Metropolis, Happy Anniversary! Premiered in Berlin, Germany at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo Movie Theater on Monday, January 10th, 1927.

Metropolisposter metropolis-postermetropolis-movie-program

Metropolis changed the way I thought of Silent Film. Up to that point I had viewed the era as darkened, scratchy, unclear, with much over-exaggerated movements of body, face and eyes and to make matters worse there was no dialogue. But, here was a movie that challenged my thinking and my preconceived conceptions of non-talking films. This was movie making at its finest, regardless of decade. From the sets to the costumes, the story, the lighting, the cinematography, acting and direction, Metropolis was for that time and for this new century a Masterpiece.

This science-fiction juggernaut was based on the novel of the same name by Thea von Harbou, published in 1926 after principle filming began on May 22nd, 1925; Harbou wrote Metropolis with the purpose of making a film from it and the novel was serialized in 1926 in the journal Illustriertes Blatt leading up to the movie’s release. Harbou and husband Fritz Lang (uncredited) scripted Metropolis which leaps to and fro, one genre to the next all under the control of the imaginative Lang.

Fritz Lang and wife Thea von Harbou

Fritz Lang

Most of the cast were unknowns or as with leading lady Brigitte Helm, no experience at all, yet, Lang gained exactly what he wanted from his ensamble and multitude of extras, as well as from his crew which for this venture was of the most importance. It was in this visual perspective that Metropolis communicates its story. Driven not by words, not even action, but conveyed by the art and stylizations of the sets and costumes we the audience are caught up in and thrust forward by this creative visual contrivance of Fritz Lang to tell this dystopian tale. It has been a while since first I laid eyes upon Metropolis, yet, I cannot forget that I immediately found within its frames, beauty, thoughtfulness and a uncertainty of the future. Today, I am none the less impressed by this classic film, it is two hours that is well spent enjoying a piece of history and at the same time marveling at this piece of art that is: Metropolis.

Brigitte_Helm

Metropolis-city03 metropolis-moloch Metropolis-new-tower-of-babel metropolis(2) Metropolis metropolis_F metropolis_kino_blu-ray_k1 metropolis_productionstill_300dpi_15 METROPOLIS_USA_NTSC-592 metropolis5 metropolis07 metropolis22

Behind the Scenes of Metropolis:

metropolis6OKsx metropolis12metr.slide1 metropolis10995100343_8d2037094a_o metropolisbehindmetropolisarchicinema004 Metropolis-flood-scene metropolistumblr_me4hdn0Mpx1rdzko8o1_500 metropolisuntitled metorpolisuntitled

 

By C. S. Williams

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Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, Happy Anniversary! Premiered in New York City, December 30th, 1925

As we can see from the posters, lobby cards, programs and ads for Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, every means and all tools were used to promote this film, yet, because of its budget (most expensive of the silent era at 3.9 million) it lost money on its initial run, finally making a little profit in the re-release in 1931 when a score and sound-effects were added. (See our post about another Easter favorite, from 1935: Golgotha)

BenHur1925_preview ben-hur-1925-1 ben-hur-1925-belge(2) benhur1925cinorcv ben-hur-a-tale-of-the-christ-sheboygan-press-271101-p14 benhurimagesben-hur-img-26968ben hur MV5BMTM3ODM0OTE1MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMjc3Mzc4._V1_SX640_SY720_Ben Hur, A Tale of the Christ_02Ben-Hur_(Klaw_&_Erlanger)ben hurLCBENHURSC4WMben hurdiLPgZC8L7LIm0uVXPNv9uB0DCZben hur programm 043-ben-hur-theredlistben hur program for new york premeirinterests_09ben hurdiLPgZC8L7LIm0uVXPNv9uB0DCZben hurlbenhur1a1_600ben hurThePictureShowASben hur038-ben-hur-theredlistben hur036-ben-hur-theredlistben hur037-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 042-ben-hur-theredlist

Stills from Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ:

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Forty-eight cameras were used to film the sea battle, a record for a single scene.

ben hur 066-ben-hur-theredlist

The Guinness Book of World Records (2002 edition), relates that Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, contains the most edited scene in cinema history. Editor Lloyd Nosler compressed 200,000 feet (60,960 meters) of film into a mere 750 feet (228.6 meters) for the chariot race scene – a ratio of 267:1 (film shot to film shown).

ben-hur-color03

The religious scenes were all shot in Technicolor along with Ben Hur’s entrance into Rome and some of the interiors.

ben-hur-color01ben-hur-color04benhurd8cc82  ben hur 006-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 009-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 045-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 058-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 064-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 073-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur 077-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur row06.02-BenHur   ben hur003-ben-hur-theredlist OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA ben hur029-ben-hur-theredlist ben hur00239 ben hur6011207_f520 ben hurGinger-673 1926 Ramon Navarro Ben Hur benhur Annex%2520-%2520Bushman%2C%2520Francis%2520X_%2520%28Ben%2520Hur%2C%2520A%2520Tale%2520of%2520the%2520Christ%29_02 benhur ywjyU

ben-hurbenhurWilliamFarnumBenHurben hur 002-ben-hur-theredlistben-hur-theredlistben hur 008-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 065-ben-hur-theredlistben hur041-ben-hur-theredlistben hur032-ben-hur-theredlistben hur001-ben-hur-theredlistbenhur Ramon-Novarro-Judah-Ben-Hur-and-Francis-X-Bushman-Messala-Ben-Hur-A-Tale-Of-The-Christ-1925ben hur 054-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 1181739354ben hur 053-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 004-ben-hur-theredlistbenhuruntitled

Behind the scenes stills:

ben hur 060-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 069-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 061-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 059-ben-hur-theredlistben hur 057-ben-hur-theredlistBen Hur 1925ben hur 075-ben-hur-theredlistben hur ac-1926-ben-hur-2-copy

The Master Mystery, Happy Anniversary! 97 Years Strong!

master-of-mmystery-f-83631

 

This partly lost, mostly there gem of a thriller has a “here, there and everywhere” opening date, of which I will attempt to settle upon one in this short article. This film provides a luxuriant offering for science-fiction and mystery buffs of all ages and demonstrates the charisma that was resident in Harry Houdini, the star of this landmark serial…

 

On Thursday morning, November 7, 1918 at the Strand Theater (1579 Broadway, New York City), the first five episodes of The Master Mystery, were shown in a special trade showing. Harry Houdini attended, seated in a stage box. From the report in Brooklyn Life, Mr. Houdini’s performance in the serial was validated by the applause from the audience and by the number of times the crowd came to their feet with each astounding escape in the picture.[1] The review seen in the November 16, edition of, The Billboard, glowed, rhapsodized, and thoroughly encouraged, the exhibitor, of the film’s possibilities at the box-office.[2] On Saturday, November 30, 1918, filming was complete on, The Master Mystery; this was the first time that a serial was finished prior to its official release.[3] Within days of the completion of the series, Grossett & Dunlap announced that they would soon publish the movie-book tie-in.[4]

32935_med

 

By Christmas time, the serial made its bow in Pennsylvania, in Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.[5] Yet the official, initial viewing of, The Master Mystery, was at the St. James Theatre, in Boston, Massachusetts on Monday, November 18, 1918.Harry Houdini made fifteen personal appearances during that first month of release for Master Mystery, including the first installment in Boston.[6] Why did Boston receive the premiere of, The Master Mystery? The film’s producer, Benjamin A. Rolfe, while born in New York, had adopted the area as his home; at his death he was buried in Walpole, Massachusetts, some twenty-five miles southwest of Bean Town.

Boston_Post_ Boston, Massachusetts Sun__Nov_17__1918_

Boston Post, Boston, Massachusetts, November 17, 1918

 

I believe that I have found the reason that began our popular-modern misunderstanding of the premiere date of, The Master Mystery on March 1, 1919.[7] By that date in 1919, the territory representatives for the series were holding Trade previews in the western States, for impending release, but nowhere in that news item is a serial-premiere mentioned.[8] But, the Moving Picture World reported that episode one would be seen on March 1, 1919 in Chicago;[9] this is the only link that I can find to the incorrect statement that Master Mystery opened in March of 1919. The published evidence speaks volumes to the contrary of a March 1, ’19, premiere for the Houdini thriller, with the specific reference of the first trade show occurring on November 7, 1918 and the multiple contemporaneous sources making clear the much earlier Christmastide general-availability for exhibitors.

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Film Fun December 1918

Film Fun December 1918

Picture-Play Magazine March, 1919

Picture-Play Magazine March, 1919

 

Harry Houdini, at one point in our history was every boy’s hero, (magician, escape artist, movie star), a robot, (first portrayed in film?), “The Madagascar Madness- Gas;” all these elements coming together for a serial that is (albeit incomplete) an E-Ticket ride! And the best news is that you can see it, even though it has been nearly one-hundred years since its opening; and better news still, that you may you see it, for it is accessible for your home viewing pleasure. The Master Mystery is available on DVD as part of a 3 disc set from Kino; albeit at an exorbitant price.[10]

master-mystery-movie-poster-1919-1020202647

mastermystery

master-mystery-french-2

 

 

By C. S. Williams

 

 

[1] Billboard, November 16, 1918

Brooklyn Life (Brooklyn, New York) November 23

[2] Billboard, November 16, 1918

[3] Billboard, November 30, 1918

Wid’s Daily, December 3, 1918

[4] Wid’s Daily, December 3, 1918

[5] Evening News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) December 24, 1918

Gazette Times (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania) December 25, 1918

[6] Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) November 18, 1918

Ottawa Journal (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) December 28, 1918

[7] Indeed, on the release date page for, The Master Mystery on the Internet Movie Data Base, it details each episode’s opening through May 1, 1919.

[8] Moving Picture World, March 15, 1919

[9] Moving Picture World, March 15, 1919

[10]The following is a copy of the Amazon.com description: The Master Mystery (1919, 238m, Color Tinted), Terror Island (1920, 55m, B&W), The Man From Beyond (1922, 68m, Color Tinted), Haldane of the Secret Service (1923, 84m, Color Tinted), The Grim Game, (Fragment, 1919, 5m, Color Tinted). Special Features Include: Filmed records of Houdini escapes (ca. 1907-23) – Audio recording of Houdini speaking (1914) – Excerpts from the NY Censor Board files – Slippery Jim, a 1910 Houdini-inspired comedy – The illusion Metamorphosis performed by Houdini’s brother Hardeen.

 

The Enchanted Cottage, a 1924 Miracle Romance

The Enchanted Cottage, 1924

The play, The Enchanted Cottage, written by Sir Arthur Pinero, which opened on Wednesday, March 1, 1922, at the Duke of York’s Theatre, in London, was promptly compared with, J. M. Barrie’s fantasy, Marie Rose (AKA: Mary Rose),[1] which had its premiere in 1920. It was also likened to, Sentimental Tommy, by Mr. Barrie, and Pinero admitted that when beginning, The Enchanted Cottage, he intended writing “something along the lines of… Sentimental Tommy.”[2] On Saturday, March 31, 1923, The Enchanted Cottage, premiered at, The Ritz Theatre, in New York; William A. Brady produced the fantasy for Broadway. The Great White Way opening starred Katharine Cornell and Noel Tearle in the leads, Gilbert Emery as their blind confidant, and featuring a supporting cast of Clara Blandick, Ethel Wright, Harry Neville, Winifred Frazer, Herbert Bunston and Seldon Bennett; The Enchanted Cottage, was under the direction of Ms. Jessie Bonstelle.[3] Ms. Bonstelle (who co-directed with Brady for Broadway) had the responsibility of handling the “dream-play” at the Providence Opera House, perfecting the staging in that out-of-town venue; the Providence run began in the latter third of September, 1922. Noel Tearle (son of Edmund Tearle[4]) who hailed from England, was the leading man of Bonstelle’s stock company for the 1922-’23 season; the romantic-fantasy also played in Detroit at the Shubert Theatre.[5]

Waco News Tribune, Waco, Texas, April 22, 1923

Waco News Tribune, Waco, Texas, April 22, 1923

Noel Tearle (playing dead), from the Broadway production of At 9:45; New York Tribune, New York, New York, August 17, 1919

Noel Tearle (playing dead), from the Broadway production of At 9:45; New York Tribune, New York, New York, August 17, 1919

 

In September of 1923, Inspiration Pictures secured the rights to, The Enchanted Cottage; they bought the property expressly as the next project for, Richard Barthelmess (as: Oliver Bashforth), and appointing John S. Robertson to direct; Josephine Lovett (wife of director Robertson) wrote the scenario from the play.[6] The first actress contemplated and favored for the role of Laura Pennington, in, The Enchanted Cottage, was Dorothy Mackail; Mackail was not available because she had decided to do, The Next Corner (starring Conway Tearle, Lon Chaney, Ricardo Cortez and Louise Dresser), for Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, in Los Angeles.[7] Around forty-five-days later, May McAvoy signed a contract with Inspiration Pictures and was immediately assigned to play opposite Barthelmess; the role was considered a feature part, not a co-starring stint.[8]

Film Daily, June 22, 1924

Film Daily, June 22, 1924

Dorothy Mackail; Photoplay, July, 1925

Dorothy Mackail; Photoplay, July, 1925

 

For the role of the sister of Oliver Bashforth (Ethel Bashforth), Florence Short was chosen; Short was not first choice, but was signed after an unfruitful casting call for a long-nosed girl, 18-years-of-age and 5” 8’ to fit the part. None were found suitable for the ideal Ethel Bashforth, so Short, who had already appeared in support of Barthelmess three times (Way Down East, The Love Flower, and, The Idol Dancer, each released in 1920), was chosen;[9] this search was ended by the third week of October of ’23. This would be the final work in film for Florence Short; Short, who had played on Broadway before and during her movie career, went back to the stage, and was seen in four Broadway productions[10] after her role in, The Enchanted Cottage.

Motion Picture News, January 12, 1918

Motion Picture News, January 12, 1918

There is a caveat to film work for Ms. Short, post 1923, she was part of a stock company of actors that signed with the Screen Actors Guild and the Dominos Club of Hollywood to work daily during the run of the California Pacific International Exposition in San Diego, California, in 1935-36. The group of actors were to perform for visitors of the Motion Picture Hall of Fame Exhibit, at the Pacific Exposition; the crowds were afforded the opportunity to see the players at work on a specially constructed sound stage. The Exposition opened on May 29, 1935 and closed in November of ’35, reopening in 1936 on February 12, and closing on September 9; Walter McGrail, Helen Mann, Warren Burke, Amron Isle, joined Florence Short in the Motion Picture Hall of Fame stock Company. Mondays were the “home movie makers” days, where aspiring film-makers (16mm and 8mm enthusiasts) could film the players of the stock company, and work alongside the professionals, including directors and lighting experts. The Motion Picture Hall of Fame exhibit housed costumes, props, cameras and sets; one of Charlie Chaplin’s burlap boots from, The Gold Rush, was on display, along with sets from, The Bride of Frankenstein, and, The Crusades. The exhibit was built to resemble a Hollywood studio and each of the Hollywoodland companies participated in the project. Aeromodelling was a fascination for actor Reginald Denny, building the scale-model planes at home, with the ability to reach heights of 2,500 feet; the miniature planes had pint-sized gasoline tanks and were capable of making perfecting landings. Denny’s home-made collection was on display at the Motion Picture Exhibit, giving fans the chance to know him just little better. [11]

Holmes Herbert was contracted to portray the blind Major Hillgrove in, The Enchanted Cottage, at the midst of November, ‘23.[12] Casting was complete for, The Enchanted Cottage (a First National release) by the middle of December, 1923, with a company in support of Richard Barthelmess and May McAvoy that included: Marion Coakley, Ida Waterman, Alfred Hickman, Rene Lorraine, the aforementioned Florence Short and Holmes E. Herbert, along with Ethel Wright.[13] Ms. Wright was given the role of Mrs. Minnett for the film (she had the role of Mrs. Corsellis on stage); Wright was the only member of the original Broadway production to appear in the movie.[14] Herbert in prepping for the role of Major Hillgrove visited the, New York Institute for the Blind; he found that the blind kept their eyes closed and thereupon decided to play Hillgrove with eyes shut. Mr. Herbert did this against the grain which in his experience found actors on stage and screen customarily playing the blind with eyes wide open.[15]

Holmes Herbert

Holmes Herbert

Exhibitors Herald, April 5, 1919

Exhibitors Herald, April 5, 1919

 

The first week of November, 1923, found Richard Barthelmess and May McAvoy being put through the paces of homeliness, experimenting with make-up and camera tests, for that suitable homely appearance.[16] According to reportage, Barthelmess had already developed the stoop-shouldered, limping characterization for Oliver Bashforth in that first week of November; this imitation of a wounded soldier accompanied the wan, hollow-cheek visage brought on by the make-up artists at Inspiration Pictures.[17]

Richard Barthelmess

May McAvoy

May McAvoy

Exhibitor's Trade Review, March 22, 1924

Exhibitor’s Trade Review, March 22, 1924

Motion Picture Magazine, March, 1924, behind the scenes

Motion Picture Magazine, March, 1924, behind the scenes

Motion Picture Magazine, June, 1924 behind the scenes: Motion Picture Magazine, June, 1924, behind the scenes: director John Robertson, Josephine Lovett, May McAvoy and Richard Barthelmess

Motion Picture Magazine, June, 1924, behind the scenes: director John Robertson, Josephine Lovett (her face seen in the mirror), May McAvoy and Richard Barthelmess

 

Expectations were such that Inspiration Pictures believed that director John Robertson would have , The Enchanted Cottage, completed by the first of 1924, but Richard Barthelmess, had to have a minor operation in New York’s Polyclinic Hospital (on Thursday, January 3, 1924, delaying the production for more than two-weeks.[18] With “Dickie’s” recovery concluded (at least one report had him looking a “trifle wan” upon his return[19]), filming resumed on January 21, and, The Enchanted Cottage, was complete by the first week of February, 1924.[20] Barthelmess also experienced some rheumatism, which he believed was brought on by the fact that an ample amount of his time before the cameras was spent with his leg twisted for the part of Oliver; of his own admission he missed one day because of the pain. This, added to the two weeks-plus of recovery from his operation, and one more lost day of filming because of a cold for Barthelmess[21] put, The Enchanted Cottage, behind schedule, and the company was unable to recover those days.

The advance reports by those who had seen, The Enchanted Cottage, said that it would “add new laurels” to Barthelmess and McAvoy.[22] One of those who saw the movie soon after completion was Sir Arthur Pinero, author of the play; what had attracted his attention was the cottage itself. The fantasy house for, The Enchanted Cottage, was built at the Fort Lee Studio, and this garnered a “stamp of approval” from the story’s author, Pinero, in a letter he addressed to the producers of the picture, Inspiration Pictures Inc.… Pinero pointed out in particular, the beauty of the cottage setting; Sir Arthur was quoted, saying, “It is a most charming picture, and is in keeping with the spirit of the play.”[23] The genius behind that Enchanted Cottage look, came from the imagination of, Livingston Platt, famed theatrical scenic designer;[24] the small house a grand mix of the English cottage with the fancy of a quiet, secluded fairy-tale home. Much of the charm of “that” cottage was the surrounding garden, of which perfectly imitated the English autumnal season, with its real flowers, shrubs, trees and grass in the studio set.[25] Professor Hugh Findlay of Columbia University attested to the realism of the, The Enchanted Cottage, garden; Findlay taught a course in landscape gardening at the New York City university.[26]

The original date of release was set for March 17, 1924, but the operation necessitated for Barthelmess, pushed the date later; a majority of communities did not see, The Enchanted Cottage, until the first week of April of ’24, and later. A special showing of, The Enchanted Cottage was held at the Crystal Room of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Friday, April 4, 1924; the Crystal Room was a popular special event venue in New York, hosting many weddings, luncheons, conventions, grand-balls and such. The special viewing of, Cottage, at the Crystal Room was not alone, the film was seen in “Pre-Release” showings at a few select locations across the country.[27]

Exhibitor's Trade Review, February 2, 1924

Exhibitor’s Trade Review, February 2, 1924

Film Daily, March 31, 1924

Film Daily, March 31, 1924

 

Oddly enough, on Thursday, April 3, at the, Congress Theatre, in Saratoga Springs, New York, 24-hours prior to the sneak-preview at the, Ritz-Carlton, in NYC, Enchanted Cottage was previewed, and also had showings for Friday April 4, and Saturday the 5th.[28] Appleton, Wisconsin, hosted the film at the Elite Theatre, from Monday, April 7, through Wednesday, April 9. Cottage, beginning on Monday, April 7, played the week out in Pittsburgh, PA, at the Grand Theatre; Thielen’s Majestic Theatre, in Bloomington, Illinois, featured, The Enchanted Cottage, for three days starting on April 7.[29]

The Saratogian, Saratoga Springs, New York, April 1, 1924

The Saratogian, Saratoga Springs, New York, April 1, 1924

Post Crescent, Appleton, Wisconsin, April 5, 1924

Post Crescent, Appleton, Wisconsin, April 5, 1924

Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, April 7, 1924

Pittsburgh Gazette Times, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, April 7, 1924

The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Illinois, Apr 7, 1924

The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Illinois, Apr 7, 1924

 

Yet, with the exception of a handful of remarks[30] garnered from the preview at the Crystal Room on April 4, all other reviews followed the New York, Strand theaters openings.[31] It appears that the actual nationwide release date for, The Enchanted Cottage, was Palm-Sunday, April 13, 1924;[32] publicists probably theorized that this romance, with its miracle of love, promised to do well at Easter. The flagship premiere for, The Enchanted Cottage, was in New York, opening at the Strand Theatre on Broadway and the Brooklyn Strand on, April 13.[33]

Film Daily, April 11, 1924

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, April 13, 1924

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, April 13, 1924

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, April 13, 1924

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, April 13, 1924

 

Advertising for the movie took on a “cottage industry” approach, with locally produced artwork, cottage edifices, trellises, flowers and poster works from the film framed within recreated gardens; these cottage environs were reproduced in lobbies or acted as the façade of the box-office. Many suggestions were provided by the distributor, First National, for advertising tie-ins, both for the exhibitor and the local business proprietor; pianos, furniture, insurance, mattresses, radios and vacuums were among the recommended cross-promotions.

Exhibitor's Trade Review, June 7, 1924

Exhibitor’s Trade Review, June 7, 1924

Exhibitor's Trade Review, June 21, 1924, Becham Theatre

Exhibitor’s Trade Review, June 21, 1924, Becham Theatre

Exhibitor's Trade Review, July 26, 1924

Exhibitor’s Trade Review, July 26, 1924

 

Missing from the Cottage:

Little Howard Merrill (under contract to First National) went uncredited for his turn in, The Enchanted Cottage, and has went unlisted for the romance as well;[34] Merrill had appeared with Barthelmess in, Twenty-One, playing the child-age Julian McCullough to “Dickie’s” adult interpretation of the lead character of the film.[35] Merrill would also act with Barthelmess in, Classmates, released for Thanksgiving of 1924; young Mr. Merrill played the juvenile “double” for Richard Barthelmess in at least three films.[36] In addition to Cottage and Classmates, Merrill appeared in, Cytherea, directed by George Fitzmaurice, starring Irene Rich and Lewis Stone.[37] The youngster had a part in, The Jazz Singer, in 1927; for the Al Jolson musical Howard Merrill had a scene on location on one of New York’s busiest “ghetto” streets, playing with Warner Oland. Oland was jumped, when appearing to abuse the eleven-year-old, by an onlooker who determined to save the youth;[38] so much for realism. Beginning in 1950, Merrill started a successful career as a writer for television; turning out scripts for Ensign O’Toole, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Make Room for Daddy and F Troop. In between silent movies and TV, Merrill made a living performing on radio, starting on the airwaves circa 1928.[39] In early 1930, little Merrill, played, Penrod, on NBC, on Sunday nights; the series was based on Booth Tarkington’s story of the same name.[40] Merrill was part of the cast of, Mountainville True Life Sketches, on CBS Radio, later in ’30,[41] and his name could be found in radio related announcements over the next twenty years. His career was varied, besides his acting, he wrote for Esquire Magazine; as teen he had a syndicated newspaper column, by the title of: This Minute. In 1958 he produced (along with the Theatre Corporation of America) the Broadway show, Oh Captain, which starred Tony Randal; the musical-comedy had 192 performances at the Alvin Theatre. [42]

Exhibitor's Trade Review, June 7, 1924

Exhibitor’s Trade Review, June 7, 1924

 

The Enchanted Cottage is available to view online for free on YouTube, yet, this version is truly silent, with no musical accompaniment. If you are in search of a full, Enchanted Cottage, experience then DVD-R you must obtain, which may be found at Grapevine Video. The music for this version of, Cottage, was scored by veteran silent-film music-accompanist and composer, David Knudtson; Knudtson is the co-founder of the Red River Chapter of the American Theatre Organ Society and often plays and composes for film series at the Weld Auditorium of Moorhead State University Moorhead.[43]

 

By C. S. Williams

 

Exhibitors Herald, April 5, 1924

Exhibitors Herald, April 5, 1924

Exhibitors Herald, March 29, 1924

Exhibitors Herald, March 29, 1924

Photoplay, May, 1924

Photoplay, May, 1924

Motion Picture Magazine, June, 1924

Motion Picture Magazine, June, 1924

Photoplay, April, 1924

Photoplay, April, 1924

Photoplay, June, 1924

Photoplay, June, 1924

Exhibitor's Trade Review, June 7, 1924, Home Fires

Exhibitor’s Trade Review, June 7, 1924

The Enchanted Cottage

 

[1] New York Times (New York, New York) March 2, 1922

[2] Journal News (Hamilton, Ohio) March 8, 1924

[3] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) March 25, 1923

Wall Street Journal (New York, New York) April 3, 1923

[4] New York Times (New York, New York) February 6, 1913

[5] Variety, September 29; October 6, 1922

[6] Film Daily, October 5, 1923

Motion Picture Magazine, June, 1924

[7] Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) October 30, 1923

[8] Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa) October 14, 1923

[9] Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) October 28; November 11, 1923

Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa) November 16, 1923

Exhibitor’s Trade Review, December 1, 1923

[10] Starlight, 1925; To-Night at 12, 1928; Abraham Lincoln, 1929; Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1933;

Source: Internet Broadway Data Base

[11] Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) May 28, 1935

American Cinematographer, June 1935

Nassau Daily Review (Long Island, New York) July 23, 1935

[12] Film Daily, November 18, 1923

Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa) November 25, 1923

[13] Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) December 16, 1923

[14] Scranton Republican (Scranton, Pennsylvania) December 15, 1923; January 30, 1924

Variety, April 5, 1923

[15] Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa) January 20, 1924

[16] Houston Post (Houston, Texas) November 1, 1923

[17] Decatur Daily Review (Decatur, Illinois) November 11, 1923

[18] Exhibitors Herald, December 15, 1923

Houston Post (Houston, Texas) January 4, 1924

[19] Harrisburg Telegraph (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) January 28, 1924

[20] Film Daily, January 21, 1924

Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa) February 10, 1924

[21] Times Recorder (Zanesville, Ohio) January 6, 1924

[22] Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa) February 10, 1924

[23] Houston Post (Houston, Texas) February 5, 1924

[24] Motion Picture Classic, December, 1923

[25] Davenport Democrat and Leader (Davenport, Iowa) December 30, 1923

[26] Daily Argus (Mount Vernon, New York) May 10, 1924

[27] Film Daily, January 17; March 31, 1924

[28] The Saratogian (Saratoga Springs, New York) April 4, 1924

[29] Pittsburgh Gazette Times (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) April 7; 10, 1920

The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois) April 7, 1924

[30] However, Comma—, columnist, Maurice J. Henle was in attendance at the pre-release at the Ritz Carlton on

April 4, 1924, and those statements appeared in his column on April 8, 1924: Niagara Falls Gazette

(Niagara Falls, New York) April 8, 1924

[31] Film Daily, April 14; 16; 20, 1924

New York Evening Post (New York, New York) April 14, 1924

Exhibitor’s Trade Review, April 19, 1924

Christian Science Monitor (Boston, Massachusetts) April 23, 1924

[32] Film Daily, April 11, 1924

Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) April 13, 1924

[33] Film Daily, March 31; April 11; 14, 1924

New York Evening Post (New York, New York) April 14, 1924

[34] Exhibitors Trade Review, June 7, 1924

[35] Exhibitors Trade Review, March 8, 1924

[36] Film Daily, August 31, 1924

[37] Film Daily, January 9, 1924

[38] Film Daily, July 8, 1927

[39] Variety, October 31, 1928

[40] What’s On the Air, May, 1930

[41] What’s On the Air, May, 1930

[42] Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) October 5, 1994

Internet Broadway Data Base

[43] INFORUM, July 20, 2015

Prudence the Pirate, 1916, Lost in the Celluloid Sea, the Updated Version

Moving Picture World October 21, 1916

Moving Picture World October 21, 1916

 

Prudence Lost: Prudence is to be admired as a virtue; unfortunately, this particular Prudence is lost.

Prudence the Pirate was released on Sunday, October 22, 1916,[1] starring Gladys Hulette, accompanied by the “ugliest pub” in the world, Panthus; the dog was named Panthus because he panted abundantly.[2] The production was covered thoroughly by the Hollywood trade magazines, reporting on Ms. Hulette and particularly the ugly dog. The well rounded cast included, Flora Finch, Riley Chamberlin, Barnett Parker, William Parke, Jr., A. J. Andrews, Eric Hudson, James Sullivan and Billy Brown.[3] Hudson, Sullivan and Brown have been missing from the credits of Prudence for no telling how long, granted, that they were not actors with prolific careers, nor were they household names but they were mentioned by the Moving Picture World magazine and deserve to be remembered for their work; albeit lost performances all. William Parke directed and the scenario was written by Agnes C. Johnston (AKA: Johnson). Johnston was at the time of Prudence, only twenty-years-old, and the veteran of more than ten stories since her entrance into film in 1915. Her true fame in writing for the silver screen would come much later in her career, with such films as, Show People (1928), The Divine Lady (1929) and, Movie Crazy released in 1932; in the 1930’s she wrote for the Andy Hardy series and the 1946 version of, Black Beauty. Johnston was by all accounts one of the bright stars in the scenarist universe and Prudence was one of her early triumphs. According to a report in the Wichita Beacon, Wichita, Kansas, (December 23, 1916), Ms. Johnston applied for a writing position with Vitagraph but landed a job as a typist instead; within a few months she had grasped (this, the evaluation of her employer) the essentials of writing scenarios and got her big break, with the short film, Ancestry (for American Mutual Manufacturing Company), which opened in March of 1915. Soon she got a position with Thanhouser and the rest, as they say, is history.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn New York, November 22, 1915

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn New York, November 22, 1915

 

The Motion Picture News reported that there was a “film-leader” following the title-card of Prudence the Pirate, dedicating its contents to “those tired of the materialistic, who wanted to hark back a number of years and enjoy over again their childhood dreams.” So said a short article in the Logansport (Indiana) Daily Tribune, further, more color was added to the story (whether by Thanhouser, Pathé or the local reporter I cannot discern), relating that, when “Looking at it, the walls of the theater melt into nothing, the screen becomes a mirror reflecting the humorous prank of an unconventional and winsome girl, who is so fresh, so distantly removed from anything pertaining to grease paint and wig, that you smile patronizingly  at her every action and laugh at Prue’s prank, smile at the delightful pictures of human nature that the story offers, and thrill at the climax.” The scenario was considered by some more than worthy and by at least one critic as a “Craftsmanlike piece of work,” a movie with a “distinct comedy flavor” with a “literary touch.”  The aforementioned review by the Logansport Daily Tribune, concluded that: “Justice cannot be done in relating the synopsis of the story. The touches of the author and the various scenes by the principal characters must be seen to be appreciated.” [4]

Prudence the Pirate Glass Slide, from the Thanhouser Company Preservation, Inc., Image Gallery

Prudence the Pirate Glass Slide, from the Thanhouser Company Preservation, Inc., Image Gallery

 

It seems we have missed out on an early comedy-drama classic with Prudence the Pirate, a feminine pirate movie that is remembered in numerous blogs and books alike, yet with no cohesive history of the production written. Like unto the corpulent detective Nero Wolfe, who rarely left the comfortable and familiar confines of his home, but instead sent his assistant, Archie Goodwin to perform the leg work, I seldom leave my office for research and my Archie is the internet. Here together then are the facts I found obtainable, prudently proffered for your perusal.

Exhibitors found the film to be too “light” in its content and advertising, but Motography on October 21, 1916, said that Prudence was: “a distinctly pleasant farce with a stirring melodramatic climax. The story is a very light and proportionately diverting offering… Every time we see a picture like ‘Prudence the Pirate,’ we start right in to wonder that the producers do not give more attention to such really entertaining plays and observations made while visiting the picture theaters tell us that the great portion of the public holds to the same view. Why so many harassed heroines or stupid Cinederella’s (sic) when the likes of Prudence can be evolved by the scenario writer?” And the Moving Picture World was positive in its recounting of the film, almost glowingly of Ms. Hulette and calling the picture, “worthwhile” and that Prudence, “will make good entertainment.[5]

The action-comedy-romance was seen in Logansport, Indiana on October 22, 1916,[6] and received prominent placement in the local theater advertisement. The host theater in Logansport was the Paramount, situated at 310 5th Street; which is at the intersection of E. Market Street and Erie Avenue.

Logansport Pharos Tribune, Logansport, Indiana, October 22, 1916

Logansport Pharos Tribune, Logansport, Indiana, October 22, 1916

 

The first verifiable metropolitan play-date that I am able to ascertain for the production was on Monday, October 23, when Prudence was seen in Philadelphia at the Princess Theater, located at 1018 Market Street,[7] which sat two-doors east of Eleventh Street, with the historic Bingham House being the corner building at Market and Eleventh; this was just steps from subway station 35. The Pennsylvania state Board of Censors of Motion Pictures, reviewed the film on, October 19, and approved the movie’s content.[8]

Evening Public Ledger, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 23, 1916

Evening Public Ledger, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 23, 1916

 

On January 1, 1917, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada, at 136 2nd Avenue South, at 1:00 PM, Prudence the Pirate, opened the brand new, Daylight Theatre; the venue was declared to be best, motion picture only theater in Canada.[9]

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada (unknown publication) "Prudence the Pirate" opened the new Daylight Theatre at 136 2nd Avenue South at one o'clock New Year's Day, January 1, 1917. J. Lester Kauffman of the Regal Film Corporation, one of a number of prominent men in the motion picture business in town to inspect the new theatre, declared the Daylight the finest strictly motion picture theatre in Canada. The theatre was constructed for the Daylight Theatre Company Ltd. at a cost of approximately $50,000.

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada (unknown publication) “Prudence the Pirate” opened the new Daylight Theatre at 136 2nd Avenue South at one o’clock New Year’s Day, January 1, 1917. J. Lester Kauffman of the Regal Film Corporation, one of a number of prominent men in the motion picture business in town to inspect the new theatre, declared the Daylight the finest strictly motion picture theatre in Canada. The theatre was constructed for the Daylight Theatre Company Ltd. at a cost of approximately $50,000. (Source: Saskatoon Public Library)

 

The so ugly its cute pooch was found in a nationwide search for the “ugliest pup,” with scores of photos of dogs that simply did not qualify for the title submitted in response to advertising. Finally, Panthus was found in the New Rochelle, New York dog-pound. And in a plot fitting of a Tinsel-town scenario he was saved from imminent death at the hands of the warden of the dog-pound. Obviously, the personal worth of Panthus rose from rags to riches and once finished with his film work, his silver-screen-story was complete when he was adopted by his leading lady, Gladys Hulette.[10]

Film Fun, November, 1916

Film Fun, November, 1916

 

Within days after filming of the five-reel picture was started, Panthus escaped; a posse was gathered and sent out by Thanhouser Studios searching New Rochelle for the dog, and finding him some twenty-four hours later, frolicking with some boys at the local baseball field .[11] Filming was done at the Thanhouser Company studio in New Rochelle proper, and the sailing scenes were shot on Long Island Sound;[12] principal filming was in August and September of 1916.

Motography, behind the scenes October 7, 1916

Motography, behind the scenes October 7, 1916

Picture-Play Magazine, behind the scenes (rocking platform to simulate waves), January, 1917

Picture-Play Magazine, behind the scenes (rocking platform to simulate waves), January, 1917

 

After the release of, Prudence the Pirate, Ernst Luz wrote accompanying music for the five-reel flick, entitled, Prudence: Entr’ acte. Luz filed for the copyright in the middle of November of 1916, through his company, Photo-Play Music, of New York; the sheet music was prepared for both orchestra and piano and advertised as a march.[13] The piece, written specifically for Prudence, proved so popular that within two years it was being used in music cue sheets for a number of films, including: The Girl Problem, Daughter of Mine, The Love Defender, The Unknown Quantity and The Scar.[14]

Prudence the Pirate Sheet Music cover, from the Thanhouser Company Preservation, Inc., Image Gallery

 

Prudence’s Prudent Pirate Plot:

In the short, Prudence the Pirate, was a romance, about a girl who wants to be a pirate, she is helped by a crew of tramps and the butler of her aunt’s home, Meeks. Meeks hints that he had been to sea and had “seen things,” and when Prudence pressed Meeks further, he confesses that he once was a pirate. Yet, the only experience Meeks acquired at sea was as a cabin boy on a missionary ship, but he continues spinning the adventuresome yarns for Prudence. Young Prudence or “Prue” as she is known, takes what money she has and rents a schooner and christens her the “Bucket of Blood.

The Photo-Play Journal November, 1916

The Photo-Play Journal November, 1916

The Photo-Play Journal, pirate bold, November, 1916

The Photo-Play Journal, pirate bold, November, 1916

Moving Picture World, Parker and Hulette, October 21, 1916

Moving Picture World, (on the deck of the “Bucket of Blood”) Parker and Hulette, October 21, 1916

Motography, October 21, 1916

Motography, (in Prudence’s cabin on the “Bucket of Blood,”) October 21, 1916

Film Fun, (two-page fold-out of various scenes) December, 1916

Film Fun, (two-page fold-out of various scenes) December, 1916

 

To fill out her roster of crewmen Prudence attacks her aunt’s house-boat and takes Aunty and Mr. Astorbilt captive, Astorbilt bribes the crew to mutiny; Prue, becoming a prisoner on her on ship. Soon, Astorbilt emerges the man he truly was (at least underneath the veneer) instead of the high-society, reserved, effeminate gentleman he lived as. A fire breaks out on the Bucket of Blood and he saves Ms. Prudence, she surrendering her heart to Astorbilt forever.[15]

The Photo-Play Journal, watching the capture of aunty's yacht November, 1916

The Photo-Play Journal, watching the capture of aunty’s yacht November, 1916

 

Prudence Cast:

Hulette

prudence-the-pirates-1916-lost-film-files-04

Motion Picture Studio Directory and Trade Annua..._20150417052352

Finch_CPP_FIG135_WFP-FIN011

Riley_Chamberlin

 

By C. S. Williams

 

[1] Motography, September 30, 1916

[2] New York Sun (New York, New York) October 22, 1916

[3] Moving Picture World, September 30, 1916

[4] Logansport Daily Tribune (Logansport, Indiana) October 22, 1916

Houston Post (Houston, Texas) October 29, 1916

[5] Moving Picture World, October 21, 1916

[6] Logansport Pharos Tribune, Logansport, Indiana, October 22, 1916

[7] Evening Public Ledger (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) October 23, 1916

[8] List of Films, Reels and Views Examined, Pennsylvania State Board of Censors Motion Pictures, Frank R. Shattuck,

Chairman; Mrs. Edward C. Niver, Vice-Chairman; Ellis P. Oberholtzer, Secretary; printed by J. L. L. Kuhn, 1918,

page 341

[9] Local History Collections, Saskatoon Public Library

[10] Motion Picture Magazine, January, 1917

Picture Play Magazine, January, 1917

[11] Picture Play Magazine, January, 1917

[12] Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) August 27, 1916

[13] Catalogue of Copyright Entries, 1916, Part 3: Musical Compositions

Chronicle-Telegram (Elyria, Ohio (June 27, 1917

[14] Moving Picture World, April 5; 19; 26; May 10, 1919

[15] Moving Picture World, October 7; 28, 1916

Frank Merriwell; a Frank, Happy and Healthy Hero, in Arizona and Beyond

 

First Merriwell Story, April 18, 1896

First Merriwell Story, April 18, 1896

 

The Preface:

Our story begins in 1971 in Hilversum, Netherlands, a city about twenty-miles south-east of Amsterdam; a municipality of less 100,000. Hilversum is often referred to as “media city,” because it is the principal capital of radio and television broadcasting in the Netherlands. It was in ‘71 that a private collection of around twenty-films from the period of 1910-1925 was moved from Hilversum to Amsterdam and the EYE Film Institute. That collection is made up primarily of German, French and Italian movies, with just a couple of American films; one of those US films was a nitrate print of, Frank Merriwell in Arizona or The Mystery Mine. The nitrate was scanned in 1998 into Standard Definition. EYE still holds the nitrate print and reports that the length is 503-meters or about 1,650-feet; there are no other elements of film preservation at the EYE for the Frank Merriwell movie. It is the SD copy that is available online and is in remarkably good condition.

Frank Merriwell in Arizona or The Mystery Mine

 

The Backstory:

At the apex of the “Dime Novel,” a hero of boys was born, a righter-of-wrongs, doer-of-good-deeds, a master of sports, and world traveler: Frank Merriwell. His creator was Burt L. Standish the pen-name of Gilbert Patten, and Merriwell was seen in the pages of, Tip Top Weekly (published by Street & Smith), beginning in 1896; some twelve-hundred Merriwell stories appeared in print, each containing around 20,000 words.[1] By the mid 1930’s the total number of copies of Frank Merriwell stories sold had reached over 120,000,000.[2]

Tip Top Weekly

 

The Making of an Icon:

The Frank Merriwell comic strip began in 1928 and lasted for about eight years in a daily strip; the Big Little Books publishing of the Merriwell exploits were reprints from the daily comic strip.

Valley Morning Star, Harlingen, Texas, January 15, 1932

Valley Morning Star, Harlingen, Texas, January 15, 1932

Daily Courier, Connellsville, Pennsylvania, September 11, 1933

Daily Courier, Connellsville, Pennsylvania, September 11, 1933

Big Little Books

 

The character made his obligatory mark in radio in the 1930’s and 40’s, on NBC; Donald Briggs handled the character of Merriwell in 1934 rendition, while Lawson Zerbe portrayed Merriwell in the 1946-49 incarnation.

Radio Mirror, November, 1947

Radio Mirror, November, 1947

 

1936 saw the 12 chapter cliffhanger serial for the cinema (The Adventures of Frank Merriwell) starring Donald Briggs. The chapter-play was produced by Universal and co-starred Jean Rogers, Carla Laemmle and John ‘Dusty’ King; directed by Clifford Smith, with the script by George H. Plympton, Ella O’Neill, Maurice Geraghty and Basil Dickey.

DVD cliffhanger serial adventures of frank merriwell-500x500

 

So widespread was the character of Merriwell that his name became part of the popular-lexicon, used in sports to describe last minute heroics. Some examples of the popularity of the Merriwell description are: “It was the sixth straight victory for the home team and ended in a regular Frank Merriwell finish;” “The garrison finish of the Giants inspired the Chicago White Sox and the St. Louis Browns to come through with the Frank Merriwell stuff at the last minute.”[3]

In 1971 the Merriwell legend moved to Broadway where, Frank Merriwell or Honor Challenged (starring Larry Ellis as our hero), saw seven-preview performances and premiered on April 24, opening and closing the same day; a miserable epitaph to a marvelous career for this fictional hero. This musical, reinvented Merriwell (book by Skip Redwine, Larry Frank and Heywood Gould; music and lyrics by Redwine and Frank) as a “noble, erstwhile fool,” while the whole of the production was a parody of the era. . Having taken these liberalities with the personas of the 1896 heroic college student and his cohorts, problems with the play, were further exacerbated by the fact that the audience was by now, no longer familiar with the original stories and that the staging was by a group of unknowns.[4]

Words and statements such as “chintzy,” “second-rate campiness,” “a dog,” “empty-headed songs and perfunctory direction and choreography,” “incredibly silly from start to finish,” “an embarrassingly amateurish concoction,” “the book was unfunny and the score dreadful,” “modestly deplorable,” were used to describe this Great White Way offering. With the exception of one or two positive reviews, Honor Challenged, was panned en-masse by the critics.[5]

The Forgotten Merriwell:

With all of the attention upon the Frank Merriwell franchise it is difficult to believe that an entire division of the Merriwell history has been missed, yet that is exactly what has happened. In 1912-13, four Frank Merriwell films were produced, three of the features were two-reels in length and were made by Tip Top Films. This reporter assumes that this film production concern was a subsidiary of Street & Smith (considering that the Frank Merriwell stories were published in, Tip Top Weekly Magazine), possibly Tip Top Film was an outreach of the Street & Smith Motion Picture Department.

The responsibility of distribution for the Frank Merriwell series was handled by the Feature Photo Play Company. Feature Photo was itself a new entity, having begun in early 1912 and was putting together a fine stable of film companies to represent.[6] The original plans for the series was to be two films per month, being released on the second and fourth Monday;[7] this plan did not go beyond the first six weeks and three films. The first time all three movies were mentioned together was in, The Moving Picture World, in February of 1913, in an advert by the Prince Feature Film Company; Prince was based in Philadelphia and concentrated on exhibitors in Pennsylvania.[8] Another instance of all three Merriwell features listed jointly was again in the Moving Picture World magazine, in July of ’13, in an advertisement by the M & F Feature Film Corporation of Chicago; this distributor focused on exhibitors in Wisconsin and Illinois.[9] Prince Feature was a very active partner in distribution of the Merriwell films, far outnumbering showings in Pennsylvania as compared to Illinois or any other state for that matter. This was in part due to the fact that Prince was early to game, having picked up the first title in the series in New York on January 2, 1913;[10] Prince began their marketing campaign for Merriwell in the January 11, 1913, edition of Moving Picture World.[11] This quickness to Merriwell most probably stemmed from the newness of Prince, having just started business;[12] it seems that all parties involved in Merriwell from production to distribution were newbies.

Billboard, December 21, 1912

Billboard, December 21, 1912

Moving Picture World, February 8, 1913

Moving Picture World, February 8, 1913

Moving Picture World, July 12, 1913

Moving Picture World, July 12, 1913

 

What does not fit into this series is the title (I have found only one reference to it), Frank Merriwell in Russia, which was released in July or August of, 1912.[13] Possibly, the Russia installment was unauthorized or this first Merriwell picture did well enough at the box-office to warrant Tip Top Films to plan a series; yet all of this is conjecture and I will spend no further words on Frank Merriwell in Russia except to say this film is obviously lost.

Emporia Gazette, Emporia, Kansas, August 1, 1912

Emporia Gazette, Emporia, Kansas, August 1, 1912

 

The Merriwell Trilogy:

The officially proclaimed “first” in the Merriwell series was Frank Merriwell’s School Days at Fardale Academy (AKA: Fairdale);[14] the Fardale picture was released on December 30, 1912.[15] Fardale was seen at many theaters after The Mystery Mine (number two in the series), and was supposed to have contained quite a bit of comedy. The plot for Fardale highlighted the “stirring incidents” of Merriwell at the academy, in particularly, a meeting with a “mad-dog.”[16]

Allentown Democrat, Allentown, Pennsylvania, February 19, 1913

Allentown Democrat, Allentown, Pennsylvania, February 19, 1913

 

Frank Merriwell in Arizona; or, The Mystery Mine, was released on Monday, January 13, 1913 (some ads mistakenly had it as January 3, 1913; this was rectified in late January in Billboard [17]), and referred to as the second in the series;[18] this would actually be the third release, if considering Russia as number-one of the Frank Merriwell titles. While most sources consider this installment lost, it is indeed available curtesy of, EYE the Film Institute of the Netherlands; the print of Frank Merriwell in Arizona or The Mystery Mine, is in good shape.

Frank Merriwell in Arizona Lobby Card

Allentown Democrat, Allentown, Pennsylvania, February 3, 1913

Allentown Democrat, Allentown, Pennsylvania, February 3, 1913

 

Frank Merriwell or Fight for a Fortune, AKA, Hunt for a Fortune opened in the latter portion of February, 1913, and was billed as the third and final installment of the Merriwell pictures.[19] The first and third installments of the Merriwell series are lost in history; how, when and where could remain permanently unanswered. And so ended the initial attempt to capitalize on the extremely popular character of Frank Merriwell on the silver screen; it would be more than twenty years before Hollywood would come calling for the name of Merriwell.

Allentown Democrat, Allentown, Pennsylvania, February 26, 1913

Allentown Democrat, Allentown, Pennsylvania, February 26, 1913

Mount Carmel Item, Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, November 20, 1913

Mount Carmel Item, Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, November 20, 1913

 

The Postscript:

Of such little effect, nor evidently any artistic merit, the above mentioned Merriwell pictures were quickly forgotten. By December of 1916 there appeared to be no popular knowledge that any of the Street & Smith-Gilbert Patten stories had ever been filmed. This assumption is built upon a column, in the Picture-Play Magazine section known as, The Picture Oracle (movie question and answer department), where the columnist replies: “Haven’t heard of any of the Frank Merriwell stories being filmed as yet.”[20] What is oddest about this glaring omission in the Picture Oracle column is that Picture-Play Magazine was a Street & Smith publication.

Picture Play Magazine, December, 1916

Picture Play Magazine, December, 1916

 

By C. S. Williams

 

[1] Oswego Palladium Times (Oswego, New York) June 1, 1934

[2] Oswego Palladium Times (Oswego, New York) June 1, 1934

[3] Kansas City Times (Kansas City, Missouri) July 18, 1908

Bridgeport Evening Farmer (Bridgeport, Connecticut) October 16, 1912

[4] American Literature on Stage and Screen: 525 Works and Their Adaptations, by Thomas S. Hischak, published by McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2012, pages 73-74

[5] The Complete Book of 1970’2 Broadway Musicals, by Dan Dietz, published by Rowman & Littlefield, 2015, pages 62-63

[6] Moving Picture World, April 20, 1912

[7] Billboard, January 25, 1913

[8] Moving Picture World, February 8, 1913

[9] Moving Picture World, July 12, 1913

[10] Billboard, January 11, 1913

[11] Moving Picture World, January 11, 1913

[12] Moving Picture World, December 28, 1912

[13] Emporia Gazette (Emporia, Kansas) August 1, 1912

[14] Billboard, December 28, 1912

[15] Billboard, May 31, 1913

[16] Allentown Democrat (Allentown, Pennsylvania) February 19, 1913

Englewood Economist (Chicago, Illinois) June 23, 1913

[17] Billboard, January 11; 25, 1913

[18] Billboard, May 31, 1913

[19] Lebanon Daily News (Lebanon, Pennsylvania) February 22, 1913

Daily Republican (Monongahela, Pennsylvania) February 26, 1913

[20] Picture Play Magazine, December, 1916

The Master Mystery, Happy Anniversary! 97 Years Strong!

master-of-mmystery-f-83631

 

This partly lost, mostly there gem of a thriller has a “here, there and everywhere” opening date, of which I will attempt to settle upon one in this short article. This film provides a luxuriant offering for science-fiction and mystery buffs of all ages and demonstrates the charisma that was resident in Harry Houdini, the star of this landmark serial…

 

On Thursday morning, November 7, 1918 at the Strand Theater (1579 Broadway, New York City), the first five episodes of The Master Mystery, were shown in a special trade showing. Harry Houdini attended, seated in a stage box. From the report in Brooklyn Life, Mr. Houdini’s performance in the serial was validated by the applause from the audience and by the number of times the crowd came to their feet with each astounding escape in the picture.[1] The review seen in the November 16, edition of, The Billboard, glowed, rhapsodized, and thoroughly encouraged, the exhibitor, of the film’s possibilities at the box-office.[2] On Saturday, November 30, 1918, filming was complete on, The Master Mystery; this was the first time that a serial was finished prior to its official release.[3] Within days of the completion of the series, Grossett & Dunlap announced that they would soon publish the movie-book tie-in.[4]

32935_med

 

By Christmas time, the serial made its bow in Pennsylvania, in Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.[5] Yet the official, initial viewing of, The Master Mystery, was at the St. James Theatre, in Boston, Massachusetts on Monday, November 18, 1918.Harry Houdini made fifteen personal appearances during that first month of release for Master Mystery, including the first installment in Boston.[6] Why did Boston receive the premiere of, The Master Mystery? The film’s producer, Benjamin A. Rolfe, while born in New York, had adopted the area as his home; at his death he was buried in Walpole, Massachusetts, some twenty-five miles southwest of Bean Town.

Boston_Post_ Boston, Massachusetts Sun__Nov_17__1918_

Boston Post, Boston, Massachusetts, November 17, 1918

 

I believe that I have found the reason that began our popular-modern misunderstanding of the premiere date of, The Master Mystery on March 1, 1919.[7] By that date in 1919, the territory representatives for the series were holding Trade previews in the western States, for impending release, but nowhere in that news item is a serial-premiere mentioned.[8] But, the Moving Picture World reported that episode one would be seen on March 1, 1919 in Chicago;[9] this is the only link that I can find to the incorrect statement that Master Mystery opened in March of 1919. The published evidence speaks volumes to the contrary of a March 1, ’19, premiere for the Houdini thriller, with the specific reference of the first trade show occurring on November 7, 1918 and the multiple contemporaneous sources making clear the much earlier Christmastide general-availability for exhibitors.

mastertumblr_msf38xrxww1qc8yyuo1_1280

masterhoudinimastercartela

Film Fun December 1918

Film Fun December 1918

Picture-Play Magazine March, 1919

Picture-Play Magazine March, 1919

 

Harry Houdini, at one point in our history was every boy’s hero, (magician, escape artist, movie star), a robot, (first portrayed in film?), “The Madagascar Madness- Gas;” all these elements coming together for a serial that is (albeit incomplete) an E-Ticket ride! And the best news is that you can see it, even though it has been nearly one-hundred years since its opening; and better news still, that you may you see it, for it is accessible for your home viewing pleasure. The Master Mystery is available on DVD as part of a 3 disc set from Kino; albeit at an exorbitant price.[10]

master-mystery-movie-poster-1919-1020202647

mastermystery

master-mystery-french-2

 

 

By C. S. Williams

 

 

[1] Billboard, November 16, 1918

Brooklyn Life (Brooklyn, New York) November 23

[2] Billboard, November 16, 1918

[3] Billboard, November 30, 1918

Wid’s Daily, December 3, 1918

[4] Wid’s Daily, December 3, 1918

[5] Evening News (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) December 24, 1918

Gazette Times (Pittsburg, Pennsylvania) December 25, 1918

[6] Boston Post (Boston, Massachusetts) November 18, 1918

Ottawa Journal (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) December 28, 1918

[7] Indeed, on the release date page for, The Master Mystery on the Internet Movie Data Base, it details each episode’s opening through May 1, 1919.

[8] Moving Picture World, March 15, 1919

[9] Moving Picture World, March 15, 1919

[10]The following is a copy of the Amazon.com description: The Master Mystery (1919, 238m, Color Tinted), Terror Island (1920, 55m, B&W), The Man From Beyond (1922, 68m, Color Tinted), Haldane of the Secret Service (1923, 84m, Color Tinted), The Grim Game, (Fragment, 1919, 5m, Color Tinted). Special Features Include: Filmed records of Houdini escapes (ca. 1907-23) – Audio recording of Houdini speaking (1914) – Excerpts from the NY Censor Board files – Slippery Jim, a 1910 Houdini-inspired comedy – The illusion Metamorphosis performed by Houdini’s brother Hardeen.