Tag Archives: Silent Movies

Classic Hollywood #65 – Lillian Gish, Ethereal Beauty In The Dawn of Cinema

Lillian Gish – An Eight Decade Career in Entertainment

 

Lillian Gish, whom George Jean Nathan the eminent critic, has termed “the finest actress in motion pictures”, has again scored a signal triumph by her characterization of “Romola” in the Inspiration company’s production of George Eliot’s celebrated novel of the same name. Miss Gish spent a year in Florence, Italy making this picture, under the direction of Henry King. Photoplay reviewers have classed her work in “Romola” as fine as that of “The White Sister”. “Romola is a Metro-Goldwyn release. October 20, 1925

For longevity there are few stars that can rival Lillian Gish (October 14, 1893 – February 27, 1993).

The star of D. W. Griffith’s legendary Birth of a Nation (1915), Gish made her stage debut in 1898 and her final movie The Whales of August in 1987. In between those many years, Gish alternated between the stage, movies and television.

In 1914 theatrical producer David Belasco was quoted as saying that Lillian Gish “is the most beautiful blond he had ever seen.”

George Jean Nathan the critic who provided the quote in the news caption above was in love with Lillian Gish and the two dated for many years. In April 1925, Variety, the weekly theatrical paper, reported that the two were engaged to be married. Similar reports emerged in 1927. Gish and Nathan never  married and no reason or announcement was ever provided except that they were just “good friends.” Continue reading

Beauties Of The Past – Maude Fealy

Stage and Silent Star Maude Fealy

Maude Fealy 1861u pc Rotary

A new feature of our web site: photos and short biographies of glamor girls of the past.

These are women that were more than just beautiful, they were talented and were able to cut out successful careers for themselves during an era when men dominated the entertainment industry. Of course with the passage of time, many of these stars have dimmed and are now distant memories. We hope to bring them to light again to a wider audience.

Maude Fealy 1149 pc Davidson

Maude at age 8 with mother Margaret Fealy.

Maude at age 8 with mother Margaret Fealy.

Maude Fealy (born Maude Hawk) in Memphis, Tennessee, started her career at the age of 3 in the legitimate theater with her mother, actress Margaret Fealy. Margaret divorced Maude’s father, James Hawk and then went by her maiden name of Fealy and Maude also adopted her mother’s maiden name.

Fealy’s exact birth date was never clearly established and contemporary reports range from March 4, 1881 to 1886. The Social Security Death Index lists her birthday as March 3, 1882

Maude Fealy 3093C pc Philco Maude Fealy 3107D pc philco 1906

Fealy hit the big time just before the turn of the century when theatre impresario Augustin Daly discovered her playing Juliet and signed her to a five year contract. Daly died in 1899, effectively canceling the contract and Fealy was then courted by all the major playwrights to appear in their productions. Fealy quickly became a star in many Broadway and London productions. Among the many plays she appeared in were: Quo Vadis, Sherlock Holmes, The Professor’s Love Story, Heart’s Courageous, The Truth Tellers and On the Quiet. She cemented her reputation as a fine actress by playing the female lead in several of the first British actor ever knighted, Sir Henry Irving’s plays including, Becket, The Lyons Mail, Waterloo and Louis XI.  Continue reading

The Birth Of The Movie Palace, Roxy, and The Best Deal Ever For A Screenwriter

The Strand Theatre Opens, April 11 1914

When the Strand Theatre opened on April 11, 1914 in New York at 47th Street and Broadway, it marked the beginning of a new era in the exhibition of motion pictures; the age of the movie palace.

The Strand seated an astounding 3,500 people and was the largest and most ornate theatre ever built exclusively to show movies. The Strand covered 20 city lots and had a frontage of over 155 feet on Broadway and over 277 feet on 47th Street.

Innovations in design Continue reading

Book Review: A Penny From Heaven

A Penny From Heaven by Max Winkler  (Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc 1951)

Anyone suffering through the trepidation of an uncertain job market and being out of work with no savings, would find comfort and inspiration by reading Max Winkler’s, 1951 autobiography and ode to America,  A Penny From Heaven.

Even for those not being in the same circumstances, Winkler’s book is a page-turning, lively recreation of the United States at the dawn of the twentieth century.  Achieving the American Dream and leaving behind the “old country” forever, was the goal of millions of ignorant, poor and helpless European immigrants and Winkler conveys the struggle as well as any writer ever has. Continue reading

If Star Wars Had Been A Silent Film

Brilliant Re-Working Of A Film Classic

This video first appeared four years ago, but I just discovered it. If you have ever watched a silent film you will appreciate this. From the music, to the grainy film quality and subtitle insertion, the team that created this really got it right.

UPDATE 1/3/12 Actor David Prowse played Darth Vader and was voiced by James Earl Jones, but did you know for the lightsaber fight scenes, sword master Bob Anderson (in the video clip here) was in the Darth Vader costume? He was never credited. Anderson passed away in England at age 89 on January 1, 2012

Classic Hollywood #4

The Vamp in a Classic Role

“The Vampire,” Theodosia Goodman otherwise known to the world as Theda Bara in her 1918 starring role The Forbidden Path with (I believe) Hugh Thompson, her co-star.

Theda Bara was one of the first sex symbols of the screen. Her name was supposedly an anagram of “Arab Death.”  (that is completely fabricated along with many other “facts” of her life.)  Bara became a star in 1915 as a “vampire” (not the blood sucking kind – a notorious woman who drives men wild with desire using her wiles and charm and wreaks havoc in their lives) in A Fool There Was. She cemented immortality in 1917 with her portrayal of the title role in Cleopatra.  Bara was pretty much typecast as the vampire (later shortened to “vamp”) and her film career stalled by the end of 1919. She appeared in only three films in the 1920’s and never made any sound films, retiring in 1926. She died in Los Angeles in 1955 at the age of 69.

While some today would not necessarily consider Bara a beauty, there is definitely something very appealing about her. A naturalness that comes through. In a lot of ways she represents more real women of that age and much more than her modern Hollywood contemporaries of Angelina Jolie or Scarlett Johansson representing today’s woman.

Bara’s  heavier legs and abdomen are shown in her movies and photos. Would modern lead actresses be permitted to display extra poundage in our hyper-perfect-looks media without being skewered a la Oprah or Kirstie Alley?

Some photos of Bara when she was at the height of her career: