Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Katherine Grant Headstone Unveiling

Hello, hello, hello!

I have been on vacation otherwise I would have posted this sooner, but better late than never, right?

Anyway, I wanted to let everyone know that the official unveiling of Katherine Grant's headstone will take place Saturday, August 27th at 1:00 pm and should last to about 4:00 or so. The ceremony will take place at Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles (I will provide the address and grave location below.)

At the ceremony there will be a special edition of the Silent Film Quarterly dedicated to Katherine Grant available and it will also include information about future headstone projects. The next project will hopefully be announced the same day as well. We just gotta pin it down between our two top choices!

If you are unable to attend, no worries! You will definitely be there in spirit! Many of our donors can't be there due to being outside of the state, but the love and support will be felt, believe me! I also have a good friend who is making a slide show that will include pictures of the ceremony and the headstone for those who are unable to attend. That will be posted next week as soon as I get the pictures to her. 

If you ARE able to attend, here is the info you will need to know:

Evergreen Cemetery
204 N. Evergreen Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90033

Katherine is buried in Section E of the cemetery. I am horrible at giving directions, but I will say that when you enter the cemetery, keep to the right and follow the road and you will run into Section E. The sections are all marked in black and white on the curb so keep an eye out for that. I am sure you will see a couple cars lined up as well where we will be gathering. The cemetery isn't in the best part of town, nor is it the best kept (much to my annoyance) but it is one of the oldest in the city and has some really beautiful headstones to look at.

If you have any questions or need more information, feel free to leave a comment below or e-mail me. I hope to see you there!

* The three pictures you see here were sent to me by Katherine's great niece, Kelly. They are just absolutely gorgeous!*
ALSO! I mentioned in the last entry (I think) about taking my blog to the airwaves by creating a Silence is Platinum podcast. This is still very much in the works. I was having the hardest time trying to nail down a topic for the first episode, so I conducted a survey on Facebook and it looks like the winner was the series I had titled, "No Talkies: silent stars who never made a talkie." I did a series of these last year and it was pretty popular due to my highlighting stars that weren't as well known (I sound like I am tooting my own horn, promise I'm not!) So, as soon as we get that all nailed down, I will post the information on where to find it.

One more thing before I take my bow, I have a lovely friend and kindred spirit in silent film and cemeteries who is working on a book about that very subject. She doesn't live in California, however, and is working on getting out here to conduct more research for said book. I have included the link to her GoFundMe page HERE.. Every little bit helps! I am so excited for this book, I wish I could donate millions!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ernie "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison

'Sunshine Sammy' Morrison, Mickey Daniels, Mary Kornman, Joe Cobb, Jackie Condon, Allen 'Farina' Hoskins

I was on a documentary kick a few days ago and watched one on Youtube called, "Our Gang: Inside the Clubhouse." Is it the best made documentary out there? No. Is it still worth watching? I think so. While it is dated and not very well made, you do have a chance to hear behind the scenes stories from Our Gang members like Dorothy DeBorba, Tommy Bond, and the subject of this entry, Ernie "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison. 

One of the things I really enjoyed about the documentary was hearing the stories from the actors themselves and how glad I was that they had (for the most part) fond memories of their days as Little Rascals. While some of them were too young to remember all of their experiences, they do remember that they really liked their teacher on the lot and that they all really loved director, Robert McGowan, or 'Uncle Bob', as they called him. 

I think it is worth checking out and if you wish to, check it out here. For now, let's focus on Our Gang member and the first black child star, "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison. I want to add a little disclaimer to this entry because I feel it is necessary. I am going to include some quotes taken from movie magazines of the time and the way that Ernie is often described is not politically correct by any means. However, we must keep in mind the time period and take that into consideration when reading the quotes. Ernie and other black child stars of Our Gang talk about this in the above mentioned documentary and how they were never made to feel different or ostracized on set. They and the other cast members and crew were 'color blind' and they were actually ahead of their time having white and black children playing together on screen. So, please keep these things in mind while proceeding with the entry. 

"Sunshine Sammy" was born either Frederic Ernest Morrison or Ernest Frederick Morrison (the first is what is marked on his headstone, while the latter is from census records) on December 20, 1912 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was the oldest child and only son born to Joseph Ernest Morrison, a grocer and later actor, and his wife, Louise Lewis. Ernie was later joined by three younger sisters, Florence, Vera, and Dorothy. (there was reportedly another sister, but I couldn't find her on census records) His sisters would sometimes have bit roles in pictures too.

Ernie got his start in films through a friend of his father who worked in the industry as a producer. One day the producer friend asked Joseph Morrison if he could bring his son by the studio. Apparently the original child actor hired would not stop crying and they had pretty much given up trying to console him. Joseph brought in his young son and the producer and director were impressed at how well behaved he was. It was this positive disposition that garnered Ernie his nickname, "Sunshine." His father would later add "Sammy" to the moniker. 

Ernie's film debut was 1916's The Soul of a Child

From top: Wesley Barry, Ernie, Florence Morrison, and Gordon Griffith

From 1917 to 1922, Ernie's career was mainly in shorts that paired him with another popular child star of the silent era, Baby Marie Osborne. He also appeared in Harold Lloyd shorts and later with another comedian of the day, Snub Pollard and a now forgotten comedic leading lady of the day, Marie Mosquini. While appearing in these shorts he used the name "Sunshine Sambo."

In 1921, Ernie was offered his own comedy series, but unfortunately it only lasted one episode. However, it was shortly after that he was offered the chance to appear in a new series being created by Hal Roach to be called Hal Roach's Rascals. He may not have been the one and only star of the series, but he sure stood out! 

Ernie made his Our Gang/Hal Roach's Rascals debut in the 1922 short, One Terrible Day, which was actually the debut for most of the original members. In the first few shorts, his character's name was 'Booker T. Bacon.'

Hal Roach, Ernie, and Joseph Morrison

During the two years he appeared as an Our Gang member he used various names on screen including Booker T. Bacon, Sorghum, Ernie, Sammy, and Sunshine Sammy. 

As it happens with all child stars, eventually the cute little boy grew up and he made his final Our Gang picture in 1924 at the ripe old age of twelve. 

After leaving films, Ernie appeared on the vaudeville stage, the apparent 'go-to' for many of the former Our Gang kids. He would return to the screen in the 1940s, appearing with another group, The Dead End/East Side Kids. Ernie played a character named 'Scruno.' 

Leo Gorcey, Ernie, Bobby Jordan, Billy Benedict, and Bobby Stone

Like many young men of the time, Ernie was drafted into the army to serve in World War II. After serving his country by entertaining the troops overseas, he was asked if he wanted to return to the screen with a new gang called The Bowery Boys. Ernie declined the offer.

Greenwich Village (1944) starring Carmen Miranda would be his final screen appearance. He did appear on television once in a 1974 episode of Good Times playing a messenger. 

After retiring from performing, Ernie found work in the aircraft industry and that is where he worked for almost 20 years.

Ernie passed away on July 24, 1989 from cancer in Lynwood, California. 

He was interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California. 

There isn't a lot of information on Ernie's personal life as far as romantic relationships. I did find a newspaper article from 1936 that talks about what might have been his only marriage. Ernie met Harlem chorus girl, Annette McAbee, while he was working on the vaudeville stage. The couple would eventually marry around 1934 and would separate and eventually divorce around 1936. Annette would later tell the press that she still loved Ernie, but that the family dynamics made the marriage strained almost from the start. According to her, Joseph Morrison wasn't too happy to have someone coming into his son's life and taking his attention away from his stage career. The strain between father and son eventually led to Ernie dropping him as manager. Annette reportedly got along well with Louise Morrison (or Louise Robinson, as the Morrisons had divorced in 1933) and frequently corresponded with her. I should note however that while the two wrote often, they never met. What a situation this was!

Ernie and Harold Lloyd

"Who doesn't know 'Sunshine Sammy,' the funny little darkie of the Hal Roach comedies? Millions have laughed at him, exhibitors have commented upon his popularity with their audiences, though he wasn't starred, - just a wide-grinning little coon, loose jointed, full of pep, a 'pip' of a 'feeder' to the comedy stars he supported. Now he is starred in one two-reel comedy, made the way Hal Roach knows how to make 'em." -- Exhibitor's Herald, December 1921

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Peggy Cartwright

Little Miss Peggy Cartwright. I mean, does it get any cuter than this? Talk about the perfect doll face for film, silent or talkie.

Peggy Cartwright was born Margaret Cartwright on November 14, 1912 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She was the second child and only daughter born to Dr. Conway Cartwright and Annie Dora Crawford. Her brother, Louis, was born a year earlier and sadly passed away at the age of 32 in a R.A.F. plane crash over India.

Around the age of five Peggy and her mother were both stricken with scarlet fever. At her father's urging the two moved to Los Angeles in order to heal in the warmer climate. Dr. Cartwright stayed behind to continue working in his practice. 

Louise Glaum and Peggy

On Saturdays, Peggy attended Eagan's Dramatic School to learn 'social behavior.' It was while here that she was spotted by a group of visitors that included Japanese actor, Sessue Hayakawa. The actors were looking for a young girl who resembled a mini Mary Pickford. Peggy was the little girl they chose, but Annie Cartwright was hesitant to allow her daughter to become a child actress. Lucky for her the part was eventually given to another girl, but Annie did decide to put Peggy's name forward for future acting roles and it wasn't long before she was snatched up. 

Peggy really wins for having the best film to make her debut in, the 1915 epic, The Birth of a Nation. At just three years old she was the youngest cast member. And the next year she appeared in D.W. Griffith's next epic, Intolerance. Not a bad start at all!

In 1919, Peggy appeared in From Hand to Mouth, which marked the first on screen pairing of Harold Lloyd and Mildred Davis. The film was directed by Hal Roach and it's my guess that this is where Hal decided to add Peggy to his Hal Roach's Rascals line-up.

Harold Lloyd and Peggy

Peggy made her Our Gang/Hal Roach's Rascals debut in the 1922 short, One Terrible Day. Her Our Gang career didn't last very long and she only appeared in three more shorts after her debut, Fire Fighters, Young Sherlocks, and A Quiet Street (all in 1922).

Right about the time her career was really starting to take off, her father decided to pull his daughter from the acting career path so that she could go back to school and continue her education. After she graduated, she moved to London with her mother to study acting and Russian ballet. She also had the opportunity to act on stage.

Peggy's final film appearance was 1941's Faithful Hearts. The film was made in London with British actors, however, the film distributors in the US thought that if they dubbed the British actors with American actors the film would be even more of a success! Not surprisingly, this little addition to the film did not help and the wonky dubbing just came off as comedic. 

Peggy passed away on June 13, 2001 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. She was the last surviving member of the original Our Gang. 

She was buried at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California next to her husband who was an Army veteran. 

Peggy was married twice. Her first marriage was to comedian Phil Baker, who she married in 1932. They had two daughters and two sons: Margot Eleanor, Lisa, Philip, and Michael. During her marriage, Peggy lived the life of housewife and mother and stopped performing. However, after the couple divorced in 1941, Peggy began working in radio. 

Phil Baker and Peggy

Her second husband was African American actor William Walker. The couple married in 1962 and became one of the first interracial couples in Hollywood. They remained married until Walker's death in 1992.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Mickey Daniels

You may not recognize his name, but I bet you will recognize this freckle-faced boy from the silent Our Gang shorts!

Mickey Daniels was born Richard Michael Daniels Jr. on October 11, 1914 in Rock Springs, Wyoming. He was one of ten children born to Richard Daniels Sr., a coal miner and later actor, and his wife, Hannah.  

Mickey was discovered by a talent scout while appearing in an amateur night show in his hometown around the age of seven. He would eventually be recommended to Hal Roach by cameraman and still photographer, Gene Kornman, father of Mary Kornman, the little leading lady of Our Gang. The two families became good friends and Mary and Mickey became frequent costars as children and later as young adults. Hal Roach was reportedly impressed with the way Mickey could eat pie and hired the young man for his Hal Roach's Rascals comedies. 

Mickey and Mary Kornman

The first Our Gang short was called, well, Our Gang! The 1922 short was not just the debut of the Gang (known as Hal Roach's Rascals) but also marked the debut of Mickey Daniels. The short had been thought lost for years, but half of the film was found in the hands of a private collector and it is available to view on Youtube. Don't blink because you may miss Mickey! He made more of a splash in his next film later that year, My Wild Irish Rose, playing Pauline Starke's brother. 

As a member of Our Gang/Hal Roach's Rascals, Mickey stood out for not just for having a face full of freckles, but also for his impeccable comic timing. He was frequently pitted against little Jack Davis in the shorts fighting for the affections of Mary Kornman. 

"Pshaw! I got money now. I've bought and paid for our home in Hollywood and I got ten thousand dollars worth of bank stock 'n' s'curties. That's enough. I'd rather be a fireman. You can make a good livin' at it, anyway." -- Mickey Daniels, 1925

In 1923, Mickey's representative, Norman L. Sper, sued Richard Daniels for $1380 that he said was due to him in commissions. Sper stated that he was supposed to have exclusive rights in representing Mickey for three years and was to receive 10% of his earnings. However, he claimed that Richard Daniels sought other representation without consulting him. I am not sure what the outcome of this case was. 

'Farina' Hoskins, Jackie Condon, Mickey, and Joe Cobb

In May of 1926, it was announced that Mickey would no longer appear in the Our Gang pictures and would be replaced by another freckled young boy, Jay R. Smith. 

Mickey and Mary Kornman

After his days of playing a scrappy Our Gang rascal, Mickey began appearing on the vaudeville stage and also continued making films, but was demoted to small roles in forgetful pictures. He did appear in a film series with his old gal pal, Mary Kornman, called The Boy Friends in the early 1930s. Mickey also managed to attend a 'normal' high school during this time which is pretty remarkable.

"Mickey Daniels, the big freckle-faced lad, who used to play in his younger days in Our Gang comedies, has been much worried lately over his freckles. They have always been his pride and trademark, and it was even whispered that he knew exactly how many freckles he had." -- Boy's Cinema, November 1931

Mary Kornman and Mickey

Mickey did manage to appear in some big box-office flicks like, It Happened One Night (1934), Magnificent Obsession (1935), The Great Ziegfeld (1935), and Pennies from Heaven (1936). Mickey may not have had a starring role, but spotting that face of his wasn't hard. He made his final film appearance in 1941's Miss Polly, starring Zasu Pitts and Slim Summerville. 

After he retired from performing just under the age of thirty, Mickey began working in the construction business as an engineer. The job allowed him to travel all over the world which he enjoyed, but it also reportedly when his drinking got out of control. According to family, Mickey began going by the name 'Mike Daniels' and didn't want to talk about his former film career (some speculated that some unknown event had occurred that made him resent his time as a screen star.) He began drinking more and gambling and his family was quite bothered. He eventually left the construction field and became a taxi driver in the last years of his life. 

Mickey passed away on August 20, 1970 in a run down motel in San Diego, California. The cause of death was determined to be cirrhosis of the liver. 

Sadly, no reports of Mickey's death were run in newspapers or magazines because no one came to claim his remains and authorities assumed he was just another homeless man that frequented the motel he was found dead in. It wasn't until some 20 years later that his family finally found out what happened to their loved one and were able to claim his remains. He is buried in an unmarked grave next to his parents at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California. 

Mickey was reportedly married once and had a daughter, but I can't find any information on their names or even when they were married. From what I have read, however, the cause of their divorce/separation was due to Mickey's alcoholism. 

Richard Daniels appeared in some of his son's pictures and also in Harold Lloyd comedies. Mickey's older brother, Leonard, also worked in the entertainment industry in the transportation department at Hal Roach studios. 

"Mickey Daniels was one of the funniest freckle-faced, red-haired boys you will ever find, believe me. Now, I don't say this because I knew him. In fact, it wasn't until after I left the gang and started studying him in motion picture theaters that I realized just how funny he actually was." -- Ernie 'Sunshine Sammy' Morrison

Monday, August 1, 2016

August Birthdays!

Hello, hello! Another month of stars to celebrate! 

What to look forward to this is month includes entries on the Our Gang kids (I am currently working on an entry about freckle-faced Mickey Daniels.) Also, some more updates on Katherine Grant's headstone, INCLUDING pictures! I visited the cemetery on Saturday and was just so overcome at seeing it placed and I can't wait to share it with you all. 

I am also thinking about taking my blog to the podcast universe. If you love silent film and Hollywood history and are just DYING to hear my voice...then you are in luck!

As always, stay tuned!

Eva Tanguay ~ August 1, 1879

Lya Mara ~ August 1, 1897

Pearl Eaton ~ August 1, 1898

Marin Sais ~ August 2, 1890

Dolores del Rio ~ August 3, 1904

Vera Kholodnaya ~ August 5, 1893

Lotte Neumann ~ August 5, 1896

Shannon Day ~ August 5, 1896

Hoot Gibson ~ August 6, 1892

Billie Burke ~ August 7, 1884

Teddy Sampson ~ August 8, 1898

Charles Farrell ~ August 9, 1900

'Farina' Hoskins ~ August 9, 1920

Norma Shearer ~ August 10, 1902

Hobart Bosworth ~ August 11, 1867

Pauline Frederick ~ August 12, 1883

Grace Eline ~ August 12, 1898

Charles 'Buddy' Rogers ~ August 13, 1904

Evelyn Francisco ~ August 13, 1904

Ethel Barrymore ~ August 15, 1879

Phyllis Dare ~ August 15, 1890

Billie Rhodes ~ August 15, 1894

Edna Maison ~ August 17, 1892

Margaret Leahy ~ August 17, 1902

Jack Pickford ~ August 18, 1895

Fred Stone ~ August 19, 1873

Elsie Ferguson ~ August 19, 1883

Olga Baclanova ~ August 19, 1896

Eleanor Boardman ~ August 19, 1898

Colleen Moore ~ August 19, 1899

June Collyer ~ August 19, 1904

Marguerite Courtot ~ August 20, 1897

Eve Southern ~ August 23, 1898

Jean Darling ~ August 23, 1922

Kathryn Carver ~ August 24, 1899

Faire Binney ~ August 24, 1900

Alice White ~ August 24, 1904

Ruth Roland ~ August 25, 1892

Helen Gibson ~ August 27, 1892

Gretchen Hartman ~ August 28, 1897

Babe London ~ August 28, 1901

Jay R. Smith ~ August 29, 1915