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Ann Kathleen Otto

Yours In A Hurry

Hollywood's Silver Screen Beginnings

July 5, 2017

“I believe we have an acquaintance in common, David Griffith. He and his wife Linda are long time colleagues of mine," Harriet said.

"Yes, since he has started filming his motion pictures here, he's become acquainted with our neighbor Paul deLongpre," Daeida replied.

This discussion took place in 1912. I’m often asked, “Were movies really made in Hollywood at the time your book takes place—that early?” Many associate the beginning of Hollywood films with the 1920’s, but a lot was already going on by then.

David Wark Griffith

The most famous of America’s early film directors, D. W. Griffith isn’t a character in Yours in a Hurry, but we see him in a scene at the opening of the Beverly Hotel, and he has a history with and influence on some of the characters. I watched several of his surviving films while researching my book to get a flavor of life at the time. Most of them are available on YouTube. One of his earliest, a very short 1909 film, Those Awful Hats starred his wife, Linda Arvidson. Among many of his finds were Mary Pickford and the Gish sisters.  This photo shows why he chose deLonpre's gardens as a location.     

An early Pickford film was The Lonely Villa (1909), and Lilian Gish starred in the first gangster film, The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912). When he first arrived in Hollywood, Griffith found Paul de Longpre’s beautiful home next door to the Beveridge’s, and filmed some of his scenes there. This photo shows why he chose deLonpre's gardens, some patterned after his countryman Monet's, as a location.     

 

Comedy Was King

Before Charlie Chaplin was Mack Sennett. He began acting in films in 1908 and by 1911 when he began writing, directing, and producing, he had appeared in over two hundred. His best remembered productions were filmed from 1912 until 1914. Even today, if someone says a group behaves like the incompetent policemen known as the Keystone Cops, we know that means humorously dysfunctional. Their popularity increased in 1913 when comedian Mabel Normand was added.

Universal Pictures

By 1912, many independent film makers began arriving in California. One was Carl Laemmle. The weather was good, the location choices varied from mountains to oceans, and it was far from the patent infringement threats from Thomas Edison back east. The roots of Laemmle’s company, Universal Pictures, began in Wisconsin where he owned a chain of nickelodeons. He founded Independent Motion Picture Company in New York in 1909, and reformed the company as Universal in 1912 when he arrived in California.

Acceptance Comes Slowly

It seemed like hundreds were entering the foyer of the Beverly Hills Hotel on opening night. As Anna and the Beveridges arrived, Ida looked across the room and tapped Philo's arm.

"I cannot believe Mira Hershey is here. This hotel may well mean the end of her Hollywood Hotel."

"Serves her right. There's talk that she's starting to rent to movie people."

Of course, the “movie people” weren’t welcomed with open arms. Hollywood was settled by religious mid-westerners, many prohibitionists. They saw the easterners, many stage and vaudeville performers, as a bad influence. But, times were changing, and the lucrative business the studios could bring was becoming evident, as the opening of the Beverly Hills Hotel illustrated.   

Italicized quotes are from Yours in a Hurry.

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