Saturday, October 26, 2013

Miss Ethel Grandin

Ethel Grandin was born on March 3, 1894 in New York City. She was the youngest child and only daughter born to Edward, a coal salesman, and his wife, Julia. She had three older brothers named Edward, Howell, and George. 

Ethel made her stage debut at age six! She spent a lot of her childhood traveling around the country with various theatre troupes, and one of her frequent costars on the road was another young girl named Gladys Smith, who would later change her name to Mary Pickford. Not a bad way to start!

When she was seventeen, she went looking for film work at the Biograph studio. She was meeting with D.W. Griffith when he lifted up her skirt so that he could 'inspect her legs.' Well, Ethel was horrified by his gumption and left his office immediately. The casting couch is nothing new it seems...

Even though this incident turned her stomach, it didn't stop her from continuing to pursue a screen career. She next went to the IMP Studios to see Carl Laemmle. She had a much better experience there and was signed up! The pot was sweetened even more because her old friend and travelling buddy, Mary Pickford was working with the studio already and was known as "The IMP Girl" to movie audiences. 

Ethel made her film debut in the 1911 short, Dorothy's Family. She would frequently appear in shorts with Mary, until Mary went to another studio and Ethel took over her role and became the new "IMP Girl." 

One of Ethel's films became quite famous and quite notorious. In 1913 she appeared in the film, Traffic in Souls. This film is considered the first to show the selling of sex and marked the beginning of the so called 'sexplotation' genre.

Her career consisted of quite a few breaks. She would leave for awhile, and come back and do more films, and then go away again. The first time she did this it was because her brother, George, who also worked for a bit as an actor, died in 1916. Her next break could have been to concentrate on her marriage and her son and her last break became permanent when she retired from filming all together.

In 1922 she made her last screen appearance in A Tailor-Made Man. 

After her film career was over, Ethel worked for awhile selling cosmetics. She remained pretty strong and healthy up until her eighties when she lost the ability to speak. 

Ethel Grandin passed away on September 28, 1988 in Woodland Hills, California. 

She was interred at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood. 

Ethel was married once, to director and visual artist Ray Smallwood. They were married in 1912 and remained married until his death in 1964. They had a son named Arthur in 1913. When Ray was in failing health later in life, the couple moved into the Motion Picture Country House so he could be better cared for. After he died Ethel decided to stay there and soon became neighbors with another lovely film star, Mary Astor. 

Even after her career ended, Ethel would still receive tons of fan mail and she enjoyed answering every letter herself. 

"...Nature has gifted Miss Grandin with the requisites necessary to screen success and I am certain, after reviewing a number of these pictures, she will prove more popular than ever in the series we are about to release." ~~ Producer George Kleine to Motion Picture World in the July 13, 1915 issue, when asked about Ethel appearing in films for the General Film Company.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Miss Marvel Rea

So, this young lady is someone that kinda haunts my thoughts when I look through my pictures or think about who to write about next. She was a beautiful girl and even though she is almost completely forgotten today, back in the early 1910s and 1920s, she was a popular fixture in Keystone films. I would like to believe that Marvel Rea would have continued appearing in films until she retired later in life, but sadly, life dealt her a terrible blow that she just couldn't keep coping with.

Marvel Rea was born Marvel Luciel Rea on November 9, 1901 in Ainsworth, Nebraska. She was third child born to John, a farmer, and his wife, Nellie. She had an older sister named Eva, an older brother, Thomas, and a younger brother, Clyde.

John Rea seems to be a bit of a mystery. I am not sure if he passed away or if he and Nellie divorced. I cannot find any information on his death or even a grave, but I did find Nellie's and she was buried under the name 'Nellie Rea Blalock.' Poor Nellie ended up outliving all four of her children. Her eldest daughter, Eva, died in 1936, from what I am not sure. Thomas Rea worked in Hollywood like his sister Marvel, but chose to work behind the camera as a cinematographer. He died of a heart attack in 1957. Youngest child, Clyde passed away in 1943. Nellie Thurman Rea Blalock didn't pass away until 1964. How awful to out live all of your children.

In 1910 the Rea family moved to California and in 1917 she joined up with Mack Sennett and the Keystone Studio. She made her film debut that year in the short, Her Nature Dance. 

Marvel was an adorable blonde and was a perfect choice to become one of Mack Sennett's Bathing Beauties. The girls wore scandalous (for the day) bathing suits and frolicked on the beach for comedy shorts and for promotional ads for the studio. The Beauties weren't often named in film credits, but a lot of them did become stars in their own rights like Marie Prevost and Gloria Swanson. Gloria would later claim that she was NOT one of his beauties, but I've seen the pictures and she was frolicking with the girls. Marvel frequently appeared in shorts with fellow Beauties Juanita Hansen, Vera Steadman, Phyllis Haver, Laura La Varnie, Harriet Hammond, and Myrtle Lind. I just love them!

From top to bottom: Phyllis Haver, Vera Steadman, Marvel, Beulah Sunshine, Myrtle Lind, and Vera Reynolds

Marvel's film career only lasted from 1917 until 1921 and contained almost thirty films. When she wasn't acting as a Bathing Beauty, she was appearing alongside Ford Sterling in his comic shorts. 

On September 2, 1936, Marvel was walking down the road when three men drove up next to her and asked if they could give her a lift home. She told them no, and kept walking. The men then grabbed her and threw her into the back of their van and sped off to an eucalyptus grove on Compton Avenue in Los Angeles. They then assaulted her and beat her with glass bottles before leaving her semiconscious on the ground. She woke up a few hours later and somehow was able to get help. The details about how she got to the police and got home are a little confusing so I am leaving that part out. The police were able to find the men, brothers Elmwood and Homer Gidney Harvey Zike, and take them into custody. 

The trials to convict the men were a circus. They at first denied having anything to do with the kidnapping and the jury and judge were starting to lean in their direction. Eventually they were sentenced to serve up to fifty years in prison, but because of some BS technicality, they were released after only serving three years. Gotta love the justice system.

Marvel Rea passed away on June 17, 1937 after ingesting ant poison. It seems that the kidnap, assault, and eventual release of her attackers may have been too much for her to handle. Can't say I blame her, poor thing. 

She was buried at Pacific Crest Cemetery in Redondo Beach, California next to her older sister. 

Her suicide seems to have been something she had been thinking about because according to her great nephew Stephen Rea, Marvel had made a suicide pact with her younger brother, Clyde. Now, I am not sure if this pact was made right before she killed herself or if this was weeks/years beforehand. Well, as we know, Marvel went through with the pact, and Clyde simply passed out drunk. Man oh man...

Marvel was married twice (although I have heard maybe three times, the second husband was supposedly a violinist). Her first husband was a banker named named Henry Page Wells. The two were married in October of 1918, and were separated a few weeks later. I read in an article that Marvel claimed two weeks after their wedding, Wells "stood her on her head." I have absolutely no idea what this means, but I am assuming it is a way of saying that he hit her. The pair didn't officially divorce until 1922, when Marvel accused him of spending all of his money on drugs.

Her second marriage was to Edwin J. Wilkinson in 1936. Edwin's sister, Dorothy was married to Marvel's brother, Tom. Even though they were still married when Marvel died, she is buried under her maiden name of 'Rea.'

Marvel, Ford Sterling, and Alice Maison

Neither of her marriages produced children but according to great nephew Stephen, she was pregnant at one point and suffered a miscarriage after filming a scene where she was in a cage with a gorilla. I would love to know the whole story here because this just sounds bizarre. Bizarre or not, apparently this accident made it so she could have children. 

A film magazine from 1917 ran a profile of Marvel singing her praises. They had her at 5'2'' with a weight that was 'sculpturally correct.' (Hmmmmm....) Her eyes were hazel, and her hair was 'the color of sunshine and champagne.' It also stated that she enjoyed surfing, a new fad on the beach. Love it. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

No Talkies VIII

Well, here we are. We have come to the end of our series about the silent film stars who passed away before they were able to make a try for the talkies. So, let's a man who was good friends with the one and only Nazimova and a man who was teamed with Dorothy Gibson, the actress who survived the sinking of The Titanic, in a few films. 


Rex Cherryman was born Rexford Raymond Cherryman on October 30, 1896 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was the second child and only son born to Esmond and Myrtle Cherryman. His sister, Edna Gladys (she usually went by Gladys) was five years older.

It gets a little confusing when it comes to the relationship between Rex's parents. In one census record, Myrtle Cherryman is listed as 'widowed' and in another one, ten years later, she is listed as 'divorced.' So, either Esmond Cherryman died and came back to life just to be divorced by his wife, or there was a mistake made on a record. I haven't found a census record where Esmond is listed as being married to Myrtle or living with his children. I did find one from 1910 that showed he was living in Idaho and working as a watchman for a steamboat company. He was listed as 'single' in this record. Esmond died in 1944. 

Dramatics was already present in the Cherryman household before Rex was born. Myrtle loved appearing on the stage when she was a child in her town's local productions and when she was older, she worked as a music editor and composer. 

Rex attended the University of Michigan (GO BLUE!) and while there he met another student named Esther Lamb. The two fell in love and were married in 1918. They had a son, Rexford Cherryman Jr. in 1925. And sadly, Rex Jr. died only a few months ago on July 25th. According to Rex, the marriage was a mistake but the two remained on friendly terms. 

Like his mother, he loved the theatre and really enjoyed performing in front of a live audience. His stage resume involves more appearances than his film resume which consisted of only five films.

He made his film debut in 1919's In for Thirty Days with May Allison. Not a bad way to start!

Elinor Oliver, Nazimova, Patsy Ruth Miller, and Rex

His next film was 1920's Madame Peacock starring Alla Nazimova. Nazimova picked Rex out herself to star alongside her. The two soon became good friends and she chose him again as her costar in Camille the following year. The success of the film (which of course was helped by it's other star, Rudolph Valentino) helped put Rex into the public's eye and got them talking about him. 

In 1923, he made his next film, Sunshine Trail which wasn't really a stellar followup to his previous film. He didn't make another film until 1928, which would end up being his last screen appearance. 

Rex Cherryman passed away on August 10, 1928 in Le Havre, France. He had fallen ill while sailing from the U.S. to Paris and it later developed into septic poisoning. He was 31 years old.

He was interred at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California.

Rex remained married to Esther until his death, legally that is. Unfortunately, Rex was unfaithful to her at least once, and it was with a woman who would later become a big movie star. In the early 1920s while performing in a production in San Francisco, Rex met fellow actor Barbara Stanwyck (although, at that time she was still using her birth name, Ruby Stevens). They two met again a few years later in 1926 when they were both appearing in the same play and it was either that year or the following that the two began an affair. Barbara wasn't married at the time, but Rex certainly was! It was Barbara who was there when Rex left to sail to France and was understandably shocked and devastated when he died a few days later. Esther Cherryman knew about the affair by now and she was ready to file for divorce from Rex. Interestingly enough though, when she died over 70 years later, she was interred in the same niche as her husband. 

Barbara Stanwyck and Rex

Here is a interesting/eerie story involving Rex that I wanted to share. In 1927, Rex was appearing in the stage production The Trial of Mary Dugan. He was only with the production for a few weeks when he fell ill and was replaced by another young actor, Robert Williams. The day after Rex died, Robert spoke to a New York reporter saying, "I'm not going to let this be a jinx to me. I'm not superstitious. If a man is going to get a stardom, he's going to get there and death can't stop him." These words were going to come back and haunt him soon. In 1931, Robert was one lucky man, he was starring alongside Jean Harlow in the film, Platinum Blonde and reviews were saying this was his gateway to stardom! Sadly, four days after the film was released, he passed away from appendicitis. Superstitious now?

"It was my first chance at dramatic acting and everything enchanted me. Rex was handsome and young and had a great talent and good humor...I adored him." ~~ Barbara Stanwyck


Lamar Johnstone was born Edward Lamar Johnstone on March 15, 1884 in Fairfax, Virginia.

I couldn't find any information about his family or his early life. I apologize.

He made his film debut in a 1912 short, Keeping an Eye on Father. 

During his career, he appeared mostly in films for the Selig and Eclair Studios and was often paired with Dorothy Gibson, the silent film actress who survived the sinking of the Titanic. Along with Dorothy, he frequently shared the screen with Muriel Ostriche, Francelia Billington, Stella LeSaint, Alec B. Francis, Barbara Tennant, Julia Stuart, and Will E. Shearer.

Tyrone Power Sr. on the far left. Lamar is the man in the glasses in the middle and in the inset. I am not sure who the woman and the other man are. Possibly Louis Fitzroy and Lucille King.

Not only was Lamar an actor, but he also had a chance to direct a few of his films in the 1913-1915 period. He also did his own stunts. In the 1916 film, Secret of the Submarine, Lamar had the chance to fly himself and his costar, Juanita Hansen in an airplane. You couldn't pay me enough for that!

His last film appearance was in an Olive Thomas film, The Spite Bride. It was released four months after his death.

Lamar Johnstone passed away on May 21, 1919 in Palm Springs, California. His coworkers recalled that he was in good health and spirits when he went to bed that night. His body was found the next morning in bed. The cause of death was listed as heart disease. He was 35 years old.

He was buried in the Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles. 

Dropping dead from heart disease at 35 was pretty surprising. Especially considering that Lamar was in pretty good physical condition. He enjoyed boxing in his spare time and was said to be pretty good at it. 

Lamar and Edith Johnson

I couldn't find any information on a marriage except that he is mentioned in an article as leaving a widow behind. I also found his WWI draft card that listed his nearest relative as being an 'Adeline Johnstone.' It didn't list the relationship, but I am thinking that she was his wife. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

No Talkies VII

So, we are nearing the end of the No Talkies series and I have decided to split the last entry up (again) into two separate entries rather than cram four of them into one. Cool? Cool.

This entry we will talk about Bobby Connelly, who tragically died at age thirteen, and Joseph Graybill whose death was caused by multiple factors. This should be an interesting one!


Bobby Connelly was born Robert Joseph Connelly on April 4, 1909 in Brooklyn, New York. He was the second of four children born to vaudeville performers Joseph and Frances Connelly. His older sister, Helen also worked as an actress while younger brothers Arthur and Leonard seemed to shy away from the limelight. It seems too that to help support his family, Joseph also worked as an assistant bookkeeper and later an accountant. 

He made his screen debut in the 1912 short, The Grandfather. And his second film the following year was called Grandfather. Not the same film, but come on now...

In 1914, Bobby began appearing in a series of films as the main character, Sonny Jim for the Vitagraph Company. The series eventually consisted of 20 shorts and dealt with some pretty controversial issues. For instance, in An Easter Lily, Sonny Jim befriends a little black girl named Lily whose mother does washing for his family. He tells her all about his brand new Easter Sunday clothes and asks what hers look like. She starts crying and points to the dress she has on saying that that was all she had. Bobby then grabs her by the hand and brings her inside and wraps up a dress that belongs to one of his visiting cousins (it so cute to see him wrapping it up for her in a newspaper). He then tells her that she has to meet him at church on Sunday and that he will save her a spot next to him. She does show up and is scared to go into the church, but Bobby grabs her by the hand and leads her in and unfortunately this becomes a cliffhanger because the existing print of this short is missing. GRRRRR!!!! Check it out here because what there is of it (and what isn't damaged) shows a wonderful interaction between Bobby and Ada Utley, the girl who plays Lily.

Another film of his that caused outage with some audiences was 1919's The Unpardonable Sin, which starred Blanche Sweet in a dual role. The film was banned in Kansas because part of the plot dealt a German soldier raping two sisters (Blanche played both roles) and their mother. 

A few years later he appeared in another set of shorts, but this time he simply played himself, a boy named Bobby. This series only contained about nine shorts and had titles like, Bobby, Boy Scout, Bobby to the Rescue, and Bobby the Magician. 

His final years in films had him appearing alongside some big names like Clara Kimball Young, Elmo Lincoln, Alma Rubens, and Wallace Beery. He appeared in one of my favorite silent films, The Flapper, with Olive Thomas! He also appeared in a few films with his sister, Helen. Busy boy!

His last film appearance was in 1922's Wildness of Youth.

Bobby Connelly passed away on July 5, 1922 at his home in Lynbrook, New York. He was only 13 years old. In 1917, he was diagnosed with endocarditis, an inflammation of the inner layer of the heart. He was given the okay by doctors to keep working but his heavy filming schedule seems to have taken a toll on the poor boy's health. Soon after he finished working on his last film, he fell ill with bronchitis and that is eventually what killed him. 

He was buried at Saint Boniface Cemetery in Elmont, New York. 


Joseph Graybill was born Harold Graybill on April 17, 1887 in Kansas City, Missouri. He was the only son born to Clarence Frank and Henrietta Graybill. His sister, Gladys, came along four years later. 

He was educated at St. John's Military Academy in Milwaukee. This was also where he made his stage debut at age eighteen and where he jumped on board with the Thanhouser company. Busy boy!

What is known is that he made his screen debut in 1909 in the short, The Light That Came, which was directed by D.W. Griffith. The short featured Mary and Lottie Pickford, Owen Moore, and Kate Bruce.

During the next four years, Joseph appeared both on the screen and on the stage. While making films in the East, he was travelling as far as Iowa in various theater plays I have never heard of I might add. 

His screen career lasted from 1909 until 1913 and in that time he appeared in almost 90 films. In that short time he shared the screen with such big names like Mack Sennett, Henry B. Walthall, Bobby Harron, Blanche Sweet, Florence La Badie, Mabel Normand, Lionel Barrymore, the Gish sisters...needless to say, pretty much everyone who worked for the Biograph and Thanhouser Studios. 

His final film was a 1913 short entitled The Blight, which was released posthumously.

Joseph Graybill passed away on August 3, 1913 in New York City. He was only 26. 

He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. 

And here is where things get confusing. I have read that he died because of the following: spinal meningitis, a nervous breakdown, gastritis, alcohol poisoning, and acute pachymeningitis. With all of these diagnoses, I am surprised he didn't explode. I read in a 1913 Motion Picture Story magazine article that said he had a 'nervous disorder of the optic nerve and died.' I'm thinking it was a bit of a mix...the meningitis, the breakdown, and the loss of eyesight that is, all related. There is nothing that I have read to suggest that Joseph had a drinking problem.