Eighty-five years ago, today, the black & white short comedy Why Pay Rent? was released. Directed by Lloyd French and, co-written by Dolph Singer & Jack Henley, it starred Roscoe Ates, Shemp Howard, Billie Leonard, Ethel Sykes and Ron Le May.
Elmer (Roscoe Ates) fixes up a room for his just-married, freeloading brother-in-law and wife. When the newlyweds show up, Henry (Shemp Howard) brings a surprise in the form of stepson Junior. The apartment is now too small so, Henry decides that they’ll buy a lot and build a do-it-yourself home, a disaster in the making when Junior switches the house’s part numbers. It doesn’t help matters that Elmer, Henry and the wives are all incompetent.
In the 1930s, the Vitaphone division of Warner Brothers made a bunch of very uninspired and, often, unfunny comedy shorts. One of them, Why Pay Rent? is a bit like One Week (with Buster Keaton) but, only if the folks building the house were dumber than a pile of bricks. In many ways, this might have worked better as a Three Stooges short, which is interesting because Shemp Howard stars in this one, as well as Roscoe Ates, an incredibly unfunny comedian whose shtick was stuttering…which was annoying rather and cruel.
Eighty-five years ago, today, the crime-drama mystery Fifteen Wives was released. Directed by Frank Strayer and produced by Maury Cohen, it starred Conway Tearle, Natalie Moorhead, Raymond Hatton, Noel Francis, John Wray, Margaret Dumont, Ralf Harolde, Oscar Apfel, Robert Frazer, Harry Bradley and Lew Kelly.
In a New York hotel, the body of Steven Humbolt is discovered and Chief Inspector Decker Dawes is called to investigate. After a brief inspection of Humbolt’s belongings, Dawes and Sergeant Meed determine that Humbolt had fifteen wives, three of whom…Sybilla Crum, a well-known reformer, wealthy Carol Arnold, and Ruby Cotton…live in New York. Dawes first questions the still devoted Sybilla, then quizzes Jason Getty, a florist who had sent Humbolt a funeral wreath hours before his death was discovered. While Meed checks out Getty’s lead that the wreath was ordered in Philadelphia, Dawes interrogates Carol Arnold. Carol tells Dawes that Humbolt had robbed, and deserted her, after three weeks of marriage and, that, a year later, she had received a letter from South America informing her of his demise. Just after Carol had married wealthy Gregory Arnold, Humbolt contacted her with blackmail demands but, according to Carol, she never saw him before his murder. Although Dawes doubts Carol’s story, he leaves her to talk to a chemist about a broken glass globe that was found near Humbolt’s body.
The chemist reveals that the globe, a Helmholtz Resonator, contained a lethal dose of hydrocynanic acid gas that was released when the glass was broken. Once Dawes determines that the globe came from Philadelphia, he demonstrates how a radio performer known as The Electric Voice, whose fiancée is Ruby Cotton, could have broken the globe during a broadcast. Dawes arrests The Voice and Ruby but, returns to question Carol, who he discovers is hiding a child she had by Humbolt. Then, Dawes receives a message from Sybilla about a clue she unearthed at Humbolt’s funeral. While at Sybilla’s home, Dawes discovers that florist Getty is impersonating the reformer and that he is wearing a pair of gloves similar to a pair Humbolt was wearing in his coffin. Suspicious, Dawes orders Humbolt’s coffin exhumed, which causes Getty, who needed the gloves to hide his amputated fingers, to panic. [He] confesses that he killed Sybilla and had used The Electric Voice’s broadcast to kill Humbolt out of revenge for stealing his wife in Australia. After thwarting Getty’s escape attempt, Dawes telephones Carol, who is divorcing [Gregory] Arnold and proposes that they leave for Europe together.
The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) and Wikipedia state that this film was released July 15, 1934. The American Film Institute (AFI) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) state that it was released June 1, 1934. I have no way of verifying either. I also can’t find any video clips. ~Vic
Ninety years ago, today, the melodramatic silent film Thunder was released. Written by Ann Price and Byron Morgan, it was directed by William Nigh. Considered a lost film, it starred Lon Chaney, Sr. (The Man of a Thousand Faces), Phyllis Haver, James Murray, Tom Keene, Frances Morris (Adventures of Superman (TV Series)/Sarah Kent) and Wally Albright. Though a silent movie, it did have sound effects and a musical score. Only half of the reel survived and this was Chaney’s last silent. [During filming], Chaney caught a cold during the snow scenes which, then, developed into walking pneumonia. Production was shut down for a time but, was eventually completed. Chaney’s illness, combined with his throat cancer, led to his death two months after the release of his last film, and only talkie, 1930’s The Unholy Three.
Lon Chaney plays Grumpy Anderson, a railroad engineer with an obsession for running his train on time. His slavishness to promptness causes several tragedies which alienate him from his family. By the story’s end, the engineer restores their faith in him and validates his obsession by forcing his train through a flood to bring badly needed Red Cross supplies to the victims.
“Grumpy” Anderson is an old railroad engineer that is obsessed with keeping his train on schedule, no matter the cost. His two sons are also railmen but, don’t share his single mindedness, which leads to one son’s death and a fight with the other on the first son’s funeral car. [This] leads to a crash and demotion of Grumpy to mechanic in the yards. His redemption comes during the Mississippi flood when he is, again, pressed into service to pilot a relief train along with his surviving son.
Thunder (the book) from Creepy Classics
Ninety-five years ago, today, the silent drama Being Respectable was released. Based on the novel of the same name written by Grace Flandrau, it was adapted by Dorothy Farnum. Directed by Phil Rosen, it starred Marie Prevost, Monte Blue, Louise Fazenda, Irene Rich, Theodore von Eltz, Frank Currier, Eulalie Jensen, Lila Leslie, Sidney Bracey and Charles French.
Wealthy young Charles Carpenter is pressured by his family to marry Suzanne, even though he is really in love with young “flapper” Valerie. He gives in to his family’s pressure, however and marries Suzanne, after which Valerie leaves town. Years later, after Charles and Suzanne have had a child, Valerie comes back to town and, Charles realizes he is still in love with her…and she with him. Complications ensue. [Source]
Through the scheming of his respectable, and wealthy family, Charles Carpenter is obliged to marry Suzanne, although he is in love with young flapper Valerie Winship. Years later, when Valerie is back in town, they renew the affair and, Carpenter plans to leave his wife and child for her. […] in the end, he yields to family duty and respectability. [Source]
New York Times Review [August 4, 1924]
I could not find any video clips of this movie. ~Vic
There weren’t any movies released on today’s date. So, I will use yesterday’s date. One-hundred years, ago, yesterday, One-Thing-At-A-Time O’Day was released. Based on a short story by William Pelley, it was directed by John Ince with the adaptation written by George Baker. A lost, silent comedy film, it starred Bert Lytell, Joseph Kilgour, Eileen Percy, Stanton Heck, William Carroll and Bull Montana.
A serious-minded boob named Stradivarious O’Day, because his music-loving mother says he “fiddles his time away”, acquires his nickname because of his motto of “one thing at a time and that done well.” Falling in love when he first sees circus bareback rider Prairie-Flower Marie, O’Day, living off his inheritance, follows the circus until the pestered manager gives him a job cleaning his Ford. With the help of a manual, O’Day learns to drive and secures employment with the circus as a chauffeur. After strong man Gorilla Lawson, who also loves Marie, beats him up, O’Day contacts his friend, boxer Roughneck M’Dool, to teach him to fight. Lawson, frightened by O’Day’s daily development, steals the circus receipts, and the Ford, on the day of their scheduled fight but, O’Day overtakes and whips him. After O’Day weds Marie, he unwittingly goes against his motto when he becomes the father of twins.
One-hundred, five years ago, today, The Brash Drummer and The Nectarine was released. A short, silent, black & white comedy, it was written and directed by George Ade, a popular American humorist for his time and a follower of Mark Twain. Starring Wallace Beery and Bevery Bayne, this piece was one of Ade’s Fables in Slang.
Gabby Gus made the town regularly every month. He was a swell guy and thought he could cop most any Jane that he took a liking to. Clara Louise Willoughby, a farmer’s daughter with a pretty face and figure, took the salesman’s eye. He looked the old gent up in Dunn and Bradstreet and, discovered that the old boy was worth some coin. Then, he set his traps for the daughter. Dad, however, sent her away to boarding school and when she returned, she was the swellest peach in the orchard. They all fell for her. Gus hastened to her home where he discovered she was some lemon when it came to the country stuff and that she was a real ‘highfalutin’ society butterfly now. […] her aspirations were higher than a poor hick drummer. She made him feel awfully small. [Source]
I can’t find a video clip of this film but, I did find Ade’s Fables in Slang in audio book form. It has 26 stories and was published in 1899. [Disclaimer: It is nearly two hours long.] ~Vic
An IMDB Summary:
A vignette of a bar-room/liquor-store in the West [with] no plot, per se. However, this short is usually regarded as the first “Western” in the sense that it depicts a western scene.
The film lasted one minute, had no action and the role of a barmaid was played by a man.
Summary From The Library of Congress:
Shows tap room of the “Miners Arms”, stout lady at the bar and three men playing stud horse. Old toper with a silk hat asleep by the stove. Rough miner enters, bar maid serves him with Red Eye Whiskey and he proceeds to clean out the place. Barmaid takes a hand with a siphon of vichy and, bounces the intruder with the help of the card players, who line up before the bar and take copious drinks on the house.
So the film’s supposed to be set in one of the rough mining towns that were part of the Wild West. Also, it was definitely named “Cripple Creek” for a reason. Cripple Creek, Colorado, was a real-life ranch town that experienced a major gold rush in the late 19th century. In 1890, Robert Miller Womack struck gold and, six years later, the town had swelled from a mere 500 souls to well over 30,000 gold-fevered prospectors. All in all, something in the range of a half-billion dollars worth of gold would be extracted from the area.
I am going WAY back this time…back to the days of moving pictures and short films. Sticking with my five year increments, one-hundred & thirty years ago, William Friese-Greene, an English inventor, and professional photographer, shot a silent, actuality film in the Autumn of 1889. It was titled Leisurely Pedestrians, Open Topped Buses and Hansom Cabs with Trotting Horses.
[…] shot by inventor and film pioneer William Friese-Greene on celluloid film using his ‘machine’ camera, the 20 feet of film […] was shot […] at Apsley Gate, Hyde Park, London. [It] was claimed to be the first motion picture [but] Louis Le Prince successfully shot on glass plate before 18 August 1887 and on paper negative in October 1888. It may, nonetheless, be the first moving picture film on celluloid and the first shot in London.
It is now considered a lost film with no known surviving prints and only one possible still image extant.
An article in This Is Bristol UK from December 17, 2009, (via The Wayback Machine) has an interview with David Friese-Greene, the great-grandson. From the article:
My great-grandfather was an idealist and a brilliant inventor, with 71 patents to his name but, he was a dreadful businessman. He died without ever having made a penny out of his inventions. He married his first wife Helena Friese when he was just 19 and incorporated her surname with his, because he felt it sounded more impressive. Tragically, Helena died at the age of 21 […].
It was during the late 1880s, shortly after Helena’s death, that Friese-Greene first began to experiment with the idea of creating moving pictures. […] in 1890, he patented [a] new device, which he dubbed the chronophotographic camera. Unfortunately, he was so pleased with his creation that, he wrote to the great American inventor, Thomas Edison, telling him what he had come up with and, even, included plans and designs […]. William never heard back from the inventor of the electric light bulb, though, the following year, Edison patented his own version of a movie camera and went down in many history books as the inventor of cinema.
In fact, William died a pauper but, [was] still passionate about his most famous creation. He was at a cinema industry meeting in London, which had been called to discuss the poor state of the British film industry in 1921. He had got to his feet to speak about his vision of how film could be used to create educational documentaries when he fell down dead. It is said he had just 21 pence in his pockets when he died.
There is additional information on this WordPress blog: William Friese-Greene & Me
Ten years ago, today, the #1 movie at the box office was 17 Again, a comedy starring Zac Efron, Matthew Perry, Leslie Mann, Thomas Lennon, Michelle Trachtenberg, Jim Gaffigan, Margaret Cho & Melora Hardin. Released April 17, it was directed by Burr Steers (Gore Vidal‘s nephew).
At 17 Mike O’Donnell is on top of the world: he’s the star of his high school basketball team, is a shoo-in for a college scholarship, and is dating his soul-mate, Scarlet. But, at what’s supposed to be his big game where a college scout is checking him out, Scarlet reveals that she’s pregnant. Mike decides to leave the game and asks Scarlet to marry him, which she does. During their marriage, Mike can only whine about the life he lost because he married her so, she throws him out. When he also loses his job, he returns to the only place he’s happy at, his old high school. While looking at his high school photo, a janitor asks him if he wishes he could be 17 again and he says yes. One night while driving he sees the janitor on a bridge ready to jump and goes after him. When he returns to his friend Ned’s house, where he has been staying, he sees that he is 17 again. He decides to take this opportunity to get the life he lost.
♦ Visual effects were not used when Zac Efron does the basketball tricks during the cafeteria scene. He really did accomplish them on his own.
♦ This is a remake of the 1986 Disney TV movie “Young Again” starring a very young Keanu Reeves in one of his earliest roles.
♦ In one scene, Mike wakes up and begins describing his “dream” of being in high school again only to find his daughter, Maggie, caring for him. This is an homage to the counterpart scene in Back to the Future (1985), in which Marty McFly wakes up and finds his teen-aged mother caring for him.
Sixty-five years ago, today, the most popular film at the box office was It Should Happen to You. I am changing my wording from “#1” to “most popular” as I am having great difficulty determining if my “older movie” posts are actually number ones. It is hard to tell.
Starring Judy Holliday, Peter Lawford, Jack Lemmon and Michael O’Shea, this romantic comedy (Rom-Com) was written by Garson Kanin, directed by George Cukor, was originally titled A Name For Herself and was supposed to be a Danny Kaye movie.
Holliday is Gladys Glover of Binghamton, N.Y., who has come to N.Y.C. to make a name for herself and does so by plastering her moniker across a Columbus Circle billboard.
Gladys Glover has just lost her modelling job when she meets filmmaker Pete Sheppard shooting a documentary in Central Park. For Pete, it’s love at first sight but, Gladys has her mind on other things…like making a name for herself. Through a fluke of advertising, she winds up with her name plastered over 10 billboards throughout city. Suddenly, all of New York is clamoring for Gladys Glover without knowing why and playboy Evan Adams III is making a play for Gladys that even Pete knows will be hard to beat.
♦ This film was the début of actor Jack Lemmon.
♦ Teenage John Saxon has an uncredited cameo in Central Park.
♦ Gossip columnists reported that during the filming of It Should Happen to You, Holliday dated her co-star Peter Lawford. The actress was having marital problems at the time and did, reportedly, enjoy a romantic fling with Lawford (it only lasted until the production wrapped) which may be why their scenes together have a genuine spark.
♦ The same year of the movie release, co-star Peter Lawford married Patricia Kennedy, daughter of Joseph P. Kennedy and sister of the future President. Of the extended Kennedy clan, Lawford was closest to his brother-in-law Robert.
Eighty-five years ago, today, the #1 film at the box office was the menage a trois comedy Design For Living. Released on December 29, 1933, it starred Fredric March, Gary Cooper and Miriam Hopkins. It was based, loosely on a play written by Noël Coward in 1932. It was very risqué for its time and, was a pre-code movie produced and released before strict enforcement of the Motion Picture Production Code, the censorship guidelines demanded by American Roman Catholics. Interestingly, the critical response to the film was more about its gutting of the original material than of its questionable morality.
Two Americans sharing a flat in Paris, playwright Tom Chambers and painter George Curtis, fall for free-spirited Gilda Farrell. When she can’t make up her mind which one of them she prefers, she proposes a “gentleman’s agreement”: She will move in with them as a friend and critic of their work but, they will never have sex. When Tom goes to London to supervise a production of one of his plays, leaving Gilda alone with George, how long will their gentleman’s agreement last?
♦ Gary Cooper spoke fluent French and was able to use it for the first time in this film.
♦ Lubitsch [then] asked Douglas Fairbanks Jr. to play George, and he accepted but, he contracted pneumonia just before filming was to start and he was replaced by Gary Cooper.
♦ Writer Ben Hecht and producer-director Ernst Lubitsch retained only one line from the original play by Noël Coward: “For the good of our immortal souls!”
♦ Considerable censorship difficulties arose because of sexual discussions and innuendos, although the Hays Office eventually approved the film for release. However, it was banned by the Legion of Decency and was refused a certificate by the PCA for re-release in 1934, when the production code was more rigorously enforced.