Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Christmas in Hollywood 1927

How different was Christmas in Hollywood 90 years ago? Well, for one thing, film fans must have had longer attention spans and better vision. The article below takes up three, 8½-by-11 pages of single-spaced text, so I’m not going to spend time with a long introduction.

In reading the names of the stars, I can’t help but think how many had careers that disappeared after sound came in. Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer had been released a few months earlier. Perhaps remarkable is how many of these names are remembered by film fans today.

Incidentally, Rosalind Shaffer of the Chicago Tribune Press Service wrote a similar column, interviewing many of the same people, though with a bit of different information. She talks about Reginald Denny’s Yule log which is missing in the story below, as are the holiday doings of Charlie Farrell and William S. Hart.

The authoress, to use an old-timey term, was the first President of the Hollywood Women’s Press Club. This appeared in the Boston Globe on Christmas Day 1927.

HOW HOLLYWOOD’S CHILDEN WILL SPEND THE DAY
Jack Gilbert’s Daughter and Children of Jack Holt, Buster Keaton, Dick Barthelmess, Bert Lytell, Will Not Be Forgotten by Santa

By MAYME OBER PEAK
While family parties are gathered around glowing firesides and groaning boards in countless homes today, what are the motion picture stars doing to celebrate Christmas?
How do these year-round entertainers, surrounded by the glamor of the Kleigs, amuse themselves on this day of days in the land-of-make-believe? Are they keeping “open house” in their movie palaces at which enough champagne and egg-nog flows to fill their marble swimming pools? Or do they spend the day even as you and I?
And what are their Christmas presents like? With salaries that would buy anything from imported motors to a railroad, with imaginations that run the artistic gamut, are the gifts they exchange as picturesque as they are priceless?
To answer these questions for local fans, the reporter made a careful poll of filmland’s famous. I found that practically all of the stellar stars, who work harder than the average bricklayer, have the day “off,” it being Sunday as well as Christmas! That the very lucky, “between pictures” at this season, are in New York, and others with a few days holiday are spending it at the California mountain resorts in the snow, or at their beach cottages. Only one I encountered was able to go to Kentucky for a regular “homecoming” Christmas!
As to how the majority will spend the day, Wallace Beery seems to have voiced it:
The Beerys at Home
“I’m going to stay quietly at home. It’s Christmas, isn’t it?” This actor’s idea of a Christmas present for his wife was a diamond necklace of rare craftsmanship. In return Mrs Beery is giving her husband a new hunting and camping outfit—guns, khaki, silk tents and collapsible bunks.
Raymond Hatton, the other member of the Beery-Hatton team, put a little promissory note in his wife’s stocking which read: “Dear Frances: A hope thoughts of your trip to Europe were a merry one.” Having discovered oil on his beach property, Hatton can afford to keep his promise, too! The Hattons, who have no children, have trimmed a tree for the neighbors’ children. They hung up their stockings, declaring, “We hope to the Lord we will never get too old to do that.”
W.C. Fields and Chester Conklin, other two members of the famous comedy quartet, known as “The Four Horsemen of Hilarity,” gave ridiculous gifts in keeping with their calling. One was a year’s shopping order on one of the Los Angeles leader barber shops to a friend who is as bald as an onion!
The Pickfords Gather
Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, dubbed here “the first lady of filmland,” refused to divulge their gifts to each other. They are members of a family house party at the Santa Monica Beach home of Mrs. Pickford Sr. Jack and Lottie are there, and if one of those “unusual rains” isn’t falling, the former expects to take a swim in the Pacific. There is a tree for the only grandchild, Rosemary Rapp, Lottie Pickford’s daughter, who has been adopted by her grandmother and renamed “Mary Pickford.”
As is their usual custom, the Talmadges, Schencks and Keatons are making it strictly a family day, centering around Joseph and Robert, the small sons of Natalie and Buster Keaton, and also around Mrs “Peg” Talmadge, the mother and pal of the famous Talmadge girls.
At the Taylor-Dempsey home will gather all the relatives of the screen star and ex-champion, each of whom have brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews living in Hollywood. Here perhaps the most lavish gifts will be exchanged. Among them is an entire Italian room, which Estelle Taylor had an importer instal on the second floor as her husband’s dressing-sitting room.
His former dressing room, adjoining, has been refitted as his writing room. When I talked to Miss Taylor she told me that every shelf of his wardrobe was filled with packages. One of them contains an accordion which can be played automatically! “The billiard room is full of gifts for me,” she said, “but I don’t know what any of them are except one that must be a music box. For every time anybody comes in Jack takes them upstairs and I can hear music playing!”
Jack as Chef
If it weren’t Christmas the millionaire prizefighter might be standing over a hotel range showing the chef how to fry chicken. According to his wife, that’s what he does on his weekdays now, having taken over the very active management of his Los Angeles hotel during the illness of his brother.
The high spot in the Yuletide of Clara Bow is a new sport roadster with a special-built body, which she will find sitting outside her door on Christmas morning. America’s Queen of Flappers perhaps gave the most picturesque of gifts. Several months before Christmas she placed an order with an old Grand Banks fisherman living in Marthas Vineyard settlement for 10 ship’s models for her closest friends.
Joan Crawford is giving her feminine friends rhinestone garters. In her own stocking Christmas morning she will find a brand new contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer elevating her to stardom. This young woman, who danced her way from a New York night club to film fame in two years, has recently purchased a new home in Beverly Hills. Here she will entertain at dinner some 50 friends, assisted by her mother and young brother, and her house guest, Shirley Dorman.
Clive Brook sent to his native London, and the chef of his own club there, for dozens of rich plum puddings—true to the British tradition. These are his gifts to his friends. With his two lovely children, aged 2 and 4, he and Mrs Brook are making merry today around a beautifully decorated tree which grows, by the way, in their own front yard! Outdoor Christmas trees are one of the season’s high lights in California.
For Bebe Daniels this is the day of days, which she is spending at home with her mother and grandmother. For years her gift list has included hundreds of names. Every person, no matter what their station, who has helped her in one of her pictures during the year, is remembered. The dark-eyed athletic star, called in Hollywood “the female Fairbanks,” had a tree set up in the little yard of her dressing-room bungalow at the Paramount Studio, distributing her gifts from there on Christmas Eve. Among her own presents is a silver tea set of old Spanish make and design from her mother.
A German Christmas
Traditional ceremony will prevail in the household of Emil Jannings, the famous German star, the servants taking part in all the festivities and exchange of gifts. There will be a tremendous tree, containing a gift for the hundreds of friends invited to “drop in”—gifts purchased in the exclusive shops of Berlin. Jannings’ gift to his wife is a sable coat. Her’s is unique among costly gifts. She had printed and bound in hard-tooled leather for her husband a set of volumes dealing with the famous actors of the stage and the characters they have portrayed since the days of the wandering minstrels.
Esther Ralston, the New England star, is giving her husband, George Webb, what thousands of other wives gave—something for their new home—rugs. He, in turn, presented her with a piece of rare old tapestry for the living room wall. Their Christmas holiday will be mostly spent puttering around the house.
Thelma Todd, who was “Miss Massachusetts” in 1925 when she came to Hollywood after winning a beauty contest, draws from her Christmas stocking an important role in “Hell’s Angels,” the $1,000,000 air film being produced for United Artists. “Borrowed” from Famous Players, where she is under contract, originally from Lawrence, where she is known as “Lawrence’s Sweetheart,” is certainly being smiled on by the gods. Her Christmas holiday will mean one day at home.
George Bancroft, the screen’s laughing villain, has purchased for Mrs Bancroft an American care of foremost rating with de luxe fittings. With their little girl, Georgette, the Bancrofts are having a quiet day at home.
Corinne Griffith is having a Christmas tree as usual, but as she is living in a rented house during the building of her Italian villa, says she does not expect to have her big house-warming until next year. Her most important Christmas presents were blankets, collars and water balls for her there dogs, “Ritzy,” “Pal,” and “Rags.”
Dorothy Sebastian went in for perfume burners-made like gazing crystals and suited in color to the individuality of her friends. To Renee Adoree, her chum, she presented a gorgeous drape—a half-circle knitted affair embroidered in wild colors and weird patterns, to be thrown over a couch or piano.
Renee Entertains
Miss Adoree carries out the French custom of entertaining on Christmas Eve, her guests all being from her own country.
Ramon Navarro is celebrating in real Mexican style, with his large family of eight brothers and sisters. In the afternoon there will be a Christmas play in the little theatre in his home—a perfectly equipped theatre which is the workshop of this musician-actor.
His private productions, written and acted by Navarro himself, are very charming—always in Spanish, so that only Spanish and Mexican people attend.
Jean Hersholt will have a “get together” day of all the Danish actors, directors, and writers in Hollywood. It will consist of a tree trimmed with Danish toys, a dinner of Danish dishes, and all their traditional games and dances.
Colleen Moore is following her custom of celebrating Christmas at home with her family, including this year not only her producer-husband, John McCormick, but her parents, Mr and Mrs Charles Morrison, and her brother, Cleve Moore. The guest of honour is her 85-year-old grandmother, Mrs Mary Kelly, who accompanied Colleen from Chicago to California years ago. It is planned to run on Miss Moore’s projection machine the first picture she ever made—“The Bad Boy,” directed by D.W. Griffith.v Billy Dove, and her director-husband, Irvin Willatt, are spending the day “right at home” with relatives and intimate friends around them. “Home is the place for Christmas celebrations,” Miss Dove said, “and this year thanks to the radio and things of that sort, one’s own hearthside is especially nice to enjoy the holiday!”
Lon Chaney, man of mystery, is seeking solitude in a mountain cabin. Reginald Denny is giving a big house party in his cabin in the San Bernadino mountains, where a huge tree is set up in the living room. After dinner there will be a snow carnival, with skiing, tobogganing, and old-fashioned snow battles.
A White Christmas
Others seeking a “white Christmas,” are Eddie Philips, Universal star, who with his wife is at Big Bear. Norma Shearer, a native Canadian, who has never become accustomed to tropical Christmases, is spending the holidays with her new husband, Irving Thalberg, at Lake Arrowhead where she is hoping for a grand snow storm! Nils Asther will be there, too, if he isn’t working, as he is anxious to renew his acquaintance with skis. If that plan falls through he will give a Swedish dinner to members of “The Blue Danube” cast.
Helen Foster is at Lake Arrowhead, too. And Mary Philbin will be hostess at a big Christmas dinner at fashionable Palm Springs Hotel, on the edge of the Mojave Desert.
Laura LaPlante, another busy Universal star, expected to finish her present picture, “Home James,” in time to put it into real effect, and with her husband, William Seiter, spend the day with her mother in Hollywood.
Mary Astor, who says that her family still considers her “a 12-year-old girl on Christmas Day,” is the life of a big party today including three generations. After dinner, they plan to take a long auto ride and probably spend the night at a mountain inn.
Marian Nixon has gone all the way to Louisville for an “Old Kentucky Home” Christmas. And Lillian Gish, May McAvoy and Barbara Kent are in New York. For the latter, it is her first visit.
Louise Fazenda and her new husband, Hal Wallis, are keeping open house, having dinner for their respective parents. Another bride receiving Christmas guests for the first time is Helene Costello, who recently married her old school friend, Jack Regan. Dolores and her mother will assist. Sadly enough, Maurice Costello, that fine old trouper of stage and screen, will be missing from the family group, having been divorced from his wife a few months ago.
Dick and Mary
Monte Blue, his wife and 2-year-old Barbara Ann, will have a Christmas at home all to themselves. So will Richard Barthelmess and his adorable little daughter, Mary Hay, whose mutual devotion is one of the beautiful traditions in Hollywood.
Christmas will be a quiet holiday for Milton Sills and his wife, Doris Kenyon, who will only have a few friends and relatives for dinner at their wonderful new estate near Santa Monica. As this is the first Christmas in the life of their son, Kenyon Sills, the day will center around the child.
Eleanor Boardman and King Vidor have a tree and numerous toys for their little daughter, both a month ago. As the baby won’t exactly know what it’s all about, their Christmas celebration is really just an alibi for a kid holiday—the old gag of taking the children to the circus when you’re dying to go yourself!
It will be “Children’s Day” at the Jack Holt home, where Tim and Betty are the delight of their famous father; at the H.B. Warner’s, with three children’s stockings to fill; at Zazu Pitts, wife of Tom Gallery, who has a little daughter of her own and also adopted Barbara LaMar’s foster son Donald; at Bryant Washburn’s, where there are two sturdy boys; at Claire Windsor’s, divorced wife of Bert Lytell, whose son Billy is “goin’ on six”; at Leatrice Joy’s, where her 3-year-old daughter is expecting a visit from Daddy Jack Gilbert; at the Mix mansion, where Thomasina will require all day to open the presents bought for her while her mother was in Europe last Summer, and at the Harold Lloyd’s where 4-year-old Gloria rules her doting father. Among this young lady’s marvelous gifts is a miniature home of her own built on the summit of Lloyd’s 16-acre estate. It is a child’s fairyland, a dream come true, consisting of a 4-room miniature Old English house, with a stable for her pony and cart, a realistic water trough and pump, a wishing well, and fully equipped playground with sand pile, slide and acrobatic devices.

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