NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

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scsu1975
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NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by scsu1975 »

Let’s take a look back at the films playing at the Poli Theatre in Bridgeport, CT, one hundred years ago. This is a continuation of the thread I began on the TCM Message Boards in January of 2019, with a few differences. Rather than examine every movie that was shown (8-9 per month), I will concentrate on about four films each month, and only on those which are presumed lost or are currently inaccessible.

Sylvester Z. Poli opened his theatre Bridgeport, CT, in 1912. He was an Italian immigrant, who had studied art and architecture in Paris, before coming to America. He built several other theatres in Bridgeport. One of them, the Majestic, still stands, but despite promises of renovation, nothing seems to be happening there.

By around 1923, the Poli was called Poli’s Vaudeville, probably so as not to confuse it with Poli’s other Bridgeport theatres. Its name was later changed to the Globe. The theatre was demolished in the 1950s.

The postcard below shows the theatre at center, along Main Street:

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Coming up first: Back Home and Broke, with Thomas Meighan and Lila Lee.
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LawrenceA
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by LawrenceA »

Thanks for reviving this thread.
Watching until the end.
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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by scsu1975 »

LawrenceA wrote: January 1st, 2023, 12:04 pm Thanks for reviving this thread.
Hope you enjoy it!
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sagebrush
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by sagebrush »

Thanks from me, as well! :)
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EP Millstone
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by EP Millstone »

Wonderful idea for a topic! Bravo, scsu1975! I wish that I was around 100 years ago so that I could have seen movies that, today, are lost.

2023 marks the 100th anniversary of the release of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, starring Lon Chaney. Although bettered by the 1939 RKO Radio Picturesproduction, IMO, the 1923 Universal Pictures epic stands as a genuine cinema classic, primarily because of Lon Chaney's performance as the titular protagonist, Quasimodo.

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Last edited by EP Millstone on January 1st, 2023, 7:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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LiamCasey
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by LiamCasey »

My thanks also!
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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by scsu1975 »

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Back Home and Broke, directed by Alfred Green, starred Thomas Meighan as Tom Redding and Lila Lee as Mary Thorne. The film was released in December of 1922 at eight reels, and is presumed lost.

Synopsis: In the town of Bradford, Tom Redding, upon the death of his supposedly well-to-do father, finds he has inherited several debts and a box of apparently worthless securities and documents. He and his mother are forced to move to an obscure side street, and Tom takes a menial position at a factory.

Tom discovers that his old friends view him differently now that he lives in the slums.

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The Grimleys, father and son, humiliate him, while Olivia Hornby, his sweetheart, has broken off their relationship. Only Mary Thorne remains supportive of Tom. One night, Tom reads about an oil find in Oklahoma, and remembers that his father held a lease in a territory near there. So he quits his job and heads west, to seek his fortune.

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Tom endures months of discouragement.

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But then he finally strikes oil, and makes a fortune. He meets an old college friend, Billy Andrews, who comes up with an idea. He suggests that Tom return home, pretending to be a failure, and see who his real friends and enemies are. The idea appeals to Tom, so he returns to Bradford, pretending to be broke. He finds that the townspeople laugh at him, but Mary has remained loyal, and even offers him a loan.

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The local newspaper prints an article about “the oil king back in the factory.” Tom aches for revenge, so he writes Billy giving him authority to come to Bradford as representative of a syndicate, and orders him to buy up everything in town. Billy arrives, and claims his organization is headed by a Mr. Keane. He quickly buys control of the bank formerly owned by the Grimleys. He then buys out the newspaper. The whole town goes into a frenzy over this “millionaire.” Then, it is announced that Mr. Keane himself will be coming to town. All the snobs and money hungry townspeople vie with each other in planning entertainment for him. He is to be met by a reception committee, given a luncheon at the hotel, and dinner at the country club. In addition, Olivia Hornby plans a dance.

On the big day, the train pulls into Bradford. From the platform, Billy introduces Mr. Keane. The crowd gasps when they see it is Tom. Mary and Tom’s mother are completely bewildered, while Tom rides about town in his glory, reveling in the humiliation he has caused for his enemies.

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All the planned activities are still on, and the townspeople are panicking about what will happen at the events. But after a day, Tom slowly realizes that he has become what his enemies were – and how they used their positions to lord over him. He then decides the best joke of all would be to give the townspeople a surprise party. At the country club, apprehension runs high. The townspeople fear that Tom will really lay into them. To their amazement, Tom tells them he intends to use his money to build up the town, and that no one will lose their business. The next evening, at a dinner with his friends and former enemies, Tom announces his engagement to Mary.

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Some scenes were filmed in Long Island. During a break, Producer Adolph Zukor showed up on the set to visit Meighan and Lee:

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The oil well scenes were filmed in Pittsburgh. Meighan, who was born there, is shown below with his father John, who still resided there:

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Meighan is shown below, again in Pittsburgh, with two Paramount publicists:

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Reviews were positive. The Film Daily called the film “a good entertainment; fine audience appeal and sure-fire material despite rather obvious situations.” Motion Picture News wrote “after the first two reels which are rather dull, made so by introducing the characters and planting the incident, it picks up and releases a fine human note which gets right inside of you.” Moving Picture World described the film as “clean, refreshing and thoroughly enjoyable entertainment.” Exhibitor’s Herald wrote that the film was “one of those picture that everybody likes without knowing why or caring.” Picture-Play Magazine praised the movie as “a masterpiece of humor and real small-town sentiment which is absolutely free from bunk … Thomas Meighan is in his element in this role which has the genial sort of comedy that he loves and does best. And Lila Lee is most appealing as a dusky and devoted small-town girl.”
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laffite
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by laffite »

scsu1975 wrote: January 3rd, 2023, 7:54 pm
So glad you are bringing this back to us. You must be, among other great things, a great researcher. How do you find all this?. Great screen shots and story text.

:smiley_snoopy: Good Grief, even I'm impressed.
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EP Millstone
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by EP Millstone »

scsu1975 wrote: January 3rd, 2023, 7:54 pm Meighan is shown below, again in Pittsburgh, with two Paramount publicists:

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The publicist on the left looks like Louis B. Mayer.
"Start every day off with a smile and get it over with." -- W.C. Fields
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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by scsu1975 »

laffite wrote: January 3rd, 2023, 8:55 pm
scsu1975 wrote: January 3rd, 2023, 7:54 pm
So glad you are bringing this back to us. You must be, among other great things, a great researcher. How do you find all this?. Great screen shots and story text.

:smiley_snoopy: Good Grief, even I'm impressed.
I got my practice in research by teaching the history of mathematics for several years (and also writing a doctoral dissertation). After awhile, you just develop ideas on where to look for stuff!
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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by scsu1975 »

EP Millstone wrote: January 3rd, 2023, 9:36 pm
scsu1975 wrote: January 3rd, 2023, 7:54 pm Meighan is shown below, again in Pittsburgh, with two Paramount publicists:

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The publicist on the left looks like Louis B. Mayer.
Yes, he does, but it isn't him. I think I can dig up the names of those two guys.
Update: the guy on the left is Walt Lindlar, the guy on the right is Mike Vogel. Both were Paramount "exploiteers."
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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

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Singed Wings, directed by Penrhyn Stanlaws, starred Bebe Daniels as Bonita della Guerda, Conrad Nagel as Peter Gordon, Adolphe Menjou as Bliss Gordon, and Ernest Torrence as Emilio. The film was released on December 18, 1922, at eight reels, and is presumed lost.

Plot: Bonita della Guerda has a dream which she relates to her grandfather, Don Jose. The dream begins in a garden at a fancy castle. The fairies plan to make the Prince and Princess fall in love. The Prince meets the Princess and retrieves a white rose which has fallen from her hair. He kisses the rose and returns it to her. The King’s Jester is jealous and spies upon the couple. When the Princess is alone, he draws his bow and shoots an arrow through her breast. As she swoons, she sings a strange song. The Prince, upon hearing the song, turns around his horse and heads back to the garden. There, the dream ends. Don Jose tells Bonita that the dreams of the della Guerdas always come true.
In San Francisco, Bonita works as a dancer in the Café Rosa d’Espagnol, to support her grandfather. She is worshipped by a half-witted clown named Emilio.

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Bliss Gordon comes to the café, along with his wife, and is struck by Bonita’s charm.

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He learns the white rose in her hair is a symbol of her virtue and cannot be bought. Bliss makes a wager that he will get the rose. His wife, Eve, is miserable because of Bliss’ many affairs. She sends for her nephew, Peter Gordon, in the hope that he will be able to help her win back her husband.
Peter arrives at the café while Bonita is performing her moth dance.

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The rose falls from her hair, and Peter picks it up, kisses it, and returns it to her.

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Both Peter and Bonita experience a feeling of déjà vu.

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Eve decides to obtain a costume similar to Bonita’s and learns the dance, hoping to regain Gordon’s love.
Bonita goes to Bliss’ country place, determined to pay any price to lift her grandfather out of poverty. But at the last moment, she rejects Bliss.

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Peter enters and Bliss attacks him, claiming he is fighting off a burglar. But Bonita discovers the “burglar” is really Peter. Peter tells her he came to save her from his uncle. Bonita is indignant at his interference, and sends him off.
The next day, Peter learns that Bonita actually loves him, so he goes to her to ask for forgiveness. A church bell rings and Bonita recalls the sound as the death knell from her dream. Terrified, she sends Peter away.

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Meanwhile, at a house party thrown by Bliss, Eve, wearing a mask and dressed like Bonita, performs The Dance of the Moth. Emilio observes that there is no rose in her hair. Believing the dancer is Bonita, and that she has sold herself to Bliss, he shoots and kills her. Bonita comes upon the scene, recognizes this event from her dream, and then realizes the dream was not intended for her. Emilio, now completely mad, draws his pistol and forces Bonita to dance, threatening to kill her if she stops.

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In desperation, Bonita chants the song she remembered from her dream. Outside, Peter hears the song, and rushes in to rescue Bonita.

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Emilio kills himself, and Bonita and Peter receive Don Jose’s blessing.

A set was built to represent the San Francisco waterfront, and is shown below:

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Theodore Roberts dropped by during filming and was greeted by two fairies:

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In between scenes, Bebe Daniels did some sketching (it’s not known whom she was drawing):

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Below, extra George Hegis uses a telescope to get a close-up view of Bebe (rather creepy):

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The photos below show Conrad Nagel and Adolphe Menjou clowning around on the set:
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Reviews ranged from so-so to downright hostile. Exhibitor’s Herald called the film “an artistic accomplishment of fair business value,” but added the film was “better suited to the high class audience.” The Film Daily called the movie “artistic and novel but not a particularly good entertainment,” adding “it seems more or less apparent that the original story contained more spice than would ever get by the censors so it has been neatly camouflaged in the guise of a fantasy with a fairy tale prologue to give it an atmosphere of the unreal but here and there the real objective appears and you are given a hint at it although the harm is immediately removed by a counter-acting title or another scene.” Motion Picture News wrote “it’s a weird tale, carrying no interest because of its fantastic plot and the strange marionettes which roam through it. The entertainment values are almost nil.” Exhibitor’s Trade Review wrote “the curious mingling of fantasy and melodrama in this picture is so deftly and gracefully accomplished that is registers as most unusual and interesting entertainment which can hardly fail to achieve widespread success.” But Photoplay lowered the boom, writing “we haven’t encountered a more absurd photoplay in a year of picture going. Another variation of the simple and honest girl who dances in a wicked café, her noble young lover and a scoundrelly man-about-town. This time it’s a ‘Frisco café. Added to the complications is an idiot clown. Director Penrhyn Stanlaws saw fit to introduce a fantastic prologue that heightens the absurdity.”
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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

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The Face in the Fog, directed by Alan Crosland, starred Lionel Barrymore as “Boston Blackie” Dawson, Seena Owen as The Grand Duchess Tatiana, Lowell Sherman as Count Alexis Orloff, and Louis Wolheim as Petrus. The film was released on October 9, 1922, at seven reels. The Library Congress holds reels 4-7.

Plot: During the Russian revolution, Petrus rises to power and attempts to capture the Romanoff diamonds. The Grand Duke Alexis gives the jewels to the Grand Duchess Tatiana.

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Michael, a faithful servant to the family, along with Count Alexis Orloff, sweetheart of the Grand Duchess Tatiana, devise a plan to bring both the jewels and the Grand Duchess to the United States.

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Petrus and the renegade Count Ivan, who wants both the jewels and Tatiana, follow them to America. Michael, disguised as an old blind beggar, is walking along the street outside a restaurant when “Boston Blackie” Dawson and his wife Mary emerge after dining.

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As Blackie hands a coin to the beggar, Michael thrusts a bag of jewels into Blackie’s pocket. Shortly thereafter Michael is run down. Detective Huck Kant discovers a piece of paper in Michael’s hand, bearing the license plate of Blackie’s car. Knowing Blackie was once a crook, Kant suspects he has returned to crime, and sets out for Blackie’s home. Meanwhile, Petrus and his spies have already traced the diamonds to Blackie. Blackie waits at home, but prepares a trap. Petrus attempts to hold him up and threatens to torture Mrs. Dawson unless Blackie reveals where the diamonds are.

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Blackie points to the safe on the mantelpiece. When the spies attempt to open the safe, Blackie presses a switch. Shocked by a powerful electric current, the Russians are held rigid until Kant and help arrive. The spies are they led off in handcuffs. Suspicion falls on Court Orloff.

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Then, Count Ivan lures the Grand Duchess to his house, and holds her prisoner. Count Orloff heads to Ivan’s home, after appealing to Blackie for assistance. Blackie arrives with Kant, and the pair stop Ivan just as he is about to kill Orloff. Blackie realizes that the only thing preventing Orloff and Tatiana from being together is the Romanoff diamonds. If the diamonds are recovered, Tatiana would be obliged to return to Russia and compete for her father’s throne. If the diamonds were lost, Tatiana would find happiness with Orloff. So Blackie substitutes paste jewels for the real diamonds. He then convinces both his wife Mary and Kant that he has “turned to the right” by delivering the fake Romanoff diamonds to the United States Government.

To produce the effect of fog, experiments confirmed that steam condensed too soon, while water vapor would not hold the air long enough to be photographed successfully. Chief Electrician Jack Kelly decided to use colorless light mineral oil, which achieved the desired effect. In the scene below, Director Alan Crosland (standing, wearing the suit) watches filming as the “fog” is sprayed on the set in front of the “blind” beggar (played by Gustav von Seyffertitz):

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Below, Crosland is shown with Seena Owen and writer Jack Boyle, creator of the Boston Blackie character:

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Reviews were positive. The Film Daily wrote “Alan Crosland certainly creates an effective suspense right at the start with a mysterious murder and follows it up with equally mysterious events which gets the spectator’s interest fastened on the development of the plot at the very beginning. … Lionel Barrymore fills the role of Boston Blackie splendidly and his many admirers will like him first rate in the part.” Moving Picture World wrote “atmospherically, “The Face in the Fog” is one of the most successful mystery dramas that has ever been shown.” Motion Picture News called the film “one of the finest “crook” pictures every produced in this industry,” adding “we have never looked at more artistic night photography than that presented in the almost two reels of action in a dense fog.”
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LawrenceA
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by LawrenceA »

I never knew until now that Louis Wolheim originated the role of Yank in "The Hairy Ape".

I also see that he was a favorite of the whole Barrymore clan, and appeared in films with all of them in the silent era.
Watching until the end.
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scsu1975
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Re: NOW PLAYING (100 YEARS AGO)

Post by scsu1975 »

LawrenceA wrote: January 18th, 2023, 12:55 pm I never knew until now that Louis Wolheim originated the role of Yank in "The Hairy Ape".

I also see that he was a favorite of the whole Barrymore clan, and appeared in films with all of them in the silent era.
I'm more impressed that he was a mathematics teacher. :D
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