I am a huge fan of silent movies.
I have a large collection of dvd’s, a favorite actress (Gloria Swanson) and have read biographies of many stars of the day. I even made sure my first visit to Los Angeles included a trip to the Hollywood Heritage Museum, a museum of silent movies housed in the restored Lasky-DeMille Barn. The silent film The Squaw Man was filmed in the barn, and it also includes Cecil B. Demille’s office (and I highly recommend a visit by anyone at all interested in the early days of movie making!).
That’s why this issue of Picture Play magazine caught my eye. Joan Crawford, as the embodiment of a flapper, was a very popular silent film actress whose career obviously continued on successfully for decades. Of course, since this issue of “Street & Smith’s Picture Play” magazine comes from December 1931, the films she was a part of at this time were talkies. You may notice on the cover, at the bottom of the page, it advertises “Clark Gable’s Life Story.” As it turns out, Joan Crawford and Clark Gable had starred in a movie together that year, Possessed, which you can get on DVD if you’re curious. Reviews seem to be good! From the article containing Clark Gable’s story is this photo of him:
Speaking of movies, this issue of the magazine contains a lot of great ads for both popular and long-forgotten movies of the day. One ad I particularly like was from a movie called “The Guardsman”, starring actors Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontaine, Roland Young, and Zasu Pitts. The caption reads, “Don’t miss this new type of love story – saucy – witty – naughty – gay!” This one I wasn’t able to locate on DVD, though some video tapes seem to be floating about. But from all accounts, this was a wonderful movie. I found the original review in the New York Times, from September 10, 1931. Here is an excerpt:
“It is a pity that there are not more Fontannes, Lunts and Molnars to help out the screen, for then this medium of entertainment would be on a far higher plane. It is a wonderful relief to sit through such a production after some of the patchwork effusions that have been offered in recent months.”
And Wikipedia states, “The story revolves around a husband-and-wife acting team. Simply because he is insecure, the husband suspects his wife could be capable of infidelity. The husband disguises himself as a guardsman with a thick accent, woos his wife under his false identity, and ends up seducing her. The couple stays together, and at the end the wife tells the husband that she knew it was him, but played along with the deception.”
I still haven’t decided if I’ll add these two movies to my to-watch list, though knowing me I won’t be too surprised if they end up there. I always enjoy watching old movies even more if I am able to read the opinions of people and reviewers from that time period, and try to imagine seeing it the way they did. That’s one reason I love these vintage movie magazines so much! I hope you enjoyed this look back at one of them.