Sunday, May 31, 2009

Asides - Who's Who

The title and the cast of characters in a film today can show up anytime (and anywhere) during the first 10 or so minutes. In the past, we got the title followed by the cast of character list along with the director, producer, etc. In the silent days, the actor or actress often got their credit on the intertitle the first time they appeared on screen. For example, the intertitle might read, as we see someone entering a room, "Edmund Worthington, known to his friends as Eddie, his family as "the black sheep" and to women as Sweet Ed, has just returned from the race track. Neil Hamilton".

Here are two examples from the 1920 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

And this frame grab is included because Nita looks amazing and Barrymore is in perfect profile.

However, in the late twenties and early thirties, while a straight list of characters was common, several, if not all of the studios, would at times start the film with the actor/actress being shown, along with the name of the character they were portraying. Many serial producers/studios used this device and continued to use it until the end of the chapter play era in the early fifties. What follows are a few of these cast/character screen captures. I just decided to capture these recently, so there is no real rhyme or reason. Enjoy.

Click on the images for a larger view.

From the serials.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Evalyn Knapp

Born June 17, 1908, in Kansas City, Missouri, Pauline Evelyn Knapp began her career in the 1929 silent comedy short At The Dentist's. One might have thought that was to be her lot in film because that year saw her in ten other comedy shorts. Four more shorts followed in 1930, including Chills and Fever with Elisha Cook, Jr, his second film role, and Taxi Talks, starring 20 year old Spencer Tracy, in his second film role. Her first full fledged role was in Sinners' Holiday, also in 1930, and the cast included James Cagney in his screen debut. Two films in 1931 also included Cagney, Smart Money and The Millionaire. These roles helped her be named one of fourteen girls selected as WAMPAS Baby Stars for 1932.

With such a promising start, Evalyn (changed from Evelyn when at Warner Brothers) should have been able to break into the top ranks, but this was not to be the case. She found herself primarily in westerns and B programmers, including being paired opposite Ken Maynard in the 1934 film In Old Santa Fe. She also starred with John Wayne, not in a western, but a romantic comedy(!), His Private Secretary (1933). Other films of the early thirties included Night Mayor (1932) opposite Lee Tracy, Dance, Girl, Dance (1933), Corruption (1933), and Ladies Crave Excitement (1935). She was often the lead actress, but unfortunately not in "leading" pictures.

By 1943, with no prospects for ever getting in the the A ranks, Evalyn left film, married, and concentrated on family. As a side note, Evalyn was the younger sister of then well-known orchestra leader Orville Knapp (1904-1936) whose big songs were "Indigo" and "Accent on Youth." They initially appeared together in a dancing vaudeville act. Ironically, Orville, who was named after famed aeronautics pioneer 'Orville Wright', died in the crash of his private biplane.

Evalyn made 62 film appearances between 1929 and the final uncredited role in 1943's Two Weeks To Live. Evalyn died June 12, 1981, in Los Angeles, Ca.

Click on the images for a larger view.

Picture Play magazine - August, 1931

Silver Screen magazine - August, 1931

Britian's Picturegoer magazine - June, 1931

Publicity still, 1932

Publicity still, undated.

Lobby card for 1934's In Old Santa Fe.

Sinners' Holiday frame grabs.

Corruption frame grabs.

Evalyn's only serial, The Perils Of Pauline (her real first name)

Publicity still, undated.

Evalyn Knapp - What do you think - Allure?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Asides - Potpourri

This week's post covers a number of subjects that include an "epic fail", some talented typing, a beautiful cover, a surreal ad, and a few other odds and ends. The magazines were all added to our collection just this week; the other items are fairly recent as well. Recession? What recession, cough, cough (who needs food?).

Click on the images for a larger view.

This photo from the early thirties pictures one of the floats from an annual or semi-annual gala sponsored by the studios. It was held in a local Hollywood or Los Angeles stadium.

There are varying opinions about Mr. Crosby, but one thing is for sure - he was way ahead of his time in terms of using a laptop. This image headed the letters column in the April, 1934, edition of Screen Play magazine.

Motion Picture Magazine - July, 1925. Cover Artist: M. Paddock
I am not familiar with this artist and can find no reference to him or her, but I acquired this magazine solely for the beautiful cover. However, the editorial also caught my attention and it is the next item in this post.

From Motion Picture Magazine, July, 1925, comes our "epic fail". Mr. Eugene V. Brewster's editorial cites his predictions for the future of film. The last four paragraphs miss just about every mark. I had intended to only show those paragraphs, but decided to be fair to Mr. Brewster and include the whole editorial, where he first recalls his predictions from 1913, and those were fairly prescient. I've kept the image fairly large so you can read it.

New Movie Magazine - September, 1933

I'm impressed. Here are the results for a contest sponsored by New Movie Magazine, where the challenge was to use a typewriter to recreate a photograph of June Knight. I have seen this kind of thing done in ASCII on a computer and over the years a couple of people doing it with typewriters, but this was over 75 years ago. I can't imagine how many hours it took the winner to complete it. The shading and overall likeness to the photo are wonderful.

So what did they win? Of course, typewriters.

Two very nice Clara Bow cards from German postcard publisher Ross.

Test your knowledge of thirties film and film folk with this crossword puzzle from the same issue of Screen Play that brought us Mr. Crosby. It should print out fairly well if you really want to take things that far.

Screenland, March 1934 - back cover
Ok- entendre, double entendre, triple entendre, or no entendre, what a surreal headline.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Ann Sothern

Ann Sothern was born Harriet Lake on January 22,1909, in Valley City, North Dakota. A young accomplished singer and dancer, she left for Hollywood at 17 and began her film career as an uncredited extra in the 1927 film, Broadway Nights. In the early 30's, she appeared as a dancer/chorus girl in a number of films including Whoopee! (1930), and Footlight Parade and Broadway Through A Keyhole, both in early 1933. She also appeared on Broadway during this time and had lead roles in 1931's America's Sweetheart (135 performances) and Everybody's Welcome (139 performances).

Her break came when she was signed by Columbia in the summer of 1933 and was given the female lead and first credited appearance in Let's Fall In Love, opposite Edmund Lowe. True stardom still alluded Ann in the 30's where she had contracts with RKO and M-G-M in addition to the two years spent with Columbia. She was paired with popular male stars including Robert Young, Gene Raymond, Jack Haley, and Ralph Bellamy, but the pictures were more "B" than "A". Her best roles were probably in Eddie Cantor's Kid Millions (1934), and Folies Bergere (1935) with Maurice Chevalier.

Then, in a role originally intended for Jean Harlow, MGM starred Ann in Maisie (1939), as Brooklyn burlesque dancer Maisie Ravier, which would turn into a series of ten films with the last being Undercover Maisie (1947). In between, she starred in such movies as Dulcy (1940) and Three Hearts For Julia (1943), and was well received in Brother Orchid (1940), Cry 'Havoc' (1943), and A Letter To Three Wives (1949). During the 1950's, she appeared in only four films. By this time, however, Ann had turned to the relatively new medium--television, where she would attract legions of new fans. In 1953, Ann played the role of Susie in "Private Secretary" (1953), which ran until 1957. She continued to appear on television and then in 1987, made her final film appearance in The Whales Of August, for which she received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

Ann died peacefully at the age of 92 on March 15, 2001.

Click on the images for a larger view.

Screenland - December, 1934

A two-page spread in Photoplay, February, 1934, promoting Ann and the film Let's Fall In Love.

Let's Fall In Love publicity still.

Ann gets a positive review in ScreenPlay, April, 1934.

A postcard (the only one I've seen) of Ann and Eddie Cantor from Kid Millions (1934).

Ann sings a duet with soon to be husband (1936-1943) Roger Pryor, in 1935's The Girl Friend.

A publicity still from 1935's Folies Bergere.

The Maisie series. I have 9 of the ten films, and haven't been able to locate Undercover Maisie, so no title screen capture.

Congo Maisie publicity still

Publicity still from Trade Winds (1938).

Undated publicity still

Ann Sothern - What do you think - Allure?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Patricia Ellis

Born in Birmingham, Alabama on May 20th, 1916, Patricia, the step-daughter of actor Alexander Leftwich, became interested in acting as a teen. In 1932 she had two small parts, both uncredited, in Three on a Match and Central Park. That same year she was one of fourteen girls chosen as WAMPAS Baby Stars. Patricia, then 16, was the youngest of the group which, also included Lilian Bond, Ginger Rogers and Gloria Stuart.

Her first credited role was in the 1933 film, The Kings Vacation, starring George Arliss. Popular from the start, she would have roles in eight films in 1933, including Convention City, the pre-code lovers holy grail of lost films. Note that Convention City isn't lost due the typical causes, film decay or studio neglect. It caused so many complaints over its risque content that in 1943 Warner Brothers ordered all prints be destroyed. That film aside, Patricia had the female lead in Picture Snatcher opposite James Cagney, and in The Narrow Corner with Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

1934 saw Patricia in eight more films, including the musical Harold Teen and the mystery The Affairs of a Gentleman, which also included the aforementioned Lilian Bond. She started 1935 off with the female lead in A Night at the Ritz, opposite William Gargan, and that year also had the the lead in The Case of the Lucky Legs, an entry in the Perry Mason series. Patricia appeared in a total of 14 films during 1935 and 1936.

Patricia remained popular in the late thirties, but made her last film in 1939, choosing to retire, marry outside of the business and raise a family. She went out while still very much at the top of her game.

Sadly, Patricia died relatively young, of cancer at 53, on March 26th, 1970, in Kansas City.

Click on the images for a larger view.

Motion Picture magazine - September 1933.
Patricia is part of a beachwear fashion spread. While most of the country would be getting ready for fall, September is still beach weather in California.

Screenland magazine - December 1933
A revealing promotional shot for The World Changes.

A publicity still from Convention City.

Promotional still for 1934's Easy to Love.

Film Fun magazine - October 1934
A scene from Here Comes The Groom.

In 1937, Carreras started using photographs instead of illustrations for the cards packaged with their cigarettes.

Frames from Picture Snatcher, with a young and uncredited Sterling Hollaway.

Frames from The Case of the Lucky Legs.

Frames from her third to last picture Block-Heads. The last frame is Patricia hiding in a trunk!

Patricia Ellis - What do you think - Allure?