Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Who's Who This Week In Pictures

May 8, 1932
As long ago as 1917, Doris Kenyon, who supports Spencer Tracy in “Young America,” was making films as a star for the old Pathe company.

Beginning as an ingenue, Miss Kenyon went by easy stages to the top of the heap in both stage and screen, and now she appears every once and again in roles that are becoming appropriately more mature.

Miss Kenyon's father was James B. Kenyon, editor and poet, and her ambitions as a girl were literary. She entered Barnard College and studied languages and music with a view to preparing herself for a writing career.

But after a year in college she found herself in Victor Herbert's “Princess Pat” with the awful responsibility on her young shoulders of speaking two lines every evening. After that she took a flier into films, but returned to the stage in a little while to learn more about the art of acting.

For Al Woods she appeared in “The Girl in the Limousine” and “The White Villa.” With Leo Carrillo she played in the Selwyn production of “The Love Chef” in Chicago, and then, in 1922, William A. Brady featured her in Owen Davis's “Up the Ladder.”

About the same time she collaborated with her father on a book of verse. When she returned to the films it was to stay, and she appeared in many forgotten silent pictures of the last decade.

Last Fall Miss Kenyon played Betsy Hamilton opposite George Arliss's Alexander Hamilton in the film of that name. Other pictures in which she has recently been seen were “The Road to Singapore,” “The Ruling Voice” and “The Bargain.”

Miss Kenyon is the widow of Milton Sills, that sturdy hero of the films who died in 1930.

Aline MacMahon, who is looking bored and omniscient at the same time these days as Warren William's secretary in “The Mouthpiece,” is relatively a newcomer in films. She left Broadway last year and appeared in “Five Star Final” - also in a secretary role.

Miss MacMahon first arrived in New York with her parents from Pennsylvania, where she was born. She matriculated at Barnard College and immediately became interested in college dramatics.

Somebody from the Neighborhood Playhouse group of that day saw her in one of the amateur productions and started her on a theatrical career. With the rest of the Neighborhood company she appeared in “The Grand Street Follies” at the end of each season, and it was in the 1924 edition that she contributed an impression of Gertrude Lawrence that brought her uptown and a part in, of all things, “Artists and Models.”

Soon she returned to drama in a revival of “Beyond the Horizon,” and subsequently appeared in “Spread Eagle,” “Her First Affair,” “Daylight Saving,” “Maya,” “Winter Bound” and finally in the Los Angeles production of “Five Star Final,” which was just a short jump to the Warner studios.

Fame being capricious at best, the story of how Pat O'Brien came to play the Hildy Johnson rold in “The Front Page” and thereby leap into the middle of Hollywood's shifting spotlight need astonish no one.

The young man, represented just now with “The Strange Case of Clara Deane,” had another part altogether in the road company of the newspaper play. A telephone call from Hollywood demanded to know if he was the actor in “The Front Page.” Answering in the affirmative, he was whisked away to the star role in the picture version, almost, he insists, before he had a chance to explain.

Not, it should be strenuously added, that Mr. O'Brien was an unknown. Only a few months before he had been named in a poll of theatrical critics as one of the ten best actors on the American stage, and he played the lead in Gilbert Miller's “Tomorrow and Tomorrow” just prior to this departure for the West Coast.

Mr. O'Brien was born and brought up in Milwaukee, dabbled in law and football, and served in the navy before he took up the stage seriously.

Then came the inevitable vaudeville tour and various excursions into stock, and finally Broadway in earnest.

He played a heavy in “A Man's Man,” the lead in “Gertie,” a comedy villain in “Henry Behave,” a bootlegger in “You Can't Win,” a gunman in “Danger”; and any number of character men in “The Nut Farm,” “This Man's Town,” “Coquette,” “The Up and Up,” “Broadway” and “Overture.”

Among his recent film endeavors have been “Scandal For Sale,” “Hell's House,” “Flying High” and “Consolation Marriage.”

In the cast of “State's Attorney” is a young woman named Jill Esmond who came over from England to assist Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence in the Broadway presentation of “Private Lives” and stayed on in this land to try her luck in the films.

Miss Esmond has an excellent background for a career in make-believe. Her father, Henry V. Esmond, is the author of “When We Were Twenty-one” and other plays. Her mother, Eva Moore, was a favorite in the English theater for many years.

Miss Esmond was a girl of 14 when she made her first stage appearance, playing the whimsical Wendy in the whimsical “Peter Pan” at London's St. James Theater.

In 1924 she toured in “Eternal Spring,” and played the lead in “Pollyanna.” The following year she appeared with her mother in “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary” and also in Noel Coward's “Hay Fever.”

Subsequently Miss Esmond was in “All the King's Horses,” “Cat's Cradle,” “Puss in Boots” and “Outward Bound.” Her longest engagement came in 1928, when she accompanied John Galsworthy's “Bird in Hand” to New York and Chicago after its English run.

Then she made a picture at Elstree studios outside of London. She came to New York with the “Private Lives” company convinced that she was not the type for the part of Sybil Chase, but New York, including the local RKO office, thought otherwise, and now she is in the films.

Laurence Olivier, her actor-husband, has also been adopted by Hollywood.

Last Fall she appeared with Ruth Chatterton in “Once a Lady.”

George Bancroft's physique is no camera trick. Hollywood's leading burlyman, now to be seen in “The World and the Flesh,” stands six feet two and weighs close to 195 pounds. Mr. Bancroft will celebrate his fiftieth birthday in September.

He was born in Philadelphia. At the gentle age of two, little George allowed himself to be carried on the stage of the Forepaugh stock company, which needed a baby to complete its cast. But the stage did not take with him.

At fourteen he looked older than he was and succeeded in joining the navy. The outbreak of the Spanish-American War found him a gunner on the U. S. S. Baltimore, from which deck he took part in the Battle of Manila Bay. He served in the Boxer Rebellion, and in 1900 reached the turning point in his career when the Oregon struck a submerged rock off Chefoo lighthouse, near Pekin.

Young Bancroft, then attached to another vessel in the fleet, volunteered to dive under the hull of the stricken vessel to discover the extent of the damage. For that little job the Navy recommened him for an Annapolis appointment.

Dissatisfied with the restricting atmosphere of the military school, he decided to try his had as a professional entertainer, having won a fair reputation among his messmates as a song and dance man.

He toured in vaudeville for a while, doing a blackface bit and impersonations. Once he played Uncle Tom in one of the “Uncle Tom's Cabin” companies.

On Broadway he appeared in “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine,” “Paid in Full,” “The Rise of Rosie O'Reilly” and others.

It was his work as a brutal mountaineer in the picture “Driven” that brought him to the attention of James Cruze, when the director was casting “The Pony Express.” He created a new type of villain in Hollywood, and became so popular that film audiences began to resent seeing him always come to a bad end. So he become a hero.

Some of Mr. Bancroft's pictures are: “Underworld,” “The Rough Riders,” “Thunderbolt,” “Old Ironsides” and “The Mighty.”

His most recent films were “Scandal Sheet” and “Rich Man's Folly.”

On the day the United States went to war with Spain, taking with it the above-mentioned Mr. Bancroft, William Lee Tracy was born in Atlanta, Ga., across the street from the Capitol building.

Now, as a welcome recruit from the stage and one of the principal players in “The Strange Love of Molly Louvain,” he bears the familiar name of Lee Tracy, without the William.

His father worked on the railroad and the family jumped around the country with him. The lad liked railroading better than books and at a sufficiently early age left a St. Louis school so he could go to work with his dad.

Becoming older and wiser, he went to Union College at Schenectady to be an electrical engineer. The World War broke that up. Mr. Tracy emerged with a commision as Second Lieutenant.

He joined a vaudeville act, graduated into a New England reperatory company, and having learned the business arrived in due time on Broadway in “The Show Off.”

Jed Harris saw him in another play, “Glory Hallelujah,” and put him squarely on the road to success by enlisting him in the cast of “Broadway.” When that play finally closed, Mr. Tracy was a somebody.

In 1929 he went to Hollywood and made “Big Time,” following that up with “Liliom,” “Born Reckless” and “She Got What She Wanted.”

Returning to Broadway, he appeared in “Oh, Promise Me” last season, and “Louder, Please” in this waning season.

Now he is back in Hollywood and the present film is the first product of a union with the cinema that is beginning to look like an indefinite leave of absence from Broadway.

He insists, nevertheless, that he is a trouper first and last, and that the cinema will not hold him for more than three or four months in any given year.

Just now Mr. Tracy is making “Blessed Event” at the Warner studios.

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