Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Born Today September 30: Wilton Lackaye




The man who is called "the original Svengali," Wilton (Andrew) Lackaye was born on this day in Loudoun county, Virginia. Though he remembered today for his ghoulish performance in 1915 as the rogue hypnotist as a middle aged actor, he had a very long career on the stage in the later part of the 19th century. And...he was the original Svengali, having been the first actor to play the role on the stage in 1895 (the same year the novel was published in installments). His first turn in films though did not come in the form of a performance, it instead came in 1913 when he posed for one of Universal's Animated Weekly news films--No. 46--billed in the description of the newsreel as: Wilton Lackaye, the famous Broadway star.  He entered films as an actor the following year in Maurice Tourneur's version of Frank Norris' The Pit in the lead role--a reprisal of the role from a stage production that he starred in (that stage production, by the way, was produced William Brady who produced the film, and adapted by Channing Pollock, who also adapted the film version--the film is presumed lost). His famous turn as Svengali in film form came in the film Trilby opposite Clara Kimball Young; released on the 20th of September in 1915.  That film was also directed by Tourneur.  Lackaye only appeared in five more films, the last of which was in 1925. Though he was a superstar of the stage, he never appeared in any talking pictures. His last film appearance came in The Sky Raider, directed by T. Hayes Hunter and filmed at Mirror Studio in Queens, New York.  Lackaye died in New York City at the age of 69 on the 21st of August in 1932.  He is interred at Calvary Cemetery in Woodside, Queens, New York.  

Lackaye as Svengali


[source: James Lacy (Find A Grave)]




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Monday, September 28, 2020

Born Today September 28: Stanner E. V. Taylor


Stanner Edward Varley Taylor may be better remembered as the husband of silent Biograph starlet Marion Leonard, but he was a director and screenwriter in his own right.  Taylor was born on this date in St. Louis in 1877.  Taylor started out as a newspaper man, writing news stories and editing copy. He apparently worked on shifts for the morning edition publication and therefore had time to write his own material in the afternoons.  In this capacity, he began as a playwright until he went to work at American Mutoscope and Biograph as a screen or scenario writer. He would become, basically, their head writer in time.  His first scenario gig with them consisted of adapting a play for the screen: he worked out the adaptation of a western play--The Kentuckian--written by Augustus Marvin, for a short form film directed by the elder Wallace McCutcheon in 1908 (the film, incidentally, sported an appearance the younger McCutcheon Jr., who would go on to make rather a big fool of himself at the company as a "director"). Without a doubt, his most famous enduring work from the time period is the screenplay for The Adventures of Dollie, today famous for it's (co)direction by D. W. Griffith released in July of 1908.  Taylor also made his directorial debut that same year on the short Biograph melodrama Over the Hill to the Poorhouse, which was interestingly based on a poem by Will Carleton and not his own original work.  He would not direct again until 1911 (with The Left Hook), and that was the only film he directed that year.  It was not until 1912 that this part of his career really took off, when he and Leonard went to work for Rex Motion Picture Co/Universal.  Throughout the rest of his career, both in writing and direction, he is seen as a western specialist; and despite directing his wife in many non-westerns like Carmen in 1913, it for westerns that he is best remembered today.  Many of the his earliest "frontier" scenarios were worked up in partnership with Griffith and he in fact has the writing credit on In Old California in 1910, which was the very first film ever made in Hollywood (the film was thought lost, but was discovered--at least in par--in the early part of this century). Despite being associated with westerns/Native American scenarios, Taylor directed a large number of melodramas in the years 1912 and 1913--and he in fact continued to write for Griffith at Biograph during this time (see, for example, The Yaqui Cur--1913). Marion Leonard was a very big movie star in the teens (her engagement to Taylor was big news in 1911), and she was able to found--with Taylor--her very own production house, which bore her name. The two worked in this capacity until she decided to retire from film acting in 1915.  While the company was in operation, Taylor wrote and directed exclusively for the house; and many of their films featured respected stage actor Henry B. Walthall. [It was during this period of his career that he is credited as Stanley E. V. Taylor or S. E. V. Taylor.]  Their last production together under the auspices of the studio appears to be The Vow, released in the spring of 1915.  His very next film was for Balboa, with whom he worked for a very short time; his 1915 Balboa directed film was the Noah Beery drama The Purple Night.  The film that he wrote while with the company--The Dragon's Claw--was also his wife's last acting job in the business. After her exit from film acting, he would stay in the business both as a director and writer for a further 13 years. His first production after his career collaboration with his wife ended was Her Great Hour starring the Scottish born Molly McIntyre. He next directed Clara Kimball Young in the Hal Young produced melodrama The Rise of Susan, released in December 1916; that film also featured Warner Oland.  It was at this time that his directing career slowed and he saw a resurgence of his writing career. He wound up writing under a pen-name for Griffith again in 1918, when Griffith was directing for Paramount (that would be the war drama The Great Love under the name Captain Victor Marier--which by the way, Griffith, who co-wrote the film with Taylor, also used). From this time forward he penned 15 screenplays, and directed four features. Of those, only The Mohican's Daughter  and The Lone Wolf  has him adapting short stories and directing as well.  His last time in the director's chair was on the self produced project The Miracle of Life in 1926.  He wrote four more films after this--all produced in 1928 and 1929--all of which were westerns or adventure scenarios of some sort. The last of these was the Robert Vignola film The Red Sword, a fully silent picture released on the 17th of February of 1929.  He then joined his wife in retirement from the business, but not much is recorded about their life after this, except they stayed in the Los Angeles area. He passed away on the 23rd of February there at the age of 71. There is NO information on his interment, but when Marion joined him in death some eight years later, she was cremated at the Chapel of the Pines and her ashes interred at the Memory Hall there. 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Born Today September 27: Adolfo Aznar





Multi-talented Spanish film maker Adolfo Aznar was born Adolfo Aznar Fusac on this day in the Zaragoza, Aragón Spain.  Aznar started out in the arts as a sculpture and actually financed his first work in film by selling his sculpted works. He relocated to Madrid in the very late 1920's, and was not there long before he started work in film. While there, he made two silent films to start his motion picture career: Gloria (a feature) which he directed and Colorin, which he also wrote (adapting one of his own stories) and appeared in (his only film role), as well as directed. He did not make another film until 1933 when he began making films for children, and films with sound. Pupín y sus amigos (1933), also adapted from one of his own stories and directed by Aznar, also featured original music that he composed for the occasion. His project as a director came to a close in 1950 with El rey de Sierra Morena. Though he was actively done with the film making business after this, in 1965 some of his material was used as source material. Hotel der toten Gäste, a production of West Germany, was a sort of murder mystery with espionage overtones. Despite that his career began in 1928 and ended in 1950, Aznar only directed/crafted 14 films, and sadly most of them have been lost. He was a man who was not only a visual artist, but also a life long writer--that work does survive. Once he made the move to Madrid, he stayed there for the remainder of his life, passing away on the 15th of June at the age of 74. His burial is unknown.


[Source: Real Academia De La Historia]


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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Born Today September 22: Dorothy Dalton


Silent movie actress Dorothy Dalton was born on this day in Chicago, Il.  She got her start on the stage, especially on the vaudeville circuits; and she was in fact married (twice, no less) to Broadway star, turned film star, Lew Cody for a time during her stage days.   She appeared in her first film in 1914, an All Star Feature Film Corp.'s production Pierre Of The Plains, an Edgar Selwyn film (she appeared in only one other film that same year: Across the Pacific, under the direction of Edwin Carewe). At this time, though, she was still primarily appearing on the stage.  She made one film appearance in 1915, apparently at the urging of Thomas Ince, who wrote the film.  The Disciple was a western with an odd "God angle."   Her role in the film led to casting as a vamp, due to the fact that her on-camera suitor was not meant to be her husband.  This again, was largely down to Ince.  Before getting into these types of roles, however, she was able to play a couple of roles of so-called "positive" female types, from wife to royalty (both old world and new world [she is a priestess in The Captive God, a film set in Mexico during the rule of the "Aztecs"]).  She even had a rare role as a defense attorney, starring in Kay-Bee's The Weaker Sex in 1917. Ince, however, recognized in her a natural "vamp quality"--a so-called personality trait that she spoke of herself.  With her appearance in The Dark Road in 1917,  her first "full on" vamp role, the type began to stick. She had some odd "vamp like" roles though. For example, it's clear from the poster of The Flame of The Yukon that her appearance is meant to invoke a vampish "lady of the night" type--however the film has the character as a dance hall performer/partner in crime kind of type. She had by this time been signed full time to Triangle Film, the home of the Aitken brothers. She was still on Thomas Ince's mind however. Her next film appearance in one of Ince's production came in The Price Mark, released in October of 1917, in which she plays an a kind of "degraded" vamp--a hard up mistress, turned "blackmailable" respectable wife. By the turn of the decade, she had begun a specialty of sorts in playing roles with double identites--the best example of which the Charles Giblyn directed melodrama Black is White (1920). She quickly followed this with another double role in Giblyn's next film The Dark Mirror, a horror type film featuring "twins" and ESP (a production of the Famous Players-Lasky company before full integration into distribution company Paramount).  Her performance in the similarly produced Moran of the Lady Letty is probably her most famous, owned to it's featuring Rudolph Valentino; though at the time, it was Dalton who took the top billing in the film. She would not stay in films for much longer however. She appeared in one George Melford film in 1923: The Woman Who Walked Alone (Melford would remake The Flame of the Yukon in 1926). She then appeared in several Irvin Willat films before once being directed by Victor Fleming (Law of the Lawless 1923) and once by youngest Ince brother Ralph (The Moral Sinner 1924) before ending her film career in The Lone Wolf a Stanner E. V. Taylor directed mystery, released in April of 1924. Her biggest event in 1924 was her marriage to into "theatrical royalty" when she wed Arthur Hammerstein, son of the famed impresario Oscar Hammerstein I and uncle of famed song writer/lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II (Note: Arthur Hmmerstein was the father of actress/performer Elaine Hammerstein from his first marriage). After her marriage into the Hammerstein family, Dalton went back to infrequent stage performances, never to grace a silver screen again. Eventually, she became a patron of the theater and quit acting altogether. She died on the 13th of April at the age of 78 in Scarsdale, New York. She was buried next to her husband, who had preceded her in death by nearly 20 years, in a family plot in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx
 [source: Neil Funhouser (Find a Grave)]

 [Source: Neil Funkhouser (Find a Grave)]


Monday, September 21, 2020

Born Today September 21: George Dewhurst


British writer, actor and director George Wilkinson Dewhurst was born on this day in Preston, England (located in Lancashire). He most likely made his film debut as an actor in the 1917 war drama The Man Who Made Good (on which he received a production credit).  It did not take him long to become a film maker himself. The Live Wire ( a film now sadly lost to us) was written, directed, shot and produced by Dewhurst; the film also served as the film acting debut of Ronald Coleman.  Despite that he was keen to direct his own projects, he did continue to act in films directed by others; though he generally had a hand in either writing and/or producing them.  He appeared several films by directors who have become legendary in film history, with Cecil M. Hepworth with out a doubt being the most important among them with whom he worked on several films, the first of which was Helen of Four Gates in 1920 (but he also worked with Lupino Lane, Henry Edwards and George Bellamy) In the end Dewhurst had almost as many credits as an actor as he did as a director, but it is as a writer that he had the most credits.  In fact, he had a for a time a writing partnership with Hepworth, with the vast majority of his scripts being adaptations from novels and plays.  As a director, the two most well known actors with whom he worked with were Irene Rich (see What the Butler Saw 1924) and Alice Joyce (see The Rising Generation 1928).  His last silent film with a writing credit was a short made for British Gaumont:  Bright Young Things in 1927.  In 1928, he directed The Rising Generation with prolific British silent director Harley Knoles .  He did work into the 1930's, with an all sound version of A Sister to Assist 'Er in 1930 (based on a play that he adapted for the screen, and first filmed in 1927 as a silent for Gaumont) representing his first film of the new decade. But Dewhurst went bankrupt in 1932 and he never fully recovered. From then on, only directed two more projects (both of them versions of A Sister to Assist 'Er) and only wrote six additional screenplays. His last film (and only film in the 1940's) was his 1948 version of A Sister to Assist 'Er.  He was then out of the film business, reportedly finding himself homeless at some point during the 1950's. Dewhurst died in South London on the 8th of the November in 1968 at the age of 79. I can find no information as to his burial.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Born Today September 20: Claire Mersereau


Younger sister of actress Violet Mersereau  Claire Mersereau, whose own acting career was entirely within the silent era and relatively short, was born on this day in New York City. She made her film debut along side her sister in 1911 in Nestor Film's Those Jersey Cowpunchers.   She next appeared, sans her sister, in the IMP production 'Lizbeth (1913), directly produced by Carl Laemmle.  She only appeared in 7 more films, with her last role coming in 1920 in the melodrama Black Is White.    Though her older sister made many more films that Claire, they both were out of the film business by 1930. At some point in her life, Claire relocated to California. She died in San Diego on the 26th of June at the age of 87 after a bout with pneumonia. She is interred at the famous Westchester county, New York cemetery Ferncliff in Hartsdale. 

The Mersereau sisters


Saturday, September 19, 2020

Born Today September 19: Dorothy Dean Bridges




Actress wife of Lloyd Bridges and mother of actors Beau and Jeff  Dorothy Dean Bridges was born Dorothy Louise Simpson on this day in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Most people are unaware that both of the elder Bridges' were actors, because Lloyd was a movie star and his talented wife had a short career in front of the camera. She even started acting as a child, when she made an appearance in the Art-O-Graph (Graf) production Finders Keepers in 1921, credited as Dorothy Simpson.  Bridges passed away on the 16th of February in 2009 and the age of 93.  Mrs. Bridges was also a talented writer. 




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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Born Today September 17: Donnie 'Beezer' Smith


Born: 1924
Lesser known "Our Gang" actor Donnie "Beezer" Smith was born Donald R. Smith on this day in Kern County, California.  Donnie got into acting due to being the younger brother of "gangster" Jay R. Smith who was almost ten years his senior. "Beezer's" first film with the gang came in 1928 the in one of the last silent Rascals films: Fair and Muddy when he was just 4 years old. In total Smith was in a total of four Little Rascal films, one of them--Boxing Gloves--with full sound.  His last Our Gang film was the partial silent Cat, Dog & Co.  in 1929. 


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Born Today September 15: Jackie Cooper (Not So Silent Edition)


Well known actor of the large and small screen, Jackie Cooper, born John, was a child actor and a member of the Our Gang cast in the late 1920's. He was born on this day in Los Angeles. While he actually made his film debut as a small boy in an tiny film appearances when he was as young as three--appearing with his grandmother--and he apparently appeared in short comedies under the name of "Leonard," there is scant information at this time on this part of his life. We do know that he appeared in the Fox Movietone Follies of 1929 in an uncredited part; his actual proper debut came that same year in the all talking Our Gang short Boxing Gloves in the role of "Jackie," which is how he got the nickname that stayed with him for life.  Cooper appeared in three more late 20's Little Rascals shorts in 1929: Bouncing Babies (where he went uncredited again), Moan & Groan, Inc. (where he is again playing Jackie) and Sunny Side Up (again, uncredited).  Over the next couple of years he appeared in multiple Little Rascals films, including a couple of Spanish language productions. His first credit outside the franchise came pretty early though. He is credited as Jackie Cooper in the role of Skippy Skinner, taking top billing in Norman Taurog's 1931 family comedy Skippy (he reprised the role later that year in Sooky). Cooper wound up being one of the most prolific child film actors to date. All of this was due to his family involvement in the business. His uncle (mother's brother) was a screenwriter and his maternal aunt was actress Julie Leonard who was the first wife of Taurog (himself a a former child actor), making him Jackie's uncle at the time Skippy was made [Taurog actually won the Oscar for Best Director for the film, making him the youngest director to do so]. After his father abandoned the family when he was 2 years of age, his mother--a theatrical musician--married a studio man, a production manager. So young John/Jackie was surrounded by movie workers in his immediate family completely. Given those circumstances, and owed to his very real acting talent, it is no surprise that he would go on to have a very long, varied and successful career. In just the early years of the 1930's alone he appeared in films with the likes of Wallace Beery (whom Cooper as good reason not to like), Oscar Apfel, Irene Rich, Lewis Stone, Lionel Barrymore and Richard Dix.  By the time he was 18, he was already occupying adult roles and in 1940 appeared along side Henry Fonda and Gene Tierney in The Return of Frank James.  Cooper took time off to serve in the Navy during World War II, and he served in the Naval Reserves until 1982, retiring with a rank of Captain.  His first post war role came in the 1947 comedy Stork Bites Man.  Cooper made his television debut just two years later in an episode The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre (Jinxed)--an anthology series which aired live (talk about pressure!).  This would be the beginning of a career on the small screen that would last over 40 years.  In the decades that followed he would appear some of the most successful series of their times; including (but, of course, not limited to!):  Danger, Studio One in Hollywood (the 1950's) The Twilight Zone, The Dick Powell Theater (the 1960's); Hawaii Five-O, Ironside, Columbo, Kojak, The Rockford Files (the 1970's); St. Elsewhere and Murder, She Wrote (the 1980's).  He also had the lead in  Hennesey as Lt. Charles "Chick" Hennesey--a Navy physician (a role, so obviously close to his heart).  The series ran for three seasons between 1959 and 1962 for 95 episodes.  Cooper was introduced to a whole new generation of young movie goers as the character Perry White, who appeared in all four Superman films starring Christopher Reeve (between 1978 and 1987).  His last film role came in the comedy Surrender starring Sally Field and Michael Caine in 1987. His last acting role(s) came in two episodes of the short lived series Capital News in 1990.  Cooper retired from acting and devoted the rest of his life to training racing horses (he was also an avid auto-racer). He passed away at the age of 88 in Santa Monica on the 3rd of May in 2011. For his life-long naval service, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.  
[retrieved from Pinterest]

[source: Anne W (Find A Grave)]
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Monday, September 14, 2020

Born Today September 14: Charles Dana Gibson





Famed American artist/illustrator and "Gibson Girl" creator Charles Dana Gibson was born on this day in Roxbury, Massachusetts.  Talented and interested in art from an early age, he was for two years a student at New York's prestigious Art Students League.  His specialty quickly became ink illustrations, which first appeared in Life magazine in the 1880's (he would go to work for the publication well after the turn of the century). Penning stylized ink drawings of bust figures, he is especially famous for his illustration of whimsical feminine elegance, inspired by his own wife and sisters-in-law, though he also flirted with illustrations of turn of the century men in high dress and even cartoons. After a time, his illustrations of women became known as "Gibson Girls," and were wildly popular right up to and through most of the first World War. [Probably the most famous of these today is Evelyn Nesbit--she is certainly the most infamous.]  While his illustrations appeared in all the biggest east coast magazine publications of his day, it is his illustrations for novels that bring him directly into the world of film.  The most famous of these novels to contain original illustrations by Gibson is without a doubt The Prisoner of Zenda, originally published in 1894. The novel was first adapted for the stage; and it subsequently became a VERY popular source for adaptation for multiple films, starting with the very first film in 1913 by the Famous Players studio. Around this same time, himself quite famous by sight, Gibson participated in a little spoof film by IMP starring other famous people of the time. That film--Saved by Parcel Post--was only 5 minutes long and was released in March of 1913. Gibson also had a Broadway credit already in his column from 1905 for play that writer Augustus Thomas wrote based on a narrative series of drawings Gibson had produced; that play was made into a film in 1914 as The Education of Mr. Pipp, and was a production of the All Star Film Corp.  Gibson continued to work through the 1920's and part of the 1930's; retiring in 1936 at the age of 69. He passed away in his beloved New York City, 8 years later on the 23rd of December, 1944 of a heart complaint at the age of 77. Despite that he spent all of his adult life in New York and died there, he was buried back in his birth state of Massachusetts at the historic Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. One other note: the Gibson cocktail was said to be named for him, as he is known to have preferred to order martinis with pickled onions as a garnish (and, it's also one of my favorites!)--so next time you see pickled onions in a mixer section....give a thought to Charles and is Gibson Girls.


[source: Ginny M (Find A Grave)]

[source: Find A Grave]





Find A Grave entry       


Gibson Girls (Wikipedia)


Most of the following examples of the Gibson's work were retrieved from Wiki sources (three are from Twitter & and one is Pinterest)


Saturday, September 12, 2020

Born Today September 12: Alice Lake


Comedy actress Alice Lake was born on this day in Brooklyn, New York. In her acting heyday, she was the star of Mack Sennett's shorts opposite Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. But before this, she was a dancer in New York and worked for a touring company. The little James Young comedy short The Picture Idol, a Vitagraph production from 1912, is listed as her film debut, despite that her appearance is unconfirmed at this time. She absolutely appears in How to Do It and Why; or, Cutey at College (another Vitagraph short), released in December of 1914.  She stayed with the studio through the year 1915. After making one film with Thanhouser (The Fifth Ace), she signed with Keystone. Her first film with them was the Arbuckle directed farce The Moonshiners starring his nephew Al St. John released in May of 1916.   She first starred with Arbuckle himself in her very next film The Waiter's Ball  (1916).  She would go on to appear in some the pair's most famous shorts after the addition to the studio of one Buster Keaton; including:  Oh Doctor!, Coney Island, Out West, The Bell Boy and The Cook (a formerly lost film, rediscovered in 1999--well all but the last minute and a half).  A goodly number of these films were filmed in the New York area; but by 1918, the operations had moved west and Arbuckle had started his own production company Comique, which Lake went to work for. Despite that in the late teens she occasionally made films with Mack Sennett productions, she stayed with Arbuckle's company until 1920. Her first major film outside this stable of comics came in the Rex Ingram film Shore Acres. She signed with Metro Pictures and became a bonafide movie star; taking first billing in a series of melodramas, many directed by Wesley Ruggles.  By 1923, she had left Metro and made a series of films from multiple genres and various other production houses. Her star was also beginning to fade, and by the end of the year she had not only lost her top billing status, she was lucky to land major supporting roles. She was albe to regain a top billing status by the middle of the decade, but the films that she starred in were lower budget affairs by small independent production companies. And, finally, by the end of the decade, the number of roles that she landed were fewer and fewer. Her first appearance in a film with sound was the 1929 First National comedy Twin Beds -- a full talkie.   Her last film of the decade was the Fox talkie Frozen Justice, a vehicle for Broadway super star Lenore Ulric.  While she is listed in an uncredited bit part in Universal's 1930 romance Young Desire , her first major film of the new decade was Fox's "prison melodrama" Wicked (1931) where she is one of two actresses listed simply as "Prisoner" (the other is Lucille Williams). She appeared in just 11 more films after this, most of her these went uncredited. Her last credited role came in  the Universal melodrama Glamour in 1934. The last film in which she actually appeared was in a tiny role in the Wallace Beery's 1934 turn as P. T. Barnum in 20th Century Fox's The Mighty Barnum; while the very last film that she worked on was Hollywood's take on itself in Paramount's Hollywood Boulevard in 1936--though her role was left on the cutting room floor.  Defeated, she left the movie business for good, but remained in the Los Angeles area for the rest of her life. She died in poverty and forgotten on the 15th of November in 1967 of a heart attack at the age of 72. She is buried in an unmarked grave at Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood. 



Friday, September 11, 2020

Born Today September 11: Arthur White


British born actor of just a few silent shorts Arthur White (born William Arthur Stewart White) was born on this day in the United Kingdom.  His life and career would more than likely be lost to history if it had not been for his appearance in a now well know Edison short from 1903 (actually staged and shot in 1902 and bearing a large similarity to a UK picture from 1901 Fire!); and his life is pretty obscure even with this information.  White is one of three actors in the short known as Life Of An American Fireman dating from 1903 (this is the first of three films--the other two from 1904 & 1905 actual remakes--with this same title). White is credited with work on just one other motion picture in 1903, as Edwin S. Porter's production assistant on Uncle Tom's Cabin (the very first film adaptation of Beecher's novel). [Note: another adaptation also dates from 1903 made by Lubin].  It's unclear (as of this writing) what else White did in the film industry aside from acting.  It is obvious, that whatever his acting "career" consisted of, he also worked in other capacities for Edison's film studio.  He only has four more film acting credits to his name: two in 1910 (for Essanay) and two in 1913 (for Vitagraph).  From this information, it appears that he did indeed have acting experience outside that of appearing in the narrative film's infancy.  We do know that he eventually moved to Hollywood/Los Angeles, because he died there. This would suggest that he stayed for some time in the film industry; whom he worked for there and what he did, I can not uncover in research as of this writing. Hope springs eternal that more information will surface from records of the era. White passed away in Los Angeles on 27th of September, just weeks after his 43rd birthday. We do know that he was had three children from one marriage. We may know when and where he passed, but we do not know were he was interred or had ashes scattered. On another note: it is an interesting fact that one of the first actors to portray a firefighter in film was born on Sept. 11. A day when so many FDNY firefighters lost there lives to terror attacks 120 years after his birth and 98 years after the release of the film. Here's to the memory of all. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Born Today September 10: Tala Birell


Romanian born actress Tala Birell was born Natalia Bierle to an German family living in Bucharest on this day (her mother was from a Polish aristocratic family of Galician stock). She said that she studied drama while attending a private school during the first World War. She made her stage debut in Germany sometime in the mid-1920's and her first appearance in a film came in an uncredited bit part in a Pabst film starring Werner Krauss: Don't Play With Love in 1926.  Her first actual film credit came the next year in Ich habe im Mai von der Liebe geträumt  (roughly I Dreamed of Love in May), a Franz Seitz directed picture.  This was the extent of her involvement in films of the 1920's, but her involvement with silents. She stepped away from film acting for a number years, choosing to concentrate on the stage instead. She next appears in a film in 1930 in the late Austrian silent Die Tat des Andreas Harmer (The Deed of Andreas Harmer). Her first appearance is a full sound film came in a British made German language film featuring Conrad Veidt in the the leading role The Love Storm (Menschen im Käfig). The film was directed by Eswald André Dupont and part of a pair of films, one for the German audience and the other--Cape Forlorn (also called The Love Storm)--for British distribution. It is likely that her appearance in this film that first earned her the notice of film makers in America.  If it wasn't, then her touring of the U.S. in a German language staging of the film The Boudoir Diplomat, certainly was!  She did return to make films in Germany, but also made a bit of a sub-specialty in appearing in German language versions of Hollywood films like The Doomed Battalion (1932). By 1933, she was lured to Hollywood full time due to the popularity in the States of Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. Her first Hollywood production Nagana in 1933 opposite Melvyn Douglas was a lower budget African adventure film.  She appears in a fair number of films in the mid to late 1930's, the most famous of which is Bringing Up Baby in 1938.  She also continued to work on the stage while living in the United States--appearing in Broadway productions, meaning that she divided her time between Los Angeles and New York City. She remained in the U.S. during World War II, appearing in a number of films in the early 1940's with a decidedly anti-Nazi bent; yet she clearly was becoming home-sick. In late 1948-early 1949 she moved back to Germany, desiring to help with the reconstruction effort. Settling first in Munich and then, in 1951, back to Berlin. Her last American film production was Women in the Night, though Homicide for Three was released later, in 1948. I first encountered her acting when I was kid watching Friday night/Saturday afternoon re-runs of old horror films; she appears in 1944's b-grade The Monster Maker.  Diagnosed with cancer in her late 40's, she succumbed to the disease in Landstuhl on the 17th of February. She was only 50 years of age. She was laid to rest in a family tomb located the cemetery of Marquartstein, which is located in Bavaria.

[Source: Bauer Ute (Find A Grave)]

[Source: Bauer Ute (Find A Grave)]

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Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Born Today September 9: Max Reinhardt


Max Reinhardt was primarily a man of theater; he did it all from acting to directing to producing. He is today regarded as one of the, if not the most accomplished director of German language theater and he was a life-long devotee to all aspects theatrical performance and manegement--he tirelessly advocated for it, working right up his death day. And.. he did make a small number of films.  Born Maximilian Goldmann in Baden in what is now the independent country of Austria to Hungarian Jewish immigrant parents who were in the merchant import/export business, young Max was captivated by the theater from a very young age.  Despite taking acting lessons while still in school, when he finished school he went to work in a bank instead of the theater. His love of the theater was always paramount with him, but he most likely feared for his day job, when in 1890 he made his acting debut in a private setting under the name Max Reinhardt. Three years later, he made his formal public debut when the Salzburg City Theater was re-opened to performances. In 1894, he left Austria for Germany, settling--of course--in Berlin. He was accepted to join the prestigious Deutsches Theater. By 1901, he was a theater owner. He would go on to own and operate several theaters--including, eventually the Deutsches itself (he also professionally managed theaters at the same time--busy and successful!). Today his only film that has any name recognition not only was made in the 1930's, it was also made in Hollywood. But in 1910, Reinhardt (who legally changed his name in 1904) entered the film industry in Germany. His first foray into film was naturally as a director. Sumurûn was a film version of one his successful plays staged in Germany and that same production then toured the U.S. after the film's release. It was one of only four films that he directed (three of which were silents). His other two silent films were  Die Insel der Seligen dating from 1913, and the experimental film A Venetian Night filmed in Venice and released in April of 1914. Additionally, one of his directed plays of the time period was likewise made into two films.  The first of which was The Miracle, which was co-directed by French director Michel Carré and experimental photographer and cinematographer Cherry Kearton (of the Brothers Kearton fame). The second was a film by Romanian born actor/director Mime Misu--that film was Das Mirakel and was released in December of 1912.  Reinhardt had a contract to make two more films that were never even staged, never mind filmed.  Much later on, Reinhardt appeared in two films--both shorts. Only one of them--Camille--did he actually act in. It was a strange little film--a version of what we would call a home movie today--featuring some of the biggest names in Hollywood. It dates from 1926, though it was never released in it's day (it does however survive and has since been publicly screened). The other short is an installment of the little Life in Hollywood series; Reinhardt appeared in No. 5 which came out in 1927.  Reinhardt would eventually come to the United States to stay, owed to his Jewish ancestry and the rise to power of the Nazi's in 1933. When he fled with his actress wife Else Heims (and young son who would also become a director), he had to leave behind his beloved residence Schloss (Castle) Leopoldskron which he had purchased in 1918 and lovingly renovated over the 20 years that he lived there.  In Hollywood, he would make the film that he is famous for today. Like many things that he did in life, it was unconventional to say the least. A Midsummer Night's Dream was a playful take on one of Shakespeare's more whimsical plays, and it sported a VERY disparate cast that included: Olivia de Havilland, Dick Powell, Ian Hunter, Jean Muir and...wait for it...James Cagney. Though Reinhardt thereafter divided his time between the east and west coasts yearly, he went back to theater and, once again very successfully, and stayed there. He died suddenly (most probably from a stroke) on Halloween of 1943 in New York City at the age of 70. He is buried in a very ornate stand alone mausoleum at the posh Westchester Hills Cemetery, located in Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester county, New York.  

[source: Wikipedia]

[source: Ginny M (Find A Grave)]


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