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:

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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.

 

Sylmar

For years Huell Howser was on the local PBS television station. Originally, he had a show called Videolog followed by a show called Visiting and finally a show called California’s Gold.

That's Huell. That's how I remember him. Everybody in the state of California must know who he is.

That’s Huell. Everybody in the state of California probably knows who he is and, I suspect, everyone in the state of California misses him. I never met him but I feel like I know him. R.I.P. Huell. (1945-2013).

Anyway, Huell would travel around California to different sites and basically ask people to show him around while he asked questions and then he acted flabbergasted or amazed at what he was seeing or hearing. He never seemed fake. He always seemed honestly interested. One of the sites Huell visited was the Nethercutt Museum in Sylmar. The only reason I know about this place is because of Huell’s show. The Nethercutt is out in Sylmar in two rather inconspicuous buildings.

This is the first building. It looks like a storage facility.

This is the first building. It looks like a storage facility.

The doors are rather nice though. They're bronze.

The doors are rather nice though. They’re bronze.

There are way too many to include but here are a few that I liked.

There are automobiles on the ground floor and on the first floor. This 1903 Peerless and the Orange Lincoln that follow were on the ground floor. (In the basement.)

The Peerless looks like something out of Oklahoma with that fringe on the top.

The Peerless looks like something out of OKLAHOMA! with that fringe on the top.

That is one cool car. The interior was orange too.

This orange Lincoln is really cool.

The 1979 Lincoln. The interior was orange too.

The interior was orange too. I would feel like a pimp driving it. If I owned it I would buy an orange hat with fur trim and wear it whenever I went for a ride.

It's supposed to resemble a car showroom from the 1920s.

This is the main floor. It’s supposed to resemble a car showroom from the 1920s.

Main floor. It's supposed to resemble an automobile showroom from the 1920s.

The main floor’s ceiling.

There were a number of great cars here but I often am drawn to the movie related ones.

There were so many great cars but I’m drawn to the movie related ones. C.B. (That’s what Norma Desmond called him) was in Sunset Boulevard.

Demille's car.

Demille’s car.

C.B.'s radiator cap.

Demille’s radiator cap.

Once again, in Sunset Boulevard, Gloria Swanson says she has an

Once again, in Sunset Boulevard, Gloria Swanson says she owns an Isotta-Fraschini.

Look at that grill. It would be near impossible to keep clean.

1928 Isotta-Fraschini. Look at that grill. It would be near impossible to keep clean.

Fatty is one of my favorites from the Silent era because of his scandal.

Fatty is one of my favorites from the silent film era because of his big sex scandal.

Fatty's car.

Fatty’s car.

Fatty's radiator cap. It looks like a chubby Atlas.

Fatty’s radiator cap. It looks like a chubby Atlas.

This is what I actually came to see. It's on the second floor of the building and it was made for the 1915 World's fair.

This is what I actually came to see. It’s the reason I drove all the way out to Sylmar. This figural group is on the second floor of the building and it was made for the P.P.I.E. in 1915.

I think it's really neat.

I think it’s really neat and it’s world’s fair related.

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This second floor was filled with items like this. It's one of those Llardo's.

This second floor was filled with a variety of items like this. It’s one of those Lladro’s.

On the 3rd floor they had a lot of big musical instruments like this organ.

On the 3rd floor they had a lot of big musical instruments like this old, movie theater, pipe organ.

Curtains that frame the room were lifted and these pipes were revealed and then the concert started. There were lots of songs that I don't remember but the finale was the theme from Star Wars.

These pipes were revealed when the curtains that circled the room parted. At which point, the concert began and the organ started churning out songs from its electronic memory. I don’t remember a lot of the songs (my memory isn’t as good as the organs) but the finale was the theme from Star Wars. That stuck in my head because, well, it’s the theme from Star Wars.

This guy, Kyle, oversaw this part of the tour. He reminded me of myself but I'm a bit more masculine.

This guy, Kyle, oversaw this part of the tour. He reminded me of myself but he may have been a bit more masculine than me if that’s possible.

There were other instruments on the 3rd floor. I think he said this was a Concertina. It's a whole orchestra in a box.

There were other big instruments on the 3rd floor. I think Kyle said this was an Orchestrion. It’s a whole orchestra in a box.

She's kind of cool but she doesn't move when the orchestra plays.

She’s cool but she doesn’t move or dance when the Orchestrion plays.

There were also watches and other gizmos on the 3rd floor.

There were also watches and other doodads on the 3rd floor…

...for example an old record player and Nipper.

…for example, an old record player and Nipper.

A big dinning room was on this floor too. The Nethercutts used it for entertaining. Their home was in Brentwood but they brought people here for dinner. This seemed odd to me but I guess this way they didn't have a bunch of people trapsing through their home and there is certainly a lot to look at here.

There was a dinning room too. The Nethercutts used it for entertaining. Their home was in Brentwood but they brought people here for dinner. That seemed odd, to me, but I guess this way they didn’t have people traipsing through their home.

This is the other building.

This is the other building.

In it, there were more cars.

In it, there were more cars.

That's real pretty.

That’s real pretty.

This is right near the entrance.

This is right near the entrance.

It looks like it is from outer space.

It looks like it is from outer space.

I

I like this car because of its compactness.

I like this car because of its compactness. I can see myself driving it.

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That's a strange looking car.

That’s a strange looking car.

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This 1937 Pierce-Arrow was pulling...

This 1937 Pierce-Arrow was pulling…

...this Pierce-Arrow Travelodge. It was super cool.

…this Pierce-Arrow Travelodge. It was super cool.

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This is the view walking through the front door.

The view if you're standing in the kitchen and looking toward the front of the travelodge.

The view if you’re standing in the kitchen and looking toward the front of the travelodge.

The view looking to the back of the Travelodge.

…looking to the back of the Travelodge.

The view if you're sitting at the kitchen table.

… if you’re sitting at the kitchen table.

The view from the other kitchen seat.

…view from the other kitchen table seat.

The view from one of the kitchen windows.

Looking out one of the kitchen windows.

Background on the Travelodge.

Background on the Travelodge.

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This is the second reason I drove out to Sylmar. I wanted to see this train car.

This is the second reason I drove out to Sylmar. I wanted to see this train car: the California.

The train car was owned by this woman. Evidently, her father made money in mining and real estate, hung on for a long time, finally died and left his daughter a large fortune. One of the things she did with the money was to purchase a private rail car for herself.

The train car was owned by this woman. Evidently, her father made money in mining and real estate, lived a very long time, finally died and left his daughter a large fortune. One of the things she did with the money was to purchase this private rail car for herself.

You enter the car through the rear door.

You enter the car through the rear door.

The sitting area was set up with a dinning table and this is what you see when you enter the car.

The parlor area was set up with a dinning table and this is what you see when you enter.

This is opposite the dinning table.

This is opposite the dinning table.

There are stained glass windows throughout the car.

There are stained glass windows throughout the car.

Like most of the items in the car the lighting fixtures are original.

Like most of the items in the car the lighting fixtures are original.

Clara's car sleeps two. This is one bed.

Clara’s bedroom slept two. This is one bed.

...and here's the other.

…and here’s the other.

This is Clara's bathroom. You can see the wood lid to the toliet at the bottom left.

This is Clara’s bathroom. You can see the toilet’s wood lid at the bottom left.

This is another sleeping compartment. Here is one side.

This is the 2nd sleeping compartment. Here is one side.

...and here is the other side.

…and here is the other side of this compartment.

Looking down the long narrow corridor.

Looking down the long narrow corridor of the car.

The 3rd sleeping compartment. This is one side of the room...

The 3rd sleeping compartment. This is one side of the room…

This is the other side of the room in the 3rd sleeping compartment.

…and this is the other side of the room.

There was a kitchen on board too with a black cast iron stove to the left of the sink.

There is a kitchen on board with a black cast iron stove to the left of the sink.

This is where the servants slept. There were three men (porters) who accompanied Clara and her guests.

This is where the servants slept. There were three men (porters) who accompanied Clara and her guests. The seats fold down to form a bed.

This is the engine and coal car that the museum possesses.

This is the engine and coal car that the museum has hitched up to the California.

You see this right before you enter the engine room.

You see this right before you enter the engine room.

I like the color.

I like the color.

The kind of engine it is.

The kind of engine it is.

Looking out the engine's windows.

Looking out the engine’s windows.

A couple of final things…

There is a large collection of radiator caps in both buildings.

There are large collections of radiator caps in both buildings.

Uh, I like Egyptian stuff but I'm not sure about this.

Uh, I like Egyptian stuff but I’m not sure about this. I don’t know if I would want that on the front of my truck.

I like this better.

I like this better.

I like him.

He’s great.

I don't know how these things didn't get broken. Nowadays, they would be stolen the first time the car was left on the street.

How did these things NOT get broken? Nowadays, they would be stolen the first time the car was left on the street. Am I too pessimistic?

Isn't there a name for lions with wings? There must be.

Isn’t there a name for lions with wings? There must be.

This is my favorite one. I've always had a thing for Felix the Cat.

This is my favorite one. I’ve always had a thing for Felix the Cat. I would want to attach him to that Orange Lincoln. I can see myself tooling around in that vehicle with Felix attached to the hood. I would be the envy of every Latino man who saw me.

 

Published in: on January 24, 2016 at 7:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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