Sunday, June 30, 2013

Miss Elsie Mackay

I was trying to save this one for a little later because I needed to wrap my head around who I was really covering. When I looked up one name, I wouldn't get any information, but when I looked up the other, I would get a ton of information. Then the names were sometimes linked and sometimes sounded like they were describing two different people. So, I had to do a bit more homework to finally get it together that Elsie Mackay and Poppy Wyndham were in fact the same person. I should have done her about the same time as I did Ormer Locklear since they were both known for their airplane stunts rather than their acting talents.

Elsie Mackay was born sometime in 1893 in Simla, India to James and Jean Mackay. Even her birth date is hard to pin down! A mystery this woman...I do know that she had she had an older sister named Margaret, two younger sisters, Effie and Janet, and a younger brother, Kenneth. 

Elsie appeared in her first film, Snow in the Desert, in 1919. She had been quite a well known stage actress before appearing on the screen. She seemed hell bent to do anything and everything her father did not want her to do. James Mackay was President of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, and members of council for various government agencies in India. Having a daughter who was an actress and an aviatrix was not what he had in mind. Because of her father's objections, Elsie appeared in films under the stage name Poppy Wyndham.

Her film career only consisted of eight films: her film debut mentioned above, A Great Coup (1919), The Town of Crooked Ways (1920), The Tidal Wave (1920), Nothing But the Truth (1920), Many a Slip (1920), A Son of David (1920), and A Dead Certainty (1920). All of her films were made in the United Kingdom. 

The year 1920 was a busy one for Elsie. It was the year she made most of her films and it was the year she got her pilot's license, being one of the first English woman to do so. And it should be no surprise that since she was known to drive her Rolls Royce at high speeds and gallop away on her horses that she would want to do some really fancy stunts in an airplane. Once while performing a loop in the air, her safety harness broke and she had to hold on to the plane while her body swung outside of it. Good lord!

Elsie had set her goals sky high (get it?) with her pilot's license, she wanted to become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. She chose Walter G.R. Hinchcliffe to be her fellow pilot on her flight. 

On March 13, 1928, Elsie and Hinchcliffe took off in their airplane, named Endeavour. Considering what they were attempting to do, the fanfare for the event was pretty small. Elsie had registered under the name 'Gordon Sinclair' so no one really knew who it was in the pilot's seat. She had threatened to sue if reporters were to leak the story to the newspapers because she didn't want her family to know she was going to attempt the flight. Everything seemed fine on take off and the plane was reportedly spotted twice in the air, but they disappeared soon after. It is assumed they crashed somewhere in the Atlantic, but nothing else is known. The only evidence could be some plane parts that washed up on the shores of Ireland eight months after the plane took off. 

When it comes to discussing her personal life, it once again gets a little confusing. I first read about a marriage to an actor named Dennis Wyndham, who she met while working as a nurse during WWI. They were reportedly married around 1917, but the marriage was later annulled.

Even though it has been years and years since Elsie has disappeared, her family and country made sure that her memory lived on. A church in Scotland has a stained glass window commemorating her, thanks to her father owning the estate. They also planted rhododendrons so that they spelled out "Elsie" and even though they are not kept up all the time, they are still there. She also had a street named after her and her family set up a fund that helped pay off some of Britain's national debt. 

"Lord Inchcape was proud of his clever daughter and she was said to adore him but not without some awe. She was of a fearless and sanguine disposition, and it is believed she looked forward to being able to cable him from America: 'Am here. Flew across with Hinchcliffe.' She felt sure he would be proud of her achievement when he learned she was safe." ~~ Ellensburg Daily Record - March 15, 1928

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Miss Dorrit Weixler

I guess we are going to stay on the beautiful German stars with morphine addictions...

I do keep things lighthearted and fun don't I?

Dorrit Weixler was born on March 27, 1892 in Berlin, Germany. 

I don't have any information about her earlier life other than that she had an older sister named Grete who was also an actress. 

She made her screen debut in a 1911 film short titled, Alwin auf der Hochzeitsreise. That is what the first few years of her career consisted of, short films directed by Alwin Neuss. 

In 1913 she began collaborating with another director, Franz Hofer. He cast Dorrit in mostly comedic roles of a spunky teenager. Perhaps she was turning into a mix of Mabel Normand and Mary Pickford....German style! 

While her career did consist mostly of shorts, she did appear in some feature length films as well, starting in 1913 with the film Das rosa Pantoffelchen

In 1915 she moved on to another studio and began to appear in her own 'serials' like Dorrit's Chauffeur and Dorrit Gets Job for Life. The German film audiences loved her.

The following year Dorrit appeared on the stage for the first time for a promotional campaign through the studio. The house was packed and everyone was eager to see the film star perform live and she didn't disappoint for the first couple of dances and routines, but all of a sudden she collapsed and the curtains closed. There was a lot of speculation about what happened and why she passed out but nothing conclusive came to light. But, for some reason she was prescribed morphine, the go-to drug during that time, and it wasn't long before Dorrit became addicted.

On November 16, 1916, six months after her collapse at the theatre, Dorrit Weixler hung herself in the sanitarium where she had been admitted in order to rest. She was only 23 years old.

She was buried in the Sudwestkirchhof cemetery in Stahnsdorf, Germany. 

Dorrit's last film, Dorritchens Vergnugungsreise was released in 1921, five years after her death.

As I said before, she was mostly cast in young, rambunctious teenage roles but I should also point out that a lot of the time her costume in her films was a sailor suit. It must have been something that was very much associated with her because she has quite a few photographs in said outfit. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Miss Dorothy Seastrom

Let us keep on going with the beautiful ladies of the silent screen. Who doesn't love looking at beautiful black and white pictures of them?

Miss Dorothy Seastrom was born on March 16, 1903 in Dallas, Texas. I am thinking the original spelling of her name may have been the more Swedish 'Sjostrom' and I have tried to look into census records under both names, but nada came up. 

When she was still a child, her family moved to Chicago where Dorothy won a beauty contest. The contest was trying to find the "perfect 1925 model" out of 14 girls. It was this experience that got her interested in acting. 

Dorothy made her screen debut in 1923 in The Call of the Canyon which featured a bunch of big names like Richard Dix, Lois Wilson, Noah Beery, and Marjorie Daw. This film was considered lost for many years until a print was found in 2010 in Russia. A copy of it now resides at the Library of Congress. There is hope to find more, yes!!

Unfortunately, her career only last from 1923 until 1925, and in that short amount of time she only appeared in nine films. Some of her illustrious costars included Mary Philbin, Norma Shearer, Zasu Pitts, Tom Moore, Lilyan Tashman, Colleen Moore, and Jean Hersholt. 

Her last film appearance was in It Must Be Love (1926).

Dorothy Seastrom passed away on January 31, 1930 in Dallas, Texas from tuberculosis. She was only 26 years old. She had gotten sick the previous year and spent some time in a sanatorium in California. Her recuperating was cut short when she was getting pressured by the studios to appear in another picture soon or else her career may just wash away. They eventually agreed to hold on to her contract until she got better, but she was soon losing parts. She came back to make one more picture, but her health kept deteriorating. 

She was buried in the Calvary Hill Cemetery in Dallas.

Dorothy was married once, to actor Francis Corby. The couple married in 1924 and remained married until her death.

Dorothy barely managed to escape the fate of another silent film actress, Martha Mansfield. While filming a scene for her 1925 film, We Moderns, Dorothy was burned from sparks that fell from a spotlight that had short circuited above her head. One of the men on set threw a table cloth over her head to help put out any fires or sparks that landed on her so she wasn't terrible scarred, but she did need to take some time off to recover. 

She supposedly had taffy colored hair, which...I don't know what color that implies...I think pink...which would have been awesome. So, because of this she was nicknamed the "Candy Kid" by her home studio, First National. I also read that because of her Norse/Swedish roots, she was nicknamed the "Venus of the Snows." Man, people sure got fancy with nicknames back then. 

She, like many other actress (and even actors) of the day had a "NO FAT" clause added to her contract. 

"Dorothy Seastrom's conflict with illness [is] over and she is now radiant and almost too plump. For eight months she has rested in a sanatorium  and at home." ~~ Los Angeles Time - May 2, 1925. What a nice sentiment! Oh, she is feeling better, but she is too fat!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Miss Mary Thurman

Right off the bat...Mary Thurman is NOT related to Uma Thurman.

If only we could have another famous Hollywood lineage. Alas.

Mary Thurman was born Mary Christiansen on April 27, 1895 in Richfield, Utah. She was born Christian, a farmer and his wife, Mary. All together the Christiansens had seven children, but all, save for eldest son Ernest, passed away at a young age. After Ernest was our Mary, then August (brother) who died at age seventeen, Irene (sister) at four, and Earl (brother) at three. I am not sure of the other two children's names, but I do know that the cause of death for the younger children was diphtheria. And with the patriarch dying in 1904, poor Mary Christiansen survived all but one son. 

She acted in school plays while growing up before going to the University of Utah. Before she made a career in films, Mary worked as a school teacher. While she was on vacation in California, she was spotted by Mack Sennett and he put her to work as an extra in his films.

Mary wasn't made to be just an extra though, and Sennett soon realized that. In 1915, he made her one of his Bathing Beauties.   Her first credited role was in a 1916 short called By Stork Delivery with Mack Swain. Her first full length film was 1919's The Poor Boob with Wanda Hawley and Richard Rosson.

From 1915 to 1926, she appeared in almost 60 films. Her last film was Down Upon the Suwanee River. During filming, Mary became sick and was soon diagnosed with malaria which eventually turned into pneumonia.

Mary Thurman passed away on December 22, 1925 in New York City. She was only 30 years old and had been fighting this sickness for almost a year. 

She was buried in the family plot at the Richfield City Cemetery in Richfield, Utah. 

Mary was married one time, to Victor Thurman in 1916, but they were divorced in 1919. 

Charlie Chaplin and Mary

I have read that her birth name was Von, Mavoureen, and also Mary Mavoureen. Hard to track down consistent census records.

She was best friends with silent film actress, Juanita Hansen. She accompanied Mary's body from New York to Utah and spoke during the funeral, ending with "And now I have fulfilled my mission and brought her home to you."

"She possesses that beautiful face and figure, and those perfect nether limbs, that constitute the requirements of one who poses in scanty 'bathing' costume on a sandy shore." ~~ The Pittsburgh Press - July 17, 1921

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Mr. Harold Lockwood

Pretty interesting to think that the stars of today could be completely forgotten years from now. Brad Pitt, George 100 years from now, maybe they will just seep into the cracks of Hollywood Blvd. with stars of the silent screen. Case in point, Harold Lockwood.

Harold Lockwood was born April 12, 1887 in Newark, New Jersey. I cannot find a census record for him in the databases I have...and that really annoys me. What I do know is that his father was a horse trainer and that is about all I know. Grrrr!!

He got a love of horses from his father and he became quite the horseman in his own right. He also excelled in track, swimming, and football. After high school, Harold moved to New York where he got involved in the theater. He wanted to continue pursuing acting, but his father pushed him towards a business career. So, Harold enrolled in a business college, got a job in a store and seemed to be living the life his father had wanted for him. However, Harold was still craving the stage, so he joined up with a vaudeville company and began touring. 

 He made his screen debut in 1911 in the short, The White Red Man. It wasn't until the following year that he appeared in a full length feature, The Sergeant's Boy.

Harold was often partnered on screen with May Allison as the two were seen as quite the cute couple. And as much as the public would have loved if these two had hit it off OFF screen, alas, they never did. They did however appear in about 20 features together though.

From 1911 to  1919, Harold appeared in 132 films which is a huge number if you consider that it was just in a span of eight years. His more well known films include Tess of the Storm Country (1914) with Mary Pickford, The Crucible (1914) with Marguerite Clark, and he is supposed to have been one of the three billion people in Griffith's 1916 epic, Intolerance.

His last film appearance was in Shadows of Suspicion. It was during the filming of this that he became ill with the flu. 

Harold Lockwood passed away on October 19, 1918 at age 31. He, like many others was a victim of the Spanish flu pandemic. 

He was buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York.

Harold was married once, to a woman named Alma Jones in 1906. They had a son, William, two years later. William went on to become an actor, using the name Harold Lockwood Jr. Unfortunately, the marriage ended up deteriorating pretty quickly. Harold didn't want to abandon his son, so he stuck with Alma even though the two were not getting along.  They kept splitting up and getting back together before finally divorcing in 1917. 

During the year of his death Harold was quite busy. He was given a monthly column for Motion Picture magazine called "Funny Happenings in the Studio and on Lockwood." He also was out with other stars selling War Bonds to the crowds and was said to have had some of the highest sales. The ladies (and even some guys) just loved him! It is assumed that while selling bonds, Harold caught the flu from the hundreds of people he came in contact with.

"...Away from the studio, Lockwood was a clean, wholesome, worthy young American citizen in the very best sense of the term." ~~ Photoplay - January 1919

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mr. Ormer Locklear

Ormer Locklear is a name that may be one of the most familiar out of the people I am covering in this 'series' of silent actors who never appeared in the talkies. Viola Dana talked briefly about their relationship in the documentary, Hollywood

Ormer Leslie Locklear was born on October 29, 1891 in Greenville, Texas. He was the second of nine children born to James, a carpenter, and his wife, Odessa. He joined the family which already included older brother, Osmond and older sister, Evalyn. Younger sisters, Norrie, Ola, Thenesca, Gussie, and Mary, and brothers, James and Edward came along after him.

I got a little confused looking at the census records for his family because the children's names and the number of children changed within a span of 10 years from 1900 to 1910. Judging from what I have read, Edward passed away while still a child because he is not in the 1910 census record and his other siblings weren't born until a few years after the 1900 census. His sister, Ola passed away in 1912. 

There will not be a test on his genealogy, I promise. I just like to include as much as I can about their family and early life. But, on with the star of the show, Ormer!

While growing up, his ambitions were towards carpentry like his father and his daredevil stunts were more or less stuff to do on the side for extra money and for the thrills. He started off with cars, trains, and other moving vehicles before he moved on to airplanes.

Ormer became very interested in airplanes and even tried to build his own, but his work was interrupted by the outbreak of WWI. He joined up and worked as a flying instructor and was the one who could/would make in flight repairs when necessary. It was also during this time that he saw his first barnstorming show and thought to himself, "Oh, I can do better than that!" 

Ormer left the army and joined up with the show until he and a few of his friends got their hands on an airplane of their own and started their own show. This then led the way to appearances in movies. His film career only consisted of two films, at least two that he was given credit for. 

The first film appearance Ormer made was in 1919's, The Great Air Robbery. His second and last appearance was in the 1920 film, The Skywayman.

On the last day of filming The Skywayman, August 2, 1920, Ormer and his friend and fellow daredevil, Milton 'Skeets' Elliott were killed. Elliott was piloting the plane and was supposed to dive the plane downwards towards some oil derricks to make it look like he was crashing. He had told the lighting crew before taking off to turn off the lights so that he would be able to see well enough to pull up in time. For some reason, the crew did not turn off the lights in time and the plane crashed into the ground. Apparently the footage of the crash was used in the original release but after that, it seems to have disappeared. 

Ormer was buried at the Greenwood Memorial Park and Mausoleum in Fort Worth, Texas. Skeets Elliott was buried at the Forrest Cemetery in Gadsden, Alabama. They both were given very large and lavish funerals with military honors in Los Angeles. 

Ormer was married once, to a woman named Ruby Graves in 1915. She HATED his love of being a daredevil and wanted him to stop being so reckless. This led to their marriage being a very unhappy one, and although they remained married until his death, they led separate lives. After Ormer died, his parents sued Ruby for their son's estate and home. He was rumored to have left a fortune of around $100,000. I am not sure what the outcome of the dispute was.

Viola Dana and Ormer

As I stated before, he was involved with Viola Dana at the time of his death and was supposed to have been engaged to her. In the Hollywood documentary, Viola talked about how it was love at first sight when she met Ormer and that the two would go on airplane rides and chase their friends cars in Hollywood and she would throw her lipsticks at them. Poor Viola witnessed the crash that killed her boyfriend/fiance and had to be held back from the crash when she tried to run towards it.

In 1916, Ormer met Harry Houdini and the two partnered up on a trick that involved Houdini being  tied to Ormer's motorcycle and he had to try and break out of his chains. 

Ormer, Jack Dempsey, and Viola Dana

"Safety second is my motto!" ~~ Ormer Locklear

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Miss Myrtle Gonzalez

A lovely lady with a loving smile. I can't help but put her into the same niche as Beatrice Dominguez, another silent film actress of Hispanic decent who died young.

Myrtle Gonzalez was born on September 28, 1891 in Los Angeles, California. Her father, Manuel, was a grocer, and her mother, Lillian, once performed as an opera singer. She had a younger sister named Stella and a younger brother named Manuel Jr. 

It became apparent when she was still a child that Myrtle had inherited her mother's lovely soprano singing voice. She started out singing in church and at local charity events and appeared in a play or two around town. 

Myrtle didn't have to go very far to the movie studios since they had just recently located to California. She made her film debut in a 1913 short called The Yellow Streak. The film interestingly enough also featured a young actress named Margaret Gibson (who sometimes went by the name Patricia Palmer). Margaret wasn't a big star, but she did make the headlines when she died in 1964 by confessing to the murder of William Desmond Taylor. There isn't any surviving evidence or record to back up her claim, but there is also nothing to NOT back up the confession. Pretty interesting.

Sorry for the detour there. Back to Myrtle! For the next year, she appeared in quite a few shorts before appearing in her first feature film, Captain Alvarez, which also starred William Desmond Taylor and Edith Storey. 

All together, Myrtle appeared in 80 films, playing gutsy heroine roles who thrived in the outdoors. She made her last film appearance in 1917.

Myrtle Gonzalez passed away on October 22, 1918 at age 27 in Los Angeles. She had become one of the many, many victims of the Spanish flu pandemic. She also apparently had been born with a weak heart, and that wouldn't have helped the matter much if that was the case.

She was buried in the Gonzalez family plot at the Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Myrtle may have lived a short life, but she managed to put a lot of life into her short stay. For instance, she was married twice and had a son. Her first husband was an actor named James Parks Jones. The couple had one son in 1911 named James Park Jones Jr. I am not sure when they were married or when they divorced. Her second marriage was in 1917 to actor/director, Allen Watt. It was soon after they married that Myrtle decided to give up her screen career, but it was also around the time that she started to get sick. The couple remained married until her death. Her son passed away in 1970 and is supposedly buried in the same cemetery as his mother.

Myrtle should really be remembered more because she is regarded as the first Latin/Hispanic actress in Hollywood.

A film magazine writer gave her the nickname of "The Virgin White Lily of the Screen."