Sunday, May 27, 2018

Bessie Love at the Bat -- May 27, 2018


I have always been fascinated by the career of actress Bessie Love. She was born in Texas. Her name was Juanita Horton. Her family moved to Los Angeles and she went to Los Angeles High School. Looking for work, she met director DW Griffith and got a small part in Intolerance. She appeared in movies with William S Hart and Douglas Fairbanks. She was a 1922 WAMPAS (Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers) Baby Star. She played many leading roles, most famously in The Lost World, but never broke through until the talkies came, when she starred in The Broadway Melody. Her career was hot again for a few years, but then tailed off. She continued to appear in small parts in movies until the early 1980s. Here we see her dressed for baseball.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906) -- May 26, 2018


This post is part of the Springtime Silent Movie Challenge: In the Beginning..., hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently. "Here’s the challenge. Before June 21, 2018, you will:
"Watch 5 movies made between 1906 and 1914
"Watch 5 movies made in 1905 or before
"Share your experience on your blog, on social media or here in the comments (I will set up a special post for the purpose to publish on June 21)"

For my five movies made between 1906 and 1914, I thought I would continue to look at some pioneering efforts.

My sixth film, my first from 1906-1914, may be the first feature length film and it is certainly one of the earliest surviving fiction films made in Australia.  The Story of the Kelly Gang was directed by Charles Tait.  It ran for over one hour.  It made its premier at Melbourne's Athenaeum Hall on 26-December-1906.

History of Australian Bushranging by Charles White, 1901
Bushrangers were outlaw gangs who lived in the Australian bush country and robbed stagecoaches and banks and committed various other crimes.  The last and most famous of the bushrangers, before their capture and killing in 1880, were the Kelly Gang, led by Ned Kelly and his brother Dan.  In the years since Dan died, probably a suicide, and Ned was hanged, the Kellys have been regarded by many as folk heroes with some of the traits of Robin Hood.

History of Australian Bushranging by Charles White, 1901
Ned Kelly had been a member of other gangs in his youth.  In 1878, a policeman came to the family home to arrest Dan Kelly for horse stealing.  Ned Kelly shot the policeman and subdued him with the help of Dan, their mother, their brother-in-law and another man.  Ned and Dan escaped to the bush, but the policeman later had their mother, their brother-in-law and the other man arrested.  They were all convicted of attempted murder.

History of Australian Bushranging by Charles White, 1901
While on the run, the Kelly Gang killed three policeman, robbed banks and murdered an informant.  The police caught up with them at a hotel in Glenrowan, where the gang held several hostages.  The gang had made helmets and suits of armor to protect themselves during robberies.  Ned attacked the police wearing his armor.  The police bullets bounced off until they started shooting at his unarmored legs.  The police captured him alive.  After the hotel caught fire, police found the bodies of Ned and another man, who may have killed each other to avoid capture or burning to death.

Ned was convicted of murder and hanged on 11-November-1880.  Some people have regarded him as a symbol of Australian nationalism, or as a Robin Hood-type, the way Jesse James in often looked at in the United States.

Plays about the Kelly Gang became popular almost immediately.  In 1906, Charles Tait directed a feature-length film about the Kellys.  I first saw it when I attended the San Francisco International Film Festival's program of early Australian films.  The film survives in fragments, but some of the fragments are compelling.


Some of the surviving footage suffers from nitrate decomposition.  We are lucky we still have it.


The first surviving scene is set outside of a cabin on a farm.  A police trooper in a fancy uniform accosts two women, Ned's sister Kate and his mother Ellen.  He waves a warrant at them.  Ellen enters the cabin and the policeman grabs Kate, attempting to molest her.  She resists until Nate runs out of the cabin and shoots the policeman.  Other men come out and grab their horses and ride away.  In a closer shot, Kate holds the policeman at gunpoint until they get away.


The next scene begins with a beautiful shot of the gang on their horses, facing the camera.


We see two policemen in their camp at Stringybark Creek.  They shoot at birds.  The gang attacks them from the surrounding bushes.  In a missing bit of film, they kill one policeman, but the other surrenders with his hands up.  The members of the gang drink their coffee and eat their food.  One member of the gang enters to say other policemen are coming.  The gang hides after Ned warns the captured policeman to trick the other policemen.  The gang shoots another policeman and the captive races away on a horse.


In the next scene, the gang approaches a stone building and rob a large group of inhabitants.  This is probably Younghusband's Station.  When the people go back in, the bandits tip their hats to the ladies.  Then they hide and wait for an approaching wagon, which belongs to a hawker, a travelling salesman.  They rob the hawker.  He argues and resists while they loot his wagon. When they are done, one gang members takes the wagon away and the others make everyone hide and they wait for a buggy which carries three people.  They rob the passengers, one of whom seems to be carrying a fishing rod and a creel.  A man rides up on a horse and they hold him at gunpoint.  This scene runs over seven minutes, all in one shot with some panning.


In the next scene, we see the gang in a bar, perhaps at the hotel in Glenrowan.


The scene shows signs of nitrate decomposition.

They pull their guns and appear to shoot out the window.


We see the first intertitle.  There is some controversy over whether the original release had intertitles, or they were added for a rerelease.  Joe Byrne was a member of the gang.

Nitrate decomposition makes it hard to see, but a member of the gang appears to fall.


Police surround the hotel in another scene beset with nitrate decomposition.  The policemen exchange bullets with the gang on the porch.  A man in a black coat and hat runs in front of the police and tries to get them to cease fire.  He runs to the hotel.  He must be Father Matthew Gibney.


We see another intertitle.  I like the style of the lettering.


The shot is now tinted red, and we see flames rising from the hotel.



We cut back to the bar.  The scene is tinted red because of the fire.  Steve Hart and Dan Kelly shoot each other, either to avoid capture or avoid burning to death.



Father Gibney enters the bar, finds the bodies of Steve and Dan, and helps a wounded hostage out the door.


In a reverse shot, we see Father Gibney carry the wounded hostage out of the burning hotel.



In the final scene, Ned Kelly has donned his armor and shoots at the police in a medium shot  The scene has quite a bit of nitrate decomposition.


In a shot from behind the police, we see Ned Kelly in the far background.  The policemen flee and Ned walks forward, still shooting.


After Ned steps over the eucalyptus branch in the foreground, he staggers and falls.


The police rush in and arrest him.


In a closer shot, marred by nitrate decomposition, the police remove Ned's armor and drag him away.

The film was mostly shot in the suburbs of Melbourne.  No one is certain of the name of the actor who played Ned Kelly.

Melbourne Herald, 24-December-1906
An ad from the 26-December-1906 Melbourne Herald promotes the Boxing Day premiere at Melbourne's Athenaeum Hall.

Melbourne Herald, 27-December-1906

The production was a big hit, which toured all over Australia in 1907.  In 1907 the film was banned in areas where the Kelly Gang had roamed.  I n1912, bushranger films were banned in large part of Australia.

"The Story of the Kelly Gang" was considered a lost film until bits were found in 1975 and 1978.  Part was found in a garbage dump in 1980.  The long scene at Younghusband's Station was found in 2006 in the UK.

www.listal.com
Ned Kelly and his gang remained a popular topic in Australia.  Despite the ban on bushranging films, Harry Southwell made The Kelly Gang (1920), When the Kellys Were Out (1923), When the Kellys Rode (1934) and the unfinished A Message to Kelly (1947).  In the 1970 musical Ned Kelly, singer Mick Jagger played the lead role.  There was controversy because people thought an Australian should play the part.

Coming Next Saturday: The first the first fully hand-drawn animated movie.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Billy West, Learning to Knit -- May 25, 2018

Moving Picture World, 11-May-1918
Billy West closely imitated Charlie Chaplin in a long series of comedies for different studios. While Chaplin was making the excellent Mutual comedies, West was making imitations of Chaplin's Essanay comedies. When Chaplin moved on to First National distribution, Billy West was still making comedies for King-Bee. King-Bee often came up with some interesting ads, but I couldn't find any from May, 1918.


Moving Picture World, 04-May-1918
Billy West wrote a scenario called "The King of Volcano."  It was apparently released as "Beauties in Distress."

Moving Picture World, 18-May-1918
"This is said to be the first time since King-Bee has had him under contract that he appears in costume."  I guess they didn't consider the tramp clothes as a costume.
\
Moving Picture World, 25-May-1918
Everyone wore hats back then.  The Hatless Club members felt that going bare-headed was good for the hair.  DW Griffith went through a phase of cutting holes in the tops of his hats for the same reason.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Harold Lloyd is Shown in 18 Theaters in Omaha -- May 23, 2018

Moving Picture World, 11-May-1918
"Positively the best single reel comedies made."  Harold looks very enthusiastic in this image.  I guess he always did look enthusiastic.  Note that Toto is on the top of the full page ad.

Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, 24-May-1918
"Harold Lloyd Comedy" appears at the very bottom of this newspaper ad from Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Moving Picture World, 11-May-1918
Hal Roach was consolidating his control of the Rolin Film Company, easing out Dwight Whiting, who had been secretary and treasurer.


Monday, May 21, 2018

Chaplin's New Comedy Breaks Many Records -- May 21, 2018

Moving Picture World, 18-May-1918
Charlie Chaplin and Brownie (or Mutt or Mut, playing Scraps) were the stars of Chaplin's first movie for First National release, "A Dog's Life."

Moving Picture World, 04-May-1918
"At the Strand in New York, 16,141 people, on the opening day of the run, paid $5,619 to see Charlie and his trusty hound."

Moving Picture World, 04-May-1918
This item has some promotional suggestions:
Program and Advertising Phrases:
The Greatest Comedy Ever Shown on Either Stage or Screen.
Charlie Chaplin Makes a New Beginning Under Own Management.
Three Reels of Riotous Laughter.
Fun-Fest Supreme with, the World's Greatest Comedian.
Large Company of Trained Dogs Lead Comedy Life.
Chaplin Starts Million-Dollar Contract with a Hit.
The Funniest Thing this Funniest of Men Ever Presented.
Three Reels of Solid Laughter and Riotous Fun.
Three Reels of Innocent Fun and Frolic.
Simple Fun Free from Vulgarity.
Nothing but Dogs, Chaplin and Laughter.
Humor. Excitement and Pathos with Laughs Supreme.
The World Will Rock with Laughter.
The World's Greatest Comedian in His Greatest Comedy.

Moving Picture World, 11-May-1918
BF Keith's Palace was the most famous theater in vaudeville.  "A Dog's Life" did good business there.

Moving Picture World, 11-May-1918
"Charlie Chaplin came to Atlanta April 16, smashed all attendance records, including grand opera and political powers, by drawing eight thousand people to the auditorium; set a Liberty Bond sales record, locally by coaxing $502,350 out of Atlantans' pockets and found time to hobnob with both the upper and lower crusts of Atlanta's social stratum." 

Moving Picture World, 18-May-1918
Chaplin finished his Liberty Bond tour of the South and sold more bonds in New York City.

Moving Picture World, 25-May-1918
First National touted three big attractions, "A Dog's Life," Tarzan of the Apes, and My Four Years in Germany, the story of American ambassador James W Gerard.

Moving Picture World, 25-May-1918
Mutt died after a long illness, which this story blamed on Chaplin's absence on the bond tour of the South.

Moving Picture World, 04-May-1918
Meanwhile, WH Productions was rereleasing many of Chaplin's Keystone comedies.

Moving Picture World, 25-May-1918
WH Productions renamed many of the Chaplin Keystones.

Moving Picture World, 25-May-1918
I suppose "The Hula Hula Dance" was "His Prehistoric Past," Chaplin's last Keystone.

Moving Picture World, 04-May-1918
Essanay continued to exploit its collection of Chaplin films.  I like "Next great comedy" for a film that was going on three years old.

Moving Picture World, 04-May-1918
Besides reissuing individual movies, Essanay was also pushing Chase Me Charlie, a feature compiled in Britain from several of Chaplin's Essanay shorts. They referred to it as "A Chaplin Jingle."

Moving Picture World, 04-May-1918
"A Night Out" teamed Chaplin and Ben Turpin.  "In its new form this subject is presented in even a snappier style than when it was first released."  Essanay reedited some of the movies.

Moving Picture World, 11-May-1918
"Daddy!  Take Me to See CHARLIE CHAPLIN."  This ad promotes reissues of the Chaplin movies and the Snakeville comedies, which don't hold up as well.

Moving Picture World, 18-May-1918
"The feet that move the world to laughter."  I like the photos of feet and shoes.

Moving Picture World, 25-May-1918
"New Prints -- New Paper."

Moving Picture World, 04-May-1918
Mutual, which Chaplin had just left, was also reissuing his comedies.

Moving Picture World, 11-May-1918
A new booking plan increased demand for the Mutuals.