Sunday, May 26, 2013

Behind-the-Scenes Stories from "The Movie Years"

Technical crew in the Trenton studio, 1927.

Occasionally, I still get asked to speak to a group about that time in the history of our town, Trenton, Ontario, when it was home to a flourishing movie-making industry.

The reason for this is the small book I wrote about it back in 1989. Although it was never a bestseller, it continues to sell locally, and once in a while someone who is interested in early Canadian film requests a copy from my dwindling stock.

A person from the audience once told me, after one of my presentations, that it was the little behind-the-scene stories he most enjoyed. It was as if I were "telling secrets." Now I make sure to include a few in every talk.

Like the one about the cameraman from Universal Studios in California who kept a wolf in his backyard while he was here in Trenton.

Or about Tyrone Power Sr. who came to town in 1919 to star in The Great Shadow. He brought with him a "beautiful lady." His secretary, he called her, but the locals had other ideas. Especially when he used to like to borrow a yacht from the local pharmacist in order to take his lady out on the water for a bit of sightseeing.

And there was Louise Cardi, the actress who played the temptress, the estaminet girl in Carry On, Sergeant!" (1927–1928), who comforts the lonely soldier. Cardi had had no previous acting experience before this movie. She was a shop girl the director's wife had spotted in a New York City department store.

The early film stars were familiar figures on the streets in town, shopping in the local stores, looking for rooms to rent. And if you happened to own a coonskin coat you could sell it for almost any amount to one of the movie people. Or so the story goes.

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