Tuesday, June 29, 2010


April 24, 1932

Lewis Stone, the bibulous Roger Chilicote in “The Wet Parade,” has had a long and distinguished career in pictures. His silver hair and kindly, intelligent demeanor have graced dozens of films from year to year. Never a star in his own right, his work in many silent films, including that worthy picture “Scaramouche,” attracted wide attention.

A fact not generally know about Mr. Stone is that he was a soldier who saw service in two wars. He was a Lieutenant and later a Captain in the Spanish-American War. He held the rank of Major during the World War and still holds this commission in the Army Reserve Corps.

He went to China after the Spanish-American War as a Captain in a Chinese cavalry regiment, on a commission from General Homer Lee, who had undertaken the task of modernizing the Chinese fighting forces. The post did not prove attractive so he returned to the United States and divided his time between the stage and a Western ranch.

He has been in pictures since 1917. Some of Mr. Stone’s recent appearances were in “Strictly Dishonorable,” “Mata Hari,” “The Phantom of Paris,” “The Sin of Madelon Claudet,” “Always Good-bye,” “The Secret Six,” “Father’s Son” and “Grand Hotel.”

The general understanding that Warren William, the title actor in “The Mouthpiece,” is a newcomer to films is not backed up by the record.

There is a yellowing newspaper item to prove that the same Mr. William made his cinematic bow a dozen or so years gone by in a serial, playing hero to Pearl White. But he was soon back on Broadway, where he continued to play in both contemporary and classic drama until the lure of Hollywood proved too much for him last year.

This actor was born Warren William Krech, which explains the unusual nature of his present last name. The date was 1896 and the place was Atkin, Minn. He was educated both publicly and privately, showed an aptitude for football and basketball, and exhibited some distaste for mathematics. His earliest ambition was to be a sea captain. He still loves the sea and actually owns a small schooner.

When he came to New York and saw the Great White Way he wanted to be an actor, and an actor he became. His first play was “Mrs. Jimmie Thompson,” in which he played the role of a pickle salesman. He made his success in a comedy called “Expressing Willie” and soon became one of Broadway’s leading young matinee idols.

His favorite stage role was in “Twelve Miles Out.” His talking pictures, all of recent vintage, include “Expensive Women,” “The Honor of the Familiy,” “Under Eighteen,” “The Captain’s Wife,” “Beauty and the Boss” and “The Dark Horse,” the last of which has not yet been released.

Sylvia Sidney is to be seen in “The Miracle Man” this week. The young woman has had a rapid rise in films since the day last year when she was given her big chance.

During Clara Bow’s trial and illness Miss Sidney was selected to replace Miss Bow in “City Streets.” She has been at the top ever since. But her career has not always been so easy.

Graduated from the Theater Guild School in New York at the age of 15, a slip of a girl weighing something less than 100 pounds, little Miss Sidney wore herself into a state of nervous exhaustion trying to get a job.

She landed finally with a part in “The Challenge of Youth,” but fainted in the middle of the first act on the second night of the play’s tryout in Washington. A physician, summoned from the audience, urged an immediate operation for appendicitis. She refused and finished out the Washington engagement. Then it was discovered she had torn a ligament in her right side in her fall. Another girl played her role when the show opened in New York.

During the run of another play, “That Old-Fashioned Girl,” Miss Sidney slipped and broke her ankle on the dressing room stairway, but completed the run of the play with her foot in a cast.

She appeared in “Crime” with a cast that included such prominent screen players of present day as Chester Morris, Robert Montgomery, Kay Francis and Kay Johnson. Her last Broadway stage appearance was in “Bad Girl,”

Then came the cinema phase of her career, Miss Sidney’s leading film appearances to date have been in “Street Scene” and “An American Tragedy.”

As the heroine of “The Famous Ferguson Case,” Joan Blondell finally achieves the distinction of a leading role, after a long career of injecting merriment into subsidiary roles.

Her theatrical and cinematic pedigree is so long that it is a bit of a shock to discover she is in her early twenties.

Like James Cagney, with whom she has frequently appeared in the last year, she was born in New York City, into a family of actors. Her father, Eddie Blondell, the original “Katzenjammer Kid,” spent more than forty years on the stage. Her mother, sister and brother also were stage folk.

She faced an audience for the first time as a babe in arms – her mother’s arms. Her first twelve birthdays were celebrated in as many different countries. The longest stay was in Sydney, Australia, where she spent six years, and made quite a reputation as a singing and dancing comedienne.

Returning to America with her family, she joined a stock company in Dallas, Texas, and then moved on to Broadway for a part in “Tarnish,” She put in a season with the Ziegfeld Follies and appeared subsequently in “The Trial of Mary Dugan,” with Ann Harding; in “Penny Arcade” with James Cagney, and two or three other plays.

The Warners brought Miss Blondell and Mr. Cagney to Hollywood to act in their stage roles in the screen version of “Penny Arcade,” and they have been with that company ever since.

Miss Blondell’s most successful appearance was in “The Public Enemy.” Then Samuel Goldwyn borrowed her because he needed another blonde for “The Greeks Had a Word for Them.” In recent months she has appeared in “Union Depot,” “Blonde Crazy” and “The Crowd Roars.”

William Haines, who stars in the J. P. McElvoy film, “Are You Listening?” was one of the prize cut-ups of the silent screen before the microphone came along. Now he has turned light comedian and has begun to regain a measure of his old popularity.

The perennially youthful Mr. Haines is a Virginian and his father was a broker. William made his first public appearance as a choir boy in the old Trinity Episcopal Church in Staunton. He ran away from home when he was 14 and worked successively in a powder factory, a wholesale dry goods house, a department store and a rubber company.

For a while he was an assistant bookkeeper in the offices of S. W. Straus. While with Straus, one of Sam Goldwyn’s employees stopped him on the street and had him take a test. He won a “new faces” contest conducted by Mr. Goldwyn and went to Hollywood to appear with Eleanor Boardman.

His first screen appearance was in “Three Wise Fools,” in 1922. Another film was “Brown of Harvard.” He had the distinction of making himself heard with Lionel Barrymore in “Alias Jimmy Valentine,” which was M-G-M’s first experiment with the microphone. His most recent films were “Remote Control” and “A Tailor-Made Man.”

It is no shock to film devotees to find that a picture with the title of “Amateur Daddy” was Warner Baxter for its leading figure. Since his appearance with Janet Gaynor in “Daddy Long Legs” last year, Mr. Baxter is easily identified with the gentle side of the screen romantics.

Yet in his long film career he has been a villain of no common order of badness and he has a professional touch with a shotgun or revolver.

His birthplace was Columbus, Ohio, and he had his eye on the stage almost from the beginning. He started with juvenile theatricals and was a veteran of the footlights by the time he emerged from high school.

He was a salesman for a while, but soon joined the Burbank Stock Company remaining with that group for seven years. Oliver Morosco sent him East to be featured in “Lombard, Ltd.” He married Winifred Bryson on the opening day of that show in New York.

After several more Broadway appearances he went to Los Angeles, met Elmer Harris and was offered the lead in a Paramount picture, “Her Own Money.” He had scarcely started work in the picture before Morosco called him for rehearsals in the stage production. He had to work night and day for weeks.

Mr. Baxter’s recent pictures have included “The Arizona Kid,” “Renegades,” “Doctor’s Wives,” “Behind That Curtain” and “In Old Arizona.”

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