Birth of Motion Pictures

There was a wonderful exhibit down in Brea, California regarding the birth of motion pictures. I had never been to this space before but not only did I discover that it was a nice venue but the show was well done, they had great posters and admission was only $3. My brother, who lives in Iowa, saw a story about the exhibit in his local newspaper (The Quad-City Times) and alerted me to it.

The collection belongs to Dwight Manley who first made money in rare coins and then moved into other areas, including real estate, to amass a fortune. Manley’s goal is to acquire a poster from every silent film made in the United States. It’s generous of him to allow the public to see his fantastic collection.

This is a postcard that was handed out at the show. The woman in the image is the greatest star of them all Gloria Swanson.

This digital sign made it clear I was in the right place.

The exhibit was held in this ship-like building.

This guide was handed out at the entrance. It shows where everything was located.

This poster was right inside the front door. That looks like Jack Holt embracing Mary Pickford.

Note: The gallery was very well lit which was great for taking photographs but made it difficult to get an image without the reflection of lights on the glass.

This poster and the one of Tom Mix that follows were two of my favorites at the show.

Where are my Children? was a social responsibility picture. See description below.

Note: I took a picture of the item’s description but it was too blurry to post. This is what the description said:


Where Are My Children?, 1916

Tyrone Power Sr.

Studio: Universal

Stone Lithography on Paper, 1 sheet

Where Are My Children?, Lois Weber’s 1916 medical melodrama about a successful doctor who believes abortions are permissible for poor society bit frowns  upon the procedure for the upper class because of his belief in eugenics. However, he is unaware that his own wife has been having abortions as she prefers life without children; late in the film, he discovers her terrible secret. Starring Tyrone Power Sr., Helen Riaume, Marie Walcamp, Cora Drew, and Rena Rogers.

Far and away the two most famous films from 1916 are D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance and Thomas Ince’s Civilization, though this film deserves to be just as well remembered. Directed by Lois Weber, a giant of early cinema and the only woman to make major Hollywood movies of note in the mid-1910s, the film deals with the issues of birth control and abortion. It was loosely inspired by a real life case involving Margaret Sanger, a major birth control advocate, who was put on trial after a woman had an abortion after receiving a leaflet from Sanger. Far beyond that, however, this film explores the then popular concept of eugenics, a theory which correlated wealth and favorable genetics. This theory became completely discredited after it was advocated by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis during World War II. There were some exploitation movies dealing with abortion in the 1930s to 1950s, but there has not been another serious Hollywood movie about abortion that presents both sides of the issue evenly since this film, nearly a century ago. The film closes on a powerful scene of the doctor and his wife in their later years, childless, but surrounded by the ghostly souls of the children they never had. This is surely one of the most important early silent movies but perhaps it is because of its controversial nature that it is little talked about today; certainly a similar situation exists with 1915’s Birth of a Nation. This poster is the only known example for this film of this style.

Here’s what Who’s Who in California: A Biographical Dictionary 1928-1929 says about Lois Weber.

b stands for birth. d stands for daughter (of). m stands for married.

Lois Weber with her first husband Phillips Smalley.

In Tony Slide’s book on Lois Weber, Lois Weber the Director Who Lost Her Way in History, Slide states that Smalley often took co-director credit but there’s no evidence that Smalley ever did anything except sit around on the set and be supportive. Smalley didn’t work in motion pictures after his divorce from Weber in 1922.

Weber made a number of films with provocative titles or films that were just provocative including one called Hypocrites (1915) which dealt with religion and the naked truth. The naked truth in this instance was portrayed by Margaret Edwards who was awarded a medal as the most perfectly formed girl in the world before landing her role in Weber’s picture. Weber filmed Edwards naked and had The Naked Truth appear on the screen at various times throughout the movie. Sure the film was banned in some places due to the blatant nudity but the film was a big hit too. Weber was pretty smart and knew what audiences wanted: religion and nudity.

Weber died as a result of complications from a bleeding ulcer in 1939. She didn’t have much money at the end of her life so her funeral was paid for by Frances Marion. Weber wrote a book regarding her time in Hollywood and willed it to her sister but the sister was unable to get the book published and the book was lost or stolen sometime in the early 1970s.

Here’s another photo of Weber from Tony Slide’s book. She’s awfully dressed up to write.

Spartacus appears to be fearless though, strangely, he’s dressed very similar to Lois Weber in that typewriter photograph. I couldn’t wear what he’s wearing because it’s too girlish. I can see myself wearing what Kirk Douglas wore in the 1960s version of Spartacus. In that movie Kirk wore a leather harness, some bikini-toga-like shorts and man-ish sandals. That ensemble I could carry off.

There was a whole room devoted to Gloria Swanson.

Elinor Glynn is one of those individuals that I’m somewhat fascinated by. Evidently, she was connected to the film Beyond the Rocks.

This is from Who’s Who in California: A Biographical Dictionary 1928-1929. She looks like a drag queen to me. Joanna Lumley does a good job portraying Glynn in the movie The Cat’s Meow.

There were a lot of posters at this show that I would like to own but the one I would really want to have, to display in my humble home, would be this poster of Douglas Fairbanks. He’s my favorite silent film star.

This poster looks very art nouveau.

Never heard of this film and it’s too big to be framed. It must be a 24 sheet.

This obit is from the April 12, 1932 issue of Variety.

Below is a review of Rip Van Winkle from Variety dated November 28, 1914.

Who’s the guy behind Rudy? A Russian version of the Lone Ranger?

I’ve always liked Felix. I think it’s a Latino thing.

This is the text for the Houdini poster.

My brother likes Lon Chaney.

I took a picture of the textual information beside this image but my photo was too angled which made it difficult to read so I retyped it below.

London After Midnight, 1927

Lon Chaney Sr.

Studio: Metro-MGM

Stone Lithography on Paper, 1 sheet

London After Midnight, released in England as The Hypnotist, Tod Browning’s 1927 murder mystery thriller. In this film, Lon Chaney plays a detective and accomplished hypnotist who is trying to solve a cold case murder. With his skills, he is able to hypnotize the principals and have them reenact the crime, which reveals who the murderer was. In the most memorable scene of the film, Chaney disguises himself as a vampire in an attempt to interrogate neighbors who are accused of committing the murder because they are vampires. Starring Lon Chaney Sr. in his first and only role as a vampire, Marceline Day, Henry B. Walthall, Percy Williams, Conrad Nagel, Polly Moran, Edna Tichenor, and Claude King. Likely the most sought after lost film, the last copy of which burned in a studio fire in 1965, this exceptional Argentinian 1 Sheet poster displays identical artwork to the original U.S. 1 Sheet featuring “the man of a thousand faces,” Lon Chaney. Only a single U.S. 1 Sheet is known to exist and this is one of possibly two known Argentinian 1 Sheets of this title. Acquired from the collection of Metallica guitarist and legendary horror collector Kirk Hammett, this poster has an incredible image of Chaney as the vampire-like character behind Marceline Day over London Bridge.

My friend, who went with me to the exhibit, liked this poster the best.

Below is a review of the film from Variety dated April 25, 1919. I don’t think this writer knew how to write a review which tells me there have been incompetent people throughout time.

There was a special section devoted to this film, White Shadows of the South Seas, and its Oscar.

This is what it says on the bottom of the Oscar.

That Heart of California poster is just beautiful.

With the monocle it looks like Fatty’s attempting to be a sophisticate. It amazes me that these things still exist.

The guy who owns these posters frames them as if they were art.

The exhibit was nicely arranged.

Detwiler, J. B. (Ed.). (1929). Who’s who in California: a biographical directory 1928-29. San Francisco: Who’s Who Publishing Company.

Slide, A. (1996). Lois Weber: the director who lost her way in history. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

Stamp, S. (2015). Lois Weber in early Hollywood. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.

Variety Film Reviews 1907-1980. (1983). (Vol. 1, November 28, 1914). New York: Garland Publishing.

Variety Film Reviews 1907-1980. (1983). (Vol. 1, April 25, 1919). New York: Garland Publishing.

Variety Obituaries 1905-1986. (1988). (Vol. 2, April 12, 1932). New York: Garland Publishing.

Vazzana, E. M. (1995). Silent film necrology. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company.