Aspects of American Film History Prior to 1920

By Anthony Slide | Go to book overview

2. COMEDIENNES OF THE 'TEENS

In the years prior to 1920, film comediennes came in all shapes and sizes. There was the buxom, domineering mother-in-law variety, exemplified by Louise Carver and Phyllis Allen. There was lanky, spinsterish Flora Finch, and there was young but grotesquely ugly Gale Henry. Cute, fat and lovable describes Marie Dressler, who never really came into her own in films until the arrival of sound and the series of features with Polly Moran for M-G-M, although she had starred in a number of 'teens comedies, including Tillie's Punctured Romance ( 1914), The Blacklist ( 1916) and Tillie Wakes Up ( 1917). Polly Moran, of course, had starred in the totally forgotten, but by all accounts quite excellent, "Sheriff Nell" series for Mack Sennett-Paramount in the late 'teens.

To many of these comediennes, the film industry was a last resort. They had tried everything else with varying degrees of success or failure. For example, at the time of her death--on January 19, 1956--Louise Carver could look back on a career which had embraced grand opera, the legitimate stage and vaudeville.

The film industry in the 'teens also boasted a number of nondescript comediennes, such as Victoria Forde or Minta Durfee, who has more claim to fame as Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's first wife than as a comedienne in her own right. One such nonentity as a comedienne, Alice Lake, was to have later success as a star of non-comedy features in the early Twenties.

Billie Rhodes was, without a doubt, the most delightful of early screen comediennes; she exuded a charm generally lacking in stars of one-real comedies, and it is unfortunate that she was not allowed to appear in more features, and that those in which she did appear lacked good direction. If Mabel Normand was the silent screen's greatest slapstick comedienne, then Billie Rhodes was the equivalent in the

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Aspects of American Film History Prior to 1920
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Dedication iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • 6 - Mr. Edison and the Edison Company 63
  • Introduction xi
  • 1 - The Evolution of the Film Star 1
  • 2 - Comediennes of the 'Teens 7
  • 3 - Child Stars of the 'Teens 16
  • 4 - Ethel Grandin 27
  • 5 - Forgotten Early Directors 36
  • 7 - Katherine Anne Porter and the Movies 65
  • 8 - The Thanhouser Company 68
  • 9 - The Paralta Company 79
  • 10 - The O'Kalems 87
  • 11 - Early Film Magazines: An Overview 98
  • 12 - The First Motion Picture Bibliography 105
  • 13 - Film History Can Also Be Fun 122
  • Appendices 135
  • Source Material 149
  • Index 153
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