Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Happy birthday "Ee-thel"!


 The spectacularly successful, famous (as in her illness and recovery were broadcast in Times Square in lights in her heyday) Ethel Barrymore was born this day in 1879. She was, both Lionel and John declared, the only Barrymore to ever try and take care of any other members of the family, the one who was most successful in raising a family (though not in marriage--her only one ended in divorce/annulment, and she never remarried after Samuel Colt), the one most lauded in her time and over a very long career.  Both boys were in awe of her, though she, like them, laughed at the "legend" speak around the 3 Great Barrymores. She was known to be wickedly funny, biting in wit, generous, giving, and impatient with stupidity but very patient with those learning. 

On the audio tidbits part of this blog is a birthday celebration for her in 1949, on her 70th birthday. This was LIVE, across the nation, and filled with memories and greetings from two presidents (Truman and Hoover), Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and just a whole bunch more. Lionel introduces the family in the end, and before that he spoke of her rise on the stage and her supporting him for two years while he played artist in Paris with wife Doris Rankin.

Her life was interesting and wide ranging, an her own interests ran the gamut form baseball to boxing to politics and of course, books.  While she seemed imperious, many people who worked with her described her as quite warm and friendly in reality. 




I recommend her autobiography Memories, which is on archive.org to read. It was completed and going to the publisher when she heard her brother Lionel had died in 1954. Her addendum to the book is indicative of her personality and, though no Barrymore was demonstrative, her affection for her older and younger brother:

Since I have finished this book, Lionel has died. I like to think that he and Jack are together--and that they will be glad to see me.


1932, during Rasputin filming, Barrymores and Colts had a photo session to introduce John Jr.


Ethel adored little brother John (or Jack, Jake, or for Ethel, "Gus")
LB Mayer snagged Ethel late in her life to add to Lionel at MGM


Happy birthday Miss Barrymore!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Cue the bad puns: Beary interesting. Mr. B, a bear, & Elitch's Gardens, Denver

So, among the many wild things I've acquired and read and heard in my foray into LB-land is a "blooper" radio moment wherein Mr. B tells a story about winning a bear in a crap game in Denver, seemingly quite a long time ago (I would guess when he was still doing stage tours circa 1897-1905 or so) and eventually delivering it to the well-known Elitch's Gardens, which back then "had a regular bear pit". He had taken the bear home to the hotel he was staying at from the bar because, as he says, "I was more afraid of the bartender than I was of the f***in' bear."

It's a funny (and often profane) story of how he got the bear up to his room in the Brown Palace Hotel late at night, fell asleep on the bed--"and I guess the bear did, too"-- then wakes to find himself in need of feeding a hungry bear and himself.  He ordered two steaks: the bear, "et my breakfast. Jesus, he ate everything!" The room service waiter, "who happened to be a nice guy", says he'll get more food, then advises the young actor to take the bear to Elitch's Gardens, which Mr B does.

Well, as he ends the story, "the bear gets out of the taxicab and goes RIGHT up that pole they have, you know, and sits on the top, and I say, 'well, goodbye, boy.'" Then he adds, which brings great guffaws from his audience, "I got a bill, for two years, for that f***in' bear."

So I figured this was an old LB (this recording was made when he was hosting Hallmark Hall of Fame on radio, which was 1953-1955) talking trash--then I let my sister hear it. She'd lived in Denver in the 1980s about 6 years, and started nodding.. "yeah, I know the Brown Palace Hotel...Elitch's Gardens, yep...". Suddenly I realized he might well be telling a true story! This from a guy who once lied (in HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY) about his birthday!

Number 1: The Brown Palace Hotel still stands in Denver, and is 125 years old. It is also apparently haunted! "According to author Corrine Hunt’s book, The Brown Palace: Denver’s Grande Dame, many entertainers and heads of state, including Russian President Boris Yeltsin, stayed at the hotel. They included Buffalo Bill Cody, Lionel Barrymore, John Philip Sousa, Lillian Russell, Jack Benny, Peter Lorre, Robert Taylor, George Jessel, Helen Hayes..." (http://arizonanotebook.com/historic-denver-hotels-elegance-and-role-in-colorado-history-offer-an-escape)   Denver's Brown Palace Hotel

Number 2: Elitch's Gardens (the site of the first zoo west of the Mississippi) still exists, and the old theater at the original site still exists (it's not clear if LB was at that theater, but I don't find evidence he was). Map of Elitch's Gardens, 1904 .  Fascinating stuff! More info on Elitch's Gardens (old one)  
Here's a book that has a LOT on the place and its theater: Denver's Elitch Gardens: Spinning a Century of Dreams  by Betty Lynne Hull (2003)
Number 3: Lionel Barrymore did indeed play games of chance now and then, and Denver was on the old theater and vaudeville routes.

Number 4: the female proprietor the Elitch's was very fond of bears, especially two named Sam and Dewey:


 Number 5: There was a bear pit/pole in the gardens!
This is Dewey at Elitch's, probably around 1900, 1910. One of the bears would waltz to music. :)
Wide World Magazine, Vol 2 Oct 1898-Mar 1899 (google ebook, free)

Now, there are lots of things written on Elitch's and the Brown Palace, and I can probably contact someone at those places, but given the sum total... it's quite likely the insane story he told was true! Now if I can just find out when he was in Denver performing....

*The recording is pretty profane, though VERY funny. I'll not link it here, but it's findable on Google or Amazon. I have no idea who would have recorded it! :)


The Joys of Error! 1934 addition to LB film list

Well, while one never likes to be wrong, I can say that I am happy to be proven wrong and that, unlike what I have on my filmography here, Lionel Barrymore was indeed in the Spanish-language Fox film La Ciudad de Carton (Cardboard City), appearing briefly as himself while in character makeup for some other role he was doing in 1933 when Ciudad was shot.

Many thanks to the people at Silent Films Today on FB for pushing me to check again! I have no idea now why I thought John was in the film, not Lionel.

The IMdB link is not greatly complete, but AFI and others note the cast was gathered from extant Fox information in archives: La Ciudad de Carton, IMdB

The NYTimes review, which has the wrong Young:

Hollywood in Spanish.

H.T.S.

Published: February 28, 1934
This time Hollywood is poking fun at itself in Castilian and is doing it so well that persons with even a slight knowledge of the Spanish language are likely to enjoy "La Ciudad de Carton" ("Cardboard City"), now at the Teatro Variedades. That excellent Spanish actress, Catalina Bárcena, makes the best of the double rôle of Mrs. Collins, wife of a rancher in hard luck (Señor Moreno) and of Diana Dane, the "great European star" opportunely killed in a train wreck just before reaching the well-known suburb of Los Angeles. Señora Bárcena's good work is well supported by the principals, including José Crespo, as a leading actor in love with the false Diana; Luis Alberni, as a director with all sorts of bright ideas, and Don Segurola, as president of the producing company. Incidentally, Janet Gaynor, Roland Young and Lionel Barrymore welcome the "foreign celebrity" to Hollywood in good Spanish.

After the proper amount of semiserious sentiment, mingled with many amusing scenes, the cardboard city remains true to itself and wins the likely couple away from the ranch—which had been lost anyway.

LA CIUDAD DE CARTON, a dialogue film in Spanish, with Catalina Barcena, Antonio Moreno, Jose Crespo, Luis Alberni and Andreas de Segurola; directed by Louis King; a Fox production. At the Teatro Variedades.


The visual evidence (LB seems to be in makeup for Carolina, filmed in 1933)
That's Robert Young he's next to.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

July catch up and some new photos/stills/viewings

Well, it has been a rollercoaster summer! I've had some health issues to tend to, but I've kept my eye on the world of Lionel Barrymore and have even figured my next major project would be an article on the making of Sadie Thompson. I have easy-ish access to the Gloria Swanson archives, so it would be rather enjoyable to do that.

More enjoyable still, I've seen some of Mr. B's films I had not before! The Valley of Decision I watched in a Portuguese-dubbed version, and it's worth me finding it in English though at least the intent of the film was clear (I read and understand Spanish well, but Portuguese isn't Spanish!). I was rather taken aback by the ending, which I won't spoil for you. Interesting film on labor, love, family.

I then caught Drums of Love after much delay! I really enjoyed the film, though honestly no one came out better than Mr. B in the acting stakes. Don Novarro in particular seemed stiff.  There is a great deal of empathy built for Mr. B's hulking Don Cathos of Alvia. Satisfying trip down Blasco Ibanez lane.  Lionel does kiss a lot in this film! He's kinda sweet, that Cathos...:)

The Temptress was a bit overlong but the last quarter was nicely action-packed. I felt for Mr. B's French former soldier Canterac, one of several men (who have wives!) falling for Greta Garbo's wiles. She was quite good in it as well!

I also saw Treasure Island (well, mostly Mr. B's scenes), and there was a nice chunk of Lionel-acting early on, both over the top and menacing in an intriguing, well, menacing way. I'm sure the rest was appropriately piratey.

Public Hero #1 is a long crime film, made less B-film by an intriguing story, a whole lot of destroyed cars, and Lionel Barrymore as the alcoholic, dying doctor who finds a little redemption, then doesn't. He was quite good in a part that went all over the place and only appeared in the 3rd quarter of the film. But boy, did he run with the show then! A very nice part for him, and he owned it.

Here are a couple of new images from my wanderings:





All of the above, from Public Hero #1

From Sadie Thompson

Screengrab from The Temptress

Color edit by me from Sadie Thompson

May your summer be bright but not oppressively hot!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

More adventures in Lionel-tinting (and a Jack or two)

I have gotten a little better at coloring digitally old images, including screengrabs. Here are some of the newer/unseen ones. I've many of Sadie Thompson, which I hope to write a short article on soon. FASCINATING film! (Mostly Lionel, but a couple of his little brother John...)

In Sadie Thompson (screengrab)


From The Switchtower (screengrab)

From The Copperhead--LB's eyes photographed clear as they were medium blue...
...so it is difficult sometimes to get his eyes right when they're visible! (Both screengrabs)

The Jest, 1919 (portrait on set)


Jack in Topaze
One of my faves--Jack backstage in Hamlet

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Greta Garbo and...Lionel Barrymore? Their films

On perusing my FB page, I noticed a freebie Kindle available of collected silent star essays/ bios from old movie magazines. They are available online if one wants to trudge through the PDFs, but the author, Shane Brown, has collated them handily, so I was able to read several easily.

And imagine my surprise! One article on Greta Garbo, from Photoplay in 1928 marked "The Story of Greta Garbo As Told to Ruth Biery", tells me a little more about her working relationship with that most busy of character stars, Mr. Lionel Barrymore. No, Garbo has no comments about his work in the article, but she notes something intriguing: she was tapped to play in Women Love Diamonds (1927) and turned it down. Lionel Barrymore played in that film with Pauline Starke, Owen Moore, and Cissy Fitzgerald.

It made me wonder just HOW many films they had appeared in together, and it appears thusly:

1: In 1926, Mr B and Garbo appeared together for the first time in THE TEMPTRESS, directed by Fred Niblo. Lionel Barrymore played the French former soldier Canterac. He writes in his biography We Barrymores that he had asked his brother John, supposedly a ladies' man of the world, how he might approach Miss Garbo--John's answer was revealing to Lionel, at least.


(almost) 2: In 1927, Garbo and Ricardo Cortez started filming LOVE, an adaptation of Anna Karenina, with Lionel Barrymore in a dapper role (as Karenin):

From a Garbo biography, pics from The Temptress and the LB-featuring Love

 However, Garbo balked at Cortez' work (per a 1928 Photoplay article) and also fell ill, and eventually MGM replaced him with John Gilbert and cut out Barrymore's part completely. I have read that he was showing up Cortez and the nervous, frustrated Garbo was not able to give her best, seemingly overwhelmed.(h/t Sheila Terry of Silent Films Today for finding the initial error here!)

3: MATA HARI, 1931, was a spectacle featuring Garbo, a miscast Ramon Novarro, and Lionel Barrymore as General Shubin, Mata Hari's lover and facilitator of her spying. It's all over the place as a film!




4: GRAND HOTEL, 1932, was the first real epic Hollywood studio star-studded film. Garbo and Lionel Barrymore did not have scenes together, but his brother John certainly did (with Garbo and Lionel). Lionel plays the dying clerk Otto Kringelein, who finally gives his brutish boss a comeuppance. Some really good scenes for Mr. B in this one.

Set shots of Cedric Gibbons' work and Garbo and Jack
John, Lionel, and Lewis Stone
Top-down shot between scenes--this collection of people does not appear in the film!
Lionel, Wally Beery, and Jean Hersholt between scenes on set
Lionel and then wife Irene Fenwick at the premiere (tho rumor had it he snuck in a side door)

5: CAMILLE in which LB plays Msr. Duval and had a small but pivotal scene with Garbo. 

 

Serious eyebrow makeup!


In 1919, Lionel and Ethel played a scene from Camille for charity

 So overall, Lionel Barrymore and Greta Garbo worked together in five films, four of which were released between 1926 and 1934. Now, John Gilbert and Greta Garbo appeared together in FLESH AND THE DEVIL, the redone LOVE, A WOMAN OF AFFAIRS, and finally the talkie QUEEN CHRISTINA, between 1926 and 1933.

5 with Lionel Barrymore--and interestingly, Garbo and Barrymore played lovers once in MATA HARI, and his character in THE TEMPTRESS wanted to be her lover and actually kissed her right before another jealous would-be lover bursts in and there is an epic fight. 

So how did it all end?

John Gilbert's early death is well-known, generally. He died in 1936 at only 38, a victim of changing tastes in films--his voice was pleasant enough, his lines not so pleasant, and the audiences for the new talking pictures did not take to his romantic swashbuckling in sound.  Gilbert's career crash is the basis for the Don Lockwood character's experience in SINGING IN THE RAIN. Interestingly, Lionel Barrymore directed Gilbert's first talkie, HIS GLORIOUS NIGHT, 1929. Mr. B has been accused of sabotaging the film under direction from LB Mayer, but it appears that's likely false--especially as contemporary critics lauded the direction and found Gilbert's voice adequate to speaking the foolish lines. (I might also add that the clip of His Glorious Night I've seen has Gilbert forcing a Brit-like sound into his voice, and it is unnatural compared to the 1929 Hollywood Revue voice he has. So perhaps he was trying too hard in HGN?)

Greta Garbo was already a legend in the 1920s, but left films after 1941's TWO-FACED WOMAN. She is far better remembered than her male costars here, and died at 84 in 1990.

Lionel Barrymore would go on to enduring success in film, as both actor and director initially (he directed Ricardo Cortez and others in TEN CENTS A DANCE, 1931, and directed John Gilbert, as mentioned, in HIS GLORIOUS NIGHT,  having just starred with Gilbert in Tod Browning's THE SHOW, 1927). He was outlived by Garbo, but long outlived John Gilbert and proved the most enduring performer of the three stars mentioned here. (Ricardo Cortez fell out of favor with major studio audiences and dropped into B-films in the late 1930s, dying in 1977 after having lasted into TV; he apparently was much more appealing to the ladies in silents and seems to have played heavies and detective or mobster roles in many talkies.)

Mr. B commented he did not necessarily find Garbo cold or aloof, but shy, rather. He did not venture too many words on the subject, but he did think her aloofness stemmed more from being naturally shy than from any overdeveloped sense of self, he says in We Barrymores. I'd like to think that's true. In any case, her amor fou with John Gilbert seemed destined to end poorly--in the end, she did not want to marry and Gilbert had already been twice divorced (and would marry again).

Given that Lionel was on the second of his two long marriages, and that he was in awe of her and not interested in an affair (seemingly, he was simply nuts about Irene Fenwick), there was little chance of any affair there, and I'm sure as they worked together, they formed a decent relationship and respected each other's work.  We know she really admired Jack Barrymore, as he did her.

But wow-- who knew Garbo and Lionel Barrymore co-starred in 5 films together, with four of thoae released, and Garbo could have made a sixth one--with Lionel. Heh!

**For the record--Great Garbo's most frequent co-star was: Lewis Stone.


Friday, June 16, 2017

Anything for Selena-- er, Lionel B

So because I really, really want this upper left pic, I signed up for the auction site. It's from Laugh, Clown, Laugh, and I've only seen one other.

I can only hope! I have a signed Mr. Cantonwine, which wasn't too pricey, and several cigarette cards.

Come on, Mr B! Come to mama! :)


Friday, June 2, 2017

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

June Silent Films of Merit, Lionel-wise




Because the man made SO MANY films, it's rather hard to construct a "on this day in 19__, *film title* starring or featuring Lionel Barrymore was released".  But it being almost June, and me being a poor bloger lately due to the vagaries of life and work, here's a brief rundown of significant Lionel Barrymore June releases:

A TIMELY INTERCEPTION: June 7, 1913. EXTANT at Harpodeon. LB plays the uncle of Bobby Harron, with Christy Cabanne, who wrote the film. A rather lively drama in which LB wears a beard and looks quite elderly!




 DEATH'S MARATHON: June 14, 1913. Awesome film, ruled by Henry B Walthall. A dark and frightening piece of film, available online.
 Henry B. Walthall in  Death's Marathon
 

THE SWITCH TOWER June 16, 1913. A real humdinger of a silent, with HB Walthall and Lionel Barrymore, as well as Claire McDowell and most of the Biograph cast. Available online. Great film, fun, fast, exciting!

LB as the Engraver




THE ROMANCE OF ELAINE: first episode released June 14, 1915. Lionel Barrymore plays the villain Marcus del Mar in this second of the Elaine serials. It is supposedly completely lost, but with 12 episodes, hope reigns...



DORIAN'S DIVORCE: June 6, 1916. Apparently extant in France, this is a Metro released done for Rolfe in which LB plays Richard Dorian, to whom much adventure will occur due to love. Ahhh!




There are of course many more, but these will suffice for a quick late May post. I do recommend Death's Marathon and The Switch Tower if you have not seen them. Stop on by the blog and check them out under the filmographies for the given year.