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

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #163

Dear Reader,

Clara Bow’s second movie was Down to the Sea in Ships, a silent romantic drama about a whaling family living in a Quaker community. The movie, made during the summer of 1922 when Clara was seventeen, was premiered on September 25, 1922 and went on general release from March 4, 1923.

Clara plays Dot Morgan who, as a baby, is found floating near the shore on a raft made of branches. Dot is a mischievous, rebellious child who wants to be a whaler when she grows up, an ambition frowned upon by her community. So, we have Clara as a tomboy rebel: perfect casting.

Clara Bow as Dot Morgan

Dressed as a boy, Dot stows-away on a ship. She is attacked by a crew member, and rescued by her friend, Jimmie, a cabin boy. The ship returns to port and the main romantic thread of the story, which does not involve Clara, unfolds.

The movie contains authentic whaling scenes and strives for realism. The critics hated it, but audiences enjoyed it. Indeed, the movie played continuously for 22 weeks in New York City.

Billed 10th, Clara received praise for her role in the movie, her natural style contrasting with the mannered approach of the other actors. 
Billed 10th, Clara received praise for her role in the movie, her natural style contrasting with the mannered approach of the other actors. 

The critics said: “Miss Bow will undoubtedly gain fame as a screen comedienne.” “She scored a tremendous hit in Down to the Sea in Ships … [and] has reached the front rank of motion picture principal players.” “With her beauty, her brains, her personality and her genuine acting ability it should not be many moons before she enjoys stardom in the fullest sense of the word. You must see ‘Down to the Sea in Ships’.”


The Adventures of Kathlyn, released on December 29, 1913 was a thirteen episode adventure serial, which starred Kathlyn Williams (pictured) as the heroine. 

The second serial ever made, The Adventures of Kathlyn is widely regarded as the first of the cliffhanger serials that became popular over the next decade. The serial idea was ‘borrowed’ from newspapers and magazines, and adapted for film.

Chapter one of The Adventures of Kathlyn featured a situation ending, but future episodes concluded with a sensational action sequence or stunt, held over to the following week to heighten suspense.

These serials were often tied-in with newspaper serials, boosting the newspapers’ circulation figures. For example, the Tribune announced a 10% increase in circulation as a result of The Adventures of Kathlyn’s success.

November 1922. The Flapper. “Official Organ of the National Flappers’ Flock.” “Not for old fogies”. Learn how to edjimicate a Sweet Daddy. The Definition of a Kiss. Enter the Beauty Contest and win a golden dolphin. And so much more… 

Life Magazine cover “The Flapper” by Frank Xavier Leyendecker, 2 February 1922.

Highest grossing movie of 1923: The Covered Wagon.

A silent western, The Covered Wagon charted the adventures of a group of pioneers as they travelled through the Old West, from Kansas to Oregon. Along the way they experienced desert heat, snow, hunger and an Indian attack (Native Americans who appeared in this movie included the Northern Arapaho Nation from Wyoming and Chief Thunderbird, in an uncredited role).

Lois Wilson, pictured, played the heroine, Molly Wingate. In a career spanning 1915 – 1952 she appeared in 150 movies, including the converted role of Daisy Buchanan in the 1926 silent film version of The Great Gatsby.

Through public records I’ve traced actress Eva Marie Saint’s ancestors back to the early 1800s. The family were Quakers for many generations. And, to my surprise, in 1810, their household contained a slave.

Slavery was abolished in America in 1865. But what of the Saint family and slavery in the period 1810 – 1865? The censuses of 1840, 1850 and 1860 provide an answer: William Saint, a farmer, was head of the household. His family, and labourers, worked on his farm. However, he did not own any slaves.

It would appear that the Saint family cut their ties with the slave trade long before the state did. I think Eva Marie Saint would be pleased to know that.

Also worthy of note, William Saint was born on 3 March 1781 and died on 24 January 1871.  He enjoyed a long life. At the time of writing this, Eva Marie Saint is 98. The Saint genes appear to be very strong ones.

Say Goodbye to Jennifer, Series 1, Episode 18 of The Rockford Files was directed by Jackie Cooper, who featured as Captain Highland in the previous episode, Claire.

The titles in Say Goodbye to Jennifer didn’t appear until 4’ 30” into the episode, a common trait for The Rockford Files, depending upon the number of close-ups in the opening scenes.

This episode made good use of dental records in identifying a victim, in an unusual way. The story was written by John Thomas James, one of his best in the first series.

A classic telephone message too: “This is Mrs Landis. Three times this month I came to clean and it always looks like people’ve been fighting in there; furniture broken, things tipped over; I’m sorry, but I quit.”

Clara Bow Quotes: In January 1921 Clara entered the ‘Fame and Fortune Contest’ organised by Motion Picture Magazine…

“Imagine my surprise when a letter arrived one day stating that I had been declared the winner. According to the rules of the contest, the winner was to be given an evening dress and also a role in a motion picture. I was in seventh heaven. My prayers had been answered. My whole future and happiness had been secured. What luck!”

The picture Clara submitted for the Motion Picture contest. She hated the picture, but couldn’t afford a replacement.

Intertitle #3 😗

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 32 occasions.

A special offer from my publisher and the Fussy Librarian.

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