MARY MILES MINTER

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salus

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MARY MILES MINTER

PostThu Jul 01, 2010 7:39 pm

I was listening to an interview on youtube with mary miles minter and she seems very intelligent although her acting as she lost the love of her life 50 years earlier didn't convince me. She wasnt the victim really that many have made her out to be she died relatively wealthly in a beautiful home in Santa Monica and even had a good friend and husband from the late 1940s to his death in the mid 1960s. She was a very photogenic girl back in her heyday does anybody have photos of her in her senior years?
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drednm

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PostThu Jul 01, 2010 9:01 pm

In the William Desmond Taylor book I read Minter came off like a total loony in her moments with King Vidor. I've only seen one of her films (GHOST OF ROSY TAYLOR) and she was pretty and that was about it.
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FrankFay

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PostThu Jul 01, 2010 9:45 pm

I'd tend to agree. She was very pretty with especially beautiful eyes, and in what I've seen she was a competent enough actress who could do a good job with a superior director and a good story. In "The Ghost of Rosy Taylor" the story is excellent and Edward Sloman has plenty of imagination - the result is that Minter comes off as being nearly as good as Pickford. In "The Eyes of Julia Deep" the story and dir4ection are adequate enough but don't have enough to put her over- she's beautiful and sweet and little else- and instead the supporting cast outshines her.

I know it isn't fair to judge her on only two films. "Nurse Marjorie" survives (and it's directed by Taylor!) and in the clip I've seen she does come across well, though not exactly lighting the screen up.
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salus

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PostFri Jul 02, 2010 9:55 am

Was she considered a top box office star and would her career have lasted into the talkie era?
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FrankFay

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PostFri Jul 02, 2010 10:46 am

She was a pretty big star though the lack of films to view makes this hard to appreciate. I don't think she'd have survived talkies- she just wasn't that good an actress and her "type" was falling out of popularity. Someone very much like her was Mary Philbin- when sound came in the studio dropped her because she couldn't act. A big problem was that their particular "type" wasn't in style any longer- even Mary Pickford had to modernize herself in the late 20's and she gave up after a few talkies.
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Dana

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PostFri Jul 02, 2010 11:35 am

It's too bad that MMM's video persona is so very limited and neither THE GHOST OF ROSIE TAYLOR or THE EYES OF JULIA DEEP are her best work. She also suffered from simplistic scripts while doing the bulk of her work for American. YOUTH'S ENDEARING CHARM is very interesting, as is FAITH, but PEGGY LEADS THE WAY is a step below.
Here's hoping that the Filmmuseum will eventually create viewing copies of their Minter holdings. We need more of her work to make a appraisal that isn't simply based on her relationship to William Desmond Taylor.
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Dana

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PostFri Jul 02, 2010 10:26 pm

According to Moving Picture World D.W. Griffith approached American in the summer of 1918 for the use of Mary Miles Minter in his nest "super-production."
What show do you think he had in mind?
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Gagman 66

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PostFri Jul 02, 2010 10:50 pm

Probably BROKEN BLOSSOMS. It wouldn't be HEARTS OF THE WORLD. Remember Griffith originally believed that Lillian Gish was to old for the part.
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Bob Birchard

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PostSat Jul 03, 2010 10:16 am

drednm wrote:In the William Desmond Taylor book I read Minter came off like a total loony in her moments with King Vidor. I've only seen one of her films (GHOST OF ROSY TAYLOR) and she was pretty and that was about it.


This was one of the few things that really rang true to me in "A Cast of Killers." I don't know whether King Vidor had a tape recorder or rushed home to write notes, but the scene with MMM toward the end of the book is a pretty accurate depiction of "Mrs. O" as she liked to be called [she had married Brandon Hildebrandt--but despaired that he wasn't Irish, and so made him change his name to O'Hildebrandt]. I knew Mary in the early 1970s, and I'd have to say she was iron-willed, definitely NOT crazy (though she put on a good show at coming off as a loony. It suited her purpose, I believe, to be underestimated by others.), and though she would preface any discussion by saying she did not wish to talk about William Desmond Taylor--she would often talk of little else. As an actress. she was clearly attuned to what her audience expected of her. This is probably one of the reasons she was so inconsistent through the years when talking about Taylor. I don't think she really knew that much about what happened--they hadn't worked together for more than a year when he was killed. She was well aware that her mother had stormed around Santa Barbara with a pistol trying to catch Mary and James Kirkwood in assignation, so that her mother was a logical suspect--even if an unlikely one. It is entirely possible that Mary had an affair with Taylor. She seemed to crave father figures--and she had an abortion as a result of her affair with Kirkwood. Directors who did not succomb to her charms, like Edward Sloman, found her extremely disagreeable. She also had created a fantasy that she had been a virgin when she married Mr. O, so she had a vested interest in playing the sexual innocent long after there was any practical reason to do so. She wasn't unpleasant--but she was extremely difficult to be around. Conversations were one-sided, everything had to be her way--including just how high the shades should be raised when she asked you to raise the shades, and you couldn't just adjust the shade, you had to lower it all the way and start over. It is unlikely there are many photos of her in later years. She refused to be photographed--and wanted people to remember her as she was. By the time I knew her she could best be described as a "Miss 5x5" with thinning stringy hair that she kept under a bed cap around the house. She lived well and had a (succession of) live-in housekeepers/cook(s). When she invited me to dinner, the meal would be pan fried steak, baked potato, steamed vegetables topped off with a generous slice of pie. But we ate in the kitchen. She was not especially formal.
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Bob Birchard

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PostSat Jul 03, 2010 10:20 am

FrankFay wrote:She was a pretty big star though the lack of films to view makes this hard to appreciate. I don't think she'd have survived talkies- she just wasn't that good an actress and her "type" was falling out of popularity. Someone very much like her was Mary Philbin- when sound came in the studio dropped her because she couldn't act. A big problem was that their particular "type" wasn't in style any longer- even Mary Pickford had to modernize herself in the late 20's and she gave up after a few talkies.


Mary had worked on stage as a child, and she had a well trained voice. She certainly could have worked in sound pictures. She would only have been in her late 20s when talkies arrived. It is certainly doubtful that she could have continued her established persona, but she was not forced out of the business. She quit of her own accord when she turned 21.
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drednm

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PostSat Jul 03, 2010 10:31 am

Bob that's a really interesting assessment of MMM. A Cast of Killers is a terrific read.
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Bob Birchard

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PostSat Jul 03, 2010 10:51 am

drednm wrote:Bob that's a really interesting assessment of MMM. A Cast of Killers is a terrific read.


I disagree with you there. The Minter scene was the only thing in the book I found compelling. The whole opening where Vidor goes around interviewing people who had nothing to do with Taylor is a total snooze. I was bored silly by the book and jumped to the end, and was totally caught up in the MMM scene because, as I said, this is a very accurate portrait of Mary--and the sort of thing you just couldn't make up. So, after reading this I went back to read the rest of the book, and found nothing else of much value. The book is riddled with errors, and even many of the photos are mis-ID'd. Isn't that Kathlyn Williams passing for Faith MacLean? Or am I misremembering?
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Gagman 66

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PostSat Jul 03, 2010 11:14 am

Bob,

:shock: Don't take this the wrong way, but with respect you were also board silly by TWO ARABIAN KNIGHTS which amazes me. That is such a rollicking good time. So incidentally, what do you think of THE BETTER 'OLE?

Ed,

THE BETTER 'OLE was not a flop. Far from it in-fact. Apparently was much more popular than DON JUAN. Reading the articles from the vintage Photoplay's. And apparently, Syd was running a good string of hits at the time.
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FrankFay

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PostSat Jul 03, 2010 1:52 pm

Bob Birchard wrote:
FrankFay wrote:She was a pretty big star though the lack of films to view makes this hard to appreciate. I don't think she'd have survived talkies- she just wasn't that good an actress and her "type" was falling out of popularity. Someone very much like her was Mary Philbin- when sound came in the studio dropped her because she couldn't act. A big problem was that their particular "type" wasn't in style any longer- even Mary Pickford had to modernize herself in the late 20's and she gave up after a few talkies.


Mary had worked on stage as a child, and she had a well trained voice. She certainly could have worked in sound pictures. She would only have been in her late 20s when talkies arrived. It is certainly doubtful that she could have continued her established persona, but she was not forced out of the business. She quit of her own accord when she turned 21.


Thank you- I didn't know everything and was doing a lot of inferring, still acting on stage as a child doesn't always translate into a successful adult acting career.
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salus

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PostSat Jul 03, 2010 3:16 pm

Bob very interesting hearing about your meeting with MMM, if you have any other details about her please let us know. Did you keep in touch with her till the end and what happened with her mugging and beating? Was she talking to you after that assault shortly before her death, the crowd says give us more!!!!! :) :) :) :)
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Bob Birchard

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PostTue Jul 06, 2010 11:46 am

Gagman 66 wrote:Bob,

:shock: Don't take this the wrong way, but with respect you were also board silly by TWO ARABIAN KNIGHTS which amazes me. That is such a rollicking good time. So incidentally, what do you think of THE BETTER 'OLE?

Ed,

THE BETTER 'OLE was not a flop. Far from it in-fact. Apparently was much more popular than DON JUAN. Reading the articles from the vintage Photoplay's. And apparently, Syd was running a good string of hits at the time.


Frankly, Ed, I don't know what one has to do with the other. But I enjoyed "The Better 'Ole" well enough, and the "stuffed horse" routine is hysterical.
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Harlett O'Dowd

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PostTue Jul 06, 2010 1:02 pm

Bob Birchard wrote:Mary had worked on stage as a child, and she had a well trained voice. She certainly could have worked in sound pictures. She would only have been in her late 20s when talkies arrived. It is certainly doubtful that she could have continued her established persona, but she was not forced out of the business. She quit of her own accord when she turned 21.


Bob, where did you get this information? Did Mary tell you she retired when she turned 21?

My understanding is that Mary fell victim of a cleaning house party Paramount performed in mid-1923 or so when they trimmed their talent roster to allign with their considerably smaller product output for the 23-24 season and beyond.
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Bob Birchard

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PostTue Jul 06, 2010 3:12 pm

Harlett O'Dowd wrote:
Bob Birchard wrote:Mary had worked on stage as a child, and she had a well trained voice. She certainly could have worked in sound pictures. She would only have been in her late 20s when talkies arrived. It is certainly doubtful that she could have continued her established persona, but she was not forced out of the business. She quit of her own accord when she turned 21.


Bob, where did you get this information? Did Mary tell you she retired when she turned 21?

My understanding is that Mary fell victim of a cleaning house party Paramount performed in mid-1923 or so when they trimmed their talent roster to allign with their considerably smaller product output for the 23-24 season and beyond.


According to MMM she had been working since she was 7 years old, and her mother pretty consistently showered her attention and Mary's money toward Mary's sister, Margaret Shelby.

The Reelart contract was signed in 1918, when Mary was 16 years old, by her mother on Mary's behalf, and Mary felt bound by her mother's signature. In 1923, when she was 21 years old and had obtained what she believed to be her majority (she was unaware at the time that women achieved their majority at 18 in California she told me) she quit. She refused to work any more in effect to spite her mother. I don't know whether Paramount chose not to renew her contract or Mary refused to sign a new contract, but in any event she was enough of a star that other offers would have been forthcoming. She simply wasn't interested in working any more.
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salus

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PostTue Jul 06, 2010 5:13 pm

Very interesting i always thought that the scandals involving Mary Miles Minter forced her out as had the alleged rape of Virginia Rappe had done Fatty Arbuckle in. I did hear though that Mary was offered a film contract in Europe but i thought the American film companies were done with her . Bob can you give us what you know happened at the end of Marys life the mugging and beating and was she available to talk to up till her death in 1984 at 82. Did she stay friends with anybody in the film industry over the next 60+ years after she left.
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Bob Birchard

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PostTue Jul 06, 2010 5:36 pm

salus wrote: Bob can you give us what you know happened at the end of Marys life the mugging and beating and was she available to talk to up till her death in 1984 at 82. Did she stay friends with anybody in the film industry over the next 60+ years after she left.


I made an effort to contact her after the mugging to see if she needed help, but never heard back from her.

I don't know who she might have kept in touch with, there were several people who worked with her at the Flying A in Santa Barbara that told me she was listed in the phone book, so there must have been some contact. I just called her up one day, and she invited me to come down. She was not interested in being interviewed on camera, but she wanted me to help her organize her stills as she was involved in a law suit against the "Ralph Story's Los Angeles" TV show and needed to prove (or so she thought) that she had been a well-known figure. It backfired, because the standards for libel/slander against a public figure are much higher than for a "civilian." The lawsuit was eventually thrown out of court.

Mary was quite old fashioned in her speech. When we met she asked how old I was, and I told her I was 21. She replied in the grand manner of the early 20th century stage: "Ah, my dear Mr. Birchard, the world is indeed your oyster."
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salus

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PostTue Jul 06, 2010 5:50 pm

Im sure she was in much pain after the mugging and it being her own servants made it worse. I wonder if she brought in new people or was bedridden and her cousins from Louisiana came out to look after her. Who got her house, how much did it sell for? i believe her estate was about a million and a half i wonder if that included the house wasnt it in a fairly good section of SAnta Monica , where thev real estate was soaring in 1984. can you give us an idea what or who she looked like when you met her , someone famous perhaps.
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Bob Birchard

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PostTue Jul 06, 2010 6:09 pm

salus wrote:Im sure she was in much pain after the mugging and it being her own servants made it worse. I wonder if she brought in new people or was bedridden and her cousins from Louisiana came out to look after her. Who got her house, how much did it sell for? i believe her estate was about a million and a half i wonder if that included the house wasnt it in a fairly good section of SAnta Monica , where thev real estate was soaring in 1984. can you give us an idea what or who she looked like when you met her , someone famous perhaps.


I gave a description of her earlier in this thread. I wouldn't know how to describe her in terms of some other famous person. Mary owned a lot of real estate. She had at least seven houses in Santa Monica (six of which were rented). She also owned a restaurant space on Melrose close to the old Academy theater, and i believe she still owned property that had been a supermarket (and was when I knew her an art supply store) on Beverly Boulevard--and probably several other properties as well.
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greta de groat

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PostWed Jul 07, 2010 10:27 am

Bob, this has been a fascinating conversation. I remembered your previous comments on that book and so i read the Mary Miles Minter section recently--though you make her sound less pathetic than she comes across in the book.

But, you knew other people as well--it would be interesting to hear what they were like and how they kept themselves busy in their later years. Tony Slide did some of this in his Silent Players, and i'd love to hear your take on some of those folks (ahem, i'm not sure it's good for him to be the last word some of them. I don't suppose you knew Blanche Sweet?)

In particular, i think i remember that you knew Priscilla Dean and Margarita Fischer. I don't think anybody's written about their later years, at least that i've seen.

Actually, this question should probably be on a different thread

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FrankFay

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PostWed Jul 07, 2010 10:31 am

I'd like to know a bit more about Dean- I haven't seen her in much but she impressed me.
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PostWed Jul 07, 2010 11:20 am

greta de groat wrote:Bob, this has been a fascinating conversation. I remembered your previous comments on that book and so i read the Mary Miles Minter section recently--though you make her sound less pathetic than she comes across in the book.

But, you knew other people as well--it would be interesting to hear what they were like and how they kept themselves busy in their later years. Tony Slide did some of this in his Silent Players, and i'd love to hear your take on some of those folks (ahem, i'm not sure it's good for him to be the last word some of them. I don't suppose you knew Blanche Sweet?)

In particular, i think i remember that you knew Priscilla Dean and Margarita Fischer. I don't think anybody's written about their later years, at least that i've seen.


I have not re-read "Cast of Killers," I only remember the impression it made on me at the time. I guess "pathetic" is in the eye of the beholder--or perhaps actually knowing Mary made her more real and less bizarre than she might have seemd to someone else just reading that section.

Never knew Blanche Sweet, although she did respond to a letter I sent her. I asked her about working with director Tony O'Sullivan at Biograph after I aquired O'Sullivan's scrapbook. She responded that she's never worked with O'Sullivan--which clearly was not accurate. But I was asking about him some sixty years after they'd worked together.

I never had any contact with Priscilla Dean. My friend Linda Kowall Woal had some correspondence and phone converstions with her, and gave me her contact information, but I never followed up. She lived in New Jersey in the 1970s.

There is a biography of Fischer by Theresa St. Romain called "Margarita Fischer: A Biography of the Silent Film Star" published by McFarland (with a typically astronomical McFarland price tag--but well-worth reading) which quotes some of my interview with Fischer. Fischer lived very comfortably in Vista, California, and had the same butler/chauffeur/companion she'd had in the 1920s. He stayed on after Harry Pollard died in 1934.
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greta de groat

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PostWed Jul 07, 2010 11:50 am

Yeah, i guess the Cast of Killers description makes Minter sound like Baby Jane if you don't have any other impressions to put it in context.

Thanks for the tip on the Fischer book, i didn't know about it and i'll look it up.

Eric, i found Priscilla Dean to be a VERY impressive film personality in the two films i've seen from her prime (not quite as impressive in the later L&H, though, she's no Mae Busch). I'd love to see more and i think that quite a bit exists, and you'd think with Tod Browning's name on so many of them that they would be more widely screened. Perhaps folks aren't interested in Browning's films that don't have Lon Chaney in them.

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salus

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PostWed Jul 07, 2010 3:01 pm

Yes i'd like to hear more of the stars you got to know, some of us are newbies and too young ever to get that chance and enjoy hearing about them. In that Cast of Killers book i remember Kirkpatrick describing her house like it was still in the 1920s but wasnt Mary Miles Minter and her husband antique collectors so that shouldn't be strange. Two actresses i would like to hear about are Carol Dempster and Georgia Hale. I remember Hale in that documentary about City lights claiming Virginia Cherrill wasnt an actress, i believe Miss Cherrill appeared in more films than Georgia Hale and by 1980 she should have known that. I believe Cherrill liked the celebrity part of film stardom than the work perhaps that is what Hale meant. Apparently Hale became very wealthy in real estate.
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salus

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PostWed Jul 07, 2010 3:06 pm

There were many lesser known actresses who lived long lives who were really never hunted down by silent researchers most of them seemed to stick to the fairly famous ones. Some of more obscure who lived long lives where Priscilla Dean as you mentioned, Fay Tincher lived till 99, Gladys Hulette till 95, Hazel Dawn till 97, Aileen Pringle till 94, there is a long list.
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salus

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PostWed Jul 07, 2010 3:29 pm

Bob Birchard may i ask you who do you think killed William Desmond Taylor?
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Bob Birchard

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PostWed Jul 07, 2010 3:50 pm

salus wrote:Bob Birchard may i ask you who do you think killed William Desmond Taylor?


I subcribe to the Margaret Gibson/Patricia Palmer theory
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