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!

Welcome 2022 with our Selection of Old Hollywood Wall Calendars/Bookmarks!

This year we welcome in the New Year by focusing on many of the great Stars of the Silent Screen. How do you obtain any (or all) of these? That’s easy – just print them out on your favorite printer. At full size they make nice wall calendars or shrink them down a bit and they work very well as stylish bookmarks. And they’re also neat just to look at! Enjoy and please accept my best wishes for a wonderful 2022.

Now here they come!

By the way, the reference to “Silent Films Today” is the name of my Facebook group. Membership is by request so if you’d like to join please search FB for our group by name and ask to join. Thanks.

Finally, the 12-month template I used here is from an original vintage calendar for 1927. Why 1927? Because the days of the week in ’27 were the same as 2022. Think of it as recycling Time.

Happy 2022!

Our New Lineup of Calendars for 2021

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

HAPPY NEW YEAR to One and All!

A New Crop of Color Transfers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 Old Hollywood in Color Calendars

Here they are – this year’s selection of wall calendars with my colorized photos that I created during this past year. Obtaining your copy is easy, just print them out. They look great in 8×10!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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

 

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.

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

The Classic John Barrymore Swashbucklers of the 1920s

New Book: We’re proud to announce the first-ever pictorial review of the classic John Barrymore swashbucklers. These productions energetically displayed the talents of “America’s Finest Actor” and remain among the most captivating adventure films ever made:
Book Cover Published001 copy

This large 8.5×11 inch volume displays rare posters, photos, programs, and even paintings by Barrymore himself, in full color:
Painting 2

Before the Academy Awards were instituted, top films of the year were recognized by other organizations. Here Rudolph Valentino presented his own Valentino Award to John Barrymore for BEAU BRUMMEL (1924):
Photo051_Final_edited-1

Rare lobby cards restored to their original colors are among the highlights of the book such as this one from THE SEA BEAST (1926), Barrymore’s first version of MOBY DICK:
Sea Beast LC 2

Our book features vintage souvenir programs such as this from DON JUAN (1926):
Photo035

Lost and Found: THE BELOVED ROGUE (1927), one of the most imaginative films made by Hollywood during the 1920s was considered lost for decades but is now on DVD and streaming video:
Beloved Rogue LC 1

John Barrymore would not be the only star of swashbucklers – think Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power, among others – but Barrymore was the only star whose films spanned both the silent and sound film eras. Here is his first talkie, GENERAL CRACK (1930):
barrymore030_Final copy

Jack reprised his role of Captain Ahab in THE SEA BEAST talkie remake, MOBY DICK (1930) with Joan Bennett:
Moby photo004_edited-Final

The back cover of our book with a painting of John Barrymore from TEMPEST (1928), a story of the Russian Revolution:
programs002b_edited-j

Bonus material includes 3-D photos and a link to Barrymore’s 1937 radio broadcast of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW. Our book is available exclusively from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle ebook editions:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1481166549/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d1_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-3&pf_rd_r=0EEDG1R8J2NGF1G6KZ4T&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1630072202&pf_rd_i=507846

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.