Leftover Popcorn

January 24, 2011 at 1:15 am (General blather)

No one but Nazimova could look so silly and so fabulous at the same time.

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Well, this blog is just about at the point in the movie where The Boy and The Girl finally embrace and kiss, as the scene fades to black. But there are still plenty of nuggets of useless information that I never got around to posting, so here’s an assortment that I hope you’ll enjoy.

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After a terrible blizzard in early 1927, the mining town of Silverton, Colorado was snowed in for a solid month. Nobody could get in or out of there, except by dogsled.

As Exhibitors Herald reported, “The mushers tried to supply the town with fresh food, but the miners favored sacrificing other things rather than motion pictures. New films were brought in almost daily.”

(Exhibitors Herald, March 26, 1927, pg. 17.)

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“I am not pretty,” Louise Fazenda declared in a 1919 interview. “Only a girl can realize what a terrible realization that is.”

She recalled her very first day’s work on a movie set, and the director telling his assistant, “Give the kid a chance… but put her in the back and keep her in the shade.”

(Motion Picture Classic, May 1919, page 34.)

Louise Fazenda comes out from under the shade, but not from behind this fan.

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About 1920, Charles Ray employed a houseboy who went on to win a Nobel Peace Prize: Ralph Bunche.

(Detroit News)

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In 1927, Ralph Ince directed Not for Publication and played the leading role.

His character’s name? “Big Dick” Wellman.

(Screenland, July 1927, page 58.)

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October 1926: Cowboy star Hoot Gibson on the Universal lot, with two of his cars. I know which one I want to drive.

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Every fan of silent movies regrets that so many early films are lost forever. In most cases, the films are gone simply because they were both highly flammable and prone to decomposition, getting stickier and stickier until they turned to goo.

A lot of films from the late 1920s onward might have survived, if a certain invention had worked out. In December 1924, Metro-Goldwyn bought an option for a large interest in it.

It was a newly patented kind of film stock. Rather than a celluloid base, this stock somehow was made with an aluminum base.

The Film Year Book 1925 said that this new base had “certain unusual qualities, such as being impervious to wear.”

However, it added that “the patent needs development before it is in readiness for practical use.” Evidently, it still does.

(Film Year Book 1925, page 57.)

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In 1922, during the long, bitter divorce proceedings between William S. Hart and his wife Winifred Westover, an allegation was made that the actor had once ordered his wife from their home.

Her attorney Milton Cohen made much of the story, prompting an angry retort from Hart.

As quoted in the Los Angeles Times, he barked, “If Cohen claims I was physically cruel to my wife, I’ll lick him so you won’t be able to recognize him. If I can’t do that, I’ll drill a hole in his stomach so big you can drive a twenty-mule-team borax wagon through it!”

(“Cohen Hurls Defi at Hart,” Los Angeles Times, September 17, 1922.)

The softer side of William S. Hart: donating a wagon to the local chapter of the ASPCA, in December 1924. The organization said this was not his first donation.

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“Here’s a secret,” Lon Chaney told an interviewer in 1922.

“Sometime I would like to try an old-fashioned slapstick comedy, just to see if I could do it.”

(“The Darkest Hour,” in Classic, September, 1922, page 97.)

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It took more than two years to make Ben-Hur, and it was finally finished in late 1925. But during its New York premiere that December, it became clear that one more task remained.

A subtitle announcing the birth of Jesus drew unexpected laughter from the audience.

It read, “And the Babe was born.”

A lot of New York Yankees fans had Babe Ruth on their minds that year. M-G-M changed the subtitle.

(Photoplay, March 1926, page 46.)

And the Babe met Harold Lloyd, who was in New York for the filming of Speedy in late 1927.

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Lillian and Dorothy Gish’s Romola was shot on location in Italy during the winter of 1923-24.

Outdoor scenes were set in summertime, but at the time of shooting, it was so cold that the actors had to hold their breath to keep it from being seen by the camera.

(Movie Weekly, March 1, 1924, page 25.)

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Erich von Stroheim created a sensation with his 1922 film Foolish Wives. His enormous outdoor set representing Monte Carlo was a full-scale replica of the real thing, and the film remains one of his most acclaimed works.

But history has forgotten that William Desmond Taylor had done much the same thing two years earlier.

For his production of The Furnace on the Paramount lot, the Hotel at Monte Carlo was reproduced in exacting detail, including its stairs, balcony, reception salon and terrace.

The plot of The Furnace involves a married woman who becomes the target of a European count, who tries to get her to run off with him. Dramatic complication ensue, but in the end, she sticks with her husband.

Did Stroheim watch it and take notes? His script for Foolish Wives tells the same basic story.

(Motion Picture, September 1920, page 106.)

Erich von Stroheim as Count Karamzin, an unscrupulous rogue who steals more than just wives.

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Charlie Chaplin appeared in a lot of films in 1914. At least two of them are lost.

One of them is the Keystone comedy Her Friend the Bandit. The other is one you’ve never heard of.

It was a reel of film taken at a meeting of San Francisco’s Screen Club that November. Chaplin, along with his fellow Keystone comics Roscoe Arbuckle and Mabel Normand, joined Mayor James Rolph in a grand march inside the Coliseum Theatre. These festivities were filmed, and the footage was screened at a club meeting the following month.

Never released to the public, the film’s whereabouts are unknown.

(Moving Picture World, January 9, 1915, page 233.)

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An advertising blooper caused some consternation for a Los Angeles lithographer in 1925.

He was printing copies of a poster that an artist had created for M-G-M’s Pretty Ladies. The film’s director was Monta Bell, but the absentminded artist had written “Monte Blue” instead.

The mistake wasn’t caught until after an entire run of gigantic 24-sheets had been printed.

(Exhibitors Herald, August 8, 1925, pg. 48)

Speaking of mistakes, somebody at First National had his mind elsewhere when he issued this still for The Strong Man (1926).

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One day in 1927, about 1500 residents of Hamilton, Ontario opened their mailboxes to discover a key inside, attached to a tag inscribed “To the man of the house— this is the key to my room— Mabel.”

If this got the attention of some agitated housewives and their flustered husbands, well, it was all according to plan.

The keys were a publicity gimmick, dreamed up by the manager of the Rialto Theatre. The film he was running that week was Marie Prevost’s comedy Up in Mabel’s Room.

(Exhibitors Herald, March 26, 1927, pg. 39.)

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Vitagraph was one of the leading American film producers for roughly two decades. In its nineteen-acre Hollywood studio (at 1708 Talmadge Street), many comedies, serials and dramas were produced on its seven stages.

But by 1924, the company had hit hard times, and the studio was barely active. One magazine called it “the easiest studio in Hollywood for a sight-seer to enter. Seldom is there a watchman at the gateway.”

In fact, according to the article, “as a rule it is quite possible for a carload of uninvited visitors to wander thru the archway and roam about to their hearts’ content.”

(Motion Picture, July 1924, page 37.)

Come on in! The Vitagraph studio, as it looked in the early 1920s. The main entrance is down in the lower right corner of the photo.

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M-G-M held its own company-wide golf tournament in June 1927. The entrants came from the ranks of the studio’s actors, directors, executives, writers and other staffers: seventy-two of them in all.

Top honors went to Hunt Stromberg of the executive division, whose average score after three rounds of golf was 58.

The unlikely winner of the actors’ division scored an average of 70. He was Jackie Coogan… then only twelve years old.

As part of the tournament, a putting contest was also held. The winner… Jackie Coogan.

(Exhibitors Herald, June 18, 1927, page 10.)

Looks like Tiger Woods wasn’t the first notable golfer to get in trouble.

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– – – Christopher Snowden









About 1920, Charles Ray employed a houseboy whose name was also Charles. That houseboy went on to win a Nobel Peace Prize— Charles Bunche. 

(Detroit News)


  1. Ian Elliot said,

    To my wife: I hereby disclaim any responsibility for anything that turns up in the mailbox.

    Ian Elliot (born and residing in Hamilton, ON)

  2. Otto said,

    Three years later when Coogan started The Addams Family there was nary a word about his “narcotics” arrest – wouldn’t want to give the kiddies the wrong idea!

  3. diane said,

    re Louise Fazenda – weren’t directors sensitive back then!!!

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