Monty Banks With Flappers In Atta Boy – 1926
Born Mario Bianchi in Cesena, Italy on July 15, 1897, comedian Monty Banks was a popular comedian of the teens and 1920s. When Banks emigrated around 1914 he did not realize there were two America’s and ended up in Buenos Aires, Argentina!
Banks soon made it to the United States and started in films as a stunt man. He later became a gag man and a cutter. Eventually he worked his way up to starring in two reel comedies (ten to fifteen minute short films).
In 1926 Banks made his first long feature (65 minutes) for Pathe, Atta Boy. How different was it to get a part in a major film 95 years ago? The diminutive five foot five Banks announced through the newspapers that he was casting for a leading lady. The qualifications? She must be blonde and not over five feet tall. All applications including photographs would be considered and were to be sent to the actor care of Hal Roach Studios.
The lead role went to brunette Virginia Bradford, a direct descendant of Governor William Bradford of Plymouth Colony, who had a short film career from 1923 -1934 appearing in 13 movies.
One day while on location for Atta Boy, director Edward H. Griffith and Banks stopped at a lunchroom in Albuquerque, NM and ordered sandwiches. When the waitress was making out the check she remarked to Banks, “Gee you sure look like Monty Banks. He’s my favorite actor.”
Monty blushed and in his embarrassment put down a generous fifty cent tip and left.
Griffith staying to finish his coffee said, “Say, young lady, that is Monty Banks.”
“Sure,” replied the waitress, “that line never fails on a movie actor.”
The plot for Atta Boy is Banks plays a cub reporter whose birthday falls on April 1. The star reporter of the newspaper plays a joke on Banks and tells Banks he is to be the star reporter and go out and get a great story. Difficulties then ensue.
Variety said the comedy ” shows vast ingenuity and resource in keeping the gagging in motion,” and “For so sustained an effort the average of interest and laughs is high.”
Banks anonymity to modern audiences is secure. Despite appearing in 109 films from 1916 – 1945, less than four dozen of Banks’ movies exist in partial or full form, many only housed in film libraries and rarely shown publicly. Four of the six reels of Atta Boy survive at UCLA’s film archive. Like most of Banks early silent film work which is missing (66 of 89 films), the remaining two reels of Atta Boy has been lost.
Banks later became a director handling 34 feature films. He married British actress Gracie Fields in 1940. Banks suffered a heart attack while aboard the Orient Express train with Fields in Italy on January 7, 1950. After being taken off the train and transported to the hospital he died.