At the age of twenty-five, Tula Bowman was the brightest star in Hollywood. She was also in an asylum, placed there after a nervous collapse. What triggered that collapse? The shocking truth is revealed in Tula by Hannah Howe, book one in the Golden Age of Hollywood series.
The opening chapter of Tula takes place in Kings County Asylum, where Tula introduces her story. The asylum looks bleak, and it was. The building was smaller when Tula was there; additional storeys were added in the 1930s.
Tula’s childhood home, the top floor of this building on 73rd Street, Brooklyn. There, against her mother’s wishes, she used to read her movie magazines and re-enact the performances she’d witnessed that week on the silver screen.
Tula’s father, Stanley Bowman, was a sometimes barman, bootlegger, alcoholic, gambler and street dealer. Stanley possessed a lovely singing voice. However, he was too drunk most of the time to make anything of his talent. As a child, Tula regarded Stanley as her hero. However, her perceptions changed as she grew older.
Tula’s mother, Alicia, endured ‘episodes’. She would drift into a trance-like state. Tula would tend her mother and bring her out of these episodes. On other occasions, Alicia would attack Tula with a mind to kill. Sensitive and vulnerable, Tula turned to the movies for solace, and a means of escape.
Tula’s school, Bay Ridge High School, Brooklyn, pictured in 1920. Here, Tula was bullied by three girls over her appearance and stammer. However, she was befriended by a teenage boy, Finn. Born with a squint in his eye, Finn habitually walked around with a copy of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in his hand, because the book bore his name.
Tula visited Brooklyn Bridge to deliver a parcel for her father. She noticed a cameraman filming. While Tula was engrossed in the filming, someone stole her parcel.
At the time of its opening, on May 24, 1883, Brooklyn Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world with a span of 1,595.5 feet.
From a number of high-quality auditions, we have selected our narrator for Tula, my novel set in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Amelia Mendez is a voice actor with over fifteen years experience in storytelling, acting, and producing. She has a lovely voice and we think she is ideally suited to narrate Tula’s story. We anticipate that it will take around two months to produce the audiobook. I’m very excited about this project and can’t wait to get started 🙂
The opening chapter of my Golden Age of Hollywood novel, Tula, takes place in Kings County Asylum, Brooklyn, where Tula introduces her story. The asylum looks bleak, and it was. The building was smaller when Tula was there; additional storeys were added in the 1930s.
Research for Sunshine, book two in my Golden Age of Hollywood series.
Marie Meyer (January 17, 1899 – May 24, 1956) was a barnstorming pilot, a wing-walker and a parachutist. In the 1920s, she created the Marie Meyer Flying Circus. Her pilots included the man who made the first transatlantic solo flight, Charles Lindbergh.
📸 Marie on the top wing, 1924.
Clara Bow’s thirty-fifth movie was Mantrap a silent comedy directed by Victor Fleming. Fleming also directed The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, and many others.
Mantrap was produced between April 7 – May 12, 1926 with location shooting at Lake Arrowhead, California, and released on July 24, 1926. Clara played Alverna, a flirtatious manicurist.
Clara and Fleming had an affair, at the same time that Clara was conducting a relationship with actor Gilbert Roland. Indeed, affairs were commonplace during this phase of her life.
In the silent era, through no fault of her own, Clara Bow was the most undereducated star to make the grade. Furthermore, she was the only star at Paramount without a morals clause in her contract. Ironically, she was the star in greatest needed of one.
Clara needed guidance and Fleming, a much older man, offered that to some extent. But for Clara the person to thrive, someone at Paramount should have devoted time to her wellbeing. Instead, the studio’s focus was on the millions of dollars Clara was making for the company.
My ancestor Thomas Brereton was buried on 25 July 1817. His death seems to have triggered a series of tragic events.
Thomas’ son, Francis, was born on 24 January 1796. On 18 February 1818, Francis found himself at the Old Bailey, indicted for stealing, on the 13 November 1817, 60 printed bound books, value £10, the goods of Thomas Davies, Esq. A full transcript of the trial can be read here https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?div=t18180218-18
Aged 22, Francis was found guilty and transported to Australia for seven years. On 23 March 1818, he was placed on the prison ship Retribution, moored at Woolwich. In July 1818, he set sail on the Morley, destination Sydney. He arrived on 7 November 1818.
A clerk, Francis had a florid complexion, brown hair and hazel eyes. He obtained a certificate of freedom on 10 March 1825. I have found no record to suggest that he returned to Britain.
Madeleine Carroll’s second British film was What Money Can Buy (1928) a story about a man who makes a bet that he can seduce a woman, a tale about “a woman’s soul.”
At this stage of her career, every newspaper report of Madeleine’s movies included a mention of her B.A. from Birmingham University. The column writers promoted her as an example of “the modern intelligent woman who seeks to combine a career with a family.” However, this was a challenge that lay ahead for Madeleine.
Charlie Chaplin and Virginia Cherrill did not get on during the making of City Lights. He was a perfectionist, she was casual about acting; he fancied her, she didn’t fancy him. Nevertheless, in this article dated December 1933 Virginia was full of praise for Chaplin describing him as a ‘genius’, ‘unorthodox’ and a ‘colossal worker’ who understood what audiences wanted.
In 1933, Hedy Lamarr featured in Ecstasy, a movie that would shape her life and career. Banned in America and Germany, the film won awards in Europe where it was regarded as a work of art.
Ecstasy received its first mention in the British press on 22 May 1933. The reaction? Members of the Leicester Film Society found the film “of absorbing interest”. However, Hedy’s, and Ecstasy’s, story had only just begun…
May 1933, and a good concise report on Hedy Lamarr’s film career and personal plans. Given Hedy’s anti-Nazi stance during World War II, the last paragraph is particularly fascinating.
Arms manufacturer Fritz Mandl’s (futile) attempts to suppress Hedy Lamarr’s controversial movie, Ecstasy. He married her after she’d made the film, then objected to it. Mandl also insisted that Hedy should retire from screen and stage acting, and refuse to have her picture taken. Needless to say, the marriage did not last.
In the spring of 1937, Hedwig Kiesler, disguised as her maid, made her escape from her first husband, Fritz Mandl. She made her way to London, then on to Southampton. On September 25, 1937, she boarded the Normandie, (pictured) and set sail for New York.
On her travel documents, Hedwig described herself as 5’ 7” tall, fair complexion, brown eyes, brown hair. She claimed that she had no intention of seeking citizenship in America.
Hedwig boarded the Normandie with actress Sonja Henie. Earlier that day, in Le Havre, movie producer Louis B. Mayer also boarded the ship. Over the following five days Hedwig and Mayer became well acquainted to the extent that when Hedwig stepped off the Normandie in New York she was ready to embrace a new name, Hedy Lamarr, and a career in Hollywood.
Mastodon 1970s Mega Movie Poll
Capricorn One 40% v 60% The China Syndrome
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 25% v 75% Monty Python and the Holy Grail
A Clockwork Orange 80% v 20% THX 1138
The Sting 78% v 22% McCabe and Mrs Miller
Slaughterhouse-Five 56% v 44% Time After Time
The Godfather 82% v 18% Marathon Man
Catch 22 57% v 43% Kelly’s Heroes
My latest article for the Seaside News, about Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, appears on page 40 of the magazine.
Research for my forthcoming novel, Sunshine: The Golden Age of Hollywood, Book Two.
Marie Meyer (January 17, 1899 – May 24, 1956) was a barnstorming pilot who ran the Marie Meyer Flying Circus in the 1920s. She participated in the Flying Circus as a pilot, a wing-walker and a parachutist.
📸 Marie wing-walking in 1924.
Clara Bow’s thirty-fourth movie was The Runaway, a melodrama produced between January 26, 1926 and February 27, 1926, and released on April 5, 1926.
Clara played Cynthia Meade, a movie star who erroneously assumes that she has murdered someone and consequently flees to Kentucky.
William Powell featured in the picture which, sadly, is now regarded as lost.
17th February 1802
From the Old Bailey website, my ancestors Thomas Brereton and his wife, Sarah, victims of grand larceny.
SUSANNAH SMITH was indicted for feloniously stealing, on the 22nd of January, a sheet, value 7s. and a blanket, value 4s. the property of Thomas Brereton.
SARAH BRERETON sworn – I am the wife of Thomas Brereton, who keeps a house in Rose and Crown-court, Shoe-lane: On Friday, the 22nd of January, about six o’clock, I was called out into the court, and met them bringing the prisoner back, she was a stranger to me; the things were brought back by Catharina Rowley.
CATHARINA ROWLEY sworn – I am a neighbour of Mrs. Brereton’s; I had been out, and coming home, in consequence of what Mrs. Young told me, I took the prisoner by the shoulder, and took from her a blanket and sheet, which I gave to Mrs. Brereton; it was pinned round her waist under a great long red cloak; she d – d (degraded) me for a b – h (bitch), and told me she had got none but her own property.
ELIZABETH YOUNG sworn – I lodge in Mr. Brereron’s house: On Friday, the 22nd of January, I met the prisoner about half past five in the afternoon, in Shoe-lane, I was going home; she said she had been in sits, and asked me to be so kind as to give her a drop of water; I took her to the door, and she said she was so faint, she could not stand, and followed me up stairs, and said, nothing would bring her too, unless it was a raw pickled herring, or a cucumber; I told her I was a stranger, and did not know where they hold them, and I gave her some porter that stood upon the table; then she said nothing would do but cold water; I told her I had none in the house, I would go down in the kitchen, and get her some; when I had got down stairs, I perceived her running out at the street-door; I had some mistrust, and I ran out after her, and stopped her, then she d – d (degraded) me, called me a b – h (bitch), and said, if I did not leave her alone, she would murder me; then I called out for assistance, and Catharina Rowley came up, and took the sheet and blanket from her.
Mrs. Brereton. These are my property; they were in Elizabeth Young’s room; it is a ready furnished room.
Young. I turned up the bed with these things upon it, while she was in the room.
Prisoner’s defence. I had been after a place; I was taken violently ill, and this woman pressed me very hard to go home with her, which I accordingly did; I asked her if she would have any thing to drink; she said she did not care if she did; I gave her a shilling, and she fetched a pot of porter; I was there three quarters of an hour, and she pressed me to come and see her the next Sunday; I asked her to see me part of my way home, and when we had got down the stairs, she said she must go back again, and she came out again with something in her hand; I did not see what it was; and when she had got into the court, she fell a screaming, and said, I had robbed her.
Q. (To Young.) Did she give you a shilling? – A. No.
Q. That you say, upon your oath? – A. Yes; and she had no porter, except some that my husband had left at dinner.
The prisoner called two witnesses, who gave her a good character.
GUILTY , aged 28. Transported for seven years.
London Jury, before Mr. Recorder.
Madeleine Carroll’s movie breakthrough arrived in 1927 with The Guns of Loos (released in 1928). A silent war film produced in Britain, the plot centres on a blind World War One veteran who returns home to run his family’s industrial empire.
Madeleine Carroll was selected from 150 applicants to play the role of Diana Cheswick, and her selection attracted a lot of media interest at the time.
Personal note: my ancestor Albert Charles Bick died on the first morning of the Battle of Loos. He was gassed by his own generals.
Madeleine Carroll was very quick to lend her name to health and beauty products. Health and beauty became a major theme in her life, as we shall see in future posts.
This item is from The Tatler, 14 December 1927, before the release of her first movie, The Guns of Loos.
Along with a number of other newspapers, The Sketch (28 December 1927) featured promotional photographs of Madeleine Carroll for her first movie, The Guns of Loos, and remarked that along with her B.A. from Birmingham University, stage career, promotional endorsements and a year spent teaching, she’d been signed to make more movies. She was 21, determined, focused and going places.
Hedy Lamarr was born Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler on November 9, 1914 in Vienna, Austria-Hungary. From an early age, she developed a fascination for acting and inventing, two interests that dominated her life. She made her movie debut in Money on the Street a 1930 Austrian-German romantic-comedy, appearing as an extra.
After appearing as an extra in Money on the Street, Hedy Lamarr featured in three more German movies, all comedies: Storm in a Water Glass, The Trunks of Mr. O.F., a critique on capitalism, and No Money Needed. Hedy moved up the bill with each production. It was 1932 and she was about to make the movie that would transform her life…
1933 was a pivotal year for Hedy Lamarr. She made her fifth movie, Ecstasy (more about that in the future) and, on 10 August 1933 in Vienna, against her parents’ wishes, she married Friedrich Alexander Maria Mandl, an Austrian arms dealer with ties to Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. The marriage was not a success (understatement).
November 1933 and Virgina Cherrill’s on-off affair with Cary Grant is still on-off. Virginia, the Blind Flower Girl in Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, has escaped to Britain to be away from Cary Grant while Grant, determined to marry Virginia, has followed her. To complicate matters, Randolph Scott, Grant’s housemate, has arrived in London to “keep an eye” on Grant.
In London, Virgina is appearing in modest movies and stage productions. Nevertheless, as an actress and “society girl” she is constantly invited to London’s high society parties.
To the media, Virginia stated that she’s never had a part as good as the Blind Flower Girl, and she never would. Her acting career would remain low-key. Meanwhile, Cary Grant was on the brink of a major breakthrough in Hollywood.
At this time, there’s a Great Gatsby air to Virginia Cherrill and Cary Grant’s lives. He is obsessed with her, and she seems content to drift from one low-key role to another, from one high society party to the next one. And like the Great Gatsby, you know it’s going to end in tears.
The 1970s Mastodon Mega Movie Poll
Serpico 46% v 54% Murder on the Orient Express
All the President’s Men 83% v 17% The Great Gatsby
Saturday Night Fever 42% v 58% Grease
M*A*S*H 94% v 6% California Suite
Close Encounters of the Third Kind 29% v 71% Alien
The French Connection 66% v 34% Shaft
Cabaret 47% v 53% Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Research for Sunshine, book two in my Golden Age of Hollywood series.
Between 1921 and 1929, Lillian Boyer (January 15, 1901 – February 1, 1989) performed numerous aerial stunts. They included: wing walks, automobile-to-aeroplane transfers, and parachute jumps.
While Lillian was working as a waitress, two customers invited her to fly in their plane. During her second flight, she climbed out on to the wing and began her career as an aerial performer.
Lillian was the first woman to jump from a speeding automobile to an aeroplane. According to a 1922 Milwaukee newspaper, she was “without doubt the greatest thrill-producer since the days of the gladiators.”
Lillian’s performances included: 352 shows in 41 US states and Canada, most of them wing-walking; 143 automobile-to-plane changes; 37 parachute jumps (13 into Lake Erie).
📸 Lillian performing the “breakaway” and “the ladder of the sky.”
After her success in My Lady of Whims, Clara Bow was billed as “Clara Bow – Movie Star” in her thirty-third movie, Fascinating Youth, which went on general release on August 23, 1926.
Fascinating Youth was a silent romantic comedy. The movie starred Charles “Buddy” Rogers, on debut. Buddy Rogers would soon become a regular in Clara’s personal and professional lives.
Many well-known personalities, including Clara, made guest appearances in Fascinating Youth, judging a beauty contest.
This movie was just a filler for Clara. Paramount recognised that they had a star on their hands, and were keen to cast her in bigger projects. At twenty, Clara’s star was bright, and it would become even brighter as the decade unfolded.
The Brereton branch of my family starts with Fanny Brereton, baptised on 19 November 1837 in Holy Trinity, Bristol. Fanny had five children out of wedlock with William Bick. In 1864, via Southampton, the family moved to London, where they married, on 14 December 1868 in St Mary’s, Lambeth. As a married couple, they had five more children.
Fanny’s father, James Richard Brereton, born 19 November 1793 in Shoe Lane, Fleet Street, London, baptised 22 December 1793, was a cutler. He travelled to the West Country where he worked with various metals. On 17 May 1818, James married Ann Lowcock in All Saints’ Church, Martock, Somerset. The couple had six children.
I’m now researching the lives of James’ parents, Thomas Brereton and Sarah Wright.
Thomas Brereton was born on 24 April 1762 in Apollo Court, St Dunstan’s in the West, London. His parents were Sandford Brereton and Sophia Berry. Sandford was from Nantwich, Cheshire, while some records suggest that Sophia was born in Amsterdam. The family links are brought together in this document from 1766, which records the birth of Thomas’ brother, William, in the Holborn Lying-In Hospital.
My ancestor Thomas Brereton married Sarah Wright on 12 May 1788 in St Dunstan in the West, London. Sarah’s parents were William Wright and Margaret Woodhouse. Like his father before him, Gregory, William ran a coaching business. The couple had nine children, five girls and four boys. It’s lovely to see Thomas and Sarah’s signatures on this document.
My ancestor Thomas Brereton was a clerk in Holborn, London. Charles Booth’s map shows that he lived and worked in the heart of London’s legal district, so it seems fair to assume that he spent his days working on legal documents. Ironically, the Old Bailey was to feature large in the family’s affairs in Thomas’ later years.
In 1938, when this picture was taken, Madeleine Carroll (26 February 1906 – 2 October 1987) was the world’s highest-paid actress. How did she achieve such success? Through public records, I’m endeavouring to find out.
Madeleine Carroll was born in Herbert Street, West Bromwich, Staffordshire to John Carroll, an Irish professor of languages, and his French wife, Helene Tuaillon. Helene died on 7 May 1980, four days after her 100th birthday.
Madeleine graduated from the University of Birmingham with a B.A. degree in languages. Indeed, her first appearance in the local newspapers, on 3 July 1924, was the announcement of her exam results.
First steps. While at the University of Birmingham, Madeleine Carroll appeared in productions for the university’s dramatic society, taking the female lead in her first production and receiving a creditable review.
Madeleine’s parents employed a domestic servant, which suggests she enjoyed a comfortable upbringing. The family consisted of Madeleine, her parents and her sister, Marguerite Marie.
Second steps. The Birmingham Daily Gazette, 6 January 1927. While at university, Madeleine Carroll’s stage career progresses. In eleven years she would become the highest paid actress in the world.
Third steps. Combining her university studies with acting, Madeleine Carroll next appeared on stage in The Lash. This review is from 21 May 1927. More stage productions followed over the summer. Then, on 19 September 1927, the Birmingham Daily Gazette announced that Madeleine was to become a film actress. She would appear as Diana Cheswick in The Guns of Loos.
Latest results from the Quarter-Finals of our Mastodon movie poll
Singin’ in the Rain 38% v 62% Lawrence of Arabia
Casablanca 61% v 39% Rear Window
Dr Strangelove 46% v 54% Citizen Kane
Casablanca 70% v 30% Lawrence of Arabia
Citizen Kane 32% v 68% Casablanca
Some book news. Three of my books are listed on Amazon’s Hot New Releases French Fiction chart: #2 Operation Jedburgh, #3 Operation Butterfly and #4 Operation Liberty, books 10, 11 and 12 in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series. Butterfly will be published in July and Liberty, which completes the series, will be published in October.
As ever, thank you for your interest and support.
#1 for value with 565,000 readers, The Fussy Librarian has helped my books to reach #1 on 38 occasions.
Summer, 1939 and my character Sunshine finds herself on holiday in Hollywood. She also finds herself in a movie, The Immelmann Turn, a film about stunt pilots, wing walkers and daredevils. Naturally, she decides that she’d like to have a go…
At the age of twenty, Clara Bow was already a movie veteran. Her thirty-second movie was My Lady of Whims, a silent comedy released on June 25, 1926. Clara played the lead, Prudence Severn.
The skintight, transparent dress Clara wore during the party sequence caused a sensation. The Cedar Rapids Tribune said that the dress made “the eyes of every flapper bulge.”
This would not be the last time Clara caused a sensation, on and off screen.
Picturegoer, December 3, 1932
This is a lovely piece about Clara Bow because it appears to have been written by Clara herself. She was promoting her ‘comeback’ movie, Call Her Savage. Although melodramatic in places, Call Her Savage is a decent film. Clara didn’t enjoy making talkies, but she had the natural talent to be a success in them.
This record from 1939 features Roy Edwards, future husband of my relative Joan Howe. Joan was a beautiful person in every sense. Roy was living, with his parents, at the New House public house. He worked in the local limestone quarry – the Howes had close associations with the quarry – and served as an auxiliary fireman.
The indenture signed by my 4 x great grandfather James Brereton. As an apprentice cutler for seven years, James agreed to obey his master, William Vandenbergh. By the terms of his indenture, James could not gamble, go to the theatre or a public house, play cards or dice, marry or fornicate.
My 4 x great grandfather James Brereton qualified as a cutler in 1814. Unable to establish a business in London, he took to the road as a tinker, making and repairing pots and pans. Various documents also describe James as a metal beater and a gold beater.
On 17 May 1818 James married Ann Lowcock in Martock, Somerset. In nineteen years James and Ann produced six children, a child born approximately every three years, whereas the standard for the time was a child born every two years. Their sixth child, Fanny, was my 3 x great grandmother. Sadly, James did not live to see Fanny’s birth. He died in the summer of 1837 while Fanny was born on 19 November 1837.
In 1933, Virgina Cherrill featured in five movies: Fast Workers, The Nuisance, He Couldn’t Take It, Charlie Chan’s Greatest Case, and Ladies Must Love. None of these movies excited moviegoers or film critics.
However, Virginia was exciting Cary Grant, who seemed keen on marriage. Virginia, married at nineteen and divorced at twenty appeared more reticent, as this newspaper report from November 13, 1933 suggests.
Latest results from the Last Sixteen of our Mastodon movie poll.
Lawrence of Arabia 57% v 43% Sunset Boulevard
Casablanca 92% v 8% The Grapes of Wrath
Singin’ in the Rain 61% v 39% To Kill a Mockingbird
Double Indemnity 46% v 54% The Wizard of Oz
Duck Soup 25% v 75% Rear Window
Dr Strangelove 57% v 43% 2001: A Space Odyssey
Citizen Kane 62% v 38% The Wizard of Oz
Operation Zigzag, book one in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series, has returned to #1 on the Amazon genre charts. Many thanks to everyone who has made this possible.
As ever, thank you for your interest and support.
#1 for value with 565,000 readers, The Fussy Librarian has helped my books to reach #1 on 38 occasions.