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Why I created a Patreon account.

Carole Lombard Pencil Typing

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!

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Merry Christmas!

Colleen Moore Singing Christmas Carols

 

Merry Christmas from Spellbound by Movies HQ! The woman serenading us with carols is actress Colleen Moore. I selected her to share glad holiday tidings because 2014 was a great year for the departed actress. Her long thought lost final two silent films, Why Be Good? and Synthetic Sin, were restored, and they toured specialty cinemas and archives this year. A whole new generation who might not have seen her small number of surviving silents fell in love with one of Hollywood’s original flappers. Today Colleen is often overshadowed by Clara Bow, Joan Crawford, and Louise Brooks. During her height of Colleen’s fame, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, “I was the spark that lit up Flaming Youth, Colleen Moore was the torch. What little things we are to have caused all that trouble.” Now audiences have two more chances to see how brightly she burned.

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CMBA Forgotten Stars Blogathon: The Time Bebe Daniels Couldn’t Get Out of a Speeding Ticket

 

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.

Jack Dempsey Portrait

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.

Bebe and Ben

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.

She Couldn't Help It Newspaper ad

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 Daniels in Jail

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.”

Bebe Daniels Jail Cell

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.

Bebe Daniels Serenade

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.

Bebe Daniels Released from Jail

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.

The Speed Girl Poster

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.

Sources:

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.

 

This post is an entry in the CMBA Forgotten Stars Blogathon. Click on the banner below to read more posts about yesteryear’s favorite and unjustly forgotten performers by a great roundup of dedicated classic and silent film bloggers!

CMBA Forgotten Stars Blogathon 2014

 

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That’s Not Musidora! A Case of Mistaken Identity Compounded by Tumblr

Perhaps it’s not unexpected that an actress who’s best remembered for playing a disguised thief suffers from a case of mistaken identity on the internet. In the silent film Les Vampires, Musidora plays Irma Vep, who dons a catsuit for convenience in movement as she commits her crimes. This may be the first cinematic catsuit, and it was followed by many in popular culture. It definitely was the first to have an erotic impact on the public. In a compliment of reverse chronology, Musidora has been called the Brigitte Bardot of her day. Musidora’s catsuit helped whip that fever of appreciation up. Particularly striking are the shots of her navigating the rooftops of Paris. Was she a dream or nightmare about to descend into a home? This most iconic image of her inspired a tribute photography shoot, and thanks to the lack of verification and attribution of images on the net, sites ranging from Tumblr to serious movie blogs to even an academic page accidentally have perpetuated a case of mistaken identity.

One image from this photo shoot appears repeatedly on the net, credited as Musidora:

Lys Reygor as Irma Vep Rooftop

As soon as I saw it, I knew this photo was not of Musidora. The model’s bone structure is wrong. The make-up is much too intentionally gothic. While Musidora wore make-up in her Les Vampires performance, her make-up looks naturalistic in comparison to this person in whiteface. The black brows are drawn on and do not match the more organic curve of Musidora’s. The model’s eyes are very kohled. The lipstick reads as actually black on film versus red lipstick photographing darkly. Another dip a little too far into the exaggeration of Musidora’s image is the black beauty mark. Musidora did not sport one in the film. Even the outfit is not quite correct. The model wears lace gloves reminiscent of a style popular in the 1980s. In the film, Musidora wears more practical opaque gloves. Maybe in honor of René Gruau‘s portrait of the actress in her most famous role, the model clutches beaded necklaces, something the character of Irma Vep does not do when jumping rooftops in the film. She’s stealthier than that. Plus, the photo looks too modern and crisp, even for one that might have digitally restored.

Here are some images of Musidora as Irma Vep in the catsuit for your comparison:

Musidora in Catsuit for Les Vampires

Musidora Catsuit Lying down in Les Vampires

Musidora Catsuit Searching in Les Vampires

Musidora Catsuit Caught in Les Vampires

My first step in solving the mystery of who took this photo of whom was to Google. I searched the web via text and via image, and I finally used the correct search words with the picture. I found that while Tumblr was the most guilty in attributing the photograph incorrectly, it also held my answer of the image’s origins. Lys Reygor’s Tumblr shows multiple copies of this image. Under one, a Tumblr user going by the name Jadé Antoinette credits Lys Reygor as the model and Béatrice Tatareau as the photographer. The photo shoot site is listed as Bordeaux.

Lys Reygor Tumblr Proof

I then used those three names as search terms, and I eventually found Béatrice Tatareau’s Musidora-inspired photographs on a French site called Wizzz. There was a whole gallery of them to scroll through. Off to the side was a citation of model (Lys Reygor), place (a rooftop in Notre-Dame, Bordeaux), year (1985), and photographer (Béatrice Tatareau). I had found proof of Jadé Antoinette’s claim! In doing so, I proved what I knew was true–That’s not Musidora!

My excitement at being right was moderated by the artist’s biography on Wizzz:

“Deux de mes photos de la série Sur les toits, rue Notre-Dame, Bordeaux, 1985 sont légendées à tort sur internet sous le nom de l’actrice Musidora, Irma Vep dans Les Vampires, le film de Louis Feuillade (1915) © Gaumont. Je tiens à préciser que je suis l’auteure de ces œuvres, épreuves argentiques N&B datant de 1985. Je signale ici l’appartenance de mes photographies au patrimoine de l’ADAGP. Merci de votre visite.”

Roughly translated by Google into English, it says:

“Two of my photos from the series on the roofs, Notre Dame, Bordeaux 1985 are wrongly captioned on the Internet under the name of the actress Musidora, Irma Vep in Les Vampires, Louis Feuillade ‘s film (1915) © Gaumont . I want to say that I am the author of these works, B & W silver prints dating from 1985, I note here of my photographs belonging to the heritage of the ADAGP. Thank you for your visit.”

I initially took up my search to disprove the the photograph’s authenticity. I did not want Musidora incorrectly identified anymore. There is not as much available documentation on the actress in English as there is in French, so I was going to assist with that in this case. I’m now asserting the authorship of the photograph and the others in its series as well. Tatareau is in the odd position of having a photograph become widely distributed online, which could be seen as a mark of success for her piece, yet not getting credit. It must be an odd position to be in as a creator! Film fans often get excited about potent photographs and share them quickly and frequently. Tatareau’s is a good example of making sure what you share is genuine. It’s, also, a reminder to give credit to photographers when we can. We’re sharing their work and creativity.

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Happy Fourth of July!

Joan Crawford on Rocket

Have a happy Fourth of July! Don’t be like Joan and get too close to fireworks.

After the holiday, expect posts on recent Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum events, Charlie Chaplin Days and the 16th Annual Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival, the upcoming San Francisco Silent Film Festival, and the PFA’s Raoul Walsh film series.

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