Apologies for the absence, I badly injured my shoulder last weekend and am unable to type until it heals.
Friday, April 2, 2021
Sunday, March 28, 2021
In the world of films, B.S. Ingemann is known as a songwriter, when he is known at all; in all other arena's of public knowledge he is known as a Danish author of novels and poetry. Born Bernhard Severin Ingemann on this day on the island of Falster in the township of Torkilstrup, Ingeman began to write when he was a student at the University of Copenhagen. His first published work dates from 1811 and was a book of poetry heavily influenced by German romantic writers. It was quickly followed by a volume two in 1812. By 1820, he had written and published a number of plays as well. In 1822, he was appointed instructor of language and literature at the Academy in Sorø, a city that would figure heavily in the rest of his life. He then began writing novels; and though they are categorized as "historical novels," they are notable for their consistent lack of accurate history--but he is regarded as the first Danish novelist to write in such a style. Ingemann, the son of vicar who was completely absent from his life, was also a writer of hymns. This is what he is most well known for today. His name has some 35 soundtrack credits for both films and television attached--the most well known to date, the 2012 Mads Mikkelsen film The Hunt. Obviously, his hymns used in soundtrack work are not what we are concerned with in regards to silent films. His first film credit dates from 1910 and it's the only credit to date from the silent era; and it was his prose that was first used in film as source material. The Danish drama Valdemar Sejr was adapted and directed by Danish film maker Gunnar Helsengreen; the film was based on one of Ingemann's novels. To date, it is the only film screenplay to be based on any of his writings: novel, poetry or play. Ingemann's music/hymns were first used in a film in 1939, in the Swedish production Her Little Majesty (Hennes lilla majestät). They were likewise first used in a television production in 1970 in the Danish comedy series for family viewing "Huset på Christianshawn;" the most recent use of one of his hymns in any kind of production came just last year in the Danish television Christmas special DR's Store Julehow (2020). Indeed, it his Christmas hymns that are not only a part of popular Danish culture, but recognizable by most, if not all. Ingemann stayed in Sorø, along with his wife, Danish painter Lucie Mandix Ingeman, writing and teaching for the remainder of his life. He died there on the 24th of February in 1862 at the age of 72. He is buried in Sorø at the Sorø Klosterkirke. His wife joined him there six years later.
[source: Church website (homepage here)]
Saturday, March 27, 2021
To call Gloria Swanson a movie star would almost be an understatement. She was a superstar and one of the few silent films actresses to be still recognized by people today even if they they have no knowledge of, or interest in, silent films. She was born Gloria Josephine May Swanson on this day in Chicago. Though born into a military family that moved often, her earliest connection to films also came in Chicago and Essanay studios headquartered there. She still had family in the city and on visit to an aunt, as the story goes, she was taken on a tour of the studio (she said due to a crush on matinee idol Francis X. Bushman, who was under contract to Essanay at the time); while touring the studio, she caught the eye of either some film makers or the tour guide and was offered a small walk on role on the spot. It was 1914 and she was just 15 years old. That film was The Fable of the Club Girls and the Four Times Veteran (December 1914). The only other credit in the cast that has survived is Lillian Drew, who was the lead. It is certainly one of the most accidental beginnings to an acting career for someone so clearly talented. And clearly the experience spiked a sincere interest into going into that line of work. And, it was at Essanay where she started that work, where they quickly increased her pay from $3.25 a day to $13.25. Her first named credit came in 1915 in the Gerda Holmes short melodrama At the End of a Perfect Day, where she played the maid. At Essanay she would also cross paths with another superstar of the silent screen in his earliest days of acting in the U.S.: Charlie Chaplin. Still just 15 years old, she had a role in His New Job released in February of 1915, she had the uncredited part of the stenographer. Also at Essanay in 1915, she had a fully credited role in a film with Wallace Beery: The Broken Pledge (June 1915), a comedy short, where she is credited as "Gloria Mae" (Beery would become the first of her six husbands the next year). Her very next film was her first at Keystone; Sunshine (May 1916), another short comedy starring funny men Jack Cooper and Hank Mann. While at Keystone she also acted in couple of Charly Chase comedies; before settling in under the direction of Clarence G. Badger where she got her first leading lady roles. In 1918, she landed a role in her first feature, the Frank Borzage melodrama Society for Sale over at Triangle studios. It was high profile work and she had the female lead in the film. Once she entered feature film work, there was no looking back to short film work for her; and stardom was just around the corner. She was next highly recommended to director Jack Conway, who put her at the top of the bill in his melodrama Her Decision, where she is once again playing a stenographer. Between 1918 and the start of 1920, she was in eleven features, all of which she was the star of, all of which had posters featuring her name and face. The last three of these were Cecil B. DeMille films while she was "on loan" from Triangle to Famous Players/Paramount. She was only just 20 years of age. When Triangle got into financial difficulty, she eventually made the change to Paramount permanent, and her first film of the new decade was also a DeMille film: Why Change Your Wife? (May 1920-wide release). DeMille would be the director who brought her superstardom and it was one of his films, The Affairs of Anatol (1921), that often makes essential viewing lists. Other than DeMille, Sam Wood was the other director who used her in the female leads of his films at the studio, most were melodramas with the odd comedy here and there. It was in a Wood film that Swanson starred along side Rudolph Valentino in 1922: Beyond the Rocks. In 1923, she had a walk on cameo--along with almost all of Tinsel Town it seems--in Hollywood, directed by James Cruze, with whom she shares a birthday; the cameo is a testament to how famous she had become (among the cameos was Cecil B. DeMille, it would not be the last film with Swanson that he would have a cameo in...). In the mid portion of the decade, director Allan Dwan became the studio's "Swanson director;" directing her in some of her most well known silents, including Zaza (1923), Manhandle (1924), and Stage Struck (1925). In 1927, she started her own production company Gloria Swanson Pictures; though the company would only turn out three films(two of them silent), the first of which was The Love of Sunya. The other Gloria Swanson production from the decade is the now restored Sadie Thompson (1928), with Lionel Barrymore and directed by Raoul Walsh, who has a role in the film. Her last film of the decade was also her first talkie (though it was also shot as a silent); The Trespasser (November 1929) was one of only two productions of Gloria Productions, was written and directed by Edmund Goulding and was nominated for an Oscar (Best Actress for Swanson). Although Swanson was a first rate actress who had no real issues with the transition to sound, nonetheless her career began to slow in the 1930's, at least on the silver screen. She took up radio acting, and when she moved to New York in 1938, stage acting. She did of course make occasional films, some of them absolute classics. That is certainly the case with her performance as Norma Desmond, the aging and psychotic silent film star with dreams of a come back, in Sunset Blvd. in 1950! The film sports cameos a-plenty by a number of people from the actual silent era; DeMille's appearance is the most famous. Swanson also did some television: there was the short lived series that she hosted in 1948 The Gloria Swanson Hour and numerous appearances on early talk shows. She even did some live television in 1953 in the season 2 episode The Pattern of the live anthology series Hollywood Opening Night that aired the 16th of February. She made two films in 1974 (one of which was for television); making her appearance in Airport 1975 (October 1974) her last film. She died from an heart ailment in her beloved adopted home town of New York City on the 4th of April in 1983 at the age of 84. She was cremated and interred there in the columbarium of the Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest in Manhattan.
Friday, March 26, 2021
Emilio Fernández was a man of all trades in the film industry; not just an actor, not just a director...not even just the model for the Oscar statute. He was born Emilio Fernández Romo on this day in Hondo, Mexico (located in Coahuila). He was born during unrest in his native land, and the country would slide into revolution; his father would be a general in that conflict. His mother was a Kickapoo, an Algonquin speaking tribe that was severely displaced from their native range near the Great Lakes to northern Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. He entered films in the Los Angeles area after fleeing his native Mexico. As a teenager, he joined with the Revolution, which eventually lead to his capture, trial and imprisonment; after escape he fled to Chicago (an area very close to the original lands of the Kickapoo people). He made his way to Los Angeles where he worked in just about every profession imaginable from the docks to the restaurant industry. He also worked in construction, which lead him into the set building arena for Hollywood studios; already interested in film making before ever leaving Mexico, the job would prove fateful for his life. He had a number of jobs as a double in various films that have gone uncredited (as has his set work), but he formally entered the world of pictures as a rather ambivalent actor in 1928 in the little Mexican production El destino directed by Chihuahua director Chano Urueta (the two would act in Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch much later on, amongst other projects). The film was his only formal credit in a silent film. The 1930's would be his most formative decade as an emerging film maker plying his trade as an actor in Hollywood, and after 1933, back in Mexico; though he would not make his directing debut until 1942. He did, however, start writing screenplays in the 1930's and he had one gig as an assistant director in 1938. Fernández's career was a long and very important one, both in and out of Mexico; a very talented filmmaker, he was a brash personality both in front of and behind the camera. In 1979, he directed his last two films; Erótica was his last, he both wrote and directed the thriller, which was filmed in Colima and released August. It was a remake of one of his own films, the 1953 award winning La Red (Rossana). It may have been his last directing project, but he continued acting off and on up until the time of his death. His last film appearance came in the Mexican musical Arriba Michoacán (1987), which was released a year after his death. Fenández died suddenly on the 6th of August in 1986 in Mexico City; he was 82 years old. He is interred a the Mausoleos del Ángel in Coyoacan, Mexico.
Thursday, March 25, 2021
British born actress Binnie Barnes barely makes the list here, and if it were not for a little experimental film made in 1923, she would not. Binnie was born Gertrude Maud Barnes on this day in Islington (Great London), England. She had a whopping 15 siblings; the daughter of a policeman, she had a number of jobs before getting directly into show business, including nursing. It appears that a number of these jobs either contributed to her interest in acting as a career, or that she pursued as a result as that interest. In addition to working as a hostess in dance halls and similar venues, she got herself onto the stage via chorus lines when quite young. At the age of 20, she appeared in a little all sound film by Lee De Forest using his patented De Forest Phonofilm sound system. That film was simply entitled Phonofilm and dates from 1923. She would not appear in a film again until 1931 when she had a role in the Leslie S. Hiscott (written and directed) mystery A Night in Montmartre. Barnes stayed in the British film industry until the mid 1930's, when she made the move to Hollywood; her first official American film was Universal's One Exciting Adventure in 1934. She was first billed opposite Neil Hamilton in the comedy, and though filmed at the Universal lot in California, the cast sported several British actors including Paul Cavanagh and Ferdinand Gottschalk. She would become a thoroughly American actor and, eventually, a naturalized citizen; most of her 80 acting credits came States-side. She worked steadily up through the 1940's; after which her work slowed. She only appeared on two television series during her career, the first in 1951 in the No will of His Own episode of the live "Lux Video Theatre" series on CBS; it was one of only six acting roles that she took during the entire decade (she appeared on the show again in 1953; she also had two appearances on The Donna Reed Show in the early 1960's). She had just four acting roles in the 1960's and her last role came in 1973 in the Liv Ullmann comedy 40 Carats. She then retired completely to her life in Beverly Hills, where she lived with her second husband, producer M. J. Frankovich, who was in fact the producer of 40 Carats. She died in Beverly Hills on 27th of July in 1998 at the age of 95. She is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale in comic actor's Joe E. Brown family plot, along with her husband "Mike."
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Born in what is now Muskogee, Oklahoma, western silent actress Alma Rayford was actually born in what was still then referred to as Muskogee, Indian Territory (people forget that Oklahoma has only been a state since 1907....). Muskogee is the seat of Muskogee county and was the tribal seat of removed Mvsgoee (Creek) people; but by 1903, the city had gained a great deal of non-native population. I do not know if any part of Rayford's family had native connections to the town; that probability is about 50/50 and since not a great deal of biographical material on her is currently available, it's a toss up. But none-the-less, she was born there on this day in 1903; she was in films by the age of 18 when she was cast as "The Girl" in Hearts o' the Range in 1921. It was an independent western shot in Long Beach, California; so somehow, at that young age, she had made it from her birth place all the way to the west coast. She is listed as having the female lead in another independent western in 1922, The Lone Rider, but it is the 1924 film Smoking Trails that usually starts out most filmographies of her work (the film also features an Adrian Rayford, who, from a search of census records of all things, I am pretty sure was her younger sister, it was her only film role). Alma was in a total of six films that year (one of which, The Terror of Pueblo, is not listed in the IMDb). Her serial work began in 1925, when she appeared in some of the "Cyclone Bob" films produced by Larry Wheeler Productions. Later in the year she took the female lead in Cactus Trails opposite Jack Perrin, it was an western romantic action film produced and directed by Harry S. Webb and his namesake production company. She next appeared opposite Ken Maynard (a former Buffalo Bill Wild West performer) in an early "western horror" Haunted Range (January 1926--it was also known as The Haunted Ranch or The Haunted House). She was also cast some of a series of features in the "Buffalo Bill Jr." films starting with the female lead in Trumpin Trouble in 1926. The year would prove to be her most prolific and saw her in several "character" features that sported specific cowboy roles that were well known to consumers of b-westerns (some of the character names were more well known than were the name's of the actors who portrayed them). She finished the year in a Yakima Canutt feature, an A-grade western, The Outlaw Breaker. Rayford was a first rate rider and her appearing in such an active role in one of the great western riders of the time, Canutt, is testament to her horse riding skills for sure. Al Hoxie, a western star himself, proclaimed her to be on the of the best riders working in westerns in the mid-1920's--hands down. In 1927, she had just two roles in features, both opposite real cowboy Buddy Roosevelt; and just a further two features the following year, one of which was the FBO production Young Whirlwind (1928). Her last film of the decade came in one of the several short films that she had sprinkled throughout her relatively short career. The Border Wolf (November 1929) was a twenty minute long 2-reeler produced by Universal in a series of short films about the Canadian Mounties. Though it marked her last film of the 1920's, it was also her first appearance in a film with sound and was a full talkie. She only appeared in two films after this, one role going uncredited. Her only major talking part came in the poverty row film Lightning Bill in 1934, an all talking "Buffalo Bill Jr." series picture. She retired from films and it appears that her family stayed in the Los Angeles area for some time to come (the 1940 census has them there); at some point she came to live in Texas. She died in El Paso on Valentine's Day in 1987 at the age of 83. Considering that so little is known about her life after pictures, it is not a surprise that he interment is not listed anywhere as of now.
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
Actress of the stage and screen Hazel Dawn was born Henrietta Hazel Tout on this day in Ogden, Utah to a devoutly Mormon family. Her parents became missionaries to Europe around they time she turned seven; by age eight, the family was living in Wales in the U.K. This European relocation allowed young Hazel (always known by her middle name) to study music (voice and violin) in London, Paris and Munich. Though she is known as an actress more than a musician, she was a lifelong accomplished violinist. Music was a family affair as she had a sister (older, I believe) who took up opera singing and performed for a time at the Opera Comique in Paris. It is not surprising that she was drawn to musical theater, but her name was considered not suitable for stage; the name "Dawn" was suggested to her and she decided to use it. She made her professional stage debut in the West End at the Prince of Wales theater in 1909. She was then cast in a lead role in 1910 which made a star of her. In 1911, she was again cast a lead role, this time in Belgian composer/writer/theater producer Ivan Caryll's massively popular The Pink Lady; this made her a superstar of the Broadway stage (it was Caryll who suggested her stage name and after the play's success she took to wearing loads of pink fashions and lots of pink cheek rouge...it also highly probably that the famous cocktail of the same name was named for her; her nickname would forever after be "The Pink Lady"). Her performances were further enhanced by her on-stage violin playing. She was just 19 years old at the time. She was thereafter on the Broadway stage and in comic operetta work at the National Theater in Washington D.C. through 1914, when she made her film debut in the Famous Players production One of Our Girls in the lead role. It was her only film that year, but it proved enough of a success that her subsequent films roles for most of her film career were likewise Famous Players productions. The following year would prove to be her most prolific in her short career in film acting and started out with Niobe, a comical tale of a statue come to life with Dawn in the titular role; the film was co-directed by Hugh Ford and Edwin S. Porter. All of her other films for the year were directed by James Kirkwood who put her into situational dramas of various sorts, two of which featured himself in the male lead. Dawn, though, was always much more of a comedy actress and by 1916, she was finally placed back into comedy work in a film when she starred in the Sidney Olcott directed My Lady Incog., which was shot entirely in St. Augustine, Florida. She was back to situational drama for the remaining three films that she made in 1916, two which had her starring opposite Irving Cummins, and the other, Under Cover, with Owen Moore. She only appeared in one major film in 1917, a gangster melodrama The Lone Wolf; the film was produced and directed by Herbert Brenon and was her first non-Famous Players film; it was also her next to last film, as she thereafter appeared in just one more in her entire film career. For that, she was the top of bill actor in the Burton George directed melodrama Devotion, that had her acting opposite Elmo Lincoln who much better remembered as Tarzan than as dramatic leading man. The film was released in July of 1921; that made her absence from motion picture acting four years, the time in-between well spent on the Broadway stage. She quit appearing in films altogether after Devotion and retired from the stage in 1931, coming out of retirement briefly in 1948 to appear, with her namesake daughter, in the staging of Ruth Gordon's play Years Ago in Rhode Island. The main event that prompted her retirement from the stage was her marriage in 1927 to a very well off mining engineer. She had two children and her daughter Dawn Gruwell obviously had an acting career of her own. She, like her mother, was mostly a stage actress, but she did have a brief career on television in the 1940's and 1950's, going by the tongue and cheek name Hazel Dawn Jr. Following the death of her husband in 1941, Hazel went to work in the casting department of a an advertising agency, where she worked for twenty years before retiring in 1963. She lived a very long life thereafter however, passing away in her daughter's New York apartment on the 28th of August at the age of 98! She is buried at the Nassau Knolls Cemetery in Port Washington, New York (located in Nassau county).
Monday, March 22, 2021
Sunday, March 21, 2021
Actress, and later very successful artist, Carmelita Geraghty was born on this day in Rushville, Indiana. She may have been born in the mid-west, but she was educated on both coasts in New York and Los Angeles, where she graduated from high school. Her father Tom Geraghty was eager to get into the burgeoning motion picture industry and eventually became a prolific screenwriter (her younger brothers Gerald and Maurice followed suit). She is the only member of the family to go into acting. She is said to have started out as an extra under a couple of different "stage names," but only records of her appearances under her birth name currently survive. The earliest of them dates from 1923 when she got the part of Carmen Inez in the Maurice Tournuer film Jealous Husbands starring Jane Novak and Earle Williams. She appeared in two more films that year with full credits, including Black Oxen, a bizarre romantic drama produced and directed by Frank Lloyd, starring Corrine Griffith and Conway Tearle, sporting appearance by Clara Bow. She scored her first film lead the following year in the little comedic short Trouble Brewing opposite funny-man Larry Semon with an actor then going by the name "Babe Hardy," who would later be famous as Oliver Hardy. Following this, her first starring role in a full feature came in High Speed, her very next acting job in 1924. A Herbert Blaché film, there is no better way to describe it other than being a boxing melodrama that was actually a comedy, with Herbert Rawlinson as Hi Moreland the hapless boxer trying to win the hand of the banker's daughter Marjory played by Geraghty. The year would turn out to be her most prolific and she was announced as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars of 1924. One of the things that she is remembered for today were her appearances in films opposite a real boxer turned actor Jack Dempsey; and she acted in no less than four films with him that year. But it probably her appearance in The Pleasure Garden in 1925 that she is still most famous for. The film was the very first completed and released picture ever directed by Alfred Hitchcock; actress Virginia Valli was at the top of the ticket, but Geraghty had second credit and her name appeared on promotional posters along with Valli. Another important performance from that same year came in the Clara Bow comedy My Lady of Whims. Again her name appeared on posters, along with fellow supporting actors Donald Keith and Lee Moran. In 1926, she also had a supporting role in the very famously lost first film of The Great Gatsby; on the opposite end of the spectrum that year was her vamp spoof role in the Mack Sennett comedy Smith's Uncle (November 1926). As the decade went on, she seemed to always be relegated to the supporting roles of films featuring other actresses; whether they be a Talmadge, Mary Pickford or even a Barbara Kent, she was more in the shadows than in the bright lights. By 1928, she wound up appearing in a series of Mack Sennett short comedies, for the most part in even smaller roles. She did get the lead in the 1928 "B" film South of Panama where she shared a first name with her character; but was back to the down ticket part in her very next film Object: Alimony (December 1928). In 1929, she was back to the Mack Sennett produced shorts, but it was in one of these little fluff films that she first appeared in a film with sound. The short A Close Shave was a fully mono talkie in which she starred opposite Johnny Burke. While the Pathé Exchange production Paris Bound (August 1929), her very next film, was her first role in a talking feature. She appeared in the three more features in 1929, all of them full talkies, the last of which was After the Fog, a crime intrigue starring Mary Philbin and Edmund Burns. She was all set to have a continued regular acting career with the coming of sound pictures and the new decade; and she did have a prolific career for the first few years, but the parts, while mostly credited, were smaller and smaller. For what ever reason, her career faltered on the rocks of sound. Her last film role came in 1935 (after having been away from regular film acting for three years) in Manhattan Butterfly. She retired completely from acting and turned to the world of visual art. She became a very successful painter and by the end of the her life had a number big exhibitions. It was a return from one of these exhibitions on the east coast that she suffered a massive heart attack at the Lombardy Hotel in New York City on the 7th of July in 1966. Her body was returned to Los Angeles and she was buried at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery; she was 65 years old. Geraghty was married to prolific writer/producer Carey Wilson from 1934 until his death in 1962.
Saturday, March 20, 2021
Russian born actress Fania Marinoff was born on this day in Odessa, Russian Empire (now located in the independent country of Ukraine). Born into a Jewish family, she wound up being the baby of a family that included 12 siblings. She was the youngest due to her mother's death not long after her birth. At the age of just six, she was was literally smuggled into the United States and was meant to live with relatives upon arrival in Boston. She did not have an easy time of it. No one seems to know where she was living for her first two years in America, but she was frequently on the streets and she later said that she was without food a good deal of the time and without education all of the time. At the age of eight she was sent to live with an older brother who was either already living in the country or who had recently arrived. The situation was meant to improve things for her, but they only got worse. Much worse. Her brother and wife wife badly abused her both physically and mentally; she was held against her will and only frequently fed. Acting would eventually be a way out for her. Her stage debut came when she was either nine or ten; she was cast in the role of a young boy in the play Cyrano de Bergerac. She is known to have made her Broadway debut in 1903 at the age of just 13. Most of her career was spent on the stage, but she did appear in a small number of films between 1914 and 1918. By the time she made her film debut in the early Famous Players production One of Our Girls (June 1914), she was already a star on the New York stage. In total, she only had ten film credits, and three of those were shorts. Her second film, though one of those shorts, saw her in a starring role for the first time; The Lure of Mammon (May 1915) was a short melodrama made by Kalem that ironically featured a young girl in a boat bound for America. Six of her film appearances were in the year 1915, the last of which--Nedra (November 1915)--found her finally in the female lead in a feature. She appeared in just three more films, two in 1916 and her final film, The Rise of Jenny Cushing, a Maurice Tourneur feature, in 1917. Like so many successful actors of the stage, Marinoff found silent film work stilting and so she went permanently back to the stage. In 1937 it appeared that she had retired from the stage for good, but she came back after a multi-year hiatus; she would later reveal in an interview that heavy drinking as a coping mechanism for the abuse she suffered as a child was responsible for her long absence. She did make a successful come back in the the 1940's and stayed in a heavy work rotation through 1945. She then retired for good, but stayed intimately involved in the arts. At the time of her retirement she had been on the stage acting, singing and dancing for fifty years. In 1914 Marinoff had wed writer and artist Carl Van Vechten; so when her career on the stage ended, the pair became a fixture in the New York art community. Van Vechten passed away in 1964 and she gradually retired from public life. She passed away herself in Englewood, New Jersey at the age of 81 on the 17th of November. Her burial is currently unknown.
Friday, March 19, 2021
Thursday, March 18, 2021
Silent film actress Edith Storey was born on this day in New York City; all of her film work would have ties to the area and she never worked permanently in Hollywood; and her career ended early with her voluntary retirement in 1921. She began her acting career locally as a child and had a younger brother, Richard, who followed her into the profession for a time. She was in at least two Broadway productions between the years 1903 and 1905. She started her film career out as a youngster at the Vitagrpah studio, making her film debut in 1908 in the Florence Turner film Francesca di Rimini; or, The Two Brothers. She was just 16 years old at the time. By the next year, she was starring in little melodramatic shorts the studio was turning out. A stand-out among these titles was their 1909 production of Oliver Twist in which she played Oliver. She then began appearing in supporting roles in films directed by studio founder J. Stuart Blackton, eventually putting her the starring role in colonial period short Onawanda; or, An Indian's Devotion, released in September of 1909. In 1910, she moved over to Star Film the American production company associated with the Méliès family; despite that it was associated with the famous film trickster, the specialty of the company was westerns. Based out of Texas, she stayed with the studio through most of 1911. There she largely came under the direction of William F. Haddock and was paired in female leads with Francis Ford, when he was just starting out in films, in the male leads. Though most of these were in the western genre (a genre that Ford and his younger brother John, would become famous for), a few were straight-forward melodramas. Her first film for them was Cyclone Pete's Matrimony (April 1910) and her last was Bessie's Ride (July 1911), in between she made more than 50 films, all filmed in San Antonio. She then returned to Vitagraph, where they promptly put her into another western: Billy the Kid (August 1911). It is hardly surprising, as Storey had turned out to be an excellent rider and was willing to try semi-dangerous takes and wound up adept at stunt work in the process. After her return to Vitagraph, she mostly stuck to work in the short films that she had been so successful in from the start of her career, but she did make the occasional appearance in features. Red and White Roses (1913) and A Regiment of Two (1913), both co-directed by Ralph Ince, are two good examples. But it was her role in A Florida Enchantment that she is perhaps best known for today. It is considered to be the first film in the U.S. (possibly anywhere) to depict "gender bending" and it outraged censors at the time of it's release in September of 1914, it was shot on location in various locals in Florida--primarily in the St. Augustine area. By 1915, she had a few starring roles in features; The Island of Regeneration, directed by Harry Davenport during his "directing days" is a excellent example. By 1916, her career was comprised almost entirely of features, most with her in the starring role, paired with Spanish born Antonio Moreno and directed by George D. Baker or William Wolbert. Most of the film posters for these features also included her name, and sometimes her likeness as well. In 1918, for only the second time in her life, she changed studios and acted in several Tod Browning films for Metro, the first of which was The Eyes of Mystery. In all, she was the star of three of his films in 1918, including Revenge, the rare Browning western. Also in 1918, she was the star, along with Lew Cody, of The Treasure of the Sea, it was filmed on Santa Catalina Island in California, therefore representing one of the few films that she acted in actually made on the west coast (or rather out in the west coast). Major motion pictures had years before already begun to move west, and evidenced by the the fact that she live out her life in the New York area, one can assume that a reluctance to move to Hollywood figured at least in part to her retiring from the the business. She only acted in three films in the combined years of 1920 and 1921, with crime film The Greater Profit (1921) marking her last film. She was not 30 years of age at the time of her retirement. She moved to Northport, New York--which is located on Long Island--at some point in her life. She passed away there on the 9th of October in 1967 at the age of 75. She is interred at the Fresh Pond Crematory and Columbarium in Middle Village in Queens, New York.
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
Actress Ella Hall had a career that was almost completely en encapsuled in the silent era; she was born Ella Augusta Hall on this day in Hoboken, New Jersey (her middle name sometimes occasioned her being credited as "Ella A. Hall"). She was on the live stage at a very early age and was the daughter of actress May Hall (who appears to only have two film credits to her name). Her mother had notions of becoming a film actress herself and took Ella and her family to Hollywood early in young Ella's life; as a result her daughter became a film ingenue herself in her teens. While some sources claim that she entered film with D.W. Griffith in 1910, no film earlier than 1912 can be credibly found in her list of credits (and even those currently remain unconfirmed). She is listed as appearing in two films in 1912: The School Teacher and the Waif directed by Griffith, and Hot Stuff a Mack Sennett film. In her first full year of credited film roles, she has some ten roles to her name, including 4 full color shorts by Kinemacolor and six early shorts co-directed by Lois Weber. Her appearances in the Lois Weber/Phillips Smalley co-directions continued into the next year, when she next appeared in at least half a dozen films fully directed by Weber, the first of which was Woman's Burden (1914). Half way through the year, she landed a top supporting role in the Otis Turner directed period war drama The Spy, based on a James Fenimore Cooper novel; a Universal production, it was her first major role and she was just 18 years of age. 1914 proved to be her banner year, when she appeared in over 30 films, all but one were shorts and most were made by actor/director Robert Z. Leonard (who would go on to twice be nominated for the Best Director Oscar) at Rex Motion Pictures, with distribution by Universal. In mid 1915 she again appeared in a Weber/Smalley directed film, this time a feature. Jewel was a religious themed drama in which Hall took the title role of the same name at the top of the bill. She then appeared later in the year in the Leonard penned, produced and directed feature length Christmas film entitled Christmas Memories in which he cast Hall in the female lead; the film was given a wide release by production company Universal on the 21st of December. He subsequently cast her in his mining drama Secret Love (1916), released in January of 1916; though she was in a smallish supporting role with Jack Curtis and Helen Ware in the leads (the film also had a young Jack Hoxie in a bit part). Though she was back in the lead in his next two features: The Love Girl (July 1916) and Little Eve Edgarton (August 1916), both comedies. These would mark the end of her acting partnership with Leonard. She would go on to star in a whole portfolio of Jack Conway features at Universal after starring in one of actor Rupert Julian's direction efforts The Bugler of Algiers (November 1916). The promotional materials for The Charmer (August 1917) were probably the very first on which her name and likeness were used to sell a film to ticket buyers--this meant that she had become a truly important actress for Universal and a highly bankable one at that. She next appeared at the top of the bill (on the film's posters) in The Spotted Lily (October 1917) a war melodrama that had her acting opposite Jack Nelson. While her next film, My Little Boy (December 1917), was directed by the Elsie Jane Wilson, an actress turned woman director...very rare for the day (hell, it's still rare 😠). And...Wilson would direct her twice more in 1918 with New Love for Old (a copy of which was uncovered at the Library of Congress) and Beauty in Chains. In 1918 she was also directed by Tod Browning in Which Woman? and John Ford in Three Mounted Men. For most of her career, Hall was solidly in the employ of Universal; that ended in lat 1918. Her first film outside the studio was The Heart of Rachael and was produced by two relatively small production companies, one of which belonged to it's star Bessie Barriscale, and distributed by General Film Company; it was directed by Howard Hickman, Barriscale's husband. She made only one film in 1919, but it was a rather major production; Under the Top was a comedy directed by Donald Crisp and made for Famous Players-Lasky, Hall was in the female lead opposite Fred Stone. She made no film appearances in 1920, having had a son in 1919. When she returned to film work in 1921 it was in the Francis Ford (elder brother of John Ford) serial The Great Reward in 15 episodes. She only appeared in five more silents films in 1922 and 1923, several of them directed and interdependently produced by Emory Johnson, who was her husband. Her last film, however, was directed by one Lloyd B. Carlton. The Flying Dutchman, released in July of 1923, was an independently produced romance film, despite it's ominous sounding title. In 1919, Hall had married Johnson, they already had a child in 1919, actor Richard Emory; they would eventually have three more children, including actress Ellen Hall who was born in 1923 (there was a son in between the two and the baby of the family born in 1929), Hall retired from film acting to raise her family. She did "return" for three films in the early 1930's in uncredited parts, the first of which was Cecil B. DeMille's Madam Satan, her first film with sound. She also had a tiny non-speaking role in the James Cagney film Taxi, and her last film role was in the 1932 Frank Capra film The Bitter Tea of General Yen. She retired for good after this; her husband followed her in the late 1940's. The couple remained in Los Angeles, and while Johnson passed away in 1960, Hall lived in the Los Angeles area until her death more than twenty years later. She passed away on the 3rd of September in 1981 at the age of 84. She was cremated and her remains were interred in the Columbarium on Sunlight, located in the Garden of Memory at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. Her two daughters would join her there in 1984 and 1999 respectively.