Was Mrs. Belmont “up-stage” in Way Down East? (Photoplay September 1920)

Photoplay Vol. XVIII September 1920 No. 4

Society in the Films

 

A FRIEND called the residence of Mrs. Morgan Belmont, prominent member of that exclusive circle known as “the four hundred” in New York society. Mrs. Belmont’s butler informed the friend that Madame was out. “Madame is working today,” he said. “What?” gasped the friend at the other end of the wire, “working?”

“At the David Wark Griffith Film Studios,” came the urbane voice of the family servitor.

"Way Down East" - Lillian Gish
“Way Down East” – Lillian Gish

Was Mrs. Belmont “up-stage”? She was not. She made a friend of every member of the company from Lillian Gish – center – to Pete Props. Mrs. Belmont at the right.

 

There was something sounding like a muffled, well-bred shriek from the other party; a receiver clicked—that’s all. It was almost as bad as the scion of an aristocratic family going in for trade! Friends couldn’t believe it. Other people, not so fashionable but no less skeptical, branded the announcement from the Griffith offices that “Mrs. Morgan Belmont is appearing in ‘Way Down East’ ” as a press-story. But it proved to be true. Mrs. Belmont is working in “Way Down East,” playing the part of the Boston society woman: Mrs. Belmont is made-up every morning and on the set at eight o’clock and often works until midnight. What’s more. Mrs. Belmont loves pictures and says she intends to go in for them.

What do you think of that?

DW Griffith shooting a scene from The Great Love 1918
DW Griffith shooting a scene from The Great Love 1918

A queen was Griffith’s star and innumerable Countesses and Duchesses and Ladies have posed for his camera in England. But American royalty never capitulated to the lure of the camera until Mrs. Belmont set the style. Now it would not surprise us to hear that Mr. and Mrs. Vincent Astor are to co-star in a domestic drama written especially for them: that Clarence Mackaye is going to do a race-horse story, or that the entire Vanderbilt connection is appearing in a serial written by Mercedes D’Acosta, direction of George Gould, with artistic effects by Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney. Society’s first contribution to films was Margaret Andrews, daughter of Paul Andrews, distinguished millionaire of New York and Newport, before she married Morgan Belmont, son of August Belmont. She has an enviable position in that upper strata so-called “society:” she has wealth: she could spend her time in London as the house-guest of half the nobility if she had a mind to: she can live in Manhattan or she can pack up her jewels and take one of her many motor-cars to her luxurious “country” place on Long Island. But Mrs. Belmont says she is having a better time working in pictures than she ever had in her life before, although the hours are long and the rehearsals hard.

"Way Down East" - Lillian Gish
“Way Down East” – Lillian Gish and the eccentric aunt

A great admirer of Mr. Griffith, she proved herself a particularly apt pupil under his guidance, acting with the greatest ease and naturalness. The assembled company watched her with ill-concealed curiosity. What would she be like? Would she be “up-stage?” Would she hold herself aloof from the regular thespian strugglers or ignore them completely? She would not!

She met them all. She became a friend of Lillian Gish, playing Anna Moore, the little country girl who comes to the Boston lady’s house. Mrs. Belmont learned that Lillian possessed as much dignity and charm as any New York or Newport debutante, and infinitely more brains than some. She liked to talk to her: asked her many questions about her work. Once when they were enjoying a between scenes chat in the studio, Mrs. Belmont produced from her bag a gold-and-jeweled lipstick with which to freshen her make-up. Lillian exclaimed with delight at the pretty trinket.

way down east - lobby card 3

“Please accept it,”‘ said Mrs. Belmont eagerly. Lillian demurred, but was finally persuaded to possess the stick, which is a real treasure. Mr. Andrews made a trip to Mamaroneck to find out what was so interesting to his daughter. He became an interested spectator, and soon decided he would like to be in pictures, too. As a result, you will see a real “millionaire clubman” instead of an actor made up to look like one. Mr. Andrews invited several friends to see him work and it wasn’t long before they were in it, too!

Way Down East Cast and Director
Way Down East Cast and Director

It is really one of the property men who can give you the best “line”‘ on- the actors from society. An ex-sailor who has a “game leg” that bothers him in bad weather was trudging along the road to the studios one stormy day. A motor stopped and a voice called, “Hop in.”” Pete Props hopped. His benefactors were a pretty woman who sympathized with his affliction, and a genial man. When Pete got back he told somebody about it. “Why, that was Mrs. Morgan Belmont, that society dame, and her dad,”” he was informed. Pete Props was stunned. “I’ll be— !” he remarked. “Well, they’re regular guys, anyway!”‘

Photoplay (Sep 1920) Mrs Belmont Way Down East
Photoplay (Sep 1920) Mrs. Belmont in Way Down East

Was Mrs. Belmont “up-stage”? She was not. She made a friend of every member of the company from Lillian Gish – right– to Pete Props. Mrs. Belmont at the left.

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