Who were the movie stars of silent cinema in 1912


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Jim Kalafus

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The relationship between Mary and her mother was fairly interesting. As long as Charlotte was alive, Mary the 'driven' business woman and actress existed. After Charlotte died, Mary the aimless drunk soon surfaced.

Are you familiar with how Lillian Gish spent decades trying to induce Mary to quit laying around all day drinking herself incoherent and return to acting? She'd point out that Dorothy Gish, while dying of lung cancer, insisted on doing stage performances until she was physically incapable of doing so and that Mary was basically wasting her life and health- but it was to no avail. I do recall on one occasion that she, Mary, was supposed to speak in Canada but showed up incoherent and ended up, among other things, sharing a recipe for brownies with the audience.

>Miss Pickford was born dirt poor and she wasn't gonna ever be poor again. She achieved her goal at the price of her artistry.

Actually, the Pickfords were propelled downward into poverty when Mr. Pickford abandoned the family. Charlotte was the one with the drive to succeed. So, she ended up with her only son a pre-teen drug user and visitor-of-prostitutes, her other daughter, Lottie, a pre-teen alcoholic, and the child upon whom she pinned all of her hopes and focused all of her attention the biggest film star in the world. Lottie Pickford, a minor film star, existed only to keep Mary in line. If Mary showed any sign of independent thought, her mother would take away the part she was playing and give it to Lottie. Once Mary "toed the line" the part would be taken away from Lottie and given back to Mary. The end result was two emotional train-wrecks, one of whom died a young alcoholic and one of whom died an old alcoholic. Once Charlotte was gone, Mary's complete inability to function became painfully evident. Her choice of films became a bit odd, and after two failures in a row she threw in the towel and devoted her considerably energies and free time to her true forte- consuming entire bottles of alcohol before noon on a daily basis. For the sake of brevity, we'll ignore what she did to her children Roxanne and Ronnie, whom she adopted. She was, at that point, too old to have children naturally, and could not have done so anyway ~ having been left sterile by the abortion Charlotte brow beat her into getting circa 1916.
 
May 27, 2007
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There was also 1913 abortion described as a appendix removal. Even though she was married to Owen Moore at the time. A baby would have ruined her career. Charlotte was pretty driven at that. The studio executives hated the sight of her especially Goldwyn(or Goldfish) as he was called before he changed his name. Lillian Gish did try to get Mary working again but your right Jim, Mary Pickford buried her ambition with her mother. You think Pickford had mother issues just look at Mary Miles Minter and her mother Charlotte Shelby. Momma Shelby was insane and vicious as well. She was the prime suspect in the 1922 William Desmond Taylor Murder. In 1937 she tried to have her oldest daughter Margaret committed to a mental hospital because Margaret Shelby was hinting to the D.A. that she knew who killed Taylor. Momma Shelby's daughters ended up far worst then Mary Pickford and her siblings.
 
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Jim Kalfus said: "Actually, the Pickfords were propelled downward into poverty when Mr. Pickford abandoned the family. Charlotte was the one with the drive to succeed."

Actually there was no "Mr. Pickford" Charlotte Hennesey Smith's husband was John Charles Smith, and he's buried in Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto. [Charlotte's parents are buried in St. Michael's Roman Catholic Cemetery, just down Yonge St. from St. Clair Ave. by the way.]
There was some speculation as to whether Mr. Smith died of complications of drunkenness, or if he died from a blow to the head while he was selling fruit and candy on one of the steamers that used to run Lake Ontario between Toronto and either Rochester, NY or Port Dalhousie, Ont. [Or booze perhaps. I don't know. The Pickford story says 'fruit' but Mr. Smith did have the odd bartending jobs, so he may have been dispensing and drinking on the boats. He was known for drunkenness. So was Charlotte known to nip.] He was apparently buried by his lodge, because his family could not pay the cost themselves.
I don't know if he did 'abandon' the family before his death, or go and come back. Mary did sugar-coat her past in her book 'Sunshine and Shadow'.
 
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Mary - or rather Gladys Smith, Mary's original name - was born and lived in 'The Ward' until she and her family took up the theatrical touring. Considering some pictures I've seen of that slum area, Charlotte was not doing too bad renting a whole brick house to take in boarders. Some of those shacks look like fence boards tied together with binder twine. I don't know how many boarders Charlotte had, or how many she housed per room, but the Library has a picture of twelve men in one tiny room, sleeping on cots or straw ticks on the floor.
 

John Clifford

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I will have to check my book source, but I seem to recall that Mary Pickford was one of many performers who died "in obscurity", away from all the publicity and attention they knew in earlier years, either because of health reasons (like those which befell Martha Raye) or their audiences moved on and no longer preferred them.

For many years after Mary Pickford's death her Hollywood Hills home, Pickfair, was something to see, especially when Jerry Buss, the owner of the Lakers, owned it for a brief time.
Now the home is gone, as Pia Zadora and her husband chose to put up a modern home, instead.

My book source is "The Hollywood Book of Death"; will have to look up the stories when I get home.
 
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I'm curious if the Marx Brothers or the 3 Stooges were doing their respective stage acts by the time Titanic sank- Both bands of brothers were stage vaudvillians for years before they found the silver screen...

I would love to have seen the great Margaret Dumont on stage or in the silent cinema in 1912-
Apparently in her youth, she was quite the sex symbol. I wonder if she always played the straight man role? I have a hunch she had repressed comedic abilities...
Poor Margaret, she was the recipient of some of Groucho's greatest insults....


Margaret Dumont- "When i was a girl, my mother warned me about men like you"

Groucho- "Now there's no reason to bring the Civil War into this!"
 
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Hello Marilyn and John,

He left them and was living at another address. He might of gone back to Charlotte when he dying.
I think the Smiths were actually borders instead of the ones who rented the rooms. At least that's what Eileen Whitfield says in her biography of Pickford aka Baby Gladys Smith. There was a lot of sugar coating of Mary's past. All Hollywood stars sugarcoated their past. They still do. It was sad to see Pickfair go John. At one time it was called the second White house of America. Mary also never donated her costumes from all her silent films so when they were sold at auction people took the costumes home and washed them. Unfortunately it made the cloths fall apart. Hollywood has no respect for its past. Here today gone tomorrow is the rule in Hollywood Land.
 

Bob Godfrey

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The Marx Brothers (with various other family members) first performed as a singing troupe, but by 1912 their act had evolved into comedy with musical touches, much as we all remember it. The Stooges were just kids at that time; their stage act began in the mid-1920s.
 
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Bob, have you seen any of Margaret Dumont's early films? I'm curious if she was the sex symbol that some accounts paint her as being....

Recently I watched a 3 Stooges short- to my shock, Lucille Ball appeared in an episode..

it's hard to imagine Lucy in any role prior to 'I Love lucy"
 

Bob Godfrey

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I can't see any evidence of Margaret Dumont on film before 1917, by which time she was no spring chicken. Her screen roles were only occasional (and uncredited) before her first encounter with Groucho 12 years later. But I note that in 1923 she'd retained sufficient allure to be cast as a 'French beauty' (aged 41!)
 

John Clifford

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For Mary Pickford, I read how she decided to retire in the 1930s, and constantly pulled out of movie projects planned as "comebacks", if not having some other actress being deemed as more desirable.
She then became more and more reclusive, and even had a special Academy Awards honor, in 1976, taped, instead of appearing live, and it was not a memorable performance. She died three years later, but left an estate of $50 Million dollars.

Pickfair, her Beverly Hills home, was "the sight to see" for a few years. Too bad Jerry Buss did not retain it; could have made for many a memorable Lakers event.

My book source is "The Hollywood Book of Death", written by James Robert Parish.
 
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sashka pozzetti

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Are there none of Mary Pickfords clothes anywhere? I cant believe someone washed them, and they fell to bits, surely someone must have realized how important they were? It is too appalling to want to believe!
 
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Sashka,

Unfortunately this was after she had just died and most people, well those who bought the clothes didn't really know how to take care of them. Maybe there are certain articles of hers lying around but most of her movie costumes were destroyed when people but them in the washer. At the time of her death most people were like "Mary Pickford who?"

John,

Too bad indeed about Pickfair being torn down. It could have been monument to early Hollywood. History really doesnt count for much in Hollywood I guess. Pickfair was a one time was called the second Whitehorse. Odd story of Hollywood. A steamer trunk of Mabel Normand's with some articles of clothing ended up being saved in of all things a police station or jailhouse. My source is Mabel Normand: The first I don't care girl. Read it years ago don't remember who the Author was. Betty Smith or something?
 
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sashka pozzetti

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I am not saying that it is wrong that they were destroyed, but \I can hardly believe that this could happen. Is it actually recorded somewhere, or do you think it might be an urban myth? I just look at all those beautiful delicate clothes, and wonder how anyone could be so dumb!
 

Jim Kalafus

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Mary's costumes weren't all destroyed. What happened was a group of investors bought several costumes at the Pickfair auction and tried to stop payment for the transactions when the costumes came apart in the washing machine. Their ideas about preservation were a bit primitive.
 
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sashka pozzetti

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Well that was a dumb investment. Those guys obviously weren't the geniuses we are led to believe investors are. They probably spent ages looking for the care label! It is so bad. I wonder where the other costumes went!
 
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Buster Keaton seemed to have a stable career- one would think Fatty Arbuckle's being blackballed would have affected his career, as Keaton & Arbuckle worked together in so many silent films...
There is a great 'Twilight Zone" episode with Buster Keaton, having played a character who traveled to 1962 from the 1890s, thanks to a time helmut...It was one of the few speaking roles I have seen Keaton appear in- I think he was was also on an episode of 'I Love lucy".
After parting ways with Fatty Arbuckle, did Keaton have many starring roles?
I wonder how many stars from the age of silent cinema would one day find themselves on 1950s & 60s television shows..
 
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Good question Tarn, public relations probably saved Keaton. He knew some real big wigs including his Brother-in-law. In 1921, he married Natalie Talmadge, sister-in-law of his boss, Joseph Schenck, and sister of actresses Norma Talmadge and Constance Talmadge.

Sashka- lol care labels. Your probably right, Sashka. Now that was a duh moment in history. Idiot "Keep looking that care label is on there somewhere."

Jim- I'm glad to know Jim, that they weren't all ruined.
happy.gif
 

Jim Kalafus

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>After parting ways with Fatty Arbuckle, did Keaton have many starring roles?

All of his best work came after his association with Fatty Arbuckle.

Fatty, I suspect, was more a victim of changing cinematic taste than he was of the bad publcity generated by his rape trials. If you view his films next to those of Keaton and Lloyd and Chaplin, you can see that he did not "evolve" as the others did (a 1915 Arbuckle film and a 1920 Arbuckle film really aren't all that different) and I suspect that the studios viewed the trial as a way of getting rid of a highly salaried star whose career was on the wane.

>public relations probably saved Keaton.

No. Box office did, for the duration of the 1920s. But, association with Arbuckle was not by any means a career death knell. Mabel was already 'slipping' at the box office even before the three scandals she was drawn into, and none of his other high-powered friends saw as much as a glitch in their careeer momentum post Virginia Rappe.

You do know that he was given a "comeback" of sorts a year after the trials? There was a blockbuster comedy titled "Hollywood" produced in 1923 that starred several dozen of the biggest names in film. Twas about a young girl's struggles to make it big in film, and everybody who was anybody did a cameo. Fatty was given a sad true-to-life moment (The girl is on line at a casting office. The man ahead of her is rejected for a part. He turns around and it is Fatty Arbuckle) but if the scene was not cut (there is debate on that point) it did nothing to jump start his career. Hollywood, unfortunately, is a lost film.
 
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