Friday, July 23, 2010


April 24, 1932

Now that he has completed “Two Seconds,” Edward G. Robinson will spend the next few weeks making “Tiger Shark,” formerly known as “Tuna,” which Howard Hawks wrote and which he will also direct. It is a story of the ins and outs of the fishing industry along the coast of California and Mexico.

Mr. Robinson will be sailing a small fishing boat in Pacific waters most of the time the film is in production, which should be a satisfying change from guns and prison stripes.

“Silver Dollar,” a story of pioneer Colorado, which was recently purchased for Mr. Robinson’s use, will be postponed until after the production of “Tiger Shark.”

Universal has collected an interesting cast for its production of “The Old Dark House.” Charles Laughton, the English actor who gave theatergoers the shudders in “Payment Deferred” last Fall, has one of the leads. He was brought over by Paramount and loaned to Universal for this one film, his first picture in America.

Gloria Stuart, the ingĂ©nue whose entrance into the films caused so much controversy that the Hays office had to step in and adjudicate it, will have her first opportunity in “The Old Dark House.”

Raymond Massey, who came over from England to play “Hamlet” and found his way into pictures, has replaced Walter Byron in the cast. He will likewise be acting his first role in an American film.

In addition there are Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas and Lillian Bond. James Whale is directing the production.

The momentous news from Joe. E. Brown this week is that the comedian will be a life saver instead of a six-day bike racer in his next film. The title, however, remains unchanged – “You Said a Mouthful.” The high spot of the comedy will be Mr. Brown’s entry into the twenty-eight mile marathon swim from Catalina Island to the California coast. Among the supporting cast will be Minnie, Hollywood’s best-known trained seal.

George Arliss is in New York before sailing with Mrs. Arliss for England and a vacation. He has completed “A Successful Calamity” at the Warner Brothers studios and the picture will be released during the Summer. Mary Astor has the feminine lead. Mr. Arliss plans to return to work around the end of September.

Once there was a time when rain was the bugaboo of motion picture making. Loss of time resulting from unexpected showers or cloudbursts was costly. Now they get around the weather man by arranging a duplicate camera schedule for a picture.

“Weather Permitting” is the summons for location work. When this is the summons, the company is required to leave for location so as to be able to shoot at 9 A. M. The substitute program, headed “In Case of Bad Weather,” automatically notifies all departments to be prepared for studio work at the same time.

This information comes from a Paramount worker, who reports that no time has been wasted during recent Spring rains although five pictures required much outside camera work.

“When a Feller Needs a Friend” is the new and final title for the Jackie Cooper story which was formerly known as “Limpy.” As a crippled newsboy, Master Cooper shares the lead in this film with Chic Sale. It was directed by Harry Pollard and is based on a novel by William Johnson.

Odds and ends of the week…

Lyda Roberti left for Hollywood last week to resume her camera work for Paramount…

Mae Marsh will play her first role since her return to the screen in “Over the Hill” when she appears in “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm”…

Walter Wanger is in New York from the Coast to examine the current books and plays for Columbia…

The Warners plan to reissue the Vitaphone short subjects called “Adventures in Africa”…

Pat O’Brien joins Walter Huston and Kay Johnson in the cast of Columbia’s “Faith,” which is about banking.


Anna Sten, the slender Russian blond peasant girl who has finished two screen careers and is now Hollywood-bound for a third, smiled sweetly and said:
“How do you do? Very well. Yes. No. Maybe.”

She was looking out toward Brooklyn from the thirty-fifth floor of the Hotel Pierre as she spoke, but that was not the explanation. Miss Sten was simply airing most of the English she knew.

Mr. Goldwyn’s representative, Lynn Farnol, then explained that if Miss Sten could learn enough additional English in three weeks to make a talking picture, she would be Ronald Colman’s leading lady in his new picture.

This was conveyed to the young woman in German by an interpreter.

“She says two weeks is all she will need,” the interpreter said. “She says she learned enough French in ten days to make a French version of ‘Karamazoff.’”

Miss Sten, who is 22, smiled and nodded her head vigorously to show she meant it. Then, in snatches of voluble German, she went on to describe her career.

Her Pictures

At what must have been a sufficiently early age she took leave of the wheat fields and peasant huts of her native Kiev for Moscow. She went through a course of training in the Soviet State Theater and film group. In a few months she was in the forefront of the young Russian actresses. Some of her films were shown here in 1928 and 1929 – “The Yellow Pass,” “The Lash of the Czar,” “Living Russia.”

The Soviet sent her to Berlin to make films. It was in German, a language she had never spoken before, that she began to be noticed in the capitals of the world. She played with Fritz Kortner in “Karamazoff” and with Emil Jannings in “Stuerme der Leidenschaft,” which was shown here last month.

Mr. Goldwyn saw “Karamazoff” in New York and cabled a representative to have a look at her. The report was highly flattering to Anna Sten, so Mr. Goldwyn cabled instructions to give her a screen test.

“Can she learn English?” Mr. Goldwyn asked.

Miss Sten, who happened to be in Paris just then, was given two pages of dialogue from Glora Swanson’s picture “Indiscretion.” She memorized it and took a film test.

If she learns the language as quickly as she expects to, she will soon be playing opposite Mr. Colman in one of two pictures, “The Brothers Karamazov” or “Way of the Lancer,” the Boleslavsky book which Goldwyn has just bought.

Chaplin First

Miss Sten has refused to name her favorite American cinema players. Not so many American talking pictures have been shown in Germany, she told the interpreter, and therefore must decline to answer the question.

Charlie Chaplin, she finally was lured into admitting, pleased her most among the silent film stars. And Lillian Gish, which she pronounced “Liyen Geesh.”

What has surprised her most about New York is that the lights at night brighten the darkness all the way up to her suite. Thirty-five stories above the ground, she expected, it would be dark.

The Goldwyn henchmen had sedulously forced her to spend most of her time in her room since she landed. She had been taken for a drive through Brooklyn, but that was all. She had not even seen Broadway yet.

“Tell her she will thank me when she becomes a famous American picture star,” the Goldwyn representative said to the interpreter.

There was an explosion of German from Miss Sten and a merry smile.

“She says she is sure you have her interests at heart, but that you are cruel to keep her shut up. She says she is determined to walk about New York. “

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


With Sound Craft Mastered, Companies Again Turn to Unusual Settings

April 24, 1932
Once again through the gray Hollywood dawn, caravans of trucks loaded with sound equipment, lights and cameras, bound for location, are heard rumbling on their way. The ban on work outside studio walls that came in with talking pictures has been lifted, and the various production companies have issued orders requiring even more unusual “atmospheric” scenes than were used in the silent picture days.

For several years talking pictures reversed many production procedures of the major studios and locations were seldom required or filmed. This was not due to a lack of ambition or any deliberate picture-making restraint, but was caused by the limitations of the early sound equipment.

With this now obsolete equipment it was impossible to cut out extraneous unwanted sounds that ruined many scenes. If outside atmosphere was wanted it required a very expensive expedition with cumbersome apparatus. After time and money had been spent to film a scene in a distant location, results were often so unsatisfactory that the entire footage would be discarded. Portable sound apparatus could only be carried in heavy trucks on paved roads, and was continually getting out of order, due to the jolting of the truck.

With the recent development of the “directional microphone,” making it possible to record sound practically anywhere, location obstacles have been gradually overcome. New and lighter portable recording equipment was designed. This could be put on a light truck – or even on the back of a mule – making it possible to transport that apparatus any place. Thus, technical restrictions were removed, and many new possibilities opened up.

At the present time, according to Louis Strohm, the location manager for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, trips to unusual districts around Hollywood and southern California are more frequent than before talking films arrived.

“Our production executives hold that as motion pictures are a pictorial art,” said Mr. Strohm, “New and refreshing localities as atmosphere are a necessary part of a well-balanced picture.”

“Among the most popular near-by location spots is the Malibu mountain country, the Chatsworth hills and Bel-Air hills, Laguna Beach and the Arrowhead mountain country. All these places are so near Hollywood that a director can take his troupe out for an afternoon’s location excursion, and all are off the main airplane routes and traveled highways.”

One of the newer locations used in recent talking picture productions is the “Lake Sherwood” region or the old Canterbury Ranch. This comprises an area of about eight thousand acres, and is six miles south of a main highway and fifty miles from Hollywood. This section has also been called “Sherwood Forest” because of it was used in the silent picture “Robin Hood” by Douglas Fairbanks.

There are hundreds of large oak trees in the area and a large lake near by that was used recently for water scenes in “Tarzan, the Ape Man,” mountain cabin scenes in “Private Lives,” woodland scenes in Buster Keaton’s “The Passionate Plumber,” and lake scenes in “Emma.” An immense pasture located on this ranch was used as the locale of the Indian fight in “The Great Meadow.”

The 16,000-acre Aggoure ranch in this same region was used recently for execution scenes in “Mata Hari,” dueling sequences in “The Passionate Plumber,” and for a fox hunt in “The Squaw Man.”

A portion of Santa Monica Canyon, a few miles from Hollywood, is another spot used frequently when extensive sets have to be built. A Cuban village was constructed in this region for use in “The Cuban Love Song.”

Some of the small coves about Laguna are valuable as ocean and waterfront backgrounds. But the new highway that has been constructed to follow the coast line has made it necessary to abandon several of the pictorial coves used in the days of silent films. It was possible to utilize several of the natural arches and rockways off the highway in “Hell Divers,” for scenes of the wrecked pilots on the beach.

The Los Angeles city reservoir, known as Lake Franklin, is often used for scenic backgrounds and is very convenient to most coast studios, since it is only a few miles from Hollywood in the Bel-Air district. Beautiful willow trees ornament its banks and the fishing scenes in “Susan Lenox” were photographed there, as well as the ferry-boat scene in “Private Lives.” Passenger airplanes pass far to the east of this area and there are no public auto roads within miles.

According to Mr. Strohm, a few locations that might be desirable have been dropped because of the proximity of noise which cannot be eliminated. A woodland spot near Glendale – a few miles north of Hollywood – was at one time a popular rendezvous for silent picture companies. It has a running stream, beautiful trees, ferns and a varied floral display, only twenty minutes from some studios, and looks as if it were in the heart of the mountains. The two substantial reasons why this spot could not be used for talking films was the street car line and a heavily traveled main highway a few hundred feet away.

Another location that was background for many a silent melodrama was the old Providencia ranch, north of Hollywood near Burbank. Much of Rudolph Valentino’s “Blood and Sand” was done there, also scenes for “The Covered Wagon.” It is seldom used now because it bisects the air routes of planes leaving two big Los Angeles airports (Grand Central and United) only a few miles away.

In line with the new location policy requiring more unusual pictorial backgrounds than formerly, location trips are frequently made from the different studios to distant locales. Favorite film sites include Yosemite National Park and Sequoia Park, where part of “A Free Soul” was screened; Dardanelles, near Sonora, Cal., in the Sierra Mountains, and North Island, the naval aviation base in San Diego, where a “Hell Divers” location unit established headquarters for several weeks.

“The motion picture industry has not only overcome its difficulties in location trips, but through technical improvements and intense competition ought to surpass all previous efforts in outdoor scenes,” is Mr. Strohm’s summary of the “back to nature” movement on the part of the California studios.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


By Luella O. Parsons

Los Angeles, April 23, 1932
Will Creighton Chaney, the son of the beloved Lon, make a success too on the screen?

The odds are against him. This is a rather bitter thing to say at the very beginning of a career, but I say the odds are against him because it’s the most difficult thing in the world for the child of a famous star to carve a name for himself or herself in the same line of work.

Outsiders who cannot get into the studio will look at young Chaney with envy; with feeling that he is trading on his father’s name. He will have to be just a little bit better than if he hadn’t had Lon Chaney for a father. It’s true he might never have had his opportunity at Radio studio if he had not been born the son of Lon Chaney, but once in the studio the going is not easy.


Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. could give Creighton Chaney much good advice. He has succeeded in spite of the fact that Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. is his father. Young Doug will tell you it was not so tough being a celebrity in his last picture, “It’s Tough to be Famous,” as it has been in being the son of a world-renowned father.

He had always wanted to be an actor and when he first started every little fault was magnified, every little lack in technique was played up and, believe it or not, there were those who just couldn’t bear to see him succeed.

Other ambitious youngsters envied him his opportunity and insisted on comparing him with his father. So bitter was the feeling that at one time he even considered changing his name.

Young Doug hasn’t won his fame easily, he has won it because if he had been born the son of a truck driver instead of the son of a great actor, he still would have carved a niche in the motion picture industry for himself.


The two Costello girls were taken to the Vitagraph studios by Maurice Costello when they were mere babes. At that time he was one of the greatest matinee idols on the screen. They grew up to know movies and it never occurred to either Dolores or Helene that they could do no other than become screen actresses. Dolores forged ahead first as John Barrymore’s leading lady and later as a star in her own right.

She might have owed Maurice Costello a debt because he taught her the rudiments of acting, but he could not, and probably would not take any credit for her later screen fame.

Leila Hyams, as the daughter of Leila McIntyre and John Hyams, fought against being known as “Little Leila.”

It’s the easiest thing in the world to drift into depending upon someone else, especially your parents, if they are successful. Dozens of really talented and clever young people have amounted to nothing because they happened to have a famous father or mother.

“It took more than a little courage to deliberately give up security and comfort to start out by myself. There were times in the months that followed that I was tempted to go back to my father and mother and beg them to take me into their act. It was only my pride which kept me going. Having made the boast that I could get along myself, I had to make good.”


The difficulties of being a child of famous parents isn’t only of the screen stars but of the children of the executives. Junior Laemmle was laughed at and discredited for months after he joined Universal studio. He had to make “All Quiet on the Western Front” to prove that he wasn’t in his job because his father was the boss.

You won’t hear anyone laughing at Junior today. He has the respect of all the biggest men in the industry, and where many companies are in sad condition it is generally admitted that Universal is one of the few that is on the right side of the ledger.

You can look over the list of children whose parents have made a mark for themselves in the movies and you can talk to each one of them and they will tell you, it’s the toughest thing in the world to get recognition when you are the son or daughter of famous parents.