Treatment of 1920's Hollywood Stars

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
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Aaron1927

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Treatment of 1920's Hollywood Stars

PostThu Oct 12, 2017 3:01 pm

Did Silent movie stars ever endure physical or emotional mistreatment by their peers in Hollywood? Did such things really occur and go unnoticed for years? Hoping my favourite silent stars were not abused or propositioned by people in power. Were any stars, agents, producers, or directors notorious for their mistreatment of silent stars?
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Donald Binks

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Re: Treatment of 1920's Hollywood Stars

PostThu Oct 12, 2017 3:11 pm

Did they ever!

What goes on in this 21st Century is not isolated, much the same sort of thing has always been going on. Just that these days the blighters are not getting away with as much.
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Hamilton's Grandson

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Re: Treatment of 1920's Hollywood Stars

PostThu Oct 12, 2017 3:40 pm

Rumors of the "Casting Couch" has been around as long as Hollywood has been in existence.

Maybe we are finally hearing about it more in the news lately (ie Weinstein scandal) then in the distant past, but unfortunately many may have been affected.
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2 Reel

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Re: Treatment of 1920's Hollywood Stars

PostThu Oct 12, 2017 4:03 pm

Wallace Reid/physical abuse: several interesting biographies detail how Jesse Lasky ignored the terrible injuries cast and crew suffered in a train wreck in 1919 in the Sierra Mountains while on location for The Valley of the Giants, and Lasky compelled them to resume work the next day without time off. You see, they had him scheduled for eight films in 1919, seven in 1920, seven in 1921, and eight in 1922, and the schedule was all that mattered. Reid's injuries were so severe he was put on morphine and had to complete the film with one side of his cut face turned away from the cameras. No one realized that morphine addiction would set in after about seven days, but it did. By 1923, Reid was dead.

Hattie McDaniel/racial abuse: won a Best Supporting Actress award for Gone With The Wind (1939), won against her white contemporaries, and not allowed to sit with her costars at the Awards Ceremony. She had to sit at a separate table.

Roscoe Arbucke/media abuse: the story is well-known. He ultimately was vindicated, but at the loss of his career.

Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney/other child stars: forced to work up to 72-hour stretches by the use of uppers and downers until they were hopelessly addicted.

The list of females forced by studios to undergo abortions is too long to restate here.

The list of females and males subjected to "casting couch" demands is too long to restate here.
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Red Bartlett

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Re: Treatment of 1920's Hollywood Stars

PostFri Oct 13, 2017 9:21 am

Aaron1927 wrote:Did Silent movie stars ever endure physical or emotional mistreatment by their peers in Hollywood? Did such things really occur and go unnoticed for years? Hoping my favourite silent stars were not abused or propositioned by people in power. Were any stars, agents, producers, or directors notorious for their mistreatment of silent stars?

Knowing the lure of scandal to beat, ruin and expose competitors, or otherwise cash-in, sell books, etc. -- I take it all with a heavy grain of salt. But there are seemingly endless tales of abuse, power, scandal and murder -- you name it -- in these early days of Hollywood. And we eat it up. Which further creates an industry for "tearing down" our idols, which in turn raises my suspicions on how much of it is true or not.

But that said... I think it's probably pretty tame today compared to back then. Today there's unions and laws to protect actors, what used to be "property" to the old studio system. Plus, in those early days, Hollywood desperately needed to portray itself to an audience that had much higher "decency" standards. So they went to great lengths to cover up and mask the problems of their "property."

Today we're all sweatpants and TMZ. And the best characters on film today often depict and glorify pretty horrible people. Which is a big reason why a lot of us probably enjoy older films. So there's less expectations today, I suspect, that today's stars are decent people -- even though today's stars conversely seem to posses greater arrogance. Very ironic. Another reason why I like older films.

But there's certainly a lot of abuse today. And I think that the Weinstein scandal is just the tip of the iceberg (I'm thinking of Corey Haim). Hollywood today has been unjustly insulated and preachy at the same time for way too long. And yet another reason why I have little to no interest in most films today. That and most of it is crap... but I digress.

So yes. I'm sure it was pretty abusive for stars back then. Even worse for extras.
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Robert Moulton

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Re: Treatment of 1920's Hollywood Stars

PostFri Oct 13, 2017 10:44 am

This sort of thing happened across all entertainment industries. Rob Bader, in discussing Chico Marx's nickname origin in Four of the Three Musketeers, quotes this Feb 1923 Variety front page story:

The speculative interests which have entered the theatrical business during the past few years by acquiring theaters in the smaller cities and suburban towns have revived a custom known to vaudeville managers fifteen years ago as "Chicken Chasing." The term in former years was applied to house managers who forced their acquaintance upon women appearing in their theaters. In cases where the attentions were shunned the engagement was made exceedingly unpleasant for the artiste. Among the newer crop of small-time house managers or owners are several who demand that only women with whom they may strike up an acquaintance on short notice be booked in their theaters.
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Bruce Long

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Re: Treatment of 1920's Hollywood Stars

PostSat Oct 14, 2017 8:08 am

Aaron1927 wrote:Did Silent movie stars ever endure physical or emotional mistreatment by their peers in Hollywood? Did such things really occur and go unnoticed for years? Hoping my favourite silent stars were not abused or propositioned by people in power. Were any stars, agents, producers, or directors notorious for their mistreatment of silent stars?


A number of early incidents reported in the contemporary press were reprinted in Taylorology 41. See "The Casting Couch and Sexual Harassment in Early Hollywood" http://www.taylorology.com/issues/Taylor41.txt
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All Darc

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Re: Treatment of 1920's Hollywood Stars

PostSat Oct 14, 2017 9:01 am

Just remamber what directo's did to Monroe and Garland, sucking barbiturics and other drugs to keep the production rhythm.
Abuse could start even before hire, in the so called "couch test"
Why silentr era would be different ?
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telical

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Re: Treatment of 1920's Hollywood Stars

PostSat Oct 14, 2017 2:56 pm

Something major is sure still going on today, even more so it seems in the last five years. This is happening in music as much as in film. Many of the biggest music stars have been dying very young. The drug epidemic is directly related to it, but then if they had a healthy environment, they wouldn't need to zone out so much.
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All Darc

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Re: Treatment of 1920's Hollywood Stars

PostSun Oct 15, 2017 5:37 am

Besides the abuse of director's to actors, and then pression of fame, and fear of lost fame & fortune, there is the fact that many people related to arts/acting and comedy are more prone to some mental disturbs. I believe that many needs such people have, that increase they expressiness and comunication ability, are somehow consequence of the need of more serotonin and others neurotransmiters.

Many people who suffered some abuses on childhood, or with some personality disturbs, also have more "talent" to some arts or acting. Some borderline personalities and strionic personalits seak such attention. Many actors and actress need, in early days, to don't have some sort of shame feeling that most ordinary people have.
Comedy it's a classic example of using some talent to scape or hide something, some fear, or to liberate some anger or frustration, but must people never realise this cause they think it's just making fun.

There was a nearly parallel society in the early days, withn a lifestyle and values very different from average common society of that era. They had acsses to abortion, drugs, we get away of law all these were easier for then with money and being near frontier with Mexico.
Keep thinking...

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MaryGH

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Re: Treatment of 1920's Hollywood Stars

PostSun Oct 15, 2017 11:13 am

From what I recall, Tom Tyler performed some very dangerous stunts during the early years of his FBO silent films (no stuntmen) and while he had the physical stamina for it - he was a champion weightlifter - one serious accident that really shocked me was when he filmed "Idaho Red" (1929) and he had to do a scene where he was tied up and left for dead while a chemical cocktail was used for a special effect. Not just Tom but everyone in the cast on the set at the time, plus the cameraman, sustained injury of some kind. I have to wonder if he ever sought medical help after filming on the set (apparently another scene saw a car accident he was in on the set), and the heavy chemical exposure might explain why he developed scleroderma in his mid 40's.

Outside of acting dangerously, I do know that Tom was well-liked by everyone he worked with, whether it was actors or crew members. I think like some actors, Tom was on the shy side. He really loved his work, according to Clayton Moore.
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linquist

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Re: Treatment of 1920's Hollywood Stars

PostSun Oct 15, 2017 3:50 pm

Off the top of my head, I remember that Mary Pickford took a fall down a stairwell in one of her early feature films. Grace Cunard nearly drowned taking a spill into the Pacific while filming in San Francisco. There are lots from the 1910s, when actors wanted or had to do their own stunts. Fairbanks did his own for awhile and probably got hurt at some point.
In regards to current day, this article was in the NYT today:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/14/opin ... eft-region
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All Darc

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Re: Treatment of 1920's Hollywood Stars

PostMon Oct 16, 2017 5:52 am

About dangerous stunts... Why studios would take the risk of lost a movie star, in case of a very famous one, in a accident in crazy dangerous stunts?
In other words, why would they take the risk of loose money?
Keep thinking...

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Re: Treatment of 1920's Hollywood Stars

PostMon Oct 16, 2017 6:15 am

There's little doubt that the studios took risks wit their stars that would later be considered foolhardy -- what happened to Wallace Reid is a case in point, although it can easily be argued that the risks were not understood at the time. Neither was studio control of the stars' lives and images so absolute as they later became, what with still-powerful independents. Neither was abuse defined as we would define it as we would define it today; the carnage surrounding the shooting of Curtiz' Noah's Ark (1928) speaks to that.. Nonetheless, by the late 1920s, MGM was aware of the value of its stars; Keaton complained in his memoirs of the restrictions placed on his stunts.

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