07 November 2007

"Dancing the Devil Away"

Terrors, both real and imagined, hold sway in this entry, so pull up your collar --- steady your trembling hand as you reach for a flickering candle --- and let us furtively amble down the darkened hallways of other days.

"See and Hear Spook Music!" was one of numerous print lures used to publicize the 1928 Warner Bros. film "The Terror," which holds the honor of being the first sound horror film with dialogue --- and the sad distinction of also being a lost (and much sought after) film as well.

From prepared press releases distributed to newspapers at the time of the film's release, and from scattered local reviews, we can gain an impression of the lost film with some sense of immediacy:

"In 'The Terror,' mystery thriller at the __________ this week, the opening titles are announced by a masked man in formal dress with the admonition that no one is to leave the theater until the picture is finished. This warning was totally unnecessary because after 'The Terror' began, the fans could do little but grip their seats."

"Black shrouded death hovers throughout the picture while the audience shudders and shivers. Flickering lights, ghostly shadows, strange murders, knives flashing in dark places, shrieks and screams, guns blazing out of darkness, dead bodies falling, appalling situations, a treasure hunt sheeted with deadly angers --- and, throughout, spine chilling touches of human comedy!"

"There are no subtitles. The characters introduce themselves, and the plot is carried along through voice and action throughout the play --- and successfully too, for in 'The Terror' the realization is brought home as to the possibilities of the Vitaphone. There is none of that delay or slowing up of the action, for which there was criticism of the talking pictures when first introduced."

"In this picture, thrills run rampant. Peculiar happenings like screwing men's heads to their bodies and holding spiritualistic seances in the dark, are but a few of the highlights of horror." "The story is set in an old house called Monkhall, which is being used for 'rest cures' for the insane, and which is infested with toads, the harbingers of death --- and tells the story of a maniacal murderer, a Mr. O'Shea, who has eluded police and whose crimes are always marked by devilish ingenuity and characterized by mutilation and horrible violence. An old doctor, played by Alec B. Francis, is the proprietor of the place, and by some mysterious influence he is compelled to stay there with his daughter, played by May McEvoy. Then, one character after another is introduced into the scene, while leaving the impression that each is more weird in 'get up' than the one immediately preceding."

"As with all mystery stories, the tale is made up of a succession of queer happenings. Edward Everett Horton in the hero's role is fine in such situations and through the constant use of the Vitaphone, his portrayal is colored more effectively than it would be in the silent drama."

"As an example of the added effectiveness obtainable through the Vitaphone, director Roy Del Ruth cites the weird effect secured through a hidden pipe organ whose uncanny interruptions of scenes is one of the many factors injecting a creepy feeling into the play. In the silent drama, the weird effect of the organ's playing would be put over only by the registration of the physical reaction of the player's fingers upon the keys and by written titles. In this Vitaphone production the weird melodies of the organ break into the tense dialogue of the actors, thus setting them on the quest of the cause of the mysterious music and make everybody in the audience eager to tiptoe after."

"Other scenes, such as the sound of a falling body in the darkness indicating that violence has been done, the sudden slamming of a door with no one near to slam it, mysterious rapping, shots, and shrieks, all become dynamic through the Vitaphone." "The fine recording of the Vitaphone cannot escape mention, and it must be said that 'The Terror' gains much through continuous use of it. However, the audience is altogether much too absorbed in the idiotic laughter of John Miljan and other blood-curdling events to notice such details as that. The thrills persist even to the finish. As the final scene fades, one can still hear John Miljan's voice ringing out that the man in the seat next to you may be 'The Terror!'"

The 1929 First National film "The House of Horror" would be director Benjamin Christensen's final entry in his trilogy of spook house films made for the studio between late 1928 and mid-1929, being preceded by "Haunted House" and "Seven Footprints to Satan." Of the three films, only "Seven Footprints" is known to have survived intact, albeit disconnected from its Vitaphone discs.

Of the three films, this final entry appears to have most fully utilized the Vitaphone process in terms of being peppered with dialogue sequences. "Spooks Speak Spooky" sagely observed some print ads, while others played up the film's comic and fantasy elements:
"It's a hair raiser! Vitaphone takes you right inside this spook-packed house - into the eerie cellar - up into the ghostly garret - you'll hear noises that will send your heart right into your mouth! You'll see things that will scare the laughs out of you!"

In "The House of Horror," Chester Conklin and spinster sister Louise Fazenda are summoned from the general store they own in Ohio by a "mystery man" (William Mong) to visit their miserly reclusive Uncle Abner (Emile Chautard) in New York City, at his dilapidated old sprawling mansion, filled to the rafters with the product of a lifetime of antique collecting.

Upon arriving, Conklin and Fazenda are found to be just two of six people also summoned to the home by the mysterious figure --- and with cast assembled, the story (concerning a missing diamond) and parade of visual and aural horrors ensues.

Unlike the previous two old dark house films, the First National publicity machine barely sputtered this time around and the film fared poorly at the box office too, although not unexpectedly at a time when the by-now familiar trappings were up against far more spectacular and innovative films offering music and Technicolor.

A rather forlorn newspaper publicity placement from August of 1929 opts not to profile the director, cast, plot or even the Vitaphone: "Hollywood dealers in antiques probably sighed with relief when 'The House of Horror' was completed on the First National lot, and the big vans began delivering the hundreds of rare pieces of art and furniture that had been rented for use in that picture."
"The story of this new mystery thriller which features Chester Conklin and Louise Fazenda, is laid in an old New York antiques shop belonging to a miserly collector, and as a consequence a number of great rooms had to be filled to overflowing with antiques. No studio property room, even one so well equipped as that as First National, could supply such a demand, so the antique shops of Hollywood were raided and rented, in some cases almost completely, and the stocks moved to the big stages."

No grasping about for publicity hooks was needed a short two years later when Universal's "Frankenstein" reached the screen, although it's fascinating to explore the ways in which the film was promoted to audiences that, while no stranger to horror cinema, had still never encountered something quite like this offering.

From the start, Karloff's lumbering monster was an object of pity in ads, described as possessing "every sensation known to man except the love of a woman, and he lived in misery and died in shame. A fiend or a fabled monster --- or a soulless wretch with a mechanical brain?"

The clever ad at left thinly disguised itself as a feature story, perhaps causing a few bleary eyed morning news readers to spit-take their morning coffee before catching on to the gentle ruse by the end of the second paragraph.

One constant in most print ads was a re-working of the spoken announcement that begins the film, and then as now, any warning that suggests the consumer might not be suitably fit for the product is surefire bait.

"A Friendly Warning: If you have a weak heart and cannot stand excitement or gruesomeness, we advise you NOT to see this production. On the contrary, if you like an unusual thrill, you will find it in 'Frankenstein.'"

Likewise, if you're seeking a superb blog overview of all things Frankenstein... and one that's beautifully written and as carefully constructed as the hapless title creature itself, by all means hasten to "Frankensteinia," scribed by Pierre Fournier. It's one you'll bookmark.

Precisely how to market Fox's 1930 science-fiction musical-comedy melodrama puzzled many heads both at studio and local distribution levels, and more often than not the film's very "neither fish nor fowl" nature was found to be the best hook of all.

"It is described as a radically different type of motion picture. It has plenty of mystery, but it is not a mystery like that of 'The Bat.' It is pack with thrills, but not like those in 'The Big Trail.' It is not a back stage story. It is not an underworld drama. It is not a musical comedy although it has both music and comedy. Well, what is it?"

"To tell you too much about it would rob you of half the pleasure of seeing it, so you'll have to 'Just Imagine' for yourself. When the Fox studios started to make it there was deep secrecy. Gradually, the news leaked out as to the nature of this new undertaking. The wise ones shook their heads. 'Just Imagine' will never click with audiences was their verdict. 'It's too different' was the consensus." "When the picture opened in Los Angeles, great crowds who had heard about this new idea in movies thronged the theater. Its success in Los Angeles has been repeated in cities elsewhere the length and breadth of the country. 'Just Imagine' has become a hot for two reasons: Its novelty and its comedy."
A jolting bit of prophecy was provided by Robbin Coons in his syndicated "Hollywood Sights and Sounds" column:

"New Yorkers of fifty years hence may draw down from the dusty shelves where forgotten movies rest, a quaint roll of celluloid dated 1930 and labeled 'Just Imagine,' and gather en masse to ascertain what prophetic powers, if any, were possessed by a certain trio of showmen of our day, the Messrs. DeSylva, Brown and Henderson. Should this transpire, that future audience will see on a screen a musical comedy conception, by 1930 prophets, of what their life, customs and dress would be."

I imagine it would please Messrs. DeSylva, Brown and Henderson that 'Just Imagine' has been making the rounds long before the studio that produced it ever thought of reluctantly tossing it on their cable schedule once in a great while, and that the film's post-1930 appeal --- while not always precisely anchored to the film's intended virtues --- guaranteed that the film would survive not only mishandling and maltreatment, but survive to entertain exactly the audience cited in the columnist's vision.

Here, Abe Lyman's California Orchestra offers 78rpm renditions of two melodies from the film, skillfully arranged for dancing --- be it in your gleaming airship or three room flat. "An Old Fashioned Girl" served as the title theme in addition to being vocalized by John Garrick, while "Never Swat A Fly" remains one of the film's high spots --- performed by Marjorie White and Frank Albertson.

"An Old Fashioned Girl" (1930)

"Never Swat a Fly" (1930)

On the same day, February 16th of 1928, that newspaper readers were learning of the death of Broadway star and vaudevillian Eddie Foy (see previous post, "A Ghost That Walked" for details) another widely syndicated story doubtless caught the attention of readers, for it seemed just the sort of juicy Hollywood scandal story that held as much lurid promise then as it would today:

"Film Writer Found Dead! Girl Quizzed! Hollywood Scenarist Dies in Apartment After Taking Actress to Show and Dinner --- She Summons Physician. Doctor Refuses Certificate - Demands Autopsy!"

The unfortunate young corpse was that of Reginald ("Reggie") Morris, reportedly 34 but apparently a young looking 42 --- and while news reports only cited his current employment at Fox and his recent screenplay "A Girl In Every Port," his career was a long and varied one --- with some forty odd film appearances beginning in a string of Raymond Griffith comedies in 1917 (he'd form a long and close bond with Griffith, and would supply the story for Griffith's 1926 hit "Hands Up!) and working in numerous one and two-reelers and ultimately features for many studios of the day, including Christie, FBO and Triangle.

By the 1920's Morris had graduated to director as well as screenwriter, and he helmed a number of comedic short subjects for FBO with coy titles, such as "The Beloved Rouge," "Peter's Pan," "She Troupes to Conquer" and "The Chin He Loved to Lift."

While Reginald Morris is a barely remembered today, the "Girl Quizzed!" figure in the story is a fondly recalled girl indeed, especially among Laurel & Hardy's legion of fans --- although she herself would suffer an untimely and needless death just three years after Morris.

If you've seen actress Linda Loredo at all, then you probably did just as I --- as a supporting player in the 1931 Laurel & Hardy two-reeler "Come Clean," in which the boys gallantly rescue a mean-spirited would-be suicide victim (the always grand Mae Busch here as "Hollywood Kate") who returns their favor by disrupting their comparatively blissful domestic life and enraging their easily inflamed wives --- Gertrude Astor and the aforementioned Loredo.

Although Linda Loredo had appeared in the a 1927 Jack Hoxie serial titled "Heroes of the Wild" and a 1928 Columbia film "After the Storm," a Hobart Bosworth vehicle described as a "happy combination of the virile action of the sea and the vehement love of youth," she wouldn't find her unique niche in Hollywood until the advent of the talkies, which allowed her to utilize her bilingual Spanish-English abilities in the foreign language release versions of a number of early sound Hal Roach short subjects which starred Charley Chase, Harry Langdon and Laurel & Hardy.

After completing work in the Spanish language version of "Chickens Come Home," (in which I find her actually more effective as the suspicious wife enacted by Thelma Todd in the domestic version --- nobody could glower with more hellfire and damnation than Loredo!) the dark and lovely petite actress was given the role of Mrs. Laurel in "Come Clean" --- which would mark her final screen appearance.

Shortly before her first film for the Roach Studio would be released (late 1929's "Great Gobs," a Charley Chase comedy)
both Linda and her sister Maria were either at loose ends or the clients of an over-zealous and wildly imaginative publicity agent, for they both loomed large in a widely syndicated newspaper feature story that explored the supposed psychic connection between identical twins.

According to the fanciful piece (in which someone inadvertently swapped Linda and Maria's names beneath their pictures) the young girls of Mexican heritage are, we're told, "twin Arabian girls," and furthermore that...
"Superstitious minded folk of their own race came to believe the pair were endowed with some strange power which enabled them to read each other's thoughts" and that the girls were so "perfectly matched" a pair that "Linda and Maria were so attuned that often one seemed to know the thoughts that were passing through the mind of the other twin."

This, despite the fact that Linda's name appeared in newspapers just a few months earlier in connection with far more sobering details than matched Arabian Twins --- the death of actor, screenwriter and director, Reginald Morris.

According to newspaper accounts of February 1928, when officers arrived at the Morris apartment, "they found the writer lying on the floor beside his bed, clad in pajamas."

"Miss Linda Loredo, screen actress, had summoned Dr. J. Krahulik and said that the writer had been suffering from acute indigestion. Miss Loredo was in the apartment, police say, and was crying when police entered. She said Morris had been suddenly seized with severe pains and expressed the belief that he was suffering from indigestion, an ailment to which he was subject." "The actress told police that she and the writer had attended a theater earlier in the evening and had gone to a restaurant before going to the latter's apartment. She said that Morris had eaten a ham and egg sandwich, pickles, olives, and had drunk several glasses of milk. Dr. Krahulik, who knew Morris, refused to sign a death certificate until after an autopsy had been performed."
As it turned out, and so often does --- even though newspaper follow-ups for this type of story were as notoriously absent then as they are now when no scandal or mystery seems forthcoming --- Reginald Morris was simply the innocent victim of a fatal heart attack. Or was he?

Mused one Hollywood columnist at the time, "Is there a cinematic jinx? I don't know, but since fox released 'The Play Girl,' (a 1928 Madge Bellamy film for which Morris had supplied situations) these mishaps have occurred: Reginald Morris, gag man, died of acute indigestion. Tom Rafferty, electrician, tumbled from a loft perch and was instantly killed on the set. Rudolph Berquist, cameraman, was fatally injured while en route to location. Madge Bellamy, star, married Logan Metcalf and separated in less than 100 hours." As for Miss Loredo, could it have been a cinematic jinx by proxy --- or merely falling victim to that ever moving finger of death which silently glides past each and every one of us with each passing day?

We pause while you peruse other-worldly matters such as this, and offer up a bit of soothing music to calm any jangled nerves that may be present.

The theme song for the otherwise silent United Artists film "Ramona," a mid-1928 starring vehicle for actress Dolores Del Rio has long since outlived the film it once accompanied, and even managed to survive a decade or so of syrupy lounge-music renditions to stand as a sweetly simple melody with equally pretty lyrics.

Two renditions, a stark but effective presentation by Ruth Etting --- and the other, a wistfully vocalized offering by Gene Austin, accompanied by Nat Shilkret & the Victor Orchestra.

"Ramona" (1928) Ruth Etting

"Ramona" (1928) Gene Austin

To follow up on a previous blog entry in which the 1929 Paramount part-Technicolor production "Redskin" was discussed --- and with which various 78rpm recordings of the film's theme song were offered, I had lamented the fact that the commercial recording of the theme song by vocalist Helen Clark (who was also called upon to warble the tune on the film's synchronized music and effects score --- part of which accompanies the film's recent DVD release) couldn't be found in time to accompany the piece. Courtesy of George Moore, friend to these pages and its author, we now correct that omission.

Here then is Helen Clark (pictured left) and her commercial recording of the theme song for "Redskin," which is happily just as rich and vibrant as her contribution to the film soundtrack. The somewhat dodgy sonics are regrettable, but this is one of those cases where something is infinitely more tuneful than nothing.

"Redskin" (1929) Helen Clark

"Sometimes I'm Happy" (1927) Charles King & Louise Groody

And, to accompany that same post's mention of the 1930 RKO musical "Hit the Deck," here's an offering from that title's 1927 stage incarnation --- the lovely tune "Sometimes I'm Happy," performed two of the show's Broadway cast members, Louise Groody and Charles King. Yes, the same Charles King who'd find himself torn between Anita Page and Bessie Love on the talking picture screen in just a couple of years.

No matter how clever we think ourselves to be in hauling the 1930 Warner Bros. (once) All-Technicolor film "Golden Dawn" across the coals whenever the decidedly surreal film is mentioned, the fact remains that 1930 audiences and critics were similarly rolling their eyes too when the film first bowed. A review from a local Oakland, California newspaper:

"'Golden Dawn' is a formula story of life in the jungles with the handsome white warrior falling head over heels in love with the beautiful fair-skinned tom-tom belle. It turns out that she is a white girl who has been raised native by an evil woman. This is not a particularly new idea in the theater, and Warner Brothers make no special attempt to inject novelty. Their bid for fame is on the strength of the cast and the melodies, with an occasional dip into the hootchie-kootchie, disguised as religious dances. 'Golden Dawn' is a pleasant but uneventful picture. Its grief is never very poignant -- its melodrama never very exciting -- and its romance quite passive. Yet withal, it passes the time affably, contains some picturesque scenery and Miss Segal photographs better than she has on her previous screen visits."

Of course, the film can only be seen at a serious disadvantage today (hold the wisecracks please!) owing to the fact that the title exists only without its original Technicolor hues, and in scanning period reviews and publicity placements it was the color element that seems to have captured the fancy of viewers --- serving almost as a visual diversion from the film's flaws and weaknesses. Much was made of the unusual lighting effects employed in the film --- odd tints that played across the faces of the performers as reflected light from the settings in which the various scenes were enacted, an element that's not even hinted at in surviving prints, it should be noted. True, even with prismatic effects intact its doubtful "Golden Dawn" would be elevated to a much higher plateau than the one on which it resides, but gosh --- wouldn't I love the chance to be proven wrong!

Two melodies from "Golden Dawn" when it played upon Broadway's Hammerstein Theater stage for 184 performances between November 1927 and May 1928, performed by Mike Markel & His Society Orchestra --- recorded in December of 1927.

"Dawn" (1927) and "We Two" (1927)

Arriving on screens in February of 1930 after entering production in late 1929, Metro's "Lord Byron of Broadway" is, I believe, is as oddly fascinating a film as it is generally overlooked and underrated. Based up a novel by Nell Shipman (which MGM purchased the rights to in January of 1929) it's really the only early musical in which the lead character is not only an anti-hero, but a thoroughly deplorable one at that --- using and abusing people around him with chilling ease throughout the film, and utterly unconvincing when his supposed redemption arrives moments before the film's fade-out.

With a cast largely composed of Broadway exiles (some theaters simply advertised the film as having "An Eastern Cast") chief among them Charles Kaley as the title figure and Ethelind Terry (star of Broadway's "Rio Rita") its not difficult to see why the film fared poorly outside of key cities, despite the care and expense lavished upon the film --- which, for all it's shortcomings is a beautiful and polished object to behold --- a film I've long considered to be among the best photographed and recorded of all the early screen musicals.

Charles Kaley. Where did he come from? Where did he go? Why did he, as reported in Louella Parson's syndicated column, win the plum role out of "sixty, count 'em - sixty" other actors who were tested? We learn of Kaley's background via a personality profile by Hollywood columnist Robbin Coons ---

"The talking screen's newest recruit from the ranks of phonograph recording artists is Charles Kaley, with a face like a collar ad and a likeable personality in spite of that. Kaley, who used to play around movie lots when he was with Abe Lyman's orchestra here a few years back, never thought of going into the movies, although his handsome face might have made him a leading man as good as any the silent screen had known. For some reason or other, the movies did not interest him, and he went on, living his own musical life."

"When the screen found its voice, however, that was a different matter. Not that he was then a veteran of the stage, or a finished actor, for his whole legit experience was obtained as a singing juvenile in Earl Carroll's Vanities, except that for the past two and a half years he has been a master of ceremonies in Chicago theaters." (Ed- At Chicago's Granada theater.) "Kaley, vacationing here this summer, was invited to take screen tests, and as a result received several talkie offers, but he was still under contract in Chicago. Still, the talkies appealed to him -- five shows a day, day in and day out, back in Chicago, constituted a grind of which he was getting tired. So, eventually he settled the matter by buying his Chicago contract. It cost him $15,000 -- but he says it was worth it."

We pause here, at Kaley's entry into talking pictures, to explore a bit of the performer's early recorded work.

Before signing with Abe Lyman's California Ambassador Hotel Orchestra in 1923, Kaley was vocalist for Joe Kaysor's Orchestra --- house band at the Crystal Palace Ballroom in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

Charles Kaley emerges on phonograph records in 1923 and would record with Lyman, Ben Selvin and others --- as well as being a featured solo vocalist, between that year and 1928. A selection of Charles Kaley's work from this period:

"No No, Nora!" (1923) with Abe Lyman

"Mary Lou" (1926) with Abe Lyman

"After I Say I'm Sorry" (1926) with Abe Lyman

"Blue Skies" (1927) with the Knickerbockers

"Dancing the Devil Away" (1927) with Don Voorhees

For at least one reviewer of "Lord Byron of Broadway" in Charleston, West Virginia, the film seems to have proven frustrating --- having all the necessary ingredients for a truly fine screen musical, but woefully lacking in the story department:

"A cast composed mostly of stage stars presents entertainment at the Capitol theater this week that is rather worthwhile. 'Lord Byron of Broadway' presents a new star in the person of Charles Kaley. The picture includes most of the features that producers evidently deem essential in present day talkies: catchy tunes, elaborate choruses and views of the dressing rooms backstage. The plot concerns a song writer who gets most of his ideas for tunes from others while he capitalizes upon their emotional impressions by employing them in his songs." "The tunes are as good as any being turned out by the movie studios today. The chorus scenes are elaborate and novel in certain respects. The singing is good. The story? Better see the picture yourself to determine that."

In what can't help but be seen as a case of life imitating art, Kaley's personal life before, during and after his bid at screen stardom reads like an early draft of the film.

We learn that Kaley had at least two wives before entering talkies, one being Alfelda Kaley (left) who cheerfully told anyone who'd listen in December of 1930 of the beating she received at the hands of a businessman following her divorce from Kaley.

Three years earlier, Kaley was married to minor Broadway actress Hannah Williams, but their marriage was annulled. Interestingly, Williams rebounded from this disappointment in top form, marrying bandleader/composer Roger Wolfe Kahn (son of the renowned Otto Kahn) in February of 1931 before skipping out on him (and his family's vast fortune) to marry boxer Jack Dempsey in 1933!

Kaley would be romantically linked with "Lord Byron" co-star Gwen Lee before and during the filming, but with his exit from Hollywood, Kaley formed his own orchestra and after a brief stint on the radio in the early 1930's, he retreated to Reno, Nevada --- where he'd more or less make his home for the rest of his life, first as a featured vocalist for other bands and then as bandleader of his own in that town's various entertainment venues --- including an extended stint with Sammy Cohen and His 14-Piece Orchestra at Reno's "El Patio Ballroom." Cohen, billed as "Movieland's Musical Maniac" at the El Patio, had appeared in small roles in numerous silent and sound films, most notably "What Price Glory" in 1926 as "Private Lipinksy."

Wisely or not, Kaley can be seen in December of 1936 as the new groom of Leah Sewell after being wed in Las Vegas, with the bride bringing along a bit of history of her own after having been a central figure in a "wife-swapping" case during her marriage (her third) to a Beverly Hills millionaire two years earlier. Kaley knew his onions, it would seem.

But, so did his new wife --- and one month later, newspapers announce that Kaley would partake in a second annulment when he wife admitted they had separated. "Business connections which I have here are the main reason," explained Leah Sewell, "I have property holdings here and I am the head of a large oil company left by my father. I cannot leave. There is nothing sensational about our separation. We remain very good friends and I hope we always shall."

Despite the marriage being annulled in April of 1937, Kaley wouldn't budge. Understandably. Remarkably, he staged what the press accurately described as a "sit down strike" in the pair's palatial home. Kaley is quoted as saying:

"I sat down after we had a squabble to regain that certain something which we both had felt when we eloped to Las Vegas. I meant to prove her charge that she was a 'kissless bride' was wrong. If she had showed up I'd have kissed her, even while I was sitting down. But she checked out."

All that is probably best left to personal interpretation of the event, but it was all to no avail. Sewell moved on, and Kaley returned to the happy hunting grounds of Reno.

Charles Kaley fades from view in the press at this point (he does rate fleeting mention as musically supporting the Andrews Sisters during personal appearances of the singing trio in San Francisco of June 1941) but rematerializes in December of 1948 in the double-take inducing piece at the left from a Reno newspaper, which is meant to be waggish but which can't help but paint a picture of an older Kaley as a somewhat pathetic figure indeed --- entertaining at Reno's "Villa Sierra" club, and making use of time between sets to gulp whiskey and canvas the patrons for possible life insurance sales.

Remarkably, the notation at the bottom of the column reveals it to be a paid advertisement for the Villa Sierra club, but the mind boggles at what possible inducement the piece was thought to contain to entice new patrons!

Whiskey and life insurance sales doesn't appear to have done any harm to the seemingly indestructible Kaley, for he not only flourished in Reno --- but also married and fathered a son. Our last glimpse of Kaley is in January of 1956 --- where his band (still billed as "Charles Kaley & His Orchestra") was packing them in at Reno's Riverside Nightclub.

Mr. & Mrs. Kaley can be seen as Reno registered voters for the next few years, but Kaley would pass on in Santa Clara, California in September of 1965. In retrospect, "Lord Byron of Broadway" was but a minor footnote in Kaley's eventful life, but --- in retrospect, MGM did indeed make the perfect choice in selecting Kaley out of sixty other candidates to enact the title role of the much maligned early musical.

Two selections from "Lord Byron of Broadway," as captured on commercial 78rpm discs in 1930:

"Should I?" (1930) Arden & Ohman Orchestra

"The Woman in the Shoe" (1930) The Hotel Pennsylvania Orchestra

To conclude this post, we have another example of an early musical receiving the serial treatment in nationwide newspapers --- this time around the subject being "The Desert Song," in which the film's entire scenario was neatly and thoroughly detailed in three wordy installments. To the left is the first entry --- with the final one offered a bit further down in the exit hallway of this entry.

"The Desert Song" (1927) Nat Shilkret & Orchestra

"One Alone" (1926) Don Voorhees & His Orchestra

Lastly, to usher readers out of the main auditorium that is these pages, Leo Reisman and his Orchestra go to town on an exceptionally fine rendition of:

"'Cause I Feel Low Down" (1928)

Until Next Time!

Publicity and Ad for "The Cat Creeps"
(Universal - 1930)

Lobby card for the Spanish Language
version of Dracula (Universal-1931)

Poster Art for "The Gorilla"
(First National - 1927)

Dancer, Joyzelle, in "Just Imagine"
(Fox - 1930)
Three years earlier, a somewhat less embellished figure
as the hootch dancer in the Vitaphone short "The Night Court"

Linda Loredo as Mrs. Hardy, rides the
whirlwind of destruction arising from the installation
of a new radio in the Spanish language version
of "Hog Wild" (MGM-Roach 1930)

From souvenir program of "The Terror"

"The Desert Song"
Newspaper Serialization
June 1929

Cedar Rapids, Iowa - March of 1928



Holland Oats said...

this site is a great resource -- much thanks

Anonymous said...

The movie posters are quite attractive. I wonder how much of a hint "Golden Dawn's" gives as to how the film might actually have looked.

"Just Imagine" was a valiant try, especially at doing something different. For some odd reason, I would like to see how Harry Langdon might have done in El Brendel's role. (Joe E. Brown would have been a bit too blaring.) Or Charley Chase would have been a very off-beat choice. Fresh from a speakeasy?

William Ferry said...

Hi Jeff!

Enjoyable update, as always. But for heaven's sake, how could you omit a mention of the musical highlight of GOLDEN DAWN, the inimitable "My Bwana"?

'Nuf sed!
William Ferry

Anonymous said...

"Lord Byron of Broadway" seems to have been a jinx of a sort for one of its directors, William Nigh. One of MGM's regular directors during the silent era, Nigh had helmed productions featuring Lon Chaney, Ramon Novarro and Joan Crawford. But after this film, he would be relegated to Poverty Row, where he worked prolifically at Monogram Studios.

Stacia said...

A post with both "Just Imagine" AND "Golden Dawn"? Amazing! I always forget that "Golden Dawn" used to be in Technicolor because it scans so well in the black and white versions we see today.

Jeff Cohen said...

Hello, Stacia!

You bring up an interesting point -- that being why surviving B&W examples of certain early Technicolor films either look fantastic (LIFE OF THE PARTY)or decent (ON WITH THE SHOW, GOLDEN DAWN) or awful (SALLY, KISS ME AGAIN.)

Look for a future post exploring just this!