Dear Reader

Dear Reader #184

Dear Reader,

Clara Bow’s twenty-third movie was The Primrose Path, produced during the summer of 1925 and released on September 15, 1925. Clara played Marilyn Merrill. For this movie, Clara was on ‘loan-out’, a common occurrence for contract players. 

The Primrose Path was classified as a ‘daily change’ movie, a movie that played in a theatre for one day then moved on to another town. In other words, it wasn’t very good.

At this stage of her career, Clara was overworked – sixteen movies in eighteen months – and underpaid, but she was making progress. In June 1925, she appeared on the cover of Motion Picture Classic, her first cover feature. The accompanying article stated: “The truth is, little Clara Bow shows alarming symptoms of becoming the sensation of the year in Hollywood. There is something vital and compelling in her presence. She is the spirit of youth. She is Young America rampant, the symbol of flapperdom.”

I’m organising the Golden Age of Hollywood Mastodon Mega Movie Poll. Here are the results from Week Three.

Voted for by the movie lovers of Mastodon

The format: 32 movies seeded and selected by the American Film Institute receive a bye to Round Two.

Round One: 64 movies selected by Mastodon movie lovers, matched when possible by era and genre.

The African Queen 90% v 10% I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang

South Pacific 40% v 60% White Christmas

Touch of Evil 54% v 46% 12 Angry Men

A Night at the Opera 28% v 72% Duck Soup

Shane 50% v 50% The Quiet Man

Shane won on AFI tie-break

A Matter of Life and Death 28% v 72% Wuthering Heights

Elmer Gantry 63% v 27% Trapeze

Point Blank 25% v 75% The Manchurian Candidate

Look who just appeared on my family tree, notorious outlaws Jesse and Frank James. Our common ancestor is William John James, 1570 – 1627. This branch of my family goes back to Dirk Jacobsz Van Haastrecht, born c1470 in the Netherlands.

My 5 x great grandfather Samuel Axe was an ‘esquire’, a property developer in late 1700s-early 1800s London. He had a wife, eight children and a mistress who on one occasion was pregnant at the same time as his wife. Yet, Samuel was ‘base born’, his father not acknowledged. How did his mother, Ann, find the resources to help him start his property developing career? I shall endeavour to find out…

My 6 x great grandmother, Ann Axe, was baptised on 1 October 1756 in St Alfege Church, Greenwich, Kent. Her parents were John Axe and Sarah. As a teenager, Ann gave birth to my 5 x great grandfather, Samuel Axe. Samuel’s father was not acknowledged. As watermen and excise officers on the Thames, compared to many, the Axes enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. And the surviving records suggest that Ann enjoyed her family’s support.

On 7 July 1778, aged twenty-two, my 6 x great grandmother Ann Axe, married Owen Griffiths. The couple married by special license through a ‘Marriage Allegation and Bond’. These licenses allowed for fast, private marriages. The reasons for such marriages were numerous, but on this occasion it would appear that Owen, a mariner, was about to set sail on his ship.

Owen had to pledge £200 should any fault be found in the legality of the marriage, a huge sum in 1778. Supporters sometimes added their names to the pledge. However, on this occasion ‘John Dow’, obviously a fictitious person, supported the pledge. Therefore, Owen was carrying the burden alone. Despite Ann’s status as an unmarried mother, he was very keen to marry her.

In common with most married women in the 1700s, my 6 x great grandmother Ann Axe gave birth approximately every two years – in 1779, 1782, 1784 and 1786 to William, John, James and Mary respectively. I anticipated finding another birth record in 1788, but instead I discovered Ann’s death record. Ann was buried on 15 January 1788. At the age of thirty-one, it’s possible that she died in childbirth.

A sad record, my 6 x great grandmother Ann Axe’s death record. However, in just a few words it confirms several key facts: Ann was married to Owen Griffiths and her father was John Axe, thus linking other records together. And, crucially, this record was recorded in a Non-Conformist register (one of our key family traits is that of non-conformity, in many aspects of life). The research path is now clear: search for other Non-Conformist Axe ancestors.

My article about Mary Pickford is featured in this month’s issue of Connections Magazine.

Clara Bow Quotes: Clara’s sisters both died within hours of their birth. Did these tragedies influence her ‘live for the moment attitude? She said this at the height of her fame: “I don’t want to look into the future. I don’t care. I distrust the future. If someone would lift the veil for me, I wouldn’t let them. It is better not to look ahead and not to look back. I will not look back. I must not. And I dare not look ahead. I am afraid.”

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

#1 for value with 565,000 readers, The Fussy Librarian has helped my books to reach #1 on 36 occasions.

A special offer from my publisher and the Fussy Librarian.

Don’t forget to use the code goylake20 to claim your discount 🙂

Dear Reader

Dear Reader #182

Dear Reader,

Clara Bow’s twenty-first movie was Kiss Me Again, a silent romantic comedy direct by Ernst Lubitsch and released on 1 August, 1925. Clara played Grizette, a sexy Parisian secretary who bewitches her married boss. 

Lubitsch had the knack of sneaking material past the Hays Office censors. He used an audience’s imagination to make his suggestive point. 

In Kiss Me Again, Clara finally had a decent part in a decent movie. And she shone. Variety stated: “Clara Bow absolutely triumphs in the role of a lawyer’s steno.”

Meet My Ancestors

Sir William Denys aka Dennis, c1470 – 1533, of Dyrham, Gloucestershire, my 16 x great grandfather.

Sir William was a courtier of Henry VIII and High Sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1518 and 1526. In 1511, he was appointed an Esquire for the Body – a personal attendant – of Henry VIII. At this time, the king granted Sir William the honour to empark 500 acres of Dyrham, with exclusive hunting rights. Pictured, (Wikipedia), the charter.

In June 1520, Sir William was one of seven knights of the Gloucestershire contingent selected to accompany Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold when Henry met King Francis I of France.

Sir William married a noblewoman, Anne Berkeley. The couple had six sons and seven daughters.


Married on 22 February 1868 at Ruhama Chapel, Bridgend, Glamorgan, my 3 x great grandparents Thomas Jones and Hannah Morgan. They had five children. 

Thomas started his working life as a “cow boy”. He then became a coal miner. The family moved around the Glamorgan coalfields, working at the various mines. Hannah disappeared from the historical record in the 1880s, while Thomas disappeared in the 1890s. With so much transience, their records appear to have been lost.

📸 Aberbaiden Colliery, one of Thomas’ places of work.

I’m organising the Golden Age of Hollywood Mastodon Mega Movie Poll. Here are the results from Week One.

Voted for by the movie lovers of Mastodon.

The format: 32 movies seeded and selected by the American Film Institute receive a bye to Round Two.

Round One: 64 movies selected by Mastodon movie lovers, matched when possible by era and genre.

“The real Clara Bow is not the madcap personality created by press and public. As a matter of fact, Hollywood’s hotcha baby would rather croon a lullaby than a torch song. It all goes back to the somewhat drab days of Clara’s youth – to a hungering, poignant desire for mother love that was never quite wholly satisfied. And that same childish hunger, long repressed, has developed in the mature Clara’s material instincts that will not be denied.” – Dora Albert, 1933.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

#1 for value with 565,000 readers, The Fussy Librarian has helped my books to reach #1 on 36 occasions.

A special offer from my publisher and the Fussy Librarian.

Don’t forget to use the code goylake20 to claim your discount 🙂

Golden Age Actresses

Golden Age Actresses #2

Born on November 19, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York, to a wealthy insurance broker and a socialite mother, Gene Tierney enjoyed a privileged upbringing, which included exclusive schools, extensive travel and glamorous parties. She caught the eye of Hollywood talent scouts and they offered her a contract.

As a teenager, Gene Tierney endured a mind-numbing season of debutante parties. At the close of the season, she informed her parents of her desire to carve out a career as an actress. Initially reluctant, her parents offered their support. Her father, Howard, secured mentoring and schooling, and he formed a company, to assist Gene in her ambitions.

With Gene Tierney’s star on the rise, eccentric movie mogul Howard Hughes entered the picture. He was besotted with her beauty. However, as she later pointed out, “Cars, furs and gems were not my weakness.” And she rebuffed Hughes. Despite the rebuff, Howard Hughes remained friends with Gene Tierney, one of many influential and powerful people she encountered during her life. 

In 1940, Gene Tierney’s life changed direction when she met fashion designer Oleg Cassini. Within months, the couple married. Her parents were not pleased and a rift developed within the family. Over time, that rift widened until Gene was cut off financially, and from Connecticut high society. Later, she divorced Cassini, remarried him, then divorced him again.

In 1944, Gene Tierney landed the title role in Laura, arguably the highpoint of her acting career. Although the film received mixed reviews – a consistent thread throughout Gene’s career – it did well at the box office, netting over a million dollars, and now is regarded as a cinema classic. As Vincent Price, one of her co-stars in Laura, said, “No one but Gene Tierney could have played Laura. There was no other actress around with her particular combination of beauty, breeding and mystery.”

In 1955, while working with Humphrey Bogart on The Left Hand of God, Bogart noted that Gene had problems. He alerted the executives at Fox studios, but they dismissed his concerns in flippant fashion. As Gene Tierney later wrote, “It was the fashion at the time, still is, to feel that all actors are neurotic, or they would not be actors.” Spells in institutions and sanitariums followed as Gene sought relief from depression and mental health problems.

After enduring long spells of poor mental health, Gene Tierney later wrote, “If you break an arm or a leg it takes months for it to really heal, and years for it to be the same again. So you can imagine the problems with a broken mind.” And, “More than anything, I learned that the mind is the most beautiful part of the body and I am grateful to have mine back.”

Dear Reader

Dear Reader #174

Dear Reader,

Clara Bow’s thirteenth movie was This Woman, produced during the summer of 1924. This Woman went on general release from November 2, 1924. Clara was very much a ‘jobbing’ actress at this stage, appearing in bit parts. She was listed eighth (out of nine) on the bill. To add insult to injury, the New York Times miscredited her as ‘Clare Bow’.

This Woman ran for seventy minutes and was released by Warner Bros. Clara played Aline Sturdevant, a jealous young lover. The movie was considered lost, but a complete print can be found at Lobster Films, Paris.

Joan Woodbury (December 17, 1915 – February 22, 1989) enjoyed an acting career that began in the 1930s and lasted well into the 1960s. She appeared in B-movies and as the heroine opposite cowboy actors such as Roy Rogers.

Joan appeared in fifty films between 1937 and 1945. Her most memorable role arrived in 1945 when she played Daily Flash newspaper journalist Brenda Starr in the serial Brenda Starr, Reporter.

Technicolor, a series of colour motion picture processes, dates back to 1916. In the 1930s three black and white films ran through a special camera to produce Technicolor, a process that continued into the 1950s when the 3-strip camera was replaced by a standard camera loaded with a single strip ‘monopack’ colour negative film. 

Technicolor’s three-colour process became famous for its highly saturated colour. Initially, the process was used for musicals, animations and costume dramas, but it also featured in film noir, in movies such as Leave Her to Heaven.

Betty Compson (March 19, 1897 – April 18, 1974) acted and produced during Hollywood’s silent era. Her notable performances included The Docks of New York and The Barker, the latter earning her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

Initial success enabled Betty to establish her own production company, which gave her creative control over screenplays and financing. Unlike a number of female stars of the silent era, Betty’s voice recorded well and she extended her career into the talkies.

In common with many actresses of the era, Betty married three times: to director James Cruze; to agent/producer Irving Weinberg; and to Silvius Gall, a marriage that lasted until Gall’s death in 1962.

A Christmas present. An excellent version of The Great Gatsby.

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

My 4 x great grandfather, Richard Morgan, was baptised on 2 December 1792 in Llantrisant, Glamorgan, the ninth of twelve children born to James Morgan and Hannah David. Sadly, Hannah died when Richard was ten. Richard’s family were associated with inns and horses, and he spent a long working life as an ostler.

At the relatively advanced age of 43, my 4 x great grandfather Richard Morgan married Margaret Jones in St James’ Church, Pyle (pictured). St James’ was originally built in the medieval town of Kenfig. However, over a period of 200 years sand encroached upon the town and, eventually, buried it. The burgesses moved their town to Pyle, c1481, where they rebuilt St James’. They rebuilt one wall ‘upside down’ using the smaller stones on the bottom as they arrived from Kenfig.

During my research, I wondered what persuaded Richard to travel twenty miles west to settle in Pyle. Then, I hit upon a theory. As an ostler, he moved there to work at Pyle Coaching Inn, the main inn on the main highway. Then, while researching the births of Richard and Margaret’s children, I discovered that Richard was listed as a horse keeper at Pyle Coaching Inn, and living in nearby Cefn Cribwr, or Tythegston Higher as it was also called. It’s lovely when your theories are confirmed in the facts.

Mail deliveries became available to the public in 1635 and the introduction of national mail coaches in 1785 further increased the traffic travelling along the highways. The ongoing war with France meant that the gentry could no longer take the ‘grand tour’ of Europe and so they looked around for alternatives, their eyes and minds soon focusing on Wales with its romantic landscapes and medieval ruins. All of this led to the building of Pyle Coaching Inn during the 1780s by Thomas Mansel Talbot of Margam.

Thomas Mansel Talbot took a private apartment at the Inn and he would stay there while indulging in his passion for hunting and fishing. He built the Inn in the fashionable Georgian style with three floors and rooms of various sizes. The largest room was five metres by four and a half metres, and the building contained forty beds and twelve double-bedded rooms. Moreover, the Inn also boasted a spacious dining room and stables for eight coaching horses. My 4 x great grandfather Richard Morgan tended those horses.

Many 18th and 19th century antiquarians who travelled through south Wales visited the buried medieval town at Kenfig and invariably they also stayed at the Inn. Furthermore, it is rumoured that Admiral Lord Nelson resided there on one occasion.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel did stay at the Inn in 1849 – 50 to oversee the construction of the south Wales leg of the Great Western Railway. Another distinguished guest was Josiah Wedgwood and it is said that he gained inspiration for some of his pottery from the colour of the rocks and pebbles on the beach at Pink Bay.

📸 Pyle Coaching Inn, c1950, shortly before demolition.

When the railways arrived in Glamorgan in the 1840s they took passenger and commercial trade away from the horse carriages. As a result, my 4 x great grandfather Richard Morgan lost his job as an ostler at Pyle Coaching Inn. However, Richard adapted. He became a colt breaker then a horse keeper. With his love and knowledge of horses, he worked with the animals for the rest of his life.

🖼 Bridgend Railway Station, the commemorative opening, 1850.

When Richard lost his job as an ostler at Pyle Coaching Inn, due to the development of the railways, his wife Margaret decided to create her own ‘inn’ where she boarded navigators who had travelled from their homes in Ireland to help construct the railways. You could say life gave her lemons, so she made lemonade.

📸 Residents of Pyle Coaching Inn, c1900.

Clara Bow Quotes: “Romance had touched lightly upon me up to this time. Of course, I met many nice boys and went to dances and to the theatre with them just as any other girl would do. But even the intimation of love was far from my thoughts. I had a career to think of.”

Intertitle #14

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

#1 for value with 565,000 readers, The Fussy Librarian has helped my books to reach #1 on 36 occasions.

A special offer from my publisher and the Fussy Librarian.

Don’t forget to use the code goylake20 to claim your discount 🙂

Golden Age Actresses

Golden Age Actresses #1

Mary Pickford

Mary Pickford (April 8, 1892 – May 29, 1979) enjoyed a career that spanned five decades. A movie pioneer, she co-founded Pickford-Fairbanks Studios and United Artists. Furthermore, she was one of the thirty-six founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

During her career, Mary Pickford was known as “America’s Sweetheart”, “The Girl with the Curls”, and the “Queen of Movies”. One of the earliest stars to receive a billing under her own name, Mary enjoyed great popularity in the silent movie era of the 1910s and 1920s. 

Mary Pickford defined the ingénue role in motion pictures. She received the Academy Award for Best Actress for her first sound movie role as Norma Besant in Coquette, 1929. However, the arrival of the “talkies” signalled a decline in her career.

In 1909, Mary Pickford appeared in fifty-one films, most of them shorts. She starred in fifty-two features throughout her career. However, she didn’t adapt to the arrival of sound. She said of the “talkies” – “Adding sound to movies would be like putting lipstick on the Venus de Milo.”

Mary Pickford retired from movie acting in 1933. An astute businesswomen and producer throughout her career, she switched her focus to life behind the camera. A co-founder of United Artists, she finally sold her remaining shares in that company in 1956, for $3 million.

Mary Pickford married three times. First, to Owen Moore, a silent film actor, and an alcoholic. Second, and most famously, to Douglas Fairbanks. Their “marriage of the century” took place on March 28, 1920, after a secret relationship. Later, the couple were referred to as the “King and Queen of Hollywood”. And third to actor and band leader Charles “Buddy” Rogers, star of the highly acclaimed 1927 movie Wings.

After a glittering career, the lights dimmed on Mary Pickford later in life. Her divorce from Douglas Fairbanks and the end of the silent film era induced depression. Like her father before her, she turned to alcohol for comfort. Owning the rights to her early silent movies, Mary intended to burn them at her death but, thankfully, she donated them to the American Film Institute instead.