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Continued from page 8 Tut, Tut, Mr. Maloney.
Not so many years ago, the "road" flourished. The smallest towns saw the greatest actors. Women like Modjeska played night after night in the "sticks." Now the small town that wants to see one of the Barrymores — whose father doubtless visited it in his heyday — has to go down to the railroad tracks when the limited goes through. If there is no limited, or Barrymore, going through, the villagers can go to the movies. And that, dear children, is what they call progress !
Now the movies have challenged the stage by talking out loud. Score one for another step in American standardization. But the movies will be imitating, not duplicating the stage. The actors will continue to be inspired by salary, not by the spiritual affinity of an understanding audience. Unfortunately, the mental condition of the stars will not necessarily be improved. Some of the dumbest girls have mildly pleasing voices, just as the dumbest girls can sign their names in beautiful, characterless script. That kind of voice can acquire inflections by rote. After Sal U. Loyd has finished one scene, the company can go into retirement for another month while she memorizes her next line. Perhaps the efficiency experts will devise a means of setting up Sal's lines in huge, distinguishable letters to her right, left, front, back, and top — that is, if she can read at all.
The talkies will be a boon, of course. Everything like electricity and radio has been a boon to some dear invalid, who now tats with greater inspiration. The dear old lady — let's say from Quebec, for a change — will marvel that Broadway has been brought to her back porch. The farmer will, of course, drop his plow in order to hear a Beethoven symphony. The possibilities are unlimited.
I am a die-hard, of course. I detest progress. The talkies will flourish despite a bombardment of criticism, but their flourishing will not savor of martyrdom. Only genuine worth can be martyred. It is my belief — and hope — that the movies have bitten off a bigger chunk than they can swallow. Time will tell.
421 West Luverne Street, Luverne, Minnesota.
Are Suggestions Wanted?
It would appear, from recent outbursts, that our intelligentsia is still inordinately agreeable to the idea of deriding and ridiculing what it is pleased to call "the imbecility of Hollywood. The "artier" films, which are made to gratify a more fastidious public, are panned even more violently than the frankly slapstick ones. Nothing pleases them ; they have no patience with the screen's lack of inspiration, no understanding of the now-andthen-obvious crudities of a story, no sympathy for the inadequacies of the marcelled players ; no other name for the moving-picture industry, other than that "it is an appealing toy, devised to amuse ten-year-olds."
Now, it seems to me that it would be in order to suggest to the intellectuals that they, as paragons of modern mental activity, ought to do something to improve the movies. But to that they inevitably reply, "The movies are a trust, dominated by men interested merely in dollars and sensationalism."
Now, I wonder Is it true that the
engineers of this incomparable industry have formed an impregnable barrier to shut out all suggestions that are not 6trictly box-office?
What the Fans Think
It is an established fact that some of our most prolific authors have gone to Hollywood, eager to do what they could to improve this interesting upstart, the moving picture. After a few months of bucking the craft and politics, which in the movie mecca seem to have taken the place of creation and inspiration, they retire, angry and humiliated, to a more discreet distance, where they resort to cynicism. But can you blame them?
I love my movies ; but, in view of outrages like "Helen of Troy" and "Circus Rookies," I admit they need improvement. As they stand now, they provide, probably, the greatest source of entertainment the world has ever known. But is that enough ?
Rita Dillon. Care of Siewert, 1244 Grand Concourse, New York City.
Why? And, Indeed, Why?
The most common complaint of the movie actor, or of any public personage for that matter, is this: "If they" — meaning that large, conglomerate mass, the public — "if they would only leave our private lives unmolested. But this they will not do."
And, further: "Why should they be curious as to whether I eat ham and eggs for breakfast, or if I drink only orange juice? What difference is it to them whether I wear silk teddies or have a thinning spot on my scalp?"
Yes, indeed — why? Why is it that we, the public, evidence an unquenchable, prying curiosity in these matters? That we do show such curiosity goes without saying. Else why this constant cry of the actor? Or witness the champion, Mr. Tunney, in his unsuccessful efforts to keep the glare of publicity from his fiancee. Or take the case of Richard Barthelmess, who has so well expressed the situation, and taken a definite stand.
So, therefore* why?
First of all, let us dispose of that group which is willing to enjoy the actors' work, and is satisfied with a moderate amount of news concerning him. For there is such a group, although Hollywood might be surprised and dubious of the verity of such a statement. This group may be small, compared to the rest ; but it is there, and it is a cheering thought.
And now, what have we? The world to-day is a vast village. In this vast "village" certain members have risen above their fellow citizens in various endeavors. Instantly, then, they become public characters. Gossip is woven about them, as always happens in any community. Prying curiosity begins, and the public characters of Hollywood arouse the most curiosity, because of the nature of their work. Mystery, the greatest stimulant of life, fans the curiosity. Adost of the "villagers" will never see them. Therefore, every bit of news concerning them is eagerly devoured. Particularly those things concerning the favorite actor's private life. For "the village" can never quite believe that the actor is just another human being.
There is that individual who states in no uncertain terms — indeed, a contributor to "What the Fans Think" has said that the actor is public property. Therefore, he should raise no objection; he should, instead, be willing that every smallest action be submitted to the inexorable curiosity of the public.
We have the "crush" type of fan. She feels for her star in a big way. Therefore, she must have all the details in a big way.
Then there are the idly curious. They
are curious simply because the person is a celebrity.
Then, again, there is the malicious minded. He craves each detail, because he hopes to find some dubious shadow.
Also, we have the individual who has a brotherly, sisterly, fatherly, or motherly, or what have you, complex. This person has the same great curiosity, because he admires the stars so tremendously.
And so it runs. This analysis, of course, by no means ends the list, or the subject.
There are two very simple and obvious conclusions here, which the actor has apparently forgotten to heed: That the great portion of the public, which is so enormously curious concerning the actor's private life, gets that way by virtue of his individual differences. It's the way he's built.
And, secondly, because of those things which have come in the twentieth century and made it peculiarly hysterical, and entirely different from all past life. "The village" must have its curiosity satisfied — even unto the last iota.
225 East River Street, Peru, Indiana.
Colman Praises Barthelmess.
Don't you think it is time some of Richard Barthelmess' champions appeared in print? In September Picture Play one of his detractors had his innings, and every statement he made was a flat contradiction of fact.
Those who have seen "The Patent Leather Kid" saw Barthelmess put over a superb characterization that no one could have bettered. Those who have not yet been so fortunate as to see the film should read how highly Norbert Lusk praised it in the November Picture Play.
Madeline Glass' article on Mr. Barthelmess was very interesting, and I admire .her candor in admitting that she had met her Waterloo in him. Some interviewers would have given us the "fiction" about which Mr. Barthelmess complains. Even more, I admire his reserve in keeping his heart to himself even at the expense of losing publicity — that "bladder" which keeps smaller stars afloat "in a sea of glory," as Shakespeare puts it.
Who should know him if his friends do not? When Ronald Colman was in England last spring he wrote in a newspaper: "Dick Barthelmess is a distinct type in Hollywood ; he is somewhat the same off the screen as he is on. While in films he appeals to the mother instinct in every woman ; in Hollywood he makes the same appeal to the mothers, wives, and daughters of the film colony. Women would always forgive Dick far more than they would forgive most of us, because of his wayward boyishness.
"When the door of a schoolhouse opens in the afternoon, the first boy to rush out is a boy like Dick. He plays fully as hard as he works. He stays up at night and crashes about, but he is just as fresh in the morning as if he had gone to bed with the violets. Lately he has done several pictures with terrific boxing in them, just to keep himself fit.
"There is nothing I enjoy more than to go off with Dick on a trip. He has a sixty-foot schooner called Pegasus. He heads for the Catalina Island and cries, 'Now I am Perseus flying over the waves to rescue Andromeda' — and so on."
Evidently Mr. Barthelmess shows another side of his nature to his intimate friends. J. Ralegh.
Mannamead, Plymouth, Devon, England.