Stanley Brothers – Mountain Dew

Ok…we are veering WAY OFF the power-pop/rock path today! I was reading a biography of Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll and it mentioned he would sing this song occasionally. So reading a bio of an American football coach led to this post…you just never know! To paraphrase Bugs Bunny…we are taking that proverbial left turn at Albuquerque.

I got really curious and looked the song up. It’s great…I’ve always liked these old folk songs and bluegrass music because I respect it so much. I’ve played bluegrass with a professional before and it is some of the hardest music I’ve tried to play. The time signatures are all over the place and if you haven’t played the music a lot… it can be tricky. It made me a better musician.

I like the music because it’s so rootsy and earthy. I don’t listen to it a lot but sometimes I will enjoy an hour or so of it. It reminds me of when my dad would go to work in the morning and sometimes he would have this music on.

Moonshine Still Plans, Build-it-Yourself

Good Ole’Mountain Dew!

This song is an  Appalachian folk song that Bascom Lamar Lunsford first wrote in 1928. Lunsford was an attorney, however, he is very fond of folk songs. He once represented a man in court because he was illegally making whiskey called Moonshine. This experience led him to write the song.  He ended up selling the song to Scotty Wiseman and Wiseman changed a few lyrics but remembered Lunsford…he kept the songwriting credit Wiseman – Lunsford.

These songs are special. They were not trying to write hits…they just wanted to tell stories through songs. Instead of newspapers in the backwoods of the Appalachians, you had these songs.

Many artists have covered the song through the years like Willie Nelson, Glen Campbell, Mother Maybelle Carter, Grandpa Jones, and more.

Willie Nelson released a version in 1981 that peaked at #23 in the Billboard Country Charts and #39 in Canada.

The lyrics never stay completely the same through the versions but it still works. We will return to our normal programming in the next post!

Mountain Dew

Down the road here from me there’s an old holler tree
Where you lay down a dollar or two
Go on round the bend come back again
There’s a jug full of that good ole mountain dew

Oh they call it that good ole mountain dew
And them that refuse it are few
I’ll hush up my mug if you’ll fill up my jug
With that good ole mountain dew

Now Mr. Roosevelt told ’em just how he felt
When he heard that the dry law ‘d gone through
If your liquors too red it’ll swell up your head
You better stick to that good ole mountain dew

Oh they call it that good ole mountain dew
And them that refuse it are few
I’ll hush up my mug if you’ll fill up my jug
With that good ole mountain dew

The preacher rode by with his head hasted high
Said his wife had been down with the flu
He thought that I o’rt to sell him a quart
Of my good ole mountain dew

Oh they call it that good ole mountain dew
And them that refuse it are few
I’ll hush up my mug if you’ll fill up my jug
With that good ole mountain dew

Well my uncle Snort he’s sawed off and short
He measures four feet two
But feels like a giant when you give him a pint
Of that good old mountain dew

Oh they call it that good ole mountain dew
And them that refuse it are few
I’ll hush up my mug if you’ll fill up my jug
With that good ole mountain dew

Hollywood (1980)

If you have the slightest bit of interest in documentaries or in silent movies, this is the series to watch. Not only is it a great wealth of info on the silent era…it’s one of the best documentaries I’ve ever watched. It is made up of 13 different one-hour sections. It’s quite a series at 676 minutes.

All of these are on youtube. I have them listed at the bottom… just click on the links I gave. If a link doesn’t work…just copy the title of the episode on youtube and it will show up. If you want to watch a couple give it a try…I would suggest Episode 8: Comedy – A Serious Business and Episode 12: Star Treatment (The Great Stars Of The Silent Films).

There is one misconception about silent films that most have. When you think of a silent film what do you think of? Some people think of the hard-to-see Keystone cops running about like they snorted Peru… that is NOT what most silent films looked like. They played at normal speed and the cinematography was breathtaking in many of them. They are as clear as any movie you will watch if the print has been taken care of or restored.

Kevin Brownlow's Outstanding 1980 Documentary Miniseries HOLLYWOOD is  Online | Austin Film Society

There was a problem with some prints after the silent era. The holes in the film were at a different gauge for the then-modern film projectors and they played them fast and transferred them fast…that meant everything was sped up.

This documentary is to the Silent Era what Ken Burns Civil War doc is to the Civil War. It starts with the pioneers of the movies to the very end when sound took over and changed and some people say ruined an art form. When movies were silent…they were international…no need for translations…just different text. The sound changed all of that and silent movies were at their height.

You get to know the great directors, actors, actresses, cameramen, stuntmen, and movie moguls.

They interviewed these ladies and gentlemen in the late seventies and it was many of their last appearances on film before they passed away. I’m thankful that Kevin Brownlow got this finished and we now have first-hand knowledge of films’ most exciting eras.

I do wish sound pictures would have been held off a few years. The studios weren’t ready for talking pictures. The first “talky” pictures were clumsy and still. The mics had to be placed in flower vases and other stationary places. The silent artists perfected the art of pantomime. Most had great quality (especially in the 20s) that looked better than movies 40 years later. One problem was with the early transfers from the films…now with Criterion and others cleaning up the transfers…we can watch these beautiful movies the way they were intended.

Just like today, you had your formula movies and your great movies. In my opinion, I think the best genre of silent movies is comedies. Not Keystone Cops…they are more like cartoons than films. For me, it would be Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. They both had some of the most subtle and genius gags. Many of their gags have been copied to this day. There were others like Harry Langdon and Harold Lloyd that were popular.

I know it’s a big task BUT…if you like documentaries or silent movies…this series is worth it! Every episode is out there on youtube.

Critically Acclaimed: We've Got Mail #10 | Buster Keaton vs. Charlie  Chaplin!

Here are the different episodes.

Episode 1: Pioneers (Groundbreakers Of Film)

Episode 2: In The Beginning (Birth Of Cinema)

Episode 3: Single Beds And Double Standards (Censorhip) 

Episode 4: Hollywood Goes To War (World War I)

Episode 5: Hazard Of The Game (Stunts And Stuntmen) 

Episode 6: Swanson & Valentino (The 2 Great Hearthrobs Of The Silent Films)

Episode 7: Autocrats (The Great Directors) 

Episode 8: Comedy – A Serious Business

Episode 9: Out West (Westerns) 

Episode 10: The Man With The Megaphone (The Evolution Of Directors)

Episode 11: Trick Of The Light (The Cameraman) 

Episode 12: Star Treatment (The Great Stars Of The Silent Films)

Episode 13: End Of An Era (The Birth Of Talking Pictures)

Clara Bow - Hollywood Star Walk - Los Angeles Times

This is the 12th episode and it is about two people…John Gilbert and Clara Bow. Clara Bow is my favorite actress of all time…and yes that includes today.

The cast listing is below the video.

Actors

  • Mary Astor
  • Eleanor Boardman
  • Louise Brooks
  • Olive Carey
  • Iron Eyes Cody
  • Jackie Coogan
  • Dolores Costello
  • Viola Dana
  • Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
  • Janet Gaynor
  • Leatrice Joy
  • Lillian Gish
  • Bessie Love
  • Ben Lyon
  • Marion Mack
  • Tim McCoy
  • Colleen Moore
  • Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers
  • Gloria Swanson
  • Blanche Sweet
  • John Wayne
  • Eva von Berne
  • Lois Wilson

Directors 

  • Dorothy Arzner
  • Clarence Brown
  • Karl Brown
  • Frank Capra
  • George Cukor
  • Allan Dwan
  • Byron Haskin
  • Henry Hathaway
  • Henry King
  • Lewis Milestone
  • Hal Roach
  • Albert S. Rogell
  • King Vidor
  • William Wyler.

Choreographer: Agnes de Mille,

Writer: Anita Loos,

Writer: Adela Rogers St. Johns,

Press Agent/writer: Cedric Belfrage,

Organist: Gaylord Carter,

Cinematographers: George J. Folsey, Lee Garmes and Paul Ivano,

Writer:  Jesse L. Lasky, Jr.,

Special Effects Artist A. Arnold Gillespie, Lord Mountbatten

Agent Paul Kohner

Producer/writer Samuel Marx

Editors William Hornbeck and Grant Whytock

Property Pan: Lefty Hough

Stuntmen Bob Rose, Yakima Canutt: Paul Malvern, and Harvey Parry, Rudolph Valentino’s brother Alberto Valentino

English set Designer Laurence Irving

Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton

Back in the 90s I got into silent films. I would send off for VHS tapes of 1920s classics. The one actress I wanted to see was Clara Bow. After reading about her I started to learn more about Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. I did know of Chaplin but had never seen one of his films. I still love silent cinema from that era.

Charlie and Buster were two of the best screen comedians ever to walk the earth. They both had similar upbringings. Buster and his family in American vaudeville. Charlie worked in British music halls. Charlie rose to stardom in silent movies in the 1910’s beginning with Keystone, Mutual (where he made his best short comedies) Essanay and then he confounded United Artist with Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, and W. D. Griffith. After that Charlie went into full feature films.

Buster started silent shorts in 1917 with Roscoe Arbuckle. After Roscoe broke out on his own so did Buster….he did some more short films which were brilliant. He then went into full features. Buster was just so different than anyone else. He was so still while the world moved into chaos around him. He was a brilliant actor-director and also writer which he often didn’t take credit for doing. If Buster would have just made “The General” his place in film history would be cemented. The same can be said of Charlie Chaplin and his masterpiece “The Gold Rush.”

There was no competition between the two in popularity. Charlie won hands down over Buster and probably everyone else in comedy and drama. His character “The Tramp” was internationally loved. All in all, I’ve always thought Keaton was a better filmmaker but Chaplin the better character. The most recognized character in movie history.  They were two different comedians. Chaplin would reach for pathos…sometimes a little too much. Keaton seemed much more real.

Keaton’s sight gags were incredible and sometimes dangerous to his health…like have a front of a building that weighed a ton (so it wouldn’t twist in the wind) fall on him with the upstairs opening clearing him around 2 inches on each side. He never smiled because it would have ruined his character. Both are worth watching and with Keaton’s films like Sherlock Jr…you wonder how he did some of the things he did with the primitive camera’s they used.

Both were funny men. The other big comedian was Harold Lloyd but he was more of an actor playing a comedian….he was really successful though… second to Chaplin in making money.

Charlie and Buster older both appear in Charlie’s Limelight. This is the only time they ever appeared together in a movie.

Comedian Quotes

I’ve been watching some older comedy movies…I thought I’d pick out some quotes by these early great comedians.

W. C. Fields (Creator) - TV Tropes

W.C. Fields

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.

If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.

Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water.

I like children. If they’re properly cooked.

I never hold a grudge. As soon as I get even with the son-of-a bitch, I forget it.

I was in love with a beautiful blond once. She drove me to drink. That’s the one thing I’m indebted to her for.

The Case for Duck Soup as the Greatest Monologue in Movie History | Den of  Geek

Groucho Marx

A man is only as old as the woman he feels.

Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.

Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who wants to live in an institution?

I married your mother because I wanted children, imagine my disappointment when you came along

Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member

Stan Laurel (Comedian and Actor) - On This Day

Stan Laurel

You can lead a horse to water, but a pencil must be led.

If any of you cry at my funeral I’ll never speak to you again.

I had a dream that I was awake and I woke up to find myself asleep.

Humor is the truth; wit is an exaggeration of the truth.

Off The Rails: When Buster Keaton Pulled Off Silent Film's Most Expensive  Stunt - Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Buster Keaton

A comedian does funny things. A good comedian does things funny.

Charlie Chaplin and I would have a friendly contest: Who could do the feature film with the least subtitles?

If one more person tells me this is just like old times, I swear I’ll jump out the window.

Harpo Marx | American actor | Britannica

Harpo Marx

The passing of an ordinary man is sad. The passing of a great man is tragic, and doubly tragic when the greatness passes before the man does.

If things get too much for you and you feel the whole world’s against you, go stand on your head. If you can think of anything crazier to do, do it.

The Real Charlie Chaplin' Review: A Telling Look at the Tramp - Variety

Charlie Chaplin

It isn’t the ups and downs that make life difficult; it’s the jerks.

You’ll never find rainbows, If you’re looking down…

A day without laughter is a day wasted.

Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.

Bessie Smith – Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out

This is my first song pick for Hanspostcard’s song draft. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out.

I got into Bessie Smith from listening to Janis Joplin and reading about her. Bessie’s voice sends chills up my spine…that is my litmus test. This particular song grabs me because of Smith’s voice and vibe of the recording. She sings it, means it, and she lived it. The sound of the record and her voice is just unbeatable. Yes we have digital now but digital could not give you this sound.

If you are not familiar with her…do yourself a favor and check her out.

I can imagine Dorothy Parker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Clara Bow all listening to this in the 20s and 30s.

This song was written by Jimmy Cox in 1923 just as the roaring twenties were taking off. There are many versions but Bessie Smith recorded hers in 1929 with a small trumpet section. It was released right before the stock market crashed and the start of the Great Depression.

Many artists (Peter, Paul and Mary, The Chad Mitchell Trio, Dave Van Ronk, Otis Redding, Popa Chubby, The Allman Brothers Band, Rod Stewart, Janis Joplin, B.B. King, Nina Simone, Sam Cooke, Bobby Womack, Katie Melua, Dutch Tilders, Steve Winwood with The Spencer Davis Group, Emmy Rossum, Leslie Odom Jr.) have covered this song but Bessie’s is my go to version.

She was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on April 15, 1894. She lost her dad while she was an infant and her mom when she was 7-8 years old. She was raised by her tough older sister. To help support her orphaned siblings, Bessie began her career as a Chattanooga street musician, singing in a duo with her brother Andrew to earn money to support their poor family.

She is credited with recording more than 160 songs between 1923 and 1933. Smith performed on stage throughout the southern United States and recorded with such jazz greats as Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, and Coleman Hawkins.

Before the Great Depression, Bessie was the highest paid black entertainer in the world, collecting as much as two thousand dollars a week to perform. She was accompanied by great musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Lonnie Johnson, and Benny Goodman.

This song was recorded New York City, May 15, 1929.

Mahalia Jackson, Janis Joplin and Norah Jones who have all given her credit as their inspiration.

On September 26, 1937, Smith was severely injured in a car accident while traveling from a concert in Memphis to Clarksdale, Mississippi, with her companion Richard Morgan. She was taken to a hospital, where she died.

By the time of her death, Bessie was known around the world appear with the best players of the day at theaters coast to coast. Bessie’s voice and showmanship drove her from poverty to international fame as a singer of blues tunes, many of which she wrote and co-wrote.

Bessie Smith has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, winning posthumous awards for her 1923 single “Downhearted Blues,” 1925 single “St. Louis Blues” with Louis Armstrong, and a 1928 single “Empty Bed Blues.” Smith has also been honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame, and the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.

Janis Joplin: “Back in Port Arthur, I’d heard some Lead Belly records, and, well, if the blues syndrome is true, I guess it’s true about me…So I began listening to blues and folk music. I bought Bessie Smith and Odetta records, and one night, I was at this party and I did an imitation of Odetta. I’d never sung before, and I came out with this huge voice.”

Nobody Knows You’re When You’re Down and Out

Once I lived the life of a millionaire
Spending my money, I didn’t care
I carried my friends out for a good time
Bying bootleg liquor, champagne and wine

Then I began to fall so low
I didn’t have a friend, and no place to go
So if I ever get my hand on a dollar again
I’m gonna hold on to it till them eagle’s green

Nobody knows you when you down and out
In my pocket not one penny
And my friends I haven’t any
But If I ever get on my feet again
Then I’ll meet my long lost friend
It’s mighty strange, without a doubt
Nobody knows you when you down and out
I mean when you down and out

Mmmmmmmm…. when you’re down and out
Mmmmmmmm… not one penny
And my friends I haven’t any
Mmmmmmmm… Well I felt so low
Nobody wants me round their door
Mmmmmmmm… Without a doubt,
No man can use you wen you down and out
I mean when you down and out

The General (1927)

Hanspostcard is hosting a movie draft from 12 different genres…this is my Silent Movie entry.

Buster Keaton was a little off kilter to his comedy peers. He was more subtle than Chaplin or Harold Lloyd. Keaton used non movement to his advantage. You would see him in a crowd easily. They would be moving along and his stillness would get your attention.

Chaplin had two rivals in comedy at the time. Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. Lloyd was more successful than Keaton but he was more of an actor playing a comedian on screen. Charlie and Buster were stage trained natural comedians and made some of the best comedies of the teens and twenties…and some would say all time.

Buster was an excellent filmmaker. I would put him over Chaplin in that regard. Buster didn’t fake stunts…he didn’t like cutting in at the last minute. He wanted the gag or whatever it was to be filmed in one shot and completely natural.

This is Buster Keaton’s civil war era masterpiece. It was released in 1927 to mediocre reviews. Keaton was ahead of his time and it caught the audience by surprise. This movie is now considered one of the best movies ever made. Buster wanted to make it look real to the era. He told his crew to make it so authentic that it hurt. This film is a reference point to some people to see what the Civil War looked like.

This film contained the most expensive shot in silent movie history. Buster had free rein on this movie and it showed. His budget was $750,000 dollars which was huge at the time for a comedy. Buster had a bridge built just to have a train go across it and crash. The single scene cost 42,000 in 1927 dollars. In today’s money that would be over half a million. But doesn’t it look great?

Buster made the movie in Cottage Grove Oregon. Animal House would be made there 51 years later. When World War 2 came, the train was pulled out of the creek bed and used for scrap iron. People say you can still find fragments around this site of the train.

This movie was based on a true story in the civil war known now as The Great Locomotive Chase or Andrew’s Raid.

The Great Locomotive Chase unfolded during the early years of the Civil War, an attempt by Union forces and sympathizers to destroy railroad infrastructure north of Atlanta, Georgia in hopes of eventually capturing the strategic city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The celebrity locomotive in what also became known as Andrews’ Raid was the Western & Atlantic Railroad’s General. The American Type 4-4-0 steamer was commandeered by James Andrews himself (leader of the raid) and used throughout the chase where he traveled northward from Atlanta causing as much damage as he could. Unfortunately, the hasty Union plans were too slow and disorganized to cause serious damage and most of those involved were eventually captured.

Buster made very few changes in the story. He kept his eye on details though. The cannon he used in the film was built to the specs of the Civil War Era.

When he shot the cannonball from the cannon railway car on the train to land in the locomotive… he kept trying different measures of powder to get it right until he had to use tweezers to get the right amount. He would do gags without camera trickery when he could. Below is the cannon shot… shot without cuts.

He worked for an independent producer Joseph Schenck so he had complete control of his movies. A little while after this movie lost money he had to go into the studio system and still managed to make a couple of great movies for MGM but after that, the studio would control everything he did which meant the quality of his movies took a nose dive.

Keaton was an incredible filmmaker. This movie is a true chase movie. Buster is either chasing the General (train) after it was stolen or being chased by the Union Army in the “Texas” until it crashes in the ravine.

If you have never seen a silent movie…this is a good one to start at…this one and The Gold Rush by Chaplin.

This is one I hope I will be able to see on the big screen one day.

It ranks #155 on the best movies ever on IMDB.

Cast

  • Buster Keaton – Johnnie Gray, Director, Editor, Screenwriter
  • Marion Mack – Annabelle Lee
  • Glen Cavender – Capt. Anderson
  •  Jim Farley – Gen, Thatcher
  •  Fred Vroom – Southern General
  • Richard Allen – His Son
  •  Joe Keaton – Union General
  • Mike Donlin – Union General
  • Tom Nawn – Union General
  • Charles H. Smith – Mr. Lee, Screenwriter
  • Ray Thomas – Raider
  • Jimmy Bryant – Raider
  •  Ross McCutcheon – Raider
  • Charles Phillips – Raider
  • Anthony Harvey Raider
  • Edward Hearn – Union Officer
  • Budd Fine-Raider
  • Frank S. Hagney – Recruiting Officer

Tilt-A-Whirl History

You know that tilt-a-whirl down on the south beach drag
I got on it last night and my shirt got caught
And they kept me spinnin’
Didn’t think I’d ever get off

Bruce Springsteen – 4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy) 1973

My favorite carnival ride ever is the Tilt-A-Whirl. When the carnival came to town I would use all of my tickets to ride on the Tilt-A-Whirl.

After a few years, you would pay one price and get stamped. I would get off the Tilt a Whirl and get right back on again. If I were rich I would get one for the back yard. I am terrified of heights but I love spinning.

Herbert W. Sellner, a woodworker, and maker of water slides invented the Tilt-A-Whirl in 1926 at his Faribault, Minnesota, home.

Sellner got his inspiration in his kitchen. He would put his young son, Art, on a chair on the table and move the table around. If he could make his son giggle with glee, Herb wondered, why not spread the joy?

The spinning ride debuted the next year at the 1927 Minnesota state fair, the same year Sellner Manufacturing opened a factory in Faribault and began a production run that would eventually churn out more than 1,000 Tilt-a-Whirls.

Nearly 700 of the rides are still in use. The oldest known working example is a 1927 model. In 2011, Sellner Manufacturing was sold to a company in Texas, where Tilt-a-Whirls are still being made.

The Big Fella by Jane Leavy

This is one of the many books on Babe Ruth. He was one of the most written about person in the 20th century. Jane Leavy took a different approach to write the book. She jumps around in time periods but it’s not distracting. I found out things I never knew about the Babe and that is the reason I wanted to read it. Thanks to Hanspostcard again for another great recommendation.

When I was growing up I read everything I could about Babe Ruth. I never was a Yankee fan and never will be but I do love this period of the Yankees. Unfortunately, some people think of Ruth as this huge obese baseball player because of movies like the terrible “The Babe” in 1992. When Babe came up he was a great athlete and didn’t start getting out of shape until his last years. One thing that I would love to see about the Babe is a well-made movie…we have yet to see it.

The man’s popularity was only rivaled by Charlie Chaplin. If anyone was made for a time period it was this man. He could be crude, brash, stubborn, and generous and was the idol of millions of kids during the 20s and 30s. He was so much better than anyone of his peers that it seemed unfair. The man could rise to the occasion when needed. He did everything big, whether it was hitting a home run, striking out, or living his unfettered life.

Sometimes an athlete is just so much better than his peers and they would be a generational talent. Tiger Woods and Michael Jordon would be in this select group.

When Babe retired in 1935 with 714 home runs the closest player to that mark at the time was his old Yankee teammate Lou Gehrig with 378 home runs (after the 1935 season)…that is a difference of 336 home runs. That is domination.

Ruth had an agent by the name of Christy Walsh. Walsh was basically the first sports agent of his day. He created a highly successful syndicate of ghostwriters for baseball’s biggest stars, coining the term “ghost writer” in the process. Walsh, in many ways, was a pioneer in the public relations field. The relationship between the two was interesting to read about.

The Babe made 70 grand a season playing for the Yankees and at least the same on advertising and barnstorming across the nation in small towns bringing baseball to towns that never would have seen Major League Baseball in the offseason. He was still grossly underpaid for the money he brought into the Yankees. When he would play, the crowds would increase dramatically.

Although black players were stupidly not allowed to play in the Major Leagues at that time, Babe and Lou Gerhig’s teams played black teams in towns all around in the offseason.

If you have interest in Babe Ruth I would recommend this book and Robert Creamer’s book Babe Ruth: The Legend Comes to Life.

“I swing big, with everything I’ve got. I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can.” – Babe Ruth

 

 

Edna Purviance

When I first started to read about and watch Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton in the 90s I noticed in most of Chaplin’s early short films this beautiful lady with expressive eyes as his leading lady. Chaplin never found a better leading lady than Edna.

Edna was born in Paradise Valley, Nevada in 1895. In 1900 her parents moved to Lovelock where they ran the Singer Hotel, though they later divorced. Edna was musically inclined and played the piano well. Shortly after her high school graduation, she moved to San Fransisco, took a business course and began work as a secretary.

While searching for a leading lady in 1915 an associate of Chaplin suggested a girl he remembered as a regular at a local San Francisco café. After rejecting several chorus girls, Chaplin arranged a meeting with Purviance, who he was impressed by her beauty and personality but still wasn’t sure she was right. They went to a party and Chaplin claimed he could hypnotize her and she said he could not in front of everyone… she ended up going along with the joke and pretended to be hypnotized and that won Chaplin over.

In real life as in the films, Purviance and Chaplin were romantically involved, and they remained close friends even after their affair was over in 1918. While he entertained serious thoughts of marriage, he also had doubts that he expressed in his 1964 Autobiography. Edna also had her reservations as well.

Chaplin continued to feel not only friendship but responsibility for Purviance, and she drew a small monthly stipend from his film company for the remainder of her life. Edna was his leading lady from 1915-1923.

Purviance eventually married John Squire, a Pan-American Airlines pilot, in 1938. They remained married until his death in 1945. Edna died of throat cancer on January 13, 1958.

A quote from Edna from IMDB

Mr. Chaplin asked me if I would like to act in pictures with him. I laughed at the idea but agreed to try it. I guess he took me because I had nothing to unlearn and he could teach me in his own way. I want to tell you that I suffered untold agonies. Eyes seemed to be everywhere. I was simply frightened to death. But he had unlimited patience in directing me and teaching me.

 

 

 

 

The Unknown Chaplin

A three-part documentary based on unseen footage from Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin ordered all of his outtakes burned but some did survive. This gives us a glimpse of how he constructed a story. He relied on inspiration and rarely had anything planned out in advance and that lead to classic scenes.

He would rearrange sets and actors and if a good mistake happened he would act on it and stretch it out. This was a good way to waste thousands of dollars worth of film but it also made him a comedy genius. Chaplin said he would build sets without an idea in his head but would be inspired.

Below is an outtake he never used in his feature “City Lights” which It would have been interesting if he would have kept it in. He takes the simplest prop…a piece of wood and works a scene around it in a grate.

The documentary was in three parts.

My Happiest Years – This part is mostly on his early Mutual shorts years in 1916-1917

The Great Director – Actresses and Actors talk about working on Chaplin’s films.

Hidden Treasures – A look at a variety of informal, private or salvaged pieces of film by or relating to Chaplin, including home movie footage, visitors to his studios, and several sequences that were edited out of his final films.

Like the Buster Keaton biography A Hard Act To Follow this was produced by Kevin Brownlow and David Gill. It’s worth chasing these down or click on this link in youtube. 

 

 

Artist Neysa McMein

I discovered Neysa McMein through Harpo Marx’s autobiography “Harpo Speaks” and I looked up her artwork. I’ve seen her art plenty of times by reading and collecting 20’s and 30’s magazines but never knew the artist. She was also a member of the famed Algonquin Round Table.

She sold millions of magazines with her covers for McCall’s, Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, McClure’s, Woman’s Home Companion, Photoplay, Liberty, Associated Sunday Magazine, Ladies World. Ad work: memorably for Palmolive; also Cadillac, Lucky Strike, Adam’s Gum, Coke, Hummingbird Hosiery, Gainsborough Hair Nets, Colgate.

She painted portraits of two sitting presidents, Warren G. Harding, and Herbert Hoover.

She also created the first Betty Crocker and updated her through the years.

 

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Neysa marching in 1917 in a Suffrage Parade.

Harpo Marx said this about Neysa: The biggest love affair in New York City was between me—along with two dozen other guys—and Neysa McMein. Like me, Neysa was an unliterary, semi-illiterate gate-crasher at the Algonquin. But unlike me, she was beautiful and bursting with talk and talent. A lot of us agreed she was the sexiest gal in town. Everybody agreed she was the best portrait and cover artist of the times.

She taught Harpo Marx how to paint and according to Harpo she only had one failing as a teacher: Neysa had one failing as an art instructor. It was, as far as I knew, her only failing, period. That was her passion for fires. If a siren or bell should sound during one of our late-night seminars, that was the end of the seminar. Neysa was such a fire buff that she once dashed to Penn Station and jumped on a train when she heard there was a four-alarm fire burning in Philadelphia.

The Harpo quotes are from his autobiography “Harpo Speaks.”

Neysa died in 1949 and was inducted into the Society of Illustrators’ Hall of Fame in 1984.

To see more of her artwork check out this from Pinterest. 

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The Algonquin Round Table

I’ve read about this gathering for years. Writers, Editors, Artists, Humorists, Actors, Actresses and Reporters would gather at the Algonquin Hotel for what has been known as the 10-year lunch. They would hold court jesting with each other about a number of topics. It was not the place for the thin-skinned. Groucho Marx, the king of insults never felt comfortable there. He once said, “The price of admission is a serpent’s tongue and a half-concealed stiletto.” 

Round Tabler Edna Ferber, who called them “The Poison Squad,” wrote, “They were actually merciless if they disapproved. I have never encountered a more hard-bitten crew. But if they liked what you had done, they did say so publicly and whole-heartedly.” Their standards were high, their vocabulary fluent, fresh, and very tough. Both casual and sharp-witted, they had incredible integrity about their work and endless ambition. Some of the members of the Round Table came together to work on each other projects. They essentially networked with each other. George Kaufman teamed up with Edna Ferber and Marc Connelly on some of his stage comedies, including Dulcy and The Royal Family. Harold Ross of The New Yorker hired both Dorothy Parker as a book reviewer and Robert Benchley as a drama critic.

By 1925, the Round Table was famous. What had started as a private gathering became public. The country-at-large was now attentive to their every word—people often coming to stare at them during lunch. Some members began to tire of the constant publicity. The time they spent entertaining and being entertained took its toll on several of the Algonquin members. In 1927, the execution of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, whose case had divided the country and the Round Table… seemed to cast a pall over the group’s antics.

Dorothy Parker believed strongly in the pair’s innocence, and upon their deaths, she remarked “I had heard someone say and so I said too, that ridicule is the most effective weapon. Well, now I know that there are things that never have been funny and never will be. And I know that ridicule may be a shield but it is not a weapon.”

As America entered the Depression, the bonds that had held the group together started to break. Many members moved to Hollywood for work or on to other interests. It didn’t officially end…it just faded. All in all, it lasted around 10 years.

The last gathering of the Algonquin Round Table was when Alexander Woollcott died in 1943. They all hadn’t met there in years…but the surviving members went straight there after the funeral for the last time.

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Members and Part time-Members who would drop by

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George S. Kaufman (1889–1961): Playwright, New York Times drama editor, producer, director, actor. Wrote forty-five plays (twenty-six hits), won two Pulitzer Prizes.

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Alexander Woollcott (1887–1943): Drama critic for New York Times and New York World, CBS radio star as the Town Crier, model for the character of Sheridan Whiteside in Kaufman and Hart’s “The Man Who Came to Dinner”.

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Beatrice B. Kaufman (1894–1945): Editor, writer, socialite. Married to George.

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Harpo Marx (1888–1964): Actor, comedian, musician, card player.

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Dorothy Parker (1893–1967): Vanity Fair drama critic, New Yorker critic. Celebrated poet, short-story writer, playwright. Wrote Hollywood screenplays. Champion for social justice.

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Franklin P. Adams (1881–1960): Columnist at the New York Tribune, the New York World, and the New York Evening Post; wrote the “Always in Good Humor” and “The Conning Tower” columns. Always known as FPA.

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Robert Benchley (1889–1945): Vanity Fair managing editor, Life drama editor, humorist and actor in short films.

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Heywood Broun (1888–1939): Sportswriter at New York Tribune, columnist at New York World, author; helped found Newspaper Guild.

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Marc Connelly (1890–1980): Newspaperman turned playwright; cowrote plays with George S. Kaufman. Won Pulitzer Prize for play The Green Pastures.

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Edna Ferber (1887–1968): Novelist and playwright. Cowrote plays with George S. Kaufman, including Dinner at Eight. Won Pulitzer Prize for her novel So Big. Wrote Show Boat, Saratoga Trunk, Cimarron, and Giant.

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Ruth Gordon (): American film, stage, and television actress, as well as a screenwriter and playwright. Later in life starred in Harold and Maude.

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Margalo Gillmore (1897–1986): Actress and “the baby of the Round Table.” Starred in early Eugene O’Neill plays.

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Jane Grant (1892–1972): First female New York Times general assignment reporter; co-founded The New Yorker with husband Harold Ross.

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Ruth Hale (1887–1934): Broadway press agent, helped pass Nineteenth Amendment for women’s rights, married Heywood Broun.

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Margaret Leech Pulitzer (1894–1974): Magazine short story writer turned serious historian. Married Ralph Pulitzer; after his death, she earned two Pulitzer Prizes in history.

Alice Duer Miller (1874-1942):  A writer from the U.S. whose poetry actively influenced political opinion. Her feminist verses made an impact on the suffrage issue.

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Neysa McMein (1888–1949): Popular magazine cover illustrator, painter. Wrote about party games.

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Herman J. Mankiewicz (1897–1953): Press agent, early New Yorker drama critic; cowrote plays with Kaufman, produced Marx Brothers movies. Won an Oscar for co-writing Citizen Kane.

 

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Brock Pemberton (1885–1950): Broadway producer and director. Wrote short stories.

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Harold Ross (1892–1951): Founded The New Yorker with his wife, Jane Grant.

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Arthur H. Samuels (1888–1938): Editor of Harper’s Bazaar.

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Robert E. Sherwood (1896–1955): Vanity Fair drama editor, Life editor, author, playwright who won four Pulitzer Prizes. Won Oscar for writing The Best Years of Our Lives.

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Laurence Stallings (1895–1968): Ex-reporter, editorial writer for New York World. Collaborated with Maxwell Anderson on What Price Glory?

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Donald Ogden Stewart (1894–1980): Author, playwright, screenwriter. Won Oscar for The Philadelphia Story.

Frank Sullivan, who became best known for his articles and Christmas poems in The New Yorker, lived most of his life in Saratoga Springs.  Forty years after his death, Frank Sullivan’s career as a writer is being rediscovered and celebrated in his hometown. Photo courtesy Saratoga Room at Saratoga Springs Public Library

Frank Sullivan (1892–1976): Journalist turned humorist. longtime contributor to The New Yorker.

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Deems Taylor (1886–1966): Music critic turned populist composer. Wrote libretto for The King’s Henchmen with Edna St. Vincent Millay. Started national concert series. Narrator of Disney classic Fantasia.

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John V. A. Weaver (1893–1938): Poet who wrote in street vernacular, literary editor of the Brooklyn Eagle

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Peggy Wood (1892–1978): Actress in musical comedies, plays, early TV star.

 

 

https://www.biography.com/news/algonquin-round-table-members

 

 

Buster Keaton: A Hard Act To Follow

This is a three-part documentary made in 1987. It is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen…not just about Buster but anyone.  Each part is almost an hour long. Kevin Brownlow and David Gill wrote and directed this mini-series. This documentary is interesting for fans and non-fans alike. I have watched it multiple times and showed it to friends to didn’t have much interest in silent movies and they ended up liking it.

Brownlow also worked on “Hollywood” (a 13 part history of the silent era that later I’ll review), The Unknown Chaplin, and Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius.

This is in my top 5 of documentaries to recommend to people…I just wish it was easier to get. I had to order it from Europe to get a DVD copy of this.  You can watch all of them on Youtube...below

Buster Keaton was not only a great comedian but a great filmmaker. Some of his special effects in Sherlock Jr and other movies stand up today. I always thought that while Chaplin had the best comedy character…Keaton was the better filmmaker.

Part One (From Vaudeville to Movies)

Covers his vaudeville childhood with his parents. Because of child labor laws, his parents would claim that Buster was an adult actor. They would dress Buster to look old. This part goes through Vaudeville and up until Buster meets Roscoe Arbuckle and starts his career in movies.

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Part Two (Star Without a Studio):

Part Two sums up his great silent movies. He did not work in the studio system…Buster had free reign with his movies in most of the 1920s working for Independent film executive Joe Schenck. Part two shows some of the best scenes from his silent movies until he had to join a studio (MGM) that along with his drinking helped ruin his career.

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Part Three (Genius Recognized):

This part is the downfall and the comeback. Buster worked through the early thirties in some successful talkies but soon by the end of the 30s he was working as a gag writer. He was soon largely forgotten until he appeared in “Sunset Boulevard”, commercials and TV. Buster was in a movie with Chaplin called Limelight in 1952. He began to be praised by historians, critics, and fans alike before he passed away in 1966.

 

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There is a new Buster documentary out called ‘The Great Buster: A Celebration’ by Peter Bogdanovich that I have yet to see. I plan to track it down soon. Either way, this one will be hard to beat.

 

Below is Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow…the complete series.

 

 

 

Runnin’ Wild by David Stenn

I got this book in the 90s and just reread it yet again. I’ve gone over Clara Bow earlier but I wanted to add more about this book. It is a well researched interesting book on the great silent movie actress. I have huge respect for Clara Bow as an actress and as a person. She was outspoken in a business where very few women were at that time.

David Stenn separates fact from fiction about Clara. In the book, Hollywood Babylon Kenneth Anger makes many unflattering statements about Clara which Stenn proves were false. Was Clara wild at times? Yes but no wilder than many of the other actresses in the 20s and nothing compared to today…She was just honest about it.

Actress Lina Basquette said: “She wasn’t well liked amongst other women in the film colony. Her social presence was taboo, and it was rather silly because God knows Marion Davies and Mary Pickford had plenty to hide. It’s just that they hid it, and Clara didn’t.” Bow knew the truth. “I’m a curiosity in Hollywood,” she said. “I’m a big freak because I’m myself!”

Her mother suffered from mental illness, Clara once woke with her mother standing over her with a knife saying she was going to kill her. Her father abused her and used her all of his life and may have sexually abused her. She made it against all odds to the top. There was a point in the twenties that she was the biggest female star receiving 45,000 fan letters a month.

Paramount would use her to push lightweight films and hardly ever place her in a great film. Because of this practice, she is only known well for a few films. When silent movies evolved into “talkies” Greta Garbo was given two years to prepare for the change…Clara, who was a bigger star was given a matter of weeks. She would appear on the screen and your eyes would stay with her. She did a few sound pictures and was successful but did not enjoy it as much as the silent films.

She retired and married Rex Bell (a part time cowboy actor) and moved to Nevada in the 1930s to have and raise a couple of children. One of her children, Rex Bell Jr. had this to say about the book.

“A lot of crap biographies have been written about mom, but the one that is accurate is ‘Clara Bow, Runnin’ Wild’ by David Stenn,” Bell said, noting that he first learned his mother was abused as a child from that book that was supported by medical records.

Clara was in the first movie that won an Oscar… Wings … The other movie she is known for is It made in 1927. She was soon known as The IT Girl.

I recommend this book highly. Clara Bow had a hard life growing up in Brooklyn and against all odds turned into one of the biggest stars of the 20s. She was honest to a fault and herself to the end.

Where Clara, Rex, and their children lived…The Walking Box Ranch.

Drive-In Movie Theaters

I remember Drive-In Theaters from way back. My sister is 8 years older than I am. When she was 16 I was 8 and mom made her take me with her on dates and that included the Drive-In. Most Drive-Ins charged by the person so guess where I was located? A mile up from the Drive-In I would know the routine…I would climb in the trunk. I remember smelling the old dirty tire and whatever else…I would hear us roll over the gravel and then the car would stop…my sister would let me out.

I would climb in the back seat and start watching. Although I make fun of her for this I actually enjoyed it. It was fun to do as a kid. I was a laid-back kid anyway. I remember the only movie showing one time was an R rated movie. It was called “Revenge of the Cheerleaders” from 1976…I got quite an education on the female anatomy. She would tell me don’t look now… then she and her date would go out and talk to friends parked around. I was of course looking and I never told mom…I knew I would not get to come back if I told her.

There are a few around here and once in a while, we will go see them. No Cheerleaders though.

In 1933, eager motorists park their automobiles on the grounds of Park-In Theaters, the first-ever drive-in movie theater, located on Crescent Boulevard in Camden, New Jersey. Richard Hollingshead opened it up. He thought of it because his mother was to large for theater seats. He charged just 25 cents per car.

The Drive-In didn’t really take off until the in-car speakers were invented by the late 40s. By 1958, the number of drive-ins peaked at 4,063.

Indoor theaters were more practical because they could show a movie 5-6 times a day and not have to worry about the weather or being light so the Drive-In’s started to get B movies (Revenge of the Cheerleaders!) and the fad started to slow down. Also, land value pushed the Drive-In’s out.

Now there are roughly 400 Drive-Ins left in America.

In Nashville, they are building an indoor Drive-In Theater. When it is finished I will check it out. You will not drive in with your car…you will walk in and sit in one of the classic cars they will have ready for you…I’m ready…but no trunks

A rendering of the August Moon Drive-In theater planned

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