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

The Original BEN-HUR (1925)

Ben-Hur 3

This month marks the release of the third version of BEN-HUR, using all the technical and computer wizardry of 2016. However this new version is received, the property has a long and successful history. It began as a novel written by General Lew Wallace in the 1880s. The book became a blockbuster bestseller and was no flash in the pan. It remained a top seller for many years thereafter. By 1899 the story was adapted into a hit play and featured live horses on stage for the chariot race. A one-reel film version (about ten minutes long) was made in 1907 that became famous but for a reason that had nothing to do with its popularity. The film company, Kalem, neglected to obtain permission from the book publisher and was sued for copyright infringement. The publisher, Harper Bros., won and the lawsuit became a landmark decision: the first time that a film company was sued for intellectual property violations. But the first feature-length production was made by MGM and released in 1925  at the height of the silent film era. After many problems, it too lived up to its heritage and became another huge blockbuster.

The film was riddled with production problems mainly due to the decision to make the picture in Italy. Although the Italian government promised its full cooperation, repeated labor strikes crippled the filming and finally the production was shut down and returned to California. BEN-HUR was completed in the good ol’ USA. Ultimately, the title role was played by Mexican actor Ramon Novarro. His treacherous friend Messala was played by veteran Francis X. Bushman who had been a film star since 1912!Ben Hur and Messala Final

Messala falsely accuses Judah of attempting to kill the Roman governor and he is sentenced to be a galley slave for life. The famous sea battle was filmed with full-sized ships on the Mediterranean. Novarro with Frank Currier playing the Roman general whose life he saved during the sea battle: Ben Hur on the sea Final

Lovely May McAvoy played Esther, the romantic interest of Judah Ben-Hur:BenHur1927

Idris, the slinky siren who helps Messala, was played by Carmel Myers:Ben Hur Messala adras

Idras attempts to seduce Judah before the great chariot race:movie_poster_ben_hur_1925_2-normal

Messala believes that Judah died as a galley slave and is shocked to find him alive and his chief rival in the chariot race. Talk about a grudge match!

Ben Hur Early shot Final

The chariot race took three weeks to film and employed 42 cameramen. Ben Hur autocolor 2

A behind-the-scenes photo:Ben Hur 5 Final Final

Intertwined with the fictional story of Ben-Hur was the Biblical story of Jesus Christ and how the two men met at crucial times in Judah’s life. Betty Bronson played the Blessed Virgin Mary:Betty Bronson copy_Final

A magazine ad for the film (color added):Ben hur (2) copy_Final

When sound films replaced the silents, BEN-HUR was re-issued in 1931 with a soundtrack of music and effects – and made another fortune!LC 3be

A number of artifacts from the film survive such as Messala’s helmet that Bushman wore for the chariot race:10657833_2

Watch the trailer (as enhanced by your blogmeister with music from the 1931 re-issue):

Best of all, the 1925 BEN-HUR is available on DVD today, complete with original Technicolor sequences,  and is shown frequently on Turner Classic Movies. Here is an original glass slide that was projected onto movie screens to advertise the film:Slide

 

Ben-Hur Banner

Vintage Glass Slides Celebrate Classic Horror Films + An Interview with Colin Clive!

Halloween 2015 gives us a good reason to take a fresh look at some of the greatest horror film classics ever made. But not by viewing the familiar artwork found in vintage posters and lobby cards. Instead we have found several rarely-seen and extremely fragile glass slides that were projected onto movie screens over 80 and 90 years ago. Let’s begin the tour.

DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1920) is often credited as the first American horror film. Although filmed many times beginning in 1911, this 1920 silent film version starring John Barrymore in his “breakthrough” movie performance is generally regarded as the best film version. This takes nothing away from at least two excellent sound film versions made in 1931 and 1941. The 1920 version is readily available today on Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming video:
Jeykyll Hyde slide

Before Lon Chaney frightened audiences in THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1923), the Man of 1,000 Faces created chills in this 1922 film, which alas, is lost:
Chaney A Blind Bargain

Decades before JURASSIC PARK let loose an army of angry dinosaurs, movie audiences were awed by living prehistoric creatures in THE LOST WORLD (1925). Based on the popular novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this film is available on DVD:
Lost World copy_edited-Final

Lon Chaney scored a huge hit with one of the most memorable films of all time. New generations today find THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) is still a potent brew. The enduring popularity of the Chaney film has resulted in this PHANTOM being available on Blu-ray as well as DVD. We are also lucky to have TWO glass slides for this classic:
Phantom slide_edited-Final
Phantom_edited-1 copy

Chaney Sr. did not rest on his laurels with PHANTOM, but followed it up with edgy dramas such as THE ROAD TO MANDALAY (1926), which only partially exists today:
Road to Mandalay 1

American horror films didn’t become established until the talkie era with DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN, both released in 1931. A lesser-known film released in 1932 is THE WHITE ZOMBIE starring Count Dracula himself, Bela Lugosi. This low-budget film has grown in stature through the years and today is considered a classic. As a sign of its stature, ZOMBIE is available on DVD and even Blu-ray:
White Zombie

One of the best of the early 1930s horror classics is THE INVISIBLE MAN (1933), based on a novel by H.G. Wells, and starring Claude Rains in his first film. The romantic lead was Gloria Stuart who 60 years later appeared in TITANIC (1997):
Invisible Man Final

1933 was a banner years for classic films and horror movies were no exception. In addition to THE INVISIBLE MAN, the public was treated to KING KONG:
KING KONG

The public barely had time to catch its collective breath when later in 1933 the sequel to KONG was released. While not as good as the original, SON OF KONG is enjoyable on its own terms:
Son of Kong Glass Slide

Another early horror talkie that has grown in stature is THE BLACK ROOM (1935) starring the Frankenstein monster himself, Boris Karloff. And yes, it’s available on DVD:
The Black Room 1935 copy

It was only a matter of time before those Twin Princes of Horror Films, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, were co-starred. THE RAVEN (1935) is the second of several successful films from the Karloff-Lugosi team and, yes, is on DVD:
Raven Final

Is there a consensus on one classic horror film that is considered the best ever made? Well, if there is, that film would be the sequel to FRANKENSTEIN (1931). Filmed under the working title of THE RETURN OF FRANKENSTEIN, this stunning film would be known to the world as THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935). Of course, this one is available on Blu-ray and DVD:
Bride_Final

British actor Colin Clive played Dr. Henry Frankenstein in those first two films of the series, FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935). Here is a candid of Colin Clive and Valerie Hobson on the Universal backlot in January 1935 during the filming of BRIDE:
Clive_ Hobson-copy_Final

Colin Clive was regarded as a gifted actor but a troubled individual. He passed away in 1937 following years of alcohol abuse complicated by tuberculosis. Typical of many actors of that time, Mr. Clive was unhappy with his being cast in these so-called “horror films.” But unlike other actors, he had no hesitation to go public with his concerns. Here is a rare interview with the man that many consider to be the definitive Dr. Frankenstein:
Clive Interview

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

A Colorful Super Star: Douglas Fairbanks in ROBIN HOOD (1922) and THE BLACK PIRATE (1926)

Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939) was one of the first movie super stars long before that term was ever coined. A young “juvenile” actor on the stage, Doug gave early films a try in 1915 in a series of popular modern dress comedies. He added some incredible athletic stunts that left movie audiences amazed. By 1917, he was one of the highest paid stars but Doug wasn’t content and decided to produce his own films. He became a partner with his pal Charlie Chaplin, the great director D.W. Griffith, and Mary Pickford (whom he married in 1920) to form United Artists. This company is still in business today.

One of Doug’s earlier films, the now-lost KNICKERBOCKER BUCKAROO (1919) with Marjorie Daw:
Fairbanks (11)_edited Final

Doug Fairbanks literally invented the “action” film genre that remains extremely popular – think Jackie Chan. In 1922, Fairbanks began his most ambitious production yet, a swashbuckler chronicling the legends of Robin Hood. No, it wasn’t a primitive version of the later Errol Flynn film, but a fully developed saga of how the Earl of Huntingdon went from being one of the noble Knights of the Realm to the hunted outlaw Robin Hood rebelling against the unscrupulous Prince John. Fairbanks wanted his film to have the look and feel of old illuminated manuscripts that recalled the glorious Age of Chivalry – and he got it!
Robin-Hood

No expense was spared as Fairbanks literally built a full-scale castle on the studio lot. He recruited top art directors Wilfred Buckland and William Cameron Menzies, and costume designer Mitchell Leisen (later a major film director). This original color German transparency gives you a good idea of the magnificent sets:
Robin German Transparencies 4

A rare still with another view of the castle:
Robin-Hood 3

Robin Hood with Maid Marian, played by Enid Bennett – another German color transparency:
Robin German Transparencies 3_edited-1

That castle set was huge!
Robin-Hood 1

Fencing expert Frank Cavens designed the sword stunts as he would for many later swashbucklers including the Flynn ROBIN HOOD:
Robin German Transparencies 2

Fairbanks as Robin Hood is the master of all he surveys:
Robin German Transparencies 1

Sheet music was published for playing the love theme at home on the piano:
Robin Hood Sheet Music001-1

Not to mention a book version of the film’s story:
Robin Hood Cover 1 copy

In 1926, four years after the tremendous success of ROBIN HOOD, and two more epics, Doug was ready for a new challenge: he wanted to be the first major star to produce a film entirely in Technicolor. The result was THE BLACK PIRATE:
Black Pirate

These are original color plates from the rare Photoplay Edition novelization of the screenplay:
Fairbanks (5)

Fairbanks (4)

Fairbanks (7)

Fairbanks (6)

THE BLACK PIRATE has been restored to its original Technicolor brilliance and is available today on DVD and Blu-ray. Likewise, Douglas Fairbanks in ROBIN HOOD is restored and available on DVD. Both films can also be viewed on streaming video. Fairbanks would no doubt be pleased that his productions continue to delight viewers well into the 21st century!

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 2015!

Old Hollywood Christmas 2015_Final
From left to right: Al Jolson & Rin Tin Tin, Richard Barthelmess & Mary Astor, Clara Bow, Will Rogers & Myrna Loy, and Rudolph Valentino.

Halloween 2014 – From the Artists’ Viewpoint

There are a number of talented modern-day artists who have turned their skills to the Classic Horror Films of Hollywood’s Golden Age. These individuals have made their works available on the Internet so what follows is a Halloween roundup with credit given where it is properly deserved.

Robert Semler offers a few of the 1,000 Faces of Lon Chaney Sr.:
semler_lon_of_1000_faces

Chaney’s THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1923) by Robert Semler:
semler_hunchback-of-notre-dame

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925) by Robert Semler:
semler_phantom-of-the-opera

The lamentably long-lost LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (1927) by Robert Semler:
semler_london-after-midnight

Another artist, Daniel Horne, painted this exquisite portrait of THE PHANTOM:
PHANTOM PAINTING 3 by Daniel Horne

Daniel Horne gives us LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT:
CHANEY VAMPIRE2-1 Daniel Horne

Moving into the 1930s, Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein Monster by Daniel Horne:
Horne-Frankenstein 1931-1-1 by Daniel Horne

Mr. Horne also sculptures. Here is Karloff again in two works as Ardath Bey aka THE MUMMY (1932):
The Mummy by Daniel Horne
ARDETH BEY SCULPT02 by Daniel Horne

The Monster again in sculpture by Daniel Horne:
BRIDE KAROLFF FINAL01 by Daniel Horne

Everybody’s favorite Halloween couple, Karloff and Elsa Lancaster in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) by Daniel Horne:
Horne-TheBrideOfFrankenstein-1-5 by Daniel Horne

An exquisite painting by Daniel Horne of the BRIDE herself:
BRIDE by Daniel Horne

It just wouldn’t seem like Halloween without Bela Lugosi. From THE MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935) by Daniel Horne:
BELA LUGOSI'S EYES4 by Daniel Horne copy

One of my All-Time Favorites – Henry Hull as THE WEREWOLF OF LONDON (1935) by Daniel Horne:
Werewolf of London by Daniel Horne

Finally, here is your blogmeister’s attempt at an artistic potpouri of images from our favorite ghouls!
Universal 1935 ltrhead Final_Halloween_edited-1
Happy-Halloween-HD-Wallpaper-picture

THE LOST WORLD (1925) – The Original Continuity Script

We can’t equal our recent post here where we provided the complete continuity script for LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (1927), perhaps the most famous “lost film” of all time. However, we’re not being too shabby by providing the script for the granddaddy of all dinosaur films —
Herald 5

THE LOST WORLD was based on the best-selling 1912 novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A corking good adventure yarn, this 1925 film version ran ten reels and was booked at special “road shows” prior to its general release. But for decades, the only surviving version was a truncated 16mm edition that ran about half the length, or 50 minutes, of the original.
LOST WORLD 1925

You know you’re dealing with a prestige film when a special “Photoplay Edition” of the novel is published with photos from the movie. Here is a worn but surviving dustjacket showing the romantic couple Bessie Love and Lloyd Hughes:
Lost World Cover Photoplay

This glass slide was projected onto gigantic screens of movie palaces of the day as an advertisement. Perhaps we’re jaded now, but at the time audiences were amazed to see humans and dinosaurs together:
Lost World copy_edited-1

An original color lobby card with Bessie Love and Lloyd Hughes:
LC

The film offered comedy relief from these characters that, even in 1925, was considered the weakest part of the movie:
LC 3

A love triangle with Lewis Stone (later “Judge Hardy” in Mickey Rooney’s ANDY HARDY films) playing Bessie Love’s fiance. In the 1920s, Stone was a popular leading man and certainly a better actor than Mr. Hughes!
LC 2

A bearded Wallace Beery on the right played the fiesty Professor Challenger, leader of the expedition to a mysterious plateu in the South American jungles to prove his theory that dinosaurs still exist:
Lost World Still 2

Two sides of a movie “herald” to alert the town to the forthcoming attraction:
Herald 4

The special effects work by Willis O’Brien won much praise with the monsters even appearing to breathe. O’Brien would later animate KING KONG and SON OF KONG (both 1933) and MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (1949). O’Brien’s protege, Ray Harryhausen, brought a new generation of monsters to screen life beginning in the 1950s.
New001

A vintage Swedish poster. THE LOST WORLD became an international hit!
Lost World Swedish_edited-1

Restored editions of THE LOST WORLD have been available on DVD for several years now, and a Blu-ray version is apparently in the works. But alas, there is much missing footage gone from the film since its 1925 release. However, you can “see” the complete film by reading through the script here:
LOST WORLD 1925_Complete Script

London After Midnight – The Original 1927 Continuity Script

Chaney London Final_edited-1
Who knew that all these years the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. held a shot-by-shot cutting continuity made from viewing an actual print of LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT? This Lon Chaney Sr. vampire tale is perhaps the most famous – and most eagerly sought – lost silent film. The last known print was destroyed in a vault fire in 1967, and intensive searching of the world’s film archives has so far failed to locate another print.

But now you can “see” LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT simply by reading this 38-page document (it’s a quick read) and using an average amount of your imagination. We are supplying you with a series of photos and lobby cards below to assist you. Enjoy!
Click here:
London After Midnight LOC Script copy

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Lon Chaney plays Professor Burke, a detective/hypnotist who is investigating the “suicide” of Roger Balfour:
London 4
There are strange goings-on in the old Bafour Mansion, and some mighty strange creatures too:
London 2
A curious inhabitant seems to have supernatural powers:
Chaney Midnight_Final
Burke questions the various suspects and uses hypnotism too:
London 5
Looks like it’s going to be a long night at the Balfour Mansion:
London 8
London 1
London 6
Burke eventually proves that Bafour’s death was murder and collars the killer:
London 3a
But what about those strange creatures? We suggest you read the script if you’re not able to see the movie!
london novel old 2

On the Set with Conrad Veidt

Conrad Veidt (1893-1943) was a legendary German film star who first gained attention as Cesare, the somnambulist killer in THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1919):
Conrad Veidt as "Cesare" in the film "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari". Photograph. 1921

Today Conny seems best remembered for one of his last films, CASABLANCA (1942). As the Nazi villain Major Strasser, Conny was fourth billed behind Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henried, and Claude Rains, but he was the highest paid actor on the film:
Summer Book029 copy_Final

Visiting film star Constance Talmadge seems to strike the same pose as Conny on the set of THE BELOVED ROGUE (1927), Veidt’s first American film. He played France’s King Louis XI to John Barrymore’s Francois Villon:
Constance Talmadge Jan 1927 copy_edited-Final_edited-1

Conny starred in several films for Universal in the closing days of the silent film era. Here makeup artist extraordinaire Jack Pierce, who later made up Boris Karloff as the Frankenstein Monster and Lon Chaney, Jr., as the Wolfman, applies finishing touches to Veidt for THE MAN WHO LAUGHS (1928):
Veidt021 Final_edited-1

Back in Germany by 1930, Conny effortlessly transitioned to sound films speaking in his native language:
Veidt022 copy_2_Final

By 1933, Conny was making films in Britain as well as Germany and worked hard to master English. Here Veidt sits with pal Peter Lorre as they work on F.P.1 (Floating Platform 1), a science-fiction tale that anticipated aircraft carriers. Filmed in three languages, Conny played the hero in the English-language version, but not in the German or French versions. Lorre appeared only in the German version:
Veidt Lorre-1 copy_Final

Conny poses for his bust by sculptor Felix Weiss in Germany, circa 1935. With the rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party, Germany became an “unhealthy” place for Veidt to live. He listed himself as a Jew although he wasn’t. However, his wife Lily was Jewish so they decided to relocate to Britain in the mid 1930s:
Conrad Veidt Bust_edited-Final_Final

THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1940) would be Conny’s only Technicolor film but he looks terrific in it. Here he examines an ornate dagger and its scabbard:
Thief Candid001_edited-Final_edited-1

Conny as the villainous vizir Jaffar, commands the sky and wind in THE THIEF OF BAGDAD:
Thief 3_edited-1 copy

This production photo from THE THIEF OF BAGDAD shows Conny on the left on the floor. The massive Technicolor camera holds three rolls of film that were photographed simultaneously through one lens. A prism split the image into three that was photographed on each of the three rolls sensitive to red, blue and yellow respectively:
Veidt Candid002_edited-Final_Final

Filming the same scene from a back angle view. The camera is mounted on a crane to create a moving dolly shot:
Thief 2 Candid_edited-Final

A stunning portrait of the evil Jaffar:
Veidt Candid005_edited-1 copy

Back in America by 1940, Conny donates much of his salary to the British and U.S. war effort, and adds radio broadcasting to his activities. Here on April 19, 1942, he reenacts his role in the 1941 MGM film, A WOMAN’S FACE on Screen Guild Theater. The stars who appeared on this show donated their fee to the Motion Picture Relief Fund:
451217810_edited-Final_Final_edited-1
Listen to Conny on the actual live broadcast of April 19, 1942, with co-stars Bette Davis and Warren William:

American audiences weren’t too sure how to pronounce Conny’s last name so someone at one of the studios thought up this helpful rhyme: “Women Fight for Conrad Veidt.”
Veidt002_edited-Final_Final

Conrad Veidt would be surprised to know that his films are popular with new generations of the 21st century. Most of his top films are available on DVD, and a growing number on Blu-ray including THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS (a pioneering film on homosexuality), WAXWORKS, THE BELOVED ROGUE, THE MAN WHO LAUGHS, THE THIEF OF BAGDAD, ESCAPE, A WOMAN’S FACEand CASABLANCA. But Conny held no exalted view of himself: when invited to write his autobiography, he dismissed the suggestion by stating, “Who would be interested in my life? I’m just an actor.”

Golden Age Stars and Their Dogs

Film stars with their pets have always attracted attention and it’s rare that a major celebrity of the screen would decline an opportunity to pose with a four-legged friend. Sometimes the pet was as famous as the pet parent. Here are a galaxy of vintage stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood who seem only too happy to be upstaged.

First, Anna May Wong shows off her dachshund circa 1938:
ANNA MAY WONG w Dacshund_Final

Buster Keaton wants to be sure he can always find his canine pal circa 1930:
Buster Keaton and his Dog_Final_edited-1

John Barrymore shared some inspired comic moments with this St. Bernard at the beginning of MOBY DICK (1930):
Moby Dick 1930 Barrymore and Dog_Final_Final

Bette Davis seems entranced by this dog as she waits between filming scenes circa 1937:
Bette Davis and Dog_Final

Douglas Fairbanks Sr.evidently considers this German Shepherd his equal, circa 1920:
douglas-fairbanks-and-dog Final

W.C. Fields famously observed that “any man who hates kids and dogs can’t be all bad” but he got along nicely with his co-star in IT’S A GIFT (1934):
WC Fields and Dog_Final_Final

Jean Harlow with one of her many dogs, circa 1935:
Jean Harlow w Dog

Rudolph Valentino inspired much grieving with his untimely death in August 1926. But none grieved more than his dog who was adopted by Rudy’s brother, Alberto. Regardless, the dog pined away for his master until his own passing some years later:
Rudolph Valentino and his Dog-Final

Warner Oland, famous as Charlie Chan, doted on his schnauzer Raggedy Ann and was a proud papa when she had this litter:
Oland and Raggety Ann Final

Star meets Star: Al Jolson meets Rin Tin Tin on the Warner Bros. lot in 1928:
Al and Rinty 1928_edited-Final

Carole Lombard and friend in 1932:
Carole Lombard and Dog 1932_edited-Final

Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein wants to chat with Rin Tin Tin during his 1929 visit to the United States:
Rinty and Eisenstein 1929_Final

George Arliss seems perplexed as he juggles his wife’s dog and business papers, circa 1925:
George Arliss and his wife's Dog_edited-Final - Copy

Finally, a poignant photo commemorating the passing of Lon Chaney, the Man of 1,000 Faces, who left us much too soon in 1930 at the age of 47. The photo shows two of Lon’s most precious possessions – his makeup case and his dog:
Lon Chaney's Dog_edited-Final Final

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