22 March 2023

Dorothy Mackail

Dorothy Mackaill (1903–1990) was a British-American actress, most active during the silent-film era and into the pre-Code era of the early 1930s. During the 1930s, her popularity declined and she found herself in B-movies. From 1920 to 1937, she starred in more than 60 films.

Dorothy Mackaill
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5199/1, 1930-1931. Photo: First National / Defina.

Milton Sills and Dorothy Mackaill in The Making of O'Malley (1925)
Danish postcard by J. Chr. Olsens Kunstforlag, Eneret. Photo: Milton Sills and Dorothy Mackaill (not Doris Kenyon!) in The Making of O'Malley (Lambert Hillyer, 1925).

Walter Byron and Dorothy MacKaill
British postcard in the Film Partners series, London, no. PC 8. Photo: Walter Byron and Dorothy MacKaill The Reckless Hour (John Francis Dillon, 1931).

True Hollywood star status

Dorothy Mackaill was born in Sculcoates, Kingston upon Hull, Great Britain, in 1903. She lived with her father after her parents divorced when she was about 11 years old. A rebellious teenager, Dorothy ran away to London, hoping to launch a show business career. Finally, she persuaded her father to pay for her board and lessons.

At age 16, she danced in Joybelles at London's Hippodrome and worked in Paris acting in a few minor Pathé films. She met a Broadway choreographer who got her a job with Ziegfield Follies in New York City. She joined the Broadway cast of 'The Century Revue' (1920). By then, she had begun the transition from Follies Girl to film actress.

That same year she appeared in her first film, the mystery The Face at the Window (Wilfred Noy, 1920). The following year, she appeared opposite Anna May Wong, Noah Beery and Lon Chaney in the drama Bits of Life (Marshall Neilan, 1921).

In the following years, her popularity increased and she starred opposite popular actors such as Richard Barthelmess and John Barrymore. In 1924, she was chosen as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars of the Year for being an up-and-coming young actress. She reached true Hollywood star status with her role in the film The Man Who Came Back (Emmett J. Flynn, 1924) with George O'Brien.

Other successful films included Chickie (John Francis Dillon, 1925), Joanna (Edwin Carewe, 1925), and The Dancer of Paris (Alfred Santell, 1926) with Conway Tearle. In 1926 she became a naturalised American citizen. She starred in romantic drama films as well as comedies, but many of the silent films she starred in have been lost. Two of her sound films have also been lost, The Love Racket (William A. Seiter, 1929) and Strictly Modern (William A. Seiter, 1930) with Sidney Blackmer.

Dorothy Mackaill
Belgian postcard by Weekblad Cinéma, Antwerpen.

Dorothy Mackaill
British postcard by Film Weekly, London.

Dorothy Mackaill
French postcard by J.R.P.R., no. 55. Photo: Films First National.

A sort of celebrity in residence in Honolulu

Dorothy Mackaill made a smooth transition to sound film in 1928. Her silent film The Barker (George Fitzmaurice, 1928) with Milton Sills, was remade as a partial talkie. In the early 1930s, her singing and dancing talents from her Ziegfeld past showed in such films as Bright Lights (Michael Curtiz, 1930). One of her most successful sound films was The Office Wife (Lloyd Bacon, 1930) in which the 35 years older Lewis Stone was her romantic interest. In the melodrama Safe in Hell (William A. Wellman, 1931), she played a prostitute who sacrifices her life for the man she loves. The film ran into trouble with the censor.

The industry was in upheaval during that transitional period, and First National didn't renew Dorothy's contract when it expired in 1931. As a freelancer, she made some good films at Columbia such as Love Affair (Thornton Freeland, 1932) with a young, clean-cut Humphrey Bogart, Paramount such as No Man of Her Own (Wesley Ruggles, 1932) with Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, and MGM such as The Chief (Charles Reisner, 1933) with Ed Wynn, but overall her career was idling.

The following year brought few prospects, and she wound up making a trio of quickies for the independent market, a particularly poor example being Cheaters (Phil Rosen, 1934) with William Bendix for low-rent Liberty Pictures. She returned to Great Britain for her last film, the espionage thriller Bulldog Drummond at Bay (Norman Lee, 1937) starring John Lodge. After that, she retired from the film world and took care of her invalid mother.

In 1955, she moved to Honolulu, Hawaii. She had fallen in love with the islands while filming His Captive Woman (George Fitzmaurice, 1929) and had made eight radio programs about the hotel. Mackaill lived at the luxurious Royal Hawaiian Hotel on the beach at Waikiki as a sort of celebrity in residence and enjoyed swimming in the ocean nearly every day. In 1976 and 1980, she guest starred in the TV series Hawaii Five-O.

She died of kidney (or liver ) failure in 1990 in her room at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. Mackaill was married three times. Her first marriage to German-born actor, film director and screenwriter Lothar Mendes lasted from 1926 to 1928. Her second marriage to radio singer Neil Albert Miller lasted from 1931 to 1934. She was married to horticulturist Harold Patterson from 1947 to 1948. All of the marriages ended in a divorce and she had no children. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered off Waikiki Beach.

Walter Byron and Dorothy MacKaill in The Reckless Hour (1931)
British postcard in the Film Partners series, London, no. P 8. Photo: Walter Byron and Dorothy MacKaill in The Reckless Hour (John Francis Dillon, 1931).

Dorothy Mackaill
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, London, no. 188a.

Dorothy Mackaill
British postcard in the Picturegoer Series, London, no. 188c.

Sources: Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Linda Davis (Find A Grave), Cliff Aliperti (Immortal Ephemera), Wikipedia (Dutch, German and English) and IMDb.

21 March 2023

Charles Farrell

Good-looking American actor Charles Farrell (1900-1990) was a Hollywood matinee idol of the Jazz Age and Depression era. Now, he seems forgotten, but between 1927 and 1934, he formed a very popular team with Janet Gaynor. They appeared in 12 screen romances, including 7th Heaven (1927), Street Angel (1928), and Lucky Star (1929). Farrell retired from films in the early 1940s, but TV audiences of the 1950s would see him as Gale Storm's widower dad in the popular television series My Little Margie (1952-1955).

Charles Farrell
Vintage photo card. Written caption: My very best wishes, Charli Farrell.

Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell in Seventh Heaven
Italian postcard offered by Cioccolata Lurati, no. 124. Photo: Fox. Publicity still for Seventh Heaven (Frank Borzage, 1927) with Janet Gaynor.

Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell in Lucky Star (1929)
French postcard by Cinémagazine Edition (CE), Paris, no. 821. Photo: Fox. Publicity still for Lucky Star (Frank Borzage, 1929) with Janet Gaynor.

Greta Nissen and Charles Farrell in Fazil (1928)
British postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3917/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Fox. Publicity still for Fazil (Howard Hawks, 1928) with Greta Nissen.

Charles Farrell
Austrian postcard by Iris-Verlag, no. 5889. Photo: Max Munn Autrey / Fox.

Charles Farrell
Austrian postcard by Iris-Verlag, no. 5996. Photo: Max Munn Autrey / Fox.

Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor in The First Year (1932)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6128/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Fox. Publicity still for The First Year (William K. Howard, 1932) with Janet Gaynor.

The pivotal role of the Parisian sewer cleaner Chico

Charles David Farrell was born in 1900 in Onset, Massachusetts, the only son in his family. His father owned a lunch counter where films were shown on the upper floor which introduced Farrell to the world of cinema.

He briefly attended Boston University to study business while playing in the football team but dropped out to become an actor in the theatre. This didn’t go well with his family, especially his father, so Farrell was on his own. He took any acting job possible that would get him financially and professionally closer to his goal of being in the cinema.

The handsome young actor decided to move to California and try his luck in Hollywood. For Paramount Pictures, Farrell did extra work for films ranging from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Wallace Worsley, 1923) with Lon Chaney, Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1923), and The Cheat (George Fitzmaurice, 1923) with Pola Negri.

Farrell continued to work throughout the next few years in relatively minor roles without much success. After three years as an extra, he was given a good role in Old Ironsides (James Cruze, 1926). Then his big break came when Fox Studios signed him and gave him the pivotal role as the Parisian sewer cleaner Chico in the romantic drama 7th Heaven (Frank Borzage, 1927). He was paired with fellow newcomer Janet Gaynor. The film was a public and critical success and won an Academy Award.

The studio noticed the audience growing a craze for Farrell and Gaynor and they would go on to co-star in more than a dozen films throughout the late 1920s and into the talkie era of the early 1930s. The plots of the Gaynor-Farrell films were fit for a fairytale book where love conquers all and the good prevails, with convincing acting that makes you believe it.

The director of three of these films was Frank Borzage, known for stories set in a surreal or ethereal-like world. Farrell and Gaynor were romantically involved from about 1926 until her first marriage in 1929. Shaken by the death of his close friend, actor Fred Thomson, Farrell proposed marriage to Gaynor around 1928, but the couple was never married.

Years later, Gaynor explained her breakup with Farrell: "I think we loved each other more than we were 'in love.' He played polo, he went to the Hearst Ranch for wild weekends with Marion Davies, he got around to the parties - he was a big, brawny, outdoors type... I was not a party girl... Charlie pressed me to marry him, but we had too many differences. In my era, you didn't live together. It just wasn't done. So I married a San Francisco businessman, Lydell Peck, just to get away from Charlie."

Another success for Farrell was The Red Dance (Raoul Walsh, 1928) in which Dolores del Rio co-starred as a poor girl-turned-dancer who falls in love with Farrell’s character of Grand Duke Eugene during the Bolshevik Revolution. Two months before the stock market crash, Farrell and Gaynor starred in the unique and heartfelt WWI love story, Lucky Star (Frank Borzage, 1929).

The Depression was just beginning when Farrell made his last and one of his best silents film, City Girl (F.W. Murnau, 1930). He plays Lem, a young man from the country sent to the city for a business who falls in love with the waitress at the lunch counter named Kate (Mary Duncan). Rachel at Vintage Stardust: "His acting brought elegance even during the most emotional scenes and refreshed the image of masculinity in the film even after he successfully transitioned into sound. Oh and he was one of the first to go nude in a film (in The River from 1929 (sic) there’s a brief scene where he swam nude and is about to get out of the water completely before he sees a woman nearby.)" Sadly, Frank Borzage's masterpiece The River (1928) is partially lost.

Charles Farrell
British postcard in the Colourgraph Series, London, no. C 65.

Charles Farrell
British card.

Charles Farrell
French postcard by J.R.P.R., Paris, no. 207. Photo: Fox.

Charles Farrell and Dolores Del Rio in The Red Dance (1928)
Italian postcard by G.B. Falci, Milano, no. 827. Photo: Max Munn Autrey / Fox Film. Publicity still for The Red Dance (Raoul Walsh, 1928) with Dolores del Rio.

Charles Farrell in The Red Dance (1928)
British postcard, no. 9 of a fifth series of 25 Cinema Stars, issued with Sarony Cigarettes. Photo: publicity still for The Red Dance (Raoul Walsh, 1928).

Charles Farrell
Austrian postcard by Iris-Verlag, no. 5430. Photo: Fox.

Charles Farrell
Austrian postcard by Iris Verlag, no. 5995. Photo: Fox.

Bringing a new definition of men into cinema

Unlike many of his silent screen peers, Charles Farrell had no 'voice troubles' and remained a publicly popular actor throughout the sound era. Rachel at Vintage Stardust: "Well-mannered and athletically built, Farrell’s roles were dramatic but often romantic leads that brought a new definition of men in cinema. His gentleness in his characters created the idea that men could be sensitive and kind yet strong at the same time. Not to say that men from this era couldn’t be this way in real life but it was rare in film to depict men as being vulnerable."

In 1931 he married actress Virginia Valli, with whom he stayed together until her death in 1968. In the 1930s, Farrell became a resident of the desert city of Palm Springs, California. In 1934, he opened the popular Palm Springs Racquet Club in the city with his business partner, fellow actor Ralph Bellamy.

By the mid-1930s his career declined. Rumours point to his personal life or lack of memorable scripts. The type of leading men was also changing with the Depression. The scripts Farrell received included musicals which did not allow him to showcase his acting range. An exception was Change of Heart (John G. Blystone, 1934).

During World War II, Farrell served in the Navy. A major player in the developing prosperity of Palm Springs in the 1930s through the 1960s, Farrell was elected to the city council in 1946 and elected mayor of the community in 1948, a position that he held until he submitted his resignation in 1953 due to a return to acting.

In 1952, more than a decade after his career in motion pictures had ended, Farrell began appearing on the television series My Little Margie, which aired on CBS and NBC between 1952 and 1955. He played the role of the widower Vern Albright, the father of a young woman, Margie Albright (Gale Storm), with a knack for getting into trouble. In 1956, Farrell starred in his own television program, The Charles Farrell Show.

For the remainder of his life, Farrell managed the Palm Springs Racquet Club until the late 1960s and kept out of the Hollywood spotlight. He died of a heart attack in 1990.

At the time of his death, he felt forgotten as an actor and his films were too dated to be appreciated. But in 1990, a 35mm print of his previously considered lost film Lucky Star (1929) was discovered in the Nederlands Filmmuseum in Amsterdam. It was restored for its 1990 revival premiere at Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, the silent film festival in Pordenone, Italy. And audiences started a new craze for Farrell and Gaynor.

Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor
British postcard by Abdulla Cigarettes, no. 15. Photo: Fox.

Charles Farrell
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4171/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Fox.

Charles Farrell
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4862/2. Photo: Fox.

Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell in Sunnyside Up (1929)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 5001/1, 1930-1931. Photo: Fox. Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell in the early sound film Sunnyside Up (David Butler, 1929).

Charles Farrell
British postard in the Picturegoer series, London, no. 332.

Charles Farrell in High Society Blues (1930)
Photo postcard delivered by the Dutch East Indies. Toko Ang West, Bandoeng. Photo: publicity still for High Society Blues (David Butler, 1930).

Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor in Delicious (1931)
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6452/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Fox. Publicity still for Delicious (David Butler, 1931) with Janet Gaynor.

Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor
British postcard by Picturegoer, mo. 493. Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor.

Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor in Delicious (1931)
Spanish postcard by Editorial Gráfica, Barcelona, no. But-12 87. Photo: Fox. Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor in Delicious (David Butler, 1931).

Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 71466/1, 1932-1933. Photo: Fox. With Janet Gaynor.

Sources: Rachel (Vintage Stardust), Guy Bellinger (IMDb), Bill Takacs (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.

20 March 2023

The Film-Kurier Series

The Film-Kurier postcard series was published in Great Britain during the 1930s. Film-Kurier was one of the most influential German film magazines and the first German film journal to appear daily. Initially published weekly, the magazine was founded by Alfred Weiner and appeared in Berlin from 1919 to 1945. In 1933, after the National Socialists seized power in Germany, publisher Weiner had to leave the paper because of his Jewish origins - he emigrated to the United States. It is not known if Weiner was connected to this British 'Film-Kurier' Series. Here you find 15 postcards with Hollywood star portraits. They have a size of 9.1 x 14 cm (or 3 9/16″ x 5 1/2″) and on the flip side, the address of the Film-Kurier series was 10, Banner St., London, E.C.1.

Gary Cooper
British postcard in the 'Film-Kurier' Series, London, no. 9. Photo: Paramount Pictures.

American screen legend Gary Cooper (1901-1961) is well remembered for his stoic, understated acting style in more than one hundred Westerns, comedies and dramas. He received five Oscar nominations and won twice for his roles as Alvin York in Sergeant York (1941) and as Will Kane in High Noon (1952).

Jackie Cooper
British postcard in the 'Film-Kurier' Series, London, no. 11. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

American actor, television director, producer, and executive Jackie Cooper (1922-2011) was one of the most popular child stars of the 1930s. He is also the youngest performer to have been nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role, for Skippy (1931). He was one of the few child actors who managed to make the transition to an adult career. In later life, he produced and directed over 250 films and television shows.

Marlene Dietrich
British postcard by 'Film-Kurier' Series, London, no. 19. Photo: Paramount Pictures. Marlene Dietrich in The Scarlet Empress (Josef von Sternberg, 1934).

Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992) is regarded as the first German actress to become successful in Hollywood. Throughout her long career, she constantly re-invented herself, starting as a cabaret singer, chorus girl and film actress in 1920s Berlin, she became a Hollywood movie star in the 1930s, a World War II frontline entertainer, and finally an international stage show performer from the 1950s to the 1970s, eventually becoming one of the entertainment icons of the 20th century.

Mae West
British postcard by 'Film-Kurier' Series, London, no. 22. Photo: Paramount Pictures.

Blonde Mae West (1895-1982) was a seductive, overdressed, endearing, intelligent, and sometimes vulgar American actress and sex symbol. She featured a come-hither voice, aggressive sexuality, and a genius for comedy. West started in Vaudeville and on the stage in New York, and later moved to Hollywood to star in such films as I’m No Angel (1933), She Done Him Wrong (1933), and Klondike Annie (1936). She was one of the first women in the cinema to consistently write the films she starred in.

Marie Dressler in Christopher Bean (1933)
British postcard in the 'Film-Kurier' Series, London, no. 31. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Marie Dressler in Christopher Bean (Sam Wood, 1933).

Canadian actress Marie Dressler (1868-1934) began her career in the theatre and became famous as a comedy actress. In the early sound film era, Dressler rose to become one of Hollywood's biggest stars. In 1931 she won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in Min and Bill (1931).

Maureen O'Sullivan
British postcard in the 'Film-Kurier' Series, London, no. 39. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Maureen O'Sullivan (1911-1998) was an Irish actress best known for playing Jane in the Tarzan series of films starring Johnny Weissmuller.

Merle Oberon
British postcard in the 'Film-Kurier' Series, no. 43. Photo: London Film Production.

Indian-born British actress Merle Oberon (1911-1979) had her breakthrough as Anna Boleyn in The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933). She played leading roles in such British films as The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), before she travelled to Hollywood to star in classics such as The Dark Angel (1935) and Wuthering Heights (1939).

Carole Lombard
British postcard in the 'Film-Kurier' Series, London, no. 45. Photo: Paramount Pictures.

American film actress Carole Lombard (1908–1942) was the highest-paid star in Hollywood in the late 1930s. She was particularly noted for her energetic, ditzy, and often off-beat roles in screwball comedies of the 1930s.

Diana Wynyard
British postcard in the 'Film-Kurier' Series, London, no. 63. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Elegant and aristocratic British actress Diana Wynyard (1906-1964) was a leading lady on the London stage. She also had a brief and largely unsatisfactory Hollywood career but returned to the screen successfully in England in the first film version of Gas Light (1940), and although she didn't make many films, she had a secure place in the roll call of great British film stars.

Leslie Howard
British postcard in the 'Film-Kurier' Series, London, no. 64. Photo: Warner Brothers & Vitaphone Pictures.

English stage and film actor, director, and producer Leslie Howard (1893-1943) is best known for his role as Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind (1939). Other popular films were The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), The Petrified Forest (1936), Pygmalion (1938), and Intermezzo (1939). During the Second World War, he was active in anti-Nazi propaganda. In 1943 his airliner was shot down, and this sparked modern conspiracy theories regarding his death.

James Cagney
British postcard in the 'Film-Kurier' Series, London. no. 70. Photo: Warner Bros.

Energetic, wise-cracking James Cagney (1899-1986) was an American film actor, famous for his gangster roles in the 1930s and 1940s. One of the brightest stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Cagney was not only a multifaceted tough guy but also an accomplished dancer and he easily played light comedy.

Elizabeth Allan
British postcard by Real Photograph in the 'Film-Kurier' Series, no. 125. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

English actress Elizabeth Allan (1910-1990) worked in both Britain and Hollywood, making about 50 films over more than a quarter century.

Clark Gable
British postcard in the 'Film-Kurier' Series, London, no. 131. Photo: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

With his natural charm and knowing smile, Clark Gable (1901-1959) was 'The King of Hollywood' during the 1930s. He often portrayed down-to-earth, bravado characters with a carefree attitude, and was seen as the epitome of masculinity. Gable won an Academy Award for Best Actor for It Happened One Night (1934), and was nominated for leading roles in Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) and for his best-known role as Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind (1939).

Jessie Matthews
British postcard in the 'Film-Kurier' Series, London, no. 138a. Sent by mail in Great Britain in 1937. Photo: Gaumont British.

Saucer-eyed, long-legged Jessie Matthews (1907-1981) was a gamine, graceful dancer, with a sweet, pure-toned singing voice, and waif-like sex appeal, who embodied 1930s style. For most of the decade, she was the most popular musical star in England and ranked on par with Fred Astaire, Ruby Keeler, and Ginger Rogers. She was a favourite of Irving Berlin and Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart, all of whom gave her some of their very best work. Her personal life was blighted by relationship breakdowns and her struggles against ill health and insecurity.

Margaret Sullavan
British postcard in the 'Film-Kurier' Series, London, no. 143. Photo: Universal Pictures.

Margaret Sullavan (1909-1960) was an American stage and film actress. She is best remembered opposite James Stewart in Ernst Lubitsch's The Shop Around the Corner (1940).

Sources: Wikipedia (German) and Classic Film Collectibles.