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264 ★★★★★★★★★★ ✩✩✩✩✩✩✩✩✩✩ In the Wings JENNIFER M. BEAN Even a cursory glance at the shifting constellation of stars in the decade to come means grappling with the historical formation of a place we now call “Hollywood.” It bears mention that the initial glimmers of a nascent star system in the “picture personality” era between 1910 and 1912 coincided with the gradual relocation of filmmaking companies and acting troupes from the industry’s predominant base in New York, New Jersey, and Chicago to the sunnier climes of Florida and New Mexico, among others , and ultimately to the settling of “film colonies” in areas around Los Angeles, often called “movie land” or “film land” by the middle part of the decade. The project of introducing this place to the public was vividly taken up by newspaper reporters such as Kitty Kelly, whose “Flickerings from Filmland” column in the Chicago Daily Tribune incorporated over twenty entries relaying her trip to the new California studios in the spring of 1915. After hopping aboard Carl Laemmle’s “Universal Special” in Chicago, speeding south, and witnessing the gala opening event for the newly reconstructed “Universal City,” Kelly’s itinerary spiraled outward. One day she drifted out to the Essanay Company, based in Niles, California: “a trip across the ferry, a short jaunt through an orchard blooming, poppy glowing country —and there you are in a regular cinematographic pocket.” Regaling readers with her first view of the “long, low building topped by Essanay’s familiar Indian head,” Kelly ambles about the grounds, peeping into the barn to watch “Broncho Billy” Anderson’s horse practice a few tricks, eyeing the people who “float about in make-up and flutter about in their Snakeville costumes,” and sizing up the “row of little bungalows” located “back of the studio” where, as player Marguerite Clayton explained to the curious reporter, “‘all the people live’” (2 April 1915, 23). In the mid-1910s, traveling reporter accounts of this sort not only described a place called “film land,” but also favored an innovative rhetorical mode and a touch of whimsy designed to reflect the somewhat magical yet altogether ordinary place where “all the people live.” By the late 1910s this place would commonly be known as “Hollywood,” and by the early 1920s as a den of iniquity. The star scandals that rocked the industry in the early 1920s, including rumors of drunken orgies, alleged rapes, mysterious murders, and any number of divorces, affected in particular the careers of the most popular comedians from the 1910s, effectively banishing Roscoe Arbuckle from the screen and diminishing the options available to Mabel Normand. Charles Chaplin survived the moral slander associated with his divorce, even as he cleaned up the Tramp icon to show a little more sentimentality , albeit not a lot more class. Yet as it so happens, two of the most popular stars of the 1920s lurking in the wings were comedians. One of them was an energetic young man, neither too tall nor too short but altogether average. He grew up in Nebraska, performing in amateur drama competitions and dreaming of a life on the stage. In 1913, Harold Lloyd moved with his father to California, landing a brief stint as an extra in the movies before befriending the equally energetic Hal Roach, who encouraged the boy to try his luck at comedy. Lloyd appeared a few times on the Keystone lot, but his ordinary appearance did little to garner the attention of Keystone supervisor Mack Sennett. Lloyd thus joined Roach’s fledgling company in 1915, and after practicing his new craft in over sixty one-reel shorts as “Lonesome Luke” (a pale imitation of Charlie Chaplin), Lloyd ripped off his mustache in 1917 and donned a pair of glasses. Referred to by some as the “Virtuous American,” Lloyd’s famous “glasses character” took shape in two-reel shorts such as From Hand to Mouth (1919), which deftly incorporates a hilarious chase scene, and High and Dizzy (1920), which showcases the comedian’s exceptional capacity for drunken perambulations (all in the best of “spirits,” of course). A growing number of fans in the late 1910s would have heard of the unstable prop that blew up in the comedian’s right hand during a still shoot for Haunted Spooks (1919), leaving him with three fingers and a prosthetic device. This biographical tidbit enhanced tales of Lloyd’s plucky nerve behind the set, marshaling additional astonishment for his dangerous climb up the side of a twelve...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813550725
Related ISBN
9780813550145
MARC Record
OCLC
804661511
Pages
288
Launched on MUSE
2012-08-22
Language
English
Open Access
No
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