Friday Facts: The Monstrous Movies

The Monstrous MoviesWelcome back to the article The Monstrous Movies by Charles Hanson Towne, which was originally published in Vanity Fair in September, 1921. Today I’m re-publishing Part II of a III part look at this wonderful piece of writing, which gives us a taste of life during the golden silent era of the very early 1920’s. Last week this article looked at the ever-growing popularity of becoming an actor on the silver screen, because it was noticeable as a good path to quick riches and wealth. Of course in reality most actors, or wanna be movie-stars, were left looking on with envy as a select few fellow thespians did make it to the top, if even momentarily. Do enjoy this weeks installment:

 

A Critical Close-up

 

Theatre Gallery“It is the movies themselves which have invented and invited the close-up. They must not complain, then, if we tear down all obstructing barriers, and seek to view them as they are, through a microscope; revealing every wrinkle as a crevasse, every shadow as a mountain, every least gesture as a tempestous orgy of emotion.”

 

“Yet I repeat that this phenomenon of the movies must be taken seriously. When one goes, as I did recently, to a city like Chicago and finds on the South Side, a district equivalent to New York’s Harlem, a two-million-dollar building of a magnificence housing nothing but photoplays, and sees over four thousand people packed in, watching and listening and obviously amused and thrilled, he asks what all this means, and admits, unless he is a Dumbkopf, the coming in of a new order. Particularly is he amazed and bewildered when, in the same city, he witnesses a brilliant spoken farce-comedy, deftly played by distinguished actors, given before half-empty benches – yet in the very heart of the town. What is one to say in the light of such over-whelming evidence? Simply that something has entered the world, suddenly, which grips the people, appeals to them, rivets their attention, and drives them out of the old established theatres. The galleries went long ago. Perhaps the balconies and orchestras will leave next. Then what?”

 

Old Theatre“One explanation comes, of course, instantly to the observer’s rescue. That farce-comedy cost $3.30 to see; the movie house asked only fifty-five cents for the best seat in a gorgeous auditorium. And not only was a good picture revealed, but operatic music was charmingly sung, and an orchestra of over sixty pieces, led by a trained director, rendered excellent music. The seats, I may add, were the last word in comfort, better than those in the ‘legitimate’ house, and the sense of charm and barbaric glory was all about – too much of the latter to suit my taste, but there, nevertheless, for the multitude that drinks in such surroundings and takes home the memory of a palace hitherto undreamed of.”

 

Actress Lillian Gish

Actress Lillian Gish (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

“It is disillusioning and sometimes disheartening to see a picture in the process of making; to hear hammers sounding in some great studio while an actress behind a pasteboard set registers all the deeper emotions and permits her beautiful face – yes, beautiful at even eight in the morning! – to be daubed with glycerine tears, and, to the plaintive tune of a cheap violin, falls back on her couch of pain, while the camera inexorably turns, and men from the wings and ceiling pour merciless rays of light on her lovely head. I should think t would be anything but fun to “emote” like this, with no applause at the end of the scene. Wasn’t it Whitman who said that if we are to have great poets, we must have great audiences, too? How much more applies to actors!”

 

And that’s all for this week, but not to worry, I’ll be back next week with the third and final installment of The Monstrous Movies. Okay, so you want to be in the movies!

 

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

 

 

 

Friday Facts

Vanity Fair Frontispiece Facsimile

Vanity Fair Frontispiece Facsimile (Photo credit: Nils Geylen)

This week’s factual article was originally way back in 1921 in the publication titled Vanity Fair, no less. Written by Charles Hanson Towne, the article was called The Monstrous Movies and it looks at the growing new culture of Hollywood and film, but what it gives a modern audience is a forthright insight at what life was like way back in the silent era. This week I’ve the first of three parts of this fantastic article, with the following two parts appearing right here at Friday Facts over the coming weeks, so now, do enjoy:

 

Vanity Fair - August 2009Vanity Fair – August 2009

 

The Monstrous Movies

 

Caricature of Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936). ...

Caricature of Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936). Caption read “Mr Dooley”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“There is a delightful story to the effect that when a young woman disappeared from New York some years ago, and every corner of the earth, seemingly, had been searched for her, Finley Peter Dunne suggested: Has anyone thought of looking in the gallery of the Century Theatre?'”

 

“Certain actor friends of mine have similarly disappeared from time to time. A deep, abysmal silence has followed their strange absence from the usual haunts of the metropolis. But now, at last, the mystery is solved. I know where they all are. They are in the movies – and most of them are in California, in a spot called Hollywood. I have prepared, on my first visit to the Coast, for the giant trees, the giant flowers, the colossal foliage and fruit that cause one to think he is living in a fairy-tale; I was certain of the great, wide-open hospitality – the big hearts and the abundant beauty I should see. But I was not prepared for the giant fungus growth, the monstrous mushroom that has sprung up overnight, as it were, in California – the most amazing and startling manifestation of the age: the movies.”

 

“Nothing can be small in California. Everything is magnified ten-fold or more; but the motion-picture industry has gone Nature one better; and the overwhelming scale on which it is run is something that the imagination cannot grasp at once.”

 

 

The New El Dorado

 

English: Nestor Studios, the first film studio...

English: Nestor Studios, the first film studio in Hollywood, 1913. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“As the old Forty-niners rushed to the gold fields in search of El Dorado, so now actors, actresses and managers, cameraman and directors, writers, artists and continuity folk, flock to that same section of the country; and they have built cities overnight, just as the gold-seekers did, and camped on the Coast. But with this definite difference: they have gone there to stay. They may rear a Spanish town this afternoon and demolish it next week; but something else will take its place within another twenty-four hours. A pavilion which is an exact replica of the one in Italy, let us say, may be erected for one scene in a play, and be absolutely valueless tomorrow. Money is thrown away as chaff before the wind. Almost it would seem that it would be more sensible to send a whole company to Italy than thus to toss gold into the Pacific. But no – all the paraphernalia is here – including the light that Nature has so thoughtfully and lavishly bestowed. Instead of actors being transported to Italy, therefore, Italy is brought to America – for a week or two; and nothing is thought of the miracle. next to it, a Greek village may be in the process of construction.”

 

Hollywood Studios 1922

Hollywood Studios 1922 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“‘The world is too much with us.’ one might say of Hollywood; and indeed the whole world seems literally to be here, concentrated in one tiny corner of the Earth. So many assortments are here that it reminds one of those ingenious prisoners who, with nothing else to do, crowd the words of the Lord’s Prayer on a pin-head. Hollywood is a contracted dance floor, on which everyone in the world is dancing; and the jazz goes on incessantly. There seems no rhyme or reason here, no method, no system, no direction; it appears a madhouse – as it is, and isn’t; and a visitor finds it difficult to adjust himself at first, to fall into step on the crowded, nervous floor.”

 

“Is it any wonder? For hodge-podge is Hollywood’s first, middle and last name. Confusion is the god that in some mysterious way runs this crazy universe.”

 

A Night at the Movies (film)

A Night at the Movies (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“What shall be said of a judgement that exploits the so-called “personalities” of little girls with weak chins but big black  eyes that “film” well, in stories dashed off like penny-dreadfuls, with ungrammatical captions and incoherent “continuity?” Of actors who care only for the money that they earn, and wouldn’t give tuppence for the studios unless their pay-envelope bulged at the end of the week and they could ride back and forth in a ten-thousand-dollar car? Of the younger group of perfect cameo-like profiles who leave shops and offices to go into the films, with no knowledge of the technique of acting, and who, when they have a priceless opportunity to watch a really great artist before the camera (for there are such), sit behind clumps of scenery and smoke innumerable cigarettes?”

 

And that’s that from Friday Facts for this week; See ya next week for part two of this wonderful article, so adios amigo!

 

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

 

 

 

Friday Facts: Hollywood’s Adoloescence

Quotation from Woodrow Wilson's History of the...

Quotation from Woodrow Wilson’s History of the American People as reproduced in the film The Birth of a Nation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Welcome back to Friday Facts and to the article Hollywood’s Adolescence by Richard E. Hubler. Last week I reproduced the first half of this article and we left it where the author was referring to how filming began to be brought indoors, with an orchestra playing at each shoot, while sets were built practically on top of each other. So here’s the concluding part of this wonderful article:

Cameraman“Even cameramen had temperament. Their stock excuse for quitting was: “The light is getting yellow.” Only cameramen could detect this quality in the sunlight so it always worked. Yellow light invariably spoiled negatives, but more than one director noticed that it set in just in time for his cameraman to get to the races.”

“Since a rival company had just completed a three-reel picture, Universal decided to do the stupendous thing. They issued orders to make a four-reeler, but on the safe subject of the Spanish-American War. The director shot it in eight days – a long schedule. Universal, then in  financial straits, tucked away the negative which represented its rehabilitation.”

D. W. Griffith“That night the studio was razed by a huge fire – and the negative was burned. The director summoned his cast and cameraman and shot the whole affair on a single day – from eight in the morning to five at night.”

“A not uncommon bonus for meritorious actions was a white enamel Simplex car, capable of 120 miles an hour. It was the custom to surround this monster with a solid bumper of railroad iron. A pastime acceptable to the motion picture colony, but looked upon with disfavor by the police and citizenry, was driving this creation into streetcars.”

“The motion picture writer began to come into his own – as the ‘titler’. Griffith invented his famous Came The Dawn“. Ralph Spence was possibly the most famous of these terse word artists. He was able to change the whole meaning of a picture, insert comedy or tragedy, simply by adroit one-line titles.”

The Birth of a Nation

The Birth of a Nation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“In 1915, D. W. Griffith issued his epochal The Birth of a Nation. It marked the end of motion picture puberty. It introduced the screen as an art. It demonstrated that long pictures were feasible, high box-office prices obtainable, and that the camera was a medium that owed nothing to any other source. In a word, ‘class’ had come to Hollywood. The motion picture industry was never to be the carefree jerry-producing business it had been.” -END

Well that completes another wonderful article filled with plenty of facts from the glorious early days of Hollywood. I hope you’ve enjoyed this and will join me again next week, when I’ll come up with another fact-filled article based around the great silent-era.

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

Friday Facts: Hollywood’s Adolescence

Silent Movies Music

Well I’m back again with another edition of Friday Facts. This week I’m going to reproduce an article that was printed in a publication called: “47 the Magazine of the Year.” The title of the article is Hollywood’s Adolescence and it was published in May 1947. The article, which was written by Richard G. Hubler, takes a look at the forming years of Hollywood and looks at life during the silent era – hope you enjoy the first part of this article, with he second part to be reproduced next week:

English: Vitagraph Studios, early Hollywood fi...

English: Vitagraph Studios, early Hollywood film studio, photo by Robert Monroe, shown in center of photograph wearing knickers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Los Angeles and its environs were crowded with new motion picture companies. The American Film Company, the Vitagraph Company, the Universal Company, Christie Comedies, and Selig found competitors springing up like weeds after rain: the demand for ‘flickers’ was enjoying its first boom.”

Hollywood Studios 1922

Hollywood Studios 1922 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The 2000 theaters that showed motion pictures charged nickels and dimes. Most of them were converted grocery stores. Musical accompaniment was supplied by a lone pianist. Dialogue was offered in subtitles or in monologues by the theater manager. Insurance was hard to come by because of the inflammable film and the rickety theaters.”

Beauty and the Bandit.

Beauty and the Bandit. (Photo credit: Beinecke Library)

“Two-reelers about the Civil and Spanish-American Wars commenced to be the fashion. To save time and wear and tear on the meager wardrobe stocks, the big battle scenes were shot all-Union one day and all-Confederate the next. The scenes were intercut with each other. In the Civil War, to preserve the market in both the South and North, the retreats nd advances of both sides were mathematically divided.”

Universal's stampede of thrills "The Ghos...

Universal’s stampede of thrills “The Ghost City” … (Photo credit: Beinecke Library)

“Censorship raised its ugly head for the first time. In Chicago, the police demanded that the guns in the hands of the villain’s henchmen on the billboards be deleted. The problem was solved by pasting flowers over the six-shooters. Instead of holding up the stage-driver, the grim masked men extended bouquets to him.”

Universal Life Insurance Company

Universal Life Insurance Company (Photo credit: Thomas Hawk)

“Naturalism was in demand. In one Western a live rattlesnake was used. The director picked it up to look at it; the snake sank its fangs into his bulbous nose. Nobody was sure whether the poison sacs of the reptile had been removed. So the director got roaring drunk. The next day he had a formidable hangover. The snake died.”

English: Union Brigadier General Ulysses S. Gr...

English: Union Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant photographed at Cairo, Illinois (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“One large film company had only one really convincing false beard. Moreover, they had only one actor who looked genuine in it. In their war features they used him for both General Robert E. Lee and General Ulysses S. Grant.”

Motion picture actors and actresses (1916)

Motion picture actors and actresses (1916) (Photo credit: State Library and Archives of Florida)

“Motion picture making was assuming its own dignity. More reels were shot on interior stages with the new mercury arc banks of lights. No scene was shot without an orchestra playing, “to get the actors in the mood.” But space at such studios as Universal was so cramped that sets were built less than six inches apart. A director doing a tear-jerker drama might be playing Hearts and Flowers, while on one side of him Al Christie would be doing a comedy and playing ragtime, and on the other Robert Z. Leonard would be having his orchestra play a schottische for a foreign portrayal. It was bedlam confounded, but the results were effective on the screen.”

 

English: The intersection of Hollywood and Hig...

English: The intersection of Hollywood and Highland, 1907. This would become the location of the current Hollywood and Highland complex and a center of Hollywood tourism today. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so that’s Friday Facts for this week. Interesting stuff, but if you hunger for more of this article, I’ll be reproducing it even further next week with the second half of Hollywood’s Adolescence. Bye for now!

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

Friday Facts

Cover of magazine "The Flapper" for ...

Cover of magazine “The Flapper” for November 1922. Shows actress Billie Dove in football uniform. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hello Again and welcome to Friday Facts, where I grab an article or any sort of a write-up about the silent-era by those who lived through it. This week I’ve come across an article from November 1922, of an interview with Colleen Moore by Gladys Hall for the Chicago Daily News. This article went under the heading The Flapper and it had a byline of Flappers Here to Stay, Says Colleen Moore. What is also noticeable in the article is the header which states: ‘Not For Old Fogies’, so this article which rightly was promoting the cause of Feminism, was at the same time indulging in agism – Mmmmm! Brilliant article though, so please enjoy:

Film Still of Colleen Moore as "Pink"...

Film Still of Colleen Moore as “Pink” Watson with Joe Yule Jr., who would later become Mickey Rooney, in Orchids and Ermine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“One day, not so very long ago, Colleen Moore and I had luncheon together. I don’t suppose I ever met anybody so enthusiastic as Colleen. Even about the subway, upon which – or rather, within which – she had been spending most of her New York visit, frequently getting lost, but gallantly persisting, none the less. Flappers came up – in conversation, I mean – and I found Colleen as enthusiastic for the maligned misses as most doleful individuals are against them!”

Flapper #2

Flapper #2 (Photo credit: girlwparasol)

“‘Why’, said Colleen, with her head slightly to one side, an alert little manner, sort of characteristic of a humming bird, ‘Why, I’m a flapper myself!’ Colleen is twenty-one, correct flapper age, at any rate – but somehow, until she mentioned it, I really hadn’t catalogued her as precisely that. Flappers don’t generally do as much as Colleen, and they are more blase – about the subway.”

Page from magazine "The Flapper" for...

Page from magazine “The Flapper” for November 1922. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“A flapper,” Colleen went on, with wisdom, ‘is just a little girl trying to grow up – in the process of growing up. She wears flapper clothes out of mischief – because she thinks them rather smart and naughty. And what everyday, healthy, normal little girl doesn’t sort of like to be smart and naughty?”

Colleen Moore in Lilac Time

Colleen Moore in Lilac Time (Photo credit: cliff1066™)

“‘Little Lady Flapper is really old-fashioned; but in her efforts not to let anyone discover that her true ideal is love-in-a-cottage, she ‘flaps’ in the most desperately modern manner. Left to her own devices she would probably dance and flirt just as girls have always done – but honest, I don’t think she’d wear her skirts so short!”

Colleen Moore

Colleen Moore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“‘She likes her freedom, and she likes to be a bit daring, and snap her cunning, little manicured fingers in the face of the world; but fundamentally she is the same sort of girl as grandmamma was when she was young. The chief difference is that she has more ambition, and there are more things for her to wish for, and a greater chance of getting them. She demands more of men because she knows more about their work.”

colleen moore dance

colleen moore dance (Photo credit: carbonated)

“‘She uses lipstick and powder and rouge because, like every small girl, she apes her elders. She knows more of life than her mother did at the same age because she sees more of it. She knows what she wants and what she is doing, all of the time – and she meets life with a small and an eager, ardent hope. She’s a trim little craft and brave!”

Flapper in 1920s..

Flapper in 1920s.. (Photo credit: joanneteh_32(On Instagram as Austenland))

“‘The flapper has charm, good looks, good clothes, intellect and a healthy point of view. I’m proud to ‘flap’ – I am!'” -END

Colleen moore 1

Colleen moore 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so you have it. Great article and great interview, in fact there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between the struggles of life and the quest to enjoy life today compared to ninety years ago. This is another article that has being republished on the http://www.oldmagazines.com website; I hope you’re enjoying them; I’ll be back next week with another! Bye for now!

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

Friday Facts

English: Rudolph Valentino in "The Sheik&...

English: Rudolph Valentino in “The Sheik” (www.silentgents.com) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week I’m going to publish the third part of the article The Perfect Lover about Rudolph Valentino by Harold Queen, which was originally published in a publication called Cornet back in 1951. This brilliant article looks at the career of Valentino and it gives an insight of the life of early stars of film and how the public followed their careers. Last week we seen how Valentino’s star and fame rose very quickly and how he became wealthy over a short space of time; you could say he became one of the first megastars, but as the saying goes, money doesn’t always bring happiness:

 

Gertrude Ederle, 1930 "People said women ...

Gertrude Ederle, 1930 “People said women couldn’t swim the Channel but I proved they could” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“It was the summer of 1926, and a somnolent nation sought distractions in the Hall-Mills murder case, Abie’s Irish Rose, and the swimming of the English Channel by Gertrude Ederle. On August 15, Valentino, then 31, was quietly reading the Sunday papers in his hotel suite when he suddenly clutched his side and collapsed. He was rushed to Polyclinic hospital. A special information booth answered hundreds of personal queries each day. The press carried special bulletins from the battery of doctors.”

 

Rudolph Valentino 1

 

“On the eight day, a priest pressed a crucifix to the actor’s lips. Two hours later, Rudolph Valentino passed away, while thousands milled in the streets below. But no friend, relative, or business associate was at his side.”

 

A mourner pictured with the body of Rudolph Va...

A mourner pictured with the body of Rudolph Valentino at the actor’s funeral (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Next morning, a crowd of 600 gathered at the funeral parlor where Valentino lay in state. Soon police were having difficulty controlling 10.000 people, including women dressed in widow’s weeds. When the doors opened at 2 o’clock, the crowd surged forward, bowling aside police and invading the parlor. The great window of the establishment suddenly gave way, spraying glass, and three policemen and a photographer were gashed. Police and undertakers in cutaways and white gloves battled the hysterical mob. Riot calls flashed out, and the huge reception room of the funeral parlor was converted into an emergency hospital, with two doctors working on the injured.”

 

Crowds at Valentino's FuneralCrowds at Valentino’s Funeral

 

“Upstairs, Valentino lay in a $10,000 bronze and silver casket. Guarded by police, groups of 75 to 100 were herded swiftly to the coffin room. There, each mourner was allotted a two-second glance, then hustled on his way. The rioting continued until midnight, when the doors were closed. But thousands lingered until early morning, and when the melee finally ended, more than 100 people had been injured, 15 seriously.”

 

Crowds at Valentino's FuneralCrowds at Valentino’s Funeral

 

“Next day, 200 officers were on hand to control a crowd expected to swell to 200,000. By mid-morning, the line was 15 blocks long. This time, Valentino’s followers were comparatively orderly, but only a relative minority approached with a sense of reverence for the dead. Flappers giggled as they neared the coffin.”

 

English: Pola Negri Deutsch: Pola Negri

English: Pola Negri Deutsch: Pola Negri (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“On the third day, when a mob of 5,000 again rioted, S. George Ullman, Valentino’s manager, ordered the public display ended. The curious gathered again when Pola Negri, Valentino’s reputed fiancée, stepped from the 20th Century Limited after a dramatized dash across the continent. Miss Negri, in a specially designed mourning costume, screamed and collapsed at the coffin.”

 

Charles Lindbergh

Charles Lindbergh (Photo credit: San Diego Air & Space Museum Archives)

“There was a brief revival of interest in this event; but public attention already had shifted to the official welcome for Miss Ederle, fresh from her successful plunge. Not until nearly a year later did the public find another hero on whom to shower its emotion. On May 20, 1927, Charles A. Lindbergh flew the Atlantic.”

English: Rudolph Valentino and Agnes Ayres in ...

English: Rudolph Valentino and Agnes Ayres in “The Sheik.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Rudolph Valentino’s life and death typified an era that received its own sudden and unexpected deathblow three years later in the gray canyons of Wall Street. Escape and romance had had their greatest fling in the history of America. As things turned out, perhaps the Sheik might never have been able to gallop successfully across the black sands of realism that followed him so shortly after his passing.”

English: Crypt of Rudolph Valentino at Hollywo...

English: Crypt of Rudolph Valentino at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so you have it, the life and death of one the first mega-stars of Hollywood. He gained a lot so quickly and had built up a massive fan-base of countless adoring female admirers, only for his life to fall short at a very young age. But even still, in his short time as a Hollywood star of the screen, the hugely handsome Rudolph Valentino left a seductive mark on the history of Hollywood, which endures even to this day. Till next week, be good!

 

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

 

Friday Facts

Rudoph Valentino as Amos Judd

Rudoph Valentino as Amos Judd (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good day and welcome to the second part of our 1951 article titled The Perfect Lover, which was written by Harold Queen, published in the Coronet Magazine and is about the extremely dark featured, very handsome, Rudolph Valentino. Last week we were looking at his early days in Hollywood, so what happened next:

 

Cover of "The Four Horsemen of the Apocal...

Cover of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

“For a time, Valentino (whose name by now had changed), went unrecognized. He took bit parts at $5 a day and lived sparingly. Gradually, he got better parts and salaries up to $150 a week. In 1920, Rex Ingram, casting for The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, selected Valentino as Julio, the story’s young Argentine hero. In the film, Valentino danced the tango, and when The Four Horsemen opened in New York, word filtered back that he was sensational. Valentino promptly asked for a $50-a-week and was curtly refused.”

 

English: Rudolph Valentino in "The Sheik&...

English: Rudolph Valentino in “The Sheik” (www.silentgents.com) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“A woman, E. M. Hull, had written a book, The Sheik, describing love and lesser matters on the Sahara Desert. When Valentino appeared in the film version, sheik became a national byword. Ten thousand letters a week jammed the star’s mailbox. His salary leaped to $1,000 a week.”

 

English: Wanda Hawley & Rudolph Valentino in T...

English: Wanda Hawley & Rudolph Valentino in The Young Rajah – cropped screenshot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Valentino’s succeeding films, and particularly The Young Rajah, involved him in a battle with his employers, whom he accused of putting him in inferior productions. The result was a court injunction banning him from stage or screen until he fulfilled his contract. He and Rambova then undertook the dance tour, which was sponsored by the makers of a beauty clay. The salary, $7,000 a week, enabled him to maintain his well-publicized extravagances, which sometimes landed him in debt by as much as $100,000.”

 

Rudolph Valentino and Natacha Rambova

Rudolph Valentino and Natacha Rambova (Photo credit: The Loudest Voice)

“When he returned to the screen after a two-year absence, Valentino found that, if anything, his popularity had spurted. Millions came to see him in Monsieur Beaucaire, The Sainted Devil, The Cobra, and as a Cossack in The Eagle. He was separated from Rambova, and the public took avid delight in his new emotional attachments – Vilma Banky, and later the tempestuous Pola Negri.”

 

Valentino with the Arabian Stallion Jadaan. Pu...

Valentino with the Arabian Stallion Jadaan. Publicity photo for Son of the Sheik, 1926 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“For the New York opening of Son of the Sheik, thousands waited in a withering heat wave. Some 4,000 more gathered at the stage door to mob their idol, who was making a personal appearance.”

Rudolph Valentino, one of the first "teen...

Rudolph Valentino, one of the first “teen idols” of the 20th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And there we leave it for this week, but not to worry, I’ll be back next week for the concluding part of this hugely interesting article about one of the first ever cinematic heart-throbs. So for now, Slán Leat!

 

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

 

Friday Facts

Rudolph Valentino 1

Hello all and welcome to Friday Facts! This week I’m after finding an article about Rudolph Valentino from 1951, which was written by Harold Queen for a publication called Coronet. This article was titled The Perfect Lover and I will reproduce it here over the coming weeks. What is interesting with this article is how much it reminds us that before the boyband mania, and before the Beatles and Elvis mania, before them all – there was Rudolph:

Rudolph Valentino 2Some of the crowd at Rudolph Valentino’s Funeral

“In the little theaters that feature old-time films, Rodolpho Alfonzo Raffaelo Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d’Antonguolla still plays to packed houses. Thousands of aging matrons remember him as the beau ideal of the 1920s – the decade of the Charleston and Al Capone. Some 35 women named their children after him, and three others committed suicide on his account. Indeed, few figures of modern times (early 1950s) have inspired the mass hysteria that swirled about the life, loves, and final curtain call, at 31, of Rudolph Valentino, ‘The Perfect Lover’.”

Rudolph Valentino 3Rudolph Valentino in Blood and Sands

“The supple, olive-skinned son of an Italian veterinarian was both the expression of his era and in a sense its part-creator. He gave the language a new word – “sheik” – to describe the great brotherhood of street-corner musketeers who pomaded their hair and grew long sideburns in imitation of their hero.”

Rudolph Valentino 4Rudolph Valentino: The Sheik

“When he first flashed across the screen in flowing white burnoose, women everywhere rushed to purchase Sheik hats and frocks, Sheik cosmetics and handbags. He gave the tango its greatest lease on life in America, and few survivors of that dim age fail to remember the hand-wound phonographs grinding out The Sheik of Araby.”

Rudolph Valentino 5Valentino the Man

“The Valentino cult frequently took more exuberant turns. The platinum slave bracelet he wore on his wrist, his reported communications with the other world, and his extravagances fed a steady stream of material into the newspapers and magazines of the day. In his public appearances, admirers often stripped him of hat, tie, pocket handkerchief, even his cuff links.”

Natacha with RudolphNatacha with Rudolph

“When his second wife, Natacha Rambova, left New York during an enforced separation until his divorce became final, reporters on the train intercepted his telegrams and rushed them into headlines before she had seen them. When the couple later appeared together in a nationwide dance tour, thousands gathered at sidings to catch a glimpse of them in their special railway car.”

Rudolph Valentino 6Rudolph Valentino Performing

The Sheik‘s acting rated high by standards of the silent screen, and it is likely that he would have done equally well in talking pictures. His pantherish grace, exotic features, and sturdy physique contributed to the actual tremors many women experienced when seeing him on the screen. The young Italian had the added faculty of completely absorbing the personality of his screen characters. In preparing for Blood and Sand, he studied the art of bullfighting with a retired toreador, spoke nothing but Spanish, grew sideburns, and learned to walk and swagger like a true hero of the ring.”

Rudolph Valentino 8Do what I tell you woman, for I am The Sheik!

“The prime reason for his extraordinary appeal, however, lay in the fact that, to millions of moviegoers, the name Valentino spelled romance. In the workaday world of Harding and Coolidge, he was the high lama of escape. For the small price of a ticket, he secured for his devotees temporary admission to a dream world of daring gallantry and erotic suggestiveness. This talent lifted the dark-eyed tango partner from the dance hall to a Hollywood manor, a stable of exotic foreign cars, and the title of ‘The Screen’s Greatest Lover’.”

Rudolph Valentino 9Look into my eyes; now look very deeply!

“The man to whom these honours came was born in southern Italy in 1895. In 1913, his family packed him off to the New World, where, according to legend, he landed a job as a bus boy and dancing partner, with meals thrown in. This was the age of Irene and Vernon Castle, and the dance craze was sweeping America. So Guglielmi turned professional, making the vaudeville circuits of the period.”

Rudolph Valentino 10Well, I can’t sing and I can’t dance …, but I look okay, I suppose!

“In 1915, when Italy entered the war, Rodolpho applied for the Italian Air Force but was turned down because of poor eyesight. A try at the British Royal Flying Corps brought similar results. Finally he joined a musical company making ts way to California, but when he landed in San Francisco, both job and income ended. It was at this point that a friendly screen actor, Norman Kerry, thought the young Italian had film possibilities and staked him to an apartment near Hollywood.”

Rex Directing RudolphRex Ingram directing Rudolph Valentino

Well. that’s the first section of the article The Perfect Lover by Harold Queen from 1951. I hope you’re enjoying learning about the history of this legendary silent-film star, who took the silent era by storm with his dark, exotic looks and his handsome, mysterious features. Women loved and wanted him, men envied and idolized him, and Rex Ingram made him; find out how next week!

Cover of "The Sheik / The Son of the Shei...

Cover via Amazon

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

Constance Talmadge, silent film actress with R...

Constance Talmadge, silent film actress with Rudolf Valentino (Photo credit: scismgenie)

Valentino - The Sheik

Valentino – The Sheik (Photo credit: DonnaGrayson)

Cover of "Blood and Sand: Silent Classic&...

Cover of Blood and Sand: Silent Classic

Rudolph Valentino and Natacha Rambova

Rudolph Valentino and Natacha Rambova (Photo credit: The Loudest Voice)

promotional image of screen writer June Mathis...

promotional image of screen writer June Mathis on the set of Blood and Sand with star Rudolph Valentino (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Friday Facts

New York Times (1914)New York Times (1914)

And Friday Facts is upon us once again. This week I’m going to reproduce an article I have found in The New York Times from May 26th 1914. The article may amuse you as it was written to introduce the readers to a new verb – The Verb – ‘To Film’:

Ye Olde DictionaryYe Olde Dictionary

“The verb ‘to film‘ having gained currency, it must be graciously admitted to the language. It will soon be in the ‘advanced‘ dictionaries and it must be recognized. The old idea of protecting the English language from invasion is extinct. To ‘film‘ means to make a picture for a ‘movie‘ show. ‘Movie‘ is a tolerably new word, too, but all the élite use it. The moving pictures are doing much more than revolutionize the language. They are broadening the public knowledge, making globe trotters of the stay-at-homes, showing us the wonders of the growth of plants and the development of animal life. As for their influence on the drama, they have none in any true sense. Moving pictures, even when they are accompanied by talking machines of the best quality, must always  be a feeble substitute for histrionism. The actor’s art is not to suffer. Whenever it is manifested it will get its reward.”

Shakespeare's Anthony and CleopatraShakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra

“But the theatrical stage has long survived without much real histrionism to brag of and the moving pictures outdo its best shows. They give you real ocean with towering waves instead of painted canvas, they present the story in motion, and sometimes in color, with such a variety of a changing scene as to satisfy the eye. Dr. Johnson would doubtless have found that moving pictures interested him more than Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra on account of their frequent changes of scene. When the villain throws the heroine off a cliff into a boiling torrent there is a real cliff and the torrent is authentic. No doubt, the present enormous popularity of the moving picture will abate in time, but some of the current picture shows are really marvels of selection, patience, and skill, and they will always survive as illustrations of travel, as aids to the understanding of natural history. As a substitute for the theatre they will do well enough until there is a revival of real histrionism, until great actors come again to exercise their ‘sway o’er hearts’. Meanwhile, whether 16,000,000 persons daily attend the moving pictures in this country, according to the evidence placed before the House Committee on Education at Washington, or only 6,000,000, which seems a more reasonable number, the vogue of the moving picture is surely at its height.”

The ArtistThe Artist

And so there you have it. The New York Times were convinced that the idea of motion pictures was just a passing fad, which in 1914 (99 years ago), was at its height. Who knew – eh? The verb ‘to film‘ has certainly entered the dictionary and there it will remain for a long time to come. Hope you enjoyed today’s edition of Friday Facts. I’ll be back next week with some more. And that’s a wrap!

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

Friday Facts

Hollywood Sign

Back again with the second part of the article Hollywood: The Blessed and the Cursed. As you may recall from last week this article by Robert E. Sherwood is about how it all came about. How did the American film industry decide to find it’s way to find it’s home in California? This week we start in the Mojave Desert:

Mojave DesertMojave Desert

“So the highway across the Mojave Desert were clogged with immigrants, following with pathetic confidence the path of the blistering sun, seeking the ‘thing (whatever it was) that had been gained with apparent ease by such bewildering beings as Gloria Swanson, Richard Barthelmess, Clara Bow and Jackie Coogan. Some few of the hundreds of thousands of unsolicited immigrants had been provident enough to bring with them funds sufficient for their support for a week or so in California; others were positive that they had only to knock once upon the studio portals to achieve the miracle of recognition.”

the Motion Picture Relief Fundthe Motion Picture Relief Fund

“The enormous increase in population thus promoted in the Los Angeles district was naturally gratifying to the Chamber of Commerce boosters, but it imposed a terrific strain upon the local charitable organizations. The swarms of candidates for fame and fortune became public charges and consequently damned nuisances. The employees of the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Christian and Hebrew Associations, the Salvation Army, the Motion Picture Relief Fund, etc., were constantly having to listen to the same tale: “I’ve come all the way from New Bedford (or Quito, or Maida Vale, or Eisenach) and they told me at the studios ‘No Casting Today’ but if you can only help me out until tomorrow I know I’ll get a break!”

Begging at American IdolBegging for that One Chance is just as Big Today

“The break always came, but it was usually in the form of a compound fracture of the illusions. Probably no more than one-fifth of one per cent of those who have journeyed to Hollywood in quest of employment have ever managed to earn a bare living out of the movies.”

Will H. HaysWill H. Hays

“It must be said for the regular inhabitants of Hollywood that they have all done all they could to correct the appallingly false impression of their adopted home town. They were embarrassed and horrified by the stories of fancy vice that were being circulated by gossipy journalists. They believed (erroneously) that this sort of notoriety would hurt their business. Through the offices of the film czar, Will H. Hays, and that impressively named organization, the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences, propaganda was spread to persuade mankind that Hollywood was neither Xanadu nor Mecca, but, in reality, a reputable community of church-going, God-fearing, temperate, and commendably sexless Puritans.”

And that's a WrapCUT!

And that’s a Wrap and so it was. Not the greatest of endings for an article, but the experiences that Robert E. Sherwood have shared about life during the pioneering days of Hollywood were well relayed. And, well, I hope this article has helped you learn plenty about the Great Era of early Silent Film, but I’ll be back again next week, with some more facts about the Silent Era, which, yet again, will be taken directly from the pens of the people who lived those pioneering days. Till next week then!