Lola Montez (1821 – 1861) – Portaits

Posted in Uncategorized on October 30, 2014 by travsd

travsd:

Much more to follow on this lady from yours truly in the months to come!

Originally posted on Photographs, film, literature & qoutes from the bygone era:

Lola Montez or Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert, Countess of Landsfeld,  was an Irish courtesan, actress and dancer – she became famous as the “Spanish dancer.

Her friends, lovers, and clients included Franz List, Alexandre Dumas and King Ludwig I.

In 1851, she came to the United States and in San Francisco, first performed her notorious “Spider Dance”—in which she pretended to be bitten by a spider, flailing and wiggling in a way calculated to induce maximum lust in the mostly male audience

King Ludwig I of Bavaria made her Countess of Landsfeld. She used her influence to institute liberal reforms. At the start of the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states, she was forced to flee. She proceeded to the United States via Switzerland, France and London, returning to her work as an entertainer and lecturer.

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Lola Montez

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Lola Montez, Daguerreotype by Southworth & Hawes (1851)

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The Golem

Posted in Horror (Mostly Gothic), Jews/ Show Biz, Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , on October 29, 2014 by travsd

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Today (just in time for Halloween) is the anniversary of the original German premiere of the pathbreaking silent horror classic Der Golem, wie er die Welt kam (1920).

The film is the third part of a Golem trilogy, co-directed and co-written by its star Paul Wegener. Adapted from Jewish folklore (by way of a novel by Gustave Meyrink), the film has much in common with German Expressionist classics like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari — one looks at it and sees a visual and thematic antecedent to everything from Frankenstein to The Mummy. Plus it has these amazing cultural overtones, rare for a film of its time. Set in the Jewish ghetto of Prague during medieval times, the film opens on a rabbi bringing the titular clay monster to life with kabbalistic magic…very scary, he calls up a devil, and receives a magic word. The creature, which resembles a 7 foot tall toddler, is supposed to stop the Emperor’s pogrom. He does indeed terrorize the Emperor and his minions, literally bringing down the roof at the very moment when they have the gall to laugh at a magically conjured vision of the 40 years wandering. Unfortunately, the rabbi begins to lose control of his creature. The golem runs amok and starts to tear apart the ghetto. He throws the fey messenger-knight (who has been bedding the rabbi’s daughter) off the roof. In the end, he picks up a sweet little girl (presaging a similar scene in Frankenstein). But she innocently takes the magic word off his chest making him go back to clay.

For more in early film history don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etcchain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

Will Rogers in “The Ropin’ Fool”

Posted in AMERICANA, Comedians, Comedy, Crackers, Hollywood (History), Lariat Artists/ Wild West Shows, Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , on October 29, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the 1922 Hal Roach short The Ropin’ Fool, starring the great Will Rogers (see my full bio on him here)  A lot of people know Rogers as a performer or a monologist, a columnist, as a radio star and/or a star of early talkies. I’m willing to bet that not many know that this highly talkative man was also in SILENT films (at least for a while). In The Ropin’ Fool, Rogers shows off some of the skills that first made him a star of wild west shows and vaudeville: Music is by our old buddy Ben Model:

Don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etcchain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Eddie Cantor and Gypsy Rose Lee in “Ali Baba Goes to Town”

Posted in Comedy, Eddie Cantor, Hollywood (History), Movies with tags , , , on October 29, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Eddie Cantor comedy Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937).

This movie, while plenty funny, marks the end of Cantor’s flush period as a 30’s comedy star. After having starred in a talkie every year since 1930, the next movie after Al Baba wouldn’t be for three years, and thereafter his vehicles became less and less frequent. By this stage in his career Cantor was waxing stout and middle aged – – his traditional character didn’t suit him as well any more.

Ali Baba is essentially a remake of Cantor’s earlier stage and screen hit Roman Scandals, except in this one (rather than ancient Rome) Eddie falls asleep as a movie extra on a film set for Arabian Nights and awakes as Ali Baba. The film is not a font of racial sensitivity—in addition to the constant lampoon of Arab culture, Cantor indulges in some very late blackface. But the jokes and music are good, and the plot moves along. Lots of rare topical humor at the EXPENSE of the New Deal as Eddie tries to remake the Sultan’s government. An eye-opener…criticisms about high taxes!  There were five writers on the project – – all Republicans, I’m guessing!

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Gypsy Rose Lee is also in the film as the Sultana, in only her second role as an attempted movie star under her real name Louise Hovick. Though I am naturally among her worshippers, it’s not hard to see why she never became a movie star (though a highly intelligent woman, she couldn’t, um, act. Whereas her siser June havoc could).

Also in the film – -wow! : crooner Tony Martin, John Carradine (as a thug), Douglas Dumbrille (as a Prince), Sidney Fields, Charles Lane, Jeni Le Gon, Hank Mann and Lee J. Cobb in bit parts, and dozens of the top stars of 1937 in cameos at a fictional movie premiere — including, hilariously enough, Eddie Cantor!

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Century of Slapstick #53: Gentlemen of Nerve

Posted in Century of Slapstick, Charlie Chaplin, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Mabel Normand, Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , , , , on October 29, 2014 by travsd

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Today marks the 100th anniversary of the release date of the Charlie Chaplin/ Keystone comedy Gentlemen of Nerve. This is one of what I call the ad hoc/ improv type silent comedies, shot at an actual car race. There is a nice feeling of ensemble in this little comedy, a confidence that bespeaks a gang of comedians that have been playing together for several months are just now coming into their own creatively.

Chester Conklin and Mabel Normand play a couple who come to watch the car race. As soon as they sit down in the stands, Chester starts flirting with a homely woman in a crazy hat (Phyllis Allen). Mabel pulls his nose to get him to stop. Meanwhile Chaplin and Mack Swain tussle about trying to enter the track. They shake hands. Then they try to sneak in through the fence. Whereupon Swain gets stuck. Charlie goes under his legs and through. A Keystone Kop  helps Mack out. Then Chaplin begins flirting with Mabel, pushing Conklin out of the way. By the end of the film, with much fooling around in between, Chaplin winds up with TWO girls.

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Arbuckle, Keaton and St. John in “Coney Island”

Posted in BROOKLYN, Buster Keaton, Comedy, Coney Island, Fatty Arbuckle, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film with tags , , , , , on October 29, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of the Comique comedy Coney Island (1917).

In this classic comedy short, Fatty Arbuckle, Buster Keaton and Al St. John take turns dating the same girl (Alice Mann) at Coney Island (despite the fact that Arbuckle’s character is married). Inevitably Arbuckle winds up going in drag in a woman’s bathing suit. In addition to priceless period footage of Coney’s Luna Park in its heyday, this film offers the sight of Keaton doing an impressive blackflip, and — even more exotic — crying!

 

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Charlie Chaplin in “Limelight”

Posted in British Music Hall, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Clown, Comedy, Hollywood (History), Movies with tags , , , on October 29, 2014 by travsd

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Today is the anniversary of the release date of Charlie Chaplin’s last indisputably great movie Limelight (1952).

Limelight was a victim of history twice over; if not for two accidents of history one imagines it would have been hailed by press and public upon its release. But that’s not what happened. Chaplin’s last huge success had been The Great Dictator, over a decade earlier. Unfortunately, he had followed it up with Monsieur Verdoux (1947), a movie so deeply unpopular with the American public it single-handedly tanked what had theretofore been a spotless, almost infallible career. Chaplin was all but pilloried in the wake of this film’s release, which is particularly a shame since the public was likely to have embraced his next film as Chaplin’s Triumphant Return if circumstances hadn’t prejudiced them against even checking it out.

Limelight (1952) is not so much a comedy as a drama about a comedian – a down on his luck, aging clown with an alcohol problem, someone who used to be great but now can’t even get work. He pulls himself together to become the mentor and salvation of a suicidal ballet dancer played by Claire Bloom. Along the way there are bits of pantomime as Chaplin’s music hall performer (named Calvero, and quite distinct from the Tramp) takes the stage. We finally get to see Chaplin’s flea circus routine (previously filmed in fragments in By the Sea and The Professor) in its entirety. And there is the tour de force comedy scene between him and Buster Keaton, the only time the pair appeared together on film.

By all rights, this should have been Chaplin’s last film, as was originally planned. His artistic reputation would have been intact, the story caps his myth, and it is the only picture in which his character dies. Talk about Oscar bait! But as great as Limelight is (and the script and performances are terrific, too) the film never had a chance. As Chaplin sailed to England for the promotional tour, he received a wire saying that his re-entry permit to return to the U.S. had been revoked. Rather than suffer the indignity of reapplying, he spent the remainder of his life in American exile in Switzerland. (This is the second accident of history I mentioned. This mishigas meant Limelight was never properly promoted or distributed in the U.S. after its initial release, leaving critics and audiences to discover it gradually over the ensuing decades).

A scene, one of the last glimpses the public would get of the old Charlie on celluloid, if only they’d been receptive:

To learn more about comedy film history please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

To learn about the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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