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 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!

 

Marion Davies Gallery


Published in: on June 11, 2017 at 11:05 PM  Comments (2)  

The Nativity Sequence from BEN-HUR (1925)

A Merry Christmas to All!

Published in: on December 24, 2016 at 1:21 PM  Leave a Comment  

Christmas with Lionel Barrymore

Merry Christmas, folks. I am reposting this from my Facebook group, Silent Films Today. Enjoy!

Christmas with Lionel Barrymore
– Mr. B’s many versions of “A Christmas Carol” are all over the Internet (thankfully) but here are two commercial recordings of less well-known performances he made in 1950:

lionel-b-ad-copy

Published in: on December 23, 2016 at 6:55 PM  Leave a Comment  

Fantastic Camera Shot from THE EAGLE (1925) – Rudolph Valentino

This superb costume adventure of Old Russia set during the reign of Czarina Catherine the Great offered an eye-popping camera shot as it traveled down a huge banquet table. Here is an on the set production photo showing how it was filmed. Seated on the right looking into the camera are Rudolph Valentino and Vilma Banky. Seated on top of the bridge is director Clarence Brown. Color is by yours truly:
rudy-on-the-set-color-final-final

And here is the shot as it appeared in the film:

Published in: on October 11, 2016 at 8:11 PM  Leave a Comment  

“Silents Please” – the Legendary 1960 TV Series – BLOOD AND SAND (1922) starring Rudolph Valentino and Nita Naldi

In 1960, the baby boomer generation got a real treat when Paul Killiam produced his legendary television series, “Silents Please.” After decades of ridicule and jokes by Hollywood itself, Mr. Killiam showed the younger generation what silent films were really like and the series became a surprise hit! Long-forgotten stars, some of whom were still living in 1960, suddenly became familiar names to the boomers: Mary Pickford, Buster Keaton, Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson, and others found themselves in demand to discuss their silent film work.

silents-please-screen-cap

The image quality of these films back in the day can’t compare to the clarity and sharpness of their 21st century Blu-ray editions – not to mention the addition of color tints and stereo scores absent from 1960s TV broadcasts. But seeing one of these episodes again today recalls the excitement of discovering these films for the first time over a half century ago.

Here is Paul Killiam’s expertly edited and narrated (by himself) edition of the 1922 blockbuster, BLOOD AND SAND, starring Rudolph Valentino, Nita Naldi, and Lila Lee. In 26 minutes Killiam wisely lets the images speak for themselves and limits his commentary to just the essentials. The story is a faithful adaptation of the best-selling novel by Vicente Blasco Ibanez. The Spanish title is translated as BLOOD IN THE ARENA. I added a color tint just for fun:

blood-and-sand-26ebbc50

Behind the scenes with director Fred Niblo:

Valentino B&S Final_Final-1_edited-1.jpg

Rudy’s costume as it exists today:

rudy-costume

Great Poster Art:

val-blood-sand

 

TWO TARS (1928) Laurel & Hardy Classic!

snapshot-1-9-23-2016-11-49-pmsnapshot-2-9-23-2016-11-49-pm

 

Published in: on September 24, 2016 at 12:05 AM  Leave a Comment  

MGM Studio Tour 1925

 

Published in: on September 23, 2016 at 9:46 PM  Comments (1)  
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