Marilyn Miller: The Jazz Age’s Forgotten Heroine

Marilyn Miller: The Jazz Age’s Forgotten Heroine

In the 1920s there were two types of girls in the movies. First, there were the angelic waifs. Second, there were the flapper girls brimming with ‘It.’ One diminutive, blonde actress embodied both types. She was at once traditional and defiant of old conventions. She bobbed her hair and was never dependant on a man for money, but she enjoyed receiving the conspicuous gifts Stage Door Johnnies lavished upon her. She gave up dozens of marriage offers from wealthy middle aged men, favoring the old adage that marriage must be based on love.  Who was this girl?

Marilyn Miller, circa 1926Marilyn Miller, circa 1926

Her name was Marilyn Miller. At the peak of her success between 1918 and 1928, she personified the youth of the Jazz Age. She began as a sprite-like ballerina in the Ziegfeld Follies and came within a hair’s breadth of being cinema’s new ‘It’ girl before her tragic, premature death. Marilyn Miller, though almost forgotten today, is as much the tragic heroine of the Jazz Age as Jean Harlow was of the 1930s and Marilyn Monroe was of the 1950s.

Like another great symbol of the 1920s, Zelda Fitzgerald, Marilyn grew up in the South. Born in 1898, she lived with her grandmother until 1903, by which time she was old enough to join her mother, stepfather, and two siblings’ travelling theater act called The Five Columbians. “I was put on stage because a living had to be earned,” Marilyn later said. “It’s not a very pleasant childhood to remember.” She lived a rootless existence, and dirty dressing rooms and theater cellars were the environments that most surrounded her as a child. However, Marilyn coped with her tumultuous lifestyle by coming to see it not as work, “but like the most fascinating kind of play…” The Five Columbians proved to be popular not only in America but abroad. Just by the names critics lavished upon her, it was obvious how the young girl charmed all those who watched her. She was called everything from a powder puff to a bon bon to a pen nib.

Marilyn as a teen, circa 1916Marilyn as a teen, circa 1916

By the time Marilyn reached her teenage years, she had bloomed into a pixieish young woman who looked no less like a “bon bon” than she did as a child. From 1914 to 1918, she starred in Broadway revues produced by the powerful Shubert brothers. Critics loved her, declaring, “She dances as if he enjoyed it” and calling her a “dancing sprite—musical and lovely.” The buoyancy she brought to the stage was all the more impressive considering that she suffered from chronic sinusitis, a condition that resulted in blinding migraines, as well as abuse at the hands of her stepfather. He continued to strike the now sixteen year old girl across the backside if he thought her rehearsals insufficient. Marilyn played the obedient child with as much conviction as she did with her impersonations on stage. However, beneath the surface she was ready to explode– and in 1918, she did.

It was Broadway impresario Florenz Ziegfeld’s wife, Billie Burke, who unwittingly lit the fuse. After seeing Marilyn in the latest Shubert production, Show of Wonders, she was so impressed that she immediately told her husband of her discovery. She described Marilyn as “a confection of a girl” who would be perfect for the Follies. Ziegfeld promptly hired her. Marilyn felt like a true adult now, making and keeping her own money. She relished being away from her domineering stepfather and vowed to never again have a man control her affairs. Her thirst for independence grew stronger when she met and fell in love with her Follies co-star Frank Carter, much to the chagrin of Ziegfeld. Marriage could mean the end of her career, and thus a loss of profit to the producer. Already, she had become the hit of the Follies through her charming spoof on Billie Burke. Ziegfeld tried to woo his new star from Frank by pampering her, most conspicuously by providing her a fresh costume for every performance at the cost of $175. Marilyn all but thumbed her nose at his manipulations, as well as her parents’ strict rule that Frank was not welcome in their home.  She continued to see Frank during clandestine meetings fellow Follies star Eddie Cantor helped to arrange. It was before the opening of the Follies of 1919 that Frank and Marilyn decided to elope. When Ziegfeld discovered what they had done, he fired Frank. If Frank had not received another job offer from the Shuberts right away, Marilyn likely would not have stayed with Ziegfeld. Resentful as she was toward her boss, she made his 1919 Follies the best in the show’s history. Most memorable in the production was the song “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody,” which would forever afterward be associated with Marilyn.

Marilyn Miller and Jack PickfordMarilyn Miller and Jack Pickford

Frank and Marilyn’s marriage proved to be as successful as their stage careers. Both encouraged the other’s career and gave each other love, confidence, and comfort. For their first anniversary, Frank planned to buy a luxurious, $10,000 Packard touring car his wife had admired. But the night he bought it as a surprise, he crashed while taking a sharp curve. The car was destroyed, and Frank was killed instantaneously.

Marilyn fell into a period filled with despondency and anger. Though falling apart inside, she continued to appear on stage every night, waiting until she disappeared in the wings to crumple into tears. “I always lose myself when I dance. I seem to be another, projected personality,” she explained. Those close to Marilyn, including fellow Ziegfeld Girl Doris Eaton, noticed that it seemed as if another personality did indeed take over Marilyn after Frank’s death. Eaton recalled that she became “much more escapist and fun seeking” and “appeared to go from one relationship to another.” She also dropped all her former efforts to be the obedient daughter/star. She wanted to be a new woman– fast living, defiant of convention, and apathetic to old-fashioned expectations. Part of Marilyn’s defiance manifested in her frustration at Ziegfeld. “At times she treated him so…profanely…that it appeared she had a strange hold on him,” Eaton said. In Marilyn’s mind, she did have something over him: Frank’s death. As if to atone for it, Ziegfeld lavished more attention on his star, ultimately building a show around her. The show, entitled Sally, elevated Marilyn to an unprecedented level of celebrity status. Through Sally, she became the girl every boy would love to take home to meet his mother—yet at the same time she was the Jazz Age goddess with “a ruthless charm, a glitter than made every man in the room turn when she walks in.”

Marilyn in her ballet costumes as a teen and as a young womanMarilyn in her ballet costumes as a teen and as a young woman

Sally is the tale of an orphan (Marilyn) who dreams of becoming a dancer and, in the end, wins both love and fame by landing a role in—what else? A Ziegfeld show! Marilyn charmed audiences and provoked a feeling of nostalgia through her rendition of “Look For the Silver lining,” a song that “offered a plea for optimism” that “was the kind of sermon audiences wanted to hear in that time of postwar depression.” At the same time, she embodied modernity and the risqué in her “Wild Rose” number. Its lyrics could be a flapper girl’s ballad: “I’m just a wild rose,  Not a prim and mild rose; Tame me if you can, I’m a rose to suit any man. Some passion flower, This is my hour, Who’ll get me no one knows, I’m such a wild, wild rose.” While singing these words, she kicked, turned, pranced and gave a stagey wink that every man in the audience was sure was meant for him alone.

The show was the hit of the decade and ran for three years. Marilyn was not immune to getting a swelled head. Ziegfeld indulged her with costumes made of ermine and satin and even built a ramp that extended out into the audience to show off her dancing feet. However, when Ziegfeld came backstage to introduce his daughter, Patricia, to Marilyn, the star greeted him with “Hello you no-good bastard.” After complaining about “this piece of crap you call a costume” that weighed “a thousand tons,” she ended the visit by throwing a jar of cold cream at his departing figure. Patricia likened seeing Marilyn backstage, so different from the ever-smiling nymph on stage, as being like the side of a Christmas ornament with the price tag and tin showing through.

Marilyn in WB's adaptation of "Sally," 1929Marilyn in WB’s adaptation of “Sally,” 1929

Marilyn’s behavior became increasingly hedonistic. Between performances of Sally, she breezed to the Plaza Hotel to lunch and dance with up to forty Harvard boys at a time. At night she attended parties that often made for scandalous headlines. One such party, hosted by a playboy art dealer, was broken up by police when a drunken showgirl auctioned herself off to the highest bidder. Rumors abounded that Marilyn was engaged to the playboy host, but she responded to the gossip with a devil may care shrug, sighing that she was only mildly fond of the man. Marilyn lived the high life despite the increasing severity of her sinusitis. She enjoyed herself by sheer will while desperately attempting to ignore her blinding migraines.

By the time Sally was nearing the end of its record-breaking run, Marilyn again made headlines when she announced her engagement to Mary Pickford’s wayward brother, Jack. His name had been connected to scandal ever since the mysterious death of his wife, ex-Ziegfeld Girl Olive Thomas. Ziegfeld was staunchly against the union. His warnings that Marilyn would meet the same end as Thomas only spurred the willful girl more toward marriage. She grew livid over Ziegfeld’s statements to the press that Jack was not only responsible for his late wife’s death, but was also a draft dodger, drug addict, and alcoholic. Marilyn got her revenge on Ziegfeld by making a furious statement to the papers that he made love to chorus girls and would divorce his wife in a minute to marry her if it were not for his daughter. Ziegfeld and Marilyn’s long and profitable partnership thus ended, and Marilyn headed off to California to marry her new husband in fairytale fashion on Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbank’s estate, Pickfair.

Marilyn on a program for "Smiles," her last show for ZiegfeldMarilyn on a program for “Smiles,” her last show for Ziegfeld

Marilyn did not want to admit it, but Ziegfeld’s predictions came true all too soon. Jack went on constant alcoholic binges and jealous rages and both husband and wife carried on extra marital affairs–Jack with silent movie vamp Bebe Daniels and Marilyn with an ever changing string of beaux including Clifton Webb, Jack Donahue, and Ben Lyon. The significant time spent apart put further strain on the marriage. Marilyn, having signed a contract with Ziegfeld’s competitor Charles Dillingham, kept busy in New York while Jack remained in Los Angeles. Marilyn was enjoying a triumph in Sunny, a virtual copy of Sally but with the backdrop of a circus rather than a Ziegfeld show. However, after Sunny, Dillingham had no satisfactory shows in the works for his new star.

With gritted teeth, Marilyn returned to Ziegfeld. She signed both divorce papers and a new contract with her old employer in 1927, and by 1928, she was again Ziegfeld’s greatest star in his new musical, Rosalie. The show did good business, but it was not as big a money-maker as Marilyn’s previous hits. Marilyn, in a rare moment of weakness, broke down in tears in front of Ziegfeld and cried, “I can entertain them when they come into the theater, but I can’t go outside and drag them in!” Ziegfeld allowed her to temporarily leave his employ and accept an offer from Warner Brothers for a $100,000 per picture contract. Warner Brothers enthusiastically groomed Marilyn as a sort of blonde Clara Bow in her first assignment, an all-talking adaptation of Sally with musical sequences done in two-strip Technicolor. Marilyn was highly insecure about how her presence on stage would transfer to film and, to mask her wariness, she played the role of prima donna. She demanded a new wardrobe from the studio (including chinchilla coats) and a dressing room with a sunken tub. Marilyn’s insecurity proved groundless; the film was a hit with moviegoers.

Judy Garland (left) and June Haver (right), two actress who portrayed MarilynJudy Garland (left) and June Haver (right), two actress who portrayed Marilyn

Marilyn’s screen success came almost simultaneously with the Crash of 1929. Suddenly, audiences found her films depicting an idyllic world of luxury irrelevant. It only made Marilyn feel more outmoded when her next show with Ziegfeld, Smiles, garnered not her, but her co-stars Fred and Adele Astaire glowing reviews. Critics relegated Marilyn to “an older order of musical comedy.” To add further insult to injury, her next two films, an adaption of Sunny and a romantic comedy, Her Majesty Love, flopped at the box office. She began to feel evermore outmoded as other symbols of her generation began to die: first Ziegfeld and then Jack Pickford. Marilyn, as fast as she had ascended to stardom, fell into obscurity.

In the following years, Marilyn desperately tried to recapture her youth and the adoration she had received in her fullest bloom. She fell into an abusive relationship with ballroom dancer Don Alvarado, often receiving bruises and black eyes from him. The girl who had appeared so independent and free from the domination of men since her break with her step father years before was now telling fan magazines, “You have to love, you have to have someone to please…in order to make life worthwhile…love is life to me.”

In 1933, Marilyn made a brief comeback in the Moss Hart and Irving Berlin revue As Thousands Cheer. In the show, audiences heard her sing the now standard tune “Easter Parade”. Offstage, she was as desperate as ever to maintain her youth. As if reliving her elopement with Frank Carter, she married a chorus boy several years her junior named Chet O’Brien. She appeared to still be living the life of flapper girl, but her friend Lloyd Pantages saw through her façade: “I think she was humiliated by her overall failure in movies…For her, I fear, life was starting to lose its zest.”

Marilyn as she is best remembered--an ethereal, sprite-like ballerinaMarilyn as she is best remembered–an ethereal, sprite-like ballerina

Perhaps Marilyn would have further resuscitated her stage career had it not been for her sinusitis. It had become so severe that she was absent for much of the run of As Thousands Cheer. In 1936, she sought the help of a “miracle doctor” who injected her with insulin, promising it would relieve her pain. Instead, it caused Marilyn to lapse into a coma. She flitted in and out of consciousness for days until on April 7, 1936, she opened her eyes, gave those at her bedside “a comfortable smile,” and passed away. Though she was only thirty-eight years old, her early death can be viewed as strangely merciful given her intense fear of aging.

Following her passing, Hollywood made two attempts at preserving the memory of Ziegfeld’s greatest star; first in Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), a film celebrating the music of Jerome Kern in which Judy Garland admirably portrays Marilyn in three musical numbers, and second in a highly fictitious biopic entitled Look for the Silver Lining starring June Haver. Neither come close to conveying the real Marilyn—an actress “intended only to smile” but was, in reality, a complicated, willful woman. In the words of a friend, she always “…seemed so happy…that no one suspected the depth of her feelings and her capacity…for pain.” On stage, and indeed, in the precious few films that document both her flaming youth and elfin charm, Marilyn epitomes a pretty girl who, like a melody, haunts you night and day.


–Sara and Cynthia Brideson for Classic Movie Hub

Sara and Cynthia Brideson are avid classic movie fans, and twin authors of Ziegfeld and His Follies: A Biography of Broadway’s Greatest Producer and Also Starring: Forty Biographical Essays on the Greatest Character Actors of Hollywood’s Golden Era, 1930-1965. They also are currently working on comprehensive biographies of Gene Kelly and Margaret Sullavan. You can follow them on twitter at @saraandcynthia or like them on Facebook at Cynthia and Sara Brideson.


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Classic Movie Auction to Feature Rare Movie Memorabilia from the Morris Everett Jr Collection…

54 Years Ago a Young Man Walks into a Movie Memorabilia Store and Decides to Collect Something on Every Movie Ever Made!

Yes, that’s the true story of Morris Everett Jr., one of the most deliberate and methodical collectors of historic vintage movie posters, lobby cards, photos and other original film publicity material. His collection ranges from the largest poster size 24-sheet outdoor “Billboard” all the way down to “Midget Window-Cards” with an emphasis on “Lobby Cards” — and encompasses near-complete coverage from the beginning of the careers of all the obvious stars.

Delving even deeper into the rarest of the rare, his collection includes virtually every vital and incredibly obscure early appearance of icons like Lon Chaney Sr., Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges with Curly, The Marx Brothers, Rudolph Valentino, Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey plus important early films by directors like D.W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, Erich von Stroheim, Joseph von Sternberg, John Ford, William Wellman, Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder, F.W. Murnau, Dorothy Arzner, Lois Weber, Alice Guy Blachè, and more…

Every serious dealer and collector going back over 50 years has been aware of Mr. Everett and his stated mission (from the very beginning in 1961) to build the one and only most comprehensive collection possible within his lifetime, and he has done exactly that, single-handedly mounting an incomparable historical archive on 107 years of cinema.

And now, and Profiles in History have teamed up to auction off a variety of this exceptional movie memorabilia, much of which has been deemed some of the most significant movie promotional pieces ever made – a selection of 1,406 auction lots in all! The auction will be held on June 29 and 30th, starting at 11am PST on both days.

Unfortunately I won’t be bidding on any of these marvelous items, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to ‘window shop’, so that said, let me share some photos of these wonderful items with you…


Lot 24 Metropolis lobby card from the Morris Everett Jr. Collection

Lot 24Metropolis lobby card. (UFA, 1927)

Color lobby card for Metropolis. Thematically one of the best cards in the set, featuring Paramount color and design. Believed to be the only existing example of this card. Virtually unhandled. The original German poster for this film has twice sold privately, for well in excess of 1 million dollars. In very fine condition.


Lot 416 Frankenstein lobby card from Morris Everett Jr. Collection Lot 416: Frankenstein lobby card (Universal, 1931) 

Color lobby card for Boris Karloff in Frankenstein. One of the best cards in the set. Professionally cleaned with marginal repairs. Now presents as fine condition.


Lot464 King Kong from the Everett Morris Jr. Collection

Lot 464: A rare color lobby card for King Kong (RKO, 1933) 

Color lobby card for King Kong. Widely considered the best in the set and one of the most highly desired horror lobby cards in existence. In very fine unrestored condition.


Lot491 Wizard of Oz Lobby Card from the Morris Everett Jr Collection Lot 491: The Wizard of Oz lobby card (MGM, 1939) 

Color title-lobby card for The Wizard of Oz. Moderate retouching to correct corner pinholes and other minor handling. Now presents as very fine.


You can check out other auction memorabilia from the Collection here:  Auction Day One and Auction Day Two

Or follow them on social media via @invaluablelive and InvaluableAuctions on Facebook


 –Annmarie for Classic Movie Hub


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Mini Tribute: Cliff Edwards Disney Legend


Born June 14, 1895 Cliff Edwards!

Cliff Edwards was a popular Vaudeville, Broadway and singing star, better known as “Ukelele Ike” in his heyday during the 1920s and 1930s.  In 1929, while playing at the Orpheum Theater in LA, Edwards caught the eye of MGM producer/director Irving Thalberg, which sparked the beginning of his film career. Over the course of the next 40 years, Edwards would appear in over 100 shorts, films and television shows including Doughboys with Buster Keaton in 1930, His Girl Friday in 1940 as the character ’Endicott,’ and in the 1941 Disney classic Dumbo as the voice of the ‘head crow’ — however, Cliff Edwards is most famously known as the voice of the beloved Jiminy Cricket in yet another timeless Walt Disney classic, 1940′s Pinocchio.

cliff edwards and jiminy cricket, pinocchio 1940

“When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires will come to you” -Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket

Cliff Edwards Disney Legends Plaque in Disney Legends Plaza and Disney Legends Award inducted 2000

In 2000, Cliff Edwards received the Disney Legends Award for living up to the Disney principles of imagination, skill, discipline, craftsmanship and magic!


–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

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TCM And Fathom Events Announce Extended Partnership: Six Months of Classic Movie Fun on the Big Screen!

TCM and Fathom Events Extend Partnership for TCM Presents Theatrical Classic Movie Series

Although we can enjoy watching classic movies to our heart’s content thanks to TV, DVDs and streaming — let’s face it, there’s nothing, nothing, like watching a classic film on the Big Screen!

And, with that, I am happy to annouce that Turner Classic Movies has extended their partnership with Fathom Events to bring more classic films to select cinemas nationwide through the end of 2015.  And, boy are there some good ones on the list!

TCM Presents Big Screen Classic Events via Fathom Events nationwide screeningsSeven TCM Presnts film events are scheduled from now through the end of the year

TCM and Fathom Events began their partnership in 2012 showing classic film titles several times a year. This evolved into the TCM Presents series in 2015, beginning in January with The Wizard of Oz (1939), followed by Rear Window (1954) in March and The Sound of Music (1965) in April. Now, there are seven more film events scheduled through the end of December including Double Indemnity (1944), Psycho (1960), Dracula (1931), Roman Holiday (1953) and Miracle on 34th Street (1947), among others (see full list below).

Each of the scheduled film events will include a specially produced TCM introduction featuring TCM hosts Robert Osborne or Ben Mankiewicz. Osborne and Mankiewicz will take audiences behind the scenes of these great classics with exclusive interviews, historical retrospectives and unique insights into the making of these timeless classics.

“TCM is thrilled to continue our long-standing relationship with Fathom Events along with our studio partners to bring consumers the TCM Presents series,” said Jennifer Dorian, general manager, Turner Classic Movies. “The series allows us to bring fans another opportunity to engage with classic movies on the big screen from a variety of studios and eras in a way that aligns with our network’s mission to show films the way they were meant to be seen.”

Double Indemnity on the Big Screen TCM Presents

Studio partners for the remainder of the 2015 series include Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox.

“With classic titles from as early as 1931 all the way through the 70s, generations of fans will love having a second chance to enjoy their favorite films. With added insights from TCM hosts, Fathom Events and TCM continue to offer film fans a unique and memorable experience,” said Fathom Events vice president of programming Kymberli Frueh-Owens.

That all said, you can start marking your calendars now so that you don’t miss your chance to see these legendary films back on the Big Screen — the way they were meant to be seen…

Here’s the TCM Presents Series Schedule for the remainder of 2015:

June 21 and 24 – Universal Pictures’ Jaws 40th Anniversary (1975) – The film that kept scores of people from taking a dip in the ocean during the summer of 1975 celebrates its 40th anniversary.

July 19 and 20 – Universal Pictures’ Double Indemnity (1944) – Highly stylized and informed with a black sense of humor, the film is one of the high points of 1940s filmmaking and a prime example of film noir.

August 16 and 19 – Paramount Pictures’ Grease Sing-A-Long (1978) – The feel-good celebration features an explosion of song and dance that made an indelible impact on popular culture.  Packed with unforgettable songs, the iconic soundtrack includes “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “Greased Lightning,” “Summer Nights,” “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee,” and more.

Psycho TCM Presents fathom events

September 20 and 23 – Universal Pictures’ Psycho (1960) – The seminal thriller with director Alfred Hitchcock’s skillful direction, the playing of an expert cast and Bernard Herrmann’s ever-impressive score, every shock and surprise moves the audience as if nobody has ever seen the film before.

October 25 and 28 – Universal Pictures’ Dracula and Drácula (1931) – A double feature event of both the English and Spanish language versions of the 1931 film adaptation of the 1897 novel. Along with the iconic Bela Lugosi version, horror fans will have the opportunity to see the Spanish language version shot at night with a different cast.

fathom events roman holiday tcm presents

November 29 and December 1 – Paramount Pictures’ Roman Holiday (1953) – A fairy tale for adults, this romantic comedy was a reverse Cinderella story for its leading character, Princess Ann, and a real one for then-unknown Audrey Hepburn.

December 20 and 23 – Twentieth Century Fox’s Miracle on 34th Street (1947) – Miracle on 34th Street began as a short story by Valentine Davies and ended up being one of the most beloved Christmas films of all time.

Showtimes are 2PM and 7PM local time on the specified dates. Visit Fathom Events to see the full list of participating theaters.


–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

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National Name Your Poison Day!

Yes, really, June 8th is National Name Your Poison Day!

Okay, well maybe, not really… since I can’t find any concrete online history to support it… so let’s say instead that, apparently, today is National Name Your Poison Day… how’s that?

That said, in celebration of this national ‘holiday’, let’s have some fun with a ‘classic’ classic movie quote…

National Name Your Poison Day, quote from Arsenic and Old Lace, I haven't tasted Elderberry Wine since I was a boy...Talk about naming your poison! From Arsenic and Old Lace :)


–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

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How Many Films Did Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Star in Together?


How Many Films Did Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis Star in Together?

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis met for the first time at New York City’s Glass Hat Club where both were performing in 1945, then teamed up to debut at Atlantic City’s 500 Club on July 25, 1946.  From live performances, to radio, television and film, the duo formed a legendary partnership that would last for exactly ten years to the day… and what a ten years it was!!!

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis

Martin and Lewis starred in 16 movies together, 17 if you count their cameo appearance in the Hope/Crosby film Road to Bali: 

  1. My Friend Irma  (1949)
  2. My Friend Irma Goes West (1950)
  3. At War with the Army (1950)
  4. That’s My Boy (1951)
  5. Sailor Beware (1952)
  6. Jumping Jacks (1952)
  7. The Stooge (1953)
  8. Scared Stiff (1953)
  9. The Caddy (1953)
  10. Money from Home (1953)
  11. Living It Up (1954)
  12. 3 Ring Circus (1954)
  13. You’re Never Too Young (1955)
  14. Artists and Models (1955)
  15. Pardners (1956)
  16. Hollywood or Bust (1956)
  17. Road to Bali (1952): cameo appearance as the man (Martin) and woman (Lewis) in Lala’s Dream



–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub



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Just for Fun: Gone with the Wind Screen Tests


Just for Fun: the Many ‘Potential’ Faces of Scarlett…

As many of us know, the casting for Gone with the Wind was quite an endeavor. Many actresses were considered for the much-sought-after role of Scarlett, and about 30 actually screen-tested for it, including Tallulah Bankhead, Lana Turner and Susan Hayward. Although different actresses were serious contenders at different times, by December 1938, four actresses were still in the running… Paulette Goddard, Vivien Leigh, Joan Bennett and Jean Arthur (apparently in that order).  Of course, we all know that Leigh won the coveted role, the announcement being made in January 1939 — but it is interesting to note that Goddard almost won the part and, if she would have been able to produce a copy of her marriage license to Charlie Chaplin, it is widely believed that Goddard would have been Scarlett instead of Leigh!

That said, here’s a wonderful video that includes some Gone with the Wind screen tests… Your thoughts???


–Annmarie for Classic Movie Hub

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“Judy & Liza & Robert & Freddie & Dave & Sue & Me: A Memoir” Book Giveaway (Facebook & Blog, June)!

“Judy & Liza & Robert & Freddie & Dave & Sue & Me: A Memoir”
Book Giveaway - Qualifying Entry Task for Facebook/Blog Contest

And, now, for our next contest… I am happy to say that CMH is giving away TWO COPIES of  Judy & Liza & Robert & Freddie & David & Sue & Me: A Memoir via Facebook and this Blog, courtesy of St. Martin’s Press. We’ll also be giving away FIVE MORE copies of the book via Twitter this month as well, so don’t forget to enter that contest too if you’re also on Twitter…

Here’s how you can enter to win a copy of the book via this contest…

In order to qualify to win a copy of Judy & Liza & Robert & Freddie & David & Sue & Me: A Memoir via this Facebook/Blog contest giveaway, you must complete the following task by Saturday, July 4 at 7PM EST. Two winners will be selected at random and announced here on this Blog, and on Facebook on Sunday July 5th.

If you’re also on Twitter and want more chances to win, visit us at @ClassicMovieHub for additional giveaways — because we’ll be giving away FIVE more Books there as well! 

Judy & Liza & Robert & Freddie & David & Sue & Me...: A Memoir by Stevie Phillips…..

ENTRY TASK to be completed by Saturday, July 4 at 7PM EST…

1) Answer the below question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog post

What do you love most about Judy Garland? 


Please note that only Continental United States (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and the territory of Puerto Rico) entrants are eligible.

And — BlogHub members ARE eligible to win if they live within the Continental United States (as noted above).

See complete contest rules here.

For more info, follow @StMartinsPress on twitter.

And if you can’t wait to win the book, you can purchase it on amazon via the below link (click on image):


–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub


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“Orson Welles: Power, Heart, and Soul” Book Giveaway (via Facebook and Blog, June)

“Orson Welles: Power, Heart and Soul” Book Giveaway
Qualifying Entry Task for Facebook/Blog Contest

Okay, now it’s time for our next Contest… I am happy to say that CMH will be giving away TWO copies of Orson Welles: Power, Heart, and Soul via FACEBOOK and this Blog this month, courtesy of The Critical Press. We’ll also be giving away FOUR MORE copies of the book via Twitter this month as well, so don’t forget to enter that contest too if you’re also on Twitter…

And, now for the contest details…

In order to qualify to win a copy of Orson Welles: Power, Heart, and Soul via this Facebook/Blog contest giveaway, you must complete the following task by Tuesday, June 30 at 8PM EST. TWO WINNERS will be picked at random and announced on Facebook and this Blog on Wednesday, July 1.

If you’re also on Twitter and want more chances to win, visit us at @ClassicMovieHub for additional giveaways — because we’ll be giving away FOUR more Books there as well! 

Orson Welles: Power, Heart and Soul book


ENTRY TASK to be completed by Tuesday, June 30 at 8PM EST…

1) Answer the below question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog post

What is one of your favorite Orson Welles performances? 


Please note that Continental United States (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and the territory of Puerto Rico) and Canada entrants are eligible.

And — BlogHub members ARE eligible to win if they live within the Continental United States or Canada (as noted above).

See complete contest rules here.

For more info, follow @criticalpress  on twitter.

And if you can’t wait to win the book, you can purchase it on amazon via the below link (click on image):


–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

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Classic Movie Travels: Essanay Studios Chicago

Before Hollywood, there was Chicago…

As a Chicago native, I’ve always been fascinated by my town’s place in early cinema. After all, this was the place for moviemaking. The filmmaking industry had not yet been localized to sunny California just yet. As the manager at my internship with Essanay Studios Chicago used to say, “Before Hollywood, there was Chicago.”

Filled with bustling city life, and glamorous theaters to boot, Chicago was built to thrive and entertain the masses. It was very much a cultural hub, where people from all walks of life could easily find amusement through vaudeville, live theater, street performers, and even the opera. With so much talent circulating within the city, it is no surprise to find that many beloved performers got their start here.

Gloria SwansonChicago native, Gloria Swanson

Among the many performers the city attracted, one, in particular, was born right here. Though there are discrepancies as to where in the city she was born, Gloria Swanson was also a Chicago native. Born Gloria May Josephine Svensson to a Swedish father and Polish mother on March 27th, 1899, she was raised in the Swedish Lutheran tradition. Because her father was employed by the U.S. Army transport service, the family moved around frequently, but she was intermittently raised on Chicago’s North side.

Swanson was fifteen years old when her aunt, Inga, suggested that they visit nearby Essanay Studios at 1333-1345 West Argyle Street. The movie studio derived its name from a combination of the founders’ last names–James K. Spoor and Gilbert Anderson. Hence, we have S & A, or Essanay.

Essanay Studios historic picturesThe Factory Complex that became the home of Essanay Studios

Inga was already friends with Spoor, so it was no trouble for Gloria and Inga to visit. While on the lot, Gloria asked if she could be an extra in a crowd scene. A director who saw her expanded upon her role, and later had Essanay hire her as a stock player for four days’ work at $3.25 a week. Afterwards, she graduated as a guaranteed player, and renamed herself Gloria Swanson.

Gloria Swanson on Essanay SetGloria Swanson on an Essanay set

Each day, Swanson and many other notable players (including Wallace Beery, Broncho Billy, Ben Turpin, Bebe Daniels, Harold Lloyd, and Charlie Chaplin) would go to work on the Essanay lot, entering through its famous terra cotta entrance and onto the current film set. Interestingly, it was here that Louella Parsons was hired on as a screenwriter, before going on to become a famous Hollywood gossip columnist.

Actor Wallace Beery met Gloria Swanson while working at Essanay, and the two fell in love right on the studio lot. Though they moved West together when Essanay did, their marriage did not last.

Gloria Swanson and Wallace Beery in 1916Swanson and Beery in 1916

Spoor and Anderson eventually tired of lugging their equipment around Chicago to make movies on the plains of Rogers Park. Additionally, Chicago’s cold winters also put a damper on the filming process. This prompted the duo to visit California, where they entertained the prospect of opening a second location out West. They eventually settled on Niles, California, with its year-round, camera-friendly climate.

While visiting Hollywood, the team was introduced to another legendary actor, who would begin his early work with Essanay Studios: Charlie Chaplin. Upon seeing the young comic’s impeccable slapstick skills, Essanay persuaded him to leave Keystone Studios for a salary of $1,250 per week.

The Tramp, silent movie title cardThe Tramp featuring Charlie Chaplin

In 1915, Swanson was given an uncredited bit part in Chaplin’s first Essanay film, His New Job. Once Chaplin became a big star, he became more vocal about his dislike for Chicago weather, and wanted to return to Hollywood to make more of a profit. Essanay tried to blackmail him to stay by threatening to send pictures of his mother, who was insane from syphilis and dying in a sanitarium, to the Chicago Tribune. After Chaplin resisted and left Essanay, it marked the beginning of a decline for the studio. Chaplin’s departure prompted the move of many other star players, including Swanson.

Unfortunately, not much of Chicago’s film history remains. However, the former Essanay Studios Chicago still stands.

Once Essanay Studios Chicago stopped functioning under Spoor and Anderson, the building took on another life of its own. It was later taken over by an independent producer who made industrial films until about 1970. The studio was then passed to a non-profit television corporation, which loaned the space as the midwest office of Technicolor productions. The Essanay location in Niles, California, no longer functions as a studio, but is instead a Silent Film Museum, housing many of Essanay’s props and equipment.

Essanay Studios

Today, the Essanay lot is home to St. Augustine’s College, which is an Episcopalian school namely serving the Hispanic community. This past summer, I was hired on as a writer for Essanay Studios Chicago, which maintained a team of wonderful people who were dedicated to the preservation of early film and Chicago’s cinematic history. At the time, St. Augustine College and our team was working to do some fundraising in order to create a center for early film in the former studio, and to revitalize the space as a cultural hub for the local community. Unfortunately, the college pulled the plug on the project. Nonetheless, the history still stands, and is luckily not going anywhere!

Although the Essanay team with which I worked is no longer stationed in the studio, I am confident that you can still arrange for a tour of the former studio. I would highly recommend calling in advance, just so the school can set you up with someone who is familiar with the building’s historical importance and landmark status. In the meantime, allow me to step in!


This is the door to Essanay Studios, which is probably the most famous relic of Chicago’s cinematic contributions. It still has the original logo, and the two Essanay Indians. The door needs a little love and care, but fortunately, our fundraising efforts covered its restoration.

Essanay Studios DoorThe famous Essanay doorway with its original logo
Essanay Studios, Indian headsThe terra-cotta Indian Heads flanking the entrance were Essanay’s trademarks

Essanay Studios front

Essanay PlaqueEssanay Studios built 1908-1915 was designated as a Chicago Landmark on March 26, 1996 by Richard M. Daley, Mayor


In the basement of the studio, you’ll find original vaults in which the film was stored. Yes, original, and fireproof. The shelving is original to the vault and hasn’t been modified since Chaplin’s day.

Essanay vaults

Essanay Studios film vault


The next few pictures are some shots taken around the office…

Essanay Studios poster

Essanay Studios package in vault

essanay film misc

essanay offices

Essanay Studios office

Essanay Studios office

Essanay Studios office

Essanay Studios office

Essanay Studios office


The studio itself is still intact, though is used as the school’s Charlie Chaplin Auditorium. The mainstage is an expansive room, which, amazingly, boasts the original catwalks from above. There is a mural of Chaplin and Jackie Coogan from The Kid in the middle of the room, just over a balcony. One can only imagine all of the talent and incredible sets that graced this simple room!

Essanay Studio auditoriumThe Charlie Chaplin Auditorium
Essanay Studio auditorium, Charlie Chaplin mural from The Kid
Essanay Studio auditorium, Charlie Chaplin mural from The Kid
Essanay Studio auditorium, Charlie Chaplin mural from The KidCharlie Chaplin “The Kid” mural

Essanay Studio auditorium, Charlie Chaplin mural from The Kid


The exterior of the main building also boasts original stairs, balconies, and stage entrances.

Essanay Studios exterior with Charlie Chaplin painting

Essanay Studios exterior with Charlie Chaplin painting

Essanay Studios exterior

Essanay Studios exterior


If you are curious about early film, and especially Chicago’s role in silent cinema, I highly recommend that you arrange for a tour of the former studio. Best of all, it’s free to walk past the landmark door that some of cinema’s greatest legends walked through each work day. Get ready for your close-up!

Essanay Studios


–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub

Annette Bochenek is an independent scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age and Travel Writer for Classic Movie Hub. You can read more about Annette’s Classic Movie Travels at Hometowns to Hollywood


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