Sunday, February 28, 2021

Born Today February 28: Geraldine Farrar



Famous American operatic soprano, noted for her talent in dramatic performance, both on the stage and in film, Geraldine Farrar was born Alice Geraldine Farrar on this day in Melrose, Massachusetts. Her father was major league baseball player Sidney Farrar. She began studying music in Boston at the young age of just five and was giving public/professional recitals by her early teens.  As an older teen, she studied voice in New York and Berlin, Germany. She also made her professional opera debut in Berlin in 1901 at the age of 19 in a performance of Gounod's Faust. She stayed employed there at the Berlin Hofoper under famous soprano Lilli Lehmann for three years, thereafter moving to the Monte Carlo opera in Monaco; finally making her New York operatic debut at The Met in 1906.  She remained there until 1922, giving literally hundreds of performances. She enjoyed a local popularity unusual even for the times amongst young women, helped greatly along by recordings that she made for Victor, and only heightened by the fact that during the teens, she had a short film career. She made her film debut in 1915 in Cecil B. DeMille's Carmen, opposite Wallace Reid as Don José (the film does survive and is available on disc).  I don't think it's going too far to say that the film made her a kind of movie star outside of the New York area among people who were unaware that she was first, and foremost, an opera singer.  For such a busy opera star, she had a surprisingly prolific film career between 1915 and 1920, making more than a dozen films by the end of 1919; with all of her films through 1917 being directed by DeMille and a few of them quite famous. They include:  Joan the Woman (1916), The Devil-Stone (1917) a rather famously partially lost DeMille film and The Woman God Forgot (1917) in which she plays an "Aztec" princess. Wallace Reid is the male lead in all of these films. Most of the rest of her film performances were directed by Reginald Barker, though she did appear in one film directed by Frank Lloyd: The World and its Woman (September 1919). That film had Farrar appearing opposite actor Lou Tellegen, to whom Farrar was also married at the time. Tellegen appeared in two more of her films in the later portion of her career:  Flame of the Desert (1919) and The Woman and the Puppet (1920).   The couple divorced in 1923 in a very public fashion (Tellegen would take his own life a decade later).  Farrar's last film role came in The Riddle: Woman in 1920; the film starred Farrar opposite Montagu Love with Madge Bellamy and Adele Blood in supporting roles. Farrar retired from the opera just two years later in 1922 at the age of 40, switching to recitals and recording sessions for records. She also briefly worked in radio, but as an opera commentator, not a performer. Additionally, she penned an autobiography that was published in 1938; it was written in, shall we say, an "unconventional style" with part of the narration coming from the point of view of her deceased mother.  Farrar never remarried or had any children, but always had a small dog to keep her company. Interestingly, her recorded music has not been used much for soundtracks; given that she recorded so much music, one would think that it would have been used more twice (the latest use of her voice came in the horror anthology film Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark). Unusual for an opera performer, never mind such a prolific star of the operatic stage, Farrar did take her film acting completely seriously. She was even willing to do promotion work for the films before and after release. As a result of this, a number of lengthy quotes from her remain even for lost films in which she acted. Farrar died of heart failure in Ridgefield, Connecticut on the 11th of March in 1967 at the age of 85. She is buried at the Kensico Cemetery which is located on Valhalla, New York in Westchester county.

[Source: Wikipedia]




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Silents on TCM March 2021


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All Times in EST


 1 March 12PM [Year: 1930] Film Clip


 8 March 12AM [Year: 1917] Film Information


 8 March 12:10AM [Year: 1924] Trailer


12 March 4:30AM [Year: 1927] (talkie) Jolson

  15 March 12AM & 1:45AM [Year: 1921] Film Information

15 March 12AM & 1:15AM [Year: 1930] Film Information 

  15 March 12AM [Year: 1927] Clip

 18 March 6:15AM [Year 1922] Film Information

18 March 9:45 [Year: 1928] (partial silent/early technicolor) Film Information

 19 March 6AM [Year: 1929] (talkie) Clip

 19 March 11AM [Year: 1929] (talkie) Film Information
19 March 12:45PM [Year: 1929] (partial talkie) Film Information

 19 March 6:15PM [Year: 1929] (talkie) Film Information

22 March 12AM [Year: 1915] Film Information

 22 March 12:55AM [Year: 1915] Film Information

22 March 1:10AM [Year: 1915] Film Information  


 22 March 1:25AM [Year: 1916] Film Information

29 March 12:15AM [Year: 1927] Clip

Of Other Interest:


14 March 4AM [Year: 1957] Trailer


 24 March 6PM [Year: 1930] Clip


 25 March 8:30AM [Year: 1941] Trailer


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Born Today February 27: Joan Bennett




Actress Joan Bennett is instantly recognizable as the matriarch of the cult gothic television series "Dark Shadows," but she got her start in films at a very young age and very much in the silent era. Bennett was born on this day in the Palisades area of film studio town Fort Lee, New Jersey. Her career was a long a varied one that started when she was just six years old. Bennett was one of three acting daughters of actor Richard Bennett and his second wife actress/writer Adrienne Morrison. The Bennett's were from a long line of actors, with Richard being the first to enter films. As far as silent films go, it is Joan's older sister Constance is much more associated with the era. Her other older sister Barbara, was also an actress, though much lesser known, with a very short career. All three of them made their motion picture debut in The Valley of Decision, starring both of their parents, in 1916. Joan is also listed as having a small part in the 1923 Bert Lytell/Barbara La Marr war drama The Eternal City at the age of 13. She was married and divorced, and had a child, all before making her actual professional acting debut at the age of 18.  And, her debut came on the stage in 1928; acting again with her father, she had a major part in a Broadway production that ran for more than 130 performances. She also started her film career in earnest that same year, starting out in the fully silent comedy Power with William Boyd (later Hopalong Cassidy) and Alan Hale Sr. (father of "The Skipper" on Gilligan's Island). Though she only had a supporting role (Jacqueline Logan had the female lead), her performance got her noticed, making her instantly an in-demand actor for film work.  She was almost instantly cast in the early talkie Bulldog Drummond (May 1929) starring Ronald Colman; following close on with Three Live Ghosts (September 1929) and the Oscar winning Disraeli (November 1929).  At just 19, Joan Bennett was a full fledged film star; and appeared in one additional talkie in 1929, taking the female lead in The Mississippi Gambler opposite Austrian born actor Joseph Schildkraut (there was a silent version of this film and that released simultaneously with the all talking version). She quickly followed this up with the leading lady role of Dolores Fenton in the romantic nightlife film Puttin' on the Ritz in March of 1930. Just a few of her leading roles in the 1930's include: Moby Dick (1930) with John Barrymore, Doctors' Wives (1931) with Warner Baxter, She Wanted a Millionaire (1932) with Spencer Tracy, Little Women (1933) with Katherine Hepburn, The Pursuit of Happiness (1934) with Francis Lederer, Two For Tonight (1935) with Bing Crosby, Wedding Present (1936) with Cary Grant, I Met My Love Again (1938) with Henry Fonda and The Man In The Iron Mask (1939) with Louis Hayward. In 1940, she appeared in James Whale's adventure film Green Hell with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., John Howard, Alan Hale Sr., and Vincent Price. She next appeared in the gangster film The House Across the Bay (1940) with George Raft, worked with director Fritz Lang in Man Hunt (1941) and Otto Preminger in Margin For Error (1943)She would work with Lang three more times during the decade. But, Bennett is best known today for her television work, and she made her television debut in 1951 in an episode of Nash Airflyte Theatre (which aired on the 8th of February).  The series was live. Though she did act in a handful of films during the 1950's, most of her work during that decade was for the small screen. In 1959 she was given her own series "Too Young to Go Steady," made for NBC, though it was cancelled after seven episode. In 1966, she was cast as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in the supernatural soap "Dark Shadows" created by Dan Curtis for ABC. Bennett appeared in nearly 400 episodes during the six years of the show's run.  Her other famous role of Madame Blanc came in Dario Argento's 1977 witch horror Suspiria.  She had just three more acting jobs after appearing in Argento's film; all of them were made for television films. The last of these was Divorce Wars: A Love Story, made for ABC, it stars Tom Selleck and Jane Curtin (yes the SNL alum) and aired on the 1st of March in 1982.  She then retired and lived in New York state until her death from natural causes on the 7th of December in 1990 at her home in Scarsdale. She was 80.  She is interred at the Pleasant View Cemetery in Lyme, Connecticut. During her career, Bennett also acted through at least the 1960's on the stage as well.  


[Source: Jan Franco (Find A Grave)]

[Source: Jeanne Stewart (Find A Grave)]


with Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins in Dark Shalows

Suspiria (1977) lobby card





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Friday, February 26, 2021

Born Today February 26: William Frederick Cody (Buffalo Bill)


  [Okay, apologies! I am publishing this despite that it's in serious need of editing. I am having mucho trouble with blogger this evening, the spellchecker won't even stay "checked" I promise to revisit tomorrow]
William Frederick Cody, better known to history as "Buffalo Bill Cody," was born on this day in La Claire in what was then the Iowa Territory (now the state of Iowa).  His father was from Canada and his mother from back east in the U.S.  His father was staunchly anti-slavery, so this occasioned the family moving about when he was a youngster; eventually losing his father when the elder Cody succumbed to a respiratory infection that was acerbated by having been viciously stabbed twice with a hunting knife while delivering an anti-slavery speech near Fort Leavenworth in the Kansas Territory.  William was just 11 years old at the time.  This meant that he absolutely had to go to work (something his father no doubt would not want for his son, despite that laws at the time allowed for fathers to legally extract free labor from children, particualrly sons, until the age of emancipation).  He went to work as a "freight carrier" on horseback, delivering items and services (including messaging) back and forth as needed and traded along wagon trains. From this time, his skills on horseback were obvious. When he was just a little bit older, he found himself embroiled in the Army and the Utah War, as a boy scout. This is how he got taken up with the west. He put down his experience in Utah as the beginnings of his career in "Indian fighting." He leaves out that he was a western gold panner for a time, starting from the age of 14.  It lasted for only a matter of months and he never did reach his favored panning destination in California before being hired as a Pony Express agent. It was his first official job. During his years prior to reaching legal age, he claimed to have had a large number of different jobs to make extra money, the fact that historians "have trouble" verifying these is not surprising (at least from where I stand) given that he was so young and judging from the area that he was living in. The west at the time really was wild if you were a young white boy.  No doubt though, Cody was given to exaggeration of the number, size and scope of these jobs. At the age of 17 he found himself make at home owed to an illness that he mother contracted, it was fortunately temporary, and he attempted to formally enlist in the military to fight on the side of the Union Army in the Civil War. He was rejected owed to his age, so he instead went back to working as a carrier, this time for the military in what is now Wyoming. Finally later in 1863 he was able to enlist with the 7th Calvary Kansas; he was discharged two years later. He then married and moved east, with his family formally living for many years in Rochester, New York--while Cody himself actually worked a good deal of the time out West. He had, at some point along the way, made the acquaintance of one James Hickock (better known as Wild Bill Hickock) who he reunited with in 1866 when they were both serving as military scouts based out of the Kansas territory.  Hickok is just one of hundreds of people Cody knew that would later be of historical import/interest. At the time, Cody was still just 21 years of age. It was this time that he began in earnest the scouting career for which he would become well known, and upon which he would base his later career in performance all over the world. All of this would, mind you, be only about half of legend that became "Buffalo Bill Cody" (a nickname that he got because of buffalo hunting). Writer/newspaper man Ned Buntline invented the rest. Buntline was in fact one of the originators of both the concept of and the actual staging of wild west shows in the very early 1870's. Buntline (whose real name was Edward Zane Carroll Judson) put together the first who in which Cody participated and make no mistake, it was performance, and Cody had been turned into an actual actor. It was the beginning of his very long stage career in in this newly created genre of stage performance (shooting and riding shows that included baiting wild animals had been around for at least a couple of centuries, this was different in that it used original materials interwoven with actual exhibitions and reenactments). His first performance was in Chicago in December of 1872.  Two years later he founded his own show under the name Buffalo Bill Combination; it was the first in a line of names his wild west exhibition would perform all over the world (point of trivia: the word "show" was never a part of any incarnation of the touring act). The truth is that William Cody was a stage actor/proprietor more than he was ever anything else in his life. His various touring outfits contained all sorts of people from the true faces of the west (Tatanka Iyoutake) to the purely performative (horse riders from a variety of cultures) to people in-between (Annie Oakley and her husband). With all of that, one would think that Cody would have a fair number of film performance credits to his name considering that he lived well into the age of the theatrical feature, but he had comparatively few and most them as in "actualities." In other words, he appeaser in non-narrative films as himself.  Of those, it is equally surprising that he only appears on film on five occasions in the 1890's, three of those coming in the year 1898.  Unsurprisingly, his very first film appearance came in an Edison picture in 1894, simply entitled Buffalo Bill, directed by William K.L. Dickson.  The film is of him shooting, was filmed inside the infamous Black Maria and is considered lost (Wild West performer Annie Oakley's filmed appearance in the same stifling little studio survives and is widely available to view). Edison's studio filmed him again in 1897, this time in documentary footage of the McKinley inaugrual parade in which he was a participant; the survival of Buffalo Bill and Escort is uncertain, but doubtful.  All three of the shorts in which he was captured on film in 1898 were also Edison, the first two being strait documentary style footage shot in the field, the third is a staged affair: Indian War Council is a reenactment of a "war council" with Cody "addressing them."  His other 20 credits appearing in films related to his wild west shows come in the 20th century. Cody was filmed in various capacities right up until the time of his death, showing up in documentary style films from a variety of studios from American Mutoscope & Biograph (which "grew" out of the Edison Co.), Lubin, Selig, Kineto (a UK company), Universal (in 1913), Gaumont, and Pathe among others. Ever the showman, Cody and his company got involved in the production side of the film industry as well. His name appeared on at least two production companies:  the Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill Company and the official Col. Wm. F. Cody Historical Picture Co. (in connection with Essanay in Chicago).  The later of these produced a film in 1914 entitled The Indian Wars; this film was incorporated into Essanay's documentary western in 1917 The Adventures of Buffalo Bill, which was released only weeks after his death. Cody is listed as a producer on both of these films. Additionally, Cody is credited with writing credits on two films from the silent era and three thereafter. In 1909 he is credited with a short film from France, Les aventures de Buffalo Bill; ad in 1926 he also gets credit for the frame work story that went into the serial Fighting with Buffalo Bill, a Universal Production. In his life time, Cody only appeared in one film; and of course it was in the capacity of a cameo. Two years before his death, he made a cameo appearance in The Circus Girl's Romance (June 1915), fittingly a Bison production. Cody died in Denver, Colorado on the 10th of January at the age of 70, just shy of 71, having been baptized a Catholic just the day before. He was given a full Masonic funeral and had tributes from kings and President Woodrow Wilson. He is buried in a location that is now within the confines of the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum. Cody in his lifetime became outspoken on trophy/hide hunting and was instrumental in the establishment of hunting "seasons." He also believed in equal pay for equal work for women. The most important stance that he took was on the treatment of Native group as sovereign nations; he pointed out that every "war" that he had witnessed or been involved with from a young age, was as the result of broken treaties and promise on the part of the United States government. I can find, however, no mention of any views on the black population of the country, a sorry irony considering that his father basically had died in the abolitionist cause. His influence though has been wide, including in the 1950's Belgian Congo, where youth dressed like Cody and called themselves "Bills," the Bills were active in Congolese culture long into the 1960's. 


Wikipedia (long list of external links at bottom of page)

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Born Today February 25: Helen Jerome Eddy




Though Helen Jerome Eddy is often referred to as a "silent film actress" she had a steady career well into the talking age, with 55 of her more 130 film acting credits coming in the 1930's. Eddy was born in New York City on this day, but raised in Los Angeles.  She began acting on the stage in her youth, and when Lubin films opened a backlot near her neighborhood, she said later in life that she was really fascinated by the activity there.  And, she did, in fact, make her film debut on that lot in 1915 in The Discontented Man at the age of 18.  She appeared in ten Lubin films that year, one being a feature and another--A Night in Old Spain--seeing at the top of the bill for the first time. Several of these films featured actor Lee Shumway, who had a very long career as a character actor. By the spring of 1916, she was in the female lead of a feature opposite George Beban in Pasquale (and working in productions made by the Oliver Morosco Photoplay Corp, distributed by Paramount; while shorts she made for Lubin were still being released).  It was at Morosco that she first worked with director Donald Crisp, with whom she would work with multiple times; two of their earliest films were His Sweetheart (1917) and The Marcellini Millions (1917), where she again appeared opposite Beban. They would go on play a lead couple in many films in the late 1910's and the 1920's. It was also in 1917 that she appeared in the film that many feel was her break out role, that of Hannah Randall in the Mary Pickford comedy Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. The following year she appeared with the Pickford brother Jack in The Spirit of '17, albeit in a much smaller role. Also in 1918, she acted in two films directed by de Mille's: One More American (directed by William) and Old Wives for New (directed by Cecil). In 1919 she appeared in King Vidor melodrama The Turn in the Road and took half of a leading actress role in The Man Beneath (July 1919) along side Pauline Curley, opposite Japanese born movie star Sessue Hayakawa (she also acted opposite Hayakawa later that year in The Tong Man and again in The First Born in 1921.). Another well known and highly regarded director who helmed a film in which she occupies the top of the bill is Maurice Tourneur. She is the star of The Country Fair (1920), a "sports melodrama," opposite David Butler, with actress Edythe Chapman in the titular role of Aunt Abigail. Though she had periodic starring and lead roles throughout the 1920's, she became a much relied upon character actor in supporting roles as a leading lady. She notably had supporting roles in a couple Ronald Colman/Vilma Bánky films in later 1920's for example.  If her filmography from the decade is complete, then it appears that The Diving Lady, a First National/Warner Bros. historical romance set during Napoleonic times, was her first turn in a film with sound. The film was a partial silent with a musical score and sound effects and released in December of 1928; she occupies one of the supporting roles, with Corinne Griffith and Victor Varconi taking the leads. Her first full talkie was in the very first all sound Our Gang short, Small Talk, (she also appeared in the Rascal's Railroadin' that same year).  Her last film of the decade was the now lost independent partial silent Midstream directed by James Flood.  She was much in demand during the entire decade of the 1930's, though by the end of the decade she was increasingly relegated to tiny roles, often without a credit. She eventually left the film business and went into real estate in the Pasadena area. Her last regular named role came in 1940 as Mrs. Brewster in the Mickey Rooney film Strike Up The Band (she is also listed in an uncredited tiny part in the 1947 comedy The Secret Life of Walter Mitty).  She lived the remainder of her life where she grew up, dying in the small Los Angeles county town of Alhambra at the age of 92 on the 27 of January in 1992, a month before turning 93.  At her request, her body was donated to medical science. 







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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Born Today February 24: George Cowl


British born actor (and occasional director) George Cowl was born on this date in Blackpool, England.  Cowl's film debut came in the 1914 war short Dan, which was made in the U.S. by the American All-Star Feature Corp. and released in August--so Cowl's immigration stateside must have come sometime earlier in the decade. We do not know much about Cowl, despite that he was an actor in films into the talking era. We do know that he had named appearances in a few films with quite famous directors, before turning to directing himself. These include: The Rack (1915) directed by Emile Chautard, The Closed Road (1916) directed by Maurice Tourneur, The Crimson Dove (1917) directed by Romaine Fielding and The Iron Ring (1917) directed by George Archainbaud.  Cowl only had three known named directing credits--all in 1917; but he is also listed, along with Edmund Lawrence, as an uncredited director on William A. Brady's Beloved Adventuress in 1917. It is more like that the two men were serving as assistant directors to Brady, a credit designation that was rare during this time.  Cowl's actual directing debut came later in the year when he co-directed the film that he is most closely associated with today (when he is known at all):  Betsy Ross (September 1917). Produced and distributed by World Film, the other director credited here is the more recognizable Travers Vale; while Ross is played by Alice Brady (daughter of the above mentioned William A. Brady). The film survives and is available on disc.  Cowl had just two solo outings as director, both with distribution by World. The first of these was The Corner Grocer a melodrama starring Madge Evans and Lew Fields; it represents the only film in which he also directed himself as a member of the cast. He next directed Kitty Gordon and Frank Beamish in Her Hour (November 1917). He is not listed as having any movie activity at all for 1918, before returning to acting in 1919, appearing in the Emile Chautard mystery The Mystery of the Yellow Room (October 1919) [Cowl made an uncredited appearance in the Harry Houdini film The Grim Game just before this.]  And, he appeared in yet another Archainbaud film in 1920: The Shadow of Rosalie Byrnes with Elaine Hammerstein in the lead in a dual role playing twins. He would go on to appear in supporting roles in at two more Chautard films in the next two years. In 1923, he appeared in The Prisoner in the top male supporting role as "Lord Bob" opposite June Elvidge as "Lady Francis." He also took the supporting role in Fashionable Fakers, a 1923 comedy starring Johnnie Walker; next showing up in the sizable cast of the Frank Borzage directed Secrets (March 1924), a Norma Talmadge melodrama. While he has no film credits for 1925, he returned to act in two films in 1926 in more minor supporting roles (one of which was in another Borzage film: Marriage License? ). Having just one role in 1927, he finished the decade out with three film appearances in 1928, the last of which was the Civil War set Court-Martial, starring Betty Compson as Belle Starr (the film also featured sequences in the early technicolor process popularly known as "two-strip").  He did not appear in a film again until gaining a supporting role in the Myrna Loy pre-code 1930 romantic drama The Jazz Cinderella.  While his last credited role came in Secrets of Hollywood in 1933.  He is known for sure to have appeared in at least seven additional films in small, non-credited role between 1934 and 1937.  His last film appearance came 5 years later as a butler in the film-noir The Glass Key starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, in 1942. The film was released several months after his death on the 4th of April at the age of 64. We know that he passed away in Los Angeles, but nothing else about his life or his burial/cremation is known at this time.  


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Born Today February 23: Victor Fleming


Most people will instantly think of Gone With The Wind, or even The Wizard of Oz (1939), when the name of director Victor Fleming comes up; he, in fact, though got his start in the film industry in the mid-1910's.  Victor Lonzo Fleming was born on this day what is now Los Angeles County, California (then Rancho La Cañada)--he was born on a working ranch there called Banbury. He is known to have worked on the technical side of films by 1915, with a cinematographer credit on the 1915 romantic comedy short Fifty-Fifty, made for Independent Moving Pictures (IMP) and distributed by Universal.  However, he is listed as an uncredited actor in a minor role in the 1914 melodrama The Envoy Extraordinary which was the work of writer/director Lorimer Johnston. Whatever the case, Fleming was a man of action strictly behind the scenes and was working in camera operations from 1915 through 1919, when he made his directorial debut in the Douglas Fairbanks (Sr.) feature When Clouds Roll By (which both starred and was produced by Fairbanks and his company).  In the meantime, he served mostly as a cinematographer, but did serve as a second unit director on D. W. Griffith's massive project Intolerance (1916).  It was during this period that he became especially close to Fairbanks, serving as the DP on a number of features starring the elder Fairbanks, including The Americano, which was shot on location in Tijuana.  After Fleming graduated to directing, he gave up camera operation on all but one additional film in his lifetime (the all mono documentary Around the World with Douglas Fairbanks in 1931). Despite that he most well known for films in the late 1930's, he actually directed more films during the 1920's than he did in all the rest of his career. He started the decade out with the Fairbanks comedy Mollycoddle (June 1920); his only film of the year, it also featured Wallace Beery and Ruth Renick. He next went to work at Constance Talmadge's production company for two pictures in 1921:  Mama's Affair (January) and Woman's Place (October). He directed three films in 1922, two of which were for Paramount related studios; the other was for the production company of the married writing pair John Emerson and Anita Loos who had penned the adapted script for Mama's Affair.  He upped his directing game in 1923 by directing four features, two of which were Richard Dix westerns. Of the four, To the Last Man (September 1923) is probably the most historically significant, due to it's source material coming from author Zane Grey; and that an [almost] intact copy was found in Russia and has been screened during at least one silent film festival Along with Dix, Lois Weber and Noah Beery round out the cast.  In 1924, he was back to melodrama, though he was also thoroughly ensconced at Paramount, leading to his expanding his directing demands as time went on. He only made two films in 1924, as opposed to his three in 1925, but he was showing signs of becoming the exacting director that he was later known for--which meant that he tended to be a slow worker. The fact that his work product was very good, meant that Paramount did not seem to mind. His abilities to direct well framed scenes on location shoots (from the Arizona desert to Santa Catalina Island) were no doubt informed by his having been an excellent Army war photographer during the first World War; he had, in fact, been a principle presidential photographer of Woodrow Wilson in Versailles.  He was also one of the only directors that could get a really excellent performance out of Wallace Beery, a notoriously difficult actor to deal with (he also directed brother Noah, who was basically the opposite of his hulking brother).  One of his better known silents is the 1926 Clara Bow comedy Mantrap, filmed on location in two areas of the San Bernardino National Forest, it was based on the Sinclair Lewis serialized novel.  Further, if Fleming could manhandle a great performance from Wallace Beery, why not Emil Jannings? Jannings was a difficult actor from Germany who later became gung-ho for the Nazi's, but Fleming directed him in The Way of All Flesh in 1927. It would garner Jannings a Best Actor Oscar for his trouble (it is also a lost film with the except of about 8 minute extant clip). Additionally, in 1927, he directed the war epic The Rough Riders with Charles Farrell, George Bancroft, Mary Astor and Noah Beery as "Hell's Bells;" at nearly 2 1/3 hours long at it's New York premiere and shot in locations in multiple states, it was certainly one of Paramount's most expensive productions (the film was cut to around 110 minutes for wider release).  It was also a film that had hints of what was to come from Fleming in Gone With The Wind.  His next film, Abie's Irish Rose (November 1928) was his first film with sound; a partial silent comedy starring Charles Rogers and Nancy Carroll, containing talking sequences by Western Electric, there was also a fully silent version for wider release.  I don't think there is much doubt that his last film of that decade is historically his most well known of the decade, and  was also considered by many for a long time to be his best film of the decade: The Virginian was also his first full talkie (though a fully silent version was also released).  Released in November of 1929, the film starred Walter Huston, Mary Brien and, most famously, Gary Cooper.  This was to be Fleming's last picture at Paramount. He started the new decade off with two films for Fox, before landing at MGM, where he would direct his most famous works mentioned above: Wizard and Wind (though Gone With the Wind was a co-production with David Selznick's company).  Despite that Fleming is most closely associated with those two films, (remarkably both released in 1939), his most frequent actor in his later films was Spencer Tracy. He first directed Tracy in 1937 in Captains Courageous, a family adventure film was a large famous cast of actors that included Sam McDaniel, the brother of Hattie McDaniel who he would direct in Wind (she would be the very first African American ever nominated for an Oscar, never mind to win--she did both!).  Tracy also starred in Fleming's only horror film, his rendition of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde released in 1941.  Clark Gable, famous for his turn as Rhett Butler, was likewise a frequent actor in later Fleming films; Fleming directed him no less than five times.  His last film, Joan of Arc, starring Ingrid Bergman in the titular role, he barely finished before  suffering a heart attack in Arizona on the 6th of January in 1949, he died while en route to the hospital. He was 59 years old.  He is interred at The Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  Joan of Arc, made for RKO, and released in November of 1948, was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning three.  Fleming won his only Oscar for Best Director, of course, for Gone With the Wind.  

[source: AJM (Find A Grave)]

[source:  stateofsunshine19 (Find A Grave)]


Monday, February 22, 2021

Born Today February 22: Marguerite Clark


Silent film actress Marguerite Clark was born Helen Marguerite Clark on this day in the Avondale neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. She finished her education rather early, at age 16, after coming under the guardianship of her older sister upon the deaths of their parents--her sister removed her to Catholic prep school. She had determined while there that she wished to pursue a career in acting and the theater; quickly making her Broadway debut in 1900.   It would be almost 15 years before she entered motion pictures, while in her time on the stage in-between she appeared with a number actors who would become famous in films themselves, including: John Barrymore, Gail Kane and DeWolf Hopper.  She made her film debut in the Allan Dwan directed Wildflower in 1914 in the lead role; she was 31 years of age at the time--relatively late for a leading lady premiere in pictures. She would stay in films for less than a decade and she spent almost her entire film career at Famous Players/Paramount, appearing in a few film versions of roles she had played on stage.  She also almost always commanded top billing. One of her first outings as a co-star came several films into her appearing as a top bill when she had a co-star/supporting role in the Sidney Olcott directed The Seven Sisters in 1915, also starring Madge Evans. She was soon back in the leading role in her next film appearance in Helene of the North (August 1915), starring with Conway Tearle and directed by former Edison man J. Searle Dawley.  Dawley, in fact, directed a large number of her films at Famous Players--enough that they could considered a production team (Clark was also directed at FP/Paramount by the other ex-Edison pioneering director Edwin S. Porter).  It was Dawley that directed her in Snow White in 1916, one of the films that allowed her to reprise a stage role. He also directed her in the studio's 1918 Uncle Tom's Cabin, a version that did not contain any colored actors, with the part of Uncle Tom played by Frank Losee.  Her last film at the studio was Easy to Get, released in March of 1920, she starred opposite Harrison Ford (the 1st one); the film was directed by Walter Edwards.   She was by this time a huge star and a solid box office draw; she even had a production company set up bearing her name, but her next film would turn out to be her last, and the only film ever made for her company.  Scrambled Wives was released in March, 1921.  It was directed by Edward H. Griffith (early in his career), was distributed by First National and was adapted by Gardner Hunting. Though Clark was a big star with a bankable acting and producing future ahead of her; she had married a wealthy aviation engineer and corporation owner in 1918, so the decision was taken for her to retire from the business and move on to society life with him as his "country estate." She was 38 at the time. In fact, her husband Harry Palmerston Williams lived on a defunct plantation in Louisiana; there Clark was quite the socialite until her husband was killed in a plane crash on take off from Baton Rouge in 1936. She sold off her inherited interest in the company and moved to New York City. She then moved in with her older sister Cora (who had been her guardian), living with her for four years. Clark was admitted for medical care on the 20th of September in 1940 and died five days later from acute pneumonia. Her remains were transported back to Louisiana and buried in the Williams family crypt at New Orleans famed Metairie Cemetery.  She was 57 years of age.

[source: Rob Leverett (Find a Grave)]

[source: Rob Leverett (Find a Grave)]

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Born Today February 21: Ormi Hawley



Silent film actress Ormi Hawley was born Omretta Grace Hawley on this day in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Apparently always interested in a career in performance of some sort, she initially attended the very prestigious New England Conservatory of Music, which is still located in Boston.  She also made her professional stage debut in Boston; it was not long after that she caught the eye of film producers.  In her case it was Lubin studio, then based in Philadelphia. She made her film debut in the short melodrama Her Inspiration in 1911 (the film contains a couple of elements that a bit "spooky" in the since that the young wife is a painter and the daughter of a farmer in the northeastern frontier; Hawley herself would become the wife of an upstate New York farmer and was an avid painter later in life).  She appears in the film with John Halliday, an actor that was also making his film debut. Of the eleven films that she acted in during her debut year, nine of them featured Halliday.  The two would continue to act together for at least the next year or so, and he appears to be her most frequent co-star. Her years active were relatively short (1911-1919) but in that period of time she appeared in at least 130 films (some sources but the number closer to 300, but due to missing information in some production catalogs from the time--for now--it's impossible to know the number with any accuracy); almost all of her acting roles came in short films.  By the end of 1915, she was also still at Lubin.  It was a bit unusual for a young actress to stay with a studio for that long during the 1910's, but she stayed with them for nearly five years. In 1916, she finally had a role in a feature outside of Lubin:  The Social Highwayman (April 1916) [she had previously appeared in Lubin features, the first which appears to be Through Fire to Fortune].  Highwayman was a Shubert Film production with Noah Beery [Sr.] in a supporting role and Edwin August playing both a son and his own father (and directs the film); based on a play of the time, the plot  has a significantly racist tone against American of Italian descent. Her time in short films was over and the remainder of her roles came in feature length films.  There is no doubt that the last three years of her career are the most "prestigious" of her time in pictures.  In pretty rapid succession, she accepted the lead  in a Fox film, Where Love Leads; had the lead in a Kimecolor production distributed by Mutual, Her American Prince, and landed work at Famous Players/Paramount, appearing in The Anitcs of Ann--shot on location at a school on Long Island. She also had a role in the debut film of Marion Davies: Runaway Romany (released in December 1917).  In 1918, she appeared in a very late (one of their last) Edison film: The Unwritten Code, released in early April. She rounded out the year with a couple of supporting roles in Alice Brady films for Select. In 1919, her last year of acting, she appeared in three films; with her career swan song coming in The Greater Sinner in the female lead opposite James K. Hackett. As mentioned above, she married and quit the business. Her career was never a Hollywood one and from her upstate farm, she not only became a painter, but also wrote children's books. She died in Rome, New York on the 3rd of June in 1942 at just the age of 52. She is buried at Forest Park Cemetery in Camden, New York.  She at first had a simple marker, which has since been replaced with a larger marker reading (in part) "Silent Screen." [Note: most sources list her birth year as 1889, I am going by the year on her grave marker, absent any other official records online.]



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