Posts Tagged ‘d. w. griffith’

Unsung Film Pioneer: William H. Clune; theater and film producer

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

William Henry Clune


By Allan R. Ellenberger

Film history is filled with many pioneering men and women, other than Griffith, DeMille and Chaplin. In fact, there are many that are little known or forgotten today. Hollywoodland will explore the lives of some of these great trailblazers. Today, we look at the life of William H. Clune. 

William Henry Clune was a pioneer motion-picture theater owner, whose name is associated with the early days of film production. Born in Hannibal, Missouri, on August 18, 1862, Clune came to California in 1887. His interest in railroading ceased with the successful termination of a real estate venture, which provided him with sufficient capital to enter the field to which he devoted himself—the motion picture industry.

Clune began with a film exchange in 1907 which distributed the films of the pioneer producers including the old Essanay, Edison, Biograph and others. While operating the exchange, he opened his first theater, a penny arcade on Main Street, in Los Angeles. This was followed by the building of Clune’s Theater on Fifth at Main Streets where the Rossyln Hotel now stands. His next venture was leasing the property on Broadway between Fifth Avenue, and Sixth Street, where he built Clune’s Broadway Theater. Then he took over the Clune’s Auditorium at Fifth and Olive Streets, later renamed the Philharmonic Auditorium. He also built Clune’s Pasadena Theater and Clune’s Santa Ana Theater. At one time, his chain included theaters in Los Angeles, Pasadena, San Bernardino, Santa Ana and San Diego. .

Clune’s Broadway Theater as it appeared in 1910. (Cinema Treasures)


Clune’s Broadway Theater (later called the Cameo), as it looked in 1999 (lapl)


Clune’s Auditorium, originally located at Olive and Fifth Streets
across from Pershing Square. It is now a parking lot.

Clune’s Pasadena Theater is believed to be the city’s first movie house. The building, no longer a theater, still shows the original name. (Hometown-Pasadena)

In 1913, Clune and his wife Agnes sold their Pasadena mansion at 1203 Fair Oaks Avenue at the corner Monterey Road. The site is now a Pavilions grocery market. At this time, Clune separated from his wife and moved into an apartment at the Los Angeles Athletic Club at 431 West 7th Street. Agnes and their son James took up residence in another mansion at 314 South New Hampshire Avenue.

In 1915, Clune assumed control of Adolph Zukor’s Famous Players Studios on Melrose. On the property, Clune built rental studios for lease to independent production companies. ..

Clune’s Studio on Melrose (now Raleigh Studios).

At this studio, Clune produced and filmed Ramona (1916), the famous book dealing with early California life. Following that, Clune made other films including The Eyes of the World (1917) from the story of Harold Bell Wright.

William Clune stood out in motion picture production. In his room on the twelfth floor of the Los Angeles Athletic Club, many of the largest movie deals made were negotiated. Clune had faith in D.W. Griffith, and backed the director financially and agreed to exhibit The Clansman, which was later retitled The Birth of a Nation (1915) at Clune’s Auditorium where the world premiere was held.

As the executive head of a chain of screen houses, Clune was an active and shrewd showman. For a number of years, he fought an enforcement of old city ordinances prohibiting electric sign displays. City bureaus complained against Clune’s electrical advertisements, but Clune refused to budge from his determination to “light up Broadway.” ..

Clune liked to use electricity to “light up Broadway” much to the dismay of the city council..

In 1924, Clune retired from the theatrical business, having sold all his theaters and leased his studios on Melrose to the Tec-Art Company. Retirement from film production did not mean retirement from active business as he had acquired large holdings in downtown real estate, dating back to 1900, and had many other interests.

Shortly after noon on October 18, 1927, William H. Clune died of a stroke in his apartment at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. His body was taken to the Sunset Mortuary at 8814 Sunset Boulevard and he was interred in the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Cemetery..

William H. Clune’s crypt (no. 994) in the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

In addition to his other activities, Clune was on the regional board of the Bank of Italy, a member of the Brentwood Country Club, Jonathan Club and Elks Club.

Clune’s estate was bequeathed to his son James, the president of Clune’s holding company. Thought to be a millionaire several times over, yet few were able to estimate his actual fortune. His wife Agnes, according to his will, was not named but received her share of the estate by a property settlement years earlier. Publicly, the only estimate of the value of Clune’s estate at the time said that it “exceeds $10,000,” but most experts determined that it was close to $6 million which in today’s exchange would be around $81.5 million.

At the studios Clune owned on Melrose (across the street from Paramount), Douglas Fairbanks made The Mark of Zorro (1920) and The Three Musketeers (1921), Walt Disney rented space in the 1930s and the Hopalong Cassidy television series was filmed here, as were Superman. Robert Aldrich filmed Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Ronald Reagan hosted Death Valley Days. In 1979, the heirs of William Clune sold the film plant and it became Raleigh Studios. The studio that William Clune created is believed to be the oldest continuously operating film studio in Hollywood. ..

Raleigh Studios (the old Clune Studios) today…


The movies arrive

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011


The Movies get moving



Early filmmaking in Hollywood (LAPL)


By Jim Bishop


Hollywood wasn’t always an open air asylum. It was founding in 1887 by retired bluenoses as a prohibition town. No drinks, no excitement.  A horse could not turn a corner at a speed greater than six miles per hour. It was a nice place if you were an orange.


Movies were unheard of in Hollywood, even in 1900. The flickering shadows were devised in a place called Fort Lee, N.J. It had forests, rocks, cliffs for cliff-hanging, and the Hudson River.


The movie industry had two problems. The weather was unpredictable, and Thomas Edison sued producers who used his invention. A romantic two-reeler could be made in three days for $1,000 if the rain stopped and if the process servers got lost on the Dyckman St. ferry.


The Selig Polyscope Co. heard from a director, Francis Boggs, that a tiny town called Hollywood, Calif., had everything. There was perpetual sunshine, palm trees, the Santa Monica Mountains for westerns, a beach for provocative mermaids, and an ocean for sea stories.


William Selig, the owner, went to see Edison. They organized the Motion Picture Patent Co. Selig was ready to go west. All he had to move were a couple of hand-cranked cameras, a director, a leading man and a leading lady, and a dozen unemployed actors.





In March 1909, Selig arrived in Los Angeles. He didn’t have to bring scenery. It was all in place. His two-reelers created envy in the East. In the autumn, Biograph and D.W. Griffith moved to Los Angeles. By spring, Pathé, Vitagraph, Lubin and Kalem had gone west.


Strangely, they not select the small town of Hollywood. The studios were in Glendale, Pasadena, Santa Barbara, San Diego and Santa Monica. It was not until 1911 that David Horsley moved his Nestor Co. west. The prohibition town, Hollywood, had an abandoned saloon at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street.


The prohibitionists learned too late that, while it was desirable to have no booze, Hollywood also had no water. The little town was forced to incorporate itself with Los Angeles. Local ordinances became invalid.


At the same time, the suburban towns yanked the welcome mat from the movie people. William Fox moved to Hollywood. Carl Laemmle bought the Nestor studio. Essanay and Vitagraph made it unanimous.


Mack Sennett shot his comedies at the beach or in the middle of the street. His actors pushed their way into public parades and skidded automobiles over dusty roads to create excitement.





Millions of people were paying a nickel a head to see these epics. Charlie Chaplin arrived. So did Harold Lloyd. A teen-ager named Mary Pickford was seen in a nightie, yawning and holding an automobile tire with a credo: Time to Retire.


The brought her out. And Mabel Normand, Tom Mix and William Farnum could actually ride a horse. So could William S. Hart. Movie plots became longer, more intricate. High-ceilinged studios were built. The prohibitionists left Hollywood in dismay. To them, it became a place of sin.


Cecil B. DeMille heard that Griffith had spent $100,000 on The Birth of a Nation, featuring the Gish sisters. He decided to spend more on sophisticated movies like Why Change Your Wife? and Forbidden Fruit.


The movie-goers admired certain actors. This led to the star system. In 1909, a star was paid $5 a day. Five years later, Mary Pickford was earning $1,000 a week. An English comic, Charlie Chaplin was paid $150 a week in 1913 by Mack Sennett. Two years later, he was getting $10,000 a week.


What had started as nickel theater became a gigantic industry. Some studios built their own theaters across the nation. Movies seduced the emotions of America two hours at a time—laughter and tears.


Where there is big money there are fights, consolidations and codes. The independent producer was squeezed out or bought out. Movie magazines, which pretend to purvey the private lives of the stars, flourished.


Pretty girls in Iowa and Maine were told “you ought to be in pictures.” They went out west and, with few exceptions, became hash slingers or worse. Hollywood became the magic Mecca of make-believe.


It was, in those days, a sparkling city of fame and light. Today (1979) it is smog and freeways, freaks and drugs, cults and sexual religions, front money and mortgages, stupendous hits and duds, economic knifings and gossip columnists, movie agents and press agents.


Baby, you’ve come a long, long way.



One-hundred years of filmmaking in Hollywood

Thursday, October 27th, 2011


 The 100th anniversary of Hollywood’s first movie studio



The above photo is reportedly a photo of David Horsley and his troup taken at the train station upon his arrival in Los Angeles, one-hundred years ago today on October 27, 1911. Horsely is on the far right with mustache and bowler. The boy with the camera is his son. Al Christie is over Horsley’s right shoulder.



By Allan R. Ellenberger


Today marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first movie studio located in Hollywood. There were other companies in Los Angeles by this time–D.W. Griffith was working at the corner of Georgia and Pico. Fred Balshofer was in Edendale and Col. William Selig in Glendale but no one had yet set up shop in Hollywood, which would become the film capitol of the world.


Brothers David and William Horsley formed the Centaur Film Company on the east coast. By 1910 their operation was producing three movies a week, including the Mutt and Jeff comedies. Along with other movie independents, they succeeded in defeating the monopolistic hold on the industry of Thomas Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Company. However, weather conditions became so bad during the summer and early fall of 1911 that it was impossible to make motion pictures in the vicinity of New York City. The camera depended entirely on sunshine and there just wasn’t any sunshine to speak of. Frustrated, David Horsley took his three companies and loaded them on the train and moved his operations to California.


Horsley arrived in Hollywood with Al Christie, director and cameraman, and actor Thomas Ricketts and others. Hollywood was a sleepy little town of dusty roads and yellow orchards, pepper trees, and a profusion of flowers. Hollywood Boulevard seemed all orange trees, Sunset all lemon trees. Reportedly some footage was shot in the orchards of one of Hollywood’s early founders, H.J. Whitley. The following day, October 27, 1911, Frank Hoover, a local photographer with a studio at the southeast corner of Hollywood and Gower, introduced Horsley to Marie Blondeau, a widow who owned a closed-up roadhouse down the street on Sunset and Gower. The tavern was a low, rambling building with a big veranda and many private dining rooms.



Blondeau Tavern



After lunch they went poking around in the backyard of the roadhouse. The tropical foliage and orange groves so entranced them that they rented it that day from Mrs. Blondeau for $40 a month—backyard and all. As a result the Nestor Company opened the first motion picture studio in Hollywood on the site of a deserted tavern. The next day they started shooting The Law of the Range, starring Harold Lockwood.


At the new studio, Horsley had three units working simultaneously—one was under the direction of Milton H. Fahrney, who made one single reel Western picture every week; another was directed by Thomas Ricketts who made one single reel dramatic picture every week; and the third was under the direction of Al Christie, who made one single reel Mutt and Jeff comedy picture every week.


In those days there were no rushes. The negatives were developed after dark on the old screen porch of the tavern, and sent to Bayonne, New Jersey, to the laboratory for printing. The cast and crew did not see Law of the Range until three months later and they noticed, to their disappointment, that the oranges photographed black.




The above help-wanted ad, looking for actors, appeared in the Los Angeles Times on November 4, 1911, one week after Horsley set up shop in Hollywood



The old tavern had to be remodeled in order to meet their needs. There was a big bar which was made into a carpenter shop. The house was turned into offices, the barn into a property room. A stage was built in the yard—with muslin over it to diffuse the light. Margarita Fischer and Harry Pollard were given the little dining rooms for dressing rooms. A lot of others who weren’t so fortunate dressed in the old barn, where the horses had formerly been kept. Russell Bassett, the eminent actor, once said, ‘That I should come to see the day when I should dress with the horses!’ And he was serious.


Location trips meant work for everyone. Every actor had to know how to hammer and saw. In addition to doubling, loading props on and off the wagons, painting the legs of the horses when they wanted to double them, the actors built all the sets. In the winter they would stop camera shooting at three-thirty. Could the actors go home? No! The director would say, “All right, boys, now we’ll put up the house for tomorrow.” Even the women helped in their spare time. Al Christie’s mother made all the curtains for the sets.



Christie / Nestor Studios 1913



On one of the first days of filming Al Christie was shooting a comedy scene on a Hollywood street corner, and one of the local residents came along, walked into camera range and stood there stiffly. Christie asked him if he would mind moving, and he replied, hotly, ‘I’m a taxpayer, sir, I’ve a right to stay her, and I’m going to!’


“‘Going to stay right there?’ Christie asked him.


“‘Yes, sir, right here!’


“‘That’s fine, were going to move across the road and you will be out of vision,’ Christie said. He was pretty mad.



Above is the site of the former Blondeau Tavern, Nestor Studios and Christie Studios on the northwest corner of Sunset and Gower. In the late 1930s it then became the home of CBS. The building is now abandoned.



The studio was operated by David Horsley until May 20, 1912, when Universal Film Company was formed and took over every one of the independent companies then operating and each one took stock for his studio, laboratories and other picture interests. Horsley received $175,000 in preferred stock and $204,000 in common stock in the Universal Company. He also was elected to the office of treasurer of Universal at $200 per week salary, a lot of money in those days.


Throughout the next few months I will continue the story and post about the people and places of those early days of filmmaking in Hollywood.



The Close-up is born

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011


The Centenary of the close-up



Above, Gloria Swanson is looking for her close-up in “Sunset Boulevard” (1950)



By Allan R. Ellenberger
March 23, 2011


One-hundred years ago today, the proverbial close-up that silent film diva, Gloria Swanson was “ready for” in Sunset Boulevard (1950), was born. Well, at least arguably.


Pioneer director, D.W. Griffith has long been credited for developing filmmaking as an art form with techniques such as the scenic long shot, and crosscutting, and for collaborating with cinematographer Billy Bitzer to create the fade-out, fade-in, and soft-focus shots. One of the most popular film innovations Griffith is recognized for is the close-up.


Of course film historians disagree as to which filmmaker first used a close-up; however Griffith used the shot at length at an early date. For example, one of the director’s short films, The Lonedale Operator (1911), is significant for it’s use of a close-up of a wrench that a character pretends is a gun. At the time of the film’s release, on March 23, 1911, close-ups were still uncommon and illustrate Griffith’s growing mastery of the medium.




Is this shot from D.W. Griffith’s “The Londedale Operator” (1911), the first example of the close-up?



The Lonedale Operator, which was written by Mack Sennett is a tale about the bravery of a pretty railroad station telegrapher, played by Blanche Sweet, who foils a robbery. The film is also an outstanding example of Griffith’s use of editing to build suspense.  


Whether or not The Lonedale Operator is the first example of the close-up, we can agree it is at least one of the earliest. Celebrate by telling friends, “”All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”


A print of The Lonedale Operator, which premiered one-hundred years ago today, survives in the film archive of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Watch it below: 








Eunice Woodruff’s 100th Birthday

Sunday, December 12th, 2010


Eunice Elenor Woodruff



By Allan R. Ellenberger


Today would be the 100th birthday of Eunice Woodruff – not a name that is well-known or remembered. There are no photographs or extensive biographies that are known to exist of her. Eunice was a child actress in silent films and was born on December 12, 1910 (not on November 10 as is listed on the oldest of four children of George and Florence Woodruff and as far as we know, the only actress in the family.


George made his living as a landscape artist and Florence owned a used clothing store. From what is known about Eunice, she got her start with D. W. Griffith in what was probably a small uncredited role in Intolerance (1916). That led to parts in Ashes (1916) with Corinne Griffith and in Virtuous Sinners (1919) which is best known as featuring the not-yet famous Rudolph Valentino in a bit part. Other films included Street Wolf and appearances in two Dorothy Dalton films. Her last appearance was in the Arline Pretty starring film, Crossed Currents (1921).


At some point in early 1921, Eunice was stricken with an undisclosed illness and died on July 12, 1921 at her home at 1331 Fleming Street in Hollywood, near the corner where Sunset and Fountain intersect. She was ten years old. The imdb states that Eunice died in Pomona, California which is incorrect. The confusion probably comes from the fact that Fleming Street no longer exists in Hollywood, however, there is a street by that name in Pomona. At some point before 1930, those few blocks of Fleming Street north of Sunset, were renamed Hoover.


Eunice’s funeral was held at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Hollywood; burial was in Hollywood Cemetery. Eunice was survived by her parents and her siblings, Dolores, 8; Maurice, 5 and Thelma, 3.








 Eunice’s mother Florence is the only family member buried near her



Chief Dark Cloud at Hollywood Forever…

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Chief Dark Cloud

aka Elijah Tahamont



BORN: September 20, 1855, St. Francis Indian Village, Quebec, Canada

DIED: October 17, 1918, Los Angeles, California

CAUSE OF DEATH: Lobular pneumonia following Spanish Influenza

BURIAL: Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Section 10W


By Allan R. Ellenberger


Chief Dark Cloud, whose real name was Elijah Tahamont, was a Native American film actor sometimes billed as William Dark Cloud. He was also a popular and highly paid model who posed for over twenty years for famed sculptor, Frederic Remington. He was a chief of the Algonquin tribe (or Abenaquis tribe depending on the source) and prior to his film career was known as a popular lecturer.



Dark Cloud began working for American Mutoscope and Biograph in 1910, making his first screen appearance under the direction of D. W. Griffith. Moving west, he appeared in scores of westerns and other films.





Dark Cloud was married to Soaring Dove (Margaret Camp), also a model, and the father of actress Beulah Dark Cloud (1887-1945) and Bessie ‘Bright’ Eyes Tahamont (who died at the age of fifteen in September 1907, in Astoria, New York). Both girls were the first Native American children to attend a New York public school.



Dark Cloud was reportedly an alcoholic and womanizer, which gained him many enemies. Influenza, which was at a world-wide epidemic, was the official cause of his death in 1918. However, rumors at the time claimed that he was either murdered by a jealous husband or died from accidental drowning.




Thanks to Jim L of Hollywoodunderground for Dark Cloud’s date and cause of death


The preceding is one in a series of biographical sketches of
Hollywood Forever Cemetery residents.