Tag: silent film

Doris Kenyon

Doris Kenyon
Doris Kenyon

March, 1920.

A Film Actress who is also a Singer, Authoress and Poetess.

Doris Kenyon was born in Syracuse, and is the daughter of Dr. James B. Kenyon, noted poet and author, the family moving  to New York City while she was still a little girl. At a very early age, it was discovered that she was the possessor of a remarkably fine contralto voice, and at the age of fourteen years she was engaged as principal soloist at Grace Presbyterian Church, in Brooklyn. She remained there one year, after which she went as soloist to the Bushwick Avenue Church.

It was while singing in the Bushwick Avenue Church that Victor Herbert heard her, and was attracted by the extraordinary quality of her voice, her youthful beauty, and her animated personality. He had written and was about to produce Princess Pat, and offered Miss Kenyon a part in it, which she accepted. Miss Kenyon remained with the Princess Pat company throughout the season, but towards  the close of the engagement she received a very flattering offer to appear on the screen as co-star with Alice Brady in The Rack.

Then followed a long list of successful engagements on the screen, co-starring with, among others, George Beban, Holbrook Blinn, Lew Fields, Robert Warwick, and Frank McIntyre. Later she was elevated to independent stardom, first by World Film Corporation, and later by Famous Players.

Doris Kenyon has a devoted admirer in Ada Patterson, the famous newspaper and magazine writer.

Here is one of the stories that Ada Patterson likes to tell of Doris Kenyon’s public début. She was then seventeen years old, and, as a member of Eleanor Painter’s company in Princess Pat, had a scene with Sam Hardy, the comedian. A couple of nights after the opening Hardy, looking out after the audience, turned to Miss Kenyon in a confidential aside and whispered, “See that couple in the second row seats on the left? They are talking about us. He is a motion picture man. One of us is going to hear from him. I think it will be you.”

The very next day the prophecy of the comedian came true. Miss Kenyon was summoned to the office of a film company and offered a year’s contract. It took four conferences and a lot of persuasion to induce Miss Kenyon to become interested in pictures. When she did finally consent, she declared that it would be only for a while. “Some day I shall return to the stage,” she said.

Before Miss Kenyon was nineteen years old, Theodore C. Deitrich became her manager, and, with the youthful girl as his star and partner, organised a firm for the express purpose of starring Miss Kenyon in pictures at the head of her own company. Many times she desired to return to the stage, and last summer Mr. Dietrich completed an arrangement with A. H. Woods whereby Miss Kenyon will appear on the stage, at the same time making pictures, the first of which, The Bandbox, has just been completed.

Miss Kenyon inherited her musical talent from her mother, who is an extremely clever pianist. In addition to her vocal talent, Miss Kenyon is also a pianist and a violinist. From her father she inherited marked literary talent, and is the author of a large number of poems which have appeared in leading magazines.

Miss Kenyon is an expert marksman, can drive her own car, and is a splendid tennis and golf player. She is five feet six inches tall, and has blue-grey eyes and light brown hair.

Italy: The Cradle of Cinema Masterpieces

by Leonard Donaldson

Italy’s high position in the Cinematograph world shows no signs of waning, in spite of the great upheaval. While although rumors have reached this country that several of the leading producing films have been compelled to discontinue business owing to the war, the writer is able to assure the English trade that there is absolutely no truth in these statements, and that up to the present, in any case, the output of the Italian studios is quite normal. The export trade has certainly decreased owing to the difficulties of transport, but is believed that this trouble will soon removed.

Moreover, Italy’s import trade has been steadily increasing, during the past few years. Although the amount of British films sento to Italy has never represented a high figure, I am given to understand this is increasing annually. Whilst in 1913 only 84.145 ft. of film were obtained from Great Britain, statics go to show that this figure was doubled in recent returns.

Unlike her sister Ally France, Italy has not utilized the cinematograph to any extent for military purposes. Other than a few films depicting the mobilizing of the Italian forces, no war pictures of any note are screened at the cinemas. Moreover, I hear on the best authority that the Italian Government have issued an order prohibiting the use of cinematograph cinemas on the whole of the frontier where there are important military positions, and that no camera operators are allowed in the field.

Now a word as to the position of the Italian exhibitor. For a considerable time past he has been bearing the burden of a particularly severe taxation, particulars of which were made known to the British trade in the latter part of last year.

This taxation, as originally introduced by the Italian Minister of Finance, was so exorbitant as to be almost incredible. For the purpose of the tax , it may be remembered, the cinemas were to be divided into three groups according to this seating capacity. Thus:

Theaters of the first-class (accommodating 1.100 persons) were to be taxed L. 2 10s. per show.
Theaters of the second class, accommodating 700 persons) were to be taxed L. 1 1s per show.
Theaters of the third class (accommodating 350 persons) were to be taxed 12s 4d. per show.

Now estimating that each theatre gave nine performances a day, a theatre of the first class would be paying the unheard of tax of L. 22 10s a day!

So keenly did the Italian producers realize the danger of this movement that a commission headed by Signor Pasquali (Chevalier of the Crown) waited upon the Minister of Finance, and pleaded with him to hesitate before advocating such an extreme measure. As a result of the conference the tax was substantially modified and certain classes of cinemas are now exempt. Even by the new arrangement the tax yields 6.500.000 lire per annum — instead of 7.500.000 lire as formerly drawn up.

So it will be seen that in spite of this modification the exhibitor is still having to bear a very heavy burden. From these facts it would appear that the producers are the most prosperous class in the Italian cinema industry as, in fact, they are. Uncle Sam is, perhaps, their best customer, claiming , as he does, on an average of 2.000.000 ft. of film per annum.

Comment upon the quality and class of film that is produced in Italy does not come within the scope of this article, and would be invidious in view of the facts being so familiar to us.

Such pictorial gems as Quo Vadis?, Anthony and Cleopatra and Cabiria have borne convincing testimony of the incomparable Italian genius responsible for their conception. Alla that is greatest and best in Roman classics and history has found expression through the medium of the cinematograph. The glorious story of The Eternal City will never lose its charm so long as Italian talent is employed in its telling.

Mr. G. I. Fabbri, proprietor of La Cinematografia Italiana ed Estera, gives me an interesting account of the present position of the Italian trade under war conditions:

“When Italy first declared war to Austria, he said, “there was something of a panic in cinema circles, and many of the producing films suspended business. This, however, was only temporary, and the present conditions are almost normal. Cines, Ambrosio, Corona, Latium, Itala, Gloria, Caesar, Milano, Bonnard and several smaller firms re still busy. New Companies have been floated since the outbreak of war, amongst which are The Victoria Film Company, a concern having a Spanish directorate, and another producing firm which has recently been established by the celebrated metteur en scène Mario Caserini (of Ambrosio and Gloria fame). This company will shortly produce some very pretentious subjects of high artistic value. Furthermore, the Photo-Drama Company will be producing at an early date.”

Mr. Fabbri, moreover, informs me that at the outbreak of hostilities a number of companies were formed having small capitals. The promoters were, in most cases, artistes who had lost their connection during the panic already referred to.

Count B. Negroni (of Rome), associated with the famous star Hesperia, is responsible for an excellent production of The Lady with the Camelias, and The Alba Films (also of Rome), have recently filmed a great patriotic subject, entitled Silvio Pellico.

Films od the Allied Countries are extremely popular throughout Italy, and those of a patriotic character are eagerly sought after. I am assured that hirers of exclusive films and manufactures agents generally have not been seriously affected by the war.

The Italian trade press continues its business more or less as usual. There is La Cinematografia Italiana ed Estera; La Vita Cinematografica (which is now published by-monthly instead of weekly); Film (of Naples); La Illustrazione Cinematografica (of Milan) which, however, appears somewhat irregularly; Il Tirso al Cinematografo (of Rome) and La Cine-Fono (of Naples).

I understand from Mr. Fabbri that several new publications have appeared, but are not being well supported.

In conclusion, I am asked to give this message to the English trade:

The War has not seriously affected the cinematograph business in Italy, and each and every member of the Italian film industry is confident that the War will be brought to a victorious conclusion by the Allies.

(The Bioscope – Ciò che si dice all’estero dell’Italia. La Cinematografia Italiana ed Estera, Torino 15 december 1915)

The Hazards of Helen in Orient

The Hazards of Helen
Helen Holmes in The Hazards of Helen

I had not been in America fifteen minutes, after  four months in the Orient, before an interested producer asked me: “What is the status of the motion picture in Japan and China ?” “Charlie Chaplin is a big drawing-card in China,” I replied. “There are cinema exhibitions in all of the cities. The Chinese like ‘movies’ so do the Japanese.”

There are few occasions, excepting a patriotic or religious festival where the Japanese will so unbend himself and forget his “dignity.” At Kyoto, the ancient capital, where I had  seen people festive and gay during the day, as they participated in the Great Aoi festival at the Kamo shrine, I observed them in the evening as they witnessed the American thriller, The Hazards of Helen. They made about as much noise at one as at the other, giving outbursts of applause, and even rising to their feet and shouting , just about as much when the hero saved Helen and her baby by venturing to the railroad bridge and jumping into the river with the two in his arms, as the express train whizzed across the screen, as they did when the Suge-kasa and the sacred horses passed through the streets on their stately journey toward the Shinto temple.

One was natural, because if there is respect on earth, it is that of the Japanese for the traditions and for the ancient institutions, which the forward march of the empire since 1868 has left remaining. It is not “good form,” not even “proper,” for a Japanese to betray his emotions. At least he must not let them rise to the surface. He may applaud at the theatre, but even while making his very “European” demonstration which is not at all in accordance with ancient custom, as inherited from the Chinese, he must not smile or laugh. The comedian may grimace; gentlemen in the audience are not supposed to do so. The scene may be very thrilling and tense; but Japanese gentlemen should have better control of themselves than to show by ani facial movement that they are moved.

But Helen, assuredly very modern, as seen in the motion pictures, caused them to forget some of the things that they had taught by their fathers. They not only betrayed the fact that they got the thrill, but they seemed delighted to do so and seemed to desire to let the hero know that they appreciated what he had done. When “close-up” portraits of the characters were shown, smirking and “looking pleasant,” which is contrary to all the canons of Japanese theatre art, they stood up and waved their hands. When the express train was flashed on the screen, whizzing along at a mile a minute –in a country where trains are likelier to move a mile in ten minutes– they applauded as we in America applaud when a favorite star makes her “big speech” in the third act.

At all Japanese motion picture exhibitions a lecturer stands on the stage and explains the action, even in such yarns of primitive construction as The Hazards of Helen.

“Now you see the little child going out upon the railway bridge,” he explains. “She is a thoughtless infant who does not know that death is lurking in the pathway. She is probably as happy as any innocent little child could be. She skips along over the railway ties, thinking that she has found a new amusement, because she has never walked on the railway tracks before. But what will happen when the fast train comes thundering along the track? What will become of the child ?”

Oh, he is an eloquent speaker, this “chorus” who explains the play. He weaves much into his “explanation” that is prompted by the picture itself, much that never entered into the mid of the scenario-writer or producer.

I was unable to learn the origin of these gentlemen who seem so important to the movie industry in Japan, but they must have had much theatrical experience in their native country. They must have as ready knowledge of all the old plots as the average dramatist in America. Perhaps some of them have acted in Japanese plays, the plots of most of which are the same as the stereotyped plots in American drama.

It is the “lecturer” who makes the American movie inteligible to the Oriental audience, at least the Japanese audience, which insists upon knowing something about what is transpiring. The average Chinese audience is not so particular. Chinese actors carry “suggestion” so much further than even the American Mrs. Fiske would attempt to do, their speeches are so absolutely inaudible, on account of the strumming and squawking of the various instruments of the orchestra, that people do not expect to hear too much and have learned to trust to their  eyes. Or perhaps they do not care to understand. In the course of a six to ten hour entertainment, which is not an uncommon length of time for a Chinese play to run, they will hear enough to satisfy them and reward them for going to the theatre. It is useless to permit one’s self to become tense and excited about mere play acting. Life itself is much more comic, much more tragic; and they do not become excited about life, seeming to value it very lightly and not worrying about death.

Their attitude towards the theatre is very well expressed by a question asked of some of the Shanghai Chinamen after they had witnessed the first game of tennis in that country, as played by Englishmen. “Yes, it’s all very well,” they said, “but why run around hitting the little balls, when you could hire coolies to do it for you ?”

Archie Bell
(The Theatre, October 1916) 

Clip from The Hazards of Helen Episode 13 (Kalem Co. 1915) National Film Preservation Foundation