For Monday, we have a strange mystery photo.
For Monday, we have a strange mystery photo.
Richard Wright as Bigger Thomas in “Native Son.”
Black writer Richard Wright chronicled racial and class prejudice in his intense, best-selling novel “Native Son” in 1940. The work remains a lightning rod, still timely and confrontational as well as profane, graphic and violent to many who seek to ban it from libraries. “Native Son’s” powerful theme boldly covers America’s race divide, making it fertile material for stage and screen. Adapting it for both mediums challenged many, offended by the overt condemnation of racism or what they considered obscenity, but these visceral productions provided potent food for thought to audiences.
Born 1906 on a plantation near Natchez, Miss., Wright experienced hardship similar to his Bigger Thomas character, living with his illiterate father, teacher-trained mother, and strict grandmother, a former slave. After his father abandoned the family, Wright’s mother struggled with poverty. When his mother was stricken by paralysis, he was raised by an uncaring uncle and then shipped around between family members. Wright felt ignored and rebuffed by whites, while blacks warned him to conform and not rock the boat, leading him to accept whatever crumbs he was offered. Once he began reading at the age of 15, a rebel was born.
This week’s mystery movie was the 1951 Paramount picture “The Mating Season,” a Mitchell Leisen production, with Gene Tierney, John Lund, Miriam Hopkins, Thelma Ritter, Jan Sterling, Larry Keating, James Lorimer, Gladys Hurlbut, Cora Witherspoon, Malcolm Keen, Ellen Corby, Billie Bird and Mary Young.
Screenplay by Charles Brackett, Walter Reisch and Richard Breen, suggested by a play by Caesar Dunn.
Photography by Charles B. Lang Jr. Art direction by Hal Pereira and Ronald Anderson. Process photography by Farciot Edouart. Set decoration by Sam Comer and Ray Moyer.
Edited by Frank Bracht. Costumes for Miss Tierney executed by Oleg Cassini. Makeup by Wally Westmore. Sound by Don McKay and John Cope. Music score by Joseph J. Lilley.
Produced by Charles Brackett. Directed by Mitchell Leisen.
“The Mating Season” is not generally available on DVD or streaming. There is a funky low-resolution version on YouTube.
Note: This is an encore post from 2019.
Recognized for playing Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and Latinos in “King Kong,” “The Mummy,” “The Ten Commandments” and many others throughout his long film career, African American Noble Johnson achieved greater renown for establishing Lincoln Motion Picture Company in 1916, the first company making and releasing films strictly for African American audiences. Almost forgotten today, Johnson strove to make what were called “race” films emphasizing the intelligence, talents and success of black Americans as a counterpoint to the often racist and off-putting portrayals of African Americans in contemporary films.
Born 1881 in Missouri, Johnson moved with his family to Colorado Springs, Colo., where he worked with animals before he began appearing in silent films in 1914, including Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Squaw Man.” His athletic, tall frame and dramatic features helped land him many acting jobs at major studios, and his talent for performing gained him good notices in almost everything he portrayed, even in small roles. Not only did he act, but he also wrote scripts.
Mary Mallory’s latest book, “Living With Grace: Life Lessons from America’s Princess,” is now on sale.
Sorry, Netflix. But once again. There is no connection between Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia and the Hotel Cecil. This is Arty, 634 S. Main St., former location of the Dugout Cafe, where bartender C.G. Williams said thought he might have seen Elizabeth Short – and no, he didn’t.
This week’s mystery movie was the 1950 Paramount film “The File on Thelma Jordon,” with Barbara Stanwyck, Wendell Corey, Paul Kelly, Joan Tetzel, Stanley Ridges, Richard Rober, Minor Watson, Barry Kelley and Laura Elliot.
Screenplay by Ketti Frings from a story by Marty Holland.
Photography by George Barnes, art direction by Hans Dreier and Earl Hedrick, special effects by Gordon Jennings. Process photography by Farciot Edouart. Set decoration by Sam Comer and Bertram Granger.
Editorial supervision by Warren Low. Costumes by Edith Head. Makeup by Wally Westmore. Sound by Harry Lindgren and Walter Oberst. Assistant director Francisco Day.
Music by Victor Young.
Produced by Hal B. Wallis.
Directed by Robert Siodmak.
Jan. 11, 1934: “Convention City” opens at the Warner Bros. Hollywood and Downtown.
Note: This is an encore post from 2012.
The early days of the talkie film industry saw plenty of life situations covered realistically and explicitly on celluloid, ranging from nudity, extramarital or sexual relations, addictions, sexual identity, and so on. These films are often now called pre-codes, in that they were produced before the creation of the Production Code Administration in 1934, which regulated what could be shown on screen. This office was created by the film industry in reaction to the Catholic Church’s attempts to organize audience boycotts of films.
This week’s mystery movie was the 1945 Universal film “The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry,” with George Sanders, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Ella Raines, Sara Allgood, Moyna MacGill, Samuel S. Hinds, Harry Von Zell, Judy Clark, Coulter F. Irwin and Craig Reynolds.
Screenplay by Stephen Longstreet, adaptation by Keith Winter. From the play by Thomas Job, as produced on the stage by Clifford Hayman.
Photography by Paul Ivano, special photography by John P. Fulton. Edited by Arthur Hilton, art direction by John B. Goodman and Eugene Lourie. Set decoration by Russell A. Gausman. Costumes by Travis Banton.
Music direction by H.J. Salter, sound by Bernard B. Brown, technician Glenn A. Anderson. Makeup by Jack P. Pierce. Assistant director Melville Shyer.
Produced by Joan Harrison. Directed by Robert Siodmak.
Silent film lover and superstar Rudolph Valentino commanded the screen with his intense magnetism and sensuality. His untimely, tragic death in 1926 at the age of 31 gave him instant immortality, with thousands descending on the funeral home, church, procession, and funeral of their beloved star.
Upon his death, many clamored for ways to memorialize this worldwide icon. Chicago residents announced the first proposed memorial for Valentino within days of his death on Aug. 23, 1926. Judge Francis Borrelli, Assistant State Attorney Michael Romano and lawyers Ellidoe Libonati, Stephen Malato and Michael Rominia filed articles of incorporation for a Rudolph Valentino Memorial Association with the intent of constructing a memorial for the star in the Windy City.
Mary Mallory’s “Living With Grace” is now on sale.
Executive summary: A story in Entertainment Weekly looks at the 1949 disappearance of bit actress Jean Spangler. The author lists purported suspects, including Dr. George Hodel, whom Steve Hodel has accused of countless unsolved killings, including the Black Dahlia, and of being Zodiac. Newspaper accounts from the time show that when Jean Spangler disappeared, George Hodel had just been arrested on charges of molesting his daughter Tamar and held in the County Jail on $5,000 bond pending his preliminary hearing.
Interested? Read on, as I expose even more of Steve Hodel’s lies…
Photo: Beachwood Canyon in a panorama from the Library of Congress.
Note: This is an encore post from 2012.
Throughout history, people have come together to communally celebrate. From groups worshipping at Stonehenge, rejoicing in Times Square at the end of World War II, or experiencing the height of 1960s’ music at Woodstock, unique cultural experiences tend to create small moments of rapture among its participants. Los Angeles and Hollywood experienced one such unique chapter during a massive outdoor 1916 production of “Julius Caesar” in Beachwood Canyon to celebrate William Shakespeare’s 300th birthday.
An EBay vendor has listed a sign from South Norton Avenue with an asking price of $500, stating that:
Elizabeth Short, the infamous Black Dahlia was found brutally murdered, severed in two, just down the street from where this sign was posted.
Street numbers in Los Angeles start at 1st Street, on the south side of City Hall, so 600 South Norton is at 6th Street. Which means that 39th Street is 3.6 miles away. Not “just down the street” even under the most generous interpretation. It’s just plain old flea market flimflam.
Matthew Boulton as the physician who develops a cure for smallpox in MGM’s 1939 “The Story of Dr. Jenner.”
For centuries, smallpox infestations caused massive deaths and disfigurings to civilizations. First appearing in agricultural communities around 10,000 BC, the disease affected rich and poor. Everyone from Egyptian pharaohs to New World residents infected by Spanish conquistadors suffered from the dread disease, either covered in disfiguring skin lesions or dying. The British commander of North American forces fighting during the French-Indian War in the 1750s, suggested using it as biological warfare on Native Americans.
Even after a vaccine was discovered, education was required to inform people of the ugliness of the disease and the salvation of vaccination. Thanks to motion pictures, vast audiences could be educated on the value and importance of inoculation and vaccination. MGM’s 1939 Passing Parade short, “The Story of Dr. Jenner,” provided an entertaining but informative look at Dr. Jenner and his propagation of vaccination.
This week’s mystery movie was the 1951 film “The Enforcer,” with Humphrey Bogart, Zero Mostel, Ted de Corsia, Everett Sloane, Roy Roberts, Lawrence Tolan, King Donovan, Robert Steele, Adelaide Klein, Don Beddoe, Tito Vuolo, John Kellogg and Jack Lambert.
Written by Martin Rackin.
Photographed by Robert Burks, art direction by Charles H. Clarke, edited by Fred Allen, sound by Dolph Thomas, set decoration by William Kuehl, orchestrations by Maurice de Packh. Music by David Buttolph.
Produced by Milton Sperling. Directed by Bretaigne Windust (and Raoul Walsh).
Every so often, this clip shows up on social media, purporting to be Elizabeth Short on Hollywood Boulevard during V-J Day celebrations in August 1945.
False. Elizabeth Short was in Medford, Mass., on V-J Day and didn’t arrive in Los Angeles until the summer of 1946.
Today is Jan. 15, the anniversary of Elizabeth Short’s death. As is the custom, the Daily Mirror will be dark.
Trim your roses in her memory.
The anniversary of Elizabeth Short’s murder, coming up Friday, always promotes a flurry of retrospectives on the 1947 Black Dahlia case. The stories are typically scraped off the Internet by reporters dashing off stories who rarely venture beyond Wikipedia.
A few guidelines to avoid the more common mistakes:
Photo: Filming “Barbara Frietchie.” Courtesy of Mary Mallory/Collections of the Margaret Herrick Library.
Note: This is an encore post from 2012.
Thomas Ince, sadly more recognized today for his tragic, early death than for the fine films he created, was one of Hollywood’s most successful early film producers. Building his first studio in 1912 at what is now the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Sunset Boulevard, Ince churned out mostly westerns and Civil War pictures at this location, stories that possessed fine drama along with exciting action. In 1918 he built a fancy, state of the art studio facility at 9336 W. Washington Blvd. in Culver City, which later housed Selznick International Pictures and still stands today as the Culver Studios. Here Ince turned out a wide range of films with high artistic values. In 1924, he turned once again to a story of the Civil War, BARBARA FRIETCHIE, one that would allow him to employ many studio buildings as stand ins for Maryland buildings and mansions.
“Barbara Frietchie” was a poem written by John Greenleaf Whittier in 1864, inspired by the legend that the elderly Frietchie proudly displayed the Stars and Stripes outside her home in Frederick, Maryland, as Confederate General’s “Stonewall” Jackson’s troops rode by. While there was a real person named Barbara Fritschie in town, she had nothing to do with the incident; another woman in her city actually raised the flag. As the Fritschie family was famous and respected there, the story became attached to them, which they did nothing to disprove or disown. Clyde Fitch’s play of the same name makes the story more romantic by making the heroine young instead of old and adding in romance. John Hopkins University students disproved Whittier’s thesis in a study they conducted in 1923, per a Jan. 8, 1923 story, in The New York Times.
Ince recognized the drama inherent in the Civil War story, of a town and families divided between North and South, which offered examples of character, courage, and determination. In the film, Frietchie, played by the attractive Florence Vidor, and family support the South. She loves William Turnbull, played by Edmund Lowe, who of course sympathizes with the North. When war is declared, they are separated before they can be married. Over the next several years, they come into contact as Turnbull’s troops come through the city. He is wounded and brought to the home of the Frietchies. Believing him dead, Frietchie honors her lover by flying the American flag from the balcony as General Jackson’s troops victoriously parade by. As the crowd jeers her, Jackson warns that anyone who harms her will die like a dog. Barbara is still shot and she crawls to William’s bedside. Miraculously, both revive, and a wedding ends the film.
As the July 20, 1924, Los Angeles Times points out in a story coming from Ince publicity materials, the film would comprise more than just the facts of the play and poem. “It will, in fact, show various crucial moments in American history, beginning with the landing of the Pilgrims to the period of the Civil War, with the battle of the Monitor and the Merrimac. Primarily, however, “Barbara Frietchie” is a love story, one of the most appealing as related to the history of this country, and as such it is being filmed.” Not only would the film show the pilgrims, it featured scenes of the Revolutionary War and President Abraham Lincoln as well.
To make the story more realistic and cheaper than traveling to the South, Ince erected a residential street to represent Frederick, Maryland. Brian Taves, in his new biography of Ince, notes that the grounds of the studio also represented a Southern village and military camp. The pillared, antebellum looking administration building of the Ince Studio and its surrounding grounds became the Frietchie mansion. The studio played up the use of the mansion in publicity stills sent out promoting the picture, many picturing the building. Some photos show it regally as a fine, Southern home, while others show it under attack. In this off-camera photo, cavalry veterans of World War I play Civil War soldiers, riding up Washington Boulevard on horses as an eager crowd watches the action. The studio plays up the film with free publicity for Culver City residents, locating a large sign noting the production’s name at the front of the property.
Taves states that the film was an important one for the studio, running over ninety minutes and costing almost $175,000. Shooting so much on the lot made strong financial sense in order to reduce costs.
The Los Angeles Times loved the film; reviewer Edwin Schallert in the Sept. 17, 1924, paper called it “…more than entertainment, although it is that in full effect; it is also an animated and highly colorful page of history. To be sure, there is an obvious line of hokum running through the feature, but as it is the source of much humor one can accept it.” Schallert thought Vidor outdid any of her previous performances, adding prestige to her as an actress, giving heft to the picture. He found Lowe fine, and thought that Mark Hamilton, the humorous scapegoat throughout the film, almost stole the feature. Schallert noted as well that the film connected to the present day, as the grandson of the two leading characters returns from the war in Europe, helping “reawakening of patriotic feeling.”
Los Angeles Times gossip columnist Grace Kingsley reviews the film in her story about its Oct. 3 premiere at the California Theatre, pointing out how sophisticated audiences were to movie plots. “It seemed to be the aim of the picture people to wring every drop of drama possible from every situation. Hero and heroine suffer in every way they could be made to suffer before the happy finale, even to our being caused to think (unless we were very movie wise, which we are) that the hero was dead. We knew very well that even if his heart wasn’t beating he would hop up just before the final curtain. And so he did.”
Sadly, this would be one of the last films Ince produced that he would see on screen. Thomas Ince died of stomach problems on Nov. 19, 1924, leaving behind a studio with several films still shooting or in post-production.