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From August 12-14, 1920, the Poli ran The Dark Mirror, starring Dorothy Dalton in the dual role of Priscilla Maine and Nora O’Moore. The film was released on May 16, 1920, at five reels. A complete copy is held in the Library of Congress.

Plot: Priscilla Maine is a rich society girl, but is troubled by dreams in which she sees herself as a woman of the underworld. She seeks the help of Dr. Fosdick.  


In reality, Priscilla has a twin sister, Nora O’Moore. The pair were separated while infants, and unaware of each other’s existence. Nora is a member of a gang of crooks.


But she is anxious to leave the group and marry Mario Gonzales. The couple are wed and start their life in a suburb in New Jersey. One day, Red Carnahan, the gang leader, surprises Nora and drowns her. Priscilla sees this happening in her mind. Later, another member of the gang mistakes Priscilla for Nora. She is captured, but rescued by Marion, who also believes she is Nora. When he takes her home, Dr. Fosdick attempts to explain the truth to Mario. Priscilla sees Carnahan removing Nora’s body from the water. The gang leader is horrified to see the twin Priscilla, and drowns himself in fear. Mario leaves her, a broken man. Priscilla finds happiness with Dr. Fosdick, who has always loved her.

The film was based upon a novel of the same name, written by Louis Joseph Vance, creator of “The Lone Wolf” series.

Wid’s Daily wrote “the picture is a peculiar combination. It combines its science with very wild melodrama. For this reason, both of the element have a pretty hard time registering effectively. … Dorothy Dalton plays the twin role of Priscilla and Nora with good effect, although she doesn’t differentiate much between her two characters.” Photoplay called the film “a highly improbable melodrama in the telling of which the author, director and star are constantly being forced to admit that the story they are relating is not at all true. … Dorothy Dalton gives a vigorous performance in the melodramatic episodes, and does her best to make them seem real. She is a lovely camera subject, though, strangely enough, considering her experience, her beauty is frequently minimized, particularly in the close-ups, by the two-heavy shading of her lips. The lip-fault in pictures is as common as the foot-fault in tennis, and should be as quickly penalized.” Motion Picture News said that the film was “not easy to follow and there are times when its continuity becomes jumpy, due probably to faulty cutting. Psychic phenomena is difficult to understand even when sponsored by a Freud and offered in cold print. It becomes even more complex when used as the basis of dramatic conflict. … The action is truly mystifying and burdened with highfalutin crook melodrama. … Only through the convincing quality of Miss Dalton’s impersonation does the feature offer any sustaining interest.”

Some of the gangland scenes were filmed in the seedier sections of New York City. “We spent several nights at one of the famous cafes on the Bowery,” Dalton stated in a newspaper interview. “The camera was carefully concealed, and I don’t think any of the frequenters of the place suspected who we were. I was having a good time, though it required me to munch on a soggy sandwich and drink some nondescript liquid that was supposed to be beer, but wasn’t. Suddenly I looked around and a rough fellow with all the earmarks of a thug was staring at me. Catching my eye, he smiled a little wicked grin. I think he was wise to us. But I didn’t stay to find out. I insisted to Mr. Giblyn, our director, that we leave at once. All the way uptown I had a feeling that the evil-looking man was following us, and it was with a feeling of relief that I found myself alone in my little apartment.”

Walter Nealand, who portrayed Red Carnahan, is credited with making only four films. He later became a press agent for several circuses, including Cole Brothers, Clyde Beatty, Ringling Brothers, and Barnum & Bailey. In all, he spent about six decades in that career. In a 1957 interview, the then-77-year-old remarked “I’ve made more farewell tours than Sarah Bernhardt. This is my 59th year with the circus. I keep saying that I’m going to retire. But then, when spring comes around, I can’t imagine what I’d be doing sitting around a hotel when the bands are playing, and I go out again. My teeth are falling out, it’s getting tough for me to climb stairs, but this is my life. I don’t want any other.” Nealand died in 1961.

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6 hours ago, scsu1975 said:

Dorothy Dalton gives a vigorous performance in the melodramatic episodes, and does her best to make them seem real. She is a lovely camera subject, though, strangely enough, considering her experience, her beauty is frequently minimized, particularly in the close-ups, by the two-heavy shading of her lips. The lip-fault in pictures is as common as the foot-fault in tennis, and should be as quickly penalized.”

I've often thought about this; even the men suffered the same problem. Perhaps there just weren't enough lip shades at that time which would look more natural on film. I suppose another theory is that only certain types of make-up would withstand the very hot lights they used.


6 hours ago, scsu1975 said:




I like the "cooled by huge fans and tons of ice"! As recently as 2016, I worked in the dietary department of a retirement community which had no air-conditioning. One of our residents (whom was near 100 years old) suggested we use this technique to cool off our kitchen. It worked until the health inspector came and told us it was an electrical hazard. 🙄

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From August 15-18, 1920, the Poli featured Remodeling Her Husband, directed by Lillian Gish, and starring her sister, Dorothy Gish, as Janie Wakefield, and James Rennie as Jack Valentine. The film was released in June of 1920 at five reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot:  Janie Wakefield is the daughter of a rich businessman. She marries Jack Valentine, who constantly flirts with other women. He promises to reform, and he does - temporarily. He meets a pretty lady with a heavy suitcase. He helps her into a taxi and takes her home. Janie sees this as she rides by on a bus. She decides it is only someone who resembles Jack.


So he is let off the hook. Jack gets in trouble again when he begins to eye another woman. This time Janie manages to see what is going on. Still, she forgives him.


Then Jack takes up with a manicurist. Janie leave him and goes to live with her mother. She tries to forget Jack by taking a job at her father’s office, and she becomes a valuable member of the business. A few months go by, and then Jack calls on her at her office, begging forgiveness. Janie gives in, but then Jack attempts to “lay the law” down to her. Janie has him thrown out of her office. When he threatens to shoot himself, Janie takes him back, and he is completely reformed.

The still below could not be placed in context:


Photoplay wrote “this is a woman’s picture. A woman wrote it, a woman stars in it, a woman was its director. And women will enjoy it most. It does an unusual and daring thing; it presents the feminine point of view in plot, in captions, in sets and acting.” Motion Picture News was lukewarm, remarking “only the presence of Dorothy Gish, with her undeniable charm and inimitable comedy, saves this piece from becoming a tiresome entertainment. We can think of no other actress who can endow the tried and true role of the young bride, whose object is to take her husband, with so much color and personality.” Exhibitor’s Herald was not thrilled, noting “someone should take Lillian Gish to one side and tell her to stick to acting and let others to the directing of her sister’s plays… whoever it is around the Famous Players plant that passes on its finished product, was certainly asleep the day they slipped this one by. It is a very amateurish piece of work.” Moving Picture World, though, had kind words for the film, calling it “dainty, neat and pure of spirit …in the clean class of pleasing entertainment.”

Gish and Rennie clicked off-screen. They eloped in December of 1920. Fifteen years later, Gish returned to Bridgeport CT, filing for divorce, citing intolerable cruelty. Newspapers had described the marriage as ideal, but there were some issues behind the scenes. When apprised that his wife was suing for divorce, Rennie, who was in New York City at the time, cryptically remarked “perhaps you can attribute it to spring.” False reports circulated that Gish was planning to marry a young state actor named Romney Brent, and that Rennie was set to tie the knot with composer and musical star Vivian Duncan. Both Gish and Rennie denied the rumors, with Rennie stating “Please! Please! Let me have a little freedom before you marry me off again.” In May, newspapers reported that Gish had suffered a nervous breakdown, and was convalescing in Greece. In September of 1935, Superior Court Referee Isaac Wolfe recommended the divorce, writing “during the week, he (Rennie) would use liquor moderately. But at week-ends, he would use it to excess. At such times, he would come home in the early hours of the morning. Plaintiff (Miss Gish) would usually remain awake, waiting for him. If she were asleep, defendant would awaken her and make her get up and he would then talk incessantly to her on all sorts of subjects, depriving her of sleep and rest. … Miss Gish is of a nervous type and as result of this conduct, her condition was aggravated and at times she would have hysterics and be moved to unnatural fits of laughter. At one time she had a fit of hiccoughs which lasted for six days and nights.” Rennie countered by claiming that the liquor charge was “a lot of hooey.” The divorce was finalized in Bridgeport on October 11, 1935.

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5 hours ago, scsu1975 said:

Exhibitor’s Herald was not thrilled, noting “someone should take Lillian Gish to one side and tell her to stick to acting and let others to the directing of her sister’s plays… whoever it is around the Famous Players plant that passes on its finished product, was certainly asleep the day they slipped this one by. It is a very amateurish piece of work.”

Wow, can you imagine what would happen if someone wrote those words in the present day?

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From August 19-21, the Poli ran Sick Abed, starring Wallace Reid as Reginald Jay and Bebe Daniels as Nurse Durant. The film was released on June 27, 1920, at five reels. The Library of Congress has a complete copy.

Plot: Reginald Jay, John Weems, and his wife Constance are all staying at the Forest of Arden Inn. Jay asks Weems to take a female customer out to look at his ranch property. Weems and the woman get stuck on the road when their car is blocked by a fallen tree. Meanwhile, Constance devotes her spare time to writing motion picture scenarios. She insists that Jay should play the part of Orlando (another synopsis says Hector), the lover in her latest movie story. Jay sets off for the city in his car, and spots Weems and the woman coming out of a notorious roadhouse. Weems explains to Jay that the pair had sought shelter at the place during a rain storm. Weems fires his chauffeur, and Jay drives the pair back to the Inn. The chauffeur tells Constance her husband was in the roadhouse with another woman. Constance decides she will get a divorce. When Weems discovers that Jay will be called as a witness in the proceedings, he asks Jay to pretend to be ill. Weems hires two quacks to help him with the scheme.



A beautiful nurse named Durant is hired, and Jay quickly falls for her.



Constance decides to get another physician to examine Jay. When the Nurse Durant is fired, Jay jumps out of bed and is able to bring her back. Just before the new doctor can examine Jay, Nurse Durant kisses the lad, and the doctor finds that Jay’s heart action is wild. By now, Constance realizes that Jay will never play Orlando, so she goes back to her husband and begs forgiveness.

Exhibitor’s Herald praised the film, remarking “this adapted stage farce makes capital material for the blonde star and it is quite up to the standard set by his last half dozen vehicles. … Bebe Daniels … is cast as Nurse Durant and furnishes one of the best excuses in the world for “Reggie” Jay to stay sick.” Wid’s Daily added that the movie “is going to appeal to all those who like snappy, brisk farce comedy and that’s the same as saying that its appeal is universal. … Wallace Reid revels in this sort of picture and plays all the comedy points with authority and fine effect.” Commenting on Daniels, the daily added “the scene wherein she fools the specialist who comes to examine him by first thrusting ice and then a hot potato in his mouth while his temperature is being recorded and then kisses him when his heart is being examined is splendid comedy in every sense of the word.” Motion Picture News remarked “the director, Sam Wood, has timed his scenes perfectly – getting the most from every one without resorting to emphasis or exaggeration. … The idea of a young man shamming sickness so that he might avoid a restless member of the opposite sex and also to keep from testifying in a divorce suit is brought out here with charming freshness.”

Movie houses had a field day promoting the film. The lobby display below is from the Arcade Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida:


The next lobby display is from the Palace Theatre in Tulsa, Oklahoma:


Next is the window display at the Liberty Theatre in Geneva, Ohio:


Here is one from the Gastonian Theatre in Gastonia, North Carolina:


The California Theatre in San Francisco hooked up with two local drugstores. At Shumate’s Drug Store, two dolls were inserted in place of Wallace Reid and Bebe Daniels, with the Gillette Company sponsoring the setup:


Finally, the Owl Drug Store set up a display for electric vibrators (no, not that kind), and linked it to the film:



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From August 22-25, 1920, the feature at the Poli was The Prey, starring Alice Joyce as Helen Reardon. The film’s release date is uncertain, but it was six reels, and is presumed lost. I could only find one still, beyond a few that are posted at the IMDb site.

Plot: Helen Reardon breaks her engagement to James Calvin, a candidate for district attorney, when she hears him refuse her father financial aid. In fact, Reardon has embezzled a trust fund and is trying to get Calvin to give him more money to invest in a stock promoted by an unscrupulous character named Henry C. Lowe. Reardon soon afterwards commits suicide. Jack Reardon, Helen’s weak brother, forges Lowe’s name on a check. Lowe finds out, and forces Helen to marry him to protect Jack. Right after the marriage, Helen discovers Lowe is a brute. He threatens her by holding Jack’s crime over her. Helen visits Calvin, who is now the district attorney. He promises to help Jack and bring Lowe to justice. Calvin arrests Lowe, but Lowe dies Lowe attempts to frame Calvin by inviting him to his house and forcing his wife into a compromising situation. Calvin then feels he must resign from his office, but Helen refuses to let him do so. Helen overhears a plot of Lowe’s to get two of Calvin’s aids to steal evidence. Helen notifies the police and the crooks are caught in the act. Lowe is arrested, but dies from a stroke. Calvin and Helen are reunited, and Jack is cleared of all charges.

The still below shows, left to right, Jack McLean (as Jack Reardon), Alice Joyce, and Harry Benham (as James Calvin). This scene probably takes place at the end of the film.


The Moving Picture World praised the film, writing “before the second reel is finished the story takes an original twist, and to the very end it holds complete attention. … There are some gorgeous sets, and the direction is excellent. One particular incident is the wedding party. This is a jazzy bohemian affair, with a barefooted dancer, who certainly delivers the goods. … Alice Joyce as Helen Reardon looks beautiful in all the scenes and seems to work much harder than usual. … This picture belongs in the class of very good photoplays.” Motion Picture News zeroed in on the performance of L. Rogers Lytton, who portrayed Lowe, noting “this figure is really the most convincing in the picture. He plays his game with cool, calculating deliberation. The cards are all stacked in his favor. He has forced the girl to become his prey through the indictment of her brother. And he, seemingly, has the district attorney at his mercy until he is eliminated for the sake of bringing light out of darkness. … L. Rogers Lytton gives a sinister touch to the interpretation.” The Film Daily remarked that the film was “more or less a rehash of very old picture material. … The interest, however, is mildly well sustained through quite clever juggling of the “balance of power” between the heroine and the villain. … Alice Joyce is given many opportunities in the role of Helen and takes good advantage of the majority of them. Her many changes of mood are sure and may well excite a certain admiration from those who enjoy real characterization.” Photoplay wrote “the same old story. The girl who sacrifices herself to save her brother from disgrace. The honest and upright young district attorney who loves the girl. The oily villain – he dies of apoplexy in the last reel. If he hadn’t, the hero would have been obliged to kill him – and a young district attorney should never do that. When the girl is Alice Joyce you can put up with anything, even this moth-eaten theme. The negligee Alice wears is the most attractive costume we have ever seen on the screen.”

Also on the bill was singer Mabel Berra. Berra performed all over the United States in musicals, and also in Europe. She is pictured below in a 1913 advertisement for beauty products:


In December of 1928, Berra ran out into the street in front of her home in Great Neck, Long Island, attempting to rescue her Boston terrier. Tragically, she was struck by an automobile and killed.

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From August 26-28, 1920, the Poli presented His Temporary Wife, starring Rubye de Remer as Annabelle Rose. The film’s release date is uncertain, but it was six reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot: Annabelle Rose works as a nurse for Howard Eliot, an aging millionaire. Eliot grows fond of her and asks her to marry him so that he can leave his fortune to her instead of his son, Arthur.


She refuses, so Eliot draws up a new will and gives her a letter to be opened sixty days after his death. Eliot dies and Annabelle is held responsible. She cannot get a job, and after suffering from hunger, responds to an ad for a temporary wife. The advertiser is Arthur, who, according to the terms of his father’s will, must marry someone other than Verna Devore, a fortune seeker whom Eliot opposed. Annabelle consents to the temporary marriage after opening Eliot’s letter and discovering she has inherited his fortune. The temporary marriage turns out to be permanent.

The still below could not be placed in context, but the actor with de Remer appears to be Edmund Breese, who portrays a judge:


Exhibitor’s Herald was not impressed, noting that while the film’s title “arouses curiosity and interest of the theater-goer” and “ample opportunity for exploitation,” the movie faltered due to the direction. “The director, however, has failed to take the best advantage of the material at hand. Joseph Levering has presented his subject with much of the appearance of a puppet show. His marionettes unravel the plot with stilted action, much as though they had been controlled by numerous strings controlled by Mr. Levering.”

Mary Boland, who achieved fame as a character actress, played the role of the gold-digging Verna Devore. She died in her sleep, aged 80, in 1965. She is seen below along with John Drew in a 1911 stage play:



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From August 29 – September 1, 1920, the Poli ran Riders of the Dawn, starring Roy Stewart as Kurt Dorn and Claire Adams as Lenore Anderson. The film was released on June 1, 1920, at six reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot:  Captain Kurt Dorn returns from the war in France, and is warmly greeted by his sweetheart Lenore Anderson, her father, and young sister Kathleen.



Dorn proposes to Lenore.


They set about harvesting wheat. Soon, Dorn is summoned to a secret conference and appointed to lead some vigilantes, known as “Riders of the Dawn,” to fight against radicals intent on destroying farms and disrupting labor. They have already preyed upon Lenore’s father. Dorn also has an enemy in Henry Neuman, a lawyer who had wanted Lenore for himself. Dorn is caught in a scheme whereby a woman claims to have married him in France. This briefly alienates Lenore until the story is proven to be false. Nash, who leads the gang of radicals, kills one of the workers at Kurt’s place. Kathleen witnesses the murder, so Nash chases the girl and corners her in a deserted schoolhouse. Dorn reaches the schoolhouse but is too late. Nash has killed the child and escaped. That night, the gang set fire to one of Dorn’s storehouses packed with wheat. Lenore, who has learned of the plot, attempts to warn Dorn, but is captured by Nash and imprisoned in one of the burning buildings. Dorn arrives in time to rescue her. He battles the entire gang until the Riders of the Dawn arrive to round up the radicals. Dorn kills Nash, and Neuman is exposed as a crook and faces punishment.

The film was based upon a Zane Grey novel entitled The Desert of Wheat.

Wid’s Daily wrote “Roy Stewart is the hero, no mistake, and a mighty scrappy one at that,” but added “the entire picture is too long. While it manages to maintain the interest at a fairly even degree, it would be even more potent had they not striven to over explicit in certain minor details. Some scenes dealing with the harvesting of wheat according to modern methods may prove of special interest in certain localities.” Photoplay mocked much of the action, remarking that the hero “not only bowls over a quartet or two, but he fights at least one army, and maybe two, rioting Bolsheviks, killing five or six of them with a single bullet … villains to the right of him, villains to the left of him, crumpled and fell to earth each time Kurt raised his pistol arm. Which is neither good sense nor good direction.” However, The Moving Picture World praised the film, noting “especially fine is the introduction. It is one which immediately plants the leading character in sympathetic interest. The home-coming and kindly reception of the returning soldier is an affecting situation. … Roy Stewart in the leading role radiates vigor and energy.” Several reviews touched on the “Bolshevik” aspect of the gang, with Motion Picture News writing “the story takes up another indictment against the “I Won’t Works,” but instead of presenting them blowing up industrial plants it depicts them plotting to ruin the wheat crop of the West.” The magazine criticized the killing of the young girl, remarking that it was “quite uncalled for since it bears no relation to the plot … although the actual crime is not presented enough is left to the imagination of the spectator. With the scissors applied to this incident the picture is above criticism insofar as treatment of the characters and plot is concerned.”

Benjamin B. Hampton, who produced the film, married the female lead, Claire Adams, four years later. Adams essentially retired a few years after the wedding. The Canadian-born actress broke into films when she was 18, by sending her photo to a New York producer. In a 1957 interview with an Australian newspaper, she described her first screen test: “I couldn’t have been worse. I fell down the stairs when I was supposed to walk away gracefully. I shied away from the leading man’s kisses. I was dreadful. And when I saw the takes I burst into tears.” Early on, she was making between $40 and $70 per week in New York. Then she moved to California and her salary increased to $400 per week. Just before her marriage to Hampton, she was earning $7000 per week. She recalled something she learned from Tom Mix, about the correct way to be “rescued” from a galloping horse: “You had to kick your feet from the stirrups and be ready to be hauled off.” In those early days of filmmaking, the actresses did not indulge in any fast living. “We didn’t smoke and we didn’t drink,” Adams remarked. The young ladies lived at home, meeting amongst themselves for ice cream, sandwiches, and lemonade. “Then a father or brother would see us home,” she added. “Sometimes, but only rarely, it might be a trusted boy-friend.” Adams’ husband died in the early 1930s. In 1937, Adams met an Australian, Donald Mackinnon, and the two were married. She spent her remaining years living on their Victoria estate in Australia.

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From September 2-4, 1920, the feature at the Poli was What Women Want, starring Louise Huff as Francine D’Espard. The film was released at five reels, but the release date is uncertain. The Library of Congress has a complete copy. I could find almost no information on this film.

Plot:  Francine D’Espard meets an American army officer, William Holliday Jr., in France. Francine comes to the United States intending to marry him, but discovers he is set to marry an American girl. She is unaware that Holliday’s father has been threatened by an unscrupulous businessman. She hatches a plan to seek revenge upon Holliday, while he attempts to rescue his father from financial ruin. True love wins out in the end.

The stills below are newspaper advertisements, which could not be placed in context. In the first photo, the actors are Van Dyke Brooke (as William Holiday Sr.) and Louise Huff:


The next photo is Robert Ames (as William Holliday Jr.) with Louise Huff


The last photo is Robert Ames, Louise Huff, and unidentified actors:


Another film with a similar title, What Women Love, was also released in 1920. This movie starred the Australian swimmer Annette Kellerman. Several contemporaneous newspaper ads erroneously listed the title of the Kellerman film as What Women Want, which caused some confusion for me when doing my research.

Robert Ames was making his film debut, at age 31. The Hartford, CT native had worked on stage as early as 1909. In his private life, he had been married four times, with his last wife, Muriel Oakes, divorcing him in 1930 on the grounds that he drank excessively. On November 27, 1931, the actor was found dead in his hotel room at the Delmonico, on Park Avenue in Manhattan. A maid found Ames, clad in his bathrobe, lying between the sitting room and the bathroom. The attending doctor suggested that Ames had died from a hemorrhage due to a kidney disorder. Six bottles of whiskey were found in the room, along with a box of sleeping powders, so an autopsy was ordered. The day before his death, Ames had dined with his father, and Allen Fagin and Cora B. Claire, the brother and mother (respectively) of actress Ina Claire. When Ames took the trio to the train station later, he told Fagin “I’ve got to go back to the hotel. I’ve got a date with one of my former wives.” Rumors had swirled of a relationship between Ames and Claire, and phone records revealed that Ames had made three calls to the actress from the hotel. The room also contained photographs of Claire, and a telegram which read “Darling. I am necessarily delayed. INA.” In early December, the final report on Ames’ death noted that his demise was attributed to “chronic alcoholism, which produced attacks of delirium tremens and edema of the brain.” At Ames’ funeral, held in Hartford, a spray of flowers from Claire was on prominent display.

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From September 5-8, 1920, the Poli ran Madame X, starring Pauline Frederick as Jacqueline Floriot. Directed by Frank Lloyd, the film was released in September, 1920, at seven reels. A complete copy is held in the George Eastman House in Rochester.

Brief Plot: Jacqueline Floriot is married to Louis Floriot and they have a young son, Raymond. Jacqueline has a love affair with Floriot’s friend, which Floriot discovers. He banishes her from his house. When she learns that Raymond is desperately ill, Jacqueline returns to the home against her husband’s wishes, and a servant lets her in. But Floriot discovers her and refuses to let her see their son. He forces her out of the house for good.


Jacqueline’s life becomes wretched, and she sinks lower and lower.


Twenty years pass, and she meets Laroque, a disreputable Frenchman traveling in South America. He consents to take her back to Paris as his companion. After they arrive in France, her history becomes known to some blackmailers named Parissard and Merivel. Laroque decides to profit from this and calls upon Floriot, who is now has a high position in Paris. Jacqueline, fearful her son will learn the truth about her, shoots Laroque.


She is arrested and taken to prison, where she refuses to talk, calling herself “Madame X.” When the trial begins, Raymond is appointed as her attorney, unaware of her identity. He grows fonder and fonder of her, and is able to win her freedom.


Although Jacqueline now knows that the attorney is her son, she does not tell him. But Floriot recognizes her, and tells the truth to Raymond.


Mother and son are briefly reunited, before Jacqueline commits suicide by poison.


There were a few previous versions of the film, all presumed lost. The 1916 featured Dorothy Donnelly as Jacqueline, John Bowers as Floriot, and Ralph Morgan as Raymond Floriot.

Wid’s Daily wrote that the film was “rather slack in interest until court room scene, but this is keyed up to wonderful pitch … this tremendously powerful sequence has been handled with rare skill by Director Lloyd. It is a scene in a thousand, one so calculated that the spectator is completely caught in its intense emotional pitch and swept to an equally high emotional response.    Much of course depended on the playing of this sequence. Beyond a doubt Pauline Frederick’s work as the mother is triumphant. Her restrained emotionalism is one of the big factors in determining the value of the scene.” Motion Picture News gave a rave review, remarking that “combining Pauline Frederick’s exceptional emotional talents and her skill at screen expression with the powerful dramatic qualities of the famous  stage play, “Madame X” has been productive of a picture that can be justly hailed as one of the notable film events of the season. … Those looking for an opportunity to carp might justly complain it to be a vehicle for Miss Frederick, complain that the story is not a pleasant one, that it lacks much that the stage version which its wonderful lines possessed, and comparisons may be made with the Pathe production in which Dorothy Donnelly was starred but no one can gainsay but that it is Miss Frederick’s greatest achievement and a gripping skillfully constructed drama that has neither technical nor historical faults.” The Moving Picture World added “so nearly does the Goldwyn screen version of “Madame X” in its emotional intensity approach human experience that the spectator forgets art, forgets drama, in the face of absolute realism. Insistently it plays for sympathy and it gets sympathy to a degree of which few pictures are capable … the picture is a rare work of power and art.” Finally, Exhibitor’s Herald wrote “the combination of the art of this star, skillful in emotional parts, with the play of tensity and depth, produces a feature certain to be one of the most talked about of the season.”

According to a writer for the Sing Sing Bulletin, when the film was shown to prisoners there, it made the inmates “sniffle and cry like a bunch of school girls at a canary’s funeral.”

William Harwell, manager of the Empress Theatre in Wichita Falls, Texas, came up with an elaborate (and probably illegal) stunt to promote the film. He had a woman register at a local hotel under the name “Madame X,” instructing the hotel clerk to call her room at a certain time. When the clerk called and no one answered, he went to the room and found a note which read “Life to me is no longer worthwhile. Please do not attempt to find me. Your search will be of no avail. I have taken the road that leads to ‘God knows where.’” The note was signed “Madame X.” The hotel clerk called the local detectives, and an exhaustive search began for the woman. A little while later, Harwell began advertising the film, using the catch line “One the Road to God Knows Where.” The detective in charge of the case was not amused, but eventually admitted he wanted to see the film.

When the film played at the Granby Theatre in Norfolk, Virginia, management created an elaborate outdoor display. A ten-foot revolving “X” was placed over the entrance, with a profile of Pauline Frederick in the center:


Since the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus was also in town, eight boys were hired to march 100 yards ahead of the circus parade, carrying white cards on which were printed the letters forming “Madame X.” All the letters, except for the “X” were black. The “X” was red.


The boys were then given tickets to the circus, and they smuggled the letters into the arena. They then marched around the arena single file displaying the title again, along with “Granby.”

Also on the bill were Eddie Foy and his youngsters, in a skit entitled “Slumwhere in New York.” The children were yet to be called “The Seven Little Foys.” In the act, the group impersonated an Italian family, performing Italian songs and dances, then moved on to represent an Irish family. Some of the songs were co-written by Brian Foy, who was the oldest son, and who also was serving in the United States Navy. The act seems to have originated around 1918, and ended around 1920. The photo below shows the Foy family, circa 1918:



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I really find all these publicity stunts amusing! So they were solely devised by the theater owners and had nothing to do with the studios?

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53 minutes ago, sagebrush said:

I really find all these publicity stunts amusing! So they were solely devised by the theater owners and had nothing to do with the studios?

Some were staged by publicity agents for the studio, but quite a few theater owners staged their own ... and ended up in court for it. You'll have to wait and see about that, in an upcoming review.

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From September 9-11, the Poli ran The Inner Voice¸ starring E. K. Lincoln as Mark Reid and Agnes Ayres as Barbara. The film’s release date is uncertain, but it was six reels. Complete copies exist in the Library of Congress and the Cineteca Nazionale in Rome.

Plot: Mark Reid, a young prospector, discovers gold in the Sierra foothills. He meets an old man known as “The Good Samaritan,” who counsels him and welcomes him into his home.



While he is away registering his claim, another prospector, Mike O’Hara, comes along, and, seeing no one around, takes possession of the gold mine. When Reid returns, the two engage in a struggle. As Reid is about to be overcome, an Indian slips a dagger into his hand.



Reid is about to stab O’Hara when The Good Samaritan appears and stops the fight. Reid and the O’Hara set aside their differences and decide to become partners. Later that night, at a saloon, O’Hara boasts of his partnership with Reid. George Morrison, an unscrupulous promoter from San Francisco, overhears this and makes Reid an offer for the gold mine. In reality, he is planning to fleece Reid and O’Hara. Reid meets Morrison’s niece, Barbara, and falls for her.



The two announce their engagement, but Morrison goes ahead with his plan. He pays Reid $65,000, then sells the young prospector bogus oil stock. Now broke, Reid believes Barbara never intended to marry him. He wanders about the slums of San Francisco until he feels the desire to search for gold again. He discovers O’Hara is in possession of another rich mine, and becomes his partner. Years pass, and Reid rises in the financial world.


He plots his revenge on Morrison.


Reid causes a run on the stock market, which ruins Morrison.


With his adversary now at his mercy, Reid encounters The Good Samaritan again, who encourages him to forgive past wrongs. Reid and Barbara find happiness together.

Motion Picture News praised the film, remarking that “the story is told in the proper way. Plenty of time is taken to land its points, which are never jumbled and when a big scene comes along which requires plenty of action, the action is there, then all is “peace and quiet” until the time arrives for the planning of another big scene, thus giving the picture the right amount of balance. E. K. Lincoln is a splendid type for this kind of production, where the dress suit alternates with the rough character clothes. If given a fairly good story of this kind and a good cast, he’ll put it over any day in the week.” The Moving Picture World added “the star does the best work of his career, portraying three different stages of a man’s life in a convincing manner. The picture is well made, and especially to be commended is the clearness of outline in telling the story and its genuineness of detail. It is excellent entertainment under any auspices.” Exhibitor’s Herald remarked “too much credit cannot be given to E. K. Lincoln for his acting and the realist which he gives to the character of Mark Reid. It is the fiction character, not the actor, that impresses while the play is in progress, a circumstance encountered all too rarely in general production.”

In a 1920 interview, Lincoln declared “I took the most brutal punishment in this picture that I have ever taken in my life. If you think it is any fun to have a hob-nailed shoe planted full in your face, you’re welcome to try it. This once will be enough for me.” When asked why he fought in nearly every one of his pictures, the actor replied “I don’t know; they do seem to make me fight a lot, don’t they? I suppose it is because of my size, and the fact that when I am called upon to stage a fight it is always a real fight – no faking.”

Fuller Melish, who portrayed The Good Samaritan, was primarily a stage actor. In 1905, Melish was performing Shakespeare along with the noted Richard Mansfield in a Denver production. Mansfield, who was playing the role of Richard III, blew up during a rehearsal. He dismissed Melish and other members from the cast, yelling “You are a disgrace. You are the worst support I have ever had. You have ruined my reputation.” Whatever the issues were, they were apparently settled, since a few months later, Melish was again performing with Mansfield. Melish’s son, Fuller Melish Jr., and daughter, Vera Fuller Melish, made a handful of films between them. Vera achieved some success on the stage. She is pictured below, in a 1913 photo, when she was playing the lead in “The Blindness of Virtue,” in San Francisco:


Some forty years later, she was still working, appearing in “The Solid Gold Cadillac.” She is pictured below in a scene from the play, from a 1955 performance in Brooklyn:



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From September 12-15, the Poli ran The Penalty, featuring Lon Chaney as “Blizzard.” Released in July of 1920, the film has been shown on TCM, and there are some good prints on YouTube. The version I watched (several years ago) was on YouTube. The movie runs about 90 minutes.

Brief Plot: An underworld kingpin named "Blizzard," whose legs were needlessly amputated as a youth, plans to plunder San Francisco. He also plans to take revenge on the doctor who cut off his legs. In the climax, Blizzard attempts to force the doctor to cut off the legs off Barbara’s fiancé, and graft them onto his body. 

 Review: Solid drama, with Chaney in top form. In one scene, he poses as Satan for the doctor’s daughter (Claire Adams), who is a sculptor:


Chaney does some incredible work with his legs strapped behind him. Here, he demonstrates his upper body strength, grabbing onto pegs and pulling himself up a wall in his home:


Contemporaneous advertisements claimed that Chaney could only perform for about seven minutes at a time with his legs strapped up, since the pain was brutal. Below, he is shown getting prepared to be legless:


 Despite the plot, this movie is not as bizarre as it sounds. It is definitely worth a look.

To film a crowd scene in Chinatown in San Francisco, Director Wallace Worsley hid some cameras in an alley. He then had two plainclothes detectives, known to the locals, stroll down the alley. Two uniformed police officers (also in on the act) suddenly dashed around the corner, seized the detectives, and staged a fight. According to one of the trade journals, “every Chinaman for blocks around shut up shop and came to the party, while the hidden cameras were busily registering a mob scene that no studio performance could equal.”

In Seattle, F. Steffey, manager of the Coliseum Theatre, created and outdoor display and an indoor presentation to promote the film. The outdoor display, above the lobby entrance, depicted a scene from the film:


Inside, a trio of men sat on stage, recreating another scene for the patrons. One of the characters, a drug addict, sang “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows.” Next came a dramatic reading of a poem entitled “The Quitter,” which directly led to the screening of the movie:



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This is the first Lon Chaney film I ever saw. Really good film, too.  Before this, all the physicality I saw in silent films was usually of the comic or adventurous/swashbuckling nature, at least for the men. 😉


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50 minutes ago, sagebrush said:

This is the first Lon Chaney film I ever saw. Really good film, too.  Before this, all the physicality I saw in silent films was usually of the comic or adventurous/swashbuckling nature, at least for the men. 😉


There was a short-lived television series in the 60s called "Fractured Flickers," hosted by Hans Conreid, which featured clips from silents and lampooned them. That was my introduction to silent films. After watching those episodes, I assumed all silents were costume dramas, slapstick comedies, or silly romances. Was I wrong!

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From September 16-18, the Poli featured Going Some¸ starring Cullen Landis as J. Wallingford Speed. The film's release date is uncertain, but it  was five to six reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot: Right after the war, an inter-collegiate track meet takes place at Yale University. Culver Covington, the track star, is so successful with pretty girls that his buddy, J. Wallingford Speed, decides to pretend he is also a track star. Jean Chapin, Helen Blake, and Mrs. Roberta Keap are all enthusiastic patrons of the event. Jean’s fiancé, who happens to be Roberta’s brother, is Covington. Roberta’s husband, Captain Donald Keap, has just returned from overseas, and is not anxious to see his wife, with whom he had an argument before departing for the service.


To impress Helen, Speed tells her he is really the star runner on the track team, when in fact, he is a cheerleader. Helen is also being courted by Berkeley Fresno, a tenor. Helen buys Speed’s story and falls for him. Later, Roberta decides to live on her ranch out west, and contemplates getting a divorce from her husband. The workers are angry that the cook at the rival Gallagher ranch has beaten their top runner and caused them all to go broke. A competition ensues with the Gallagher ranch. Roberta enters Speed in the race against Skinner, who represents the Gallagher ranch. Speed goes through rigorous training with a trainer named Larry Glass. Speed keeps up the pretense, and plans to feign illness, assuming the star runner of the Keap ranch will eventually enter the race. But when the runner meets with an accident and shows up on crutches, Speed is forced to train in earnest.






Miz Gallagher, a gambler, wagers her entire ranch against the Keap ranch, and Roberta places the same bet against the Gallagher ranch. Then oil is discovered on the Keap ranch just before the race. In the end, both women ranchers realize that reuniting Roberta and her husband is most important. The sporting event is then transformed into a love fest.

The still below, with Cullen Landis the victim of an apparent holdup, could not be placed in context:


Helen Ferguson, who portrayed Jean Chapin, is shown below on location:


The story was based upon a novel and stage play by Rex Beach.

Exhibitor’s Herald wrote “refreshing humor and a succession of thrills will keep the merriment high in any audience, and the occasional moment of sentiment will stir the heart strings of the romantic ones.” The Moving Picture World remarked that the film was “an easy-going comedy of no very striking situation or incident but none-the-less pleasing to watch when one is in a restful mood.” However, Wid’s Daily remarked that “the pictured version of the Beach opus scores only moderately well. There are many lapses in it. These occur when the director attempts to get serious with reference to some of the details of the plot. The comedy concerning the foot-race is very good, but the serious moments are as dry as the desert which surrounds the location.” The Daily did praise the performance of one of the supporting players, writing “the comedy, much of it, is in the capable hands of Willard Louis, who appears as the trainer unfamiliar with the ways of the wild west, six-shooters and the like. He gets a laugh whenever he wants one but isn’t very prominent in the cast.

Willard Louis, who portrayed Larry Glass, was stricken with typhoid fever in 1926. On July 20, the Los Angeles Evening Express reported that Louis had first gotten ill three weeks earlier. But his attending physicians claimed the actor would recover in a few weeks. They were wrong. Two days later, Louis was dead.

Maurice Bennett “Lefty” Flynn was cast as Skinner, the rival runner from the Gallagher ranch. In real life, Flynn was an athlete, having attended Yale, competing in football, baseball, and track. He worked steadily in films in the 1920s, rising to leading roles. Married five times, he is pictured below with wife number three, actress Viola Dana, in 1926:


You can read my bio of Flynn at the IMDb website:


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From September 19-22, 1920, the Poli ran Homespun Folks¸ starring Lloyd Hughes as Joel Webster and Gladys George as Beulah Rogers. The film was released in September, 1920, at five reels. A copy is held in the Archives du Film du CNC in France.

Plot: Joel Webster is the son of a farmer. He studies law.  



But his stern father, who wanted his son to pursue farming, expels him from his home after Webster receives his diploma.


Webster, pushing a wheelbarrow that contains all his possessions, makes him way to the neighboring village of Gatesville to set up a practice.


He comes across a dog injured by an automobile.


Together with the driver, they bring the animal to the editorial offices of The Gatesville Record. There, Webster meets Pliny Rogers, who is the editor of the paper, and his daughter Beulah, whom he soon falls for.



But Rogers, a Democrat, breaks them up when he discovers Joel is a Republican.


Election time grows near, and Rogers attacks Hilary Rose, the Republican candidate for District Attorney. Rose withdraws from the race, and Webster is persuaded to replace him.



Rose goes to Rogers with revenge on his mind. Rose accidentally shoots himself, but a printer whom Rogers had fired accuses Rogers of the crime.


Webster furnishes bail for Rogers and proves at the trial that the printer gave false testimony. Rogers is released, but the townspeople are furious at Webster.


They descend on him as a mob, all set to tar and feather him.


However, Beulah forces a confession from the printer and all is cleared up. Rogers gives Webster permission to marry Beulah.


The following stills could not be placed in context. The first shows Lloyd Hughes with Lydia Scott, who portrayed his mother:


The second shows Hughes with Gladys George and an unidentified actor:


Motion Picture News wrote “once in their seats the patrons will be entertained if they don’t ask for too much truth in the offering. … There are times when the director stretches a point or two and certain details miss fire. … However, for the most part it is good entertainment and acted convincingly by Lloyd Hughes as the youth.” Exhibitor’s Herald wrote that the film was “a homely rural picture which holds the interest of the spectator from start to finish. The photography in many instances is superb and in general very good. The location and sets are remarkably good and the direction is admirable. All in all it is one of the season’s pictorial treats.” The Moving Picture World generally panned the film, writing “it is not convincing at all times and the story is frequently padded with scenes that are in themselves not sufficiently forceful to claim a place in the general detail of the picture. The character of Joel Webster, which should allow of interesting development, is more or less lifeless.” Wid’s Daily remarked that “the story, whole obvious in the extreme, is constructed along the lines of old-fashioned rural drama that have proved appealing many times in the past.” The daily also suggested “as the picture deals with the election battle of Republicans and Democrats in a small town, a good exploitation stunt would be to carry on a straw vote on the coming presidential election if you book the picture during the next two months.”

The working title of this film was “Wheelbarrow Webster.” The scenario was written by Julien Josephson, who wrote many of the films for Charles Ray. Indeed, this plot seems like it would have been tailor-made for Ray.

In December of 1920, James Binkov and Samuel Crystal, owners of (respectively) the Temple and Strand Theatres in Union Hill, New Jersey, were brought before a magistrate. Both owners had advertised the film as “a tale of “Way Down East,”” in a blatant attempt to capitalize on the famous D. W. Griffith film, which had been released a few weeks before Homespun Folks.  It probably didn’t help that the director of Homespun Folks was named John Griffith Way. Representatives for D.W. Griffith complained that in the advertisements for Homespun Folks, the words “Way Down East” were displayed in type that was 15 to 20 times larger than the actual title of the film. The court ordered that a man be placed in the lobby of each theater, announcing to patrons that they were seeing Homespun Folks, not Way Down East. Then, three theatre operators in Brooklyn, David Rosenzweig, Morris Gross, and Henry Katz, were also hauled into court on a similar charge. Associated Producers, Inc., distributors of Homespun Folks, claimed they had no control over how any of the theatres advertised the film. Griffith then issued a written warning to all exhibitors, stating, in part, “any person or persons showing a motion picture and claiming it is in any way a story of, or sequel to ‘Way Down East,’ will be prosecuted to the fullest possible extent.”

The main attraction on the bill was “The Paddock,” in which a live horse race was staged with four thoroughbreds. During the course of the race, one of the jockeys is “shot,” but manages to stay on his horse and win the event.

The bill also featured pictures of the “Wall Street Tragedy.” This was probably in reference to the horse-drawn cart which exploded on Wall Street on September 16, 1920. Over thirty people were killed, and over three hundred injured. Although the identity of the culprit(s) remains unknown, the FBI suspected the crime was perpetrated by Italian anarchists.

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From September 23-25, 1920, the Poli ran Officer 666, a comedy starring Tom Moore as Travers Gladwyn and Jean Calhoun as Helen. The film’s release date is uncertain, but it was five reels, and is presumed lost. I could only find two stills.

Plot: Millionaire Travers Gladwin returns from overseas unexpectedly and learns his butler is plotting with crooks to rob his valuable paintings. Gladwin informs his friend Barnes that he is going to allow the robbery just for the thrill he will get out of it. Two girls call at Gladwin’s home and ask to see him; it becomes clear that the person they know as Gladwin is, in fact, someone else. Gladwin guesses that the girls are in on the robbery. That night, he bribes his policeman friend, Officer 666, to lend him his uniform. Disguised as the police officer, Gladwin greets the burglar, Alf Wilson, who is after Gladwin’s paintings. Wilson tells the “officer” that he is Travers Gladwin; Gladwin goes along with this for the thrill. One of the girls, Helen, arrives on the scene, claiming she has a meeting with Mr. Gladwin, intending to elope with him.


With the real Officer 666 hidden, the girl’s relatives trying to stop her elopement, and real police trying to unravel the mystery, things get very complicated. But the real Gladwin falls for the girl, and she for him. He is so happy with this development that he helps Wilson escape from the police.

The still below could not be placed in context. At left is Tom Moore, but the actor on the right could not be identified:


The film was based upon a stage play of the same name, and had been previously filmed twice (both films are presumed lost).

 Wid’s Daily called the film a “thoroughly pleasing picture with mystery business at beginning proving effective.” The added that the picture “gives Tom Moore a splendid opportunity to display his ability and pleasing personality.” Motion Picture News was lukewarm, saying the film “interests only so far as reading the script would interest and has a handicap of much running in and out by the various characters and the squad of police that will be confusing to those who do not read titles quickly or are not familiar with the stage version.”

Jerome Patrick, who portrayed Alf Wilson (pictured in the first still, with the mustache) was a native New Zealander, and made his first stage appearance in Australia. When he came to New York, his career was interrupted by a stay in Toronto as a member of the Canadian Oversea Expeditionary Forces. He later came down with rheumatic fever, but recovered. While in the United States, one of his stage roles was “Ben-Hur.” He returned to Australia a few times to appear in plays. Officer 666 was the second of only ten films he made. When he died in September of 1923, newspapers listed the cause of death as “nervous disorders.” However, Variety wrote that the actor died of heart disease in the Neurological Institute in New York City. His wife, Grey Brunelle (some sources call her “Peggy” or “Greta”) was an American stage actress.

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I feel bad for all these presumed lost films and their creators. I feel like someone should construct a book compiling all the photos that remain from these films. Maybe they can title it "The Actor On The Right Could Not Be Identified." 😄

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56 minutes ago, sagebrush said:

I feel bad for all these presumed lost films and their creators. I feel like someone should construct a book compiling all the photos that remain from these films. Maybe they can title it "The Actor On The Right Could Not Be Identified." 😄

If I thought there was a buck in it, I'd do it. 😃

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From September 26-29, 1920, the Poli featured The North Wind’s Malice, starring Tom Santschi as Roger, Jane Thomas as Lois, and Joe King as Carter. The film was released in October of 1920, at five reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot: Roger Folsom is scolded by his wife Lois because he tracked snow into the house and spilled coffee on the table cloth. This causes Roger to leave his wife. Roger’s brother Tom tells him that Lois is getting involved with a man named Carter, which causes Roger to go even further north. During his travels, he writes to his wife, telling her he still loves her and will return if she wants him. But the letters never reach her. Elsewhere, Abe Guth and his wife Rachel run a store in Roger’s home town. The store is burned and the couple and their daughter are near starvation when Abe’s claim to a gold mine turns out to be worth a fortune. Roger’s wife allows Carter to take her to his mother’s house, where she gives birth. Carter goes in search of Roger and finds him way up north. Roger believes Carter has stolen his wife, and tries to kill him. But the misunderstanding is cleared up.


 Roger returns to his home to reunite with his wife and child.


Tom, who has been charged with theft, confesses that he lied to Roger about Carter’s intentions. He also explains that the reason for his theft: he stole food for Rachel, Abe, and their daughter, with whom he is in love.

The following stills could not be placed in context. In the second still, the young actor standing is Walter Abel (as Tom Folsom). Abel was making only his second screen appearance, on the way to a long career in film:



The film was based on a story by Rex Beach. Scenes were shot at Port Henry, on the shores of Lake Champlain in New York.

Wid’s Daily had some reservations about the film, writing that “the story resolves itself into two distinct plots with the man of the North and his petty troubled wife on one hand and Rachel and her husband on the other. The constant switching back and forth from one idea to the other is confusing to the audience and thus detracts from the picture’s appeal as a whole.” However, the daily did praise the performance of Vera Gordon (as Rachel), stating “hers is the performance that gets the audience before she is on the screen two minutes and in this picture the contrast between her work and of William Strauss as the Jewish husband as compared with the main story and its characters, cause a division of the interest from the spectator’s point of view which handicaps the general appeal of the production as a whole.”

Vera Gordon was only appearing in her second film. Her first role, as “Mama Kantor” in the 1920 version of Humoresque, launched her on a career playing Jewish mothers. In a 1921 interview, Gordon remarked “I don’t have to tell mothers or show mothers how to love their children. That is born in them, thank God. It’s part animal and part God, that instinct, which clutches and holds the young against the world. But oh, the children of this age! They make me cry with shame when I see them insult and ridicule their mothers, even strike them. A child has to be taught to love its mother, and must be kept in love with her through the wisest of mothering. That’s why I say ‘Mother, be the head of your house. Don’t let your child take the reins out of your hands. The most ignorant mother is wiser than the most educated child, for she is wise with experience and instinct.’”

Also on the bill was a two-reel comedy entitled You Tell ‘Em Lions, I’ll Roar, which was released on September 8, 1920. This was distributed as a “Century Comedy featuring the Century Lions.” The farce opens in a grocery store run by a husband and wife. A villain enters the store, but before he can do any damage, the husband opens up the limburger case and causes the villain to swoon. But the bad guy still manages to take a shot at the husband. The husband’s pants catch on fire, and he jumps into a nearby stream to extinguish the flames. Now the husband and wife go for a walk, but two crooks rob their safe during their absence. The couple trace the crooks to a vaudeville show where a lion tamer is letting his lions perform for the audience. The couple are so angry that they open a trap door and release the lions, thinking the animals will attack the crooks. Instead, the animals go after everyone, including the husband and wife. The lions follow the married couple and the crooks back to the grocery store, where the wife locks herself into the cashier’s booth. Her husband manages to open the cheese cases, whereupon the lions faint. The wife manages to get the money back from the crooks and the couple finally have some peace and quiet.

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From September 30-October 2, 1920, the Poli presented Out of the Snows, directed by and starring Ralph Ince as Robert Holliday. The film was released on August 23, 1920, at five reels. A complete copy is held in the Cinematheque Royale de Belgique.

Plot: Robert Holliday, of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, is engaged to Ruth Hardy.


On the eve of their marriage, Ruth tells Holliday she knows nothing about her parents; since childhood, she has been provided for by an anonymous source. When Holliday goes to get an official to perform the ceremony, Ruth is visited by John Blakeman, a former partner of her father’s. Blakeman tells her that her father had been a fur smuggler in the Hudson Bay country and had been killed when she was very young. Blakeman tells Ruth that it was Holliday who had killed her father. Ruth returns a gift to Holliday, with no explanation. Then she sets out to the North Country with Blakeman, while Holliday is sent on the trail of fur smugglers.


At a trading post, Holliday meets Anitah, a half-breed Indian girl, who is the “squaw” of Red Deer. She offers to help Holliday.


But she misinterprets Holliday’s friendship and falls for him. When Anitah is assaulted by a trader, she kills the man and heads further north with Red Deer. Holliday is duty-bound to set after her and arrest her. He finds her aboard an ice-bound ship, which happens to be the rendezvous point for the smugglers.


He learns that Anitah shot the man in self-defense. He also discovers that it was Blakeman who was responsible for the death of Ruth’s father, and that Blakeman had been providing for Ruth all these years. There is a fight about the ship, and Blakeman sets fire to it. Holliday rescues Anitah. But on the return journey, she dies.



Red Deer avenges her death by killing Blakeman. Holliday and Ruth are reunited.

Motion Picture News wrote “although it slows up a bit here and there, it is strong in incident and dramatic moments, with a pretty love story running throughout. … One of the best fights ever witnessed upon the screen shows Ralph Inch who plays the lead in a death struggle with the heavy. Ince gives a splendid portrayal of the young officer who puts duty above everything else, even though it means the arresting of one he likes. … The production has some wonderful snow scenes, especially those depicting the severe blizzards of the north.” The Moving Picture World called the film “corking good entertainment of the exciting snow-country kind.” Exhibitor’s Herald also praised the film, writing “Mr. Ince in his capacity as director has achieved an exceptionally finished product, and his choice of cast has had an equal result. In his role of hero he gives a splendid performance and as a member of the Northwest Mounted Police indulges in a thrilling combat with fur smugglers that offers a lively, man-sized scrimmage lending a real thrill to the scene.”

President Woodrow Wilson watched the film at the White House on Thanksgiving Day, 1920.

When the film played at the Newark Theatre in Newark, NJ, manager J. B. McNally hired three Indians (one of whom had appeared in the movie) to appear in the lobby:


In addition, he created a north county scenic display in the lobby:



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From October 3-6, 1920, the Poli ran The Leopard Woman, starring Louise Glaum as the title character, and House Peters as John Culbertson. The film was released on September 26, 1920, at seven reels. Complete copies exist in the Library of Congress, the UCLA Film and Television Archives, and the Academy Film Archive. The film is available on YouTube and runs about 70 minutes. The print on YouTube was poor, so I took stills from trade magazines.

Brief Plot: The British government sends agent John Culbertson to make a treaty with an African tribal leader. “Madame,” aka “The Leopard Woman,” is assigned by some bearded guy to stop Culbertson in any way she can.


This includes attempted murder, feigning sickness, and a failing attempt at seduction.





Love triumphs in the end (I kid you not).


Review: This film was a disappointment. No one should go out of their way to see it. The story is dull, and complicating matters was the poor print on YouTube. Titles and scenes were sometimes obscured, forcing me to squint my eyes. The film gets off to a decent start, particularly in the scene where Glaum strips down to the bare essentials (see still above), puts a knife between her teeth, and crawls into Peters’ room to try to kill him. Unfortunately, this was one of the scenes that was faded and dark, so the viewer couldn’t even get a chance to appreciate Glaum’s “charms.” The film drags after that, but picks up slightly near the end.

There is nothing wrong with the acting, but this film could have been more entertaining. Also, there is no explanation for the film’s title. Unless I missed a title card, Glaum is never referred to as “The Leopard Woman,” and she certainly never dresses like one. In addition, it was never clear to me just what “Madame” does, besides throw parties and try to kill British agents.


Perhaps some of the confusion is because of the liberties taken with the story. The film was based upon a novel by Stewart Edward White. White attended a screening of the film at the Ince Studio in Culver City. During the show, he said to someone “this is very nice, but I came to see my story. When are they going to run that?” When he was informed that this was indeed the film, he later remarked, diplomatically, “it’s a wonderful picture. I was completely fascinated. But you see my book was 436 pages long. I devoted two pages to the Leopard Woman’s past and four hundred thirty-four to her present. While they’ve given four and three-fourth reels to her past to one-half a reel to her present. But then, I don’t say I’m right. It’s certainly a wonderful picture. Perhaps it would have been better if I’d written the book that way.”

Noble Johnson has a substantial role as Glaum’s slave/assistant. He keeps calling her “Memsahib.” I hadn’t heard this “title” before, but it really is a word, and apparently apt for this situation.

I found the two stills in trade journals for scenes I don’t recall seeing in the film (unless they were faded or I nodded off). Perhaps they ended up on the cutting room floor:



H. J. Smith, manager of the Palace Theatre in Buffalo, created the display below for his lobby. It featured a cage with stuffed leopards and an Egyptian décor:



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