Monthly Archives: June 2016

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Dec 1923 – Bringing Dead Pictures to Life

CaptureBringing dead pictures to life is the task of the “film doctor”. From a mess of old films, thrown into the discard because they are too poor for the big exchanges to use, he patches rehashes and builds up a strange conglomeration that is re-titled and sometimes freshened with a few new scenes. Then it is peddled to the little theaters and ignorant patrons are hoaxed into paying money to see it. I made the acquaintance of a film doctor not long ago. He told me the dark secrets of the cutting rooms. From this man, I learned that companies are formed for the sole purpose of “warming over pictures”. Their buyers comb film libraries can after can of old film some of it made and exhibited as far back as 1914. They buy all stuff that can be revised and doctored. Then it is given a new name and sent again on its rounds of theaters. “Here is how we do it” the film doctor told me. “We find an old feature film. The buyer is especially watchful for scenes of players who have made big reputations like Valentino’s on which we can cash in. Sometimes, of course, the exhibitor sees the value of the old film. In some cases, big producers have reclaimed their own film at little expense and thrust it upon the market.
RUDYSTILLS
“There is nothing complicated about reviving a dead production”. It costs only a few dollars, once we get the right film. New titles with unique border designs are printed and inserted and prints are made from the old nitrate negative. Sometimes, to paid it out, we add stock scenes, with new situations and incidents. Of course, we cannot re-take the star. These fresh scenes are starless ones. But we splice it all together and you’d be surprised how neat some of the jobs turn out. “Of course, anyone who has any knowledge of pictures can at once see that it is old stuff. The sets are rickety, the lighting poor, and the actors are often crudely directed and costumed. These things all depend on how many years ago it was made. Every year shows a sharp advance in the quality of pictures, you know. There is one way that the wise exhibitor can always tell a warm-over print. They are almost invariably rainy. A rainy print is one that is made from a negative that is scratched and streaked from passing many times through a printing machine. This causes fine white lines that dance vertically up and down the screen. This is our biggest handicap in selling revised pictures.” After my talk with the film doctor, I began to realize that the issuing of old prints, disguised as new ones, is one of the cheapest greediest phases of the movie industry. If producers must revive old productions, let them frankly take their old stories and reproduce them in a modern way, under modern conditions. But let them be advertised as revivals. WH Hays biggest job is to re-establish the confidence of people in motion pictures. The men who make the movies can assist him by leaving their old films in their files in their film libraries, where they belong. As an example of what I mean, let me quote from an advertisement in the 24 Jun 1922 edition of the trade journals for exhibitors. This advertisement bore the seal of a prominent producing and distributing organization. It goes to say: “A colossal array of BOX-OFFICE names. Imagine what you can do with such names as Griffith, Reid, Gish, and Calanne. Imagine what you get with the talents of these great artists merged into one big box-office attraction. Imagine Mr. Showman, how you can exploit these names… This big producing and distributing company has probably purchased the negative of this old film and in their laboratories made it over. The picture-wise public whose intelligence has increased with the progress of the industry”..Some time ago, one of the prominent producing units of the industry one who has made good pictures and one of the few to remain after the sifting of the past few years rehashed a screen play which they named Rogues Romance. It might have been a good number as to that I cannot say but when they decided to wish it on the public again they advertised Earle Williams and Rudolph Valentino. Now, surely, at the time when this film was produced Valentino could not have had a part that would have justified his being featured. If he did, why didn’t they feature his name first. No, they featured Valentino’s name on the revival of the piece to cash in on his present-day reputation. The playgoer goes to the theater advertising this feature expecting to see Valentino in a big role. No doubt, Mr. Playgoer wonders when Valentino joined forces with this particular neighbor. “I didn’t know Valentino was with so and so”. I thought he was with Paramount? Then after, he has seen the performance he soon understands, and curses because he was fool enough to be swindled.

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16 Jun 1939 Rudolph Valentino Ring is Forfeited In Smuggling Case

A 15 carat Canary Diamond Ring valued at $3500.00 and said to of been designed
for the late actor Rudolph Valentino was forfeited today to the U.S.
Government and consigned by Judge Wayne Borah to the Smithsonian Museum,
Washington DC. It had been smuggled into the U.S. Thomas Chan, 40 years old,
Minneapolis Art Dealer who brought the ring into the country pleaded guilty in
federal court here to smuggling. He was fined $2000.00 and sentence to two
years in prison. He paid the fine and his sentence was suspended.

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30 Sep 1936 – Handwriting Tells by Nadya Olyanova

Nadya Olyanova is not a lady for whom one puts it in writing without peril. She can even tell from your chirography and that of your girlfriend whether you two should get married. “Handwriting is the mirror which discloses weaknesses as well as one’s strengths, and to have an intelligent understanding of your prospective husband or wife is to be aware of the causes of the weakness, the motives which often lie hiddin in the inner self,” she states in “Handingwriting Tells,””Many mistakes and much unhappiness could be avoded if every couple contemplating marriage were to submit their handwritings to an expert for analysis”. Somehow it seems a dirty trick to take a lady’s letters to such a one as Nadya Olyanova. Yet our author assures us that the Natacha Rambova – Rudolph Valentino matrimonial smashup could have been foretold by a handwriting diagnostician. “Miss Rambova an only child, writing a backhand, was an introverted, seclusive person who preferred  her own society to that of other people; nor did she, as did Valentino, seek the approbation of the mob,” she explains. “Valentino, extrovert that he was, with his rightward leaning script, enjoyed mixing with people and was only as discriminating as his exalted postion in the cinema world demanded of him”. Extroverts should marry extroverts, and to stay on the safe side where marriage has possibilities of permanence and happiness means to stay on your side of the diagram

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4 Feb 1922 Four Horsemen at the Capitol

With the coming of the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” to the Capitol next week, Rex Ingram will have two pictures running simultaneiously on Broadway. In creating this stupendous production, this young director has made oneo the great classics of the screen. The picure, adapted by June Mathis from the novel of Vincente Ibanez, is not a war play, except as the war serves as a background for the story teeming with dramatic passion. The director has succeeded in concentrating the great struggle in a series of unforgettable pictures that flash out the quintessence of life. Through it all is the deeply human, deeply moving spectable of intensely real people in their baffled attemptes to readjust themselves to the demands of the war days. In the cast of 50 principles and 2500 extras are included a score of well-known screen stars. They are Rudolph Valentino, Alice Terry, Pomeroy Cannon, Joseph Swickard, Brinsley Shaw, Alan Hale, Bridgetta Clark, Mabel Van
Buren, John Sainpolis, Nigel de Brulier, Virginia Warwick, Derek Ghent, Stuart Holmes and Edward Connelly. SL Rothafel and his staff are at work on the details of a presentation in keeping with the production.

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3 Jan 1928 – Rudolph Valentino Was he Poisoned?

Was Rudolph Valentino poisoned by a jealous woman whose advances he rejected? According to messages from the “Seccolo,” of Milan, private detectives in New York are working on a clue which may lead to a solution of the numerous rumors surrounding the death of the famous film star. According to one report, a detective and his wife were the witnesses in a Broadway night club of an incident which, it is alleged may afford an explanation of Valentino’s illness and death. Valentino, it is stated, was approached by a woman who was apparently in love with him. Valentino turned his back on her and entered into conversation with another woman. With anger the spurned woman is said to have made a sign to two men. A lady detective says she overheard one of them say, “The Indian method is infallible. One can mix diamond dust with a drink, and it will cause death by internal perforation. Doctors will say death was due to an incurable malady or attributed to appendicitis.

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1927 – Pola Negri Article

A palatable dish with all the ingredients of good drama, well served,
constitutes the piece de resistance at present on the Metropolitan menu. In
fact it is hardly possible that Pola Negri of “The Woman on Trial” would not
whet the jaded appetite of the most sophisticated of the devotees of the
silver screen. And jaded indeed does the appetite of the average spectator at
the average motion picture become; picture succeeds picture, plot follows plot
with an abysmal shallowness of invention, and a dispiriting similarity of
spirit. It almost seems as if the chief advance of the art were in the
decoration of the theatre, rather than the quality of the picture. “The Woman
on Trial” differs very little in plot and invention from innumerable other
pictures the reviewer could enumerate if he had a memory for names. Enough,
that it plays in Paris with scenes from the Place de la Concorde and the Latin
Quarter. It seems unnecessary to examine the plot further. In spirit, to use
that nebulous word, it differs, however, from the other fruit on the family
tree. That new spirit is due without any doubt to the presence of Pola Negri.
She is not pretty the bathing beauty sense, yet it is perhaps her face which
gives the tone to the whole picture. There is in it a look of passion and
tragedy without which “The Woman on Trial” might be interchanged with any
other similar picture and no one would care much, even if he noticed the
difference,. But there is a difference, and it is just the difference between
the good and the poor. As for the rest of the Metropolitan’s “Greater Entertainment,” the divertissement, so to speak, it remains rather hazily in the mind; in fact it succeeded excellently in diverting the attention from what was taking place on the stage. There guesses what it was.

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Feb 1927 – Natacha Rambova has “Succumbed to Fascination of Legitimate Stage

“I have always been an exponent of the ‘bizarrerie’ in art because I feel that it is most suited to my personality,” Miss Natacha Rambova, former wife of Rudolph Valentino and now the star of the mystery play “The Triple Cross” at the New Park Theatre, told a Crimson reporter yesterday before the matinee. “In the field of art one must adapt his or her environment to the personal element. I have experimented with artistic designing, dancing, the cinema, and the stage in order to see which would be the best medium for expressing my individuality. It is an interesting quest but has no definite destination. At last, however, I can safely say that I have succumbed to the fascination of the legitimate stage. I intend to give it most of my time because it not only demands more than the screen but because it is far more developing to an actress. “But to return to the exotic in art,” remarked Miss Rambova, whose Georgian South Russian type of beauty is most exotic, “it was my first love. I followed it in my dancing and in my designing. When asked her opinion of mystery plays Miss Rambova replied that they were most strenuous for the actress. “We are continually studying the audience,” she said, “in order to get the right effect. So much depends on the little things. You must close a door with the most mysterious manner, there must be an added significance in the way you walk across the room. It is fun though to try and thrill the audience. Once the cast has them in its power we enter into the spirit of the thing and almost frighten ourselves. Again we have to rehearse one episode dozens of times to get the right effect.” Miss Rambova mentioned her forthcoming biography of Valentino. “I have been everything but an authoress,” she concluded.

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Mills & Boon and the Sheikh Subgenre

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Mills & Boon was founded in 1908 by Gerald Mills and Charles Boon. Although they initially did not focus on romance novels, over the years the Mills & Boon imprint has become synonymous with romantic fiction: the Oxford English Dictionary defines Mills & Boon as a ‘trademark used to denote an idealized romantic situation of the kind associated with the fiction published by Mills & Boon Limited: the Mills and Boon tall, dark stranger’. After a merger with Harlequin in 1971, the company has enjoyed unbounded success: according to the company, a Mills and Boon book is sold in the UK every 3 seconds and it is estimated that romantic fiction accounts for 20 per cent of the fiction books retailed in the UK – that is one in every 5 fiction books sold. The company claims a huge global readership, selling 200 million books worldwide each year, distributing in 109 different countries. To put this in context, all seven of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter titles, including three companion books are estimated to have sold 450 million copies. If Mills & Boon continue to publish at the same rate (and evidence suggests that their sales remain buoyant even in a global recession) Mills & Boon could sell this many novels in just over two years.

Although not published by Mills & Boon, E. M. Hull’s The Sheik (1919) has been widely accepted as the first formula ‘sheikh’ romance. I define sheikh romance as a love story set in the deserts of the Middle East or North Africa, with a sheikh or sultan hero and almost always a western (which is usually British, North American or Australian) heroine. A typical sheikh romance might begin with the forced marriage of hero and heroine following her abduction to his desert kingdom: an experience interspersed with midnight horse-riding in the desert, camping in a Bedouin tent, getting rescued from a sandstorm, bathing and being luxuriantly massaged in the sheikh’s jewelled palace, and enjoying a host of other Orientalised luxuries. The success of Hull’s The Sheik spawned many more sheikh novels, including the first Mills & Boon sheikh romance, Louise Gerard’s A Sultan’s Slave (1921). Mills & Boon followed this up with Desert Quest by Elizabeth Milton in 1930, Maureen Heeley’s The Desert of Lies and Flame of the Desert in 1932 and 1934 respectively and Circles in the Sand (1935) by Majorie Moore. Sheikh romances seem to decline in popularity during the 1940s, at least in terms of Mills & Boon publication, but return in the 1950s and 1960s. At least three original sheikh titles were published by Mills & Boon in the fifties, six in the sixties, growing to 12 in the seventies, 17 in the eighties and 24 in the nineties. However in the 2000s the growth in popularity was exponential, with over 100 original titles published by Mills & Boon from 2000-2009. Even taking into account the increase in the number of novels published, this is a substantial increase, suggesting a significant contemporary market for these sheikh romances. Although sheikh titles appear in many different series, the majority of recently published sheikh titles in the UK have been part of Mills & Boon’s flagship ‘Modern Romance’ series which began in July 2000. From the beginning of the ‘Modern Romance’ series until December 2009, Mills & Boon published 57 original sheikh titles in the ‘Modern Romance’ series [1] and these are the texts I focus on in this paper.

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1928 – Three Sinners” Gives Polish Import Chance to Bare Back

Pola Negri, one of Hollywood’s choicest importations, is the reason for going to the Metropolitan this week, if one is not of that ever increasing Publix contingent which just loves to put Gene Rodemich on a pedestal and applaude his numerous gyrations. However, to give Gene credit, he does surround himself with a some-what more entertaining group than usual to celebrate his “Hall and Farewell” performances. Now that he is leaving Boston, for a while at least, the reviewers will have to give more attention to the feature film at the Babylonish picture palace. Pola Negri’s glittering photodrama “Three Sinners” is one of those pictures which thrill backwoods audiences and cause girls with limited wardrobes to leave home for Hollywood. The features of the hectic and soul-stirring tragedy are Pola’s bare back and-her silver wig. She handles both capably, so capably in fact that Dresden, Vienna, and Paris combined have nothing in the way of feminity to rival her. She portrays dramatically–a la bare back and silver wig–a woman whose ruined life was brought about through her husband’s indifference. A railroad wreck, gambling dens in full blast, interiors of choice Parisian restaurants, and sorrowful close-ups of Pola drenching her little girl with a shower of joyful tears at the end, make the picture very enjoyable for students leading suppressed lives and rebelling against the monotonous humdrum of Cambridge.

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