned to Sao Luis upon the death of his father to care for his remaining family--this is when he took up writing.  His first published work was put out in 1880, a novel in the romantic genre. He then set about working toward the founding of an anti-clerical journal and wrote many articles on the abolition of slavery for it. His most famous work, and the source used first in motion pictures, was published in 1881. The novel O Mulato dealt with racism in various forms, including minor themes on native issues and the plight of caboclo individuals in the local state--but mostly it was a polemic on local racism against mixed race and African descended peoples.  The publishing of the this work gave him enough income to free up his return to Rio. There he lived solely as a writer until 1895, when he was called upon for diplomatic duties. During his time as a diplomat, he served in a very wide variety of countries ranging from Spain to Japan; his life ending up as a Brazilian minister in Argentina where he died on the 21st of January in Buenos Aires at the relatively young age of 55. I can find no information on his burial.  The first film made from his work came just five years later in his native Brazil.  O Cruzeiro do Sul  (1917) was based on his greatest work O Mulato and was directed by Italian ex-pat Vittorio Capellaro; it was the only silent film made of his work.  It would be 23 years before his work was used again for a film and that came in the form of a short:  O Madeireiro; with the first feature length sound film coming in 1945 with O Cortiço.  His material made it's television debut in 1952 with the Brazilian series Casa de Pensao; while the most recent use of his work came in 2011 with The Lumberman, a Brazilian television short film. To my knowledge, no use of his work outside of Brazil has been made to this date.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Born Today April 12: Robert Harron


Young but extremely prolific actor Robert Emmett Harron was born on this day in New York City.  Affectionately known as "Bobby" he was the second of nine children in a large metropolitan Irish American family. Half of his younger siblings became child actors in the first studio system in the New York/Fort Lee area. When he was just fourteen he was hired at Biograph (home of D.W. Griffith); there he was both a set runner ("errand boy") and an extra in pictures. He is listed as "Boy at Door" in the 1907 Wallace McCutcheon comedy Dr. Skinum (the only other person credited in the short is veteran Irish born actor Anthony O'Sullivan--who is playing a part as a woman).  He stayed a principle actor with McCutcheon until falling under the influence of director Griffith in mid-1908 (many of the McCutcheon films in which he appeared, were actually penned by Griffith and a couple also feature Griffith as an actor as well).  His first turn under Griffith's direction came in the short comedy written by Griffith A Calamitous Elopement (1908).  After this, his short lived career was very closely tied to Griffith and his ever expanding since of film. Along the way, Harron acted with a number of actors who already were, or became, stars. They included:  Florence Lawrence (with whom he appeared often), Mary Pickford (and even her brother Jack), Mack Sennett, Marion Leonard, Owen Moore, Kate Bruce, Dell Henderson, Mabel Normand, Christy Cabanne, Lillian Gish (and sister Dorothy), Lionel Barrymore, Harry Carey, and Griffith's own wife at the time Linda Arvidson. It took until 1914 before his appeared in a film not directed by Griffith; when he appeared in one Christy Cabanne's earlier directorial efforts The Great Leap: Until Death Do Us Part with Irene Hunt and Donald Crisp. By the time he went back to appearing in Griffith films, he had appeared in several pictures that were over an hour long (what we generally call "features" today). His first feature with Griffith came in the gothic adaptation of Poe (by Griffith) in what is considered an "silent horror" today--The Avenging Conscience: or "Thou Shalt Not Kill" (1914)--even though the concept of horror films didn't really exist at that time. He would spend his time between features appearing in a series of shorts; until he was cast in probably his most famous--and infamous--role as Tod in Griffith's shameful (and record breakingly long) The Birth of a Nation in 1915.  It is this, and his role as "The Boy" in Griffith's supposed apology for Birth, Intolerance: Love's Struggle Through the Ages that Harron is remembered for almost exclusively today. In his short career, however, he actually appeared in well over 200 films.  After Intolerance he appeared in just 13 films between 1916 and 1921. By the dawn of the new decade he was actively trying to move on from Griffith's world, having since relocated to Hollywood. He appeared no films that were actually released in 1920. He landed a contract with Metro and appeared in the comedy Coincidence, which was in the can in by August of 1920 and a spiffy "preview" (ie: trailer) was produced for showcase in theaters in the large metropolitan cities. Harron and a friend traveled all the way from Los Angeles to New York expressly for the premiere of Griffith's latest: Way Down East (a film you may remember for it's infamous icy, wet and very dangerous outdoor shoots) in September of that year. The preview for Coincidence was shown at that premiere and apparently didn't go over terribly well with the audience--according to Harron himself (additional to this, he was reported to have been upset by not landing the lead in Way Down East, a report that seemed wholly fabricated by the press). In any case, upon returning to his hotel room, a gun he had in his packing trunk went off and struck him in the lung. Not thinking he was badly hurt, he called down to the desk and asked the hotel clerk for some help. It took some time to convince Harron allow an ambulance to be called. By the time he was removed from the hotel, he had reportedly lost a considerable amount of blood. While in hospital, he was arrested for being in possession of a firearm without a permit--a serious crime in the state of New York at the time. His arrest occasioned his being moved to the hospital's prison ward--which could not have helped his situation. However, he did appear to be on the mend, when four days after the incident, he took a turn for the worse (possibly due to an infection setting in) and died suddenly on the 5th of September. He was only 27 years old. A devout Catholic and a serious teetotaler (and also basically the sole income for his family-who resided with him in Los Angeles), there is almost zero evidence that he was trying to commit suicide. That, and the fact that he was both in good spirits and extremely apologetic with the hotel staff that attended him after his call for help, would lead anyone to conclude that this was nothing more than a tragic accident--an account that he himself repeated several times before his death. He also explained to the police that he brought the gun with him to keep his younger brother from finding it in their home while he was away.  Upon his return to California, he was set to begin filming with young director Elmer Clifton (it is possible that film was Down to the Sea in Ships).  Harron was, instead, buried at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York.
[photo: TomDuse]

Monday, April 6, 2020

Born Today April 6: Chancey A. Day


One of two credited actors in the 1918 groundbreaking fantasy short The Ghost of Slumber Mountain, Chancey A. Day was born in New Jersey on this day in 1907. The Ghost of Slumber Mountain is a 16 minute stop-motion film that would pave the way for such films as The Lost World (1925) and King Kong (1933), not to mention the career of the wonderful Ray Harryhausen (who was born just two years after the release of Slumber). [Note: there is ample evidence to suggest that this film was a "spec" of sorts for a "pitch" that lead to the making of The Lost World some six years later.] I am assuming that Chancey was the older brother of the other child actor of the film Alan V. Day--though that is just an assumption (could have been a cousin for all I know).  Neither one of the young actors has a death date listed and I can still find no information as when either of them passed away, where or what memorials have been placed for them. Chancey was some 4 years older than Alan when they appeared in the film. 

Friday, April 3, 2020

Born Today April 3: Washington Irving


American author Washington Irving was born on this day in New York City, he parents were in the merchant business and quite well off; what we would call "upper middle class" today.  He was essentially the baby of the family.  Several of his older brothers followed father William Irving Sr. into the merchant business, but noticing Washington's penchant to writing; all encouraged him to pursue literary interests in addition to his training in the family trade.  They even went so far to help finance a career in writing, the younger Irving had a keen interest in adventure stories and soon became obsessed with the theater as well.  When yellow fever broke out in New York City, his parents sent him up river to Tarrytown to escape any possibility that he would contract the disease.  Tarrytown and its environs would figure heavily in his later stories; he was particularly fascinated by a little Dutch village not far from Tarrytown called Sleepy Hollow.  By the age of 19, he was writing letters to a local New York newspaper under a pseudo name on topics ranging from happenings at the theater and local social "news."  Though there is no evidence that he was writing the letters to gain any form of fame, nonetheless, they did bring him his first popular notoriety.  By 1804 he began to show signs of ill health, so his brother devised a plan to pay for trip to Europe to both improve his health and to further his education.  Never the most studious pupil, though, he irritated particularly his older brother William Jr. for not availing himself of educational opportunities while there, chasing again, his passion for the theater.  He was truly one to march by the beat of his own drum.  Despite all of this, he was a popular guest wherever he chose to travel through a 2 year period.  When he returned to the U.S., he went under tutelage for the law profession--not a career that he had any interest in; he did, however, manage--barely--to pass the bar in 1908.  One of the interesting facts of Irving's life was that created with his brothers a lampoon magazine in New York.  Salamugundi was created with help from siblings and a friend, and all wrote under outrageous fake names.  The magazine is remembered today of affixing the name "Gotham" to New York City in 1807--a pun on the Anglo-Saxon "Goat Town."  Ever up to high-jinx, his first major work was pure satire with a fictional historical gag attached to it's publication.  A History of New-York From the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty was a spoof piece supposedly written by one Diedrich Knickerbocker; to "advertise" the work, Irving took out a number of ads supposedly placed by a hotel owner, stating that if Mr. Knickerbocker didn't show back up and pay his outstanding hotel bill, the proprietor would publish the manuscript that he had left behind in his room.  The whole affair threatened to become serious when even the police began to consider offering a reward for the "missing historian."  Irving then went into the profession of editing.  He soon found himself on opposing sides with his family with the coming of the War of 1812, which the merchant class did not support--he however was persuaded to enlist in 1814, but he never saw any real action.  His family, though, suffered huge personal losses as a result of the war.  To help them out for a change, Irving left for London to attempt to salvage what he could for the family business.  This kept him in Europe for some 17 years.  It was here that he writing took off in droves.  Though, his life was filled with far more than writing--he was a dedicated public servant for most of his adult life.  He also became one of the very first American writers to be universally admired and well read in Europe; having admirers amongst some of Britain’s top literary figures of the day.  Irving's life is, of course, far too vast to cover in a simple post on his birth, that focuses on early film, so links are provided for further reading into his varied and fascinating history.  Getting to the films, the first ever made using his work as source material was the short from the year 1896 Rip Passing Over The Mountain, a Rip Van Torn yarn produced by the American Mutoscope Company.  In fact, the vast majority of the earliest films of his work were based on his character of Rip Van Winkle.  The first film made of his Sleepy Hollow story came in 1908 with The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, a Kalem film.  Although a large number of silent films from his work were made, the vast majority of them were quite early.  The last film of his work made during the silent era came in 1922 with the independent The Headless Horseman, a film still available today, starring Will Rogers as Ichabod Crane.  It would be 12 years before another production of his work came out with Ub Iwerks animated short classic The Headless Horseman.  It would not be until 1949 that another animated short was produced from this same work with Disney's The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow; followed closely by the well known expanded The Adventures Of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949).  The first foreign language film made using his work was Spain's Cuenttos de la Alhambra.  Probably the best known feature film of his work made to date came out in 1999 with Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow starring Johnny Depp as Crane and Christopher Walken as the Horseman.  In 2013 a highly stylized version of that same story appeared as the basis for the television series of the same name.  One of the most recent use of his work in film came with a documentary examining the actual historic town of Sleep Hollow, NY itself, in A Journey To Sleepy Hollow released on Halloween in 2016.  While the web series "Crane" is the latest venture to make use of his work.  Irving died at the age of 76 just after completing his biography of his namesake, George Washington.  He died around 9 PM from a massive heart attack in Tarrytown, New York on November 28.  He was buried in the cemetery there more recently consecrated, adjacent to the old Dutch burial ground there--his marker being a humble, non-adorned affair.  Par his request, the cemetery was renamed Sleepy Hollow and the area of incorporation formally named North Tarrytown, was eventually renamed Sleepy Hollow as well.  Two points of trivia about Irving: 1) his international fame lead him to seek some the earliest world wide copyright claims--which greatly influenced the drafting of domestic copyright law; 2)  Irving was the "source" of the notion that prior to Columbus' voyage proved that the world was round--stating in his biography of Columbus--that Europeans widely believed the world to be flat before this historic undertaking in sea voyaging (this was not true, and no one knows if this was a joke or not...nevertheless school kids--myself included--were taught this in school).*

For More:

*Please excuse any typos that I  missed and did not correct in this, blogger eliminated spellcheck on the the dashboard months ago, and this is my first attempt at writing and editing a piece without it. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Silents TCM April 2020

6 April 12AM [Year: 1927] Film Information

8 April 5:30AM [Year: 1920] Clip

13 April 1AM [Year: 1927]  Trailer (Talkie)

16 April 11PM [Year: 1927] Kino Lorber Trailer

Baby Rose Marie The Child Wonder  18 April 10:30AM [Year: 1929] Clip (Talkie)

18 April 1:30PM [Year: 1923] Janus Trailer

19 April 4:15AM [Year: 1928] Clip

20 April 1:45AM [Year: 1926] Information

20 April 7AM [Year: 1926] Trailer

27 April 12AM [Year: 2018] Trailer

27 April 2AM [Year: 1924] Clip

29 April 10:15AM [Year: 1927] Trailer

29 April 11:15AM [Year: 1924] Clip

29 April 11PM [Year: 1927] Clip (Note: this is part of an evening with the lovely Dolores Costello, which start at 8PM)

30 April 2:15AM [Year: 1927] A conversation with the later Robert Osborne


10 April 7PM [Year: 1990] Documentary Information

10 April 8PM & 11 April 6PM [Year: 1939] IMAX Trailer

Luise Rainer: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival 17 April 1:45AM [Year: 2011] (with the late Robert Osborne) Documentary information Here is the link to this year's Special TCM Home Edition Film Festival April 16 thru 19--awesome stuff when you are stuck at home!