The Vitagraph Girl
Sheet music and lyrics of song by J.A. Leggett and Henry Frantzen (New York: F.B. Haviland Publishing Co. Inc., 1910).
This song celebrates one of the first film stars, Florence Turner (1885–1946), who appeared in numerous films for the Vitagraph company starting in 1907, and became known as “The Vitagraph Girl”. Her versatile talent was widely recognised in America and worldwide, and she was hugely popular, appealing as the song says, to male and female spectators alike. My newspaper searches in the “Chronicling America” website suggest that Turner was being described as “The Vitagraph Girl” from February 1910 at the latest, and the song was advertised just a couple of months later. The composer, Henry Frantzen (1850–1931), had written music for over 40 songs in the preceding decade, though the lyricist, J.A. Leggett, seems to have written very little else apart from this song. [End Page 451]
Who hasn’t been to a picture show, And gazed with surprise and delight, At scenes that are happy and scenes that are sad, And pictures of day-time and night But there is one picture, a feast for the eyes, It sets all our hearts in a whirl A vision of loveliness, peaches and cream, You know her the Vitagraph girl.
Chorus:I’m in love with the Vitagraph girl,The sweet little Vitagraph girl.Each movement a picture of romance or hate,Her tragedy’s bully, her love simply great:I’m entranced with her charms and her graceThat I see as the pictures unfurl.Of all girls that I’ve metShe’s the very best bet.I’m in love with the Vitagraph girl.
The boys are all happy when she’s in sight, The girls simply rave at her style, Proposals she’s had by the thousand or more, The chorus girls beaten a mile And if she is chased by some villain or brute, All pity this cute little pearl. She laughs, they laugh with her She weeps, they weep too, With the dear little Vitagraph girl.
Short story by Frederick John Randall from Answers (5 January 1910): 340.
A cinema building boom had started in Britain in 1909, the year before this story was published.59 Not everyone would be successful in such enterprises, as the story perceptively suggests, though in this case probably the decision by the protagonist, Mr. Harbottle, to show narrated local films in his new cinema could have been a miscalculation. The story had a subheading when published in Answers, “Harbottle takes part in a series of very animated pictures”, and that captures the slapstick flavour of the events
This was one of a series of episodes by Randall about Mr. Harbottle and his wife Miriam, which appeared through much of the year in Answers (one of Britain’s best known weekly magazines, founded by Lord Harmsworth). Other residents of the imaginary town, “Dulham” made appearances, such as Slobbs and Perks, and Harbottle’s friend and rival, Jimson, pictured twice below, with top-hat. Some of the stories were gathered together in book form in 1914, with illustrations by Arthur Clarke who had also drawn the three pictures below.60 Incidentally, the Johnson-Burns boxing match that is mentioned in the story took place on 26 December 1908, and films of it were then distributed all over the world.
I HAPPENED to see Jimson the other morning as I passed down the road. When I say I happened to see him, I mean that I couldn’t help it. If the pattern of Jimson’s suit doesn’t shout at you, the colour of his tie draws your vision like a magnet. He beckoned me across the road and stood calmly on my feet while he breathed heavily in my ear.
“Talking of investments,” he said, “ there’s only one thing to put your money in, nowadays – cinema theatres. Living pictures, old man. Safe venture, big dividends. You only want a few shares to be made for life. By...