Cladrite Classics: Jack Benny Slept Here

We were mulling over the other day some of the posts we thought particularly fun that went live in the weeks and months before Cladrite Radio had accumulated much of a readership. Would it be problematic, we wondered, to revisit some of those posts, under the heading of Cladrite Classics?

No, we decided, it would not. Hence the following revisited offering, which first saw the light of day on May 13, 2010:

Though we’re committed New Yorkers, we wouldn’t mind a bit spending a few weeks—perhaps even a few months—a year in Los Angeles. We even find ourselves daydreaming about the City of Angels quite often.

And yet, we came around slowly on L.A. Our first couple of visits were enjoyable enough, but we didn’t find the city particularly engaging. After a trio of week-long sojourns there over the past decade or so, though, we’ve been won over.

We view the city through a movie buff’s eye, primarily, and so spend our time motoring about checking out movie stars’ homes, vintage movie palaces, and locations that were used in the filming of some of our favorite classic pictures (though we’re also happy just puttering through the various old neighborhoods south of the Hollywood hills—we love the residential architecture in old L.A.).

We didn’t snap the photos shared below; we bought them at a flea market some years back. They’re snapshots taken around Hollywood and its environs back in the day. How old they are, exactly, we’re not sure—we’re inclined to think they’re from the late 1930s, but we’re open to guesses from you, gentle readers. (For larger views, just click the images.)


Fred Astaire’s home

Jack Benny’s home

Claudette Colbert’s home

Sam Goldwyn’s home

Norma Shearer’s home

Robert Taylor’s home

Mary Pickford and Douglas
Fairbanks’ Pickfair

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

Grauman’s Chinese Theatre

Times Square Tintypes: John Golden

In this chapter from his 1932 book, Times Square Tintypes, Broadway columnist Sidney Skolsky profiles theatrical producer John Golden.
 

“PURE AS THE DRIVEN SNOW”

JOHN GOLDEN. He’s the only man who produces clean sex plays. Yet he always manages to give the public what it wants. A shrewd showman, he realizes the value of publicity. Started the “clean” gag because of its healthy box office appeal. It has “it.”
Caricature of John GoldenWas once a bricklayer and the vice president of a chemical company. From the experience gained at the latter he is proficient in making gin.
He wrote the song “Poor Butterfly,” with Raymond Hubbell and Charles B. Dillingham. In fact, his managerial career started on a song. His royalty check for “Goodbye, Girls, I’m Through,” was $40,000. Gave it to Mrs. Golden for a present. She loaned it back to him to produce Turn to the Right.
His favorite actor is Muni Weisenfrend. He never says this without adding: “And Otto Kahn agrees with me.”
Is very much interested in what makes an audience go to a play. Once distributed a circular during the run of Pigs inquiring, “What made you attend this show?” Seventy per cent of the answers were variations of “Because a friend told me about it.”
As a bricklayer he helped build the Garrick Theatre.
For the last thirty years the annual Lambs’ Washing has been held on his estate at Bayside.
He was a partner of Cohan and Harris in the production of Hawthorne of the U. S. A. His task was to pal about with Douglas Fairbanks, seeing that the young acrobat didn’t hurdle over taxicabs and climb up buildings.
He is superstitious. Likes to have a numeral in the title of his plays. Remember: The 1st Year, 2 Girls Wanted, 3 Wise Fools, 4 Walls and 7th Heaven. Considers 27 his lucky number. In roulette and other numerical games of chance he will bet huge amount on it.
He organized the Producing Managers Association. This led to the famous actors’ strike.
The man he quotes most is Ring Lardner.
Is not fussy about clothing. Never goes to a store to purchase wearing apparel. If he needs another tie, shirt or suit, he merely telephones for it.
Thinks Atlantic City and Miami are the only vacation spots worth knowing.
He is one of the few producers who treat the theater as if it were a business. Is in his office by nine every morning and leaves at five. Is in bed every night at ten. He never attends the theater in the evenings. Goes only to matinées. Misses every opening night. Even his own.
Owns the original Old Kentucky Home, having bought the Stephen Foster homestead in Federal Hill to save it from being torn down.
He realizes the value of flattery. Gets the most out of people he is associated with by using it.
His favorite tryout town is Elmira, N. Y. Believes it to be lucky and opens all his shows there.
Was the first to cover the front of a theatre with an electric sign. Did it with 3 Wise Fools at the Criterion. Then the movies took up the idea . . . And how!
He hates the word “clean.” Refrains from using it in his conversations. When it slips out accidentally, he looks embarrassed.
He has collaborated on songs with Irving Berlin, Douglas Fairbanks, Oscar Hammerstein, Victor Herbert and Woodrow Wilson.
Always puts on his glasses when he talks on the telephone.
His hobby is collecting “the key to the city.” He has framed in his office keys to twenty-seven of the most important cities in the United States.
He hates dogs and cringes when he sees one.
Has a barber shop in his office, fully equipped. Every day at twelve a barber appears and shaves him. Every other week he takes a haircut.
His home in Bayside has eight bedrooms. He sleeps in a different room each night, according to his mood.

Silence is golden

We enjoyed this video tribute to the silent era, and thought we’d share it with you.

The person behind it, Alejandra Espasande Bouza, is an independent filmmaker based in Los Angeles. She holds a B.A. from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and a M.A. in Moving Image Archive Studies from UCLA. and here’s what she has to say about the project:

This video is a tribute to the forgotten pioneer Hollywood cinematographers who captured the moving images of the silent film era. In turn, these images serve as a reminder of the intrinsic beauty and charm of silent cinema, and the importance of its preservation. To that end, and in the tradition of this historic film period, no narration is employed. Apart from film stars of the time, the video showcases scenes that represent main themes of this film period: slapstick, adventure, horror and romance.

Sit back and enjoy the beauty of these moving images edited to the rhythm of Antonio Vivaldi.

Featured actors include: Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino, Greta Garbo, Clara Bow, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, William S. Hart, Ben Turpin, Harry Langdon, Buster Keaton, Harry Gribbon, Harold Lloyd, Mary Philbin, Lon Chaney and Roscoe Arbuckle.

If you enjoyed this, cast your vote for Ms. Bouza’s work in the MishMash Getty Images Music/Video/Remix competition.

A photo of a line of silent movie camera operators

Watching the stars come out

We have a grand time when we visit Los Angeles (pronounce it “Angle-eez,” with the hard G, if you please). As movie buffs, we get a kick out of just driving around the various neighborhoods and imagining who once lived in the bungalows we’re passing. Lucille Ball, f’rinstance.

Then there are the more substantial residences that the familiar stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood moved into, once they’d hit it big.

In our several trips to Tinsel Town, we’ve never taken one of the commercial tours of the stars’ homes, but we suspect they tend to focus on the abodes of contemporary stars—Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Justin Bieber—at the expense of the former residences of your Humphrey Bogarts, your Bette Davises, your Una Merkels. And who can blame them? It’s always good policy to give the people what they want, and we who are more interested in seeing where and how the stars of yesteryear lived are undeniably in the minority.

There are guidebooks that provide pointers that allow us to catch a glimpse of where Bogart, Davis, and Merkel lived, worked, and played, of course (we’re partial to Richard Alleman’s Hollywood: The Movie Lover’s Guide: The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie L.A.), but what if one doesn’t have the wherewithal (or accrued vacation days) to to arrange a Southern California sojorn?

In that case, one turns, as one tends to do these days, to the internet—specifically to Image-Archeology.com and their collection of vintage linen postcards that depict the residences of those performers who made our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents laugh, cry and tap their toes (though not simultaneously).

Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks’
home, Pickfair
Jean Harlow’s Beverily Hills residence Claudette Colbert’s hilltop residence
in Hollywood

At this delightful site, one can gaze upon a palatial Hancock Park home while imagining Buster Keaton stepping out to pick up the morning paper, compare contrast two of Groucho Marx‘s Beverly Hills homes, and kill two birds with one stone as you assess the love nest once blissfully shared by a pair of stars who were married once upon a time, Dick Powell and Joan Blondell.

And the list goes on—Myrna Loy, Harold Lloyd, Ginger Rogers, Barbara Stanwyck; one could grow breathless reciting them. All the cards, from A to Z (well, A to Y—Loretta Young is the last star on the list) are in terrific shape and lovingly presented. We encourage all our readers to experience a little California sunshine by spending some time there.

In Your Hat, pt. 8

Here’s Chapter 8 of In Your Hat, the 1933 tell-all memoir by Hat Check Girl to the Stars, Renee Carroll, in which she shares tales of by the many celebrities she encountered while working at Sardi’s, among them George Burns and Gracie Allen, Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, Norma Talmadge, George Raft, Wallace Reid, Ginger Rogers, Douglas Fairbanks, and many more.

     A STOOGE, in Broadway parlance, is the assist in the act. If you do an accordion routine and a heckler is paid by you to annoy your act from the box, then you’re probably Phil Baker and your stooge eventually becomes as famous as you are. Witness Sid Silvers of Take a Chance fame.
     Broadway is full of stooges, both in real life and on the stage. It may sound strange to you but the jester in the king’s court from the time of The Erl King (I don’t know why they insist on spelling Oil as Erl) has been brought down the years until now he is labeled “stooge.” His job is to take he hard knocks, furnish the opportunity for the gag to be sprung, and appear the perfect fool.
     When Phil Baker, who pumps a mean accordion, opened in a show in New York and had a stooge in the box doing the regular routine, Al Boasberg, the gagman who writes funny lines for a dozen or more comedians, wired Baker:

  LIKED YOUR ACT STOP THE OLD
GENT WITH THE ACCORDION WAS
GOOD TOO.


     Gracie Allen, of the famous team of Burns and Allen, is the stooge of the act, even though it is she who pulls all the funny lines. Recently she gave George Burns cause to laugh when she came to him with an idea.
     “Georgie, dear,” Gracie said. “I have an idea.”
     “Well, let’s forget it,” George answered characteristically, knowing it would bring on the usual headache.
     “I’ve thought of a line for our act,” she continued.
     “All right,” gave in George. “What is it?”
     “I can’t tell you until I’ve gotten a prop.”
     “What sort of a prop?”
     “A muff.”
     “What’s a muff?” George wanted to know.
     “It’s one of those things women used to carry around so that they could hold hands with themselves.”
     “All right, Gracie, get yourself a muff and let’s have the gag.”
     She went to the best furrier on the Avenue and ordered a muff made. It has to be matched sables, four skins, exquisitely sewn. The muff cost $250 and she charged it to Geroge Burns, her husband. She brought it to him one day.
     “Here’s the muff, George.”
     He examined it carefully. He approved.
     “I got it at a bargain, George.”
     George immediately became suspicious.
     “How much, Gracie? How much?” he pleaded.
     “Well—er—two hundred and—er—fifty dollars.”
     George felt around for support.
     “Two hundred and fifty smackers for that thing? Gracie, you’ll ruin me!”
     “But it’s a bargain, George, and the furrier let me have it at that price because there are two holes in it!”
     And she held up the muff to show him the holes in which one is supposed to insert one’s hands. Burns was nonplused.
     “But what about the gag?” he wanted to know. “Is the gag worth $250?”
     “Why, George,” giggled the she-stooge, “I just did it. You see, I come on with this muff and you ask me how much I paid for it and I say: ‘I got it at a bargain because it had two holes in it.”
     With which Mr. Burns fainted dead away. And that’s how jokes are born in case you’re interested.
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