Sunday, April 26, 2009

Alma Rubens

Depending on the source, Alma Rubens was born either Alma Genevieve Reubens or Genevieve Driscoll in San Francisco Feb. 19, 1897. She attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart, but was drawn to acting in her early teens. She got a very lucky break when a stage comedy being locally produced needed a replacement for one of the chorus girls who became sick. Alma was chosen and as a result became a stock member of the company. When the company relocated to Los Angeles, it was suggested she try her had at film.

Her earliest roles included A Woman's Wiles (1915) and Reggie Mixes In (1915) with Douglas Fairbanks. However, her real break came when she co-starred with Fairbanks in The Half Breed (1916). She continued to work regularly, including a very small part in D.W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916), and in another Fairbanks film The Americano (1917). Trouble was not far off however, because at some point around 1918 she developed a taste for drugs. She was arrested in 1919 for drug possession and sentenced to a stay at a state hospital. Still, Alma continued to work regularly in films through the early 1920's, and had two short marriages along the way. She continued a very successful career in the mid-twenties, where she made 15 films and starred with George O'Brien in The Dancers (1925) and opposite Edmund Lowe in East Lynne (1925). Then, while working for Fox in 1926, Alma met and married Ricardo Cortez. Sadly, from this point on her film career plummeted, mainly due to her heroin addiction. She made only one film in 1927 and one in 1928. She was arrested twice around this time for disorderly conduct, and finally collapsed in January, 1929, from a drug overdose. She spent six months at the California State Insane Asylum. Once released, she was able to go back to films, making the part-talkie Show Boat in 1929, and then her last film, She Goes To War, starring Eleanor Boardman. Cortez filed for divorce at this time, and she went East for a stage show that unfortunately folded after one week. Alma went back West hoping to renew her film career, but ran into trouble when police searched her home and found morphine. She was released on $5,000 bail. She never made it to trial, lapsing into a coma and dying on Jan. 21, 1931. Alma appeared in a total of 58 films.

In a confessional interview with the Los Angeles Examiner shortly before her death, Alma said, "As long as my money held out I could get drugs. I was afraid to tell my mother, my best friends. My only desire was to get drugs and take them in secrecy. If only I could get on my knees before the police or before a judge and beg them to make stiffer laws so that men will refuse to take any dirty dollars from the murderers who sell this poison and who escape punishment when caught by buying their way out."

Click on the images for a larger view.

Photoplay magazine, May 1922

Stars of the Photoplay - 1924 edition

The same edition of Stars of the Photoplay also featured future husband Ricardo Cortez.

Publicity Still from East Lynne (1925)

Stars of the Photoplay - 1930 edition and still a featured star.

Undated publicity still

Publicity still from The Masks of the Devil (1928), co-starring with John Gilbert.

Movie Mirror - December 1931, where the caption sums it up.

Alma Rubens - What do you think - Allure?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Asides - visiones de Hollywood

Hollywood films are very popular throughout the world, but this is nothing new. In this post we look at some film magazines from the 1930's published in or for the Latin community, yet solely devoted to Hollywood productions. I'm sure there were many more publications, but these are the only issues in our collection.

Ecran was published in Chile. This issue is from July 1934 and features Ann Sothern on the cover. The magazine has less pages than a Photoplay or similar U.S. publication, but is larger in overall size, measuring an almost tabloid dimension of 13''x10.5". It wouldn't fit in the scanner, so it was scanned in sections. Stories and photo essays include Jean Harlow, Sidney Fox, Jean Arthur, Thelma Tood, and Paul Muni.

Carol Lombard and Conchita Montenegro were also featured in this issue.

Just like the film magazines in the U.S., there is coverage of the latest fashions.
PS - I had to photograph rather that scan the two above images, and therefore they are not quite as sharp.

Cine-Mundial was sold in Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Cuba, Uruguay, Spain, Portugal, and Columbia. What is interesting is that the publication was actually managed and edited in New York specifically for the Latin and South American market. I believe it was printed locally, but almost all of the product advertisers, including Listerine, Pepsodent, Kellogg's Corn Flakes, and the "Instantaneous Electric Water Heater Co.", show New York or U.S. addresses.

Those profiled and shown in this issue include among others, Pola Negri, Norma Shearer, Greta Garbo, Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, and Lupe Velez.

Here is a wonderful picture of Anita Page that I have never seen anywhere else.

And cheesecake is cheesecake in any language.

Films Selectos was a supplemental section in an unidentified magazine or newspaper published in Barcelona, Spain. This issue, number 103, is from October 1932. The cover is a scene from Daughter of the Dragon. The supplement has a mix of reviews of films, short coverage of actresses and actors, and in this issue, a look at cowboy movies.

This is the back cover of Films Selectos. It has a "cut along this line" on the right hand edge so you can save the star's image for your collection.

Cinelanda magazine is similar to Cine-Mundial in that it was managed and edited in the U.S. (Hollywood) for the Latin market. Unfortunately, I can't tell you much more at this point because the two publications below are currently en route to me. The covers are so nice I just had to include them.

Cinelandia - August 1933

Cinelandia - January 1933

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Noel Francis

Noel Francis was born in Temple, Texas on November 21, 1906, and by age 20 was appearing in the Ziegfeld Follies working opposite the comedy team of Wheeler and Woolsey. Eventually Fox scouts noticed her and in 1929 she was signed to a Hollywood contract. Because of her Follies background, Fox intended to develop Noel as a musical and dance star. Unfortunately, musicals were on the wane at the time (they did rebound) and her contract was dropped. Luckily, she was picked up by Warner Brothers, and featured in a number of films that had her portraying the tough talking, sassy female connected to gangsters, convicts, and other underworld types, so popular with the movie going public then and now.

Noel was rarely given the lead female role, though she worked near the top with some of the era's best actors in films that included Smart Money (1931), in which she is a scheming blonde helping Edward G. Robinson lose his money, and Blonde Crazy (1931), where her target is James Cagney. Her most noted performance was in I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang (1932), working with Paul Muni in one of his strongest performances. However, perhaps because of being typecast, she found herself in "B" productions after 1932, though one was as the lead female; Mayfair Picture Corporation's 1934 What's Your Racket?, opposite Regis Toomey. Needing work, Noel returned to Broadway, but couldn't resume her career there, and returned to Hollywood to make three final films with Buck Jones, including Stone of Silver Creek (1935), in which she used her Broadway musical expertise to play a saloon singer. Between 1929 and 1937 Noel made 47 films.

Noel died October 30, 1959 in Los Angeles, California.

Click on the images for a larger view.

Motion Picture Magazine - August 1931

Picture Play Magazine - September 1931

Promotional still for I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang.

Promotional still for I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang.

Studio Portrait - Date Unknown

Two publicity stills for Stone of Silver Creek.

As was her lot, these four films have Noel as the moll of a crooked judge in Night Court, a gangster's wife in Guilty As Hell, a woman with her own agenda in Blonde Crazy, and in a small role as a turn of the century saloon girl in So Big.

Poster for Noel's rare starring vehicle, What's Your Racket?

Noel Francis - What do you think - Allure?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Asides - Photoplay May 1930 - Spring Fashions

Yes, spring is sprung, though mother nature seems a bit slow on the uptake. In 1930, spring fashions were given their due in the pages of the May edition of Photoplay.

I decided rather than just bring you the fashion spread, we would also take a look at the cover and a couple of ads. Photoplay was a very substantial publication in the twenties and thirties; this issue hit the news stand at 162 pages, I dare say more than you'll find in almost any magazine today.

Enjoy and remember to click on the images for a larger view.

Photoplay May 1930, featuring Mary Brian on the cover. Artist: Earl Christy

Ad for The Follies of 1930. Interestingly, film ads seem rather scarce in Photoplay and other movie magazines of the day. In this 162 page issue there are ads for only 3 films. Paramount on Parade, another musical comedy, and "The Sensational Talking Picture Triumph", A Lady To Love, starring Vilma Banky, were the other two films advertised.

And now a word from another of our advertisers. The following is a two page spread for Lux soap. We all know lines like "4 out of 5 doctors recommend", but Lux really sets the bar (pun intended) by claiming "Of the 521 important actresses in Hollywood, including all stars, 511 are devoted to Lux Toilet Soap." My fuzzy math puts that around 95 percent. Who had the job of interviewing all 521 important actresses?

Joan related The Secret of Facination to Katherine Albert and all Photoplay readers.

Renee, Anita and Carlotta are big Lux fans as well.

And now onto the fashions for Spring 1930, where the theme is Color-Color-Color. Unfortunately sepia is the best Photoplay could do.

Jeanette MacDonald and Leila Hyams showing of a full frock and bathing cap respectively.

Here Leila gets a better chance to strut her stuff, Anita looks charming as always, and Lillian fairly conservative, excepting the scarf and hat.

Kay could be on the street today with that outfit, Catherine not so much.

Dorothy certainly has some fashionista sense going, and Kay again looks classic.

Now here is an ad directly tied to the change over from silents to talkies. What I don't understand completely is why Western Electric ran this ad. Did they get a percentage from the studios or theaters based on attendance?

Happy Spring!