Archive for the ‘Film History’ Category

Courthouse Wall of Fame

Monday, January 10th, 2011

FILM HISTORY

Wall of Fame recalled Star’s visits to courthouse press room

 

 

Above is the County Courthouse that was located at Temple and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles where the Wall of Fame resided in the press room. Notice the low granite wall at the bottom of the photo. Remarkably, portions of this wall still remain. (lapl)

 

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

The Civic Center in downtown Los Angeles is where several courthouses mete out their justice, sometimes to Hollywood celebrities. Before many of the building that now stands there were erected, there stood an old brownstone Courthouse located at Temple Street and Broadway. It stood for forty-five years until it was razed after being damaged in the Long Beach earthquake of March 1933.

 

When it was finally demolished in 1934, it took with it the old press room and its unique Wall of Fame and the signatures of stars, who for this or that reason had been in court, or the marriage license bureau. Scrawled in either pencil or crayon, one could find the names of Charlie Chaplin, Tom Mix, George Bancroft, Harry Langdon, Eugene O’Brien, Doris Kenyon, Ethel Clayton, Constance and Natalie Talmadge, Pauline Starke, Jean Harlow and Bebe Daniels. There were a lot more and each one had its own story.

 

Of course, not all the screen stars who appeared in court, inscribed their names on the Wall of Fame. Some, the reporters failed to corral; others could not be lured to the press room. There were some who flatly refused. Among the latter was William Powell, who had come with Carole Lombard, for a marriage license. Powell, when confronted by the wall, glared reproachfully at the reporters and demanded: “Gentlemen, isn’t anything sacred?” The reporters thought he was kidding until he turned and stalked out of the press room fairly oozing indignation.

 

 

 

 

Jack Hoxie was first to sign the wall and his signature was the largest. Oddly enough, Tom Mix’s name was one of the smallest and Charlie Chaplin’s was the hardest to read.  

 

And what did they appear for? Harry Langdon, asserting he had but $40 with which to pay $60,000 his divorced wife sought as property settlement. The case was dismissed and Harry was smiling when he signed the wall. Divorce also steered the Talmadge sisters into the press room. Natalie Talmadge was fighting Buster Keaton over custody of their children. Constance was a witness. The prolonged contests between Charlie Chaplin and Lita Grey Chaplin, also concerning the care of their children is well known. When the reporters tried to lure Lita to the press room she balked, saying she always wanted to know what she was expected to do before she went places with strangers.

 

Besides the signature of James Quirk of Photoplay magazine, was pasted the headline announcing his death. His wife, May Allison, also signed. Reporters tried to get Paul Bern to sign the wall when he and Jean Harlow applied for their marriage license, but both refused to visit the press room because they were “radiantly happy and in a terrible hurry.” A few months later, dressed in widow’s attire, Jean returned to probate Paul Bern’s will. This time she signed the wall.

 

Doris Kenyon, widow of Milton Sills, was considered by a majority of the court reporters, as the grandest girl to affix her signature to the Wall of Fame. They designated Polly Moran as “the hard egg with the soft heart.” Polly crashed the press room the day she appeared to legally adopt a 16-year-old boy she had taken from an orphanage when he was only a few months old.

 

One of the funniest incidents connected with signing the wall centered on Richard Barthelmess who was suing to recover securities alleged to have been misappropriated. His wife was with him and they consented to have a picture taken together. She sat in a chair and Barthelmess stood beside her. The photographer snapped his picture and after the couple had gone, remarked to the reporters: “I think I got a good picture of that dame but I had an awful job keeping that rube out of it, he was standing so close.” The reporters, on informing him that the “rube” was Richard Barthelmess, used language which allegedly made even the signatures on the wall blush.

 

 

Richard Barthelmess, his wife and family

 

 

The names of Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels graced the wall as the result of the trial of Bebe’s lunatic lover.” Edna Murphy signed when she got her divorce from director Mervyn LeRoy. Gertrude Olmstead was a witness at the trial and also signed. The reporters recalled, however, that Gertrude was rather embarrassed by the ordeal of clambering on the table in order to write her name.

 

George Bancroft divided honors with Jack Hoxie as the most massive man to have perpetuated his signature. He appeared in court to contest an agent’s claim for $30,000 of commissions. Hoxie had been up on alimony charges.

 

Several of the signatures recalled the tragic death of Alma Rubens. They were obtained during the libel suit brought against Photoplay and James Quirk by Ruben’s mother, and included Eileen Percy’s and Claire Windsor’s. ZaSu Pitts was another witness, but would not sign. The reporters declared her to be the most “publicity shy” screen star they encountered. She also eluded the news-hounds when she divorced her husband, Tom Gallery. The Courthouse scribes were not certain which cases brought Tom Mix, Edwin Carewe and Mae Murray to the Wall of Fame, as their court appearances was so numerous. Legal battles over the Mix children and property disputes made Mix a familiar figure and both Mae Murray and Carewe were central figures in countless suits over property, contracts and other things. Pauline Starke’s court appearance was mainly due to the protracted battle with her former husband, Jack White.

 

The reporters captured director Robert Vignola and Eugene O’Brien when they appeared in court as character witnesses for a young man who had gotten into trouble and Stanley Fields immortalized himself by apprehending a burglar in his apartment.

 

 

Above a rare image of the Wall of Fame located in the County Courthouse press room 

 

 

Most of the females who signed the wall were space conservers. That is except Constance Cummings and Vivian Duncan, whose names stand out like sore thumbs. Cummings had just won a contract suit, while the half of the famous Duncan sisters won a divorce from Nils Asther on the ground of too much mother-in-law. Another signer brought to the wall by the divorce route was Lola Lane when she parted company with Lew Ayres.

 

Duncan Renaldo was the only signer of the Wall of Fame who had gone to jail, though this happened later than when he actually signed the wall. His name was obtained when he was the central figure in the alienation case against Edwina Booth, which came as the aftermath to a “location” trip to Africa.

 

Snub Pollard also appeared on the wall as did that of Lowell Sherman, whose matrimonial adventures with Pauline Garon and later with Helene Costello brought him into the press room.

 

When the fate of the old courthouse was sealed, the reporters lost interest in their famous wall, knowing it soon would be destroyed. The visitors of the last few months were not asked to sign. During the last two or three months there were many noteworthy eligible’s including Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich, Estelle Taylor, Colleen Moore and Marian Nixon. Crawford was one of the last asked to sign, the occasion being her divorce from Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. She refused. The reporters asserted she was so nervous and shaky it was doubtful if she could have written her name of the floor, much less on the wall.

 

Signing the Wall of Fame grew to be quite a ceremonial and somewhat of an athletic function. It was necessary to step onto a chair and then mount onto a table in order to reach the designated spot and in addition to the gentlemen of the press, court attachés and sometimes the judges themselves would assemble to witness the event. In fact, gazing up at a movie star was really something to talk about afterward.

 

It’s too bad that the Wall of Fame could not have been saved or moved to another location. When the new courthouse was built, there was another press room, but it was never the same.

 _____________________________________

 

Please follow and like us:

Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum on ’60 Minutes’

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

 FILM HISTORY

Silent film historian interviewed for ’60 Minutes’

 

 

 

David Kiehn, a noted scholar and historian for the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum and recognized on a national level with his expertise in American silent film history will be interviewed by Morley Safer in a segment of 60 Minutes this Sunday, October 17 on CBS at 7:00 p.m. about David’s research into the making of the Miles Bros. film A Trip Down Market Street (1906).
__
 
It started with Kiehn’s curiosity on the assumed date A Trip Down Market Street was made in San Francisco near the turn-of-the-last-century. The Library of Congress had listed the film as being made in September of 1905 based on a few factors. David did extensive research and was able to not only ascertain who the film makers were (previously unknown) but also pinpoint the date of the film creation to April 14, 1906 – mere days before the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. In fact, the negative for the film was on its way to New York on an Eastbound train hours before the Big One struck.
.
Click below to watch A Trip Down Market Street
 
 
.
.
Click here for more information on the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum
.
_____________________________________
Please follow and like us:

Lost Chaplin film found

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

FILM HISTORY

 Lost Charlie Chaplin film discovered in Michigan antique sale

 

 

Still image from Charlie Chaplin’s cameo appearance in a Keystone comedy called A Thief Catcher in January 1914.

 

By Scott Eyman
Palm Beach Post

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

 

The diminutive figure emerges from the underbrush wearing a Keystone Cop uniform about four sizes too large. He screws up his courage by giving a very familiar wiggle of his butt, followed by a very familiar wriggle of his shoulders.

 

He’s wearing a little moustache that would soon become world famous, carrying only a nightstick and the possibility of greatness.

 

It’s Charlie Chaplin, making a cameo appearance in a Keystone comedy called A Thief Catcher in January 1914, just about a month after he started working at the Edendale, California, studio. It’s the 36th film he made in a frantic year’s activity before he left for more green, not to mention greener, pastures.

 

Until a few months ago, nobody knew it existed.

 

Click here to continue reading the Palm Beach Post article

_____________________________________

 

Please follow and like us:

Lost silent films found

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

FILM HISTORY

Long-Lost Silent Films Return to America

 

 

 

 A scene from “Why Husbands Flirt” (1918), one of some 75 silent movies, found in a New Zealand archive, being returned to the United States.

 

By Dave Kehr
New York Times
June 7, 2010

 

A late silent feature directed by John Ford, a short comedy directed by Mabel Normand, a period drama starring Clara Bow and a group of early one-reel westerns are among a trove of long-lost American films recently found in the New Zealand Film Archive.

 

Some 75 of these movies, chosen for their historical and cultural importance, are in the process of being returned to the United States under the auspices of the National Film Preservation Foundation, the nonprofit, charitable affiliate of the Library of Congress’s National Film Preservation Board. (This writer is a member of the board, and has served on grant panels for the foundation, though none related to the current project.) Chris Finlayson, New Zealand’s minister for arts, culture and heritage, is expected to announce the discovery and the repatriation officially this week.

 

The films came to light early in 2009, when Brian Meacham, a preservationist for the Los Angeles archive of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, dropped in on colleagues at the New Zealand Film Archive in Wellington during a vacation.

 

Click here to continue reading this New York Times article

_________________________________________

 

Please follow and like us:

Lost silent film about Lincoln found

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

FILM HISTORY

 When Lincoln Paid: Previously lost 1913 movie about Abraham Lincoln to be screened

 

 

 

 

Actor Francis Ford (pictured above), brother of director John Ford, portrayed the Civil War-era president in “When Lincoln Paid” (1913), a two-reel film long-lost until it was discovered in a New Hampshire barn and restored. It will have its re-premiere at Keene State College on April 20, 2010.

 

To learn more about the find, preservation and screening, check out the article by Andre Soares at the Alt Film Guide. CLICK HERE

_______________________________________ 

  

Please follow and like us:

Novarro and Hurrell

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

FILM HISTORY

Ramon Novarro and Hurrell

 

   

By Allan R. Ellenberger
February 10, 2020

 

In 1928, Ramon Novarro became friends with Florence “Pancho” Barnes, a woman flier who became famous for breaking speed records in her plane, Mystery Ship. Years later she founded the Happy Bottom Ranch in the Antelope Valley, which became an oasis in the desert for aviators depicted in the film, The Right Stuff (1983).

 

Pancho was introduced to Ramon at a party, and the two became an unusual couple cavorting around Hollywood in Ramon’s sports cars. Pancho was not the glamorous type and was known for her profanity, which she used liberally.

 

Pancho was a staunch supporter of George Hurrell, a struggling photographer who had taken many photos of her. Ramon had told Pancho that he was planning to make his concert debut in Vienna and needed new portraits. She suggested Hurrell, and Ramon asked her to set up an appointment. Pancho excitedly told Hurrell about Novarro’s request, to which he replied, “I’m flattered, but why doesn’t he use MGM’s photographer?”

 

 

Ramon Novarro and Pancho Barnes (Photo: Pancho Barnes Trust Estate)

 

 

She explained that Novarro was planning an upcoming concert tour and added, “He doesn’t want MGM to know about it right now. If he asked Ruth Harriet Louise to do it, the prints would be all over the studio.”

 

That evening Hurrell prepared his tiny studio at 672 Lafayette Park Place to greet the Ben-Hur of the screen. Soon Novarro’s sports roadster arrived, and he and Pancho made their way to Hurrell’s studio, where the two were introduced. Pancho, who was breathless and giddy, excused herself, explaining she had to meet some new pilots down at Mines Field. Hurrell sensed there was a budding romance between  her and Ramon, which was precisely what Pancho wanted people to think.

 

After Pancho left, Hurrell set up his equipment while Novarro changed. Within minutes, he turned around and saw the actor, standing quietly on the landing dressed as a Spanish grandee in a huge sombrero, with silver ornaments and a mustache glued to his upper lip.

 

 

The first photo of Ramon Novarro taken by George Hurrell

 

 

Hurrell found that Novarro, whom he nicknamed Pete, had photographically perfect features and was very relaxed. The photographer played classical music, which made Novarro more responsive. “He could face my camera with a blank expression,” Hurrell recalled. “Not at all like some of the men-about-town whom I had been photographing. I had to trick them into losing their solemn expression in order to get an interesting shot, but Ramon was relaxed.”

 

Two days later when the Latin saw the proofs, he told Hurrell, “You have caught my moods exactly. You have revealed what I am inside.” Hurrell photographed Novarro many times over the next few months. When Pancho saw a photo taken on her estate in San Marino (below) of a tunic-clad Novarro standing under a tree next to a white horse, the aviatrix noted, “My God George, even the horse looks glamorous!”

 

 

 

 

One day while visiting the set of The Hollywood Revue of 1929, Norma Shearer invited Novarro into her dressing room for a visit. She complained that she was very unhappy about the recent film roles she was receiving. During the conversation, Ramon spread out a stack of portraits he just received from Hurrell. Norma looked from one to the other with obvious interest. “Why Ramon, no one has ever photographed you like this before,” she said.

 

Ramon told her about Hurrell and his tiny Lafayette Park studio. Smiling, she said, “He may come in handy. I have an idea.” She explained that the studio was preparing a script she wanted called The Divorcee (1930). Her husband and mentor, Irving Thalberg, did not think she was beguiling enough for the part. She hoped that if Hurrell could photograph her like a “sex pot,” Irving would give her the role. So Ramon set up a meeting between the actress and Hurrell. The photographs were stunning and convinced Thalberg to give his wife the part. As a result, she won the Academy Award for best actress, and Hurrell was given a contract as a portrait photographer at MGM.

 

The preceeding exerpt is from Ramon Novarro: A Biography of the Silent Film Idol (1999) by Allan R. Ellenberger.

_________________________________________

Please follow and like us:

The Stars Happiest Christmas

Friday, December 25th, 2009

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

Classic stars recall their happiest yule

 

 

Claudette Colbert (above) poses on Vine Street next to her image emblazoned on a Christmas decoration in the heart of Hollywood. The two tall buildings on the right in the background are at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine.

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Just like anyone else, to film stars there is always just one Christmas that stands out above all others. In December 1932, several stars were asked about their most memorable Christmas.

 

The previous Christmas for Neil Hamilton competed with one when he was seven years old: “What with a new baby and a new house and the baby’s first Christmas tree, last year was hard to cap,” said Hamilton. “But for sheer unadulterated happiness I must remember the gorgeous Indian suit they gave me when I was seven years old. I strut when I remember it to this day. I was the reincarnation of Sitting Bull.”

 

James Dunn said a pool table presented to him when he was 14 still stood out as the most stylish event of his life. On that Christmas morning he invited all the boys in the neighborhood to play pool and they were still at it long past bedtime.

 

It was a Christmas bicycle that stood out for Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. He was eight years of age and had been demanding a bike from Santa since he was five. He’s almost given up hope when the family weakened. “It was a Rolls-Royce to me,” Fairbanks said.

 

Bette Davis claimed that no ecstasy since had surpassed the Christmas on which she acquired a huge Teddy Bear, handed to her from the very top of a big tree. “I have loved that Teddy all my life and still him,” she said.

 

It was a gorgeous box of paints, brushes, palettes all complete including a real artist’s smock, which made Claudette Colbert ecstatic when she was a small girl. She had always loved drawing and that Christmas saw the family’s recognition of her artistic yearnings.

 

Gary Cooper said the Christmas in which he and his family were snowed in on a cattle ranch in Montana stands our as his sweetest. No turkey, no shopping — a blizzard cut them off from everything. But the family decided to make their own fun and made presents by themselves out of any old odds and ends. “The least expensive and the jolliest Christmas I ever hope to enjoy,” he said.

 

A pair of rubber boots and a sled marked the most exciting Christmas for William Collier, Jr., who until that time, had to be content with a stocking encasing an orange, nuts and popcorn. He was nine years of age when the miracle occurred. And it was Marian Nixon’s very first watch, waiting on the breakfast table, which made one Christmas forever notable for her. In the same way a coaster-brake bike with a fancy headlight presented when he was 12 years old, marked one hilarious Christmas for John Boles.

 

Marie Dressler remembered a certain Christmas fifteen years earlier when, because her dearest friend was in the hospital, she took a tree, goodies and all the packages to the hospital between the matinee and the evening performance, and Christmassed at the there.

 

Joan Crawford, without hesitation, said, “Oh, Christmas 1925. I hadn’t seen my people in Kansas City for so long. I had just signed my contract with MGM and they paid my fare to the coast via Kansas City. So I went home in triumph — the biggest thrill of my life.”

 

It was 1919 that meant everything to Ramon Novarro. After a bus-boy job in New York, he was back in Los Angeles with his family and was celebrating his very first picture role. “We had an utterly perfect Mexican Christmas,” he remembered.

 

But to Maurice Chevalier, escaping from a German prison camp, rejoining  his mother in Paris and receiving medical attention for his wounds — and the glorious award of the Croix de Guerre made Christmas 1918, the most memorable one for him.

 

Katherine Hepburn recalled an ecstatic Christmas when her father built her a little theater of her own in the back yard when she was about 12.

 ______________________________________

 

Please follow and like us:

‘Wizard of Oz’ at 70

Friday, August 28th, 2009

FILM HISTORY

“Wizard of Oz,’ still magical after 70 years

 

Oz travelers

 

It was 70 years ago this week that “The Wizard of Oz” arrived in theaters and even in this CGI-jaded era those old red ruby slippers still shine brightly.

 

Geoff Boucher
Los Angeles Times
August 28, 2009 

 

The anniversary will be celebrated over the next year with numerous events, including a national tour by a seven-story Oz-themed hot-air balloon, a Sept. 23 one-night theatrical re-release of a newly restored version of the film in 450 theaters and the release next month of an “ultimate collector’s edition” package on Blu-ray and DVD with that remastered version and 16 hours of bonus material.

 

That may sound like a lot of attention for an artifact from the FDR administration, but there’s a timeless quality to the cinematic adaptation of  L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s novel that still transports new generations over the rainbow. The movie remains an essential reference point — this December in James Cameron’s much-ballyhooed sci-fi epic “Avatar,” for instance, when the main character arrives on a dazzling jungle planet, moviegoers will hear a familiar line : “You’re not in Kansas anymore.” Cameron chuckled when asked about the line. “Yeah, it’s my favorite movie; I had to get it in there somewhere,” he said. Cameron is not alone in his ongoing romance with “Oz.” To mark the anniversary, The Times interviewed creators in film, television, music and books who have never wearied of the cinematic trip down the yellow brick road.

 

Click here to continue reading

_______________________________________

Please follow and like us:

‘Wizard of Oz’ is 70

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

FILM HISTORY

70 years later, we still feel the echoes of ‘Oz’

 

 

‘The Wizard of Oz’ has influenced everything from ‘Star Wars’ to ‘Lost’

 

By Troy Brownfield
Newsarama
MSNBC
Aug 24, 2009
 

Ruby slippers. If I only had a brain. We’re not in Kansas, anymore. I’ll get you, My Pretty, and your little dog, too. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. That’s just the tip of a pop-culture iceberg, a towering mountain of nostalgia and influence that rises above most movie fare in a time when the majority of entertainment seems fairly disposable.

 

On Aug. 25, 1939, “The Wizard of Oz” was released into theatres nationwide and began its not-so-classic journey toward classic status.

 

Now, 70 years later, the echoes of Oz continue to reach into all corners of filmmaking and pop culture in general, from the iconic “Star Wars” characters Chewie and C-3PO to frequent references on ABC’s “Lost,” from adaptations for upcoming graphic novels to mysterious ties to Pink Floyd.

 

Click here to continue reading

_____________________________________

 

Please follow and like us:

Norman Lloyd on Charlie Chaplin

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

FILM HISTORY

A pal doffs his hat to Charlie Chaplin

 

Classic Hollywood

  (Christina House / For The Times)

 

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Silent Film Celebration is preparing to present ‘The Gold Rush.’ Chaplin friend Norman Lloyd reminisces about the star’s later years.

 

By Susan King
Los Angeles Times
June 3, 2009

.

Norman Lloyd says he can remember when he first became aware of Charlie Chaplin — even if he was only 1 year old and it was more than 90 years ago.

 

The year was 1916 and, as Lloyd recalls, “there were little Charlie Chaplins that you would wind up and they would walk. I remember vividly. I was sitting in the high chair with the little tray in front of me. My parents would wind it up and it would walk to me.”

 

The 94-year-old actor, producer and director, best known for playing the kindly Dr. Daniel Auschlander on “St. Elsewhere,” would become good friends with Chaplin 30 years later. Lloyd also had a role in Chaplin’s last American production, “Limelight,” in 1952.

 

Click here to continue reading

__________________________________

 

Please follow and like us: