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Favorite Silent Actresses


Guest Alix

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"Dark Star" is a good read about Leatrice Joy Fountain's famous dad, John Gilbert. It's written from a daughter's perspective but she still creates a memorable portrait. I talked to her one night years ago during a special showing here in NYC of "Flesh and the Devil" with a big, live orchestra and a sold-out crowd. What an experience! And the print was a knockout. Anyway, Leatrice repeated to me, as she does in her book, that there is no doubt that Louis B. Mayer actively sabatoged Gilbert's talkie debut. I also mention this in my book about the early talkies, "The Kiss of King Kong", and from everything I researched and from the old timers I talked to, they agree. Mayer defenders always pooh-pooh this idea.

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I'm with you on Mayer sabatoging Gilbert. No, I wasn't there, but I'm able to form that opinion from the many things I've read about their confrontation. AND from the things I've read of Mayer, I wouldn't put it past him. I can't wait 'til my book comes though, to read more about it.

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I received my bio on John Gilbert on Saturday and it's SIGNED! It seems to have a dedication to whomever bought it the first time and then it's signed by Leatrice Gilbert Fountain. I was pretty excited. Apparently her signature isn't worth that much though, since I bought it rather cheap. Still exciting though.

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I just watched once again the great but forgotten Edith Storey in the l914 "A Florida Enchantment," which has been beautifully restored to a glistening black and white enchantment. Storey was so great as the tom-boyish, fast-living socialite who takes some magic pills and becomes a man. When you watch her go from her charming, frilly "girl" side to the cigar-smoking, tophat wearing "male" side it's easy to see now why she ranked right up there with Mary Pickford back in the late l900s. Her make-up was amazingly modern--not that white face, black lipstick and heavily mascared look. I've read that in real life, she was quite a gal, too. She won racing car contests, went up in balloons and finally retired to Long Island by 1920--a forgotten hasbeen

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Alix, I check this one and several other silent favorites out of our great library here in NYC. I'm buying most of these from buy.com on DVD. "A Florida Enchantment" is still available only on tape. It was filmed on location in Florida back in l914. You'd love seeing the womens' fashions back then, and the on-location restaurants and shops they visited. One great scene is filmed on a river-boat where Edith Storey is shown against the passing backdrop of Florida's shoreline back then. From everything I've read about Storey, movie producers begged her to continue her movie career into the l920s. Her acting was incredibly natural for back then and she insisted on applying her own make-up which made her look so wonderfully modern today. But--she obviously had saved her money well and raised a family on a big estate in Long Island.

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I have a copy of "A Florida Enchantment". By the way, Sidney Drew is also an excellent under-playing actor in this movie.

 

The only other tape I have of Edith Storey is an anthology that contains the short "A Modern Atalanta". Does any one know of any other extant films for her?

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Harold, I would do anything to get my hands on anything with the fantastic Edith Storey in it. I've also got compilation of famous early movie actresses with Storey in "Atalanta." And there's another short I've seen of her playing an Egyptian princess. I was totally enchanted with her in "A Florida Enchantment." She was natural, adorable, charismatic. No wonder she was Mary Pickford's biggest competitor back in those early silents!

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I think I have a picture of Edith Storey in the Egyptian costume in Blum's "Pictorial History of the Movies". Can you recall what tape this was on?

 

Another actress from the time period (the teens - my favorite movie era) I'd love to see on tape or DVD is Marie Doro, but I don't think any of her work is extant.

 

BTW, I just discovered that at least one Edith Taliaferro feature is available on DVD - Young Romance (1915). Has TCM ever shown this one?

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"Young Romance", starring Edith Taliaferro, is the added feature on a terrific DVD restoration of Raoul Walsh's masterpiece, the l914 "Regeneration." Edith and company are delightful. "Regeneration" starring the incredible Rockliffe Fellowes and the stunning Anna Q. Nilsson, is a must-have. I got my DVD version through either Buy.com or Amazon. Rockliffe looks incredibly modern--a real, brooding hunk, of the Montgomery Clift school. Edith Storey was in the Thomas Edison compilation of First Ladies of the Screen. I adore her in "A Florida Enchantment." I'd love to see Marie Doro, too! I've seen many black and white pics of her but never a film. I watched "Affairs of Anatol" (1921), made by Cecil B. DeMille and was knocked out by Wanda Hawley! She stole the movie from gorgeous Gloria Swanson and Wallace Reid. No one has even heard of her today. What a tragedy! I want to find more Fannie Ward's works. Her "The Cheat" (1915) is one of my all-time fave movies.

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I'm only 17, but I have really gotten into silent films. It's disappointing that some people know nothing about them.

Two years ago, I was watching a documentary on Lillian Gish when they mentioned her friendship with Mary Pickford. I thought I recognized the name, so I checked out "Mary Pickford: Rediscovered" from the public library. For anyone who loves Mary Pickford, this is a must-read! It has some really beautiful pictures and great information about her life and works, including some of her lost films!

She was an absolutely amazing actress as well as a filmaker. I've read every book I could find about her, and I honestly think she is one of the people without whom cinema would not exist today.

I think my favorite Pickford film is either "My Best Girl" or "Daddy-Long-Legs", but I have yet to see many of her other movies due to their unavailability.

I really want to see "Stella Maris"- has anyone seen it? What was your opinion?

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punkkitten, I, too, absolutely love "My Best Friend" with Mary Pickford and her future husband, Buddy Rogers. He simply knocked me out the first time I saw him in this sparkling gem. To me he symbolized that clean-cut All-American young guy from the Jazz Age. I wish he had gone further in movies. You might really enjoy Clara Bow's movies, especially "The Wild Party", which is among her first talkies. Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino were both love gods of the Silents. I've seen several of them at revival houses here in NYC, along with big symphony orchestras and these glamorous stars of old simply thrilled everyone at these revival showings. On the big screen, you can really understand how they became our first 'Love Gods' because their millions of fans literally worshipped them, as if they were real deities.

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Oh, was I in heaven! A William Haines movie! For some reason I had never seen this one until yesterday (taped the Silent Sunday Night movie) and I enjoyed it. Haines looked so youthful, slim and sexy. He had great eyes, didn't he, and sure knew how to use them. I think since this was made in 1926, he'd have been just 26 years old. Also impressive was Lon Chaney in a "non-traditional" role for him. He was excellent as drill sergeant O'Hara. Kind of felt sorry for him, as he hopelessly pursued lovely Eleanor Boardman.

 

I also thought the titles were well written. I snickered and giggled throughout this movie. Oh yes, and while I'm on the subject, the "new" score to this movie was well done too. It wasn't annoyingly modern and seemed to fit the mood and action involved. Let's give this composer a chance to do more scoring!

 

Any other thoughts on this one?

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I'm watching the Haines/Chaney goodie this weekend since it's supposed to be another rained out event. I would love to have watched Billy and Lon during breaks of "Tell It To the Marines." I've read where Billy found Lon Chaney extremely handsome and sexy. Lon reportedly had a few personal quirks of his own. I rewatched Billy in "West Point" again last weekend and just loved it. I'm also re-reading "Wisecracker" the bio on Haines. He must have been the Hollywood party boy to end all partyboys!

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punkkitten...I've never seen "Stella Maris", but you might be interested to know that Milestone Video is in the process of releasing almost the complete catalog of Mary Pickford features in beautiful prints. TCM has also shown a number of them.

 

As a side point, I recently purchased a copy of "Without Lying Down" from Milestone. It's a documentary about Frances Marion (sp?), the scriptwriter for many of Pickford's films. The tape also has Pickford's "A Little Princess" after the documentary. I bought the tape because I'm a big ZaSu Pitts fan, and "A Little Princess" was one of her first appearances on film. I really enjoyed Pickford in this one. The ending seemed a bit rushed (and possibly truncated), but it's well worth the money, in my opinion.

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Two must-see silents that I watch repeatedly are the l914 "The Cheat," starring the fabulous Fannie Ward and directed by Cecil B. Demille. And the l920 Louise Glaum movie, "Sex." "The Cheat" moves along at break-neck pace as it recounts how a 'social butterfly,' Ward, steals $10,000 from a charity and she goes to sexy Sessue Hayakawa who gives her the money--but he later brands her when she reneges the role of mistress. She shoots him but her husband takes the blame and goes to trial.There's a sensational trial and Fannie is a knockout. "Sex," is terrific fun. Glaum was a Theda Bara clone but she had her own style of glamour. The movie features beautiful costumes, sets, photography and lighting. Glaum has charisma galore. She plays a fast-living dancer and plays around but at the end, she learns humility. Both movies are fun,great to look at a chance to see what the best-dressed film actresses of the silents wore!

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Here are some of my favorites:

 

Anna May Wong (not particularly her big starring effort - "Toll of the Sea", but all those other movies where she played the unsympathetic supporting player)

 

ZaSu Pitts (not so much "Greed", but, again, as a supporting player - I just love ZaSu)

 

Colleen Moore

 

Edith Storey

 

Mabel Normand

 

Marion Davies

 

Jobyna Ralston

 

Doris Kenyon

 

Lillian & Dorothy Gish

 

Lupe Velez

 

 

I have not seen "The Cheat", so I can't include Fanny Ward in my list.

 

And, of course, there are many other actresses from the period I would have liked to have seen - Marie Doro in particular. Blum's "Pictorial History of the Silent Screen" shows stills of dozens of them whose films are all lost today. :(

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I love the ladies from the silent era-- they were fantastic, weren't they?

 

Janet Gaynor is probably my favorite actress from the silent era, although Clara Bow, Gloria Swanson and Pola Negri come in very close behind her. Janet Ganyor was just phenomenal in every aspect of her work. Her performanes are absolutely captivating. And CLara Bow is just too cute for words!

 

My *least* favorite Actress from the silent era?? MAE MURRAY. Ugh, I just CANNOT STAND her!!!

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