Saturday, March 29, 2014

Miss Alice and Miss Marceline Day

Alice and Marceline

A sister act!

Marceline Day plays the love interest to Buster Keaton in one of my all time favorite silent films, The Cameraman. I found out later that she had a sister, Alice, who was an actress as well. Although Alice didn't make quite as big of a splash as her younger sister, they are both still remembered as beautiful ingenues of the silent screen.


Alice Day was born Jacquiline Alice Newlin on November 7, 1905 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Marceline came along a few years later on April 24, 1908.


They were the daughters of Frank and Irene Newlin. Irene had run away from home at the age of sixteen and married Frank soon after. The pair eventually divorced shortly after Marceline was born.

In 1910, Irene took her two young daughters to her mother and step father's house to live. Frank Newlin may have remarried but I am not 100% sure.

Alice, being the oldest, was the first of the two girls to make an appearance on the movie screen. She was 18 years old when she was featured in the 1923 film The Temple of Venus as one of Mack Sennett's Bathing Beauties.  

Alice and Marceline

The following year, Marceline made her film debut as a Bathing Beauty alongside her sister in the Harry Landon film, Picking Peaches.

As I stated earlier, Marceline seemed to make the bigger splash with studios because she was named a WAMPAS Baby Star of 1926, two years before Alice was named one. That must have hurt a bit...

Alice appeared in about 60 features, which consisted of mostly B movies and Westerns later in her career.

The film that Alice would be known for the most nowadays would be the 1929 film, Little Johnny Jones. This is an important film of note because it is one of the earliest screen adaptations of the play/movie, Yankee Doodle Dandy. Unfortunately, the film is considered lost, BUT, the soundtrack is still around an in archive at UCLA I believe.

Alice's final film appearance was in a 1932 Western called Gold which starred cowboy actor Jack Hoxie.


Alice Day passed away on May 25, 1995 in Orange, California. I do not know where she is buried, but she could have possibly been cremated like her sister was.

Marceline's most well known work was with Keaton, but she also made a splash appearing alongside such heavies as Lon Chaney (in 1927's London After Midnight) and John Barrymore (in The Beloved Rogue, also 1927). When the talkies came, she appeared with Clara Bow in her 1929 film, The Wild Party.

Although Marceline and her sister both had perfectly fine voices for the talking pictures, both of their careers went downhill as the 1930s rolled in. Marceline made her last film appearance in the 1933 Western, The Fighting Parson.


Marceline passed away on February 16, 2000 in Cathedral City, California. She was cremated and her ashes I believe were given to her family.

Marceline was married twice. First, to film producer Allen Klein and then later to a man named John Arthur in 1959. Those are pretty much all the details I have on her marriages, so, if you know any more information, please let me know! Marceline did date actor Richard Dix for a few months in 1928 and also an actor named James Murray. That second name didn't ring a bell with me, so I had to look him up and my goodness! Look him up, pretty intense. I may just have to do an entry on him.

Alice never married but she was reportedly engaged to her longtime beau, Carl Laemmle Jr. There is a great anecdote about them that I read in the November 1928 issue of Photoplay that I have to share. Apparently, the two had recently broken up and Carl was getting sweet on another actress, Sue Carol. One day at the studio, Carl  had the on set orchestra play the song "Sweet Sue" over and over again, and this was followed oh so cheekily by a request for the song "The Day is Done" (get it?) What Carl didn't know was that Alice was next door shooting her own film and she heard the entire thing. Carl got a big surprise when he turned around to see Alice standing behind him glaring at him. Love it!

Marceline and Alice as cats...of course!

The sisters appeared together another place besides the film in 1924! They were both featured in the variety show-esque film The Show of Shows. They appeared in a sequence called "Meet My Sister" which featured other famous sisters in Hollywood: Viola Dana and Shirley Mason, Sally O'Neil and Molly O'Day, Alberta and Adamae Vaugh, Helene and Dolores Costello, SallyBlane and Loretta Young, and Lola and Armida Vendrell. This sounds like something I need to get my hands on!

The girls had a very close relationship with their mother, Irene. When they moved to Hollywood, they got a three bedroom apartment so that they could all live together yet have their own space. Irene once told a story about how the girls wanted to be like the flappers they saw out on the town, smoking and drinking and having a grand old time. Irene told them, sure, you can drink, go right ahead! She poured them each a glass of red wine and told them to drink it all in big gulps and then lit a cigarette for each and told them to inhale deeply. Needless to say this demonstration had it's desired effect because while the other flappers were smoking and drinking, Alice and Marceline were chewing gum and drinking ice cream sodas.

For whatever reason, after she retired, Marceline refused to talk about her movie career and refused to grant interviews. There are a few stars who went this route and I am always curious as to why. Guess we will never know...

Alice and Marceline

"[on her daughters] When they come to me and say they'd like fur coats, I say 'Certainly, buy fur coats. Buy a lot of fur coats. You'll only pass this way once. You're making your own money. Make the most of it." ~~ Irene Newlin (Day) to Photoplay magazine, 1928

Friday, March 7, 2014

Mr. Elmer Clifton

I remember first seeing Elmer Clifton's face in a book about silent film stars and thinking, "Whoa! That is one good looking dude!" When you think of silent film actors you think of the suave and exotic Rudolph Valentino or the swashbuckling Douglas Fairbanks, but then you see a good looking boy next door and interests are piqued! Am I alone here?? Unfortunately, one of the things that Elmer is most well known for now is being the director of the film Warrens of Virginia, which is the film Martha Mansfield died while making. Tragic situation for all involved. But, let's explore more of who this man really was and why he really should be remembered.

Elmer Clifton was born Elmer Forsyth on March 14, 1890 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He was the only child of Cecil and Margaret Forsyth. 

There is some discrepancy about how Elmer Forsyth became Elmer Clifton. There is some speculation that his mother married a man with the last name of Clifton who later adopted Elmer, but this is unconfirmed. Margaret Forsyth did in fact marry again later in life, but it was to a man with the last name of Owens.

Elmer first appeared on stage in 1907 and it was only a couple years later that he would be on the big screen. He had his film debut in the 1912 short, The Lake of Dreams. 

Like pretty much every actor during the early days of film making, Elmer appeared in both of D.W. Griffith's epics, Birth of a Nation (1915) as Phil Stoneman, brother of Lillian Gish, and and Intolerance (1916) as the warrior singer, Rhapsode. 

Dorothy Gish and Elmer

The following year Elmer began working behind the camera as a director. His feature film directorial debut was Her Official Fathers, starring Dorothy Gish. (Technically, his first directing job was in 1915 with the short, The Artist's Wife, but he really caught his stride starting in 1917).

Elmer continued working with Griffith, even helping him shoot scenes for the 1920 film, Way Down East. Elmer also worked as a stunt man for leading man Richard Barthelmess in a few scenes.

Besides working with Griffith, Elmer also had the chance to direct both Clara Bow and Rudolph Valentino in their earliest films. Lucky guy.

In 1924, he signed on to direct the war film The Warrens of Virginia starring screen ingenue Martha Mansfield. One day during a break in shooting, a lit match was carelessly tossed toward Martha's direction and lit her period costume on fire. The flames were extinguished by her co-star throwing his coat over her but she was already badly burned. Martha was taken to the hospital where she died the next day from severe burns. Although this was just a tragic accident and in no way Elmer Clifton's fault, he was still fired by the studio and his career went downhill from there. 

Elmer did manage to keep working when the talkies came to Hollywood, but his films were mostly so-so Westerns and other B-movie types. The last film he directed was 1949's Not Wanted, but it had to be finished by the film's star Ida Lupino after Elmer suffered a heart attack during production. 

Elmer Clifton passed away on October 15, 1949 in Los Angeles from a cerebral hemorrhage. He was buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale.

Although Elmer never married, it didn't mean that he didn't do his share of comparison shopping. In a 1917 Photoplay article, Elmer said that lovemaking was his favorite recreational activity. Way to be, sir, way to be! Gotta admire that bravado!

"An epic picture is produced, I believe, when (1) a great thought (2) is told in a simple and understandable way (3) by expert motion picture technicians...Unless every man working on the picture, from director to the man who runs the projection machine in the smallest village theater, executes his work efficiently, the greatest theme can never get over to the public in epic form." ~~ Elmer Clifton [asked what made an epic picture] (Motion Picture Magazine, 1926)