Just had a fascinating conversation with Bob Marlowe about some of the cemeteries in the Orange County area. My mind is reeling with all the information, I hardly know where to begin! Actually, I do know. My assignment is to read "Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune" by Bill Dedman. So many books, so little time ...
But first, sleep! And maybe a few more pages of "Gone Girl." Yeah, I'm late to the party on that one, but I plan to finish it before I see the movie (hopefully) this weekend.
Any other books I should put on my ever-growing list?
I am seeking people for a focus group regarding my current book project. I call it a book project because I want it to be more than a book. I want it to branch out into presentations and awareness and even helping a related cause.
"Forever Silent" will feature the ladies of silent film (including actresses, directors, producers, etc.) and their final resting places. A second book would feature the gentlemen.
Why silent film people? It's not just because I'm interested in Old Hollywood. (Believe me, delving into this era has been FASCINATING. If you want juicy stories, jump into 1920s.) The more I research the people of this era, the more I realize how much history has been forgotten. The early Hollywood era mirrored our country. In the early 20th century, Americans were still finding their way. Women were figuring out who they were and how they fit into society. Industry was changing the world as people once knew it. World War I changed everything. Movies provided an escape and sometimes the promise of a better tomorrow. Mary Pickford showed people that if you had spirit, nothing could defeat you. Harold Lloyd both connected with audiences as the "All-American go-getter" (HaroldLloyd.com). There were crazy Wild West stunts, zany antics, slapstick and stories that showed us the best and worst of people. There were STORIES. Stories that were shared around the world. People connected in a whole new way. And celebrity, as we know it know, was born.
Yet, as important as these early films were and are, so many of them have been lost to time. A small percentage of the early films still exist. Most of the stars of the silent age of film have passed on, if not all of them. Their stories have been buried by years of technological advances that have made them seem obsolete. Why would we want to watch an old black and white movie (let alone one without audio dialogue!) when we can watch something in high definition, color, surround sound and 3-D? Even Mary Pickford wanted all of her films destroyed upon her death because she didn't want to be laughed at by future generations.
This makes me so sad. History lost to time and neglect. Does this sound familiar, taphophiles?
Gravestones and even whole cemeteries have been lost to time and neglect. Until a dedicated taphophile or group of people go in and work hard to make things right. Think of me as resetting the remembrance of an old movie star. Brushing away the dirt that has covered that once-beloved-but-now-forgotten-star for years.
Will you help me bring these people in film history back to light?
I needed a village for my first book. I interviewed people from all over about why cemeteries matter to them. Now I need people to help me fulfill the dream of these lost stars--to be remembered.
I invite you to help with the creation of this book by taking part in a focus group. It will be posted on Facebook in a private group. I will ask you questions like:
- Do silent film stars merit their own grave location book?
- Do you think there is an audience for a book on silent film stars' locations?
- Who does merit a grave location book?
- What information should be shared with each listing?
- Who are the "musts" for this book?
- What are your personal feelings about cemeteries?
- What about the people who have been cremated and scattered? What do you think of this?
I can tell you that there are a number of these stars who either have no known burial location or were cremated and scattered. Two ladies had unmarked graves for years. Florence Lawrence's grave in Hollywood Forever had no stone until actor Roddy McDowall purchased one and had it placed. Florence La Badie's grave in Green-Wood Cemetery in the Bronx was unmarked until people raised money online, and a stone was placed in April 2014. Personally, I would like to place a marker for Marie Prevost whose cremated remains are in an unknown location. To my knowledge, she has no memorial. And this makes me sad.
If anything I've written about here or in this blog has struck a chord with you, I hope you'll take part in my focus group. I'd really like your input.
Thanks for doing your part to keep history alive,
(put "focus group" in the subject line)
No film report today. I'm starting to get my brain back since my car accident. No, it wasn't a huge one, thank goodness. My car only had a little damage to the bumper, but my brain apparently got rattled when the car rear-ended me while I was at a complete stop. I got hit at the end of August and have just this weekend had a few hours here and there where I felt just about back to my usual self. Don't let anyone tell you that whiplash or neck sprain/strain isn't a big deal. After having a neck and headache almost constantly for the past three weeks, I can tell you it totally stinks.
I really did stink. Not only have I had head and neck aches, my concentration levels have been terrible. I LOVE doing research and reading. They are two of my favorite things. I also love watching movies. Until last night and today, I haven't been able to focus long enough on anything to be able to get anything done for my book, read a book for fun or just watch a movie. But I did last night! I watched "Oculus" and liked it a lot. Yay for good scary movies!
Of course now that I'm having some clarity, I want to do this, do that, do this and that, and read, and research, and contact people for interviews and look up the ones I already have, and watch a movie, and read a book for fun, and read more books for research, and ...
Yeah, that's how my minds goes. Even before the car accident. At least before the accident I could do some of these things. I could focus on something, even if I had to tell parts of my brain to knock it off and do only one thing at a time.
Well, I'm damming up the gush of thoughts and only letting some trickle through. Thus, the main point of this post ...
• I am currently seeking FILM HISTORIAN and EARLY FILM ENTHUSIASTS to share their thoughts on the importance of silent films.
• I am seeking young fans of silent films who would like to share why silent films are still relevant to them and their generation.
• Taphophiles are sought to talk about why cemeteries and memorialization are important today and for tomorrow.
Do any of these questions strike you as something you'd love to answer? If so, email me at email@example.com or contact me via Twitter, Facebook, etc.
You may have noticed I haven't given myself a timeline on how long it will take me to watch 100 silent films. Knowing my schedule and current projects, I knew better than to say, "I'll watch a silent film each day!" I knew better than to say I'd watch one a week! I hope to do that, but I'm not putting unrealistic goals on myself. I've been down that road too many times.
I actually watched "The Cat and the Canary" last week and just got my post up on it today. So today's actual "today" film is a two-fer.
Today I watched the short "Cook, Papa, Cook" from 1928. It stars Henry Murdock and Lucille Hutton as a married couple who apparently don't like each other very much. It doesn't have the best storyline and puts all its weight on slapstick. It was loaded onto YouTube by Undercrank Productions. According to the description, it was "A lost silent comedy that turned up on eBay in 2011 without its opening titles, and one of the last films made by Henry Murdock (he choked to death unexpectedly at the end of 1928). Musical score by Ben Model © 2012 all rights reserved. Transferred from a sharp old 16mm print ...." I'm all for people finding lost films!
According to the FindaGrave.com post for Lucille Hutton, she had a "non-cemetery burial." She died in 1970. I could find no records on the burial location of Henry Murdock.
Do you know where the final resting places of these actors are? Let me know in the comments below.
"The Cat and the Canary" is a Universal Pictures comedy horror film from 1927, directed by Paul Leni. It stars Laura La Plante, Creighton Hale, Forrest Stanley, Tulley Marshall, Gertrude Astor, Flora Finch and Martha Mattox (who plays creepy very well). One of the cool things is that the cast list is repeated at the end of the movie with this note: "This is repeated at the request of picture patrons who desire to check the names of those players whose work has pleased them."
The CinematicThoughts blog calls it "a powerful work of art, and ranks amongst the best horror films of the Silent Era." The blog also notes its "dramatic lighting, atmosphere and creative use of the camera (double exposures, strong composition and gliding shots)."
Laura La Plante died in 1996, two weeks before her 92nd birthday. She is buried in El Camino Memorial Park in San Diego, California. (FindaGrave listing)
Creighton Hale (born in1882 in Ireland as Patrick Fitzgerald) died in 1965. His FindaGrave.com listing says he was cremated at Chapel of the Pines Crematory then buried in Duncans Mills Cemetery in Duncans Mills, California.
Gertrude Astor died on her 90th birthday in 1977. She is interred at Hollywood Forever's Abbey of the Psalms, Haven of Worship.
It's spooky fun!
The fifth silent movie I watched was The Mark of Zorro from 1920. It stars the legendary Douglas Fairbanks (Sr.), who plays Zorro as well his alter ego Don Diego Vega. Fairbanks is just a whole lot of fun to watch. He preferred roles in which he could display is athleticism and agility. But while the sword fights and jumping here and there is entertaining, it's equally enjoyable to watch him as the foppish Don Diego.
Don Diego is a schmuck. His dad wants him to hit it off with Lolita Pulido (Marguerite De La Motte), but his methods of wooing her fall flat--he does magic tricks, which she does not appreciate. He basically acts like a goof. But as Zorro, he's Mr. Suave.
Douglas Fairbanks was born on May 23, 1883 in Denver, Colorado, and died at the age of 56 on Dec. 12, 1939 in Santa Monica, Calif. He was buried in Hollywood Memorial Park in Los Angeles, which is now known as Hollywood Forever.
I took the photos below in June 2014. Unfortunately the reflecting pond in front of the stately monument was only partially filled with water, so the effect wasn't as pretty as I thought it would be, but it's still an amazing and impressive memorial. CemeteryGuide.com says the reflecting pool is 120-feet long. I'm not sure on the height of the memorial around the sarcophagus, but it's super high.
According to AllanEllenberger.com, Fairbanks's funeral was at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif., in the Wee Kirk o' the Heather chapel. Two years later, after the monument was completed, his remains were moved into the sarcophagus (click the link above to read more about the ceremony).
After his death, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (Dec. 9, 1909 - May 7, 2000) was also interred in the Fairbanks' sarcophagus.
I'm the author of a number of cemetery books and am now writing one about the graves of silent film stars, starting with the ladies. Who would you like to see included?
More Silent Film Resources
• Silentology blog