Leslie Howard R.I.P June 1, 1943 – A Victim of World War II

Today is a sad anniversary among the many stunning events of the Second World War. The death of actor, director and writer Leslie Howard onboard an unarmed civilian aircraft bound from Lisbon to the UK shocked the world. Not merely his death itself was shocking, but the fact the plane was shot down by German fighters, a serious breach of wartime engagement. Howard had been tireless in his work for the war effort, returning to war-torn Britain to help. Ironically, his death as a war victim did much to boost the morale of the beleaguered English, indeed of the civilized world.
I found this tribute (below) in the BBC Archives that was broadcast on or about June 6, 1943, six days after his death. You will hear Howard describe his life in his own words.
Leslie Howard managed to combine careers on the stage, in films, and on radio, playing drama or comedy with ease. When WWII began he returned to his home in England when many British actors headed to the states for the duration. He was tireless in his morale-raising work on the BBC and moving into film directing. In May 1943, British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden asked him to fly to Portugal to persuade the king to remain neutral and not be tempted to join the war on Germany’s side. It was on his flight home over the Bay of Biscay on June 1, 1943, that his unarmed passenger plane was shot down by Nazi aircraft. To this day there are questions about the purpose of Howard’s mission and it seems that even now after all these years there are relevant documents still classified by the British Government and several unanswered questions.
Published in: on June 1, 2020 at 9:23 AM  Leave a Comment  

Our Brand New 2020 Crop of Color Transfers!

This year in addition to vintage 8×10 inch stills, we’ve tackled vintage movie magazines and their stunning photos. Color images were rare in magazines during the 1920s and 30s but we tried some 21st century software to see what the results would look like. Here the photographer might have had color in mind:

americancinematographer 1929 Evangeline

Now I try my hand with software:

americancinematographer 1929 Evangeline_Color Final

One film in need of a restoration is THE SEA BEAST (1926) starring John Barrymore and his future wife, Dolores Costello. Today this couple may be better known as the paternal grandparents of Drew Barrymore. This photo shows the closing scene of the movie with Barrymore in the role of the one-legged Captain Ahab:

Barrymore Costello THE SEA BEAST 1926

Barrymore Costello THE SEA BEAST 1926 Color FINAL

Another experiment we tried this year is the restoration of a faded and torn lobby card that was in color to begin with. This Lon Chaney film, THE TRAP (1922),  fortunately exists and is available on DVD and streaming:

Chaney the Trap 1922 Damaged LC_edited-1

Chaney The Trap 1922

Dolores Costello again in a lyrical scene from TENDERLOIN (1928) from a fan mag:

Dolores Costello TENDERLOIN Screenland Mag 1928

Dolores Costello TENDERLOIN Screenland Mag 1928_FINAL 2

Another magazine page: Enid Bennett, Milton Sills, and (seated) Wallace Beery are waiting to film their next scene in THE SEA HAWK (1924):

Enid bennett Milton Sills Wallace Beery THE SEA HAWK 1924 Photoplay MagEnid bennett Milton Sills Wallace Beery THE SEA HAWK 1924 Photoplay Mag_Color Final

Enid Bennett again, circa 1922, but I’m not certain of the film:

Enid Bennett circa 1920Enid Bennett in Color FINAL

Esther Ralston tries weight-lifting with a lead cannonball in this publicity photo for OLD IRONSIDES (1926), a silent epic recently issued on Blu-ray:

Esther Ralston 1926 OLD IRONSIDESEsther Ralston 1926 OLD IRONSIDES Color FINAL

Leslie Howard points out something to Bette Davis from the book they are filming, OF HUMAN BONDAGE (1934):

Human bondage

Human Bondage Color Final w Book

A very young Joan Crawford in one of her earliest films, PARIS (1926):

Joan Crawford 1926

Joan Crawford 1926 color 3 FINAL_pp

A dashing John Gilbert confidently smiles in this photo for his first talkie, HIS GLORIOUS NIGHT (1929). Audiences laughed at him, but not because of his voice as legend claims, but because of the silly dialogue he was required to speak:

John Gilbert His Glorious Night 1929

John Gilbert His Glorious Night 1929_Final_pp

Leslie Howard looks dashing on horseback as well he should since he was an experienced horseman. But he disliked his role in this film, GONE WITH THE WIND (1939), and would be horrified to know this was the film future generations would remember him by:

Leslie Howard 3

LesLie Howard 3 Color Final

Lillian Gish was one of the finest actresses of her generation on both the stage and screen, silent and sound, and radio and television. Her career spanned from the 1910s to the 1980s, she authored her memoirs, and introduced many of her classic films to new generations via showings on PBS. Here she plays the title role in ANNIE LAURIE (1927):

Lillian Gish Annie Laurie 1927

Lillian Gish Annie Laurie 1927_edited-1_pp_Final_Final2

Lois Wilson was a popular leading lady at Paramount throughout the 20s. Her best known film was the blockbuster western, THE COVERED WAGON (1923). A highly influential film, it started the trend for big-budget westerns that continued through the 30s and into the 40s. Today THE COVERED WAGON is available in Blu-ray:

Lois Wilson 1923

Lois Wilson 1923 Color FINAL_edited-2

Animal films were quite popular in the 1920s but THE LOST WORLD (1925) took that genre to a whole new level. The diminutive lady in distress is Bessie Love:

Lost World 1

Lost World 1 Color Final

The face may be familiar and it should be. That’s a pre-Dracula Bela Lugosi as the Native American guide in the German film, THE DEERSLAYER AND CHINGACHGOOK (1920) based on the James Fenimore Cooper story in his LEATHERSTOCKING TALES.

Lugosi THE DEER SLAYER 1920

Lugosi THE DEER SLAYER 1920 Color copy_edited-1

Marion Davies looks quite chic as she poses with her pooch Gandhi in the early 1930s:

Marion Davies and Gandhi early 30s

Marion Davies and Gandhi in Color FINAL2_pp

I don’t know if Pola Negri had a press agent, but she didn’t really need one. She just lived her life and it usually made news. This film, THE SPANISH DANCER (1923), has recently been restored and shown at film festivals. Hopefully,it will be issued on home video:

Pola Negri 1923

Pola Negri 1923_edited-4_pp FINAL

The original Rin-Tin-Tin may have been smart enough to operate a motion picture camera. Found as a puppy in a bombed out house in France at the end of World War I in 1918 by a solder named Lee Duncan, he took him back to the USA with an idea the dog might be popular in films. Duncan was right but there was one hitch. There remained so much anti-German feeling in the states following the war that Rinty was publicized as a “police dog” instead of as a German Shepherd:

Rin Tin Tin at the cameraRin Tin Tin at the Camera Color Final

Finally, a new concept we’re trying out: coloring a painting within a photo. Here we have Rudolph Valentino in 1924 posing for artist Federico Beltrán Masses. The costume Rudy is wearing is from the now-lost film, A  SAINTED DEVIL. I was lucky in that I only had to color everything but the painting. I found an original color photo of it and simply angled it to fit over the black and white painting:

Valentino and Portrait circa 1924 Posing for a painting by Federico Beltrán Masses

Valentino 1924 Posing for a painting by Federico Beltrán Masses Color FINAL

Let me know if you have any requests for a color transfer. All serious inquiries will be considered!

Published in: on May 29, 2020 at 1:06 AM  Comments (4)  

Silent Film Stars on Live Radio in 1935

It’s been a while since we’ve taken a look at the activities of silent screen actors switching media – from being seen but not heard on the screen to being heard but not seen in radio broadcasting. The fact is that just as a large number of silent film actors continued on very nicely in talkies, so too did quite a number master the medium of broadcasting and thus became truly the first multimedia or mass communication stars.

We have already posted radio performances by Theda Bara, William S. Hart, Lillian Gish, and a few others. These can be found by checking our index on the right. Recently, I came across an uncirculated recording of Rudy Vallee’s extremely popular variety show, The Fleischmann Yeast Hour, broadcast on the evening of July 11, 1935 from New York City. Among the guest were silent film-turned-talkie stars Clive Brook and Anna May Wong. The program was performed before a live audience and, as mentioned, was broadcast live.

Clive Brook performs a supernatural playlet called “The Jest Of Hahalaba.” It begins at the 01:06 mark.

Later in the broadcast, Anna May Wong takes the stage to perform songs in three languages. It  begins at the 10:12 mark.

As you can hear, both stars used the broadcast to promote the release of their upcoming films to the huge audience listening in. Smart move!

I left in the opening and closing to give a sense of this show. This is the program’s 299th episode and was heard by an estimated audience of 30 to 40 million people! While the population was much less than today, there were also relatively few channels for people to choose from. Enjoy!

 

2020 Old Hollywood in Color Calendars

Here they are – this year’s selection of wall calendars with my colorized photos that I created during this past year. Obtaining your copy is easy, just print them out. They look great in 8×10!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Video Tour of the Souvenir Program from BEN-HUR (1925) with Musical Accompaniment from the 1931 Reissue

MGM spared no expense in producing its massive silent film version of BEN-HUR and, frankly, the story behind the making of this film is a great tale in its own right. Filming began in Italy with different actors in the lead roles, except for Francis X. Bushman playing the villain Messala. He remained in the role despite everybody else being replaced including the director. All told, Bushman worked on the film for about two years!

Constant labor strikes in Italy created huge cost overruns, so the studio decided to shut down filming, scrap most of the Italian footage, and start over again in Hollywood. It turned out to be a wise move. The massive production was eventually completed and had its astounding premiere in December 1925. It was a massive success following in the wake of the best-selling novel by Gen. Lew Wallace, and the ever-popular stage version that brought real horses onstage for the chariot race.

Without further ado, let’s enjoy a video tour of the original souvenir program from BEN-HUR‘s roadshow engagements. I added original color lobby cards and photos colorized by yours truly. To top it off, I added music from the soundtrack of the film’s reissue in 1931.

An original glass slide that was projected onto movie theater screens to promote BEN-HUR:

DON JUAN (1926) – A Video Tour of Two Original Souvenir Programs

Souvenir movie programs have always been highly collectible items. In fact, the more vintage the program, the more expensive they tend to be, especially if the item is in top condition. Among my personal collection I have two souvenir programs from DON JUAN (1926), the first feature film to have a synchronized music score (with a few sound effects).

Here is the cover of the deluxe American program that was sold at the special “road show” engagements of the film.

This is the cover of the German program that was printed on such thin paper that I immediately digitized the pages before they crumbled.

And now, please take a video tour of both programs accompanied by musical excerpts from the film’s original score.

Happy Halloween 2019 – Icons of Classic Horror Films

Continuing my efforts with a new software program I recently learned that adds a bit of motion to still photos. The effect is a bit creepy but I thought it would work well with Horror Film Icons. So here goes:
Published in: on October 31, 2019 at 9:40 AM  Comments (3)  
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Lon Chaney – Just in Time For Halloween 2019

I used a variety of software applications to put together this short video dedicated to the Man of 1,000 Faces, Lon Chaney (Sr.).  While I barely made a dent in reviewing Lon’s incredible number of faces, at least it’s a start. I used Photoshop to restore dingy old photos to a like-new B/W sheen, and then turn them into color images. Each finished color image was then sent to the Motion Portrait software demo to create the illusion of movement from still photos. As a finishing touch, I used Magix Audio Lab to clean up and restore the sound quality to a 1922 acoustical record of Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette,” more popularly known as Alfred Hitchcock’s theme from his TV series.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Lost Films We’d Love To See

There’s a special cache that lost films seems to have in our minds, a sort of unattainable treasure just beyond our grasp. Looking at surviving stills, posters and lobby cards tend only to increase our longing to view the movies. The fact that a number of “lost” films have surfaced in the last ten years or so, and some have even made it to home video DVD or Blu-ray, only increases our hopes that more of these elusive antiques will be found.

Here to tantalize us is artwork of some of the better known “lost” films beyond the obvious ones such as LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (1927) or CONVENTION CITY (1933). Well, we can dream, can’t we?

I decided to choose one particular year – in this case 1928 – and focus on notable films by big stars that are gone.

I have confirmed the “lost” status of each title with the 2018 listing of “7,200 Lost U.S. Silent Feature Films” by the National Film Preservation Board. You can access this document at https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-film-preservation-board/documents/SFF-LostFilmsList050118.pdf

Clara Bow has an unfortunate run of four lost films from this one year:

THREE WEEK ENDS (1928)

THE FLEET’S IN (1928)

LADIES OF THE MOB (1928)

RED HAIR (1928)

There exists a few bits of RED HAIR that only make it more tantalizing:

 

Next, let’s take a look at a couple of Gary Cooper‘s lost films:

THE LEGION OF THE CONDEMNED (1928) with Fay Wray getting top billing over Coop

BEAU SABREUR (1928)

The films of Greta Garbo enjoy a high survival rate except for this 1928 MGM film:

THE DIVINE WOMAN (1928)
About nine minutes were found in a Russian archive but the rest of the film is considered lost at this time:

 

Considering John Gilbert‘s legendary status as one of the greatest stars of the 1920s, it’s surprising that one of his 1928 films is among the lost. This film is also one of his most intriguing:

THE MASKS OF THE DEVIL (1928)

We’ve only scratched the surface of reviewing important lost films. Sadly, there are many more so perhaps we might do a “Lost Films 2” in the near future.

All New – 2019 Gallery of Color Transfers!

Your blogmeister has been busy over the last few months creating new color transfers from classic Black & White photographs. I have also included the b/w image for comparison. Enjoy!

Douglas Fairbanks Sr. surveys a beautiful southwestern landscape while filming A MODERN MUSKETEER in 1918:

Here’s what we started with:The Lost Talkie GENERAL CRACK (1930) with (left to right) Lowell Sherman, Marian Nixon, and John Barrymore:

A very young John Wayne and Marguerite Churchill in the wide-screen THE BIG TRAIL (1930):

Bessie Love and Richard Barthelmess in SOUL FIRE (1925):

BLARNEY (1926) with Renee Adoree and Ralph Graves:

Marion Davies at MGM circa 1927:

Lon Chaney in his first (and only) talkie THE UNHOLY THREE (1930):

Clara Bow in THREE WEEK ENDS (1928):

Dolores Costello and John Barrymore (paternal grandparents of Drew Barrymore) in WHEN A MAN LOVES (1927):

Published in: on March 21, 2019 at 1:57 PM  Comments (1)  
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