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Title: When the movies were young
Author: Arvidson, Linda
Language: English
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[Illustration: Biograph’s studio, Eleven East Fourteenth Street, an old
brownstone mansion of New York City, the home of movie romance.

                                                            (_See p. 1_)




  (Linda Arvidson)



  COPYRIGHT, 1925,

  _All rights reserved_

  _Printed in the United States of America_


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE

       I.  ELEVEN EAST FOURTEENTH STREET                               1

      II.  ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS                                      8


      IV.  YOUNG AMBITIONS AND A FEW JOLTS                            22

       V.  THE MOVIES TEMPT                                           29

      VI.  MOVIE ACTING DAYS--AND AN “IF”                             37

     VII.  D. W. GRIFFITH DIRECTS HIS FIRST MOVIE                     45

    VIII.  DIGGING IN                                                 53

      IX.  FIRST PUBLICITY AND EARLY SCENARIOS                        62

       X.  WARDROBE--AND A FEW PERSONALITIES                          71

      XI.  MACK SENNETT GETS STARTED                                  77


    XIII.  AT THE STUDIO                                              90

     XIV.  MARY PICKFORD HAPPENS ALONG                                99

      XV.  ACQUIRING ACTORS AND STYLE                                108

     XVI.  CUDDEBACKVILLE                                            115

    XVII.  “PIPPA PASSES” FILMED                                     127

   XVIII.  GETTING ON                                                134

     XIX.  TO THE WEST COAST                                         143

      XX.  IN CALIFORNIA AND ON THE JOB                              155

     XXI.  BACK HOME AGAIN                                           173

    XXII.  IT COMES TO PASS                                          184

   XXIII.  THE FIRST TWO-REELER                                      190

    XXIV.  EMBRYO STARS                                              201

     XXV.  MARKING TIME                                              208

    XXVI.  THE OLD DAYS END                                          221

   XXVII.  SOMEWHAT DIGRESSIVE                                       234

  XXVIII.  “THE BIRTH OF A NATION”                                   245


                                                             FACING PAGE

  Biograph’s studio, Eleven East Fourteenth Street        _Frontispiece_

  “Lawrence” Griffith                                                  6

  Linda Arvidson (Mrs. David W. Griffith)                              7

  Linda Arvidson (Mrs. Griffith), David W. Griffith and Harry
    Salter, in “When Knights were Bold”                               22

  Marion Davies, Forrest Stanley, Ruth Shepley and Ernest
    Glendenning in “When Knighthood was in Flower”                    22

  Advertising Bulletin for “Balked at the Altar”                      23

  Biograph Mutoscope of the murder of Stanford White                  38

  The first Biograph Girl, Florence Lawrence, in “The Barbarian”      39

  From “The Politician’s Love Story”                                  39

  The brilliant social world of early movie days                      54

  “Murphy’s,” where members of Biograph’s original stock company
    consumed hearty breakfasts                                        55

  From “Edgar Allan Poe”                                              70

  Herbert Pryor, Linda Griffith, Violet Mersereau and Owen Moore in
    “The Cricket on the Hearth”                                       70

  “Little Mary” portraying the type of heroine that won her a
    legion of admirers                                                71

  Register of Caudebec Inn at Cuddebackville                          71

  Caudebec Inn at Cuddebackville                                      86

  From “The Mended Lute,” made at Cuddebackville                      86

  Frank Powell, Mr. Griffith’s first $10-a-day actor, with Marion
    Leonard in “Fools of Fate”                                        86

  Richard Barthelmess with Nazimova in “War Brides”                   87

  From “Wark” to “work,” with only the difference of a vowel         102

  Biograph’s one automobile                                          102

  Annie Lee. From “Enoch Arden,” the first two-reel picture          103

  Jeanie Macpherson, Frank Grandin, Linda Griffith and Wilfred
    Lucas in “Enoch Arden”                                           103

  The vessel that was towed from San Pedro. From “Enoch Arden”       103

  The Norwegian’s shack. From “Enoch Arden”                          103

  The most artistic fireside glow of the early days                  118

  The famous “light effect”                                          118

  From “The Mills of the Gods”                                       119

  Biograph’s first Western studio                                    119

  A desert caravan of the early days                                 134

  From “The Last Drop of Water,” one of the first two-reelers        134

  Mabel Normand “off duty”                                           135

  Joe Graybill, Blanche Sweet and Vivian Prescott in “How She
    Triumphed”                                                       150

  Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand and Fred Mace in a “Keystone Comedy”   151

  Lunch on the “lot,” Biograph’s “last word” studio, the second
    year                                                             151

  Mary Pickford as a picturesque Indian                              166

  The Hollywood Inn, the setting for “The Dutch Gold Mine”           167

  From “Comrades,” the first picture directed by Mack Sennett        167

  Mary Pickford’s first picture, “The Violin Maker of Cremona”       182

  Mary Pickford’s second picture, “The Lonely Villa”                 182

  Mary Pickford and Mack Sennett in “An Arcadian Maid”               183

  Mary Pickford, Mack Sennett, Joe Graybill and Marion Sunshine in
    “The Italian Barber”                                             183

  Linda Griffith and Mr Mackay in “Mission Bells,” a Kinemacolor
    picture play                                                     198

  A rain effect of early days at Kinemacolor’s Los Angeles studio    199

  A corner of Biograph’s stylish Bronx studio                        214

  The beginning of the Griffith régime at 4500 Sunset Boulevard      215

  Blanche Sweet and Kate Bruce in “Judith of Bethulia,” the first
    four-reel picture directed by D. W. Griffith                     230

  Lillian Russell and Gaston Bell in a scene illustrative of her
    beauty lectures, taken in Kinemacolor                            231

  Sarah Bernhardt, the first “Famous Player”                         231





Just off Union Square, New York City, there is a stately old brownstone
house on which future generations some day may place a tablet to
commemorate the place where David W. Griffith and Mary Pickford were
first associated with moving pictures.

Here has dwelt romance of many colors. A bird of brilliant plumage,
so the story goes, first lived in this broad-spreading five-story old
brownstone that still stands on Fourteenth Street between Fifth Avenue
and Broadway, vibrant with life and the ambitions and endeavors of its
present occupants.

Although brownstone Manhattan had seen the end of peaceful Dutch
ways and the beginning of the present scrambling in the great school
of human activity, the first resident of 11 East Fourteenth Street
paid no heed--went his independent way. No short-waisted, long and
narrow-skirted black frock-coat for him, but a bright blue affair,
gold braided and gold buttoned. He was said to be the last man in old
Manhattan to put powder in his hair.

As he grew older, they say his style of dressing became more fantastic,
further and further back he went in fashion’s page, until in his last
days knickerbockers with fancy buckles adorned his shrinking limbs, and
the powdered hair became a periwig. He became known as “The Last Leaf.”

A bachelor, he could indulge in what hobbies he liked. He got much out
of life. He had a cool cellar built for the claret, and a sun room for
the Madeira. In his impressive reception room he gathered his cronies,
opened up his claret and Madeira, the while he matched his game-cocks,
and the bets were high. Even when the master became very old and ill,
and was alone in his mansion with his faithful old servant, Scipio,
there were still the rooster fights. But now they were held upstairs in
the master’s bedroom. Scipio was allowed to bet a quarter against the
old man’s twenty-dollar note, and no matter how high the stakes piled,
or who won, the pot in these last days always went to Scipio.

And so “The Last Leaf” lived and died.

Then in due time the old brownstone became the home of another
picturesque character, Colonel Rush C. Hawkins of the Hawkins Zouaves
of the Civil War.

Dignified days, when the family learned the world’s news from
_Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Paper_ and the _New York Tribune_, and
had Peter Goelet and Moses Taylor for millionaire neighbors. For
their entertainment they went to Laura Keene’s New Theatre, saw Joe
Jefferson, and Lotta; went to the Academy of Music, heard Patti and
Clara Louise Kellogg; heard Emma Abbott in concert; and rode on
horseback up Fifth Avenue to the Park.

Of an evening, in the spacious ballroom whose doors have since opened
to Mary Pickford, D. W. Griffith, and Mack Sennett, the youths, maidens
and young matrons in the soft, flickering light of the astral lamp and
snowy candle, danced the modest cotillon and stately quadrille, the
while the elders played whist. Bounteous supper--champagne, perhaps gin
and tansy.

But keenly attuned ears, when they paused to listen, could already hear
off in the distance the first faint roll of the drums in the march of
progress. “Little Old New York” was growing up and getting to be a big
city. And so the Knickerbockers and other aristocracy must leave their
brownstone dwellings for quieter districts further uptown. Business was
slowly encroaching on their life’s peaceful way.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another day and another generation. Gone the green lawns, enclosed by
iron fences where modest cows and showy peacocks mingled, friendly.
Gone the harpsichord, the candle, the lamp, to give way to the piano
and the gas-lamp. Close up against each other the buildings now nestle
round Union Square and on into Fourteenth Street. The horse-drawn
street car rattles back and forth where No. 11 stands with some
remaining dignity of the old days. On the large glass window--for No.
11’s original charming exterior has already yielded to the changes
necessitated by trade--is to be read “Steck Piano Company.”

In the lovely old ballroom where valiant gentlemen and languishing
ladies once danced to soft and lilting strains of music, under the
candles’ glow, and where “The Last Leaf” entertained his stalwart
cronies with cock fighting, the Steck Piano Company now gives concerts
and recitals.

The old house has “tenants.” And as tenants come and go, the Steck
Piano Company tarries but a while, and then moves on.

A lease for the piano company’s quarters in No. 11 is drawn up for
another firm for $5,000 per year. In place of the Steck Piano Company
on the large window is to be read--“American Mutoscope and Biograph

However, the name of the new tenant signified nothing whatever to the
real estate firm adjacent to No. 11 that had made the new lease. It
was understood that Mutoscope pictures to be shown in Penny Arcades
were being made, and there was no particular interest in the matter.
The “Biograph” part of the name had little significance, if any, until
in the passage of time a young actor from Louisville, called Griffith,
came to labor where labor had been little known and to wonder about the
queer new job he had somewhat reluctantly fallen heir to.

The gentlemen of the real estate firm did some wondering too. Up to
this time, the peace of their quarters had been disturbed only by the
occasional lady-like afternoon concert of the Steck Piano Company. The
few preceding directors of the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company
had done their work quietly and unemotionally.

Now, whatever was going on in what was once “The Last Leaf’s” gay and
elegant drawing-room, and why did such shocking language drift through
to disturb the conservative transactions in real estate!

“Say, what’s the matter with you--you’re dying you know--you’ve
been shot and you’re dying! Well, that’s better, something like it!
You, here, you’ve done the shooting, you’re the murderer, naturally
you’re a bit perturbed, you’ve lots to think about--yourself for one
thing! You’re not surrendering at the nearest police station, no,
you’re beating it, _beating_ it, you understand. Now we’ll try it
again--That’s better, something like it! Now we’ll take it. All right,
everybody! Shoot!”

The neighborhood certainly was changing. The language! The people!
Where once distinguished callers in ones and twos had come once and
twice a week--now in mobs they were crossing the once sacred threshold
every day.

It was in the spring of 1908 that David W. Griffith came to preside at
11 East Fourteenth. Here it was he took up the daily grind, struggled,
dreamed, saw old ambitions die, suffered humiliation, achieved, and in
four short years was well started on the road to become world famous as
the greatest director of the motion picture.

For movies, yes, movies were being made where once “The Last Leaf” had
entertained in the grand old manner. That was what the inscription,
“American Mutoscope and Biograph Company,” had meant.

But movies did not desecrate the dignity of 11 East Fourteenth Street.
The dignity of achievement had begun. The old beauty of the place was
fast disappearing. The magnificent old chandelier had given place to
banks of mercury vapor tubes. There were no soft carpets for the tired
actors’ feet. The ex-drawing-room and ex-concert hall were now full and
overflowing with actors, and life’s little comedies and tragedies were
being play-acted where once they had been lived.

Fourteenth Street, New York, has been called “the nursery of genius.”
Many artists struggled there in cheap little studios, began to feel
their wings, could not stand success, moved to studio apartments
uptown, and met defeat. But 11 East Fourteenth Street still harbors the
artist; the building is full of them. Evelyn Longman, who was there
when “old Biograph” was, is still there. On other doors are other
names--Ruotolo, Oberhardt, John S. Gelert, sculptor; Lester, studio;
The Waller Studios; Ye Studio of Frederic Ehrlich.

In the old projection room are now stacked books and plays of the Edgar
S. Werner Company, and in the dear old studio, which is just the same
to-day as the day we left it, except that the mercury tubes have been
taken out, and a north window cut, presides a sculptor by the name of
A. Stirling Calder, who has painted the old door blue and hung a huge
brass knocker on it.

Now, when I made up my mind to write this record of those early days
of the movies, I knew that I must go down once again to see the old
workshop, where for four years David W. Griffith wielded the scepter,
until swelled with success and new-gained wealth the Biograph Company
pulled up stakes and flitted to its new large modern and expensive
studio up in the Bronx at East 175th Street.

So down I went to beg Mr. Calder to let me look over the old place and
take a picture of it.

My heart was going pit-a-pat out there in the old hallway while I
awaited an answer to my knock. “Please,” I pleaded, “I want so much to
take a photograph of the studio just as it is. I’m writing a little
book about our pioneering days here; it won’t take a minute. May I,

Emotion was quite overwhelming me as the memories of the years crowded
on me, memories of young and happy days untouched with the sadness that
years must inevitably bring even though they bring what is considered
“success.” Twelve years had gone their way since I had passed
through those studio doors and here I was again, all a-flutter with
anticipation and choky with the half-dreamy memories of events long

[Illustration: “Lawrence” Griffith.

                                                           (_See p. 12_)

[Illustration: Linda Arvidson (Mrs. David W. Griffith), as leading
ingénue with Florence Roberts in stock in San Francisco.

                                                           (_See p. 15_)

But don’t be tempted to announce your arrival if you have ever
been connected with a moving picture, for Mr. Calder has scarcely
heard of them and when I insisted he must have, he said, with much
condescension, “Oh, yes, I remember, Mr. Griffith did a Chinese
picture; it was rather good but too sentimental.” And he refused to let
me take a picture of the studio for he “could not afford to lend his
work and his studio to problematical publicity of which he had not the
slightest proof.”

I felt sorry Mr. Calder had come to reside in our movie nursery at
11 East Fourteenth Street, for we were such good fellows, happy and
interested in our work, cordial and pleasant to one another.

The change made me sad!



But now to go back to the beginning.

It was a night in the summer of 1904 in my dear and fascinating old
San Francisco, before the life we all knew and loved had been broken
in two, never to be mended, by the disaster of the great fire and
earthquake. At the old Alcazar Theatre the now historic stock company
was producing Mr. Hall Caine’s drama “The Christian.”

In the first act the fishermaidens made merry in the village square.

Unknown to family or friends, and with little pride in my humble
beginning, I mingled as one of the fishergirls. Three dollars and fifty
cents a week was the salary Fred Belasco (David’s brother) paid me for
my bit of Hall Caine interpretation, so I, for one, had no need to be
horrified some four years later when I was paid three dollars a day for
playing the same fishermaiden in support of Mary Pickford, who, under
Mr. Griffith’s direction, was making Glory Quayle into a screen heroine.

Here at the old Alcazar were wonderful people I could worship. There
was Oza Waldrop, and John Craig, and Mary Young, Eleanor Gordon,
Frances Starr, and Frank Bacon. Kindly, sweet Frank Bacon whose big
success, years later, as _Lightnin’ Bill Jones_, in his own play
“Lightnin’,” made not the slightest change in his simple, unpretentious
soul. Mr. Bacon had written a play called “In the Hills of California.”
It was to be produced for a week’s run at Ye Liberty Theatre, Oakland,
California, and I was to play the ingénue.

One little experience added to another little experience fortified me
with sufficient courage to call on managers of visiting Eastern road
companies who traveled short of “maids,” “special guests at the ball,”
and “spectators at the races.” New York was already beckoning, and
without funds for a railroad ticket the only way to get there was to
join a company traveling that way.

A summing up of previous experiences showed a recital at Sherman and
Clay Hall and two weeks on tour in Richard Walton Tully’s University of
California’s Junior farce “James Wobberts, Freshman.”

In the company were Mr. Tully and his then wife, Eleanor Gates, the
author; Emil Kreuske, for some years now “Bill Nigh,” the motion
picture director; Milton Schwartz, who took to law and now practices
in Hollywood; Dick Tully and his wife Olive Vail. Elmer Harris of the
original college company did not go. Elmer is now partner to Frank E.
Woods along with Thompson Buchanan in Mr. Wood’s new producing company.

The recital at Sherman and Clay Hall on Sutter Street was a most
ambitious effort. My job-hunting pal, Harriet Quimby, a girl I had met
prowling about the theatres, concluded we were getting nowhere and time
was fleeting. So we hit on a plan to give a recital in San Francisco’s
Carnegie Hall, and invite the dramatic critics hoping they would come
and give us good notices.

The Homer Henley Quartette which we engaged would charge twenty
dollars. The rent of the hall was twenty. We should have had in hand
forty dollars, and between us we didn’t own forty cents.

Harriet Quimby knew Arnold Genthe, and, appreciating her rare beauty,
Mr. Genthe said he would make her photos for window display for
nothing. Oscar Mauer did the same for me, gratis. Rugs and furniture
we borrowed, and the costumes by advertising in the program, we rented

We understood only this much of politics: Jimmy Phelan, our Mayor
(afterwards Senator James H. Phelan) was a very wealthy man, charitably
disposed, and one day we summoned up sufficient courage to tell him our
trouble. Most attentively and respectfully he heard us, and without a
moment’s hesitation gave us the twenty.

So we gave the recital. We sold enough tickets to pay the Homer
Henleys, but not enough to pay the debt to Mr. Phelan. He’s never been
paid these many years though I’ve thought of doing it often, and will
do it some day.

However, the critics came and they gave us good notices, but the
recital didn’t seem to put much of a dent in our careers. Harriet
Quimby soon achieved New York via _The Sunset Magazine_. In New York
she “caught on,” and became dramatic critic on _Leslie’s Weekly_.

The honor of being the first woman in America to receive an aviator’s
license became hers, as also that of being the first woman to pilot a
monoplane across the English Channel. That was in the spring of 1912, a
few months before her death while flying over Boston Harbor.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mission Street, near Third, was in that unique section called
South-of-the-Slot. The character of the community was such, that
to reside there, or even to admit of knowing residents there meant
complete loss of social prestige. Mission Street, which was once the
old road that led over blue and yellow lupin-covered hills out to
the Mission Dolores of the Spanish Fathers, and was later the place
where the elegantly costumed descendants of the forty-niners who had
struck pay dirt (and kept it) strolled, held, at the time of which I
speak, no reminder of its departed glory except the great romantic old
Grand Opera House, which, amid second-hand stores, pawn-shops, cheap
restaurants, and saloons, languished in lonely grandeur.

Once in my young life Richard Mansfield played there; Henry Irving and
Ellen Terry gave a week of Shakespearean repertoire; Weber and Fields
came from New York for the first time and gave their show, but failed.
San Franciscans thought that Kolb and Dill, Barney Bernard, and Georgie
O’Ramey, who held forth nightly at Fischer’s Music Hall, were just as

At the time of the earthquake a grand opera company headed by Caruso
was singing there. Between traveling luminaries, lesser lights
glimmered on the historic old stage. And for a long time, when the
theatre was called Morosco’s Grand Opera House, ten, twenty, and thirty
blood-and-thunder melodrama held the boards.

At this stage in its career, and hardly one year before the great
disaster, a young actor who called himself Lawrence Griffith was
heading toward the Coast in a show called “Miss Petticoats.” Katherine
Osterman was the star. The company stranded in San Francisco.

Melbourne MacDowell, in the last remnants of the faded glory cast upon
him by Fanny Davenport, was about to tread the sacred stage of the old
Grand Opera House, putting on a repertoire of the Sudermann and Sardou

Frank Bacon, always my kind adviser, suggested I should try my luck
with this aggregation. So I trotted merrily down, wandered through dark
alleyways, terribly thrilled, for Henry Irving had come this same way
and I was walking where once he had walked.

I was to appear as a boy servant in “Fedora.” I remember only one
scene. It was in a sort of court room with a civil officer sitting high
and mighty and calm and unperturbed on a high stool behind a high desk.
I entered the room and timidly approached the desk. A deep stern voice
that seemed to rise from some dark depths shouted at me, “At what hour
did your master leave _Blu Bla_?”

I shivered and shook and finally stammered out the answer, and was
mighty glad when the scene was over.

Heavens! Who was this person, anyhow?

His name, I soon learned, was Griffith--Lawrence Griffith--I never
could abide that “Lawrence”! Though, as it turned out afterward, our
married life might have been dull without that Christian name as a
perpetual resource for argument.

Afterward, to my great joy, Mr. Griffith confided to me that he had
taken the name “Lawrence” only for the stage. His real name was
“David,” “David Wark,” but he was going to keep that name dark until he
was a big success in the world, and famous. And as yet he didn’t know,
although he seemed very lackadaisical about it, I thought, whether
he’d be great as an actor, stage director, grand opera star, poet,
playwright, or novelist.

I wasn’t the only one who thought he might have become a great singer.
Once a New York critic reviewing a première of one of David Griffith’s
motion pictures, said: “The most interesting feature of Mr. Griffith’s
openings is to hear his wonderful voice.”

“Lawrence” condescended to a little conversation now and then. He was
quite encouraging at times. Said I had wonderful eyes for the stage and
if I ever went to New York and got in right, I’d get jobs “on my eyes.”
(Sounded very funny--getting a job “on one’s eyes.”) Advised me never
to get married if I expected to stay on the stage. Told me about the
big New York actors: Leslie Carter, who had just been doing DuBarry;
and David Belasco, and what a wonderful producer he was; and dainty
Maude Adams; and brilliant Mrs. Fiske; and Charles Frohman; and Richard
Mansfield in “Monsieur Beaucaire”; and Broadway; and Mrs. Fernandez’s
wonderful agency; and how John Drew got his first wonderful job through
her agency at one hundred and twenty-five dollars a week!

I was eager to learn more of the big theatrical world three thousand
miles away. I invited Mr. Griffith out home to lunch one day. A new
world soon opened up for me--the South. The first Southerner I’d ever
met was Mr. Griffith. I had known of the South only from my school
history; but the one I had studied didn’t tell of Colonel Jacob Wark
Griffith, David’s father, who fought under Stonewall Jackson in the
Civil War, and was called “Thunder Jake” because of his roaring voice.
He owned lots of negroes, gambled, and loved Shakespeare. There was big
“Sister Mattie” who taught her little brother his lessons and who, out
on the little front stoop, just before bedtime, did her best to answer
all the questions the inquisitive boy would ask about the stars and
other wonders.

This was all very different from being daughter to a Norseman who had
settled out on San Francisco’s seven hills in the winds and fogs.

The South began to loom up as a land of romance.



When the Melbourne MacDowell repertory season closed, the stranded
actors of the “Miss Petticoats” Company were again on the loose.
While San Francisco supported two good stock companies, the Alcazar
presenting high-class drama and the Central given over to melodrama,
their rosters had been completed for the season and they offered rather
lean pickings. But Lawrence Griffith worked them both to the best of
his persuasive powers.

Early fall came with workless weeks, and finally, to conserve his
shrinking treasury, our young actor who had been domiciled in the old
Windsor Hotel, a most moderately priced place on Market and Fourth
Streets, had to bunk in with Carlton, the stage carpenter of the
MacDowell show, in a single-bedded single room. Mr. Carlton was on a
social and mental plane with the actor, but his financial status was
decidedly superior.

The doubling-up arrangement soon grew rather irksome. What with idle
days, a flattened purse, and isolation from theatrical activities,
gloom and discouragement enveloped young Griffith, although he never
seemed to worry.

He had a trunk full of manuscripts--one-act plays, long plays, and
short stories and poems! To my unsophisticated soul it was all very
wonderful. What a cruel, unappreciative world, to permit works of
genius to languish lonely amid stage wardrobe and wigs and greasy

On pleasant days when the winds were quiet and the fogs hung no nearer
than Tamalpais across the Gate, we would hie ourselves to the Ocean
Beach, where, fortified with note-book and pencil the actor-poet would
dictate new poems and stories.

One day young Lawrence brought along a one-act play called “In
Washington’s Time.” The act had been headlined over the Keith Circuit.
It had never played in San Francisco. He wondered if he could do
anything with it.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was approaching the hop-picking season. The stranded young actor’s
funds were reaching bottom. Something must be done.

In California, in those days, quite nice people picked hops. Mother
and father, young folks, and the children, went. Being the dry season,
they’d live in the open; pick hops by day, and at night dance and sing.

Lawrence Griffith decided it would be a healthful, a colorful, and a
more remunerative experience than picking up theatrical odd jobs, to
join the hop pickers up Ukiah way. So for a few weeks he picked hops
and mingled with thrifty, plain people and operatic Italians who drank
“dago red” and sang the sextette from “Lucia” while they picked their
portion. Here he saved money and got atmosphere for a play. Sent me a
box of sweet-smelling hops from the fields, too!

A brief engagement as leading ingénue with Florence Roberts had cheered
me in the interval, even though Fred Belasco made me feel utterly
unworthy of my thirty-five dollar salary. “My God,” said he when I
presented my first week’s voucher, “they don’t give a damn what they do
with my money.”

However, Mr. Griffith soon returned to San Francisco. He hoped to
do something with his playlet. Martin Beck, the vaudeville magnate,
who was then manager of the Orpheum Theatre and booked acts over the
Orpheum Circuit, said to let him see a rehearsal.

Such excitement! I was to play a little Colonial girl and appear at
our own Orpheum Theatre in an act that had played New York, Boston,
Philadelphia, Chicago, and other awesome cities. Mr. Beck booked
for the week and gave us a good salary, but could not offer enough
consecutive bookings to make a road tour pay, so that was that.

In the meantime Oliver Morosco had opened his beautiful Majestic
Theatre in upper Market Street, with “In the Palace of the King.”
The New York company lacking a blind Inez, I got the part, and the
dramatic critic, Ashton Stevens, gave me a great notice. In the next
week’s bill, “Captain Barrington,” I played a scene which brought me a
paragraph from Mr. Stevens captioned “An Actress with more than Looks.”
On the strength of this notice Mr. Morosco sent me to play ingénues at
his Burbank Theatre in Los Angeles, at twenty-five dollars per week.

Barney Bernard was stepping out just now. He wanted to see what he
could do away from the musical skits of Kolb and Dill. So he found a
play called “The Financier.” “Lawrence” Griffith had a little job in
it. The hardest part of the job was to smoke a cigar in a scene--it
nearly made him ill. But he had a good season, six weeks with salary

That over, came a call to Los Angeles to portray the Indian,
Alessandro, in a dramatization of Helen Hunt Jackson’s famous novel

It was pleasant for us to see each other. We went out to San Gabriel
Mission together. Mr. Griffith afterwards used the Mission as the
setting for a short story--a romantic satire which he called “From
Morning Until Night.” His brief engagement over, “Lawrence” went back
to San Francisco, and my Morosco season ending shortly afterward, I
followed suit.

In San Francisco, Nance O’Neill was being billed. She was returning
from her Australian triumphs in Ibsen, Sardou, and Sudermann. The
company, with McKee Rankin as manager and leading man, included John
Glendenning, father of Ernest; Clara T. Bracy, sister of Lydia Thompson
of British Blonde Burlesque and Black Crook fame; Paul Scardon from the
Australian Varieties and now husband of a famous cinema star, Betty
Blythe; and Jane Marbury.

Mr. Griffith, hoping for a chance to return East with the company,
applied for a job and was offered “bits” which he accepted. Then one
day, Mr. Rankin being ill, Lawrence Griffith stepped into the part of
the Father in “Magda.” Miss O’Neill thought so well of his performance
and the notices he received that she offered him leading parts for the
balance of the season.

When in the early spring of 1906, the company departed from
San Francisco, it left me with my interest in life decidedly
diminished--but Lawrence Griffith had promised to return, and when he
came back things would be different.

So, while the O’Neill company was working close to Minneapolis, I was
“resting.” I “rested” until eighteen minutes to five on the morning of
April 18th, when something happened.


“I don’t know, but I think we had better get up,” suggested my sister.

       *       *       *       *       *

I sent Lawrence a long telegram about what had happened to us, but he
received it by post. And then about a week later I received a letter
from Milwaukee telling me that Miss O’Neill and the company were giving
a benefit for desolate San Francisco, and that I had better come on
and meet him in Boston where the company was booked for a six weeks’

So to Fillmore Street I went to beg for a railroad ticket to Boston,
gratis. There was a long line of people waiting. I took my place at the
end of the line. In time I reached the man at the desk.

“Where to?”


“What is your occupation?”


I thought it unwise to confide my matrimonial objective. No further
questions, however. I was given a yard of ticket and on May 9th I
boarded a refugee train at the Oakland mole, all dressed up in Red
Cross clothes that fitted me nowhere.

But I had a lovely lunch, put up by neighbors, some fried chicken, and
two small bottles of California claret. In another box, their stems
stuck in raw potatoes, some orange blossoms off a tree that stood close
to our tent.

Ah, dear old town, good-bye!

Every night I cried myself to sleep.

Thus I went to meet my bridegroom.

       *       *       *       *       *


Everything a bustle! People, and people, and people! Laughing, happy,
chattering people who didn’t seem to know and apparently didn’t care
what had happened to us out there by the bleak Pacific. I was so
annoyed at them. Their life was still normal. Though I knew they had
helped bounteously, I was annoyed.

But here HE comes! And we jumped into a cab--with a license, but no
ring. In the unusual excitement that had been forgotten, so we had to
turn back in the narrow street and find a jeweler. Then we drove to Old
North Church, where Paul Revere had hung out his lantern on his famous
ride (which Mr. Griffith has since filmed in “America”), and our names
were soon written in the register.

       *       *       *       *       *

The end of June, and New York! Just blowing up for a thunderstorm.
I had never heard real thunder, nor seen lightning, nor been wet by
a summer rain. What horrible weather! The wind blew a gale, driving
papers and dust in thick swirling clouds. Of all the miserable
introductions to the city of my dreams and ambitions, New York City
could hardly have offered me a more miserable one!

We lived in style for a few days at the Hotel Navarre on Seventh Avenue
and Thirty-ninth Street, and then looked for a “sublet” for the summer.
I’d never heard of a “sublet” before.

We ferreted around and found a ducky little place, so
cheap--twenty-five dollars a month--on West Fifty-sixth Street,
overlooking the athletic grounds of the Y. M. C. A., where I was
tremendously amused watching the fat men all wrapped up in sweaters
doing their ten times around without stopping--for reducing purposes.

But we had little time to waste in such observations. A job must be
had for the fall. In a few weeks we signed with the Rev. Thomas Dixon
(fresh from his successful “Clansman”); my husband as leading man and I
as general understudy, in “The One Woman.” Rehearsals were to be called
in about two months.

To honeymoon, or not to honeymoon--to work or not to work. Work it was,
and David started on a play.

And he worked. He walked the floor while dictating and I took it down
on the second-hand typewriter I had purchased somewhere on Amsterdam
Avenue for twenty dollars. The only other investment of the summer
had been at Filene’s in Boston where I left my Red Cross sartorial
contributions and emerged in clothes that had a more personal relation
to me.

They were happy days. The burdens were shared equally. My husband was
a splendid cook; modestly said, so was I. He loved to cook, singing
negro songs the while, and whatever he did, whether cooking or writing
or washing the dishes, he did it with the same earnestness and
cheerfulness. Felt his responsibilities too, and had a sort of mournful
envy of those who had established themselves.

Harriet Quimby was now writing a weekly article for _Leslie’s_, and
summering gratis at the old Oriental Hotel at Manhattan Beach as
payment for publicizing the social activities of the place. Beach-bound
one day, she called at our modest ménage, beautifully dressed, with
wealthy guests in their expensive car. As the car drove off, Mr.
Griffith gazing sadly below from our window five flights up, as sadly
said “She’s a success.”

The play came along fine, owing much to our experiences in California.
One act was located in the hop fields, and there were Mexican songs
that Mr. Griffith had first heard rendered by native Mexicans who sang
in “Ramona.” Another act was in a famous old café in San Francisco,
The Poodle Dog. It was christened “A Fool and a Girl.” The fool was an
innocent youth from Kentucky, but the girl, being from San Francisco,
was more piquant.

We’d been signed for the fall, and we felt we’d done pretty well by the
first summer. I’d learned to relish the funny little black raspberries
and not to be afraid of thunderstorms--they were not so uncertain as

And now rehearsals are called for Mr. Dixon’s “The One Woman.” They
lasted some weeks before we took to the road and opened in Norfolk,
Virginia, where we drew our first salaries, seventy-five for him and
thirty-five for her. Nice, it was, and we hoped it would be a long



But it wasn’t.

After two months on the road we received our two weeks’ notice. For
half Mr. Griffith’s salary, Mr. Dixon had engaged another leading man,
who, he felt, would adequately serve the cause. So, sad at heart and
not so wealthy, we returned to the merry little whirl of life in the
theatrical metropolis of the U. S. A. We had one asset--the play. Good
thing we had not frivoled away those precious summer weeks in seeking
cooling breezes by Coney’s coral strand!

Late that fall my husband played a small part in a production of
“Salome” at the Astor Theatre under Edward Ellsner’s direction. Mr.
Ellsner was looking for a play for Pauline Frederick. Mr. Griffith
suggested his play and Mr. Ellsner was sufficiently interested to
arrange for a reading for Miss Frederick and her mother. They liked
it; so did Mr. Ellsner; and so the play was sent on to Mr. James K.
Hackett, Miss Frederick’s manager at that time.

       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: Linda Arvidson (Mrs. Griffith), David W. Griffith and
Harry Salter, in “When Knights were Bold,” Biograph’s version of “When
Knighthood was in Flower.”

                                                           (_See p. 34_)

[Illustration: Marion Davies, Forrest Stanley, Ruth Shepley and Ernest
Glendenning, in Cosmopolitan’s production of “When Knighthood was in

                                                           (_See p. 34_)

[Illustration: Advertising Bulletin for “Balked at the Altar,” with
Harry Salter, Mabel Stoughton, Mack Sennett, George Gebhardt and Linda
Griffith. The release of all Biograph movies was similarly announced.

                                                           (_See p. 40_)

It was Christmas eve--our first. Three thousand miles from home,
lonesome, broke.

In the busy marts of dramatic commerce poor little “D” was dashing
hither and yon with his first-born. Even on this day before Christmas
he was on the job. The festive holiday meal I had prepared was
quite ready. There were some things to be grateful for: each other,
the comfortable two rooms, and the typewriter. The hamburger steak was
all set, the gravy made, and the potatoes with their jackets on, à la
California camp style, were a-steaming. The little five-cent baker’s
pie was warming in the oven and the pint bottle of beer was cooling in
the snow on the window ledge. And some one all mine was coming.

We sat down to dinner. Couldn’t put the plates on the table right side
up these days, it seemed. Had no recollection of having turned my plate
over. Turned it right side up again.

I wished people wouldn’t be silly. I supposed this was a verse about
Christmas. But why the mystery? Wonderingly, I opened the folded slip
of paper. Funny looking poetry. Funny look on D’s face. What was this
anyhow? Looked like an old-fashioned rent receipt. But it didn’t say
“Received from ----.” It said “Pay to ----,” “Pay to the order of
David W. Griffith seven hundred dollars,” and it was signed “James K.

“Oh no, you haven’t _sold the play_!”

Yes, it was sold; the check represented a little advance royalty. And
were the play a success we would receive a stipulated percentage of the
weekly gross. (I’ve forgotten the scale.)

Oh, kind and generous Mr. Hackett!

Isn’t it funny how calm one can be in the big moments of life? But I
couldn’t grasp it. Christmas eve and all! An honest-to-God check on an
honest-to-God bank for seven hundred whole dollars. Was there that much
money in the whole world?

Now came wonderful days--no financial worry and no job-hunting. True,
we realized the seven hundred would not last indefinitely. But to
accept a job and not be in New York when rehearsals for the play were
called, was an idea not to be entertained. So, to feel right about the
interim of inactivity, David wrote yards of poetry and several short
stories. And John A. Sleicher of _Leslie’s Weekly_ paid the princely
sum of six dollars for a poem called “The Wild Duck.”

A bunch of stuff was sent off to _McClure’s_, which Mr. McClure said
appealed to him very much--though not enough for publication. He’d like
to see more of Mr. Griffith’s work.

And the _Cosmopolitan_, then under Perriton Maxwell’s editorship,
bought “From Morning Until Night” for seventy-five dollars. Things were
looking up.

       *       *       *       *       *

In Norfolk, Va., a Centennial was to be held in celebration of the
landing on Southern soil of the first of the F. F. V.’s, and a play
commemorating the event had been written around Captain John Smith
and Pocahontas. Mr. Griffith accepted a part in it. The six weeks’
engagement would help out until the rehearsals of his own play were
called. But Pocahontas’s financial aid must have been somewhat stingy
according to the letter my husband wrote me in New York. We had felt we
couldn’t afford my railroad fare to Norfolk and my maintenance there.
It was our first separation.

And this the letter:


    I am sending you a little $3 for carfare. I would send more but
    I couldn’t get anything advanced, so I only send you this much.
    I’ll get my salary, or part of it, rather, Monday, so I’ll send
    you more then and also tell you what I think we should do. I would
    like to go to Miss ---- if we could get it for $6 a week, or $25 a
    month but I don’t like to pay $7.50, that’s too strong if we can do
    cheaper. Of course, if we can’t we can’t and that’s all there is to
    it. Let me know as soon as you get this money as I am only sending
    it wrapped up as I don’t want you to have to cash so small a check
    as $3, so that’s why I am sending it this way.

    I bet you I get some good things out of this world for her yet,
    just watch me and see....

                                               Her husband,

Pocahontas flivvered out in three weeks. But as Shakespeare says,
“Sweet are the uses of adversity.” While Mr. Griffith was away, I found
time to make myself a new dress. In a reckless moment I had paid a
dollar deposit on some green silk dress material at Macy’s, which at
a later and wealthier moment I had redeemed. So now I rented a sewing
machine and sewed like mad to get the dress done, for I could afford
only one dollar-and-a-half weekly rental on the old Wheeler and Wilson.

By the time “A Fool and A Girl” was to open in Washington, D. C.,
there was just enough cold cash left for railroad fare there. Klaw and
Erlanger produced the play under Mr. Duane’s direction, and Mr. Hackett
came on to rehearsals in Washington. Fannie Ward and Jack Deane played
the leading parts. Here they met and their romance began, and according
to latest accounts it is still thriving. Alison Skipworth of “The Torch
Bearers” and other successes, was a member of the cast.

The notices were not the best nor the worst. They are interesting
to-day, for they show how time has ambled apace since October, 1907.
Said Hector Fuller, the critic:

    It may be said that the dramatist wanted to show where his hero’s
    feet strayed; and where he found the girl he was afterwards to
    make his wife, but if one wants to tell the old, old and beautiful
    story of redemption of either man or woman through love, it is not
    necessary to portray the gutters from which they are redeemed....

One week in Washington and one in Baltimore saw on its jolly way to the
storehouse the wicked Bull Pup Café and the Hop Fields, etc.

And so back to New York.

In the Sixth Avenue “L” with our little suitcases, we sat, a picture
of woe and misery. In the Sixth Avenue “L,” for not even a dollar was
to be wasted on a taxi. But when the door to our own two rooms was
closed, and, alone together, we faced our wrecked hopes, it wasn’t
so awful. Familiar objects seemed to try and comfort us. After all,
it was a little home, and better than a park bench; and the _Century
Dictionary_--of which some day we would be complete owners, maybe--and
the Underwood, all our own--spoke to us reassuringly.

I do not recall that any job materialized that winter, but something
must have happened to sustain us. Perhaps the belated receipt of those
few hundred dollars of mine that were on deposit at the German Savings
Bank at the time of the Disaster in San Francisco.

To offset what might have been a non-productive winter, Mr. Griffith
wrote “War,” a pretentious affair of the American Revolution, which
Henry Miller would have produced had it been less expensive. “War”
had meant a lot of work. For weeks previous to the writing, we had
repaired daily to the Astor Library where we copied soldiers’ diaries
and letters and read histories of the period until sufficiently imbued
with the spirit of 1776. “War” is still in the manuscript stage with
the exception of the Valley Forge bits which came to life in Mr.
Griffith’s film “America”; for Mr. Griffith turned to the spectacle
very early in his career, though he little dreamed then of the medium
in which he was to record the great drama of the American Revolution.

       *       *       *       *       *

We met Perriton Maxwell again. Extended and accepted dinner
invitations. Our dinner was a near-tragedy. Before the banquet had
advanced to the salad stage, I had to take my little gold bracelet to a
neighboring “Uncle.” The antique furniture necessitated placards which
my husband posted conspicuously. For instance, on the sofa--“Do not sit
here; the springs are weak.” On a decrepit gate-legged table--“Don’t
lean; the legs are loose.”

At the Maxwells’ dinner our host gathered several young literati who
he thought might become interested in Mr. Griffith and his literary
efforts. Vivian M. Moses, then editor of _Good Housekeeping_ and
now Publicity Manager for The Fox Films, was one, as was Jules E.
Goodman, the playwright. But a “litry” career for Mr. Griffith seemed
foredoomed. A poem now and then, and an occasional story sold, was too
fragile sustenance for permanency. Some sort of steady job would have
to be found, and the “litry” come in as a side-line.

David Griffith was ready for any line of activity that would bring in
money, so that he could write plays. He always had some idea in his
inventive mind, such as non-puncturable tires, or harnessing the ocean
waves. In the mornings, on waking, he would lie in bed and work out
plots for dramas, scene bits, or even mechanical ideas. After an hour
of apparent semi-consciousness, his head motionless on the pillow, he
would greet the day with “I hate to see her die in the third act”;
or, “I wonder if that meat dish could be canned!” meaning, could a
dish he had invented and cooked--a triumph of culinary art--be made a
commercial proposition as a tinned food, like Armour’s or Van Camp’s
beans and corned beef.

Pretty good field of activity, canned eats, and might have made David
W. Griffith more money than canned drama!



Winter passed. Spring came.

On the Rialto’s hard pavements, day in and day out, Mr. Griffith, his
ear to the ground, was wearing out good shoe leather. But nothing
like a job materialized, until, meeting up with an old acquaintance,
Max Davidson, he heard about moving pictures. Since youthful days
in a Louisville stock company these two had not met. And the simple
confidences they exchanged this day brought results that were
most significant, not only to David Griffith, but to millions of
unsuspecting people the world over.

Mr. Davidson had been going down to a place on 11 East Fourteenth
Street and doing some kind of weird acting before a camera--little
plays, he explained, of which a camera took pictures.

“You’ve heard of moving pictures, haven’t you?”

“Why, I don’t know; suppose I have, but I’ve never seen one. Why?”

“I work in them during the summer; make five dollars some days when
I play a leading part, but usually it’s three. Keeps you going, and
you get time to call on managers too. Now you could write the little
stories for the pictures. They pay fifteen dollars sometimes for good
ones. Don’t feel offended at the suggestion. It’s not half bad, really.
We spend lots of days working out in the country. Lately we’ve been
doing pictures where they use horses, and it’s just like getting paid
for enjoying a nice horseback ride. Anybody can ride well enough for
the pictures. Just manage to stay on the horse, that’s all.”

“Ye gods,” said the tempted one, “some of my friends might see me. Then
I would be done for. Where do they show these pictures? I’ll go see one

“Oh, nobody’ll ever see you--don’t worry about that.”

“Well, that does make it different. I’ll think it over. Where’s the
place, you said?”

“Eleven East Fourteenth Street.”

“Thanks awfully. I’ll look in--so long.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The elder Mr. McCutcheon was the director when David applied for a job
at the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company and got it.

There were no preliminaries. He was told to go “below” and put on a
little make-up. So he went “below”--to the dressing-room, but he didn’t
put on a “little make-up.” He took a great deal of trouble with it
although it was largely experimental, being very different from the
conventional stage make-up. The only instruction he was given was to
leave off the “red” which would photograph black, thus putting hollows
in his cheeks. And he didn’t need hollows in his cheeks.

When he came up to the studio floor--his dressing and make-up
finished--the director, and the actors especially, looked at him as
though he were not quite in his right mind. “Poor boob,” they thought,
to take such trouble with a “make-up” for a moving picture, a moving
picture that no one who counted for anything would ever see.

After a short rehearsal, an explanation of “foreground” and
instructions about keeping “inside the lines” and “outside the lines,”
the camera opened up, ground away for about twenty feet, and the ordeal
was over.

When work was finished for the day, Mr. McCutcheon paid his new actor
five dollars and told him to call on the morrow. So the next morning
there was an early start to the studio. They were to work outside, and
there were to be horses!

I shall never forget the sadly amused expression my husband brought
home with him, the evening of that second day. Nor his comments: “It’s
not so bad, you know, five dollars for simply riding a horse in the
wilds of Fort Lee on a cool spring day. I think it wouldn’t be a bad
idea for you to go down and see what you can do. Don’t tell them who
you are, I mean, don’t tell them you’re my wife. I think it is better
business not to.”

So a few days later, I dolled up for a visit to the studio. After I had
waited an hour or so, Mr. McCutcheon turned to me and said, “All right,
just put a little make-up on; this isn’t very important.” There was no
coaching for the acting; only one thing mattered, and that was, not to
appear as though hunting frantically for the lines on the floor that
marked your stage, while the scenes were being taken.

Mr. Griffith and I “listened in” on all the stories and experiences the
actors at the studio had to tell. We would have all the information we
could get on the subject of moving pictures, those tawdry and cheap
moving pictures, the existence of which we had hitherto been aware
of only through the lurid posters in front of the motion picture
places--those terrible moving picture places where we wouldn’t be
caught dead. But we could find use for as many of those little “fives”
as might come our way.

Humiliating as the work was, no one took the interest in it that David
Griffith did, or worked as hard. This Mr. McCutcheon must have divined
right off, for he used him quite regularly and bought whatever stories
he wrote.

Only a few days were needed to get a line on the place. It was a
conglomerate mess of people that hung about the studio. Among the
flotsam and jetsam appeared occasionally a few real actors and
actresses. They would work a few days and disappear. They had found a
job on the stage again. The better they were, the quicker they got out.
A motion picture surely was something not to be taken seriously.

Those running the place were not a bit annoyed by this attitude. The
thing to do was to drop in at about nine in the morning, hang around
a while, see if there was anything for you, and if not, to beat it up
town quick, to the agents. If you were engaged for a part in a picture
and had to see a theatrical agent at eleven and told Mr. McCutcheon
so, he would genially say, “That’s O. K. I’ll fix it so you can get
off.” You were much more desirable if you made such requests. It meant
theatrical agents were seeking you for the legitimate drama, so you
must be _good_!

Would it be better to affiliate with only one studio or take them all
in? There was Edison, way out in the Bronx; Vitagraph in the wilds of
Flatbush; Kalem, like Biograph, was conveniently in town; Lubin was in
Philadelphia, and Essanay in Chicago. Melies was out West. It would be
much nicer, of course, if one could get in “right” at the Biograph.

Some of the actors did the rounds. Ambitious Florence Auer did and
so became identified with a different line of parts at each studio.
At Biograph, character comedy; at Vitagraph, Shakespeare--for “King
Lear” and “Richard the Third” with Thomas H. Ince in attendance, were
screened as long ago as this; at Edison, religious drama. There she
rode the biblical jackass.

The Kalem studio was in the loft of a building on West Twenty-third
Street. You took the elevator to where it didn’t run any further and
then you climbed a ladder up to a place where furniture and household
goods were stored.

Bob Vignola could be seen here dusting off a clear place for the camera
and another place where the actors could be seated the while they
waited until Sidney Olcott, the director, got on the day’s job.

Sidney Olcott was an experienced man in the movies even in those early
days, for had he not played a star part in the old Biograph in the
spring of 1904? As the _Village Cut-up_ in the movie of the same name
we read this about him in the old Biograph bulletin:

    Every country cross-corners has its “Cut-up,” the real devilish
    young man who has been to the “city” at some stage of his career,
    and having spent thirty cents looking at the Mutoscope, or a dollar
    on the Bowery at Coney, thinks he is the real thing. The most
    common evidence of his mental unbalance is the playing of practical
    jokes, which are usually very disagreeable to the victim....

In a few years Mr. Olcott had evolved from the “village cut-up” at
Biograph to director at Kalem.

Here he engaged Miss Auer for society parts and adventuresses.
Stopped her on the Rialto one day. “I know you are an actress,” said
Mr. Olcott, “and that beautiful gray silk dress you have on would
photograph so wonderfully, I’ll give you ten dollars if you’ll wear
it in a scene--it’s a society part.” For a dress that was _gray_,
and _silk_ too, was a most valuable property and a rare specimen of
wardrobe in the movies in those days.

It came as pleasant news that a tabloid version of “When Knighthood Was
in Flower” to be called “When Knights Were Bold” was to be screened
at Biograph. There were four, or perhaps five, persons in the cast of
this première “Knighthood” picture. My husband was one; so was I. The
picture commemorates our only joint movie appearance.

I recall only one scene in this movie, a back-drop picturing landscape,
with a prop tree, a wooden bench, and a few mangy grass mats, but there
was one other set representing an inn. I never saw the picture and
couldn’t tell much about it from the few scenes in which I played.

A one-reeler, of course--nine hundred and five feet. Now whether the
cost of Biograph pictures was then being figured at a dollar a foot, I
do not know. But that was the dizzy average a very short time later.
Anyhow, our “Flowering Knighthood” was cheap enough compared with what
Mr. Hearst spent thirteen years later on his Cosmopolitan production,
which cost him $1,221,491.20, and was completed in the remarkably short
time of one hundred sixty working days.

Mr. Hearst’s “Knighthood” had a remarkable cast of eighteen principal
characters representing the biggest names in the theatrical and motion
picture world, and the supporting company counted three thousand extra
persons and thirty-three horses.

Miss Marion Davies as Princess Mary Tudor was assisted by Lyn Harding,
the English actor-manager; Pedro De Cordoba, Arthur Forrest (the
original Petronius of “Quo Vadis”), Theresa Maxwell Conover, Ernest
Glendenning, (of “Little Old New York”), Ruth Shepley (star of “Adam
and Eva”), Johnny Dooley, (celebrated eccentric dancer), George Nash,
Gustav von Seyfertitz (for years director and star of the old Irving
Place Theatre), Macy Harlam, Arthur Donaldson, Mortimer Snow, William
Morris (of “Maytime” fame).

A few other names of world-famous people must be mentioned in
connection with this picture, for Joseph Urban was the man of the
“sets”; Gidding & Company made the gowns; Sir Joseph Duveen and P. W.
French & Company supplied Gothic draperies; and Cartier, antique

There were only two old movie pioneers connected with the production:
Flora Finch, who back in old Vitagraph days co-starred with John
Bunny and after his death held her place alone as an eccentric
comedienne; and the director, Robert G. Vignola, who back in the days
of our “Knighthood” was the young chap who dusted off the benches and
furniture in the old Kalem loft.

But Robert Vignola, who came of humble Italian parentage, had a brain
in his young head, and was ambitious. Realizing the limitations of
Albany, his home town, he had set out for New York and landed a job
in a motion picture studio. Young Vignola represented at the Kalem
organization, in the early days, what Bobbie Harron did at Biograph.
But the Biograph, from ranking the last in quality of picture
production, grew to occupy first place, while Kalem continued on a
rather more even way. But Bob Vignola didn’t, as the years have shown.

Indeed, many big names have appeared in movies called “When Knighthood
Was in Flower,” but David Griffith’s is not the biggest, nor was it
the first, for before the end of the year 1902, in Marienbad, Germany,
a film thirty-one feet long was produced and given the title “When
Knighthood Was in Flower.” The descriptive line in the Biograph
catalogue of 1902 (for it was a Biograph production) reads:

    Emperor William of Germany and noblemen of the Order of St. John.
    The Emperor is the last in the procession.

So you see the Ex-Kaiser beat them all to it, even D. W. Griffith and
W. R. Hearst, though I’ll say that Mr. Hearst’s is the best of the
“Flowering Knighthoods” to date, and will probably continue so. The
story has now been done often enough to be allowed a rest.

But it was Mr. Griffith’s big dream, very early in his movie career,
along in 1911, to screen some day a great and wonderful movie of the
Charles Major play that launched Julia Marlowe on her brilliant career.
And in this play which he had decided could be produced nowhere but in
England, no less a person than E. H. Sothern was to appear as Charles
Brandon, and she who is writing this was to be Mary Tudor.

Dreams and dreams we had long ago, but this was one of the best dreams
that did not come true.



We called him “Old Man McCutcheon,” the genial, generous person
who at this time directed the movies at the American Mutoscope and
Biograph Company. Why “Old Man” I do not know, unless it was because
he was slightly portly and the father of about eight children, the
oldest being Wallace--“Wally” to his intimates. Wally was quite “some
pumpkins” around the studio--father’s right-hand-man--and then, too, he
was a Broadway actor.

It was then the general idea of movie directors to use their families
in the pictures. As money was the only thing to be had out of the
movies those days, why not get as much as possible while the getting
was good? The McCutcheon kids had just finished working in a Christmas
picture, receiving, besides pay checks, the tree and the toys when the
picture was finished. So the first bit of gossip wafted about was that
the McCutcheons had a pretty good thing of it altogether.

In February, 1908, Wallace McCutcheon was closing an engagement in
Augustus Thomas’s play, “The Ranger.” Appearing in “The Ranger” with
young Mr. McCutcheon, were Robert Vignola, John Adolfi, Eddie Dillon,
and Florence Auer.

A school picture called “The Snow-man” was to be made which called
for eight children--another job for the little McCutcheons. Grown-up
Wally, and mother, were to work too, mother to see that the youngsters
were properly dressed and made up.

A tall, slight young woman was needed for the schoolmistress and Eddie
Dillon, whom Wally had inveigled to the studio, suggested Florence Auer.

The story takes place outside the schoolhouse and a “furious blizzard”
is raging, although I would say there was nothing prophetic of the
blizzard that raged in D. W. Griffith’s famous movie “Way Down East,”
even though events were so shaping themselves that had Mr. McCutcheon
held off a few weeks with his snow story, Mr. Griffith would have
arrived in time to offer suggestions. And he would have had something
to say, had he been so privileged, for “The Snow-man’s” raging
“blizzard” was made up of generous quantities of _sawdust_!

The legs, arms, torso, and head of the _Snow-man_ were fashioned of
fluffy, white cotton, each a separate part, and were hidden under the
drifts of sawdust, to be found later by the children who came to romp
in the snow and make a snow-man. The places where the _Snow-man’s_
fragments were buried were marked so that the children could easily
find them. One youngster pretends to mold of sawdust an imaginary leg,
but in reality is hunting the buried finished one, on locating which,
she surreptitiously pulls it from beneath the sawdust. In this way,
finally, all the parts of the Snow-man are dug out of the sawdust snow,
and put together, revealing a beautiful Snow-man.

[Illustration: Biograph Mutoscope of the murder of Stanford White
by Harry Thaw on Madison Square Garden roof, made shortly after the

                                                           (_See p. 69_)

[Illustration: The first Biograph Girl, Florence Lawrence, in “The
Barbarian,” otherwise known as “Ingomar, the Barbarian.” Filmed at the
home of Ernest Thompson Seton at Cos Cob, Conn.

                                                           (_See p. 59_)

[Illustration: From “The Politician’s Love Story.” Left to right:
Linda A. Griffith, Arthur Johnson, Mack Sennett. A beautiful sleet had
covered the trees and foliage of Central Park and this scenario was
hurriedly gotten up so as to photograph a wonderful winter fairyland.

                                                           (_See p. 80_)

Then the Good Fairy of the Snows who all this time has been dreaming
in the silver crescent of the moon, looking for all the world like the
charming lady of the _Cascarets_ ads, is given a tip that the children
have finished their _Snow-man_. So it is time for her to wake up and
come out of the moon. From her stellar heights, by means of a clumsy
iron apparatus, she is lowered to earth. Sadly crude it all was, but
it thrilled the fans of the day, nevertheless. With her magic wand the
Good Fairy touches the _Snow-man_ and he comes to life. Predatory Pete
now comes along, sees Mr. _Snow-man_, and feeling rather jolly from
the consumption of bottled goods, he puts his pipe in the _Snow-man’s_
mouth, and when he sees the _Snow-man_ calmly puff it, in great fright
he rushes off the scene, dropping his bottle, the contents of which the
_Snow-man_ drains. In the resultant intoxication the _Snow-man_ finds
his way into the schoolhouse. Finding the schoolhouse too warm, he
throws the stove out of the window. Then he throws himself out of the
window and lies down in the snow to “sleep it off.”

When the children return the following morning, the _Snow-man_, who
is still sleeping, frightens them almost into convulsions. Then the
picture really got started--the “chase” began. Sufficiently primitive
it was, to have been the first “chase”; but it wasn’t--for almost at
the movie’s inception the chase was a part of them. This _Snow-man_
chase takes place in front of a stationary back-drop, that pictures
a snowdrift. The actors standing off-stage ready for the excitement,
come on through the sawdust snow, kicking it up in clouds, eating it,
choking on it, hair, eyes, and throat getting full of it. Back and
forth against this one “drop,” the actors chase. On one run across, a
prop tree would be set up. Then as the actors were supposed to have run
some hundred yards at least, on the next time across, the prop tree
would be taken away and a big _papier maché_ rock put in its place.
That scene being photographed, the rock would give way to a telegraph
pole, and so on until half a dozen chases had been staged before the
one “drop.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Thus far advanced, artistically and otherwise, was the motion picture
this spring of 1908 when “Lawrence” Griffith found himself astride a
horse, taking the air in the wide stretches of Coytesville, New Jersey,
and getting five dollars to boot. Also found himself so exhilarated,
mentally and otherwise, that in the evening he turned author, not of
poorly paid poems, but of the more profitable movies. Wrote a number
which he sold for fifteen dollars each, a very decent price considering
that this sort of authorship meant a spot-cash transaction.

The first little cinema drama of which he was the author and which was
immediately put into the works was “Old Isaacs, the Pawnbroker.” Very
bitter in feeling against the Amalgamated Association of Charities was
this story of a kind-hearted Hebraic money-lender.

On May 6th, with “Lawrence” Griffith the star, was released “The Music
Master,” but not David Belasco’s. Then came “Ostler Joe” of Mrs. James
Brown Potter fame, scenario-ized by Mr. Griffith. He also played the
part of the priest in the scene where the child dies. In early July
came “At The Crossroads of Life” and “The Stage Rustler.”

Biograph’s sole advertising campaign at this time consisted of
illustrated bulletins--single sheets six to ten inches, carrying a two
by three inch “cut” from the film and descriptive matter averaging
about three hundred and fifty words. They were gotten up in florid
style by a doughty Irishman by the name of Lee Dougherty who was the
“man in the front office.” He was what is now known as “advertising
manager,” but the publicity part of his job not taking all his time, he
also gave scripts the “once over” and still had moments for a friendly
chat with the waiting actor.

Although every day was not a busy day at the Biograph for David
Griffith, he felt the best policy would be to keep in close touch with
whatever was going on there. So he did that, but he also looked in at
other studios during any lull in activities. Looked in up at Edison
and was engaged for a leading part in quite a thriller, “The Eagle’s
Nest.” Lovely studio, the Edison, but not so much chance to get in
right, David felt--it was too well organized. Looked in at Kalem too,
but Frank J. Marion, who was the presiding chief there, could not be
bothered. Entirely too many of these down-on-their-luck actors taking
up his time.

There were whispers about that Lubin in Philadelphia needed a director.
So David wrote them a letter telling of all his varied experiences,
which brought an answer with an offer of sixty dollars a week for
directing and a request that he run over to Philadelphia for an

Now one had to look like something when on that sort of errand bent. I
had to get our little man all dressed up. Could afford only a new shirt
and tie. This, with polished boots and suit freshly pressed, would have
to do. But, even so, he looked quite radiant as he set forth for the
Pennsylvania Station to catch his Every-hour-on-the-hour.

But nothing came of it. Lubin decided not to put on another director
or make a change--whichever it was. The husband of Mrs. Mary Carr,
the Mrs. Carr of William Fox’s “Over the Hill” fame, continued there,
directing the movies which he himself wrote. After dinner each night
he would roll back the table-cloth, reach for pad and pencil, and work
out a story for his next movie.

Back to the dingy “A. B.” for us. Strange, even from the beginning we
felt a sort of at-home feeling there. The casualness of the place made
a strong appeal. What would happen if some one really got on the job
down there some day?

And so it came about shortly after “The Snow-man” that the elder Mr.
McCutcheon fell ill, and his son Wallace took over his job. He directed
“When Knights Were Bold”; directed Mr. Griffith in several pictures.
But Wally was not ambitious to make the movies his life job. He soon
made a successful début in musical comedy. Some years later he married
Pearl White, the popular movie star.

It began to look as though there soon might be a new director about the
place. And there was. There were several.

No offer of theatrical jobs came to disrupt the even tenor of the first
two months at Biograph. It was too late for winter productions and too
early for summer stock, so there was nothing to worry about, until with
the first hint of summer in the air, my husband received an offer to go
to Peake’s Island, Maine, and play villains in a summer stock company

Forty per, the salary would be, sometimes more and sometimes less than
our combined earnings at the studio. To go or not to go? Summer stock
might last the summer and might not. Three months was the most to
expect. The Biograph might do as much for us.

How trivial it all sounds now! Ah, but believe me, it was nothing to be
taken lightly then. For a decision that affects one’s very bread and
butter, when bread and butter has been so uncertain, one doesn’t make
without heart searchings and long councils of war.

So we argued, in a friendly way. Said he: “If I turn this job down, and
appear to be so busy, they soon won’t send for me at all. Of course, if
this movie thing is going to last and amount to anything, if anybody
could tell you anything about it, we could afford to take chances. In
one way it is very nice. You can stay in New York, and _if_ I can find
time to write too--fine! But you know you can’t go on forever and not
tell your friends and relatives how you are earning your living.”

Then said she: “How long is Peake’s Island going to last? What’s sure
about summer stock? What does Peake’s Island mean to David Belasco
or Charles Frohman? We’ve got this little flat here, with our very
own twenty dollars’ worth of second-hand furniture, and the rent’s
so low--twenty. You don’t know what’s going to happen down at the
Biograph, you might get to direct some day. Let’s stick the summer out
anyhow, and when fall comes and productions open up again, we’ll see,

So we put Peake’s Island behind us.

Now it is as sure as shooting, _if_ “Lawrence” Griffith had accepted
the offer to play stock that summer he never would have become the
David W. Griffith of the movies. Had he stepped out then, some one
else surely would have stepped in and filled his little place; and the
chances are he would never have gone back to those queer movies.

Of course, now we know that even in so short a time this movie business
had gotten under his skin. David Griffith had tasted blood--cinema
blood. And the call to stay, that was heard and obeyed when Peake’s
Island threatened to disrupt the scheme of things, was the same sort
of call that made those other pioneers trek across the plains with
their prairie schooners in the days of forty-nine. With Peake’s Island
settled, we hoped there would be no more theatrical temptations, for we
wanted to take further chances with the movies.



Considering the chaotic condition of things in the studio as a result
of Mr. McCutcheon’s illness, it was a propitious time to take heed and
get on to the tricks of this movie business. To David Griffith the
direction was insufferably careless, the acting the same, and in the
lingering bitterness over his play’s failure he gritted his teeth and
decided that if he ever got a chance he certainly could direct these
dinky movies.

The studio was so without a head these days that even Henry Norton
Marvin, our vice-president and general manager, occasionally helped out
in the directing. He had directed a mutoscope called “A Studio Party”
in which my husband and I had made a joint appearance.

With the place now “runnin’ wild,” Mr. Marvin wondered whom he’d better
take a chance on next.

He put the odds on Mr. Stanner E. V. Taylor.

In the studio, one day shortly after my initiation, Mr. Taylor
approached me and asked if I could play a lead in a melodrama he was to
direct. A lead in a melodrama--with a brief stage career that had been
confined to winsome ingénues! But I bravely said, “Oh, yes, yes, indeed
I can.”

What I suffered! I had a husband who beat and deserted me; I had to
appear against him in court, and I fainted and did a beautiful fall
on the court-room floor. After my acquittal I took my two babies and
deposited them on a wealthy doorstep; wandered off to the New Jersey
Palisades; took a flying leap and landed a mass of broken bones at the
bottom of the cliff.

Selected for the fall was a beautiful smooth boulder which had a sheer
drop on the side the camera did not get of possibly some fifteen feet
to a ledge about six feet wide, from which ledge, to the bottom of the
Palisades, was a precipitous descent of some hundred feet.

There were so many rehearsals of this scene of self-destruction that
the rock acquired a fine polish as “mother” slipped and slid about.
That the camera man’s assistant might try the stunt for at least the
initial attempts at getting the focus, never occurred to a soul. But a
suggestion was made that if “mother” removed her shoes she might not
slide off so easily. Which she did for the remaining rehearsals. Then
finally as the sun sank behind the Palisades, “mother” in her last
emotional moments, sank behind the boulder.

On that picture I made twenty-eight dollars; oh, what a lot of money!
The most to date. If pictures kept up like that! And the whole
twenty-eight was mine, all mine, and I invested it at Hackett, Carhart
on Broadway and Thirteenth in a spring outfit--suit, shoes, hat, oh,

The picture--the only one Mr. Taylor directed--lacked continuity.
Upstairs in his executive office, Mr. Henry Norton Marvin was walking
the floor and wondering what about it. Why couldn’t they get somewhere
with these movies? Another man fallen down on the job. Genial Arthur
Marvin, H. N.’s brother, and Billy Bitzer’s assistant at the camera,
was being catechized as to whether he had noticed any promising
material about the studio.

“Well,” drawled the genial Arthur, “I don’t know. They’re a funny lot,
these actors, but there’s one young man, there’s one actor seems to
have ideas. You might try him.”

“You think he might get by, eh?”

“Well, I don’t think you’d lose much by trying him.”

“What’s his name? I’ll send for him.”

“Griffith. Lawrence Griffith.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Later that day a cadaverous-looking young man was closeted with the
vice-president in the vice-president’s dignified quarters.

“My brother tells me you appear to be rather interested in the
pictures, Mr. Griffith; how would you like to direct one?”

Mr. Griffith rose from his chair, took three steps to the window, and
gazed out into space.

“Think you’d like to try it, Mr. Griffith?”

No response--only more gazing into space.

“We’ll make it as easy as we can for you, Mr. Griffith, if you decide
you’d like to try.”

More gazing into space. And finally this: “I appreciate your
confidence in me, Mr. Marvin, but there is just this to it. I’ve had
rather rough sledding the last few years and you see I’m married; I
have responsibilities and I cannot afford to take chances; I think
they rather like me around here as an actor. Now if I take this
picture-directing over and fall down, then you see I’ll be out my
acting job, and you know I wouldn’t like that; I don’t want to lose my
job as an actor down here.”

“Otherwise you’d be willing to direct a picture for us?”

“Oh, yes, indeed I would.”

“Then if I promise that if you fall down as a director, you can have
your acting job back, you will put on a moving picture for us?”

“Yes, then I’d be willing.”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was called “The Adventures of Dolly.”

Gossip around the studio had it that the story was a “lemon.” Preceding
directors at the studio had sidestepped it. _Dolly_, in the course of
the story, is nailed into a barrel by the gypsies who steal her; the
barrel secreted in the gypsy wagon; the horses start off at breakneck
speed; the barrel falls off the wagon, rolls into the stream, floats
over a waterfall, shoots the rapids, and finally emerges into a quiet
pool where some boys, fishing, haul it ashore, hear the child’s cries,
open the barrel, and rescue _Dolly_.

Not a very simple job for an amateur. But David Griffith wasn’t
worried. He could go back to acting were the picture no good. Mr.
Arthur Marvin was assigned as camera man. There were needed for the
cast: _Dolly_, her mother and father, the gypsy man, the gypsy man’s
wife, and two small boys.

Upstairs in the tiny projection room pictures were being run for Mr.
Griffith’s enlightenment. He was seeing what Biograph movies looked
like. Saw some of old man McCutcheon’s, and some of Wally McCutcheon’s,
and Stanner E. V. Taylor’s one and only.

That evening he said to me: “You’ll play the lead in my first
picture--not because you’re my wife--but because you’re a good actress.”

“Oh, did you see Mr. Taylor’s picture?”


“How was it?”

“Not bad, but it don’t hang together. Good acting; you’re good, quite
surprised me. No one I can use for a husband though. I must have some
one who _looks_ like a ‘husband’--who looks as though he owned more
than a cigarette. I heard around the studio that they were going to
hand me a bunch of lemons for actors.”

So, dashing madly here and there for a father for little _Dolly_,
Mr. Griffith saw coming down Broadway a young man of smiling
countenance--just the man--his very ideal. Of course, he must be an
actor. There was no time for hesitation.

“Pardon me, but would you care to act in a moving picture? I am going
to direct a moving picture, and I have a part that suits you exactly.”

“Moving pictures, did you say? Picture acting? I am sure I don’t know
what you are talking about. I don’t know anything about picture acting.”

“You don’t need to know--just meet me at the Grand Central Depot at
nine o’clock to-morrow morning.”

And so Arthur Johnson became a movie actor.

To my mind no personality has since flickered upon the screen with
quite the charm, lovableness, and magnetic humor that were his. He
never acquired affectations, which made him a rare person indeed,
considering the tremendous popularity that became his and the world of
affectation in which he lived.

For the gypsy man Mr. Griffith selected Charles Inslee, an excellent
actor whom he had known on the Coast. Mr. Inslee was a temperamental
sort, but Mr. Griffith knew how to handle him. So with Mrs. Gebhardt
for the gypsy wife, Mr. Griffith completed his cast without using a
single one of the “lemons” that were to have been wished upon him; and
as there were only outdoor sets in “The Adventures” he did not have any
of the “lemons” around to make comments.

Even the business of the barrel proved to be no insurmountable
difficulty. Yards and yards of piano-wire were attached, which,
manipulated from the shore, kept the barrel somewhat in focus. The one
perturbed person was our camera man, who even though middle-aged and
heavy, time and time again had to jump about, in and out of the stream,
grabbing tripod and clumsy camera, trying to keep up with the floating

We went to Sound Beach, Connecticut, to take “The Adventures.”

It was a lovely place, I thought. The Black-eyed Susans were all
a-bloom, and everywhere was green grass although it was nearly
midsummer. We spent almost a week working on “The Adventures,” for the
mechanical scenes took time, and--joy!--between us we were making ten
dollars a day as long as the picture lasted.

And then who could tell!

       *       *       *       *       *

“If the photography is there, the picture will be all right; if it
looks as good on the negative as it looked while we were taking it, it
ought to get by,” opined the director.

From out of the secrecy of the dark room came Arthur Marvin,
nonchalantly swinging a short strip of film.

“How is it?”

“Looks pretty good, nice and sharp.”

“Think it’s all right?”

“Yeh, think it is.”

Hopeful hours interspersed with anxious moments crowded the succeeding
days. By the time the picture was developed, printed, and titled, we
were well-nigh emotionally exhausted. What would they say upstairs?
What _would_ they say?

       *       *       *       *       *

In the darkened little projection room they sat.

On the screen was being shown “The Adventures of Dolly.”

No sound but the buzz and whir of the projection machine. The seven
hundred and thirteen feet of the “Adventures” were reeled off. Silence.
Then Mr. Marvin spoke:

“That’s it--that’s something like it--at last!”

Afterwards, upstairs in the executive offices, Mr. Marvin and Mr.
Dougherty talked it over, and they concluded that if the next picture
were half as good, Lawrence Griffith was the man they wanted.

The next picture really turned out better.

The world’s première of “The Adventures of Dolly” was held at Keith and
Proctor’s Theatre, Union Square, July 14, 1908.

What a day it was at the studio! However did we work, thinking of what
the night held. But as the longest day ends, so did this one. No time
to get home and pretty-up for the party. With what meager facilities
the porcelain basin and make-up shelf in the dressing-room offered, we
managed; rubbed off the grease paint and slapped on some powder; gave
the hair a pat and a twist; at Silsbee’s on Sixth Avenue and Fourteenth
Street, we picked up nourishment; and then we beat it to Union Square.

A world’s première indeed--a tremendously important night to so many
people who didn’t know it. No taxis--not one private car drew up at
the curb. The house filled up from passers-by--frequenters of Union
Square--lured by a ten-cent entertainment. These were the people to
be pleased--they who had paid out their little nickels and dimes. So
when they sat through Dolly’s seven hundred feet, interested, and not a
snore was to be heard, we concluded we’d had a successful opening night.

The contract was drawn for one year. It called for forty-five dollars
per week with a royalty of a mill a foot on all film sold. Mr. Marvin
thought it rather foolish to accept so small a salary and assured my
husband the percentage would amount to nothing whatever right off. But
David was willing--rather more than willing--to gamble on himself.
And he gambled rather well this time. For, the first year his royalty
check went from practically nothing to four and five hundred dollars a
month--before the end of the year.

Wonderful it was--too good to be true. Although, had he known then that
for evermore, through weeks and months and years, it was to be movies,
movies, nothing but movies, David Griffith would probably then and
there have chucked the job, or, keeping it, would have wept bitter,
bitter tears.



“Well, we’re in the movies--we’re working in the moving pictures.”

“Moving pictures? You’re working in moving pictures? What do you mean,
you’re working in moving pictures?”

“We’re working at a place--they call it a studio--acting in little
plays--dramas, and comedies--a camera takes pictures while we act, and
the pictures are shown in those five- and ten-cent theatres that are
all around the town, mostly on Third and Ninth Avenues and Fourteenth
Street--such high-class neighborhoods.”

“Those dreadful places? I wouldn’t be seen going into one of them.”

Yes, that was the attitude in those dark and dismal days when David
signed that contract with the Biograph Company. For one year now, those
movies so covered with slime and so degraded would have to come first
in his thoughts and affections. That was only fair to the job. But only
one who had loved the theatre as he had, and had dreamed as he had of
achieving success therein, could know what heartaches this strange new
affiliation was to bring to him. Times came, agonizing days, when he
would have given his life to be able to chuck the job. Mornings when on
arising he would gaze long, long moments out the window, apparently
seeing nothing--then the barely audible remark, “I think I’ll ’phone
and say I cannot come.” On such days he dragged heavy, leaden feet to
11 East Fourteenth Street.

And there was an evening when, returning home after a drab day at the
studio, and finding his modest ménage festive with ferns and wild
flowers, he became so annoyed that with one swoop he gathered up nature
and roughly jammed her into the waste paper basket. A visiting relative
who’d helped gather the flowers worried so over the strange procedure
that I had to explain--“It’s those pictures; you know they’re just the
fringe of acting.”

The emotions that would sweep over us at times! How our pride was
hurt! How lacking in delicacy people could be! With what a patronizing
air the successful and prosperous actor-friend would burst into the
studio! Mr. Griffith would say, “Well, how about it? If you’re hanging
around this summer, how would you like to work with me a bit?” Polite
and evasive the reply, “Well, you see, I’m awfully busy just now, have
several offers and--well--when I’m signed up I’ll drop around again.”
But we, in the know, understood that all the King’s horses and all
the King’s men could not induce such to join our little band of movie
actors. We were always conscious of the fact that we were in this messy
business because everything else had failed--because nobody had seemed
to want us, and we just hadn’t been able to hang on any longer.

[Illustration: Jeanie Macpherson, Marion Sunshine, Edwin August, Alfred
Paget, Blanche Sweet and Charles West in a scene from “From Out the
Shadow.” The brilliant social world of early movie days.

                                                           (_See p. 71_)

[Illustration: “Murphy’s,” where members of Biograph’s original stock
company consumed hearty breakfasts when Jersey bound.

                                                           (_See p. 83_)

But David buckled to the job like a true sport. It was _his job_ and he
would dignify it. The leaden mornings came to be quite the exception to
the rule. Many days were greeted with bright and merry song. And so,
firm and unshakeable in our determination to do the most with what
we had, we dismissed the silly sensitive business and set to work.

What we had to work with was this: a little studio where interior
scenes were taken, and exteriors also, for there was little money for
traveling expenses--Fort Lee, Greenwich, and the Atlantic Highlands
comprised our early geographical horizon. A few actors, a willing and
clever camera man, a stage carpenter, and a scenic artist, comprised
the working force. Funny studio! Interesting old workshop! “The Last
Leaf’s” ballroom!

The outer doors of the building opened into a broad hall from which on
the left as one entered, a door gave into Mr. Dougherty’s office; on
the right was another door--the entrance to the bookkeeping department.
An old colonial stairway on this same side led up to the projection
room and other offices. The spacious hall of the main floor ended with
double doors opening into the studio.

There, first to meet the eye--unless one stumbled on it before seeing
it--for it completely blocked the entrance--was a heavy rolling
platform on which the camera, poised atop of its tripod, was set.
So if the studio doors chanced to invite you during the taking of a
scene, you would have to remain put in the few feet of space between
the platform and the doors until the scene was finished. Usually there
would be some one to keep you company in your little niche.

It was an easy matter in those days to get into the studio. No cards of
announcement were needed--no office boy insulted you, no humiliation
of waiting, as to-day. A ring of the bell and in you’d go, and Bobbie
Harron would greet you if he chanced to be near by. Otherwise, any one
of the actors would pass you the glad word.

On an ordinary kitchen chair a bit to one side of the camera, Mr.
Griffith usually sat when directing. The actors when not working
lingered about, either standing or enjoying the few other kitchen
chairs. During rehearsals actors sat all over the camera stand--it was
at least six feet square--and as the actors were a rather chummy lot,
the close and informal intimacy disturbed them not the least.

A “scene” was set back center, just allowing passage room. What little
light came through the few windows was soon blocked by dusty old
scenery. On the side spaces of the room and on the small gallery above,
the carpenters made scenery and the scene painters painted it--scenery,
paint pots, and actors were all huddled together in one friendly chaos.
We always had to be mindful of our costumes. To the smell of fresh
paint and the noise of the carpenters’ hammers, we rehearsed our first
crude little movies and in due time many an old literary classic.

Rolls of old carpet and bundles of canvas had to be climbed over in
wending one’s way about. To the right of the camera a stairway led to
the basement where there were three small dressing-rooms; and no matter
how many actors were working in a picture those three dark little
closets had to take care of them all. The developing or “dark” room
adjoined the last dressing-room, and all opened into a cavernous cellar
where the stage properties were kept. Here at the foot of the stairs
and always in every one’s way, the large wardrobe baskets would be
deposited. And what a scramble for something that would half-way fit us
when the costumes arrived!

We ate our lunches in the dingy basement, usually seated on the
wardrobe baskets. Squatted there, tailor-fashion, on their strong
covers, we made out pretty well. On days when we had numbers of extra
people, our lunch boy, little Bobbie Harron, would arrange boards on
wooden horses, and spread a white cloth, banquet fashion. Especially
effective this, when doing society drama, and there would be grand
dames, financiers, and magnates, to grace the festive board.

In a back corner of the studio reposed a small, oak, roll-top desk,
which the new director graced in the early morning hours when getting
things in shape, and again in the evening when he made out the actors’
pay checks. When the welcome words came from the dark room, “All right,
everybody; strike!” the actors rushed to the roll-top, and clamored
for vouchers--we received our “pay” daily. Then the actor rushed his
“make-up” off, dressed, passed to the bookkeeper’s window in the outer
office, presented his voucher, and Herman Bruenner gave him his money.
And then to eat, and put away a dollar towards the week’s rent, and to
see a movie for ten cents!

A little group of serious actors soon began to report daily for work.
As yet no one had a regular salary except the director and camera man.
“Principal part” actors received five and “extras” three dollars.

In August this first year Mr. Griffith began turning out two releases
a week, usually one long picture, eight to eleven hundred feet, and
one short picture, four to five hundred feet. The actors who played
the principal parts in these pictures were Eddie Dillon, Harry Salter,
Charles Inslee, Frank Gebhardt, Arthur Johnson, Wilfred Lucas, George
Nichols, John Compson, Owen Moore, Mack Sennett, Herbert Pryor, David
Miles, Herbert Yost, Tony O’Sullivan, and Daddy Butler. Of the women
Marion Leonard, Florence Lawrence, and myself played most of the
leading parts, while Mabel Stoughton, Florence Auer, Ruth Hart, Jeanie
Macpherson, Flora Finch, Anita Hendry, Dorothy West, Eleanor Kershaw
(Mrs. Tom Ince), and Violet Mersereau helped out occasionally. Gladys
Egan, Adele DeGarde, and Johnny Tansy played the important child parts.

Though I speak of playing “principal parts,” no one had much chance to
get puffed up, for an actor having finished three days of importance
usually found himself on the fourth day playing “atmosphere,” the while
he decorated the back drop. But no one minded. They were a good-natured
lot of troupers and most of them were sincerely concerned in what they
were doing. David had a happy way of working. He invited confidence and
asked and took suggestions from any one sufficiently interested to make
them. His enthusiasm became quite infectious.

In the beginning Marion Leonard and I alternated playing “leads.” She
played the worldly woman, the adventuress, and the melodramatic parts,
while I did the sympathetic, the wronged wife, the too-trusting maid,
waiting, always waiting, for the lover who never came back. But mostly
I died.

Our director, already on the lookout for a new type, heard of a clever
girl out at the Vitagraph, who rode a horse like a western cowboy and
who had had good movie training under Mr. Rainous. He wanted to see
her on the screen before an audience. Set up in a store on Amsterdam
Avenue and 160th Street was a little motion picture place. It had a
rough wooden floor, common kitchen chairs, and the reels unwound to the
tin-panny shriek of a pianola. After some watchful waiting, the stand
outside the theatre--the sort of thing sandwich men carry--finally
announced “The Dispatch Bearer,” a Vitagraph with Florence Lawrence.
So, living near by, after dinner one night we rushed over to see it.

It was a good picture. Mr. Griffith concluded he would like to work
with Mr. Rainous for a while and learn about the movies. For one could
easily see that besides having ability Florence Lawrence had had
excellent direction.

Well, David stole little Florrie, he did. With Harry Salter as support
in his nefarious errand, he called on Miss Lawrence and her mother,
and offered the Vitagraph girl twenty-five dollars a week, regular.
She had been receiving fifteen at Vitagraph playing leading parts,
sewing costumes, and mending scenery canvas. She was quite overcome
with Mr. Griffith’s spectacular offer, readily accepted, and by way of
celebrating her new prosperity, she drew forth from under the bed in
the little boarding-house room, her trombone--or was it a violin?--and
played several selections. As a child, Miss Lawrence, managed by her
mother, and starred as “Baby Flo, the child wonder-whistler” had toured
the country, playing even the “tanks.”

Immediately she joined the Biograph, Florence Lawrence was given a
grand rush. But she never minded work. The movies were as the breath
of life to her. When she wasn’t working in a picture, she was in some
movie theatre seeing a picture. After the hardest day, she was never
too tired to see the new release and if work ran into the night hours,
between scenes she’d wipe off the make-up and slip out to a movie show.

Her pictures became tremendously popular, and soon all over the country
Miss Lawrence was known as “The Biograph Girl.” It was some years
before the company allowed the names of actors to be given out, hence
“Biograph Girl” was the only intelligent appellation. After Miss
Lawrence left Biograph, Mary Pickford fell heir to the title.

Miss Lawrence’s early releases show her versatility. Two every week for
a time: “Betrayed by a Handprint,” “The Girl and the Outlaw,” “Behind
the Scenes,” “The Heart of Oyama,” “Concealing a Burglar,” “Romance
of a Jewess,” “The Planter’s Wife,” “The Vaquero’s Vow,” “The Call of
the Wild,” “The Zulu’s Heart,” “The Song of the Shirt,” “Taming of the
Shrew,” “The Ingrate,” “A Woman’s Way.”

Like Mary Pickford, Miss Lawrence was an awfully good sport about doing
stunts. One day a scene was being filmed with Miss Lawrence thrown
tummy-wise across a horse’s saddled back. As the horse dashed down
the roadway he came so close to the camera that we who were watching
breathlessly, for one moment closed our eyes, for Miss Lawrence’s blond
head just missed the camera by a few inches.

Rainy August days forced us to work in the studio. Mr. Griffith had
read a story by Jack London called “Just Meat.” He changed the name to
“For Love of Gold” and let it go at that. We had no fear of lawsuits
from fractious authors those days.

The story was about two thieves, who returned home with the latest
spoils, get suspicious of each other and each, unknown to the other,
poisons the other’s coffee and both die. The big scenes which were at
the table when the men become distrustful of each other could be told
only through facial expression. “Ah,” puzzled Mr. Director, “how can I
show what these two men are thinking? I must have the camera closer to
the actors--that’s what I must do--and having only two actors in these
scenes, I can.”

Up to this time, every scene had been a long shot--that is, the
floor--the carpet--the greensward--showed yards in front of the actors’
feet. But Mr. Griffith knew he couldn’t show nine feet of floor and
at the same time register expression. So to his camera man he said:
“Now don’t get excited, but listen. I’m going to move the camera up,
I’m going to show very little floor, but I’m going to show a large,
full-length figure; just get in the actors’ feet--get the toes--one
foot of foreground will do.

“Well, we’ve never done anything like that--how do you think that’s
going to look?--a table with a man on each side filling up the whole
screen, nearly.”

“We’ll do it--we’ll never get anywhere if we don’t begin to try new

The burglars were screened so big that every wicked thought each
entertained was plainly revealed. Everybody came to like the idea
afterwards, especially the actors.

Along in November, Mr. Griffith began work on a series of domestic
comedies--the “Jones Pictures.” Florence Lawrence played Mrs. Jones,
and John Compson, Mr. Jones. Their movie marital début was in “A Smoked
Husband.” The Jones movies were probably the first to achieve success
as a series.



In Biograph’s story, quite a few who stuck to the ship in these first
days are big names in the movies to-day.

In the town of Erie, Pa., in the early nineteen hundreds flourished
a little newspaper, on the staff of which was Frank Woods. Besides
reporting “news,” Frank Woods sold advertising. Erie, Pa., not long
satisfying his ambitions, Mr. Woods set out for the journalistic marts
of New York City, and shortly after found himself selling advertising
for the _New York Dramatic Mirror_. The idea of getting ads from the
picture people came to him when he noticed that pictures were not
mentioned in the _Dramatic Mirror_. Writers on the paper were told that
any reference to the movies would be promptly blue-penciled.

Mr. Woods figured that if he could interest the movie people he might
get ads from them and the _Dramatic Mirror_ wouldn’t mind that. But the
picture people turned deaf ears. Why pay money for an ad in a paper
that was all too ready to crush them? Besides, the _Mirror_ didn’t
circulate among the exhibitors and those interested in the movies. The
movie people would stick to the more friendly _Billboard_--thank you
kindly--it could have their ads.

Another idea came to Frank Woods. How about pictures being reviewed? He
put the plan before Lee Dougherty, for Lee was always genial and had
time to listen. Lee said: “Fine, give us real serious reviews--tell us
where we are wrong--but don’t expect an ad for your effort.”

The result of this conversation was that three reviews appeared in the
_New York Dramatic Mirror_, June, 1908. On a rear end page captioned
“The Spectator,” Frank E. Woods dissertated through some columns on
the merits and demerits of the movies, and thus became their first
real critic. We were very grateful for the few paragraphs. It meant
recognition--the beginning. How gladly we parted with our ten cents
weekly to see what “Spec” had to say about us.

But Mr. Woods didn’t get an ad from the Biograph. So he had another
heart-to-heart talk with Mr. Dougherty, and Doc said: “Never mind, keep
it up--but as I told you, the reviews aren’t going to influence us
about ads.”

But in August the Company came across and bought a quarter-page ad for
the Biograph movies.

The active mind of Frank Woods was not going to stop with critical
comments on moving pictures. His new duties necessitated his seeing
pictures; and, looking them over and analyzing them for his reviews, he
said to himself; “Oh, they’re terrible--I could do better myself--such
stories!” So he wrote three “suggestions”--that’s all they were--and
that’s what they were then called. With great aplomb, he took them to
Mr. Dougherty, and to his amazement Mr. Dougherty turned the whole
three down. Sorry, but he didn’t think them up to scratch. But Mr.
Woods would not be fazed by a turn-down like that. He wrote three more

The studio had a sort of nominal supervisor, a Mr. Wake, whose job was
to O. K. little expenditures in the studio and to pass on the purchase
of scenarios. One day, not long after our A. B. affiliation, just as
I was entering the main foyer, Mr. Griffith coming from the projection
room seemed more than usually light-hearted. So I said, “You’re feeling
good--picture nice?”

“Oh, yes, all right, but”--this in a whisper--“Wake’s been fired.”

I wondered how I could wait all that day, until evening, to hear what
had happened. But I did, and learned that Mr. Wake with Biograph money
had purchased silk stockings for Mutoscope girls, and then had given
the girls the stockings for their own.

However, during a temporary absence from the studio before Mr. Wake’s
dismissal, Frank Woods came down with three more suggestions which
were shown to Mr. Griffith direct. He bought the whole bunch, three at
fifteen dollars apiece, _nine five-dollar bills, forty-five dollars_.

Around the _Dramatic Mirror_ offices Mr. Woods was already jocularly
being called “M. P. Woods.” And this day that he disposed of his three
“suggestions,” Moving Picture Woods with much bravado entered the
_Mirror’s_ office, went over to the desk, brushed aside some papers,
cleared a place on the counter, and in a row laid his nine five-dollar

In the office at the time were George Terwilliger (how many scenarios
he afterwards wrote), Al Trahern (Al continued with his stock companies
and featuring his wife Jessie Mae Hall), and Jake Gerhardt, now in
the business end of the movies. The trio looked--and gasped--and
looked--and in unison spoke:

“_Where_ did you get all that?”

“Moving Pictures!”

“Moving Pictures? For heaven’s sake, tell us about it.”

“How did you do it?” queried George Terwilliger. “Forty-five dollars
for three stories, good Lord, and they gave you the money right off,
like that.”

So Mr. Woods told his little story, and as the conversation ended,
George Terwilliger reached for paper and pencil, for five-dollar bills
were beckoning from every direction. Maybe he could put it over, too.
He did--he sold lots and lots of “suggestions.” Frank Woods wrote
thirty movies for Biograph.

Frank Woods now set about to criticise the pictures with the same
seriousness with which he would have criticised the theatre. He bought
books about Indians and let the producers know there was a difference
between the Hopi and the Apache and the Navajo. With a critical eye,
he picked out errors and wrote of them frankly, and his influence in
the betterment of the movies has been a bigger one than is generally
known outside the movie world. Mr. Woods is really responsible for
research. And Mr. Dougherty gives him credit for turning in the
first “continuity.” The picture that has that honor is a version of
Tennyson’s “Enoch Arden,” called “After Many Years.”

Scenarios that reached the Biograph offices, due to lack of
organization, were sometimes weeks in reaching the proper department,
but Mr. Griffith got first chance at “After Many Years.” Both he and
Mr. Dougherty thought it pretty good stuff, but the obvious emotional
acting that had prevailed somewhere in every picture so far, was here
entirely lacking. Quiet suppressed emotion only, this one had. But Doc
said he’d eat the positive if it wouldn’t make a good picture. So it
was purchased.

But “After Many Years,” although it had no “action,” and some of us sat
in the projection room at its first showing with heavy hearts, proved
to write more history than any picture ever filmed and it brought an
entirely new technique to the making of films.

It was the first movie without a chase. That was something, for those
days, a movie without a chase was not a movie. How could a movie
be made without a chase? How could there be suspense? How action?
“After Many Years” was also the first picture to have a _dramatic_
close-up--the first picture to have a cut-back. When Mr. Griffith
suggested a scene showing Annie Lee waiting for her husband’s return to
be followed by a scene of Enoch cast away on a desert island, it was
altogether too distracting. “How can you tell a story jumping about
like that? The people won’t know what it’s about.”

“Well,” said Mr. Griffith, “doesn’t Dickens write that way?”

“Yes, but that’s Dickens; that’s novel writing; that’s different.”

“Oh, not so much, these are picture stories: not so different.”

So he went his lonely way and did it; did “After Many Years” contrary
to all the old established rules of the game. The Biograph Company was
very much worried--the picture was so unusual--how could it succeed?

It was the first picture to be recognized by foreign markets. When one
recalls the high class of moving pictures that Pathé and Gaumont were
then putting out, such as “The Assassination of the Duc de Guise,” this
foreign recognition meant something.

“After Many Years” made a change in the studio. All “suggestions” now
came directly to Mr. Dougherty’s office. He selected the doubtful ones
and the sure bets and with Mr. Griffith read them over the second
time. They threshed out their differences in friendly argument. So Lee
Dougherty became the first scenario editor.

And of the sad letters and grateful ones his editing jobs brought him,
this letter from a newspaper man on a Dayton, Ohio, paper, now dead, he
prizes most highly:



    Excuse me, but I can’t help it. When I cashed the $25 check for
    “Too Much Susette,” the scenario of mine which you accepted, I took
    $5 of the money and put it on “Just Red” who won at Louisville at
    the juicy price of 30 to 1. I hope the film will bring your company
    as much luck as the script has brought me.

                                     Yours very truly,
                                                         GEORGE GROEBER.

“Doc” was Mr. Griffith’s friendly appellation for “the man in the
front office,” Lee Dougherty. It was going some for Mr. Griffith to
give any one a nickname. He never was a “hail fellow well met.” It
was Mr. So-and-so from Mr. Griffith and to Mr. Griffith with very
few exceptions. Never once during all the Biograph years did he ever
publicly call even his own wife by any other name than “Miss Arvidson.”
Only in general conversation about the movies, and in his absence, was
he familiarly referred to as “Griff,” or “D. W.,” or the “Governor.”

Mr. Dougherty was the one man at 11 East Fourteenth Street before
the Griffith régime who had more than a speaking acquaintance with
the movies. In the summer of 1896 as stage manager of the old Boston
Museum, he installed there the first projection machine of American
manufacture, the Eidoloscope. When the season at the Boston Museum was
over, Mr. Dougherty, who had become quite fascinated with this new idea
in entertainment, went to New York City. The Biograph Company along
about 1897 had just finished a moving picture of Pope Leo XIII taken
at the Vatican. Pictures of the late Pope Benedict XV were announced
as the first pictures made of a Pope, “approved by His Holiness.”
While they may be the first approved ones, Captain Varges of the
International News Reel, who claims the honor, brought the third motion
picture camera into the Vatican grounds. The second film--Pope Pius X
in the Vatican, and gardens, and the Eucharistic Congress, was released
in 1912.

Well, anyhow, Mr. Dougherty took a set of Biograph’s Pope Leo XIII
pictures to exhibit in the towns and cities of New Jersey and
Pennsylvania on the old Biograph projection machine--one vastly
superior to the Eidoloscope. The company exhibiting the picture
consisted of an operator on the machine and Mr. Dougherty who lectured.
And when he began his little talk (there was no titling or printed
matter in the picture), the small boys in the gallery would yell
“spit it out, we want to see the picture.” Numbers of motion picture
directors to-day might well heed the sentiments of those small boys.

From exhibiting Pope Leo XIII’s picture, Mr. Dougherty became stage
director of One Minute Comedies for the Biograph which at this time
had a stage on the roof of a building at 841 Broadway. And sometimes
in the midst of a scene the weather would pick up scenery and props
and deposit them in Broadway. So came about experiments with
electric lights, satisfactory results first being obtained with the
Jeffries-Sharkey prize fight.

The One Minute Comedies finally were given up, but the Mutoscopes,
being Biograph’s biggest source of revenue, were continued. The
Mutoscopes were brief film playlets that were viewed in the
penny-in-the-slot machines.

One day, before Mutoscopes ended, my husband asked me to run over
to Wanamaker’s with him and help choose some pretty undies for the
Mutoscope girls--photographically effective stuff--so we selected some
very elegant heavy black silk embroidered stockings and embroidered
pink Italian silk vests and knickers--last-word lingeries for that time.

I felt rather ill about it. “Oh dear,” I thought, “this is _some_
business, but I’ll be brave, I will, even though I die.” Well, the
parcel being wrapped, David took it and then handed it to me, and I
thought, “Why should I carry the bundle?” So we reached Fourteenth
Street. David started to the left without his parcel; I was continuing
up Broadway, so handed it to him. But the lingerie wasn’t for
Mutoscopes at all--but for me--just a little surprise. So then with
a light and happy heart, I took my way home to admire my beautiful

After the Biograph had engaged David, Mr. Dougherty did not want them
to make any more Mutoscopes. Mr. Griffith directed possibly six. In
order to influence Biograph to cut out the Mutoscopes, Doc got very
cocky, and he said to Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Marvin, “You wait, you’ll
see pictures on Broadway some day, like you do plays.” But they gave
him the laugh. “Yes,” Doc added, “and they will accord them the same
dignified attention that John Drew receives.” They laughed some more
at this, and said, “Pictures will always be a mountebank form of

[Illustration: From “Edgar Allan Poe,” with Barry O’Moore (Herbert
Yost) and Linda Griffith.

                                                           (_See p. 90_)

[Illustration: Herbert Pryor, Linda Griffith, Violet Mersereau and Owen
Moore in “The Cricket on the Hearth.”

                                                           (_See p. 92_)

But Doc’s prophesy came true.

And David did no more Mutoscopes.

[Illustration: “Little Mary,” portraying the type of heroine that won
her a legion of admirers.

                                                          (_See p. 104_)

[Illustration: Register of Caudebec Inn at Cuddebackville.

                                                          (_See p. 119_)



The “Jones” pictures became very popular. Many persons well known in
the movies to-day, played “bits” in them. Jeanie Macpherson, author
of “The Ten Commandments” was “principal guest” in “Mr. Jones at the
Ball.” Miss Macpherson, who for many years has been and still is chief
scenario writer and assistant to Cecil B. DeMille, got her first movie
job on the strength of a pale blue crepe-de-chine evening gown.

How funny we were when we moved in the world of brilliant men and
beautiful women only we, who represented them, knew. Dress suits of all
vintages appeared. Any one with “clothes” had a wonderful open sesame.
A young chap whom we dubbed “the shoe clerk”--who never played a thing
but “atmosphere”--got many a pay-check on the strength of his neat,
tan, covert cloth spring overcoat--the only spring overcoat that ever
honored the studio. (An actor could get along in the spring with his
winter suit and no overcoat!)

Clothes soon became a desperate matter, so Biograph consented to spend
fifty dollars for wearing apparel for the women. Harry Salter and I
were entrusted with the funds and told to hunt bargains. We needed
negligees, dinner dresses, ball gowns, and semi-tailored effects. The
clothes were to be bought in sizes to fit, as well as could be, the
three principal women.

In that day, on Sixth Avenue in the Twenties, were numbers of shops
dealing in second-hand clothing, and Mr. Salter and I wandered
among them and finally at a little place called “Simone,” we closed
a deal. We got a good batch of stuff for the fifty--at least a
dozen pieces--bizarre effects for the sophisticated lady, dignified
accoutrements for the conventional matron, and simple softness for
young innocence.

How those garments worked! I have forgotten many, but one--a brown silk
and velvet affair--I never can forget. It was the first to be grabbed
off the hook--it was forever doing duty. For it was unfailing in its
effect. Arrayed in the brown silk and velvet, there could be no doubt
as to one’s moral status--the maiden lady it made obviously pure; the
wife, faithful; the mother, self-sacrificing.

Deciding, impromptu, to elaborate on a social affair, Mr. Griffith
would call out: “I can use you in this scene, Miss Bierman, if you can
find a dress to fit you.” The tall, lean actresses, and the short ones
found that difficult, and thus, unfortunately, often lost a day’s work.
Spotting a new piece of millinery in the studio, our director would
thus approach the wearer: “I have no part for you, Miss Hart, but I can
use your hat. I’ll give you five dollars if you will let Miss Pickford
wear your hat for this picture.” Two days of work would pay for your
hat, so you were glad to sit around while the leading lady sported your
new headpiece. You received more on a loan of your clothes, sometimes,
than you did on a loan of yourself. Clothes got five dollars always,
but laughter and merry-making upstage went for three.

Jeanie Macpherson had recently returned from Europe with clothes the
like of which had never been seen at Biograph. From the chorus of
“Hello People” at the Casino Theatre little Jeanie entered the movies
and even though she had a snub nose and did not photograph well, what
could Mr. Griffith do but use her?

Jeanie proved to be a good trouper; she was conscientious and
ambitious. Though only extras and bits came her way, David encouraged
her. She was rather frail, and one time after remaining ill some days
when on a picture up in the country, Mr. Griffith thought he should
give her good advice. So he told her to live on a farm for some months,
and drink milk and get strong, there being no future without health; he
certainly could not use her in parts were she to faint on him thus. But
Jeanie confided she’d have to overcome fainting without “months on a
farm”--that luxury she couldn’t afford.

Since Biograph Miss Macpherson has carried on in every department of
picture making except the acting. She early took stock of herself and
recognized that her future would not be in the ranks of the movie
stars. Just where it would be she did not then know--nor did any one

On a day in this slightly remote period Jesse Lasky and Cecil DeMille
were lunching at Rector’s in New York--music, luscious tidbits, and Mr.
Lasky casually remarking: “Let’s go into the moving picture business.”

“All right, let’s,” answered Mr. DeMille with not the slightest

Mr. Lasky, thus encouraged, suggested more “Let’s,” to each of which
Mr. DeMille as promptly agreed “Let’s.”

Along came brother-in-law Sam Goldfish, married to Blanche Lasky,
sister to Jesse. Mr. Goldfish (now Goldwyn) was in the glove business
up in Gloversville, New York, and he was very grouchy this day because
the Government had taken the duty off gloves, and he was eager to
listen in on this new idea of Mr. Lasky’s.

By the time that lunch was finished this is what had happened: Mr.
Goldfish had put up $5,000, Mr. Lasky $5,000, and Arthur Friend $5,000,
and with the $15,000 Cecil DeMille was to go out to California to make
movies. He begged his brother William to put up $5,000 and become a
partner but William said: “No, one of us had better be conservative
and keep the home fires burning.” So when William later went into the
movies, he went to work for his brother Cecil, and he has been doing so
up to this time.

Mr. Cecil DeMille became Director General of the new Jesse Lasky
Pictures, and Mr. Oscar Apfel, General Manager. Out on Vine Street,
Hollywood, Mr. DeMille took over a stable, and began to make movies.
It was a crude equipment, but the company fell heir to some beer kegs
from which they viewed their first picture “The Squaw Man” released
sometime in 1913. The stable is still a part of the Hollywood Famous
Players-Lasky modern studio, but the beer kegs have vanished.

Pictures kept on radiating from the stable with quite gratifying
success. In time along came Jeanie Macpherson intent on an interview
with Mr. C. B. DeMille. Jeanie now knew so much about the movies and
C. B. so little, he just naturally felt the Lord had sent her. Miss
Macpherson’s presentation of ideas always got over to Cecil. So Jeanie
signed up with the new firm on that rather long ago day and now she
gets one thousand a week, I understand, for writing Mr. DeMille’s big

We must go back now and rescue Jeanie from Mr. Jones’s Ball, for in
“Mrs. Jones Entertains,” she has duties to perform. In that picture
she was not “principal guest” but the “maid.” Flora Finch was a guest.
Miss Finch in another Jones movie becomes a book agent soliciting Mr.
Jones in his office. In “Mr. Jones has a Card Party,” Mack Sennett
appears as one of husband’s rummies, and in yet another “Jones,”
Owen Moore, first husband of Mary Pickford, is seen as “atmosphere”
escorting a lady from a smart café. So chameleon-like were our social
relations in the “Jones Comedy Series.”

A Flora Finch tidbit here comes to light. Though fifteen years have
elapsed, they have not dimmed the memory of the one hundred and
eighty-five feet of “Those Awful Hats.” The exhibitor was told: “It
will make a splendid subject to start a show with instead of the
customary slides.”

The “set” represented the interior of a moving picture theatre. The
company was audience. Miss Finch was also “audience,” only arriving
late she had a separate entrance. Miss Finch wore an enormous hat. When
she was seated, no one at the back or side of her could see a thing.
But out of the unseen ceiling, soon there dropped an enormous pair of
iron claws (supposedly iron) that closed tightly on the hat and head
of the shrieking Miss Finch, lifting her bodily out of her seat and
holding her suspended aloft in the studio heaven.

How many times that scene was rehearsed and taken! It grew so late and
we were all so sleepy that we stopped counting. But pay for overtime
evolved from this picture.

The members of the stock company that had grown up worked on a guaranty
of so many days a week. Now with so much night work our director felt
that the actors not on “guaranties” should be recompensed and it was
ruled that after 7 P.M. they would receive three extra dollars. So
when 6 P.M. would arrive with yet another scene to be taken, the
non-guaranty actors became very cheery. More money loomed, and more
sandwiches, pie, coffee, or milk, on the company. Frequently those not
on the guaranteed list made more than those on it, which peeved the
favored ones.

Along about now Mr. Herbert Yost contributed some artistic bits. Once
he was Edgar Allan Poe and he wrote “The Raven” while his sick wife,
poor little Virginia, died. We were a bit afraid of being too classic.
The public might not understand--we must go slowly yet awhile, but not
all our days.

Mr. Yost was one actor who used a different name for his picture work.
He called himself “Barry O’Moore” in the movies. Not that he felt the
movies beneath him, but he was nervous about the future reaction. He
showed good foresight. For as soon as the big theatrical producers
got wind of the fact that their actors were working in moving picture
studios, they decided to put a crimp in the idea. The Charles Frohman
office issued an edict that any actor who worked in moving pictures
could not work for them. But the edict was shortly revoked. Even so
long ago had the power of the little motion picture begun to be felt.



One of our regular “extra” people was Mack Sennett. He quietly
dubbed along like the rest, only he grouched. He never approved
whole-heartedly of anything we did, nor how we did it, nor who did it.
There was something wrong about all of us--even Mary Pickford! Said the
coming King of Comedy productions: “I don’t see what they’re all so
crazy about her for--I think she’s affected.” Florence Lawrence didn’t
suit him either--“she talks baby-talk.” And to Sennett “baby-talk” was
the limit! Of myself he said: “Sometimes she talks to you and sometimes
she doesn’t.” Good-looking Frank Grandin he called “Inflated Grandin.”

But beneath all this discontent was the feeling that he wasn’t being
given a fair chance; which, along with a smoldering ambition, was the
reason for the grouch.

When work was over, Sennett would hang around the studio watching
for the opportune moment when his director would leave. Mr. Griffith
often walked home wanting to get a bit of fresh air. This Sennett had
discovered. So in front of the studio or at the corner of Broadway and
Fourteenth Street he’d pull off the “accidental” meeting. Then for
twenty-three blocks he would have the boss all to himself and wholly
at his mercy. Twenty-three blocks of uninterrupted conversation. “Well
now, what do you really think about these moving pictures? What do you
think there is in them? Do you think they are going to last? What’s in
them for the actor? What do you think of my chances?”

To all of which Mr. Griffith would reply: “Well, not much for the
actor, if you’re thinking of staying. The only thing is to become a
director. I can’t see that there’s anything much for the actor as far
as the future is concerned.”

Mr. Sennett had come to the movies via the chorus of musical comedy.
It also was understood he had had a previous career as a trainer
for lightweight boxers. If there was one person in the studio that
never would be heard from--well, we figured that person would be Mack
Sennett. He played policemen mostly--and what future for a movie
policeman? His other supernumerary part was a French dude. But he was
very serious about his policeman and his French dude. From persistent
study of Max Linder--the popular Pathé comique of this day--and
adoption of his style of boulevardier dressing, spats, boutonnière, and
cane, Mr. Sennett evolved a French type that for an Irishman wasn’t so
bad. But even so, to all of us, it seemed hopeless. Why did he take so
much pains?

He got by pretty well when any social flair was unnecessary; when Mary
Pickford and I played peasants, tenement ladies, and washwomen, Mack
occasionally loved, honored, and cherished us in the guise of a laborer
or peddler. He had a muscle-bound way about him in these serious
rôles--perhaps he was made self-conscious by the sudden prominence. But
Mary and I never minded. The extra girls, however, made an awful fuss
when they had to work in a comedy with Sennett, for he clowned so. They
would rather not work than work with Sennett. How peeved they’d get!
“Oh, dear,” they’d howl, “do I have to work with Sennett?”

Now ’tis said he is worth five millions!

In “Father Gets in the Game,” an early release, Sennett is seen as the
gay Parisian papa, the Linder influence plainly in evidence.

Mr. Griffith was more than willing, if he could find a good story with
a leading comedy part suitable to Mr. Sennett, to let him have his
fling. Finally, one such came along--quite legitimate, with plenty of
action, called “The Curtain Pole”--venturesome for a comedy, for it was
apparent it would exceed the five-hundred-foot limit. It took seven
hundred and sixty-five feet of film to put the story over.

Released in February, 1909, it created quite a sensation.

The natives of Fort Lee, where “The Curtain Pole” was taken, were
all worked up over it. Carpenters had been sent over a few days in
advance, to erect, in a clearing in the wooded part of Fort Lee, stalls
for fruits, vegetables, and other foodstuffs. The wreckage of these
booths by M. Sennett in the guise of _M. Dupont_ was to be the big
climax of the picture. The “set” when finished was of such ambitious
proportions--and for a comedy, mind you--that we were all terribly
excited, and we concluded that while it had taken Mr. Sennett a long
time and much coaxing to get himself “starred,” it was no slouch of a
part he had eventually obtained for himself.

I know I was all stirred up, for I was a market woman giving the
green cabbages the thrifty stare, when the cab with the curtain pole
sticking out four or five feet either side, entered the market-place.
M. Dupont, fortified with a couple of absinthe frappés, was trying
to manipulate the pole with sufficient abandon to effect the general
destruction of the booths. He succeeded very well, for before I had
paid for my cabbage something hit me and I was knocked not only flat
but considerably out, and left genuinely unconscious in the center of
the stage. While I was satisfied he should have them, I wasn’t so keen
just then about Mack Sennett’s starring ventures. But he gave a classic
and noble performance, albeit a hard-working one.

One other picture was released this same year with Mack Sennett in a
prominent part--“The Politician’s Love Story.”

New York’s Central Park awoke one February morning to find her leafless
trees and brush all a-glisten with a sleet that made them look like
fantastic crystal branches. When the actors reported at the studio that
morning, they found Mr. Griffith in consultation with himself. He did
not want to waste that fairyland just a few blocks away.

A hurried look through pigeon-holed scripts unearthed no winter story.
“Well,” announced our director, “make up everybody, straight make-up.
Bobby, pack up the one top hat, the one fur coat and cap, I’ll call a
couple of taxis, and on the way we’ll change this summer story into a
winter one.”

So was evolved “The Politician’s Love Story” in which were scenes
where lovers strolled all wrapped up in each other and cuddled down
on tucked-away benches. Well, lovers can cuddle in winter as well as
summer, and we were crazy to get the silver thaw in the picture; and
we got it, though we nearly froze. But we had luxurious taxis to sit
in when not needed, and afterwards we were taken to the Casino to thaw
out, and were fed hot coffee and sandwiches in little private rooms.

“The Curtain Pole” and “The Politician’s Love Story” started the
grumbling young Mack Sennett on the road to fame and fortune. Like the
grouchy poker player who kicks himself into financial recuperation,
Mack Sennett grouched himself into success.



Before the first winter drove us indoors there had been screened a
number of Mexican and Indian pictures. There was one thriller, “The
Greaser’s Gauntlet,” in which Wilfred Lucas, recruited from Kirke
La Shelle’s “Heir to the Hoorah” played the daring, handsome, and
righteous José. And Wilfred Lucas, by the way, was the first real
g-r-a-n-d actor, democratic enough to work in our movies. That had
happened through friendship for Mr. Griffith. They had been in a
production together.

For a mountain fastness of arid Mexico, we journeyed not far from
Edgewater, New Jersey. No need to go further. Up the Hudson along the
Palisades was sufficiently Mexico-ish for our needs. There were many
choice boulders for abductors to hide behind and lonely roads for
hold-ups. New Jersey near by was a fruitful land for movie landscape;
it didn’t take long to get there, and transportation was cheap. Small
wonder Fort Lee shortly grew to be the popular studio town it did.

In those days, movie conveyance for both actors and cargo was a bit
crude. We had no automobiles. When Jersey-bound, we’d dash from
wherever we lived to the nearest subway, never dreaming of spending
fifty cents on a taxi. We left our subway at the 125th Street station.
Down the escalator, three steps at a bound, we flew, and took up
another hike to the ferry building. And while we hiked this stretch we
wondered--for so far we had come breakfastless--if we would have time
for some nourishment before the 8:45 boat.

A block this side of the ferry building was “Murphy’s,” a nice clean
saloon with a family restaurant in the back, where members of the
company often gathered for an early morning bite. We stuffed ourselves
until the clock told us to be getting to our little ferry-boat. Who
knew when or where we might eat again that day?

“Ham,” Mr. Murphy’s best waiter, took care of us. As the hungry
breakfasters grew in number and regularity Mr. Murphy became
inquisitive. Mr. Murphy was right, we didn’t work on the railroad and
we didn’t drive trucks. So, who, inquired Mr. Murphy of Ham, might
these strange people be who ate so much and were so jolly in the early

And Ham answered, “Them is moving picture people.”

And Mr. Murphy replied, “Well, give them the best and lots of it.”

We needed “the best and lots of it.” We needed regular longshoremen’s
meals. Outdoor picture work with its long hours meant physical
endurance in equal measure with artistic outpourings.

Ham is still in Mr. Murphy’s service, but his job has grown rather dull
with the years. No more picture people to start the day off bright and
snappy. Now he only turns on the tap to draw a glass of Mr. Volstead’s
less than half of one per cent.

“But I want to ask you something,” said Ham as I started to leave.


“Would you tell me”--hushed and awed the tone--“did Mary Pickford ever
come in here?”

“Oh, yes, Ham, she came sometimes.”

“I told the boss so, I told him Mary Pickford had come here with them
picture people.”

Whether Mary had or hadn’t, I didn’t remember, but I couldn’t deny Ham
that little bit of romance to cheer along his colorless to-days.

Ham’s breakfast disposed of, we would rush to the ferry, seek our nook
in the boat, and enjoy a short laze before reaching the Jersey side.
At one of the little inns along the Hudson we rented a couple of rooms
where we made up and dressed. Soon would appear old man Brown and his
son, each driving a two-seated buggy. And according to what scenes
we were slated for, we would be told to pile in, and off we would be
driven to “location.”

“Old Man Brown” was a garrulous, good-natured Irishman who regaled us
with tales of prominent persons who, in his younger days, had been his
patrons. How proud he was to tell of Lillian Russell’s weekly visit to
her daughter Dorothy who was attending a convent school up the Hudson!

Speaking of “Old Man Brown” brings to mind “Hughie.” Hughie’s job was
to drive the express wagon which transported costumes, properties,
cameras, and tripods. In the studio, on the night preceding a day in
the country, each actor packed his costume and make-up box and got
it ready for Hughie. For sometimes in the early morning darkness of
4 A. M. Hughie would have to whip up his horses in front of 11 East
Fourteenth Street so as to be on the spot in Jersey when the actors
arrived via their speedier locomotion.

Arrived on location, Johnny Mahr and Bobbie Harron would climb the
wagon, get out the costumes, and bring them to the actor. And if your
particular bundle did not arrive in double-quick time and you were in
the first or second scene, out you dashed and did a mad scramble on
to the wagon where you frantically searched. Suppose it had been left

Hughie had a tough time of it trucking by two horsepower when winter
came along. So I was very happy some few years later, when calling on
Mr. Hugh Ford at the Famous Players’ old studio in West Fifty-sixth
Street, N. Y., now torn down, to find Hughie there with a comfortable
job “on the door.”

       *       *       *       *       *

David Griffith was always overly fastidious about “location.” His
feeling for charming landscapes and his use of them in the movies was
a significant factor in the success of his early pictures. So we had
a “location” woman, Gene Gauntier, who dug up “locations” and wrote
scenarios for the princely wage of twenty-five dollars weekly. Miss
Gauntier will be eternally remembered as the discoverer of Shadyside.
Shades of Shadyside! with never a tree, a spot of green grass, or a
clinging vine; only sand, rocks, and quarries from which the baked heat
oozed unmercifully.

Miss Gauntier’s aptitude along the location line, however, did
not satisfy her soaring ambition, so she left Biograph for Kalem.
Under Sidney Olcott’s direction, she played _Mary_ in his important
production “From the Manger to the Cross,” and was the heroine of some
charming Irish stories he produced in Ireland.

       *       *       *       *       *

“The Redman and the Child” was the second picture Biograph’s new
director produced, and his first Indian picture. Charles Inslee was the
big-hearted Indian chief in the story and little Johnny Tansy played
the child. The picture made little Johnny famous. He had as much honor
as the movies of those days could give a child. Jackie Coogan was the
lucky kid to arrive in the world when he did.

When the New Theatre (now the Century), sponsoring high-class
uncommercial drama opened, Johnny Tansy was the child wonder of the
company. Here he fell under the observant eye of George Foster Platt
and became his protégé. And so our Johnny was lost to the movies.

We went to Little Falls, New Jersey, for “The Redman and the Child,”
which, at the time, was claimed to be “the very acme of photographic
art.” I’ll say we worked over that Passaic River. Mr. Griffith made it
yield its utmost. As there was so little money for anything pretentious
in the way of a studio set, we became a bit intoxicated with the
rivers, flowers, fields, and rocks that a munificent nature spread
before us, asking no price.

My memories of working outdoors that first summer are not so pleasant.
We thought we were going to get cool, fresh air in the country, but the
muggy atmosphere that hung over the Hudson on humid August days didn’t
thrill us much. I could have survived the day better in the studio with
the breeze from our one electric fan.

On Jersey days, work finished, back to our little Inn in a mad rush to
remove make-up, dress, and catch the next ferry. Our toilet was often
no more than a lick and a promise with finishing touches added as we
journeyed ferrywards along the river road in old man Brown’s buggy.

[Illustration: Caudebec Inn at Cuddebackville.

                                                          (_See p. 119_)

[Illustration: From “The Mended Lute,” made at Cuddebackville, with
Florence Lawrence, Owen Moore and Jim Kirkwood.

                                                          (_See p. 116_)

[Illustration: Frank Powell, Mr. Griffith’s first $10-a-day actor, with
Marion Leonard in “Fools of Fate,” made at Cuddebackville.

                                                          (_See p. 108_)

[Illustration: Richard Barthelmess as _Arno_, the youngest son, with
Nazimova in “War Brides,” a Herbert Brennon production. The part that
put Dicky over.

                                                          (_See p. 136_)

Were we ever going anywhere but Fort Lee and Edgewater and Shadyside?
I do believe that first summer I was made love to on every rock and
boulder for twenty miles up and down the Hudson.

Well, we did branch out a bit. We did a picture in Greenwich,
Connecticut. Driving to the station, our picture day finished, we
passed a magnificent property, hemmed in by high fences and protected
with beautiful iron gates. Signs read “Private Property. Keep Out.”
We heeded them not. In our nervous excitement (we were not calm about
this deed of valor) we kept away from the residence proper, and drove
to the outbuildings and the Superintendent’s office. Told him we’d been
working in the country near by and would appreciate it much if we could
come on the morrow and take some scenes; slipped him a twenty, and that
did the trick.

There was nothing we had missed driving around Millbank, which, we
learned later, was the home of Mrs. A. A. Anderson, the well-known
philanthropist who passed away some few years ago. So on the morrow,
bright and early, we dropped anchor there, made up in one of the barns,
and were rehearsing nicely, being very quiet and circumspect, when down
the pathway coming directly toward us, with blood in her eye, marched
the irate Mrs. Anderson. Trembling and weak-kneed we looked about us.
Could we be hearing aright? Was she really saying those dreadful things
to us? Weakly we protested our innocence. Vain our explanation. And so
we folded our tents and meekly and shamefacedly slunk away.

Before the summer was over we went to Seagate and Atlantic Highlands.
It wasn’t very pleasant at Atlantic Highlands, for here we encountered
the summer boarder. As they had nothing better to do, they would
see what we were going to do. We were generally being lovers, of
course, and strolling in pairs beneath a sunshade until we reached
the foreground, where we were to make a graceful flop onto the sandy
beach and play our parts beneath the flirtatious parasol. Before we
were ready to take the scene we had to put ropes up to keep back the
uninvited audience which giggled and tee-heed and commented loudly
throughout. We felt like monkeys in a zoo--as if we’d gone back to the
day when the populace jeered the old strolling players of Stratford

Mr. Griffith got badly annoyed when we had such experiences. His job
worried him, the nasty publicity of doing our work in the street, like
ditch diggers. So he had to pick on some one and I was handy. How
could _I_ stand for it? Why was _I_ willing to endure it? He _had_ to,
of course. So thinking to frighten me and make me a good girl who’d
stay home, he said: “Something has occurred to me; it’s probable this
business might get kind of public--some day, you know, you may get in
the subway and have all the people stare at you while they whisper to
each other, ‘That’s that girl we saw in the movie the other night.’
_And how would you like that?_”

One saving grace the Highlands had for us. We could get a swim
sometimes. And we discovered Galilee, a fishing village about twenty
miles down the coast, the locale of that first version of Enoch
Arden--“After Many Years.”

But when winter came, though we lost the spectators we acquired other
discomforts. Our make-up would be frozen, and the dreary, cold, damp
rooms in the country hotels made us shivery and miserable. We’d
hurriedly climb into our costumes, drag on our coats, and then light
our little alcohol stove or candle to get the make-up sufficiently
smeary. When made up, out into the cold, crisp day. One of the men
would have a camp-fire going where we’d huddle between scenes and keep
limber enough to act. Then when ready for the scene Billy Bitzer would
have to light the little lamp that he attached to the camera on cold
days to warm the film so it wouldn’t be streaked with “lightning.”
While that was going on we stood at attention, ready to do our bit when
the film was.

We weren’t so keen on playing leads on such days as those, for when you
are half frozen it isn’t so easy to look as if you were calmly dying
of joy, for which emotional state the script might be asking. What we
liked best in the winter was to follow Mack Sennett in the chases which
he always led, and which he made so much of, later, when he became the
big man in Keystone films. The chase warmed us up, for Mack Sennett
led us on some merry jaunts, over stone walls, down gulleys, a-top of
fences--whatever looked good and hard to do.

Somehow we found it difficult to be always working with the weather.
Though we watched carefully it seemed there always were “summer”
stories to be finished, almost up to snow time; and “winter” stories in
the works when June roses were in bud. Pink swiss on a bleak November
day ’neath the leafless maple didn’t feel so good; nor did velvet and
fur and heavy wool in the studio in humid August.

But such were the things that happened. We accepted them with a good



This story must now take itself indoors. We are terribly excited over
Tolstoy’s “Resurrection.” So even though it be May, we must to the
studio where the carpenters and scene painters are fixing us a Siberia.

As the days went by we produced many works of literary
masters--Dickens, Scott, Shakespeare, Bret Harte, O. Henry, and Frank
Norris. We never bothered about “rights” for the little one-reel
versions of five-act plays and eight hundred page novels. Authors and
publishers were quite unaware of our existence.

Arthur Johnson, Owen Moore, and Florence Lawrence played the leading
parts in our “free adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Powerful Novel.” And
it so happened that just as Prince Demetri was ready to don his fur
robes, and the poor exiles their woolen slips, for the trudge over the
snow-clad steppes, a nice hot spell came our way, and we must have been
the hottest Russians that ever endured Siberia.

Owen Moore got so querulous with the heat--he was playing one of
those handsome, cruel officers who poke bayonets at the innocent and
well-behaved exiles--that he nearly killed us throwing tables and heavy
furniture at us. I objected to the realism. We were all a bit peevish,
what with the unseasonable heat and the last moment discovery that the
costumer had sent our wrapper-like dresses in sizes miles too large.

The scene being set and rehearsals finished, there were left just
the few moments while the property man added the finishing touches
to the salt and flour snow (we had graduated from sawdust), to make
the costumes wearable. So another girl and I grabbed the lot and
rushed into a little Polish tailor shop in the basement next door and
borrowed the Polish tailor’s sewing machines so that we could put in
the necessary hems and pleats. Zip went the sewing machines--there was
no time to lose--for we could not afford two days of Russian exiles at
three dollars per day.

Nine o’clock was the morning hour of bustle and busyness at 11 East
Fourteenth Street. But the actors in their eagerness to work were
on the job long before nine sometimes. They straggled along from
all directions. They even came by the horse-drawn surface car whose
obliging and curious conductors stopped directly in front of No. 11.

And so curious became one conductor that he was not able to stand the
strain, and he quit his job of jerking Bessie’s reins, and got himself
a job as “extra.” Although the conductor’s identity was never fully
established, we had strong suspicions that it was Henry Lehrman, an
extra who had managed in a very short time to get himself called Pathé,
which was good for an Austrian.

“Actors”--graduates from various trades and professions of uncertain
standing, and actors without acting jobs, lounged all over the place,
from the street steps where they basked on mild, sunny days, into
the shady hall where they kept cool on hot days; and had they made
acquaintance with studio life, they could be found in the privacy of
the men’s one dressing-room shooting craps--the pastime during the
waiting hours.

An especially busy hour 9 A.M. when we were to start on a new picture.
What kind of a picture was it to be? The air was full of expectancy.
Who would be cast for the leads? How keen we were to work! How we hoped
for a good part--then for any kind of a part--then for only a chance
to rehearse a part. In their eagerness to get a good part in a movie,
the actors behaved like hungry chickens being fed nice, yellow corn,
knocking and trampling each other in their mad scramble for the best

This Mr. Griffith did enjoy. He would draw his chair up center, and
leisurely, and in a rather teasing way, look the company over. And when
you were being looked at you thought, “Ah, it’s going to be me.” But
in a few minutes some one else would be looked at. “No, it was going
to be he.” A long look at Owen, a long look at Charlie, a long look
at Arthur, and then the director would speak: “Arthur, I’ll try you
first.” One by one, in the same way the company would be picked. There
would be a few rough rehearsals; some one wouldn’t suit; the chief
would decide the part was more in Owen’s line. Such nervousness until
we got all set!

Indeed, we put forth our best efforts. There was too much competition
and no one had a cinch on a line of good parts. When we did “The
Cricket on the Hearth,” Mr. Griffith rehearsed all his women in the
part of _Dot_, Marion Leonard, Florence Lawrence, Violet Merserau,
and then he was nice to me. Miss Merserau, however, portrayed
_May Plummer_--making her movie début. Herbert Pryor played _John
Perrybingle_, and Owen Moore, _Edward Plummer_.

Sometimes after rehearsing a story all day our director would chuck
it as “no good” and begin on another. He never used a script and
he rehearsed in sequence the scenes of every story until each scene
dovetailed smoothly, and the acting was O. K. He worked out his story
using his actors as chessmen. He knew what he wanted and the camera
never began to grind until every little detail satisfied him.

There was some incentive for an actor to do his best. More was asked of
us than to be just a “type,” and the women couldn’t get by with just
“pretty looks.” We worked hard, but we liked it. With equal grace we
all played leads one day and decorated the back drop the next. On a day
when there would be no work whatever for you, you’d reluctantly depart.
Sometimes Mr. Griffith almost had to drive the non-working actors out
of the studio. The place was small and he needed room.

Sometimes when rehearsing a picture he liked a lot, it would be as
late as 3 P.M. before a fainting, lunchless lot of actors would hear
those welcome words, “All right, everybody, get your lunches and make
up.” Then Bobbie Harron would circulate the Childs’ menu card and the
thirty-cent allotment would be checked off. Roast beef or a ham-and-egg
sandwich, pie, tea, coffee, or milk usually nourished us. And it was
a funny thing, that no matter how rich one was, or how one might have
longed for something different, even might have been ill and needed
something special, none of us ever dreamed of spending a nickel of his

While the actors ate and made up, and the carpenters were getting the
set ready, Mr. Griffith, accompanied by three or four or five or six
actors not on the working list that afternoon, would depart for a
restaurant near by. But no woman was ever invited to these parties.
This social arrangement obtained only on days when a new picture was
to be got under way. David Griffith was a generous host, but he always
got a good return on his investment. For while being strengthened on
luscious steak, steins of Pilsener, and fluffy German pancakes all done
up in gobs of melted butter, lemon juice, and powdered sugar, ideas
would sprout, and comments and suggestions come freely from the Knights
of Lüchow’s Round Table, and when the party was over they returned to
the studio all happy, and the director ready for a big day’s work.

But the other actors, now made up and costumed but fed only on
sandwiches, were wearing expressions of envy and reproach which made
the returning jolly dogs feel a trifle uncomfortable.

“Well, let’s get busy around here--wasting a hell of a lot of time--six
o’clock already--have to work all night now--now come on, we’ll run
through it--show me what you can do--Bitzer, where do you want them?
Come in and watch this, Doc.” Mr. Griffith was back on the job all

One such rehearsal usually sufficed. Then Johnny Mahr with his
five-foot board would get the focus and mark little chalk crosses
on the floor, usually four, two for the foreground and two for the
background. Then Johnny would hammer a nail into each cross and with
his ball of twine, tying it from nail to nail, enclose the set. Now
a rehearsal for “lines.” And when Bitzer would say it was O. K. and
Doc beamed his round Irish smile, we would take the picture, and God
help the actor who looked at the camera or at the director when he was
shouting instructions while the scene was being photographed.

The old ways of doing were being revolutionized day by day with the
introduction of the close-up, switchback, light effects, and screen
acting that could be recognized as a portrayal of human conduct.
Exhibitors soon began clamoring for A. B. pictures, not only for the
U. S. A. but for foreign countries as well; and as Mr. Griffith had a
commission on every foot of film sold, it was an easy matter for us to
judge our ever-increasing popularity.

The Biograph Company readily acknowledged its young director’s
achievements, and the other companies soon took cognizance of a new and
keen competitor. The first metropolitan showings began a rivalry with
the other companies. Once in the race, we were there to win--and we
did. Biograph pictures came to mean something just a little different
from what had been. There was a sure artistic touch to them; the fine
shadings were there that mark the line between talent and genius.

David Griffith had found his place; found it long before he knew it.
In ways, it was a congenial berth. Mr. Marvin, once he saw how the
wind blew, seldom came into the studio. He was willing to let the new
producer work things out his own way. An occasional conference there
was, necessarily--a friendly chat as to how things were coming along.

Mr. Marvin was tall and dark, quite a handsome man--so approachable.
The actors felt quite at ease with him. Had he not been one of us?
Had he not directed even Mr. Griffith in a penny-in-the-slot movie?
Years later I recalled the incident to Mr. Marvin. He had forgotten it
completely, but with a hearty laugh said: “No did I really? Well, God
forgive me.”

“God forgive us all,” I answered.

Liking Mr. Marvin as we did, we did not quite understand or approve the
sudden, unexpected intrusion of Mr. J. J. Kennedy, one day.

“Oh, our _president_? Why, do you suppose,” the anxious actors queried,
“he’s become suddenly so interested?” What could poor movie actors be
expected to know of politics and high finance? Everything had been so
pleasant, we couldn’t understand it. We were rather awed by Mr. Kennedy
at first. Red-headed, pugnacious Irish Jeremiah--why, he never gave an
actor a smile or the faintest recognition, and feeling ourselves such
poor worms, as a result, we became nothing less than Sphinxes whenever
his rare but awe-inspiring presence graced the studio.

But we soon learned that “fighting J. J.” was of some importance in
this movie business. And other things about him we learned: that he was
a big man in the world of engineering--a millionaire who lived in a
lovely brownstone in Brooklyn. We soon discovered he was human, too.

It seemed Mr. Kennedy had had his affairs all settled to retire from
the world of business activities, when, in the critical days resulting
from the 1907 panic, he stepped into the breach and saved from
impending disaster the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company.

The little A. M. and B. Co. would have been terribly surprised had she
been told that she was to become the organization that would develop
some of the greatest of motion picture directors and stars--the
Augustin Daly stock company of the movies. For while there is never the
grind of its preposterous old camera to be heard in the length of the
land to-day, while for years (at the time of writing this, nearly ten)
all its wheels of activity have been silent, “The Old Biograph” remains
as the most romantic memory, the most vital force in the early history
of the American motion picture.

The association with these two scholarly gentlemen Messrs. Kennedy
and Marvin, unusual then as to-day in the picture business, helped to
soften the crudities of the work, and tone down the apparent rough
edges of our job. So considerate of our tender feelings were both Mr.
Marvin and Mr. Kennedy, that when either desired to visit or bring
interested friends into the studio, they would ask Mr. Griffith for
a propitious moment, and then stand off in the background as though
apologizing for the intrusion.

Mr. Griffith, but not by way of retaliation, had reason to make
intrusions on his bosses. He went pleading the cause of better screen
stories. For that was the ticklish point--to raise our artistic
standard--not to depart too rapidly from the accepted--and to keep our
product commercial.

David Griffith began feeling his wings. He dared to consider a
production of Browning’s “Pippa Passes.” If just once he could do
something radical to make the indifferent legitimate actors, critics,
writers, and a better class of public take cognizance of us! So there
resulted long discussions with the Biograph executives as to the
advisability of Browning in moving pictures, and after much persuasion
consent was eventually granted.

There was no question in our minds as to whether “Pippa Passes” would
be an artistic success. Had this classic writer fashioned his famous
poem directly for the movies he couldn’t have turned out a better
screen subject. But might not the bare idea of the high-brow Robert
scare away the moving picture public?

In those days there were several kinds of motion picture publics. In
sections of New York City, there was the dirty, dark little store,
a sheet at one end and the projection machine at the other. It took
courage to sit through a show in such a place, for one seldom escaped
without some weary soul finding a shoulder the while he indulged in
forty winks. Besides this there were the better-known Keith and Proctor
Theatres on Fourteenth Street, Twenty-third, and 125th Street, the
Fourteenth Street Theatre, and the old Academy of Music.

In the smaller American cities, the motion picture public was of
middle-class homey folks who washed their own supper dishes in a hurry
so as to see the new movie, and to meet their neighbors who, like
themselves, dashed hatless to the nickelodeon, dragging along with them
the children and the dog.

Things like this happened, when dinner hour was approaching, and mother
was anxiously awaiting her child: the neighborhood policeman would
casually saunter over to the picture house, poke his head in at the
door, spy the wanted child, tap her little shoulder, gently reproving:
“Jennie, your mother wants you”--whereupon Jennie would reluctantly
tear herself away so that the family could all sit down together to
their pot-roast and noodles.

Yes, Browning would need courage.

“Pippa Passes” being ever in Mr. Griffith’s mind these days, he scanned
each new face in the studio as he mulled over the needed characters.
The cast would be the best possible one he could get together.



It was a bright May morning in 1909. When I came off the scene, I
noticed a little girl sitting quietly in a corner near the door. She
looked about fourteen. I afterwards learned she was nearing seventeen.
She wore a plain navy-blue serge suit, a blue-and-white striped lawn
shirtwaist, a rolled brim Tuscan straw sailor hat with a dark blue
ribbon bow. About her face, so fresh, so pretty, and so gentle, bobbed
a dozen or more short golden curls--such perfect little curls as I had
never seen.

A timid applicant usually hugged the background. Bold ones would press
forward to the camera and stand there, obtruding themselves, in the
hope that the director would see them, like their look, and engage them
for a day’s work.

But Mary Pickford tucked herself away in a niche, while she quietly
gave us “the once over.” The boss’s eagle eye had been roving her
way at intervals, the while he directed, for here was something
“different”--a maid so fair and an actress to boot! Pausing a moment in
his work, he came over to me and said, “Don’t you think she would be
good for Pippa?”

“Ideal,” I answered.

Before we closed shop that day, he had Mary make up--gave her a violin,
and told her to walk across the stage while playing it so that Billy
Bitzer could make a test.

Before she left the studio that day, every actor there had a “line” on
Mary. In the dressing-room, the word went around:

“There’s a cute kid outside; have you seen her?”

“No, where is she?”

“She’s been sitting out there in a corner by herself.”

“Guess I’ll take a look.”

“She’s cute all right; they’re taking a test.”

Something was impending. There was excitement and expectancy in the
air. America’s Sweetheart was soon to make her first screen appearance.

The test was O. K. and Mary was told to come to the studio on the
morrow. David promised her five dollars a day for her first picture,
and were her work good, he’d talk business with her. That satisfied

As “Giannina,” the pretty daughter of Taddeo Ferrari, in “The Violin
Maker of Cremona” Mary Pickford made her motion picture début. She was
ideally suited to the part, and had good support from David Miles as
the cripple Filippo.

The studio bunch was all agog over the picture and the new girl, long
before the quiet word was passed to the regulars a few days later:
“Projection room, they’re going to run ‘The Violin Maker.’” After
the showing, Mr. Griffith had a serious conversation with Mary and
offered her twenty-five dollars a week for three days’ work. This Mary
accepted. She felt she might stay through the summer.

Her second picture was “The Lonely Villa,” the brain child of Mack
Sennett, gleaned from a newspaper--good old-fashioned melodrama. Mary
played a child of twelve with two younger sisters and a mother. They
were nice people, and wealthy. Miss Leonard, playing the mother, would
be beautifully arrayed in the brown-silk-and-velvet. But what could be
done for Mary? She had no clothes fit for the wealthy little aristocrat
she was to portray and there was nothing in the meager stock wardrobe
for her. “Oh, she’s so pretty,” I said to my husband, “can’t we dress
her up? She’ll just be darling in the right kind of clothes.” So he
parted with twenty dollars from the cash register and trusted me to
dispose of it at Best’s--then on Twenty-third Street--for a proper
wardrobe. Off I went on my joyful errand, and brought back to the
studio a smart pale blue linen frock, blue silk stockings to match, and
nifty patent leather pumps. What a dainty little miss she looked, her
fluffy curls a-bobbing, when she had donned the new pretties!

During the dreary waits between scenes, there being no private
dressing-rooms, actors would be falling all over each other, and they
could find seclusion only by digging themselves in behind old and
unused scenery. Owen Moore was especially apt in hiding himself. He had
an unfriendly way of disappearing. None of the herd instinct in him.
At times we had quite a job locating him. Cruising along the back drop
of a Coney Island Police Court, or perhaps a section of the Chinese
wall, we’d innocently stumble upon him. But we didn’t need to hunt
him the day that Mary Pickford was all dressed up in Best & Company’s
best. That day he never left the camera stand, and his face was all one
generous Irish smile. (How little we know when our troubles are going
to begin!)

Following “The Lonely Villa” came “The Way of Man” and then a series of
comedies in which Mary was teamed with Billy Quirk, “Sweet and Twenty,”
“They Would Elope,” “His Wife’s Visitors.”

Though Mary Pickford affiliated with the movies for twenty-five dollars
weekly with the understanding that she would work three days a week and
play “parts” only, she was a good sport and would come in as an “extra”
in a scene if we needed her. So occasionally in a courtroom scene, or
a church wedding where the camera was set up to get the congregation
or spectators from the rear, Mary could attend with perfect safety as
the Pickford curls, from the back of her head, would never have been
recognized by the most enthusiastic fan of that day. Mr. Griffith would
not have his “Mary” a “super.”

Considering the stellar position she has held for years, and her
present-day affluence, many movie fans may think that Mary Pickford
was kissed by the fairies when she was born. Not so. Life’s hard
realities--the understanding of her little family’s struggles to make
both ends meet when she was even as young as Jackie Coogan at the time
of his first appearance with Charlie Chaplin in “The Kid”--that was her
fairy’s kiss--that and her mother’s great love for her.

Of course, such idolatry as Mrs. Smith gave her first-born might have
made of her a simpering silly, or worse. But Gladys Smith (as Mary
Pickford was born) was pretty--and she had talent and brains. So what
wonder if Mother Smith often sat all through the night at her child’s
bedside, not wanting to sleep, but only to worship her beautiful

Mary told me her story in our early intimate days together in the
movies. With her little gang she was playing in the streets of Toronto
where she was born, perhaps playing “bean bag”--she was indeed young
enough for that.

[Illustration: From “Wark” to “work,” with only the difference of a

                                                          (_See p. 185_)

[Illustration: Biograph’s one automobile (note D. W. G. on door), in
front of Old Redonda Hotel.

                                                          (_See p. 185_)

[Illustration: Annie Lee. From “Enoch Arden,” the first two-reel

                                                          (_See p. 195_)

[Illustration: Jeanie Macpherson, Frank Grandin, Linda Griffith and
Wilfred Lucas, in “Enoch Arden.”]

[Illustration: The vessel that was towed from San Pedro. From “Enoch

[Illustration: The Norwegian’s shack, the scene of Enoch’s departure.
From “Enoch Arden.”]

In frock coat and silk hat an advance agent was looking over the
prospects for business in the town, and at the same time looking for a
few kids needed in his show. His eye caught pretty little Gladys Smith.
Would Mama let her play at the opera house?

“Let’s ask Mama.”

Mama, the young Mrs. Smith, consented. Seeing that, a very few years
afterwards, through an accident on the St. Lawrence River boat on which
her husband worked, Mama was suddenly left a young widow with three
tiny youngsters to support, her consent that day proved to be one of
those things just meant to be.

With the Valentine Stock Company in her home town when only five, Mary
played her first part, _Cissy_ in “The Silver King.” In 1902, Mary was
already a “star,” playing _Jessie_ in “The Fatal Wedding.” The season
of 1904 found Gladys Smith, then twelve years old, playing leading
parts, such as _Dolly_ in “The Child Wife,” a play written by Charles
Taylor, first husband to Laurette and the father of her two children.
The following season Gladys Smith created the part of _Freckles_ in
“The Gypsy Girl,” written by Hal Reid, father of the popular and much
loved Wallace Reid. Gladys Smith’s salary was then forty dollars per
week and she sent her mother, who was living in Brooklyn, fifteen
dollars weekly for her support. In 1906 the Smith family toured with
Chauncey Olcott in “Edmund Burke.” But it was as the little boy _Patsy
Poor_ in “New York Life” that Mary’s chance came for better things.

David Belasco had told Gladys he would give her a hearing. And so the
day came when on the dark and empty Stage of the Republic Theatre,
a chair her only “support,” Gladys did Patsy’s death scene for
Mr. Belasco and he thought so well of it that she was engaged for
Charlotte Walker’s younger sister _Betty_ in “The Warrens of Virginia.”

So “The Warrens of Virginia” with Gladys Smith, rechristened by Mr.
Belasco “Mary Pickford” (a family name) came and went. The magic wand
of Belasco had touched Mary, but magic wands mean little when one needs
to eat. “The Warrens of Virginia” finished its run, and Mary, her
seventeen years resting heavily upon her, was confronted with the long
idle summer and the nearly depleted family exchequer. So arrived the
day in the late spring, when from the weary round of agencies and with
faint hope of signing early for next season little Mary wandered to the
old Biograph studio at 11 East Fourteenth Street.

Such a freshly sweet and pretty little thing she was, that her chances
of not being engaged were meagre. Since that day when she first cast
her lot with the movies--that day in June, 1909, when the Pickford
releases so inauspiciously started, they have continued with only
one interruption. That was in January, 1913, when in David Belasco’s
production of “The Good Little Devil,” she co-starred with Ernest
Truex. What an exciting day at the studio it was when it was discovered
that Mr. Belasco was up in the projection room seeing some of Mary’s

Mary’s return to the legitimate was a clever move. It made for
publicity and afterward served her, despite the shortness of the
engagement, as a qualification for becoming an Adolph Zukor-Famous

Mr. Zukor established his “Famous Players” through the production of
“Queen Elizabeth,” the first feature picture with a famous player, the
player being no less a personage than the divine Sara Bernhardt. This
was in 1912. So when Mary Pickford became a Famous Player, it caused
considerable comment. However, she has become the most famous of all
the Famous Players engaged by Mr. Zukor.

And as for Famous Players, long before Adolph Zukor’s day, they had
been appearing before a movie camera. As far back as 1903 Joseph
Jefferson played in his famous “Rip Van Winkle” for the American
Mutoscope and Biograph Company. And Sara Bernhardt appeared as
_Camille_, in the Eclair Company’s two-reel production of the Dumas
play in 1911.

Mary Pickford did not reach the peak of fame and affluence without her
“ifs.” When the first fall came, and little Mary had not connected up
with a legitimate job, she said to me one day: “Miss Arvidson, we have
just fifty dollars in the bank for all of us, and I’m worried to death.
I want to get back on the stage. Of course, the pictures are regular,
but if I had enough put away, I’d get out.”

Another day: “If I stay in the movies I know I will just be ruined for
the stage--the acting is so different--and I never use my voice. Do you
think it will hurt me if I stay in the pictures any longer?”

“Well, Mary,” I answered, “I cannot advise you. We all just have to
take our chances.”

Good fortune it was for the movies, for her family and for her,
that she stayed. In the beginning she encountered practically no
competition. Not until dainty Marguerite Clark left the field of
the legitimate in 1913 and appeared in her first charming photoplay
“Wildflower” did Miss Pickford ever need to bother her little head
over anything as improbable as a legitimate competitor in a field
where she had reigned as queen undisputed and unchallenged.

It is often asked whether Mary Pickford is a good business woman. My
opinion is that she’s a very good business woman. And I am told that
she had a head for business as far back as the days of _Patsy Poor_.
She must have an understudy and no one but sister Lottie was going to
be that understudy. Lottie stayed the season even though no emergency
where she could have officiated, presented itself.

I know Mary brought a business head with her to Biograph. Mr. Griffith
had told her if she’d be a good sport about doing what little
unpleasant stunts the stories might call for, he would raise her
salary. The first came in “They Would Elope,” some two months after her

The scene called for the overturning of the canoe in which the elopers
were escaping down the muddy Passaic. Not a second did Mary demur, but
obediently flopped into the river. The scene over, wet and dirty, the
boys fished her out and rushed her, wrapped in a warm blanket, to the
waiting automobile.

It was the last scene of the day--we reserved the nasty ones for the
finish. Mary’s place in the car was between my husband and myself.
Hardly were we comfortably settled, hardly had the chauffeur time to
put the car in “high,” before Mary with all the evidence of her good
sportsmanship so plainly visible, naïvely looked up into her director’s
face and sweetly reminded him of his promise. She got her raise. And I
got the shock of my young life. That pretty little thing with yellow
curls thinking of money like that!

Later, when Carl Laemmle had bucked the General Film Company with the
organization of his independent company, the “Imp,” he enticed Mary
away from the Biograph by an offer of twenty-five dollars a week over
her then one hundred weekly salary. Mary was still under legal age, so
Owen Moore, to whom Mary had been secretly married, had to sign the
contract. He with several other “Biographers” had gone over to the
“Imp.” Mrs. Smith with Lottie and Jack still clung to the Biograph.
Mid anguished tears Mrs. Smith showed me the contract, and in a broken
voice said: “What’s to become of Mary at that awful ‘Imp’ with no one
to direct her? How could she have been influenced to leave Mr. Griffith
for only twenty-five dollars extra and not even consult her mother?
What good will the twenty-five dollars do with her career ruined?”

But the break did not hurt Mary. It helped her. She soon sued the
“Imp,” claiming that her artistic career was being ruined as she was
being forced to act with carpenters. That was the story according to
the dailies. Shortly afterward she was back at Biograph with another
twenty-five dollar weekly advance in her salary.



Through conflicting emotions and varying decisions and an
ever-increasing interest and faith in the new work, Biograph’s first
movie actors stuck. With Mary Pickford pictures winning favor, David
Griffith became ambitious for new talent, and as the right sort didn’t
come seeking, _he_ decided to go seeking. He’d dash out of the studio
while the carpenters were putting up a new set, jump into a taxi, call
at the different dramatic agencies, and ask had they any actors who
might like to work in moving pictures at ten dollars a day!

At one of these agencies--Paul Scott’s--he arrived just as a
good-looking manly sort of chap was about to leave.

“That’s the type I want.”

Mr. Scott replied, “Well, I’ll introduce you.”

Mr. Griffith lost no time in telling the personable Frank Powell about
the movies, and offering the new salary, secured his services.

With his fair bride, Eleanor Hicks, who had been playing “leads” with
Ellen Terry, while he stage managed, Mr. Powell had just returned from
England. But Miss Terry and London triumphs were now of the past, and
Mr. Powell was glad enough to end the tiresome hunt for a job, and his
temporary money worries by becoming the first actor to be engaged by
Mr. Griffith at the fancy price of ten dollars a day. Mr. Powell was
well worth the ten for he had good presence, clean-cut features, and
wore good clothes. He became our leading aristocrat, specializing in
brokers, bankers, and doctors--the cultured professional man. David
soon saw that he could take over little responsibilities and relieve
him of many irksome details not concerned with the dramatic end. So
he became the first assistant, and then a director of comedies--the
first--under Mr. Griffith’s supervision.

In time he went with William Fox as director. He discovered the
screen’s first famous vamp, Theda Bara. Against Mr. Fox’s protests--for
Mr. Fox wanted a well-known movie player--Frank Powell selected the
unknown Theda from among the extras to play Mr. Kipling’s famous
lady in “A Fool There Was,” because she was a strange-looking person
who wore queer earrings and dresses made of odd tapestry cloths.
The picture made William Fox his first big money in the movies, and
established his place in the motion picture world.

“His Duty” was Frank Powell’s first picture. In the cast were Owen
Moore and Kate Bruce. “The Cardinal’s Conspiracy”--the name we
gave to “Richelieu”--marked Mr. Powell’s first important screen
characterization. It was taken at Greenwich, Connecticut, on Commodore
Benedict’s magnificent estate, _Indian Harbor_. Soon came “The Broken
Locket” which had a nice part for Kate Bruce.

Fortunate “Brucie,” as her confrères call her! She seems never to have
had to hunt a job since that long ago day when D. W. Griffith picked
her as a member of the old Biograph Stock Company. Little bits or big
parts mattered nothing to “Brucie” as long as she was working with us.

David hunted movie recruits not only at the dramatic agencies, but also
at the Lambs and Players Clubs of New York City. It was at the Lambs
he found James Kirkwood, and determined right off to get him down to
the studio. He had to be subtle. He never knew what mighty indignation
might be hurled at him for simply suggesting “movie acting” to a
legitimate actor. But Jim Kirkwood made good his promise to come, and
no effort was spared to make the visit both pleasant and impressive.

I always thought we were a rather well-behaved lot--there was rather
strict discipline maintained at all times. But on this occasion we
old troupers were told to “sit pretty,” to be quiet and stay in the
dressing-room if there were no scenes being taken in which we were
working, and if we were called upon to work, to please just “work” and
not be sociable. Our director seemed to be somewhat ashamed of his
faithful old crew. So the studio remained hushed and awed--a solemn
dignity pervaded it. In the dressing-room, those who didn’t know what
was going on said, “Why are you all so quiet?”

“Oh, don’t you know?” we sang in unison. “There’s a Broadway actor out
there, from the _Henry Miller Company_.”

“_Oh, you don’t say so!_”

The effect was funniest on Mack Sennett. He wore a satirical smile that
spoke volumes. For he had divined that these “up-stage” new actors were
to get more than five per day; besides, he was getting few enough parts
as things were, now where _would_ he be?

“Lord Jim” was certainly treated with great deference. He was shown
several scenes “in the taking,” and then escorted upstairs to see some
of Mary Pickford’s pictures. The Cook’s tour over, Mr. Kirkwood agreed
to appear in the movies.

A slow, easy manner had Jim Kirkwood, which with underlying strength
made for good screen technique. Early June was the time of his
first release, “The Message,” in which picture as _David Williams_
he portrayed the honest, big-hearted farmer. Mr. Kirkwood, the
diamond-in-the-rough type, was honest and big-hearted through all his
movie career. He was the heroic Indian, as in “Comata, the Sioux”; the
brave fisherman as in “Lines of White on a Sullen Sea”--the latter one
of Stanner E. V. Taylor’s early classic efforts which was taken in the
little fishing village of Galilee in October, 1909.

Harriet Quimby, now established as a journalist, came down to visit.
Thought it would be good fun to act in a scene, so she played a village
fishermaiden and thus qualified as a picture actress for her other more
thrilling performance two years later. I was with her that time, on
the flying field at Dover, where Bleriot had landed on the very first
Channel crossing, and where she was to “take off” for France. Gaumont
took a five-hundred-foot picture of the flight, titling it “The English
Channel Flown by a LADY AVIATOR for the First Time.”

The day Harriet Quimby flew the English Channel brought sad news
to the world, for that appalling disaster--the sinking of the
_Titanic_--occurred. It also brought a personal sadness to the
Biograph, for Mr. Marvin’s youngest son, who was returning from his
honeymoon, was lost. Before the happy couple had sailed, a moving
picture of the wedding had been taken in the studio.

It was not long after his initiation that Mr. Kirkwood brought a fellow
Lamb, Mr. Walthall, to the studio. He had been one of the three “bad
men” with Mr. Kirkwood in “The Great Divide,” which play had just
finished its New York run. Mr. Griffith, an Italian costume picture
on the ways, was snooping around for an actor who not only could look
but also act an Italian troubadour. When he met Henry Walthall of the
dark, curly hair, the brown eyes, the graceful carriage, he rested
content. “The Sealed Room” was the name of the screened emotion that
put Mr. Walthall over in the movies. Wally’s acting proved to be the
most convincing of its type so far. He was very handsome in his silk
and velvet, and gold trappings, with a bejeweled chain around his neck,
and a most adorable little mustache.

It was foreordained that the Civil War should have a hearing very soon.
There was Kentucky, David Griffith’s birth state, calling, and there
in our midst was the ideal southerner, Henry Walthall. And so after a
few weeks the first “Stirring Episode of the Civil War”--a little movie
named “In Old Kentucky”--was rushed along. In the picture were Mary
Pickford, Owen Moore, Kate Bruce, and many lesser lights. It was a long
time back that Mr. Walthall started on his career of “Little Colonels.”
He portrayed many before he climaxed them with his great “Little
Colonel” in “The Birth of a Nation!”

A remarkable trio--Frank Powell, Jim Kirkwood, and Henry Walthall--such
distinct types. Though they all owned well-tailored dress suits,
Frank Powell’s was featured most often. Henry Walthall, suggestive
of romance, had fewer opportunities; and rugged Jim Kirkwood only
occasionally was permitted to don his own soup-and-fish and look

With the acquisition of the ten-dollar-a-day actor, we seemed to
acquire a new dignity. No doubt about recruits fresh from Broadway
lending tone--although the original five-per-day actors, who were still
getting the same old five, looked with varying feelings of resentment
and delight at their entrance. We old ones figured that for all our
faithfulness and hard work, we might have been raised right off to
ten dollars, too. But at least there was hope in that ten per--the
proposition looked better now with salaries going up, and actors coming
to stay, and willing to forego the dazzling footlights and the sweet
applause of the audience.

Having reached ten-dollars-a-day, it didn’t take so long to climb to
twenty--undreamed extravagance--but good advertising along the Rialto
and at the Lambs Club. “Twenty dollars a day? It listens well--the
movies must have financial standing, anyway,” the legitimate concluded.

Occasionally, Frank Craven, since famous as the author of many
successful Broadway plays, came down and watched pictures being made.
While he personally didn’t care about the movies, through him Jack
Standing came down and jobbed at twenty per. Through friendship for Mr.
and Mrs. Frank Powell, with whom he had acted in Ellen Terry’s company,
David Powell entered the fold for twenty per. Even though money
tempted, the high-class actor came more readily through friendship for
some one already “in” than as a cold business proposition. Our movie
money was talking just the same.

But hard as it was to get men, it was much harder to get women. They
would not leave that “drammer” (how they loved it!) to work in a dingy
studio with no footlights, no admiring audience to applaud them, and no
pretty make-ups.

Only occasionally did I accompany my husband on a tour of the dramatic
agencies, for our manner to each other was still a most unmarried one.
I’d wait in the taxi while he went up to the different offices to see
if he could entice some fair feminine. But, after each visit, back he’d
plump into the taxi so distressed, “I can get men, but I cannot get
women; they simply won’t come.”

Well, if he couldn’t lure ladies from the agencies, he’d grab them off
the street. With Austin Webb, an actor friend who has since left the
stage for promotion of oil and skyscrapers, he was strolling along
Broadway one day when a little black-haired girl passed by accompanied
by her mother.

“Now that’s the kind of girl I’m looking for,” said Mr. Griffith.

Mr. Webb answered: “Well, why not speak to her? She’s an actress, you
can bet your hat on that.”

But the movie director having a certain position to maintain, and not
wanting to be misunderstood, hesitated. Mr. Webb volunteered, stepped
up to and asked the girl would she like to work in a moving picture.
Prompt her reply, “Oh, I’d love to, I just love pictures.” The “girl”
was Marion Sunshine of the then vaudeville team of Sunshine and
Tempest. She was quite a famous personality to be in Biograph movies at
this time.

Now Austin Webb, who during David Griffith’s movie acting days had
loaned him his own grand wardrobe, was one who might have become a
big movie star. David implored him to try it, but he was skeptical.
It took sporting blood to plunge moviewards in the crude days of our
beginnings. Who could tell which way the thing would flop?



I was not one of the select few who made the first trip to
Cuddebackville, New York. I had been slated for a visit to my husband’s
folks in Louisville, Kentucky, and while there this alluring adventure
was slipped over on me.

A new picture was being started out at Greenwich, Connecticut, at
Commodore Benedict’s, the day I was leaving, and as I was taking a late
train, I was invited out on a farewell visit, as it were.

The picture was “The Golden Supper,” taken from Tennyson’s “Lover’s
Tale.” I arrived just in time for the Princess’s royal funeral. Down
the majestic stairway of the Commodore’s palatial home, the cortège
took its way, escorting on a flower-bedecked stretcher, in all her
pallid beauty, the earthly remains of the dead little princess.

Now in the movies, if anywhere, a princess must be beautiful. I knew
not who was playing this fair royal child until the actors put the bier
down, and the princess sat up, when I was quite dumbfounded to see our
own little Dorothy West come to life.

Dorothy had done nicely times before as a little child of the ghetto
and as frail Italian maids of the peasant class, and now here she was a
full-fledged princess. So, in my amazement, I said to my husband, for
it was a sincere, impersonal interest in the matter that I felt: “Is
Dorothy West playing the Princess? Aren’t you taking a chance?” With
great assurance he answered, “Oh, with the photography we now have, I
can make them all beautiful.”

Next day, as the lovely Shenandoah Valley spread out before me, I kept
hearing those startling words, “Oh, with the photography we now have, I
can make them all beautiful.”

“The Mended Lute” was perhaps the first picture produced with the
inspiring background of Cuddebackville scenery. Florence Lawrence,
Owen Moore, and Jim Kirkwood the leading actors. David wrote me to
Louisville on his return to New York:


    Well, I am back in New York. Got back at twelve o’clock last
    night.... I have accounts to make out for eight days, imagine that
    job, can you?

    Haven’t had my talk with Mr. Kennedy as yet, as I have been away,
    but expect to on Tuesday or Wednesday as soon as I can see him.
    Lost six pounds up in the country, hard work, if you please....

    And then I want to go back to that place again and take you
    this time because it’s very fine up there. I am saving a great
    automobile ride for you--if I stay....

“If I stay”--always that “if.” A year had now rolled by and in August
Mr. Griffith would sign his second contract--_if_ he stayed.

The hegira to Cuddebackville had been undertaken to show Biograph
officials what could be done by just forgetting the old stamping
grounds adjacent to Fort Lee. Contract-signing time approaching, Mr.
Griffith wanted to splurge. A number of scripts had collected that
called for wild mountainous country, among them “The Mended Lute.”
Mr. Kennedy and our secretary, Mr. R. H. Hammer; Mr. Griffith and
his photographer, Mr. Bitzer, sitting in conference had decided upon
a place up in the Orange Mountains called Cuddebackville. It had
scenic possibilities, housing facilities, and lacked summer boarders.
Through an engineering job--the construction of a dam at one end of
the old D. L. and W. Canal, on whose placid waters in days gone by the
elder Vanderbilt had towed coal to New York--Mr. Kennedy had become
acquainted with Cuddebackville.

Unsuspecting sleepy little village, with your one small inn, your
general store, and your few stray farms! How famous on the map of movie
locations you were to become! How famous in many lands your soft, green
mountains, your gently purling streams, your fields of corn!

“The Mended Lute” would be Mr. Griffith’s catch-penny. The beauties he
had crowded in the little one-reeler should suffice to bowl over any
unsuspecting President. So this “Cuddebackville Special,” along with
several others that had collected awaiting Mr. Kennedy’s pleasure, was
projected for the authorities. And David signed up for another year at
an increase in salary and a doubling of his percentage. And he could go
to Cuddebackville whenever he so desired.

Of course, the next time _she_ went, and she had that “great automobile
ride” that he was saving for her.

Joy, but didn’t they become delirious, the actors slated for a
Cuddebackville week. A week in the mountains in August, with no hotel
bill, and pay checks every day! Few there were so ultra modern that
they would take no joy in the bleating of the lambs but would prefer
their city third floor back.

Much preparation for such a week. We had to see that our best blouse
was back from the laundry and our dotted swiss in order for evening,
our costumes right, and grease-paint complete, for any of us might be
asked to double up for Indians before the week was over.

It was a five-hour trip--a pretty one along the Hudson to West
Point--then through the Orange Mountains. Our journey ended at a little
station set in a valley sweet with tasseled corn and blossoming white
buckwheat. In the distance--mountains; near by--beckoning roads lined
with maples. It was the longest stop that an Ontario and Western train
had ever made at Cuddebackville. Such excitement and such a jam on
the little platform! No chance to slink in unnoticed as on the first
unpretentious visit.

“Were we sure it was the right place?” the conductor kept asking.

“Oh, yes, quite so.”

Damned if he could make it out. For we didn’t look like farmers come
to settle in the country; nor like fishermen come to cast for trout in
the Neversink--we had nothing with us that resembled expensive fishing
rods and boots; nor did we look like a strange religious sect come to
worship in our own way. No, nor might we have been one of a lost tribe
of Cuddebacks who after years of vain searching had at last discovered
the remote little spot where the first Monsieur Caudebec had pitched
his tent so far from his own dear France. As the train steamed on its
way, from the rear platform the conductor was still gazing, and I
thought he threw us a rather dirty look.

[Illustration: The most artistic fireside glow of the early days. From
“The Drunkard’s Reformation,” with Linda Griffith, Arthur Johnson and
Adele De Garde.

                                                          (_See p. 128_)

[Illustration: The famous “light effect.” From “Pippa Passes,” with
Gertrude Robinson.

                                                           (_See p. 97_)

An express wagon was waiting for our load of stuff--big wads of
canvas for the teepees, cameras, and costume baskets. A man in a red
automobile was also waiting--Mr. Predmore, who owned Caudebec Inn where
we were to stop. Mr. Griffith and Mr. Bitzer and a few other of the
important personages took their places in the automobile--the second
in the county--the “Red Devil” we afterwards called it. The actors
straggled along.

[Illustration: From “The Mills of the Gods,” with Linda Griffith and
Arthur Johnson.

                                                           (_See p. 49_)

[Illustration: Biograph’s first Western studio. Scene from “The
Converts,” with Linda Griffith, Arthur Johnson and Marion Leonard.

                                                          (_See p. 150_)

Caudebec Inn was no towering edifice--just a comfy place three stories
high, with one bathroom, a tiny parlor, rag-rugged, and a generously
sized dining-room whose cheerful windows looked upon apple orchards.
It was neat and spotlessly clean. On two sides were broad piazzas. The
inn faced the basin at the head of the old D. L. and W. Canal, and the
canal took its pretty way alongside for a mile or more until it spilled
itself over a busted dam (Mr. Kennedy’s I opined--it was the only one
about), making lovely rapids which later we used in many a thriller.

It was extremely fortunate that we were the only guests. We filled the
place. Such a thing as an actor having a room to himself, let alone a
bed, was as yet unheard of in those vagrant days. Mr. Powell doubled
and sometimes tripled them. Some actors got awfully Ritzy, resenting
especially the tripling, and at night would sneak downstairs hoping to
find a nice vacant hammock on the porch. But that had all been looked
into. The hammock would be occupied by some lucky devil whose snores
were being gently wafted on the soft summer breezes. Three in a bed,
two in a cot, or two in a hammock--the stringy old-fashioned kind of
hammock--which would offer the better comfort?

Immediately after lunch, the boss and Billy Bitzer, with Mr. Predmore
at the wheel, would depart in “The Red Devil” on a location hunt. The
carpenters must get right to work on their stockade. The actors were
soon busy digging out costumes and grease paint boxes, and getting made
up and costumed; for as soon as the chief returned, he would want to
grab a couple of scenes if the light still held. The making up was not
a quiet process. As the actors acquired brown grease paint and leather
trappings, animal skins and tomahawks--what a pow-wow!

When the Cuddeback farmer first met the Biograph Indian, “Gad,” thought
he, “what was the world coming to anyhow? Moving picture people? Smart
folks to have found their Cuddebackville. Who’d have believed it? New
York City actors riding up and down their roads, and stopping off to do
wicked stage acting right in front of their best apple tree.”

“Hey there, Hiram, how’ll five bucks suit you?”

Hiram was a bit deaf.

“No? Ten? All right, here she is.”

Hiram we won completely. He hoped we’d come often. And the Big Farmer’s
“help” were with us heart and soul. We sometimes used them for
“extras” and paid them five dollars. Back to the farm at five per week
after that? No, they’d wait and loaf until the “picture people” came
again. The picture people nearly demoralized the farming business in
Cuddebackville and environs--got the labor situation in a terrible mess.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was need for a stone house in “1776” or “The Hessian Renegades,”
and for “Leather Stocking”--a genuine pre-revolutionary stone house.
Three saddle horses were also needed. For the moment we were stumped.

Toward late afternoon when the light began to fail us, we would utilize
the time hunting the morrow’s locations. This fading hour found Billy
Bitzer, David, and myself (myself still in Janice Meredith costume and
curls of “1776”) enjoying the physical luxury of the “Red Devil,” but
mentally disturbed over the stone house and horses. We happened to
turn into a pretty road; we spied a beautiful gateway and beyond the
gateway, grassy slopes and wonderful trees and pools of quiet water.

“Let’s stop here a minute,” said Mr. Griffith. “Whose place is this?”

“I’d never go in there, if I were you,” answered Mr. Predmore. “That
place belongs to Mr. Goddefroy, he’s the wealthiest man around here;
won’t have an automobile on his place and is down on anybody who rides
in one; has fine stables and the automobiles are just beginning to
interfere with his horseback rides. I don’t know just how he’d receive
you. Anyhow I can’t drive you in in this car of mine.” So we parked
outside in the roadway.

“We’ve got to work in here, that’s all there is to it,” said David,
looking about. But where did anybody live? The road wound up and up.
Sheep nibbling on the velvet grass were mixed in with a few prize pigs
taking their siestas beneath beautiful copper beeches. “Certainly is
some place,” he continued. We had sauntered up the gravel road quite
to the hilltop before we saw coming towards us across the lawn, a
bright-eyed, pink-cheeked woman in simple gingham dress. She greeted us
pleasantly. The situation was explained and the lady replied, “Well,
that is very interesting, and as far as I am concerned you are quite
welcome to take some pictures here, but you must ask the boss first.”

Over by his stables we found the “Boss.”

“We’d like to take some pictures, please, on your beautiful place.”
Stone houses and horses we had quite forgotten for the moment in the
wealth of moving picture backgrounds the estate provided. “We’re
stopping up at the Inn for a week--doing some Fenimore Cooper stories,
and we are looking primarily for a stone house and some horses.”

“Have you seen the old stone house down below?”

“Stone house?” I repeated to myself; then to be sure, whispered to
Bitzer, “Did he say a _stone_ house?”

Bitzer replied, “Yes, he said a stone house.” Mr. Griffith managed to
pull himself together, but his answer came rather halting, “Why, why,

“Come along and I’ll show you. Maybe you can use it.”

Weak-kneed and still struggling for breath we trailed along--and when
we saw it--

Just built for us was the old stone house that had been on the place so
long that no one knew when it had been built. But we hesitated. “We’ll
have to bring horses, because the party leaves on horseback, and that
would mess up your place too much.”

“Oh, yes, I forgot, you haven’t your horses yet. I wonder if some
of ours would do,” said Mrs. Goddefroy, who was none other than the
gingham-clad lady.

Back to the stable we went, emotionally upset by now, but trying to
appear calm. We’d been quite reconciled to take a stab at it with the
rough work-horses of the Cuddebackville farmer; had thought to groom
them up a bit and let it go at that. But here were gentlemen’s horses.
Yes, gentlemen’s horses, but neither Miss Leonard nor myself rode, and
these spirited prancing creatures of the Goddefroy stables filled us
with alarm. I would look for something “gentle,” and not too young and
peppy, but with the characteristics of good breeding and training.

And that is how “Mother” and I met.

“Mother” is one of the treasured memories of my motion picture life.
What a gentle old mother she was! healthy, so lazy, and so safe. How
relieved I was--how at ease on her broad back. “Mother” ambled on the
scene and “Mother” ambled off; she ate the grasses and the flowers on
the canal bank; she was not a bit concerned over having her picture
taken. I have always felt the credit was wholly hers that my uncle, my
sister, and I made our journey safely until the bad Indians surprised
us going through the woods.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was lots of fun being invited on these location-hunting expeditions.
An automobile ride was luxury. These were the first and we were getting
them for nothing. No, the picture business was not so bad after all.

Back at the Inn the Indians would be changing from leather fringes and
feathered head dresses to their bathing suits. And when the location
party returned, they’d have reached the green slopes of the Big Basin
where, soap in hand, they would be sudsing off the brown bolamenia
from legs and arms before the plunge into the cool waters of the Big
Basin--a rinse and a swim “to onct.”

The girls who “did” Indians had the privacy of the one bathroom for
their cleaning up. So they were usually “pretty” again, lounging in
the hammocks or enjoying the porch rockers; a few would be over in the
spring house freshening up on healthful spring water; a few at the
General Store buying picture post-cards.

And then came dinner and in ones, twos, and threes, the company
strolled in--a hungry lot. Frail little Mrs. Predmore wondered would
she ever get the actors fed up. It took her the week usually, she
afterwards confided. When the cook would let her, she’d go into the
kitchen and make us lemon meringue pies. The actors were always hoping
the cook would leave, or get sick, or die, so Mrs. Predmore could cook
all the dinner.

Sometimes we were very merry at dinner. When Arthur Johnson would
arrive bowing himself gallantly in, in a manner bred of youthful
days as a Shakespearean actor with the Owen Dramatic Company, loud
and hearty applause would greet him, which he’d accept with all the
smiling, gracious salaams of the old-time ten, twenty, and thirty

       *       *       *       *       *

Evening at Cuddebackville!

The biggest thrill would be an automobile ride to Middletown, nine
miles away. If Mr. Predmore weren’t busy after dinner, he’d take us.
It was a joyful ride over the mountains to Middletown, quite the most
priceless fun of an evening. Every one was eager for it except the
little groups of twos, who, sentimentally inclined, were paddling a
canoe out on the basin or down the canal. There would be Mary Pickford
and Owen Moore, and James Kirkwood and Gertrude Robinson, and Stanner
E. V. Taylor and Marion Leonard, experiencing tense moments in the
silence broken only by the drip, drip of the paddle beneath the mellow
moon. Romance got well under way at Cuddebackville.

The evening divertisements became more complex as we became better
acquainted. “Wally” Walthall, Arthur Johnson, and Mack Sennett became
our principal parlor entertainers. “Wally” rendered old southern
ditties as only a true southern gentleman from Alabama could.

Arthur Johnson and Mack Sennett did good team-work; they were our Van
and Schenck. Arthur, who presided at the piano, had a sentimental
turn; he liked “The Little Grey Home in the West” kind of song, but the
future producer of movie comedies was not so sentimentally disposed. As
long as harmony reigned in the camp of Johnson and Sennett, there were
tuneful evenings for the musically inclined. But every now and then
Sennett would get miffed about something and never a do-re-mi would
be got out of him, and when Arthur’s nerves could stand the strain no
longer, he’d burst forth to the assemblage, “I wouldn’t mind if he’d
fuss with me, but this silence thing gets my goat.”

Those who cared not for the Song Festival could join Jeanie Macpherson
who, out in the dining-room, would be supervising stunts in the world
of black magic. Here Tony O’Sullivan could always be found. He told
hair-raising ghost stories and wound up the evening’s fun by personally
conducting a tour through the cemetery. The cemetery lay just beyond
the apple orchard, and along the canal bank to the back of the Inn.

Now were the moon bright, the touring party might get a glint of
lovers paddling by. Arrived back at the Inn, they might greet the “Red
Devil” returning with a small exclusive party from the Goddefroys--Mr.
Griffith and Miss Arvidson, Mr. Powell and Miss Hicks.

There was just one little touch of sin. Secluded in an outbuilding some
of the boys played craps, sometimes losing all their salary before they
got it. One of the men finally brought this wicked state of affairs to
Mr. Griffith’s attention, and there were no more crap games.

       *       *       *       *       *

In front of Caudebec Inn the “Red Devil” is snorting and getting
impatient to be started on her way to the station, for the actors are
strolling down the road ahead of her. Mr. Griffith and Mr. Predmore
are just finishing the final “settling up” of the board bill. Little
Mrs. Predmore looking tinier than ever--she seemed to shrivel during
our strenuous weeks--is gratefully sighing as she bids us farewell. She
was glad to see us come, and she was glad to see us go.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile, out in Hollywood, the Japs are still raising carnations,
and a few bungalow apartment houses are just beginning to sprout on
the Boulevard; but otherwise the foothills continue their, as yet,
undisturbed sleep beneath the California sunshine.



There was a frictional feeling in our return to prosaic studio
life after the glorious freedom of the country. But the new
“projections”--the pictures that had been printed and assembled in our
absence--would take the edge off and cheer us up some; we were all
a-thrill about seeing the first run of the pictures we had taken in the
country; and we were eager about the picture we were to do next.

During our absence we would have missed seeing not only our own
releases but those of the other companies, which, our day’s work
finished, we used to try to catch up on. Mondays and Thursdays had come
to be release days for Biograph pictures. Then at some theatres, came
whole evenings devoted to them. On these occasions exhibitors would put
a stand outside saying “Biograph Night.” After the first showing it was
a difficult job to locate a picture. From Tenth Avenue to Avenue A,
we’d roam, and no matter how hot, stuffy, or dirty the place might be,
we’d make the grade in time.

“Pippa Passes,” which was to make or unmake us, was all this time
hanging fire. Mr. Griffith was getting an all star cast intact. The
newly recruited James Kirkwood and Henry Walthall gave us two good men
who, with Owen Moore and Arthur Johnson, were all the actors needed.
For the women, there were Marion Leonard, Gertrude Robinson, and
myself. And little Mary Pickford whom our director had engaged with
Pippa in mind (?). When the day came to shoot Browning for the first
time, it was winsome Gertrude Robinson with black curls and dark blue
eyes who was chosen for the rôle of the spiritual Pippa. David thought
Mary had grown a bit plump; she no longer filled his mental image of
the type.

When at last we started on “Pippa Passes,” things went off with a bang.
Each of the four themes--Morn, Noon, Evening, Night--would be followed
by a flash of Pippa singing her little song.

It was “Morn” that intrigued. To show “daybreak” in Pippa’s little room
would mean trying out a new light effect. The only light effect so far
experimented with had been the “fireside glow.” The opportunity to try
a different kind so interested Mr. Griffith that before he began to
“shoot” Pippa, he had a scheme all worked out.

He figured on cutting a little rectangular place in the back wall of
Pippa’s room, about three feet by one, and arranging a sliding board
to fit the aperture much like the cover of a box sliding in and out of
grooves. The board was to be gradually lowered and beams of light from
a powerful Kleig shining through would thus appear as the first rays of
the rising sun striking the wall of the room. Other lights stationed
outside Pippa’s window would give the effect of soft morning light.
Then the lights full up, the mercury tubes a-sizzling, the room fully
lighted, the back wall would have become a regular back wall again,
with no little hole in it.

All this was explained to the camera men Billy Bitzer and Arthur
Marvin, for the whole technical staff was in attendance on the
production of this one thousand foot feature--one thousand feet being
the length of our features at this time. Bitzer didn’t think much of
the idea, but Arthur Marvin, who had seen his chief’s radical ideas
worked out successfully before, was less inclined to skepticism. But
response, on the whole, was rather snippy. While David would have
preferred a heartier appreciation, he would not be deterred, and he
spoke in rather plain words: “Well, come on, let’s do it anyhow; I
don’t give a damn what anybody thinks about it.”

Pippa is asleep in her little bed. The dawn is coming--a tense
moment--for Pippa must wake, sit up in her little bed, rise, cross to
the window, and greet the dawn in perfect harmony with the mechanical
force operating the sliding board and the Kleigs. All was manipulated
in perfect tempo.

The skeptical studio bunch remained stubborn until the first projection
of the picture upstairs. At first the comments came in hushed and awed
tones, and then when the showing was over, the little experiment in
light effects was greeted with uncontrolled enthusiasm.

“Pippa Passes” was released on October 4, 1909, a day of great anxiety.
We felt pretty sure it was good stuff, but we were wholly unprepared
for what was to happen. On the morning of October 10th, while we
were scanning the news items in the columns of the _New York Times_,
the while we imbibed our breakfast coffee, our unbelieving eyes were
greeted with a column headlined thus:


                     “Pippa Passes” the Latest Play
                        Without Words to be Seen
                          In the Nickelodeons

                        THE CLASSICS DRAWN UPON

                  Even Biblical Stories Portrayed For
                    Critical Audiences--Improvement
                        Due to Board of Censors

It was all too much--much too much. The newspapers were writing about
us. A conservative New York daily was taking us seriously. It seemed
incredible, but there it was before our eyes. It looked wonderful! Oh,
so wonderful we nearly wept. Suddenly everything was changed. Now we
could begin to lift up our heads, and perhaps invite our lit’ry friends
to our movies!

This is what the _New York Times_ man had to say:

    “Pippa Passes” is being given in the nickelodeons and Browning is
    being presented to the average motion picture audiences, who have
    received it with applause and are asking for more.

    This achievement is the present nearest-Boston record of the
    reformed motion picture play producing, but from all accounts
    there seems to be no reason why one may not expect to see soon
    the intellectual aristocracy of the nickelodeon demanding Kant’s
    Prolegomena to Metaphysics with the “Kritik of Pure Reason” for a
    curtain raiser.

    Since popular opinion has been expressing itself through the
    Board of Censors of the People’s Institute, such material as “The
    Odyssey,” the Old Testament, Tolstoy, George Eliot, De Maupassant
    and Hugo has been drawn upon to furnish the films, in place of the
    sensational blood-and-thunder variety which brought down public
    indignation upon the manufacturers six months ago. Browning,
    however, seems to be the most rarefied dramatic stuff up to date.

    As for Pippa without words, the first films show the sunlight
    waking Pippa for her holiday with light and shade effects like
    those obtained by the Secessionist Photographers.

    Then Pippa goes on her way dancing and singing. The quarreling
    family hears her, and forgets its dissension. The taproom brawlers
    cease their carouse and so on, with the pictures alternately
    showing Pippa on her way, and then the effect of her “passing”
    on the various groups in the Browning poem. The contrast between
    the tired business man at a roof garden and the sweatshop worker
    applauding Pippa is certainly striking. That this demand for the
    classics is genuine is indicated by the fact that the adventurous
    producers who inaugurated these expensive departures from cheap
    melodrama are being overwhelmed by offers from renting agents.
    Not only the nickelodeons of New York but those of many less
    pretentious cities and towns are demanding Browning and the other
    “high-brow” effects.

There certainly was a decided change in the general attitude toward
us after this wonderful publicity. Directly we had ’phone calls from
friends saying they would like to go to the movies with us; and they
would just love to come down to the studio and watch a picture being
made. Even our one erudite friend, a Greek scholar, inquired where
he could see “Pippa Passes.” As the picture was shown for only one
night, we thought it might be rather nice to invite the dead-language
person and his wife to the studio. They came and found it intensely
interesting: met Mary Pickford and thought her “sweet.”

Besides the Greek professor, another friend, one of the big men of the
Old Guard--an old newspaper man, and president and editor of _Leslie’s
Weekly_ and _Judge_ at this time--began making inquiries.

The night the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New York City opened, David thought
it wouldn’t be a bad idea to splurge a bit and invite Mr. Sleicher to
dinner, he being the editor who had paid him six dollars for his poem,
“The Wild Duck.” He’d surely think we had come a long pace ahead in the
movies, dining at the Ritz, and doing it so casual-like.

Talk there was at the dinner about newspapers and magazines, and then
we got around to the movies, and the money they were making. Mr.
Sleicher said: “Well, there’s more money in them than in my business,
but I like my business better. Now in my game, twenty-four hours or
even less, after a thing happens you can see a picture of it and read
about it in the paper, and you can’t do that in your movies.” (I
understand that even before the time of this dinner, events of special
interest occasionally found their way to the screen on the day they
happened. In London, in 1906, the Urbanora people showed the boat race
between Cambridge and Harvard Universities on the evening of the day
they were held, but we did not know about that.)

Mr. Griffith was not going to be outdone; so, with much bravado, for
he was quite convinced of its truth, he said: “Well, we are not doing
it now, but the time will come when the day’s news events will be
regularly pictured on the screen with the same speed the ambitious
young reporter gets his scoop on the front page of his newspaper. We’ll
have all the daily news told in moving pictures the same as it is told
in words on the printed page. Now, I’m willing to bet you.”

But John Sleicher was skeptical. Had he not been, he would then and
there have invested some of his pennies in the movies. He regretted the
opportunity many times afterward, for while the prediction has not been
fulfilled exactly, the News Reel of to-day gives promise that it will
be. However, Mr. Sleicher lived to enjoy the News Reel quite as much as
he did his newspaper, and that meant a great deal for him.

These little happenings were encouraging. Intelligent persons on the
outside were taking interest. So again we’d buck up and go at the movie
job with renewed vigor.

For a time we lived in the clouds--our habitat a mountain peak. But
that couldn’t last. No kind of mountain peak existence could. We should
have known. Even after all the encouragement, down off our peak we’d
slip into the deep dark valley again.

We tried to keep an unswerving faith, but who could have visioned the
great things that were to come? Doubts still persisted. Yes, even
after the Browning triumph, longings came over us to return to former
ambitions. They had not been buried so deeply after all. We’d see a
fine play and get the blue devils. In this mood my husband would do the
rounds of the movie houses and chancing upon a lot of bad pictures,
come back utterly discouraged.

“They can’t last. I give them a few years. Where’s my play? Since I
went into these movies I haven’t had a minute to look at a thing I
ever wrote. And I went into them because I thought surely I’d get time
to write or do something with what I had.” (Monetary needs so soon
forgotten!) “Well, anyhow, nobody’s going to know I ever did this sort
of thing when I’m a famous playwright. Nobody’s ever going to know that
David W. Griffith, the playwright, was once the Lawrence Griffith of
the movies.”

So “Lawrence” continued on the next Biograph contract. The two names
would get all balled up sometimes and I’d get peeved and say: “Why
don’t you use your right name? I think you’re so silly.”

But David remained obdurate until he signed his third Biograph



One thing was sure--the pictures were making money. The percentage
told that story. What a thrill we got at the first peek at the royalty
check each month. Made us nervous. Where were we headed? Sometimes we
almost wished that financially we were not succeeding so well, for
then we would have quitted the movies. But wouldn’t that have been a
crazy thing to do? A year of fifty-two working weeks? At the rate we
were going, we could keep at it for three years, and quit with twelve
thousand in the bank, then David could write plays and realize his
youthful ambition.

We lived simply. When the royalty check before the end of the second
year amounted to nine hundred and a thousand a month, we still
maintained a thirty-five-dollar-a-month apartment. Never dreamed of
getting stylish. No time for it. So each month there was a nice little
roll to bank, and it was put right into the Bowery Savings Bank. The
only trouble with a savings bank was they wouldn’t accept more than
three thousand dollars, so we secured a list of them and I went the
rounds depositing honest movie money with a rapidity quite unbelievable.

[Illustration: A desert caravan of the early days.

                                                          (_See p. 197_)

[Illustration: From “The Last Drop of Water,” one of the first
two-reelers, produced in San Fernando desert, with Jeanie Macpherson
(seated, front row).

                                                          (_See p. 197_)

The Griffiths were not the only thrifty ones. When Mary Pickford was
getting one hundred a week, her mother wept because she wouldn’t
buy pretty clothes. At Mount Beacon this happened. One of the perky
little ingénue-ish extra girls appeared in a frock decidedly not
home-made. You could count on it that it had come either from Macy’s or
Siegel-Cooper’s Eighteenth Street store, and that it had cost a whole
week’s wages. Not much escaped Ma Smith’s eagle eye, and so she wailed:
“I wish Mary would buy clothes like the other girls.” But Mary, the
same simple, unaffected Mary that a year since had said “thank you” for
her twenty-five, was quite contented to continue wearing the clothes
her mama made her, and at that a few would do.

[Illustration: Mabel Normand with Lee Dougherty, Jr., “off duty.”

                                                          (_See p. 204_)

A few years after this time I met Mary in Macy’s one summer day and
hardly recognized her. She had grown thin and had acquired style. I
admired her smart costume and said: “Nice suit, Mary, I’m looking for
one. Mind telling me where you found it?” But Mary, with a note of
boredom, so unlike the Mary I’d known, answered: “Oh, my aunt brought
me six from Paris.”

“Mary, you haven’t forgotten how we used to strike bargains with the
salesman at Hearn’s on Fourteenth Street, have you?”

“Oh,” said Mary, quickly coming back to earth and proving greatness but
a dream, “wasn’t it fun? Let’s go over to the Astor and have tea.”

Across from Macy’s, Mary’s first bus was parked and young brother Jack
was chauffing. When we hopped into the car, we found a very disgruntled
youth who, having waited longer than he thought he ought to have, gave
me a stony stare and never spoke a word. As far as young Jack Smith was
concerned, I’d never been on earth before.

We wondered about Mack Sennett. Would he ever buy a girl an ice
cream soda? Marion Leonard said it would be his birthday if he ever
did. But the day arrived when Mack Sennett did open up. He bought a
seventy-five-dollar diamond necklace for Mabel Normand, and then after
some misunderstanding between himself and Mabel, proving he had a head
for business, he offered it to different members of the company for
eighty-five dollars.

Spike Robinson, who used to box with Mr. Griffith and who now boxes
with Douglas Fairbanks, looms up as the one generous member of the
company, being willing always to buy the girls ice cream sodas or
lemonade or sarsaparilla--the refreshments of our age of innocence.

       *       *       *       *       *

The fall of 1909 brought to the studio a number of new women who
proved valuable additions to our company. Stephanie Longfellow, who
was a _bona fide_ niece of the poet Henry, was one of them. Her first
pictures were released in August. They were “The Better Way” and “A
Strange Meeting.” Miss Longfellow was quite a different type from
her predecessors and her work was delightful. She was a refreshing
personality with unusual mental attainments. “_She’s_ a lady,” said the
director. Some ten years ago Miss Longfellow retired to domestic life
via a happy marriage outside the profession.

Handsome Mrs. Grace Henderson became our grande dame of quality,
breezing in from past glories of “Peter Pan” (having played _Peter’s_
Mother) and of the famous old Daly Stock Company.

Another grande dame of appearance distinguished, drawing modest pay
checks occasionally, and with a cultural family background most unusual
for a stage mother, was Caroline Harris. Miss Harris, otherwise Mrs.
Barthelmess, and mother of ten-year-old Dicky Barthelmess, was one
stage mother not supported by her child. Only when home on a vacation
from military school did Dicky work in a picture. He made his début
with Mrs. Tom Ince, and his little heart was quite broken when he
discovered his only scene had been cut out.

Miss Harris’s first stage appearance had been with Benjamin Chapin
playing _Mrs. Lincoln_ in “Lincoln at the White House,” afterwards
called “Honest Abe.” Her first part in the movies was in De
Maupassant’s “The Necklace,” in which Rose King played the lead. Miss
Harris had learned of the Biograph through a girl who jobbed at the
studio, Helen Ormsby, the daughter of a Brooklyn newspaper man.

Mabel Trunelle had a rather crowded hour at the Biograph. She had had
considerable experience at the Edison studio and was well equipped in
movie technique. She had come on recommendation of her husband, Herbert
Pryor, and she succeeded, even though a wife--which was unusual, for
wives of the good actors were not popular around the studio. If an
actor wanted to keep on the right side of the director, he left his
wife at home; that meant a sacrifice often enough, for there were times
without number when women were needed and a wife could have been used
and the five dollars kept in the family, but the majority preferred not
to risk it. Dell Henderson and George Nichols succeeded quite well with
this “wife” business, but they seem to have been the only ones besides
Mr. Pryor.

Florence Barker, a good trouper who had had stock experience in Los
Angeles, her home town, now happened along to enjoy popularity, and
to become Frank Powell’s leading woman. Through her Eleanor Kershaw,
sister to Willette, and wife to the late Thomas H. Ince, happened to
come to the Biograph.

Quite the most pathetic figure at the studio was Eleanor Kershaw
Ince. In deep mourning for her mother who had just been killed in an
accident, and all alone, with a tiny baby at home, she put in brave
hours for her little five-dollar bills. When six o’clock came and her
work was not finished, how she fretted about her little one. That baby,
Tom Ince’s eldest child “Billy,” is now a husky lad and he probably
doesn’t know how we all worried over him then. Miss Kershaw played sad
little persons such as the maid in “The Course of True Love,” flower
girls, and match girls, in wispy clothes, on cold November days,
offering their wares on the streets of Coytesville and Fort Lee.

There was the blond and lily-like Blanche Sweet, an undeveloped child
too young to play sweethearts and wives, but a good type for the more
insignificant parts, such as maids and daughters. David wanted to use
her this first winter in a picture called “Choosing a Husband,” so he
tried her out, but finding her so utterly unemotional, he dismissed her
saying, “Oh, she’s terrible.” Then he tried Miss Barker and had her
play the part. But he directed Miss Sweet in her first picture, “All on
Account of a Cold.”

Mr. Powell liked Miss Sweet’s work, and so did Doc, and so Mr. Powell
used her in the first picture he directed, “All on Account of the
Milk.” Mr. Powell was rehearsing in the basement of No. 11 while Mr.
Griffith was doing the same upstairs. Mary Pickford played the daughter
and Blanche Sweet, the maid, and in the picture they change places.

On the back porch of a little farmhouse a rendezvous takes place with
the milkman. It was bitterly cold, and even though the girls wore
woolen dresses under their cotton aprons, they looked like frozen
turnips. The scenes being of tense love, the girls were supposed to
be divinely rapturous and to show no discomfort--not even know it
was winter. But the breathing was a different matter, for as young
Blanche uttered endearing words to her lover, a white cloud issued
from her mouth. Now that would look dreadful on the screen. So in the
nervousness of the situation Mr. Powell yelled at her, “Stop talking,
just _look_ at him, this is supposed to be summer.” She obeyed, when
from her delicate nostrils came a similar white line of frosted breath
at which the director, now wholly beside himself, yelled, “Stop
breathing, what kind of a picture do you think this will be, anyhow.”
So little Blanche proceeded to strangle for a few moments while we
secured a few feet of summer.

In “The Day After”--four hundred and sixty feet of a New Year’s party
picture, showing what a youngster she was, Blanche Sweet played _Cupid_.

Kate Bruce had become the leading character woman. Little Christie
Miller, frail, white, and bent, played the kindly old men, while Vernon
Clarges interpreted the more pompous, distinguished elderly ones. Daddy
Butler was mostly just a nice kind papa, and George Nichols played a
diversified range of parts--monks, rugged Westerners, and such. George
Nichols had been a member of the old Alcazar and Central Theatres in
San Francisco, where Mr. Griffith in his stranded actor days had worked.

Of the children, little Gladys Egan did remarkable work playing many
dramatic leading parts. Her performance in “The Broken Doll” should be
recorded here. Adele de Garde was another nine-year-old child wonder.
These children were not comiques. They were tragediennes and how they
could tear a passion to tatters! The Wolff children sufficed well in
infantile rôles. Their mother kept a dramatic agency for children.

Boys were little in demand, and as Mary Pickford usually had her family
handy, we came to use little Jack--he was at this time nine years old.
He created quite a stir about the old A. B. He even managed to make
himself the topic of conversation at lunch time and other off-duty
hours. “Had he a future like sister Mary?” We were even then ready to
grant Mary a future.

Lottie was discussed too, but in a more casual way. No one was
especially interested in Lottie. Mary was very hesitant in bringing her
to the studio; she confided that Lottie was not pretty and she didn’t
think she’d be good in the movies. She was the tomboy of the family and
she loved nothing better than to play baseball with the boys, and when
later she did become a Biograph player she had her innings at many a

For a year and a half that had winged its way, my husband and I had
kept our secret well, although a something was looming that might make
us spill it. There had been nervous moments. Only three people at the
studio knew the facts of the case, Wilfred Lucas, Paul Scardon, and
Harry Salter. But Wilfred Lucas, whose hospitality we’d frequently
enjoyed, never betrayed us.

Nor did Paul Scardon. I don’t remember Mr. Scardon doing any work
of consequence at the Biograph, but he eventually connected up with
the Vitagraph, becoming one of its directors. He discovered Betty
Blythe, developed her from an unknown extra girl to a leading woman of
prominence. After the death of his first wife, he married her. Miss
Blythe has been a big star for some years now and while Mr. Scardon
has not been directing her, he travels with her to distant enchanting
lands, to Egypt, the Riviera, and such places where Miss Blythe has
been working on big feature pictures. It was under William Fox’s banner
that Miss Blythe first came into prominence. The picture was “The Queen
of Sheba.”

Lucas and Scardon were friends of ours before our marriage, but Harry
Salter was the only person about the studio in whom David had confided.
And I wasn’t told a thing about it. Helping to purloin Florence
Lawrence from the Vitagraph, Mr. Salter had just naturally fallen in
love with her and they had been secretly married, and no one knew
it but Mr. Griffith. A fellow-feeling probably had made David a bit
confidential--an unusual thing for him. It was one day, on a little
launch going to Navesink. My husband was in the front of the boat, his
back to us. Harry and Florence and I were seated aft. We were quietly
enjoying the ride, not a word being spoken, when Harry Salter, pointing
to a hole in the heel of David’s stocking, at the same time turned to
me and with a knowing smile said, “Miss Arvidson, look!”

The something that was looming that would make us reveal our
well-concealed secret, was a trip to California to escape the bad
eastern weather of January, February and March.

Now I did not intend to spend three nights on the Santa Fé Limited
in a Lower Eight, or an Upper Three, when there was the luxury of a
drawing-room at hand. Nor was it my husband’s wish either. I felt I
had earned every little five-per-day I’d had from the Biograph and had
minded my own business sufficiently well to share comfort with the
director. Yes, I would take my place as that most unwelcome person--the
director’s wife. So when the tickets were being made up, Mr. Hammer
was brought into the secret, but he just couldn’t believe it. But Mr.
Dougherty said: “Well, that is bringing coal to Newcastle.” Nobody
could understand what he meant by this, but that is what he said.



After shivering through one Eastern winter, trying to get the
necessary outdoor scenes for our pictures, we concluded that it
would be to our advantage to pack up the wardrobe, the cameras, and
other paraphernalia, get a little organization together, and with a
portmanteau of Western scripts hie ourselves to the city of Los Angeles.

We weren’t the first to go there. Selig already had a studio there.
Frank Boggs had brought a little company of Selig players to Los
Angeles in the early days of 1908. The next company that reached the
coast was that of the New York Motion Picture Patents Corporation,
making the Bison brand of pictures. They had arrived in Los Angeles
about Thanksgiving, 1909--seventeen players under the command of Fred

Kalem was taking pictures in Los Angeles, too. I felt very much annoyed
one night, shortly before we left New York, to see a Kalem picture with
Carlyle Blackwell and Alice Joyce having a petting party in Westlake

How we did buzz around, those last weeks in New York! Mr. Powell’s
company worked nights to keep up the two one-thousand-foot releases per

News was already being broadcast that it was quite O.K. down at the
Biograph if you got in right--that they were doing good things and
were going to send a company to California for the winter, which would
mean a regular salary for the time away.

And so arrived Mr. Dell Henderson, who became leading man for the night
company at five per night. The demands for physical beauty that he had
to fulfil certainly should have earned more than the ordinary five.
He had to be so handsome that his jealous wife prevails upon thugs to
waylay him and scar for life his manly beauty so that the admiring
women will let him alone.

This movie, “The Love of Lady Irma,” was one of the first pictures Mr.
Powell directed. Florence Barker, who became the leading woman for the
No. 2 California Comedy Company, played _Lady Irma_, the jealous wife.
She had joined the company in December, her first picture being “The
Dancing Girl of Butte,” in which she was cast with Owen Moore and Mack

It was in these days that Eleanor Kershaw did her bit; also Dorothy
West and Ruth Hart. Miss Hart, now Mrs. Victor Moore and the mother of
two children, played the sweet domestic wife, a rôle Mr. Griffith felt
she was a good exponent of, and which she has successfully continued in
her private life.

Frank Grandin appears in his first leading part, playing _The Duke_
in “The Duke’s Plan”; and our atmospheric genial Englishman, Charles
Craig, affiliated the same month, playing opposite Mary Pickford in
“The Englishman and the Girl.”

The studio was now a busy place. A Civil War picture had to be rushed
through before we could get away. Mr. Powell was busy engaging actors
for it and had just completed his cast of principals when he bumped
into an actor friend, Tommy Ince. It seems Mr. Ince at the moment was
“broke.” Apologetically, Mr. Powell said he couldn’t offer anything
much, but if Mr. Ince didn’t mind coming in as an “extra” he would
give him ten dollars for the day. This quite overcame Tom Ince and he
stammered forth, “Glory be”--or words to that effect--“I’d be glad to
get five.” Only one part did Tom Ince play with Biograph and that was
in “The New Lid” with Lucille Lee Stewart, Ralph Ince’s wife and sister
of Anita Stewart.

I happened to call on Eleanor Hicks Powell one evening in the summer
of 1912 when our only Biograph baby, Baden Powell, had reached the
creeping age. During the evening Mr. and Mrs. Tom Ince dropped in. Of
course, we talked “movies.” Mr. Ince was worrying about an offer he’d
had to go to California as manager and leading director of the 101
Ranch, Kaybee Company, for one hundred and twenty-five dollars per
week, as I remember. He offered me forty dollars to go out as leading
woman, but I couldn’t see the Indians. Mr. Ince couldn’t see them
either--but it was the best offer that had come his way.

Mr. Ince made a great success out of the 101 Ranch, but having
ambitions to do the “high-class,” he moved on in quest of it. Took to
developing stars like Charles Ray, Enid Markey, and Dorothy Dalton;
became one of the Triangle outfit with David Griffith and Mack Sennett;
exploited dramatic stars like George Beban, Billie Burke, and Enid
Bennett; did “Civilization”--but _after_ “The Birth of a Nation.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Who was to go to California and who wasn’t? Ah, that was the question!
Some husbands didn’t care to leave their wives, and as they couldn’t
afford to take them, they were out. Some didn’t mind the separation.
Some of the women had ties; if not husbands, mothers; and the
California salary would not be big enough to keep up two homes. Some
didn’t want to leave New York; and some who should have known they
didn’t have a ghost of a chance wept sad and plentiful tears whenever
the director looked their way. One of these was Jeanie Macpherson.
Jeanie didn’t go along this first time.

A few days after Christmas was the time of the first hegira to the land
of the eucalyptus and the pepper tree. It was a big day.

We were going to Los Angeles to take moving pictures, and Hollywood
didn’t mean a thing. Pasadena the company knew about. Like Palm Beach,
it was where millionaires sojourned for two months during the Eastern
winter. San Gabriel Mission they’d seen photos of, and counted on using
it in pictures. They understood there were many beaches accessible by
trolley; and residential districts like West Adams; even Figueroa, the
home of Los Angeles’s first millionaires, was a fine avenue then; and
Westlake and Eastlake Parks which were quite in town. But they didn’t
know Edendale from the Old Soldiers’ Home at Sawtelle. San Pedro? Yes,
that was where the steamers arrived from San Francisco. San Fernando?
Well, yes, there was a Mission there too, but it was rather far away,
and right in the heart of a parched and cactus-covered desert. Mt. Lowe
was easy--there was the incline railway to help us to the top.

Four luxurious days on luxurious trains before we would sight the palms
and poinsettias that were gaily beckoning to us across the distances.

Let us away!

The company departed via the Black Diamond Express on the Lehigh
Valley, which route meant ferry to Jersey City. A late arrival in
Chicago allowed just comfortable time to make the California Limited
leaving at 8 P.M.

The company was luxurious for but three days.

It was only Mr. R. H. Hammer, my husband, and myself who had been
allotted four full days of elegance. We _de luxe’d_ out of New York via
the Twentieth Century Limited. I had come into my own.

Mr. Powell was in charge of the company and so he checked them off on
arrival at the ferry--Marion Leonard, Florence Barker, Mary Pickford,
Dorothy West, Kate Bruce, the women; George Nichols, Henry Walthall,
Billy Quirk, Frank Grandin, Charlie West, Mack Sennett, Dell Henderson,
Arthur Johnson, Daddy Butler, Christie Miller, Tony O’Sullivan, and
Alfred Paget, the men. There were three wives who were actresses also,
Eleanor Hicks, Florence Lee (Mrs. Dell Henderson), and Mrs. George
Nichols. And there were two camera men, Billy Bitzer and Arthur Marvin;
a scenic artist, Eddie Shelter; a carpenter or two, and two property
boys, Bobbie Harron and Johnny Mahr.

No theatrical job had come along for Mary Pickford, and the few summer
months she had intended spending in “the pictures” would lengthen into
a full year now that she had decided to go with us to California. Her
salary was still small: it was about forty dollars a week at this time.

Frank Powell had a busy hour at the Ferry Building although Mr.
Griffith was there also to see that all the company got on board. He
had not anticipated too smooth an exit. Nor did he get it, even though
he had taken well into account his temperamentalists. And sure enough,
Arthur Johnson and Charlie West arrived breathless and hatless, fresh
from an all-night party, just as the last gong rang.

And while David was nervously awaiting them and while dear relatives
were weeping their fond farewells, the Pickford family chose the
opportune moment to put on a little play of their own.

Ma Smith, it seems, had made up her mind that a last minute hold-up
might succeed in forcing Mr. Griffith to raise Mary’s salary--I’m not
sure whether it was five or ten dollars a week. So they held a little
pow-wow on the subject, right on the dock, in the midst of all the
excitement; and Jack began to cry because he wasn’t going along with
his big sister; and Owen Moore between saying sad good-byes to Mary,
hoped the boss might relent and give him the ten extra he had held out
for, for Los Angeles.

For, much as Owen loved Mary and Mary loved Owen, he let a few dollars
part them for the glorious season out in California.

Well, anyhow, little Jack’s tears and Mother Smith’s talk and pretty
Mary’s gentle but persistent implorations did not get her the ten
dollars extra. David had something up his sleeve he knew would calm the
Smith family, and make them listen to reason, and he delivered it with
a firm finality.

“Now I’ve got little Gertie Robinson all ready to come on at a moment’s
notice. Mary goes without the five (or ten) or not at all.”

Mary went. Then Jack began to bawl. It was a terrible family parting.
So Mr. Griffith compromised and said he’d take Jack and give him three
checks a week, fifteen dollars. The company paid his fare, of course,
for we had extra tickets and plenty of room for one small boy in the
coaches at our disposal.

It was a pleasant trip, especially for those who had not been to
California before. Some found card games so engrossing that they never
took a peek at the scenery. Some, especially Mary and Dorothy West,
oh’d and ah’d so that Arthur Johnson, thinking the enthusiasm a bit
overdone, began kidding the scenery lovers. “Oh, lookit, lookit,”
Arthur would exclaim when the gushing was at its height.

The “Biograph Special” we were. We had rare service on the train.
We had every attention from the dining-car steward. Had we not been
allowed three dollars per day for meals on the train? And didn’t we
spend it? For the invigorating air breathed from the observation
platform gave us healthy appetites.

At San Bernardino (perhaps the custom still survives, I don’t know,
for now when I go to Los Angeles, I go via the Overland Limited to
San Francisco instead) we each received a dainty bouquet of pretty,
fragrant carnations. Flowers for nothing! We could hardly believe our

At last we were there! Mr. Hammer gallantly suggested, although it
was afternoon, that the women of the company go to a hotel at the
Biograph’s expense, until they located permanent quarters. So the
ladies were registered at the Alexandria, then but lately opened, and
shining and grand it was. Although they made but a short stay there,
they attracted considerable attention. One day Mary Pickford stepped
out of the Alexandria’s elevator just as William Randolph Hearst was
entering. Seeing Mary, he said, “I wonder who that pretty girl is.” And
one night at dinner, between sips of his ale, indicating our table
which was but one removed from his, Mr. Hearst wondered some more as to
who the people were.

The players were quite overcome at the company’s hospitality. It was
quite different from traveling with a theatrical road show where you
had to pay for sleepers and meals, and where you might be dumped out at
a railroad station at any hour of the cold gray dawn, with a Miners’
Convention occupying every bed and couch in the town, and be left
entirely to your own resources.

I may be wrong, but I think Mr. Grey of the office force (but not the
Mr. Grey of the present Griffith organization; it was years before
his movie affiliation, and the Biograph’s Mr. Grey has been dead some
years now) went out to California ahead of the company to make banking
arrangements and look around for a location for the studio.

On Grand Avenue and Washington Street, hardly ten minutes by trolley
from Broadway and Fifth, and seven by motor from our hotel, mixed in
with a lumber yard and a baseball park, was a nice vacant lot. It was
surrounded by a board fence six feet or so in height, high enough to
prevent passers-by from looking in on us. Just an ordinary dirt lot, it
was. In the corners and along the fence-edges the coarse-bladed grass,
the kind that grows only in California, had already sprouted, and
otherwise it looked just like a small boy’s happy baseball ground. It
was selected for the studio.

[Illustration: Joe Graybill, Blanche Sweet and Vivian Prescott, in “How
She Triumphed.”

                                                          (_See p. 184_)

A stage had to be rigged up where we could take “interiors,” for while
we intended doing most of our work “on location,” there would have to
be a place where we could lay a carpet and place pieces of furniture
about for parlor, bedroom--but not bath. As yet modesty had deterred
us from entering that sanctum of tiles, porcelain, cold cream, and
rose-water jars. Mr. C. B. DeMille was as yet a bit away in the offing,
and Milady’s ablutions and Milord’s Gilette were still matters of a
private nature--to the movies.

[Illustration: Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand and Fred Mace, in a
“Keystone Comedy.”

                                                          (_See p. 204_)

[Illustration: Lunch on the “lot,” Biograph’s “last word” studio, the
second year. Left to right: Mack Sennett, William Beaudine, Eddie
Dillon, Vivian Prescott.

                                                          (_See p. 202_)

A load of wood was ordered from our neighbor, and the carpenters set
about to fix up a stage and some dressing-rooms: we couldn’t dress and
make up in our hotels, that was sure, nor could we do so in the open
spaces of our “lot.”

Our stage, erected in the center of the lot, was merely a wooden floor
raised a few feet off the ground and about fifty feet square, of rough
splintery wood, and when we “did” Western bar-rooms--_au naturel_--it
was just the thing.

Two small adjoining dressing-rooms for the men soon came into being;
then similar ones for the women. They looked like tiny bath-houses as
they faced each other across the lot. They sufficed, however. There
were no quarrels as to where the star should dress. When there were
extras, they dressed in relays, and sometimes a tent was put up.

Telegraph poles ran alongside the studio and after our business
became known in the neighborhood, and especially on days when we were
portraying strenuous drama and got noisy, up these poles the small boys
would clamber and have a big time watching the proceedings and throwing
us friendly salutations which didn’t always help along the “action.”

       *       *       *       *       *

A place had to be found where our camera men could develop the film
and we could see the results of our work, for when a picture left Los
Angeles it must be complete and ready for release, so down on Spring
Street and Second, a loft was rented for a few dollars a month. It was
a roomy, though dingy, barn of a place, but it served our purpose well.
A tiny dark room was boarded off and fixed up for the developing, and a
place set apart for the printing. The huge wheels on which the prints
were dried stood boldly apart in the room. There was a little desk for
cutting and splicing. At the head of the room furthest from the windows
a screen was set, and a sort of low partition about midway the length
of the loft hemmed in the projection room.

When things had settled into a routine, and on rainy days, we rehearsed
and worked out scenarios up in our loft. We also had the costumes
delivered there. The loft was always accessible, and we spent many
evenings seeing projections and getting our things together for an
early morning start.

Across the street from the loft was a famous old eating place,
Hoffman’s, where my husband and I dined when we returned late or too
weary to dress for the more pretentious hotel dining-room. It was a bit
expensive for some of the company, but convenient to our headquarters
was one of those market places, indigenous to Los Angeles, where
violets and hams commingled on neighborly counters, that served good
and inexpensive food on a long white enameled table where guests sat
only on one side, on high, spindly stools. It was patronized generously
by the actors for breakfast and lunch, when we were working in the
downtown studio. Here Mary Pickford and brother Jack and Dorothy West
were regular patrons.

While the studio was being put in shape, the members of the company
had been scooting about looking for suitable places to live. Salaries
were not so large, but that economy had to be practiced, even with
the fourteen dollars a week expense money allowed every member of the

Mary Pickford had brother Jack to look after, and she decided that
if she clubbed in with some of the girls and they all found a place
together it would be cheaper, and also not so lonely for her. So
Mary, with Jack, and two of the young girls--Dorothy West and Effie
Johnson--thirty-dollar-a-weekers, found shelter in a rooming house
called “The Lille.” It was on South Olive and Fifth Streets, but it is
there no more. The four had rooms here for three and a half per week
per person.

But the quartette didn’t stay long at “The Lille”--decided they needed
hotel conveniences. So they scurried about and located finally for the
winter at the New Broadway Hotel on North Broadway and Second Streets.
Here they lived in comfort, if not in style, with two rooms and a
connecting bath, for five fifty per week per person.

When we got going, Mr. Griffith was rather glad Jack Smith was along,
for with the two companies working we found we could use a small boy
quite often. So Jack earned his fifteen a week regularly that first
California winter.

The men of the company were all devoted to little Jack. He would sit
around nights watching them play poker, sometimes until 3 A.M.; he
didn’t want to be forever at the movies with his big sister. Mary
allowed Jack fifty cents a night for his dinner; he’d connect up
somewhere or other with his pals, in any event with his big brother
Dell Henderson, and they would make a night of it.

We were to be no proud owners of an automobile, but rented one by the
hour at four dollars for car and chauffeur. The director and his camera
man and persons playing leads would travel by motor to location while
the others would trolley. As Los Angeles had, even then, the most
wonderful system of trolleys in the world, there were few places, no
matter how remote, that could not be reached by electric car.

Sunday came to be a big day for the automobile, for on that day we
scouted for the week’s locations--that is, after David had made out his
weekly expenses, his Sunday morning job.

Here is a sample, recorded in almost illegible pen-and-ink longhand:

  Luncheon (30 actors)                                   $ 7.50
  Carfare (30 actors, location both ways)                 15.00
  Automobile (so many hours $4. per)                     100.00
  Locations (gratuities for using people’s places)        20.00
  Incidentals                                             17.00
  Extras (not actors, not incidentals either)             11.00

Those sufficiently interested may add.



We would not have been true to the traditions of the Golden State had
we not used a Mission in our first picture. We meant to do our very
best right off and send back a knock-out.

So to San Gabriel we went to get the lovely old Mission atmosphere in a
picture called “Threads of Destiny.”

We spread ourselves; we took the Mission front, back and sideways,
inside and out; we used the worn old stairway, shaded by a fragrant
pepper tree, that led to the choir loft: we even planted lilies--or
rather, Mary Pickford as _Myrtle_, the orphan girl of San Gabriel,
planted lilies--along the adobe wall of the old cemetery where slept
baptized Indians and Mexicans.

It was pleasant sprawling about in the lazy sunshine. We who were
“atmosphere” wandered about the cemetery, reading the old tombstones,
and had the priest guide us through the Mission showing us its
three-hundred-year-old treasures. And across the way we visited the
curio shop where we bought pretty post-cards and ate _tamales_, real
Mexican _tamales_.

We would experiment on this Mission picture. We wanted a dim, religious
light, and here it was, and we wanted to get it on the screen as it
looked to us, the real thing. One little window let in an afternoon
slant of soft sunshine that fell directly upon the pulpit where
Christie Miller, playing an old priest, was to stand and bless the
congregation. If we could light up Christie, the devout worshipers
could be mere shadows and it would look fine--just what we wanted.
Billy Bitzer would “get” it if it could be got, that we knew. So while
Billy was tuning up his camera, Bobby Harron came and gathered in the
congregation from the curio shop and cemetery, and we quietly took
our places in the chapel and did our atmospheric bit. We did pray--we
prayed that it would be a good effect.

We rather held our breath at the picture’s first showing until his
tricky scene was flashed on the screen. Then we relaxed; it was all

Spanish California was not to be neglected this trip, and our next
picture, a romance of the Spanish dominion, called “In Old California”
is historical as the first Biograph to be taken in Hollywood. The
Hollywood Inn was at this time the only exclusive winter resort between
the city and the ocean. We needed rooms where we could make up and
dress, and Mr. Anderson, the genial young proprietor, welcomed us

Marion Leonard was playing the beautiful Spanish señorita in this movie
and Frank Grandin the handsome young lover who afterwards became the
governor of California. As we came out of the hotel in our make up and
Spanish finery and quietly drove off into the foothills, guests were
lolling on the broad front porch. With a start they came to. Whatever
in the world was happening! “Did you see those people? What is it?
What’s going on? Let’s get our motor and follow them and see,” said

We had selected what we thought a remote and secluded spot in the
foothills, but soon in ones and twos and threes the guests appeared.
For a time they seemed well-behaved spectators; they kept quiet and
in the background. But Miss Leonard’s dramatic scenes proved too much
for them. They resented the love-making and began making derogatory
comments about movie actors, and one “lady” becoming particularly
incensed, shouted loudly, “Well, I wouldn’t dress up like a fool like
that woman and act like her, no, not for all the money in the world.”
That off her chest, she turned on her heel, and left us flat.

Paul de Longpré, the famous flower artist, lived only a few blocks
from the Inn on Hollywood Boulevard. Many years ago he had left his
native France and built a lovely château in the broad stretches of
young Hollywood. In his gardens he had planted every variety of rose.
A tangled profusion of them covered even the walls of his house. We
offered fifty dollars a day for the use of the gardens. M. de Longpré
went us one better. He offered to let us work if we’d buy a corner lot
for three hundred dollars. But what could we do with a corner lot? We
had no idea we would work six days and pay the three hundred dollars
just in rental. But that we did. What we didn’t do, was, take title
to the corner lot. Had we done so we would have laid a foundation for

I recall M. de Longpré as the first person we met on location in
California who seemed to appreciate that we were at least striving for
something in an art line. To him we were not mere buffoons as we were
to the ladies of the Hollywood Inn.

“Love Among the Roses” we aptly called the picture in which Marion
Leonard played a great lady residing in the Kingdom of Never-never Land.

Monsieur de Longpré’s lovely house and gardens--a show place for
tourists some twelve years ago--has long since been cut up into
building lots on which have been erected rows of California bungalows.
For when motion picture studios began to spring up like mushrooms in
this quiet residential district, actors had to be domiciled and the
boulevard was no longer desirable as a restful home locality. Also, the
financial return on property thus manipulated was not to be lightly
regarded. The town council voted a memorial to the kindly French
artist. So Hollywood has a de Longpré Avenue.

The day we lunched at the Hollywood Inn marked an event for Hollywood.
Few motion picture actors had desecrated the Inn’s conservative grounds
until that day. A few years later only motion picture actors lived
there, and they live there now, though the old-maid régime is coming
along rapidly. Aside from the movie intrusion, Mr. Anderson foresaw the
changes that were to come. In due time he built the now famous Beverly
Hills Hotel. But the movie actor, who has now achieved a social and
financial standing that equals that of other professions, he still has
with him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Goodness gracious, how could we ever get all the scenic beauty on the
screen! It was too distracting, what with Missions, desert, mountains,
ocean, beaches, cliffs, and flowers. We wanted to send enough of it
back in our pictures to ensure our coming again next winter.

We had a scenario that called for a wealthy gentleman’s winter home.
We hied ourselves out to Pasadena, to Orange Grove Avenue, Hillside
Avenue, Busch’s sunken gardens, Doheny’s, and other famous show places.
We found a place with gardens and pergolas, just the thing. Asked
permission to use the house and grounds, from very charming ladies
wintering within, possibly a bit bored, for they seemed delighted with
the idea.

It was not the custom in those days to explain the nature of the story
for which one desired a place; and the ladies being so keen on seeing
moving pictures being made, the matter ended right there. The scenario
which had been selected for our pioneer work in Pasadena was called
“Gold is Not All.”

The day came to start work on the picture. We were all packed up in our
motor car outside the Alexandria Hotel getting an early start, for the
earlier we got to work, the fewer the days we would need to trespass on
the borrowed property.

“Gold is Not All” was a story of contrasts. There were very wealthy
people in it and very poor people. And the poor faction was so poor
that mother, little mother, had to take in washing to help out, which
washing she returned to the rich people’s houses.

Like many other fallacies that have become identified with motion
picture characterization, rich people are invariably represented as
being unkind, selfish, penurious, and immoral--oh, always immoral. And
the poor are loving, kind, true, surfeited with virtue. The poor mother
idolized her children, worked and slaved for them; father always loved
mother, never strayed from home. But the rich man, drat him, ah, he had
sweethearts galore, he was dishonest on the stock market, he put marble
dust in the sugar, his wife was something merely to be exploited, and
his children were always “poor little rich boys and girls.”

So we were primed for action and quite ready to make our wealthy
gentleman sojourning in his winter mansion an utter rake, a miserable
specimen of the middle-aged debauchee who treated cruelly a
long-suffering wife. But the little poor families were such models of
all the virtues, they hadn’t missed one; and their days were full of

The hostess of this charming home with some friends watched our
performances. There was no limit to their hospitality. They brought
out tables and a tea-service and they loaned us their “bestest”
butler--there was a lawn party in the story. When the picture was
finished, Mr. Griffith invited the owner and his family and their
friends to the studio to see the picture.

The projection over, we noticed a strange lack of enthusiasm; and
then Monsieur took Mr. Griffith aside and asked him if it would be
absolutely necessary for him to release the picture.

“Really,” said the gentleman, “we are a very happy family, my wife
and I and the children, we like each other a lot. All my friends have
been told about the picture and they’ll watch for it--and I just don’t
like it, that’s all. You know a person can have money and still be a
respectable citizen in the community.”

And that was that. But we learned something.

And here comes little Jack Pickford in his first leading part, a comedy
directed by Frank Powell, and called “The Kid.” It was full of impish
pranks of the small boy who does not want his lonely daddy to bring him
home a new mama, but he comes across in time and soon is all for her.

Two more pictures, “The Converts,” and “The Way of the World,” finished
us at San Gabriel. Both were Christian preachments, having repentant
Magdalenes as heroines, and were admirably suited for portrayal
against the Mission’s mellow walls.

Sleepy old San Gabriel, where dwelt, that first winter, but a handful
of Mexicans and where no sound but the mocking bird was heard until the
jangling trolley arrived and unloaded its cackling tourists!

Mission atmosphere got under the skin; so we determined on San Fernando
for “Over Silent Paths,” an American Desert story of a lone miner and
his daughter who had come by prairie-schooner from their far-away
Eastern home.

San Fernando Mission was twenty-two miles from Los Angeles, with
inadequate train service, and the dirt road, after the first winter
rains had swelled the “rivers” and washed away the bridges, was often
impassable by motor.

The desertion and the desecration of the picturesque place was
complete. For more than two hundred years the hot sun and winter rain
had beat upon the Mission’s adobe walls. It boasted no curio shop, no
lunch room, not even a priest to guard it. A few Japs were living in
the one habitable room--they mended bicycles. We were as free to move
in as were the swallows so thickly perched on the chapel rafters. An
occasional tourist with his kodak had been the only visitor until we
came. Then all was changed.

It was in San Fernando that we first met up with the typical California
rancher. This man, whose name I recall as “Boroff” had been one of the
first settlers in the valley. On a “location hunt” we had spied Mr.
Boroff’s interesting-looking place with its flowers and its cows, and
had decided to pay our respects and see if we could get the ranch for a
picture, sometime. One of the “hands” brought Mr. Boroff to us. Rangy
and rugged, oh, what health-in-the-cheeks he had! He swung us about
the place and then suddenly we found ourselves in a huge barn drinking
tall glasses of the most wonderful buttermilk.

“Do you know,” said Mr. Boroff, downing his, “I drink a quart of
whiskey every day to pass the time away, and a gallon of buttermilk so
I’ll live long.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Squatted one afternoon on the edge of the roadway in front of the
Mission, I began idly scratching up the baked dirt with an old Mexican
stiletto we were using in a picture. A few inches below the surface
I noticed funny little round things that did not seem to be rocks.
I picked up a few, broke off pieces of dry dirt, cleaned the small
particles on my Mexican shawl, and found them to be old Indian beads,
all colors, blue, red, and yellow. Through the leisure hours of that
day I dug beads until I had an interesting little string of them. The
Indians from whose decorated leather trappings the beads had fallen had
been sleeping many years in the old cemetery back of the Mission.

Now there are grass and flower beds growing over my little burial place
of the beads, for the Mission has been restored; but even were it not
so, the movie actress of to-day would surely rather lounge contentedly
in her limousine than squat on old Mother Earth, digging up Indian

       *       *       *       *       *

The third and last of the Missions we visited was romantic San Juan
Capistrano, seventy miles south of Los Angeles, nestling in the
foothills some three miles from the Pacific.

Our scenario man, Mr. Taylor, had prepared a Spanish story of the padre
days, and this lovely rambling Mission with its adjacent olive ranches,
live-oak groves, silvery aliso trees, and cliffs along the seashore,
was to afford stacks of local color.

Our one automobile deposited its quota--Mr. Griffith and party--in San
Juan Capistrano in the late afternoon. The evening train brought the
rest of the actors.

There was one little Inn, the Mendelssohn--now fixed up and boasting
all modern conveniences; then merely an airy wooden structure evidently
built under the prevailing delusion that southern California has
a tropical climate. There was a tiny office; the only parlor, the
proprietor’s personal one, which he was kind enough to let us use. He
had a stove and it felt mighty good to get warmed up nights before
turning in.

The bedrooms were upstairs. To reach them you had to go out in the
yard, the back-yard, climb the rickety stairs to the porch, on to
which each little bedroom by means of its own little door, opened. The
bare-floored bedrooms were just large enough to hold a creaky double
bed, wash-bowl and pitcher, and a chair.

We must see the Mission before dinner. The idea of dinner didn’t thrill
us much, and the thought of going to bed thrilled us less. But why
expect the beauty of old things and modern comfort too? The thought
of seeing old San Juan in the dim light of early evening should have

Beautiful old ruin! The peace and the silence! We might have been in
the Sahara.

Every member of the company was to work in this picture. There were no
more than ten little bedrooms in the hotel. Actors slept everywhere,
two and three in a bed; even the parlor had to be fixed up with
cots. Miss Leonard and others of the women had been domiciled in a
neighborly Spanish house--the only other available decent quarters.

Dell Henderson, who had put himself wise to the arrangement of sleeping
partners, had copped little Jack Pickford as his bedfellow. Dell was
one of our very largest actors and Jack being about as big as a peanut,
Dell had figured that with the little fellow by his side he might be
able to catch forty winks during the night.

Few of us managed to get unbroken winks. Between the creaking of one’s
own bed and the snores from other rooms down the line (the walls were
like paper) and the footsteps on the shaking porch, of actors going
from room to room looking for something better than what had been
allotted them, it was a restful night! All through it, at intervals,
Charlie Craig kept calling to his bedfellow, “Don’t squash me--don’t
squash me.” But the most disgruntled of all was Sennett. To every room
he came calling “Hey, how many in this bed? Who’s in there? Got three
in my bed; I can’t sleep three in a bed.” But responses were few and
faint, and from Dell Henderson’s room came only silence. So after
waiting in vain for help in his difficulty, and thoroughly disgusted,
Mack returned to what must have been very chummy quarters.

There had been engaged for this picture a bunch of cowboys,
rough-riders, headed by Bill Carroll, for we were to pull some
thrillers in the way of horse stuff. The riders with their horses were
leaving Los Angeles on the midnight train, due to reach Capistrano at
2 A.M.

It was all so weird and spooky that midnight had arrived before I had
summoned sufficient courage to let myself go to sleep. No sooner had I
dozed off than out of the black and the silence came a terrific roar,
yells, and loud laughter, and pistol shots going zip, zip, zip.

These hot-headed Mexicans! Things happened here, and something dreadful
was going to happen right now. I heard horses; and soon horses and
riders galloped madly into the back-yard, right to the foot of our
stairs, it seemed.

But it was only our cowboys who had arrived, feeling good, and full
of the joy of life. Old Colonel Roosevelt knew all about this sort
of thing, and would have appreciated the celebration. No thought
had been given the boys’ slumber places, and so after a look around
they docilely crawled up into the barn and were soon asleep in the
sweet-smelling hay.

“The Two Brothers,” the picture we were to do, told the story of the
good and bad brother. Good brother marries the pretty señorita in the
Mission chapel.

An experienced and cultured gentleman was the French priest in charge
of this Mission. He was most obliging and told us we could use whatever
we liked of the wedding ceremonial symbols, which we did, but which we
shouldn’t have done on this particular day of days--Good Friday.

The wedding was some spread. There were Spanish ladies in gay satins
and mantillas, and Spanish gentlemen in velvets and gold lace, and
priest and acolytes carrying the sacred emblems. They paraded all over
the Mission grounds. Then the camera was set up to get the chapel
entrance. While all was going happily, without warning, from out the
turquoise blue sky, right at the feet of the blushing bride and the
happy groom, fell the stuffed figure of a man! Right in the foreground
the figure landed, and, of course, it completely ruined our beautiful

On Good Friday in these Spanish-Mexican towns of California a
ceremonial called “burning Judas” used to take place (and may still,
for all I know). Old carts and wheels and pieces of junk in the village
are gathered in a heap outside the Mission grounds, and old suits of
clothes are stuffed with straw, making effigies of Judas. The villagers
set fire to this lot of rubbish and to the Judases as well, and the
evil they have brought during the year is supposed to disappear in the
smoke from their burning bodies. The handsomest Judas, however, is
saved from the conflagration for a more ignominous finish. A healthy
young bull is secured and to his formidable horns this Judas is
strapped. Then the bull is turned loose, so annoyed by this monstrous
thing on his horns that he madly cavorts until Judas’s clothes are torn
to shreds and his straw insides are spilled all over the place, and he
is done for, completely.

Now while we had been rehearsing and taking the wedding scenes, the
sacristan, a little old man to whom life meant tending the Mission and
ringing the bells at the appointed hour, had been covertly taking us
in, and when he saw our gay though holy processional start into the
very sanctum of the Mission on Good Friday, his soul revolted. No, that
he would not stand for!

Something even worse than riding the bull’s horns could happen to
Judas; and that was to be thrown at movie actors. So the sacristan
picked the prize Judas, and at the climactic scene he dropped him on
us, and then broadcasting a roar of Mexican oaths he went on his way,
his soul relieved and his heart rejoicing.

[Illustration: Mary Pickford as a picturesque Indian, before “curls”
and “Mary” had become synonymous terms.

                                                          (_See p. 168_)

But we felt differently. There was no telling now what these San Juan
hot-heads might do to us. But the seeming lack of reverence of our
procession was explained to the little sacristan by the understanding

[Illustration: The Hollywood Inn, the setting for “The Dutch Gold
Mine,” with Mack Sennett and Eddie Dillon. The players were thrilled
at being received in such a hostelry, and the guests amazed at seeing
picture actors.

                                                          (_See p. 158_)

[Illustration: From “Comrades,” the first picture directed by Mack
Sennett, with Mack Sennett and Dell Henderson.

                                                          (_See p. 204_)

The next day we did the abduction. We took ourselves miles from the
Mission. We chose a treacherous-looking road along the ocean cliffs.
In a ramshackle buggy the bride and groom were speeding on their
honeymoon, but bad brother and his band of outlaws were hot on the
trail to steal the bride. Our cowboys bringing up the rear were
cavorting on their horses; the horses were rearing on their hind legs;
and the director was yelling, “A dollar for a fall, boys, a dollar for
a fall!” The boys fell, on all sides they fell; they swung off their
horses, and they climbed back on, and they spilled themselves in the
dust, their horses riding on without them. Some of the boys made ten
and some twenty dollars that day, just for “falls.” And not one was
even scratched.

The next day was Easter Sunday, and our work being finished, in the
gray dawn we folded our tents and silently slunk away.

But the curse of Judas was upon us. When the picture was projected, all
was fine--scenic effects beautiful--and photography superb, until--we
came to the wedding procession!

Judas, to our surprise, was nowhere to be seen; he had fallen out of
focus evidently, but the effect of his anathema was all there. The
scene was so streaked with “lightning” we could not use it. At San
Gabriel we retook it later, but it never seemed the same to us.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sierra Madre was another of our choice locations this first trip.
Here were wonderful mountains with fascinating trails and canyons
deep and long. From Sierra Madre, Mount Wilson was climbed, by
foot or donkey, for no magnificent motor road then led to its
five-thousand-and-something-foot summit.

At the quarter-mile house we did “The Gold-seekers,” a story of
California in the days of ’49, with Henry Walthall striking pay dirt in
the west fork of the San Gabriel canyon.

Mary Pickford did one of her Indians here, “A Romance of the Western
Hills.” David thought Mary had a good face for Indians on account of
her high cheek bones, and usually cast her for the red-skinned maid or
young squaw. A smear of brown grease paint over her fair face and a wig
of coarse straight black hair made a picturesque little Indian girl of
“our Mary.”

Curls and Mary Pickford were not yet synonymous. She played, besides
Indians, many character parts with her hair smacked straight back; and
she “did” young wives with her hair in a “bun” on the top of her head
to make her look tall and married. When Mary wore curls, it meant an
hour of labor at night. The curls necessitated three distinct kinds of
“curlers,” the ones for the wave on top, others for the long curls, and
little curlers for the shorter hair around the face. I often thought
Mary Pickford earned her slim salary those days for the time and effort
she spent on her hair alone.

It was an unhappy Mary on that first trip to Los Angeles, Owen Moore
having passed up his little sweetheart on account of the weekly ten
dollars he thought Mr. Griffith should have added to his salary. The
day’s work over, came her lonesome hour. On the long rides home from
location, cuddled up in her seat in the car, she dreamed of home and
dear ones. And one day passing the eastbound Santa Fé Limited, out of a
deep sad sigh the words escaped, “God bless all the trains going East
and speed the one we go on”--the Irish in her speaking.

An urge to do “Ramona” in a motion picture possessed Mr. Griffith all
the while we were in California, for the picturesque settings of Helen
Hunt Jackson’s deep-motived romance were so close at hand. Several
conferences had been held on the subject in New York, before we left.
But in order to make a screen adaptation of this story of the white
man’s injustice to the Indian, arrangements would have to be made with
the publishers, Little, Brown & Company. They asked one hundred dollars
for the motion picture rights and the Biograph Company came across like
good sports and paid it, and “Ramona” went on record. It was conceded
to be the most expensive picture put out by any manufacturer up to that

To Camulos, Ventura County, seventy miles from Los Angeles, we traveled
to do this production of “Ramona.” For Camulos was one of the five
homes accredited to the real Ramona that Mrs. Jackson picked for her
fictional one. She picked well.

What a wealth of atmosphere of beautiful old Spain, Camulos’s far-famed
adobe offered! Scenes of sheep-shearing; scenes in the little
flower-covered outdoor chapel where Ramona’s family and their faithful
Indian servants worshiped; love scenes at Ramona’s iron-barred window;
scenes of heartache on the bleak mountain top but a few miles distant
where Alessandro and Ramona bury their little baby, dead from the white
man’s persecutions; and finally the wedding scene of Ramona and Felipe
amid the oranges and roses and grass pinks of the patio. Even bells
that were cast in old Spain rang silently on the screen. The Biograph
Company brought out a special folder with cuts and descriptive matter.
The picture was Mr. Griffith’s most artistic creation to date.

Nor did we neglect the oil fields, for oil had its romance. So at
Olinda, that tremendous field, we “took” plungers innumerable and
expensive oil spilling out of huge barrels into little lakes, all black
and smooth and shiny. The picture, called “Unexpected Help,” had Arthur
Johnson and little Gladys Egan as star actors. One other oil picture we
did, “A Rich Revenge,” a comedy of the California oil fields, with Mary
Pickford and Billy Quirk.

We had located a picturesque oil field. A crabbed-looking man in dirty
blue jeans seemed the only person about. We asked him would there be
any objection to our working, and he gruffly answered in the negative.

So we “set up,” and got our scenes; and, work finished, looked about
for our man, wishing to thank him. Feeling sorry for him, we went one
better and tendered him a twenty-dollar gold piece. When he saw that
money, he began to curse us so hard that we were glad when we hit the

At the garage in the village we made inquiries and were enlightened.
The man of the dirty blue jeans was none other than the millionaire
owner of the oil well, an oil well that was gushing one fair fortune
per day. And though he refused our money as though it were poison,
three times a week that man walked to Santa Ana, ten miles distant,
where he could buy a ten-cent pie for five cents.

Still more atmosphere we recorded in a picture called “As It Is In
Life”--the famous old pigeon farm located near the dry bed of the San
Gabriel River. Shortly after the time of our picture, the winter
storms washed away this landmark and we were glad then that we had so
struggled with the thousands of fluttering pigeons that just wouldn’t
be still and feed when we wanted them to, and insisted upon being good,
quiet little pigeons when we wished them to loop the loop.

It seems we paid little attention to sea stories. Perhaps because we
had our own Atlantic waiting for us back home, and we had done sea
stories. We produced only one, “The Unchanging Sea,” suggested by
Charles Kingsley’s poem, “The Three Fishers.”

Charlie Ogle, who had worked in a few old Biographs but had been signed
up with Edison before Mr. Griffith had a chance to get him, said to me
one day out at the Lasky lot last winter--1924:

“What was that wonderful sea picture you played in? My, that _was_ a
picture, and you did beautiful work. I’ll never forget it.”

“You couldn’t remember a sea picture I played in, Mr. Ogle. Heavens,
that was so long ago you must mean some one else.”

“No, I don’t, and I remember it very well. What was the name?”

“Enoch Arden?”


“Fisher Folk?”

“No, now what _was_ that picture?”

And at that moment we were interrupted in our game of guess as Leatrice
Joy, whom we had been watching, came off the scene to revive from the
heavy smoke of a café fire, before doing it over again.

“I’ve got it--‘The Unchanging Sea.’”

“That’s it, that’s the one. I’ll never forget that picture.”

“As I remember, it was considered quite a masterpiece.”

The fishing village of Santa Monica was the locale of this story. At
this time there was but a handful of little shacks beyond the pier,
places rented for almost nothing by poor, health-seeking Easteners. No
pretentious Ince studio as yet meandered along the cliffs some nine
miles beyond. The road ran through wild country on to Jack Rabbit Lodge
where a squatter had a shack that tourists visited occasionally and for
twenty-five cents were shown an old Indian burial ground.

The only fellow movie actors we met this first winter in Los Angeles
were two members of the Kalem Company, beautiful Alice Joyce and
handsome Carlyle Blackwell, who often on fine mornings trotted their
horses over Santa Monica’s wet sands.

Occasionally, we met Nat Goodwin, who had cantered all the way from his
home in Venice-by-the-Sea.



Now we must pack up our troubles in our little black bag and go home.
They must be lonesome for us at 11 East Fourteenth, for the studio has
been dark and silent in our absence. Mr. Dougherty especially will be
glad to see us. And others--the jobless actors. For things were coming
along now so that Mr. Griffith didn’t have to dig so hard for new

Much talk there’ll be about the pictures we did--how the public is
receiving them--which ones are most popular--how worthwhile the trip
was--how economical we were--and how hard we worked.

When once again we had donned our working harness, how stuffy and
cramped the studio seemed! Four months in the open had ruined us; four
months with only a white sheet suspended above our heads when we did
“interiors” on our lot and the sun was too strong. We felt now like
toadstools in a dark cellar, with neither sun nor fresh air.

There was so much to keep Mr. Griffith busy--cutting and titling
of pictures, and conferences upstairs. But the blossoming pink and
white apple orchards must be heeded, so we deserted a few days, hied
ourselves to New Jersey’s old stone houses and fruit trees and friendly
hens, and did a picture “In the Season of Buds.”

Dorothy West played a leading part in “A Child of the Ghetto,” in which
was featured more Eastern atmosphere--the old oaken bucket.

For a time we stayed indoors. We acquired a new actor, Joseph Graybill,
and a few old ones returned, Vernon Clarges and Mrs. Grace Henderson,
Jim Kirkwood and Gertrude Robinson. They now played leading parts. The
public must not get fed up with the same old faces--Mr. Griffith always
saw to that--so it was “go easy” on the California actors for a while.

The feeling of the old actors towards the new ones, this spring, was
largely a jealous one. “Gee, Griff likes him all right, what are we
going to do about it?” said Charlie West and Arthur Johnson when Joe
Graybill was having his first rehearsals and the director was beaming
with satisfaction and so happy that he was singing lusty arias from

“We’ll fix him,” they decided.

So this day Charlie and Arthur returned from lunch with a small
brown bottle containing spiritous liquor, with which they would ply
Joe Graybill surreptitiously in the men’s dressing-room in the hope
that they might incapacitate him. But Joe drank up, rehearsed, and
Mr. Griffith’s smile only grew broader. Better than ever was the
rehearsal. So Charles went out for another little brown bottle and Joe
disposed of it, and rehearsed--better still. Another bottle, another
rehearsal--better than ever--until in a blaze of glory the scene was
taken and Joe Graybill stood upon the topmost rung of the ladder,
leaving Charles and Arthur gazing sadly upward.

There was another reason why Mr. Griffith welcomed new faces. He had a
way of not letting an actor get all worked up about himself. When that
seemed imminent, new talent would suddenly appear on the scene to play
“leads” for two or three weeks so that the importance of the regular
could simmer down a bit.

Now that they had developed an affection for their movie jobs, the
actors didn’t like this so well. They’d come down to the studio, sit
around and watch, get nervous, and after drawing three or four weeks’
salary without working (things had come along apace), they wouldn’t
know what to make of it. They’d carry on something awful. They’d moan:
“When am I going to work? I don’t like this loafing--I wonder if
Griffith doesn’t like me any more--I’d like to know if he wants me to
quit and this is his way of getting me to make the overture.” Finally,
Eddie August, after suffering three weeks of idleness, on pay, got very
brave and told Mr. Griffith he wished he’d fire him or else, for God’s
sake, use him. Mr. August was quite relieved to have Mr. Griffith’s
explanation that in his case he was merely trying out new people, and
didn’t want him to quit at all, would be very glad to have him stay.

When the Black-eyed Susans had reached full bloom, we went back to
Greenwich, Connecticut, and did a picture called “What the Daisy
Said,” with Mary Pickford and Gertrude Robinson. We visited Commodore
Benedict’s place again, and again he brought out boxes of his best
cigars. A good old sport he was.

To the Civil War again, in the same old New Jersey setting, with
Dorothy West playing the heroine in “The House with the Closed
Shutters.” In her coward brother’s clothes she takes his place on the
battlefield, breaks through the lines, delivers a message, and is shot
as she returns. And, forever after, inside the darkened rooms of the
House with the Closed Shutters the brother pays through bitter years
the price of his cowardice.

All our old stamping grounds we revisited this summer. At the Atlantic
Highlands we did two pictures: one, “A Salutary Lesson,” with Marion
Leonard; and the other, “The Sorrows of the Unfaithful,” with Mary

At Paterson, New Jersey, we found a feudal castle. It belonged to one
Mr. Lambert, a silk manufacturer. Here we did “The Call to Arms” where
little Mary donned tights for the first and only time, playing a page,
and looking picturesque on a medieval horse, but being a very unhappy
Mary for a reason that none of us knew.

How she fussed about those tights--nearly shed tears. She sat on the
lawn all wrapped up in the generous folds of her velvet cape, and
wouldn’t budge until she was called for her scene, and she talked so
strangely. For Owen was there, and all the other actors were to see her
in the tights, and Mary and Owen had a secret--a secret that made such
a situation quite unbearable. She had confided it only to “Doc,” but
the rest of us had been wondering.

What a miserable, hot, muggy day it was. Tolerable only sitting on the
grassy slopes of the Lambert estate, but how awful in the rooms of the
little frame hotel over by the railroad tracks where we had made up
and where some of the actors were still awaiting orders as to how they
should dress.

Dell Henderson, who was assisting Mr. Griffith on this picture, was
laboring back and forth from the castle to the hotel bringing orders to
the waiting actors as they were needed. Sennett was one of the waiting
ones, and he was all humped up in his pet grouch when Dell entered and
said, “Here, Sennett, the boss says for you to don this armor.”

“Armor, in this heat? Armor? I guess I won’t wear armor.” Then a short
pause, “Are you going to wear armor?”

“Yes, I’m no teacher’s pet,” said Dell, as he gathered to himself
the pieces of his suit of mail and began to climb into them. So the
doubting Mack Sennett could do naught but imitate him, for no matter
how balky his manner, one word from the boss and he became a good
little boy again.

In August we were once more back in Cuddebackville. The O. and W.’s
conductor was no longer skeptical of our visits. We brought so many
actors sometimes that we not only filled the little Inn but had to find
neighboring farmhouses in which to park the overflow.

We met all the old Cuddebacks again. We never realized what a tribe
they were until we had to do a scene in a cemetery, and every grave we
picked made trouble for us with some Cuddeback or other still living.
How to get away with it we didn’t know until we hit upon the idea of
simultaneously enacting a fake but intensely melodramatic scene down by
the General Store. That did the trick. All the villagers missed their
lunch that day and were unaware of the desecration of their dead.

“Wally” Walthall gave his famous fried chicken luncheon at the
minister’s house. Talent was versatile. We’d worked through our lunch
hour this day, so it was either go lunchless or beg the privilege of
slaughtering some of the minister’s wife’s tempting spring chickens and
cooking them in her kitchen. That’s how “Wally” had the opportunity to
prove his fried chicken the equal of any Ritz-Carlton’s.

We met up with old Pete again. Although nearly ninety, he was worrying
his faithful spouse into a deep and dark melancholia. Pete drove the
big bus, rigged up for our use out of one of his old farm wagons. It
was usually filled with “actresses”--wicked females from the city who
wore gay clothes and put paint on their faces. What a good time old
Pete did have once out on the highway! What a chatter, chatter, chatter
he did maintain! Never had he dreamed of such intimacy with ladies out
of a the-ayter!

But a wife was ever a wife. So no matter how old and decrepit Pete was,
to Mrs. Pete he still had charm, so why wouldn’t he be alluring to
these city girls? Every night Mrs. Pete was Johnny-on-the-spot, when
the bus unloaded its quota of fair femininity at the Inn, waiting to
lead her errant swain right straight home.

Our friends the Goddefroys still held open house for us. Dear old
Mr. Goddefroy told us of the disquieting notes that had crept into
Cuddebackville’s former tranquil life, due to our lavish expenditures
the first summer--told Mr. Griffith he was “knocking the place to hell.”

But they still loved us. In a smart little trap they’d jog over to
location bringing buckets of fresh milk and boxes of apples and pears.
Toward late afternoon of a warm summer day, when working close to their
elaborate “cottage,” the “Boss” would appear with bottles of Bass’s
Ale, and bottles of C-and-C Ginger Ale, both of which he’d pour over
great chunks of ice into a great shining milk bucket--shandygaff! Was
it good? For the simple moving picture age in which we were living we
seemed to get a good deal out of life.

We enjoyed the other social diversions of the year before--canoeing,
motoring, table-tipping. But one night, the night on which the
Macpherson magicians broke up Mr. Griffith’s beautiful sleep, nearly
saw the end of table-tipping.

Retiring early after a hard day David was awakened by noisy festivities
downstairs, and getting good and mad about it he rapped a shoe on the
floor. The group on occult demonstration bent, thinking how wonderfully
their spooks were working, instead of quieting down became hilarious.
The morning found them much less optimistic about spirit rapping.

We did an Irish story of the days when the harp rang through Tara’s
Hall--the famous “Wilful Peggy”--in which pretty Mary never looked
prettier nor acted more wilfully. But the something that had happened
to Mary since our first visits to Cuddebackville made her a different
Mary now.

One day we were idling over by the Canal bank when, with the most
wistful expression and in the most wistful tone, Mary spoke, “You know,
Mrs. Griffith, I used to think this canal was the most beautiful place
I’d ever seen, and now it just seems to me like a dirty, muddy stream.”

What had happened to her love’s young dream to so change the scenery
for her?

Early that fall we went to Mount Beacon to do an Indian picture. The
hotel on the mountain top had been closed, but we dug up the owner and
he reopened parts of the place. At night we slid down the mountainside
in the incline railway car to the village of Fishkill where we dined
and slept at a regular city hotel.

We nearly froze on that mountain top. Playing Indians, wrapped
up in warm Indian blankets, and thus draped picturesquely on the
mountainside, saved us. Mrs. Smith, not yet Pickford, did an Indian
squaw in this picture, which featured a picturesque character, one
Dark Cloud, for years model to the artist Remington. Dark Cloud was
sixty years old, but had the flexible, straight, slim figure of
nineteen. How beautifully he interpreted the Harvest Festival dance!

There were other actor-Indians on this Mount Beacon picture,
present-day celebrities who were thanking their stars they were being
Indians with woolly blankets to pose in. There were Henry Walthall and
Lily Cahill and Jeanie Macpherson and Jim Kirkwood and Donald Crisp,
among others.

Donald Crisp had crept quietly into the Biograph fold as Donald
Somebody Else. Occasionally, he authored poems in _The Smart
Set_--reason for being Donald Somebody Else in the movies. Of late, Mr.
Crisp has rather neglected poetry for the movies. He gave the screen
his greatest acting performance as _Battling Burrows_ in Mr. Griffith’s
artistic “Broken Blossoms.”

The night that “Way Down East” opened in New York in 1920 (September 3)
Donald was radiant among the audience saying his farewells, for on the
morrow he was to sail for England to take charge of the Famous Players
studio there, where he put on among other things “Beside the Bonnie
Brier Bush.”

Claire MacDowell and her husband, Charles Mailes, joined Biograph
this season. Stephanie Longfellow returned to play in more pictures;
Alfred Paget began to play small parts, as did Jeanie Macpherson;
also beautiful Florence LaBadie, who afterwards became a fan favorite
through Thannhouser’s startlingly successful serial “The Million Dollar
Mystery.” As one of the four principals, along with James Cruze of “The
Covered Wagon” fame, Sidney Bracy and Marguerite Snow, she attracted
much attention. A job as model to Howard Chandler Christie had
preceded her venture into the movies. Her tragic death, the result of a
motor accident, occurred in 1917.

Edwin August came, to look handsome in costume, playing his first part
with Lucy Cotton (recently married to E. R. Thomas) in “The Fugitive,”
taken on Mount Beacon. Mabel Normand, who had peeked in on us the year
before, returned after a winter spent with Vitagraph.

Mabel, as every one knows, had been responsible for the lovely magazine
covers by James Montgomery Flagg, and had also been model to Charles
Dana Gibson, before she came to pictures, which had happened through
friendship for Alice Joyce, who had also been a model, but was now
leading lady at the Kalem Company. It was at Kalem, playing extras,
that Mabel Normand began her rather startling movie career. Dorothy
Bernard made a screen début, as did the other Dorothy who afterward
became the wife of Wallace Reid.

I recall Dorothy Davenport at the Delaware Water Gap where we took some
pictures that fall. She was a modish little person; she wore brown
pin-check ginghams and a huge brown taffeta bow on the end of a braid
of luxurious brown hair that fluttered down her back. She looked as
though she came direct from Miss Prim’s boarding school for children of
the élite--and so was distinctive for the movies.

Fair Lily Cahill of the tailored blue serge, plain straw “dude,” and
lady-like veil worked intermittently that summer; she was always
immaculately bloused in “sun-kissed linen.” Not long after the days
of the Water Gap and Mount Beacon Indian pictures, Miss Cahill became
a Broadway leading woman in support of that long-time matinée idol,
Brandon Tynon, and somewhere along in this period she married him.

Henry Lehrman, alias Pathé, hung about. How he loved being a
near-actor! How he adored getting fixed up for a picture! He was
satisfied by now that his make-ups were works of art. From the
dressing-room he would emerge patting his swollen chest, with the
laconic remark, “Some make-up!”

Eddie Dillon returned, to smile his way through more studio days. He
often engaged me in long converse. Eddie was quite flabbergasted when
he learned my matrimonial status. He need not have been. For in Los
Angeles on Mr. Griffith’s busy evenings he often suggested my taking in
a movie with Eddie. But Eddie never knew about that.

And there was Lloyd Carlton, who went all around the mulberry bush
before he landed in the movies. He first heard of them in far-off
Australia in 1908, when as stage manager for “Peter Pan” he met a Mr.
West, who was “doing” Australia and the Far East with a “show” that
consisted of ten-and fifteen-foot moving pictures, toting the films and
projection machine and the whole works along with him. Back on home
soil, Mr. Carlton bobbed up at Biograph where instead of Mr. Frohman’s
one hundred and fifty dollars weekly he cheerfully pocketed five
dollars per day for doing character bits. Followed Thannhouser, Lubin,
and Mr. Fox.

[Illustration: Mary Pickford’s first picture, “The Violin Maker of
Cremona,” June 7, 1909. David Miles as the cripple Felippo.

                                                          (_See p. 100_)

[Illustration: Mary Pickford’s second picture. Mary Pickford, Marion
Leonard and Adele De Garde, in “The Lonely Villa.”

                                                          (_See p. 100_)

Mr. Carlton says he directed the first five-reel picture ever
released--“Through Fire to Fortune”--written by Clay Greene and
released March 2, 1914, by the General Film Company. Mr. Carlton
also says his picture contained the first night scene. Through crude
lighting manipulations Mr. Carlton secured it in the quarry at Betzwood
where rocks were painted black and properties arranged to represent
the interior of a mine.

       *       *       *       *       *

And so from near and far, and from diverging avenues of endeavor, came
the new recruits to Biograph; but in the late fall Mary and Owen, and
the Smith family sailed for Cuba one fine day to produce some “Imp”
pictures there. When safe aboard the steamer, Mary and Owen decided to
brave mother’s tears and anguish. They told her of the secret marriage.

[Illustration: Mary Pickford and Mack Sennett in “An Arcadian Maid,”
Aug. 1, 1910.

                                                           (_See p. 78_)

[Illustration: Mary Pickford, Mack Sennett, Joe Graybill and Marion
Sunshine, in “The Italian Barber,” which established Joe Graybill.

                                                          (_See p. 174_)



There were no social engagements during these Biograph years. Our
dinner parties, which were concerned with nourishment mostly, were with
our co-workers. As we never knew when we would be allowed to eat, it
was impossible to dine with friends. There was no time for anything but
work--a good, hard steady grind it was, and we liked it.

The one, lazy, lenient affair of the week was breakfast on Sunday
morning. From ten to twelve it stretched, and it was so restful to eat
at home and not have to look at a menu card or talk to a waiter, even
though the conversation would be all about the movies.

“What are people interested in?” said he, one Sunday.

“Well, men like to make money, and women want to be beautiful.”

“That would make a good movie. Why don’t you write it?”

“Glad to, if you think it’s any good.”

So she wrote it, the part about the women wanting to be beautiful, and
called it “How She Triumphed,” and in it Blanche Sweet evolved from an
ugly duckling with no beaux to a very lovely bit of femininity with
sighing swains all around her. In the picture she did calisthenics
according to Walter Camp as one way of getting there.

After the leisurely Sunday morning hours had crept their way, to the
studio David would hie himself to read scripts with Mr. Dougherty. And
Sunday night would mean a movie show somewhere. And Monday morning it
began all over again.

From “Wark,” to “work,” only the difference of a vowel, so what an
appropriate middle name for David Griffith! What infinite patience he
had. If we got stuck in the mud when going out to location--we were
stuck, and we’d get out, so why worry? No cursing out of driver or car
or weather; no, “What the ----? Why the ----couldn’t you have taken
another road?” Instead would suddenly be heard baritone strains of
“Samson and Delilah” or some old plantation negro song while we waited
for horses or another car to pull us out.

And it did happen once when on location perhaps twenty miles out in
the wilds, that the leading man suddenly discovered he had brought the
wrong pair of trousers. Nothing to do but send back for the right ones.
Mr. Griffith was not indifferent to the time that would be lost, but
getting himself all worked up would not make the picture any better.
He’d sing, perhaps an Irish come-all-you, or, were he out in the
desert, get out the automobile robe and start a crap game.

Arthur Marvin never ceased to marvel at his chief’s agility and
capacity for hard work. Mr. Marvin had a sort of leisurely way of

Up and down a stubble field Mr. Griffith was tearing one day--getting
a line on a barn, a tree and some old plows. Arthur was having a
few drags on his pipe--the film boxes being full and everything in
readiness to put up the tripod wherever the director should decide.
David’s long legs kept striding merrily all over the cut harvest
field--most miserable place to walk--Arthur musing as he looked on.
“There goes Griffith, he’ll die working.” In a few moments Mr. Griffith
right-about faced and with not a symptom of being out of breath said,
“Set her up here, Arthur.”

That winter we lost our genial Arthur Marvin, but David Griffith is
still hitting the stubble field. Well, he took good care of himself.
He did a daily dozen, and he sparred with our ex-lightweight, Spike
Robinson. The bellboys at the Alexandria Hotel called him “the polar
bear” because he bought a bucket of cracked ice every morning to make
the Los Angeles morning bath more tonic-y.

One could not have better equipment for the trying experiences of movie
work than patience, and a sense of humor. And the “polar bear” is well
equipped with both.

But there were times when even a sense of humor failed to sustain
one. Nothing was funny about the uncertain mornings when we’d gather
at the 125th Street ferry for the 8:45 boat, having watched weather
since daylight through our bedroom window, only to cross and recross
the Hudson on the same boat, the cumulus clouds we delighted in for
photographic softness having turned to rain clouds even as we watched
from the ferry slip. Back to the studio then to begin another picture
and to work late. And oh, how we’d grouch!

But when it rained while we were registered at some expensive place
like the Kittatiny at the Delaware Water Gap, there was need for
anxiety, with the actors’ board bill mounting daily and nothing being

Yes, we had worries. But we were getting encouragement too. The
splendid reviews of our pictures in _The Dramatic Mirror_ helped
a lot. The way our pictures were going over was a joy. With their
first announcement on the screen, what a twitter in the audience! A
great old title page Biograph pictures had. Nothing less than our
National emblem, our good old American eagle, sponsored them. He
certainly looked a fine bird on the screen, his wings benignly spread,
godfathering the Biograph’s little movie children.

Exhibitors were certainly getting keen about “Biographs”; the public
was too. People were becoming anxious about the players as well, and
commencing to ask all sorts of questions about them.

Stacks of mail were arriving daily imploring the names of players, but
of this no hint was given the actor. How surprised I was that time my
husband said to me, “You know we are getting as many as twenty-five
letters a day about Mary Pickford?”

“Why, what do you mean, letters about her?”

“Every picture she plays in brings a bunch of mail asking her name and
other things about her.”

“You’re not kidding?”

“Of course not.”

“Did you tell her?”

“No. I don’t want her asking for a raise in salary.”

Biograph found it a difficult job sticking to their policy of secrecy.
Letters came from fans asking about their favorites; the pretty girl
with the curls--the girl with the sad eyes--the man with the lovely
smile--the funny little man--and the policeman. What tears of joy
Sennett would have wept had he known!

In bunches the postman soon began to leave the “who” letters at 11
East Fourteenth Street. “Who played the tall, thin man in ‘The
Tenderfoot’?” “Who played the little girl in the Colonial dress and
curls who danced the minuet in the rose garden at midnight in ‘Wilful
Peggy’?” “Who was the handsome Indian who did the corn dance on the
mountain top in ‘The Indian Runner’s Romance’?”

Other picture concerns than Biograph had not as yet made the actor’s
name public. But they did give him his mail when addressed with
sufficient clarity. Arthur Mackley, the famous _Sheriff_ of Essanay,
was receiving, those days, ten letters a day. They came addressed.

  The Sheriff
  Essanay Company

Some boy, the Sheriff, getting ten letters a day!

It remained for English exhibitors first to name the Biograph players.
For Biograph, long after all the other picture companies had made
the actor’s name public, still refused to come out into the open.
Over in London the fans were appeased with fictitious names for their
favorites. Beautiful names they were, so hero-ish and so villain-ish,
so reminiscent of the old-time, sentimental, maiden-lady author. I
recall but one and a half names of our players. Dell Henderson was
given the beautiful soubriquet of “Arthur Donaldson” and Blanche Sweet
became “Daphne ----” something or other.

But the yearning American youths and maidens continued to receive the
cold, stereotyped reply, “Biograph gives no names.” The Biograph was
not thinking as quickly as some of its players.

Our friends from Cuddebackville, the Goddefroys, being in New York one
time this summer, Mr. Griffith thought it would be rather nice to
arrange an evening. They were interested in our California pictures,
as they were planning a trip there. We fixed up the projection room
and ran the better of the Western stuff. Afterward with our guests
and a few of the leading people we repaired to Cavanaugh’s on West
Twenty-third Street.

Busy chatter about the pictures, every one raving over Mary Pickford’s
work in “Ramona,” when Mary, quietly, but with considerable assurance
said, “Some day I am going to be a great actress and have my name in
electric lights over a theatre.”

I turned pale and felt weak. We all were shocked. Of course, she never
meant the movies, that would have been plumb crazy. No, she meant the
stage, and she was thinking of going back. The thought of losing Mary
made me very unhappy. But just how had she figured to get her name in
electric lights? What was on her mind, anyway?

This summer of 1910 Mr. Griffith signed his third Biograph contract.
This contract called for a royalty of an eighth of a cent a foot on all
film sold and seventy-five dollars per week, but the name “Lawrence”
which had been signed on the dotted line the two preceding years, was
this time scratched out and “David” written in.

“David” had gone into the silence and decided that the movies were now
worthy of his hire, and couldn’t dent his future too badly, no matter
what that future might be. David W. Griffith and Mary Pickford were
certainly growing bold.



Though the licensed picture companies--The General Film Group--kept a
watchful eye on one another, each had pride in its own trademark and
was satisfied with the little company of actors bringing it recognition.

But the independent companies, now beginning to loom on the horizon,
were looking with envying eyes on the rich harvest the licensed
companies were reaping, and they figured that all they’d need, to do as
well, would be some of their well-trained actors, especially those of
Mr. Griffith’s quite famous little organization. Surely D. W. Griffith
had less to do with Mary Pickford’s success than Mary Pickford herself!
She it was the public came to see; so they were out, red-hot for Mary,
and offering publicity and more money. The little war was started.

Actors in the companies that comprised the General Film Company could
not be bargained for except by the Independents. For instance, if an
actor of the Biograph Company were discovered offering his services
to Lubin or Edison or any of the General Film, that company promptly
reported the matter to Biograph and the ambitious actor found himself
not only turned down by Edison or Lubin or any other but his nice
little Biograph job would be gone as well. That had happened to Harry
Salter and Florence Lawrence. An actor in one of the General Film
group would have to resign his job before he could open negotiations
with any other company in that group.

       *       *       *       *       *

We did grind out the work this fall and early winter. The promise of
California again was a big incentive. We might stay longer and have a
new studio, a regular place.

While there was no more excitement pervading the studio than there had
been the year before, a more general willingness was noticed among the
leading people and more tears and anguish on the part of the beseeching
extras. Jeanie Macpherson sat on the steps leading to the basement of
the studio, and cried, until Mr. Griffith felt remorseful and took her.

But such conduct hadn’t availed pink-cheeked lanky “Beau,” the year
before, when he was the one property boy left behind. Then that unhappy
youth’s tearful parting shot, “All I ask, Mr. Griffith, is that some
day you take me to California,” kept intruding and spoiling the
complete satisfaction of our days. Another year Mr. Griffith harkened
to his pleading. For nearly ten years now “Beau” as William Beaudine
has been directing pictures in Los Angeles.

And so, while some of the old guard would not be with us, a goodly
number would.

To the “Imp” had gone Mary and Owen; and while Ma fussed terribly about
it, there was nothing for her and Lottie and Jack to do but follow suit.

David Miles and Anita Hendry, his wife, were already with “Imp”; and
they, with King Baggott and George Loane Tucker, Joe Smiley, Tom Ince,
Hayward Mack, and Isabel Rae, made a fair number of capable people.
But even so, Mary’s “Imp” pictures fell far short of her Biograph
pictures, and she wasn’t very happy and she didn’t stay so very long.

As a member of the “Imp” Company, the silence and mystery that had
surrounded her when with Biograph instantly vanished. She now received
whole pages of advertising, for that was how the “Imp” would put the
pictures over. One of her first Independent pictures was “The Dream”
of which a reviewer said: “The picture got over on account of Miss
Pickford. Our feelings were somewhat sentimental when we saw ‘Our Mary’
as a wife arrayed in evening gown and dining with swells. In other
words, we have always considered Mary a child. It never occurred to us
she might grow up and be a woman some day.”

Marion Leonard and Stanner E. V. Taylor had taken their departure.
I believe it was Reliance-ward they went, as did Mr. Walthall, Mr.
Kirkwood, and Arthur Johnson. Arthur had become not so dependable, and
Mr. Griffith being unable to stand the worry of uncertain appearances,
reluctantly parted with his most popular actor, and his first leading
man. He never found any one to take his place exactly. For even so long
ago, before he and Mr. Griffith parted, ’twas said of Arthur Johnson,
“His face is better known than John Drew’s.”

Mary gone, Mr. Griffith located Blanche Sweet somewhere on the road
and telegraphed an offer of forty dollars weekly to come with us to
California, which Miss Sweet accepted. He was willing to take a chance
on Blanche, being in need of a girl of her type. If she didn’t work out
right (he hardly expected her to set the world a-fire) the loss would
be small, as he was getting her so cheaply.

Wilfred Lucas also received a telegram; but his tenderly implored him
to come for one hundred and fifty dollars--a staggering offer--the
biggest to date. He also accepted.

Dell Henderson had been commissioned by Mr. Griffith to dispatch the
Lucas-one-hundred-and-fifty-dollar telegram, and the high salary made
him so sore that he promptly told it everywhere, causing jealous fits
to break out all over the studio.

We had also in our California cast, Claire MacDowell, Stephanie
Longfellow, Florence Barker, Florence LaBadie, Mabel Normand, Vivian
Prescott, and Dorothy West for the more important parts; Grace
Henderson, Kate Toncray, and Kate Bruce for the character parts; and
little Gladys Egan for important child rôles. And of men--as memory
serves me--there were Frank Powell, Edwin August, Dell Henderson,
Charlie Craig, Mack Sennett, Joe Graybill, Charlie West, Donald Crisp,
Guy Hedlund, Alfred Paget, Eddie and Jack Dillon, Spike Robinson, Frank
Grandin, Tony O’Sullivan and “Big” Evans, and George Nichols.

And some wives: Mrs. Frank Powell, Mrs. Dell Henderson, Mrs. George
Nichols, and Mrs. Billy Bitzer.

And one baby: Frank Baden Powell.

At Georgia and Girard Streets, Los Angeles, a ten-minute ride from the
center of the city, on a two-and-a-quarter-acre plot adjoining some
car barns, the carpenters were building our grand studio. An open air
studio--no artificial lighting--we could get all the light effects we
desired from the sun--and could begin to work as early as 8:30 and
continue until late in the afternoon. We had not yet reached the stage
where we felt that Mr. Electric Lamp could compete with the sun.

How joyful we were when we first beheld the new studio! The stage was
of nice smooth boards and seemed almost big enough for two companies
to work at the same time. The muslin light diffusers were operated on
an overhead trolley system. There was even a telephone on the stage.
The studio was then indeed the last word in modern equipment.

An elongated one-story building contained the office, projection room,
rehearsal room, for nights and rainy days, and two large dressing-rooms
for the men. In order to save wear and tear on the women’s clothes,
they were given the two dressing-rooms in the rear of the building
which opened directly onto the stage.

To tell the world how secure our position--how prosperous
financially--at the street entrance to our studio there now waited
through the day one, and often two big, black seven-passenger touring
cars--rented by the month, at six hundred dollars per. Now between sets
in the studio we could dash out in the car and grab an exterior.

In our dressing-rooms we had make-up tables, mirrors, lockers, and
running water. And oil stoves to keep us warm. For in the early
mornings, before the sun had reached our room, it was a shivery place.
Our cold cream and grease paints would be quite as stiff as our fingers.

So now, with the new studio, a larger company, and our knowledge of the
surrounding country, there was nothing to it but that we must get right
on the job and do better and bigger pictures.

       *       *       *       *       *

With the one exception already noted we had neglected the sea the year
before, and as yet we had attempted nothing important that had to do
with “Ol’ davil Sea,” as Eugene O’Neil calls it. The sea was trickier
than the mountains, and more expensive if one needed boats and things.
But this year we would go to it right, with a massive production of
Tennyson’s “Enoch Arden”--a second production of the poem that had
written history for us in our screen beginnings.

The first time we had taken most of it in the studio, with only one
or two simple shots of the sea. Now we would do something g-r-a-n-d.
“Enoch Arden” was such good movie stuff, and Mr. Griffith was wondering
how he could get it all into one thousand feet of film.

An exhibitor in those days would accept eleven hundred feet of film,
but that was the limit. The programs were arranged only for the
thousand-foot picture; a thousand-foot Biograph being shown Mondays
and Thursdays. How could two thousand feet be shown on Monday and none
on Thursday? Even could the exhibitor have so arranged it, would the
people sit through two thousand feet without a break?

Well, now, we could do this: we could take the picture in two reels,
each of a thousand feet, show one reel Monday, the second Thursday, and
take a chance on the people becoming sufficiently interested in the
first reel to come back for the second--the only logical way of working
out the problem. Mr. Griffith fully realized his responsibility. Again
he would chance it.

Santa Monica would be the ideal place for this big production; so every
day for a week--for a whole week was given to exteriors alone--we
motored out to Santa Monica in the cold early morning.

The place had changed little in the year that had passed. The row of
tiny shacks was now occupied by Japs and Norwegians who caught and
dried fish and fought with each other at all other times.

One friendly Norwegian loaned his shack as a dressing-room for the
women. We “shot” the same shack for Annie’s bridal home. The men made
up in a stranded horse car of bygone vintage that had been anchored in
the sand. We sent out an S. O. S. for a sailing vessel of Enoch’s day,
and we heard of one, and had it towed up from San Pedro. What would we
do next?

We did “Enoch Arden” in two reels. Wilfred Lucas played Enoch; Frank
Grandin, Philip; and I played Annie Lee. Well, Jeanie Macpherson said I
had “sea eyes,” whatever that meant.

Mrs. Grace Henderson kept the Inn to which Enoch returns; Annie’s and
Enoch’s babies grew up to be Florence LaBadie and Bobbie Harron (one
of Bobbie’s first parts), and Jeanie Macpherson powdered her hair and
played nurse to the little baby that later came to Philip and Annie.

George Nichols departed via the Owl for San Francisco to get the
costumes from Goldstein & Company. There was so little to be had
in costumes in Los Angeles. Mr. Nichols had also journeyed to San
Francisco for costumes for “Ramona” the year before.

The exhibitors said they would accept “Enoch Arden” in the two reels,
show the first on Monday, and the second reel Thursday. And so it
was first shown. And those who saw the first reel came back in all
eagerness to see the second half. And that was that.

The picture was so great a success, however, that it was soon being
shown as a unit in picture houses; also in high schools and clubs,
accompanied by a lecturer. And so “Enoch Arden” wrote another chapter
of screen history.

Sustained by its success Mr. Griffith listened to the call of the
desert. With two thousand feet of celluloid to record a story, he
felt he now could do something with prairie schooners, pioneers, and
redskins, and so he answered the desert call with a big epic of pioneer
romance, “The Last Drop of Water.”

We set up camp in the San Fernando desert--two huge tents, one for
mess, with a cook and assistants who served chow to the cowboys and
extra men. Two rows of tables, planks set on wooden horses, ran the
length of the tent--there must have been at least fifty cowboys and
riders to be fed hearty meals three times a day. The other tent
contained trunks and wardrobe baskets, and here the boys slept and made

The hotel in the village of San Fernando, three miles or so from the
camp, accommodated the regular members of the company and all the extra
women, to whom the director, as he dashed off for his camp in the
morning, gave this parting advice, “Girls, stay together when you’re
not busy, for you’re likely to hear some pretty rough stuff if you

Prairie schooners to the number of eight made up our desert caravan,
and there were the horses for the covered wagons, the United States
soldiers, and the Indians; dogs, chickens, and a cow; for this restless
element from a Mississippi town, making the trek across the land of
the buffalo and the Indian to gather gold nuggets in the hills of
California, brought with them as many familiar touches from their
deserted homes as they reckoned would survive the trip.

Of course, conflicts with Indians, and the elements, resulted in a
gradual elimination of the home touches and disintegration of the
caravan, but there was a final triumphant arrival at their destination
for the few survivors.

The picture was expensive, but quite worth it; we were at least headed
the right way, in those crude days of our beginnings. We were dealing
in things vital in our American life, and not one bit interested in
close-ups of empty-headed little ingénues with adenoids, bedroom
windows, manhandling of young girls, fast sets, perfumed bathrooms, or
nude youths heaving their muscles. Sex, as portrayed in the commercial
film of to-day, was noticeable by its absence. But if, to-day, the
production of clean and artistic pictures does not induce the dear
public to part with the necessary spondulics so that the producer can
pay his rent, buy an occasional meal and a new lining for the old
winter overcoat, then even Mr. Griffith must give the dear public
what it wants. And for the past year or two it has apparently wanted
picturizations daring as near as possible the most intimate intimacy of
the bedroom.

The season closed with another “Covered Wagon” masterpiece called
“Crossing the American Prairies in the Early Fifties.” The picture
was taken at Topango Canyon. There were hundreds of men and women and
cowboys and a hundred horses from ranches near by, as well as eleven
prairie schooners.

[Illustration: Linda Griffith and Mr. MacKay in “Mission Bells,” a
Kinemacolor picture play taken at San Juan Capistrano.

                                                          (_See p. 162_)

In the picture, guards had been posted at night, but being tired, they
fell asleep, so the Indians pounced upon the emigrants, slaughtering
some and taking some prisoners, to be burned at the stake. The few
survivors who escaped left numbers of dead pioneers behind. The
shifting desert sands would soon cover the bodies and remove all trace
of the massacre. The dead bodies were represented by the living bodies
of members of the company who had to be buried deep in the alkali
waste; and the getting covered up was going to be a dirty job for
the living corpses. So those scenes had to be taken last.

[Illustration: A rain effect of early days at Kinemacolor’s Los Angeles
studio, known a year later as the Fine Arts Studio, where “The Birth
of a Nation” and “Intolerance” were filmed. From “The House That Jack
Built,” with Jack Brammall and Linda Griffith.

                                                          (_See p. 245_)

Little grains of sand gently falling upon one from out the property
boys’ cornucopias, while unpleasant, could be silently endured; but
when the property boys got the storm really started and the sand was
being poured upon one thick and heavy, getting into hair and ears and
eyes, no matter how protective the position one had assumed, there were
heard smothered oaths from the dead people that no wild cowboy had ever

Dell Henderson, dying with little old Christie Miller, was all humped
up and writhing in the desert sands. And while Dell was just about to
be featured as the far-famed gambler of the West in a line of showy
parts, and while he felt that Mr. Griffith had a friendly feeling for
him, his ardor for his movie job was beginning to cool. And when, after
being extricated from his earthy grave, he found the boss, he lost all

“Old man,” said Dell to David, “this is too much, I quit pictures, I’m
through.” But the next day when all bathed and barbered up, he felt
differently about it.

But Dell hadn’t had it as rough as the atmospheric members of the
company. Even the wives had been called upon for atmosphere, and were
to make up and dress as men. They didn’t like the old trousers and the
greasy felt hats that were passed out to them, and they weren’t keen on
being recognized on the screen, in the unflattering costumes.

So Mr. Griffith compromised: “All right, I’ll put you in the background
and you can sit down.” At that the women became more amiable and agreed
to help out the perspective. And in the last few hundred feet of the
second reel, they joined the dead emigrants and were covered up in the

The final scenes were reserved for the days immediately preceding our
departure for the East. As soon as they were taken, the company would
be dismissed to make the necessary preparations prior to leave-taking.
So to their pet establishment the women beat it to have their hair
beautifully and expensively washed and lemon-rinsed, and were all in
readiness for the California Limited, when a re-take was announced.
Static in the film!

To their burial places once more they were rushed, and again the boys
stood by and again poured the cornucopias of sand over them, ruining
completely the crop of nice clean heads. Few got a chance at another
fashionable shampoo. The majority had to be contented with just a home
wash--or to take the sand along with them.



We fell to the lure of the Bret Harte story this winter. We advanced
to the romances of the hardy Argonauts, and the “pretty ladies” of the
mining towns. What a wealth of picturesque cinema material the lives of
the rugged forty-niners afforded!

Dell Henderson was featured as the handsome gambler, _Jack Hamlin_; and
Claire MacDowell as the intriguing lady of uncertain virtue; Stephanie
Longfellow as the rare, morally excellent wife.

Blanche Sweet was still too much the young girl to interpret or look
the part of Bret Harte’s halo-ized Magdelenes. Mr. Griffith, as yet
unwilling to grant that she had any soul or feeling in her work,
was using her in “girl” parts. But he changed his opinion with “The
Lonedale Operator.” That was the picture in which he first recognized
ability in Miss Sweet.

The outdoor life of the West had plumped up the fair Blanche, and
Mr. Griffith felt at this stage in her development she typified,
excellently well, buxom youth. Why wouldn’t Blanche have plumped up
when she arrived on location with a bag of cream puffs nearly every day
and had her grandmother get up at odd hours of the night to fry her
bacon sandwiches? She soon filled out every wrinkle of the home-made
looking tweed suit she had worn on her arrival in Los Angeles.

       *       *       *       *       *

Way, way up on the Santa Monica cliffs we built a log cabin for Blanche
Sweet to dwell in, as the heroine of “The White Rose of the Wilds.”

The location was so remote, the climb so stiff, that once having made
it no one was going down until the day’s work was over.

It was a heavenly day. Gazing off into the distances quite sufficed,
until, whetted by clean, insistent breezes, little gnawings in the
tummy brought one back to realities. It took more than dreamy seas
and soft blue skies to deter a hungry actor from expressing himself
around lunch time. And so, in querulous accents soon were wafted on the
sage-scented air such questions as: “Gee, haven’t they sent for the
lunch yet? Gosh, I’m hungry. Hasn’t the car gone? It’ll take a couple
of hours to get food way up here. Hope they bring us enough--this
air--I’m starved.”

Sooner or later lunch would be on the way. The car had to go for it as
far as Venice. It was nearly three o’clock when the car returned and by
that time every one was doggone hungry.

Mr. Griffith had tipped his two “leads” and Mr. Bitzer and myself to
get off in a little group, for hot juicy steaks had been ordered for
those select few--leading players must be well nourished--and it was
just as well to be as quiet and unobtrusive about it as possible. For
while it wasn’t exactly fair, sandwiches and coffee was all the lunch
the company usually afforded for the extra people.

Mack Sennett, who always had a most generous appetite, was wild-eyed
by now, for he was just an “extra” in “The White Rose of the Wilds.”
And he was on to the maneuvers of the “steak” actors and so resentful
of the partiality shown that he finally could contain himself no
longer, and in bitter tones, subdued though audible, he spoke: “Steaks
that way,” with a nod of his head indicating Griffith and the leading
people, “and sandwiches this way”--himself and the supers. And though
Mack sat off on the side, and from his point of vantage continued to
throw hungry glances, they brought him no steak that day.

This winter it was that Mr. Sennett invested in a “tux” and went over
to the Alexandria Hotel night after night, where he decorated the
lobby’s leather benches in a determined effort to interest Messrs.
Kessel and Bauman. (The Kay Bee Company.) His watchful waiting got him
a job.

       *       *       *       *       *

“The Battle of Elderberry Gulch” was a famous picture of those days.
The star was a pioneer baby all of whose relatives had been killed by
Indians. During the time the baby’s folks were being murdered another
party of pioneers, led by Dell Henderson, was dying of thirst near by.
With just enough life left in them to do it, they rescued the baby from
its dead relations, staggered on a few miles, and then they, too, sank
exhausted in the sand and cacti.

Another cornucopia sand-storm blew up.

Kind-hearted Dell Henderson, now sunk to earth, had protectingly tucked
the baby’s head under his coat. But the tiny baby hand (in the story,
and it was good business) had to be pictured waving above the prostrate
figures of the defunct pioneers, to show she still lived. Otherwise,
she might not have been saved by the second rescuing party, and saved
she had to be for the later chapters of the story.

For though in the end of the story the baby became the lily-white
Blanche Sweet, it was, as matter of fact, a tiny, lightly colored,
colored baby from a Colored Foundling Home, whom we often used for the
photographic value of its black eyes, and Dell must see to it that the
tiny pickaninny was in no way hurt, even though he had surreptitiously
to wave the baby hand from under his rough outer garments.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having succeeded so well at Santa Monica, we decided to work other
beaches this year. We became acquainted with them all--Redonda, Long
Beach, Venice, and Playa del Rey.

The No. 2 company became especially familiar with the beaches, for
they did numbers of bathing pictures. Frank Powell was still directing
the comedies, with Dell Henderson and Mack Sennett occasionally trying
their hands at it.

It was in these bathing pictures that Mabel Normand began winning
admirers both on the screen and off. Even Mack Sennett began to take an
interest in the beautiful and reckless Mabel, a slim figure in black
tights doing daredevil dives or lovely graceful ones. Mabel was always
ready for any venturesome aquatic stunt. But her work was equally
daring on land, for she thought nothing of riding the wildest bucking
broncho bareback. It took more than bucking bronchos to intimidate the
dusky-eyed Mabel.

All of this Sennett was noting--clever kid was Mabel--and if he ever
should be a director on his own----!

       *       *       *       *       *

On the beach by the old Redonda Hotel, which the passing years had
changed from a smart winter resort patronized by Easterners to a less
stylish summer one patronized by Angelenos, one balmy winter day, some
bathing scenes were being taken. This type of stuff was new to me and
I was all eyes. Working only with the Griffith company, there were lots
of things I didn’t see.

But this day there were two companies working on the same location, and
that was how I first saw Margaret Loveridge, of lovely Titian hair and
fair of face, sporting the most modern black satin bathing suit, and
high-heeled French slippers. Imagine, right in the seashore sand!

I was interested in this Loveridge girl, for she was pretty, and had a
rather professional air about her.

Sometimes when rehearsing we’d suddenly find ourselves in need of
a little two- or three-year-older, which need would be supplied by
Mr. Griffith or Mr. Powell or Dell Henderson calling right out at
rehearsal: “Who’s got a kid?” Margaret Loveridge on one such occasion
had replied affirmatively. And so we came to use her small son
occasionally; and when Margaret was working and we needed the child,
and Margaret couldn’t bring it or take care of it, she’d press her
little sister into service.

For Miss Loveridge had also a little sister. And it was some such
situation that led little sister to the movies and to Redonda at this

Little sister was a mite: most pathetic and half-starved she looked
in her wispy clothes, with stockings sort of falling down over her
shoe-tops. No one paid a particle of attention to the child. But Mr.
Griffith popped up from somewhere and spied her, and gave her a smile.
The frail, appealing look of her struck him. So he said, “How’d _you_
like to work in a picture?”

“Oh, you’re just fooling--you mean _me_ to work in a picture?”

“Yes, and I’ll give you five dollars.”

No stage bashfulness in the hanging head, the limp arms, and the funny
hop skip of the feet.

“Oh, you couldn’t give me five dollars.”

“Oh, yes I can.”

“You sure you’re not fooling?”

“No, you come around some time, and you’ll see, I’ll put you in a
scene. What’s your name?”

“Mae Marsh.”

“I’ll remember, and I’ll put you in a movie some day.”

Right about now Dell Henderson was directing a picture in which Fred
Mace was playing the lead and Margaret Loveridge had a part. It was
understood about the studio that Mr. Mace was quite taken with the
charms of the fair Margaret. Now Margaret couldn’t get out on location,
and she wanted to send a message to Fred Mace, so she sent little
sister, and little sister looked so terrible to Mr. Mace that he said
to her, “Don’t let Griffith see you or your sister will lose her job.”

When Mace saw Margaret again he said, “Don’t have your sister come
around the studio looking like that.”

And Margaret answered, “Well, I will, for Mr. Griffith is going to
use some children at San Gabriel and she is going to be one of the

“All right,” answered Mace, “take your chance.”

And at San Gabriel Mae did a little more of the funny hop skip, and she
talked up rather pert to the director, “You think you’re the King” sort
of thing, and he liked it, and he said to Dell, “The kid can act, she’s
great, don’t you think so?”

Dell answered “yes,” but he didn’t think so. No one thought so but Mr.

A few weeks later when little Mae Marsh came to the studio carrying a
book and the boys made jokes about it, Dell said to himself, “When she
puts that down, I’m a-going to see.” The book was Tennyson’s poems.
The boys knew when a new actress came with such literature that Mr.
Griffith was already seeing her bringing home the cows, or portraying
some other old-fashioned heroine of the old-fashioned poets.

       *       *       *       *       *

As intended, our stay in California this second year was much longer
than the first. The three months lengthened to five, and it was May
when the company returned East.

It did seem a pity to close up the new studio, for it was the last word
in organization. Why, we’d even a separate department for finances. The
money end of things had grown to such proportions that David could no
longer handle it as he had the first year. And Mr. Dougherty was along
too, in charge of the front office.

       *       *       *       *       *

With Mabel Normand and Blanche Sweet well started on their careers, the
second winter’s work in California ended. Another milestone had been
passed, the birth of the two-reeler, which having been tried was not
found wanting.

What otherwise came out of the winter’s work as most important was
Biograph’s acquisition of the little hop-skip girl, Mae Marsh. She
played no parts this season, made very few appearances even as an
insignificant extra girl, and when the company returned to New York
they left little Mae behind them.



The serious students of the motion picture, for they had arrived, were
at this time writing many and various articles in the trade papers.
Epes Winthrop Sargent was a-saying this:

    _The Moving Picture World_ more than advocates the ten cent
    theatre. It looks forward to the time when the dollar photoplay
    theatre will be an established institution following the advance in
    quality of the films. But there will always be five cent theatres
    in localities that will not support the ten cent houses and ten
    cent houses for those who cannot afford fifty cents or a dollar. It
    is the entertainment for the whole family.

And W. Stephen Bush, the reviewer, this, of a Biograph:

    “The Battle” is a perfect picture in a splendid frame. I cannot
    close without a well-deserved word of praise regarding the
    women’s dresses and coiffures of the wartime period. It is in the
    elaboration of such details that the master hand often betrays
    itself as it does here to the last chignon on the young girls’

And an unsigned article is headlined:

    Will Moving Pictures Save Madison Square Garden?

And the late Louis Reeves Harrison in his “Studio Saunterings” in _The
Moving Picture World_:

    I did not meet the mighty Griffith until after I had had an
    opportunity to study some examples of his marvelous work--he is the
    greatest of them all when he tries--but I found him to be keenly
    alive to the future possibilities of the new art to which he has so
    materially contributed.... His productions show lofty inspirations
    mixed with a desire to help the world along, a trend of thought
    that is poetic, idealistic with a purifying and revivifying
    influence upon the audience that can best be excited through

The inquiry department of magazines published replies of this sort
almost every week:

    Since the lady is in the Biograph, we premise her name is Jane Doe.
    ’Tis the best we can do.

Or this:

    No, John Bunny is not dead, report to the contrary notwithstanding.
    Miss Turner, Miss Lawrence, Miss Pickford, Miss Gauntier, and Miss
    Joyce are all alive, and there have been no funerals for Messrs.
    Costello, Delaney, Johnson, Moore, or others.

Or this:

    Questions about tall, thin girls two years old are barred. Keep up
    to date.

Or this:

    All Biograph players are either John or Jane Doe.

So while Biograph players were still nameless, Vitagraph, Lubin, Kalem,
Edison, Essanay, Melies, and Selig not only gave out players’ names but
offered exhibitors trade photos at twenty cents each, and stereoptican
slides of all players. Ambitious actors were getting out post-cards
with their photos to send the fans.

The flow of Biograph players into the ranks of the Independents left
the Biograph Company temporarily weakened. So much so that when “His
Daughter” was released in the spring of 1911 a critic said:

    The picture has something of the spirit and character of the _old_
    Biograph stock company’s work.

And another speaking for an open market said:

    The best argument that I can offer for an open market is the
    well-known fact that when Biograph was supreme, a mere sign of
    “Biograph to-day” would draw the crowd. Yes, folks would rather pay
    a ten cent admission and be satisfied with only two reels as long
    as there was a Biograph than to visit the neighbor house with three
    reels and four vaudeville acts and no Biograph. Everybody knows
    what a magnet was the word “Biograph.”

But other good actors were coming to the front and the loss of the old
ones made but a brief and shallow dent in the prestige of Biograph.
On a June day in 1912 arrived little Gertrude Bambrick. She came on
pretty sister Elsie’s invitation--just to look. Sister Elsie liked the
movies, liked it at Biograph, but to get Gertrude down to the place had
required considerable coaxing. Gertrude didn’t like the place when she
finally got there. “How terrible,” said she; “why, they haven’t even
chairs, what an awful place!” She was almost ready to beat it before
she had had a good look around.

A tall, angular man had noticed the pretty little girl, and he kept
passing and repassing before her, giving her a searching look each
time. Then, one time, when directly in front of her he made an abrupt
stop and a significant beckoning of his right forefinger plainly said,
“Youngster, I would speak with thee.”

But Gertrude paid no attention to the beckoning finger. She only
thought what a funny thing for any one to do. If the man wanted to
speak to her, why didn’t he speak? Sister Elsie gave her a poke and
whispered to her secretly that it was the “great Griffith” who was
beckoning, and when he beckoned the thing to do was to follow. So,
somewhat in a daze, Gertrude started off and as she did so the actors
and others in the studio cleared a way for her much as they might for a

Mr. Griffith led the way into the ladies’ dressing-room, which, when
the actresses were out on the stage, was the only place of privacy
in the studio. There his eagle eye scrutinized the girl some more.
Gertrude now figured, being in the studio and having no business there,
she was in for a call-down, and quick on the defensive she let it be
known she was only visiting her sister--she didn’t want to work in the
pictures--she had a good job as a dancer in vaudeville with Gertrude
Hoffman--dancing was what she loved most of all, and, well----

“Well, who are _you_?” asked Gertrude.

“I’m the director down here, I’m Mr. Griffith.”

As far as Gertrude was concerned, Mr. Griffith was entirely without
honor even in a picture studio.

“So you dance,” said he, “and you don’t want to work in pictures. Well,
come down to-morrow anyhow, I want to make a test of you. And I am
going over to-night to see your show.”

“Well, all right,” said Gertrude with tolerance, “but I must get on
home now. I have to have dinner with my family.” (If one so young could
be bored, Gertrude Bambrick was just that thing.)

“I’ll send you home in my car,” said Mr. Griffith, which frightened
little Gertrude almost to pieces and which would have frightened her
more had she known that the car was a gorgeous white Packard lined with
red leather. But in she hopped, nevertheless, and when she arrived
home, and her mother opened the door, and saw a huge touring car of
colors white and red, in the days when any kind of a touring car
was a conspicuous vehicle, mother said, “Now don’t you ever do that
again--come home here in a car like that for all the neighbors to talk
about.” Gertrude promised she wouldn’t.

That evening she went to her show like a good little girl and did her
bit, and Mr. Griffith and Eddie Dillon sat out front. To show how much
he liked her work, D. W. Griffith’s big white touring car next morning,
entirely unexpected, drove up again to the Bambrick home. Gertrude had
to forego her morning sleep that day--the neighbors must not see that
rakish motor car outside the house again any longer than was necessary.
“What kind of girls will the neighbors think I have, anyhow?” said Mrs.
Bambrick, very much annoyed at the insistent person who had sent the

To such extremes Mr. Griffith went to land a new
personality--particularly if that personality was so wholly indifferent
to him and his movies as Miss Gertie was. But Gertie was pretty and
graceful, and pictures were just arriving at the place where it was
thought dancing could be photographed fairly well and cabaret scenes
might be introduced to liven things up, now that picture production was
advancing toward the spectacle.

The next day little Gertrude had her “test” and sat around, and looked
on, and felt lonesome, until she suddenly spied an old friend who had
been with her in Gertrude Hoffman’s dancing chorus. Gertrude called
out, “Oh, hello, Sarah.” But Sarah Sweet, since become Blanche Sweet,
only looked blankly at the new girl. Oh, the fear that gripped at
the possibility of a new rival! Mr. Griffith was “getting it,” and he
wasn’t going to stand for it, so emphatically he spoke, “Blanche, you
know Gertie Bambrick,” at which Blanche capitulated.

“Little Mary” returned to Biograph. From “Imp,” in the fall of 1911
she had gone over to the Majestic, where she and Owen put in a brief
season. Then back to Biograph she came, but without Owen. He went to
Victor with Florence Lawrence.

Mary Pickford was now so firmly entrenched that she had no fear of
bringing other little girls to the studio. And so, on her invitation,
one day came a-visiting two sisters, one, decidedly demure; the other,
decidedly not. Things were quiet in the theatre and Mary saw no reason
why, when they could find a ready use for the money, her little friends
shouldn’t make five dollars now and then as well as the other extra

Mr. Griffith rather liked the kids that Mary had brought--they were
little and slinky. He liked the elder the better of the two, she was
quiet and reserved. Dorothy was too forward. She even dared call the
big director “a hook-nosed kike,” disregarding completely his pure
Welsh descent.

The little Gish sisters looked none too prosperous in mama’s home-made

I’ll say for the stage mamas of the little Biograph girls that they
did their bit. Mrs. Smith would sometimes make her child a new dress
overnight, and Mary would walk in on a bright morning sporting a new
pink frock of Hearn’s best gingham, only to make Gertrude Robinson feel
so orphaned, her mama seemingly the only one who had no acquaintance
with a needle.

Lillian and Dorothy Gish just melted right into the studio atmosphere
without causing a ripple. For quite a long time they merely extra-ed in
and out of the pictures. Especially Dorothy--Mr. Griffith paid her no
attention whatever, and she cried because he wouldn’t, but he wouldn’t,
so she just kept on crying and trailed along.

But she let out an awful howl when Gertie Bambrick was put on a
guaranty and she wasn’t. Their introduction to Biograph had happened
the very same day. Lillian didn’t mind so much, as she was still full
of stage ambitions. When the company left for California, Lillian went
back to the stage as a fairy in “The Good Little Devil” with Mary
Pickford. Dorothy paid her own fare to the coast. That was how popular
she was just then.

It was going to be a “big time” for Gertie Bambrick and Dorothy Gish
in Los Angeles, away from home and mothers. They ducked to the Angelus
Hotel to be by themselves, and not to be bothered by elders and
fuss-budgets. They had an idol they would emulate, and wanted to be
alone where they could practice. The idol was Mabel Normand. Could they
be like Mabel Normand, well, then they would be satisfied with life.
So bright, so merry, so pretty; oh, could they just become like Mabel!
Perhaps cigarettes would help. They bought a box. And at a grocery
store, they bought--shush--a bottle of gin. Almost they would have
swallowed poison if it would have helped them to realize their youthful
ambition. But their light had led them only as far as gin, and this
they swallowed as a before-dinner cocktail, a whole teaspoonful which
they drank right out of the teaspoon.

[Illustration: A corner of Biograph’s stylish Bronx studio. A scene
from “The Fair Rebel,” with Clara T. Bracy, Linda Griffith, Charles
Perley, Dorothy Gish and Charles West.

                                                          (_See p. 225_)

Yes, Mabel Normand was the most wonderful girl in the world, the most
beautiful, and the best sport. Others have thought of Mabel Normand as
these two youngsters did. Daring, reckless, and generous-hearted to
a fault, she was like a frisky young colt that would brook no bridle.
The quiet and seemingly demure little thing is the one who generally
gets away with things.

[Illustration: The beginning of the Griffith régime at 4500 Sunset
Boulevard. A tense moment in comedy. From left to right: D. W.
Griffith, Teddy Lampson, Mae Marsh, Donald Crisp, W. E. Lawrence and
Dorothy Gish.

                                                          (_See p. 248_)

The gay life of Dorothy and Gertrude was short-lived. Their first night
of revelry on Los Angeles’ Gay White Way was their last. Up in their
room, the night of arrival, they had planned their evening: dinner in
the grill, the movies afterward, the grill again as a finish. They put
up their hair, they slipped their skirts to the hip, the jacket just
covering the lowered waistline, and the lengthened skirt the legs. So
they sallied forth.

Their program was well-nigh fulfilled; they finished with two-thirds of
it. As they were leaving Clune’s big movie palace they were apprehended
by two men, David Griffith and Dell Henderson, who, having been out
scouting for the youngsters all evening, were just beginning to get
seriously worried over their disappearance.

Mr. Griffith had made Mr. and Mrs. Henderson responsible for the girls,
and at his suggestion they had already found an apartment for them,
not only in the same house with themselves but on the same floor,
and--adjoining. All the fun was gone out of life. This arrangement
would be worse than boarding school.

But it got worse still. Sister Lillian, at Mary Pickford’s suggestion,
decided she’d return to the movies, and so she and mother came on to
Los Angeles. That meant Dorothy and Gertrude would be transferred to
Mother Gish’s care, where their bubbling spirits and love of noisy
innocent fun would be frowned upon by the non-approving eyes of the
more sober elder sister.

Things became more complicated when Marshall Neilan began paying
ardent attentions to little Gertrude. Marshall had fallen in love with
Gertrude from seeing her on the screen, and he told Allan Dwan with
whom he had worked at the American Film Company in Santa Barbara that
he was going to marry the cute little kid.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the fall of 1912 the funny little hop-skip girl had arrived on the
scene in New York. When he got back to the City, Mr. Griffith had found
need for her, and he fussed; and finally Mr. Hammer told him to send
for her. Two tickets were accordingly rushed west to Los Angeles, one
for Mae and one for Mae’s mama. In due time two members of the Marsh
family arrived. The day they reached the East the company was working
outside at some place with a meaningful name like “Millville,” where
we took small country-town stuff. The two Marshes were so excited when
they got off the train in New York and dashed to the studio at 11 East
Fourteenth Street and found the company working outdoors that they
departed immediately for “Millville.” They must get right on location.
So to “location” they hied. And when they had fluttered on to the
scene, and Mr. Griffith looked up and saw his Mae, and not his Mae’s
mama, but the fair Margaret, Mae’s sister, he was pretty mad about it.

Margaret Loveridge, as soon as sister Mae’s star began to rise in the
movie heavens, changed her name to “Marguerite Marsh”; but to her
intimates she became “Lovey Marsh.”

Little Mae Marsh back on the job, did a lot of extra work before she
got a part. Mr. Griffith worked hard with her, especially when a scene
called for a sudden transition from tranquillity to terrible alarm. But
a bright idea came to him. He had noticed in battle scenes that young
Mae became terribly frightened; so when he didn’t have war’s aid to get
the needed expression of fright, without her knowledge he would have a
double-barreled shotgun popped off a few feet from her head, and the
resultant exhibition of fear would quite satisfy the exacting director.

Mae Marsh’s first hit was in “Sands O’ Dee,” a part that Mary Pickford
had been scheduled to play, and there was quite a to-do over the change
in cast. But it was the epochal “Man’s Genesis” that brought her well
to the front, as it did also Bobby Harron. In the parts of _Lilly
White_ and _Weakhands_ their great possibilities were discerned, with
no shadow of doubt.

“Man’s Genesis” was produced under the title “Primitive Man,” and
Mr. Griffith and Mr. Dougherty had an awful time because Doc said he
couldn’t see the title and he couldn’t see the story as a serious
one--as a comedy, yes! But Mr. Griffith was determined it should be a
serious story; and he did it as such, although he changed the animal
skin clothing of the actors to clothes made of grasses. For if the
picture were to show the accidental discovery of man’s first weapon,
then the animal skins would have had to be torn off the animal’s body
by hand, and that was a bit impossible. So Mae and Bobby dressed in
grasses knotted into a sort of fabric.

“Man’s Genesis” wrote another chapter in picture history. It _was_
taken seriously by the public, as was meant, and every picture company
started right off on a movie having some version of the beginning of
man. For Mr. Griffith it was the biggest thing he had yet done, and one
of the most daring steps so far made in picture production.

Again, against great opposition David had put it over, not only on his
studio associates, but on the entire motion picture world. Besides
“Man’s Genesis,” our most talked of picture of the winter--our biggest
spectacle--was “The Massacre.”

It was taken at San Fernando. There were engaged for it several hundred
cavalry men and twice as many Indians. A city of tents, as well as
the two large ones, similar to the ones of the year before, was built
outside the borders of the town.

There was so much preparation, due to the magnitude of the production,
that the secrecy usually attending a Biograph picture did not hold in
this case, and the village of San Fernando, two miles away from the
place of the picture, declared a holiday.

The townspeople having found out just when the raid on the Indian
village and the slaughter of the men and women of the tribe was to take
place, closed up shop and school, and swarmed out to within a safe
distance of the riding and shooting incidental to Custer’s Last Fight,
and spent the day in the enjoyment of new thrills.

There was a two weeks’ fight over a sub-title in “The Massacre”--the
scrappers Mr. Griffith and Mr. Dougherty.

David never used a script, and a sub-title never was written until
he was convinced that one was necessary to elucidate a situation. A
picture finished, at its first running we would watch for places where
the meaning seemed not sufficiently clear; where we doubted if the
audience would “get” it. And in such a place in the film, a title would
be inserted. So “The Massacre” finished, and being projected, this
scene was reached:

Horses with riders dashing madly down the foreground, the enemy
in pursuit, then the riders dismounting and using the horses as a
barricade, shooting over them.

Here arose the disagreement about the sub-title. Mr. Griffith wanted to
insert a caption “Dismounting for Defense.” Mr. Dougherty said, “The
audience will know that is what they are doing.” But Mr. Griffith was
not so sure about it, so he said: “Now I think, I’d just like to have
the title; they may not know what I am trying to show.”

“Yes, they will,” said Doc.

Even Mr. Kennedy was swept into the debate. As the argument continued
his morning greeting became, “Well, are you still at it, you Kilkenny

The title went in. How it would improve some pictures in these days to
have two weeks of conversation over a sub-title. How a good old row
with the whole force would perk things up for some directors, for too
many of them, poor things, have had their pictures yes-ed to death by
the fulsome praise of their assistants; the “yes-sirs” who, grouped in
friendly intimacy about their director, have only one answer when he
says: “Do you like that scene?”

“Oh, yes, sir, the scene is wonderful.”

“Do you like that title?”

“Oh, yes, sir, the title is great.”

But that is how the “yes-sirs” hold their jobs!

       *       *       *       *       *

Before the year 1912 ended, Lionel Barrymore had been acquired. His
plunge movie-ward was inauspicious.

“Who’s the new man?”

“That’s John Barrymore’s brother.”

“Never heard of him--is he an actor?”

“No, he’s an artist, just back from Paris, been studying painting,”
answered the wise guys.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the return trip east this winter, a stop-over was made at
Albuquerque to secure legitimate backgrounds for some Hopi Indian
pictures. One, especially atmospheric, was “A Pueblo Legend” with Mary



It was being hinted in the spring of 1913 that Biograph was having a
change of heart about the secrecy regarding their players, and that
they might end it. Contrary to the policy of other companies, their
scheme was not to give the popular players the first publicity, but
the directors and camera men. D. W. Griffith would thus head the honor
list--his name to become identified with a certain class of strong
and highly artistic drama; Dell Henderson next--farce comedies; Tony
O’Sullivan--melodrama; Billy Bitzer--photography; lastly--the actors.

The Biograph had always held to the policy that they were an
“institution,” and as such, the value of their pictures did not depend
on an individual. Sufficient that it was a “Biograph.” Apparently, they
now felt they had reached a place so firmly fixed in public esteem
through the fine quality of their pictures, that giving credit to
individuals could not in any way react on them.

So D. W. Griffith became the first Biograph star. Biograph’s policy he
afterwards took to himself. He is still the “star” of his productions.
His actors continue as “leading people” as long as they stay with him.
And when they go on to bigger money and names in bigger type with other
companies and under other directors, some succeed and some do not. Mary
Pickford was one who did.

In the picture world, especially abroad, big things were now happening.
“Quo Vadis,” a great spectacle, splendidly acted, had been produced in
Italy by the Societa Italiana Cines, in three acts of four reels. It
came to America and had a run in a Broadway theatre.

From France, this same time, April, 1913, the steamer _La Touraine_
arrived in America bringing “Les Misérables” in four sections and
twelve reels.

“The Miracle,” which Morris Gest presented in the year of 1924 in the
Century Theatre, New York, as a pantomime, had been filmed by Joseph
Mencher and was shown at the Park Theatre, New York, in February, 1913.
It was a “filmed pantomime” (not a moving picture drama), based on the
Wordless Mystery Play which, under the direction of Max Reinhardt, had
had a wonderful run at the Olympic, London.

A reviewer said of it:

    What was seen and heard last night only went to emphasize that the
    moving picture under certain conditions, conditions like those that
    prevailed last night, may be capable of providing entertainment to
    be taken seriously by audiences which have never seen the inside of
    an electric theatre.

Eugene Sue’s “Wandering Jew” came over, the work of the Roma Film

In our own country, Helen Gardner in her own productions was appearing
as _Cleopatra_ and like characters.

The Vitagraph started on a trip around the world with Clara Kimball
Young to do a picture in each country visited, but that rather fell by
the wayside; Miss Young, however, had somewhat contented herself with
having charming “still” photos taken in costume in each country on
their route; when the company reached Paris, Vitagraph cabled for the
actors to come home.

Kalem had already made some beautiful pictures in Ireland, and in Egypt
had made “From the Manger to the Cross,” under Sidney Olcott.

Vitagraph answered an inquiry as to when they made “Macbeth” by saying
they “made it so long ago they wanted to forget it in these days (1913)
of high art production.”

Keystone Comedies were coming along, directed by Mack Sennett,
featuring the two famous detectives, Mack Sennett and Fred Mace. In
these comedies Mabel Normand began to daredevil. Henry Lehrman joined

Hal Reid, Wally Reid’s father, was directing Reliance pictures.

“Traffic in Souls,” written by Walter McNamara and directed by George
Loane Tucker, opened at Weber’s Theatre, Twenty-ninth Street and
Broadway, at twenty-five cents the seat. People clamored for admission,
with thousands turned away.

So Biograph, concluding to get into the march of things, ordered
posters for twelve of their players whose names they would make public.

“David Belasco Griffith” became Mr. Griffith’s nom-de-moving-pictures.
It was a time of tremendous ambitions to him. In California, during
that winter, was filmed his “masterpiece”--“Mother Love”--seven hundred
feet over one reel. Mr. Griffith refused to have it the conventional
length, refused to finish it in a stated time, refused to consider
expense, introducing a lavish cabaret scene, costing eighteen hundred
dollars exclusive of salaries. Miss Bambrick arranged the dances and
coached the dancers. Mr. Griffith said of it, “If it serves no other
use, it will teach café managers in the interior how to run a café.”

There was also “Oil and Water” in which Blanche Sweet surprised both
exhibitors and fans by her splendid work in an unfamiliar rôle. It was
strange that the one woman in whom Mr. Griffith had seen the least
promise came to play the most important rôles in his Biograph pictures.
Strange also that Mary Pickford, who had played in so many more
pictures than any of his stars, and was by far the most popular of them
all, never played in a big Griffith picture.

Before the end of the season, much curiosity was abroad as to what
David Griffith was up to. Way out to the wilds of Chatsworth he was
beating it day by day--this remote spot having been chosen to represent
the Plains of Bethulia. For the story told in a book of the Apocrypha
of Judith and Holofernes was the big thing Mr. Griffith was doing, and
being so secretive about it, he had aroused everybody’s curiosity.

Blanche Sweet played the lead in this picture--“Judith of
Bethulia”--Mr. Griffith’s most pretentious movie so far, and his “Old
Biograph” swan song. Henry Walthall and the late Alfred Paget were the
male leads.

How hard and how patiently the director worked with the temperamental
Miss Sweet. For hours one day he had been trying to get some feeling,
some warmth out of her, until the utter lack of response got his goat.
So with bended knee he went after the fair lady and he gently but
firmly kicked her off the stage--just politely kneed her off. Then,
as was his wont, he burst forth in song, apparently oblivious of the

It was now Blanche’s turn to worry. She backed up on to the stage
and over to her discouraged director. He escaped her--stretching his
arms and singing louder than ever he took large strides away from her.
Finally, the penitent reached him, and on her bended knees begged:
“Please, Mr. Griffith, please take me back.” When he thought she had
begged hard enough he took her back, and he got results for the rest of
that day.

“Judith,” owing to expensive sets, cost thirty-two thousand dollars,
but that was not advertised as a point of interest in the picture. Much
excitement prevailed over “Judith,” D. W. Griffith’s first four-reeler.
It was shown to financiers. Wall Street was to be brought into intimate

    The old days and the old ways of 11 East Fourteenth Street, how
    brief they had been! Those vital Biograph days under the Griffith
    régime, how soon to pass! For when, late in the winter of 1912, the
    company left for the West coast studio, they said good-bye to the
    nursery, and to the intimate days and the pleasant hours of their
    movie youth.

The big new studio up in the Bronx was now finished, with two huge
stages--one artificially lighted, and one a daylight studio. There
was every modern convenience but an elevator. Of course, one director
couldn’t utilize so much studio; so while Mr. Griffith was still in
California and without saying anything to him about it, the Biograph
made a combine with Klaw & Erlanger by which all the K. & E. plays
were to be turned over for Biograph production in three-, four-, and
five-reel pictures.

Mr. Griffith didn’t fancy the idea; he felt also that Biograph might
have consulted him before closing the deal. There was nothing to
interest David in supervising other directors’ movies or in giving
them the “once over” in the projection room. After watching the other
fellow’s picture for a while, even though he’d be considering it very
good work, he’d yawn and declare, “Well, it’s a hell of a way to earn
a living.” But that slant never occurred to him when watching his own

But a growing restlessness was noticeable; threats to leave were in the
air; rumors floated all about.

However, he lingered through the summer, a busy one, as in those
introductory months the new studio had to be got thoroughly into a
moving and functioning affair.

Among the many to whom it gave opportunities was Marshall Neilan. For
his years young Mr. Neilan hadn’t missed much. At the age of fourteen
he had run away from Los Angeles, his home, to Buffalo. There he washed
cars for a living--which he probably didn’t mind much, for it enabled
him to satisfy somewhat his fascination for mechanics. Then, back in
Los Angeles once more, he got a job as chauffeur for a kindly person, a
Colonel Peyton, who also sent him to the Harvard school in Los Angeles.

From chauffing to the movies was then but a natural step. For Marshall,
a nice-looking Irish boy with Irish affability, soon had a “stand” at
the Van Nuys hotel, which was a wonderful way to meet the movie people.
Alice Joyce it was who enveigled him. She kept asking him, “Why don’t
you come on in?” It was just like an invitation to go swimming. So he
took the plunge via Kalem, but not until after he had become manager of
the Simplex Automobile Company in Los Angeles.

When the Biograph Company returned East after that winter in which
young Neilan had met his heart’s desire, he wrote to New York to ask
Mr. Griffith for a job. Mr. Griffith asked Miss Bambrick if it was her
wish to have Marshall come on, but Gertrude wasn’t so anxious. David
had him come just the same.

The K. and E. pictures, especially “Men and Women” and “Classmates,”
gave Marshall Neilan his big chance. He soon fell into the producing
ranks, where recognition came quickly.

And he married his Gertrude. Marshall Neilan, Jr., is now nine years
old. But they didn’t live happily forever after. Many years ago they
parted. Just recently Mr. Neilan married Blanche Sweet.

By fall, with four and five companies working, there were so many
actors that it wasn’t interesting at all any more. There was Millicent
Evans and Georgie O’Ramey, Louise Vale, Travers Vale, Louise Orth, Jack
Mulhal, Thomas Jefferson, Lionel Barrymore, Franklin Ritchie, Lily
Cahill, Donald Crisp, Dorothy Bernard, Edwin August, Alan Hale, William
Jefferson--oh, slews and slews of new ones, besides the old guard minus
Mary Pickford.

From Chatsworth’s lonely stretches and prehistoric atmosphere to the
spic-and-span-ness, and atmosphere-less Bronx studio came “Judith of
Bethulia” to receive its finishing touches. “Judith” was about the last
of Blanche Sweet in anything as pretentious directed by Mr. Griffith.

Mae Marsh was coming along and so was Lillian Gish. Lillian was
beginning to step some, and it was interesting to watch the rather
friendly rivalry between the three, Blanche, and Mae, and Lillian.

Dorothy Gish was still a person of insignificance, but she was a good
sport about it; a likable kid, a bit too perky to interest the big
director, so her talents blushed unnoticed by Mr. Griffith. In “The
Unseen Enemy” the sisters made their first joint appearance.

Lillian regarded Dorothy with all the superior airs and graces of her
rank. At a rehearsal of “The Wife,” of Belasco and De Mille fame, in
which picture I played the lead, and Dorothy the ingénue, Lillian was
one day an interested spectator. She was watching intently, for Dorothy
had had so few opportunities, and now was doing so well, Lillian was
unable to contain her surprise, and as she left the scene she said:
“Why, Dorothy is good; she’s almost as good as I am.”

Many more than myself thought Dorothy was better--for she was that rare
thing, a comedienne, and comediennes in the movies have been scarcer
than hen’s teeth. She proved what she could do when she got her first
real chance as the bob-haired midinette in “Hearts of the World.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Four or five companies working on the big stage these days made things
hum like a three-ring circus. From the dressing-rooms a balcony opened
that looked down on the studio floor, and here Blanche Sweet could
often be seen, her feet poked through the iron rails of the balcony,
her elbows resting on the railing, her chin cupped in the hollow of her
hands, her eyes bulging as she watched every move the director made.
For Blanche was worried. Would Lillian or Mae be chosen to play in the
next big picture?

Mr. Griffith kept all the girls worried. All but Mary Pickford. She
was the only one who dared demand. With Mother, Mary came up to the
new studio to see what she could put over in the way of a job. She’d
now a legitimate reason for making herself costly. In January, 1913,
Miss Pickford made a second appearance on the dramatic stage under
David Belasco’s wing. On her opening, the papers said that the success
of Miss Pickford as the little blind princess was so marked that it
practically precluded her return to the screen.

Adolph Zukor had followed up his first Famous Players picture, the
four-reel “Queen Elizabeth” with James K. Hackett in “The Prisoner of
Zenda” and Mrs. Fiske in “Leah Kleschna.” Astute business man that he
was, as soon as “The Good Little Devil” closed, he secured the play for
the screen with the dramatic company intact and Mary as a Famous Player.

No, her dramatic success would not preclude her return to the screen.
It would merely fortify her with great assurance in making her next
picture contract. I am told it happened thus:

Mother and Mary bearded the lion in his den.

“Well, what are you asking now?” queried Mr. Griffith.

“Five hundred a week,” answered Mrs. Smith.

“Can’t see it. Mary’s not worth it to me.”

“Well, we’ve been offered five hundred dollars a week and we’re going
to accept the contract, and you’ll be sorry some day.”

They could go ahead and accept the contract as far as Mr. Griffith was
concerned. Indulging in his old habit of walking away while talking, he
brought the interview to an end, calling back to the insistent mother,
“Three hundred dollars is all I’ll give her. Remember, I made her.”

And so the Famous Players secured Mary Pickford for a series of
features, the first of which was “In the Bishop’s Carriage.”

But whether Mr. Griffith has ever been sorry, nobody knows but himself.

Kate Bruce, the saintly “Brucie” to so many, pillowed in her lap or on
her shoulder by turns, all the feminine heads of sufficient importance,
and at times, with her arm about me, it was even “Oh, dear Mrs.
Griffith.” But Miss Bruce was thoughtful, indeed, for her little room
often made night lodging, when we had an early morning call, for the
girl whose home was distant. Dorothy West, who lived in Staten Island,
often accepted Miss Bruce’s hospitality.

For Lillian Gish, “Brucie” had an especially tender heart. Miss Gish,
at this time, affected simple, straight, dark blue and black dresses.
She had long ago reached the book-carrying stage, being one of Mr.
Griffith’s most ambitious girls. Many times she’d arrive at the studio
an hour or more ahead of time and have Billy Bitzer make tests of her
with different make-ups.

With a tight little hat on her head, and a red rose on the side of it
from which flowed veils and veils, and a soulful expression in her
eyes, Miss Gish was even then, so long ago, affecting the Madonna.

But reclining in the arms of “Brucie,” purring “Brucie, do you still
love me?”--that was the perfect picture of the fair Lillian those
days. And Brucie’s reply came in honeyed words, “Oh, you sweet, little
innocent golden-haired darling.” Then turning to the girl sitting next
her on the other side, she’d say, “You know this girl needs to be
protected from the world, she’s so innocent and so young.” She had a
strong maternal complex, had the maidenly Kate Bruce.

[Illustration: Blanche Sweet and Kate Bruce in “Judith of Bethulia,”
the first four reel picture directed by D. W. Griffith.

                                                          (_See p. 224_)

In need of a gown for a picture at this time (the Biograph was just
beginning to spend a little money on clothes for the women), Miss
Gish spied Louise Orth one day wearing just the very thing her little
heart craved.

[Illustration: Lillian Russell and Gaston Bell, in a scene illustrative
of her beauty lectures, taken in Kinemacolor. These lectures were a
headline act in vaudeville.

                                                          (_See p. 247_)

[Illustration: Sarah Bernhardt, the first “Famous Player,” as Jeanne
Doré, and little Jacques.

                                                          (_See p. 105_)

“Oh, what a lovely gown you have on. Where did you buy that?”

Madame Frances then had a tiny shop on Seventh Avenue, near the Palace
Theatre: Polly Heyman had Bon Marché gloves on one side and Frances had
gowns on the other. Frances had just made some thousands of dollars’
worth of gowns for Valeska Surratt’s show, “The Red Rose,” which were
so beautiful they won Mme. Frances prestige and recognition from Al
Woods. Miss Orth had been a member of the Eltinge show for which Mme.
Frances had made the dresses, which is the long story of how Lillian
Gish got her first Frances gown.

The K. & E. pictures were going to be “dressed up,” and we were being
allowed about seventy-five dollars for gowns. Miss Gish’s selection at
Mme. Frances’s was price-tagged eighty-five dollars; so back to the
studio flew Miss Gish. With as much pep as she had, which wasn’t so
much, she slunk up to her director and coaxingly said:

“Mr. Griffith, I must have that dress, it’s just beautiful; it’s just
what I must have for the part, and it costs eighty-five dollars.”

“Who in the world ever heard of eighty-five dollars for a dress?”

“I don’t care--now--I’ve _got_ to have it.”

“Don’t bother me--it’s too expensive--we cannot afford it.”

Then growing bolder, as she followed him about she reached for his
coat-tail, and twisting it and shaking it she implored:

“Oh, please, Mr. Griffith, buy me that dress.”

“Will you get away?”

“Well, I won’t play in the picture if you don’t get me that dress--I’ve
_got_ to have it.”

“All right, for heaven’s sake, get the dress--but don’t bother me.”

Lillian got the dress.

Occasionally, Miss Gish took advantage of a beauty sleep. On such
occasions she seldom arrived before eleven in the morning. And when
she went to a party she played the rôle of the sphinx, and all evening
long never spoke. But little Mae Marsh made up for her; she chattered

Lillian’s dope was to come and go without being noticed. She appeared
one time at a midnight performance of “Shuffle Along” done up in black
veils to the tip of her nose and a fur collar covering her mouth, with
only little spots of cheek showing. Dorothy, on the other hand, acting
like a real human being, was calling out to her friends, “Hello there,
hello, hello,” but Lillian, passing an old acquaintance, merely said,
“Forgive me for not stopping and speaking; I don’t want any one to know
I am here.” But as everybody was awfully busy having a good time and no
one seemed to be particularly disturbed by Miss Gish’s hiding away, she
finally took her hat off and revealed herself.

But she came out of her seclusion that time she preached in answer to
the Rev. John Roach Straton at his church on Fifty-seventh Street.
Some one was needed to answer the Rev. Mr. Straton’s knocks on the
theatre and its people. Lillian came forward, and she so impressed her
brother-in-law, James Rennie, Dorothy’s husband, that he arrived late
at a Sunday rehearsal of a George Cohan show. In perfect Sunday morning
outfit, striped pants and gloves and cane he burst upon the rehearsal
and quite breathlessly spluttered, “Please forgive me for being late,
but I have just heard my sister-in-law preach a sermon, and never in
my life have I heard anything so inspiring in a church. Don’t go very
often. More in Lillian than one suspects.”

Mr. Cohan gave himself time to digest Mr. Rennie’s outburst, and then
went on with the rehearsal.

       *       *       *       *       *

Inevitable the parting of the ways. Though the last word as to modern
equipment, the new studio merely chilled. That atmosphere of an old
manse that had prevailed at 11 East Fourteenth Street, did not abide
in the concrete and perfect plumbing and office-like dressing rooms
at East 175th Street. The last word in motion picture studios brought
Biograph no luck. For as a producing unit, after a few short years they
breathed their last, and quietly passed out of the picture. When the
doors at the old studio closed on our early struggles, when Biograph
left its original nursery of genius, was the proper time for Mr.
Griffith to have left the company. In the fall, less than a year later,
he did.



From the old Biograph Stock Company they graduated, scenario writers as
well as actors; and here and there they went, filling bigger jobs in
other companies, as actors, directors, and scenario editors.

And as manager and head director of the Kinemacolor Company went David
Miles. Directly upon leaving Biograph, Mr. Miles had spent a short time
at the “Imp” with Mary Pickford and her family, King Baggott, George
Loane Tucker, Gaston Bell, Isabel Rea, and Tom Ince. Leaving “Imp,” he
had gone over to Reliance. While at Reliance, and in need of a handsome
young juvenile, there came to mind his friend Gaston Bell.

Mr. Bell already was signed up for a ten weeks’ stock season in
Washington, D. C.; with “Caught in the Rain” by William Collier and
Grant Stewart, as the opening bill; Julia Dean, the leading lady; Mr.
Bell’s part that of the dapper Englishman, the Grant Stewart part. Mr.
Miles suggested that Gaston play the needed juvenile in the Reliance
Company’s movie while rehearsing the opening bill of his Washington
stock season in New York, and promised a good movie job when the
Washington season ended. Said he’d rush him through at odd hours, so as
not to interfere with rehearsals, and finish with him in time for the

Well, everything went along fine, and for the last scene Gaston
reported beautifully arrayed in a new spring suit purchased especially
for his stock opening.

Suavely spoke the director, “Now, Gaston, we have saved this scene for
the finish--we must take you out somewhere and run you over.”

“Take-me-out-and-run-me-over?--in my beautiful new suit? Oh, no, you

But no one heeded Gaston’s distress.

Everybody piled in the automobile--after a couple of turns it landed on
a quiet street. “All out.” The car emptied--camera was soon set up and
Mr. Bell shown the place where he was to be run over.

These were amateur days in fake auto killings and injuries, but they
did the “running over” to the director’s satisfaction and Gaston’s, as
he escaped with no damage to his clothes or himself.

But Gaston had reckoned without a thought of static. How many hours
of anguish “static” caused us--static, those jiggly white lines that
sometimes danced and sometimes rained all over the film. Early next
morning his ’phone rang--Mr. Miles on the wire. “Awfully sorry, Gaston,
but we’ll have to take you out and run you over again because there
was static.” So they did it again, and again was Gaston dismissed as
finished. It came close on to train time: another ’phone--ye gods,
static again! He’d be bumped from juvenility to old age in this one
running-over scene, first thing he knew, and hobble onto the stage
with cane and crutch, which would never do for his precious little
Englishman in “Caught in the Rain.”

Well, they ran him over again. This was Saturday. The following Sunday
the company was to leave for Washington. Thinking to cinch things, Mr.
Miles offered, should anything be wrong with the scene this last time,
to pay Mr. Bell’s fare to Washington and his expenses if he would stay
in New York over Sunday. “Wildly extravagant, these picture people,”
thought Mr. Bell, as he departed for Washington with the company.

But no sooner was he nicely settled in his hotel, “static” and “being
run over” quite forgotten, and all set for his opening--when a long
distance came. Mr. Miles on the wire: “Awfully sorry, Gaston, but there
was more static and we will have to take you out and run you over
again.” And before Gaston had time to recover from the shock, the movie
director and his camera man were right there in Washington!

“Good night,” said Gaston, despairingly, to himself. But to Mr. Miles
he said, “Now I’ll tell you what you have to do, you must have another
actor handy to go on for me to-night, for I cannot take any more

Well, they took the scene another time, ruining neither Mr. Bell nor
his grand new suit, and as this time the scene was static-less, the day
was saved for Gaston. But “never again” vowed he. And “never again”
vowed the director.

David Miles kept good his promise and when Gaston’s season in
Washington closed, he joined Reliance. There he and George Loane Tucker
soon became known as the “Hall Room Boys.” For in an old brownstone
they shared a third floor back--also a dress suit. And if both boys
happened to be going out into society the same night, whoever arrived
home first and got himself washed up and brushed up first, had the
option on that one tuxedo.

The hall-room days of George Loane Tucker were brief. “Traffic in
Souls,” the white-slave picture that he produced for Universal, put him
over. An unhappy loss to the motion picture world was Mr. Tucker’s
early death; for that truly great picture, “The Miracle Man,” his
tribute to the world’s motion picture library _de luxe_, promised a
career of great brilliance.

Mr. Tucker had come rightfully by his great talent, for his mother,
Ethel Tucker, was an actress of note and a clever stage director also.
As leading woman in stock repertoire at Lathrop’s Grand Dime Theatre
of Boston, she had a tremendous popularity in her time. And long years
afterward, she too went into “the pictures” in Hollywood, for a very
brief period.

Mr. Tucker’s “Miracle Man” brought stardom to its three leading
players, Lon Chaney, Betty Compson, and Tommy Meighan.

Tommy Meighan’s leap to fame was surprising to both friends and family.
For Tommy had been considered, not exactly the black sheep of the
family, but rather the ne’er-do-well. During the run of “Get-Rich-Quick
Wallingford,” both being members of the cast, Frances Ring, sister to
the lustrous Blanche of “Rings on My Fingers” and “In the Good Old
Summertime” fame, had married Mr. Meighan, Tommy becoming through this
matrimonial alliance the least important member of the Ring family of
three clever sisters, Blanche, Frances, and Julie. An obscure little
Irishman, Tommy trailed along, with a voice that might not have taken
him so very far on the dramatic stage.

Like weaving in and out the paper strips of our kindergarten mats is
the story of the Ring sisters and Tommy. For Los Angeles beckoned, with
Blanche headlined at the Orpheum, Frances in stock, and Tommy playing
somewhere or other.

Blanche and her husband, Charles Winninger, a member of her company,
were invited by Louise Orth for a week-end out Las Palmas way. The
week-end proved very significant in results; for through their hostess,
who was leading woman at the Elko Studios, a meeting between Mr.
Winninger and Mr. Lehrman was arranged the next week which led directly
to Charlie’s signing on the dotted line at the fabulous salary of two
hundred and fifty dollars a week--to do comedies. But Charlie’s pale
blue eyes did not register well enough on the screen, and the comedy
note in his characterizations thus being lost, the good job just
naturally petered out.

Then Miss Ring, who had now taken over one of Los Angeles’s show
places, on the Fourth of July gave a party--a red, white, and blue
party at which were gathered more notables than had as yet ever been
brought together at a social function in Los Angeles. It was Broadway
transplanted. There were David Belasco, Laura Hope Crews, Charlie
Chaplin, Edna Purviance, Julian Eltinge, Geraldine Farrar, Jesse
Lasky, Mr. Goldwyn, Wallace and Mrs. Reid, Mr. Morris Gest, then
representative for Geraldine Farrar and Raymond Hitchcock, who viewing
from the back piazza the distant lights of Los Angeles was supposed to
have said something when he remarked, “This reminds one of a diamond
bar pin.”

It was an illustrious and patriotic party. Before the festivities were
over, Mr. Gest unwound the maline scarf from Miss Orth’s neck while
Charlie Chaplin sang the Spring Song, and Mr. Gest danced on the lawn
waving the scarf and crushing the slimy snails that in droves were
slowly creeping up to the house.

The party was illustrious in that it was here voted that Tommy Meighan
would photograph well in pictures, and Mr. Lasky invited him to the
studio and offered him, perhaps, fifty dollars a week, and he made a
hit in his first picture with Geraldine Farrar and was then given a
substantial raise. At which Blanche, the astounded sister-in-law said,
“And to think that at times I’ve had to support that Irishman.” There
had been enough job uncertainty to discourage her, so that she had
wondered sometimes whether she would have him on her hands for the
rest of her life. Even after Mr. Tommy Meighan’s advent into pictures,
sister Blanche rather expected, every now and then, that he would be

And so Tommy evolved from a liability into an asset, and became the
idol of innumerable feminine hearts. It was a colorful paper mat the
Ring family wove.

       *       *       *       *       *

While out at the Elko studio Charlie Winninger, with all his brilliant
and sustaining background, had so disastrously flopped, at Mack
Sennett’s studio another Charlie was very busy thinking out stunts that
would make people laugh. For the more people laughed, the more dollars
could Charlie Chaplin add to the savings for the rainy day, against
which, if he ever got the chance, he would make himself fool-proof.

For, so I have been told, Charlie Chaplin had known rainy days even
when a youngster. He was only seven when, in a music-hall sketch, he
made his first theatrical appearance. Later, he toured for some time
through the United Kingdom as one of the “Eight Lancashire Lads.” There
was an engagement with “Sherlock Holmes,” and then the association
with Fred Karno in “The Mumming Birds.” To America with Mr. Karno he
came, appearing as _Charlot_ in the now famous “A Night in an English
Music-hall.” When he debarked he was far from being the richest man on
the boat.

The movies claimed him. He was discovered by Mack Sennett in this
way. Mr. Sennett at this time was busy on the lot out in Los Angeles.
He heard of a funny man in an act called “A Night in an English
Music-hall” playing at Hammerstein’s Victoria Theatre, which used to
stand at Broadway and Forty-second Street, now replaced by the Rialto
Motion Picture House. Mr. Adam Kessel and Mr. Bauman, the firm for whom
Mack Sennett had nightly warmed the Alexandria’s leather benches in
the hope of landing a job, and for whom he was now producing comedies,
were both in California, and so in September, 1913, a wire was sent to
Charles Kessel, brother of Adam, to go over to Hammerstein’s and get a
report on the comedian about whom Mr. Sennett was so anxious.

Mr. Charles Kessel, the secretary of the company, heartily approved of
the comedian, who was none other than Charlie Chaplin. He thought so
well of him that he sent a letter asking Chaplin to come in and see
him. This Mr. Chaplin did. Mr. Kessel asked him how’d he like to go
into moving pictures. Mr. Chaplin answered that he had never given them
any thought.

Said Mr. Kessel: “I’ve seen you act and like you, but you needn’t make
any assertions now, nor any answers, but go out and make inquiries as
to Kessel and Bauman and if you think well enough of them, well then
we’ll talk.”

Mr. Chaplin found out that the firm was O. K. So Mr. Kessel said: “I’ll
give you a contract for a year and gamble with you--I’ll give you the
same salary that you’re getting on the stage.”

“One hundred and fifty dollars,” said Mr. Chaplin quickly. He really
was getting sixty dollars. “All right,” said Mr. Kessel so quickly that
Charles as quickly swallowed his Adam’s apple, and regretted he hadn’t
said more.

“But I don’t think I care to change from the stage to the pictures.”

“Well, our contracts are for fifty-two weeks, no Sunday work, no
intermissions between pictures; in vaudeville you get thirty-two weeks
and you pay your own traveling expenses.”

Mr. Chaplin said he’d make up his mind and let Mr. Kessel know.

So in about six weeks a letter came from Mr. Chaplin from Omaha saying
he was ready to start. The contract was mailed December 19, 1913, and
signed January 2, 1914.

“Mabel’s Predicament,” a one-reeler, was Charlie Chaplin’s first
picture. “Dough and Dynamite” the first two-reeler. Mr. Chaplin’s
success was instantaneous. It also must have been tremendous, for the
Keystone Company (Kessel and Bauman) within five months dared to do a
comedy five reels in length. When the five-reel comedy was announced,
there were many who thought that now surely the picture people were
going cuckoo. No one believed an audience would stand for a _five-reel

They did. The picture was “Tillie’s Punctured Romance,” adapted
from the Marie Dressier play, “Tillie’s Nightmare.” Marie Dressier
was engaged for the picture and for fourteen weeks she received the
unbelievable salary of one thousand dollars weekly and fifty per
cent of the picture, which, released in June, 1914, was one of the
sensations of the picture world.

All sorts of offers now began coming to Mr. Chaplin. Carl Laemmle
was one who was keen to get Charlie under contract; he kept himself
informed of Mr. Chaplin’s activities even to the social side of his
life so that he would know when and where best to set the bait.

Out at Sunset Inn, a place by the ocean where movie people then
made merry, Charlie Chaplin was to be one of a party. Mr. Laemmle
being wised up to it, gave a party of his own the same night, a most
expensive and grand party. Well, he would have Charlie’s ear for a
moment anyhow, and one never could tell.

The party in full swing, Mr. Laemmle invited Mr. Chaplin over to his
table, and after a few social preliminaries said, “Let’s talk business;
I want you to come and work for me.” But Mr. Chaplin, always a clever
business man, answered, “I’m enjoying myself--I don’t want to talk
business to-night, I’m on a party.”

Mr. Laemmle was all set to secure the services of the rising young
comedian, so he would not be daunted. Charles could talk “party,” but
_he_ would talk “business”; Mr. Laemmle offered a little better salary;
promised to advertise Chaplin big, and make him a tremendous star.

But Mr. Chaplin was too clever for Mr. Laemmle. With a most sweet smile
he turned to one of Mr. Laemmle’s guests, Louise Orth of the corn
yellow hair, and said, “Gee, that’s great music; I like blonds, and I
am going to dance with a blond, may I?”

It _was_ great music, about the first syncopated music with a saxophone
heard in that neck of the woods. There was a great horn into which
the dancers, if they desired an encore, threw a silver dollar. There
needed to be five particularly anxious dancers to get the expensive
orchestra to repeat an orchestration. The dollars clicked down the horn
into a sort of tin bucket on the floor below, and the loud jangle of
the silver money could be easily heard by the dancers who would listen
attentively for jangle number five, and then “On with the dance.”

As the music finished for the first dance this night, the dancers
stopped and with much excitement waited for the click of the silver
dollars. Charlie Chaplin was out for a big time; also he wanted to
worry Mr. Laemmle, and, one thing sure, he was not going to talk
business this night. So he was the first to say, “This dance is worth
an encore,” and he threw a silver dollar into the horn.

It was perhaps the first time Mr. Chaplin had been known to spend money
in public either for food or music, for every one was so tickled and
flattered to have him as a guest that he never was given a chance to
spend money. So Charlie’s Chaplin’s silver dollar nearly caused a riot
on that dance floor. The guests hooted and screamed and those who knew
him well enough and had been given stray bits of confidence, called
out, “You cannot plant your first dollar now because you’ve spent it.”
And Mr. Chaplin answered, “Oh, don’t you worry, I planted my first
dollar some time ago.”

Mr. Chaplin could never squander money; memories of lean days inhibited
him from doing that. But he must hold off Mr. Laemmle; and he was
enjoying the dance.

Two other dollars had joined Charlie Chaplin’s first one, and clicked
their way down the yawning chasm of the brass horn, and then a pause,
but just for a second. Grabbing his blond partner, Mr. Chaplin threw
the two needed dollars into the horn’s hungry maw, and the moaning
saxaphone started off again while Mr. Laemmle looked sadly on. He never
did secure the screen’s greatest funny man.

In six months Charlie Chaplin’s rise to fame and fortune was
phenomenal. Not only had a kind Providence richly endowed him, but he
worked very hard, as genius usually does. Even back in those days, Mr.
Chaplin often began his day making excursions with the milkman. From
the cold gray morning hours of three and four until seven, the two
would ramble through the poor districts, and while the milkman would
be depositing his bottle of milk, Mr. Chaplin would hobnob with drunks
and derelicts, and in the later hours, talk with the little children of
the slums, drawing out a story here, getting a new character there, and
making the tragic humorous when finally the story was given life on the
screen. The story of “The Kid” as Mr. Chaplin and Jackie Coogan told
it, was nearer the truth than any audience ever guessed.

       *       *       *       *       *

The ups and downs of the movie world!

Mack Sennett all dressed up and grouching on a leather settee in the
hotel lobby, waiting for his prey! He would not be handed dry, old
sandwiches all his days. He was out for steak, red and juicy. He got
there and has stayed put.

Henry Lehrman patting his inflated chest! He got there, but stayed put
the littlest while.

Charlie Chaplin, who topped them all, working while others slept, out
on excursions with the milkman!

Tommy Meighan of the genial smile and Irish red-bloodedness. He got a
chance, and the ladies liked him. Nice personality, and good actor,
even so.

Not alone in the movies is it easier to get there than to stay there.
Chance sometimes enters into the first, but to stay there means ears
attuned, feet on the ground, and heaps and heaps of hard work.



Late in the summer of 1912 the Kinemacolor Company of America, a
subsidiary of the English company, started the production of movies in
color at a studio in Whitestone, Long Island. The year of Kinemacolor’s
endeavor also marks Mr Griffith’s last year with Biograph, for he went
to the Mutual with Harry Aitken while I became leading woman with the

Messrs. Urban and Smith had rather startled the world with their color
pictures of the Coronation of George the Fifth of England, and the
Durbar Imperial at Delhi; and even though their pictures were a bit
fringy, they were becoming ambitious for honors in color movies along
dramatic lines.

Great things were achieved in America in the movies, and great things
might have been achieved in America in Kinemacolor, but it was destined
otherwise. Kinemacolor was fated to be but a brief though fruitful
interlude in color-photography in the movies, which, for some seemingly
mysterious reason, is so long in arriving.

Sunshine being imperative for Kinemacolor, southern California’s staple
brand could not be denied, and soon the company left its studio in
Whitestone and repaired to the modest little town of Hollywood where it
took over the Revier Laboratories at 4500 Sunset Boulevard.

That the place had been used as a studio was not discernible from the
front. It was a pretty corner on which, some distance apart, stood two
simple cottages, Middle Western in character. They represented office
and laboratory. Dressing-rooms and stages of a crudeness comparable to
the original Biograph studio were at the back.

No fence gave privacy from passers-by, but a high board fence,
decorated with pictures of foxes and the words “Fox Pictures,”
protected the lot in the rear. It was not the William Fox of to-day who
thus sought to advertise his trademark and his wares. Another Mr. Fox
it was of whom we seem to hear nothing these days.

Here Kinemacolor moved in, with David Miles at its head, Jack Le
Saint director of the No. 2 company, and our old friend Frank Woods
making his movie-directing début as teacher to the actors of the No.
3 company. For Mr. Woods having tasted movie blood through his little
Biograph scenarios and his position as chief reviewer of the movies,
had grown anxious to plunge more deeply into the swiftly moving waters
of reel life. So Mr. Miles opened the way for him. And although
Kinemacolor opened up financially to a salary of only seventy-five
dollars a week, the Woodses made the most of it, for from that humble
beginning in less than ten years they have come to own a town near
Barstow, California. They have named it “Lenwood.” Charles H. Fleming,
who was assistant to David Miles, afterwards became a director and
tastefully executed a number of pictures.

When the Kinemacolor Company was gathering in what youth and looks
and talent it could afford, Mr. Miles, remembering a little deed of
kindness, recalled Gaston Bell and took him to Hollywood, and when
the much-loved and generous-souled Lillian Russell came out to do
some pictures in Kinemacolor, Mr. Bell was rewarded by being made her
leading man. Mahlon Hamilton loaned his good looks to the same films.
The Russell pictures were used to illustrate “Beauty Talks” in an act
in which Miss Russell was headlined on big vaudeville time throughout
the United States.

Mahlon Hamilton and Gaston were the company’s two best “lookers.” As to
“acting,” Mahlon made not a single pretense. He and the company quite
agreed as to his dramatic ability. To be so perfectly Charles Dana-ish,
and histronic also, was not expected of one man in those days. We had
not reached the Valentino or Neil Hamilton age. Mr. Mahlon Hamilton, of
late, not quite so Gibsonesque, has become a surprisingly good actor.
So do the years take their toll and yield their little compensations.

The wonderful possibilities of Kinemacolor had not even been
scratched when the American subsidiary was formed, for the foreign
photographers--English, French, and German--who had “taken” the
Coronation and also some picture plays that were produced in southern
France, insisted that the close-up was impossible in color. But Mr.
Miles, having had Biograph schooling, insisted contrariwise, and
after a long and hard scrap with his photographers, he succeeded in
inducing them to do as he said. The result proved his contention. The
Kinemacolor close-ups were things of great beauty.

During its short life, Kinemacolor made some impression; for Dan
Frohman after seeing some of the pictures said that “The Scarlet
Letter” was the most artistic movie he had seen up to that time. Many
distinguished visitors stopped at its Hollywood studio to see the
new color pictures. Madame Tetrazzini, the opera singer, among many
others, was tremendously enthusiastic.

It has been stated in error that the Kinemacolor pictures were never
released. They were very much released, being shown at the New York
Theatre Roof, besides many other theatres in New York, and contracts
for their service all through the country were made by the Kinemacolor
Company. Things started off with such a bang, we never did get over the
shock of the sudden closing.

It was one exciting year with Kinemacolor, but it ended suddenly and
tragically with the death of the president, Mr. Brock. While preening
our wings for a flight to southern France, a telegram arrived from
the New York office announcing the finish of picture production in

The sudden disruption of the Kinemacolor Company sent a flock of actors
and a few directors scouting for new jobs. Frank Woods took up with
Universal, only to suffer a six weeks’ nightmare. Being unable to turn
out the class of stuff wanted, and anticipating what was coming, he
resigned, dug up the return half of his Kinemacolor round-trip ticket,
and was not long in New York before he got busy as a free-lance; and
not so long after that a telephone from D. W. Griffith asked him to
become his scenario writer. With great joy he accepted, filling the
position with Mr. Dougherty, who was now back at Biograph after a short
spasm with Kinemacolor.

Right away Mr. Woods and Mr. Griffith got busy on “Judith of Bethulia,”
for having produced such a classic, Mr. Griffith wanted some special
titling for it. He turned it over to Frank Woods, who phrased the
captions in the style of language of the day--the first time that was
done. However, it proved too much of a strain for the exhibitors, for
they afterward fixed the titles up to suit themselves in good old New

Mr. Griffith’s connection with the Mutual Film organization and his
association with H. E. Aitken resulted in the production of such
eventful and popular pictures as “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “Home, Sweet
Home,” “The Escape,” “The Avenging Conscience,” and “The Battle of the
Sexes.” The Clara Morris home out on Riverdale Road served as a studio
until the 29 Union Square Place was acquired.

Billy Bitzer, D. W.’s photographer, went with him in his new
affiliation, as also did Frank Woods and Christy Cabanne. As Mr.
Griffith’s work with the Mutual became organized, one by one he took
over his old actors, but he left them working with Biograph until he
could put them directly into a picture. So they trailed along; Henry
Walthall, Blanche Sweet, James Kirkwood, Mae Marsh, Lillian and Dorothy
Gish, Eddie Dillon, and many others.

After a short time at the Mutual studio, Mr. Griffith and his company
went to California. At the old Kinemacolor lot they encamped, the
Mutual having taken over that studio. The carpenters got busy right
away, and soon little one-story wooden buildings crowded to the
sidewalk’s edge, and the place began to look like a factory. The
sprinkling can that had given sustenance to red geraniums and calla
lilies was needed no more.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now before the Kinemacolor Company had started work at Whitestone
they had held a contract with George H. Brennan and Tom Dixon for
the production in color of Tom Dixon’s “The Clansman.” The idea was
that the dramatic company touring through the Southern States in
“The Clansman” would play their same parts before the camera. In
these Southern towns all the Southern atmosphere would be free for
the asking. Houses, streets, even cotton plantations would not be too
remote to use in the picture. And there was a marvelous scheme for
interiors. That was to drag the “drops” and “props” and the pretty
parlor furniture out into the open, where with the assistance of some
sort of floor and God’s sunshine, there would be nothing to hinder work
on the picture version of the play.

But the marvelous scheme didn’t work as well as was expected; and
eventually the managers decided that trying to take a movie on a
fly-by-night tour of a theatrical company was not possible, so the
company laid off to take it properly. They halted for six weeks and
notwithstanding the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars was spent,
it was a poor picture and was never even put together. Although Tom
Dixon’s sensational story of the South turned out such a botch, it was
to lead to a very big thing in the near future.

Frank Woods, after several others had tried, had written the continuity
of this version of “The Clansman,” and had received all of two
hundred dollars for the job. That the picturizing of his scenario had
proved such a flivver did not lessen his faith in “The Clansman’s”

Mr. Griffith was doing some tall thinking. His day of one- and
two-reelers having passed, and the multiple-reel Mutual features
having met with such success, he felt it was about time he started
something new. So, one day, he said to Frank Woods: “I want to make a
big picture. What’ll I make?” With his Kinemacolor experience still
fresh in mind Mr. Woods suggested “The Clansman.” With the Dixon story
and the play Mr. Griffith was quite familiar as he had heard from his
friend Austin Webb, who had played the part of the mulatto _Silas
Lynch_, about all the exciting times attending the performance of the
play--the riots and all--and more he had heard from Claire MacDowell,
who was also in the show, and more still from Mr. Dixon himself.

So David Griffith said to Frank Woods: “I think there’s something to
that. Now you call Mr. Dixon up, make an appointment to see him, and
you talk it over, but say nothing about my being the same actor who
worked for him once.”

So the meeting was arranged; the hour of the appointment approached;
and as Mr. Woods was leaving on his important mission Mr. Griffith gave
final parting instructions, “Now remember, don’t mention I’m the actor
that once worked for him, for he would not have confidence in me.”

So while Tom Dixon nibbled his lunch of crackers, nuts, and milk,
Mr. Woods, without revealing his little secret, unfolded the mighty
plan, “We are going to sell Wall Street and get the biggest man in the


“D. W. Griffith.”

“Oh, yes, I’ve heard a lot about him--he used to work for me.”

Mr. Dixon was greatly interested and evinced no hesitation whatever
in entrusting his sensational story of the South to his one-time
seventy-five dollars a week actor. He’d already taken one sporting
chance on it, why not another? Yes, Mr. Griffith could have his
“Clansman” for his big picture.

H. E. Aitken, who had formed the Mutual Film Company, had had on his
Executive Committee Felix Kahn, brother of Otto Kahn, and Crawford
Livingston. They had built the Rialto and Rivoli Theatres. The
Herculean task of financing the “big picture,” Mr. Aitken presented
to Mr. Kahn, and he genially had agreed to provide the necessary
cash--the monetary end was all beautifully settled--when the World War
entered the arena and Mr. Kahn felt he could not go on. So Mr. Aitken
had to finance the picture himself. He financed it to the extent of
sixty thousand dollars, which was what “The Birth of A Nation” cost
to produce. With legal fees and exploitation, it came to all of one
hundred and ten thousand dollars. Mr. Felix Kahn and Mr. Crawford
Livingston afterwards offered to help out with fifteen thousand dollars
but there were fifteen directors on the executive committee of the
Mutual Film, and they over-ruled the fifteen thousand dollars tender,
leaving Mr. Aitken as sole financier.

Mr. Dixon received two thousand five hundred dollars cash and
twenty-five per cent of the profits. He wanted more cash--wasn’t so
interested in the profits just then. But afterwards he had no regrets.
For it happened sometimes in later days, when the picture had started
out to gather in its millions, that Mr. Dixon casually opening a drawer
in his desk, would be greeted by a whopping big check--his interest in
“The Birth of A Nation,” and one of these times, happening unexpectedly
on one such check, he said, “I’m ashamed to take it”--a sentiment that
should have done his soul good.

Well, Mr. Dixon is one who should have got rich on “The Birth of A
Nation,” but the one whose genius was responsible for the unparalleled
success of the epoch-making picture says he fared like most inventors
and didn’t get so rich. However, it probably didn’t make Mr. Griffith
so very unhappy, for so far he has seemingly got more satisfaction out
of the art of picture making than out of the dollars the pictures bring.

Had the Epoch Company not sold State Rights on the picture when they
did, Tom Dixon’s interest would have been fabulous. But as the State
Rights’ privilege was not for life, only for a term of years, now soon
expiring, or perhaps expired now, and as up to date the picture has
brought in fifteen million dollars, it seems as though there’s nothing
much to be unhappy about for any of those concerned.

One of the State Rights buyers who took a sporting chance on the
picture was Louis B. Mayer, who had begun his movie career with a
nickelodeon in some place like East or South Boston, borrowing his
chairs from an undertaker when they weren’t being used for a funeral.
Mr. Mayer managed to scrape together enough money to buy the State
Rights for New England and he cleaned up a small fortune on the deal
after the owners had figured they had skimmed all the cream off Boston
and other New England cities.

       *       *       *       *       *

Oh, well, what’s money anyway? A little while and we all will rest
in good old mother earth, and if we’re lucky perhaps pink and white
daisies may nod in the soft spring breezes overhead. Or we may be grand
and have a mausoleum, or a shining shaft of stone, or a huge boulder
to mark our spot, or perhaps we may just rest in a neat little urn--a
handful of ashes.

And what then of the fêted days of Mary and Doug? Of the peals of
laughter that rocked a Charlie Chaplin audience? Of the suspenseful
rescue of a persecuted Griffith heroine on the ice-blocked river? Of
the storm-tossed career of Mabel Normand?

Of the magic city of Hollywood? And the Hollywooders? Of the exotic
and hectic life of the beautiful stars? Of the saner careers of the
domestically happy? Who was greatest? Who produced the best pictures?
Who was the most popular? Who made the most money?

All this will be told of in books reposing on dusty library shelves.
Possibly a name alone will be left to whisper to posterity of their
endeavor, or tinned celluloid reels shown maybe on special occasions,
only to be greeted by roars of laughter--even scenes of tender
death-bed partings--so old-fashioned will the technique be.

But David Wark Griffith’s record may yet perhaps shine with the steady
bright light of his courage, of his patient laboring day by day, of his
consecration to his work; and of his faithful love for his calling,
once thought so lowly.

       *       *       *       *       *

And so eventually “The Birth of A Nation” was finished. At the Liberty
Theatre in West Forty-second Street, New York--1915 was the time--it
had its première--one wholly novel for a moving picture--for it was the
first time a movie was presented bedecked in the same fashion as the
more luxurious drama, and shown at two dollars per seat. It was not
the first picture to be given in a legitimate theatre, however, for
Mr. Aitken had previously booked at the Cort Theatre “The Escape,” the
picture made from the Paul Armstrong play of the same name.

At this first public projection of “The Birth of A Nation,” an audience
sat spellbound for three hours. The picture was pronounced the
sensation of the season. From critics, ministers, and historians came
a flood of testimonials, treatises, and letters on the new art and
artists of the cinema.

“The Birth of A Nation” remains unique in picture production. It
probably never will be laid absolutely to rest, as it pictures so
dramatically the greatest tragedy in the history of America, showing
the stuff its citizens were made of and the reason why this nation has
become such a great and wonderful country.

Through the success of “The Birth of A Nation” the two-dollar movie was
born. But here let there be no misunderstanding: the two-dollar-a-seat
innovation in the movies was H. E. Aitken’s idea. He was opposed in it
by both Mr. Griffith and Mr. Dixon, Mr. Dixon becoming so alarmed that
he type-wrote a twelve-page argument against it. However, Mr. Aitken
persisted and the result proved him right. The public will pay if they
think your show is worth it.

Through the success of “The Birth of A Nation,” the sole habitat of
the movies was no longer Eighth Avenue, Sixth Avenue, Avenue A and
Fourteenth Street; the movies had reached Broadway to stay. D. W.
Griffith had achieved that, and had he stopped right there he would
have done his bit in the magical development of the motion picture.
For though “Bagdad Carpets” fly, and “Ten Commandments” preach, and
“Covered Wagons” trek--miles and miles of movies unreel, and some of
them awfully fine, they must all acknowledge that the narrow trail that
led to their highway was blazed by Mr. Griffith.

Whoever might have had a dream that the degraded little movie would
blossom into magnificence, now was beginning to see that dream come
true. The two-dollar movie was launched; tickets were obtainable at the
box office for what future dates one pleased; there were surroundings
that made the wearing of an evening dress look quite inconspicuous;
serious criticism and sober attention were to be had from the
high-minded--these were the first stages of the dream’s fulfillment.

But little we then dreamed that to-day’s picture world was to be like
an Arabian Night’s tale! Kings and Queens and Presidents interested! A
University proposed for the study of the motion picture alone! James
M. Barrie consenting to “Peter Pan” in the movies and selecting the
_Peter_ himself!--Any one who had made such suggestions then would have
been put where he could have harmed no one!

The wildest flights of fancy hardly visioned a salary of one thousand
dollars a day for an actor. But it came, as every one now knows, and
with the approach of dizzy salaries departed the simple happinesses and
contentment, and the fun of the old days, when thirty or fifty dollars
weekly looked like a small fortune.

We had to grow up. It was so written. I, for one, am glad I served my
novitiate in a day when we could afford to be good fellows, and our
hearts were young enough and happy enough to enjoy the gypsying way of


Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in the original book; otherwise they
were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; unbalanced quotation
marks were remedied when the change was obvious, and otherwise left

Except as noted below, the spellings of names and the titles of movies
in the original book are unchanged here.

Illustrations in this eBook have been positioned between paragraphs
and outside quotations. In versions of this eBook that support
hyperlinks, the page references in the List of Illustrations lead to
the corresponding illustrations.

Page references in the captions of some illustrations did not seem to
lead to relevant text.

Page 249: “Tell-tale Heart” was misprinted as “Tell ale Heart”; the
correction here is not definitive.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "When the movies were young" ***

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