John Barrymore delivers an awesome incarnation of pure evil
New York 2 April 1920. John Barrymore, sweet prince of Broadway’s leading family, has been dabbling in films since 1913 when he made his screen debut in Famous Players’ An American Citizen. He has saved his serious energies for the stage, but now, with his twelfth film Dr. Jekyll, and Mr. Hyde, he has come into his own. The 38 year-old Barrymore makes a handsome Dr. Jekyll, but when he downs the Doctors fatal potion, he turns into a monstrous vision of pure evil before our very eyes. The chilling effect is completed with some skill full screen trickery. The sight of Jekyll’s fingers dissolving into claws is followed by a close-up of Barrymore’s Hyde in terrifying make-up.
This Hyde is a hideous spider-like creature who scuttles on crooked legs. Soon, the transformation begins without the aid of the evil elixir. While Dr. Jekyll sleeps, an enormous phantom spider crawls across the floor of his bedroom, settles on top of him and melts into his body. In a strong supporting cast, sultry Nita Naldi is outstanding as the sexual temptation placed in Jekyll’s way by cynical Sir George Carewe.
America’s favourite little sweetheart
Could be guilty of bigamy
Hollywood 14 April 1920. There has been another Hollywood scandal. The Attorney General of California has decided to prosecute Mary Pickford, whom he accuses of perjury and bigamy. This odd circumstance has followed the actress’s recent marriage to Douglas Fairbanks on 28 March. For some years the extra-marital liaison between the two stars, both among the highest paid of the American cinema, has filled the gossip columns of newspapers. Pickford had been married to the charming actor Owen Moore, whom she met on the set at Biograph in 1913. Their divorce, announced in Minden, Nevada, last March, upset the innumerable admirers of “America’s Sweetheart”. At the time she declared that she did not envisage any remarriage in the immediate future. Nevertheless, less than a month later, the two co-founders of United Artists were married secretly in a small Hollywood church. To those who were astonished to se the star’s recent statement contradicted, she replied “Yes, I’ve changed my mind! Isn’t that a woman’s prerogative”.
England welcomes back its prodigal son
London 15 September 1921.
Charles Chaplin’s visit to Britain has proved an even
Bigger event than the Armistice! He decided to go on a sudden impulse several weeks before the American release of The Idle Classes. The return to his native land of this “prodigal son” has generated a huge wave of enthusiasm. From the moment of his arrival at Waterloo Station on 10 September, the King of Comedy was engulfed by wildly excited crowds surging through the police cordons which vainly tried to hold them back. It was little short of a miracle that no one was trampled to death in the ensuing crush. Accompanied by the actor Donald Crisp, Chaplin made a sentimental pilgrimage to the scenes of his deprived childhood. He was followed everywhere. Installed in the agreeable surroundings of the Ritz Hotel, he has held court to a never-ending stream of journalists and personalities come to pay homage.
Fatty indicted on culpable homicide charge.
San Francisco 10 September 1921. Grave charges have been levelled against comedian Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle after the death under suspicious circumstances of a young actress, Virginia Rappe. She died yesterday in the hospital where she was admitted after becoming ill at a wild 48-hour party thrown by Arbuckle in three adjoining suites at the Saint Francis Hotel.
The party was held to celebrate Arbuckle;’s three-million-dollar move to Paramount to make full-length features. Now the deal an Fatty’s future, are imperilled by Rappe’s death. The doctors diagnosed acute peritonitis caused by a ruptured bladder, but one of Virginia’s friends, Maude Delmont, who was also at the party has told police
That Arbuckle raped Miss Rappe, or at least attempted to do so. On the basis of these serious allegations, Arbuckle was arrested on a homicide charge. Throughout his interrogation by the police, the comedian has vigorously protested his innocence. But a large black cloud threaten the career of the film industry’s favourite Fat Man.
America’s fair sex seduced by Italy’s Latin lover
Los Angeles 30 October 1921. Almost the entire female population of America has fallen in love with Rudolph Valentino, the dashingly romantic star of Metro’s The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In Rex Ingram’s adaptation of the novel by Blasco Ibanez, Valentino plays a wastrel who becomes a war hero. When he swoops across the screen in a sensual tango, women in the audience are seen to faint dead away in the aisles.
The object of all this adulation was born Rudolfo Guglielmi in Italy in May 1895, the son of a veterinary surgeon. He arrived in America, travelling steerage, in 1913. After a spell as a gardener in New York’s Central park, he became a nightclub dancer, briefly replacing Clifton Webb as the partner of exhibition dancer Bonnie Glass. At this time Valentino was moving in fast company, and New York became a little too hot for him when he found himself involved in a scandalous society divorce. He made his way west to San Francisco with a touring theatrical company and then finally on the Los Angeles and the world of the movies
Hollywood is embroiled in another scandal
Hollywood 2 February 1922. With the last rites being read over Fatty Arbuckle’s career, another scandal has erupted at the accident prone Paramount studio. This time it looks like murder. The victim is top Paramount director is William Desmond Taylor, whose lifeless body police have discovered at his luxurious Westlake bungalow. They arrived to find the place a hive of activity. Two Paramount executives were burning papers in the fireplace while the instantly recognisable figure of lovely comedienne Mabel Normand, a close friend of Taylor, was feverishly ransacking the dead man’s bureau for compromising documents. The circumstances of Taylor’s life and death are bizarre. Taylor had claimed to be an English gentleman but he was in fact of Irish descent born William Deane-Tanner in 1877, who abandoned his family in New York in 1908, and resurfaced in Hollywood. The police have found his wardrobes crammed with pornography and also lingerie that bears the monogram “M”M”M”, the initials of actress Mary Miles Minter.
Fatty is cleared but remains blacklisted
Hollywood 18 April 1922. It has taken three trails, stretching over four months to clear Roscoe Arbuckle of the charges brought against him after the death of Virginia Rappe last September. At the first trial in December, the judge reduced the main charge to that of involuntary homicide, but the jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision. A new jury remained hung at the retrial in February. Third time around on 12 April, it took the jury only five minutes to clear the Fat Man of all blame. They put it on record that “We feel that a great injustice has been done to him....Roscoe Arbuckle is entirely innocent...” However, Arbuckle’s acquittal has not rescued his career. He has sold his house and cars to pay his lawyers fees. Paramount has withdrawn his movies from circulation and consigned two others recently completed to the vaults. It has reportedly cost them £1 million. Reviled by both press and public, Fatty can no longer find work in the world where he briefly reigned as one of the Kings of Comedy.
One marriage too many for Valentino
Los Angeles 21 April 1922. Rudolph Valentino’s colourful private life is once more ibn the news. He has been arrested and imprisoned on a bigamy charge. Last may he married for the second time, tying the knot in Mexico with the exotic costume designer Natasha Rambova (born Winnifred Shaunessy in Salt Lake City). Valentino had been divorced from his first wife, actress Jean Acker since January. That marriage was not consummated and did not last beyond their wedding night in November 1919. Nevertheless they perforce had to stay
Valentino with Nita Naldi
Married for the three months necessary for their divorce to go through. Unfortunately Californian law requires a year to elapse before a new marriage can be entered into. Valentino had spent several uncomfortable hours with the police, but had convinced them of his good faith and is once more a free man.
Great comic Harold Lloyd has no reason to worry.
New York 2 September 1923. Harold Lloyd’s second feature film of the year Why Worry,? Has been released. Directed by Fred Newmyer and Sam Taylor, it throws the bespectacled comedian and his leading lady, Jobna Ralston, into the middle of a South American revolution. This follows hard on the heels of Safety Last, in which Lloyd’s brand of “thrill comedy” reached
New heights, quite literally, as he dangled 12 stories up from the sagging hand of a clock. These films have confirmed the success of the actor’s move from two-reelers to feature length films.
A new swashbuckling rival for Valentino
New York 30 September 1923. There is enough room for two dashing “Latin Lovers” in Hollywood at the moment. If Ramon Novarro has anything to say about it. While Rudolph Valentino has not been seen since Blood and Sand, last year, Novarro is now swashbuckling his way through Valentino director Rex Ingram’s Scaramouche, following his appearance as Rupert of Hentzau in Ingram’s The Prisoner of Zenda.
DeMille scores ten out of ten for impressive “Commandments”
New York 21 December 1923. Earlier this year, producer-director Cecil B. DeMille embarked upon the most ambitious project he had ever attempted, an elaborate version of The Ten Commandments, that combines two stories - an extended “prologue” set in biblical times, with Theodore Roberts in the role of Moses, and a modern story taking place in contemporary America , starring Richard Dix, Rod La Rocque, Leatrice Joy and Nita Naldi. The completed film has just premiered at the George M. Cohan Theatre in New York, and quite a spectacular achievement it turns out to be .
Although almost certain to do well at the box office, judging from the enthusiastic audience response, the reaction from the critics has been somewhat less favourable. According to the New York World, for example, “In its earlier episodes the film has moments of grandeur. (but) when the story hurtles the centuries and settles into present day symbolisation of what has gone before, it is ordinary movie melodrama of the commonest type..”
Actor Douglas Fairbanks makes magic in ‘The Thief of Baghdad”.
New York 18 March 1924. The first showing of the Thief of Baghdad, took place this evening at the Liberty Theatre in New York. At the end of the projection, Douglas Fairbanks, the star and producer of the film,
A follow-up to his superb Robin Hood, (1922), jumped onto the stage to tremendous applause. The director, Raoul Walsh followed him an instant later to share in the honours. The Thief of Bagdad , is the most ambitious and opulent film made by United Artists since being formed five years ago by Mary Pickford and company. The film cost almost £2 million and took five weeks to shoot. The fabulous sets including towering minarets and Moorish buildings by William Cameron Menzies, were constructed on a six and a half location a t the Pickford-Fairbanks studios. In order to create the magic carpet effect an ordinary carpet was hung on piano wires from a 22 metre high crane that swung it high over the sets making it look as though it were actually moving between heaven and earth. The final sequence shows Fairbanks and his beautiful princess (Julanne Johnstone), sailing over the rooftops on the Magic Carpet.
Buster Keaton navigates his way to further glory
New York 13 October 1924. Buster Keaton has come a long way since his 1917 debut alongside Fatty Arbuckle.
Two years after that he formed a partnership with Joseph M. Schenck, distributing his films through MGM. In 1920 he made his first feature The Slaphead, and in 1921 he married ino the Hollywood aristocracy when Natalie Talmadge, Joseph M. Schenck’s sister-in-law, became his wife. Keaton’s comic personality is doggedly unsentimental. Not even the slightest hint of a smile creases his face. The preoccupied little heroes in his films encounter a series of perils but react to each reversal with an exquisite economy of expression. Keaton can express passion with the subtlest droop of the eyelids.
Comedy and pathos combine in “The Gold Rush”
Hollywood 26 June 1925. Charles Chaplin is
Taking longer to make his films. Shooting The Gold Rush, has taken him over a year, though Chaplin copyrighted his screenplay back in 29 December 1923. The inspiration for the film was a photograph of prospectors in the Klondike in 1898, which he had seen at the home of Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. The Gold Rush, was filmed in difficult conditions at Truckee near lake Tahoe, high in the Sierra Nevada, and then wrapped up at Chaplin’s La Brea Avenue studio in Los Angeles.
In March 1924, shortly before shooting The Gold Rush, Chaplin chose Lililita McMurray at the age of 15 years and 10 months to be his new leading lady, changing her name to Lita Grey. On 26 November Chaplin married Grey in Guaymas, Mexico.
Against all the odds, MGM’s “Ben Hur” is a thrilling success.
New York 30 December 1925. MGM has finally completed production of Ben-Hur, the inordinately expensive undertaking which has required nearly a year to shoot, at a cost of $4 million. The long-awaited film has now opened at the George M. Cohan Theatre to an enthusiastic reception.
The already celebrated chariot race was filmed in a replica of the Antioch Coliseum, a larger set even than that of Babylon in Griffith’s Intolerance. Thousands of extras were hired and more than 40 cameras filmed the scene from all possible angles, some of them in automobiles overtaking the galloping horses.
Spectacular action stunts in two tone Technicolor
New York 8 March 1926. Douglas Fairbanks’ latest film The Black Pirate, is the first full-length motion picture in two-tone Technicolor to be widely distributed. However, the pleasing colour is only one of this boisterous pirate picture’s many attractions. Outstanding is a spectacular stunt when, in order to capture a ship, Doug climbs up a mast and descends to the deck by piercing the wide sail with his sword, ripping the canvas as he goes. Other stunts include 50 pirates swimming underwater, and the hero leaping onto the side of a ship.
The director, Albert Parker, an old friend of Fairbanks, keeps all the elements satisfactorily afloat. As for the colour, the producer-star managed to obtain and use four of the eleven Technicolor cameras currently in existence to considerable effect.
Valentino struck down at the pinnacle of his glory
New York 23 August 1926. Rudolph Valentino, adored by millions of women around the world, and derisively referred to as the “Pink Powder-Puff” by some less enamoured male moviegoers, has died of peritonitis at the age of 31. Death has come at a time when Valentino was $200,000 in debt and still struggling to recover from the baleful of his influence of his wife Natasha Rambova. After his triumph as the bull-fighting hero in the 1922 Blood and Sand, Valentino surrendered himself to Rambova’s bizarre artistic pretensions, appearing swathed in pearls the size of tennis balls in The Young Rajah, and demanding that Paramount give him complete control of his films.
While the studio wrangled, he embarked on a nationwide tour, giving tango exhibitions. He got his way with Paramount, and under Rambova’s strict tutelage his screen personality became increasingly effeminate. Moving to UA where, he made TheEagle, and The on of the Sheik, with Vilma Banky, restored some of his slipping popularity, but earlier this month he was hospitalised with a perforated ulcer. When he died a rumour spread that he had been poisoned by a discarded mistress a fitting fanciful end for the romantic Latin Lover.
`Metropolis`, a startling voyage into the future
Berlin 10 January 1927. Fritz Lang’s eagerly awaited new film `Metropolis`, was shown at the UFA Palast in the presence of 2500 guests, among them the Chancellor Wilhelm Marx, the ministers Gustav Streseman and Otto Gessler and the head of the Reichsbank Hjalmar Schacht. The 3½ hour movie cost nearly 5 million marks and required 11 months to complete - a record for a German production. It is a work of science fiction.
Which takes place in the year 2000 in a gigantic city that is called `metropolis`. Exploited by the factory owner who
Brigette Helm as the
Treats them like slaves, the down-trodden workers prepare for a rebellion. Only the charisma of one young woman (Brigette Helm) prevents it. However, opposing her is a mad scientist
(Rudolph Kleon-Rogge), who has created a robot, a perfect replica of young Maria. The robot or false Maria succeeds in stirring up the the workers and pushing the people to revolt. Happily all ends out well, the robot is destroyed.
`The Jazz Singer` heralds end of silent cinema
THE RABBI’S SON A HIT IN A BLACK FACE.
New York 6 October 1927. Wild excitement has greeted the premiere of Warner Brothers `The Jazz Singer`, the first motion picture in which spoken dialogue is heard. The studio has been in serious financial difficulties for some time But, emboldened by the success of their John Barrymore vehicle Don Juan, released last summer and the first feature film to use Warner’s Vitaphone sound-on-disc system for sound effects and synchronised score, they staked everything on The Jazz Singer. The story of a cantor’s son torn between the synagogue and show business, The Jazz Singer, was originally a stage hit for George Jessel, who had already appeared for the studio in a 1926 silent picture entitled Izzy Murphy. Jessel wanted too much money to move into the uncharted territory of the `talkers` and comedian Eddie Cantor proved to be equally unwilling . Consequently, Warner Brothers turned to the greatest entertainer in the world, Al Jolson.
Stroheim’s discordant `Wedding March`.
New York 2 October 1928. The ongoing sagas of the brilliant Erich von Stroheim’s problems with his producers continues with the long-delayed release of his latest production, The Wedding March. The writer-director-star has again returned to the Vienna of his youth, and to themes that he first began exploring in his abortive production of Merry-go-Round, in 1922. In the new film, Stroheim himself plays the lead, the aristocratic officer Prince Nikki, with a new young discovery, Fay Wray, as the girl he loves, and Zasu Pitts as the rich businessman’s daughter whom he is forced to marry.
Conceived on an epic scale, the film requires the construction of three dozen elaborate sets and a replica of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. After a number of disappointingly unsuccessful previews, and other delays over the past year with the growing interest in sound, the film has at least now been issued.
Broadway Melody makes sweet music for Metro
New York 2 February 1929. `MGM` has stolen the march on all their competitors in the talkie production field by being the first on the market with a combination dram and musical revue that will knock the audiences for a `goal`, trumpeted Motion Picture News, a few days ago. Before the premiere of Broadway Melody.
The prediction is right on target because audiences have been knocked for a “goal.” Not so much by the slight story involving two small town vaudeville sisters (Bessie Love and Anita Page) who fall for the same Broadway song`n` dance man (Charles King), but by the musical numbers. One of them The Wedding of the Painted Doll, was filmed in two-strip Technicolor.
It is part of the impresario character Francis Zanfield’s most recent extravaganza, which contains a string of hits by Nacio Herb Brown.and Arthur Freed, including the title track and the song You were made for Me. In order to create fluency , the sound engineer pre-recorded music then played it through loudspeakers on the set for the performers.
Best Director - SEVENTH HEAVEN
Hollywood selects first Academy Award winners.
Hollywood 16 May. At a banquet at the Roosevelt Hotel, representatives of the film industry gathered to honour the most brilliant actors, actresses, directors and technicians of the year. William C. DeMille elder brother of producer Cecil B. DeMille acted as chairman, and Douglas Fairbanks, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences handed out 13 statuettes in front of 200 members of the movie industry
The 13½ inch tall, gold-plated eight pound figure of a man wielding a crusaders sword standing on a reel of film, was designed in a few minutes on a tablecloth at Hollywood’s Biltmore Hotel by MGM’s art director Cedric Gibbons. Emil Jannings was judged “Best Actor” and Janet Gaynor “Best Actress”.
`Rio Rita` confirms a bumper first year for RKO
Bebe Daniels and
New York 6 October 1929. The RKO Radio Studio (short for Radio Keith Orpheum) is celebrating its first busy year of production. Marching under the banner, “Its RKO - Lets Go”, are actors Bebe Daniels, Betty Compson, Richard Dix and Rudy Vallee, and directors Luther Reed, Wesley Ruggles and Malcolm St. Clair. Underlining the studio’s preference for motion pictures with a high musical content, crooner Rudy Vallee has scored a solid box-office success with The Vagabond Lover, in which he plays a stage-struck hick who poses as America’s “Saxophone King”.
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