Saturday, May 30, 2009

Movie Go Round

By Luella O. Parsons
Hollywood Calif., March 27


The breach of promise suit filed by Gladys Feldman against Leslie Fenton is probably the most surprising news of the week. Breach of promise suits have sort of gone out of style and it is not often that the modern girl resorts to that method to show her broken heart. The girl in question is exceedingly pretty. She looks like Estelle Taylor, has the same dark eyes and hair and the same exotic beauty. At least that is the description given me and I was interested because Ann Dvorak is such a sweet girl and it seems such a pity that the days that should be the happiest of her life should be filled with this unpleasantness and worry.


It’s almost impossible to film a war picture in a neutral vein. Several of the film companies had elaborate plans to make Japanese-Chinese war pictures and they discovered that a mere narrative of the war held no dramatic interest. There had to be action and suspense and you cannot picture that without giving one side or the other the best of the situation. For that reason several of the companies have called off all productions on Japanese-Chinese pictures. There are too many Chinese in this country and too many Japanese who go to motion pictures to make such pictures advisable or profitable.


If P. T. Barnum were alive he’d probably try to run a contest on Greta Garbos. I had no idea and I’m sure you haven’t any idea of the number of girls throughout the country who think they resemble the Swedish star.

Some of them look as much like Greta Garbo as Flora Finch looks like Mary Pickford. We have had pictures of tall girls, small girls, blondes, brunettes and redheads. We also had letters from all over the country. Each one of the girls begged for a chance to play opposite Clark Gable in “China Seas.” Hope dies hard and there are still girls throughout the country who feel there is a place for them in Hollywood.


Robert Young’s first appearance on the stage didn’t presage any glorious future. He was one of a group at the Pasadena players who had a single line to speak. He determined to make that line so impressive that everyone would say “Ah, another Edwin Booth in our midst.” When his turn came he shouted so loudly that everybody else on the stage forgot his line and turned to look at the shouter. Mr. Young can laugh at that experience today but it was a tender subject with him at the time. His future is bright now and he is on the upward grade, so much so that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is giving him every chance.


They thought they had a first class mystery on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lot last week. But alas, it was solved almost immediately. Joan Crawford’s bungalow on stage six disappeared. It couldn’t be found anywhere. Bungalows cannot walk away, neither are they small enough to hide, so where it had gone nobody knew. Just when everyone was getting ready to call out the fire department, the police department, the Pinkerton detective agency, the Burns detective agency and a few more, a terrified maid appeared on the scene. She had been sitting in the bungalow when all of a sudden she felt herself going down, down to the basement. It seems somebody pressed the wrong button and the bungalow was carried to the basement with Miss Crawford’s maid inside.


An interesting short is now being made by Ralph B. Staub in Hollywood. He is calling it “Memory Lane” and stars who have passed on are featured. Rudolph Valentino, Louis Wolheim, Mabel Normand, Rudolph Schildkraut, Robert Ames, Robert Williams, Alma Rubens, Lya de Putti, Tom Santchi, Milton Sills, Wally Reid, Barbara La Marr, Larry Semon, Otto Matieson, Dustin Farnum, Lon Chaney and others.

The opening speech is made by Hobart Bosworth and continues through the entire picture. Columbia will release it as a special screen snapshot and there is no doubt it will be popular for it is a nice tribute to those who have passed on and whose memory is still green.


By Luella O. Parsons
Hollywood, March 26

Paris dressmakers are credited with creating style vogues. Paris hairdressers set the pace for milady’s coiffure, Eugene O’Neill for introspective drama, but it’s the motion picture patrons who are responsible for the vogue in motion pictures. Someone once said that every good picture starts a vogue.

“The Big Parade” was responsible for an avalanche of war dramas. “Little Caesar” brought a deluge of gangster melodramas in its trail. When those gangster dramas were still bringing in plenty of money, Universal stepped out with “Dracula.” The tide changed and in an incredibly short time there were dozens of these thrillers. “The Shanghai Express” was the first of the Japanese-Chinese war dramas, but it won’t be the last.

Up to the time Norma Shearer starred in “Divorcee,” the heroines were as spotless as the driven snow. “Divorcee” was a sensational success and every company in the business started buying sophisticated modern plays and books.


Sex and problem plays were in full swing when demure Janet Gaynor in “Daddy Long Legs” changed the current again. Sweet comedy-drama with a love interest seemed to once more please the motion picture patrons. The public showed an impatience with too highly sophisticated dramas.

Vogues have never lasted long because so many inferior imitations have followed successes. You can have too much of anything. Most of us are fond of strawberry shortcake and fried chicken, but if we had them day after day we would call loudly for apple pie and beefsteak. Once a vogue is done it’s as dead as yesterday’s newspapers.

Theda Bara was the original vamp. She beaded her eyelashes with heavy mascara and she became the obvious screen homewrecker. All such old-time melodramas as “The Fool” featured her. Other companies tried to get a vamp that looked as much like Miss Bara as possible.

If the Fox company hadn’t surfeited its patrons with so many Bara dramas I doubt if her vogue would have ended so suddenly. But what with Fox turning out a Bara picture every few weeks and other companies making similar dramas, the dear public grew weary of vamps and wicked ways.


Costume plays died the same sad death. Betty Blythe in her Queen of Sheba and Cleopatra trappings did a good business for a short time. Douglas Fairbanks, who enjoys donning doublet and hose more than anyone I know, couldn’t interest the fans in a costume picture after he had made three or four. Exhibitors learned that the very name, costume picture, was enough to keep the fans out of the theaters.

I used to think when certain old favorite classics were ignored it was because the producers didn’t want to spend the money to make elaborate costume pictures. Then I talked with the owner of a chain of important theaters and he told me that he wouldn’t book a picture that he knew was a costume play because his patrons wouldn’t come into his theater. I knew then that the producers didn’t dare make a costume picture.

Perhaps some day Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer will star Greta Garbo and Clark Gable in a costume drama and the jinx will be broken. A good picture nine times out of ten starts the vogue.

Washington stories are an exception. The presidential election and the seething political turmoil of the moment are responsible for the coming political pictures. Four companies at this writing, are preparing scenarios that deal with the political and social phases in Washington life.

When these Washington films hit the screen all about the same time, and there is a race on to see which will be finished first, what will be the next vogue? What will follow war dramas, gangster stories, Chinese plays, sex and problem plays, thrillers and Washington stories?

Well, if we could tell, we would be a prophet in our own home town.

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