Wonderful news! For the second year in a row, I’ve been awarded an official media credential to the TCM Classic Film Festival. I’m excited to return to the premiere classic film gathering in the United States. I can’t wait to meet up with fellow film fanatics to experience the camaraderie, special guests, movies, and other events TCM is organizing. Prior to the festival, I’ll be releasing more The Road to TCMFF 2017 pieces. Once the festival goes live, I’ll have daily diaries on this blog; I’ve invested in a digital recorder for on-site interviews; and I’ll be sharing live reactions on Twitter and Instagram. Post-event coverage will include detailed reviews. Prepare to be inundated with updates!
By msbethg in Actresses, Anouncements, Carole Lombard, Patreon Tags: blog, blogger, blogging, blonde, blondes, blondes in film, Carole, Carole Lombard, classic, classic film, classic films, classics, cost, expense, film, films, Lombard, movie, movies, paid, Patreon, patron, pay, pencil, photo, photograph, process, publicity, publicity still, silent, Silent Film, silent films, silents, sponsor, typewriter, typing, write, writer
I’ve been getting ambitious about Spellbound by Movies. There’s so much I want to do with my blog, I want to invest more time in it to promote classic and silent films. While I say Spellbound is sometimes irregularly, but always lovingly updated, I’d like to get on a regular schedule.
I have expansion ideas. There are more post types I’m itching to get to like more interviews, lists, or my usual obsessive reviews. The last can take my eight hours or more. I watch every film more than once if I can; I start with a rough draft I craft into final form; and I fact check every line I can, including describing action in the movie.
But my expansion ideas go beyond what’s on a page. Eventually I’d like my interviews not just to be conducted via email, but also done over Skype or in person. I want to record those conversations and take their recordings and turn them in a companion podcast called SIT A SPELL.
Even without adding on the cost of podcasting, there are costs associated with my blog. There are the annual hosting, URL, and WordPress redirect fees. While I’m comped some festival passes and books, I pay to attend other screenings and festivals, and I buy books to review and to build my film reference collection. Some of the festivals I attend require travel and/or hotels. All of these costs add up.
Here’s what pushed me over the edge into creating a Patreon account. In the last six months or so, I’ve been hit with two major and unexpected expenses–a large vet bill for a beloved and now passed away cat and losing my apartment to my landlords, who resumed personal occupancy. Having to incur moving costs and suddenly paying current San Francisco Bay area market rent was a double whammy.
I don’t want either to detract from my blogging or from me being able to travel to film festivals and bring you coverage. Between my blog, my Twitter account, and my Instagram, I try to share generously my movie experiences and love. There are two film festivals I’d like to attend in April. Schedule-wise I’d have to choose one or the other. Because of recent expenses, I think I should choose neither.
I blog because I love the process, love sharing my point of view, love lifting some of the movies out of obscurity, and love the community writing connects me to. I blog without pay, but isn’t it better to pay writers than not? Is it egocentric to consider if someone else values my work, then maybe they’d like to be a Patron to help it to continue? I’ve gotten some very nice unpaid opportunities, which I’m extremely grateful for. Maybe some day my blog will lead to a paying gig.
Whatever happens my blog will continue to freely accessible to all, but for the few who become Patrons, you have my sincerest thanks and gratitude. I am the sort who will pay it forward when she can. My most immediate way will be writing more regularly.
To check out my Patreon page, please click the banner below!
By msbethg in Fan Art, Fandoms, Film Festivals, Interviews, Kate Gabrielle, Series, TCM Fans, TCM Film Festival, TCMFF Fans, The Road to #TCMFF 2016 Tags: #TCMFF16, 1960, 1963, 1966, AMC, Anna Karina, art, artist, artists, Audrey Hepburn, Band of Outsiders, Barbara Stanwyck, Ben Mankiewicz, Bette Davis, blog, blogger, bloggers, Blondie, Borsalino, button, button girl, buttons, Cary Grant, Casablanca, Cedric Gibbons, Chicago, classic film, Classic Film Twitter, cruise, culture, dad, Darling, Day for Night, Debbie Harry, Disney, Disney World, Doctor Zhivago, enthusiasm, events, Fahrenheit 451, fan, fan art, fandom, fans, father, fest, festival, film, film fanatic, film fanatics, film fans, film festival, film festivals, film lover, film lovers, film Twitter, films, François Truffaut, Gary Cooper, gear, Godard, Goldfrapp, Gone with the Wind, Guy Kibbee, Hollywood Video, How to Steal a Million, Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Melville, Jeanne Moreau, jewelry, Joy Division, Jules and Jim, Kate Gabrielle, L’Avventura, La Piscine, Le Feu Follet, Le Notti Bianche, Le Samouraï, love, maker, Mary Jane’s Pa, Meet John Doe, Modesty Blaise, movie, movie lover, movie lovers, movies, New Jersey, New Order, Nitrate Diva, Out of the Past, pop, pop art, Purple Noon, Raquel, Raquel Stecher, Raquelle, Robert Osborne, Silents and Talkies, social media, St. Vincent, Sullivan’s Travels, Sunday in New York, TCM, TCM Classic Film Festival, TCM Cruise, TCM Film Festival, TCMFF, TCMFF 2016, Team Godard, Team Truffaut, The Killers, The Servant, thenitratediva, Top Hat, Truffaut, Turner Classic Movies, Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival, Turner Classic Movies Film Festival, Young and Innocent
At the end of my previous post about TCM Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) fan buttons, I promised you an interview with an entrepreneurial artist and classic film fan. Here is is! In covering TCMFF fandom, I knew I had to interview the delightful and talented Kate Gabrielle. She makes movie buttons that many festival attendees proudly sport. When I started preparing to attend this year’s fest, multiple people pointed me her way to gear up, but since I had seen her work all over my social media feeds, my online ordering fingers were faster than some of their recommendations. Kate produces more jewelry and artwork than her TCM-related merchandise. She’s a self-taught illustrator and painter. She’s a movie blogger, too. Let’s enter her world where popular culture, art, a wee bit of girlish twee, and movie love meet and learn a little more about her!
Q: How did you get into classic movies, and what do you like best about them?
A: My parents played classic movies when I was younger but I didn’t really get into it myself until I had just turned 13 and saw How to Steal a Million (1966) on AMC. I had my dad take me to Hollywood Video to rent every Audrey Hepburn movie I could get my hands on, and I binge-watched them over Christmas break. By the time I went back to school in January I was a full-fledged classic movie fan.
I think if I had to pick one thing that I like best about classic movies, it’s how well-formed the stories are. Even the most low-budget films from the 30’s have tight, perfect plots that (in my opinion) are better written and more entertaining than most movies coming out today. I feel like older films didn’t cater to the lowest common denominator— the humor is often sharp and sometimes wicked, the adults all behave like adults, and the themes (even in movies that are very genre-specific, like swashbucklers or westerns) usually run deeper than the surface. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also admit that I just love the look of classic movies. Whether it’s Cedric Gibbons’ intense black and white art deco sets or the sparse, run-down “black and white in color” sets in Jean-Pierre Melville films, classic movies are my eye candy.
Q: What are some of your favorite classic films?
A: I always like to say that my favorite movie is 100 movies. It’s so hard to narrow down my list! But my absolute favorites are Purple Noon (1960) and Sunday in New York (1963). I actually got to see Sunday in New York at the 2014 TCMFF, introduced by Robert Osborne! It was a dream come true.
Some other movies that basically all tie for second place — Jules and Jim, Le Feu Follet, Young and Innocent, La Piscine, Darling, L’Avventura, Sullivan’s Travels, Doctor Zhivago, Le Notti Bianche, Meet John Doe, How to Steal a Million, Top Hat, Day for Night, Le Samouraï, and Fahrenheit 451.
Q: Did any of your favorites influence the art you make?
A: I did a series of collages a few years ago that drew from Le Notti Bianche and Jules and Jim and a few other favorites. Since I’m a full-time maker (I don’t really want to say artist since a lot of my income comes from brooches and patches, not really oil paintings or sculpture..) I feel a lot of pressure to make things that have a good chance of selling, so that I can pay my bills. So when my favorite [usually not super popular] movies inspire me to create a piece of artwork a lot of times I end up pushing that project to the side in favor of making something with a little more appeal. That being said, I feel like I’m kind of notorious for making products or artwork where I’m literally the only person in the world who would want to own it. Right now I’m working on a set of patches that says Team Truffaut or Team Godard just because I’m personally smitten with the idea.
Q: How long have you been a TCM fan?
A: My parents added TCM to our cable plan as my Christmas present in 2000, and I’ve been a fan ever since! When I was in high school I actually got to interview Robert Osborne as part of a project for GT, and it’s definitely one of the coolest things that has ever happened in my life.
Q: What do you like best about the network?
A: Thanks to TCM I’ve been introduced to so many rare 30’s gems that I never would have been able to see otherwise. There’s a series of low budget movies starring Guy Kibbee (Mary Jane’s Pa is my favorite) that I absolutely adore, and I’m positive that without TCM they would have eluded me my whole life. Right now it’s still very hard to find a lot of movies on DVD, especially the rare obscure ones that don’t have the clout of Casablanca or Gone with the Wind. TCM plucks those little guys from obscurity and I appreciate that so much.
Q: When was your first TCMFF, and how many times have you attended?
A: My first TCMFF was 2014, and then last year I went on the TCM Cruise instead. The 2016 festival will be my second TCMFF, but technically my third TCM event.
Q: What are the highlights of the festival for you?
A: The highlight of this year’s festival is, hands down, getting to see Anna Karina in person and Band of Outsiders on the big screen. I start shaking just thinking about it! The highlight of the 2014 festival was getting to see my favorite movie, Sunday in New York. And I got to meet Ben Mankiewicz at the festival and on the cruise!
Q: What inspired you to come up with your own TCMFF button designs?
A: Last year I sold a lot of fan club buttons for the festival, so when Raquel from Out of the Past suggested that I make social media buttons for TCMFF I decided to turn it into a button pack with fan club buttons and some photos of featured attendees/films.
Q: How did it feel for support of your buttons to go viral among TCM fans?
A: I’ve been a classic movie blogger since 2009, but I’ve never felt like a member of the classic movie community online. So getting orders from some of my favorite classic movie people, and knowing that I’ll be seeing festival-goers wearing my buttons when I’m walking around TCMFF, is kind of surreal! It’s very exciting for me, and even if my position in the community is “the button girl” I’m over-the-moon happy to have my own little part in such a wonderful group of movie fans.
Q: Do you tweak your TCMFF button designs each year or are the design sets the same each year?
A: This is my first year making the button pack, but I’m already planning for next year! I think I’m going to make a “starter pack” for people who hadn’t purchased one before, which would include the same things that I had this year (social media button, year of attendance button, two fan club buttons & five mini buttons with photos relevant to that year’s programming) and then have one or two supplemental packs available for people who already have the social media button and the Ben Mankiewicz and Robert Osborne buttons. I’m also thinking about featuring different stars on the year of attendance button. This year I did Bette Davis and Cary Grant, I’m thinking maybe Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck for 2017.
Q: It was a smart idea to come up with buttons saying year of festival attendance (e.g. first, second, etc) and Twitter handles! Being a festival goer yourself, did that make you realize how helpful those buttons would be for TCM fans to communicate with each other?
A: Thank you! Raquel gets all the credit for the social media buttons, I never would have thought of that myself! The year of attendance buttons were inspired by the buttons you can get when you go to Disney World. When you first walk into the park they have a bunch of free buttons saying things like “This is my first visit” or “I’m celebrating my birthday”, etc. and I thought it would be so fun to do something similar for TCMFF! And, to be honest, with TCMFF it isn’t just the first time that warrants a button — whether it’s your second or seventh festival I think it’s just as exciting as the first!
Q: Do you make a lot of custom TCMFF buttons, like the ones for the Going to TCM Classic Film Festival! Facebook group and for Nitrate Diva?
A: I don’t really advertise custom buttons as an option anywhere, so I’ve only had those two custom orders and a couple others.
Q: If someone wanted their own custom button made by you, how should they go about it, and what would that cost?
A: I only do custom orders on a case-by-case basis depending on whether or not I have the time to take on the order and how difficult the design would be. If someone wanted to contact me I have a contact form on my website here. It’s also more likely that I will take on custom orders if they’re purchasing more than one button, especially if a lot of work will go into the design.
Q: You, also, make other jewelry inspired by movies and movie going. How does a film or part of the film experience grab you and make you think about how it would look as a piece of jewelry?
A: My dad has owned a music t-shirt business since before I was born, so I grew up wearing band shirts and seeing everyone I love displaying their love of music on their torso. The idea of wearing your interests has always been with me, and I guess I took that notion and changed it from music to movies, from t-shirts to jewelry! 🙂 I also have a habit of making what I can’t find. So when I really wanted a set of themed collar clips that I could wear whenever I go to the cinema, and I couldn’t find them anywhere else, I just made them myself!
Q: How would you describe your own fashion and design aesthetics?
A: Right now I’m really inspired by late 1960’s/early 1970’s style — turtlenecks and mini skirts with knee-high boots and long necklaces… bell sleeves and mini dresses and psychedelic prints. All of that kind of mixed with an unkempt Debbie Harry vibe, maybe? I’m having a little bit of a style crisis so at the moment I’m just all over the place! As far as design aesthetics go, this is probably going to sound crazy, but I want my home to have the feel of an old crowded used bookstore mixed with the decor of a New York deli. Books and movies overflowing from every corner, and wall-to-wall 8×10 headshots hanging slightly crooked in cheap gold frames.
Q: Looking are your style and art, I could imagine you listen to pop music like Yé-Yé. What kind of music do you like if any?
A: Surprisingly I don’t think my music tastes tend to translate into my art or style at all. My favorite bands are New Order, Joy Division, The Killers, St. Vincent, Goldfrapp, and Blondie. I do have a soft spot for 60’s movie soundtracks though, too. My favorites are Modesty Blaise, Doctor Zhivago, The Servant, La Piscine and Borsalino (although that last one is kind of 1920’s by way of the 1970’s).
Q: What makes you happiest about creating art?
A: I just love seeing the finished product and being able to say “I made that!” Ever since I was little I’ve always taken whatever I made during the day and propped it up facing my bed so that when I woke up I could see it again first thing in the morning. Whether it’s a painting or a button set, it’s the same sense of satisfaction at having come up with an idea, and made that idea into something tangible 🙂
1. Kate Gabrielle owns the copyright for all images in this post. Seek her permission before reusing.
2. I purchased my own TCMFF button pack and Going to the TCMFF button. I was not compensated for this interview.
By msbethg in Anouncements, Memberships, New Membership, the LAMB Tags: #1785, association, associations, blog, blogathon, blogger, bloggers, blogging, blogs, Classic Movie Blog Association, CMBA, community, Director's Chair, film, group, LAMB, LAMB Forums, LAMBcast, LAMBscores, Large Association of Movie Blogs, movie, Movie of the Month, the LAMB
Spellbound by Movies is now LAMB #1785! Back in January of 2013, I applied for my blog to join the LAMB (Large Association of Movie Blogs). It’s a directory of movie blogs and a community for their bloggers. It’s the largest movie blogging group in existence with over 1,000 active members. When I didn’t receive any response months after applying, I wasn’t sure if my blog had been rejected or even reviewed. Yesterday I received an email letting me know the association had some administrative issues, but those issues had been resolved, and that I’m a new member.
As part of my membership application, I had to answer questions about my blog and myself. Since so much time passed between my application and my approval, reading my responses is a flashback to when I was getting more ambitious about movie blogging. My goal was to write more often (That’s still a goal!), and I had begun reaching out more to other film fanatics in the blogosphere and on Twitter. When a new member joins the LAMB, the association posts their application to their blog directory. You can read mine here. Among things, learn what maturity rating I gave my blog, three of my favorite movies, and in a rare moment of prompted negativity a movie I hate!
Besides using the group’s site as a blog directory, it has other features that could interest you. The LAMBScores are community reviews of recently released movies. The Movie of the Month features a LAMB member selected film being celebrated. The Director’s Chair promotes reviews, features, or anything else focusing on a particular director or their work each month. There’s a spin-off podcast called the LAMBcast. If you feel extra chatty, you can join the LAMB Forums.
My membership in the CMBA (Classic Movie Blog Association) won’t change. I very much enjoy being a member of that community and aim to participate in it more. If I wasn’t so busy this month, I’d be have a post up for the group’s current blogathon Words, Words, Words!, which looks like a lot of fun. You should check it out!
By msbethg in Film Community, Film Critics, Film Twitter, Women Film Critics Tags: academic, academics, Alex Heller-Nicholas, aspirational, Bilge Ebiri, blog, blogger, bloggers, blogging, blogs, book, books, classic, contemporary, criteria, critic, criticism, critics, dearth, female, film, film Twitter, films, include, inclusion, journalist, journalistic, lack, list, list-making, lists, magazines, Marilyn Ferdinand, movie, movies, newspaper, newspapers, online magazines, outlet, outlets, paid, perspectives, physical print, podcasts, print, prominence, publication, publications, publish, publisher, publishers, publishing, radio, reviewer, reviewers, reviews, Sabina Stent, spotlight, The Atlantic, tradition, traditions, transgender, transgenderism, Twitter, Vanity Fair, Variety, woman, women, women film critics, women's, writer, writers, YouTube
What else was I up to during my winter blogging hiatus? My most initially time-consuming movie project outside of Spellbound involves Twitter. After articles from Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and Variety bemoaned the lack of women film critics or their lack of prominence in the industry, I decided to do something pro-active. I created a women film critics list on Twitter. Even though I knew there are a lot of women film critics out there, I did not predict how many hours I’d devote to working on the list!
Based on my internet networking and reading, I knew there wasn’t a dearth of women of all ages engaging with and writing about movies. A lot of easily found online film writing from any gender falls into the category of uncritical fandom. There’s nothing wrong with sharing and delighting in what we enjoy. Sometimes a heartfelt personal recollection of what a movie or performer means to a blogger has more impact than an intellectual analysis, and sometimes both are great pieces to read. My goal in creating the list was to help others find true critics. If you know where to look, there are women producing quality film criticism. My list would cut down the search time to find them.
I began adding familiar critics I knew were on Twitter, and once I had a small list, I started crowdsourcing. I began Tweeting about the list and asking for recommendations. Complain about the term Film Twitter or the community if you like, but Film Twitter was wonderful in responding. The majority of responses I received were not self-serving. Many people, not just women, pointed me to women whose work they enjoy and admire. Some sent me multiple tweets as they thought of additional list members. Bilge Ebiri was one of the stand-outs in repeatedly sharing new recommendations with me. He was walking down the street while tweeting to me, and I imagined him having to avoid slapstick scenarios like walking into street lights or against pedestrian signals. All responders linked to critics’ Twitter handles in Tweets and suddenly these women critics were receiving notifications that their work was valued. Twitter was turning into a love fest! In turn, that led to the new list members suggesting others for inclusion.
One issue I had not predicted was the impact of transgenderism on building the list. Maybe you’ve noticed that I’ve not used the term “female film critics” as the word female relates to reproductive capabilities. If a person identified as a woman, and she was a movie critic, then I had no problem in listing her, and I received no negative feedback from those women in being included on the list. I was not about to police chromosomes. I was looking for a range of women’s perspectives to add to the list. In a few situations, people recommended I add individuals who may present visually in their styling as women, but identify as they and them in personal pronouns. One such person was good-humored about it and immediately tweeted a correction, so I asked about adding them to my general film critics Twitter list, and they were happy with that solution. In a couple of other cases, I initiated discussion about which list they were comfortable being added to.
Some self-recommendations proved problematic. On Twitter I shared the list was a work-in-progress and recommendations were welcome. The majority of those asking to be added were understanding about not being included yet. Only one major critic told me I had forgotten to add her. I politely responded in a way that seemed to diffuse the situation. Every once in a rare while someone self-recommended who was more aspirational in applying the term film critic to herself. Maybe her body of work was in a creative writing field with few film reviews published recently. Maybe her blog was mostly a personal one with a rare post on film. Maybe her only work published in an outlet was about TV. I tried to be diplomatic when speaking with these women. I didn’t want to diminish the value of the list for those looking for women writing about film, nor did I want to discourage these future movie critics. I always can reconsider someone for inclusion later as they rack up publication credits.
Obviously I developed criteria for making the list. To be fair, I sought feedback from Film Twitter as I created and revised my criteria. Marilyn Ferdinand, Alex Heller-Nicholas, and Sabina Stent were especially helpful during this process. Here’s what I came up with. To be added to the list, women film critics could come from the journalistic or academic traditions. They would have to publish consistently. That did not mean weekly publication as not all outlets follow that schedule, and many women film critics work as freelancers. Outlets include physical print (e.g. magazines, newspapers, and books), online magazines, radio, TV, prominent film blogs, podcasts, and YouTube. Reviewers did not necessarily have to be financially paid for their work. I’m aware that many writers agree to be paid in publication credits, and there are reviewers who self-publish and have followings. In some cases, there were women I could add to the list due to having publication credits, but their Twitter feeds rarely have anything to do with movies. This was especially true of Millennial writers who focus more on cultural commentary on Twitter while their publication credits sometimes include film commentary. I decided that list subscribers want to find women’s film writing, so I didn’t add anyone who doesn’t at least Tweet periodically about film. Right now the list focuses on women who cover contemporary film, and I’m considering who qualifies as a critic working within only the classic film community. As I said before, this is a list is a work-in-progress!
By msbethg in Actresses, Bebe Daniels, Blogathons, CMBA, Forgotten Stars Tags: 101, 1921, Abe Lyman, Ambassador, Ambassador Hotel, association, attention, auto, automotive, automotives, autos, Bebe Daniels, bigamy, blog, blogathon, Blogathons, Bombshell, bootlegging, bouquets, boxer, boxers, car, cars, celebrity, celebrity culture, celebrity trial, celebrity trials., cell, cells, classic, classic movie, Classic Movie Blog Association, classic movies, classics, CMBA, Cocoanut Grove, Coconut Grove, comedy, confined, confinement, conviction, convictions, cops, Cox, criminal, criminals, Dance, dancing, defense, deliberation, deliberations, drug-dealing, drunkenness, early, Estelle Taylor, F. Scott Fitzgerald, fame, famed, famous, fast, female, film, films, Fitzgerald, Fitzgeralds, flowers, forgery, good behavior, guilty, hotel, imprison, imprisonment, influence, inmate, inmates, jail, jailer, jails, judge, Judge John Belshazzar Cox, judges, juries, jury, lawyer, lawyers, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, Marmon, Marmon Roadster, misdemeanor misdemeanors, movie, movies, music, news, newspapers, Orange County, orchestra, partner, photograph, photographers, photographs, Phyllis Daniels, press, press agent, prison, prisons, publicist, publicity, publicity stunt, publicity stunts, pugilist, pugilists, quick, released, reporter, reporters, roadster, romantic, Rose Room Tango, roses, Route 101, Rudolf, Rudolf Valentino, Sadie, San Juan Capistrano, Santa Ana, sentence, She Couldn't Help It, silent, Silent Film, silent films, silents, speeding, stunt, tango, tangos, The Affairs of Anatol, The Speed Girl, ticket, tickets, trial, trials, Valentino, verdict, verdicts, W.I. Gilbert, Zelda, Zelda Fitzgerald
It reads like a publicity stunt out of the movie Bombshell. Silent film sweetheart Bebe Daniels was ticketed for speeding, tried, convicted, sentenced to jail, and forced to serve time. Rather than being planned like the stunts in that movie, Bebe did like to speed, and she had gotten caught. Her press agent helped her spin a potentially career damaging moment into one that titillated the public. They were not yet weary of or suspicious of Hollywood stars, and speeding seemed like an offense that anyone could get caught committing. Film fans relished each moment of the case as a chance to gossip about a beloved star. Bebe provided them plenty to dish about.
Let’s back up to January 1921 when she was ticketed. Bebe was behind the wheels of her Marmon Roadster, a car favored by those other fast-livers Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Bebe was hurtling down Route 101 to San Diego with her mother Phyllis Daniels, and they were accompanied by “a well-known Los Angeles pugilist.” At least once source cites him as boxer Marty Farrell, but Bebe herself wrote he was her beau Jack Dempsey. Since Bebe was 19 years-old at this point, her pairing with Jack, six years her senior, wasn’t likely to be controversial, and he was single. He had not yet married actress Estelle Taylor. His identity might have been kept out of the papers as a professional courtesy.
When her car was spotted by motorcycle cop Vernon “Shorty” Myers, Bebe had left Los Angeles County, and she was driving through Orange County in the Santa Ana area. The speed limit along that stretch of the freeway was 35. Bebe would be quoted in the press as driving 56.25 MPH, but in the book Bebe and Ben, she bragged in a later personal account that she was driving 72 MPH. After being issued the ticket, she was warned, “You know we put people in jail for going this fast.” Bebe didn’t believe that would happen to her. She was famous and had connections.
What county she sped in mattered. Her Uncle Jack “was an important newspaper man and ‘in’ very well with the Los Angeles police department.” He had her previous parking tickets taken care of, but this time she had sped in the wrong county. He was powerless in Orange County. There a “notorious anti-speeding crusader” ruled. Judge John Belshazzar Cox “was a barber, not a lawyer, and was a bicyclist, not an auto driver.” He had little sympathy for speeders. He fined anyone going over 35 MPH and put in jail anyone speeding over 50 MPH. Worse for Bebe, he courted media attention normally. Trying a movie star would give him even more.
Her first hearing disappointed the public. Only her lawyer W.I. Gilbert attended and pled her case. Judge Cox could not be swayed to dismiss her ticket. He gave Bebe the courtesy of a delayed trial, she was finishing her film She Couldn’t Help It, so the trial was set for March. Her lawyer requested a trial by jury, betting Bebe stood a better chance of defeating her ticket that way. In the interim, she finished her film and worked the press harder than a girl gunner. She made a public appearance at a benefit in Fullerton. Wearing a dress called “revealing” and “scanty,” she sang a tune called the The Judge Cox Blues. Her performance bouquets included one from him! “Days before the trial, her publicity agent made sure all the Orange County theaters premiered her latest film.”
The publicity likely sold more movie tickets, and it resulted in an estimated crowd of 1,500 to gawp at the fashionably turned out star at the courthouse, but her antics and film weren’t that influential over the jury and Judge Cox. “The jurors were all elderly men–mostly retired ranchers and a real estate agent.” They did not believe Bebe’s excuse that she was racing her car to be repaired at a San Juan Capistrano garage. The jury deliberated for about seven minutes before returning with a guilty verdict. The Judge, who exchanged smiles with Bebe throughout the trial, wasn’t swayed either. He would not be vamped. Bebe expected a warning and a fine. He sentenced her to ten days in jail! She became the first woman convicted of speeding in Orange County.
Bebe was told to report to jail on April 16. This second delay was work-related as well. It allowed her to finish her scenes in The Affairs of Anatol. Since she had been convicted of a misdemeanor, she was allowed privileges that other inmates were not. Her mother was given permission to accompany and stay with her daughter. Bebe could wear her own clothes, bring personal belongings, and decorate her cell. Local furniture stores competed to furnish her cell, and area restaurants vied to be the one to provide her meals for free. Bebe being Bebe chose the best of each to supply her. When the pair arrived, her cell looked more like a fine room, “furnished with wall to wall carpet, chintz curtains,” “twin beds with covers to match the curtains,” and “even bedside tables and lamps.”
The judge greeted her with a bouquet in front of the press and escorted her to her cell. While Bebe thought he acted like a “hotel manager” when he wished her a comfortable stay, she very much felt her loss of freedom. She remembered the sound of the “locks being turned and the iron gates clanking behind” them for the rest of her life. Despite all the comforts she had, she was locked in one room that she could not leave except for set times. She had to find ways to distract herself so she did not pace her cell. Meals, reading, exercise, Mom, her Victrola records, and a who’s who of movie star visitors provided her main distractions. She tried not to look at the clock.
The jail was overwhelmed at hosting a popular celebrity. Locals left her gifts ranging from chocolates to kittens. The sixty-three “other female inmates, accused of such crimes as bootlegging, forgery, drunkenness, drug-dealing and bigamy, vied for her attention.” A woman only identified as Sadie, convicted of bootlegging, won the privilege of cleaning Bebe’s room daily. Her jailer helped her screen visitors. No one was approved to see her until Bebe saw his or her visitor’s card. One day Abe Lyman appeared outside her windows with his orchestra. They drove down from the Cocoanut Grove in Los Angeles to serenade her with Rose Room Tango, her favorite tango song she used to dance to with Rudolf Valentino. The group played for her all afternoon. Her jailer confessed he was exhausted by the end of her stay. The jail had never been so busy.
Due to Bebe’s good behavior, her sentence was ended one day early. Judge Cox returned for her departure and gave her yet another bouquet, this time roses. He had invited the press and insisted that Bebe pose with him for photographs as he presented her the flowers. Their farewell was widely circulated by the papers as he had intended. Bebe never saw him again. Her jail time had curtailed her desire to speed–at least in real life.
Her next picture with Realart was inspired by her experience. It was called The Speed Girl. In this romantic comedy, she played a heroine arrested for speeding. Like Bebe, her character ended up in jail. Unlike Bebe, a love triangle with a naval officer and millionaire complicated the plot. The film was released into theatres in the fall of 1921. Its advertising copy read, “Here is a six cylinder hundred and twenty fun powered and record-breaking comedy with Bebe at the wheel. The brakes are off. Slip her into high. Now step on it!” While it does not sound like the strongest picture (It’s presumed lost), the public positively responded to Bebe’s attempt to move on from what could have been a scandal. Her career survived into the sound era before segueing into radio and TV.
1. Allgood, Jill. Bebe and Ben. London: R. Hale, 1975. Print.
2. “Bebe Daniels: The Orange County ‘Speed Girl.'” Orange County Sheriff’s Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2014.
3. Rasmussen, Cecilia. “A Celebrity Tossed in the Slammer? That’s Old News.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 20 May 2007. Web. 30 Oct. 2014.
4. Mott, Patrick. “Film Star Nabbed in Orange County.” Orange Coast Magazine Apr. 1985: 170-71. Print.
5. Slater, Marilyn. “Bebe Daniel – The Speed Girl.” Looking for Mabel Normand. Marilyn Slater, 1 Aug. 2009. Web. 30 Oct. 2014.
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