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

Midweek Matinee

Decaying Hollywood MansionsDecaying Hollywood Mansions

Another website recommendation today. If you want a painless and freewheeling way to explore Hollywood’s past, visit Decaying Hollywood Mansions on Facebook. The site is dedicated to stills and other ephemera of several golden ages of cinema, from the earliest experiments with motion to the frontier wildness of the early 1970s.

John WayneJohn Wayne in The Searchers

The page is a labour of love by Charles Lieurance, who is a relentless truffler in the cinematic undergrowth. Recent highlights of his “multi-media spookhouse of cinema’s past” include a vintage comic-book version of The Searchers, and this fabulous PR shot from 1928:

1237692_672089429479066_539418604_n

Kudos if you recognised the young Joan Crawford. If you also clocked the grizzled Gibson Gowland (last seen hereabouts in Stroheim’s Greed), give yourself a gold star.

Scenography for the movie Greed. 1926.

Scenography for the movie Greed. 1926. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cropped screenshot of Joan Crawford from the f...

Cropped screenshot of Joan Crawford from the film Category:Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Kevin McGee

A Quote on Thursday: Silent Women

Mary PickfordMary Pickford

Mary Pickford:

Adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de Milo.

 

Louise Brooks 1Louise Brooks

Louise Brooks:

“A well dressed woman, even though her purse is painfully empty, can conquer the world.”

 

Talluhah BankheadTallulah Bankhead

Tallulah Bankhead:
It’s the good girls who keep the diaries. The bad girls never have the time.”

 

Gloria SwansonGloria Swanson

Gloria Swanson:
As Daddy said, life is 95 percent anticipation.”

 

Anna May WongAnna May Wong

Anna May Wong:

“There seems little for me in Hollywood, because, rather than real Chinese, producers prefer Hungarians, Mexicans, American Indians for Chinese roles.”

 

Louise BrooksLouise Brooks

Louise Brooks:
Love is a publicity stunt, and making love – after the first curious raptures – is only another petulant way to pass the time waiting for the studio to call.”

 

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

 

Midweek Matinee

Louise BrooksLouise Brooks

3EPKANO & LOUISE

Everyone who attended last year’s Nenagh Silent Film Festival remembers the band 3epkano. They provided the music for Murnau’s Nosferatu. It was a hell of a noise for four people to make. I think I saw someone afterwards counting the drummer’s hands.

Pandora's BoxPandora’s Box (1929)

They’ve expanded their silent-film repertoire to include another German masterpiece. This time it’s Pabst’s Pandora’s Box, a late silent movie starring the scandalous, and scandalously beautiful, Louise Brooks.

NosferatuNosferatu

Brooks is one of not many silent stars who could walk into a producer’s office today and emerge with a starring role. She also wrote one of the indispensable acting memoirs, Lulu In Hollywood. Marvel here at her looks, her art, and her ridiculously influential hairdo. And turn up your speakers: that’s 3epkano bringing the noise:

 

Posted by Kevin 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!

Why North Tipperary – The Hollywood Connection

Hollywood, Keeper Hill, North Tipperary, IrelandHollywood, Keeper Hill, North Tipperary, Ireland

Did you ever realize how many connections North Tipperary has to Hollywood; it’s true and I’m not just talking about bit-part players or yer wan down the road who just happened to be on some B-Movie set. I’m referring to some major players from the world of Hollywood, who have visited North Tipperary again and again, and some who have made their homes amongst us. So who are they? Well I visited this subject a number of months ago, but since then I’ve added a few names to the previous list. This week I’m going to take another look at some of these world famous names, because you’d never know who’d you meet in and around the highways and byways of North Tipperary.

Rex IngramReginald Ingram Montgomery Hitchcock

So, first of all I’m going to start with the big man himself. Reginald Ingram Montgomery Hitchcock, later to become known as Rex Ingram, was born in Rathmines in Dublin. As a young man his family moved to North Tipperary, whereby his father was employed as a verger in the Borrisokane Church of Ireland and also the Nenagh Church of Ireland. He lived for approximately eighteen months in Nenagh and it was here where he viewed his first moving picture. That was in 1901 at a traveling circus. The experience obviously stuck with him, because as we all know, Rex went on to become one of the great pioneers of Hollywood in the silent era. A plaque in his honour was erected in the town at the house where he lived by the Nenagh Silent Film Festival Committee in February 2013. He died on July 21st 1950.

Gene KellyGene Kelly in ‘Singing in the Rain’

The first of a couple of Hollywood musical greats to be mentioned is the great Gene Kelly – he of Singing in the Rain fame. Gene Kelly loved Ireland and his Irish roots and he especially loved Puckane village. After his wife, Jeannie, passed away in the early 1970’s, Gene Kelly escaped what has been termed as a ‘Hollywood that was buzzing with curiosity and sympathy‘ to Puckane, near the shores of Lough Derg in North Tipperary. That was in 1973 and he spent the best part of a month in the area. There is a wealth of stories about Gene Kelly’s time in his ‘ancestral home’ including one regarding a man named Peter McGrath. Peter walked into Paddy Kennedy’s bar and having stopped momentarily to take in the appearance of the stranger at the end of the bar counter, he then approached him and said: “Did anyone ever tell you that you look a lot like Gene Kelly?” Gene Kelly enjoyed that and jumped up immediately and performed a dance routine to prove his identity.

Bing CrosbyPhotographer unknown – Can anyone educate us on this?

Another musical genius, who had a fondness for North Tipperary was Bing Crosby. The famous crooner was a visitor to Nenagh town during the 1960’s and it is obvious that the town was filled with excitement when word spread around that the Hollywood great was staying within their midst. The full story of this visit is that back in 1961 Bridie Brennan, who was a Borrisokane native that was living and working in Nenagh town, answered an advertisement for a nanny for Bing Crosby and his wife, Kathryn. Over the following years, Bridie became very close to the Crosby’s and even became an adviser and travel companion to Kathryn. A few years after Bridie took up the position, during 1965, Bing Crosby was visiting Ireland to see how a horse named ‘Meadow Court’ of which he had a third share in fared in the Irish Sweeps Derby at the Curragh. Bing stated at the time that he didn’t bet on the horse himself, but he had placed a wager of £2 on the horse for Bridie. Meadow Court was to win the Irish Sweeps Derby that year. While in Ireland, Bing Crosby had decided to travel to Nenagh town in recognition of what Bridie meant to the Crosby’s and he also wanted to see where Bridie had lived. Of course news of his visit to O’Meara’s Hotel spread like wildfire and a number of photos were taken of the visit. Bridie Brennan passed away in the Crosby residence, where she had been greatly cared for, in San Francisco on April 23rd, 1973. Bing Crosby, who regrettably had been unable to attend the obsequies after Bridie’s remains had arrived back to Ireland for burial, arranged through Interflora to have a carpet of flowers delivered to the grave.

MartinSheenMartin Sheen in ‘The West Wing’

So who’s next, well you see, there’s more than one president connected to North Tipperary (see President Barack Obama of Moneygall, which is on the border of County Tipperary and County Offaly and is just 12 miles from Nenagh town) and also (President Ronald Reagan of Ballyporeen, County Tipperary). The world renowned Hollywood actor and star of The West Wing, Martin Sheen, has very strong connections to North Tipperary. His family roots are from the Borrisokane area and it was from here where his mother emigrated to the United States. Martin is a proud son of North Tipperary and is a regular visitor to the area.

Patrick BerginPatrick Bergin

And it doesn’t end there; in fact I’m only starting as there is another famous Hollywood actor who lives within our midst here in North Tipperary. Patrick Bergin lives in a castle that is situated near Cloughjordan. Patrick has plenty of form as an actor including Sleeping with the Enemy, in which he wouldn’t leave poor Julia Roberts alone, and of course Robin Hood along with a number of very impressive titles. He is regularly seen in Nenagh town and other North Tipperary parishes.

Charlie SheenCharlie Sheen

And then there’s Charlie! Charlie Sheen, son of aforementioned Martin Sheen has, through his father and then of course his grand-mother, strong connections to the North Tipperary locality. Martin is very well known as a major Hollywood actor and American television star. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you’ll never know who you might meet around about North Tipperary.

Emilio EstevezEmilio Estevez

Now I couldn’t leave it at that about the Sheen clan. There’s also Martin‘s other son Emilio. He may have taken the name his father was christened with, but like his brother and of course his father, there is still North Tipperary blood running through his veins. Another major Hollywood connection for North Tipperary. Emilio has a wonderful career in his own right with some wonderful productions behind him like Young Guns, St Elmo’s Fire and The Breakfast Club to name just a few. He also has a career as a director, screenwriter and a producer.

Johnny DeppJohnny Depp

Now Johnny Depp hasn’t being able to find roots to North Tipperary as of yet, that I know of, but he was reported to be in the Toomevara village graveyard searching for his ancestral roots a few years back. But Johnny is no stranger to Nenagh town and the North Tipperary countryside. He’s a very close friend of Shane MacGowan, who is from and lives a few miles from Nenagh and he’s a regular visitor to the area. We’ll just have to dig a little deeper and I’m sure before long we’ll find his true Irish roots in the heartland of North Tipperary, but let me provide you with what is possibly a bit of an exclusive here: I’ve been led to believe, from a very reliable source, that Johnny Depp will again be visiting Nenagh town at some stage over the coming months (October probably). The thing about Johnny Depp’s visits is that he is gone before you’d know he was there, but I’ll keep an eye on that one.

Frank ThorntonFrank Thornton

There is also Frank Thornton, who played Captain Peacock in Are You Being Served? and also other productions like Crooks and Coronets, (1968); Spike Milligan’s The Bed-Sitting Room, (1969); No Sex Please We’re British (1973); The Three Musketeers, (1973); Steptoe and Son, (1974); The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones, (1975); and Gosford Park, (2001). Frank Thornton made his professional debut at the age of 19 in the old Confraternity Hall in Thurles town in a production of Terence Rattigan’s play “French Without Tears”.

George ClooneyGeorge Clooney

There are quite a number of other connections to the world of film and television and this is something we are very proud about. To name just a few more, there’s George Clooney who has been reported to have visited North Tipperary in the recent past in search of his own roots. Then there’s Brigie de Courcy (Executive Producer of Fair City and formally Producer on Eastenders), who is married to Nenagh man Kevin McGee (Award-Winning Playwright, Director, Producer, Irish television script-writer). And there is Kevin’s brother Noel, who is also an Irish television script-writer. There are countless others and if you want to remind me of them please leave a comment in the Comment box below. So until the next time …, that’s a wrap!

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

Friday Facts

The Squaw ManThe Squaw Man Poster

I’ve come across another article from way back in the 1930’s and this one is by Mr. Robert E. Sherwood. This one was published in a publication called America As Americans See It back in 1932 and the title of the article was Hollywood: The Blessed and the Cursed! Over the next couple of weeks or so I’m going to reproduce this article and at the same time learn some more about life during the pioneering days of the Silent Film Era! This is another edition of Friday Facts:

HollywoodEarly Hollywood

“The Discovery of Hollywood, like most epoch-making discoveries, was accidental. It happened that, in 1912, Jesse L. Lasky, a vaudeville magnate, joined with his brother-in-law, Samuel Goldfisch, a glove salesman, in the formation of a motion picture producing company. Their first offering (and, they assured themselves, probably their last) was to be “The Squaw Man“. They engaged Cecil B. DeMille as director and Dustin Farnum as star, and sent them to Flagstaff, Arizona, to make the picture. Flagstaff was selected because it sounded as though it would provide suitable backgrounds for the enactment of a vigorous Western melodrama, but when DeMille and Farnum arrived there, and took one look at the prospect from the station platform, they stepped back on the train and continued on to the Pacific Coast. A chance acquaintance happened to mention to them a hamlet called Hollywood, a sleepy suburb of Los Angeles, which is itself the largest suburb on Earth, and they made that their objective. They rented a barn on Vine Street, and there produced “The Squaw Man“, the first feature picture to be born beneath the California sun.”

Early HollywoodProgressing Hollywood

“(I do not know whether there was actually any holly in Hollywood when the first adventurers arrived there, or whether that Christmassy, Dickensian name emerged from the imagination of some pioneer realtor. There is no holly in Hollywood now, nor any green thing that grows by the will of God as opposed to the artifice of man. The water which irrigates the gaudy gardens about the villas of the stars is imported from far distant sources, just as is the supply of talent, ingenuity and sex appeal which animates the cameras.)”

Mary PickfordMary Pickford in ‘Tess of the Storm Country’

“After “The Squaw Man“, came the first of the immortal Keystone comedies, produced by Mack Sennett, with Ford Sterling, Chester Conklin, Mabel Normand, Fatty Arbuckle, Marie Dressler and eventually, Charlie Chaplin; then Adolph Zukor moved his Famous Players organization to Los Angeles to make “Tess of the Storm Country“, starring little Mary Pickford, and David Wark Griffith arrived with his company of Biograph players to produce the first of the epics, “The Birth of a Nation“. In the year 1915, the second gold rush to California assumed colossal proportions.”

CleopatraCleopatra

“As vast prosperity came to Hollywood, so did scandal, and with it, fame unbounded. The sensational stories, printed in the less scrupulous newspapers and magazines, of Byzantine orgies in the film colony – stories of immorality on the grand scale – conveyed to the avid public the assurance that life in Hollywood was a veritable bed of orchids to be shared with the most desirable, the most god-like representatives of the opposite sex. As a direct result of this misconception, Hollywood became the goal toward which traveled the hopes and dreams of all the frustrated morons: it was recognized as the fountainhead of romance, wherein the frailest, pimpliest ribbon clerk could be converted into a devastating Don Juan and the sorriest slavey into a voluptuous Cleopatra.”

Flagstaff 1882Flagstaff Picture from Back in the Day (1882)

Well that’s that for this week. I hope you have enjoyed this week’s article and sure I’ll have the second part of it for you next week. It’s amazing though how fate led the film industry to Hollywood, but now you know how it happened and why, and I’m sure you’ll agree that Flagstaff doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it.

 

Posted by Michael “Charlie” McGee

Silent Movie Picture Book: The Sheik (part 3)

And finally the third part of The Sheik, as is put together by ‘Movies, Silently’. Coming soon to a Nenagh Silent Film Festival near you, but for now click on the link and connect up to Movies, Silently Blog for their collection of stills from the production:

Silent Movie Picture Book: The Sheik (part 3).