Looking Back 25 Years (Picture Show Annual – 1936)

Picture Show Annual (1936)

Looking Back 25 Years

— Edward Wood —

Twenty-five years is but a short span when we survey the fields of Art and Industry, and it is admitted that the screen has a claim to both these titles. It has risen from a cheap back-street show to the most popular form of entertainment in the world. It is also the greatest educational force in the world. There can be no question about that. The greater part of the world to-day knows about foreign places and foreign customs solely through the influence of the cinema.

One Romantic Night - United Artists
One Romantic Night – United Artists

The rich have the means to travel and the leisure to read, but the vast majority of the world’s population are dependent on the cinema for any knowledge of what is going on in countries other than their own. Today you can see any great world event in the cinema- -from the Coronation of a King to the Cup Final.

1937 coronation King_George_VI_and_Queen_Elizabeth
1937 coronation King_George_VI_and_Queen_Elizabeth

And in all these cinematic recordings the slow-motion camera has become a greater judge of Truth than any human being could ever hope to be. Pictures have certainly made great progress, but it is questionable if there was ever a more handsome screen hero than Maurice Costello.

maurice-costello.jpg
Maurice Costello

And looking at the next two photographs we can be certain that the screen has never produced two more popular players than Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford.

Mary is practically out of pictures these days, but Charlie is still in the game and is proving that he is the only man who can defy the talkies.

The second page of photographs will bring many memories to people who went to the pictures twenty-five years ago. Flora Finch, Anita Stewart, Wallace Reid, Clara Kimball Young, Norma Taimadge, Antonio Moreno and Florence Turner were big names in the cinema round about twenty years ago.

I wonder what we should think of them today. Memory is an elusive thing and often a false critic, because necessarily it must draw its pictures from the Past and often cannot do justice to the Present.

Lillian Gish in The Wind - Promotional Photo Letty
circa 1922: Lillian Diana Gish, originally Lillian de Guiche (1893 – 1993), made her stage debut at the age of 5. She played a lot of waif type heroines during her silent film career. She returned to the stage in 1930.

Lillian Gish was of a totally different type. She was the sorrowful heroine, and right well could Lillian sorrow.

It was said that directors screamed themselves hoarse in making her shed tears, but once Lillian started to cry she was a human deluge. And, like Norma Talmadge, Lillian Gish could act. She was one of the best of the silent stars, and after she left the screen she made a big name on the stage.

Lillian Gish as Ophelia, 1936, by Edward Steichen
Lillian Gish as Ophelia, 1936, by Edward Steichen

William Powell, now one of the most popular players in pictures, was never a likeable figure in the films m the days of the Silents. He was invariably cast for the part of a villain. No harm in that, for many actors have made fame as villains. But in those days Bill was such a despicable and slimy villain that nobody could have believed he was in real life the fine man he was and is.

William Powell and Dorothy Gish Romola
William Powell and Dorothy Gish Romola

Talkies made Bill Powell. He brought to the screen in “ Forgotten Faces ’ one of the first talkies in which he appeared with Evelyn Brent and Clive Brook, a totally different Bill Powell.

Some of you may remember this him. It was a good one. Bill Powell, as an English officer supposed to have been killed in the war, attending a memorial service for the fallen, among whom he is the great one, gave a performance which immediately stamped him as one actor the arrival of the talkies could not kill.

Richard_Barthelmess_by_Nickolas_Muray
Richard_Barthelmess_by_Nickolas_Muray

Richard Barthelmess is now becoming a veteran of the screen, although he is so young in actual age. He has played many parts since the great David Wark Griffith promoted him from a prop, boy to an actor, and he has played them well.

It will always be a wonder to people who know the films why Rudolph Valentino should have had such a wonderful Influence on all women who went to the pictures. He was certainly an attractive figure on the screen and a sound actor when given a role that suited him. Also he was a very charming man to meet. Perhaps it was that he symbolised real Romance.

Rudolph Valentino
Rudolph Valentino
Picture Show Annual 1936 cover
Picture Show Annual 1936 cover

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