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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #178

Dear Reader,

Clara Bow’s seventeenth movie was My Lady’s Lips, a silent drama released on July 1, 1925, that starred Alyce Mills. The film also featured William Powell, later to achieve fame in the Thin Man series, in his tenth movie role. Clara played Lola Lombard, the daughter of a newspaper magnet. Despite their overlapping careers, Clara and William Powell only worked on two movies together. 

At this stage of her career, Clara was making cheap films at a hectic schedule, often completing the production within two weeks. Vacillating between the flirtatious and the vulnerable, she was used by people in the film industry, and she used some of those people to get her way. 

From the slums of Brooklyn and burdened with low self-esteem, Clara Bow was a complex person, and all those complexities were on display during this phase of her life.

An early photograph of Mary Pickford. For twenty-three years she was the undisputed “Queen of the Screen”. For fourteen of those years she was the most popular woman in the world.

Although Mary was signed to Adolph Zuker’s Paramount, other studios bid for her services. Zucker couldn’t match their offers, so he invited Mary to rest for five years, on a salary of $52,000 per annum. Mary refused. Instead, she made movies for $675,000 per annum.

This ethereal image depicts Mary Pickford’s (centre) first appearance before a movie camera, on April 20, 1909, aged seventeen. The production was a short – Her First Biscuits. This was one of seven shorts Mary filmed in three and a half weeks. Listed number sixteen out of sixteen actors, she played ‘Biscuit Victim’. 

Another ‘Biscuit Victim’ was Owen Moore, a regular co-star during this period. In due course, Moore became Mary Pickford’s first husband.

The ‘Big Four’ in 1919 at the time of the formation of United Artists – Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, director D.W. Griffith and Douglas Fairbanks. Chaplin was a regular visitor to the Pickford-Fairbanks mansion, ‘Pickfair’. Chaplin and Mary Pickford were the big earners of the era. When one secured a more favourable contract, the other demanded one too.

My 9 x great grandfather John Bevan was mentioned in ‘Colonial and Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania’, published 1911. This entry suggests that John was descended from the Last Prince of Glamorgan, and Edward III of England. It also suggests that he lived in Pennsylvania for twenty years.

‘North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000’ mentions my 9 x great grandfather John Bevan and his daughter Elizabeth in relation to a Samuel Richardson, in that Elizabeth married Samuel’s only son, Joseph, in 1696. The entry also mentions slave ownership and Samuel’s wardrobe. Many Quakers were anti-slavery, and from other entries I believe this was John Bevan’s stance. John gifted Elizabeth £200 for the marriage, the equivalent of £24,000 today.

A grainy, but important image, a page from the Pennsylvania Quaker Meeting Records, which recorded my 9 x great grandfather John Bevan, his wife Barbara, and their ‘tender’ family’s arrival in Pennsylvania, 1683.

This entry in ‘The History of Bucks County’ mentions my 9 x great grandparents John Bevan and Barbara Aubrey. It also mentions their daughter, Elizabeth, and Barbara’s ancestors. The entry describes John as a ‘man of considerable wealth, a friend of William Penn, a preacher of great influence, and a judge at the County Court of Philadelphia.’

Clara Bow Quotes: “With my mental attitude in this condition came rumblings. If I had only been able to foresee the results! I would have given anything gladly to have avoided such events but, as usual, with my trusting nature, I could not see the danger signals.

Talk travels rapidly in Hollywood, and before it gets very far the original comment has been distorted and twisted to suit the taste of the gossiper. Rumours, ugly rumours, began to spring up about me.”

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #177

Dear Reader,

Clara Bow’s sixteenth movie was Capital Punishment, produced in December 1924 and released on February 1, 1925. Clara Bow played Delia Tate, the witness to a murder.

The storyline for Capital Punishment was devised by Clara’s producer, B.P. Schulberg. It centred on a man condemned to die for a murder he did not commit. However, Clara saves the day and identifies the real murderer.

The New York Times published a scathing review of Capital Punishment. Nevertheless, the picture gave Clara her biggest break since her seventh movie, Black Oxen.

Over the past few days I’ve watched Clara Bow in It and Mary Pickford in Secrets. Mary wanted Clara to appear in Secrets, but it didn’t happen. At that time, Mary offered this insightful comment about Clara: “She is a very great actress and her only trouble has been that she hasn’t known enough about life to live it the way she wanted to live it.”

Betty Blythe (September 1, 1893 – April 7, 1972) appeared in 63 silent films and 56 talkies over the course of her career. She excelled in exotic roles – in The Queen of Sheba, 1921, she wore nothing above her waist except a string of beads.

In 1919 Betty married movie director Paul Scardon. The couple remained married until his death in 1954. Apparently, Betty made $3,500,000 when she sold a section of land that is now part of the Sunset Strip. However, she lost her fortune in the 1929 stock market crash.

This Week’s Family History Anniversaries

On 15 January 1842 my 3 x great grandmother Mary Hopkin gave birth to Thomas Reynolds, out of wedlock. Thomas’ father, also Thomas, died in 1845. He did not marry Mary.

On 24 August 1850 Mary married my 3 x great grandfather William Howe. The couple had four children. Thomas Reynolds lived with the family until adulthood when he found work on the local farms.

Later, William and Mary gave a home to Thomas’ son, Edward, after Thomas’ wife died. And they took in an orphan, Anne Price, after her parents, local shopkeepers, died. 

Mary used to walk fifteen miles to the local markets to sell bonnets. Her friend, Mary Francis, who walked with her to the markets, achieved great fame and attracted newspaper articles when she died at the remarkable age of 110.

My ancestor Mary Jones died on 19 January 1919. She died in an asylum. On 5 June 1879, Mary gave birth to her fourth daughter, Esther. On 19 May 1880, aged 29, Mary entered Angelton Asylum, pictured. Later, she was transferred to Parc Gwyllt. She never left that asylum. I have a full copy of Mary’s medical record. Victorian asylums were grim places. Her record makes for grim reading. 

Mary’s medical record states that, ‘She says she has committed a sin against the Almighty for which she will not be forgiven. And that she is eternally lost and that I (the doctor) have sold her to the Devil.’ In September 1880, she stated that she had ‘done something seriously wrong.’ 

A medical note dated 12 December 1883 is potentially revealing. ‘This woman is rather reserved. Her memory is deficient and her morals have apparently been loose.’ Could this imply that Thomas, her husband, was not Esther’s father?

On Christmas Eve 1886, Mary stated that she had been in Heaven and that it was a room with glass walls, which housed Jesus. 

In August 1908, Mary imagined that she was married to Samuel Butler, 4 December 1835 – 18 June 1902, author of the semi-autobiographical novel, The Way of All Flesh, a book that attacked Victorian hypocrisy. 

Was Mary’s sin real or imagined? I’m inclined to believe that it was real and that, after depression and poor physical health following the birth of Esther, it triggered a psychotic reaction.

And what of Esther? As a young adult she worked as a servant, caring for a young man who was mentally ill.

Died on 20 January 1866, my 4 x great grandfather William Stokes. William was a ‘corn meter’. Corn meters had the exclusive right of measuring all corn delivered within the city and port of London. They were the link between the cargo ships and the markets.

🖼 William’s workplace, the Customs House on the Thames.

William married Jane Esther Axe, an impressive lady who took an active interest in the family’s financial and legal affairs. William and Jane posted their marriage banns in April and May 1835. However, something cropped up because they cancelled the marriage and posted the banns again in August and September. They married on 20 September 1835 and produced four children.

***

Died on 21 January 1886, aged 27, my ancestor Mary Ann Howe. At the time, Mary Ann was with her brother, Hopkin, a Methodist minister. They were visiting a newly refurbished chapel.

Mary Ann’s first language was Welsh. However, I have a letter written by her in English. 

South Corneli, October 3, 1877

Dear Cousin,

I have taken the pleasure of writing these few lines to you in hopes to find you well as I am at present. Dear Cousin I could understand in Mary David’s letter the note you sent me that you was greatly offended to me and I don’t know the cause of you being so offended to me unless it is the cause of not sending your hat. The reason I did not send it because you told me you was coming to the tea party. You said that nothing would not keep you from not coming and I have not had no chance of sending it after unless I send it by train. Please write and let me know for what you are offended to me for. I am very uneasy ever since I did receive the note and I do think you don’t care much about me ever since you went away. I do only wish for you to write to me to tell me the reason by return.

So no more at present. From your cousin,

Mary Ann Howe

Pennsylvania 

I’m trying to make sense of my ancestors’ connection with Pennsylvania. Starting with my 9 x great grandparents John Bevan and Barbara Aubrey, here are the basic facts.

John Bevan 

Born 1646, Treferig, Llantrisant, Glamorgan, Wales

Parents: Evan ap John and Jane ferch Richard

Both descended from the nobility 

Married 1665 Llantrisant, Glamorgan, Wales 

Died 1726, Treferig, Llantrisant, Glamorgan, Wales

Barbara Catherine Aubrey 

Born 1637, Pencoed, Glamorgan, Wales 

Parents: William Richard Aubrey and Elizabeth Thomas 

Both descended from the nobility 

Married 1665 Llantrisant, Glamorgan, Wales 

Died 26 January 1710, Treferig, Llantrisant, Glamorgan, Wales

Children Jane Bevan married John Wood

Evan Bevan married Eleanor Wood (my 8 x great grandparents)

Ann Bevan married Owen Roberts

Elizabeth Bevan married Joseph Richardson 

Barbara Bevan

Ann Bevan (born and died 1666)

Katherine Bevan 1675-1683

I’m hoping to learn more about my ancestors’ lives before they travelled to Pennsylvania, their lives in Pennsylvania, and why they eventually returned to Wales.

More details as my research unfolds.

Clara Bow Quotes: “Don’t think for a moment I was ungrateful. I know full well what Hollywood has done for me. I appreciate this to the utmost. But, after all, I paid for everything. If not with money, which I earned myself, then with heartaches. I was brittle in the Hollywood sense of the word. I was not able to shake off that sensitiveness of my early childhood. I never shall be able to shake it off. And it ground deeply into my soul when hurt.”

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #176

Dear Reader,

This week, I wrote Chapter 35 (of 65) of Tula, the story of a young 1920s actress from the slums of Brooklyn. In this chapter, Westward Bound, after many struggles and misadventures, Tula arrives in Hollywood. And this is the sight that greets her.

In Chapter 37 of Tula, Tula’s chaperone, Gloria Steenberg, insists that she should change her image and become a flapper. A battle of wills and ambitions between the two women ensues.

🖼 “Where there’s smoke there’s fire” by Russell Patterson.

Clara Bow’s fifteenth movie was The Adventurous Sex, produced in November 1924, with location shooting at Niagara Falls, and released on June 12, 1925. Clara played Patricia Webster. Sadly, this silent movie is now lost.

The Adventurous Sex was one of sixteen movies Clara made in eighteen months. At this stage of her career, she was on the movie treadmill, and not enjoying it. Many of these movies were low budget and of poor quality. However, her hard work was rewarded with an appearance on the cover of Motion Picture Classic, June 1925, her first magazine cover appearance.

Of Clara, Motion Picture Classic said, “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.”

Pearl White (March 4, 1889 – August 4, 1938) began her career on the stage at the age of six. Later, she featured in silent films, especially serials, and became known as the “Queen of the Serials”.

Often cast as a plucky heroine, Pearl performed her own stunts, most notably in The Perils of Pauline. Unfortunately, a spinal injury sustained while filming The Perils of Pauline resulted in drug and alcohol dependence in an effort to ease her pain, a dependence that led to her early death from liver failure.

Nancy Carroll (November 19, 1903 – August 6, 1965) started her career in Broadway musicals. She became an actress in talkies and appeared in 39 films between 1927 and 1938. 

In the early 1930s Nancy received more fan mail than any other star. Nevertheless, Paramount Pictures cancelled her contract because they regarded her as ‘uncooperative’ when she balked at the roles offered by the studio.

Anniversaries: Married this week, on 9 January 1843 at St Mary’s, Haggerston, London (pictured) my 4 x great grandparents Matthew Cottrell and Sarah Gadsden. Matthew worked as a porter/trader in the London markets. Sarah gave birth to seven children, six girls and a boy. Before marriage, the couple lived in the same street, Castle Court, Matthew at number 14, Sarah at number 2. They remained married for 51 years, until Sarah’s death in 1894.

The key year for my 6 x great grandmother Barbara Bevan arrived in 1746 when she married Rees David in Llantrisant, Glamorgan. Her father, John Bevan, also died that year.

Barbara gave birth to eight children. Her husband, Rees David, was an alderman who inherited Treferig Isaf in Llantrisant. He was also a Quaker. However, the intriguing aspect of Barbara’s story is she was born in Pennsylvania. What were her parents doing there? 🤔

I’ve discovered that four generations of the Bevan branch of my family had close ties with Pennsylvania. All the Bevans in Merion, Pennsylvania are descended from my ancestors. To make sense of how and why my Bevans arrived in Pennsylvania I need to go back to my 9 x great grandfather, John Bevan, 1646 – 1726. This is going to be exciting 🙂

Clara Bow Quotes: “Back in Hollywood, I was restless. The picture wasn’t going so well. My house was always full of people, some of whom I knew, others I did not. It seemed that my life was not my own. I fretted.

My name was news and the slightest ripple on the surface of my existence was a signal for the newspapermen to place my name in headlines. So, this was Hollywood, and fame and fortune! Where were the real things in life? Was I to continue like this?

Some book news. Nine years old this year, Sam’s Song is number one on the Amazon charts again 🙂

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

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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.”

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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.

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