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!

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!

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

Old Hollywood in 3D Color

This site was established almost two years ago and dedicated to transforming old b/w photos of Old Hollywood into color by using modern software. Now we’re ready to take the next step by adding computer-generated 3D to our color transfers. Last month we inaugurated this process on our sister site, ArlissArchives.com by unveiling the first-ever 3D images of George Arliss. Similar to the extremely limited use of color photography in Old Hollywood, unfortunately the studios of that era also did not participate in the popularity of 3D or stereoscopic photography. That task is bequeathed to us in the 21st century. Today there are several different 3D processes but here we are using an original low-tech version that dates back to the 19th century. It is based on an optical illusion to trick our brain into believing it is seeing an object from two slightly different perspectives, hence the illusion of depth perception. Let’s start off with a very chic Myrna Loy circa 1935:
Myrna Loy New 3D_edited-1

If you see only two identical images of Myrna and no 3D effect, then you either need to use a viewer device or learn the simple knack of “free viewing.” The easiest way to obtain a viewer is to find one of the many books on old stereoscopic slides because these volumes include a simple fold-up plastic or cardboard viewer. Check your public library. Your blogmeister dispenses with using viewers (the “training wheels” of 3D) and relies on the technique of free viewing using only, pardon the expression, my naked eyes. Let’s give the 3D treatment to Rudolph Valentino in MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE (1924):
Rudy Beaucaire 2 New 3D_edited-1

To try free viewing, you need to guide each eye to focus on only one of the two images: the right eye on the right image, the left eye on the left image. At first your eyes won’t cooperate so by using the edge of your hand extended from your forehead to the tip of your nose, your hand will block the right eye from seeing the left image and vice versa with the left eye. A piece of cardboard or a business envelope will work as well as your hand. The next step is to relax and look “through” the images and you will notice (with a little patience) that the images start moving together to form one image. Once they fully merge you’re in 3D. Try it with Myrna and Rudy (each should line up easily) or give Strongheart and Lady Julie below (circa 1925) a try:
Strongheart_Lady Julie New 3D_edited-1

You’ll want to experiment with moving the images, i.e., the screen, anywhere from 9 to 13 inches from your eyes until the images start moving together. Also, smaller image size works easier than larger sizes so you if the images are not fully merging together, adjust your screen to make the images smaller. After a little trial and error, you’ll find a size and a focal length that works for you. Here is a photo that begged for 3D – Lon Chaney Sr. as Quasimodo in THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1923):
Chaney Hunchback 3D in PSE Free transform_edited-1

Once you’ve experienced the 3D effect of free viewing, you’ll know what to look for and subsequent 3D images will come through faster. Here, the Russian Revolution is about the break out in TEMPEST (1928) but Louis Wolheim (top) and John Barrymore find time to horse around in this photo that seems designed for 3D:
Barrymore Wolheim New 3D_edited-1

This photo has a lovely scenic perspective that enhances a 3D view – June Collyer and George Arliss on the set of ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1931) wait for nightfall to film an outdoor scene:
Arliss Hamilton 2 New 3D_edited-1

Since today (April 1st) is Lon Chaney’s birthday (1883), here he is again with Norma Shearer in HE WHO GETS SLAPPED (1924), the very first film produced by the then-newly organized Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Shearer and Chaney remained top stars at MGM, Norma until her retirement in 1942, and Lon until his death in 1930:
Shearer Chaney New 3D_edited-1

It may be unkind to note that W.C. Fields’ nose always seemed to be in 3D even in 2D photos. At any rate, here’s an unusual portrait of Mr. Fields sporting a middle eastern look:
W C Fields New 3D_edited-1

Gloria Swanson and her co-star Rudolph Valentino pause in filming a scene for BEYOND THE ROCKS (1922). This film represents the only pairing of these two iconic stars and was considered a “lost” work for decades until a nearly-complete print turned up in the Netherlands just a few years ago and is now on DVD. Ironically, this scene below was among the missing footage in the rediscovered print:
Swanson_Valention Rocks New 3D

This striking portrait of Lon Chaney in character for OUTSIDE THE LAW (1921) seems to anticipate 3D:
Chaney Shadows 3D_edited-1

Clara Bow personified the “Roaring Twenties” perhaps more than anyone else. She was dubbed the “It Girl” and everybody under 90 knew what that referred to, and maybe people over 90 too. Some of her films were considered risque but her studio, Paramount, cancelled her contract in 1931 – even after her successful transition to talkies – when her private life was found to be racier than her films:
Clara Bow New 3D

Finally, before Hepburn & Tracy, Lombard & Gable, or Rogers & Astaire, there was Garbo & Gilbert, that is Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. They ignited the screen in films such as FLESH AND THE DEVIL, LOVE (both 1927), A WOMAN OF AFFAIRS (1928), and the talkie QUEEN CHRISTINA (1933). Not surprisingly, they were lovers in real life, at least for a time in the late 1920s. Here is an iconic image of them from FLESH AND THE DEVIL given both the color and the 3D treatment:
Garbo_Gilbert New 3D

Future posts here will continue to be in color (the raison d’etre for this site) but we’ll be more sparing in using 3D. The stereographic effect is more welcome as a novelty from time to time than as a constant component of photos, or movies for that matter. Perhaps those folks back in Old Hollywood knew this all along.

On the Set Again with Karloff & Lugosi: A New Halloween Tribute

Last Halloween and thereafter, we received quite a number of hits on our tribute to those unsurpassed masters of the macabre, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Since there’s plenty more, we decided to salute our horrific heroes again for this Halloween. Admit it, we know that we’re in the presence of the masters when reciting a single line such as, “I never drink – wine,” from DRACULA (1931), or “I dislike to be touched,” from THE MUMMY (1932), can be more blood curdling than the goriest of chainsaw massacres.

On the DRACULA set, Bela Lugosi greets Horace Liveright who produced the Broadway play version that brought stardom to Lugosi. The film’s director Tod Browning stands to the left of Bela:

Boris Karloff has survived the rigors of makeup and costuming as he checks the script before filming a scene for THE MUMMY (1932):

But nothing was as arduous as sitting for hours as makeup artist Jack Pierce literally made a Monster out of Boris. Judging by the status, I’d say they were only at the beginning of the procedure:

By contrast, Bela Lugosi’s greatest makeup challenge as Dracula was to make himself look as handsome as possible:

The boys would vary their horror film appearances with an occasional non-horror movie where they still gave audiences the creeps. Here Bela Lugosi as a medium matches wits with Warner Oland as Charlie Chan in THE BLACK CAMEL (1931), the only Charlie Chan movie filmed on location in Hawaii. Bela and Warner are standing in the lobby of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel:

Boris Karloff plays an anti-Semitic Prussian nobleman whom George Arliss has outwitted in THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD (1934):

Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein shares a tea and cigarette break with Boris on the set of BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935):

It was inevitable that Boris and Bela would be teamed, but the real surprise is that they worked very well together. The first and arguably the best of their co-starring vehicles is THE BLACK CAT (1934), a film that had nothing to do with Edgar Allan Poe, and almost nothing to do with cats either:

Their third pairing is a personal favorite of your blogmeister, THE INVISIBLE RAY (1936), a stylish sci-fi yarn that seamlessly blended in the Gothic horror elements of their earlier films. Here Dr. Karloff has been poisoned by his discovery of Radium X, and appeals to Dr. Lugosi for help. You just know this will turn out badly:

These guys seem to be holding their own Halloween party. On the set of SON OF FRANKENSTEIN (1939) they are really celebrating Boris’ birthday – from left to right, Boris, director Rowland V. Lee, Bela, and Basil Rathbone:

Halloween Bonus! Hear Boris Karloff and John Carradine on INFORMATION PLEASE, a live and unrehearsed radio show exactly as broadcast on February 20, 1942:

Silent Screen Stars on Radio

We’re celebrating the publication of our new book, OLD HOLLYWOOD IN COLOR 3: WHEN SILENT STARS SPOKE, so this seems like a good time to devote a post to this particular topic. There’s a lot of Hollywood mythology surrounding the fate of silent movie stars when they made talkies, and even such hit films such as SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952) only served to reinforce those myths. The fact is that most silent screen stars did just fine in talkies and the ones who stand out because they didn’t do well are a distinct minority. You can read more about it in the book (a shameless plug) but here let’s actually listen to the silent stars themselves when they broadcast on radio.

Let’s take a look at, well, really listen to, three silent stars who never made any talkies: Theda Bara, William S. Hart, and Rudolph Valentino. Strange to say, as talkies supplanted the silents beginning in 1928 and finishing the job by 1929, some stars just walked away from their fame and fortune. Some like Constance Talmadge had become independently wealthy while others married into money or went into business, especially southern California real estate. Perhaps the most famous of early screen stars – we’re referring to the 1910s – was Theda Bara, the movies’ first sex goddess or “Vampire” as they were called then:

Theda’s name is supposedly an anagram for “Arab Death” but I have no idea of its significance. Her real name was Theodosia Goodman and by all accounts, she was nobody’s fool. Here’s an effective study of light and shadow:

By now you’re probably wondering how Bara came by her reputation, at least based on these two photos. OK, here’s one of the most iconic photos of Theda Bara from the lost film, CLEOPATRA (1917):

Now that we’ve been properly introduced, just click below to hear Theda Bara on the November 9, 1939 broadcast of Texaco Star Theater. You’ll hear host Ken Murray, comedian Irene Ryan (who later played Granny on TV’s “Beverly Hillbillies”), and singer Kenny Baker who asks Theda a very good question:

William S. Hart was film’s iconic cowboy star in the 1910s into the early 20s. A New York stage-trained actor – he played Messala in BEN-HUR in 1899 – he transferred his genuine love of the West into a lucrative movie career as a star, writer, producer and director:

Bill Hart retired before talkies came in but he recorded a beautifully spoken prologue to his last film, TUMBLEWEEDS (1926) when he reissued it in 1939.

But Hart occasionally made an appearance on radio in the 1930s to recite his own poem, “Pinto Ben.” Here is Rudy Vallee introducing him on the December 13, 1934 broadcast of the Fleischmann’s Hour:

Rudolph Valentino was the super star of such silents as THE SHEIK (1921), BLOOD AND SAND (1922), and MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE (1924) among many other hits.

Sadly, Rudy didn’t live to make a talkie but he was broadcasting in 1923, long before most of his movie star colleagues were.

None of Rudy’s broadcasts were recorded but he did make two commercial recordings in 1923, thus preserving his singing voice.

At any rate, he carries a nice tune and the timbre of his voice at least suggests that Rudy had a good chance of success in the talkies:

Mae Murray was a Ziegfeld Follies dancer who enjoyed a successful film career from the mid-1910s through the 1920s:

Mae can be easiest described as a successor to Theda Bara although instead of having an exotic sort of mystique like Bara, Mae was a straightforward American gal with a frank sex appeal:

By now you probably want to see one of Mae Murray’s iconic photos to understand her appeal of nearly a century ago:

Unike Theda Bara, Mae did make a few talkies but not successfully. So her appearance on the December 6, 1939 Texaco Star Theater is noteworthy. Host Ken Murray gets in some laughs by the fact that he and Mae have the same last name:

Mary Astor was still in her teens when she played leading lady opposite such celebrities as John Barrymore and Douglas Fairbanks Sr. She is all of 17 here in BEAU BRUMMEL (1924):

By the 1940s it seemed that Mary Astor had been around forever although she was still a relatively young woman. She transitioned superbly to sound films, so much so that many people would forget that once she was a silent film star. She ably added radio broadcasting to her list of accomplishments:

We’re in luck because next we have a complete performance by Mary in the popular half-hour suspense show called, well, “Suspense” that was broadcast live on February 16, 1943:

Lillian Gish’s career in silent films preceded everyone else listed here, having made her first films in 1912 working for director D.W. Griffith. And she was still starring in films through 1987 with THE WHALES OF AUGUST.

Lillian made her best-remembered films during the 1920s such as WAY DOWN EAST (1920), ORPHANS OF THE STORM (1921), both directed by D.W. Griffith, THE WHITE SISTER (1923), LA BOHEME (1926), THE SCARLET LETTER (1926), and THE WIND (1928), among many others.

Gish made her first talkie in 1930, ONE ROMANTIC NIGHT, but didn’t care for the new medium. She moved to New York where she continued her career in the theater, on radio, and occasionally, in films such as DUEL IN THE SUN (1946), and eventually on television. Among her more unusual broadcast appearances are as a guest panelist on the popular quiz show, “Information Please.” No, Lillian wasn’t slumming because only the brightest and best of celebrities were permitted to appear on the show. Here is Lillian Gish on the October 11, 1938 live broadcast of “Information Please”:

We have barely scratched the surface of exploring silent stars on radio. Perhaps in a future post we can hear from Gloria Swanson, Norma Talmadge, Richard Barthelmess, John Barrymore, Conrad Veidt, and even D.W. Griffith. Do you have any requests?

Tyrone Power & Annabella in BLOOD AND SAND – 1941 Live!

We will be visiting the Twentieth Century-Fox studios in our next post for a promised Hollywood party. But leading up to it, let’s check out one of the most beautiful films this studio produced during the Golden Age.

BLOOD AND SAND, or Sangue y Arena to use its original Spanish title, was an international best selling novel by Vicente Blasco Ibanez in 1908. Your blogmeister read this book recently (as a free ebook) and found this century-old tale quite contemporary. In effect, the matadors of yesteryear were the rock stars of their day. The story of the rise and fall of a young matador was a natural vehicle for Rudolph Valentino in 1922, following on the heels of his breakthrough film, THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE (1921), which was also based on an Ibanez novel. A generation later, this story of the bullring was refurbished for Tyrone Power and given the Technicolor treatment. Here is an original poster for its Spanish release:

This morality tale was as big a hit with audiences in 1941 as the Valentino version had been two decades earlier. Within only a few months of its premiere, Tyrone Power and his actress wife, Annabella, reported to the Lux Radio Theater to perform an adaptation for millions of listeners worldwide. Just click on the arrow below to hear the complete hour-long live broadcast of October 20, 1941:

Tyrone Power had successfully starred in the remake of Doug Fairbanks’ 1920 hit, MARK OF ZORRO, the year before in 1940. So playing Juan Gallardo, the ill-fated matador of BLOOD AND SAND, seemed a no-brainer – and it was:

Annabella played the role that Linda Darnell had in the film, the sweet but long-suffering Carmen, wife of the unfaithful Juan. Here she is in a boyish role for SUEZ (1938):

Annabella met Tyrone Power during the making of SUEZ and they married shortly afterwards. Here they are with Loretta Young on the right in SUEZ:

Young Gallardo is flush with his new-found success and is easily infatuated by femme fatale Dona Sol, played by Rita Hayworth:

Success in the bullring brings other distractions, especially when Juan’s Friend, Manolo, played by Anthony Quinn, becomes his rival:

Hayworth’s role as the seductress was her big break and thereafter she seemed to play a variation of Dona Sol in most of her subsequent films through the 1950s:

Ernest Hemingway memorably called the sport of bullfighting “death in the afternoon,” usually death for the bull, sometimes death for the matador, sometimes for both:

Carmen decides to visit Dona Sol to ask if there’s any truth to the gossip about her relationship with Juan. Alas, Carmen finds him living with her:

Things begin to turn ugly as he hears gossip:

The 1941 BLOOD AND SAND is available on dvd and is easily one of the best Technicolor films you will ever see. Rudolph Valentino’s 1922 version is also available on dvd and holds up very well against its talkie remake. The Valentino charisma helps enormously:

Rudy with director Fred Niblo on the set. Check out Rudy’s costume:

Does this look familiar? Yes, it’s Rudy’s costume as it exists today. Your blogmeister only guessed at the color when I colorized the photo above sometime ago but we came fairly close:

BONUS: Rudolph Valentino Sings! Rudy died in 1926 just before sound films arrived so how well he would have fared in talkies will always be one of the great “ifs” of film history. However, Rudy did leave us two sound recordings that he made in May 1923. He sings in both so we still don’t really know how well his speaking voice sounded or, indeed, how well he spoke English. At any rate, this is one of them:

Valentino as Juan Gallardo enjoying his fleeting success:

Garbo on the Air – Sort Of

The 1930s and 40s are known collectively as the Golden Age of Radio for several reasons. Among them is the fact that virtually every major Hollywood film star appeared on radio broadcasts. A few, such as Bing Crosby and Edward G. Robinson, starred on their own weekly shows. During the Second World War (1939-1945) even the few holdouts among the movie stars joined in to boost morale. Perhaps the only major star who never broadcast was the reclusive Greta Garbo. Her voice would be heard via radio only when it was lifted from her movie soundtracks and broadcast to promote her films.

Of course, the Divine Garbo never appeared in a color film either, but we can rectify both her colorless image and her absence from radio here at OLD HOLLYWOOD IN COLOR. First, the radio broadcast: “Garbo Laughs” was the ad line on her 1939 hit film, NINOTCHKA, directed by Ernst Lubitsch. The following year, radio’s Screen Guild Theater broadcast an adaptation starring Spencer Tracy in the role played by Melvyn Douglas on the screen, and Rosalind Russell playing Garbo’s role, the title character. Roz Russell was a versatile actress who became even more accomplished in her later years. But tackling a role so recently impressed in everybody’s mind by Garbo herself seemed risky if not foolhardy, even on radio.

But Roz surprised everyone by not merely giving a believable performance as the cynical Soviet operative, but by pulling off a dead-on impersonation of Garbo herself. Anyone tuning in late to the show would have sworn they were listening to Garbo in person. Here then is the closest that OHIC believes we will ever come to hearing the Divine Garbo on radio, courtesy of Rosalind Russell.

Click the Play arrow below to hear the complete half-hour live show, NINOTCHKA, on Screen Guild Theater, exactly as broadcast on April 21, 1940, starring Spencer Tracy and Rosalind Russell as “Garbo.”

While you’re listening, these color transfers may be of interest. Garbo’s first American film was TORRENT (1926) and is available today on dvd:

With Lucy Beaumont

A late 1920s portrait in the then-typical soft focus:

An iconic photo of Garbo and her offscreen lover John Gilbert in FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1927):

An unusually modernistic poster design for 1928:

An exotic Garbo in Java with Nils Asther in WILD ORCHIDS (1929):

And a decade later in NINOTCHKA (1939):

An original color poster

Spencer Tracy made his first color appearance in the glorious Technicolor outdoors epic of 1940, NORTHWEST PASSAGE. He would not appear in color again until the 1950s:

An original color poster

Now Available! The Book OLD HOLLYWOOD IN COLOR

We are proud to announce the publication of OLD HOLLYWOOD IN COLOR, which is available through Amazon.com. There, you’ll find photos from the book and reviews. The book itself is a large 8.5×11 inches. Thanks for taking a look!

Published in: on November 21, 2011 at 2:10 PM  Comments (2)  
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On the Set with Rudolph Valentino

This August 23rd marks the 85th anniversary of the passing of Rudolph Valentino at the age of 31, an event that has been commemorated without fail each year since 1926. Extremely popular during his brief lifetime, Rudy became even more of an icon following his death. He was the first movie star to maintain a fascinating hold on the public long after his passing and he has since been joined by Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Elvis Presley, among other others, whose early deaths became part of their legend.

Rudolph Valentino immigrated to America in 1913 and began appearing in films by 1918. Many of his early roles were thankless parts such as this uncredited bit from THE CHEATER (1920):

Rudy’s breakthrough role came in 1921 when he played the ill-fated tango dancer, Julio Desnoyers, in THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE. Here director Rex Ingram, who was handsome enough to be a leading man himself, discusses the script with the cast. Rudy is seated just to the right in this photo with his ever-present cigarette. The woman seated on the floor below him is screenwriter June Mathis, who was the first woman film executive in Hollywood and basically discovered Valentino, promoting him out of small roles. When Rudy died in August 1926, Mathis provided the crypt for his entombment. Ironically, Mathis died the following year and was placed in the crypt next to Valentino:
A detail from the same photo. June Mathis would write the screenplays for the next few Valentino films and eventually for the monumental BEN-HUR (1925):

Almost single-handed, Rudy started the national craze for the Tango as a result of his sultry rendition in THE FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE:

Rudy’s first leading role came next in 1921 with the legendary film, THE SHEIK. More than just a big moneymaker, this film transformed Valentino into an iconic figure whose image defined the era. Here Rudy poses with his leading lady Agnes Ayres on location:

The Lost Ending: Early screenings of THE SHEIK had a final scene between Rudy and Ayres that was deleted and remains lost today. Why? Perhaps because it made certain that the Sheik (garbed in western clothing for the first time) and Diana would marry, thus upsetting the sensibilities of some people at the time:

Despite his growing popularity, the studios were reluctant to headline a Latino (actually he was Italian). But Paramount finally gave Rudy star-billing in BLOOD AND SAND (1922), the story of the rise and fall of a bullfighter. Like FOUR HORSEMEN, this story was based on a best seller by Vicente Blasco Ibanez. Here Rudy poses with director Fred Niblo, who pretends to be filming. At the lower right, note the camera box with the cinematographer’s name on the top, Alvin Wyckoff:

A wonderful production shot from BEYOND THE ROCKS (1922), with the unrepeatable teaming of Gloria Swanson (extreme left) and Rudy (to her right checking his makeup). At the time, she was a well-established super star compared to Valentino’s newcomer status. Notice the anxious glances of the crew at La Swanson suggesting that all is not well. The lady violinist in the lower right provides mood music during filming. BEYOND THE ROCKS was considered a lost film for decades but was rediscovered just a few years ago and is now available on dvd:

A detail from the same photo. In those days, actors typically applied their own makeup. Within a few years, makeup artists would assist and then take over this activity:

A nice character study from BEYOND THE ROCKS scanned directly from a negative:

Another lost film (partially recovered and on dvd) is THE YOUNG RAJAH (1922), which featured Rudy in some stunning but controversial costumes designed by his wife:

Rudy on Radio – when Valentino went on “strike” from Paramount to protest the types of films he was given, he made a number of broadcasts during his 1923 tour for Mineralava. Alas, these were the early days of broadcasting when nobody thought to make recordings:

Rudy was a camera enthusiast and made his own home movies on the set of his films. Here Valentino appears to be filming with his 35mm Debrie camera during outdoor work on A SAINTED DEVIL (1924), a lost film:

Rudy is just part of the crew as he cranks his Debrie on the SAINTED DEVIL set. The lone umbrella seems just large enough to cover director Joseph Henabery (seated with megaphone) and the cameras, evidently the most important assets on the set:

A Detail from the same photo:

An unglamorous photo of the Paramount backlot again during production of A SAINTED DEVIL. This production was not filmed in Hollywood but in Paramount’s New York facility in Astoria, Long Island. This photo seems to have been taken on the same day as the previous one but this time Rudy is using his still camera to create a portrait of his frequent co-star Nita Naldi:

A detail from the same photo:

A nice production photo from A SAINTED DEVIL scanned from a negative. What’s going on here? Perhaps the best way to find out today is by reading Rex Beach’s short story, “Rope’s End,” upon which this film was based:

Rudy gets a camera-level view during outdoor filming on THE EAGLE (1925) for his new studio, United Artists. He plays a Russian-style Robin Hood in a witty yarn adopted from a Pushkin short story. To the left of Valentino is Clarence Brown who became one of MGM’s top directors during the 1930s, guiding Greta Garbo’s successful transition to sound films. Could he have done the same for Rudy?

Rudy’s second film for United Artists turned out to be his last, SON OF THE SHEIK (1926). Here he poses with leading lady Vilma Banky and director George Fitzmaurice, who is holding the gun Rudy carries in the film:

Rudy applies eyebrow liner to the world heavyweight boxing champ Gene Tunney on the SON OF THE SHEIK set. Tunney was making his own film at the time, the lost serial, THE FIGHTING MARINE. A Chicago newspaper had recently called Rudy “a pink powder puff,” a remark that genuinely offended him. Perhaps this photo was meant as an ironic rebuttal – NOBODY was going to call Tunney, who was also an ex-Marine veteran of World War I, a pink powder puff!

A fanciful photo of Rudy as he might have looked in his 60s as he plays his own father in SON OF THE SHEIK:

Finally, Rudolph Valentino as he is remembered in legend:
(Photo Courtesy of Paul Seiler)
A wonderful blog filled with rare Valentino collectibles can be found at http://rudolph-valentino.blogspot.com. Highly Recommended!

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