Sunday, May 29, 2011

The World's Top Three Movie Stars

I love this picture of the happy trio, the three most popular movie stars in the world in 1919 when, along with director D.W. Griffith, they founded United Artists in order to produce and distribute their own films. 

Sitting on the shoulders of the ever-athletic Douglas Fairbanks Sr. are Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford. Their fans came to expect antics like this of the three. So much so that when they formed U.A. some wit was heard to say, "Now the lunatics are running the asylum." How wrong they were!
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Monday, May 23, 2011

Melbourne Spurr, Celebrity Photographer of Silent Era Stars

I recently came across a Facebook page devoted to the work of Melbourne Spurr, another of Mary Pickford's many photographers. Spurr arrived in Hollywood around 1917 and went to work for noted photographer Fred Hartsook (see my previous blog post). Spurr, who happened to be deaf, took many exquisite portraits of Mary, and his work so impressed her that she helped launch his career. By the 1920s, he had become one of the top celebrity photographers in Hollywood.
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Monday, May 16, 2011

One of Mary Pickford's Favourite Photographers, Hartsook Studios

During the course of researching and writing Mary Pickford, Canada's Silent Siren, America's Sweetheart, I often came across portraits of Mary that had been taken by Hartsook Studios. I was interested in knowing more about this chain of portrait studios which, in 1921, was the largest photographic business in the world.

Fred Hartsook was born in Indiana in 1876, into a family of photographers and studio owners. Although trained as a civil engineer, Fred became a wandering photographer after he and his wife, also a photographer, arrived in California, about 1906. They travelled the state taking pictures and using a team of oxen to pull Fred's homemade darkroom.

Eventually, Fred opened a photographic studio in Los Angeles and did so well that he was able to expand into other cities along the west coast of the U.S. He became famous for his portraits of celebrities, including many of Hollywood's stars of  the silent films such as Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish. 

Hartsook was also able to take up life as a rancher, and he and his wife became resort owners, developing Hartsook Inn on 37 acres of California redwood forest. The inn became a favourite of many Hollywood celebrities, including Bing Crosby and Mary Pickford. Fred died of a heart attack at the age of 54. His widow continued to operate the inn until 1938.

The photograph above is my favourite Hartsook photo of Mary. Let me know if you have favourites of your own.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Writer While Travelling

I suspect, like any writer, I'd be lost away from home without some writing supplies. I'm never without the pocket-size notebook anyway, the one that comes in handy in my day-to-day routine, to pass the time during long waits or to jot down sudden insights. This is where I record the current trip, hour by hour: the miles we cover, at what time we set out each morning, the stops we make along the way, the weather, the scenery, even the traffic flow. All this is useful for future reference, providing us with the most reliable way of knowing exactly how long it takes us to get to Myrtle Beach, or elsewhere. And it's entertaining to look back at these notes during cold Canadian Marches, if only to remind us of where we were a year ago.

One of my lined yellow scratch pads comes along on the journey too. In fact I used it when drafting this post to my blog. I also pack my regular daily journal into my bag. This is where I'll record any particularly remarkable days we spend, a place or an event that deserves preserving in the best way I know how.

And because I'm usually in the process of writing or editing something, this time the Mary Pickford biography, I take my notes for that along. I also made sure I had the manuscript on a flash drive, in case I heard from my editor.

Because I never want to be caught without some paper and a pen, I make sure my writing supplies go into the suitcase along with the bathing suits and walking shoes.

Happy trails!