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NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)


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15 hours ago, scsu1975 said:

From September 21-24, the Poli ran Bonds of Love, starring Pauline Frederick

God, I don't know how I got so far behind on this thread. I don't seem to notice them when they come up. You're not be sneaky about this, are you, Rich? ;)

This thread is as magnificent enterprise. A great tribute to the silents. Good thing ole Leo isn't still around. He would say you are wasting your time with this garbage. I trust you remember ole Leo.

I will catch up, I surely will.

///

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8 hours ago, laffite said:

God, I don't know how I got so far behind on this thread. I don't seem to notice them when they come up. You're not be sneaky about this, are you, Rich? ;)

This thread is as magnificent enterprise. A great tribute to the silents. Good thing ole Leo isn't still around. He would say you are wasting your time with this garbage. I trust you remember ole Leo.

I will catch up, I surely will.

///

I usually post them on Saturdays and Wednesdays, which align with the showings 100 years ago. And yes, I remember Leo.

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From September 25-27, 1919, the Poli ran The Thirteenth Chair. The film was released on August 31, 1919, at six reels, and is presumed lost. This was the first of three film versions, based upon the stage play of the same name by Bayard Veiller. The other two versions, both in sound, have appeared on TCM. I will provide a brief plot, without spoilers, for those who have not seen the sound versions yet.

Plot: Stephen Lee, having been declared bankrupt, decides to blackmail Helen Trent in order to recoup his lost money. Trent’s brother Willy Grosby, and her friend Helen O’Neil, decide to help Trent. O’Neil gets into a struggle with Lee over some incriminating letters. When Willy enters the room, he finds O’Neil standing over Lee’s dead body, a knife in the victim’s back. At the Crosby home, Edward Wales has engaged a clairvoyant, Madame LaGrange, to solve the murder the next day, which is Friday the 13th.

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The guests assemble in a séance and the lights go out. Wales, sitting in the thirteenth chair, is found murdered in the same manner as Lee.

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Inspector Donahue takes charge of the investigation. He searches each of the guests but cannot find the murder weapon. In a pre-arranged plan, Madame LaGrange is accused of the murder. This causes a secret involving LaGrange and O’Neil to be revealed.

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Then another séance is held, and the real killer is exposed.

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Motion Picture News wrote of the film that “to those who have seen the play it will suffer in comparison because it is not so compact with mystifying action nor is it so endowed with electrifying suspense. The early reels are a trifle too involved so that the gist of the drama seems lost. However, the plot soon finds itself and the ultimate result is wholly satisfying.”

Yvonne Delva, as Helen O’Neil, was described by the trade journals as a “noted French actress.” But The Thirteenth Chair appears to have been her only film, as least in America. Contemporaneous newspaper accounts described her as a former Red Cross nurse, the daughter of a wealthy Parisian businessman. In 1916, she came to the United States to recuperate from various injuries she suffered while nursing wounded French soldiers during the war. If the newspapers are to be believed, Delva was at the front during the first battle of the Marne, in September of 1914. A German shell exploded near her, and she temporarily lost her sight. Later, at Deauville, she suffered from blood poisoning, which infected her hand. Doctors wanted to amputate it, but she refused. “With all the horrors of war, nursing is interesting,” she stated in a 1916 interview. “Having a knowledge of German, I was kept busy as interpreter for wounded German prisoners. They used to plead with me to taste their soup and other food, as they were afraid the French had poisoned it. … Just before the war I had been taking instructions in aviation. I made one flight alone, but smashed the machine in landing. If I were skillful enough I would like to pilot a military aeroplane, so that I could do something toward helping to crush the Germans.” It is not clear how Delva managed to be cast in this film, or what happened to her afterward. She is pictured below with co-star Creighton Hale, who played Grosby.

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Brooklyn-born Marie Shotwell portrayed the clairvoyant, LaFarge. Shotwell made her stage debut at 16. In 1911, she struck up a friendship with Mary J. Pierson, a public school teacher in New York City. “I met Miss Pierson ten years ago while we were both listening to a campaign speaker making a speech from a truck,” explained Shotwell in a 1921 interview. “Miss Pierson, who was then unknown to me, audibly voiced admiration for the speaker. That started a conversation which led to a close friendship. During the entire ten years Miss Pierson never spent a penny, giving me the impression that she was very poor.” In fact, Pierson was loaded. When the schoolteacher died in November of 1921, she left an estate worth $200,000 to Shotwell. In September of 1934, while working on the film Gambling, which starred George M. Cohan (who also wrote the play on which the film was based), Shotwell was stricken with a fatal cerebral hemorrhage.

Exhibitors had no shortage of ideas when it came to promoting the film. The manager of Keith’s Theatre, in Jersey City, NJ, hooked up with a good friend in the advertising department at J. W. Greene’s department store, the largest of its kind in the county. The store published four columns, claiming that “the deep, dense, dire mystery of “The Thirteenth Chair” can be solved right here, and solved correctly.” The store then went on to promote the merits of their furniture department. To check if people were reading their advertising, Greene’s purposely published a picture of fourteen chairs. Less than a half hour after the paper hit the streets, the store, the theatre, and the Jersey Journal were swamped with calls pointing out the error. Milne, manager of Keith’s, went a step further, setting up a window display at Greene’s, showing a room laid out in much the same way as that in which Edward Wales is murdered. Cut-outs of the characters were presented, along with a wax figure on the floor, representing Wales. You can see the crowds lined up outside Keith’s below:

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In Wilkes-Barre, PA, the manager of the Poli decorated a large mirror at the entrance to his theatre. He painted the mirror black, then painted a large chair in the center of it white (see photo below), which drew much attention. Around the lobby, he arranged thirteen chairs.

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A manager in a Midwest theater rigged up a fake electric chair, and dared any of his patrons to sit on it. Anyone who would stay seated for three minutes would get a free pass.

Some great posters were also printed in the trade journals, like the one below:

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From September 28-October 1, 1919, the Poli ran Told in the Hills, starring Robert Warwick as Jack Stuart. The six-reel film was released on September 21, 1919. The status of the film is in question, as will be explained later.

Plot: A mother who is dying receives the promises of both her sons to care for her young ward. The younger brother, Charles Stuart, ignores his pledge and goes to New Orleans to marry. The elder brother, Jack Stuart, finds him and tells him the ward has given birth to Charles’ son. Jack has married the girl to give the child a name, and has provided for mother and child. Jack tells Charles not to communicate with the girl. Jack then goes to Montana, where he becomes known as “Genesee Jack,” a scout.

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People believe Jack is a “squaw man,” which becomes an obstacle when he meets a girl and falls in love.

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Jack is suspected of conspiring with Indians and arrested. Eventually, he escapes and saves United States troopers, who had been surrounded.

The following stills could not be placed in context. The first shows a wounded Warwick being comforted by Indians. I believe the second shows Eileen Percy, as Tillie Hardy, and Ann Little, as Rachel Hardy, the woman with whom Jack Stuart falls in love.

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Variety savaged the film, especially Warwick’s performance, writing that the movie was “a $20,000 failure. Its inability to register in first class fashion is due principally to the acting, and to this necessary part of a photoplay Mr. Warwick contributes a goodly share of distinctly third rate effect. He had a role he should have made stand out in heroic proportions. Instead … he stalks about, poses, and in the close-ups conveys the impression that he has just stepped from the dentist’s chair. … The net truth of the matter is that unless Robert Warwick braces up and takes an interest in pictures he’ll be through almost as soon as he started.”

Tom Forman, who played Charles Stuart, was a rising star at Famous Players-Lasky. He decided to enlist in the army when the United States entered World War I. He returned to films as a Lieutenant. “I was sort of shy about being a motion picture actor when I went into the army,” Forman stated. “Men from all walks of life seemed to look down upon it, but I hadn’t been in the army long before I was doggone proud of the fact, because in my mind and in the opinion of thousands of others the pictures did as much to turn out the army we did as anything else, if not more. We had motion pictures to study, with pictures showing the movements of guns, the effect of explosives, the explaining of maneuvers, and other things. Seeing these on the screen, the soldier could understand them in about a quarter of the time that was required to get ‘em into his head by word of mouth.” A few years later, Forman switched to directing, saying “you know, I was in the army for a year and a half. When I came back I thought that somehow or other everybody had forgotten me. So why work and try to gain a following as an actor and then change later? That was why I thought the time to take the plunge had come.” However, in November of 1926, Forman suffered a nervous breakdown while directing a film for Columbia. Despondent and overworked, Forman shot himself in the heart a few days later, at his parents’ home in Venice, California. He was 33.

While filming in Idaho, director George Melford got members of the Nez Perce tribe to appear in the movie. “Whenever our company needs Indians for a production, we will use the Nez Perces,” said actor Charles Ogle, who played a part in the film. “When ‘Told in the Hills’ is released and other companies see what we have found, they will come here to negotiate with these Indians for pictures. There are few tribes that I have not seen and it’s been my privilege to work with a good many tribes, and I want to see these Nez Perces are a superior people.” Ogle has the distinction of being the first person to play the Frankenstein monster onscreen, in the 1910 version.

While shooting one scene, actor Monte Blue was riding bareback when his horse bolted. Blue had no way of stopping the horse so he let the animal just run itself out. When it was over, director George Melford shouted to him “who gave you permission to take that horse off this set?” to which Blue replied “who gave this horse permission to take me off the set?”

In 1989, Gosfilmofond, the Soviet national film archives, located two surviving reels of the film. The reels were sent to Tom Trusky, who was an English professor at Boise State University, and also an expert on Idaho film history. Trusky then showed the two reels in Lewiston, Idaho, during the Idaho Centennial celebration in 1990. But according to the Library of Congress website, the complete six-reel film is held in Gosfilmofond.

As an interesting gimmick, the Poli announced that on October 1 (the last day this film was being shown), the theater would keep patrons informed of the World Series, inning by inning, which had begun that same day. “Each inning will be sent by private wire so that the result will be known by Poli patrons as soon as the inning is finished.” Incidentally, the teams involved were the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds, which lead to the infamous “Black Sox Scandal,” as members of the heavily-favored Chicago team conspired with gamblers to throw the series.

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On 9/28/2019 at 5:53 AM, scsu1975 said:

As an interesting gimmick, the Poli announced that on October 1 (the last day this film was being shown), the theater would keep patrons informed of the World Series, inning by inning, which had begun that same day. “Each inning will be sent by private wire so that the result will be known by Poli patrons as soon as the inning is finished.” Incidentally, the teams involved were the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds, which lead to the infamous “Black Sox Scandal,” as members of the heavily-favored Chicago team conspired with gamblers to throw the series. 

This is a really good gimmick! I know many folks reading that bit of info might just think that the theater probably didn't have many men patrons that day, but it's worth noting that in 1919, not many women or children would be seen attending a "picture show" without their husbands.

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From October 2-4, 1919, the feature at the Poli was Virtuous Men¸ starring E. K. Lincoln as Bob Stokes. The film premiered at the Fulton Theatre in NYC in April 6, 1919, at seven reels. It is presumed lost.

Advertising line: “Patriotism pitted against a dangerous band of Red Radicals. See the cause of Justice triumph.

Plot: Bob Stokes, who was once a wealthy New Yorker but is now down and out, comes to a lumber camp in northern New York State, looking for work.

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Henry Willard, who owns the camp, has also arrived, to investigate various troubles plaguing the camp. He sees potential in Bob and puts him to work. This angers Robert Brummon, the boss of the camp. Brummon is the leader of a band of “Red Radicals.” They are operating against Willard because he has a large contract with the government, for which he is building ships and supplying lumber. Brummon sees that Stokes is a dangerous rival; this is borne out when Stokes manages to get the lumberjacks out from under Brummon’s influence. Brummon causes trouble at the shipyards, so Willard sends Stokes to take charge. Stokes gets the radicals in hand, only to have Brummon continually exert his influence over them. Stokes meets Willard’s daughter Helen, and before long, they fall in love. Marcia Fontaine, who once jilted Stokes when he was broke, and who now works for Brummon, attempts to make a play for him.

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But Stokes resists her advances. Marcia, working for Brummon now, finally lures Stokes to her apartment, where Brummon plans to kill him. Stokes learns from Marcia that the radicals plan to blow up a ship which is to be launched the next day. He fights with Brummon, and beats him up.

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Stokes then races to the shipyards, where he finds the bomb and throws it in the water. The next day, the ship is launched successfully, and Stokes and Helen are united.

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The scenes below could not be placed in context:

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Director Ralph Ince, who released this film as his first feature under Ralph Ince Film Attractions, stated “I believe in the production of ‘Virtuous Men.’ I have incorporated every element necessary to photoplay melodrama of the most realistic type. The swiftness of the action, the tensity of the many dramatic situations and the spectacular scenes with which I have embellished the story throughout, form what is to my mind perfect screen entertainment.”

The film was almost lost before it was released. In July of 1919, a fire broke out at the Unexcelled Laboratories in Yonkers, NY, destroying several new prints of the film, but barely missed destroying the negative.

Several scenes were filmed at the Sun Shipbuilding Company of Chester, PA. Over three weeks at the plant, five thousand feet of film were shot. Many of the actors were given special passes so they could work within the plant. The film also features a forest fire. To stage it, the producers purchased five hundred acres of land in Minnesota, and the crew spent two weeks there filming the scenes.

The film was given special showings to the inmates at Sing Sing and Auburn Prisons. According to Motion Picture News, the film was selected because of “its absence of objectionable features” and “the story of regeneration of a young “down-and-outer” … is in exact keeping with the ideas promulgated by the various prison authorities in the welfare work which they carry on through means of speeches, pamphlets and screen entertainment.” E.K. Lincoln personally appeared and made a short speech, when the film was screened at each prison.

Virtuous Men received good reviews and was a success at the box office. At Poli’s Palace in New Haven, CT, the theatre was filled to capacity for three days. On the first day, 7800 patrons attended. Immediately afterwards, the film was booked across the entire Poli circuit of theatres. Below is a shot of some of the crowd gathered at Poli’s Palace:

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E. K. Lincoln (seen below with co-star Grace Darling) retired from the screen in the 1920s to raise chow dogs in Lennox, MA. In 1925, he announced that he was returning to films, in a project entitled Wet Wash, but it appears the film was never made.

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Clara Joel, as the vamp Marcia Fontaine, apparently made only one other film besides this one. She was primarily a stage actress. She was married to William “Stage” Boyd, but he eventually filed for divorce on the grounds that she was abusive to him, and had deserted him. In 1928, Joel was riding in a taxi in New York City when it smashed into a pillar. Two years later, a jury awarded her $55,000 damages, as she claimed the injuries had marred her beauty and ruined her voice, ending her stage career. However, she continued to find work. In the late 1930s, she played Mary Magdalene during the “Ave Maria Hour,” a radio program broadcast by WMCA.

Appearing on the same bill was a pair of young comics named Olson and Johnson. I hear their careers worked out pretty well.

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From October 5-8, the Poli ran Kathleen Mavourneen, starring Theda Bara as the title character. Released on August 19, 1919 by Fox Films, the film was six reels (some sources say five), and is presumed lost. I could only find a few grainy stills from newspapers, with no context. However, they do show Bara in a different light. They are shown below, along with a photo of the 44th Street Theatre in NYC where the film was being shown:

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Plot:  Kathleen and Terrence, Irish peasants, are planning their wedding. But the Squire of the estate is attracted by Kathleen’s beauty. He sends his agent to her parents, telling them they must pay him or be evicted. But he will accept Kathleen as wife in lieu of payment. So Kathleen is forced into a marriage. Then the Squire meets Lady Clancarthy, who is very wealthy. To free himself from Kathleen, he lures her into the woods and abandons her. She is set upon by ruffians, but rescued by Terrence, who kills one of her attackers. Terrence is falsely accused of having lured Kathleen into the woods and killing the man who tried to rescue her. He is sent to the gallows. Kathleen wakes to discover this was all a dream, and prepares for her wedding to Terrence.

Trade journals claimed the film was based on a stage play and a poem, but at least two different people were credited with writing the poem. In addition, there was a song in the 1800s by the same name, although, judging by the lyrics, it had nothing to do with this plot. Yet, a reviewer for Motion Picture News wrote that the movie was “a most excellently produced film version taken from the famous old Irish song.” Elsewhere, in the same journal, the Irish “angle” was played up: “Irish New York has supported the picture – supported it with an enthusiasm that bespeaks for it success in all cities of the United States. It is a true picture of an Ireland that is little known in the United States – the Ireland that every Irishman knows and loves and is ready to fight for.”

Bara was pleased with the part, as a welcome relief to her many “vamp” roles. “I refused to vamp another single, solitary second unless I was first given the opportunity to prove I could be good just as easily as I was bad,” she explained in a 1919 interview with the Los Angeles Times. “Five practically uninterrupted years of vamping had drawn my nerves pretty taut. … Gradually these vampire emotions began to weigh me down. I felt heavy, depressed. … At last, when those close to me understood I was on the verge of a collapse, they decided to administer a tonic. The tonic was a complete change. So they found Kathleen Mavourneen.  How I did delight in that quaint little Irish girl. I adopted her heart and soul. She permitted me to take down my hair, wound around my head in long, low sweeps, and let it bob about in cunning fat curls. I no longer had to glide into a room and begin working the wiles of a trade that is as old as the call of sex.” During the same interview, Bara produced a request from a fan, which highlighted her frustration with her public persona. The letter read “Please pardon for addressing honorable self but will so kind send honorable portrait of honorable self as honorably naked as possible.” Bara then stated “how is any girl going to inspire such requests and keep sane?”

Variety was not thrilled with Theda Bara, writing that the actress “does her best to disassociate herself from “vampire” parts. Her trouble, however, is that she has to make the effort. She is forever acting, posing with an exaggerated air of sweetness, shedding in every direction the light of her smiles.”

Some Irish-American groups protested the film. On December 1, 1919, John J. Buckley, Secretary of the Friends of Irish Freedom, New York Local Council, sent a letter to theatre managers in the Greater New York area. Among other comments, Buckley wrote that the film “is a brutal caricature of Irish life, and not fit for exhibition in your theatre. … Irish and Irish-Americans consider the picture and insult and strongly resent its being shown.”

In San Francisco, things turned violent. On February 8, 1920, Abraham Markowitz, manager of the Sun Theatre (where the film was being shown), put in a call to the police of a riot at his establishment. Earlier that day, Markowitz had given a private showing to two Catholic priests and, at their suggestions, had cut some scenes depicting poverty conditions. During the later showing, according to Markowitz, several young men, aged 19 to 22, took seats near the projecting room, and began yelling their disapproval while the film was being played. At the conclusion of the film, one of the youths yelled “Get the picture,” and they rushed to the projection room, pinning the projectionist to the wall. They then destroyed the projector and other machinery. They also tore down railings, broke chairs, and ran off with two reels of the picture. “I am at a loss to understand why they objected to the picture,” Markowitz said “Just before they started doing the damage one young man said to me: ‘I’m a member of the American Committee for Irish Freedom and we don’t want any of that ___ British propaganda shown in San Francisco.’  I don’t know who was responsible for the riot, but it seemingly was young men connected with that organization, although I am sure it was uncontrollable hotheads, as mature men would have seen nothing in the picture against Irish freedom.” Markowitz later said that the rioters objected to scenes showing two pigs in parlors of Irish cottages, chickens fluttering on stairways, “and other examples of dire poverty on the Emerald Isle.” Damage to the theater was estimated at $3000. The American Committee for Irish Freedom issued a statement denying that any of its members were involved. “There is nothing objectionable in the picture and we will continue to show it,” Markowitz stated. “I will appeal for police protection today, if necessary.” A few days later, Markowitz changed his mind and pulled the film, replacing it with Vagabond Luck, which was described as a “happy, snappy, racing comedy.”

A month later, the Rhode Island Branch of the Friends of Irish Freedom succeeded in getting the film cancelled in Newport. There was no violence reported.

Also on the bill at the Poli were “The Fashion Minstrels,” described as “seven dusky maidens in a conglomeration of songs, dances and witty dialogue.” Presumably this act did not cause a riot.

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That's crazy how showing something as simple as poverty within the film caused riots. I guess the Irish Freedom Committee were a sensitive group of folks?

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1 hour ago, sagebrush said:

That's crazy how showing something as simple as poverty within the film caused riots. I guess the Irish Freedom Committee were a sensitive group of folks?

Not sure of the history, but around the time this film came out, the Irish were seeking independence. So casting the Irish in a bad light was probably a bad move. Maybe someone more knowledgeable of the history will weigh in on this. 

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From October 9-11, 1919, the Poli ran Strictly Confidential, a farce starring Madge Kennedy as Fanny O’Gorman Bantock. The film’s release date is uncertain, but it was five reels. Most of the film is presumed lost; the Library of Congress has one reel.

Advertising line:  Sh-h-h Girls! Keep it Strictly Confidential! If your relatives are all servants DON’T tell your sweethearts! You may spoil your chance of getting married. Sh-h-h- keep it Strictly Confidential!

Plot: A young orphan comes to a Lord’s castle, but the rigid lifestyle placed upon her by the servants forces her to run away. Eventually, she becomes a stage actress.

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She meets an artist and falls in love. She is unaware that he is Lord Bantock, from whose home she had escaped. They get married and return to the castle.

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The new Lady Bantock discovers that the servants are all her relatives. The servants attempt to train their relative in the duties of being a “lady.”

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The old butler, who is actually her uncle, tries to curb her happy spirit.

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Lady Bantock complicates things further by not revealing to her husband the truth about his servants. Eventually she confesses to her husband, and they live happily ever after.

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The film was based on a story entitled “Fanny and the Servant Problem,” written by Jerome K. Jerome, which was then turned into a stage production entitled “The New Lady Bantock,” and the alternate title “the Rainbow Girl.”

Motion Picture News praised Kennedy’s performance, noting that “never has she conveyed her strong sense of humor, her excellent pantomime to splendidly.” The magazine also kind words for Herbert Standing (father of Sir Guy Standing), writing “he plays the butler with an admirable spirit of make-believe.”

John Bowers, who portrayed Lord Bantock, was a matinee idol, and, at one time, the highest paid actor in film. But by the beginning of the sound era, he was in his mid-40s and parts were scarce. In November of 1936, a desperate Bowers approached director Henry Hathaway, who was directing a picture on Catalina Island. “I’ve got to have a job,” said Bowers. Hathaway explained that he was only filming exterior shots and wasn’t using many actors. But Bowers pressed for a role, saying “I know I could handle it.” Hathaway told Bowers to phone the studio after he returned to the mainland. “This is the last time I’ll ask for a job,” said Bowers. Bowers then had dinner with some members of the film crew, who paid his fare back to the mainland. “Well, this is the last time you’ll ever see me,” he informed the crew. “You’ll have a real life sea picture. I’m going to jump overboard.” The following day, Bowers rented a small sailboat at Santa Monica. A few days later, his sister reported he was missing. On November 16, 1936, his body washed ashore at Malibu Beach. His friend, Deputy Sheriff George Contreras, mournfully said that Bowers had talked of “sailing out into the sunset and not returning.”

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From October 12-15, 1919, the Poli ran Fires of Faith, starring Eugene O’Brien as Harry Hammond and Catherine Calvert as Elizabeth Blake. The film was released on August 3, 1919, at between five and six reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot:  Elizabeth Blake, a foundling, grows up on a farm.

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She has her young life ruined by an unscrupulous landlord’s agent. She runs away to the city, where she is rescued by the Salvation Army.

Henry Hammond is engaged to Agnes Traverse.

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He sits in at a meeting of the Salvation Army, but leaves early because of disinterest.

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He waits outside for Agnes and her mother, who have also attended. He sees a woman (Elizabeth) being accosted by thugs and goes to her rescue. But they slug him and shanghai him aboard a steamer for France. When the United States enters the war, Elizabeth departs for France as a member of the Salvation Army. Luke Barlow, a farmhand who knew and loved Elizabeth when she was younger, enlists and follows Elizabeth as soon as he can. Meanwhile, Harry has recovered at a Salvation Army station in the war zone, and decides to enter the flying corps.

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Agnes has no idea if her fiancé is dead or alive.

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Agnes signs on to the Salvation Army after her mother dies. When Harry is blinded by an explosion, he is placed in a hospital where Elizabeth works. Elizabeth recognizes Harry as the man who tried to save her, and falls in love with him. But she tells Harry nothing. During a German attack, Harry is left behind in the cellar of an old chateau, along with Elizabeth, Harry, and Luke Barlow. With the help of a little boy and an old Frenchman, they hold out against the German advance until the Americans and French rescue them.

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Harry’s sight is restored and he marries Agnes. Elizabeth marries Luke, never letting anyone know of her love for Harry.

The film received good reviews. Motion Picture World wrote “Less a propaganda picture than a piece of story-telling that will compare favorably with any of the screen tales of the great conflict, “Fires of Faith” will interest and entertain regardless of creed.” Exhibitor’s Herald wrote “Were the war still in progress it would be difficult to select a motion picture attraction of greater box office promise than “Fires of Faith.” The conflict over, there is still reason to believe that it will fare much better than the majority of those belated publications which have that event as an important item of their make-up.”

Director Edward Jose received a letter of commendation from Commander Evangeline Booth of the Salvation Army. Booth called the film “a powerful and gripping narrative, rich in philosophy, history, and inspiration.” Booth appeared as herself in several scenes.

To film some realistic war scenes, an airplane combat was staged, in which one plane was shot down (intentionally). In addition, with the help of actual soldiers, a barrage was laid down.

After the film’s release, Charles Kenmore Ulrich penned the novel Fires of Faith, based upon the screenplay. To exploit the film and novel, Gimbel’s turned over one of their large display windows in New York City to showcase 250 copies of the book, arranged in pyramids. A ballad entitled “Fires of Faith” was written for the film. Manager C. E. Robbins, of the Strand Theatre in Worcester, MA, arranged for a window display at Sherer’s, the leading department store in Worcester. The display, pictured below, featured phonograph records and sheet music for the song, along with a life-sized model of a Salvation Army girl. Manager John Lamp, of Proctor’s Theatre in Mount Vernon, NY, hooked up with Woolworth’s for a window display (second photo below). He also made a deal with a local bakery to have them cook an extra supply of doughnuts every day, and place them in his theatre window. Any unused doughnuts were given away free in the lobby, at the end of the day.

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Morris Ryskind (who later wrote the Marx Brothers’ classic A Night at the Opera) was employed by Famous Players to “put the film over.” When it played at the Stratford Theatre in Poughkeepsie, NY, Ryskind persuaded the manager of a drugstore to create a drink called “Fires of Faith,” to be  served with a doughnut. A rival drugstore countered with a “Catherine Calvert” combination. Ryskind then convinced all the bakeries to turn out a “Fires of Faith” doughnut. In Salvation Army booths, he posted a sign reading “Salvation Army doughnuts made according to the recipe of Catherine Calvert, who appears in ‘Fires of Faith,’ now showing at the Stratford.” Finally, all the taxis in down carried a sign which read “Let me take you to see ‘Fires of Faith’ at the Stratford.”

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From October 16-18, 1919, the Poli featured Lord and Lady Algy, a comedy starring Tom Moore and Naomi Childers as the title couple. The film was released on September 4, 1919, at five-six reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot:  Lord Algy has a weakness for gambling, causing his wife to leave him. However, they both still love each other, and Lady Algy hopes to help Lord Algy overcome his habit. Lord Algy decides to bet on one more horse race, the Grand Derby. His wife, certain that the horse will lose, gets a tip on another horse from a friend named Jethroe, and bets on it, hoping to save her husband’s fortune. Mrs. Tudway, the wife of Lord Algy’s friend, plans to run away with another man. Lord Algy learns of this, and offers to help them elope, although his real goal is to reunite Tudway and Mrs. Tudway.

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In short order, Lady Algy is mistakenly linked with Jethroe and Lord Algy with Mrs. Tudway. Lady Algy’s horse wins the race, while Lord Algy’s loses. Tudway discovers his wife in Lord Algy’s room, and accuses him of stealing her affections. Lady Algy enters the scene and clears things up.

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She tells Algy about her success at the races, and the two are re-united.

The film was based upon a play of the same name, written by H. C. Carton. Reviews of the movie were generally positive, though not spectacular. Motion Picture News wrote “the picture just about reaches the high water mark of polite comedy and strikes us as the best thing of its kind ever screened. And while Tom Moore is not the exact type for Lord Algy, still he manages to give an excellent account of himself. … Naomi Childers makes a personable figure as Lady Algy, and, at all times, looks and acts like the English gentlewoman.”

The film is reported to have featured an actual horse race. George Willis, a jockey, was seriously injured when he fell off a horse during one of the racing sequences. A few stills leading up to the race are shown below:

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From October 19-25, 1919, the Poli ran Yankee Doodle in Berlin, a Mack Sennett comedy. The film’s release date is uncertain, but it is available on YouTube and runs just over an hour. It has also been shown on TCM.

Brief Plot: American aviator Captain Bob White flies to Berlin, to get information on the Kaiser for the United States government. He poses as a woman to get in good with the Kaiser, the Crown Prince, and von Hindenburg. Slapstick ensues.

Review: My reaction to this thing was muted. There was very little plot, and it seemed as if every ten seconds somebody was getting slapped, choked, thrown around, conked on the head, etc. This probably killed audiences post-World War I, but now, it seems way too long to endure. On the other hand, the film features a rare appearance by female impersonator Bothwell Browne, as Bob White. Browne once was quoted as saying that “prettiness is only skin deep. Beauty comes from within.” But he also once said that women from Los Angeles were “feminine apes,” which hardly seems endearing to anyone. It was difficult to find photos of Browne not in drag, but he is pictured below, along with one of his “creations”:

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One of the many issues I had with the film was that stuff just happens, seemingly without rhyme or reason. For instance, Browne flies to Germany, then simply emerges from the woods dressed as a woman. This does not seem to concern Ben Turpin, who is on guard:

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Then again, all the Germans are portrayed as buffoons, so I guess no one would question why a well-dressed woman appears on the scene and begins flirting with everyone.

One scene I did like was near the finale, when a bomb is chasing the Kaiser, the Crown Prince, and General von Hindenburg:

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In speaking of the film, Mack Sennett stated “during the war a picture like ‘Yankee Doodle in Berlin’ would not have been possible. The Kaiser was then no laughing matter and while we all hoped that he would turn out to be the big bluff we thought he was, the menace of his brutality was too frightening to suggest a satirical treatment of the subject. Now that the world has seen how hollow the Kaiser was in his insincerities, all of his failings make an ideal subject for ridicule.”

Lovely Marie Prevost, who began her career as one of Sennett’s “Bathing Beauties,” plays a Belgian refugee. Her appearance is way too brief. Even though she gets to slug a few Germans, they get to whip her, which I did not find amusing.

The Film Daily was impressed with Browne, writing that he “registered splendidly as a girl and did a wicked dance for Kaiser that will bring down the house.” The journal described the Oriental dance for the Kaiser as one “which would never be permitted in a film in any way except that it should be done by a man in a comedy before the Kaiser. Browne certainly shakes a wicked “shimmie.” Browne is shown below in his dancing outfit:

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Elsewhere, the trade magazine wrote “there is plenty of ruff stuff such as bouncing bottles and other paraphernalia off of one another’s bean.” The trade journal Camera! noted that Browne was good as a dancer, but as an actor –“not so good. … His female impersonation is very good, but either the cameraman or make-up artist so arranged things that Bothwell’s face in this picture will never crowd the Mona Lisa outside of the papers.”

Sennett’s “Bathing Beauties” accompanied screenings of the world throughout the country. Three are pictured below in a publicity photo. Personally, I think Bothwell Browne looks better.

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When the film played at the Broadway Theatre in NYC, E. M. Ascher was sent from California to “put the film over.” He pulled off several stunts. Ascher arranged to get some of Sennett’s girls arrested at Coney Island, and held in jail for three and a half hours, before they were given a suspended sentence. He then had two of the girls fly over the city, dropping 150,000 photos of Sennett’s beauties. He tied up traffic at Broadway and Forty-Third Street, at which time some of the girls left their cars and paraded about in their costumes. But the craziest stunt caused a near riot at the theatre. This was “Amateur Night,” in which female members of the audience were encouraged to come on stage, don a one-piece bathing suit, and display their figures. Pictures were taken of around sixty women, and nine were chosen to join a road show, and given a promise to appear in a Sennett comedy. 10,000 patrons tried to crowd into a theatre which only had 6,000 seats. The crowd tore doors off their hinges, and actually pushed the ticket booth into the lobby. Police were called out to quell the near-riot, and the fire department was forced to close the box office just after 8 p.m. The photo below shows the crowd at the Broadway, presumably before the rioting:

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From October 26-29, 1919, the Poli ran The Egg Crate Wallop, starring Charles Ray as Jim Kelly, and Colleen Moore as Kitty Haskell. The film was released on September 28, 1919, at five reels. A copy is preserved in the Gosfilmond of Russia.

Brief Plot:  Jim Kelly, an assistant express agent, is in love with Kitty Haskell, his employer’s daughter.

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Jim has developed his physique by juggling egg crates. When $2000 is stolen out of the company safe, suspicion is cast upon Dave Haskell, Kitty’s father.

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To clear his employer, Jim shoulders the blame and leaves town, determined to make the money back. Along the way, he tangles with a tramp in a boxcar, and knocks him cold.

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Another tramp who sees the whole thing asks Jim where he got that punch. “Lifting egg crates, I guess,” Jim respond. The tramp gets Jim a job carrying water at a fighter’s training camp.

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Just before the big fight, the boxer for whom Jim is working sells out to his opponent. Kitty’s affections that Jim knew from his hometown. Jim substitutes for the crooked fighter, and knocks out his opponent. Jim is then given a fight against Young Howard. Howard, as it turns out, was once enamored of Kitty, and changed his name when he became a boxer.

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Things start badly for Jim, when he is knocked down in the first round and badly mauled. By the third round, Jim is worn down but is barely saved by the bell. But in the fifth round, Howard relaxes, allowing Jim to land a solid blow to his jaw, knocking him cold.

Later, he learns Howard was the real thief. Haskell is cleared. Jim wins Kitty’s heart (naturally).

Some papers reported that the film was to be entitled Whistlin’ Jim.

In 1930, some trade journals and newspapers reported that the film was going to be remade, with Grant Withers as the star. But I could find no record of the film ever being made.

Famous Players-Lasky cut a deal with A. G. Spalding & Bros., to promote the film. Spalding set up window displays throughout major cities, depicting the gymnasium scene from the film. The displays were supplemented with stills from the movie. In return, film exhibitors ran a slide directing anyone who wanted sporting goods to head to Spalding.

Thomas Ince hired close to 500 extras to be spectators during the fight scenes. He also built a gymnasium, with the help of lightweight boxer Ray Kirkwood (who appears as a fighter in the film). Kirkwood went on to be become a producer. Boxers Al Kaufman, Cliff Jordan, and Jimmie Fortney also appeared in the film. Kaufman was a heavyweight who once went ten rounds in 1909 with then-champion Jack Johnson. According to an agreement made before the match, if both men were still on their feet after ten rounds, there would be no decision. However, the referee decided to award Johnson the victory.

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From October 30 – November 1, 1919, the Poli ran The Valley of the Giants, starring Wallace Reid as Bryce Cardigan. The film was released on August 31, 1919, at five reels. A complete copy is held in the Library of Congress.

Plot:  Bryce Cardigan returns to his California home after spending years in school overseas. He finds his father is in debt and nearly blind. His mother’s grave has been desecrated by fallen timber, the work of Colonel Pennington, who is a business rival of Bryce’s father. Bryce sends for his old college friend, Buck Ogilvy. Ogilvy becomes Bryce’s press agent, and promotes a road leading to the timber tract, to compete with Pennington. After Bryce constructs his road across Pennington’s railroad, the tycoon fights back. Ultimately, Bryce wins the battle, along with the hand of Pennington’s niece, Shirley Sumner. Bryce then regains possession of the “Valley of the Giants,” where his mother is buried.

Stills were difficult to find. The two below could not be placed in the context of the film.

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A very short clip can be found on YouTube. The actress is Grace Darmond, who played Shirley Sumner. The actor running on the train appears to be William Brunton, who portrayed Buck Ogilvy.

 

The film was based upon a story by Peter Kyne, which was originally published as a serial in Red Book Magazine. Kyne later turned it into a novel. The film was remade in 1927, with Milton Sills in the lead role.

The Valley of the Giants is, unfortunately, infamous in film history. During filming, Wallace Reid suffered a head injury in a train crash. He was given morphine. His wife, actress Dorothy Davenport, stated that Reid had sustained a severe gash at the base of the skull, which required stitches. “He told me he felt like there were great big lumps at the bottom of his head,” she declared. “He began using the morphine to ease the pain.” Reid became addicted, yet still managed to work for a few more years. But by 1923, he was dead.

The film was considered lost, until it was discovered in Gosfilmofond, the Russian state film library. In October of 2010, the Russians presented the Library of Congress with ten films, including this one and another Reid film, You’re Fired. It has been estimated that Gosfilmofond may have as many as 200 “lost” American films that were produced between 1893 and 1930.

A song entitled “The Valley of the Giants” was released in 1919, to capitalize on the film. The lyrics were written by Sam Lewis and Joe Young, with music by Bert Grant. The sheet music carried a still from the film, and the back cover was an advertisement for the movie.

During filming in Eureka, CA, Guy Oliver, who portrayed an Indian, supposedly went into a hotel bar between takes wearing his full makeup. He was denied service, when one of the employees said “we don’t allow no Injuns in here.” “But I’m no Indian; I’m an actor,” protested Oliver. “You’re either a darn good actor or a bad Injun,” was the reply. “Anyhow, you can’t get nothing to drink here.” Finally, Oliver got director James Cruze to vouch for him.

Manager Tom Sullivan, of the Princess Theatre in Denver, decorated the entrance of his movie house with replicas of redwoods. He then covered the entrance and exit to make them look like doors in a mountain cabin. Finally, he added some green pine branches to create a forest effect. The entrance is shown below:

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Also on the Poli bill were child actresses (and sisters) Katherine and Jane Lee. The Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer wrote “these youngsters have a genuine sense of humor. They don’t take themselves seriously at all, but dash off comedy burlesque and satire in a manner that rivals some of the best players in these departments of the theatrical genre. Wait till you see these kidlets take hold of the “shimmy” and the latest bits of Broadway jazz.” The pair are pictured below, from 1919:

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9 hours ago, scsu1975 said:

The Valley of the Giants is, unfortunately, infamous in film history. During filming, Wallace Reid suffered a head injury in a train crash. He was given morphine. His wife, actress Dorothy Davenport, stated that Reid had sustained a severe gash at the base of the skull, which required stitches. “He told me he felt like there were great big lumps at the bottom of his head,” she declared. “He began using the morphine to ease the pain.” Reid became addicted, yet still managed to work for a few more years. But by 1923, he was dead

Dorothy Davenport actually produced and starred in an independent PSA-type film named HUMAN WRECKAGE in 1923, which was basically a drama about the dangers of narcotics.

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48 minutes ago, sagebrush said:

Dorothy Davenport actually produced and starred in an independent PSA-type film named HUMAN WRECKAGE in 1923, which was basically a drama about the dangers of narcotics.

Yes, and that appears to be another lost film, unfortunately. 

Davenport made an address at Sing Sing prison in Ossining, NY, and showed the film there. The director of entertainment at the prison wrote her a letter afterwards, declaring that the film "will be seen by thousands of audiences, but none, I can assure you, will enjoy it more nor to any will it have a greater appeal than to my men here in Sing Sing."

The film did play at the Majestic Theater (also owned by Poli) in Bridgeport CT, in October of 1923. If I am still doing this thread in 1923, remind me to look into this. ;)

P.S. - The Majestic, which has been abandoned for decades, is currently being renovated. It was a beautiful theater in its day.

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From November 2-9, 1919, the Poli ran Checkers, starring Thomas J. Carrigan as the title character. The film was released on August 31, 1919, at seven reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot:  “Checkers” is a race track tout. His friend and constant companion is “Push” Miller.

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Arthur Kendal is enamored of Pert Barlow, daughter of Judge Barlow, who owns a racing stable. But Kendal is constantly getting drunk. Pert, anxious to help Kendal, enlists the aid of Checkers. But Checkers begins to fall for Pert.

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He proposes and she accepts. But Judge Barlow sees Checkers knock down Kendal, and orders the tout out of his house. Now Checkers and Pert had planned to enter Pert’s horse “Remorse” in the big race at New York. Kendall was betting on another entry, and had even borrowed $20,000 from Judge Barlow. Checkers runs off with Pert, and Push takes Remorse from the stable. But Kendal and his thugs follow them to a train. With Push and the horse already on board, Checkers and Pert make a flying leap from their auto and get onto the train. Kendal’s henchmen board the same train car, and uncouple it from the rest of the train. A fight ensues in the boxcar, during which a lantern is overturned.

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The car narrowly misses being hit by another train, then plunges through an open drawbridge into the river.

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Everyone, including the horse, manages to escape. Remorse is hidden in a secluded shack. Alva Romaine, who had been jilted by Kendal, follows a downward spiral and ends up at an opium den in Chinatown run by Sam Wah. She trails Checkers, Push and Pert, at Wah’s instigation. Kendal and his gang kidnap Pert, and take her to Sam Wah’s den. Checkers and Push learn where she is and rescue her. Sam Way and Kendal fight over Alva, with both men ending up dead. Checkers, Push, and Pert escape in a small boat, by way of a sewer. When the reach the East River, they are picked up by a seaplane, and are transported to the track at Belmont. There, they learn that Pert’s jockey has been blinded by Kendal’s jockey. Pert dons a jockey’s uniform and rides Remorse to victory.

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All ends happily as Judge Barlow gives Checkers and Pert his blessing.

The still below could not be placed in context, but besides showing Jean Acker and Thomas Carrigan, the actor in blackface is Edward Sedgwick, who later became a director.

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The film was based upon a successful play of the same name, written by Henry Blossom. Richard Stanton, who directed the film, had played the lead in the stage version almost twenty years earlier. At the time, Stanton was an actor playing small roles in Western stock companies.

A complete Chinatown district was constructed at Fort Lee, New Jersey. The set included a saloon, dance hall, and drug addicts. Chinese people were hired as extras. To film the exciting train wreck, producer William Fox leased a track, for one day, on the Raritan River Railway in New Jersey. For half a mile, two burning cars sped down a hill towards an open drawbridge. The train tipped over the bridge and came to rest in a deep channel in the Raritan River. One of the actors was nearly drowned when he dove off the train and was caught in debris at the bottom of the river. The scene cost between $4000 and $5000 to shoot, yet took up only about 200 feet of film. The train wreck is shown below:

In St. Louis, the film played at the Liberty Theatre. Harry Greenwald, assistant manager of the theatre, was tasked with promoting the film. He arranged to get window displays at several of the Woolworth and Kresge stores in St. Louis. The display at Kresge is shown below:

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A youngster in a jockey uniform rode a horse named “Remorse” in sections of the city, three weeks before the film was shown. Knowing that a song named “Checkers” had been composed for the film, Greenwald put the following notice on every car parked near his theatre:

Your car has been standing here over one hour. This is violating traffic rules of this city. You are requested to appear at Woolworth’s Songland, Broadway and St. Charles Street, to hear the song and visit Wm. Fox Liberty Theatre, Aug. 31, and see Checkers.”

When the film played at the Central Theatre on Broadway in New York City, promoters used race horses, with jockeys, to advertise the film:

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The horses were proceeding along Broadway, and when they reached Thirty-Seventh Street, one of them was spooked by a piece of paper and bolted. The other horses followed at full speed, with the jockeys unable to control them. Taxis drove to the curbs to give the horses room, and spectators cheered on the animals, thinking this was staged. Among the spectators were gambler Arnold Rothstein and some of his cronies. They immediately placed a bet on which horse would be in the lead at Forth-third Street. When the horses reached that street, Officer Jack MacDonald was able to grab the rein of the lead horse, which effectively slowed all the horses down, and finally led them to a halt. Rothstein and the other gamblers then decided that all bets were off, since MacDonald had interfered in the outcome.

Thomas J. Carrigan does not appear to have had a big career in films. He played Nick Carter in a series of silent shorts, then seems to have retired around the beginning of the sound era. When he died in Michigan in 1941, the Times Herald of Port Huron reported that he had served in World War I on a transport. While aboard ship, he introduced motion pictures as a means of recreation for the troops. His ship, the S.S. Zeelandia, became one of the first vessels offering films for entertainment to the soldiers en route to Europe.

Jean Acker, who played Pert, reportedly did her own riding in the finale. A few months after the film was released, she became Rudolph Valentino’s first wife. “I proposed to Jean at a dinner party,” said Valentino. “We got Cupid Sparks out of bed and were married that night.” Apparently Cupid messed up, because the marriage went down as one of the shortest in history – six hours, according to several contemporaneous newspaper reports, and Valentino himself. The actual divorce came two years later, so this all depends upon your definition of marriage. Acker locked herself into the honeymoon suite and would not allow Valentino to enter. The following morning she was gone. “I did not like to ask the hotel management where my bride was,” said Valentino. “I decided to wait. I paced up and down. I was tired, excited and worried. I did not know what had happened to her.” What had happened was that Acker had spent the night with an actress friend, Grace Darmond. Despite Valentino’s pleas, the marriage was done. Nonetheless, after Valentino’s death, Acker would occasionally join mourners at his tomb and leave flowers. In a 1937 interview, Acker stated “My story is short, simple and not so sad as you may believe. In 1926 I left motion pictures, and toured New York and the nation on the stage and in vaudeville. In 1929 I had amassed a fortune of $300,000, and that same year the market crash swept it all away.” Acker played some bit parts here and there, and died in 1978 at the age of 85 at the UCLA Medical Center. Her ashes were scattered in the ocean.

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From November 10-12, 1919, the Poli featured The Witness for the Defense, starring Elsie Ferguson as Stella Derrick. The film was released on August 31, 1919, at five reels. A complete copy is held in the Gosfilmofond in Moscow. I could only find one still, but there are a few more at IMDb. Also, there is an unintentionally hilarious teaser for the film on YouTube:

Plot: Stella Derrick and Dick Hazelwood are in love, but their parents are against the marriage, hoping each can find a better financial match. Stella goes to India at her father’s request, and is forced to marry a wealthy man named Ballantyne, who turns out to be a brute and a drunk. After Stella’s father dies, she is at the mercy of Ballantyne. During an encampment in the jungle, Stella shoots Ballantyne in self-defense. When she is brought to trial, she is helped by a rejected suitor, Henry Thresk, who manages to have suspicion cast away from Stella and onto some Hindu enemies of Ballantyne. Stella returns to England, and Thresk pursues her, expecting her to come back to him.

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Eventually the truth about Ballantyne’s death is revealed, and Stella and Dick are reunited.

The film was based upon a play by A. E. W. Mason, and originally featured Ethel Barrymore as Stella.

Exxhibitor’s Herald wrote “the play, in bare outline, is not a pretty thing. Yet it has a Broadway success to its credit, which leads to the conclusion that it has the necessary qualities to bring about a goodly sale to the public.” On Ferguson’s performance, the journal noted “to a length that would appear ridiculous in the hands of a less talented person she carries her characterization convincingly and easily.”

Elsie Ferguson was primarily a stage actress. The Witness for the Defense may be her only surviving work. She retired from the stage in the 1940s. At the time she was married to her fourth husband, Victor Egan, a British naval officer. Egan owned a villa in the south of France, and the two spent six months of every year there, until his death in 1956. They also lived on an estate in Old Lyme, CT, which was called “White Gate Farms.” Ferguson passed away on November 15, 1961.

In an interview with Motion Picture Classic magazine, Warner Oland, who played Ballantyne, was asked how Elsie Ferguson felt in a scene where he had to choke her. “Oh, she just thought of it as a dramatic situation and told me to be rough with her for the sake of art. I’d been married to her seven years in the story, and while Elsie is a charming girl, the scenario writer insisted that I’d had enough of her. And I choked her lovingly, gloatingly. It was a good scene and we didn’t have to do a retake. Miss Ferguson merely had to retire to her dressing-room to again make up her neck so that we could continue the day’s labor.”

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From November 13-15, 1919, the Poli featured The Market of  Souls, starring Dorothy Dalton as Helen Armes, Holmes Herbert as Temple Bane, and Philo McCullough as Lyle Bane. The film was released on September 2, 1919, at between five and six reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot:  Helen Armes, a nurse, visits her friend Evelyn Howell in New York City. Helen, Evelyn, Evelyn’s husband Herbert, and Herbert’s friend Lyle Bane attend a New Year’s Eve celebration. At the party, Helen meets Temple Bane, Lyle’s quiet brother. Lyle lures Helen to his apartment, and makes a play for her, which she rebuffs. Temple, aware of his brother’s methods, calls on him to find out what happened. Lyle admits that Helen was with him, but that he she had made a play for him, which he turned down. Temple does not believe this, and the brothers quarrel. During the ensuing struggle, Temple is temporarily blinded. Helen is assigned to care for Temple.

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But she does not reveal her identity for fear Temple would turn away from her, knowing she has been with Lyle. Helen and Temple gradually fall in love, and Temple proposes to Helen. Helen catches Lyle trying to steal from Temple, and she persuades the scoundrel to go to France, join the army, and fight. An operation is performed on Temple, and he regains his eyesight. He asks to see the nurse who has been taking care of him. When he discovers she is really Helen, he turns from her.

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After Helen leaves his house, she learns that Lyle has been killed in France. She returns to see Temple. But Lyle visits them and explains that nothing happened between him and Helen. When Lyle disappears, Helen and Temple conclude it was his spirit that had visited them. Helen and Temple are reunited.

Motion Picture News praised Dalton’s performance, stating that the film “gives her the opportunity of appearing as one of the society revelers at a high class cabaret and later as a sweet modest nurse, and she captivates in both situations.” Motion Picture Magazine was more effusive, claiming that “Dorothy Dalton proves her complete mastery of screen characterization in this play by chameleoning her orchidaceous self into a demure Pollyanna of the altruistic school, and her performance rings as clear as the chimes of St. Peter’s.”

Philo McCullough had a long career in films, but mostly appeared in bit parts once sound arrived. In 1947, newspapers reported that he was under consideration to be the next Charlie Chan. However, that opportunity never came to pass. In 1955, McCullough had a bit part in the fifth film version of The Spoilers, this one starring Jeff Chandler and Rory Calhoun. By coincidence, McCullough had been on the set when the original 1914 version was being filmed. That version featured a climactic fight between William Farnum and Thomas Santschi. “It wasn’t as good as this one,” said McCullough, comparing the scrap between Farnum and Santschi to the fight between Chandler and Calhoun, “but it was a sensation in its day. I think it was because it was the first film fight that was done in cuts, so that the impact was terrific. The story that Bill and Tom were feuding was strictly for publicity. They were the best of pals. They were a little nicked up after the fight, but neither was hurt seriously.”

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From November 16-22, 1919, the Poli ran His Majesty, The American, starring Douglas Fairbanks as William Brooks. Released on September 1, 1919, at eight reels, the film is held in several archives. There are a few mediocre copies, running around 97 minutes, available on YouTube. I’ve used some publicity stills instead of screen caps.

Brief Plot:  William Brooks is a rich adventurer in New York City, fighting fires and chasing down bad guys. When the excitement in the city dries up, heads to Mexico for more intrigue. Then he is summoned to Europe, and finds himself in the middle of a kingdom in turmoil. There, he learns the truth about his lineage.

Review: This film has some historical significance, being the first release of the ”Big Four,” that is, United Artists: Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and D. W. Griffith. Fairbanks introduces the film, saying “Gee whiz! - I hope you’ll like it.” He then winks at the audience (which actually made me wince). The film starts off with plenty of action, featuring Fairbanks rescuing several people (and a kitten) from a fire by swinging back and forth between buildings, a la Tarzan.

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These scenes, and the ones in Mexico, are enough to hold interest; however, I felt the film bogged down when the locale moved to Europe. There, Fairbanks still performs some great stunt work, but the story seems to drag on. Part of the problem is that some of the title cards were difficult, if not impossible, to read; so this confused me. Oddly, the romantic interest, played by Marjorie Daw, doesn’t show up until very late in the film.

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There is a cute reference, which involves Smith Brothers cough drops. And at the climax, when Fairbanks discovers he is related to royalty, he is very relieved to discover that Daw is not related to him in any way. Overall, this is probably good entertainment for fans of Fairbanks, but nothing to write home about. I found out after watching the film that Boris Karloff plays a bit role, but I wasn’t that interested in running through the film again to spot him.

Also playing on the bill was a Fatty Arbuckle short, Backstage, which co-starred Buster Keaton. This short was released on September 7, 1919, at two reels. There are good prints available on YouTube. In this short, Fatty and Buster play stagehands who end up putting on a show after the lead (billed as “The Strong Man”) quits. The skits are funny, with one involving Buster in drag and Fatty in some kind of furry outfit:

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Eventually Fatty hurls Buster into a heckler.

There are plenty of sights gags, such as this sequence after Fatty puts up a playbill:

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When the Strong Man tries to disrupt the show, he gets his comeuppance from the crew. The Strongman was played by Charles Post, who, as you can see, was one big dude.

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Post, who was a close friend of Wallace Reid, wrote an article entitled “Wally Reid, My Friend,” for Motion Picture Magazine after Reid’s death in 1923. Below is a photo of Post with Reid’s wife (actress Dorothy Davenport) and the Reid children, Billy and Betty:

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This short is good for laughs, and I enjoyed it more than the feature.

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From November 23-26, 1919, the feature at the Poli was The Grim Game, starring Harry Houdini as Harvey Hanford. The film was released on October 12, 1919, at five reels. It was believed lost, but a complete copy was found and the film was shown at the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival. The film was also shown on TCM in 2015, but I missed it. If anyone saw it, please feel free to chime in. Some clips are available on YouTube.

Brief Plot: Reporter Harvey Hanford believes that no one should be convicted on circumstantial evidence. So he proposes a plan whereby the wealthy owner of the newspaper, Mr. Cameron, takes a vacation to an isolated place, while Harvey places clues to suggest he has killed the man.

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Harvey’s plan works, and he is sent to jail.

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But then Cameron’s body turns up, so Harvey escapes and hunts down the real killer. In the climax, Harvey is chasing the real killer in an airplane. The killer has abducted Cameron’s niece, Mary. Harvey drops from his own airplane to the killer’s to rescue Mary.

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Long thought lost, a complete copy was located in Brooklyn in 2014. It belonged to Larry Weeks, a 95-year-old former juggler and Houdini fan. Weeks had acquired the only known copy of the film from Houdini’s estate, in 1947. In April of 2014, film preservationist Rick Schmidlin was having lunch with Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brootz, owners of the Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA. Dietrich and Brootz told Schmidlin about Weeks. Schmidlin then contacted Charlie Tabesh, VP in charge of programming at TCM. Tabesh gave Schmidlin the green light to get the film for TCM and restore it. Schmidlin then met with Weeks, and, convinced he had the film, bought it. The film was then stored at a vault at New York University’s preservation and conservation department. The movie “premiered” again at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, on March 29, 2015, with Brane Zivkovic conducting a live orchestra playing his new score for the film.*

*Los Angeles Times, March 27, 2015

Variety reported that a collision between two airplanes was unplanned, but director Irwin Willat kept the cameras rolling right until the crash. No one was hurt. The airplanes were chartered from Cecil B. DeMille’s Mercury Aviation Company. The daily also reported that Houdini had suffered a broken arm while jumping from one plane to the other; take that with a grain of salt. Several film magazines reported that Houdini had broken one of the small bones in his left hand doing a “comparatively simple stunt.” Maybe that got blown out of proportion for publicity purposes.

This seems to have been a movie built around Houdini’s escape routines. There are scenes of Houdini slipping out of handcuffs, crawling out of chains, and diving over the side of a building while wearing a straitjacket.

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The film was endorsed by the Society of American Magicians.

Alfred Hitchcock may or may not have been aware of this remark by Houdini, but in 1919 the famed magician suggested that all directors should appear in one scene in each of their films. “The old-time masters in painting would insert their own faces and the faces of their friends in groups,” said Houdini, “thus recording their likenesses for future generations. Why not the same scheme in motion pictures – the modern paintings, which reveal life so graphically?”

When the film was shown at the Princess Theatre in Denver, manager T. A. Sullivan obtained wreckage of a real airplane and set it up in the theater lobby. He also set up the plane’s gas motor for patrons to inspect. The stills below show part of the display:

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Also on the bill was a comedy short entitled The Hayseed, featuring Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton. The film was released on October 26, 1919, at two reels. Several copies are available on YouTube, running anywhere from about 20 to 24 minutes.

Brief Plot: Fatty is a rural mailman who is smitten with a young lady (Molly Malone). Buster plays the manager of a general store, and Fatty’s pal. The local constable (played by John Coogan, father of Jackie Coogan), tries to put the moves on Malone but fails.

Review: Good comedy short. Fatty is sympathetic, Buster does some great pratfalls, Malone is lovely, Coogan makes a great villain. My favorite scene is where Fatty is supposed to sing at a dance. His voice fails, so Buster suggests he eat some onions to restore his voice. The strategy works, except that everyone (including a dog) in the vicinity of Fatty’s mouth shrinks back in horror:

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From November 27-29, 1919, the Poli ran Girls, starring Marguerite Clark as Pamela Gordon. The film was released on June 29, 1919, at five reels, and is presumed lost. Unfortunately, I could only find one still.

Plot:  Pamela Gordon was once jilted by a man whom she loved. So she and her two friends Violet and Kate form a man-hater’s club, and place a sign above their door which reads “No man shall cross this threshold.” Edgar Holt, a young attorney, is being framed by a woman, and her irate husband pursues him. Holt enters the girls’ room seeking an escape, where he meets Pamela.

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She makes him leave by way of an ironing board stretched across to a window along a narrow courtyard. Later, Holt encounters Pamela at a party, and rescues her from the unwanted attentions of her former lover. Holt tells his partner Sprague to hire Pamela as a confidential secretary. Violet falls in love with Loot, the head clerk. Sprague attempts to court Pamela, but she quits, taking Violet with her. Kate has secretly married a theatrical manager. While she and Pamela are out together, Loot calls with back pay for Pamela and Violet. When he finds Violet alone, he proposes and she accepts. Pamela and Kate return just as Loot and Violet are embracing. Violet announces her engagement, and Kate announces her marriage. Meanwhile, Holt has rented the room across the courtyard from Pamela’s room, with the intention of courting her every chance he gets. He signals for Loot and Violet to leave the room, then knock’s on Pamela’s door. When she refuses to let him in, he makes his way in via the shutter connecting the windows of the two rooms. He tells Pamela he will get in without crossing the threshold prohibited by the sign the girls put up. When he is almost at her window, his foot slips and he nearly falls. Pamela reaches out and grabs him by the neck, and drags him into her room. He puts his arms around her and she confesses that she loves him.

The film was based upon a stage play of the same name, written by Clyde Fitch. A critic for The Film Daily was not too enthusiastic, writing “this Paramount production … may take a place among fragile, inconsequential photoplays, making its chief appeal to the very young or the very old. It is a harmless, rather pretty picture with occasional laughs for those who laugh easily, but between the comedy moments are many others that come dangerously near to being dull.”

The role of Edgar Holt was played by Harrison Ford. After his film career ended with the advent of the sound era, he did some directing in Glendale, CA, for the Little Theater of the Verdugos. On September 1, 1951, he was crossing Canada Boulevard near his home when he was struck by a car driven by Margaret Schachner, also of Glendale. He was knocked unconscious, suffering head and body injuries. Oddly, some twenty years earlier, his former wife, stage actress Beatrice Prentice, had been struck by a bicycle in Long Beach. Both Ford and Prentice survived their injuries. Helene Chadwick, who played Kate, was not so lucky. In June of 1940, she stumbled over a chair, suffering injuries to her eye and left side. She never recovered, dying in September of the same year. Her doctor claimed her condition was aggravated by her “highly nervous state.” Chadwick was 41, and formerly married to director William Wellman. She once commanded a salary of $2000 per week, but was reduced to small roles once the sound era took hold. She had a bit part in Wellman’s A Star is Born.

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