365 Nights in Hollywood: Lem Bardi, Unlimited

Jimmy Starr began his career in Hollywood in the 1920s, writing the intertitles for silent shorts for producers such as Mack Sennett, the Christie Film Company, and Educational Films Corporation, among others. He also toiled as a gossip and film columnist for the Los Angeles Record in the 1920s and from 1930-1962 for the L.A. Herald-Express.
Starr was also a published author. In the 1940s, he penned a trio of mystery novels, the best known of which, The Corpse Came C.O.D., was made into a movie.
In 1926, Starr authored 365 Nights in Hollywood, a collection of short stories about Hollywood. It was published in a limited edition of 1000, each one signed and numbered by the author, by the David Graham Fischer Corporation, which seems to have been a very small (possibly even a vanity) press.
Here’s “Lem Bardi, Unlimited” from that 1926 collection.


Lem Smith had changed his name!
But it didn’t matter. Hollywood had not formally met the actor yet, anyhow.
Lem had seen Leo Carrillo in Lombardi, Ltd., once, and the title had always stuck with him.
In his own egotistic mind he was the one and only juvenile for the screen. Thus his sudden departure from Texas for Cinemaland.
He had written Harold Lloyd and Tommy Meighan that he was coming. But he supposed they were busy working and couldn’t get away from the studio, as they had not greeted him upon the arrival of the train.
Neither had Sam Goldwyn or Carl Laemmle.
As Lem walked up from the station he passed a sign which read: “Cards Printed. 50c Per Hundred.”
Twenty minutes later Lem was carefully holding a smalls stack of cards bearing the inscription:
“Lem Bardi, Unlimited.”
Lem was a wise guy. He inquired the way to Hollywood. A newsboy directed him west, but Lem was a wise guy to city fellows, so he went east.
He got on the wrong car.
Lem was a wise guy!
Two hours later Lem had his first view of the film village. But there were no celluloid friends in sight. At least none of the stars were out. Lem knew them all.
Lem strolled down the boulevard nonchalantly.
He stopped to gaze into a window.
Jackie Saunders spoke to him. She told him to get off her foot!

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Times Square Tintypes: Carl Laemmle

In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles the man who built Universal Studios, Carl Laemmle. (It’s an appropriate time to feature this profile, given that Universal recently celebrated its 100th anniversary as a film-making entity.)


In 1880 a wide-eyed immigrant walked down the gangplank of a steamship and stepped into America. His only possessions were fifty dollars and dreams. Today he wears eyeglasses and the shower in his office has gold faucets. His name was and still is CARL LAEMMLE.
Caricature of Carl LaemmleHe is stocky but only five feet in height. Is known as the smallest giant in the motion picture industry.
Was born in Laupheim, Germany. Today he owns the seal of the city.
Almost every important motion picture star has worked for him at some time or other.
He had left the clothing business. Was about to open a “five and ten cent store,” when the crowds going into a nickelodeon attracted his attention. The man who formerly lectured on the fineness of buttonholes entered the motion picture business February 26, 1906. He opened the White Front movie house, admission five cents.
Is very kind and good-natured. In the middle of heart to heart talks, a favorite pastime with him, he always manages to say, “Isn’t it a pity that we can’t all be pleasant?”
Is proud of the fact that he made the first million-dollar picture, Foolish Wives. While it was being made he had no idea it would cost that much.
His hobby and the distraction of all his associates is his wholesale importation of relatives and friends from Germany. They are immediately given jobs in the home office, Universal City and the various branches. It has been estimated that if he were to put them on a pension of a million dollars annually he would be saving a fortune.
He talks with a German accent but uses correct grammar.
Is always taking some medicine for some imaginary ailment. His doctor told him to walk for exercise. He does. But he has his car trail him. After a two-block walk, he rides feeling just like an athlete.
He loves to be called “the old man” and “Uncle Carl.”
He never personally breaks his promise.
In Universal City general managers are changed to rapidly that they are known as “the officers of the day.”
His favorite eating places are Lindy’s in New York and Henry’s in Hollywood. Both are exactly alike. His happiest moments are spent there with a napkin tucked through the armholes of his vest and a plate of sauerbraten before him.
He never sits through an entire picture. Often falls asleep in the projection room. Has a committee in New York who tell him about the pictures being made on the West Coast.
Is very proud of his home town. Makes all his employees donate their old clothes. Sends them to poor people there. It’s known as the Laemmle-Lauphem Fund.
The part of a picture that interests him most is the title. Will discuss the title and take suggestions from everybody, including the butcher boy.
He never meets a prominent person without having the camera click.
Is a marvel with figures. Can tell you offhand how much they did in Siam the second week four years ago on any picture.
Has a special book in his office in which he makes his employees write what they think of him.
As the organization meeting nearly everyone wanted his name to be the name of the film company. Somewhat disgusted, he looked out of the window. Saw a white horse pulling a wagon labeled “Universal Pipe Fitting Company.” He named it “The Universal Film Manufacturing Company.”
His office must be larger than anyone else’s. His desk is made to order so he can reach it. Sits with one leg dangling over the arm of a gros-point chair. The office contains polished mirrors, two-toned taffeta draperies and looks like a boudoir.
To show his patriotism during the war he produced The Kaiser, The Beast of Berlin. This picture provoked such bitter feeling in Germany that the next time he visited Laupheim he had to run out of the town in the middle of the night disguised as a woman.
The last person to have his ear is the party whose advice he follows.
A man tried to sell My Sweetheart, an old-time favorite play, to him for a talkie. “What kind of play is it?” he asked.
“A pastoral drama,” the man replied.
Laemmle thought for a moment and then said: “I don’t think I can use that play. I don’t like to put preachers in my pictures. It’s bad for business.”
He likes to wear red carnations in his lapel.
His greatest accomplishment was breaking the motion picture trust, making it possible for independents to produce.
Fought the trust for over two years. The day before the United States Supreme Court was to render the decision he was called out of town on business. Left word for his lawyer to let him know the result immediately. Elated over the victory the lawyer became dramatic and wired: “Justice Triumphs.” To which Laemmle immediately wired back: “Appeal At Once.”

In Your Hat, pt. 12

In Chapter 12 of In Your Hat, the 1933 tell-all memoir by Hat Check Girl to the Stars Renee Carroll, she reveals what various celebrities wrote in her collection of autograph books, and she follows that with tales of what the stars of the day liked to eat when they patronized Sardi’s.

If you took a rabbit out of those suckers’ hats
They would squawk just the same:
They all have two strikes on them
When they are born.


THAT’S an autograph left in my book by Tex. I’m not quite clear as to its meaning, and I don’t think she is either. But vaguely, it’s Broadway’s philosophy. If somebody pats you on the back, he’s only locating a spot for the knife thrust. If you give a sucker a break, he’s liable to shove his hand in and rip it apart.
Of course, all this is only sentimental hooey, and the boys and girls on Broadway are just as maudlin about one another as boys in an English boarding school. They all want to appear like awful, terrible “bad mans” with no hearts at all. The visage is stern, but the head and heart are made of mush, and it oozes through your fingers when you squeeze it.
I’ve got three books full of autographs. Perhaps a glance at some of them might throw an interesting light on the writers. I particularly like that of Frances Williams, whose cheeriness and glibness is not limited to her appeareances on the stage.

“May every hat check bring you a fat check—and may no meanie neglect my Renee—who never wrecks hats each time she checks hats—Frances Williams.”

Most of the celebrities pore over the book, seeking inspiration in the lines already written. Very few show any originality at all. Al Jolson, in one of his brighter moments, scribbled:

“Oh, look, I am in your book—thanks for letting me.”

And Louis Sobol, the Journal‘s columnist, wrote:

“To Renee, who expects something clever from me but won’t get it.”

Russell Patterson, the artist, who very rarely wears a hat, said as much, regretfully, with:

“To Renee, from her worst customer.”

Tony Canzoneri, the prize fighter, dragged his trade in by the teeth when he inscribed:

“To a real and sweet girl, with loads of knockouts.
                                           Tony Canzoneri,
                   Lightweight Champion of the World.”

The professional gate crasher, Tammany Young, waxed philosophical and wrote:

“To Renee—
   “Who takes what you give graciously. All life is a game of give and take. For what she takes she gives in a return a smile, a cheerful greeting and your belongings. May you go a long ways and prosper. Keep smiling Renee, it’s what we all go for.”

I think George Jessel‘s autograph amusing:

“To Renee—
            Duchess of Sardi,
               Baron George Jessel,
               Colonel of the Bronx Grenadiers
               And Vis-count of Brownsville.”

Sidney Skolsky, the paragrapher, gave me away with:

“You’ll always be Miss Shapiro to me—one of my best yarns. Sidney Skolsky
               P.S. She sleeps in the raw!”

If you can remember Herbert Rawlinson, you’ll remember his signature, too:

“My hat’s off to you. (Get it?) Je parle français aussi. (I hope that’s right).”

And Jesse Crawford noted:

“My autograph I here inscribe,
A member of the organ tribe
               Jesse Crawford,
               Poet (?) of the Organ.”

The little movie star, Marian Marsh, gave me a a straight tip with:

“Keep your face towards the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.”

And Reri who starred in F.W. Murnau‘s Tabu and was brought to American by Ziegfeld, wrote in the only language she knew:

“A mon amie Renee en souvenir des Ziegfeld Follies 1931.”

I offer the inscription of Sam Shipman, the playwright, because it is more or less typical of Broadway sentiment and ways of thinking:

“A hat girl who has more in her head than all the brains those hats cover. A little princess on a door mat—An oriental pearl in a suffocating shell—a ruby in a musty purse, but watch her.”

And Everett Marshall, the lusty-voiced baritone, dropped this:

“To Renee. In memory of my first daughter of four kilos.”

While Faith Baldwin, the author of Self Made Woman, wrote simply:

“Because I like red-heads.”

I’ve got lots of drawings, too, by famous artists, all of them too risqué for reproduction, and in some cases too combustible for safekeeping. Some of our best known illustrators have garnished the pages of my little books with drawings that would make those paintings on the bathroom walls of old Pompeii quiver with shame.
But not all the good things happen in autograph books or at penthouse parties. I have a lot of laughs right in the restaurant.

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