Saturday, July 25, 2020

Born Today July 25: Johnny Hines


Young comedic actor of the silent era John F. (Johnny) Hines was born on this day in Golden, Colorado.  Despite his relatively young age, the vast majority of his career was spent during the silent era. But during this time, he was in a number of films of note and was directed by a number of notable figures of the era. In fact, his debut came in a 1914 Ralph Ince film:  Lincoln, the Lover, a short that Ince wrote, directed and starred in as Lincoln.  He then landed a role in an early Maurice Tourneur feature Man of the Hour (1914); Tourneur then hired him for his next film The Wishing Ring: An Idyll of Old England (1914); both parts were in supporting roles, but they certainly got him noticed (Tourneur would go on to use him as a stock player throughout the teens). He next showed up in a Emile Chautard film (after appearing in another Tourneur effort): The Arrival of Perpetua was a feature length comedy starring Vivian Martin. Some of the other directors that he worked with during this part of his career include: Frank Hall Crane, James Young, Travers Hall, George Archainbaud, Romaine Fielding and Dell Henderson. His older brothers were actor Samuel E. Hines and director Charles Hines.  In fact, Johnny began the new decade of the 1920's by agreeing to star in a series of shorts featuring a comic character name "Torchy"--some (or all) of them were directed by his brother Charles, the first of which was Torchy Comes Through in 1920. The Torchy series ran through 1922 and numbered over 20 small films (he only had two credits during this time that were not in the character: Burn 'Em Up Barnes & Sure-Fire Flint).  By the time he "emerged" from the role, he was considered solid leading man material.  He landed the leading role in the 1923 film version of Little Johnny Jones and adaptation of a George M. Cohan play that had been a huge hit on Broadway; Hines even got the opportunity to direct some of it (it was not his directorial debut; that came in 1917 on A Rag, a Bone and a Hank of Hair, a comedy short; he was also rumored to have directed a small portion of Barnes as well).  He added writing to his credits the following in year with Conductor 1492, a film that was co-directed by his brother Charles (this would be his only writing credit during the silent era).  After this, he became Charles' go-to leading man, who made a cottage industry out directing his younger brother in films (mostly comedies) that featured Johnny's face on the posters. The first of these was The Speed Spook in 1924.  Some of them, like White Pants Willie (1927), contained a few new film innovations like early technicolor sprinkled in; and most of these were made for C.C. Burr Productions. The last film that he appeared in during the 1920's was the early talkie Alias Jimmy Valentine in 1928 (the second remake of the famous film--Hines had appeared in the first version in 1915); the film was the first all sound film for MGM.  His first film in the new age of sound came in another comedic short Johnny's Week End (this was one of Al Christie's little comedy shorts that were produced during this time for Paramount to compete with other studios putting out similar all talking material--please see the entry for Evelyn Preer for more about these little films)--the film was directed by Christie Film Co. stock director William Watson. RKO's The Runaround (1931) was his first feature film of the new decade; but, for whatever reason, his transition to sound did not fair well.  His last major film appearance came in the Clark Gable/Myrna Loy adventure comedy Too Hot to Handle in 1938.  He kicked around in the business for a little while in 1940's--doing some writing and directing--before retiring. The fact that both of his brothers died in the 1930's could not have helped. He, on the other hand, made it the age of 75, when died on the 24th of October of a heart attack.  He buried at the Catholic Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles (for a goodly part of the 1930's, Hines was also a vice-president for the Catholic Motion Picture Guild of America).

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