The First Rock Stars of America

Throughout the year I am always colorizing photographs for my three Facebook groups. (Click any of the three here on the right under the listing for “Arliss Archives” and request to join >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

So, in no particular order I offer a parade of notable talented people from the past, all of whom we can see and hear today thanks to the restoration of their films on DVD, Blu-ray, and streaming.

Before the advent of so-called Rock Stars of our time, just who were the celebrities that were treated like the rock stars of today? Believe it or not, the public was first obsessed with opera singers. Film stars would develop a bit later, but among the many superstar opera singers of the early 1900s, none were more popular than soprano Geraldine Farrar. During her summers off from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, she traveled to Los Angeles in her own private railroad car to make films for Cecil B. De Mille. This portrait dates from 1906:

One of her most popular films was De Mille’s JOAN THE WOMAN (1917) where Gerry portrayed Joan of Arc. No, she didn’t sing, she didn’t even speak because it was a silent film. But audiences were mesmerized nevertheless:

A newspaper ad for her 1919 film had quite an eye-catching title:

Perhaps the most popular of rock stars, I mean opera singers, of that time was tenor Enrico Caruso. Yet another star of the Metropolitan Opera along with Farrar, he was recruited for movies in 1918, possibly because of Gerry’s success in that medium. His film debut was in MY COUSIN where he played two roles: a famous opera singer and his poor cousin.

Caruso literally established the standard of the opera star as a mass communications phenomenon. He embraced making records not merely as a sideline but as an important part of his career. It was said that Caruso made records an important commodity much more than records made him important.

Here are two pressbook pages used to help theater owners publicize MY COUSIN:

The Met was an unlikely source for movie stars, but the Ziegfeld Follies was another matter. Where to start: Marion Davies, W.C. Fields, Helen Morgan, Will Rogers, Billie Burke, Eddie Cantor, and many more Follies performers had long and successful film careers. But perhaps the most heartbreaking was Olive Thomas who soared from being a “Ziegfeld Girl” to becoming a major film star in the late 1910s:

Olive married Jack Pickford, Mary Pickford’s brother, in 1916 but their respective film careers kept them from getting away for a honeymoon until the summer of 1920. They sailed for Europe but one night in Paris Olive accidently ingested poison and died a few days later of kidney failure.

Latin actors were especially popular stars in American films of the 1920s. Here are two prominent Mexican actresses early in their careers: Lupe Velez and Dolores Del Rio.

Nobody planned it, but early Hollywood was a multicultural community long before the term was invented. Here is Hungarian Vilma Banky and Italian Rudolph Valentino with director Clarence Brown on the set of THE EAGLE (1925):

Valentino arrived in America in 1913 with not much more than optimism. Within a few years he was attracting attention as a dancer and in films. Rudy’s career blossomed in the early 20s and it seemed that just about everything he did attracted attention. He and his wife Natacha Rambova toured America in 1923 in a dance presentation that was wildly popular ……

….and widely imitated:

Movie star sisters Shirley Mason and Viola Dana raised funds for charity with their dance routine in imitation of the Valentinos.

Polish actress Pola Negri became a popular film star in Germany, then tackled Hollywood with help from some of her German friends who came over such as director Ernst Lubitsch. By the mid-1920s she was an “American” film star and her activities were covered as front-page news:

German film star Conrad Veidt was called “the John Barrymore of Europe.” So when John Barrymore invited him to travel to Hollywood to appear in his new film, THE BELOVED ROGUE in 1926, Veidt happily accepted. Conny – as he was called – made friends quickly in Hollywood and Universal signed him to a three-film contract. Here is a character portrait as the magician who is infatuated with his assistant, Mary Philbin, in THE LAST PERFORMANCE (1929):

But Veidt’s first stint in Hollywood – he returned during World War II to make propaganda films – was capped by the elaborate Gothic horror film, THE MAN WHO LAUGH (1928):

When Veidt returned to Hollywood shortly before his death in 1943, he scored in several war-related films, especially CASABLANCA (1942). Here Conny shares a scene with Claude Rains:

Mabel Normand became the first major female comedian in American films by about 1913. She also directed a number of her films for Mack Sennett and his Keystone studio. Believe or not, she directed Charlie Chaplin in a film during his first year making movies in 1914. Eventually, she focused on acting exclusively and for a number of years before poor health limited her activities, she was one of the most beloved film stars.

Mabel helps build morale during World War I with this 1918 schoolroom pose. Whether she actually drew that image of President Woodrow Wilson is open to speculation, but she focused attention where it needed to be.

Normand was not the only actress-director of that time. Lillian Gish gave it a try once by directing her sister Dorothy in one of her feature films. She never directed again and when she was asked why, she was quoted as saying, “It’s no job for a lady.” Here she is playing Mimi on the set of LA BOHEME (1926) with star John Gilbert on the left and director King Vidor on the right:

Lillian Gish continued to oversee her films more in a producer capacity and was involved in every aspect of filmmaking including set design. This is a stunning portrait of the set in ROMOLA (1924) that literally dwarfs its star. Much of this film was made on location in Italy:

Boris Karloff made plenty of films during the 1920s, but fame eluded him until he played the Monster in FRANKENSTEIN (1931). Lon Chaney Sr., the Man of 1,000 Faces, once advised him to play a character that would make himself memorable to the public. It took Boris a while to accomplish this. Here is one of his attempts circa 1925 in a film that I haven’t been able to identify. Anybody recognize it?

Speaking of Lon Chaney Sr., here is one of his thousand faces in the 1928 film, LAUGH CLOWN LAUGH:

Finally, here is an iconic group photo of some of the most popular silent film stars of the 1910s and 1920s as they appeared in the 1936 film, HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD. No doubt you will notice that most of them still look relatively young in 1936. Well, they were. In some ways, not much has changed in Hollywood during the past decades. A star at 20 and an extra by 30. But many of these former stars skillfully reinvented themselves and did quite well in their later lives:

Who they are:

I hope you enjoyed our tour through times past. They were certainly colorful!

Just in Time for Halloween – Outtakes from Classic Horror Films

If there’s one thing that is more indestructible in film history than Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, and the Phantom of the Opera, it has to be the films themselves. With every innovation in home entertainment, these Universal Pictures monsters were in the forefront – from the old days of broadcast TV, then VHS, and then DVDs, more recently Blu-ray, and most recently, 4K transfers, not to mention video streaming – these guys just won’t go away.

And as familiar as many of us are with these classics through repeated viewings, it may come as a surprise that there were some scenes filmed but left on the proverbial cutting room floor. For this Halloween I thought we would marvel and be mystified with these “orphan” sequences that were deemed unsuitable for the finished product for one reason or another.

Alas, the sequences themselves no longer exist but a number of 8×10-inch stills have survived to hint at what was deleted. Our tour begins in 1923 and ends in 1935. I have taken the liberty of creating color version of these great B&W photos much in the same way that the old Hollywood studios themselves turned their b/w photos into the glorious colorized lobby cards.

[SUGGESTION: if you are viewing these photos on an iphone or ipad, I urge you to switch to a full-screen monitor to fully appreciate the clarity and detail of the images.]

Let’s began with a curious scene from Lon Chaney, Sr.’s THE HUNCHBACKOF NOTRE DAME (1923), based on the classic novel by Victor Hugo. This film has been recently restored by Universal on Blu-ray and 4K. This scene was included in the original “Road Show” exhibitions in major cities when the film was first released. Later, when released to local neighborhood theatres, the movie was shortened and among the excised footage was this touching scene where Quasimodo (Chaney) attempts to buy some clothes for Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller). His efforts don’t go well with the shopkeeper and he ends up attacking the man:

Next we return to 1925 and the film that many regard as the granddaddy of American horror films: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Again, Lon Chaney, Sr. created an unforgettable character that, like HUNCHBACK, was based on a hugely successful novel by another Frenchman, Gaston Leroux. The filming was a muddle and many scenes were discarded after preview audiences reacted unfavorably. Among the deleted scenes is this one below where Christine Daae (Mary Philbin) and Raoul (Norman Kerry) meet secretly in a cemetery. Things do not go as planned as you can see, and we know that eventually even the Erik the Phantom (Chaney, of course) shows up:

It seems that there were problems in deciding who the Phantom’s victims should be. In this discarded scene, Erik strikes among the opera patrons as one of the stagehands, Simon Buquet (Gibson Gowland), is found dead on the Grand Staircase in the lobby. In the finished work, Simon not only survives, but leads the angry mob to invade the Phantom’s underground lair and force him out to a watery grave.

 

On a lighter note, scenes showing playboy Raoul De Chagney (Norman Kerry) flirting with the ballerinas were likewise cut:

Even creating a satisfying ending for PHANTOM proved difficult. The two photos below show the unused ending, inspired by the novel’s ending, where poor Erik dies of a broken heart. An action ending was substituted:

MGM gave the nascent horror film genre a try during the silent era with LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (1927), perhaps the most famous “lost film” of all time. This film was a vehicle for Lon Chaney. Sr. who plays a dual role in this murder mystery where one of the suspects is a vampire(!). Since the film can no longer be viewed, we have as a guide the existing continuity script that showed film editors how to assemble copies of the film back in ’27. Only shots that actually were used in the final edit are listed in the continuity script so photos of scenes not listed were likely cut. Here’s an atmospheric photo of Chaney as the vampire (aka “the man in the beaver hat”) and Edna Tichenor as a “bat girl,” which may simply be a posed photo or an actual scene that was cut:

American “horror” films of the silent era – the genre really was not established during that time – always explained away the supernatural events as caused by scheming humans. But the late 1920s play, DRACULA, based on the 1897 novel by Bram Stoker, didn’t flinch and insisted right to the end that vampires were real. With Bela Lugosi in the title role, American audiences needed very little convincing. The 1931 Universal film followed this construct and the first genuine American horror film dealing with the supernatural was created. A number of scenes were filmed but not included in the final cut. Among the most interesting are detailed sets, or likely scale models, of Castle Dracula and a nearby village that were not used in the film:

Perhaps this is a way station near the Borgo Pass for the coach that is taking poor Renfield to meet the Count, likewise cut:

Boris Karloff soon joined Bela Lugosi as a major star of the horror genre as the result of his playing the Monster in FRANKENSTEIN (1931). Karloff’s follow-up film for Universal was THE MUMMY (1932), which seemed to combine the ideas of DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN to create an entirely new story of a long-dead Egyptian mummy who is restored to life by a magic incantation. Again, the audience was not spared by a last-minute “explanation” and the film created some real controversy in its depiction of reincarnation. The revived Karloff, after being dead for 3700 years, only wanted to find his lost love from antiquity, played by Zita Johann. In this photo from a scene cut from the film, we see Karloff and Zita in the throes of passion in ancient Egypt. It would end badly for them:

Our final film for this Halloween review is one of the finest – and abundantly edited – among all the classic horror film. It is a sequel that is generally considered superior to the original film, BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935). There are many, many production stills suggesting many cut scenes. Most involved subplots that Universal decided to drop because they only complicated the plot line and added unnecessary footage to the film. Here’s an assortment among many deletions. First, here’s a nice portrait of Ann Darling, the shepherdess who is barely seen in the film. She is almost frightened to death by the Monster until two hunters drive him away:

In a jettisoned subplot, after the Monster escapes from jail and runs amuck, a little girl is found slain, among others. Suspicions fall upon the Monster. Indeed, the audience is left to assume that too. But the real killer is Karl, played by Dwight Frye, for reasons never made clear because the subplot was dropped:

Another dropped subplot involved the idea of using Elizabeth’s heart (Valerie Hobson), the fiance of Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive), to implant in the Bride. It sounds absurd but this photo shows the kidnapped Elizabeth (to secure Henry’s cooperation) being approached by Karl with a very visible knife in his hand. This idea was dropped but in the finished film Karl murders an unfortunate young woman to obtain her heart:

Finally, here is a unique photo of the Bride herself, memorably played by Elsa Lanchester. Obviously, this is not a cut scene but I included this not only because it has Elsa’s autograph, but because it also has her sketch of her character.

I hope you enjoyed this tour in a true “cinematic crypt” of unseen scenes from these classic films.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN 2021!

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.

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.

The New 2018 Gallery of Color Transfers

Here is the latest roundup of color transfers taken from vintage black & white photographs by your blogmeister. Enjoy!

Lon Chaney poses in a gift chair given to him by the crew of HE WHO GETS SLAPPED (1924), which was the first film produced by the then-newly formed MGM. Alas,inquiries indicate that this chair no longer exists:

Dolores Costello does her bit to publicize the construction of Warner Bros. new theater in Los Angeles circa 1928:

In one of his more unusual roles, Humphrey Bogart plays a Mexican bandit in VIRGINIA CITY (1940). On the left is Randolph Scott, on the right is George Regas:

W.C. Fields in one of his rare silent films, IT’S THE OLD ARMY GAME (1926) recently released on Blu-ray:

A very young Joan Crawford in the lost film, DREAM OF LOVE (1928):

Monty Woolley confers with Al Jolson as they prepare for a radio broadcast on the Colgate Show in 1943:

The ill-fated Olive Thomas circa 1920:

Pola Negri in BELLA DONNA (1923):

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in one of their last silent films, WRONG AGAIN (1929):

High up on the roof of the Paris Opera House Lon Chaney’s Phantom dressed as the Masque of Red Death spies on the lovers Norman Kerry and Mary Philbin. The film of course is THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925):

Director Sam Taylor welcomes Camilla Horn (left) and Lupe Velez on the set of TEMPEST (1928):

On the Set with….the 2017 Edition!

Among our most popular posts here are the “On the Set” series showing legendary figures of Old Hollywood at work on the set of their films. It’s high time we posted a new round of photos – all in living color of course!

On the set of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1923) director/producer Cecil B. De Mille (on the left) introduces the U.S. Secretary of War John Weeks to the Pharoah Rameses aka Charles De Roche:

The original Rin-Tin-Tin (1918-1932) and his owner Lee Duncan enjoy sunset on the beach in 1929:

John Barrymore at his magnificent Tower Road home in the Hollywood Hills circa 1930:

Clara Bow gives some swimming suggestions to her niece and nephew circa 1928:

Bette Davis and her dog do a bit of fishing on the San Clemente River in 1933:

Greta Garbo and John Gilbert join director Edmund Goulding and crew for a picnic lunch during outdoor filming on LOVE (1927):

Marion Davies is directed by Sam Wood on the set of THE FAIR CO-ED (1927):

Douglas Fairbanks Sr. is the center of attention at the Hotel Manila in the Philippines during the filming of AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY MINUTES (1931):

Joan Crawford takes some movies of her own during filming for THE UNDERSTANDING HEART (1927):

Frank Borzage directs Spring Byington and Errol Flynn in THE GREEN LIGHT (1937):

Lupe Velez enjoys the beach during filming for HELL’S HARBOR (1930):

Producer/Star Mary Pickford with Allan Forest and Anders Randolf on DOROTHY VERNON OF HADDON HALL (1924):

Rootin’ tootin’ cowboy Humphrey Bogart (!) plays a Mexican bandit in VIRGINIA CITY (1940):

Glamorous Gloria Swanson is unglamorously washed ashore in MALE AND FEMALE (1919):

Director William Desmond Taylor, whose 1922 murder has never been solved, almost seems to be looking for his killer circa 1920:

Finally, Rin-Tin-Tin again in a stunning pose that feels almost 3-D:

Old Hollywood in Color in 3-D and in HD

If you check on some of our previous posts you will find that we have been experimenting digitally with turning two dimensional images (2-D) into three-dimensional images (3-D). Your blogmeister has been sampling new software developments with the recent advent of VR (virtual reality) and 360 (through headgear you can look around as in real life). My approach continues to be based on the original 19th century stereoscope idea: side-by-side images taken at a slightly different perspective to trick our eyes into seeing the images as 3-D. Admittedly low tech but it works. Now with the use of VR headgear (see Amazon for Google Cardboard headgear for $5) the stereoscopic view is enhanced even more.

The key is using your cell phone to view Youtube videos in VR or, in this case, old-fashioned 3-D. The effect can still be seen with “free viewing” so you don’t need any glasses, headgear or other equipment apart from training your own two eyes to focus on the two images (right eye on the right image, left eye on the left). Once mastered, our brain combines the left and right images into a third “middle” image that’s in 3-D.

At any rate, here is our first Youtube video combining the latest software enhancements by colorizing black & white photographs from the 1920s, then transforming them into 3-D, and finally processing them in HD (High Definition). Whew! I have also added original 1920s music. Enjoy the slide show!

Rarely-Seen 1915 William S. Hart: THE SHERIFF’S STREAK OF YELLOW

The survival rate of Bill Hart’s westerns is impressive. A stage actor from New York, Hart’s love of the American West transformed his career in 1914 to starring, directing, and in some cases writing, a classic series of films. Hart managed to capture the “Old West” just before it faded away forever and his films seem more like documentaries than dramas. Our film here is one of the most rarely-seen and has been preserved by the Danish Film Institute in its original color tints. The main titles and intertitles were in Danish but I translated them and substituted English versions using vintage title cards. Finally I added music, which no silent film should ever be without. Enjoy!

william-s-hart-44

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