17 November 2018

Photo by Paramount

Paramount Pictures is the fifth oldest surviving film studio in the world after the French studios Gaumont Film Company (1895) and Pathé (1896), followed by the Nordisk Film company (1906), and Universal Studios (1912). Paramount Pictures was created in 1916 through the merger of two prominent film production companies, the Famous Players Film Company and the Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company, and a nationwide film distributor, Paramount. Film producer Adolph Zukor put 22 actors and actresses under contract and honoured each with a star on the logo. These fortunate few would become the first movie stars. Paramount’s early hits included Blood and Sand (Fred Niblo, 1922) starring Rudolph Valentino, the Western The Covered Wagon (1923), and The Ten Commandments (1923), a biblical epic directed by Cecil B. DeMille. In 1933 the company declared bankruptcy, Lasky was ousted, and the company reorganized to emerge as Paramount Pictures, Inc., with Zukor serving as chairman of the board emeritus. Gulf+Western acquired the company in 1966, followed by Viacom, Inc. in 1994. Today, Paramount is the sole member of the Big Six film studios still headquartered in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles.

Rudolph Valentino in Blood and Sand (1922)
Rudolph Valentino. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4685/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for Blood and Sand (Fred Niblo, 1922).

Gary Cooper in Morocco (1930)
Gary Cooper. German postcard by Ross-Verlag, no. 5751/1, 1930-1931. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for Morocco (Josef von Sternberg, 1930). Cooper was mistakenly credited as 'Garry Cooper'.

Marlene Dietrich
Marlene Dietrich. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6673/2, 1931-1932. Photo: Don English / Paramount. Publicity still for Shanghai Express (Josef von Sternberg, 1932).

Veronica Lake
Veronica Lake. Big Belgian card by Chocolaterie Clovis, Pepinster. Photo: George Hurrell / Paramount. Publicity still for This Gun for Hire (Frank Tuttle, 1942).

Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments (1956)
Charlton Heston. Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg N.V., Rotterdam, no. 5183. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for The Ten Commandments (Cecil B. DeMille, 1956) with Heston as Moses. Moses' robe was hand-woven by Dorothea Hulse, one of the world's finest weavers. She also created costumes for The Robe, as well as textiles and costume fabrics for Samson and Delilah, David and Bathsheba, and others.

Famous Players in Famous Plays

Famous Players was created in 1912 by Adolph Zukor, a Hungarian immigrant who started in the penny arcade and nickelodeon business in New York in the early 1900s. Famous Players enjoyed early success producing and distributing multi-reel (feature-length) films and developing a star-driven market strategy.

With partners Daniel Frohman and Charles Frohman, Zukor planned to make films which appealed to the middle class by featuring the leading theatrical players of the time ('Famous Players in Famous Plays'). By mid-1913, Famous Players had completed five films. Its first film was Les Amours de la reine Élisabeth/Queen Elizabeth (Henri Desfontaines, Louis Mercanton, 1912) which starred Sarah Bernhardt.

Meanwhile, three young filmmaking entrepreneurs, Jesse Lasky, Samuel Goldfish (later Goldwyn), and Cecil B. DeMille, launched a production company in Hollywood in 1913, Jesse L. Lasky Feature Play Company. They scored a major hit in 1914 with their first feature production, The Squaw Man (Oscar Apfel, Cecil B. DeMille, 1914).

That same year, as the movies were rapidly becoming a major entertainment enterprise, W. W. Hodkinson formed a nationwide distribution company, Paramount Pictures, to release the films produced by Famous Players, Lasky, and others. Paramount was the first successful nationwide distributor. Until this time, films were sold on a state-wide or regional basis which had proved costly to film producers. Also, Famous Players and Lasky were privately owned while Paramount was a corporation.

Zukor and Lasky bought Hodkinson out of Paramount, and merged the three companies into one. The new company Lasky and Zukor founded, Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, grew quickly, with Lasky and his partners Goldwyn and DeMille running the production side, Hiram Abrams in charge of distribution, and Zukor making great plans. With only the exhibitor-owned First National as a rival, Famous Players-Lasky and its Paramount Pictures soon dominated the business.

Because Zukor believed in stars, he signed and developed many of the leading early stars, including Mary Pickford, Pauline Frederick, William S. Hart, Douglas Fairbanks, Fatty Arbuckle, Gloria Swanson, and Wallace Reid. With so many important players, Paramount was able to introduce ‘block booking’, which meant that an exhibitor who wanted a particular star's films had to buy a year's worth of other Paramount productions. It was this system that gave Paramount a leading position in the 1920s and 1930s, but which led the government to pursue it on antitrust grounds for more than twenty years.

The studio produced scores of top hits, ranging from Rudolph Valentino vehicles like The Sheik (George Melford, 1921) and Blood and Sand (Fred Niblo, 1922) to Western epics like The Covered Wagon (James Cruze, 1923) and the DeMille spectacles The Ten Commandments (1923) and The King of Kings (1927).

Pola Negri in The Cheat (1923)
Pola Negri. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 939/5, 1925-1926. Photo: Paramount-Film. Publicity still for The Cheat (George Fitzmaurice, 1923).

John Gilbert in The Merry Widow (1925)
John Gilbert. French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 478. Photo: Paramount. Gilbert as Prince Danilo in The Merry Widow (Erich von Stroheim, 1925).

Gloria Swanson in Stage Struck (1925)
Gloria Swanson. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 1488/3, 1927-1928. Photo: Paramount / Parafumet. Publicity still for Stage Struck (Allan Dwan, 1925).

Clara Bow
Clara Bow. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3510/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Paramount.

Abie's Irish Rose
Charles Rogers, Nancy Carroll, and Jean Hersholt. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 111/1. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for Abie's Irish Rose (Victor Fleming, 1928), which was based on a popular Broadway play.

A Movie Factory

In 1926, Adolph Zukor hired independent producer B. P. Schulberg, an unerring eye for new talent, to run the film studio. Paramount was one of the first Hollywood studios to release what were known at that time as ‘talkies’, and in 1929, released their first musical, Innocents of Paris (Richard Wallace, 1929). Maurice Chevalier starred and sung the most famous song from the film, Louise.

Eventually, Zukor shed most of his early partners. In 1935, Paramount went bankrupt. Zukor was bumped up to chairman of the board. In this role, he reorganised the company as Paramount Pictures, Inc. and was able to successfully bring the studio out of bankruptcy.

Paramount continued to emphasize stars; in the 1920s there were Swanson, Valentino, and Clara Bow. By the 1930s, talkies brought in a range of powerful new draws: Miriam HopkinsMarlene Dietrich, Mae West, W.C. Fields, Jeanette MacDonald, Claudette Colbert, Dorothy Lamour, Carole Lombard, Bing Crosby, band leader Shep Fields, famous Argentine tango singer Carlos Gardel, and Gary Cooper among them.

Like the other majors, Paramount's house style was geared to a range of star genre formulas; but the studio was unique in that these generally were handled not by unit producers but by specific directors who were granted considerable creative autonomy and control. Examples are Josef von Sternberg's highly stylized Dietrich melodramas like Morocco (1930), Shanghai Express (1932) and Blonde Venus (1932), and Ernst Lubitsch's distinctive musical operettas with Jeanette MacDonald such as The Love Parade (1929) and One Hour With You (1932).

While the key elements in these star-genre units were director and star, other filmmakers were crucial as well: writer Jules Furthman and cinematographer Lee Garmes on the Dietrich films, for example, and the production design by Hans Dreier on all of the films directed by both Lubitsch and von Sternberg during this period.

In this period Paramount can truly be described as a movie factory, turning out sixty to seventy pictures a year. Such were the benefits of having a huge theatre chain to fill, and of block booking to persuade other chains to go along. The studio's invested heavily in comedy during the early sound era, best typified perhaps by its run of the Marx Brothers comedies: The Cocoanuts (Robert Florey, Joseph Santley, 1929), Animal Crackers (Victor Heerman, 1930), Monkey Business (Norman Z. McLeod, 1931), Horse Feathers (Norman Z. McLeod, 1932), and Duck Soup (Leo McCarey, 1933). The first two films were shot at Paramount's Astoria, New York, studio.

W. C. Fields, George Burns & Gracie Allen, and Jack Oakie also contributed to this comedy trend, whose roots ran deeply into American vaudeville. In 1933, Mae West would add greatly to Paramount's success with her suggestive movies She Done Him Wrong (Lowell Sherman, 1933) and I'm No Angel (Wesley Ruggles, 1933). However, the sex appeal West gave in these movies would also lead to the enforcement of the Production Code, as the newly formed organization the Catholic Legion of Decency threatened a boycott if it was not enforced.

Influential comedy directors were Leo McCarey with Belle of the Nineties (1934) and Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) with Charles Laughton, and, Mitchell Leisen with Easy Living (1937) with Jean Arthur and Ray Milland, and Midnight (1939) with Claudette Colbert.

W.C. Fields and Chester Conklin in Fools for Luck (1928)
W.C. Fields and Chester Conklin. Dutch card. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for Fools for Luck (Charles Reisner, 1928).

Jeanette MacDonald in The Love Parade (1929)
Jeanette MacDonald. French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, no. 796. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for The Love Parade (Ernst Lubitsch, 1929).

Maurice Chevalier
Maurice Chevalier. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 531. Photo: Paramount.

Charles Rogers and Nancy Carroll in Follow Thru (1930)
Charles 'Buddy' Rogers and Nancy Carroll. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5547/1, 1930-1931. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for Follow Thru (Lloyd Corrigan, Laurence Schwab, 1930).

Claudette Colbert and Henry Wilcoxon in Cleopatra (1934)
Claudette Colbert and Henry Wilcoxon. French postcard by A.N., Paris, no. 962. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for Cleopatra (Cecil B. DeMille, 1934).

The end of the classic Hollywood studio system

In 1940, Paramount agreed to a government-instituted consent decree: block booking and ‘pre-selling’ (the practice of collecting up-front money for films not yet in production) would end. Immediately, Paramount cut back on production, from 71 films to a more modest 19 annually in the war years.

Still, with more new stars like Bob Hope, Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Paulette Goddard, and Betty Hutton, and with war-time attendance at astronomical numbers, Paramount and the other integrated studio-theatre combines made more money than ever.

At this, the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department decided to reopen their case against the five integrated studios. This led to the Supreme Court decision United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc. (1948) holding that movie studios could not also own movie theatre chains. This decision broke up Adolph Zukor's creation, with the theatre chain being split into a new company, United Paramount Theatres, and effectively brought an end to the classic Hollywood studio system.

With the separation of production and exhibition forced by the U.S. Supreme Court, Paramount Pictures Inc. was split in two. Paramount Pictures Corporation was formed to be the production distribution company, with the 1,500-screen theatre chain handed to the new United Paramount Theatres on December 31, 1949. Leonard Goldenson, who had headed the chain since 1938, remained as the new company's president.

Despite such setbacks, Paramount had a number of successes in the 1940s and 1950s, notably the satirical comedies of writer-director Preston Sturges such as The Lady Eve (1941) and Going My Way (1944), the cynical dramas and comedies of writer-director Billy Wilder like Double Indemnity (1944) and Sunset Boulevard (1950), the Road to-comedies of Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour the Western Shane (1953), and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) with James Stewart and Grace Kelly.

With the loss of the theatre chain, Paramount Pictures went into a decline, cutting studio-backed production, releasing its contract players, and making production deals with independents. By the mid-1950s, all the great names were gone. Only Cecil B. DeMille, associated with Paramount since 1913, kept making pictures in the grand old style. Despite Paramount's losses, DeMille would, however, give the studio some relief and create his most successful film at Paramount, a remake of his 1923 film The Ten Commandments (1956), starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner. DeMille died in 1959.

Like some other studios, Paramount saw little value in its film library, and sold 764 of its pre-1948 films.

Charles Laughton
Charles Laughton. Vintage postcard. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for Ruggles of Red Gap (1935).

Victor Mature in Samson and Delilah (1949)
Victor Mature. French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 358, 1954. Photo: Paramount Pictures Inc.. Publicity still for Samson and Delilah (Cecil B. DeMille, 1949).

Dorothy Lamour
Dorothy Lamour. French postcard by Viny, no. 13. Photo: Paramount.

Grace Kelly
Grace Kelly. French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 584, Photo: Paramount, 1954.

Yul Brynner in The Ten Commandments (1956)
Yul Brynner. French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 831. Photo: Paramount. Publicity still for The Ten Commandments (Cecil B. DeMille, 1956). For his pursuit of the Israelites, Brynner in his role as Rameses II wears the blue Khepresh helmet-crown, which the pharaohs wore for battle.

High Concept Pictures

By the early 1960s, Paramount's future was doubtful. The high-risk movie business was wobbly; the theatre chain was long gone; investments in television came to nothing; and the Golden Age of Hollywood had just ended. Films of this period include Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960) and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961).

In 1966, a sinking Paramount was sold to Charles Bluhdorn's industrial conglomerate, Gulf + Western Industries Corporation. Bluhdorn immediately put his stamp on the studio, installing a virtually unknown producer named Robert Evans as head of production. Despite some rough times, Evans held the job for eight years, restoring Paramount's reputation for commercial success with The Odd Couple (Gene Saks, 1968), Rosemary's Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968), Love Story (Arthur Hiller, 1970), and The Godfather (Francis Coppola, 1972) and its sequels.

Evans abandoned his position as head of production in 1974. By 1976, a new, television-trained team was in place headed by Barry Diller and his associates, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Dawn Steel and Don Simpson, who would each go on and head up major movie studios of their own later in their careers. The Paramount specialty was now simpler. ‘High concept’ pictures such as Saturday Night Fever (John Badham, 1977) and Grease (Randall Kleisner, 1978) hit all over the world, and Apocalypse Now (Francis Coppola, 1979) was also a huge hit.

Paramount's successful run of pictures extended into the 1980s and 1990s, generating hits like An Officer and a Gentleman (Taylor Hackford, 1982), Flashdance (Adrian Lyne, 1983), Terms of Endearment (James L. Brooks, 1983), Top Gun (Tony Scott, 1986) with Tom Cruise, and the Friday the 13th slasher series. Paramount teamed up with Lucasfilm to create the Indiana Jones franchise. During this period, responsibility for running the studio passed from Eisner and Katzenberg to Frank Mancuso, Sr. (1984) and Ned Tanen (1984) to Stanley R. Jaffe (1991) and Sherry Lansing (1992).

In 1994 Paramount was acquired by Viacom Inc. Titanic (James Cameron, 1997), made jointly with 20th Century Fox, tied the record for most Academy Awards and was the first film to earn more than $1 billion at the box office. More recent Paramount’s hits include both the Iron Man and Star Trek series, and The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013) starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Paramount is the last major film studio located in Hollywood proper. For a time the semi-industrial neighbourhood around Paramount was in decline, but has now come back. The recently refurbished studio has come to symbolize Hollywood for many visitors, and its studio tour is a popular attraction. The distinctively pyramidal Paramount mountain has been the company's logo since its inception and is the oldest surviving Hollywood film logo. In the sound era, the logo was accompanied by a fanfare called Paramount on Parade after the film of the same name, released in 1930. Legend has it that the mountain is based on a doodle made by W. W. Hodkinson during a meeting with Adolph Zukor. It is said to be based on the memories of his childhood in Utah.

Marlon Brando in The Godfather (1972)
Marlon Brando. American postcard by Classico San Francisco, no. 136-183. Photo: The Ludlow Collection. Publicity still for The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972).

Leonard Nimoy dies at 83
Leonard Nimoy as Spock in Star Trek. American postcard by Classico, San Francisco, no. 105-117. Photo: Paramount Pictures, 1991.

Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic (1997)
Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. Vintage postcard. Photo: publicity still for Titanic (James Cameron, 1997).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Film Reference, Wikipedia and IMDb.

16 November 2018

Rolf Hoppe (1930-2018)

On 14 November 2018, German stage and film actor Rolf Hoppe (1930-2018) passed away. With his huge shape and nearly bald head, Hoppe mainly played many funny characters like professors, wealthy patriarchs and aristocrats in East-German films and on TV. He was also the villain in several Easterns, produced by the DEFA, the official East-German film studio. Since 1963, Hoppe had appeared in over 300 stage plays, TV-series and films. He was 87.

Rolf Hoppe
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 221/69. Photo: publicity still for Spur des Falken/Trail of the Falcon (Gottfried Kolditz, 1968).

Rolf Hoppe (1930-2018)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 61/70. Photo: publicity still for Tödlicher Irrtum/Fatal Error (Konrad Petzold, 1970).

The typical Eastern Bloc countries' take on the Western

Rolf Hoppe was born in 1930 as son of a master baker in Ellrich, Thuringia, Germany - situated on the southern edge of the Harz. He started acting during his school time in FDJ (Free German Youth movement) amateur drama groups. After his apprenticeship as a baker, Rolf worked from 1945 to 1948, as a coachman. He then started an actors’ training at the in Erfurt.

Hoppe suffered from temporary vocal cord paralysis in 1950 and worked during this period as an animal keeper for Zirkus Aeros. He was later engaged at the Thalia Theater in Halle (Saale) and at the Young World Theatre in Leipzig. He acted at the Staatsschauspiel Dresden, the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, and the Salzburg Festival. He was internationally active in Switzerland, Italy, and China.

From 1964 on, Rolf Hoppe often appeared in films produced by the DEFA, the state-owned film studio in the German Democratic Republic (East-Germany). One of his first films was the drama Der Frühling braucht Zeit/The Spring Takes Time (Günter Stahnke, 1966), which was banned by the Communist authorities shortly after it was released.

He played villains in different ‘Osterns’ (the Eastern - the typical Eastern Bloc countries' take on the Western). An example is Spur des Falken/Trail of the Falcon (Gottfried Kolditz, 1968), starring Gojko Mitic as the Indian hero.

He also appeared in other Mitic films, Weiße Wölfe/White Wolves (Konrad Petzold, Bosko Boskovic, 1969), one of the most popular DEFA films ever, and Tödlicher Irrtum/Fatal Error (Konrad Petzold, 1970), also with Armin Mueller-Stahl. In 1971, Hoppe was awarded the National Prize of East Germany for artistic achievement.

Rolf Hoppe in Weisse Wölfe (1969)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 29/70. Photo: DEFA. Publicity still for Weisse Wölfe/White Wolves (Konrad Petzold, Bosko Boskovic, 1969).

Rolf Hoppe and Alfred Struwe in Ulzana (1974)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 7/76. Photo: DEFA / Dassdorf. Publicity still for Ulzana (Gottfried Kolditz, 1974) with Rolf Hoppe and Alfred Struwe.

The hoax of the Hitler Diaries

In 1971, Rolf Hoppe won the GDR arts award for his portrayal of the dumb, but good-natured 'King Karl IV of Spain and both Indias' in Goya (Konrad Wolf, 1971) starring Donatas Banionis. Hoppe also appeared in the East-German Science Fiction film Eolomea (Herrmann Zschoche 1972) with Cox Habbema.

One of his most notable roles was that of General Tábornagy (Hermann Göring) in Mephisto (István Szabó, 1981), the film adaptation of Klaus Mann's novel Mephisto, starring Klaus Maria Brandauer as Hendrik Höfgen. The film was awarded the 1981 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

His later films include the crime film Ärztinnen/Woman Doctors (Horst Seemann, 1984), the drama Das Haus am Fluß/The House on the River (Roland Gräf, 1986) and the East German–Swiss drama Pestalozzis Berg/Pestalozzi's Mountain (Peter von Gunten, 1989) featuring Gian Maria Volonté. All three films were entered into editions of the Berlin International Film Festival.

Hoppe had a supporting part in the satire Schtonk! (Helmut Dietl, 1992), a retelling of the hoax of the Hitler Diaries, starring Götz George. He also played Gauleiter Julius Streicher in another German success of the 1990s, Comedian Harmonists/The Harmonists (Joseph Vilsmaier, 1997), about the popular German vocal group the Comedian Harmonists of the 1920s and 1930s.

He then appeared in the Neo-Noir Palmetto (Volker Schlöndorff, 1998), based on the novel Just Another Sucker by James Hadley Chase. The film stars Woody Harrelson, Elisabeth Shue and Gina Gershon. Also interesting is the Jewish comedy Alles auf Zucker!/Go for Zucker (Dani Levy, 2004). Director Dani Levy, himself Jewish, made an ironic comedy about modern Jewish identity in present-day Germany. It was critically acclaimed in Germany and won a number of awards.

Hoppe also did a lot of TV work. He appeared in several Krimi series, including Tatort (1994-2003), Polizeiruf 110 (1996) and Donna Leon (2004).  In 1998, Hoppe won the Grimme award for his portrayal of mafia don Heinz Baranowski in the crime series Sardsch (1997) with Hannes Jaenicke.

Hoppe was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit First Class in 2010. He returned to the big screen with turns in the Polish-German drama Swinki (Robert Glinski, 2009) and Wir wollten aufs Meer/Shores of Hope (Toke Constantin Hebbeln, 2012). While the Ken Follett TV adaptation Die Pfeiler der Macht/A Dangerous Fortune (Christian Schwochow, 2016) saw him as a strict patriarch and he also featured in two episodes of TV crime series Spreewaldkrimi his last appearance on the big screen next to Lars Eidinger and Jan Josef Liefers in Die Blumen von gestern/Bloom of Yesterday (Chris Kraus, 2016), once more as a funny professor.

In 2015, Rolf Hoppe was awarded the Deutscher Schauspielerpreis for his lifetime achievements. On 14 November 2018, the 87-years-old Rolf Hoppe passed away in his home in Dresden. Since 1962, he was married with Friederike, who had passed away a month earlier in October 2018. They had two daughters, Josephine and Christine. Christine Hoppe (1968), is also an actress.

Armin Mueller-Stahl, Rolf Hoppe and Bruno O'Ya in Tödlicher Irrtum (1970)
East-German postcard by VEB Progress Film-Vertrieb, Berlin, no. 65/70. Photo: DEFA / Blümel. Publicity still for Tödlicher Irrtum/Fatal Error (Konrad Petzold, 1970) with Armin Mueller-Stahl and Bruno O'Ya.

Rolf Hoppe (1930-2018)
German autograph card. Photo: Hans-Ludwig Böhme. Signed in 2007.

Sources: Katharina Dockhorn (DEFA-Stiftung - German),  Filmportal.de, Welt (German), Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

Pauline Frederick

Pauline Frederick (1883-1938) was an American stage and film actress. Frederick made a name for herself in the theatre and had already passed thirty when she became successful in Hollywood. In the era of the silent film she was one of the most powerful actresses in the film industry.

Pauline Frederick
British postcard in the Cinema Stars series by Lilywhite Ltd., no. C.M. 14. Photo: Stoll Pictures.

Pauline Frederick
British postcard in the Cinema Stars series by Lilywhite Ltd., no. C.M. 186. Photo: Goldwyn Pictures.

Sophisticated or demanding, classy women and femme fatales

Pauline Frederick was born Pauline Beatrice Libbey in 1883 in Boston, USA, as the daughter of a prosperous couple, Richard O. and Loretta C. Libbey.

Her father worked as a yardmaster for the Old Colony Railroad before becoming a salesman. Her parents separated when she was a toddler and Frederick was raised primarily by her mother to whom she remained close for the remainder of her life.

As a child, Frederick was already interested in show business. Inspired by the theatre, she took singing lessons, and at the age of 19, she was accepted at the Boston Music Hall. When she got the thread, she packed her suitcases and moved with her mother to New York City.

Then known as Pauline Libby, she changed her surname to 'Frederick'. All this to the displeasure of her father, who got his daughter removed from his will in revenge. She legally changed her name to Pauline Frederick in 1908. In New York, Frederick started as a choir girl, but soon she made her debut on Broadway. Her first breakthrough came in 1904 when as an understudy she had to replace the lead actress in It Happened in Norland.

Frederick's heart lay with melodramas, and in the end she chose to neglect the opera. In 1908, Frederick became infertile because of a serious car accident. A year later she married Frank Mills Andrews. During this two-year marriage she stopped acting. In 1913, she secured her success when she returned to the stage with the leading role in Joseph and His Brethren.

In 1914, Pauline Frederick was hired by the film studio Famous Players and made her film debut in The Eternal City (Hugh Ford, Edwin S. Porter, 1915), a religious drama that was shot in Rome just before the outbreak of the First World War. Frederick saw the film industry as a temporary get-away, but encouraged by the success of The Eternal City she signed a contract.

Although she had already passed 30, she became one of the biggest stars in the silent film period. She played mainly sophisticated or demanding, classy women and femme fatales.

On the set of Nannette of the Wilds (Joseph Kaufman, 1916), the film that critics have renamed the worst of her career, she met actor Willard Mack. They fell in love and married in September 1917.

Pauline Frederick
British postcard in the Famous Players Stars Series, no. 2.

Pauline Frederick in Lydia Gilmore
British postcard. Photo: Famous Players Film. Publicity still of Pauline Frederick in Lydia Gilmore (Hugh Ford, Edwin S. Porter, 1915).

A role model and style icon for elder women

In 1919, Pauline Frederick signed a contract with Goldwyn Pictures. Critics agreed that she was assigned roles here that were more suitable for her. The budget of her films was larger and the films were better received in terms of quality. Although her career ran smoothly, her private life was a disaster. Mack was a violent alcoholic and drug addict who regularly mistreated his wife. In 1919 she applied for a divorce.

As a result of the relocation of Goldwyn, Frederick moved to California in 1920. That same year she played in Madame X (Frank Lloyd, 1920), the film she became best known for. Despite the success she enjoyed at Goldwyn, she left the studio for a contract with Robertson-Cole, where she received a fixed salary of $7,000 per week. Her move to Robertson-Cole was a misstep in her career. Most films flopped and reviewers spoke negatively about them. In 1922 her contract was terminated and she returned to the stage.

In 1924, she was hired by the Vitagraph Company, where she achieved success in films such as Three Women (Ernst Lubitsch, 1924) with May McAvoy and Marie Prevost, and Smouldering Fires (Clarence Brown, 1925) with Laura La Plante and Malcolm McGregor. Frederick became a role model and style icon for elder women. After a short time she left the studio to go on tour. In March 1927, she received some of her better reviews when she appeared in the play Madame X in London.

After her return to Hollywood, she did not manage to become as successful as before, but the film roles kept on coming. In 1928, Frederick's first sound film, On Trial (Archie Mayo, 1928), was released. Her voice was poorly received, but film historians blame this on the bad sound techniques. Technological progress went smoothly and eventually the actress made a good transition to the new film medium. She was cast as Joan Crawford's mother in This Modern Age (Nick Grinde, 1931). In spite of this, Frederick lost her prestige. Actors were massively exchanged for new talent. Similarly for Frederick, who managed to get film roles only with difficulty.

In the 1930s, Frederick underwent one setback after another. She returned to Broadway in 1932 in When the Bough Breaks, but because of the Great Depression she had trouble getting roles. Frederick filed for bankruptcy in 1933. She was in several short-term marriages and in the autumn of 1934 her fifth husband, Joseph Marmon, died of cancer. In the meantime she took care of her mother, whose health seriously deteriorated.

After her last theatre appearance in New York in 1936, she returned to Hollywood. Her final film was Thank You, Mr. Moto (Norman Foster, 1937) with Peter Lorre in the title role. Her mother died in February 1938 and Frederick suffered from severe asthma attacks. She did not recover from this and passed away in September 1938 at the age of 55.

Greta the Groat writes about her: “Pauline Frederick is one of the most interesting and individual stars of the American silent screen. In an era of gentle and sweet heroines--even among the 'emotional actresses', Frederick stood out with her dramatic looks, commanding presence and worldly characters. While never a top box office draw, Frederick was always something of a connoisseur's star, and her subtle and cinematic acting technique was widely admired both by audiences and within the industry. Unfortunately for modern audiences, only a handful of her many silent films survive. Those survivors, however, appear to have been among her best and most memorable, though they give us a somewhat skewed and limited view of her career.”

Pauline Frederick
British postcard in the 'Pictures' Portrait Gallery, no. 106.

Pauline Frederick
French postcard in the 'Les Vedettes du Cinéma' series by Editions Filma, no. 71. Photo: Agence Générale Cinématographique.

Pauline Frederick
French postcard by Editions Cinémagazine, no. 77. Photo: Melbourne Spurr.

Sources: Greta the Groat (The Pauline Frederick Website), Wikipedia (Dutch, English and German) and IMDb.

15 November 2018

The King of Kings (1927)

American silent epic The King of Kings (1927) was produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille. It was the second in DeMille's biblical trilogy, preceded by The Ten Commandments (1923) and followed by The Sign of the Cross (1932). The King of Kings depicts the last weeks of Jesus before his crucifixion and stars H. B. Warner in the lead role. This classic DeMille shows his storytelling talent and his showmanship by delivering a spectacle like no other. The film has two Technicolor sequences, the beginning and the resurrection scene, which use the two-strip process invented by Herbert Kalmus. The King of Kings was the first film that premiered at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles on 18 May 1927. The postcards in this post were made in Germany, France and Austria, and the stills were made by William Mortensen with a hand-held camera.

The King of Kings
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/1. Photo: National Film. Dorothy Cumming as the Virgin Mary in Cecil B. deMille's The King of Kings (1927). Caption: Mary and the blind girl.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/3. Photo: National Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Mary Magdalene. The charioteer was played by Noble Johnson, while Jacqueline Logan played Mary Magdalene.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/3. Photo: National Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Jesus (H.B. Warner) resurrects Lazarus from the Dead.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/4. Photo: National Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Mary Magdalene (Jacqueline Logan) dries Jesus' feet.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/5. Photo: National-Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Caiaphas the High Priest of Israel (Rudolph Schildkraut).

Victor Varconi, H.B. Warner and Rudolph Schildkraut in King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/6. Photo: National-Film. Publicity still for King of Kings (Cecil B. De Mille, 1927). Caption: Caiphas accuses Jesus before Pontius Pilate. Victor Varconi as Pontius Pilate the Governor of Judea, H.B. Warner as Jesus and Rudolph Schildkraut as Caiaphas.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/8. Photo: National-Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: The Last Supper.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/9. Photo: National-Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Jesus (H.B. Warner) and his Mother (Dorothy Cumming).

Equal amounts of showmanship and reverence

Hal Erickson at AllMovie: "Having scored big-time box office with his first Biblical epic, The Ten Commandments (1923), Cecil B. DeMille hoped to top this success with his 1927 The King of Kings.

Inasmuch as he was now dealing with the life of Christ, DeMille had to be careful to serve up equal amounts of showmanship and reverence.

The first creative challenge: how to "introduce" Christ in a tasteful manner? The answer: as a blind child is cured through Jesus' intervention, DeMille cuts to the child's point-of-view, slowly fading in on the kindly countenance of H.B. Warner as the Son of Man.

Still, DeMille remained DeMille, especially in his handling of the character of Mary Magdalene (Jacqueline Logan). No longer a tattered streetwalker, Mary Magdalene is now a glamorous courtesan, replete with legions of gorgeous slave girls."

"Once he's gotten his box-office considerations out of the way, DeMille adheres faithfully to the particulars of Jesus' life, betrayal, trial, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. (Again, however, the director improves a bit upon his source material: the storm that follows the Crucifixion is of the same spectacular dimensions as the parting of the Red Sea in Ten Commandments, while the Resurrection is filmed in vibrant Technicolor).

To back up the authenticity of his images, DeMille -- with an assist from scenarist Jeannie Macpherson -- utilizes Scriptural quotes in his subtitles."

The King of Kings is the first film for which the still were made by a hand-held camera. Photographer William Mortenson made four hundred negatives that capture scenes as they were being shot, not posed afterwards.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/10. Photo: National-Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Jesus (H.B. Warner) and the Captain of the Temple Guards (Theodore Kosloff).

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/11. Photo: National Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Jesus (H.B. Warner) on the way to Golgotha. The man helping to carry the cross could be William Boyd, who played Simon of Cyrene.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 86/12. Photo: National Film. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Under the Cross.

The King of Kings Ross
German postcard by Ross Verlag, unnumbered. Photo: DPG (Deutsche Photographische Gesellschaft). Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Caption: Pontius Pilate and his wife. Pilate was played by Victor Varconi, his wife Proculla by Majel Coleman.

The King of Kings (1927)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, unnumbered. Photo: DPG (Deutsche Photographische Gesellschaft). Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927) with H.B. Warner as Jesus.

Victor Varconi in The King of Kings (1927)
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5062. Photo: Cecil B. de Mille-Studio. Publicity still for The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Victor Varconi as Pontus Pilate.

The King of Kings (1927)
French postcard, no. 492. Postcard for the American silent epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille, 1927). Jesus (H.B. Warner) between the Virgin Mary (Dorothy Cumming) and Mary Magdalene (Jacqueline Logan).

Sources: David Fahey and Linda Rich (Masters of Starlight), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Wikipedia and IMDb.