Monday, July 29, 2013

No Talkies: Part III

Next in our series is a visit to the darker side of Hollywood. This entry is going to cover Vladimir Fogel, Tom Forman, Evelyn Nelson, and Valdemar Psilander. These for all sadly committed suicide before they ever could appear in a talkie.

Vladimir Fogel was born sometime in 1902 in Moscow, Russia. 

I don't know anything about his early life. What I do know about him begins when he was in college and enrolled at the Institute of Cinematography. One of his teachers was a well known Russian director, Lev Kuleshov who immediately took to Vladimir and gave him his big break. 

Vladimir made his screen debut in the 1924 film, The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (got all that?). 

His film career only lasted for four years with about thirteen titles under his belt. The only well known costar I could find of his (or one that at least made a crossover to Hollywood that I recognized) was Anna Sten who he appeared with in two films. 

He was quite popular during his short career, and his good looks were not a small part of that popularity. His looks worked well with his choice in roles, the edgier the better!

He made his last screen appearance in the 1928 film, Salamandra. 

Vladimir Fogel passed away on June 8, 1929 in Moscow. He was 26 years old. Apparently he had been suffering from depression since the previous year and had proceeded to get worse. He ended up committing suicide by gunshot (I could have sworn I read that is how it happened, but I can't remember where I found that out). 

He was interred at the Donskoi Monastery Cemetery in Moscow.

Good news for silent film fans, a lot of his work survives and is available for viewing. Yay!!

He was sometimes credited as "V.P. Fogel" in his films, which stood for Vladimir Pavlovich Fogel.

As you can see, there isn't a lot of information out there about Vladimir, I don't even know the exact date he was born. I wanted to include him though because he was an early screen idol in Russia and I believe he definitely deserves to be remembered. Especially if a lot of his work survives!


Tom Forman was born on February 22, 1893 in Mitchell County, Texas. I exhausted myself looking up census information on Tom and I THINK I found his record, but I am not 100% sure that it is him. From what I have found, I believe his parents names were Joseph/Josiah and Mary Forman. Again, this isn't set in stone, this is just based off one record I found that had some information that lined up.

Just like the former entry about Vladimir Fogel, I don't know anything about his early life. I believe he moved to California after college with his parents because they did in fact live there as well while their son was making pictures. 

He made his film debut in the 1913 short, The Treachery of a Scar.

His career lasted for over ten years and consisted of over sixty film appearances, which is quite a feat. Also factor in that during this time he also was sent overseas to fight when WWI broke out. 

Some of his costars at the time included May Allison, Ina Claire, Noah Beery, and Gloria Swanson. 

On top of being an actor, Tom also worked as a director, directing his first film short in 1914 after being in the business for a few months. Some of the films he directed include Shadows (1922) starring Lon Chaney, The Virginian (1923) starring Kenneth Harlan and Florence Vidor, and The Crimson Runner (1925) starring Priscilla Dean and Alan Hale. Tom also worked as a writer on seven films beginning in 1915. 

After 1923 his career begin to slightly falter. It seemed he had reached his high point with The Virginian and after that he began working in poverty row films just to keep paying the bills. 

Tom was hired by Columbia studios in 1926 to direct their new film, The Wreck. A date to start filming was set and everything seemed to be on the up and up. Alas, it was not to be.

Tom Forman passed away on November 7, 1926 at his parent's home in Venice, California. He was 33 years old. 

He was buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. His grave marker reads "Lieut. Tom Forman." 

Tom was married once, but I do not know from when to when. Her name was Mary Mersch, and she was also an actress. The couple supposedly had a child together, but again, do not know when or even the gender. 

He was the first cousin of actress, Madge Bellamy but I don't know where the link is. 


Evelyn Nelson was born on November 13, 1899 in Chloride, Arizona. She was the second daughter born to William and Georgia Nelson. Her sister, Pauline was a year older. 

She made her screen debut in the 1920 Charley Chase directed short, Don't Park Here. 

In the span of three years, Evelyn appeared in about twenty films. One of her more well known costars included Oliver Hardy who she starred with in five of her earlier films. This was back when he was credited on screen as "Babe Hardy." She seemed to be a wonderful comedic actress.

Her last film appearance was in 1923's Desert Rider.

Evelyn and her frequent costar Jack Hoxie 

Evelyn Nelson passed away on June 16, 1923 in Los Angeles. She was just 23 years old. It had been days since anyone had seen or talked to Evelyn. She lived with her mother at the time, but her mother was out of town visiting relatives. When she returned home, she found her daughter lying dead in a gas filled room in their house. Two notes were found in the room, one talked about how she was tired and so she wanted to end her life. The second note was very interesting, it read: "I am just about gone and will soon be with my friend Wally." The "Wally" in the letter was Wallace Reid who had died in January of that year after struggling with addiction to morphine. I do not know where she is buried.


Valdemar Einar Psilander was born on May 9, 1882 in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

When he was a teenager he began working at a theater in his hometown and appeared in various plays.

He made his screen debut as the title character in a 1910 version of The Portrait of Dorian Gray.

Valdemar made a big splash right away in the European film industry. He was voted the favorite male movie star in a magazine poll after only being in films for two years! He was very popular in his home country of Denmark as well as Germany, Russia, Hungary, and even as far as Brazil! He was in high demand, and it shows when you look at his body of work. Over 80 films in a span of 10 years! 

His last film appearance was in 1917's Hjertekrigen paa Ravnsholt. 

Valdemar Psilander passed away on March 6, 1917 in Copenhagen, Denmark. He committed suicide at age 32. 

He was buried at the Taarbaek Cemetery in Copenhagen. 

I have read that there was perhaps more drama that unfolded after Valdemar died.  

 Apparently the founder of Nordisk Film, Valdemar's home studio for over six years, managed to get a hold of Valdemar's body, moved it to his dressing room on the sound stage and made it look like he had been shot in a lover's quarrel. The press and movie fans alike ate up the story and Nordisk made a killing when they released over ten additional films featuring Valdemar posthumously. Apparently the dressing room where this whole scene took place is still intact and can be seen through a tour of the studio. Pretty cool.

Valdemar was married once, to Edith Buemann, and I am not sure of when they were married or if they were still in fact married at the time of his death.

Valdemar and equally famous screen star, Asta Nielsen.

"...One can perhaps learn to become an actor but you can never learn to be filmed. Studied emotions on film become artificial and false. Film relentlessly demands truthfulness and sincerity." ~~ Valdemar Psilander 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

No Talkies: Part II

Next we move on to four silent actors who were taken from the world because of pneumonia: Florence Barker, Ward Crane, Jack Standing, and Emily Stevens.

Let us proceed...

Florence Barker was born on November 22, 1891 in Los Angeles, California. She was the first of four daughters and a son born to William, a farmer, and his wife, Hattie. Sister Bertha was born two years later, then Nellie, brother Leigh, and Daisy.

As a child, Florence appeared in plays for her community theatre and for school. When she was eighteen years old, she was becoming the star of the plays and performing in famous venues in Los Angeles. It was around the same time that she began her film career as well.

Florence made her screen debut in the 1908 short, An Awful Moment, which also featured her friend, Florence Lawrence (There was actually a Florence trifecta in play! Barker, La Badie, and Lawrence!).

Her film career spanned only about four years but within those four years she made over 70 films. Most of the films she appeared in were shorts because this was from 1908 to 1912, this was still early days in the film industry. During her career she had the chance to act alongside such stars as Henry B. Walthall, Hoot Gibson, Mack Sennett, and all three of the Pickford siblings (Mary, Lottie, and Jack). 

As an actor with the Biograph Company, Florence appeared in the Priscilla serials playing the lead character. Episodes in this serial included Priscilla and the Umbrella (1911), Priscilla's Engagement Ring (1911), and Priscilla's Capture (1912).

Florence Barker passed away on February 15, 1913 from pneumonia in Los Angeles. She was just 21 years old. 

I am not sure where Florence is buried, but I am assuming it is in Los Angeles since that is where she was born and where she died. 

"Miss Florence Barker, whose charming personality and genius challenged the admiration of theatrical cities and won the hearts of her audience everywhere, succumbed to an acute attack of pneumonia and died..." ~~ L.A. Times - February 16, 1913


Ward Crane was born on May 18, 1890 in Albany, New York. He was the only son of John, a railroad engineer, and his wife, Alida. 

His career aspirations growing up did not include the stage, but they did include a dais of sorts. He began to work in government jobs as a stenographer and as a secretary to the then Governor of New York. When said governor was impeached and forced to resign from his position, Ward ended up joining the Navy and was transferred to San Diego, California. 

While stationed in California, Ward met a few actors who were visiting the base and they told him that he was good looking guy and he should be in the pictures!

Ward made his film debut in 1919 in The Dark Star, which starred Marion Davies. Not a bad way to start! He had a great career alongside such big names as Wallace Beery, Anna Q. Nilsson, Anita Stewart, Barbara La Marr, Billie Burke, Mae Murray, Norma Talmadge, Lew Cody...the list keeps going!

I can't speak for back then, but in this day his most well known role was in the 1924 Buster Keaton film, Sherlock Jr. Ward was the bad guy that you hissed at on the screen. *hissssss* The following year he played the villain in another smash hit, The Phantom of the Opera, starring Lon Chaney.

His last film appearance was in the 1928 film, The Rush Hour with Marie Prevost and Harrison Ford.

Ward, Kathryn McGuire, and Buster Keaton

Ward Crane passed away on July 21, 1928 in Saranac Lake, New York. He was only 38 years old when he was diagnosed with pneumonia and died three months later. I am not sure where he is buried, but I am assuming it is in New York.

From what I have read, Ward never married. He was once rumored to be engaged to Irene Castle who he starred with in the movie French Heels. When he was asked about his relationship by a reporter in 1923, all he had to say was, "Nothing to it!" Straight shooter that man.

According to a 1920 article in Photoplay, Ward enjoyed driving his car around California. 

According to another Photoplay article that was written after his death, Ward had been in love with Marie Prevost for years. It was said to have been a huge blow when he found out that Marie had briefly reconciled with her husband, Kenneth Harlan. 


Jack Standing was born on February 10, 1886 in London, England, United Kingdom. He was one of six sons born to actor Herbert Standing and his wife, Emily. Jack's three older brothers, Guy, Percy, and Wyndham, were also actors. 

Obviously the acting bug was already in his genes, so it wasn't long before he was appearing on stage like his father and brothers. Jack was actually part of the Broadway production of Floradora for a brief period of time. 

Jack made his film debut in a 1911 short called A Good Turn which starred Florence Lawrence. 

In a span of about seven years, Jack appeared in over 50 films, mostly for the and Lubin film company. His costars in his films included names like William S. Hart, Louise Glaum, Miriam Cooper, Gladys Brockwell, and Henry B. Walthall. 

Jack was lucky when it came to film roles because he wasn't type casted. He sometimes played the dashing love interest and he sometimes played the evil villain. 

His last film appearance was in With Hoops of Steel which was made in 1917 but was released posthumously in 1918.

Jack Standing passed away on October 25, 1917 in Los Angeles. He succumbed to pneumonia at age 31. 

I believe he was interred at Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. 

Jack was married once, and for some reason I can't seem to find much information on who she was or when they married. I believe her name was Janet though because there is a woman by that name buried next to the Jack Standing buried in the Green Hills Memorial Park. Their son, Jack Standing Jr. was born in 1914 and may have appeared in some of his father's films when he was a baby. 


Emily Stevens was born on February 27, 1882 in New York City. She was the daughter of theatrical manager, Robert Stevens and his wife, Emma. 

Acting was already in Emily's genes from the get go. Her first cousin was actress, Minnie Maddern Fiske and her father had worked as a manager in the theatrical circuit for years. 

Emily went to school in New Jersey and after she graduated, she trained with her cousin to prep her for her stage debut in 1900. Over the years, the reviews of her performances got better and better. People were noticing that she didn't seem as nervous and didn't feel the need to over act as much anymore. 

She made her screen debut in 1915 as the title character in Cora. During the course of five years, Emily appeared in about 15 titles, acting alongside such names as King Baggot, Muriel Ostriche, Evelyn Brent,  and Harry Davenport. 

While she made a big splash on the stage, she didn't make a huge impact on the silver screen. Emily started acting in the movies at age 33 and was considered 'too old' for most companies so she wasn't in very high demand. The theatre remained her true bread and butter. 

Her last film appearance was in 1920's The Place of the Honeymoons. After that, she went back to the stage and continued in appearing in such plays as "Hedda Gabler" by Ibsen. 

Emily Stevens passed away on January 3, 1928 in New York City at the age of 45. 

Eventually the cause of death was listed as pneumonia but there was plenty of drama and conjecture going on before that diagnosis was finally made. Apparently before her death, Emily had suffered a nervous breakdown and had been under the care of a doctor for almost a year. Her doctor was treating her with shots to sedate her, and at first he believed that she could have possibly taken an overdose of said drugs. He later concluded that the drugs may have put her into a coma and during this state she developed pneumonia and that is what caused her death. 

Emily was taken to New Jersey where she was cremated. 

Emily never married but she did pine for the same man for most of her life, the husband of her cousin Minnie Maddern Fiske, Harrison Fiske. She never pursued him and never turned her attention to any other men. Talk about devotion!

I found a New York Times article from 1920 that talked about Emily not being able to make a stage performance because she was suffering from a "slight nervous breakdown." How does one have a 'slight' nervous breakdown???

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Mr. True Boardman and Mr. William Courtleigh Jr.

Okay, so the past couple of entries have been about silent film stars who died before making it in talkies. I am going to combine the next bunch of them together because there isn't a lot of info on all of them to make a whole entry. Also, there aren't a lot of pictures out there, which I love to include with my entries. 

How am I grouping them together you ask? By the way they died is the answer. Why? Because that is how I roll.....and it seemed like a logical way.

Anyway, this entry is going to be about actors True Boardman and William Courtleigh Jr., who both passed away during the 1918 flu pandemic. 

And away we go!


True Boardman was born William True Boardman on April 21, 1882 in Oakland, California. He was the only child (from what I have read) of William and Caroline Boardman. 

Caroline Boardman was an actress and it seems that True got the acting bug from her. He made his stage debut in 1900 and began touring up and down the Pacific coast from his home state of California all the way up to Seattle, Washington. 

His film debut came in 1911 in the film short, The Rose of Old St. Augustine. Over the next six or so years, True appeared in over 50 films, mostly shorts, and they were mostly Westerns. He had the chance to share the screen with such stars as Tom Mix, Broncho Billy Anderson, Elmo Lincoln, and Helen Holmes. 

His relatively short career consisted of almost 150 films! That is LOT to cram into a space of eight years. In that time, True bounced from the Selig, Essanay, and Kalem studios. 

In 1917, True appeared in the first screen adaptation of the Tarzan film franchise. In it he played John Clayton, Lord Greystoke alongside Elmo Lincoln as Tarzan. He reprised his role later that year in a second Tarzan film. It would be the last picture he appeared in to be released while he was still alive. 

True Boardman passed away on September 28, 1918 in Los Angeles. He was one of the many victims of the 1918 flu pandemic. He was just 36 years old.

He was buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale. 

True was married once, to actress Virginia True Boardman, from around 1909 until his death. They had a son together named True who later went on to work in the film industry like the rest of his family. Virginia Boardman never remarried, passing away in 1971. She was buried next to her husband. True Boardman Jr. passed away in 2003. 

True, Virginia, and True Jr. appeared in a lot of films together, mostly in the Broncho Billy shorts. I have read some confusing articles about True Sr. and Jr. and it seems like people are getting the two mixed up. For example, Wikipedia says that True Sr. shared the screen with Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford. This is not correct. True Jr. appeared in the 1919 Mary Pickford film, Daddy-Long-Legs in an uncredited part as an orphan, and later that year he had another uncredited part in the Charlie Chaplin  short, A Day's Pleasure. It would be rather difficult for True Sr. to appear in a film a year after his death, just saying.

True's last film, Terror on the Range, was released after his death. 

In 1916, True returned to the stage, what he called his "first love." He and friend, James Post, created the Post-Boardman Players and together they put on an eight performance show that included recreating some of the Western films he had made for the silver screen. 

True was not related to silent film actress Eleanor Boardman. 


William Thomas Courtleigh Jr. was born on March 8, 1892 in Buffalo, New York. He was the son of a William, a well known actor, and his wife, Edna, who had worked as a model. 

I have read that his parents separated and that William Sr. later remarried and fathered three more sons. I have also read that the couple stayed married until William Sr. died in 1930 and that they had just one son named Robert. From what I have read in census records is that William Sr. and Edna Courtleigh were still married in 1920 and had a son named Stephen who was only two years old when his older brother passed away. So, the truth is hidden between all of that information right there. What I DO know is that Robert Courtleigh did later go on to become an actor.

It didn't take long for William to take the cue from his father and begin acting on the stage. It didn't take long for him to transition to the screen again, just like his father. 

He made his screen debut in the 1914 film, The Better Man. And although his film career only consisted of 14 titles, he did get to share the screen with such stars as Dorothy Phillips, Norma Talmadge, and Owen Moore.

I found it pretty interesting that he also appeared in films that featured famous Ziegfeld Follies stars like Lillian Lorraine, Ann Pennington, and Hazel Dawn. Lucky guy!

William's last film, Children of Destiny, wasn't released until 1920, two years after his death.

William is second from the right

William Courtleigh Jr. passed away on March 13, 1918 in Philadelphia. The flu pandemic of 1918 claimed his life at age 26. I am not sure where he is buried, but I am assuming it is in New York. 

In his short life, he did manage to at least get married. In 1915, he married actress Ethel Fleming. The couple remained married until his death. I found an article in archive that I believe is about Ethel about an incident that occurred after her husband died. According to the article, in 1921, Ethel got into an argument with a man named Joseph King and during the argument she drank a bottle of Lysol. She was taken to Bellevue Hospital to recuperate and was not in very serious condition. What makes me wonder if it is her is that in the article is says "Miss Ethel Fleming, 27, who said she is a movie picture actress..." Kinda harsh journalism there.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Mr. Fred Thomson

Sadly, another cowboy actor who didn't get to show his skills in the talkies.

Fred Thomson was born Frederick Clifton Thomson on February 26, 1890 in Pasadena,  to James, a minister, and Clara Thomson. Fred was the third born out of four boys. 

As a child, Fred loved being outdoors and playing sports, even making his college football team. It was also in college that he thought about following in his father's footsteps and becoming a minister. He enrolled at the Princeton Theological Seminary and spent some time as pastor in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles.

So, Fred went from student, to athlete, to pastor, and then to serviceman when he enlisted in the military. Strangely enough, this is where he caught his break in the film industry. He worked as a technical adviser for a Mary Pickford film with a military theme and he became interested in all the workings of the new film medium. 

Fred made his film debut in the 1921 Pickford film, The Love Light. In the next couple of years he was appearing in his own action series and performing his own stunts. He also portrayed legendary heroes of the West like Kit Carson and Jesse James in films of the same name. 

His most well known costar was his horse, Silver King. Fred apparently trained his horse to do all kinds of tricks like nod his head yes or no, wink, nudge with his head, and not to mention all the jumps he could perform. After Fred's death, Silver King continued to appear in films until 1938. Fred made his last film appearance ten years early in 1928.

While working in his stables one day, Fred stepped on a nail. He didn't think much of it, until began limping because of the pain and waking up in the middle of the night with a fever and aches in his leg. He went to the doctor but he was misdiagnosed with kidney stones. What the doctors and Fred didn't realize was that he had contracted tetanus from the nail.

Fred Thomson passed away on Christmas Day in 1928 at age 38. 

He was interred at Forest Lawn in Glendale. Pallbearers at his funeral included Harold Lloyd, Charles Farrell, and Douglas Fairbanks. Honorary pallbearers were Buster Keaton and Joseph Schenck. 

Fred was married twice in his relatively short life. His first wife was his college sweetheart, Gail Jepson. They were married in 1913, but sadly Gail passed away three years later from tuberculosis. His second wife was screenwriter Frances Marion who he married in 1919, with Mary Pickford serving as Maid of Honor. The couple had two sons, Frederick (born in 1926) and Richard (who was adopted in 1927). These two really were a Hollywood power couple.

Like many stars of the silent screen, Fred performed his own stunts, some of which were quite dangerous. While filming 1924's Thundering Hoofs, he had to jump from a stagecoach to one of the horses pulling it. Unfortunately, he hit the ground and not the horse and suffered a compound fracture to his right thigh. The movie production had to be delayed for a few weeks while Fred recovered from his injury. 

He never seemed to lose his drive to minister to people. He would later say that he believed the Western films he appeared in helped preach kindness and morals to his audiences. 

His fan mail included many letters for his horse, Silver King. 

Fred was approached to join United Artists Studio along with Charles Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford but he declined because he felt content continuing making his movies the way he liked to make them. Why fix it if isn't broken type of deal. I mean, in 1927 he was the number two male star on the screen, second only to Tom Mix.

During the later part of his career, he had some dealings with Joseph Kennedy, patriarch of the famous Kennedy clan. Working with Kennedy seemed to work in his favor for a bit until it seemed Kennedy grew tired of working with him. Fred's career began to dip a bit after he broke with Kennedy and his wife, Frances Marion said later on that she felt part of the reason Fred died was because he was so distraught over what he thought was a failing career.

"In a short while our hill resembled a gigantic wedding cake, pine trees studded every tier, while on top rose a huge house with a drawing room two stories and a half high, rare tapestries on the walls, an Aeolian pipe organ, and windows overlooking five acres of lawn. Beautifully laid out on the terrace were a tiled barbecue, an aviary, and a hundred-foot swimming pool. Fred and his horses and I had gone Hollywood!" ~~ Frances Marion

Monday, July 1, 2013

Miss Eva May

Lets keep discussing beautiful European silent film actresses shall we?

Eva May was born Eva Maria Mandl on May 29, 1902 in Vienna, Austria. She was the daughter of her film director father, Joe Mandl (stage name May) and his wife, Mia May who was a well known actress. I am pretty sure that Eva was an only child. 

Considering her parents and her upbringing, it is no surprise that Eva became interested in show business at an early age. She on the set of her father's movies a lot of the time and in 1914, she made her acting debut in his film, The Black Triangle (the film also featured her mother). 

It soon became apparent that Eva didn't need her parents to help her make a name for herself in the business. She seemed to be doing just fine by herself, appearing in 10 films in 1919 alone! She soon earned the nickname, "Jedermanns Liebling" (Everyone's Darling).

All together Eva appeared in around 30 films and shared the screen with European stars like Conrad Veidt, Lya De Putti, and of course, her mother, Mia. She made her last film, Der Geheime Agent in 1924.

Eva May passed away on September 10, 1924 after shooting herself. She was only 22 years old.

Sadly, this was not the first time that Eva had tried to kill herself. She had tried a year before by cutting her wrists but was given medical treatment in time to save her life. She had been having troubles with her father and the other men and her life and just couldn't take it anymore it seems.

In her short life, Eva certainly did pack a lot of action. She was married three times, all to movie directors. Her first husband was director Manfred Liebenau who she wed around 1917/1918. Her second husband was director Lothar Mendes, and her third husband was director Manfred Noa. 

At the time of her death, she was engaged to yet another director, Rudolf Sieber. Unfortunately, Sieber left Eva for Marlene Dietrich in 1924 and they remained married (but lived apart) until he died in 1976. 

After her daughter's death, Mia May never acted on the screen again.  Joe May retired from directing in 1944.