Sunday, January 24, 2021

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1912)

Hello again, kitty cats! I thought it would be a good idea to give you all an idea of what kind of content I will be offering on my new Patreon page. One of the extras will be "Silver Sheet Stories" and the other will be film reviews. I will be viewing available silent films, giving my two cents, as well as including contemporary reviews from those who had the pleasure of seeing them on the big screen. Those lucky so-and-sos!

And, of course, I am working on figuring out merch!

So, that being said, please check out the Patreon page to see if anything there strikes your fancy. I wish I had the time to do all of this extra content for free, but with a full-time job from home that now includes added responsibilities, it takes a lot more to churn out extra content. Every little bit helps, and I cannot thank you enough for the support.


My first choice for a film review may seem like an interesting choice, so let me explain a little bit as to why I chose it. Florence La Badie was the first actress I wrote about when I started this blog in 2010. She really was my muse in the creation of this blog. Reading her story and seeing her pictures made me sad that she was barely remembered today, and there are so many others like her. Therefore, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss one of her films on my first film review entry. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1912) is the one I have seen the most and tend to always associate with her. I wish it was a full length film and not just a little over 11 minutes, but, it's what we have to work with!

This film was the second American screen adaptation of the classic novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. The first was made in 1908 and starred Hobart Bosworth as the titular character(s). The 1912 version was made for Thanhouser Studio and starred James Cruze as Jekyll/Hyde and Florence La Badie as his sweetheart (referred to in the film as "the minister's daughter). It also features silent film child actress, Marie Eline, who basically is just in the film for Cruze to bump into on the street, as well as Jane Gail, Harry Benham, and Marguerite Snow as extras.

Florence La Badie and unidentified actor

In a 1963 magazine article, Harry Benham stated that he also appeared as Mr. Hyde in some scenes of this film. However, upon watching, it appears as if it is just Cruze throughout the whole thing. It could be that the makeup was just that good and the low quality of the print that we aren't able to distinguish the two actors. OR, perhaps, there are reels of film that no longer exist that contain extended footage that include Benham's portrayal. 

The film is pretty straightforward, and it kinda has to be to cover the crux of the novel in just 11 minutes. A Cliff's Notes version, if you will. Jekyll takes "drugs" to test their effects, Jekyll turns into Mr. Hyde, Hyde terrorizes town, Hyde poisons himself to end the terrifying ordeal, ending both sides of the man. Novel in a nutshell!

James Cruze as Dr. Jekyll and possibly Harry Benham as Mr. Hyde

In the January 1912 issue of Moving Picture News, reporter Margaret I. MacDonald had this to say about the film: "One of the finest releases which the Thanhouser company has ever put out is the release of...Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Nothing that has been recently released has impressed me any more strongly than this wonderful picture...To the intelligent person this picture is a wonderful lesson. Those familiar with the story from which the picture was made will be thrice impressed by its reproduction on the screen, where a startling moral stares at one with such vivid intensity that you can almost hear a still, small voice asking, 'Is this you?'"

The film was well received by critics and audiences alike. But, just to show you how filmmaking worked during these early days, another adaptation came out the following year. This adaptation starred King Baggot. The next American adaptation would be in 1920, with John Barrymore as the titular character.

James Cruze and Florence La Badie

Comparing this to the feature length Barrymore version in 1920, this version is going to leave you wanting. But, I think it is important to view this version for a number of reasons. First, you get to see Florence La Badie looking beautiful on screen. Florence appeared in almost 200 films before she died in a tragic car accident in 1917. Any chance to view 'Fearless Flo' on screen is a treat. Second, even if it is brief, we are able to see a pretty good performance from James Cruze. Considering this film was made in 1912, in the early years of filmmaking, it is impressive to see how emotive these actors could be, in and out of grotesque makeup. 

James Cruze as Mr. Hyde

Here's the thing about James Cruze, however. Him portraying Jekyll and Hyde is pretty symbolic for the man he was on and off camera. On camera, or even behind while directing, Cruze was very talented. He had over 100 film credits under his belt as an actor, directed over 70 films, and produced thirty. Needless to say, he was quite busy in the 1910s. Away from filmmaking, Cruze was a whole other story.

James Cruze

James Cruze was married three times, two of which were to actresses. His first marriage was to actress Marguerite Snow in 1912. The couple had one child together, a daughter, Julie, born in 1913. Marguerite filed for divorce in 1923, citing cruelty, telling the courts that Cruze repeatedly beat her. She also accused him of being "continually drunk." One incident of abuse she highlighted occurred in 1921 while the couple was attending a party. After most of the guests departed, Cruze reportedly beat Marguerite so badly that he knocked out one of her teeth. What caused him to snap? According to Marguerite, all she did was ask if he could take one of her friends home. The couple separated after this incident, and Marguerite filed for divorce two years later. She won custody of their daughter in the suit as well as alimony and child support. 

Marguerite Snow

Cruze's second marriage was no better. In 1924, he married actress Betty Compson. She filed for divorce from him in 1930, claiming, like the previous Mrs. Cruze, that he was always drunk and throwing "wild and endless parties at their home." She told newspapers that the separation was amicable, however, and that "Jim is the best fellow in the world." What she failed to mention to the public was that her marriage to Cruze left her broke. During their marriage (and probably even before) Cruze just didn't feel the need to pay his income taxes. Because of this, both Cruze and Betty were sued by the government, forcing them to sell their home, cars, and other items of value they had accumulated. I don't think I would leave this situation in a very amicable mood. 

Betty Compson

Around the time of his second divorce, Cruze sued an artist he had commissioned to paint his portrait. Cruze was not pleased with how the artist, John Decker, painted him, saying he made him look like "a frog and a gargoyle." Because of his disgust with the work, he refused to pay for it. In response, Decker painted prison bars over the portrait and displayed it in his shop window with a sign saying, "James Cruze in jail for refusing to pay his debts." Decker was pretty amused by the whole thing, saying that as the artist, he could paint someone however he wanted. "When a man employs an artist to paint a portrait it is up to the artist to do his worst as he sees best. If Cruze wanted some wishy-washy, sloppy sentimental portrait of himelf, he could have had a photograph taken or hire a two-bit painter to do it. I gave him a work of interpretative art." Cruze was pretty pissed at this and sought damages from Decker, but the case appears to have been thrown out.

Another case of Mr. Hyde/Cruze in litigation came when he sued his 24 year old daughter in 1938. He stated in his claim that he had given his daughter some properties because, as he stated, "...I had heart trouble. I thought I might die at any time and I wanted to fix the property so it would go to my daughter." One of the things that seemed to get Cruze's goat was the fact that his daughter gave a piece of property to her mother, Marguerite Snow, who had fallen on hard times. Cruze also claimed that his daughter was unfit to handle the properties due to her problems with drugs (Julie was arrested for possession of morphine earlier that year). He stated that he she obviously needed a guardian, or he wanted the properties back. Julie claimed that the properties were deeded to her and were therefore hers fair and square. She won the suit. Father and daughter may have reconciled by the time of their deaths, however. Cruze died in 1942 and, sadly, Julie died just three years later from pneumonia. Both were cremated and their ashes interred in the same vessel. I hope they reconciled beforehand, otherwise this is kind of a questionable thing to do. 

Julie Cruze


What do you think of 1912's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this film, as well as the stars. 

Check out the film below!



Sunday, January 10, 2021

Silver Sheet Stories - Francis Boggs

 Wow! It has been a minute (give or take a few years) since I have written a blog post here. But, I thought it would be a good idea to give everyone an idea of what kind of content I will be offering on my new Patreon page. One of the the things will be something like this which I am calling "Silver Sheet Stories." These stories are going to highlight lesser known figures from the silent film era that I think deserve to have their stories told. I am, however debating back and forth on whether or not I want these to be written stories or turn them into mini podcast episodes. You'll have to let me know which you would prefer!

One of the other things I will be offering through Patreon is silent film movie reviews. I would like to set up a discussion board for that so you guys can weigh in as well. I would also like to include a grave tour (of sorts) to highlight my over 1000 celebrity grave photos.

And, of course, I am working on figuring out merch!

So, that being said, please check out the Patreon page to see if anything there strikes your fancy. I wish I had the time to do all of this extra content for free, but with a full-time job from home with added responsibilities, it takes a lot more to churn out extras.

Thank you again for your continued support of Silence is Platinum! I hope you enjoy reading the first Silver Sheet story about director Francis Boggs.


Francis Boggs

Francis Winter Boggs was born March 28, 1870 in Santa Rosa, California. He was the second of five children born to George and Alabama McMeans Boggs (how cool was mom's name?!)

Frank, as he was known to family and friends, began acting on stage when he was a teenager. While touring with a troupe he landed in Chicago where he met up and coming film producer, William Selig. The two became friends as well as a creative dynamic duo. Selig's name probably sounds familiar if you have heard of the Selig Polyscope studio. Well, he's the Selig! And it was Frank who helped him expand the studio, first by making films for Selig and then by expanding the company. Their first film together was The Two Orphans (1907), which was based off of a French novel of the same name. 

William Selig

In 1908, Boggs directed The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays, the first screen adaptation of L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz book series. This short was interesting because it wasn't just a moving picture. The short included magic lantern slides (the precursor to films), Baum appearing on screen as a silent narrator, and even an original score. Sadly, this film is lost...because of course it is.

One interesting note about Fairylogue is the actress who played Dorothy. Ten year old Romola Remus was the daughter of George Remus, a famous bootlegger. Remus made headlines in 1927 after he shot and killed his second wife, Imogene, in the middle of Eden Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. Quite the background story for the first onscreen Dorothy Gale! (For a more in depth story about Remus, I HIGHLY recommend the book The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America by Karen Abbott.)

Still from The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays
ANYWAY! Back to Boggs! In 1909, Frank was in Los Angeles working on what would be the first motion picture made entirely on the west coast. In the Sultan's Power would be shot in a lot in what is now known as the Los Angeles Jewelry District. The short featured some of the earliest actors in silent film: Hobart Bosworth, Tom Santschi, and Betty Harte. Boggs served as director. 

His next short, Ben's Kid, wasn't anything significant at the time. However, it is significant now for being the film debut of Mr. Roscoe Arbuckle, playing a character named "Fatty Carter."

Filming at Selig Polyscope Studio in Edendale, California
These films, along with at least 100 more that Bogg's directed (one report stated it may have been over 200!) were all for the Los Angeles branch of the Selig Polyscope Company, which still had it's home base in Chicago. Boggs set up the west coast branch at the behest of Selig, and, clearly, he was doing a great job manning the helm! I mean, honestly, look at the filmographies of these early film pioneers. Most of the directors, performers, writers, etc. had at LEAST 100 credits to their name. Yes, the films were much shorter, but, still, that is very impressive. It's one of the things I love most about the silent film era, how hard these trailblazers worked.

Street views of the Selig Polyscope studio in Edendale, California

Like many early filmmakers of the early 1900s, most of his films are lost. However, at least two of his films are available to watch on YouTube: The Sergeant (1910), featuring Hobart Bosworth and Iva Shepard, and The Blacksmith's Love (1911), featuring Tom Santschi and Eugenie Besserer.  

Unfortunately, this hardworking director's career was cut short in what is considered to be the first murder in filmdom.

Boggs (with his back to the camera) directing a 1910 short.


On Friday, October 27, 1911, Boggs, studio business manager J.L. McGee, and William Selig were having a meeting inside Boggs' office, when, out of nowhere, a shot rang out. Boggs' secretary, E.H. Philbook, and actors Tom Santschi and Hobart Bosworth, who were in an adjoining room, ran to see what the hell was going on. At least four more shots rang out. One shot went into the arm of Selig, while another narrowly missed hitting Santschi. A third was reportedly shot toward actress Bessie Eyton, who had also heard the gunshots and come running. The fourth bullet was fired wildly and went through a wall. Santschi dove for the shooter to try and wrestle the gun away from him. The shooter tried to fire off another shot, but the gun apparently jammed. So, instead, he went for a small dagger he had on his person, but Bosworth and Philbrook swooped in and helped to disarm and restrain him. Either Selig or Santschi managed to grab the gun and hit the shooter in the face with it, knocking him unconscious in the melee. 

Hobart Bosworth

Bessie Eyton

Tom Santschi

The first cop on the scene was said to have heard the gunfire and had galloped over on his horse to check it out. The officer managed to slap handcuffs on the subdued shooter and placed him under arrest. He was actually handcuffed to the officer at one point in the front seat of the ambulance used to transport the victims to the hospital. 

Some reports indicated that Boggs died instantly, while another claimed he died enroute to the hospital from TWO gunshot wounds. Another newspaper reported that hospital staff told them that Boggs was expected to recover! (I could preface almost every statement in this entry with "according to some reports," honestly.) But, if we are to believe that Boggs was shot straight through the heart, he either died instantly or within seconds. I don't think he held on long enough for the ambulance to arrive. William Selig only sustained the through and through wound to his arm and made a full recovery. 

So. What the hell happened?! Who was the shooter?! Why did he go on a shooting rampage?? The "who" was Frank Minnimatsu, a 29 year old Japanese gardener/janitor for the studio. Unfortunately, I do need to make note of the fact that he was Japanese since that was a HUGE part of the sensational headlines reporting the murder. The senseless shooting was bad enough, but newspapers seemed to think the fact that the shooter was Japanese was a part of the problem. 

Frank Minnimatsu
Minnimatsu seems to have had a Jekyll and Hyde reputation around the studio. Some referred to him as the "gentleman janitor" because of how polite he was. While others saw him as a violent, crazed drunk. According to May Boggs, the widow of Frank Boggs, Frank's sister, Florence, had stated "...[Minnimatsu] was treacherous, but [Frank] thought he would be alright." This premonition of Florence's came after an incident four months prior to the murder where a drunken Minnimatsu shot at the gas tank of a car parked on the studio lot and attacked another employee. According to May Boggs, Frank gave Minnimatsu another chance because he showed remorse for his actions. "They could not have that kind of fellow around where there were so many films and he was discharged. After capturing him and placing him in handcuffs they found an empty whiskey bottle he had been drinking from and I am afraid that is the trouble this time. A short time ago he came back and asked to be forgiven, and Frank took him back into employment."

When May Boggs had the chance to confront Minnimatsu (most likely at the police station) she asked him why he had killed her husband. He replied, "He was a bad man, so I killed him." Minnimatsu also apparently told police that he had been waiting for six months for the chance to kill the director, but that "He was a good friend to me, but an old man told me he was a bad man, so I killed him." Friends would later tell newspapers that Minnimatsu had spoken of the need to kill three bad men in order to get into heaven. If it isn't clear already, the "gentleman janitor" suffered from unspecified mental illness.

Minnimatsu was charged with first degree murder in the death of Francis Boggs. From what police were able to piece together, the shooting was something that had been planned at least a few month beforehand. Although he usually carried a knife, the gun used was apparently taken from the studio prop room. (Back in the days when you just had loaded guns on sets!) Minnimatsu had been drinking for most of the day and pretending to work, when in actuality he was keeping a close eye on Boggs. When he saw his chance, he fired into the office, aiming specifically for Boggs. Santschi, Selig, Bosworth, Eyton, Philbrook, and McGee were lucky to have escaped with only one receiving a minor bullet wound.

Frank Minnimatsu
In December, just two months after the shooting, Frank Minnimatsu was found guilty of first degree murder. It took the jury just seven minutes to come back with the verdict. He was sentenced to life in prison, escaping the death penalty due to his mental health. He was sent to San Quentin Prison in San Rafael, California, where he would continue working as a gardener on the prison grounds. He actually came up for parole a few times, but he reportedly refused it, fearing he would be deported back to Japan. He died in 1937 when he was around 55 years old (his exact birthdate is unknown) and is buried in the prison cemetery. 

May Boggs had her husband's body taken back to Chicago and buried at Graceland Cemetery. 


A little more about the man behind the camera...

Frank Boggs was married twice. He married his first wife, actress Lillian Hayward, in 1895. They had a son, Edwin, the following year. Sadly, Edwin passed away in 1918 from pneumonia shortly he arrived in France to serve his country during World War I. A notice of his death lists that he had an 11 year old sister, Jacqueline, but I can't find any other mention of her. Frank and Lillian would eventually divorce, but I don't know the year.
Lillian Hayward
His second wife was actress May Hosmer, who he married in 1907. Although May married again after Frank's death, when she died just eight years later, she was buried next to him in Chicago.

May Hosmer-Boggs
Motography magazine had an entire page dedicated to the memory of  Frank in their December 1911 issue. "Real tragedy, as grim as any that ever brought tears to the eyes of the picture theater devotee, has visited the ranks of the motion picture men since Motography last issued. A producer of the silent drama in its highest conception has been cut down in the midst of his usefulness by the act of a mad man."

The name and work of Francis Boggs just seemed to evaporate as the years went on. But those who knew him made sure that he was remembered. In a 1929 interview with the Los Angeles Evening Express, Hobart Bosworth spoke about his dearly departed friend. "...There was a bright, smiling little gentleman named Francis Boggs who later met death at the hands of an insane Japanese gardener. Boggs was the first great motion picture figure. Don't forget him as many others have done for he was a genius and contributed more to the advancement of motion pictures in the pioneer days than any other man...Francis Boggs and I became fast friends and he saved my life by continuing to use me as a leading man in his pictures..."

Francis Boggs

"Don't forget him as many others have done for he was a genius..."


Find a Grave (specifically Bobb Edwards)