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Tuesday, 28 March 2017

This Week in History - Mar 26 to Apr 1

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

1929:
Court Limb Exhib in Masseuse Case: Mae Murray will have to shell out $2,000 just because Alice White has pretty legs. No sooner had Miss White exhibited her undraped extremities to the judge and courtroom, than the jurist handed down a decision awarding Sylvia Ulbach, masseuse, judgement against Miss Murray. Masseuse sued the actress after Miss Murray discharged her “because she had called Miss Murray’s husband a bum”. Miss Murray declared her blue-blooded husband was a gentlemen and denied ever discharging her and borrowing money from Ulbach. The masseuse brought Miss White into court as a living example of her art. The object of the testimony was to show in court that Miss Ulbach had done wonders for her legs.   
Doug Fairbanks going in for aeronautics. Now figuring on building a landing field at Pickfair.

Joan Crawford threw a confidential birthday party with only the immediate family as guests.
Director Jack Conway, left, celebrates Joan's birthday on the set of 1929's 'Our Dancing Daughters'
Sounds Piquant: With bathing season getting started along the California beaches, annual police censorship is on. At one beach, Mary Wilson (23), was first to run afoul of a beach cooper. She was picked up on a charge of wearing an ‘immodest’ costume, which consisted of a tight-fitting suit of extreme cut, backless to a point below the waistline and with portions of the front and sides cut out.

1930:
Handling Ben-Hur: In re-making Ben-Hur, Metro will retain all the spectacular stuff as is, merely synchronizing with sound. Song dialog sequences will be entirely new. One of the original principals, Richard Currier, is now dead, a complication. Metro also has to arrange to get the dialog rights for the old play.
Ramon Novarro in the 1925 version of Ben Hur
Warner Oland can’t play golf. He let his fingernails grow for Fu Machu.

Penny Rollers Go Ga-Ga for Wild Beast Revivals: Success of Ingagi, African wild animal picture on its initial showing at San Diego, has sent a flock of promoters on the hustle for any sort of wild animal films. Every film library in town is being canvassed by the promoters in an attempt to get something which sound can be dubbed into. One owner of a six reel animal picture which was made in India in 1924 was offered $10,000 for the negative.
A scene from the popular film, Ingagi 

1931:
June MacCloy’s Home Life, As Per Husband: June MacCloy was made defendant in a suit for divorce filed by Wilbur Guethlein, traveling rep for RKO. She is charged with neglect and cruelty, the husband alleging that she refused to live with him, informing him that she preferred her freedom. Also accused of having an ungovernable temper. They were married in 1929.
June MacCloy sitting on Groucho Marx's lap
Baby Born to Baclanova: Olga Baclanova off the screen for several months for motherhood purposes is expected to go back with a Metro contract.

Davies Sore Over Claire’s Role: Marion Davies is raising ructions, claiming she was promised her the role in Greeks Had a Word For It but that Samuel Goldwyn announces Ina Claire for the play. Goldwyn denies she was ever offered the role.
Ina Claire as she appeared in Greeks Had a Word For It
Ames’ Test: Samuel Goldwyn is testing Adrienne Ames, New York society girl. She has never been on the stage. The potential actress’ husband is Stephen Ames, wealthy Wall Street broker.

1932:
Klan Won’t Let Warner’s Film Nude ‘White Trash’: Rewrites on several sequences in Cabin in the Cotton has been made necessary through influence of the Ku Klux Klan. Company dispatched a camera crew and assistant director to Mississippi to photograph women of a ‘white trash’ section bathing nude in a river. Idea was okay with the women but when the picture company started to grind on the scene the hooded members showed up and ordered the crew to pack up and scram.
Girls Tele Worry is Blondes Out: A television expert, Harry Lubcke, can look even further than ‘just around the corner’. It is bad news for the blondes but jake for the brunettes and red heads. His expert opinion is that inasmuch as television photography must be made before white backgrounds, it will be necessary to have dark objects for distinctive filming. Blonde gals of the future who dye their hair to get work with still have issues he says. Because blondes usually have blue eyes and these will be nix also before the white background.

Mrs von Sternberg sues Dietrich Again: Mrs Riza von Sternberg’s suit against Marlene Dietrich for libel and alienation of affections were reopened by Mrs von Sternberg, who claims Paramount didn’t live up to certain terms of the agreement to cancel suit. Dallies carried the story that the suit had been dismissed when a Budapest newspaperman admitted an article he had written quoting Miss Dietrich on the case had been pulled out of thin air. He wrote a retraction. Agreement was that three letters by the two women and the newspaperman be printed in the newspapers of 10 US cities and Berlin and Vienna. But editors used the letters only in part in their news stories. Paramount’s legal department must now buy advertising space to have the three missives printed in full. 
Von Sternberg and his muse, Marlene Dietrich

1933:
Choosy: George Bernard Shaw, who was on display to the picture people at the Hearst Ranch in San Simeon last Friday, March 24, went under the condition that he would not have to be photographed with picture personalities. Newsreel camera men and photographers who figured they would have an exclusive on Shaw, returned immediately after the condition was made.
Charlie Chaplin, Marion Davies and George Bernard Shaw at San Simeon 
Arliss’ Retirement?: George Arliss is reported retiring from the screen and returning to England. On completion of Voltaire his contract with Warners is up. No deal to renew has been started.

Accident Saves Bette from being Just Another Good Girl: There is nothing more deadly, Bette Davis has decided than being a nice girl too long. That’s the way she started, and if it were not for the lucky break she got in Cabin in the Cotton – the opportunity to do a strip – she might still be playing somebody’s daughter or somebody’s sister, and languishing honoured and unstarred. “Spice in pictures has its place,” says Miss Davis. “That’s the thing that impresses execs and people. Unless the execs think you have sex appeal, you’ll never get a part that the people will remember. Be sweet and demure all you like and see how far you get. Just another blonde indistinguishable from all the rest. Stay good too long and nobody will ever believe you can be anything else. Go torrid, in a na├»ve, subtle way, of course, and people will pay some attention to you. Prove you have sex appeal and you give the people something that interests them.”

1934:  
Guard Crosby Baby: Fearing kidnapping of their baby boy, two armed guards have been stationed at Bing Crosby’s home at Toluca Lake for a week. Guards went on when a policeman reported that he had heard a chap talking in a telephone booth about ‘the Crosby baby’.
Bing Crosby, wife Dixie Lee and Gary Crosby (born 1933)
Madison Mystery: Eric Madison, former accountant in Warner’s studio restaurant at Burbank, was found dead in his apartment on March 25 with six bullet wounds in his body. Police are searching for his wife, Nellie. She had disappeared from their home about 12 hours before the body was discovered.

Elysia Okayed in Chicago by Court Ruling: After six months of court squabbles the nudie, Elysia, got through on a legal order and goes into the loop Majestic for a run. Though Aaron Jones has the house the Lehman estate had promised that if the nudie picture got through the censorship before May 1 they could have the house for the exhibition. However, the picture must be out by May 1.
Press Asked to Omit Funeral Locations: In future it is likely that the New York press will be asked to refrain from printing the location of services to be held for deceased screen celebrities. Plan follows the exhibition by the public for the late Lilyan Tashman. The morbid curiosity of the crowd almost led to fights between those riding in the funeral cortege and the sidewalk gawkers who climbed on the running boards and opened doors seeking autographs. At the burial ground, women plucked flowers from the casket and almost fell in the grave in the rush. Services for Miss Tashman were held on March 23 at the Universal Chapel. 
Lilyan Tashman, she died too soon

Sunday, 19 March 2017

This Week in History - Mar 19 to 25

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.