Earthbound, Happy Anniversary, Premiered August 11, 1920. ‘Status Unknown’ a Metaphor for Lost.



In January of 1920, Wyndham Standing, was contracted to star in the Goldwyn picture: Earthbound.[1] By the middle of January, Russian ballet star, Flora Revalles, was added to the cast when she signed to make her film debut with the new Goldwyn production.[2] The project was nearing completion of filming in early April.[3] Principal filming was at the Culver City studios;[4] numerous days of work was spent experimenting with lights and colors for the special-effects needed for the church interior scenes.[5]

Director Hayes Hunter had none too easy a task to have the dead speaking to the living. Hunter ran the actors through rehearsal, then the action was timed using a ticking-metronome to standardize their count; which proved useful not only to the actors and director, but to the cameramen as well. The first portion of a living and spiritual combined scene was the material world, then everything was covered in black velvet (to preserve the integrity of the former material scene), then rewinding of the film in the camera and thus began filming of the spiritual portion. This must not only have been an exacting procedure (more than one-hundred-fifty double exposures) but a tiresome method to cast and crew. To extract reactions from a dog to a spirit, they placed a goat on a platform behind a curtain, when the proper response from dog to spirit was needed the curtain was pulled back and the dog, with head raised, began to bark and bristle. To guard against loss of footage Hunter shot each scene many times, and later selected the best.[6]

Accompanying music arranged by theatrical impresario Samuel Rothafel was based on three themes, the harvest song from Verdi’s Forza del Destino, the old English song, Oh Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms, and the Russian, Kamennoi-Ostrow; which according to reports, heightened the mood for the audience.[7] In addition composer-arranger Max Winkler selected and compiled music for Earthbound, while adding timing-instructions, with theme music (Love’s Enchantment) and pieces for each scene.[8]

To say that August 11, was the premier date for Earthbound is not quite true. The official grand premier was in Chicago, on August 10.[9] Also on August 10, in New York, at the Astor Theatre, a special presentation by invitation only was given,[10] with the public premier on August 11, at the Astor Theatre. The real eye-opening, crowd-jamming, debut occurred in New York at the Capitol Theatre, on September 19, 1920; director T. Hayes Hunter attended the showing.[11] Crowds were outstanding in New York during the Capitol run; first day audience numbers were estimated somewhere between sixteen and eighteen-thousand.[12] Waiting times for the Capitol (5400 capacity) were as much as four hours: two outside and two once inside. During the premier week at the Capitol Theatre, total attendance was over seventy-three-thousand; police reserves had to be called on several times for crowd control on Broadway.[13] The four-weeks plus successful showings at the Astor Theatre, seemed to only whet the appetites of the New Yorkers, causing an inundation at the Capitol.[14]



In Los Angeles, September 30, was the debut for the ‘life after death’ drama; this was at Miller’s Theatre, where they closed the facility for four days prior to first showing, making special preparations for the presentation, arranging the stage, the lights and the music.[15] Even though Miller’s was considered a small house, still the first week’s attendance was over twenty-five-thousand.[16] While audience response here in the States was grand and the atmosphere was ebullient for exhibitors, in London, the welcome for the supernatural flick was lukewarm.[17]

The_Times_ London, England Fri__Oct_29__1920_

Possibly, the finest plaudits received by Earthbound were not from celluloid-critics but from movie-making insiders, producers, directors and writers alike praised the movie.[18] Although, authors John T. Soister and Henry Nicolella intimate that the gushing reviews from the artistic-community were less than genuine,[19] and more a product of the Goldwyn publicity department by soliciting endorsements; which we all know has always been a practice of the entertainment industry.


The Cast: Wyndham Standing, Naomi Childers, Billie Cotton, Mahlon Hamilton, Flora Revalles, Alec B. Francis, Lawson Butt, Kate Lester, Aileen Pringle.

The Crew…

Directed and Produced by T. Hayes Hunter

Story by Basil King

Adaptation by Edfrid A. Bingham

Cinematographer André Barlatier

Film Editor, J. G. Hawks (see miscellany below)

Art Director, Cedric Gibbons


Earthbound Miscellany:

The film’s editor is listed as J. G. Hawks by Internet Movie Data Base, but according to Motion Picture News the editing work was done by Alexander Troffey, Earthbound being just his third film. The job of putting nearly two-hundred-thousand-feet of film to the cutting block (with just eight-thousand-feet for the official running time), took over two months.[20]

Earthbound Motion Picture News October 16, 1920 full page.php Earthbound Motion Picture News October 16, 1920 motionpicturenew222unse_0032

EArthbound Important Step Motion Picture News August 21, 1920.php

Earthbound Motion Picture Magazine November 1920

Earthbound Motion Picture News October 16, 1920 two page spread Earthbound musical directions Motion Picture News October 16 1920 Earthbound New Method Motion Picture News August 14, 1920 .php Earthbound Photoplay November 1920 2 Earthbound picture play magazine November, 1920 Earthbound Photoplay November 1920Earthbound Players Pictures Motion Picture News August 21, 1920 Earthbound review Motion Picture News August 21, 1920

Earthbound Three Views Motion Picture News August 14, 1920

motionpicturenew222unse_0032 motionpicturenew222unse_0940 Santa_Ana_Register_Wed__Nov_24__1920_ The_New_York_Times_Fri__Aug_13__1920_ The_Sun_and_The_New_York_Herald_Thu__Aug_12__1920_ The_Times_ London, England Fri__Oct_29__1920_ Earthbound cast and crew Photoplay November 1920 Earthbound Director Hayes Hunter Motion Picture News September 4, 1920.php


By C. S. Williams


[1] Wid’s Daily, December 15, 1919

[2] New Castle Herald (New Castle, Pennsylvania) January 29, 1920

Atlanta Constitution (Atlanta, Georgia) January 11, 1920

[3] Springfield Republican (Springfield, Missouri) April 11, 1920

[4] Wid’s Daily, December 23, 1919

[5] Evening News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) April 28, 1920

[6] Motion Picture Classic, December, 1920

Santa Ana Register (Santa Ana, California) October 16, 1920

[7] Motion Picture News, August 28, 1920

[8] Motion Picture News, October 16, 1920

[9] Chicago Daily Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) August 4, 1920

[10] Wid’s Daily, August 9, 1920

[11] Motion Picture News, September 25, 1920

[12] Motion Picture News, October 2, 1920

[13] Motion Picture News, October 9, 1920

[14] Motion Picture News, September 11, 1920

[15] Motion Picture News, September 25, 1920

[16] Wid’s Daily, October 23, 1920

[17] Wid’s Daily, November 10, 1920

[18] Motion Picture News, October 16, 1920

[19] American Silent Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Feature Films, 1913-1929, by John T. Soister, Henry Nicolella,

Steve Joyce and Harry H. Long; publisher, McFarland, June, 2012, pages 170-174

[20] Motion Picture News, October 16, 1920

Wid’s Daily, August 15, 1920

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