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Dear Reader #175

Dear Reader,

Clara Bow’s fourteenth movie was Black Lightning. The movie, produced during the Fall of 1924 and released on December 8, 1924, starred Thunder the Marvel Dog, supported by Clara Bow and “An All Star Cast”.

Thunder the Marvel Dog was a male German Shepherd that appeared in movies between 1923 and 1927. During this era, he had plenty of canine ‘rivals’ including Peter the Great, Napoleon, Rex, Strongheart and, more famously, Rin Tin Tin.

Clara loved dogs. However, the plot of this movie was convoluted and, given her ambitious, she could not have been happy as a support player to a dog. Greater days lay ahead, but at this stage of her career Clara was certainly paying her dues as she made her way in Hollywood.

Frances Gifford’s acting career blossomed in the 1930s and 1940s. Her breakthrough arrived in 1941 when she was cast as Nyoka in Jungle Girl, a fifteen-chapter movie serial. The serial was successful. However, tragedy struck on December 31, 1947 when Frances was seriously injured in a car accident. She attempted a comeback, but sadly that accident effectively ended her career.

Sister of actress Mary Pickford, Lottie Pickford (June 9, 1893 – December 9, 1936) also appeared in motion pictures, although her main passion in life was partying.

Lottie’s first starring role arrived in 1914 in The House of Bondage. She played a prostitute, in stark contrast to her sister Mary’s image as “America’s Sweetheart”. 

In 1915 Lottie appeared in The Diamond from the Sky, a silent adventure serial of thirty chapters. The serial was jeopardized when Lottie became pregnant, an incident that placed her on an unofficial Hollywood blacklist for a short time.

Lottie was a socialite who loved to party. Indeed, her parties were notorious all-night affairs that featured an abundance of alcohol, drugs and nudity. This hedonistic lifestyle took its toll and cut short the life of a woman who, despite her socialite status, was regarded as down to earth, friendly and unpretentious.

Tallulah Bankhead (January 31, 1903 – December 12, 1968) amassed nearly 300 film, stage, television and radio roles during her career. Her main forte was the stage – she was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1972.

A hedonist who loved men, women, cigarettes, drugs and alcohol, Tallulah rebelled against her family, prominent conservatives, by supporting the civil rights movement. She also helped families escape persecution during the Spanish Civil War and World War Two.

Marion Davies (January 3, 1897 – September 22, 1961) ran away from a convent to become a chorus girl, a performer in the Ziegfeld Follies and an actress. While performing in the 1916 Follies, nineteen-year-old Marion met fifty-three-year-old newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. She became his mistress and he promoted her career, often to her detriment.

Throughout her life, Marion was mistakenly associated with the character of Susan Alexander Kane in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane.  Susan was a singer who lacked talent. However, Welles himself said that Marion was a talented actress, and that he did not base Susan on Marion.

My latest article for the Seaside News appears on page 34 of the magazine.

My 5 x great grandmother Hannah David was born in Llantrisant, Glamorgan in 1757. She married James Morgan on 9 November 1776 in Llantrisant. Thomas Morgan, their first child, of twelve, arrived ten months later. In the 1700s, on average a woman gave birth to eight children so, maybe, the excessive strain of giving birth to twelve children contributed to Hannah’s death in 1802, aged 45. However, there was more to Hannah’s life than motherhood. Read on…

When my 5 x great grandmother Hannah David wasn’t pregnant or nursing one of her twelve children, she was helping her husband James Morgan to run the Swan Inn in Llantrisant.

William Aubrey of Llanwynno owned the property from 1767 until 1801. Hannah’s branch of our family tree connects with the influential and well-to-do Aubreys, so it’s likely that she became the landlady of the Swan through this family connection.

📸 The Swan Inn (Llantrisant.net)

One of the largest inns in the town, the Swan stood near Zozobabel Chapel on Swan Street. Taliesin Morgan’s 1898 history of Llantrisant referred to the Swan Inn as the venue for a number of eisteddfodau held by the Cymreigyddion Society. As such, the inn was a hotbed for promoting Welsh literature, poetry and music.

🧭 Location of the Swan Inn

In the fourth quarter of the 18th century my ancestor’s inn must have been the place to be, a venue reverberating with music and dancing, a place to listen to poems and stories. Hannah must have heard some tales. Maybe she told one or two herself. Maybe I can trace my love of stories to her.

***

Clara Bow Quotes: “Something every girl who goes into motion pictures must learn…if you do make a success of your work, your name is of public interest and where a girl in non-professional may be allowed certain liberties, a screen player is allowed none without attendant publicity.”

Intertitle #15

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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