Saturday, June 25, 2011

Captains Courageous (1937) at The Somerville Theater


One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn't belong.
 

Does your local theater have this kind of variety? I doubt it!


Please, sir. Could you show me the way to the main theater?



The Somerville Theater recently kicked off their Classic Film Series with two screenings of Captains Courageous (1937). I was a bit surprised that this movie was even in the line-up. Surprised, yet very, very happy. Captains Courageous is a film I've been meaning to watch for quite a while and getting a chance to see it for the first time and on the big screen to boot was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. And I went by myself! I've been to a lot of social gatherings lately so it was really nice to be able to watch this on my own. And although I always encourage people to share classic films with others, sometimes it's nice to have a movie all to yourself. It's a very intimate and personal experience and I recommend it if you ever need a break from being social butterfly.

Captains CourageousDirected by Victor Fleming, Captains Courageous stars Freddie Bartholomew as Harvey Cheyne, a spoiled little motherless brat whose father, Frank Burton Cheyne (Melvyn Douglas), sends him off to boarding school each year. Off Harvey goes with pockets full of cash and false sense of entitlement. The father is neglectful of his son and without any guidance Harvey is a poor excuse for a boy. With the power of his dad's money, Harvey tries to bribe and trick his way into things. The other kids start to dislike Harvey and he wants out of school so he tells his dad that the school masters are abusing him and accepting bribes. Once the father finds out Harvey's real problem, he pulls him out of school and takes him on a cruise to Europe for some dad-son bonding time. But oops! Harvey falls off the boat. No worries! He gets rescued by a Portuguese fisherman named Manuel Fidello (Spencer Tracy). Manuel brings Harvey back to the fishing Schooner. Lionel Barrymore  plays the captain, Mickey Rooney  plays the captain's son, John Carradine  plays Long Jack and there is a motley crew of other seafaring men on board. Harvey is stuck on the schooner for the 3 months the fisherman will be out at sea before they head back to Gloucester, MA with their catch. Reluctantly on both their parts, Manuel and Harvey start a friendship. Manuel becomes the father figure Harvey never had. The situation is too good to be true. You just know something bad is going to happen.


Manuel Fidello (Spencer Tracy) is curly-haired, Portuguese and lives in Massachusetts. Who does that remind me of?


Oh yeah. ME! But I have a better accent than Spencer Tracy did. The man could not speak Portuguese!

Having seen as many classic films as I have I can usually place a film in a certain time period by observing a few things. If I can, I try to guess the exact year. If I'm off, it's only ever by a little bit. So having forgotten that this film is from 1937, I looked at a few things to guess that the film was from the late 1930s. For one thing, Lionel Barrymore is up and walking. After his accident and with his problems of arthritis, Lionel Barrymore was wheel chair bound from the 1940s until his death in the mid 1950s. A youngish Mickey Rooney looked young but not too young. Spencer Tracy, who didn't age very well and always looked older than he was, did not serve as a point of reference to me at all! Neither did Freddie Bartholomew because frankly this is the first of his films I've ever seen and I wouldn't have been able to guess from his age. In the beginning of the film I spotted a lot of Art Deco fixtures and furniture. That definitely places is it in the 1930s. The content of the film places it post pre-Code (so after 1934). Ultimately, I guessed 1937 or 1938.

I had a wonderful experience at the Somerville Theater! I sincerely wish I brought a few tissues as I really needed them and my shirt sleeve wasn't cutting it. I want to say thank you to them for taking a chance and showing this wonderful theater on the big screen!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Silent Film Stars Historic Records Available on Ancestry.com

Below is a press release from Ancestry.com. I think this will be very interesting for folks who are researching information about silent era film stars and coming across major obstacles. I have a few film stars I'd like to research. I hope this will be a good source for biographers which may mean more classic film biographies in our future! You do need a membership to use the service though. It may be well worth it for the truly dedicated film historians.

--------------------
Silent Cinema Stars Private Information Revealed In Historic Studio Archives- Now Available Online at Ancestry.com

Thousands of stars of the early silver screen detailed in Motion Picture Studio Directories

§ Records include Charlie Chaplin, “Fatty” Arbuckle and Oliver Hardy (images available)

§ Directories reveal ‘vital statistics’ stars probably didn’t want you to know…


Provo, Utah – June 13, 2011 – Ancestry.com, the world’s largest online family resource, has launched online records of the original Hollywood film studios, which profile the superstars of silent cinema at the beginning of the 20th century. Digitized in partnership with the California State Library (where the original ledgers are held), the records are now fully searchable online for the first time by name, birthplace and date of birth.

Much like today’s online film and actors database IMDb, the directories were compiled by executives of the ‘big five’ studios – Warner Bros., FPL Corp (Paramount), RKO, MGM and 20thCentury Fox. ‘Up & Coming’ studios also contributed to the records, among them Universal, Columbia and United Artists.

The Motion Picture Studio Directories (1919 and 1921)feature thousands of leading actors, actresses, cinematographers, writers, editors, directors, producers and screenwriters of the day – at a time when cinemas were selling more than 100 million tickets a week. The silent film era was so incredibly prominent during its heyday that the highest grossing film of the time, The Birth of a Nation, earned $10 million in 1915, equivalent to more than $216 million in modern era earnings and a runaway blockbuster by today’s standards.

The records contain information about iconic actors and actresses such as Charlie Chaplin, who reached the height of his fame during the silent film era by using mime and slapstick to great effect. His records describe him as 5’4” with brown hair and blue eyes and list his address as the Charlie Chaplain Film Co on La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles.

Actors’ entries include details of past film roles, age, birthplace, height, weight, address and even a home phone number in some cases. The biggest stars often paid to include photos in order to attract greater interest from film executives (images available).

In fact, several actors omitted or amended their information to make them more marketable. The entry for one of the most famous of all silent movie actresses, Gloria Swanson, has the date of birth omitted, despite being just 32 at the time, and Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle - one of the highest paid actors of the silent era - has a number of facts excluded, notably his weight.

Some further famous names listed include:

· Oliver Hardy – The ‘big man’ of comedy double act Laurel & Hardy, Hardy appeared in hundreds of films in a career spanning over 30 years. His directory entry includes his industry nickname ‘Babe,’ his unusual height for the era (6’1”) and weight (350 lbs).

· Lillian Gish – One of the leading actresses of the silent era and considered to be one of the greatest of all time, Gish played a lead character in The Birth of a Nation – the largest grossing of all silent movies.

· Buster Keaton – Known for his constantly stoic, deadpan expression during his comedy appearances, Keaton earned the nickname “The Great Stone Face”. He is listed as having taken part in military service, fighting for the US in WWI. It is during his service that Keaton developed an ear infection which left his hearing permanently impaired.

· Mary Pickford – Known as the “American Sweetheart” or “Girl with the Curls,” Pickford was a world-renowned actress. Her records detail her career starting as early as five-years-old and list her address as 4500 Sunset Boulevard, LA.

“These records paint an intriguing picture of how the early film industry operated and include some of the first and biggest names ever to appear on the silver screen,” remarked Quinton Atkinson, Ancestry.com Director of Content. “It’s fascinating to see the details that would have been kept reserved for film executives of the day and perhaps the details within might provide the link needed to prove your relation to a film executive, famous director or even one many movie stars found in the directories.”

Visit www.ancestry.com/motionpicturesto start searching the records now.

About Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com)
Ancestry.com Inc. (Nasdaq: ACOM) is the world's largest online family history resource, with more than 1.6 million paying subscribers. More than 6 billion records have been added to the site in the past 14 years. Ancestry users have created more than 24 million family trees containing over 2.4 billion profiles. Ancestry.com has local Web sites directed at nine countries that help people discover, preserve and share their family history, including its flagship Web site at www.ancestry.com.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fourth Blogiversary

It's been four wonderful years writing this blog. In those four years, I've made lots of great friends both online and off and had many wonderful experiences. If you've been reading this blog for four years, for one year for 1 minute, I appreciate you reading at all!

In celebration of my Fourth Blogiversary, I'm giving away one copy of Good Stuff by Jennifer Grant. I recently reviewed it for Father's Day.



Contest rules:

One entry per person. You must live in the U.S. or Canada (I'll make an exception for Sweden!). Contest ends Thursday June 30th at Midnight EST. Winner will be chosen at random. There is only one prize. If the winner does not respond within one week of being notified via email, a second winner will be chosen.

All you need to do to enter is fill out the below form (the entry gets sent to me but doesn't appear on the form after you click Submit). Or you can add your entry to the comments section. Do not Tweet or Facebook your entry. I won't count it. It must be entered through the form or added to the comments.

Full Disclosure: I purchased an extra copy of the book Good Stuff through Random House for this giveaway.

GIVEAWAY ENDED

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Get Your Read On: Good Stuff by Jennifer Grant


Good Stuff: A Reminiscence of My Father, Cary Grant
by Jennifer Grant
9780307267108
May 2011
Knopf (Random House)

Happy Father's Day!

Good Stuff is unlike any other book you will ever come across. Reading it is a very intimate experience, one you share with the author. Jennifer Grant has given the public a peek into the love between a father and his only child. The father, Cary Grant, just happens to be one of the most famous, well-known and adored actors ever to have lived. We come to the book with a false sense of familiarity with Cary Grant only to discover that we didn't know about this part of his life at all.

Jennifer Grant reminisces about the first 20 years of her life; the years when her father was alive. Although the book goes back and forth through time freely, the reader never gets lost. Each chapter has a theme which anchors it and the progression of the book feels chronological even when it isn't. The author tried to capture the "essence of Dad's soul" when writing this book. It's not minute-by-minute account of 20 years past rather a way to portray her father the way she knew him. The title, Good Stuff, refers to something Cary Grant would say alot. The author says, "Dad used the expression 'good stuff' to declare happiness or, as one of his friends put it, he said it when please with the nature of things." The Cary Grant in this book is very happy to have finally had a child, one he could dote upon, teach, and most importantly love. You get the sense that he is scared of death because he doesn't want to miss those precious moments of his life. He didn't want to miss the good stuff.

Jennifer Grant is intelligent, observant and thoughtful and shares the most wonderful memories of her dad. At first I thought she came off a bit snooty, however, as I continued to read the book I realized that this is a woman who truly adored, loved and appreciated her father. She doesn't read any biographies about him. Before he passed away, Cary Grant warned his daughter that after his death people would say things about him. And to keep in mind what she knows about him now and what he's told her. He wanted her to remember him as he was, not as others will portray him to be. And that's exactly what she did in this book. While she does address some of the controversial topics of his life, including his sexuality (this surprised me!), she does stay true to her real memory of her dad.

The book is wider than your normal biography or memoir. It was purposefully made to look like a photo album or scrapbook. The pages are rough front which gives the book a sort of homemade feel. There are delightful pictures of father and daughter as well as other images that are so personal and intimate it feels like we are getting a peek into the Grant family's treasure trove. Jennifer Grant also included telegrams, typed notes, hand-written scribbles, drawings and written transcripts of audio recordings. She recounts conversations, events, explains some of the pictures.

What really touched me about this book is how much Cary Grant loved his daughter. He was so happy to have a child, he treasured every moment with her and kept a huge amount of mementos which he stored in a vault. The love, his love, is what will move you to tears when you read this book. And I implore that you do.

Full Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book through Random House.

Here is an interview (she doesn't do many of these) with Jennifer Grant and ABC.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956) at the Paramount



My name is on the ticket!!!





I was recently invited by ArtsEmerson to attend one of the Noir Nights screenings being shown at the Paramount Theatre. While I wish I could have seen them all, but I only had time to catch Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956). Although it is the only film in the series that was available on DVD (through Warner Archive), they did show a rare print and it was great to watch it on the big(gish) screen.

The film was shown in the Bright Family Screening room which is part of the Paramount Theater building . While I was hoping to see a film in the grand 1,700 seat theater, I realize that the screening rare noir won't fill up a space that large. In fact, about 35-40 people attending this particular screening. However, I was very, very happy for any excuse to be inside the great Paramount Theater!

Now most currently active classic film bloggers are too new to the blogosphere to remember Ginger (of Asleep in New York) and her scathing and spoiler-ridden review of Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956). I remembered it though. At least I remembered it was scathing. That's pretty much all I remembered because when I went to the screening of the film I had absolutely no idea what it was about. Just that Ginger didn't like it. And you know what, coming to a film almost completely ignorant makes for a very interesting experience. Carlos, who came with me to the screening, had seen the 2009 remake of the same name and knew the plot and most importantly the major twist. So he was expecting what I wasn't.

Beyond A Reasonable Doubt [Remaster]Beyond a Reasonable Doubt  is Fritz Lang's last American film and stars Dana Andrews and some chick named Joan Fontaine. Dana Andrews is Tom Garrett, a writer who just had a lot of success with his first published book and is struggling to write the second. He's in a relationship with Susan Spencer (Joan Fontaine), the daughter of newspaper magnate Austin Spencer (Sidney Blackmer). Austin Spencer is against capital punishment and is out to prove to District Attorney Roy Thompson (Phillip Bourneuf) that circumstantial evidence could bring an innocent man to the electric chair. When a burlesque dancer is murdered, Spencer recruits Garrett to pretend that Garrett is the murderer. They place fake evidence in various places all the while taking  pictures and records of the acts to prove later that Garrett is innocent and that the evidence led prosecutors to the wrong man. Garrett even ingratiates himself with the two burlesque dancers who were the last to see the murdered woman alive. Garrett goes on trial. Then, as I like to say, things get complicated.

1956 is pretty late for the film noir era. I believe by that point audiences were so used to film noir fare that they were hungry for something new and different. Well Fritz Lang gave them what they asked for with this noir. The film has two major twists. It's those twists that make you either love the film or hate it. Most folks hate it. While I didn't love it, I didn't hate it either. I'm somewhere in the middle. Without providing too many spoilers, I agree with Ginger that the twists make the whole plot implausible. The major flaw is that there is no indication in the beginning of the film about what is to happen at the end. If there were, it would have saved the film for sure. Rebecca Myers from ArtsEmerson introduced the film and read to us from a quote which asked people to watch the film twice (unfortunately I forget the exact quote). I'm curious enough to watch the film a second time in case I missed something the first. However, overall I enjoyed the film. It kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time wondering what was going to happen next. Joan Fontaine was just blah. This is not her film. This is Dana Andrews film. And don't you forget it!

Thank you to ArtsEmerson for giving me the opportunity to check out the Noir Nights program! I enjoyed this screening and hope to be back soon.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Paramount Theatre in Pictures

I recently went to the Paramount Theatre in Boston for the Arts Emerson Noir Nights repertory series (post about that to come). The theater opened in 1932 as an Art Deco style movie house but closed in 1976. Emerson College renovated it and added a performing art center to it between the years of 2005 and 2008. The Paramount had it's grand reopening in 2010. I attended Emerson College during the years of renovation, restoration  and building so I never got a chance to go to the Paramount during my grad school years. Visiting the building was a real treat. I didn't get to see the main 1,700 seat theater unfortunately but hope to one day soon. Perhaps I'll have a follow up post with even more pictures then. For now, here is a glimpse of what I got to see. 







A lot of the original Art Deco decor was damaged. So although the theatre is gorgeous, the Art Deco style has a modern feel to it. Well, not really modern. I saw it as Art Deco meets 1970s.









Sunday, June 12, 2011

Get Your Read On: Frank: The Voice by James Kaplan

Frank: The Voice by James Kaplan
800 pages
Hardcover November 2010 9780385518048 $35.00
Paperback November 2011 9780767924238 $18.95
also available in ebook and audio book formats
Anchor (an imprint of Random House)


Before I say anything else, let me warn you that this 700+ page tome stops at 1954. There is no volume 2. There is no printing error. In the life of Frank Sinatra, the book comes to an abrupt halt at 1954 when he won the Oscar for his performance in From Here to Eternity (1953). 1954 is a pinnacle year for Frank Sinatra. After having a tremendous singing career and some nice roles in a few key films, Sinatra's career was in a major slump. Rock 'n Roll was making waves and girls stopped swooning over Frank Sinatra and started swooning over other singers. It seemed like his career was over and his tumultuous second marriage to Ava Gardner didn't help much.

While it was interesting reading about the early life and career of Frank Sinatra, I really want a volume 2. Why? Because the 1960s Sinatra fascinates me the most. The Sinatra of the Rat Pack, Las Vegas, Ocean's Eleven (1960), Tony Rome (1967), The Detective (1968), etc. Heck, I even like the late 1950s Sinatra of The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), Pal Joey (1957),  High Society (1956), The Frank Sinatra Show and Come Fly With Me. Sinatra was living large during these years after living small for a while. I want to read about what happened after the big comeback! But alas, Kaplan's book is not going to give any of us that.

While I can complain all day about there is no volume 2, I cannot say that this book was no good. Frank: The Voice was beautifully written, well-researched, very organized and most important interesting. It's the perfect book for die-hard Frank Sinatra fans (especially ones who prefer his earlier career as a singer), lovers of unique biographies and avid nonfiction readers.

In the book, we learn a lot about Frank's early years and the effect his mother Dolly had on him. His mother problems started right when he popped out of the womb. The delivery was so horrendous that Dolly she never had another child and in fact wanted to make sure no one else went through that experience too and became a midwife and abortionist. It also didn't help that the forceps the doctor used to pry out Sinatra gave him a permanent scar. Not a very auspicious start for our Sinatra.

Frank Sinatra wasn't the nicest guy. He was short-tempered and his mob connections made him more dangerous than your average skinny Italian singer. In fact, when Sinatra heard that Peter Lawford had dined with Ava Gardner he threatened Lawford to the point where Lawford was scared for his life. But he had good moments too. Kaplan sad "Frank's commitment to tolerance [for minorities] was genuine and profound." He didn't discriminate in the way many other stars in that era did. Kaplan really delves into Sinatra's first two marriages, first with Nancy Sinatra and then with Ava Gardner. We really learn a lot about him as a person when he's put side-by-side these two totally different women.

Frank Sinatra's rise was slow at the beginning but sped up very quickly. In his early days, he was popular with young women in the same way Elvis would be years later. Instead of having Elvis' height, build and hips, it was Sinatra's thin frame and magnificent blue eyes that made women want to bring him  home to feed him and worship his golden voice. It wasn't long before Sinatra got a film contract to act in movies but even that start was a big rocky. He had a 7 year contract with RKO but he barely made any movies with them and MCA got him out and into a contract with MGM. He was recording, performing and filming like a mad man and it seemed like the work (and the fame and the money) would never run out but it did.

By 1953, his marriage with Nancy Sinatra had long ended, his marriage to Ava Gardner was about to end, he was going into debt, Capitol Records booted him out the door and it seemed like there was no hope. Then the novel From Here to Eternity made it's way into his hands. He read it over and over again dreaming about himself in the Maggio role. Kaplan says:

From Here to Eternity was his big chance, in every possible way: not only because of the distinguished material and company and the huge conspicuousness of the project, but also because of where Frank was in his life. His first legitimate shot at a big dramatic role had arrived at a moment when he was truly old enough, and experienced enough, to give a complicated performance.

Makes you want to see the movie again, huh?

One adverse affect the book had on me, was that it made me despise Ava Gardner more than I had already. The author by no means bashes her. In fact, he attempts to make us understand that Gardner's actions, much like Frank Sinatra's, were born out of those formative early years that mess us all up. However, her but because her actions and her words (from her autobiography) showed what a self-centered, childish and manipulative woman she was. On particular passage (pg 701 in the hardcover) almost made steam come out of my ears. If you can read this book and still love Gardner, you are a bigger person than I am.

One last note. I do have a beef with who ever designed the jacket of the book though. While it's very gorgeous, I love the skinny Frank Sinatra on the spine, they used a post 1954 image of Frank Sinatra on the back of the jacket. Most likely because it had him at a microphone. But I think it's disingenuous to the book to not acknowledge the 1954 cut off by including a picture from a later time. Here is the picture in question:

It's a John Bryson photograph circa 1960s.

Below is a preview of the book, I hope you'll check it out!

Full Disclosure: I won a copy of Frank: The Voice by James Kaplan on Goodreads.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

IOU: Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow (1987)

Who I Owe: I met illustrator/author Matt Phelan recently at Book Expo. The company I work for publishes some of his books for children. Phelan told me that he was currently working on a graphic novel for younger kids on the childhood of Buster Keaton (see a preview of the artwork for the book here). I got really excited because I love Buster Keaton! We chatted about Keaton for a while and he told me about this great documentary on the life of Keaton called Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow. He mentioned that it was available on YouTube and I promised that I would watch it. And so I did! Thanks Matt Phelan for the recommendation and I'm so excited for your book to come out!

Review: Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow was a 3 part British TV Mini-Series about the life and career of the great physical comedian of the silent film era. Watching the documentary and I realize how much I appreciate contemporary documentaries and how they clearly indicate who it is that is being interviewed. It took me a while to understand that it was Eleanor Keaton, Keaton's third and last wife, speaking!

The show follows Keaton's life and career from the very beginning to the bitter end. It starts in those early days in Vaudeville, when he got the name Buster after falling down some stairs, an event witnessed by the great Harry Houdini who then proclaimed that that was quite a Buster! We see the rise, the very bad fall and then the subsequent slow rise again.

I learned many things about Keaton. He had impeccable timing, a fearlessness that made for incredible shots, a talent for subtlety and a genius for comedy. Keaton was really an actor destined for the silent screen and talkies did him very few favors. He took to alcohol which almost killed him and even with all his success he still had many money problems. However, he still had a wonderful career, fame and recognition that lasted a lot longer than he expected and a long and fruitful life. That's a lot more than many of us get. It was great to watch the documentary and to see how spectacular his stunts really were. Put into context of how dangerous and groundbreaking they were makes you really appreciate Keaton's work. Keaton never complained about injuries! He had a high threshold for pain. Seeing snippets of many of Keaton's films made me want to watch more. And it made a new Keaton fan out of Carlos too!

I created a playlist of all the 10 minute YouTube segments of the documentary. You can watch it here. I'd love to hear what you think. And many thanks to Matt Phelan for recommending this to me!


Friday, June 10, 2011

IOU: The Grub-Stake (1923)




Who I owe: Poet and Musician John "Jack" Hayes from Robert Frost's Banjo and I met March of last year. We had breakfast in Concord, MA and during breakfast John told me about a silent film that he and Eberle composed and performed the music for. The movie was The Grub-Stake (1923). He also told me a lot about Nell Shipman and sent me a copy of The Nell Shipman Collection Volume 3 which contained The Grub-Stake. I had the film in my to-watch stack for too long. Way too long. Now I'm making amends and discovering how wonderful Nell Shipman, the movie and the music all were. Thanks John!

In John's Words:  Eberle Umbach and I composed the music to Nell Shipman’s “The Grub-Stake” in 2005-2006, following our first silent film score, for Shipman’s “Back to God’s Country,” which we composed in 2004-2005. The late Tom Trusky, director of the Idaho Film Collection, commissioned our score for the release of Shipman’s complete existing works in a DVD collection. Mr Trusky was a wonderful man, a Shipman scholar and largely responsible for the re-discovery of her work, and he was very kind and supportive of our music.

The score uses 18 instruments, from the very familiar, like the guitar and the flute, to the more obscure, like the zither, melodica, slide whistle and marimba, as well as variations on common instruments, such as the tenor guitar, toy piano and the plectrum banjo. Eberle and I wrote the score so that it could be performed live as written, so there were a lot of instrument switches! But at least one of us keeps a steady background of music going throughout the entire film, and we play as a duo the majority of the time.


We incorporated a number of different musical genres in the score—from ragtime to bossa nova, and with a number of other musical gestures in between. Eberle in particular strove to capture an old-time Americana feel in much of the music. When we scored and performed these silent films, we did so under the name of the Bijou Orchestrette.

Review: First of all, let's talk about Nell Shipman. Wow. What a woman. Hailing from Canada, Nell Shipman was a one-woman movie making machine. She founded the Shipman Curwood Producing Company as well as the Nell Shipman Productions. Nell Shipman wrote, acted, directed, produced, marketing, funded and cast her acting crew. And this is in the 1910s and 1920s! Early film history has a severe deficit of female directors. So for Nell Shipman to be able to do what she did is amazing. She was independent, a business woman and creative to boot. Also, she shot a lot of her films on location, in the wild and did a lot of "stunts" herself. She was also an animal trainer and used some of her animals in The Grub-Stake. Wow! I'm so impressed by her. I'm also hypnotized by Nell. She wasn't a gorgeous woman but she has a very inviting face and a curvaceous figure. I couldn't help but be mesmerized by her on screen.

The Grub-Stake (1923) was one of Shipman's biggest pictures. With a $180,000 budget, she shot the film on location in Washington State and Idaho (even though the plot mostly takes place in Alaska). Unfortunately, the distributor of the film went under so the film never made it out to theaters. And it also bankrupted Nell Shipman's production company. She couldn't take care of her animals financially after that either and had to send them to the San Diego Zoo. A sad ending to a good project.

The film follows the story of Faith Diggs, a small town girl whose father is in poor health. She takes on odd jobs (and even sells her to make ends meet and to help her dad out but it isn't enough. So Faith grub-stakes an older businessman. What does the term grub-stake mean?



Basically, she promises to work for the man, and then accepts his proposal of marriage, in exchange for his help. The man brings Faith and her father to Alaska. But turns out the man has sold Faith to a brothel! And he's already married! What's a girl to do? She escapes with a friend, her father and a bunch of sled dogs and finds refuge in the wilds of the Klondike. She gets separated from her father for a while, befriending some bears and other wild animals. And the drama continues as she falls in love with another man and her "husband" sends out a bounty hunter for her (and the dogs she stole). The film moves at a steady pace but doesn't have that many dull moments. Nell Shipman really milked the ending though, which could have been much shorter than it was.

I think John and Eberle did a wonderful job with the music. The different instruments suited the plot which was very varied itself. I loved the American folk feel to it and it's pretty cool that a film from Idaho has music played by residents of that state! I'm sure composing music for a silent film is no easy task so kudos to John and Eberle for doing such a fantastic job giving sound to such a vibrant film.





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