Posts Tagged ‘The Magician’

Alice Terry: The Girl from Old Vincennes–Part Three

Saturday, March 22nd, 2014

HOLLYWOOD PROFILES

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By Allan R. Ellenberger

PART THREE

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When filming of The Arab was completed, Alice returned to Hollywood, but Rex stayed to establish a studio of his own on the French Riviera, near Nice. It was far enough away from Hollywood and Louis B. Mayer for Rex to work without interference. Rex Ingram would never make another film in Hollywood.

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Rex needed time to prepare his next film, Mare Nostrum (1926), and advised Alice to return home and make a few films there. “Never would I work for anyone else…,” she once proclaimed. But Rex assured her that she would have only the best directors, and besides, the four films she would make would bring in a nice salary. The preparation on Mare Nostrum would take more than a year and during that time Alice made The Great Divide (1925) and Confessions of a Queen (1925) for the newly formed MGM. The remaining two films were on loan-out to Paramount for director Henry King called Sackcloth and Scarlet (1925) and Any Woman (1925).

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That year of separation was difficult for both Rex and Alice. It was the first time she worked for another director since The Valley of the Giants in 1919. The experience made her realize she never wanted to make another film for anyone else. She also understood how much Rex meant to her. “I would rather be Mr. Ingram’s wife than the greatest star on the screen,” she said. “When I’m working with Rex, what he says goes. His word is law to me. I neither question it nor doubt it.”

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Alice was not alone in her feelings. Rex also felt alone when Alice was away. “I want her to stay with me,” he told a friend. “It is the only way that I find a chance to be near her. If she were to go to another company, it would mean we would see practically nothing of one another.” Even though there would be periods when they were apart, and one more picture with another director, the remainder of her career would be with Rex.

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Mare Nostrum was now ready, and Alice sailed back to Nice to begin filming. The film was based on Vincente Blasco Ibanez’s novel of espionage during World War I. The role of Ulysses went to Antonio Moreno, another Latin heart-throb of the day. The Ingram’s adopted son, Kada-Abdel-Kadar, played Ulysses as a child.

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Even though it was a hard shoot, with many technical problems, Alice rose to the challenge. In one scene, she had to make love to Antonio Moreno in front of an aquarium containing an octopus. The thought of trying to be amorous with a big fish by the side of her head unnerved her. “You’d better get rid of me now because I’m not going to be able to do that aquarium scene,” she told Rex.

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When it came time to film it, Alice expected countless retakes, but surprisingly Rex said, “That’s it” on the first shot.  “I will never get another part like that,” she said about Mare Nostrum. “I will never like a part better, and I will never have the luck I had on that.”

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Mare Nostrum was a box office and critical success. Picturegoer magazine declared the film “exquisite and the acting brilliant…” Even thought Photoplay disliked the film and called it a “great dramatic disappointment,” they selected Alice Terry’s performance as one of the six best of the year.

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The Ingram’s were now residents of Nice. Rex refused to make more pictures in Hollywood with Louis B. Mayer breathing down his neck. Fortunately Rex had an ally of Nicholas Schenck, president of MGM, who arranged to have the Victorine Studios modernized and eventually it became the property of Rex Ingram.

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Rex Ingram’s Victorine Studios in France

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During their stay in France, Rex and Alice moved from one hotel to another. Because Rex was so busy preparing their next film, The Magician (1926), Alice was on her own. Rex, however, spent most of his time at the studio residence which he proudly named “Villa Rex.”

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During preparations of The Garden of Allah (1927), Alice returned to Hollywood to appear in Lovers? (1927) with her old friend, Ramon Novarro. Both stars played together with so much ease, that Louis B. Mayer remarked how Ingram was not only “ruining his own career but that of his lovely wife.”

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Lovers? would be Alice and Ramon’s fifth and final film together but not the end of their friendship. They remained close until his death in 1968 at the hands of two hustlers. Novarro’s death affected her deeply. “She couldn’t believe it,” Robert Taafe said. “It was hard for her to accept.” It’s probable that Alice knew of Novarro’s sexual preference, and if she did, it would not have mattered. She was very open-minded. “The only thing she disliked in anyone was someone who may have lied to her or was telling tales behind her back,” said Taafe. “But, she was also a very forgiving person.”

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In 1928, Alice Terry played the final role of her career in a film called The Three Passions (1929) which was, of course, written and directed by Rex. In an ironic twist, Alice took off her wig and dyed her hair blonde for this, her last film.  Alice had made a conscious decision to retire from films. Talking pictures were becoming popular, and she did not like the demands that sound made on an actor. Besides, she was tired of the constant need to control her weight. Liam O’Leary, in his biography of Rex Ingram (Rex Ingram: Master of the Silent Cinema, BFI Publishing, 1980) said about her decision to retire:

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“So without any heartbreak she decided to make her exit. It was certainly not due to the lack of an expressive voice, for the one she had was most pleasant to hear. Had she continued to play in films, she might have developed as a comedienne. It remains regrettable that she never appeared in sound film.”

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Rex Ingram would make one more film before he too would retire. Ironically, he cast himself as the male lead in Baroud (1932), a talking picture which Alice co-directed. It was a dismal failure at the box office. Many times over the years, Rex would announce the making of several films, but they never materialized.

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NEXT TIME, in the fourth and final installment, the story of Alice Terry’s life after her retirement from films.

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