The Lomasney Collection consists of over 800 hand-painted film posters originally displayed in the The Royal Hawaiian Theater in Honolulu. Painted in gouache on 44 by 28-inch artboard by artist John J. Lomasney (many incorporating actual studio film cells) these posters span over 50 years of cinematic history. The collection was acquired by tennis legend John McEnroe and displayed in his Soho, NYC gallery until McEnroe donated the collection to Lifebeat, Music Fights HIV/AIDS. The organization raises funds to support HIV prevention efforts by auctioning-off the pieces. The most recent offering is at Heritage Auctions, where bidding closes August 4, 2013 at 10:00 PM CT. Below are a few of the pieces up in the latest offering; however, the entire collection can be seen at Lomasneymovieart.com.
Being the fan that I am (both of the collector and silent film), I couldn’t just let Mary Ann Cade go that easily after delivering her recent silent film news — I had to ask her about one of her favorite silent film stars, Annette Kellerman (also billed as Annette Kellermann and called “The Perfect Woman”).
Mary, tell us about Annette Kellerman… How did she catch your collecting fancy?
I got interested in Kellerman when I saw Esther Williams in the fictional biopic Million Dollar Mermaid, which was loosely based on Ms. Kellerman’s life. After viewing it, I started looking around to see if any of her product survived and why she is so forgotten today.
At one time, during her heyday, she was a force to be reckoned with, kind of like Madonna or Oprah Winfrey. She was writing books, making films, doing publicity stunts, designing swimsuits, performing water ballets at the Hippodrome, performing in vaudeville type shows all over the world, making movies, and she even had her own chain of fitness clubs and a health food store.
Sadly, she is all but forgotten today and when one looks at her swimming and diving contributions, including her discovery of what is considered synchronized swimming as well as the one piece bathing suit, it is a real shame.
When I started the quest on Kellerman, the only known film was Venus of the South Seas, but, along with the news mentioned earlier, I have managed to locate Siren of the Sea.
Kellerman is reputed to be in a cameo in the Fatty Arbuckle / Buston Keaton short Coney Island (1917) and a couple of other films that have not been confirmed as of yet. The Australian archives do hold some of her various water ballet footage as well.
Thank you, Mary, for sharing your collecting passion and information with us!
Photo Credits, in order of appearance:
Signed photo of Annette Kellerman and photo of Annette Kellerman’s trunk, from Mary Ann Cade.
Personal Course of Instruction In The Attainment Of Health, Beauty and Perfect Figure, by Annette Kellermann, 1932, via The Land of Pleasant Living;
Annette Kellerman movie photos, on a 1924 set of Henry Clay and Bock Co., Ltd. Cuban tobacco cards, courtesy of Cliff Aliperti.
Today’s scrapbooks are filled with photographs of family & friends, complimented by decorative papers and supplies purchased for the sole act of creating fantastic looking photo albums. But once upon a time, scrapbooks bore more resemblance to their name: they were books full of “scraps” of paper.
Some of these vintage scrapbooks did chronicle personal events or lifetimes, of course; but many were just compilations of neat things people found in newspapers and magazines. Some people were quite dedicated, focusing their efforts on specific themes. At least each scrapbook had its own theme. And some of the most popular themes were scrapbooks dedicated to movie stars. Like this old Mae West scrapbook.
It’s filled with carefully clipped images of the film star from various newspapers and magazines of the time. Looks like there are a few publicity photos sent to fans as well.
I know some people will balk at the seller’s price tag of $450. But when you consider how much it would cost to find and purchase enough vintage publications and the like to attempt to recreate this nearly-antique scrapbook, it seems a pretty small price to pay in comparison. Plus, even if you could manage to locate all the same scraps, would it be the same as knowing someone dedicated themselves to the selection and organization of this old book? I don’t think so.
When you think about it, scrapbooking isn’t much different than blogging is today. But as ephemeral as old paper is, there’s something more lasting about it… Perhaps because none of us knows what will become of blogs and websites in the next 80 years. Even in that unknown future, I can’t imagine someone not enjoying holding an old book like this and carefully turning the pages to see what someone created.
Image Credits: All images from empressjadeoftheuniverse.
I am struck by the current lack of public acceptance of certain kinds of screen entertainment, most notably short subjects, newsreels, and child and animal stars. Television is blamed for the decline in the first two, and the greater sophistication of today’s young people for the last two.
Very few of the old films featuring animal stars have survived. The private film collector can purchase a few 8mm prints starring Rin Tin Tin, and a couple of Westerns featuring his marvelous pony, Fritz, and even a complete print of Rex, King of Wild Horses; occasionally the collector can find prints of 16mm sound features starring various cowboys and “their” horse and/or dog co-stars. But that’s about all, and even the currently popular “retrospective” programs of films of the past have yet to bring back any of the fondly remembered great animal stars.
Like every other kid who was around during the last years of the silents, I loved animal pictures.
I think you can see where Peeples is going. Similar feeling film fans can click to read the larger scans.
On June 24, 2012, Bonham’s will hold an Entertainment Memorabilia including Animation Art auction in Los Angeles, California. Among the items are original promotional paintings for films, movie star portraits, film scripts, and other items from silent and classic film history. Included are many items from the estate of Rock Hudson.
Among the personal and professional items from the actor, there are many documents, including Rock Hudson’s birth certificate:
State of Illinois certificate of registration of birth for Roy Harold Scherer, Jr. born November 17, 1925 in Winnetka, county of Cook in the state of Illinois. The certificate was issued in 1926 and lists the surname of Hudson’s biological father who later abandoned the family during the Great Depression.
For me, the item that most catches my fancy is the red silk-lined, black wool opera cape with black velvet collar which was worn by Hudson in performances at his home theater.
If you are unable to attend the Bonham’s auction, you can register as an absentee bidder.
Items belonging to Flaherty which do not sell at auction will be placed for sale back on his website.
Image via Shorpy.
As a feminist, I have a complicated, conflicted, relationship with beauty pageants. But this vintage booklet from the 1923 Mineralava Beauty Pageant fascinates me because of the man involved: Rudolph Valentino.
Not just some master of ceremonies, Valentino was both the star and the prize of this contest: “The Most Beautiful Woman In America May be the Leading Lady of Valentino’s Next Picture.”
When the silent film star walked out of his Famous Players-Lasky (FP-L) contract in 1923, the studio suspended him without pay and won an injunction that prevented him from working for another studio, leaving the decadent dandy desperate for money. In Rudolph Valentino & the Mineralava Tour of 1923, Edward Lorusso explains:
Desperate for money, Valentino and Rambova decided to create a dance act and tour the country for Mineralava Beauty Clay cosmetics. Starting in New York City’s Century Theatre at a benefit for the Actors Fund on a bill with Will Rogers and Jeanne Eagels, the couple caused a sensation and received 20 curtain calls. Valentino was stampeded by 300 fans as he left the theater. A Boston headline claimed “10,000 Girls Mob World’s Greatest Kisser.” The mobs became so predictable that Valentino and Rambova often escaped theaters over rooftops. The couple performed in 88 cities in the United States and Canada during a grueling 17-week tour. The hysteria followed them wherever they performed.
The dance tour garnered a tremendous amount of publicity and earned the couple a big weekly salary plus a percentage of the gate. They broke house records in several theaters. But while Valentino was mobbed by hordes of fans in every city, local newspaper coverage often sniped at his romantic movie image and professional dancing as being “unmanly.” Plus, Valentino was hawking beauty products that he claimed to use himself.
Following the example of dance idols Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis, the Valentinos created exotic dances and sumptuous costumes to the accompaniment of their own traveling orchestra. They performed a number of dances, but the tango routines were the ones that always brought down the house.
The beauty contest (the Miss America contest started in 1921) was another publicity angle of the tour. Mineralava sponsored a contest in each of the tour’s 88 cities and Valentino “judged” all the contestants. Then all 88 beauties descended on New York City, where they were paraded up Fifth Avenue to the Madison Square Garden. A young David O. Selznick made a short film of the contest called Rudolph Valentino and His 88 American Beauties; the film survives and is a fascinating glimpse at a “natural” Rudolph Valentino as well as the beauty contest styles of the day. Selznick shows the terrifying hordes of people who mobbed the streets outside Madison Square Garden, hoping for a glimpse of Valentino. Inside the Garden, the 88 girls come out onto a stage that is surrounded by crowds. Each girl (most with bobbed hair and bee-stung lips) parades in a gown and sash proclaiming her city and carrying (for some unknown reason) a ribboned Bo-Peep staff.
Along with being a great advertising piece, I find this vintage booklet to be a lovely little piece of women’s history, combining the power of the women as consumers with their status as prey for marketers. Along with the testimonials from “women in American Homes,” collectors of silent film will also enjoy all the celebrity endorsements from silent film stars such as Nazimova, Mae Murray, Marion Davies, and Marie Prevost.
Other items from this beauty pageant tour can be found too. Donna L. Hill, author of Rudolph Valentino The Silent Idol: His Life in Photographs (who also runs Rudolph-Valentino.com, owns this original trophy from the Mineral Lava Beauty Contest in Baltimore. (The Baltimore contestant came in third overall in the national contest.)
Along with trophies, Mineralava gave out boudoir dolls of Rudolph Valentino and Natacha Rambova to contest winners.
As fabulous as this pageant was for Valentino (it did get him a better contract — if also assisting in the “Pink Powder Puff” slur) and, one presumes, Scott’s Mineralava Beauty Clay, at the time, the story doesn’t really end well… Valentino’s life lasted just a few more years and Mineralava seems only a footnote in the life of Valentino.
Images of the 1923 Mineralava Beauty Pageant booklet, measuring 5 1/2 by 8 inches, via Grapefruit Moon Gallery.
Old newspaper archive photo of Rudolph Valentino and Natacha Rambova boudoir dolls found in The Doll of Choice by Movie Stars & Naughty Girls, by Linda Wulfestieg (published in Contemporary Doll Collector, March 2009).
The American Venus was directed by Frank Tuttle, and starred Esther Ralston, Ford Sterling, Edna May Oliver, Lawrence Gray, Fay Lanphier, Louise Brooks (in her first credited role as Miss Bayport), Kenneth MacKenna, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. The film was released by Paramount Pictures in 1926 and is considered a presumed lost silent film.
Below is the official auction listing description — with a helpful link provided by me:
The American Venus (Paramount, 1926). Title Lobby Card and Lobby Card (11″ X 14″).
Much has been written about the silent film legend Louise Brooks and her influence on 1920s New York and Hollywood, right down to her trademark “bob” that became widely emulated by ladies of the day. This rare title card and lobby card are from her second film, in which she appeared as a contestant in an Atlantic City beauty contest. Due to its immense popularity, the movie toured the U.S. for two years, along the way making Brooks one of the most noted female cinema stars. Though the borders of both cards have been trimmed and replaced, the restoration was expertly done and the cards present nicely. Very Good.
Because I’m rather well connected to Kellerman on the Internet, I was contacted by Nick Bannikoff, a graphic designer in Sydney, Australia, who had recently worked on the refurbished Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre in Marrickville. The centre is now finished, and Bannikoff was was hoping I could help him find quality images to be used in the creation of a graphic interpreting / explaining Annette Kellerman’s life to be installed at the pool. Naturally, I connected to silent film collector Mary Ann Cade. But I also asked Bannikoff to tell me more about the project. The complete details of the beautiful ceramic tile mosaics featuring Annette Kellerman and Cecil Healy is here.
At first I was going to post this photo of Clara Bow posing by a Christmas tree because of the fabulous decorations and stuffed toys; but once I saw this photo of Martha Sleeper I was equally smitten!
Her whimsical designs in Bakelite, wood and metal were mass-produced by the New England Novelty Company. (Decades later, in the 1970s, Andy Warhol would find and adore her creations, amassing one the largest collections and resurrecting the demand for vintage Bakelite jewelry in general.)
These are snippets on Sleeper’s jewelery from a beauty and fashion column published in the Mansfield News Journal on April 17, 1940:
In 1949, Sleeper and her husband sailed on a 40-foot schooner from from New York for a vacation in the Virgin Islands, but when she reached Puerto Rico she fell in love with the island — and stayed. By 1950, Sleeper had given up making jewlery (“too tedious”) for making fashions and had opened “Martha Sleeper Creates,” a boutique at 101 Fortaleza St. in Old San Juan.
The shop began “with two dozen hand-made skirts and three dozen blouses and filled up the gaps in the place with plants. People thought I had a florist shop and for the first year, I couldn’t sell anything but greens .” (Quotes from Cumberland Evening Times, May 27, 1955; below.)
By 1955, her fashions, and accessories such as purses etc., were exported to other islands and the mainland. Below is an article from Billings Gazette, July 1, 1964, on Martha Sleeper’s lace fashions:
By 1964, Sleeper is said to have also opened a shop in Palm Beach, Florida.
As part of the programme, we are recreating 7 important images that tell the history of Movie star photography in Hollywood.
Our first image is the above still of Theda Bara.
After googling around on line, I came across some information that said you have some of the items Theda wore in the photo. Is that so? I’d love to hear more about it. We’re right at the start so I am trying to gather as much information about each of the images. I’d love to hear about your research.
The program is tentatively titled Shooting the Stars: Hollywood Photography; I’m very eager to see what the other six images will be selected and to see the documentary!
Also, because of my 2008 interview with Cade about Annette Kellermann, Cade was contacted by glass lantern slide collector Rob, who shared not only this glass lantern slide promoting Queen of the Sea…
But this bit of news too:
I am currently researching a book on the subject of lantern slides and their use as an advertising medium for motion pictures, and in conjunction with that I am developing a web site (www.starts-thursday.com).
So there’s a new site to keep an eye on — and, hopefully, a new book!
While searching for Valkyrien’s 1916 presumed to be lost silent film The Hidden Valley, Mary Ann Cade came across some unknown film fragments through a link listed at SilentEra.com.
The photos of fragments of film, found in a Hungarian archive, resembled the known plot of The Hidden Valley, and the striking actress in the antique film images looked like Valkyrien…
But while the pretty actress was not Valkyrien, nor the film The Hidden Valley, with the help of the Danish Film Institute, Mary Ann Cade was able to get the old film frames or fragments identified as being from the Nordisk film Oldtid og Nutid aka The Dream (1915), starring Danish actress Christel Holch (and Frederik Jacobsen).
Being the fan that I am (both of Cade and silent film), I couldn’t just let Mary Ann Cade go that easily after delivering her recent silent film news — I had to ask her about her extraordinary collecting efforts regarding another silent film actress, Valda Valkyrien. As always, Cade graciously accepted.
Valkyrien fascinated me when I first saw her photo in the book The Pictorial History of the Silent Screen by Daniel C. Blum.
She does not look like any other silent star of the period. She has an ethereal almost angelic quality that radiates from her photos and looks quite different from other actresses. The photo got me to looking into her history and her film product as well.
When I started checking into her background, I only knew of one surviving film, her last called Shattered Dreams aka Bolshevism on Trial (1919) available for purchase through Grapevine Video. But perseverance and repeated inquiries have resulted in locating several other films.
Since Valkyrien made films in Denmark before coming to the U.S. in 1914, I started researching her films through my contacts at the Danish Film Institute. They informed me that two or three films in which she is a minor player survive in their archive, and that one of them, Circus Catastrophe, had been released in 2007 on DVD because it starred Danish matinee idol Valdemar Psilander. The only place to get this film is through the DFI archive, so it is really a very isolated title.
Most of Valkyrien’s films exist only in fragmentary form or survive only via movie still photographs. Here are some surviving images from The Valkyrie (1915) which show just how beautiful the actress was:
The DFI archive sent me Den Staerkeste aka Vanquished (1912) and Dødsangstens Maskespil aka A Drama on the Ocean (1912) from their archive, but these are not available to the general public and Valkyrien, again, is a minor player in both.
Silas Marner (1916), is a partial surviving film from the Library of Congress and I was fortunate, as I mentioned, to get a copy. I received my copy from Ned Thanhouser; his grandfather, Edwin Thanhouser, started the Thanhouser production company. This shortened version of Silas Marner, the only one known to exist, was released by Thanhouser in October of 2009 on The Thanhouser Collection DVD Volumes 10, 11 & 12. Valkyrien is a supporting player in this one.
The Hidden Valley (1916), another Thanhouser release, was a starring role for Valkyrien and was thought to be a lost film.
In early 2009, while researching fragments which turned out to be for another film (stay tunned for another post!), I contacted the Library of Congress. They checked the FIAF database (paid filmography database in which you have to be a member to access the information) and stated that Screensound Australia might hold some footage of it. Screensound then sent these two pieces of film from The Hidden Valley:
And Screensound mentioned that they have something that indicates Florence LaBadie, the queen of the Thanhouser lot, was part of the cast. Ms. LaBadie was the reigning box office queen for the studio and Ned Thanhouser could find no records of her ever appearing in the cast, so he is intrigued as well. Ms. LaBadie died from injuries sustained in an auto accident in 1917 and her death was one of the events that eventually caused the studio to shut down.
We are still working on finding more Hidden Valley footage as well as determining if Ms. LaBadie was a cast member.
Since that time, we also have found Diana (1916), a Pluragraph release which is part of an Unknown Cinema box set release. However, the version Screensound has, from the Library of Congress, is a much shorter version of the film than the nearly complete print the Cineteca del Fruili sent me. I have been in touch with the Library of Congress to see if they want a more complete copy for their archive.
Another of Valkyrien’s starring vehicles is reputed to be in a private collection and we are making every effort to obtain the film from the collector, but so far we are running in circles. I keep hoping, though…
And we’re still working on a couple of silent films that may exist but I don’t have confirmation of the facts as of yet.
In other words, stay tunned to see what Cade & the crew dedicated to Valda Valkyrien dig up!
* Here’s the briefest of bios on silent film actress Valda Valkyrien:
Born Adele Eleonore Freed in 1894 or 1895, she began her career as a performer as a prima ballerina in the Royal Danish Ballet performing under the stage name Valda Valkyrien. She began appearing in motion pictures for Nordisk Film productions of Copenhagen in 1912, and married Danish nobleman Baron Hrolf von Dewitz, becoming Baroness von Dewitz, in 1914 before making films in the United States.
Photo Credits, in order of appearance:
1917 photo of Valkyrien, from The Pictorial History of the Silent Screen by Daniel C. Blum.
Images/film stills (5) of Valda Valkyrien (billed as Baroness von Dewitz) in The Valkyrie (1915), from the film collection of Mary Ann Cade.
Valkyrien in De Uheldige Friere, courtesy of Mary Ann Cade.
Valkyrien in Guvernørens Datter, also from Mary Ann Cade.
Valda Valkyrien, photo from The Hidden Valley (listed as a Pathe film), also from The Pictorial History of the Silent Screen by Daniel C. Blum.
Pieces of film (2) from The Hidden Valley (1916), from Mary Ann Cade.
Florence La Badie movie card, from a series of antique movie cards with pink borders, circa 1915, courtesy Cliff Aliperti.
Valkyrien in The Valkyrie (last 2 photos), also from the collection of Mary Ann Cade.
Ever since I first heard of and then interviewed Mary Ann Cade, I’ve been awestruck. It’s not just that her collection of film memorabilia is incredible (It is — can you even imagine owning the bracelet, belt, and chain that Theda Bara wore in Cleopatra?!) but her utter devotion and dedication to the discovery and preservation of honest-to-goodness silent film footage which amazes and impresses me. I mean this woman actually has found silent film footage previously considered lost. So when she contacted me, asking if I wanted an update on her collecting activities, you know I said, “Yes!”
The first bit of Cade’s news is regarding some of that previously mentioned presumed-lost silent film footage: Six minutes of Annette Kellerman (also billed as Annette Kellermann, “The Perfect Woman”) in the big budget silent film Neptune’s Daughter (1914).
While researching for a seminar on Annette Kellerman for Australia’s Powerhouse Museum, Einar Docker found Cade’s article on lost film at Silents Are Golden. During conversation about using Cade’s research in his presentation, Docker, the museum, and Australia’s Screensound archive were blown away to discover that the six minutes of film existed let alone that Cade knew where it was and that it could be viewed.
The six minutes of thought-to-be-lost film premiered again — over a century later — on November 4, 2009, at the Powerhouse Museum along with the 19 minutes of known Neptune’s Daughter film. (You can see a clip at the Powerhouse Museum link.)
Along with crediting Cade, Docker will be sending her a copy of the museum event on DVD and he was able to get her a copy of Kellerman’s short, Jephthah’s Daughter (1909) from the BFI archive.
You may not think getting a copy of a film isn’t very exciting, but this isn’t like buying or renting a DVD. This is a whole other animal indeed.
We’re talking about films which have not been commercially re-released, many of them have not been seen by the general public in nearly a century. They reside in film archives, like the BFI or Gosfilmofond of Russia. If you live in a community that doesn’t have silent film screenings, or only has screenings of the more popular silent films (films made more popular because enough people have seen then in the past 100 years to be fans and request them), you have to travel to an archive to see them. (If you think today’s movie theater prices are high, add in international travel, hotel lodgings, meals and suddenly you’re all too happy to buy ticket — and the over-priced popcorn.) Of course, you can try to purchase copies of old films… The prices vary considerably from archive to archive, with some charging minimal amounts for films while others may charge over $1000 for a copy of a film.
So for folks like Mary, who take being a film fan to a whole other level, receiving copies of such rarely viewed old films is a dream come true.
Here’s what Mary herself has to say about her passion and dedication to collecting and preserving silent films:
My feeling is that these films are the only legacy that many of these artists have as their testament to show they were a part of history, part of this planet, and that they made a contribution or a difference in some way while they were here.
It is not fair to the artist when they are held hostage in some archive and should be made available to the public for viewing. Some of these films that are held hostage in archives have been in that state for almost a century, which I think is criminal. It’s like someone who has a precious gemstone or car. What good is it if you can’t show it off to others? What good does it do to hide it away from everyone else? I think this is selfish and serves no real purpose whatsoever.
This is why Mary puts so much effort into tracking down old and even lost silent films. Which brings us to part two of her collecting news…
Through her international network of silent film collectors and archivists, Cade was also able to obtain copies of the following films:
- Et drama paa Havet (A Drama on the Ocean or Dodsangstens maskespil) (1912) starring Valda Valkyrien
- Den Staerkeste (Vanquished) (1912) Valda Valkyrien
- Diana (1916) starring Valda Valkyrien
- A Dream or Two Ago (1916) starring Mary Miles Minter
- Silas Marner (1916) starring Valda Valkyrien
- The Innocence of Lizette (1916) starring Mary Miles Minter
- Out Yonder (1919) starring Olive Thomas
Jeesh, I have trouble finding just one movie from the 1980s that I want at Blockbuster. No wonder this is one collector who impresses me.
I’d like to think that the only thing holding me back from being as great a collector as she is that my interests are too varied — that if I wouldn’t be so easily distracted and fascinated by every little thing I find, I too could focus and do work as important as she does…
But until that day, Mary Ann Cade remains not only an idol of mine, but a collecting superhero. (I wonder what her cape looks like?)
And this isn’t even all her news! Come back soon for more on Mary Ann Cade’s silent film collecting and movie collectibles.
Reproduction Neptune’s Daughter film poster, via MovieGoods.com.
Mary Miles Minter photo on St. Louis Globe – Democrat Water Color Company Premiums (1916), also from Cliff Aliperti.
I love it when my customers get talking. You never know when it’s going to come, a conversation could break out after a $5 transaction with as much likelihood as it will over a $100 and up piece. My most recent conversation was brief, after sale of this item:
But while brief this exchange of e-mails did inspire me to do a little digging out of which I discovered film star Mary Fuller, shown above on a circa 1917 Kromo Gravure trading card out of Detroit, was more important to film history than I ever supposed.
My buyer, to the best of my knowledge, is not a regular collector of movie cards and ephemera, but had her curiosity aroused through her job at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington DC, where Miss Fuller, who died in 1973, just happens to be buried.
After I replied to her e-mail, my customer suggested I check out a video featuring Mary Fuller if I had the 12 minutes to spare. Well, I did, and I was surprised to find the clip was from the famed 1910 Edison production of Frankenstein starring Charles Ogle as the monster (which I knew) and Mary Fuller as Elizabeth (which I obviously didn’t know).
Here it is:
On a related note, while putting this post together I came across FrankensteinFilms.com, which has to be the most fantastic site about Frankenstein out there! I really risked getting sidetracked when I got bogged down inside their pages!
Anyway, I was curious if there was more to Mary Fuller than Edison’s Frankenstein, which she actually wasn’t even credited in. The IMDb credits her with over 200 film appearances after coming to the screen from the stage, but her career was over by 1917 and other than Frankenstein, I must admit I don’t believe I’ve seen her in anything else.
That’s when common sense took over. Early last year I had the great pleasure of exchanging e-mails with the owner of The Picture Show Man website and I wound up by asking him for some reading recommendations (his movie and book release lists are not to be missed!). I’m about halfway through one of the top titles he’d mentioned, Million and One Nights: A History of the Motion Picture Through 1925 by Terry Ramsaye (affiliate link), originally published in 1926. You want to know how much early film history is packed in this title? Well, I’m on page 440 and the story, which runs chronologically, has only reached 1907.
I can’t even say I’m surprised but when I checked for “Fuller, Mary” in the index to A Million and One Nights it actually spit back some page numbers at me. I’d expected these entries to be about Frankenstein, but instead I once again learned something new.
Mary Fuller had starred in What Happened to Mary (1912), which holds the honor of being considered the forerunner of the movie serial.
Here’s some of what Ramsaye has to say about it:
Edward A. McManus and Gardner Wood, in the year of 1912, were engaged in promoting circulation for The Ladies World, a McClure publication. Out of the editorial department came a project for a continued feature to be built around a mythical heroine known as Mary, and to be introduced with a cover design by Charles Dana Gibson. There was to be an unfinished story and a prize of $100 for the best answer to What Happened to Mary?
So The Ladies World would publish the story, minus the ending, and Edison would produce a film which included the ending. I wasn’t clear as to whether the film would be inspired by the winning reader entry or if the winning entry would be the one which came closest to a pre-selected ending, but either way, a novel idea.
In noting that Mary Fuller was cast as Mary, Ramsaye writes, “She was now a full fledged Edison star.” Of the stories, the first, The Escape from Bondage, was released July 26, 1912. In mentioning that the second Mary feature was titled Alone in New York, Ramsaye points out that “each installment of the What Happened to Mary? series was independent and complete. It was not a serial. The magazine stories and the screen releases did not synchronize accurately, but it was none the less a successful promotion.”
So while Ramsaye explicitly states “not a serial” he does immediately lead in to the serial it inspired, The Adventures of Kathlyn starring Kathlyn Williams, which most definitely was a serial. As for Mary Fuller, following the 12 chapter What Happened to Mary she’d star in a sequel, the 6 chapter Who Will Marry Mary?
See that, Mary Fuller had previously been just another silent actress to me, but a spark of outside interest and look at all I’ve learned! You can be sure the next time I list an item depicting Miss Fuller there will be a lot of early film history racing through my mind.
- While putting this article together here’s the most fantastic page about Mary Fuller that I ran across: What Happened to Mary? by Robert S. Birchard
- For more about the other Mary Fuller collectibles found on this page see my Photo ID Guides for 1916 MJ Moriarty Playing Cards and 1916 St. Louis Globe-Democrat Supplement Photos on things-and-other-stuff.com
- And if you’re looking for affordable 1910’s trading cards like the Mary Fuller card that inspired this post check out nearly 200 different vintage Kromo Gravure movie cards inside my eBay Store.