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21 hours ago, scsu1975 said:

“I’d rather be a valet and see the world series than be a lord and not see it.”

Hey, I think I'm going to start using this phrase to make me feel better about having a degrading job! 😄

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From January 25-29, 1920, the Poli ran Scarlet Days, directed by D.W. Griffith and starring Richard Barthelmess. The film was released on November 30, 1919. There is a mediocre copy on YouTube, running around 77 minutes. I used stills from trade journals. Complete copies of the film are held in the Museum of Modern Art and some foreign archives.

Brief Plot: Young Lady Fair travels west to meet the mother she never knew. Before long she meets up with bad guy King Bagley. The outlaw Don Maria Alvarez and John Randolph come to her aid.

Review: Definitely not one of Griffith’s finest moments. For one thing, the characters’ names sound like something out of a fairy tale. Randolph, played by Ralph Graves, is also known as “Sir Whiteheart,” while Bagley, played by Walter Long, is referred to as “Knight of the Black Stain.” Petite Clarine Seymour, who plays Alvarez’ girl Chiquita, is also called “Little Flameheart.” By the way, Seymour steals every scene she’s in, head-butting people and kicking a**. Unfortunately, she only made one more film before her untimely death in 1920.

As Alvarez, Richard Barthelmess is acceptable, although it took a while for me to get used to him with his guitar and outlaw garb. On his role, Barthelmess said “it was different, at least, to ride a mustang and wear a mustache.”




Carol Dempster, as Lady Fair, is quite pretty, but her eye rolls got to be a bit much. The film drags for about the first two-thirds, before finally picking up in the last twenty minutes or so when all hell seems to break loose. At one point, Bagley attempts to deflower Lady Fair, while his men hold Randolph at bay.


Alvarez is wounded by Bagley’s gang, but still manages to ride off into the sunset with Chiquita.




Motion Picture News reported that the character of Alvarez was based upon the bandit Joachin Murieta, who was partly the inspiration for Zorro. In a 2007 newspaper article entitled “Zorro! The Wild West’s Robin Hood,” author Nancy Johnson mistakenly claimed that Rudolph Valentino had played the starring role in Scarlet Days. Several newspapers carried an interview with Lillian Gish in the mid-1970s, in which the legendary actress claimed that her sister Dorothy had discovered Valentino. “She saw him dancing and wanted to use him in her next film, ‘Scarlet Days,’ but Mr. Griffith said he would never do, because he was too foreign-looking,” said Gish. Since Dorothy Gish did not appear in this film, either her sister was mistaken, or perhaps Dorothy was originally cast for a part.

According to Motion Picture Classic, Clarine Seymour’s character was not originally in the story. Director Griffith noticed her watching some of the scenes and said “do you want to play a bit in this picture?” Griffith had first offered the part to actress Ann May, but she had refused, believing the role was too small for her.

This film was presumed lost, but in the late 1960s a copy was discovered in the Soviet film archives, with Russian subtitles. In a deal with the Museum of Modern Art, the Russians swapped this film, along with another previously lost Griffith film, A Romance of Happy Valley, in exchange for some early newsreels referring to events in Russian history.

Also on the bill was a Fox two-reel comedy entitled A Schoolhouse Scandal (the title on the advertisement is incorrect). Beyond what is listed at IMDb, I could find almost nothing on this short. The Washington Post wrote “the schoolhouse is in evidence for a few brief but highly charged scenes but the scandal never made clear.”

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35 minutes ago, scsu1975 said:

From January 25-29, 1920, the Poli ran Scarlet Days, directed by D.W. Griffith and starring Richard Barthelmess. The film was released on November 30, 1919. There is a mediocre copy on YouTube, running around 77 minutes. I used stills from trade journals. Complete copies of the film are held in the Museum of Modern Art and some foreign archives.

I'll have to check out that YouTube copy; I really like Richard Barthelmess. He deserves to be remembered as more than just a pretty face.

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From January 29-31, 1920, the Poli ran Hawthorne of the U.S.A., starring Wallace Reid as the title character. The film was released on December 21, 1919, at five reels. There is an acceptable copy on YouTube which runs just under an hour.

Brief Plot: Anthony Hamilton Hawthorne hits it big in Monte Carlo, winning two million francs. Along with his pal Blake, he gets involved with revolutionaries who want to take over a kingdom – peacefully, or so he thinks. In fact, they rebels want to assassinate the King. Hawthorne falls for the King’s daughter, not realizing who she is.


Hawthorne is wrongfully arrested for an attempt on the King’s life. All works out well in the end, however, as Hawthorne gets the girl and the kingdom is saved.

Review: This is a pleasant little comedy/adventure, with Reid charming and Lila Lee (as the King’s daughter) very lovely. Cigar-chomping and blustery Theodore Roberts has a nice bit as a U.S. Senator visiting the kingdom, who tries to help Hawthorne.


Probably the most amusing sequences occur at the end, when the kingdom is turned into a swinging place where everyone speaks American slang.

The film was based upon a stage play of the same name, written by James B. Fagan. Douglas Fairbanks had appeared on stage as the lead. His son, Doug Jr., related an amusing story about seeing his father in the play. Only four at the time, the younger Fairbanks later recalled “it was the first time I ever saw my father on the stage. I didn’t see him during the first act, because I was too busy playing in the box I occupied with my mother. Suddenly, during the second act of ‘Hawthorne of the U.S.A.’ I looked toward the stage. There I saw my father making love to an actress. I turned around and shouted to mother, ‘Father’s kissing that lady – look!’ Well, the audience howled, my mother blushed and the show, while it went on, labored under difficulties the rest of the act.”

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From February 1-7, 1920, the Poli ran When The Clouds Roll By, starring Douglas Fairbanks as Daniel Boone Brown. The film was released on December 29, 1919, at six reels, and is there is a very good print available on YouTube. Complete copies exist in the Museum of Modern Art, the George Eastman House, and a few foreign archives.

Brief Plot:  Daniel Boone Brown, who works for his uncle’s investment firm, is the unwitting subject of a psychological experiment by an unscrupulous doctor. Brown has nightmares, phobias, and generally is a nervous wreck. He meets a girl and falls in love, but the town’s Mayor, who is also a rat, becomes his romantic rival. Eventually, the doctor’s real identity is revealed, Daniel grows a pair, and all ends happily.

Review: This is an entertaining but extremely unusual comedy. Fairbanks is in good form, performing plenty of stunts, including one in slow motion. It is a bit jarring to see him play an insecure character, when one is used to seeing him acting with bravado and confidence. But there are some very funny scenes. Below, Doug prepares everyone to meet the woman he is going to marry – but the maid enters the room by accident:


Doug hangs upside down from the rafters to propose to his girl:


There are plenty of clever photographic effects:


The climax involves a flood, which is convincingly photographed:


However, the sequence actually seems unnecessary to the plot, except to suggest the film’s title and also Fairbanks’ recovery from his insecurities.

This was the second film Fairbanks made under the “Big Four” banner (the forerunner of United Artists) and is a big improvement over his first production, His Majesty the American¸ which I reviewed in an earlier post.

In Omaha, Nebraska, R. S. Ballantyne, manager of the Moon Theatre, created a life-sized cutout of Fairbanks, taken from a photograph. He then split the cutout so that it would appear Fairbanks was in a “jumping-jack” position.


The figure was mounted on an eighty-foot rope, and the cutout was made to climb up and down, day and night, while the film was being shown. Below is a close-up of the cutout, followed by a shot of the cutout above the theater (in the circled region):


The manager also released balloons which had free tickets attached, and mounted a parade down the streets. Part of the parade is shown below:


When The Clouds Roll By was originally scheduled for four days at the Poli, but was held over for three additional days. From February 5-7, a Fatty Arbuckle/Buster Keaton short entitled The Garage was added to the bill. This two-reeler is available on YouTube. Fatty and Buster work in a garage and generally mess up everything. Pratfalls and slapstick galore. In one cute scene, Fatty kisses a photo on his wall; the picture happens to be of Mabel Normand, his former co-star:


The climax features a well-staged fire, where Fatty and Buster (who are also the town firemen) come to the rescue of Molly Malone. Good for yucks.

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From February 8-11, 1920, the Poli featured The Life Line, directed by Maurice Tourneur, and starring Jack Holt as Jack Hearne. The film was released on October 5, 1919 at between five and six reels. A complete copy is held in the Filmmuseum in Amsterdam.

Plot: Philip Royston hosts a fox hunt, when he meets a beautiful gypsy fortune teller.


Jack Hearne, also known as “Romany Rye,” overhears the gypsy’s father warning her not to see Royston. The girl visits Royston anyway, but Hearne intercepts her and returns her to her camp. It turns out that Hearne is the half-brother to Royston; Hearne’s mother was a gypsy who married Royston’s father. Royston is not aware of any of this. Hearne is happy to roam and not claim his share of the family’s wealth. When Royston learns that Hearne is his half-brother, he searches for the family bible which contains the marriage certificate proving Hearne’s connection, intending to destroy it. But before Royston can do so, the bible is stolen by two London thieves named Joe Heckett and Bos, who happen to be friends of Hearne. Royston and his crooked lawyer trace the thieves to their hideout but are interrupted by Hearne, who has fallen for Heckett’s daughter Ruth.


Ruth, Hearne, and Bos go to the theatre that evening.


A fire breaks out and Hearne heroically rescues Ruth. The pair decide to leave for America, to find evidence of Hearne’s mother’s marriage, so he can claim his share in the estate. Royston boards the same ship. The climax features the burning of the ship, and Hearne saves Ruth.

The cast included Lew Cody as Royston, Wallace Beery as Bos, and Tully Marshall as Heckett. Pauline Starke, who was about thirteen years younger than Jack Holt, portrayed his romantic interest, Ruth Heckett.

The film was based upon a play entitled “The Romany Rye,” written by George R. Sim.

The Film Daily praised the performances, but savaged the story, writing it was “very bad, failed utterly to hold incidents together intelligently.”

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30 minutes ago, scsu1975 said:

The cast included Lew Cody as Royston, Wallace Beery as Bos, and Tully Marshall as Heckett. Pauline Starke, who was about thirteen years younger than Jack Holt, portrayed his romantic interest, Ruth Heckett.

That's quite a supporting cast!

Until now, I hadn't come to the realization that Jack Holt was Tim Holt's father. Facepalm!

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From February 12-14, 1920, the Poli ran His Wife’s Friend¸ starring Dorothy Dalton as Lady Miriam Greenwood. Released on December 21, 1919, at five reels, the film is presumed lost. I could only find one production cut for this film, and no stills. The cut below shows Richard Neill (in an undetermined minor role) and Dorothy Dalton:


Plot:  Miriam Greenwood is unhappily married to an older man, Sir Robert Greenwood, who spends most of his time playing chess. One day a former sweetheart, John Heritage, calls upon Miriam, and Greenwood spies the two together. He says nothing, but invites Heritage to play chess the next evening. Some time later, Greenwood is discovered drowned in a lake on a neighbor’s estate. Suspicion is cast on Heritage, who has left for India to join the British army. When he returns to England, he seeks the real killer.  He discovers that Ling Foo, a Chinese criminal whom he knew in India, had poisoned Greenwood after the chess game. He also finds that Wiverly, who owns the adjoining estate, is also involved in the crime. Ultimately, Ling Foo is killed, and Miriam and Heritage are united.

Although Motion Picture News gave a favorable review, the journal did take issue with some aspects of the film. “The original story may have been convincing in many ways,” they wrote, “but in scenario form it seems to be a number of scenes joined together with little effort to bring out the strong situations and hold back the weaker ones until the time arrives for “landing” the big scenes. Faulty direction also may be to blame for the way in which many of the situations were handled. For the star seems to resort to “heavy breathing” and distended “eye work” in many of the dramatic moments, and is frequently seen in a standing position, using these expressions, when action is needed and called for.”

Also on the bill was Bert Earle, a banjo player, accompanied by several pretty girls. Earle worked into the 1930s. He died in 1941, destitute. Earle is pictured below, in a 1916 photograph:



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From February 15-18, 1920, the Poli ran The Teeth of the Tiger, starring David Powell as Arsene Lupin. Released on October 26, 1919, at five to six reels, the film is presumed lost.

Plot: Arsene Lupin, a reformed burglar and swindler thought dead is now living in a suburb of Vermont, under the name of Paul Sernine. An old friend, millionaire Henry Forbes, summons Lupin to help him, as he fears someone is out to kill him. Forbes, now an invalid, is being cared for by Dr. Varney. Lupin goes to Forbes’ mansion, which is also inhabited by his ward, Florence Chandler. A detective named Jabot arrives, who recognizes Lupin. Although Forbes’ room is guarded, he is mysteriously murdered. Several people are suspected of the crime, including Lupin, Forbes’ wife, and Gordon Savage, a friend of Mrs. Forbes.  Mrs. Forbes is arrested for the murder.


Eventually Lupin discovers that the real killer is Dr. Varney, who is stopped while attempting to blow up the mansion. Lupin and Florence find love with each other.

The film was based upon a novel of the same name, by Maurice LeBlanc. Several films had previously been made with the Arsene Lupin character.

David Powell, who played Lupin, sported a mustache. In a 1919 interview, he said “of course, a mustache makes a man look like a villain. No matter how many good kind things I do in pictures, small boys will always point at me and say, ‘He’s bad.’ I have been bad – but lately, well, I expiated all my screen sins in ‘The Firing Line’ when I ended my future life that Irene Castle and Vernon Steele might be happy. And in ‘The Teeth of the Tiger’ that I’m doing now I am a merry French Robin Hood – we had to change the story because he killed seven men in the original version and (director) Withey said it would begin to be funny after the fourth murder.” Powell died from pneumonia in April of 1925, at only 41 years old.

The role of the heroine was played by Marguerite Courtot. The part had originally gone to actress Anna Lehr, but she had to withdraw due to a case of ptomaine poisoning.

Below is a behind-the-scenes shot showing Powell, Courtot, and director Chet Withey:


Myrtle Stedman, who portrayed Marie Forbes, is shown below, modeling a “pettibocker,” which supposedly replaced knickerbockers and petticoats:


The film garnered acceptable reviews, but there were some criticisms. The Film Daily wrote “they started out here too give us a mystery story, and they certainly delivered in so far as the mystery element is concerned. It happens, however, that they made the darned thing so mysterious that after they twist the plot backwards and forwards and start all over again for about the sixth time, it becomes rather funny, with the audience laughing at it instead of with it.” Variety wrote “for some  apparent reason, probably indirection, the story in “The Teeth of the Tiger” let itself run so far away from the main theme that toward the finish of the picture what was intended for suspense results in confusion, leaving the spectator bewildered rather than absorbed.” However, the trade journal did praise Powell’s performance, noting “his features, his work commend themselves. His personality goes a long way in getting a number of scene over which otherwise might prove tiresome.”

One trade journal claimed that the film originally contained 501 scenes, more than twice the usual number of scenes for a five-reel production. The film was then cut to about 300 scenes, in an attempt to speed up the action.

The production design was by William Cameron Menzies. The Famous Players-Lasky Corporation sent Menzies to New York City to make arrangements to film scenes inside the office of Police Commissioner Enright. On the day the scenes were to be shot, a group known as “The Anarchist Fighters” launched a reign of terror in the city. Menzies was unable to get into the busy office, so he sketched the interior from a view he obtained while seated in the waiting room. Then, he went to a building across the street, and peering from a window which overlooked the office, finished his sketches.

Also on the bill was a possible documentary showing footage from a German U-35. I say “possible” because there were no additional details provided about the showing. This showing may have just been some assorted footage; however, there was a documentary released about this time, entitled The Log of the U-35, which is available on YouTube.

As an added attraction for one day only, on February 15, the Poli featured singer Rosa Ponselle. The young soprano, born in Meriden CT, made her operatic debut on November 15, 1918, at the Metropolitan Opera. She was given the principal role of Leonora in Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino” after Enrico Caruso heard her audition. That evening, the 21-year-old sang opposite Caruso, and became the first American-born singer without any European training to debut at the Met. Some twenty years later, she retired, but served as artistic director of the Baltimore Opera Company. Over the years, her protégés included Beverly Sills, Placido Domingo, and Leontyne Price. In 1972, The New York Times wrote “there was nothing like the Ponselle sound. Ever. That big, pure, colorful, golden voice would rise effortlessly, hitting the stunned listener in the face, rolling over the body, sliding down the shoulder blades, making one wiggle with sheer physiological pleasure.” Ponselle died in 1981, after suffering a series of strokes. In 1936, she made a screen test for “Carmen,” which can be viewed here:



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From February 19-21, 1920, the Poli ran Faith, starring Peggy Hyland as Peggy Laughlin. The film’s release date is uncertain. It was five reels, and is presumed lost. I could only find one still.

Plot:  In Scotland, Sir Kent McGregor, a miser, lives with his niece Peggy. Peggy is in love with David Harden, a shepherd who is a tenant on McGregor’s land.


David’s father Adam, who is a school teacher, is viewed by the villagers as a spiritual guide and miracle worker. Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, Dr. George Kyle is an unsuccessful physician. His housekeeper, Meg Harper, convinces him with to pass himself off as the missing nephew of the deceased Lady Murrell, who lived near McGregor. McGregor is taken in by the pair, and encourages Kyle’s attention for Peggy. He then orders David and his father off his land. When they refuse to leave, McGregor has them thrown into jail. He sets a wedding date for Kyle and Peggy, but just before Peggy reaches the alter she passes out. Kyle and other doctors claim they cannot do anything to help Peggy. In desperation, McGregor summons Adam who cures the girl. McGregor overhears Meg and Kyle and has them arrested as impostors. He then gladly gives his niece in marriage to David.

The film generally received acceptable reviews, although some critics likened it to the better known (but also-lost) The Miracle Man. Exhibitor’s Herald wrote that the film was “destined to suffer a certain loss by reason of the wide circulation given “The Miracle Man.” …It is unfortunate that such a resemblance should exist. Had “Faith” been presented before “The Miracle Man,” or a year after it, the public would have welcomed it without qualification. Coming as it does while the memory of the other picture is fresh in mind, it is probable that a great deal of its force will be lost.” The Film Daily wrote “at the outset it looks as if the producers were attempting to work along the lines of “The Miracle Man” but once the main action is penetrated it gets far away from it. The picture never ascends to great dramatic heights.” However, the daily did note that the film featured “some very pretty shots of sheep grazing.” The Moving Picture World commented that “the Scotch settings and characters are pleasing and many charming country scenes are pictured. As a whole the story is one that will appeal to the family circle and make friends in spite of the lack of dramatic pretense.”

James Parks Jones, who portrayed David Harden, was a real-life hero. In 1907, the then-17-year-old was vacationing in Yosemite National Park when he and Henry Masser spotted a young lady caught in the rapids of the Merced River. The girl, Bertha Pillsbury, had accidentally wandered into deep water and had been caught in a current. Masser was the first to reach her, but the pair were separated by the rushing water. Jones then caught Pillsbury by the back of her head, and was able to pull her to shore. Masser also survived. Some four years later, both men were rewarded for their bravery, as each received a bronze medal from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. Jones’ medal was inscribed “J. Parks Jones, who helped to save Bertha L. Pillsbury from drowning, Yosemite, Cal., Aug. 12, 1907.” Parks is pictured below with his future wife (and future actress) Myrtle Gonzalez, celebrating Mexico Day in Los Angeles in 1909. In 1918, Gonzalez died. Only 27, she was a victim of the Spanish Influenza.


Also on the bill was a one-reel comedy short entitled The Floor Below¸ with Snub Pollard. It was released on December 28, 1919. According to The Moving Picture World, Snub plays a henpecked husband who joins another husband on the floor below. They rebel and turn the tables on their wives. There is a more detailed description at the IMDb site, so the short may still exist somewhere. This film is not to be confused with full-length feature of the same name, starring Mabel Normand, and released around the same time.

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From February 22-25, 1920, the Poli ran Behind the Door, starring Hobart Bosworth as Oscar Krug, Jane Novak as Alice Morse, and Wallace Beery as the German submarine commander. The film was released on December 14, 1919. The number of reels is in question; various sources say anywhere from five to seven. A nearly complete version is held in the Library of Congress and the Gosfilmofond in Russia, and a restored version was issued in 2016, with some still shots in place of lost footage. That version can be viewed on Amazon Prime, which is where I watched it.

A trailer and a film clip are available on YouTube:



Plot: Oscar Krug returns to his home in Maine after being at sea for a number of years. He reminisces back to just before the war broke out, when he was in love with Alice Morse, daughter of the local banker. Being German, Krug was falsely accused of being sympathetic to the enemy. He enlisted, secretly married Alice, and became Captain of a merchant marine ship. Alice came aboard the ship, which was eventually sunk by a German U-boat. Krug and Alice survived, but the German commander took Alice aboard his vessel, leaving Oscar adrift. Krug swore to the German that he would get revenge. A few months later, Krug’s ship fired on a U-boat. Krug recognized the Captain and saved him, although the Captain did not recognize Krug. Krug plied him with liquor and pretended to be a German sympathizer, in order to discover what had happened to Alice. Krug then took his vengeance in a most horrible manner.

Review: This is a stunning piece of work, one of the best silent films I’ve seen. It begins with ordinary life in a Maine seaport, and lulls the viewer into believing this will just be another romance. The film takes a sharp turn into tragedy, and builds to a grotesque conclusion – strong stuff for any time period, let alone 1919. Bosworth, though perhaps a bit too old for the lead (he was over 50), nevertheless is a commanding presence on screen. The sequence where he elicits the truth from Beery is alone worth the price of admission. The title refers to what happened to Beery “behind the door.”

Although the movie has clearly deteriorated in spots, the restoration for the most part is crisp. The few inserted stills do not interfere or detract in any way. At seventy minutes, the film moves briskly without any slow spots. The photography is excellent. This one deserves to be shown on TCM.

Variety praised the film, noting that “it holds mightily and is well worth while to those who prefer an occasional “lived-happily-ever-after” stuff.” The Film Daily called the film an “exceptionally powerful study of sea captain’s hate and manner in which he planned and achieved revenge … builds to a climax of terrific power which is so horrible to think of that it may sicken.” Motion Picture News added that the film “would have been more timely two years ago and also it cannot hope to find universal favor because it is so vividly brutal and cruel in many of its sequences and in its very dramatic plot. … Shown to an audience of women, you would be liable to have to call in an ambulance to take hysterical females to a hospital.”

When the film played at Grauman’s Theatre in Los Angeles, manager Sid Grauman arranged special lighting in the house for some scenes. He also presented several musical numbers, including selections from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore.” But the highlight was undoubtedly his live recreation of the “behind the door” scene, in which he used Hobart Bosworth, along with cast members James Gordon and Richard Wayne, to reenact the film sequence on stage:


Also on the bill was a two-reel comedy entitled The Roaming Bathtub. Beyond the listing in IMDb, I could find no information on this short.

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On February 26 and 28*, 1920, the Poli ran Someone Must Pay, starring Gail Kane as Regina Taylor, Hugh Thompson as Henry Taylor, and Edmund Breese as Charles Bryant. The film was released on September 28, 1919, at six reels. A complete 35mm copy is held in the Library of Congress.

*For unknown reasons, on February 27, the Poli showed the film Victory in place of Someone Must Pay. I have included a brief review of Victory after the discussion of Someone Must Pay.

Plot:  Henry Taylor is very jealous of the attentions paid to his wife Regina by Charles Bryant, an elderly New York bachelor. One day on returning from his office, Taylor finds his wife in the Bryant’s arms. He forbids the man to ever enter the house again, and Bryant leaves without an explanation for his actions. Shortly thereafter, their daughter Vivian receives a Shetland pony as a gift.


When Taylor discovers the present is from Bryant, he is furious with his wife.


Regina protests that the gift was just given because of the man’s affection for the child. Taylor runs into some financial trouble, and is arrested for dealing stocks which he does not own. Regina, desperate to raise the money her husband lost, accepts $35,000 from Bryant. When Taylor learns of this, he orders his wife and child out of the house. He shoots Bryant. The wounded man refuses to prosecute, but the state is determined to convict Taylor of assault with intent to kill. In the finale, Bryant comes to the rescue and reveals that he is really Regina’s father.


Bryant had given Regina to an orphanage after he had been falsely convicted for murdering his employer. Now, Bryant helps the couple reconcile. Unfortunately, Vivian was the real victim, dying from exposure as she and her mother wandered the streets after being evicted by Taylor.

The IMDb entry for this film is a bit messed up. It lists Edmund Lowe in the cast, but I could not confirm this with any of the trade journals. Given that Lowe was just starting in films, it’s possible he was in the cast, but not mentioned in many places. Motion Picture News lists several other actors in the cast who are not listed in the IMDb entry. A notable absence from IMDb is child actress Dorothy Arnold, who portrayed Vivian.

Variety gave the film a good review, noting “the settings, interior and exterior have been selected with care. One of the best and probably representing something quite unique is the scene of several hundred children at play in a wood adjoining their orphanage advancing with beaming faces to greet their good samaritan, who is Regina Taylor. … Miss Kane has accomplished wonders in a difficult role.” The New York Clipper also praised the movie, calling it “a tense and gripping story told in such a smooth way that very few, if any, fictitious elements appear in the tale as it unfolds itself on the screen … just a good, strong story of hearts torn asunder through jealousy and misunderstanding.”

Edmund Breese played in over 100 films, but started on the stage in the late 1890s. In the spring of 1936, he was in New York City, playing a district attorney in the play “Night of January 16,” when he was taken ill. Initially he thought he had ptomaine poisoning, and did not visit a hospital for a few days. When he finally did, he was diagnosed with peritonitis. He died on April 6.

Also appearing on the bill was Jack Joyce. According to the press release, Joyce “tells some clever stories of the Southern darkey [sic], and mixes this with comedy whistling, dancing and a number on the accordeon [sic].” A Snub Pollard comedy was also featured, but no title was given.

On February 27, the Poli ran Victory, starring Jack Holt as Axel Heyst. The film was directed by Maurice Tourneur and based upon a novel by Joseph Conrad. It was released in 1919 at five reels. A complete copy is held in the Library of Congress. The film is available on YouTube, and runs just over an hour.

Brief Plot:  Axel Heyst lives comfortably as a recluse on an island. When he visits a neighboring island for supplies, he meets violinist Alma. She is mistreated by just about everyone, especially the hotel owner, August Schomberg. She begs Heyst to take her to his island, and he agrees. Schomberg decides to get her back, and enlists the aid of three weirdos: Mr. Jones, Ricardo, and Pedro. They plot to off Heyst, thinking he has a fortune hidden somewhere. In a subplot, Heyst is reluctant to get involved with Alma, and also tells her he will not kill anyone, even in self-defense. In the climax, he finally fires his gun and decides he’s in love.

Review: OK flick, although Holt is not exactly my idea of a romantic lead, and he’s dull, to boot. Seena Owen, as Alma, appears frumpy in earlier scenes, until somebody had the good sense to throw her in a sarong.


Wallace Beery, as Schomberg, looks like Sig Ruman. The film really belongs to Lon Chaney, as Ricardo. He probably has as much screen time as Holt, and is more fun to watch.


Pedro is played by wrestler Bull Montana, who does get to show off his physique.

Ben Deeley, in the role of Mr. Jones, with his thin off-kilter circular sunglasses, appears to be the creepiest of the lot.


You can read my short bio of Deeley here:


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From February 29 – March 3, 1920, the Poli ran Soldiers of Fortune, starring Norman Kerry as Robert Clay, Anna Q. Nilsson as Alice Langham, Pauline Starke as Hope Langham, and Wallace Beery as Mendoza. The film was released on November 22, 1919, at seven reels, and is presumed lost.

Advertising line: A thrilling tale of American soldiers of fortune who are forced to take sides in a South American revolution

Plot: Civil engineer Robert Clay is in love with Alice Langham. He has seen her photograph, but the two have never met. Clay goes to work for her father, taking over a mine in South America. Mr. Langham eventually joins him, bringing Alice and his other daughter, Hope.


Alice’s suitor is also with them.


Clay and his colleagues get caught up in a revolution against President Alvarez, led by Mendoza.



Mendoza attempts to get Clay on his side.


Mendoza is eventually defeated, and a battleship loaded with United States Marines arrives to save the civilians. Clay discovers that Alice is not the woman for him.



Instead, he falls for her sister, Hope, when she fights beside him.



The movie was based upon an 1897 novel by Richard Harding Davis. In 1902, a stage version was produced, with Robert Edeson in the lead role. In 1914, Dustin Farnum played the lead in the first film version (also lost).

This was Director Allan Dwan’s first film under his own production company. “I am going to make this the greatest picture I have ever produced,” he said. “In branching out for myself, and putting my own feature productions, I am doing so solely because I believe I can make much better pictures.” Since the main character in the film is a civil engineer, Dwan took the unusual step of dedicating the photoplay to civil engineers. “I know of no men more picturesque, more essential to civilization, whose work is to little appreciated, building railroads, harnessing rivers, tunneling mountains, blazing trails to new frontiers, battling every foot of the way so that we may live and travel in comfort,” declared Dwan. “I have always been deeply interested in the great sacrifices that these men are always making for civilization, and I am proud indeed to dedicate this, my first photoplay as an independent producer, to such a wonderful body of men.”

 In a 1920 interview, Norman Kerry fondly recalled his role, stating “’Soldiers of Fortune’ was a great picture, and there was enough romance, adventure and excitement to suit even me. The best part of it was that I could wear my uniform during most of the scenes and I really lived the part. We had a lot of fun making it, but it was work, hard work. Why, once out on the desert, it was 120 in the shade, and even the rattlers refused to move.”

A battle scene was filmed in the Santa Monica Mountains, and featured 400 horsemen and 1800 men on foot. Two hundred sailors from the submarine base at San Pedro also participated.   

Motion Picture News praised the action scenes, while noting that they overshadowed the characters. “After the characters are introduced, individualities with the exception of Wallace Beery as the revolutionary general are largely lost in the handling of large bodies of men who make up the comic opera army of the South American country, and the big mob scenes. It is in these scenes that the picture rises above the average feature of its kind since they have all been more than well handled and carry conviction. All the sure fire audience stuff is contained in this production.” Exhibitor’s Herald was impressed, writing “lavishly staged, and cut to a nicety, the film holds both the eye and the mind by its pictorial and dramatic aspects.   It is continuous, swift, interesting action, well arranged as to climax and crisis, deftly planned to exert at all times the greatest possible effect. Motion Picture Classic was less than thrilled, writing “Alan Dwan’s celluloiding of the late Richard Harding Davis’ pleasant romance of South American revolutions in the merry days before the poison gas and modern mechanism took the gayety out of warfare, is done in a big way, but it never once makes a direct personal appeal. Dwan is more fitted for stories of the inner soul than these pageants of supers. Here his cast does not in any way distinguish itself.” And Motion Picture Magazine opined “Allan Dwan has made one fatal mistake in producing this, his first independent venture. He has turned out a panorama of enormous proportions filled with innumerable incidents, but he has failed to make the life or death of any one character of vital importance to the audience. We greet the introduction of each new personage with an indifference which cannot be conquered, for their personalities are lost sight of in their numbers and scenery.”

The film did well at the box office, with several theater managers reporting they had to stop selling tickets due to overflow crowds. At the Capitol Theatre in New York City, 22,000 people showed up on opening day. The theatre conducted memorial exercises in memory of Richard Harding Davis, who had died some three years before this version was released.  His widow and daughter were in attendance. There was also a parade of 5000 Boy Scouts, some of whom are shown below:


At the California Theatre in Los Angeles, manager S. L. Rothapfel staged an elaborate production of the film. About twelve minutes into the film, the picture faded out and the stage was flooded with amber and gold lighting. Then a group of dancers and singers emerged, accompanied by South American music. After a few minutes of this, the film returned, showing a panorama of a South American city. Henry Dougherty, film critic for the Los Angeles Express, wrote “the cut in the feature is a daring innovation, to say the least, but Mr. Rothapfel has done it successfully. The continuity of the story has not been interrupted, but rather the action has been accelerated. Certainly the South American atmosphere introduced at this time prepares us better than any subtitle for our entrance with the characters of the play into that land of jealousies and revolutions.” The photos below show the crowds gathered at the California Theatre:



In Omaha, Nebraska, General John J. Pershing was invited to see the film at the Sun Theatre, managed by Harry Goldberg. “It is fine entertainment,” Pershing later stated, “and the battle scenes are excellent.” Pershing is shown below outside the Sun:


Goldberg also engaged 450 Boy Scouts, who paraded from the Omaha courthouse to the theatre to witness a special showing (see photo below):


In Canton, Ohio, the owners of the Alhambra Theatre pulled off a stunt to promote the film. They secured the help of Gretchen Groetzinger, the society editor of the Canton Repository, who flew in an airplane across Canton, dropping handbills advertising the film. Groetzinger was airborne for fifty minutes, dropping more than ten thousand handbills.

Also on the bill was a Mack Sennett short entitled The Speakeasy. It featured Charles Murray as the proprietor, with Ben Turpin and Chester Conklin as customers. One critic wrote that the comedy “will bring a lot of laughs due to the various wildly impossible contraptions that the proprietor of the speakeasy uses to serve his patrons.”

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From March 4-6, 1920, the Poli ran The Street Called Straight, starring Charles Clary as Henry Guion, Naomi Childers as Olivia Guion, and Milton Sills as Peter Devenant. The film’s release date is uncertain, but it was five reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot: Henry Guion is in financial trouble; he has embezzled four hundred thousand dollars. His daughter Olivia, while visiting her cousin Drusilla Fane in England, meets Colonel Rupert Ashley. While Ashley had once been fond of Drusilla, he proposes to Olivia, and she accepts. Meanwhile, Guion envisions himself going to prison.




Facing exposure, Guion reveals his troubles to his friend Rodney Temple, and Peter Devenant, a friend of the family. Devenant offers half a million dollars to Guion.


Olivia objects to the offer, because of her dislike for Devenant.


However, Guion finally accepts the money. Colonel Ashley arrives in America, and tells Olivia he can never marry her unless she allows him to pay back the money to Devenant. Devenant visits Olivia’s rich aunt, Madame De Melcourt, in France, and tells her what is going on. She returns the money to Peter, and senses there is a promising relationship between Peter and Olivia. Colonel Ashley ends up with Drusilla. Olivia realizes Peter is the man for her.


The film was based upon a 1912 novel of the same name, by Basil King.

Photoplay wrote that the film “leans heavily on the subtitles. The average motion picture patron is going to find it lacking in action. It is remarkably conversational. And then, all the characters are so noble that you find yourself rather missing the dear old villain who makes the plot go round.” The Film Daily was more direct, stating “so here is a picture that is talk, talk, talk, and then talk some more and the talky subtitles are illustrated by the character earnestly talking at each other. … At the outset the story gives great promise for the characterization is carefully and well handled and there are hints of a plot with a nice lot of complications lurking in the background. But instead   the characters go on talking about honor and four hundred thousand for the duration of the picture.” The daily also noted that Lawrence Butt (as Colonel Ashley) wore a “palpably false moustache.” The Moving Picture World was a bit kinder, declaring “the one outstanding feature [of the film] is its cleanness and the lack of morgue and triangle scenes that are becoming tiresome to theatregoers.”

As Madame De Melcourt, Australian-born Lydia Yeamans Titus received some good notices for her comic performance. You can read my short bio of Titus here:


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From March 7-13, 1920, the Poli featured Pollyanna, starring Mary Pickford as the title character. The film was released on January 18, 1920, at six reels, and is held in several archives. There are several prints available on YouTube, running just under an hour.

Brief Plot: After her father dies, young Pollyanna goes to live with her Aunt Polly, who is a bit of an old crone.


Pollyanna befriends an orphan named Jimmy Bean, and hides him out in her aunt’s cellar until her aunt decides to let him stay. Pollyanna brings a little sunshine into everyone’s life, as she plays the “glad game” with them.


No matter how bad things look, she always finds something to be glad about. Her own beliefs are tested when she is seriously injured in an accident.

Review: It’s hard not to like this film. Despite some corny scenes and dialogue, it is consistently upbeat. In addition, there are no villains, just people who have to deal with troubles and misunderstandings. Pickford is wonderful, and is especially touching when she realizes she may never walk again. The supporting cast does a fine job. Katherine Griffith, as Aunt Polly, does not overplay her role. Even though she is less than thrilled with the arrival of Pollyanna, she slowly comes to realize how much the girl means to her. Howard Ralston, as Jimmy, shows genuine chemistry with Pickford, even though in real life he was at least ten years younger than she was.


In an interview during the 1980s, Ralston claimed he was 13 during filming while Pickford was 26, although this creates a slight discrepancy with data from IMDb. In addition, Ralston said that Pickord’s mother, Charlotte Smith, was constantly on the set. Ralston only made a handful of films, preferring to be on the production end of stage shows.

Katherine Griffith played character parts in a shortened career. In October of 1921, she was filming Penrod, based upon a novel by Booth Tarkington. Her husband Harry, and her two sons Gordon and Graham, were also cast in the film. Griffith suffered a stroke at the studio and never regained consciousness. Griffith’s part was taken over by Mayme Kelso. According to several newspaper reports, it took about an hour to reshoot Griffith’s scenes.

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1 hour ago, scsu1975 said:

Review: It’s hard not to like this film. Despite some corny scenes and dialogue, it is consistently upbeat. In addition, there are no villains, just people who have to deal with troubles and misunderstandings.

I agree. The first time I watched it, I was ready to be smothered with sweetness by a doomed character but it was surprisingly the opposite of what I expected.

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