Saturday, October 31, 2020

Born Today October 31: Myron C. Fagan




 Born today, just in time for Halloween, the conspiracy creep that was Myron Coureval Fagan. Now I don't usually get so opinionated on my birthday posts least I try hard not to, but this guy was genuinely a racist and a menace of his time. He also was deeply involved with the theater and, up to a point, films. Fagan was born this day in some location in the state of Illionios. He was first, and ultimately foremost, a playwright. He had been a younger presence on Broadway from 1907, where he eventually also became a theatrical director. His association with actors of note is a long list. But, he also got embroiled in politics very early on; in 1916 he got so deeply involved in the a Republican run for the white house that Herbert Hoover asked him to work for his campaign in 1928--an offer Fagan turned down.  Although he did not move to Hollywood until 1930, due (it seems) in part to the beginning of the Great Depression, films of his plays had been made before that in the 1920's. The first of them was Mismates, a Charles Brabin directed feature from 1926 starring Doris Kenyon (made for First National).  The most important production of his work made into a film also came in the 1920's and starred his own wife, actress Minna Gombell. The Great Power had been produced on Broadway with pretty big success in 1928, it's being made into a film the following year would mark Fagan's only foray deep into the world of film-making. Not only did he adapt his own play into the screenplay, he also shot film, garnering him his only credit as a cinematographer. The film was a talkie, and featured the rarely unitized Bristolphone sound system.  For the film version of The Great Power, the entire cast from the stage production reprised their roles.  The film was also a complete flop and was quickly replaced (after just one showing) by a silent film in it's place of premiere in New York:  the Capital Theater. The only other film that he was officially involved with came in 1931 when he adapted for the screen the novel of another writer. He was one of three writers who adapted one of Max Brand's western novels for A Holy Terror (July, 1931).  One of his plays was in turn adapted into a film in 1931 as well; Smart Woman was adapted by Salisbury Field and was based on Fagan's play Nancy's Private Affair;  a comedy, it starred Mary Astor and was released in September. Despite that he was hired in Hollywood by Pathe, which at the time was owned by Joe Kennedy Sr., (now remembered as the father of JFK and brother Robert Kennedy) as an in-house writer, Fagan never made much of the position. I do not know if this had anything to do with his later views and behavior, but it seems a little suspicious to me that prominent figure such as Kennedy Sr.--father of a future president and grooming his sons for political careers--being Fagan's boss in the 1930's would not have had a hand in his virluent anti-communist "red scare" theories coming to the fore (many of his conspiracy fantasies of the 1960's involved the Kennedys). I am not here to get into the mind of any conspiracy theorist--especially NOW, so feel free to look up Fagan if you are interested in his history from 1945 and beyond. I will say, there is NOTHING new under the sun. Fagan and Gombell never divorced and never left Hollywood (mostly due to her career there), he died in Los Angeles on the 12th of May in 1972 at the age of 84. I can find no information on his "death arrangments." His wife, who survived him by a year, was buried back in her home city of Baltimore, Maryland, so it is unlikely that they are buried together.


Silents On TCM November 2020

All Times EST

 2 Nov. 1:15AM [Year: 1919] Trailer


4 Nov. 6AM [Year: 1916] (film by the great Lois WeberClip

w/ music by Kevin Toma 


6 Nov. 10:45PM [Year: 1928] Trailer


9 Nov. 12AM [Year: 1925] Preview Clip


14 Nov. 12:45AM [Year: 1924] Trailer (w/ piano music by Stegan Kaye)


16 Nov. 12AM [Year: 1928] Film Information

16 Nov. 7:15AM [Year: 1929] (talkie) Clip


 16 Nov. 12:30PM [Year: 1929] (partial silent) Clip
23 Nov. 12:15AM [Year: 1927] Clip


30 Nov.  12AM [Year: 1925] Harpo!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Born Today October 30: Lori Bara





Lori Bara (seen above on the right), baby sister of famed vamp Theda, and occasional actress in her own right, was born on this day in Cincinnati as Esther Goodman.  She was in actuality only two years younger than her sister Theodosia, but many sources during her lifetime listed her birth year as 1903.  She appeared in two silent films in the 1920's, the first of which was in the Buster Keaton feature Seven Chances in 1925. She next appeared with Lon Chaney in MGM's romantic war comedy Tell It to the Marines in 1926. Both roles were tiny and went uncredited.  She was much happier as a writer and has two credits in the 1930's in the film industry as such.  One for the "pseudo-documentary" Samarang in 1933, filmed in Malaysia; and the other for the screenplay produced into Hate in Paradise in 1938. Both were directed by her husband Ward Wing. Archival footage of her from the Keaton film was used in the 1970 tribute film 4 Clowns, in homage to Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel, Charley Chase and Keaton (a film produced and released five years after her own death).  She passed away on the 4th of August of a heart ailment in Culver City at the age of 61; she outlived her far more famous sister by ten years. She is interred in the Main Mausoleum at Holy Cross Cemetery, which is also located in Culver City under the name "Lori De Coppet Bara" (the De Coppet was her's and Theda's mother's maiden name).  


[source: Bernard Johnson (Find A Grave)]


Find A Grave entry 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Born Today October 28: Harry Garson




American film director and producer Harry Isaac Garson was born on this day in Rochester, New York. His career was almost entirely during the silent era. He got into films in 1919 as producer; he was one of two producers, along with Blanche Sweet, on the epic (for it's time) war film The Unpardonable Sin, directed by Marshall Neilan.  That same year, he was the "presenter" (basically an executive producer) on the very early Rudolph Valentino film Eyes of Youth (1919), having formed his own company Harry Garson Productions.  However, it as a director for which he has the most film credits.  His first outing helming a film came in 1920 on The Forbidden Woman, starring Clara Kimball Young (who also appeared in the above Valentino film and to whom he had a business relationship with from 1919-1922 [Note: some sources cite that they were actually married to for a hot minute, I do not think that was the case--involved maybe, but married??])--he had by this time changed his company name to "Garson Studios."  Young would also be a frequent actor in his films produced by his company in the early 1920's. His studio lasted through the year 1927, but his last directed silent feature film--The Lunatic--was made for another company: Thomas Productions in 1927 (a film that marked the debut of a truly great character actor in George Tobias). His last silent film was also his last working for his own company; it was a short film entitled The Fight for the Water Hole and also came out in 1927.  His first sound film did not come until well into the 1930's and that was on the poverty row horror picture The Beast of Borneo, released in April of 1934.  His last film was also released in 1934. The comedy What a Mother-in-Law! was co-directed with the Latvian born Harry S. Brown, and was filmed in Yiddish.  Garson died four years later on the 21st of September in Los Angles. He was just 55 years of age. There is no information on his burial, but it is known that he was Jewish and would have likely had a Jewish burial. 



Sunday, October 25, 2020

Born Today October 25: Monte (Monty) Hawley




Actor of stage and screen Monte Hawley was born Montrose Westin Hawley on this day in Chicago.  He was of a legal mixed race marriage, very rare at the time and had at least one sibling. He was so light skinned as a child, he parents had him "pass" as a fully white child. He would become an extremely out-spoken voice on the plight of black actors of all skin tones; but reserved his most biting words on the plight of black actors of what he called "the beige side," rightly pointing out that for Hollywood they were still too black and for many black filmmakers they looked too white. Still despite this, he was a very prolific actor of his time, particularly on the stage. He was, from an early age, a talented member of the famous Harlem founded Lafayette Players. And, despite his young age, he appeared in early African American cinema, appearing in two films in the 1920's, both of them produced by ground breaking filmmaker Oscar Micheaux (and both feature extremely creepy, possibly haunted houses).  His film debut came in Ghost of Tolston's Manor in 1923. He subsequently appeared in Micheaux's much better known A Son of Satan the following year. These remain his only two silent credits, though is quite possible--even probable--that his credits dating from the 1920's are very much incomplete. Throughout his career, Hawley was much more of theater actor and obviously didn't find silent acting to his taste; something not at all uncommon with stage actors at the time. He was not just a man of vaudeville stage either, by the mid 1920's he was tackling and conquering serious stage roles as well. He would not be appear in another film until 1938, when he took on the role of the district attorney in the crime drama Life Goes On.  From 1938 through 1940, he made quite a career of film acting, playing everything from comedy cops, to straight shooting men of authority, to hard-boiled gangster types.  A number of these also had music as a feature, and more than a few featured the great Mantan Moreland whom Hawley had also shared a live stage with.  After 1940, his film roles got fewer and further apart. His last film appearance came in 1948 in Miracle in Harlem in which he played a police lieutenant.  He died doing what he loved--acting on stage on the 30th of November in 1950. He was performing live when he collapsed in mid-performance in New York City with a massive brain hemorrhage. He was mourned with a large funeral featuring music from people that he had performed with both live and on film back in his home town of Chicago. Despite that there are a number of descriptions of his funeral, I can find no information at this time on his burial in the Chicago area. Hawley was a World War I veteran from the Navy and was an entertainer of troops during World War II. 





Thursday, October 22, 2020

Born Today October 22: Constance Bennett


Actress Constance Campbell Bennett was born on this day in New York City, she was born into a well known acting family, as she was the daughter of actors Richard Bennett and Adrienne Morrison (herself the daughter of a well known stage actress).  Constance was the older sister was actresses Joan Bennett and Barbara Bennett.  Growing up the daughters of actors, it's hardly surprising that the sisters would themselves go into the profession.  Constance being the oldest entered public acting first. Though the 1924 marriage drama Cyntherea is often cited as her film debut, she actually appeared in the motion pictures filmed in her birth place of New York before this.  She made her film debut as a child in one of her parent's films. At the age of of 12 she made an appearance in The Valley of Decision, a feature length melodrama that also marked the debuts of both of her sisters; the film was directed by Rae Berger and released in December of 1916.  She would be a young adult (or near enough to it) before she again appeared in a film, but this was still two years out from her appearance Cyntherea (she was "old enough" to already be married--eloping in early 1921 at still the age of 16--she was in 1922 on her way to being someone's ex-wife--actually her first marriage was annulled).  In 1922, she appeared in three dramas (two of which were Selznick productions). The first of these was Reckless Youth (March 1922), in which she had a small, but named role, as "The Chorus Girl;" she next appeared in Evidence (May 1922) a melodrama based in high society--both starred Elaine Hammerstein. Finally, she in appeared in the female lead in What's Wrong with the Women? (September 1922) opposite Wilton Lackaye.  When she finally made her appearance in Cyntherea--a film released just two days before her 20th birthday!--she had relocated to Hollywood, which did make for a kind of film debut--the Hollywood kind. It stars Irene Rich and Lewis Stone; Bennett has a down list supporting role.  It would also be her only film appearance in 1924. Her next on camera appearance came in the 1925 serial Into The Net in the top supporting role to Jack Mulhall's "Bob" Clayton character.  And, she had quite the career in 1925, appearing in eight productions in addition to the serial. Behind the scenes though, her life had been one drama after another. After her first marriage was dissolved,  she had fallen for a rich boy, the son of an a multimillionaire, and was determined to marry him. This she did on the 3rd of November in 1925, as a result, her film career came to a screeching halt. Her last silent film appearance came, ironically, in the comedy entitled simply Married?, released on the 17th of February, 1926. By the time she reappeared in the films in late 1929, sound had already arrived. She had roles in two full talkies in 1929: Rich People  and This Thing Called Love, both--again ironically--based on marriages gone wrong (because she was again in the throes of getting out of another bad marriage). Both films are also lost. Son of the Gods, released in March of 1930, and has her starring opposite Richard Barthelmess, is the first film to survive that she acted in with full sound. Despite personal upheavals in her personal life, she had a remarkably prolific career during the 1930's. Casual fans of classic films will no doubt recognize her as the whimsical female ghost Marion Kerby in Topper played opposite Cary Grant in 1937.  It is a role that she reprised, minus Grant, the following year in Topper Takes A Trip.  She did not have nearly as many roles in the 1940's, in part due to a family of three children, but also because she spent time doing live theatrical work (she also went into radio work and at one point had her own show).  As far as film work went, she went close to three years (from the end of 1942 to near the end of 1945) without making a picture at all.  She was famously in the supporting role in Two-Faced Woman in 1941 and what turned out to be Greta Garbo's last film before retirement; the film also starred the ever flexible talents of Melvyn Douglas. I have to say that one of my favorites is the 1947 film noir featuring Claude Rains The Unsuspected; it is not nearly as well known as Rains' other noir appearances, but Bennett's Jane Moynihan is well played...and it directed by Michael Curtiz.  After this, she only had two film roles, before making her television debut in 1951 in the season 2 episode Avalanche of the live drama series Cameo Theatre which aired on July 9.  After this, her one camera roles were mostly on the small screen, including one appearance on the series Suspense (in the late 1953 episode "Mr. Nobody" with Art Carney). Her last role came in the Lana Turner film Madame X in 1966.  The film was released almost a year after her untimely death. Bennett died of a massive brain hemorrhage on the 24th of July 1965. Her fifth and final marriage had been to a military officer (she in fact died in a military hospital at Fort Dix in New Jersey); as a result she had done a great deal of work with the troops, for this, she was awarded burial at Arlington National Cemetery. She was just 60 years old at the time of her death. 
[Source Ron Williams (Find A Grave)]



Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Born Today October 21: Lloyd Hughes




Actor Lloyd (Ellesworth) Hughes was born on this day in Bisbee, Arizona.  Schooled in Los Angeles, he apparently had ambitions of becoming an actor early in life.  Though today he is remembered as the "clean cut guy" in the famous 1925 stop motion animated silent The Lost World, he got his start in films in the late teens. His first role in an Ince Corp melodramatic film went uncredited; he was a "party guest" in feature length Love Me with Dorothy Dalton and Jack Holt in the lead roles (released in March of 1918). His first credited role came in the comedy Impossible Susan, released just four months later. One might be tempted to think that his appearance as "Tad Worden" in the 1919 film Satan Junior would be his first appearance in a film that could be categorized as "horror," but the film is in fact another silly comedy about a another funny young lady.  But...he did in fact appear in a horror film in 1919, released just 2 1/2 months after Satan Junior, The Haunted Honeymoon--another Ince production--featured Hughes in a fully supporting role.  He took the male lead in his very next film An Innocent Adventuress, a comedy, opposite Vivian Martin and released in June.  He then appeared in three Fred Niblo directed films in a row; including The False Road in which he again took the male lead, this time opposite Enid Bennett. By 1921 he had obtained top billed status and worked for directors King Vidor and John Griffith Wray, as well as Niblo in this capacity. In 1922, he appeared opposite Mary Pickford in the lead in Tess of the Storm Country, an epic of a film for it's time. This made him a highly bankable actor, and lead to a number of roles in romantic dramas, but eventually fanned out into the adventure and western genres in 1924--one the  busiest years in his career.  Of course it is for the science fiction adventure film The Lost World that he best known. It can be called a kind of "horror movie"--more like a monster film, certainly a creature feature. Based on a late novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of all people, the film features dinosaurs and would eventually even be referenced in the much more well known King Kong in 1933, which also features dinosaurs in a "lost exotic world." In it, Hughes stars along side lovely Bessie Love and the brutish Wallace Beery (bit of trivia, the film references in a visual the film The Sea Hawk from the previous year, a film in which Hughes also appeared in the lead supporting role). After his appearance in Lost World, which featured (rare for it's time) filming in the old Biograph Studio in The Bronx "outdoor" live action scenes, Hughes went largely back to parlor romantic drama, romantic comedies and melodramas (not with-standing the odd western). He appeared along side Mary Astor, Colleen Moore, Doris Kenyon, Corinne Griffith, Delores del Rio, Mae Murray, Billie Dove and Lupe Valez. In 1929, he appeared along side Valez, Estelle Taylor and Lon Chaney in the Asian themed romantic drama Where East Is East, a partial silent featuring sound effects and a musical score (the film was set for wide enough release, that a silent version was also distributed to theaters not yet equipped for sound). His next film was the same in terms of distribution (partial sound version/silent version) and cashed in on Hughes' role in The Lost World. The Mysterious Island (October 1929) had Lionel Barrymore in the lead and was based on a Jules Verne novel. His last film appearance in the decade was also his first full sound picture; Acquitted (November 1929); a Columbia production--it was a prison drama with Hughes and Margaret Livingston in the lead role. Acquitted was filmed around the time as his next film Love Comes Along--an RKO production--and released in January of 1930; a musical, Hughes and Bebe Daniels took the top bill. Not yet done with the adventure film, Hughes was also in the supporting role in the 1930 Lloyd Bacon directed version of Moby Dick starring the other Barrymore: John. While he did successfully make the transition to sound, his career got caught up the studio financial woes of the Great Depression. He appeared in a number b-films released as double features in the 1930's, including a couple of quite spooky mysteries (A Face in the Fog is a favorite of mine), and one additional low budget adventure film:  Vengeance of the Deep (1938).  He retired from film acting in 1939, with Romance of the Redwoods (March 1939), a California "logging adventure" film, marking his last time in front of the camera. Hughes retired and lived in San Gabriel with his wife--actress Gloria Hope (Olive Francis Hughes)-and their two children.  He passed away their on the 6th of June at the age of 60. He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. 


[source: AJM (Find A Grave)]

Still from The Lost World, Hughes on left.





Find A Grave entry 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Born Today October 20: Bela Lugosi


Béla Ferenc Dezsö Blaskó was born on this date in Lugos, Kingdom of Hungary (part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire)--now part of Romania as Lugoj and not far from the real Transylvansia [Note: in the original placing of his name, his surname would have come first as par the norm with Hungarian names].  He was born into a Hungarian speaking family with 3 older siblings; his father István was a banker; his mother was of Serbian ancestry.  He was raised in the Roman Catholic tradition.  At the age of 12 he dropped out of school to work.  He would find work in the town of Resita, where traveling performers would frequent.  He said that her became enamored with acting through watching them there.  He started his acting career around the age of 20 in 1901 or 1902--he acted in smallish parts in all types of performances in regional or provincial theaters.  By 1903 and 1904 he had steady performance work.  By 1911 he had graduated to larger, even starring, roles and had even taken on Shakespeare.  In that same year, he relocated to Budapest on joined the National Theater.  He was there from 1914 through 1919 in mostly supporting roles (though he would later claim that he was a top billed actor to bolster his acting bonafides).  These years were interrupted by active military service from 1914 through 1916 in World War I, fighting in the Austro-Hungarian Army, where he ultimately rose to the rank of L.  He was a leader of ski patrol and his outfit was sent to the Russian Front, where, as he recounted they were nearly all slaughtered.  He, himself wounded twice before, was wounded a third time, surviving amongst the dead of his unit; for his service at the Front he was awarded the Wound Metal; but his wounds would leave him with lasting sciatica (and possible, at least for a time, PTSD).  Despite his war injuries, he returned to theater but left in 1919, fleeing the country during the revolution in Hungary that year. He first made his way to Vienna, and then on to Berlin, were he settled for a short time and attempted to continue his acting career. He eventually immigrated to the United States via a merchant ship as a working crewman that docked in port at New Orleans. He made his film debut in his native Hungary in 1917 under the acting name of Olt Arisztid, despite that he had been using the name "Lugosi" both privately and professionally for well over a decade (a name that was derived from his birthplace Lugos and meant to honor it).  The film was title Álarcosbál, translated into English it is Masked Ball and was directed by fellow Romanian born Hungarian: Alfréd Deésy. Bela, or rather "Olt," appeared in the male lead opposite Annie Góth. Lugosi actually appeared in nearly 15 films in Hungary before fleeing, one--the Michael Curtiz film 99 in 1918--under the name "Albert Lugesi." His last Hungarian film was another Deésy film entitled Casanova in which Bela played the title character. He also made a large number of films while living in Germany; the first of which was Nachenschnur des tot.  It was in Germany that he appeared in his first horror film and it a famous one--famously lost. Billed as Bela Lugosi he assayed the role Dr. Warren's Diener in F. W. Munau's The Head of Janus in 1920.  A complex psychological horror, the leading roles were occupied by Conrad Viedt and Margarete Schlegel; it was Murnau's Jekyll and Hyde.  His last German film was Ihre Hoheit die Tänzerin starring Lee Parry and directed by Richard Eichberg in 1922.  His first American film was a Fox spy melodrama with a Panama Canal plot; The Silent Command was directed by J. Gordon Edwards. Bela, being an actual foreigner, of course was cast as the terrorist Hisston (and credited, due to a mistake, as Belo Lugosi), the film was released in August of 1923.  His movie appearances over the next few years were scant due his working in live theater in New York, eventually making it all the way to Broadway.  He would not appear in a great number of fully silent films after this in fully credited roles. He appeared in only one credited film in 1924--the very small budgeted The Rejected Woman  and just two films in 1925. He did make an uncredited appearance (in two places in the film) in Victor Sjöström's very famous He Who Gets Slapped starring Lon Chaney in 1924 (only very recently verified actually). Probably his two most well known silents came in 1925. The Midnight Girl is definitely the better known of the two, due it's wide availability and inclusion in several "Bela box sets" (I have two copies of it in such box sets, and a further 2 more from budget horror sets, though the film is a melodrama; so it is AVAILABLE!). The other is the George Terwilliger directed spy melodrama (yes, another one) in which Bela plays a Russian agent Daughters Who Pay.  Both appearances are rather famous for on-screen kisses that Bela's characters have; the one in Daughters Who Pay has been remarked on due to it's blood content...his character kisses a dancing woman with a rose in her mouth and it sticks his character Romonsky, who then is seen with blood running down his lips...something that we are deprived of in his role as Count Dracula.  He did not appear again in a feature until 1929, which came in the now lost Fox melodrama The Veiled Woman, a film that was released in one sound version and one silent version, and barley worth the mention in Lugosi's career as the "murdered suitor" if it were not for the fact that film also features Lupita Tovar in an equally small role. It is notable because Tovar would appear in the "Spanish Dracula" Drácula in the "Mina" character place of "Eva" in 1931. That the two appeared in a film together just two years prior is certainly worth the note (the film was Tovar's debut). He had just three more performances in 1929. His first talking sequence film was as a night club owner in the partial silent Prisoners, a Warner's crime film. He did not act in the Conrad Veidt film The Last Performance, but rather provided the Hungarian dub for Veidt's main character for release back in his home country. It is ironic that, to my knowledge, this is his only Hungarian speaking role in a horror film (he did provide Hungarian dub for at least one other film in 1930's that we know of, there may have been more).  One might be tempted to think that this was one of the reasons he got cast in Dracula, if it were not for his performance as Inspector Delzante in Tod Browning's full sound The Thirteenth Chair--released on the 19th of October, just one day prior to Lugosi's 47th birthday.  It also his last film of the decade. He appeared in six films in 1930, the first of which was Such Men Are Dangerous--a film directed by Kenneth Hawks, Howard Hawks' ill-fated brother.  His seventh film appearance of the 1930's is the big one: Count Dracula in Tod Browning's Universal classic Dracula.  I would say "the rest is history"--especially in regards to Lugosi's typecasting in horror, but his career has one final silent film connection. In 1935, Lugosi appeared in another Tod Browning film Mark of the Vampire.   The film was close to being a scene by scene--but all talking--remake of Browning's now famously lost silent horror of 1927 London After Midnight, which is equally famous for starring Lon Chaney.  Lugosi struggled with the burden of typecasting; he also struggled with drug addiction after getting hooked on pain killers legally prescribed for his massively painful sciatica. Bela Lugosi passed away of a heart attack on the 16th of August in 1956 at the age of 73.  His last acting role came in in the  scifi/horror film The Black Sheep in 1956; he appeared along side Basil Rathbone, John Carradine and Lon Chaney Jr. He also did two guest appearances on television shows; his debut on the small screen came in the anthology  series Suspense (A Cask of Amontillado) and he made an appearance on variety show The Paul Winchell Show in October of 1950 (this is the appearance that has become infamous when it was included in the Tim Burton film Ed Wood--as the version seen in the film is pure fiction--Lugosi did not have trouble with his lines and the appearance came years before collaborations with Wood). He is buried at the Catholic Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City in California.  He was buried in his famous cape. Though he is a huge horror icon now, that is not what he envisioned his acting career would be--quite the opposite actually, as he wanted to play romantic leads and greatly enjoyed classical drama. None the less, us horror hounds are eternally grateful!! Happy Birthday Bela! 
(source: AJM (Find a Grave)]
(source: Charlie (Find a Grave)]

(still from The Midnight Girl)


Thursday, October 15, 2020

Born Today October 15: Jane Darwell



Actress Jane Darwell was born Patti Mary Woodard into a very well off family in Palmyra, Missouri on this day. She had dreams of becoming an opera performer from a young age (well, as a very small child, she wanted badly to be a circus performer--what kid doesn't go through a phase like this?). But, her railroad president father strongly disapproved; so she subsequently stated her plan was to enter and convent and become a nun instead. Obviously this did not happen, as we have her very LONG list of acting credits--some of which are famous--to prove otherwise.😉  As a younger woman, she did study music and drama, but did not make her acting debut until she was in her 30's.  She started in the theater, and in 1913, graduated to film.  Her film debut came in the Francis Ford film The Capture of Aguinaldo made for Bison.  She appeared in  eight films in that year, all of them shorts. Her first film of 1914 is a rather famously lost silent: Brewster's Millions, co-directed by Oscar Apfel and Cecil B. DeMille, she assays the aptly named role of "Mrs. Dan DeMille" (inside joke, apparently). She also appeared in three more Apfel/DeMille projects (The Master Mind, The Only Son, & The Man On The Box), before appearing in films directed by each individually (Apfel: Ready Money, DeMille: Rose of the Rancho)--all in 1914. She next had an uncredited role in one of Lois Weber's groundbreaking films: Hypocrites (1915) going on to next appear in the Fred Thomson directed  The Goose Girl (1915) starring Marguerite Clark.  She made two more film appearances in 1915, the first in the Apfel adventure film The Rug Maker's Daughter, and the second in the political melodrama The Reform Candidate, before taking a multi-year break from film acting. In fact, she had only one more appearance in the silent era, in an uncredited role in the William Seiter melodrama Little Church Around the Corner in 1923. Her come back in the age of sound in 1930 was a big one! She appeared with Jackie Coogan (you know "Uncle Fester"), and a whole host of others, in Paramount's Tom Sawyer (she also appeared with him the following year in Huckleberry Finn). After this point, she was never far from a camera. By far the most famous film of the 1930's in which she acted was Gone With The Wind. For her appearance in John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath in 1940, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (a role she reportedly got at the insistence of the lead actor: Henry Fonda). Darwell made her television debut in 1951 in the A Slight Touch of Youth episode of the short-lived 'Personal Appearance Theater.'  This kicked off a long and varied second career on the small screen. Her very last role is also a famous one: The Bird Woman in Mary Poppins in 1964; she was 84 years of age at the time of the film's release. She then retired due to poor health, other wise I am quite sure that she would have been happy to keep working. She passed away on the 13th of August in 1967 at the age of 87 in Los Angeles. She was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale under both her birth name and her stage name.  And again, since this is spooktober, it is worth mentioning that she had a tiny extra part in the pre-code horror Murders in the Zoo in 1933 (the film is a real curiosity, not least because it is probably only one of two horror films featuring Randolph Scott! Also the mad scientist is a maniac zoologist 👍). She also had an appearance in the quirky comedy The Devil and Daniel Webster in 1941; and in the biographical film The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe in 1942.  At the end of her career, she appeared in the episode The Jar of 'The Alfred Hitchcock Hour' in 1964, it was her next to last acting credit.  Her birth last name has been notoriously misspelled as "Woodward" in a number of published sources.


[Source: AJM (Find a Grave)]

[Source: AJM (Find a Grave)]



 Find A Grave entry

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Born Today October 14: Joseph Plateau



Belgian physicist, mathematician and that country's earliest animator Joseph Plateau was born Joseph Antione Ferdinand Plateau on this day in Brussels when the country was part of the French Republic.  The son of an artist, Plateau grew up around "natural paintings"--his father being famous for realistic flower depictions. The younger Plateau was considered a child prodigy and could read fluently by the age of six. He also became interested in physics at school at a very early age; he was particularly interested in the experimental physics of the age.  He came from a family of extremely accomplished people who were all, to all degree or another, influential on him as a thinker and scientist. He eventually became interest in "persistence of memory" as it was termed, what is more properly described as the persistence of images on the retina after being exposed to certain conditions, such as bright flashes of light. This interest would lead to his experiments characterized as "animations" and the reason for his inclusion here.  This interest was spurred in him though by tragedy--the lose of his parents at the young age of just fourteen.  The interest was deep and may have been connected to his thinking on the problem around the time he suffered such a deep lose.  It was the one mystery that he was determined in life to understand and one that lead to a number of other paths of later scientific inquiry.  Carrying this fascination over into his academic career and submitted a doctoral thesis on optics in 1829, which led directly to his development in 1832 to a device that he later termed a Phenakistiscope (popularized as a "phenakistoscope"), though he had no personal name for it when it was first introduced it in published concept for (it was apparently named shortly after introduction by a company in France, and Plateau reportedly adopted the term). After the devices became a popular form of entertainment, they was called "phantasmascopes" in the UK. A nearly identical device was invented at the same time--in the early 1830's--in Austria. Plateau, though, backed up his research with math and his "invention" was more a side-effect of his research than it was it's goal; a sort of experiment and conclusion rolled into one. This invention paved the way for extremely important--and entertaining--advances in optics and animations. It also provided essential ideas that lead directly to the invention of motion pictures.

He also has a LARGE body of mathematical works, problems, proofs and laws. There is no point in trying to encapsulate them here, but if you are a math buff like me, follow the Wikipedia link below for other links to individual works (fascinating stuff!!).  One of the most important of these, I will mention, is his work on soap films. We who are blessed with sight have all witnessed soap film phenomena and it can be absolutely captivating (the same can be seen, and much more persistently and unfortunately, in oil slicks). Plateau's work in this arena also contributed to the development of films for innovations in photography. So important guy--with NO film credits to his name. Please check out links, he deserves more recognition. I have also included more of his Phenakistiscope work below, some of it animated by computer gif technology. These days Plateau has been called "the father of the gif."



[Source: Amazing Belgium, link below]

Plateau, having experimented on himself, was also one of the first scientists to warn about extended staring directly at the sun--he attributed his lose of vision later in life to this, though it may have been due to a genetic malady or auto-immune instead. Plateau died at the age of 81 in Ghent on 15th of September a month from turning 82 and only a couple years shy of the actual invention of projected motion pictures. For someone so nationally important to the country of Belgium, there is no information on his burial--strange and a bit sad.



Amazing Belgium 

That Google Doodle


Here are a few animations for the spooky season, I believe these are modern, but they are based on Plateau's technology and are oh so cool.