Commemorating the 95th Anniversary of the Passing of Rudolph Valentino

Today marks the 95th anniversary of the death of Rudolph Valentino in New York City at the age of 31. He was on across-country tour promoting the release of his new film, SON OF THE SHEIK. The huge public reaction to Rudy’s death was unprecedented and is generally regarded as the first mass media response to the death of a celebrity. The commemoration of Valentino’s passing continues to make news every year now well into the 21st century.

Here is a video I made for a song that was written within weeks of Rudy’s death. No doubt it captured the mood of the public:

Published in: on August 23, 2021 at 12:15 PM  Leave a Comment  

Edward Everett Horton- his silent films now on DVD – First time 90 years!

A farceur par excellence, Edward Horton (1880-1970) became an indispensable figure in Hollywood films of the 1930s and 1940s. By the 1960s a whole new generation discovered him as the narrator in “Fractured Fairy Tales” on TV. I also recall him a co-host on the Mike Douglas Show. Horton seemed indefatigable but today his extensive stage appearances and radio work are all but forgotten. As if on cue, this month will unveil Eddie’s long-unseen silent film work showcasing his delightful series of two-reel comedies, freshly restored, accompanied by new music scores, and looking better than when they were new in the 1920s.

(Disclaimer: I have no relationship to the DVD set. I’m just an old Eddie Horton fan).

Horton kept busy with filmmaking throughout the 30s and 40s but also continued with his theater work between making films. Recently, I came across this 15-minute live interview from 1940, apparently unscripted, where Horton publicizes his local appearance on the stage as the star of SPRINGTIME FOR HENRY. He’s quite the raconteur!

This is a newspaper ad that was published wherever Eddie was appearing in the play:

Here are a series of portraits dating from his silent film days through the 30s. Color by Moi:

Horton with Florence Vidor in MARRY ME (1925)

 

 

 

And last but not least:

Our New Lineup of Calendars for 2021

If you like what you see, click on the image and then print it out.

HAPPY NEW YEAR to One and All!

Seasons Greetings to One and All!

 

Published in: on December 21, 2020 at 12:00 PM  Comments (2)  

A New Crop of Color Transfers

These days I tend to colorize an image only if inspiration strikes me. The impulse perhaps comes from a mystical level and seems to say, “Color me, please.” Of course, it’s more likely that it originates in my overactive imagination. Regardless, these are my most recent transfers from the past six months or so.

An unusually cosmopolitan Bela Lugosi circa 1930. Mr. Lugosi has quite a presence on this blog so look for his name in some earlier posts.

Lon Chaney, Sr. and Mae Busch (best remembered for her roles in Laurel and Hardy films) in the police drama, WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS (1928):

Dorothy Dalton looks fetching in THE TEN OF DIAMONDS (1917), a lost film:

Mae Murray‘s trademark was her “bee-stung” lips. She managed to seem both exotic and down to earth. This worn postcard captures Mae at the peak of her career in 1925. Even so, her name is misspelled. But look what 21st century software can do to the image quality:

A remarkable “on the set” photo showing the amount of activity even while filming is in progress. Clues in the picture suggest that it was produced by Cecil B. De Mille‘s company, which would place the time frame between 1925 and 1929. The actress who is the center of attention may be Phyllis Haver. This was a complicated one to color:

A contemplative George Arliss during the filming of his comedy, A SUCCESSFUL CALAMITY (1932). I colored this one a few years ago but I wasn’t happy with it. I tried it again recently and found that newer software helped bring better results:

Renee Adoree poses with her new car circa 1928. I suppose the house is hers too:

Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino in their only film together, BEYOND THE ROCKS (1922). Lost for decades, a sole surviving print turned up in the Netherlands about ten years ago and was issued on DVD. Also in this photo from the left is director Sam Wood, author Elinor Glyn, and a young violinist providing mood music for the scene:

Marion Davies in a magazine ad for her new picture, WHEN KNIGHTHOOD WAS IN FLOWER (1924). The texture of magazine pages from that era usually don’t transfer very well but modern software helps smooth out the roughness.

An artistic photo of Marie Prevost who was the very image of the Roaring Twenties:

Makeup artists seem ubiquitous with Hollywood but in fact actors were responsible for making themselves up until about the mid-1920s. Improvements in the sensitivity of film stock brought challenges for actors and their cosmetics so almost overnight a generation of makeup artists suddenly arrived on the scene. The following images were novel in their day since they showed somebody preparing the star for the cameras.

A newly-minted star such as Joan Crawford circa 1928 seemed to like the attention from MGM makeup artist Cecil Holland:

Greta Garbo was at the beginning of her American career in 1926 when she handled her own makeup during the filming of THE TORRENT:

And finally – we have run this one before but it’s worth a repeat. Legendary makeup artist Jack Pierce (before he became a legend) had the responsibility for contriving Conrad Veidt‘s carved smile as Gwynplaine in THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1928). Within a few years, Pierce would be designing extraordinary makeups for the Frankenstein Monster (Boris Karloff) and the WOLF MAN (Lon Chaney, Jr.), among many others:

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  Comments (2)  

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 Mag
Enid 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 1920
Enid 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 IRONSIDES
Esther 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 camera
Rin 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:

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