Friday, May 31, 2013

The Summer Movies for '13

Got absorbed in a project and didn't have time to write a proper blog entry this week (sorry!) so in exchange, I offer you the movies that exhibitors couldn't wait to get in their theatres -- from exactly 100 years ago today.  From the May 31, 1913 issue of Moving Picture World [all courtesy the MHDB]:

(How can you go wrong with that first title?)

(I kind of want to see THE ACCUSING HAND. 
"Driven to complete confession without one single word of accusation"!)

(A HUSBAND'S TRICK stars Lillian Walker as a woman who realizes 
the husband-neglecting error of her suffragette ways.  Yay?)

("Professor Nutt, the vegetarian, goes to the house of an old friend for dinner."
Hey, it ain't WORLD WAR Z, but it'll do.)

Friday, May 24, 2013


John Gilbert and Karl Dane in "The Big Parade" (1925)
[image courtesy The Eastman House]

Richard Arlen and Buddy Rogers in "Wings" (1927)
[image courtesy Feminema]

"The War Film Speaks", Motion Picture, November 1914
[courtesy the MHDL]

I show you long lines of marching men
As in war's grim armor they go their way
To the battlefield, the fort and the fen,
And you clap your hands and you shout hurrah!
But pause for a moment, my friends out there,
Where safe you sit as my swift feet leap,
And think of the children that starve and stare
And the waiting women that work and weep.

Ah, know you already that war's wild hate
Has taken its toll of these marching lines,
That many a face with a smile elate
Lies ghastly now 'neath the border pines?
Yes, this laughing lad and that gaunt grandsire,
Who please your eye with their trim display,
May now be fighting 'mid hell's fierce fire,
Or breathing their last in the mad affray.

O mothers that look on your sons with pride,
O daughters that gaze on your fathers dear,
O maids that sit by a fond lover's side,
O wives that hover your husbands near,
Resolve in your hearts this horror must go
That brings to the world such awful dole,
This cheat called war with its pitiless woe
That wrings to the depths each human soul.

--Oscar H. Roesner

Friday, May 17, 2013

Five Facts About: Wanda Hawley

[Photo courtesy]

1.  Most of the fan magazines list her maiden name as Pettit, but her birth name was actually Selma Wanda Pittach.  When entering movies in 1917, she took the name Pettit to accent her petite stature (she was only 5'3").  The moniker didn't last long, and she instead used her married name (she and Allen Burton Hawley would divorce in 1922):

Wanda Pettit is the latter no more.  That is, she has assumed her honest-to-goodness name which is Wanda Hawley...Allan Dwan, the director, didn't like the Pettit part -- said it wasn't euphonious, or something, so Wanda had it deleted without a murmur.  ["Plays and Players", Photoplay, June 1918]

Mr and Mrs Hawley.  
[Photoplay, January 1920, courtesy the MHDL]

2.  In addition to enjoying swimming and gold, Wanda was vocally trained and toured for awhile across the country singing opera.  She was also an accomplished pianist:

She was to be a grand opera prima donna...and her mother had her put through a strict course of training vocally, as well as at the piano.  The result is that she can sit down now and tick off a few Rachmaninoff preludes and Bach fugues without winking an eye.  ["Victuals and Voice", Photoplay, January 1920]

[Photoplay, January 1920, courtesy the MHDL]

3. She is said to have appeared in the 1925 version of The Wizard of Oz, though her role is uncredited and, as of yet, unverified.  This is a most unusual version of the story, directed by Larry Semon:

4.  At the height of her career, she was receiving the same amount of fan mail as Gloria Swanson, and starred with matinee idols like Rudolph Valentino and Wallace Reid.

Wanda and Rudy in The Young Rajah (1922). 
[Photo courtesy The Loudest Voice.]

5. Though well-regarded, her career faltered after sound came in (her IMDb lists only three credits, ending in 1932), and she is rumored to have become a call girl in San Francisco.  She died in 1963.

Interested?  Good!  For more about Wanda:

An interesting essay written by her great-niece: Sixth Street - House Arrest Girl

[Photo courtesy]

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Review: Two Alone (1934)

Mazie (Jean Parker) lives in a world as bleak and unforgiving as a Grant Wood painting.  An orphan, she was adopted into a life of drudgery and servitude by a harsh farm family, headed by the deplorable Slag (Arthur Byron) and his shrewish wife (Beulah Bondi).  Their daughter, Corie (Nydia Westman, who you'll hear more about soon), doesn't seem to care for Mazie one way or another, only noticing her existence to laugh at her.

Somehow, despite the lack of love and affection, this little weed has grown into a wildflower; Mazie is beautiful, dreamy-eyed, and curious.  Her only friend on the farm is George Marshall (Willard Robertson), an older hired hand, and her heart is broken when he leaves -- though he does promise to come back and save her someday.

One day, Mazie stumbles across Adam (Tom Brown), a troubled young man on the run, and treats him with the first compassion he's ever known.  They recognize something in each other, these two castoffs, and before they know it they've formed a bond -- one they will desperately need to hang on to...

This movie touched me.  It's a soapy programmer, to be sure, and it starts a bit slow and rickety, but the performances are disarming.  Jean Parker imbues Mazie with an innocence that never devolves into dopeyness or gullibilty; both she and Tom Brown have such freshness, such vulnerability, that their love story never seems syrupy or overblown.   Arthur Byron plays one of the coldest, meanest characters in recent memory, and just when you think he might be softening...well, I don't want to give it away.  Charley Grapewin injects a bit of humor into the movie's darker moments with a small but pivotal role, and Zasu Pitts has a cameo as his long-suffering daughter.

Two Alone is a thinly-veiled Cinderella story, but it is also a very real and poignant tale of first love.  IMDb says it is also known as Wild Birds; it's worth seeing under any name.

I give this one:

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Lightning Flyer

She was Dot sometimes, or Little Alabam',
Started a Scandal up there on the stage,
When in her cups, her friends called her Slam,
At MGM, all the rage.

A beauty just brimming with humor and fun,
Her joie de vivre showed in her face, in her carriage,
She mended the stone face and heart of someone,
In spite of his marriage.

Forever supporting, rarely the lead,
The role didn't matter -- her presence shone stronger.
A daughter of silents who vanished with speed...
Wish you'd stayed longer.