Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tales from the Archives: The Movie Church Sept. 1928

After last week's article about an advertisement for the film The Crown of Thorns, we are back to the listings of films shown by the Church of the Holy Infancy in Bethlehem, PA.

This week's parish monthly calendar is from August 1928 and shows us the films scheduled to be shown in September of that year. The article mentions that these films were shown in a high school auditorium to benefit the school's athletic program. A "comedy" was shown after after each of these double features. While this Church had shown shorts in earlier weeks, they didn't publish the titles for them this time.

The first film shown on September 16th was Jaws of Steel (1927) starring the canine actor Rin Tin Tin. This is the second film featuring "Rinty" shown by the Church as they viewed While London Sleeps (1926) in March of 1928. Jaws of Steel also starred Jason Robards, Sr. who like Rin Tin Tin had other movies shown by this Church. According to IMDB a nitrate print of the film survives in the Nederlands Filmmuseum. It is interesting to note that Jaws of Steel was a Vitaphone production. The film had recorded musical accompaniment and sound effects, but was otherwise silent as it had no dialogue. This Church has listings of films they shown into 1929 so I have a feeling we will see more of these Vitaphone movies.

The second film of this double feature was The Last Frontier (1926), a Western starring William Boyd. It appears that the film no longer survives. Like Rin Tin Tin, this Church had already played some William Boyd films before. It is interesting to note that Boyd was in several Westerns during this time as he would later become famous for playing cowboy Hopalong Cassidy in the 1930s and 1940s.

Flame of the Yukon
(1926) was the first film shown on September 23rd. This Western starred Seena Owen (pictured above in the 1919 movie Victory). Flame of the Yukon was a remake of a 1917 film that went by the same title, further proof that remakes always existed! According to Wikipedia the 1917 version survives at the Library of Congress but the 1926 film appears to be lost. Seena Owen's most well known films are D.W. Griffth's Intolerance (1916) and Erich Von Stroheim's Queen Kelly which starred Gloria Swanson. Owen starred in The Lamb (1915) alongside Douglas Fairbanks in his first film role. Owen is also known for being on William Randolph Hearst's yacht when film producer Thomas Ince died.

The second film of this double feature was Across the Atlantic (1928) which starred Monte Blue. According to IMDB the film is presumed lost. Like Jaws of Steel shown the week before, this movie was another Vitaphone production made by Warner Bros. Monte Blue was quite popular in the 1920s as he played the romantic lead to famous actresses such as Clara Bow, Gloria Swanson, Norma Shearer, and Marie Prevost. Although Blue lost his investments in the 1929 stock market crash, his career survived well into the talkie period as he became a prolific character actor over the next three decades (even making the jump to television) until his death in 1963. Blue has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The Weekly Wrap-up is Sunday as usual, see you then!

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