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From April 18-21, the Poli ran Double Speed, starring Wallace Reid as “Speed” Car and Wanda Hawley as Sallie McPherson. This was the first film ever directed by Sam Wood. Released on February 1, 1920, at five reels, the film is presumed lost.

Plot: “Speed” Car, a young millionaire, heads west to take care of his estate, which is in charge of his uncle in Los Angeles. While he camps one night, some tramps rob his car and all his possessions, only leaving him his watch. He is picked up by a poor family, who lend him some clothes, and drive him to Los Angeles. He goes to the bank where his uncle is vice-president for money, but cannot identify himself, and is uncle is out of town. So Speed uses an alias, Barry Cole, and pawns his watch to buy new clothes. Meanwhile, Sallie McPherson, who is the bank president’s daughter, has bought Speed’s car from a dealer. Speed encounters her just as she is trying to drive the car for the first time. When she almost drives the car into a tree, he takes the wheel and steers the car away from danger.


Sallie believes he is a chauffeur, and hires him on the spot. Of course, Speed falls for Sallie, and vice-versa.


Meanwhile, Sallie’s father, Mr. McPherson, unaware of Speed’s real identity, is trying to locate him before the young man’s uncle returns to Los Angeles. When the uncle is due back in town, McPherson convinces Speed to pose as himself, as Speed’s uncle has not seen the boy in years.


As the story progresses, Speed discovers that Barry Cole is actually the name of a criminal, who is being trailed by detectives. Speed is accused of stealing his own car, and murdering and then impersonating himself. Eventually he marries Sallie, and reveals his true identity.

Motion Picture News wrote “the story keeps moving at all times. Frequently the production reaches a farcial tempo, but this does not detract from its owing to the fact that it is intended only as entertainment, and the action is not forced.” The Moving Picture World wrote that Reid was “well adapted to this type of role which he delineates with a light comedy touch, eminently characteristic, if at times monotonous. A little more energetic action, mental as well as physical, would improve his performance at some of the more thrilling moments. Of real support to him is Wanda Hawley whose interest and enthusiasm is almost as inexhaustible as is her wardrobe.” Exhibitor’s Herald was not impressed, calling the film “very ordinary entertainment” and “far from the best of Wallace Reid’s offerings.” Photoplay observed that there were “some gorgeous glimpses of Wanda Hawley’s Cinderella foot in a small-size slipper,” but also noted that “the puns in some of the titles are horrible.” Elsewhere in the magazine, a viewer wrote in to point out a blunder in the film: “Wanda Hawley is seen jumping into Wallace Reid’s car in a very becoming little hat and coat to match; at the end of the ride she has an automobile bonnet, street suit, and large cape fur. That car must have been a wonder.”

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From April 22-24, the Poli ran The Sagebrusher, starring Roy Stewart as Dr. Barnes, Marguerite De La Motte as Marry Warren, and Noah Beery as Sim Gage. The film’s release date is uncertain, but it was seven reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot:  Sim Gage, aka “The Sagebrusher,” is an unkempt individual who lives alone. His friend, Wid Gardner, decides that Sim needs a wife to care for him. When Gardner advertises for a wife, a city girl named Annie Squires answers. But out of pity for her friend, Mary Warren, who is losing her eyesight, Annie hands over the advertisement to her and sends her off to marry Gage in Montana.


On the way to Gage’s ranch, Mary goes blind. Unable to see Gage, she is impressed by his kindness and envisions him as looking entirely different than he is.


Gage has enlisted a physician, Major Barnes, to help in supervising the building of a dam. Meanwhile, Frederick Waldhorn, who runs the Twin Forks Power Company, is involved in crooked deals. One day, while Mary is alone in the cabin, she is accosted by Big Aleck, who works for Waldhorn.


Mary shoots him with Sim’s gun. She rushes out of the cabin and into the forest, which has been set on fire by Waldhorn’s men. There, she is discovered by Barnes.





Believing he is Gage, she embraces him. Gage decides to let Mary continue with the illusion. On the day he and Mary are to be married, he asks Barnes to pretend he is Gage, and the ceremony takes place. Barnes performs an operation on Mary’s eyes, in hopes of restoring her sight. Waldhorn, who wants to stop construction of the dam, blows it up. The valley is flooded and an entire settlement is swept away. Gage drowns while saving Mary’s life. Eventually, Mary’s sight is restored, and she marries Barnes.

Exhibitor’s Herald praised the performances of Beery and De La Motte, writing “Noah Beery’s interpretation of the part of Sim Gage … ranks as one of the best bits of character acting the screen has yet recorded. Marguerite De La Motte gives pathos to the role of Mary Warren, the blind girl who becomes Mrs. Gage, which in a large measure is responsible for the picture’s success.”

Also on the bill was The Champion, starring Charlie Chaplin. This film was released in 1915 and apparently underwent some revisions. There is a 30-minute version available on YouTube. I found the film somewhat funny (again, I’m not a Chaplin fan), but it probably went on longer than it needed to. The plot finds Charlie as a sparring partner for “Spike Dugan,” who has already dispatched a few guys. Dugan, by the way, wears ridiculous padding under his sweatshirt.


Charlie puts a horseshoe inside his boxing glove and knocks out Dugan. This sets him up for a championship bout against “Bob Uppercut,” played by Bud Jamison (a familiar character from many appearances in The Three Stooges shorts). The fight is slapstick, of course, and good for a few chuckles.


Edna Purviance, as Charlie’s romantic interest, unfortunately gets very little screen time.

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From April 25-28, 1920, the Poli ran Dangerous Days. The film was released on March 21, 1920, at seven reels. A copy is held in the Cinematheque Royale de Belgique. One version of the film is available on YouTube, with French and Dutch subtitles, and runs around 80 minutes. This appears to be the Belgian print, although it is missing about 25% of the original footage (according to a note onscreen). If you want to watch the film and are proficient in either French or Dutch, you might not want to read the plot below since it will contain spoilers. The plot refers to the version I watched; my review is based upon that version, and also my research regarding possible missing footage. Stills are taken from the YouTube print.

Plot: In the period before World War I, Clayton Spencer owns the Spencer Steel Works. His wife Natalie is more interested in throwing parties.  Herman Klein, a longtime employee of the Spencer Steel Works, quits his job when he realizes the plant is making ammunition against the Germans.


His brother Rudolph, who is a German spy, attempts to coerce Herman into joining a band of saboteurs who want to destroy the plant, but Herman refuses because of his loyalty to Clayton.


Clayton is friendly with Audrey Valentine, whose son has enlisted with the Canadian forces. Clayton’s son Graham is loved by his secretary Anna Klein, the daughter of Herman Klein.


When Graham gives Anna a watch as a token of friendship, she wears it and Rudolph uses this as a way to inflame Herman against the Spencers. Herman, believing Anna has given up her honor, beats his daughter with a strap. Later, Anna telephones Graham to tell him what happened. Graham quickly arranges for Anna to stay in a boarding house. Rudolph finds Anna and takes her back to Herman, who now thoroughly hates the Spencers and wants revenge. As part of the plot, he asks Spencer for his job back. When America enters the war, a fight erupts between Graham and his mother, since he has decided to enlist. Clayton is proud of his son’s decision, but Natalie convinces the boy to give up the idea. Clayton consoles Audrey when he discovers her son has been killed in action.


Without telling Clayton, Audrey goes to work at the factory to do her part for the war effort. Anna overhears the plot involving her father and Rudolph’s plan to burn down Spencer’s factory. Herman enters the factory with a gasoline can. Anna rushes to the factory, but it is already on fire. Audrey, trapped in the blaze, telephones Clayton from the switchboard.


Clayton and Graham rush to the scene. Clayton is able to save Audrey, and confesses his love for her. But Anna dies in Graham’s arms.


Herman is arrested. Graham is now even more determined to enlist. Clayton and Natalie agree to go their separate ways, and Clayton ends up with Audrey. Two months later, while in uniform, Graham is greeted by Delight Haverford, who has always loved him. Graham asks her if she will wait for his return, and she says yes.

Review: This is a very entertaining film and moves along pretty quickly. The acting is generally good, with top honors going to the lovely Ann Forrest, as the ill-fated Anna Klein. Lawson Butt (as Clayton Spencer) and Clarissa Selwynne (as Natalie Spencer) are adequate, while future director Rowland V. Lee, as Graham, shows a good range of emotions. Barbara Castleton is lovely as Audrey, but Pauline Starke (as Delight) is barely given any screen time. Frank Leigh (as Rudolph Klein) makes a nasty villain. Stanton Heck (as Herman Klein) gives an understated and sympathetic performance early on, but as the film progresses, he goes just a bit over the top.

At least one scene is probably missing from the print I watched. During a costume party, we see a mysterious woman asking Clayton Spencer for a pen. She then substitutes another pen for it when she returns it. This is never explained. Earlier on, we see a detective capturing a German spy and taking a pen from him, sarcastically telling the spy “I have a pen collection.” Contemporaneous reviews mention that the pen at the costume party contained an explosive which detonated; however, none of the characters were injured.

Natalie Spencer is shown for a split second with a mustachioed character, in what appears to be a romantic situation. No context is provided. Again, contemporaneous reviews mention that her character is having an affair with an architect named Rodney Page, played by Bertram Grassby (who did have a mustache). Delight Haverford is shown briefly in the beginning of the film, then just shows up at the end. One must wonder if her character had more scenes. Finally, the beating scene is implied; we never see Herman actually swing the strap at Anna. Perhaps there was more to this scene, in light of comments made by Ann Forrest on her portrayal of Anna: “I felt that poor girl’s tragedy so keenly that I dreamed about it every night. That was the hardest role I have had, but how I loved it. If the people who believe we are not swayed by the emotions we portray could have been around the day we made that big crying scene, I am sure they would have changed their minds. Everyone about the set was deeply affected and after it was all over and they came to pick me up I was sobbing so hard that I couldn’t speak and that started them all again.” Director Reginald Barker stated that to make the scene work, Forrest said to him “Please have him (Stanton Heck) hit me.” Heck was averse to striking her, but Forrest begged so much that he finally struck her. Forrest kept as a souvenir the strap with which she was beaten. Mary Roberts Rinehart, upon whose book the film was based, inscribed the strap with the comment “In memory of a very great piece of acting done by Miss Forrest.” Rinehart cried during rehearsals, leading some to suspect she was displeased with Forrest’s performance. “Oh no,” the author explained, “I’m just crying over that dear child’s acting. She is the very embodiment of my little heroine.” Reginald Barker wrote on the strap “From your brutal director,” while one of the scenario writers wrote “We always beat the thing we love.”

Also on the bill were Rock and Drew, described as two “European Equilibrists” who “defy the laws of gravitation in a delightful succession of surpassing achievements.”

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From April 29 – May 1, 1920, the Poli featured Blind Youth, starring Walter McGrail as Maurie Monnier, and Leatrice Joy as Hope Martin. The film’s release date is uncertain, but it was five reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot: Pierre Monnier and his wife live in New York with their two songs, Henry and Maurie. When they divorce, they each take one of the sons.  Maurie goes with his father to Paris and studies art. Henry stays with his mother. Maurie eventually marries his Parisian model, Clarice.


The boys’ father dies, and Clarice leaves Maurie to run away with an army officer. Maurie comes to America to look for his brother and mother. They have no use for him because he is poor. Ready to commit suicide, Maurie meets a young girl named Hope who takes him to her home to give him food and comfort.


Hope poses for Maurie and he creates a statue of her, which he names “Blind Youth.”


The statue brings Maurie fame and fortune.

Meanwhile, Henry is seeing two women, but loses both. Having heard of Maurie’s fame, Clarice comes to America, where she meets Henry. He does not realize who she is. Maurie learns that Henry has taken a fancy to Clarice and aims to save him. Maurie invites Clarice to his home, and tells his brother to listen behind a door. When Clarice embraces Maurie, Hope appears on the scene. Maurie then confesses to Hope that he cannot marry her, because Clarice is his wife. But Clarice becomes so impressed with Hope’s innocence that she confesses she was the army officer’s wife before she married Maurie; thus, their marriage was never legal. The officer later died after Clarice ran off with him.


Now Maurie is free to marry Hope.

The two stills below could not be placed in context. In the first, the short man grabbing McGrail is probably Leo White, while the large man on the left is probably Charles Post. Neither of the characters they play are mentioned in the synopsis. The woman appears to be Claire McDowell, who plays McGrail’s mother. The other actors could not be positively identified. In the second still, Post is shown at the left, and White at the right, with an unknown actor in between.



Wid’s Daily panned the film, writing “whatever possibilities there were contained in this adaptation of the play, “Blind Youth,” have been almost completely buried due to the abnormally slow tempo of the action. Probably it was realized that a very conservative tempo was needed to bring out the high lights of the plot, but in this case they have gone too far altogether and as a result the picture drags so that it is a job to sit through it. In addition to this there is the very serious fault of the subtitles. The majority of them are totally out of tune with the action itself. They weren’t prepared in the right mood and as each one is shown the spectator is jarred out of the atmosphere created by the action.” Picture-Play Magazine wrote that the film was “so long drawn out that it is tedious.” The Moving Picture World had a different take, noting the film was “quite satisfactory from the standpoint of entertainment. It will prove a pleasing performance for the average audience.” The magazine did add “the story has so many twists and turns that one is confused. The various threads are picked up in the last reel, and the plot worked out to good advantage.”

The duplex studio set used in the film was said to be an exact reproduction of that of Stanford White, the famous New York architect.

In early February of 1920, National Pictures Theatres, Inc. took the unusual step of publishing a synopsis of the film, so that it would not be confused with another film entitled The Blindness of Youth, which was being released by the Foundation Film Corporation. In fact, National had filed for an injunction against Foundation, on the grounds that the title The Blindness of Youth was too similar to Blind Youth. But the injunction was denied. The presiding judge noted that “the names of plays, in the absence of the names of actors who vitalized them, are, I think, for the most part tenuous; and with few exceptions, we remember the actor rather than the names of the vehicles in which he rode to fame. … As the litigation stands, I am unable to find that … there is in the production of a moving picture drama named “The Blindness of Youth,” such a degree of unfair competition as would justify my interposition by way of injunction.”

Ora Carewe (also spelled Carew), who played Clarice, was one of Mack Sennett’s “bathing beauties.” She retired from films in the late 1920s, but did make some stage appearances afterwards. Later, she became a beautician in Hollywood. She died of a stroke in 1955. In the 1920s, her name was all over the newspapers because of her tempestuous marriage to John Howard, whose millionaire father owned a salad dressing company in Massachusetts. The couple married in late 1922, but by 1924 the marriage was going into the dumper. On June 17 of that year, a woman who gave her name as Lula Smith drove a man to a Los Angeles hospital. The man, who gave his name as John Smith, was suffering from an overdose of veronal (a strong sedative). Police were called in to investigate. When they interrogated “Lula,” the address she gave was Ora Carewe’s address. Checking the license plate of her car, the police determined the owner was Ora Carewe. They then questioned “John,” asking “isn’t your name John C. Howard?” “Well, I guess you know me – but let’s forget it,” the man replied. Reporters rushed to the Carewe home, inquiring as to the couple’s whereabouts. A young girl on the premises told the reporters that the pair had gone downtown … in an ambulance. Later that day, one reporter reached Carewe by telephone to get the story. “Why, it’s perfectly absurd,” Carewe said. “Mr. Howard and myself have been together all afternoon.” The next day, Carewe filed for divorce, charging cruel and inhuman treatment. She also claimed that Howard was “insanely jealous, that he once punched her in the nose, that again he drove an automobile at break-neck speed, while she clung to the back seat and screamed for her life that he came into a theatre where she was appearing in a vaudeville skit, sat down in front and made faces at her.” Howard hired detectives to keep an eye on his wife’s activities. In mid-July, he got involved in a brawl with two men, Alexander Pantages and Ben Rosenberg, who were out with his wife and her sister. Howard waited for the two men to get out of their limousine, and, according to The New York Daily News, “Howard led with his left and biffed Mr. Pantages over the right eye. Mr. Rosenberg remonstrated, but forgot to put up his guard. Howard smacked him on the forehead. And Mr. Rosenberg went to slumberland.” Carewe then asked for a restraining order on Howard. In August, Howard was arrested at a theater where Carewe’s name was in lights. Believing Howard had a gun, police searched him but found nothing. “Do they think I’m nuts?” Howard exclaimed. “I don’t go around places trying to take a shot at my wife. I came down here because I wanted to see her act. I like to look at my wife, you know.”  But when a bottle of whisky was found in his car, he spent the night in the slammer for violating prohibition laws. While this was going on, Howard’s father filed a suit against Carewe, claiming she owed him $20,000 that he had loaned her to advance her film career. In April of 1926, Carewe and Howard were officially divorced. In 1927, newspapers reported that Howard was involved in a plot to kidnap his own father. But that is another story.

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From May 2-5, 1920, the Poli ran The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, starring Jack Pickford as Chad. The film’s release date is uncertain. It was between five and six reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot: After the death of his foster parents, Chad runs away from his home in the Kentucky mountains.


He is taken in by the Turner family, in the Valley of Kingdom Come.



There, a girl named Melissa secretly loves him.


The schoolmaster in the Valley takes an interest in Chad because of the boy’s hard work.


He rewards Chad with a trip to Lexington, but Melissa is disappointed over the news. Chad bids goodbye to Melissa.



In Lexington, Chad is taken under the wing of Major Buford, who believes the boy is a relative and adopts him. General Dean, a neighbor, objects to Chad’s presence. The General’s daughter, Margaret, falls for Chad. Chad goes off to fight for the Union in the Civil War.



Major Buford fights for the Confederacy and is killed. Chad returns to Lexington a hero.


He then wins Margaret’s hand.


Wid’s Daily observed that “Goldwyn couldn’t have made a better selection for Jack Pickford … for it gives him every opportunity that could be offered a juvenile and the star’s realization of the part is indeed meritorious. He certainly makes an interesting figure as “Chad,” a product of the Cumberland mountain wilds. Throughout the production his performance holds the spectator’s interest with little or no variance.” Exhibitor’s Herald wrote that the film “contains pathos and wholesome humor that should make its appeal general. The star … is well cast.” Motion Picture News was lukewarm, writing “There are times when the picture lags, but this is practically unavoidable since an unusually large cast must be introduced, and because there is practically no suspense obtained until well toward the end of the picture, when the Civil War episode is reached. Jack Pickford as “Chad” is a fine type for the earlier sequences, but fails to impress to any great extent, as a Union officer … The photography is of the best and in the costuming, and attention to detail nothing has been left undone.” Photoplay remarked “the war scenes are not stressed and the waving of the flag is modestly accomplished, so that the effect of the picture is pleasantly stirring and agreeably sentimental.”

The film was based upon a novel of the same name, written by John Fox Jr. There were at least two other versions; a 1928 film with Richard Barthelmess (the film is presumed lost), and a 1961 release starring singer Jimmie Rodgers. The 1961 version is available on YouTube.

Jack Pickford had a troubled personal life. His first wife, Olive Thomas, died from accidentally poisoning herself while the couple were in Paris. They had been married just under four years. His second marriage, to actress/singer Marilyn Miller, ended in divorce after a little over four years. Contemporaneous reports indicate that the two mutually agreed to the divorce, although some newspapers claimed she was dumping Pickford to marry actor Ben Lyon. But that marriage never happened. About a month after the divorce, Pickford was arrested for speeding, and police found liquor in his car. He posted a $100 bond, but never showed up for a court appearance. His third wife, Mary Mulhern, filed for divorce in 1932. Mulhern accused Pickford of “constant nagging and criticism” of her theatrical career.  “Whenever I would be away from home at the theater, visiting friends of even at the hair dressers’, he would continuously call me on the telephone and demand and insist I return home immediately,” Mulhern stated. She also claimed Pickford would go on hunger strikes lasting for several days, because he did not like his wife’s cooking. In late 1932, Pickford was admitted to a hospital in Paris. In January of 1933, he died, ironically in the same hospital where Olive Thomas had died.

Clara Horton, who portrayed Margaret, was just 15 when the film was released. She had previously worked with Pickford in the films Tom Sawyer and Huck and Tom. In both of those films, she played Becky Thatcher to Pickford’s Tom Sawyer.

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From May 6-8, 1920, the Poli ran The Woman God Sent¸ starring Zena Keefe as Margaret Manning. The release date is uncertain, but it was five reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot: Margaret Manning, who never knew her parents, works at a factory which employs hundreds of young boys and girls. These youths work in unsanitary conditions and their health is often in danger.


Jimmy Dorgan, one of the child workers, loses his hand in a machine accident.


This spurs Margaret to action, and she interests a young Senator into a drafting a bill which will abolish child labor.


Margaret’s actions are met with resistance.


A political boss blocks the bill. But Margaret succeeds in her quest, and also discovers that the man who blocked the bill is her father.

The film was based upon a story by Sophie Irene Loeb, who was President of the Child Welfare Board of New York City. Exhibitor’s Herald wrote “Miss Keefe’s sincere work in the role of Margaret Manning wins the complete sympathy of her spectators. Comedy and pathos are about evenly divided in the story’s unwinding, and the plot has been well developed to bring out the dramatic incidents in the book. Wid’s Daily was not impressed, noting one of the contrivances in the story. “A single individual would certainly never go to a state capitol to fight for passage of a reform bill. Large committees and delegations usually do this work.” The journal also observed that the scene in which the crooked boss is revealed as Margaret’s father “is rather bald … the scene is handled here as if it were an after-thought.”  Still, the daily praised Keefe’s work, writing “Miss Keefe plays with great sincerity and makes many of her scenes highly effective solely through her individual work.”

Zena Keefe made around 75 films before retiring from film in the 1920s. She continued on stage for a few more years. In a 1920 interview, she stated that she had made her stage appearance at three years old. “I don’t remember just what I did, but I believe I impersonated a kewpie,” remarked Keefe. The actress had an interesting take on how she studied for roles. “One of the places I do it most seriously is in the Broadway cafes, particularly the very noisy ones … People who habitually frequent those places have the matter of  facial expression down to a fine art. You see, the band makes so much noise that conversation is impossible. So the cabaret girl – the guest, I mean, not the entertainer – learns to talk with her eyes, her hands, and even with her clothes. … She’s clever – she can get most anything over without uttering a sound.” When Keefe died in Massachusetts in 1976, her obituary made no mention of her acting career, but simply stated she was the wife of the late William M. Brownell. Brownell, who had died in 1950, was a former manager at the Lever Brothers Company.

Child actor Russell Hewitt, who portrayed Jimmy Dorgan, is not listed in the cast in the IMDb entry, but contemporaneous sources, as well as the still shot with Keefe, confirm his appearance in the film. His only other known screen appearance was in 1919’s Anne of Green Gables.

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From May 9-12, 1920, the Poli ran The Lone Wolf’s Daughter, starring Louise Glaum as the title character. The film was released on December 14, 1919, at seven reels. Some incomplete copies are held in foreign archives.

Plot: In a prologue set a few decades before the present, Princess Sonia divorces Prince Victor and marries Michael Lanyard, aka “The Lone Wolf.” But the Princess dies giving birth to their daughter, whom they have also named Sonia. Now, in the present day, Prince Victor is the head of a criminal gang in London. The child Sonia is not aware of her parentage. Victor tells Sonia he is her father, and takes her home.



There, she falls for his secretary, Roger Karslake.



In actuality, Karslake works for Scotland Yard, and is trying to trap Victor and his band. Karslake enables the Lone Wolf, now disguised, to get a position as butler in Victor’s home. Victor is summoned to a Limehouse rendezvous with his gang, and Sonia accompanies him.


There she learns of Victor’s treachery and is held captive by the gang.



But she is able to summon Karslake and his men to battle the gang. In the course of the fight, Victor is killed. Sonia, trapped on a burning roof, is rescued by Karslake with the help of a derrick from a passing steamer.

Wid’s Daily praised the film, writing “the story has been picturized in a big way – lavish sets, a magnificent display of wealth in furnishings and enough of the spectacular to create a dramatic climax. … There is some swift action in here and the spectacular finale, a fire, works up a dramatic climax preceding the happy ending.” Exhibitor’s Herald remarked that the film was “probably the high-spot in Miss Glaum’s screen career. The entire production is of the stuff that a genuinely popular attraction is built of – elaborate, and very rich settings, mystery and intrigue, flashes of melodrama and a sustaining heart interest. … Technically the production is of the first order.” Photoplay had a different take, writing “the attempt … to take the interest away from the Lone Wolf himself and center it on the daughter is nullified by the fact that he is much the more interesting figure of the two. Louise Glaum has difficulty sustaining interest in the girl. This weakness, added to those forced situations in which underground passages, Chinese criminals and boats that seem to plow through the streets of London … minimizes the picture’s chances for anything resembling a lasting popularity.” The magazine did remark, however, that “Miss Glaum is an attractive heroine.”

For the fire scene, Louise Glaum was filmed being rescued from a burning building. The extras were told to generate excitement during the scene. After Glaum’s close-up was finished, the camera turned to the crowd, who, unfortunately, had lost some of their enthusiasm by then. Glaum jumped into the crowd of people, and began shouting and yelling, which stirred the extras to get excited again. Thus, Glaum became an extra in her own film.

An interesting facet of the film involves the appearance and use of a telautograph, an instrument that reproduces messages sent by telegraph. The villainous Victor keeps one in his luxurious London home, while his gang keeps another in the Limehouse district of London. Messages are sent using a Chinese script, which is then decoded. Sonia, held captive by one of the gang, manages to open a secret cabinet, and locates the machine as well as a message.

Louise Glaum retired from films in the late mid 1920s. She had made several comedies for Mack Sennett, but was also known for her “vamp” roles. In 1916’s Hell’s Hinges, which starred William S. Hart, she portrayed a loose woman who seduces a parson with liquor. After her film career ended, Glaum worked on the New York Stage. She became a dramatic instructor and appeared at her own playhouse in Los Angeles in the 1930s. She died of pneumonia in 1970.

Bertram Grassby portrayed the Lone Wolf, but his character seems to have been minimized in this story.

Thomas Holding portrayed Roger Karslake. In a 1920 newspaper column, Louis Glaum wrote that the actor “suggested to me, in the part he played in “The Lone Wolf’s Daughter,” the popularly accepted type of the “perfect gentleman.”” Karslake made his final film appearance in 1928. He died in 1929, while appearing in New York City in the play “Mystery Square.” The actor collapsed in his dressing room, stricken by a heart attack. The stage manager took over Holding’s part for the show that night. Holding’s death added a macabre note to the play. In the third act, the cast were all seated around a table in a “suicide club,” drawing for a death card. According to the Los Angeles Evening Express, Holding’s death “created a grewsome [sic] and nerve-lacerating situation” for the players.

In Detroit, the Majestic Theater came up with an interesting gimmick to put the film over. George Guise, who was the press representative for the theater, hooked up with Marjorie Daw, who ran the daily movie section in the Detroit Journal. The newspaper published a puzzle-drawing known as a “Kalogram,” and offered prizes for anyone who could give the name of the movie star represented by the drawing. The original is shown below:


The newspaper received 1,873 replies, including solutions from Mae Marsh and Theda Bara. Some participants even enclosed color drawings of the puzzle. The solution is shown below (although it is easier to see the solution in the original):



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From May 13-15, 1920, the Poli ran Circumstantial Evidence¸ starring Glen White as Tex. The film was released on March 15, 1920, at five reels. An incomplete copy is held in the Library of Congress.

Plot: Tex visits his old friend Jack Nelson. Nelson’s wife, Edna, is also an old acquaintance of Tex. That night, Nelson gets into an argument with his butler and fires him. During the night, Tex is awakened by a whistle. When he goes out into the hallway, he meets Edna’s maid, and notices she is fully dressed and about to leave the house. He returns to bed. In the morning, Nelson is found stabbed to death. Edna, hysterical, attempts to kill herself with the same knife, but Tex stops her. He throws the knife out the window. When the police arrive, Tex tells them about the quarrel between Nelson and the butler, and also about seeing the maid in the hallway in the middle of the night. The maid then accuses Tex of the murder, claiming that he was fond of Edna, and that he tossed the knife out the window. Tex is convicted on this circumstantial evidence and sentence to life in prison. A few years later, the prison catches fire, and when the guards open the cells, there is a jail break. Tex stays behind, and saves the warden’s wife and child from death. He is pardoned, and sets out to clear his name. He visits Edna, but she and others reject him because of his alleged crime. He then traces the butler, and finds the man is now an underworld character. He brings the butler to justice, but discovers he was not the murderer. When he hears Edna is dying, he arrives just in time to hear her confess to her husband’s murder. He then decides to devote his life to solving crimes and saving innocent people who were convicted on “circumstantial evidence.”

This was the first in a series of twelve films (all at five reels) under the broader title of “Tex; Elucidator of Mysteries.” Most of the films were released in 1920.

Glen White (shown below, as Tex) played the character for most, if not all, of these films.


White took on an interesting role in 1917, playing Quasimodo in The Darling of Paris, which was VERY loosely based on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. In this version, Quasimodo undergoes surgery and is cured of his hump by Claude Frollo, who is a surgeon. In the finale, he marries Esmeralda, played by Theda Bara. The film was released by William Fox, but is lost. This movie sounds like a hoot. As one reviewer noted, “this is not going to please persons who still read Victor Hugo … but it will probably get a tidy bit of money for Mr. Fox, the great disrespecter of authors.”

Jane McAlpine, who portrayed Edna Nelson, made only a handful of films. She acted under several different names. Born Julien A. Dolezal, she appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies as Julien Beaubien. She also used that name for a few films, but also used Jane McAlpine. (IMDb lists McAlpine and Beaubien as separate actresses.) McAlpine died on October 19, 1947, at Monmouth Memorial Hospital in Long Branch, New Jersey. She is shown below in a scene from the film, with Marie Treador playing the maid:



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1 hour ago, scsu1975 said:

As one reviewer noted, “this is not going to please persons who still read Victor Hugo … but it will probably get a tidy bit of money for Mr. Fox, the great disrespecter of authors.”


1 hour ago, scsu1975 said:

Tex is convicted on this circumstantial evidence and sentence to life in prison. A few years later, the prison catches fire, and when the guards open the cells, there is a jail break. Tex stays behind, and saves the warden’s wife and child from death. He is pardoned, and sets out to clear his name.

A little bit of BEN HUR in that plot! ;)

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From May 16-19, 1920, the Poli ran The Silver Horde, directed by Frank Lloyd, and featuring Myrtle Stedman as Cherry Malotte, Curtis Cooksey as Boyd Emerson, and Betty Blythe as Mildred Wayland. The film’s release date is uncertain, but it was seven reels. A copy is held in the MGM archives. In 1930, another version of the film was released, starring Joel McCrea, Evelyn Brent, and Jean Arthur. That version is available on YouTube.

Plot: Boyd Emerson wants to marry Mildred Wayland, but her wealthy father wishes her to marry a man of good position. So Emerson seeks his fortune in the Alaskan salmon fisheries.


There, he teams with Cherry Malotte and George Holt, who are fighting for a claim in “the silver horde” (salmon).


They are opposed by Marsh, who is backed by powerful Wall Street interests. Emerson asks Mildred’s father for help in financing the project, but the man refuses. Cherry goes to Seattle and is able to secure the capital necessary to back their project.


But Marsh, assisted by Mildred’s father, works against them.


Marsh is after Mildred’s money, and also wants to create a split between Mildred and Boyd.






While Boyd and his partners are waiting for the arrival of the salmon, Marsh attempts to blow up their nets, but is unsuccessful. Finally, the salmon arrive by the millions and fill Boyd’s nets. Marsh then plays his last hand, claiming that Boyd is really the father of Marsh’s half-breed child. But the child’s mother proves that Marsh is the father. Boyd turns from Mildred to Cherry.


The stills below could not be placed in context. The first shows a fight on the docks:


The next shows Myrtle Stedman, as Cherry, and two unidentified actors:


The next is probably part of the same sequence, with the trio of actors from above, as well as Curtis Cooksey, as Emerson:


The final still shows an unknown actor menacing Myrtle Stedman:


The film was based upon a novel of the same name, written by Rex Beach. The character of Cherry Malotte also appears in Beach’s novel The Spoilers.

Photoplay wrote “few pictures have been more convincingly atmospheric, thanks to the frequent cutting in of scenery bits showing the Canadian lakes and rivers and a fine set of salmon-fishing views.” Wid’s Daily remarked “Director Lloyd has given the production all the realism that could be desired and maintained an artistic and altogether appropriate atmosphere throughout.” Exhibitor’s Herald pronounced the film “spectacular, virile, and well produced.” But Motion Picture News criticized the movie, noting that “the principal fault … lies in the fact that “it doesn’t stay anywhere.” The story begins in Alaska, jumps to New York and then goes back to its starting place, with a stop over at Seattle. … There is some action, of course, but it is incidental and not vital. Nevertheless the offering is a lot better than the average picture of today. There may not be much drama in viewing thousands of salmon departing from their native element through the ingenuity of man or in watching what happens to them before they reach the “canned” stage, but the process is interesting.”

For some snow scenes, Director Frank Lloyd had a 50-foot hill made, and covered it with salt. The crew used 800 pounds of paraffin for ice. The photos below show the effect:



Betty Blythe attained notoriety a year after this film was released, playing the title role in 1921’s The Queen of Sheba. No prints are known to survive. Blythe wore long strings of pearls in some scenes (and little else). In an interview, Blythe once said “Sheba was my world. I understood it. I had been educated in France, knew the Left Bank as well as the Louvre. It was all very artistic.” She reportedly got her start in films when she accompanied her roommate to the Vitagraph Studios in Flatbush, and the director asked her if she could play a lead. “I can play that part better than any actress in the world,” she replied. At one point, she was earning one million dollars a year. Blythe’s career spanned silent and sound features, her final appearance being in My Fair Lady. She died in 1972, at the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital in California. Her obituary mentioned she had received a special Academy Award in 1938 for her “contributions to the motion picture industry during its pioneer days.” I could not verify this with any other sources.

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From May 20-22, 1920, the Poli featured Black is White¸ with Dorothy Dalton as Margaret Brood and Holmes Herbert as Jim Brood. The film was released on February 22, 1920, at five reels. Complete copies are held in the Library of Congress and the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

Plot:  Young Margaret Brood is driven from her home by her jealous husband, Jim.


He believes she is unfaithful and even begins to doubt whether he is the father of their son. Margaret has a report published that she is dead. She goes to her invalid sister Theresa, to whom she bears a great resemblance. Theresa dies, and Margaret learns that Theresa was about to be adopted by Baron Strakosch and his daughter. So Margaret takes her sister’s place and becomes a mature Parisian woman. Fifteen years later, Jim comes to Paris and meets Margaret at a banquet.


He is attracted to her, because of her resemblance to his “dead” wife. The two marry and return to America. Margaret plans to exact revenge on Jim, but at the same time, cares for her son.


Then Jim mistakes Margaret’s love for their grown son Frederick as a romantic interest, and shoots the lad.


After nursing Frederick back to health, Margaret tells Jim the truth, and forgives him.

The still below could not be placed in context, but there was a character named Ranjab (played by Joseph Granby), so this is probably him along with Dorothy Dalton:


Exhibitor’s Herald took a measured approach in their review, writing “it is not a pretty story, yet there is a unique angle – that of her remarrying her husband under an assumed name without his knowing her true identity – which lends a special force to the production. It gives Dorothy Dalton a wide range for the display of her emotional ability.” Wid’s Daily pulled no punches, remarking “they show you a man married and a father. The man is jealous and finally comes to doubt the parentage of his baby. Fifteen years later he marries again and doesn’t know that she’s the same woman. Doctor, please have the gentleman’s eyes examined.” Picture-Play Magazine was succinct, stating “this production’s caliber may be measured by the fact that a man marries the same woman twice and fails to wake up until she tells him. Such men need alienists*, not plots, particularly when the woman is Dorothy Dalton.”


As with most of Dorothy Dalton’s pictures, Variety weighed in with their opinions of her outfits. “An evening gown of black and silver cloth was gorgeous. Made plain, slightly draped round the ankles, hung from the side, with three small feathers at the waist, the only trimming. Another evening dress was made very similar, only of velvet, with gold lace for the bodice, edged with the velvet. … Miss Dalton looked well in an afternoon gown of dark blue chiffon brocaded in silver, it having the draped skirt with a train flowing at the side. Sleeves opened at the elbow, the ends hanging loosely. A squirrel wrap was handsome, with gray fox for the collar.”

Also on the bill was a Charlie Chaplin short entitled Work. The film was released in 1915 and is available on YouTube, running around 28 minutes. Charlie and his boss attempt to do some home improvements for a bickering couple. They mess up the place. I didn’t find the movie particularly funny, except for a running gag about an exploding kitchen stove. Lowlights include Charlie hauling his boss around in a rickshaw-type vehicle (and getting hit with a stick to boot). The scene might have been funny for a few moments, but it goes on way too long and becomes painful to watch.



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34 minutes ago, scsu1975 said:

Also on the bill was a Charlie Chaplin short entitled Work. The film was released in 1915 and is available on YouTube, running around 28 minutes.

I wonder why Poli chose to play a five year old short to accompany BLACK IS WHITE instead of something more current.

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47 minutes ago, sagebrush said:

I wonder why Poli chose to play a five year old short to accompany BLACK IS WHITE instead of something more current.

This may be a "restored" version, according to the bill. 

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From May 23-26, the Poli ran Out of the Storm¸ starring Barbara Castleton as Margaret Hill, John Bowers as John Ordham, and Sidney Ainsworth as Al Levering. The film’s release date is uncertain, but it was five reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot: Margaret Hill, a poor singer, works at a Seattle low class cabaret. There she meets Al Levering, who falls for her. He pays for her voice lessons, using money he has embezzled. Levering is eventually arrested for his crime and sent to prison. Margaret decides to travel to San Francisco to study music. She is caught in a shipwreck, and is rescued by John Ordham, the son of a noble British family. During the rescue, the two become separated and go their ways, neither knowing the other is alive. A few years later, Margaret is a famous opera singer in London. Levering escapes from prison and sets out to find Margaret. Ordham again meets Margaret, and falls for her, even though he is engaged. Levering locates Margaret and forces her to choose between him and Ordham. Scotland Yard detectives, who have trailed Levering, shoot him. Ordham, who has broken off his engagement, forgives Margaret for her past.  Margaret and Ordham find happiness together.

The stills below could not be placed in context. The first shows John Bowers and Doris Pawn, who portrayed Ordham’s fiancée Mabel Cutting. The second shows Walter Driscombe, an unidentified actress, Barbara Castleton, and Lincoln Stedman.



The film was based upon a novel by Gertrude Atherton, entitled The Tower of Ivory.

Exhibitor’s Herald praised the shipwreck scene (as did other magazines), but was a bit rough on Barbara Castleton, writing “the principal fault with the picture is unnatural and stilted acting of Miss Castleton in the principal role. We have seen this young lady give a very good account of herself in other vehicles, but here she rarely unbends, and throughout is the most unnatural and unsympathetic of the entire cast.”

Sidney Ainsworth, who portrayed Al Levering, died a few years after this film was released. You can read my short bio of him here at the IMDb website:


Also on the bill was a Mack Sennett two-reeler entitled Let ‘er Go, starring Louise Fazenda. The short was released on May 23, 1920, and is presumed lost. Apparently most of the action takes place on a farm. One character attempts to milk a cow, and tries to keep the cow’s tail still by tying it to his suspenders. When the cow is startled, predictable slapstick ensues. In another scene, Teddy the Dog is playing blind man’s bluff with a human couple, when the man is knocked into a beehive. There are various chase scenes involved cars and bicycles. In another scene, Louise Fazenda is swimming when she is plucked from the stream by the hook of a young man’s fishing pole. The Moving Picture World remarked “Louise Fazenda was never more attractive than in this picture, in which she combines personal charm with the grotesqueness of farce-comedy makeup.” Exhibitor’s Herald wrote that the film “contains more laughs in the first reel than have been present in the last half dozen of Sennett’s program subjects.”

Another act on the bill was Joe Darcey, a singer and comic who appeared in blackface. I don’t know how his act went over in Bridgeport, but in early January of 1920, he appeared at a theatre in New York City, with a reviewer from Variety in attendance. During the act, Darcey told a joke about a black lad yelling “Oh, Boy,” in a southern theatre. The manager of the southern theatre then warned the boy that if he yelled again, he would be strung up to a tree outside of the theatre. “From the way the large audience received this,” the reviewer wrote, “I think I am justified in taking exception to the “joke” in fairness to colored performers.” Darcey was still doing his blackface act into the 1930s. In 1931, he was running an inn in New York. He was just about to close for the night when he received a phone call. The caller asked if Darcey could keep the place open for a few minutes. Darcey agreed. Shortly thereafter, four men came in and robbed him of $200, as well as several hundred dollars’ worth of jewels. Darcey, in full makeup, is pictured below:



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From May 27-29, the Poli ran Mothers of Men, starring Claire Whitney as Marie Helmar. The film’s release date is uncertain, but it was five reels, and is presumed lost. I could not find any stills.

Plot: While living in Austria, penniless Marie Helmar is ravaged by Captain Von Pfaffen. She flees to her wealthy cousin’s family in France, where she is given a home. There, she falls in love with Lieutenant Gerome De La Motte. Happily, his parents approve. Just before they are to be married, Marie writes Gerome a letter, explaining what happened to her in Austria. She sends a servant to deliver the note, but then he returns it, claiming he could not obey her order. Marie decides to bury the issue, and continues with the marriage. Then war is declared, and her husband and father-in-law are sent to the front. A new servant is hired for the home. Marie quickly recognizes the man as Von Pfaffen, who has been placed there as a spy. Pfaffen blackmails Marie, threatening to expose her past unless she obtains some battle plans from her husband; plans which had been discussed by French officers at their home. Marie passes along false information to Pfaffen, which results in a disastrous outcome for the Germans. Pfaffen decides to commit suicide, but also decides to kill Marie. During a struggle, Pfaffen is killed. Gerome arrives, and Marie hands him the note she had written to him, now begging him to read it. Gerome confesses that he had read the note on the eve of their wedding. He also admits he had the letter returned to her as though it had not been delivered; his love for her was so strong that her past did not matter to him. Marie then proudly announces she is going to be a mother.

Parisian-born Gaston Glass, who portrayed Gerome De La Motte, received his stage training from Sarah Bernhardt. When his acting career started to wind down, he joined 20th Century-Fox as an assistant director, then later become a production manager. In June of 1923, Glass ran afoul of the law when he, director Louis J. Gasnier, and two women were arrested at a rooming house, charged with “vagrancy and lewdness.” The women were identified as Mrs. Helen McCloskey, “said to have been a 1922 Follies girl,” and Miss Alma Rhoades, a film extra. The party was broken up by three officers from the Hollywood division, who stated they had been watching the house for several hours before raiding it. Each person was released on $100 bail. Gasnier told reporters he had been framed, and had been simply calling on Glass when he was arrested. He claimed he had read an ad for a house for rent, and had gone to investigate. He had picked up Glass along the way, after Glass claimed he knew the owner, Mrs. McCloskey. “Arriving at the house I met Mrs. McCloskey and Miss Rhoades for the first time,” Gasnier stated. “We were invited to stay for supper and I left the house shortly afterwards. I returned later and was arrested. Why did they arrest me? I don’t know. It’s terrible.” Glass corroborated Gasnier statements, simply remarking “isn’t it terrible?” B. P. Schulberg, who owned the studio were Glass and Gasnier were currently working, declared “it’s just another attempt to get picture men in bad. Other professional men can get away with anything, while, we of the motion-picture profession, are always singled out for notoriety. I know Mr. Gasnier would not commit the acts charged. I have known him for years and have seen his morality tested many times. Mr. Glass also is an honorable man and I know that he too is innocent.” A few days later, McCloskey filed for divorce from her husband, charging cruelty. She claimed he struck her with his golf clubs “after she chided him for staying out too late on the links.” In early July, Glass’ case was heard by a jury, but no verdict was reached. In late July, Glass announced he was retiring from the screen until he was either judged innocent or guilty by a jury. In a letter to Schulberg in which he offered to give up his contract, Glass wrote “I have decided to face the situation squarely, to fight for complete vindication, not only in the courts but at the hands of the public, and to abandon all other considerations until I have accomplished this purpose. Consequently, I feel that I cannot again appear before the camera until I can face the world without a blemish on my name.” Schulberg, in a reply, wrote that Glass would still have a job waiting for him.” The case took another turn in August, when Police Officer H. K. Freeman, who had been one of the arresting officers, claimed he was being threatened. “I’ve been told to lay off Glass and Gardner (another case). I’ve been told that there’s a lot of money to be made if I use my head. But I’m doing my best to be an honest officer and keep my feet clean. I’ve been harassed because I won’t let up on the Glass and Gardner cases. Policemen and civilians have ragged me, and now I walk my beat in fear that I’ll be killed.” The second trial began in mid-September, with hilarious scenes. One of the defense attorneys called Freeman “a moron and a coward.” He referred to another of the arresting officers as a “coyote.” Another defense attorney also took aim at the officers, declaring “are you going to sanction an act such as theirs – the peeping under the blinds of your home?” The prosecutor struck back, telling the jury “it is such men as Gaston Glass who give black eyes to the communities in which they thrive. He is of that class that goes through life contaminating everything and everybody around him.” As in the first trial, the jury could not reach a decision. On September 21, the charges were dropped against Glass, Gasnier, and the two women. Later that day, B. P. Schulberg signed Glass to a new contract. “If there was any doubt about Gaston’s complete vindication, it has been removed by the flood of telegrams of congratulations that already have reached him from every part of the country,” Schulberg said. “Personally, I was never in doubt about the outcome of the misdemeanor charge against him.” For his part, Glass said “every expression that has reached me since this affair has convinced me that the public is fair-minded enough to accept the truth, and is not influenced by the words of those who refuse to see anything but evil in the most trifling act.”

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From May 30 – June 2, 1920, the Poli ran A Child For Sale, starring Creighton Hale as Charles Stoddard. The film’s release date is uncertain, but it was six reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot:  Charles Stoddard is a struggling young artist, with a sick wife and two children. His wife dies, and Stoddard is unable to pay his rising rent. He decides to sell one of his children to a respectable family, while raising the other with the money he receives. He sells his daughter Sylvia to a rich widow for one thousand dollars. But when his son Walter cries out for his lost sister, Stoddard has a change of heart.


He goes to the widow, takes Sylvia, and returns the money. Walter takes to playing a harmonica on the street to earn money for the family. But he is arrested for doing this, and taken to a Boys’ Home. There, he is questioned by the home’s founder, Mr. Harrison. In fact, Harrison is the scoundrel who has been raising the rent on Stoddard and other families. Stoddard is able to bring his son home, while making the acquaintance of Dr. Gardner, who happens to be Harrison’s son-in-law. When Sylvia* becomes ill with scarlet fever, she is cared for by Dr. Gardner. The doctor takes an interest in both children, and Mrs. Harrison and her daughter also help out.



Eventually, Stoddard discovers he is the son of Mrs. Harrison, from a previous marriage she has kept secret from her husband. In the course of this discovery, Mr. Harrison reforms his ways. The families thus become united.

*One review states that the boy is stricken, but two reviews mention the girl is stricken.

A critic for Photoplay focused the review on producer/director Ivan Abramson, writing that Abramson’s “belief in himself as a propagandist, and the honest impulse that inspired his attempt to expose the worst of the profiteers and the most shallow of the philanthropists protects him from the stabs of this particular pen. His picture is an inartistic jumble of unrelated incidents to me, but to Mr. Abramson it represents the sincere protest of one who would take a hand in setting the world straight by proving, among other things, that striking laborers, as well as profiteering capitalists, are responsible for much of the prevalent misery.” Motion Picture News was lukewarm, noting “the episode of the father being obliged to sell his daughter seems to have been worked in to give the picture a box office title. It is not an essential part of the plot, and the wealthy widow who buys the little girl drops out of the story as suddenly as she entered.” While the magazine praised Creighton Hale’s performance, they also remarked “Julia Swayne Gordon, as the mother with the past – which consists of merely a hidden previous marriage – is entirely overdramatic throughout.” The review concluded with “it seems as if the success of this picture would be proportional with the scale of rents in each city. Besides the anti-profiteer appeal there is not much else to attract.

The film was given a special screening at the Wurlitzer Fine Art Hall in New York City on April 8, 1920. Various city officials attended, including the Mayor’s Committee on Rent Profiteering, as a well as a number of judges from the municipal courts. One of the justices, J. Strahl, penned a letter to Ivan Abramson, writing “I am glad that I availed myself of the opportunity to attend the screening of your remarkable production … dealing with the high cost of living and rent profiteering. … Your picture has an important mission and will prove a valuable collaborator in solving the most important problem now facing the country.” Mrs. Clarence Burns, President of the Little Mother’s Aid Association, wrote “it is an appealing and pathetic story, beautifully staged and unusually well acted through the whole cast and it will not fail to carry an appeal that softens the hearts of all who will see it.”

Theaters nationwide exploited the film by printing a bogus ad (shown below) in local newspapers several days before the film was to be shown:


In 1931, one of the trade magazines claimed that a producer had bought the rights to the film from Abramson and was going to make it as a talkie. But apparently the project never materialized.

Bobby Connolly, who portrayed Walter Stoddard, amassed a large number of screen credits in a career cut short by his death at thirteen. In one of his roles, he played the child violinist Leon Kantor in the 1920 version of Humoresque (available on YouTube). He is shown below, in a still from that film, with Vera Gordon:


You can read my short bio of Bobby at the IMDb website here:


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From June 3-5, 1920, the Poli ran Terror Island, starring Harry Houdini as Harry Harper. The film’s release date is uncertain, but it was five reels. Incomplete copies are held in the Library of Congress and the Gosfilmofond in Moscow. There is a print on YouTube which runs just under an hour, and that is the version I reviewed.

Brief Plot:  Harry Harper has invented a submarine. He reads about a shipwreck that contains treasure and decides to find it, with the idea of sharing the wealth with his community. Meanwhile, Beverly West receives a letter from her father, who is being held captive on an island. He has been condemned to death by the island natives unless Beverly returns a sacred pearl to them. He also knows where the shipwreck is. Harry and Beverly set out to the island, but are competing against the unscrupulous Mourdant family, who seek to get the treasure for themselves.

Review: Although a bit disjointed because of some missing footage, I found this film entertaining. It gets off to a slow start, but does pack plenty of action (improbably though much of it is) in the final reels. Houdini is adequate and seems comfortable in his role. He manages to extricate himself from some weird situations, as seen below:


He also cracks a safe while underwater:


Lila Lee, as Beverly, is lovely, although in the initial scenes, her “Princess Leia” haircut is a bit much.


Once she literally lets her hair down, it is a big improvement. A somewhat svelte Eugene Pallette plays one of the Mourdant family. There are plenty of chases, narrow misses, and stunts.

The stills below are from some of the missing footage. Harper is captured by the Mourdants and held in a shack, which is then set on fire. He manages to escape.



In another lost scene, Harper is nailed inside a box and thrown into the sea. He gets out of that one as well.

I normally would not include contemporaneous reviews in a film that I watched, but some of these are so hilarious I couldn’t resist. Motion Picture Classic remarked that the film “is a series of palpably absurd incidents intended to be ultra-startling. It isn’t.” Wid’s Daily wrote “Beverly is thrown over a precipice locked in a safe. A villain descends in a diving suit, places a charge of dynamite under the safe and returns to his ship. Then Harry lets himself out of his trick submarine, opens the safe somehow and swims back with the perfectly able Beverly! Oh boy, what lungs Beverly must have!” The magazine added “most audiences will laugh right out as they pile impossibility in impossibility as the story progresses.” Picture Play Magazine called the film “a terror of a picture. With Houdini, the escape artist, in the principal role, it resembles a fifteen-episode serial jammed helplessly into five thousand feet of film.” Even the public weighed in. One reader of Photoplay wrote a letter to the magazine, noting “the most glaring inconsistency was in the matter of the letter from the captured man to his daughter, in which he tells her just where he is, and how to save him. Wonderful! Particularly in view of the fact that there had been, supposedly, no white men on that island since he had been shipwrecked. But his letter reached her through some sort of superhuman mail service.”

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13 minutes ago, scsu1975 said:

Motion Picture Classic remarked that the film “is a series of palpably absurd incidents intended to be ultra-startling. It isn’t.” Wid’s Daily wrote “Beverly is thrown over a precipice locked in a safe. A villain descends in a diving suit, places a charge of dynamite under the safe and returns to his ship. Then Harry lets himself out of his trick submarine, opens the safe somehow and swims back with the perfectly able Beverly! Oh boy, what lungs Beverly must have!” The magazine added “most audiences will laugh right out as they pile impossibility in impossibility as the story progresses.” Picture Play Magazine called the film “a terror of a picture. With Houdini, the escape artist, in the principal role, it resembles a fifteen-episode serial jammed helplessly into five thousand feet of film.” Even the public weighed in. One reader of Photoplay wrote a letter to the magazine, noting “the most glaring inconsistency was in the matter of the letter from the captured man to his daughter, in which he tells her just where he is, and how to save him. Wonderful! Particularly in view of the fact that there had been, supposedly, no white men on that island since he had been shipwrecked. But his letter reached her through some sort of superhuman mail service.”

...and yet, 100 years later, we are grateful that this film exists, as it (and his other films) are the only visuals we have of the escapades of the great Houdini.

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From June 6-9, the Poli featured His House in Order, starring Elsie Ferguson as Nina Graham and Holmes Herbert as Filmer Jesson. The film was released on March 7, 1920, at five reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot:  Nina Graham, left penniless by the death of her father, takes a job as governess to Derek Jesson, the son of Filmer Jesson, member of Parliament.


Jesson’s wife, Annabelle, is secretly in love with an army officer and is planning to leave the country with her lover. But she is killed in an automobile accident before any of this can be revealed. Nina stays as governess, and finds companionship in helping little Derek. Geraldine, who is Jesson’s sister, looks upon Nina with disfavor. But Jesson, seeing Derek’s fondness for Nina, asks her to marry him. The two go to Paris on a honeymoon. There, Nina meets Jesson’s brother Hillary.


When Nina asks her husband to take her to a fancy dress ball, he refuses, reminding her that Annabelle would never indulge in that kind of activity.


But Hillary offers to take her, and she wears a striking costume which wins first prize.



Jesson becomes enraged at this, and plans an immediate return to England. When the pair return home, Jesson becomes more and more critical of his wife. Nina then overhears him telling Hilary that he made a mistake in marrying her. Nina prepares to leave, but then some old love letters which show Annabelle’s infidelity fall into Jesson’s hands. He realizes he has made a mistake, and finally turns all his affection to Nina.

The film was based upon a stage play of the same name, written by Sir Arthur Wing Pinero. The play was first performed in London in 1906. In 1928, the story was filmed again, with Tallulah Bankhead and Ian Hunter in the lead roles. That version also appears to be lost.

Wid’s Daily commented that the movie’s theme was “not new to photoplay audiences. In fact the idea has been used so often that it might be indexed under a number and referred to as such.” Photoplay wrote that Elsie Ferguson was “quite as beautiful as usual, and as effectively dramatic when drama is called for, but she is lifeless and heavy in many of the episodes. … She could have attended her father’s funeral with quite as much joy as she puts into this adventure.” Exhibitor’s Herald remarked that “Elsie Ferguson has one of her best roles. As a result she shines with renewed lustre, and regains much of the ground lost through appearing recently in several weak vehicles. … The many beautiful gowns worn by the star will delight the eye of feminine patrons.” Regarding the gowns, Variety chimed in (as usual) with their opinion of the designs. “In the evening frock of gold cloth Miss Ferguson looked striking. The skirt was draped in front, with the bodice plain. It has the double train effect of gold and net. Her velvet cloak was handsome, appliqued in gold braid, with a wide collar of kolinsky fur. A suit of dark duvyteen, trimmed in squirrel, was smart. For a fancy dress ball Miss Ferguson wore an oriental costume; sort of “Chu Chin Chow” makeup that was beauteous in its splendor.” You can see Ms. Ferguson admiring herself below (and she does look good!):


Also on the bill was a Mack Sennett comedy entitled By Golly! featuring Charles Murray and Fanny Kelly. This two-reel short, released on June 6, 1920, is presumed lost. Briefly, Kelly gives Murray a watch at his birthday party. The man making the presentation speech then drops the watch into a cuspidor. The male attendees gather among themselves, during which time the watch is stolen by a waiter. The thief is caught and the watch is recovered. A dancing girl and a dozen chorus girls emerge from an immense pie. A drunk pulls a table out from underneath Murray while he is dancing on it. I found one still:


Photoplay called it “the month’s dreariest comedy… the result was one of those things you like to forget as soon as possible. Mack must be asleep at the switch.” On the other hand, Exhibitor’s Herald called the film “a riot of fun.”

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From June 10-12, 1920, the Poli ran Mary Ellen Comes to Town¸ starring Dorothy Gish as the title character. Released on January 18, 1920, at five reels, the film is presumed lost.

Plot: Mary Ellen is a stage-struck girl, who works at a soda fountain in a small southern town. She spends most of her time daydreaming, and watching the New York train go by. One day the train is brought to a halt by a cow on the tracks. During the delay, a famous actress alights from the train, and Mary Ellen asks her to give her a card to a theatrical agency. She then convinces her mother to let her go to New York and achieve fame.




She boards the train, and meets Bob Fairacres, who has just returned from the army. When the train arrives in the city, Mary Ellen gets a job as a singer in a seedy cabaret, which turns out to be a front for the manager’s criminal activities. The manager, known as “Will the Weasel,” cooks up a scheme to rob Bob. He entraps Mary Ellen into his plan by implicating her in a fake robbery.


But at the last moment, Mary Ellen, who has fallen for Bob, refuses to go along with the game, and turns the tables on the Weasel. Mary Ellen and Bob get married, and return to her hometown.

The Moving Picture World praised Gish’s performance, noting that the actress “makes excellent use of her features and feet to the amusement of her audiences, and the laughs average about one a minute throughout the running of the picture.” Motion Picture News was less kind, remarking that the film “falters, because it gets away from its humorous angle and becomes melodramatic. Which naturally puts quite a burden upon Dorothy Gish, because she is a comedienne and not an emotional ingénue.”

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Dorothy Gish deserves to be remembered much more than she is for her contributions to film (and stage.) I always enjoy her likeable performances.

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2 hours ago, sagebrush said:

Dorothy Gish deserves to be remembered much more than she is for her contributions to film (and stage.) I always enjoy her likeable performances.

I agree. I've only seen a few of her films (those with her sister), and I wish more of her individual works were not lost.

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From June 13-16, 1920, the Poli ran The Courage of Marge O’Doone, featuring Pauline Starke as the title character, Niles Welch as David Raine, and, in an early role, Boris Karloff as Buck Tavish. The film was released in May of 1920 at six to seven reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot: Michael and Margaret O’Doone live in the land of the “big snows.” An Indian comes to Michael for help with a sick member of the tribe, so Michael makes a long trip to see if he can assist. Michael meets with a bad slide and is laid up for a short time. During his absence, Margaret and their daughter Marge are carried away by Buck Tavish, a trapper who has long coveted Margaret.


Margaret temporarily loses her reason, and flees to search for her husband, leaving her child behind.  Husband, wife, and daughter become separated for a long period of years. David Raine, a young man from the east, has found a picture of Marge left on a train seat. He has decided to find her, because there was a note on the photograph detailing her location, and saying she was alone. Along the way, David meets Father Roland, a man who spend his days tending to others who are suffering. David eventually finds Marge fending for herself, with her protector being a grizzly bear.




Marge has fallen under the influence of a brute named Brokaw and his gang. After some trials and tribulations, including a fight between two grizzlies, and a fight between David and Brokaw, David and Marge end up together.






David brings Marge to Father Roland’s cabin, where it is revealed that Father Roland is actually Michael O’Doone. In a happy ending, Margaret finds her husband and the family is reunited.

The film was based upon a 1918 novel of the same name, written by James Oliver Curwood. The film seems to have followed the novel (which I read) pretty closely, the difference being that the novel begins with Raine and Roland meeting on a train. Also, the earlier details of O’Doone’s family are not revealed until nearly the conclusion of the book.

The Moving Picture World called the film “a beautiful story … which piles one real thrill upon another. … One of the effective points of the production is the manner in which it makes use of animals, large and small, as a consistent feature of the plot, with the inevitable appeal to the spectator … Pauline Starke does something quite unusual in her portrayal of Marge, conveying a full sense of her mountain shyness, underlying which is a native fierceness and a complete ability to look out for herself.” A reviewer for Picture-Play Magazine wrote “I sat through this picturization of James Oliver Curwood’s story, which contains a bear fight toward the end and a man and dog fight, too, without ever discovering just what made Marge so courageous However, there is plenty of good snow stuff and reference to the “great outdoors.”” Wid’s Daily was lukewarm, writing “because of this inability to catch the spirit of bigness many of the story’s situations lack the required dramatic force. … The fight between David and the “brute” is well staged and the bear fight is a novelty but just why Marge had to run across the snows (in the distance) and in her birthday clothes is hard to understand. Maybe this is the courage referred to in the title.”

Several of the snow scenes do look impressive:





J. P. Bradley, manager of the Strand Theatre in Nashville, set up a small log cabin at the entrance to his movie house (shown below). As The Moving Picture World remarked, “we’ll say Marge had courage if she lived in a hut this size. She would sleep on the roof and cook on the floor.”


The Sun Theatre in Omaha went one better, getting a real bear and driving him around the city to promote the film. The bear was even able to “mingle” with passersby (see stills below):



Also on the bill was a two-reel comedy from Fox entitled Training For Husbands. The short featured Slim Summerville and Polly Moran. I could not find much information on this film, but it does involve a dog and a monkey teaming up to put out a fire, pilot a motorboat, and rescue a baby. I did find one still, shown below:



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