Saturday, September 7, 2013

BEFORE THEY WERE SCREAM STARS

 "Thrusting up from among humble people, as many a human genius, the motion picture now commands the attention of all intellectual people." - Stars of the Photoplay

In 1924, Lon Chaney, Sr. was enjoying increasing notoriety as a major film star for his self-created makeup and role as Quasimodo in Universal's HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. But he was some months away from scaring the living daylights out of film-going audiences with another one of his legendary makeups when he played Erik in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.

In that same year, the 1924 edition of STARS OF THE PHOTOPLAY was published by Photoplay Publishing Company in Chicago. Subtitled, "Art Portraits of Famous Film Favorites With Short Biographical Sketches", it was intended as a showcase for Hollywood actors and actresses that had become more recognizable than the multitude of others and successfully made the jump to stardom.

The biographical sketch for Chaney already calls him the "Man of a Thousand Faces" and tells of his deaf-mute parents. He is described as being 5' 9" tall, 155 lbs., brown hair, grey [sic] eyes, and married.

As Christine, Mary Philbin is famous for the loudest scream never heard on film when she crept up behind Erik and unmasked him as the legendary Phantom of the Paris Opera House to the world. Philbin's sketch mentions her as "one of the sweetest young actresses of the film", which is even more ironic since she was recruited out of a lineup of Chicago beauty contestants by Eric Von Stroheim.

Norman Kerry would play leading man Raoul in the PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. He began his film career in 1918, and after a few years signed on to a 5-year deal with Universal.

A native of Armenia, Arthur Edmund Carewe would play Inspector Ledoux. He had begun his career in 1915 on the stage. After PHANTOM, he had roles in other thrillers such as, THE CAT AND THE CANARY, DR.X, and MYSTERY IN THE WAX MUSEUM. Also of note is that the portrait of Carewe is by one of the master photographer brothers duo, either Roman or Jack Freulich, whose work spans the classic Universal horror films of the 1930s. To add to the confusion, Jack is credited with photography on the HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME and Roman is credited for work on PHANTOM OF THE OPERA!

STARS OF THE PHOTOPLAY 1924 serves as a standing legacy of silent films and film history in general. It is resources like these that only increase the richness of the American tradition of Hollywood film-making.







NOTE: The images seen here are scanned from a complete edition from the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum collection.

3 comments:

Doug said...

Was this in an auction? Or did you find a copy in a dark vault in your Sanctum?

John said...

Doug, I've referenced the source with a note at the bottom of the post.

Doug said...

I see it now--must have read it to late at night the first time!

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