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Sunday, 19 March 2017

This Week in History - Mar 19 to 28

Everything you need to know about the goings-ons and gossip from this week in Precode Hollywood.

1929:
Increasing Colour Work: Indicating the increasing use of colour at the studios, Technicolour has 12 camera crews and equipment, each comprising three men and camera, all busy.
A still from 'On With the Show!' (1929)

Richest Actor List: David Warfield is now the world’s richest actor. His recent sale of his Loew stock holdings elevated him to wealth between $10 million and $12 million. Running second is Eddie Cantor with from $5 to $6 million and third is Al Jolson with between $3 and $4 million. Number four is George M. Cohan, $3 million. Of the picture actors, the list is led by Marion Davies with at least $5 million. She is closely followed by Douglas Fairbanks, wife Mary Pickford, and Charlie Chaplin. Also in the $3 million group is Tom Mix, Norma Talmadge and Ruth Roland. Colleen Moore and Bebe Daniels go in the $2 million class.

Actress Entitled to Funds: Jetta Goudal’s temperament was no valid reason for the abrogation of her contract by Pathe, according to the ruling handed down by the Supreme Court. Court ruled that disobedience of an artist could not properly be treated the same as the disobedience of a menial. She was awarded $31,000.


1930:
Swedish Girl Swept into Ocean: Ernest Rolf, star of Rof’s Revue (Stockholm) and his leading lady, Tutta Benstzer, are here to do an act in the Scandinavian version of Paramount on Parade. It is the intention of the studio to bring other foreign players to Hollywood to treat the film in other languages. Miss Benstzer reached here via the Canal after an experience in the Atlantic that exceeds anything her p.a. could imagine. In a storm, the actress was swept of the deck into the ocean, but as the crew was then taking the log she was able to swim to the sounding rope and hold on. Losing her hold on the rope, she reached a life buoy thrown to her. Efforts to launch a lifeboat were unsuccessful until 30 tons of oil were dumped overboard to calm the sea. She drifted three miles before finally picked up.

Smelly Talkers May Yet Come Through: Picture have sound and colour now they’re going to have smell too. John Leavell has a patient on the idea.

Kidding Prince’s Suit Make Fun Business: trial of the suit of Prince Danilo of Montenegro against MGM, in which he charges certain scenes in The Merry Widow film are damaging to him, has developed a situation for a stage farce. The Prince’s lawyer is compelled to uphold the tradition of royalty and privileges of the throne. MGM’s attorney is required by the exigencies of the case to deride and ridicule royalty and all consideration of social caste that go with it. Case was adjourned again.
'The Merry Widow' (1925)

1931:
Stockingless Girls in Dispute: The RKO secret censorship department is commencing to send in reports from various cities against women on RKO stages going without stockings. They claim the practice is objectionable.

Ex-Prop’s Flash Fades: Reported Fox will let its option slide on John Wayne, the former prop boy Raoul Walsh picked out for the lead in The Big Trail, when his year winds up next month. Studio feels Wayne hasn’t sufficient b.o., judging from his only other pictures. Wayne, suspecting the situation is said to be dickering elsewhere.
John Wayne in 'The Big Trail'
Whether Chaplin is Jew Causes Cancelled Visit: Another of those East European religious quarrels that has in the past cost many lives has unknowingly been kindled by Charles Chaplin. All of Budapest is in a turmoil and as a result of the argument Chaplin had to cancel his visit. Trouble started when a Jewish paper in Budapest wrote a highly laudatory article on the comedian, claiming him as a Jew and representative of the fine things Jews have accomplished. Immediately, the anti-Somite press, high in the majority, bit back with long articles abusing Chaplin. Although no rioting, the situation looked highly serious until Chaplin made his move by not coming here.


Pickford Injured: Jack Pickford was badly injured when his automobile driven by his chauffeur struck a storm drain at an intersection while Pickford was asleep in the back. Both men were thrown from the car a moment before it crashed into a row of palm trees and was demolished. Pickford was bruised but not broken. The chauffer sustained broken ribs and other injuries. It was believed the car was travelling at high speeds.
Jack Pickford
1932:
Wet and Colder: Following the ceremony at the Joan Bennett-Gene Markey wedding last week newspaper people, toasting the bride, commented on the vast difference in the cordiality displayed there in comparison to the Constance Bennett-Marquis de la Falaise nuptials. As they were talking, a publicity man heard the click of a camera. Rushing over to the cameraman, he pleaded: “You didn’t take a picture of Joan Bennett with a glass of wine in here hand, did you?” “Nope,” said the cameraman, who had waited out in the cold at the previous wedding, “it was Constance.”
Joan and Constance Bennett
More Crank Star Threats: Picture players and exec names are receiving a flock of threatening letters from weak-minded persons driven to financial desperations. Writers are demanding financial help which if not forthcoming will bring dire results to picture names. No one expects anything to come of the threats, but they are proving an annoyance to the picture people.

Public Fed Up on First Nite Gawking: Opening of Wet Parade at Grauman’s Chinese saw the slimmest crowd of sidewalk fans seen at any premiere in years. Formerly, openings necessitated the issuing of police passes in order to get anywhere near the theatre. The latest opening had plenty of elbow room for everyone. Drop in curiosity seekers has been noticed at other openings, but it was figured that the usual opening would attract a mob who never miss a chance to lamp the stars.

1933:
Gummo Marx’s Dress Biz All Gummed Up: Milton ‘Gummo’ Marx, who quit the Marx Brothers act several years ago to go into the dress manufacturing business, has resorted to bankruptcy as the way out. Petition he filed tabulated his liabilities at $105,868 and assets none. His brother Chico is among the creditors for $29,000.
Harpo, Zeppo, Chico, Groucho and Gummo Marx
Mickey Mouse Honoured: Havana National Academy of Arts and Letters has awarded a special honour diploma to Walt Disney for his creation of the Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony cartoons.

West, ‘Miss 1893’ Rides in a Hack: For the benefit of the newsreels and local press, Mae West climbed into her 1893 glad rags, hopped aboard a surrey and was driven behind two nags and a coachman to the Century of Progress Exposition. This occurred in time to electrify the pious portion of the populace on their way to Sunday services. The stunt of having Miss 1893 visit the modernistic 1933 World’s Fair was deemed a natural for everybody concerned.
Sidney Balks: After billing Sylvia Sidney and George Raft over the week end, for a joint personal appearance, Paramount New York had to take the advance stuff down when Miss Sidney balked at the terms and cancelled. She wanted $4,000 instead of the offered $3,000. It looks like Raft will do the job solo.

1934: 
Colbert No Like Liquor Ad: Attorneys for Claudette Colbert are preparing to sue distributor of Scotch whisky for using a photography of the player in liquor advertising in Detroit papers. Still was from the picture It Happened One Night and shows the player holding a glass aloft. Text of the ad reads, ‘Claudette Colbert gives a toast to our Scotch whisky.’ It was previously reported the still was used as part of an exploitation campaign for the picture. Colbert claims she gave no permission for its use and has been placed in the wrong light by the whisky merchants.


Borzages Better: Condition of Frank Borzage’s wife, Wynne, injured in an auto accident on March15 which resulted in the death of Frank’s father, Louis Borzage, was reported improved at the Hollywood hospital. The doctor said Lew Borzage, Frank’s brother, would probably not lose one eye and the serious injuries to Wynn’s leg would not necessitate amputation. Shocked by the incident, Frank continued to direct his production of Little Man What Now? Without interruption. Carl Laemmle expected him to suspend work at least until after the funeral, but the director felt this would entail too much loss to the studio. Production was to be halted only for the burial rites.  
Frank and Wynne Borzage, 1933.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Enchanting images of Edwina Booth in Trader Horn (1931)

Trader Horn (1931) was starlet, Edwina Booth’s big break and first credited role. 
As Nina Trent, the White Goddess, Booth not only had the opportunity to be the female lead in the picture but be a part of one of the first ever location shoots in Africa. Her long, natural blonde hair and inexperience made her a perfect choice for director W.S. Van Dyke who wanted a low maintenance actress. When the film was released in May 1931 it showed a radiant, youthful Booth elegantly wondering through the picture in scant jungle attire. 

But in reality, the making of the film ruin Booth’s health making her sickly, gaunt and, at some parts, close to death. She contracted malaria and dysentery during the filming, almost fractured her skull after falling from a tree and suffered sunstroke. Her rough clothing made of monkey fur chaffed her skin and cuts from trees and grass made her body even more fragile. When she returned to Hollywood following the shoot, she was a changed woman. Her new husband, Anthony Shuck, annulled their union soon after and left her to the care of her family. Following the release of the film, she sued MGM for $1 million to compensate her for her illnesses. She claimed the company didn’t provide her with adequate clothing to withstand the harsh African environment. Apparently, she received a settlement of only $35,000. She was reportedly confined to bed for the next five years only completing four more films before retiring in 1935 aged only 31.













Monday, 13 March 2017

This Week in History - Mar 12 to 18

Everything you need to know about the goings-ons and gossip from this week in Precode Hollywood.

1929:

Booth for Trader: Final section of Edwina Booth to play the lead in Trader Horn was made after many weeks of search for a lead who had to meet many rigid requirements. Foremost of these was the willingness to undergo the hardships of 28 weeks in Africa. Another was that of natural long blonde hair. Heat prevailing at this time in Africa would not permit the use of wigs and or a staff hairdresser. 
Providence Protests: The Catholic population in Providence was up in arms over the religious ritual in The Redeeming Sin (1929) which played last week. The row started over a dialogue scene between Lionel Barrymore and Dolores Costello in which Barrymore, as a French Catholic priest, recites the Lord’s prayer with the Protestant ending. Local newspapers were flooded with complaints. The ruckus was started too late to have any effect on businesses but it’s doubtful if the feature will be booked for a second run.

Phipps Suing Parents: Sally Phipps, 17, has filled suit asking to have a guardian appointed. Miss Phipps alleges her mother and stepfather have misused the money she earned and that her stepfather mistreated and slandered her, injuring her position at the Fox studio. She asks that her attorney be made guardian of her estate.


1930:

German Girl ‘Discovered’: Marlene Dietrich, who plays in Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel, has been engaged by Paramount for America. Sternberg reportedly found her a very original type, full of European sex appeal. She is sailing for New York on April 2.


Wealthy Actor Disobeys MGM: Charles Bickford, who owns several gas stations, whaling boats, markets and what not in Hollywood, and doesn’t have to worry about his career as an actor, is causing some irritation to MGM because of his stubborn refusal to work nights on The Sea Bat. When they pointed out that his contract called for such work, Bickford offered to buy back his contract for $100,000. MGM said there was no chance of selling the contract and letting him go elsewhere. 

Mayor Bans FilmParty Girl, which is supposed to show what happens to young girls who go out with merchants, has been banned from Somerville by Mayor John Murphy. He bids fair to establish a ‘banning’ rep for himself. This is the second time he has exercised his censoring power.  

1931:

No More Silents: Reaction from the Chaplin silent City Lights in the US and abroad so far is that the silents are thoroughly through. Expectation was prior to the films release that it might bring about a revival of the silent film. That is more remote now with the Chaplin films reaction.
Nearly Loses Sight: Henrietta Nichols, Hal Roach’s sister-in-law, narrowly escaped losing her sight when a prop man cut a golf ball and acid from the centre squirted onto her face.

Montana Moon Makes Crawford: Exactly how or what made Joan Crawford in talkers seems immaterial with the large role played by Montana Moon (1930). A pretty bad picture and Miss Crawford couldn’t rise above it. The studio noticed the badness of the picture but noticed Miss Crawford wasn’t that bad. One exec called a conference with the result either Miss Crawford was to be given proper stories or given the air. The film proves what a little personal attention by the proper authority in a studio can do when the talent or personality is there.


1932:

Red-Headed Bluebird: Title role in Red-Headed Woman must now be able to sing, making it tougher than ever to find the right gal. (The role of course went to Jean Harlow and thankfully wasn’t a singing role.)
Wardrobe Thieves: Ancient petty larceny stunt being revived in which thieves call at an actor’s home, represent themselves as from the studio, and ask for part or all of his wardrobe. Phoney credentials from dry cleaners is another variation, thieves making away with garments.

Bit Player’s Break: With only a small bit in Sky Devils to his screen credit, Randolph Scott has been signed by Paramount for a series of westerns. First film to be made on the James ranch in Montana will be Lone Cowboy by Will James, author-cowboy, who owned the ranch. Paramount purchased the first story and has options on seven more James’ books. (FYI Scott never actually appeared in the film Lone Cowboy (1933) which was taken by Jackie Cooper. Scott, however, appeared in several western films written by Zane Grey).


Rejuvenation: A producer reading a script came across the word ‘slut’ used in describing a character. ‘I don’t care for that word’, he said, addressing the writer. ‘Change it to waif.’

1933:

Wellman Out $30,000: Marjorie Wellman made a $30,000 property settlement with William Wellman and immediately afterward filed suit for divorce. Ground was the usual mental cruelty. 


Chevalier Perturbed: Maurice Chevalier is worried. He’s becoming so Americanised that he is losing his French accent, which is his greatest asset. It has reached a point where he now has to put the accent on.

Constance Has Own Ideas on Renting Clothes: The RKO studio crowd was burned at the conduct of Constance Bennett in refusing wardrobe made for her for Our Betters. They made a dress which cost $600 which she refused to wear. Another cost $700. Finally, she appeared on set in a dress of her own, which studio people said was not as expensive as those made and charged the studio a rental of $100 for its use. On a previous picture studio people claim she insisted on wearing her own ermine coat which she said cost $20,000 and demanded $1,000 rental. Studio people are reported to have checked this and found the coat was appraised at $3,800.  


Bennett Marriage: Musician, Charles Bennett, filed a declaratory relief action in LA asking that his marriage to Boots (Mallory) Bennett be declared valid, following the actresses asserted attempt to get a Mexican divorce. Legality of their marriage was questioned because of the actress being only 26 at the time of the ceremony.

1934: 

Guarding Mae: With Mae West still receiving threat letters, Paramount had considerable difficulty last week in getting Miss West to attend rehearsals. Finally Emanuel Cohen agreed to seal up the stage where It Ain’t No Sin is rehearsing, with cops guarding all exits and entrances. It was even necessary for the director and producer of the picture to get the okay from Cohen before the cops would pass them.


Napoleon Off: Warners has shelved Napoleon in which Edward Robinson was meant to have starred, for this year. Likely that a new player will be in the name part when it finally is made. Studio has been trying to talk Robinson out of the assignment for three months. (Napoloen would have been a great role for Robinson no matter what Warners said).


Fight Raft Suit: George Raft isn’t going to collect damages for the theft and wrecking of his auto on New Year’s Day without a legal battle with insurance and indemnity companies. A demurrer to Raft’s action has been entered by the defendants. In his original complaint, Raft charged that the defendants disclaimed liability, asserting that his policy covered collision only. 

Monday, 6 March 2017

This Week in History - Mar 5 to 11

Everything you need to know about the goings-ons and gossip from this week in Precode Hollywood.

1929:

The Codys still ill - Word received as to Lew Cody’s condition at the Warwick Hotel, New York states he is still ill with no visitors allowed. Mrs Cody (Mabel Normand) was stricken with pneumonia five weeks ago and has not yet fully recovered.
Healthy, Lew Cody and Mabel Normand
Not a “film story” but I couldn’t pass up including this news article about a femme mayoral candidate:
Advocates Passports For Married Couples at Night: Florence Gravdahl, candidate for mayor at Minneapolis has announced as part of a new platform a modified curfew law for married people by which husbands and wives will be required to carry matrimonial passports when away from home at night. She said traffic police will be directed to investigate automobiles containing men and women and to arrest on disorderly charges the occupants of such machines who do not produce marriage certificates, showing they are man and wife, or, in lieu provide a satisfactory explanation of their presence together. The same procedure would be carried out in night clubs and hotels. A recent newspaper editorial suggests couples discovered out after sundown could be sent to Mrs Gravdahl for “a good talking to-or something”.  

Navarro on Discs - Ramon Novarro can really sing, disclosing this new talent in The Pagan with the star warbling The Pagan Love Song, theme number. His singing so impressed Victor it has signed Navarro for recording purposes.  
Ramon Novarro and Dorothy Janis in The Pagan

1930:

Alice White’s Wedding - Alice White left Hollywood Saturday for Chicago with it reported that upon her arrival there she will marry Sid Bartlett. The latter has been acting as her personal representative for the past six months. 
Sid Bartlett and Alce White
Meanwhile, another loved-up couple announced their engagement in this week 1930. Louis B. Mayer’s daughter Irene Mayer announced she would be marrying David Selznick.

Barrymore Baby - Little Mr or Miss Stork due in the home of the John Barrymores around March 15. (the couple would go on to have Dolores Ethel Mae "DeeDee" Barrymore who FYI is the aunty of Drew Barrymore).   
The Barrymores and DeeDee
1931:
An early model of a television, circa 1920s
Television 3 Years Away - Show business needs not to be concerned about television for at least another three years. If it comes out in practical fashion then it will be a scientific miracle. This comes from Radio officials who say until television can be simplified, costs can be reduced and equipment reduced in bulk, there is little chance of air or wire pictures ever reaching the home of the average public institution. 

Mary Nolan in Mae’s Show - Mary Nolan, who has come to New York to play at the Palace is going into Mae West’s new show Diamond Lil’s Daughter after the vaudeville date. She will be co-stared with West.

West-East Tests - While Helen Hayes was in Hollywood for two or three months, she had several screen tests. No good was the result. Back to New York again for Helen. (Hayes would win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Sin of Madelon Claudet released in October that year. Go Helen!)
Stage and screen star, Helen Hayes
1932:

Mae Clarke’s Breakdown - Mae Clarke is in a Hollywood hospital trying to defeat a breakdown. Recalled from Palm Springs where she was resting to make retakes for Night Club, Clarke was immediately rushed to hospital after finishing before the camera. March 6 her malady developed so rapidly she was removed to a sanatarium and will remain there indefinitely.
Mae Clarke
William Holden Dies - Don’t be alarmed, it is not the William Holden of Sunset Boulevard fame but a character actor who appeared in around 20 films including Dance, Fools, Dance and Holiday. He died on March 2, aged 57, following a heart attack. He had been in bad health for the past year due to an automobile accident. He was survived by his widow, Louise Holden, and daughter, Thelma Maclachlan.   
William Holden on the left with Gloria Swanson from The Trespasser (1929)
1933:

Poison Tragedy Points Censors to Pix - Stricter film censorship is on the cards in Massachusetts following the strange death of a fire captain. William Costello was found dead last week from cyanide poisoning. It appeared to be suicide but the possibility of murder is being considered. The film Payment Deferred, recently exhibited in the area, showed how cyanide can be purchased and administered without chances of outward detection. Costello’s wife admits to purchasing cyanide which she used for cleaning.   
Charles Laughton in Payment Deferred
And So to Bed - The day after Ruth Chatterton broke two fingers when she jammed her hand in an auto door, she appeared at Warners for a scene in Lily Turner calling her to do a cootch dance. Execs figured that she couldn’t do justice to the wriggling due to the pain from her injuries so she was put to bed for the hospital sequence in which she is supposed to have a child.

Gaynor Divorce Suit - From authentic reports, Janet Gaynor, will file suit for divorce on March 7 against Lydel Peck, Fox producer.
Janet and Lydel during happier times
1934:

Princess Sues - Metro lost the decision in the libel suit filed here against the company by Princess Irina on Rasputin and the Empress. Princess was awarded 25,000 pounds or a bit over $125,000. She is the daughter of Grand Duke Alexander and the wife of Prince Youssopoff, who self-admittedly - among others - killed Rasputin. She sued because she claims the film, in one sequence, libeled her.
Princess Irina
Stanwyck Talent - One of the dramatic scenes in Gambling Lady which was written in by Barbara Stanwyck, featured in the picture. The actress’s contribution is the scene where she separates from Joel McCrea toward the end of the story.


Tarzan Not So Hot with Weissmuller - You have Johnny Weissmuller’s word for it - he doesn’t like being that super-man, Tarzan. In fact, he’s pretty tired of picture-making. ‘Gee,’ confided Johnny, ‘when I signed up for pictures I figured I was going to get rich - make money in a bigger way than a professional champion swimmer could. But now I know how wrong I was. Sure, I make more but I spend more too. I’m a swimmer not an actor.”
Johnny Weissmuller aka Tarzan