I Cover the Waterfront (United Artists) (1933)

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Campaign Waterfront Film Torrence First Talkie Star; Made His Debut 20 Years Ago Character Actor Confesses During Filming of “I Cover the Waterfront” Who was the first talking picture star ? No, you’re mistaken, it wasn’t A1 Jolson, or anybody else connected with the revolutionizing of the screen five years ago. To Ernest Torrence, veteran char¬ acter actor of pictures and the stage, belongs the honor. And recently, while playing in “I Cover the Waterfront,” with Claud¬ ette Colbert and Ben Lyon, Torrence celebrated the twentieth anniversary of his debut as a talking picture star. Made in East Orange That’s correct — twenty years ago was when he had the distinction of being the first actor in the world to star in a screen “talkie.” On the set at the United Artists’ stu¬ dios in Hollywood, where he was cre¬ ating the role of Eli Kirk, shark-killer and smuggler of Chinese, in the screen story based on Max Miller’s best-sell¬ ing book, Torrence took time off to celebrate the anniversary by telling James Cruze, director, and other mem¬ bers of the company, about the very first talking picture. According to Torrence, the picture, a short-reeler, was made in a tent at the East Orange, N. J., laboratories of the late Thomas A. Edison. Edison had perfected the “camera¬ phone,” a talking picture device con¬ sisting of a motion picture camera connected by wires, belts and pulleys to a recording phonograph. The horn of the phonograph was directly over the set, its bell pointed at the players, a forerunner of the microphone of today. While the cameraman turned the crank of his machine, he simultaneous¬ ly operated the recording phonograph. Not Bad at All Barring a few slips, the synchroni¬ zation was fairly good, according to Torrence, who sang the leading role in the prison scene from the opera, “Faust.” Torrence at that time was a light opera star and musical comedy favor¬ ite. It was soon after he came to the United States after winning laurels abroad. Not until ten years later was Tor¬ rence to make his silent picture debut, as the villainous mountaineer in “ToP- able David,” a role that won him world-wide fame and never-to-be- forgotten characterizations in future productions such as “The Covered Wagon,” “Ruggles of Red Gap,” “The Pony Express,” “Peter Pan” and “The Fighting Coward.” New Photo Crane Overcomes Big Problems Wind and Surf Defeated in “I Cover the Waterfront” Solving the problem of how to film some of the thrilling scenes in “I Cover the Waterfront” while the cam¬ era boats were pitching and rolling on the high seas, technicians on the staff of Director James Cruze perfected a new type of gyroscopic tripod and mi¬ crophone crane that permitted perfect photography and sound recording under the most difficult conditions. The Reliance Company, bringing the adaptation of Max Miller’s best-sell¬ ing book to the screen for United Ar¬ tists, with Claudette Colbert, Ben Lyon and Ernest Torrence in the principal roles, spent considerable time on loca¬ tion in the ocean off San Diego, San Pedro and Monterey, California. If was at the latter place that the motion picture outfit, cruising in the hope of finding a couple of sharks to fit the story action, ran into a whole school of the sea terrors, some of them 25 feet long and weighing nearly three tons. Harpooners went into action, with cameras trained on them, and killed several of the monsters after a battle lasting for hours. The giant beasts, known among fishermen as “elephant” sharks, are extremely rare in Califor¬ nia waters. Ranked among the largest sharks found any place in the world, they usually remain in isolated north¬ ern waters. The film company’s luck in encoun¬ tering a whole school of the monsters resulted in bringing to the screen the most thrilling scenes of their kind ever made. A Champion Spitter Of all things—a champion spitter! If there’s any honor to such an attain¬ ment, Ernest Torrence can lay claim to it in Hollywood. He won his new laurels in “I Cover the Waterfront,” the United Artists’ thriller. One of the scenes demanded that Torrence put out Ben Lyon’s cigarette with a well-aimed squirt of masticated navy plug. He used up three plugs, but he did if. Burr McIntosh, Idol of '90's Still Active Former Matinee Favorite Hale and Hearty in His 70’s One of the stage’s greatest matinee idols of the gay nineties plays a minor role in Reliance’s romantic thriller for United Artists, “I Cover the Water¬ front,” an adaptation of the best-sell¬ ing book by Max Miller, with Claud¬ ette Colbert and Ben Lyon in the lead¬ ing parts, and Ernest Torrence head¬ ing the supporting cast of the Edward Small production directed by James Cruze. He is Burr McIntosh, veteran char¬ acter actor, who these days makes in¬ frequent appearances on the screen and philosophizes over the radio. Grandfathers and grandmothers will remember him as a dashing stage fig¬ ure of another generation, and Burr McIntosh is a name to conjure with in reminiscences of old-time athletes. Born in Wellsville, Ohio, during the early days of the Civil War, McIntosh was educated at the University of Pittsburgh, Lafayette College and Princeton University. He was one of the greatest all-around athletes of the eighties, starring in varsity track events, football and baseball. During his stage career he starred in scores of plays, and since entering pic¬ tures in 1913, has played hundreds of roles. One of his outstanding charac¬ terizations was in D. W. Griffith’s “Way Down East.” Although now in his seventies, Mc¬ Intosh is as alert as ever, and physi¬ cally, with sis six feet and 220 pounds of brawn, is a match for most men half his age. CLAUDETTE COLBERT Facts and observations on Claud¬ ette Colbert, gleaned on the set at the United Artists studios in Hollywood, from her maid, friends and fellow players, during the filming of “I Cover the Waterfront,” Reliance’s romantic thriller adapted from the best-selling book by Max Miller : She has a delightful sense of hu¬ mor, a gorgeous figure, a constant' de¬ sire to travel, a perfect taste in clothes and- a habit of making friends in all walks of life. Likes Spinach She likes spinach, upside down cake, to go fast in motor cars, and old-fash¬ ioned perfumes._ Her chief extravagance is in cater¬ ing to her passion for handmade un- derthings, sheer stockings and Irish linen handkerchiefs. She sings in her bath. She likes the gossipy jokes of news¬ paper columnists, the better poetry, newspapers editorial writers’ comments on national affairs and caramel cus¬ tard. She’s a bit timid around horses, and rides frequently for this reason. She delights to talk of the-time she made a lazy trip around the world on cargo ships, by camel pack and air¬ planes. She’s amazingly fast at assembling jig-saw puzzles. Her Favorites Of her pictures, she likes best her parts in “The Lady Lies,” “The Sign of the Cross” and “I Cover the Water¬ front.” Her favorite actors are Charlie Ruggles, Ben Lyon (he plays opposite her in “I Cover the Waterfront”) and Norman Foster (her husband). Her favorite color is blue, she ad¬ mires the way taxi drivers handle their cars in traffic on a rainy day, and she loathes fishing. She has no illusions about the stage or the acting profession, and quite frankly admits she works only because she has found no other way to make a living. She’s an expert photographer and develops and prints her own pictures, but has no pictures on the walls of her home. She collects jade, amusing anec¬ dotes, perfume bottles and scarf clasps. Is Superstitious She is a victim of every stage super¬ stition—and a few she thought of by herself. She never leaves a building except through the door by which she en¬ tered (even on the afternoon the earth¬ quake struck Southern California while “I Cover the Waterfront” was in the midst of filming). She is one of the few brown-eyed stars of the first-rank. Claudette Colbert and Ben Lijon inT Cover the Waterfront' 5 —One Col. Scene (Mat .05; Cut .20) BEN LYON Ben Lyon was born in Atlanta, Ga., on a certain February 6. He is of German-English descent. Moved to Baltimore and thence to New York. On his way to school in New York he went into a studio and watched pic¬ tures being made. Asked a man who happened to be the director how he should go about' getting in the movies. The director looked at him a minute and told him to report the next day. He played extra roles in. pictures without getting very far. So he tried the stage. First important stage role was in “Seventeen”; then played with Jeanne Eagles in “The Wonderful Thing.” Other plays followed, his favorite role being in “The Boomer¬ ang.” Prefers the screen to the stage be¬ cause of the opportunity for home life. Favorite screen role was in “Hell 3 Angels.” Favorite picture was “Blue¬ beard’s Seven Wives.” It' is his pres¬ ent ambition to become a motion pic¬ ture director. Or, failing that, to enter some phase of aviation. Is whole-heartedly in favor of do¬ mesticity. Was married to Bebe Dan¬ iels June 14, 1930. The present boss of the home is Barbara Bebe Lyon, born 2 years ago. The Lyon-Daniels library is one of the handsomest rooms in their home. Ben enjoys reading Jack London, Jos¬ eph Conrad, De Maupassant and Rob¬ ert Burns. Also likes the humor of Robert Benchley and the topical writ¬ ings of O. O. McIntyre and Arthur Brisbane. He is six feet tall and weighs 155 pounds. Has dark brown hair and blue-grey eyes. ERNEST TORRENCE Few movie fans are aware that Er¬ nest Torrence, who plays with Claud¬ ette Colbert and Ben Lyon in “I Coyer the Waterfront,” the United Artists picture, was famous as a concert pian¬ ist and was a musical comedy star prior to his debut in pictures. Audiences all over the world are familiar \vith Torrence’s six feet, four inches of height and his 220 pounds of weight, but only a few know that he once sang in opera. One reason, of course, is that he seldom talks about himself. Ernest Torrence was born in Edin¬ burgh, Scotland, and after elementary school education attended the Edin¬ burgh Academy of Music. From there he went to the Conservatorium in Stuttgart, Germany, and the Royal Academy of Music in London. His professional career started as a concert pianist. Later he took up sing¬ ing, his forte being baritone, and in 1900 he won a Royal Academy medal for operatic work. The next year he became the leading baritone of the Savoy Opera Company in England. An English musical comedy producer sought him out and talked figures which Torrence couldn’t afford to turn down. Thence he became a star and finally landed on Broadway. It was while he was appearing in New York in “The Night Boat” that the movies sought him out. And he made his debut as the villainous moun¬ taineer in “Tol’able David,” one of the greatest so-called “heavy” roles the screen has ever seen. Following one or-two smaller pictures, he again climbed to the heights as the giant scout in “The Covered Wagon.” And, incidentally, James Cruze, his present director, handled that masterpiece. In recent years Torrence has played a score of diversified roles, sometimes sinister, sometimes comic, but always convincing. His main hobby is, of course, music, and he also likes golf and Scottish Terriers. He is married and has a son who aspires to follow his father’s footsteps. Sea-Going Cowboy Ropes Whale and Drags it to Shore "I Cover the Waterfront” Company Witnesses Unprecedented Capture in Pacific A “sea-going cowboy’s” unique expe¬ rience was added the other day to the strange chapters in the bizarre annals of a Pacific Coast port. It happened during the making of “I Cover the \. aterfront,” romantic thriller of the screen based on Max Miller’s best-selling book, with Clau¬ dette Colbert, Ben Lyon and Ernest Torrence in the principal roles of the Edward Small production for United Artists directed by James Cruze. Lassoes a Whale The film company, which already had succeeded in harpooning several huge sharks, from 19 to 25 feet in length and weighing from two to three tons each, was on the lookout for other unusual “atmosphere,” when Carl Leonard, a ship’s carpenter of San Pedro, Cal., did something that there is no record of anybody else ever doing in the history of the world. Leonard lassoed a whale! Fishing from a skiff in the channel be¬ tween San Pedro and Catalina Island, Leonard first glimpsed the whale chas¬ ing a school of fish. With each gulp of his meal, the whale’s tail flew out of the water. Leonard, accustomed to thinking fast when the unexpected happened during a career on the seven seas, fashioned a lariat of the skiff’s painter, gave it a whirl in approved cowboy style, and dropped it over the whale’s tail. A moment later Leonard and the whale were racing at express- train speed. After an hour’s battle, the whale tired sufficiently to permit Leo¬ nard to maneuver toward shore, where in shallow waters and with the aid of spectators who had witnessed the feat through binoculars, the mamal was killed.. Goes to Science It proved to be a youngster, only about nine months old, of the “Blue” variety, fifteen feet long and weighing half a ton. In the meantime, Dr. A. Elmer Belt, Los Angeles specialist, had read of the fare catch, and he requested custody of the carcass for scientific experiments. Science also displayed keen interest in the harpooning of several huge sharks during the filming of scenes in “I Cover the Waterfront.” A whale school of these monsters was encoun¬ tered by the motion picture company in the open sea off Monterey, California. This particular type of shark is one of the largest found any place in the world and is rare in California waters. The Los Angeles Museum of His¬ tory, Science and Art put in a bid for specimens as soon as the success of the “I Cover the Waterfront” company became known. Aliens Smuggled 66 Champ Spitter Inside Sharks Torrence’s New Like Jonah Title Chinese Actors Portray Unwel¬ come Roles in “I Cover the Waterfront” Screen actors have found themselves in many strange situations during the filming of thousands of pictures in Hollywood’s history, but no assign¬ ment was so bizarre as the experience of a group of Chinese atmospheric players in “I Cover the Waterfront,” Reliance’s romantic thriller for United Artists. They were paid to be modern Jonahs, only instead of whales, they had to live inside huge sharks! This fantastic situation, which in reality is not as fantastic as it sounds, according to authorities who for years have been combatting the smuggling of Chinese into California, was neces¬ sary to fit the story action in the pic¬ ture based on Max Miller’s best-sell¬ ing book, “I Cover the Waterfront.” Caught Huge Sharks Ben Lyon, playing opposite Claud¬ ette Colbert, has the role of a reporter who aids Federal men in running down a gang of pseudo-fishermen, headed by Ernest Torrence, whose real racket is smuggling Chinese into the United States. After landing hordes of the undesirable aliens under the very noses of the authorities, the mystery finally is solved. The Chinese are inside sharks delivered to a fertil¬ izer factory. In bringing this remarkable action to the screen, the film company, under the direction of James Cruze, the man responsible for “The Covered Wagon,” “Old Ironsides” and other epical pro¬ ductions, cruised the high seas off the California coast until it encountered a school of huge sharks. After a battle lasting for hours and while cameras and sound equipment recorded the action, harpooners suc¬ ceeded in landing several of the mon¬ sters, some of them 25 feet long and weighing three tons. These “elephant” sharks are among the largest found any place on the globe, and this par¬ ticular school was the biggest ever known in California. Returning more than 100 miles to the waterfront location at the port of San Pedro, where the United States battle fleet, and the U. S. S. Constitu¬ tion, popularly known as Old Ironsides, added to the “atmosphere,” the sharks were strung up with the aid of steel cranes, and the Chinese placed inside them.for some of the climatic scenes in “I Cover the Waterfront.” Artificial Breathing Bound hand and foot with chains (the smugglers, in the story, being always ready to throw them overboard and destroy the evidence in case of pursuit and capture by U. S. Coast Guard boats), the Chinese extras were enabled to breathe by means of a gas mask contrivance, attached to rub¬ ber tubes running to the opened jaws of the dead monsters. Outside of having to burn their clothes and scrub themselves thorough¬ ly after emulating Jonah, the Orien¬ tal actors suffered no ill effects as a result of the unique experience. Fortunately, it was not necessary to film re-takes, for the Chinese, through interpreters, insisted: “No want do again.” Actor, Playing Role of Old Salt, Does Wonders With Tobacco Juice Of all things—a champion spitter! If there’s any honor to such an at¬ tainment, Ernest Torrence can lay claim to it in Hollywood. The screen personality, who, in pri¬ vate life is a cultured gentleman, a dis¬ tinguished figure in any drawing room, a fine pianist and a champion of good manners, was required to become an expert spitter for his hard-boiled char¬ acterization in “I Cover the Water¬ front.” Well-Aimed Squirt One of the scenes in the romantic thriller based on Max Miller’s popular book, demands that Torrence put out Ben Lyon’s cigaret with a well-aimed squirt of masticated navy plug. Tor¬ rence plays a fisherman, and Lyon a reporter who finally exposes him as smuggler of Chinese. In the screen story, Torrence is a resourceful old villain who conceals the Oriental Jonahs inside 25-foot sharks to get them into the United States. When customs men chase him into a tight spot, he wraps the human contraband in iron chains and dunks them in the Pacific Ocean. The spitting incident didn’t particu¬ larly appeal to Torrence, but a story’s a story, a villain’s a villain, and a job’s a job, and the veteran actor was too good a trouper to take issue with James Cruze, directing the United Artists’ picture. Became Proficient Torrence used up three slabs of navy plug before he got confidence enough to try a cigaret in Lyon’s hand as a bulls-eye. The scene was made three times before the right effect was achieved. The wind interfered with Torrence’s aim on one occasion, and Lyon moved the cigaret out of target range the second time. The third at¬ tempt was ruled perfect. Lyon himself was untouched, but his overcoat had to go to the cleaners. Incidentally, it was one scene that Claudette Colbert, who plays the chief feminine role in “I Cover the Water¬ front,” did not care to see filmed. REAL TOUGH GUY When the producers of "I Cover the Waterfront,” Reliance’s romantic thriller for United Artists, sought an actor to play a particularly tough character, they chose a man who for years lived just as “hard” a life as the screen types he portrays. He is A1 Hill, whose career reads like the wildest of fiction. He knows, intimately, tfrfc underworlds of most of the world capitals, and by his own published admissions, has seen the in¬ side of jails as guest of the authori¬ ties. He has written two books, “Jail bird,” and “Easy Pickings,” which have been pronounced among the most amazing human documents of the twentieth century.