Archive for the ‘Book/Film News’ Category

The unsolved Hollywood murder of boxer Eddie Diggins

Saturday, June 17th, 2017


By Allan R. Ellenberger

During prohibition, speakeasies where bootleg liquor was sold, dotted the streets of Hollywood. One such establishment opened in March 1927 in a commonplace looking bungalow on the northeast corner of Cherokee and Selma, just one block south of Hollywood Boulevard. Called the Crescent Athletic Club, it was open only one week and already catered to some of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities.

The site of the Crescent Athletic Club at 1626 N. Cherokee Avenue just north of Selma. (Google maps)

During the early morning hours of Saturday, March 26, 1927, the crowd at the Crescent was still in revelry mode when Charles Meehan, “an actor turned real estate man” arrived with his wife, actress Irene Dalton. Meehan, who earned most of his income selling bootleg liquor (for which he had been convicted five time), entered the dining room where film director Jimmie Sinclair, screenwriter Jack Wagner, and stuntman Billy Jones, was at a table with comedian Lloyd Hamilton and Eddie Diggins, a former light-weight boxer now trying his hand at acting.

At this point, Diggins had had three supporting roles under his belt in which he played a boxer in all of them opposite Billy Sullivan, the nephew of boxer John L. Sullivan.

Diggins was born in San Francisco on January 8, 1902 to Edward Ayer Diggins Sr., a physician, and his wife Bessie. He attended St. Mary’s College High School in Berkeley before trying his hand at amateur boxing. On June 28, 1921, he debuted as a professional lightweight against Joe Brown. Over the next seven years he fought against some of the greatest boxers of the day including Eddie Landon, Tommy Cello, Johnny Nunes and Harry Eagles. During his career, his record included 72 bouts, of which Diggins had 34 wins (11 KOs), 22 losses (2 KOs) and 16 draws.

Moving to Los Angeles in July 1924, Diggins boxed at several area venues: The Arena in Vernon; Hollywood’s Legion Stadium, and the East Fourth Street Lyceum A. C. where, in a fight against John Battling Ward, he broke his hand.

While his hand healed, Diggins became friendly with many Hollywood elite including actors Bull Montana and Lloyd Hamilton, among others; some from Hollywood’s darker side. Hoping to broaden his talents, he tried the movies by landing a supporting role in The Goat Getter as champion pugilist ‘Lightening Bradley’ who is stocked by a fighter he knocked out played by actor Billy Sullivan. Diggins followed this with two more films opposite Sullivan: The Patent Leather Pug and One Punch O’Day.

On Friday, March 25, Diggins and his wife Marian, met Lloyd Hamilton at the crowded Crescent Athletic Club. Charles Meehan and his wife Irene joined Hamilton, Diggins, Jack Wagner, Billy Jones, Jimmie Sinclair and others, at their table.

Shortly before 3 a.m. the next morning, an argument arose between Diggins and Jack Wagner in which the latter was knocked down. Later, Charles Meehan exchanged blows with Billie Jones, who reportedly had made an insulting remark about Meehan’s wife Irene. One thing led to another and according to Jones, “Everybody was pretty woozy. Everybody seemed willing to fight. I heard someone yelling ‘le’ go, le’ go,’ and after that all I remember is a lot of feet.”

The patrons in the other rooms flocked to the dining-room door to see what was happening. Legs were torn from heavy tables for clubs; bottles were hurled in every direction. Suddenly, someone struck Meehan over the head with a chair, while Diggins squared off for battle with half-a-dozen other trouble-seekers. Then the lights in the nightclub went out.

Patrons made a mad scramble for the doors and windows. Witnesses claimed thumps and crashes could be heard in the darkness. A woman said she heard “a scream of pain.” When the lights were turned on, Billy Jones was getting up from all fours and saw Diggins lying on the floor among broken chandelier glass with blood streaming from his chest.

In the darkness, Jimmie Sinclair had taken Irene Dalton by the arm and led her outside to his car. They drove around the block to allow the excitement to die down until Irene told Sinclair, “Charlie will get killed,” so they returned to the now nearly empty club. Irene found her husband in an adjacent room, unconscious with wounds to his head.

By now, Lloyd Hamilton had returned from the barroom and was holding a bloodied Diggins in his arms, trying vainly to revive the boxer. Within minutes, police had arrived and rammed open the front doors and rushed through the club. However, it was too late for Diggins who had died in Hamilton’s arms.

Detectives immediately concluded that Diggins’ wound was caused by a knife, but one could not be found in the surrounding debris. The club’s employees and lingering patrons were interviewed by the police and the place was searched for liquor (six gallons of wine, five gallons of alcohol and twenty-six bottles of gin were found).

Somehow, a drunken Charles Meehan was found collapsed in the alley behind the club. After reviving him, Meehan curiously told police, “I slugged him through the window,” repeating it several times before being removed in an ambulance.

Eight people, including Lloyd Hamilton, were interviewed at Hollywood’s central station on Wilcox Avenue. Hamilton claimed that when the fight started, he left the dining room because he “didn’t want to get mixed up in it.” After the commotion died down, he returned and saw Diggins on the floor. “I was trying to revive him when the police came in,” he said.

Not surprisingly, many of the witnesses had a lapse of memory, didn’t see what happened, or gave conflicting stories. Charles Meehan was briefly detained as a suspect but was exonerated at the coroner’s inquest.

After a police investigation, it was thought that Diggins wounds were not caused by a knife, but by a sharp piece of glass from a broken chandelier. Thus, his death was accidental. The clothing above Diggins wound showed two distinct cuts while there was only one small wound about an inch wide and an inch and a half deep below his heart. This indicated the death instrument was two-edged, sharp on either side but with two points, one shorter than the other and insufficient enough to penetrate the body.

District Attorney E. J. Dennison said he could find no evidence indicating that Diggins was murdered. “A knife is lacking as none was to be found at the scene or on any of the persons who were there,” he said.

Even though the police and district attorney believed Diggins death was accidental from him falling on a jagged piece of glass, seven members of the Coroner’s jury reached a decision that Eddie Diggins met his death from “a sharp instrument in the hand of a person or persons unknown to us, with homicidal intent.” The eighth member believed the “wound was caused by a piece of glass, accidental.” The autopsy surgeon testified that Diggins’ wound “could have been caused by broken glass,” but couldn’t confirm it. The word “homicide” was formally written on Diggins death certificate. Officially, Eddie Diggins death was ruled a homicide, and as such, is still unsolved.

During the investigation, several theories surfaced about Diggins death. One was that the mob had induced the fracas at the Crescent as a diversion, and they had covertly murdered Diggins. To support this theory, some witnesses claimed that six men had swiftly driven away during the brawl.

Pudgy-faced comedian Lloyd Hamilton supposedly became a scape-goat after the Diggins murder, reportedly being banned from the screen for two years. Strangely enough, Hamilton and Irene Dalton, a frequent co-star of the comedians and the wife of Charles Meehan, were married three months later and divorced in 1929.

Funeral services for Eddie Diggins was arranged by the Catholic Film Guide and held on March 30, 1927 in the chapel of the O’Connell Sunset Mortuary.

Interment was in Hollywood Cemetery in Section 6, Grave 0318. Eddie Diggins grave is directly across from the peacock pens on the north side of the cemetery. Diggins is in the third row from the curb.

The grave marker of boxer/actor Eddie Diggins at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Please check out a rare five-minute clip of Eddie Diggins from his last film, One Punch O’Day (1926) with Billy Sullivan. Diggins is the boxer in the dark shorts.

Historical Marker on the old Broadway Store at Hollywood and Vine

Friday, June 16th, 2017

Former Broadway Department Store at Hollywood and Vine. You can see the plaque as the dark square on the corner of the building in the bottom-center of the photo (Photo: Allan R. Ellenberger)

By Allan R. Ellenberger

Hollywood and Vine was marked for posterity on November 24, 1953 with the unveiling of a plaque set in the wall of the Broadway-Hollywood Department Store on the southwest corner of the intersection.

The plaque was unveiled in a noon-time ceremony by John Anson Ford, chairman of the Board of Supervisors in conjunction with Hollywood’s 50th anniversary. It was accepted by Edward W. Carter, president of the Broadway department stores and placed with the cooperation of the Historical Society of Southern California.

Also participating in the dedication ceremony were E. M. Stuart, general manager of the Broadway-Hollywood and president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, and Harlan G. Palmer, publisher of the Hollywood Citizen-News. Music was furnished by the Los Angeles County Band.

Plaque on the corner of Hollywood and Vine (Photo: Allan R. Ellenberger)


Hollywood was given its name by pioneers Mr. and Mrs. Horace H. Wilcox. They subdivided their ranch in 1887 and called two dirt cross-roads Prospect Avenue and Weyse Avenue. Prospect Avenue, the main artery, was renamed Hollywood Boulevard and Weyse Avenue became Vine Street. This was the origin of “Hollywood and Vine.”

Los Angeles lights up City Hall with Bat-Signal

Friday, June 16th, 2017

The “Bat-signal” is projected onto Los Angeles City Hall in a tribute to the late actor Adam West who played the caped crusader in the 1960s TV series


Daily Mail

A giant Bat-signal lit up the side of City Hall in Los Angeles Thursday night to honor Batman actor Adam West, who played the superhero role in the 1960s television series. He died on Friday at age 88 following a battle with leukemia.

The caped crusader helped protect the fictional Gotham City in a franchise that began as a DC Comics strip before also moving to television and film. When Gotham’s authorities needed Batman’s help, they projected a light beam with his logo into the sky. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and police chief Charlie Beck led Thursday’s tribute. Hundreds of fans thronged the ceremony, many dressed up in costumes from the television series and films.

Declaration of Intention for Greta Garbo

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

Declaration of Intention for Greta Garbo, stating that she wishes to become a United States citizen, September 9, 1949. — Records of District Courts of the United Courts of the United States, Record Group 21.


Bat-signal to Shine over Los Angeles in Honor of Adam West

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017

Adam West will be honored with a lighting of the iconic bat-signal in Los Angeles Thursday night, with L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti and L.A. police chief Charlie Beck doing the honors.

The public is invited to the event, which is taking place at 9 p.m. Thursday at City Hall (200 N Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012). West, who played Caped Crusader on the classic 1960s Batman TV show, died Saturday at 88.

Tributes have poured in, including from West’s Robin, actor Burt Ward, who wrote in a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter that the star never felt like he’d been held back by playing the superhero.

“People always asked Adam if he felt like he’d been typecast, if Batman had hurt his career. But I know he loved it. He loved being a star,” wrote Ward.

For fans who can’t make it to the ceremony, West’s family is encouraging people to donate to Adam West Memorial Fund for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Donations can also be made to Camp Rainbow Gold, an Idaho-based charity for children battling cancer.

Judy Garland’s new resting place is unveiled at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Monday, June 12th, 2017


The new Judy Garland Pavilion at Hollywood Forever Cemetery


The new final resting place of MGM superstar: singer and actress, Judy Garland



Judy Garland enshrined at Hollywood Forever Cemetery mausoleum

Sunday, June 11th, 2017

Singer-actress Judy Garland greets her son Joseph, 9, and daughter Lorna, 12, after they arrive from California at New York’s Kennedy International Airport, Dec. 29, 1964. Garland’s elder daughter Liza Minnelli poses with them at left. (AP Photo)


LOS ANGELES (AP) – Judy Garland has been laid to rest in a mausoleum named for her at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

A spokeswoman for Garland’s estate says her family and friends held a private memorial service for the actress on Saturday, which would have been Garland’s 95th birthday. She was buried in the Judy Garland Pavilion.

Garland’s children, Liza Minnelli, Lorna Luft and Joe Luft, wanted to bring their mother’s remains “home to Hollywood” from her original burial site at New York’s Ferncliff Cemetery, publicist Victoria Varela said. They attended the service, along with Garland’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In a statement released to The Associated Press, they offered gratitude to their mother’s “millions of fans around the world for their constant love and support.”

Garland’s children announced earlier this year that they had relocated their mother’s remains to Los Angeles. Garland’s third husband, Mickey Deans, buried her in New York, but her children said she wished to be interred with her family in Hollywood, Varela said.

The Judy Garland Pavilion is intended as a final resting spot for Minnelli, Luft and other family members, cemetery spokeswoman Noelle Berman said in January.

Garland, star of classic films including The Wizard of Oz and Meet Me in St. Louis, died in 1969 at age 47 in London.

Jayne Mansfield (cenotaph only), Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino and Cecil B. DeMille are among the entertainment luminaries buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Rocker Chris Cornell was laid to rest there last month.


Adam West, who played 1960s-era Batman, dies at 88

Saturday, June 10th, 2017




LOS ANGELES (AP) — Adam West, whose straight-faced portrayal of Batman in a 1960s TV series lifted the tight-clad Caped Crusader into the national consciousness, has died at age 88, his family said Saturday on a verified Facebook page.

West died Friday night after “a short but brave battle with leukemia,” the family statement said.

West played the superhero straight for kids and funny for adults. He initially chaffed at being typecast after “Batman” went off the air after three seasons, but in later years he admitted he was pleased to have had a role in kicking off a big-budget film franchise by showing the character’s wide appeal.

“You get terribly typecast playing a character like that,” he told The Associated Press in a 2014 interview.

“But in the overall, I’m delighted because my character became iconic and has opened a lot of doors in other ways, too.” He returned to the role in an episode of the animated “The Simpsons.”

And more recently, he did the voice of nutty Mayor Adam West in the long-running “Family Guy” series.

“He was bright, witty and fun to work with,” Julie Newmar, who played Catwoman to West’s Batman, said in a statement Saturday. “I will miss him in the physical world and savor him always in the world of imagination and creativity.”

In April 2012, West received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Born William West Anderson in Walla Walla, Washington, he moved to Seattle at age 15 with his mother after his parents divorced.

He graduated from Whitman College, a private liberal arts school, in Walla Walla.

After serving in the Army, he went to Hollywood and changed his name to Adam West, and began appearing on a number of television series, including “Bonanza,” ”Perry Mason” and “Bewitched.”

“Batman” was the role he would remain associated with throughout his life.

The TV show was among the most popular in 1966, the year of its debut, and some of the era’s top actors signed on to play villains. Burgess Meredith squawked as the Penguin. Eartha Kitt purred as Catwoman. And Cesar Romero cackled as the Joker.

Years later, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck would don Bruce Wayne’s camouflaging cape and cowl.

Filmmakers Edgar Wright and Leslye Headland were among those lamenting West’s death on Twitter. “Farewell Adam West. You were MY Batman,” Wright wrote. “Such a super funny, cool, charismatic actor. Loved the show as a kid, still love the show now. POW!”

Headland wrote: My childhood hero & still my favorite Batman. RIP Adam West. #pow”

West was married three times, and had six children. He had homes in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, but he and his wife, Marcelle, spent most of their time at their ranch near Sun Valley, Idaho.

Miriam Hopkins update

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel, to be published by University Press of Kentucky



UPDATE: My upcoming biography, Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel, to be published on January 5, 2018 by the University Press of Kentucky, is available NOW for pre-order at 30% off the cover price thru June 30, 2017 at UPK’s website! Please use discount code FS30 when ordering. Thank you.


 By Allan R. Ellenberger


After tens years of research, interviews and writing, on Friday, I was notified that my biography of actress Miriam Hopkins will be published by the University Press of Kentucky as part of their Screen Classics series. The people of UPK have been great and I look forward to working with them

Miriam Hopkins (1902-1972), a top star during Hollywood’s Golden Age, was a complex, independent-minded woman decades ahead of her time. A hard-working (and highly demanding) professional, Hopkins was also a sexually daring, self-educated intellectual, who happened to be a firm believer in liberal causes

She had a reputation as one of the screen’s most difficult and temperamental actresses. A close friend, Tennessee Williams, worked with Hopkins and after an initially difficult period, he accepted her extremes. He once described her extremes as “morning mail and morning coffee,” and at other times she was like “hat-pin jabbed in your stomach. The quintessence of the female, a really magnificent bitch.

Hopkins was exceptionally smart; one who never let anyone find out how smart she was until it was too late. After many years of research, I was amazed at her intellect and temperament, which would erupt unexpectedly and disappear as quickly. Sometimes her demanding mother would trigger it, but in most cases, she was fighting for her career—or so she thought

Throughout the 1930’s, the freewheeling Hopkins was a unique case, remaining a top Hollywood star at no less than four studios: Paramount, RKO, Goldwyn and Warner Bros. And no matter where she worked, in her quest for better opportunities, Hopkins fearlessly tackled the studios’ powers-that-be, from the venerated Samuel Goldwyn to the irascible Jack Warner

Hopkins’ biography offers numerous stories—some humorous, some ugly—about her countless battles with co-workers on the set of her plays and films. Whatever drove her—be it ambition, insecurity, or something altogether different, she created conflict with her fellow actors. She was either loved or hated; there was rarely anything in-between. And to say that Hopkins was “difficult and temperamental” would be an understatement. She was Barbra Streisand, Faye Dunaway and Jane Fonda rolled into one

Having said that, whenever she trusted the work of her director and co-stars, she was an ideal team player, but if she did not, life for them was not worth living. If rewriting screenplays, directing her fellow actors and her directors, fighting with producers and the studio’s front office was necessary, so be it

But in Hopkins’ mind, she was never temperamental. “Proof of that is that I made four pictures with Willie Wyler, who is a very demanding director,” she once said. “I made two with Rouben Mamoulian, who is the same. Three with Ernst Lubitsch, such a dear man. When you are asked to work again with such directors, you cannot be temperamental.

In 1940, she made theater history by starring in Tennessee Williams’ first produced play, Battle of Angels. In the beginning, there were problems, but they soon came to terms. “Difficult? I guess so,” Williams reasoned. “But not with me. She was every Southern divinity you could imagine. Smart and funny and elegant, and I kept looking for her in Joanne [Woodward], and Carrie Nye and Diane Ladd, but there was no one like her. No one. I will hear nothing bad of Miriam Hopkins.

Ironically, I started working on Miriam Hopkins’ life story because of Bette Davis, who was a favorite. I enjoyed watching Hopkins clash with the indomitable Warner Bros. star in their two films together: The Old Maid and Old Acquaintance. There are stories about their dynamic real-life feud, and years later, the image of a post-stroke Davis ranting on television on how demanding her former co-star could be. For her part, Hopkins denied the bad blood between them. That intrigued me. She would say, “Yes, I know the legend is that Bette Davis and I were supposed to have had a feud. Utter rubbish. Bette and I got along fine. I’d love to make another picture with her.” Even more rubbish

I began watching Hopkins’ other films: the ones in which she collaborated with directors, Ernst Lubitsch, Rouben Mamoulian, and William Wyler, in addition to her lesser-known Paramount fare. It was then that I discovered Miriam Hopkins in command of her sexuality. Whether as a dance-hall prostitute in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), a participant in a ménage a trois in Design for Living (1933), or a rape victim in the scandalous The Story of Temple Drake (1933), she proved that sex was more than a three-letter word: at times, it could be raw and terrifying; at others, it could be sensual, sophisticated fun

In 1932, columnist Cal York chose Miriam Hopkins as the “best bet for stardom,” ranking her above Joan Blondell, Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, Sylvia Sidney and Helen Hayes. York wasn’t off the mark. Still, Hopkins temperament would hinder her rise to “stardom.” My biography on the actress examines her career decline and her several attempts at a comeback

In 1935, she made motion picture history by starring in the title role of the first all-Technicolor feature film, Becky Sharp, based on Thackeray’s Vanity Fair. For her performance, she received a Best Actress Academy Award nomination (she lost to—who else?—her future archrival Bette Davis)

Chronicled will be Hopkins’ remarkable film career along with the importance of her lasting legacy on the Broadway stage. Regrettably, her widely acclaimed live performances survive only in the recollections of those who witnessed them. Thus, what remain of Hopkins’ art are her films

Eventually, Hopkins appeared in 36 films, 40 stage plays, guest appearances in the early days of television, and on countless radio shows. In these media, she worked with Carole Lombard, Gary Cooper, Jane Fonda, Edgar Bergen, Bing Crosby, William Powell, Sally Field, Henry Fonda, Loretta Young, Orson Welles, Olivia de Havilland, Peter Lorre, Merle Oberon, Claudette Colbert, Ray Milland, Elizabeth Montgomery, Coleen Dewhurst, Robert Redford and dozens more

Her friendships were as celebrated as well, but instead of actors, Hopkins hung around with writers and intellectuals such as writers Theodore Dreiser, Dorothy Parker, Gertrude Stein, and, of course, Tennessee Williams

In her love life, she was independent-minded and just as discriminating. She would have four husbands and dozens of lovers; most were writers including Bennett Cerf, William Saroyan, and John Gunther. Hopkins, once again ahead of her time, was a single mother. In 1932, she adopted a baby boy, being one of the first Hollywood stars to do so and starting a trend for such adoptions

She was an avid reader, sometimes a writer herself, a lover of poetry, and a patron of the arts. Over the years, her political beliefs vacillated from the far right to the far left. She held positions in political organizations that had the FBI tracking her actions for almost four decades, marking her as a perceived “communist sympathizer.

She was one of Hollywood’s brainiest women—yet, she was absurdly superstitious. A believer in the occult, she would not accept film or stage roles, move to a new home, or take long trips without consulting a psychic

Despite all her eccentricities, Hopkins proved that she was an accomplished performer who happened to have her own set of rules and her own personal demons. Although she was aware of being a part of film history—how could Margaret Mitchell’s personal choice to play Scarlet O’Hara not have been—she was not sentimental about her existence or her career. She kept no scrapbooks, clippings, or photographs. It was irrelevant to document or discuss her past

But no matter. This first-ever Hopkins biography will provide the real, complex, and at times a contradictory portrait of a woman who had her faults, and idiosyncrasies, but who was a major (and fearless) professional achiever—one who could be generous, gracious, and selfless

Once you read about the ambiguous, fascinatingly larger than life character that was Miriam Hopkins, you may agree with Tennessee Williams that she truly was a “magnificent bitch.”



An Extra’s Story…

Saturday, June 10th, 2017


One day as a screen star

An extra tells of rise to fame in twenty-four hours for $5 on lot with Doug in “Thief of Bagdad”

By G. A. E. Panter, 1923

We are all potential screen stars! At 9 a.m.  we saw the following “ad” in the morning paper: “For Douglas Fairbanks company, 2,500 men, 25-50.” Let’s go! We Went! At 10 a.m. we lined up with some 500 other aspirants for screen fame, in the rear of an old building. An hour later we emerged, the proud possessor of a ticket entitling us to a day’s work — salary $5, less 35 cents commission and 10 cents car fare. Also informing us that we had to be at the depot at 4 a.m. the following day.

We work nights. So, after two hours’ sleep and a good breakfast at 3 a.m., we hiked into town and found the crowd already assembling. A small cafe adjoining was literally swamped, but an enterprising, if unduly optimistic, newsboy did not meet with such success.


Finally, after much jostling, accompanied by such remarks as: “Let me get my own hands in my pockets!” we achieved standing room in one of the cars provided. After a ride of twenty minutes we arrived at the studios, outside which, on a vacant lot, the earlier arrivals had kindled fires.

About 6 a.m. we commenced to file into the sacred inclosure, where we were allotted to Co. Z and filed past a window labeled “White Soldiers,” where we each drew a black and white striped helmet surmounted by a crescent and spike, a webbing collarette and belt covered with tin disks the size of a dollar, a pair of very baggy trousers and moccasins.

With these we repaired to a tent where we dressed, rather undressed, and emerged shivering into the raw morning air. We were then formed up in file behind a leader who carried a board bearing our company letter and marshaled by a guide wearing a black gown similar to those worn by university graduates. We proceeded to draw our weapons, consisting of a long bow and wooden quiver of arrows, then on to the set.


Aerial view of The Thief of Bagdad set


A truly magnificent representation of old Bagdad with gateways, turrets, domes and minarets, quaint balconies and embrasures hung with rugs and bannerets. Company after company was marched up, dismissed and told to mingle with the crowd, forming a glittering, kaleidoscopic mass.

In front was a contrivance which aroused much curious comment. It resembled a long, slender girder of steel lattice work, one end being pivoted to a platform and at the other end were attached two small wodden structures. The girder was soon raised like the arm of a crane. The small wooden structures held the director and cameramen and slung from the top was the magic carpet, which appeared to be floating in the air over our heads. It was supported by a number of practically invisible steel wires.

Doug and his leading lady took their places on the the carpet and were hoisted into the air on a level with the cameras. The beam then swung out over our heads and the crowd “went mad” in the most approved style, incited thereto by numerous assistant directors armed with megaphones.

The idea of movement was greatly enhanced by a draught from two wind machines which fluttered the pennons and bannerets attached to the pikes.


Fairbanks on the set



In the intervals of waiting between shots, Doug and his assistants were subjected to a crossfire of badinage by the crowd, all of which was taken in good part, although the directors had difficulty in making themselves heard. Every vantage point on the buildings forming the background was filled with men and women wearing gorgeous eastern robes.

The sun was now well up, despite the season hot enough to scorch the skin. How comic the other fellow looked. Fortunately no mirrors were provided, so we all kept the illusion that we were sheiks and the ladies on the balconies our dark-eyed fatima’s.

That the crowd was getting hungry was evinced by shouts of “When do we eat?” About 12:30 p.m. we were given a box lunch consisting of sandwiches, cake, chip potatoes, pie, fruit and bottle of milk. If the crowd was a trifle lethargic afterward — well the lunch was fine.


Our extra, Mr. Panter, is one of the soldiers at the top of this photo


After lunch, the white soldiers, after being painted terra cotta, were marched and countermarched through cheering throngs that, perhaps, had a trifle the best of the bargain! Finally, Doug, on a gaily caparisoned charger, headed the troops in a final triumphant march through cheering throngs right up to the cameramen, who, after showing the NG sign a few times, finally gave the O.K. and the day’s work was finished.

At 4 p.m., having handed in our costumes and accouterments, and obtained the final signature on our checks, we found ourselves once more outside the magic circle and free to return to our homes and  a much-needed bath.

I once played opposite Douglas Fairbanks in The Thief of Bagdad. Yes, we earned that five.

— Source: Los Angeles Times, November 25, 1923


The Thief of Bagdad premiere at the Egyptian theater