Archive for the ‘Book/Film News’ Category

James Waller Somers: “He knew Lincoln…”

Friday, September 15th, 2017

It’s surprising how many Hollywood Forever Cemetery residents have a unique connection to Abraham Lincoln. There is Senator Cornelius Cole, a close friend who visited Lincoln on the day of his assassination. And Joseph Hazelton, who as a boy, was present at Ford’s Theatre on that night. Now we profile James Waller Somers, who knew Lincoln in his boyhood in Urbana, Illinois, and continued that friendship into adulthood.

James Waller Somers, the son of Dr. Winston and Mary (Haines) Somers, was born at Mt. Airy, North Carolina, on January 18, 1833. His father was a physician, and in 1843, moved his family to Urbana, Illinois. Somers became friends with Abraham Lincoln while in Urbana, one of the towns of the Eighth Judicial Circuit where Lincoln once practiced law.

“My recollections of Lincoln,” Somers said, “date back to 1843 or 1844, when as a boy ten years old, I arrived in Urbana, Champaign County, Illinois, with my father’s family from North Carolina. Urbana was then a mere village, containing a population of perhaps 150 persons. The Courthouse was a double, one-story frame structure, unpainted, and of primitive architecture. It was in the center of the village, surrounded by about an acre of ground enclosed. It was in this court yard I remember first seeing Mr. Lincoln. He was tall and ungainly but of very striking appearance.

“It was court week, and he was striding across the yard toward the Courthouse, in that peculiar manner characteristic of him, a sort of meditative shambling gait, head drooped forward and his hands behind him. He was lank and angular, with a massive head, covered with a short, stubby, dark-brown hair, brushed up in front, without any pretense of parting in the middle or anywhere else. He had a high forehead, thick lips, cheek bones of an Indian-like prominence, and a wart on the side of his face near his large nose, which was eliminated from his later photographs by the retoucher’s brush. His face was smooth shaven. His ears, hands and feet were abnormally large and his arms unusually long.”

At the age of 21, Somers studied law in the office of his uncle, William D. Somers, with whom he became a law partner after being admitted to the bar in 1856.

“When I was studying law with my uncle, Judge Somers, Mr. Lincoln frequently came into our little one-story office, near the hotel, to swap stories with ‘Uncle William,’ who was himself a good story-teller, though Lincoln far surpassed him as he did everyone one else. He used to sit on a rush bottomed chair with his feet on the rung, telling stories, hour after hour. He frequently laughed more heartily than anyone else, but the laughter was neither boisterous nor vulgar. His whole body swayed with merriment, wholesome and infectious, and his eyes would sparkle with amusement, while he ran his fingers through his close cropped hair, always standing on end.”

Originally a Whig, Somers helped to organize the state Republican Party and actively campaigned for Lincoln in 1858 and 1860. Henry Clay Whitney called Somers “the promising orator of our Circuit of the young men.”

By 1860, Somers had developed serious hearing problems which made the practice of law difficult. He wrote to Lincoln seeking advice on his future career. Lincoln responded on March 17, 1860, recommending that he resettle in Chicago where Whitney had offered him a partnership. Lincoln closed saying that his advice was given, “with the deepest interest for your welfare.” A week later Lincoln wrote a recommendation:

“My young friend James W. Somers I have known from boyhood and I can truly say that in my opinion he’s entirely faithful and fully competent to the performance of any business he will undertake.”

In 1861, President Lincoln appointed Somers to a position in the Department of the Interior, which led to a distinguished career of 25 years of public service in Washington.

During the Civil War, Somers received news that two of his nephews, both minors, had been forced to join the Confederate Army in North Carolina and were captured as prisoners of war in Elmira, New York. Somers asked Lincoln to have them released and sent to Urbana, with the assurance that they would not take an active part in the war.

“I was cordially received at the White House,” Somers said, “in his old familiar way. After talking a few moments on home affairs I stated my errand and he at once wrote an order to Adjt.-Gen. Fry of the War Department, directing the release of the young men and upon their taking the oath of allegiance to send them to their uncle in Urbana. In a few days my cousins were on their way West and did not again take up arms against the North.”

When Somers retired from the Department of the Interior in 1895, he moved to San Diego where his brother resided. In 1903, he moved to Hollywood to live with his niece, Mrs. H. G. (May) Condee at her home on what is now Cherokee Avenue. The library was adorned with some of Somers valuable collection, which included various portraits, busts and autographed letters from Lincoln.

On June 6, 1904, at 7:25 pm, Somers was returning from the post office and was crossing Hollywood Boulevard at Whitley Avenue when he was struck and killed by an electric cable car. At that intersection there was a strong arc light, and it was supposed that Somers confused it with the headlight of the electric car and, not being able to hear the warning bell, crossed the track just as the car came upon him.

J. W. Somers funeral was held at the home of his niece and interment was at Hollywood Cemetery.

The grave of James Waller Somers at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It is located in Chandler Gardens (Section 12), just a short distance behind the J. Ross Clark family mausoleum.

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L. Frank Baum — The Wizard of Cherokee Avenue

Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

 

L. Frank Baum, the author of numerous children’s classics including “The Wizard of Oz,” left his impression on the world – in particular the literary and film world. Few people know that Baum spent the last nine years of his life living in Hollywood and was one of its earliest residents.

At his home, located at 1749 N. Cherokee Avenue (at the corner of Yucca), which he christened “Ozcot,” Baum wrote many of his best loved “Oz” books, including “The Emerald City of Oz” (1910), “The Patchwork Girl of Oz” (1913), “The Lost Princess of Oz” (1917) and many more.

Lyman Frank Baum was born in Chittenango, New York on May 15, 1856. After graduating from Syracuse Academy in 1880, he found newspaper work. Two years later, he married Maud Gage of Fayetteville, New York. Baum was the editor of the Dakota Pioneer of Aberdeen, South Dakota, from 1888 to 1890, and the Chicago Show Window from 1897 to 1902. During that time, he wrote books and plays. His first effort was “Mother Goose in Prose,” published in 1897.

Next, Baum joined forces on a children’s book with his friend and artist, W. W. Denslow. “Father Goose, His Book,” published in 1899, was a best-seller. One of the five books he published in 1900, also based on stories he had told his sons and illustrated by Denslow, was “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” which instantly broke sale records and made Baum a celebrity.

More Oz books followed, and over the next two decades he wrote over 35 non-Oz books under various pseudonyms aimed at various audiences. Always looking for new channels for his creativity, Baum became interested in films. In 1909, he founded a company to produce hand-colored slides featuring characters from his Oz books. These were shown while he narrated the story, and an orchestra played background music.

Frank Baum and his wife lived here at 2322 Toberman Street with their son Frank, when they first moved to Los Angeles in January 1910 (NOTE: This is a private residence, please do not disturb the residents)

In failing health, Baum and his wife arrived in Los Angeles in January 1910 to create his own fairyland. Their son, Frank, was living at 2322 Toberman Street. The Baum’s lived there before renting an apartment on Park Grove Avenue near downtown.

Wanting their own home, Baum found the sparsely settled village called Hollywood, which at the time, was mostly citrus groves. He bought a plot of ground and built a two-story frame house that he christened “Ozcot.” In 1910, the street was known as Magnolia, but was renamed Cherokee two years later.

On the second floor, he had a long enclosed porch with a view of the distant mountains, and downstairs there was a large sunroom where he grew flowers. He built a large bird cage, big enough for a zoo, where he had hundreds of rare and exotic song birds. In his garden he planted roses, dahlias and chrysanthemums. Before long, he was recognized as a champion amateur horticulturist in Southern California.

Even though Baum had traveled the world, he developed a great affection for his new home: “Travels through Sicily, Italy, or a winter on the Upper Nile, all have their attractions but from what I have learned by actual experience, none of these countries compares with Southern California. There is a charm in the very atmosphere, an indefinable something which attracts and holds,” Baum once said.

At the time of his move to Hollywood, he was working on what he hoped would be the last “Oz” book, “The Emerald City of Oz.” Baum continued to turn out children’s stories at an amazing rate. To avoid flooding the market with books under his own name, he did one series after another, for both boys and girls, under the pen names – Floyd Akers, Edith Van Dyne, Captain Hugh Fitzgerald, Laura Bancroft, Suzanne Metcalf and Schuyler Stanton.

Baum’s arrival in Hollywood, just a year before the advent of motion pictures, made it inevitable that he would be drawn into the fledgling industry. An earlier attempt at filmmaking in Chicago lost him a great deal of money, and in June 1911 he was forced to declare bankruptcy. However, with royalties coming in from his books, he was by no means a charity case. In 1914, a venture into the film business, the Oz Film Company, produced six movies but there were severe distribution problems and that effort also failed, though not as disastrously.

The Oz Film Mfg Co. located at the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Lodi.

The site as it looks today, only one block from Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Baum and his wife Maud lived quietly at Ozcot, gardening, writing stories, and answering the hundreds of letters he received from Oz-struck children.

In February of 1918, Baum took ill at Ozcot and was operated on at Angelus Hospital. Maud blamed his illness on the hard work of his newest novel, “The Tin Woodman of Oz,” which was due to be published in the fall.

Baum, now immobile due to his illness, was restricted to minor tasks throughout the day. The pressure and strain contributed to attacks of angina pectoris, as well as unpredictable gall bladder problems, and excruciating sharp pain jabs across his face.

In a coma for twenty-four hours, L. Frank Baum died at Ozcot at 7 p.m. on May 6, 1919, supposedly uttering his last words, “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands,” just a minute before expiring. Baum was survived by his wife Maud and four sons, Frank, Robert, Harry and Kenneth.

Baum’s funeral services were held at the Little Church of the Flowers at Glendale’s Forest Lawn Cemetery. Rev. E. P. Ryland, a close friend of the author, officiated and said of Baum: “He was a man who knew the heart of a child, and was a friend of men.”

The grave of L. Frank and Maude Baum and members of his family.

A quartet from the Los Angeles Athletic Club’s, Uplifters’, of which Baum was an organizer, sang several selections including, “Eternity,” with Harold Proctor as a soloist. The authors’ oldest son, Captain Frank J. Baum was in France at the time serving in World War I.

Two of Baum’s works, “The Magic of Oz” (1919) and “Glinda of Oz” (1920) were both published posthumously.

Maud Gage Baum continued to live at Ozcot and died there on March 6, 1953. After breaking her hip, she had been confined to bed the greater part of the last four years of her life. She was 91.

Ozcot was razed in the late 1950s and a non-descript apartment building replaced it. It’s doubtful that the current residents are aware of the literary history that occurred on this site.

Ozcot as it appeared in Baum’s life time.

 

The site of Ozcot as it is today.

NOTE: On August 15, 1939, The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland, premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theater – only 3 blocks from Ozcot.

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Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel

Monday, September 4th, 2017

AVAILABE JANUARY 2018

UNIVERSITY PRESS OF KENTUCKY

Use discount code FS30 to receive a 30% discount through September 30, 2017

CLICK HERE: University Press of Kentucky

 

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Today at Cinecon… Friday

Friday, September 1st, 2017

Woman Chases Man (1937, Samuel Goldwyn Co.) Friday, September 1, 2017 – Egyptian Theater, 9:10am

Millionaire Kenneth Nolan (Joel McCrea) is sensible and careful with his money, but seemingly everyone else is trying to con him out of it. That includes architect Virginia Travis (the marvelous Miriam Hopkins) and his own father B.J. Nolan (Charles Winninger) who has lost all of his own money investing it in crackpot schemes and inventions. John Blystone, veteran director of Laurel and Hardy and Buster Keaton features, directed this romantic screwball comedy.

 

 

 

The Brat (1931, Fox) Friday, September 1, 2017 – Egyptian Theater, 8:20pm

From a 1917 stage play written by Maude Fulton and probably inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, this comedy was an early sound film for Director John Ford. In it a novelist (Alan Dinehart) is looking to find a subject for his next book when he comes upon an orphan (Sally O’Neil) who is appearing before a judge at a downtown night court, charged with stealing food. He pays her fine and brings her back to his family’s mansion so he can study her. She soon turns his dysfunctional family around by dispensing the wisdom she has learned living on the street.

Click HERE to see the entire film schedule for CINECON

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Today at Cinecon… Thursday

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928, Buster Keaton Productions) Thursday, August 31, 2017 – Egyptian Theater, 7:15pm

This year Cinecon will be starting in style with an opening night reception followed by a screening of this classic silent film comedy, starring Buster Keaton in the last movie he made as an independent producer. Making this screening all the more special, it will feature a period score compiled and adapted by composer/conductor Scott Lasky, from original silent era orchestral film cues, and performed live by the Famous Players Orchestra under maestro Lasky’s baton.

After the film actor Norman Lloyd with be on hand to talk about his friendship with Buster and about his own long career in acting.

In case you haven’t seen Steamboat Bill, Jr.: Buster is the wimpy son of burly steamboat Captain William Canning (Ernest Torrence) whose business is threatened by J.J. King and his new paddle wheeler. When Junior meets and falls in love with the rival’s daughter, Kitty King, sparks fly. When a hurricane lands in River Junction this film features some of Buster’s famous stunts, including his most well-known stunt when the front of a house collapses around the star. Not to be missed!

Click HERE to see the entire film schedule for CINECON 53

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CINECON begins tomorrow…!

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

BEGINNING TOMORROW!

RARE AND RESTORED FILMS RETURN TO THE BIG SCREEN AT HOLLYWOOD’S EGYPTIAN THEATER LABOR DAY WEEKEND:

Actor Norman Lloyd be Honored with the Cinecon Legacy Award!

Full Festival Passes are available at the price of $200.

We are also offering Day Passes from $40-$50 (depending on the day).

All announced titles are subject to final film clearances.

Please visit www.cinecon.org for film titles, schedule updates, hotel information and more!

 

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James Wong Howe’s Birthday

Monday, August 28th, 2017

James Wong Howe (August 28, 1899, Taishan, China)

“I believe that the best cameraman is one who recognizes the source, the story, as the basis of his work.” -James Wong Howe

 

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Carl Laemmle’s Death & Funeral…

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

Carl Laemmle

He was lovingly known as “Uncle Carl” and the “Little Napoleon” to those who knew and worked for him. Carl Laemmle, Sr., motion picture pioneer and founder of Universal Studios, was the first of the movie moguls to pass away since the death of Irving Thalberg just two years earlier.

A German immigrant, Laemmle had only $50 when he first arrived in the United States in 1893. In his early years, he first was a package-wrapper in Chicago, and then a clothing store clerk in Oshkosh, Wisconsin where he eventually became manager and saved $2,000.

In 1906 he returned to Chicago and opened a 5 and 10-cent store where he happened to behold a line of people waiting to pay their nickels to see a motion picture and decided to become a film theater operator instead. He named the theater the White Front and charged 5 cents, offering whatever crude films he could find.

From this he established a film exchange and from that success, went to New York where he began to produce his own films. This ultimately led to the founding of Universal Studios and film history when he sent a company to England to film Ivanhoe (1913) in its original setting.

Moving operations to California, he eventually purchased 230 acres in the San Fernando Valley, just outside of Hollywood, and here founded Universal City on March 15, 1915. His most successful films included Traffic in Souls (1913), Foolish Wives (1922), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), Phantom of the Opera (1925) and All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) which won the Academy Award for Best Picture that year. When talkies arrived, he remained president but handed much of the studios production to his son, Carl Laemmle, Jr.

In 1936, because of financial problems, most notably due to the overruns on the budget of Showboat (1936) and the ravages of the depression, Laemmle was eventually forced to retire, selling the studio to Standard Capital Company.

For the next three years, Laemmle maintained an office in Hollywood to take care of his various business interests. He finally ceased this activity, and spent most of his time at his home at 1275 Benedict Canyon, which was the former residence of producer Thomas H. Ince.

Laemmle suffered his first heart attack on July 14, 1939; this was followed by several milder attacks. On September 23, he went for a car ride hoping to gain some relief from the heat. Upon returning he declared that he felt a “little wobbly” but slept soundly the rest of the night.

Early the next morning he suffered two more heart attacks and his doctor was called. The third and fatal heart attack occurred while he was still in bed. Present at the time of his death was his son, Carl, Jr., his daughter, Rosabelle Bergerman and two physicians.

Laemmle was also survived by two brothers, Siegfried and Louis Laemmle and two grandchildren, Carol Bergerman, 9 and Stanley Bergerman, Jr., 7.

Carl Laemmle obit (click on image to enlarge)

Carl Laemmle’s death certificate (Click on image to enlarge)

Tributes immediately began to pour in. From Mexico City, Joseph M. Schenck, president of the Association of Motion Picture Producers, paid high tribute to Laemmle by issuing the following statement:

“The passing of Carl Laemmle was a shock and a great loss to the motion picture industry.

“Carl Laemmle was more than a pioneer, he was a builder. A kind, gentle man, he fought for the industry at a time when it was weak and shackled, and due to his courage and independence, the fight that was of nation-wide importance in its time was won.

“The whole motion picture industry must mourn the loss of Carl Laemmle, but in Hollywood where he lived and worked, his memory will be enshrined.”

That day, Laemmle’s will was taken from a bank vault and scanned to learn whether he had expressed any last wishes as to his burial — which he had not. At the time, his family was undecided as to whether he would be buried beside his wife (who died in 1919) in a mausoleum in Salem Field Cemetery in New York, but finally determined that he would be laid to rest at Home of Peace Cemetery in East Los Angeles.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple

It was also announced that Rabbi F. Edgar Magnin, the “Rabbi to the Stars,” would give the eulogy and read the ritual over Laemmle’s body, which would lie in state at the Wilshire B’nai B’rith Temple (Wilshire Boulevard Temple) from 11:30 AM the next day up until the time of the services.

As a mark of respect, at 12:30 PM on September 26, there was a five-minute period of silence at all of the studios in Hollywood, at the home offices of Universal in New York and at all of the Universal film exchanges throughout the world.

Rabbi Magnin intoned prayers over Laemmle’s body as nearly 2,000 of his friends and former associates listened at the Wilshire B’nai B’rith Temple. The ceremony was simple, as requested by the family. Laemmle lay in a copper coffin at one side of the pulpit, banked high with flowers.

Touching briefly on Laemmle’s rise to success from a poor immigrant from Germany to a leader in the film industry, Rabbi Magnin pointed out it was not the money he made nor the power he wielded but what he did with his wealth and his power.

A PORTION OF RABBI MAGNIN’S EUOLOGY:

“Many people are mourned after their death but not loved while they are alive, particularly those who have power which makes them so susceptible to hatred.

“But here was a man who was loved by all. He was kind and sweet. He saw all who needed him and never with a display of arrogance. He was always the same, sweet and simple. He never forgot he was a poor boy.

“He gave generously of his purse and his heart. His charities were widespread and of this I, personally, am acquainted. He gave to the organized charities but he helped more people in an individual way. He established a foundation and he took a personal part in it.

“He always gave to people who needed help, but he made them feel that they were earning what he gave them.

“He was a fine American. He was born in Germany and he always had a tender spot for the German people. He full well realized in the World War as today that they are victims of a government.

“His love for his home and his family was second to none.”

During the service, Laemmle’s daughter, Rosabelle, almost broke under the strain. It was only a few minutes after Magnin’s closing words that she was able to leave the temple and go with relatives to the cemetery for the interment.

Home of Peace Mausoleum

Carl Laemmle was laid to rest in a private family room of the Chapel Mausoleum at Home of Peace Cemetery. Universal Studios is still a major film company; one of only a few that still exist at their original Hollywood location.

Carl Laemmle’s grave (Find A Grave)

 

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Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

 

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Ruby Keeler’s Birthday

Friday, August 25th, 2017

Ruby Keeler (August 25, 1910, Dartmouth, Canada)

Al Jolson was my first husband. He always used to boast that he was spoiling me for any man who might come after him. I think Al sensed that it wasn’t easy for me being married to an American institution… Was he right about spoiling me? I’m sorry. I couldn’t possibly say. I couldn’t be that indiscreet.” –Ruby Keeler

 

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