Posts Tagged ‘William Farnum’

The movies arrive

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

HOLLYWOOD HISTORY

The Movies get moving

 

 

Early filmmaking in Hollywood (LAPL)

  

By Jim Bishop
1979

 

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.

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Review of ‘Hollywood Story’

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

FILM REVIEWS

The true ‘Hollywood Story’ is solved 

 Hollywood Story poster

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger
 

Recently I had the pleasure to watch the rare film, Hollywood Story (1951), starring Richard Conte, Richard Egan, Henry HullFred Clark and in one of her early film appearances, Julie Adams (billed as Julia Adams).

 

The film was obviously inspired by the unsolved William Desmond Taylor murder that occurred barely 30 years earlier — a famous Hollywood director (named Franklin Ferrara in the film) is found shot and dead in his bungalow. The case goes unsolved and ruins several Hollywood careers including one of the directors leading ladies, an actor who is rumored to have murdered him and a screen writer who becomes a destitute beachcomber.  

 

Helen Gibson, William Farnum and Francis X. Bushman being greeted by the studio guard at the entrance of the former Chaplin Studios

 

Besides the cast mentioned earlier, there are cameos by former silent film favorites, Francis X. Bushman, William Farnum and Helen Gibson and an appearance by Joel McCrea who plays himself. But the real star of the film, in my opinion, are the scenes of old Hollywood. The film opens with a shot of Hollywood Boulevard looking west from Vine Street with the Broadway Department Store entrance and the Warner Theater clearly visible.

 

Other scenes include the NBC Studios (now demolished) on Sunset and Vine and shots of the Hollywood Christmas Parade as it passes Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The swimming pool of the Roosevelt Hotel makes an appearance as does portions of the famed Sunset Strip.

 

Richard Conte and Julie Adams near poolside at the Roosevelt Hotel in The Hollywood Story

 

The plot of the film revolves around Larry O’Brien (Richard Conte) a Broadway producer who arrives in Hollywood to try his hand at filmmaking. Based on facts presented to him, he decides to make a film about the Franklin Ferrara murder. His friend and now-agent (played by Jim Backus), finds him an old abandoned studio that just happens to be where Ferrara was found murdered. This begins the chain of events for his plans to make a movie about Ferrara — investigating the facts himself and getting in trouble in the process.

 

While the film is produced by Universal (the old entrance to the studio also has a cameo), they rented the Charlie Chaplin Studios on La Brea just south of Sunset as the stand-in for the studio where Ferrara was murdered and where O’Brien will now make his film. A long shot of the bungalow clearly shows the neon sign atop the Roosevelt Hotel (and is still visible today) in the background and the distinctive brick gate entrance to the studio can be seen from inside the lot. It is at this front gate that Conte greets silent film stars, Bushman, Farnum and Gibson. In another scene Conte runs outside the gate onto the sidewalk just as he sees Julie Adams and Paul Cavanaugh make an escape up La Brea and around the corner at Sunset.

 

I don’t believe Hollywood Story was ever released on video or DVD, but it should be. If you ever have the opportunity to see this film and old Hollywood is one of your interests, I highly recommend it.

 

 

 The studio guard, Richard Conte and Jim Backus walking onto the Chaplin lot. Notice the ornate tower in the background which is the entrance to the studio. That same tower is below.

 

 

 

 The studio guard greeting Francis X. Bushman at the entrance of the former Chaplin Studios in The Hollywood Story. Below is the same spot as it looks today.

 

 

 

 Richard Conte stands on the sidewalk outside the entrance to the former Chaplin Studios looking north toward Sunset. Below is the same spot as it looks today.

 

 

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William Farnum in the 1930 Census

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

1930 CENSUS

William Farnum

(1876-1953)

Stage and film actor

King Arthur in A Connecticut Yankee (1931)

 

 farnum

 

 

William Farnum-residence

 

1523 N. McCadden Place

Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California

  

Rent, $70

Radio

Census taken on April 7, 1930

 

HOUSEHOLD RESIDENTS*

 

  1. William Farnum (head), 53 / Massachusetts / Actor / Motion pictures.

 

 

William Farnum-residence

 

NOTE: This is a private residence. Please DO NOT disturb the occupants.

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* Information includes relationship to head of household, age / place of birth (year of arrival in this country, if applicable) / occupation / industry.

  

The preceeding text is taken from my book, Celebrities in the 1930 Census (McFarland & Co., Inc., 2008). This directory provides an extensive listing of household information collected for over 2,265 famous or notorious individuals who were alive during the 1930 United States Census. Please note: The above photographs do not appear in the book.

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Selig Polyscope Studios

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

FILM STUDIO HISTORY

Selig-Polyscope Studios

 

Selig-Polyscope
The original Selig-Polyscope Studio that was located at 1845 Glendale in the Edendale area of Los Angeles (Los Angeles Times, May 5, 1940)

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger
May 22, 2009

 

The Chicago-born Col. William N Selig started out in the theatre both as an actor and manager. But in 1883 he became interested in photography and began experimental work which later led to the development of a motion-picture camera and a projector known as the Selig Polyscope. His experimental work brought him into conflict with Thomas Edison, who also was deeply interested in film recording and projection, and for years the two were involved in patent litigation.

 

 

Selig first visited California in 1893, but made his first commercial picture three years later in Chicago. One of his early films, The Count of Monte Cristo (1907), was photographed on the roof of a Los Angeles office building.

 

 

In the spring of 1909 Selig established a temporary studio in a small building behind a Chinese laundry on Olive Street between Seventh and Eighth Streets in what is now downtown Los Angeles. There, Francis Boggs directed In the Sultan’s Power (1909). The following August, Selig and Boggs moved to an area known as Edendale, setting up Los Angeles’ first permanent studio in a rented bungalow at 1845 Allesandro Street (now Glendale Blvd.).

 

 

Edendale soon became Selig-Polyscope’s headquarters. Selig sparred no expense in fitting up the permanent studio. The company built the exterior, which faced Allessandro (Glendale) Street, to represent an old Spanish mission and used genuine adobe. In the interior was sunk an enormous water tank. The studio itself, composed entirely of glass, was the second largest of its kind in the world at the time. It contained stages, dressing rooms, offices, and a modestly sized film laboratory. The total cost of the studio renovations was estimated to be a quarter-million dollars

 

 

The Selig-Polyscope company produced hundreds of short features here, including many early westerns featuring Tom Mix. The studio made dozens of highly successful films, among them was The Spoilers (1914), probably their best feature-length effort starring William Farnum, Kathlyn Williams and Tom Santschi.

 

 

Actor Hobart Bosworth, who was one of the Selig regulars, made many of his early films at the Edendale studio.

 

 

“The first picture I did on my return to (Selig) in Edendale was called The Roman,” Bosworth recalled in 1929. “We had good little sets and costumes. The story I recognized at once. It was Sheridan Knowle’s old tragedy of Virginius. Tom Santschi, Frank Montgomery, Jim McGee, Frank Richardson, Stella Adams, Iva Sheppard, William Harris, Betty Harte, Roscoe Arbuckle, Robert Z. Leonard were among those in it.

 

 

“(Francis) Boggs asked me as we finished this picture in three days, if I could remember another Roman story that we could do with this scenery and costume investiture. I was able to dig one out.”

 

selig-studios-bungalow

Photo above shows Selig’s lot in Edendale where he built the first official motion picture studio (LAPL)

 

Remembering the early days of the Edendale studio, Bosworth said:

 

 

“This was a little frame hall used by a local improvement society with little cubicles for dressing-rooms, a barn at the back for props and scenery and in front of it a little 16×20 platform of asphalt or cement with two by fours laid laterally to nail the braces to. Great things sprang from that little source, great things for Los Angeles, greater for the world.”

 

 

Tragically, the first celebrity murder also occurred here on October 27, 1911 when Frank Minematsu, the studio caretaker, went berserk and shot and killed director Francis Boggs. In the struggle to retrieve the gun, William Selig was shot and wounded in the arm.

 

 

Ironically, the day before Boggs’ murder, producers David Horsley and Al Christie made their first film in a little community to the west called Hollywood.

 

 

Film companies that popped-up in Edendale near Selig-Polyscope included Pathé, Bison and Mack Sennett Studios.

 

 

In 1915, Selig moved his company to Lincoln Park where he also established a zoo, and the Edendale lot was taken over by Fox Studios. Over the years several production companies produced films on the old Selig lot, including J. Warren Kerrigan Studios, Marshall Neilan Studios and Garson Studios where Clara Kimball Young produced her films. Among those who made films here were Thomas Ince, Conway Tearle (Michael and His Lost Angel, 1920) and Marie Prevost (Beggars on Horseback, 1924).

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Garson Studio map

 

A map of the studio when it was known as Garson Studios in the mid 1920s. Note: The street address was originally Allesandro before it was changed to Glendale.

 

garsonstudios

 

Postcard of the former Selig-Polyscope Studio (known as Garson Studios here) in the mid 1920s. (Postcard courtesy of Greta de Groat)

 

Selig-Polyscope location

 

Above is the site of the former Selig-Polyscope as it appears today. Compare it to the postcard above. The inclined street on the left, which is Clifford, and the hill in the background have not changed.

 

Selig-Polyscope location

Another angle of the former location of Selig-Polyscope Studios.

 

Sadly, the site of the former Selig-Polyscope studios is now an empty lot in a mostly industrial area. The community that surrounds the spot and the people who pass by are most likely unaware of the historical significance of the site. It’s unfortunate that an archeological dig could not be done there before a warehouse or some other industrial building is constructed.

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