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.
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.
Research for my forthcoming novel, Sunshine, The Golden Age of Hollywood, Book Two.
Thanks to her appearance on the cover of Picture Post, Maureen Adele Chase Dunlop de Popp (26 October 1920 – 29 May 2012) became the ‘cover girl’ of the Air Transport Auxiliary, a team of pilots who ferried Spitfires, Hurricanes, Mustangs and more between factories and airfields.
Maureen was born in Quilmes, near Buenos Aires. Her parents were Australian farm manager Eric Chase Dunlop, a World War One veteran and a sheep farmer in Patagonia, and his English wife, Jessimin May Williams.
Educated mainly by her governess, Maureen became an expert horse rider. She also developed a fascination for aeroplanes and during a holiday in Britain in 1936, she took flying lessons. Upon her return to Argentina, she backdated her birth certificate and continued flight training with the Aeroclub Argentino.
At the outbreak of World War Two, Maureen decided to support the war effort. However, to join the Air Transport Auxiliary, female pilots needed a minimum of 500 hours’ solo flying, twice that of a man.
After increasing her flying hours, in April 1942 Maureen joined the ATA. She flew thirty-eight different types of aircraft, logging 800 hours of flight time. She flew Spitfires, Hurricanes, Mustangs, Typhoons and Wellingtons. Her favourite aircraft to fly was the de Havilland Mosquito.
Maureen flew from the all-female ferry pool at Hamble, Southampton, which specialised in delivering Spitfires from Supermarine’s factory at RAF Southampton.
On at least two occasions, Maureen was forced to make emergency landings, once when the cockpit canopy of her Spitfire blew off after takeoff and secondly when the engine of her Fairchild Argus failed in the air.
After the war, Maureen served as a flying instructor at RAF Luton. She returned to Argentina where she instructed pilots for the Argentine Air Force and became a commercial pilot, retiring in 1969.
In 1955, Maureen married retired Romanian diplomat Serban Victor Popp. The couple met at a British Embassy function in Buenos Aires. They had a son and two daughters, and raised them on their farm Milla Lauquen Stud, in Norfolk, where they also bred pure-blood Arabian horses.
Serban died in 2000. Maureen passed away at her home in Norfolk on 29 May 2012, aged ninety-one.
Some book news. I have three books in the top fifty of Amazon’s Hot New Releases, Historical Fiction: Operation Jedburgh, Eve’s War book ten, just published; Tula, book one in my Golden Age of Hollywood series, to be published this summer; and Operation Butterfly, Eve’s War book eleven, also to be published this summer.
A Tiger Moth, an aeroplane that becomes central to the life of my character Sunshine in my forthcoming novel, Sunshine: The Golden Age of Hollywood, Book Two. This is a Canadian version with its characteristic canopy. The biplane was designed by Geoffrey de Havilland and it operated mainly as a trainer aircraft.
Clara Bow’s thirty-first movie was Dancing Mothers, released on March 1, 1926.
Paramount cast Clara as Kittens, the second lead in the movie. Clara was too talented to play second-fiddle to anyone, and she duly stole the picture. She said, “I played her (Kittens) as a girl out for havin’ fun. When I said mean things, I tried t’put over the idea with a look after I’d said the thing: “Oh, why’d I say that? I didn’t really mean it.”
Clara always added depth to her roles, a depth that wasn’t always evident on the printed page. She had an intuitive understanding of her characters and, just as importantly, a knowledge of how various members of the audience would interpret her characters. She played each scene accordingly, with the aim of connecting with the entire audience.
Clara imbued her characters, and movies, with a great sense of energy. She also had the gift of suggesting a hidden sensitivity, even in characters that displayed a superficial façade. As Louise Brooks said, “She was absolutely a sensation in Dancing Mothers. Clara was so marvellous; she just swept the country! I thought she was oh, so wonderful; everybody did. She became a star overnight with nobody’s help.”
I’ve discovered the baptism record of my ancestor Samuel William Noulton, born 8 April 1825, baptised 6 June 1825. Samuel died in 1893, in the workhouse. The Noultons are one of the poorest branches on my family tree. Samuel’s father, James, served in the Napoleonic Wars, fractured his wrist, and was awarded a medal.
The wedding of my 3 x great grandparents, William Bick and Fanny Brereton, on 14 December 1868 in St Mary’s, Lambeth. Both were from labouring families. William was illiterate, but Fanny signed her name. They moved to London in 1864 from the West Country. After their marriage, William and Fanny had five children. However, they also had five children before they wed.
My 3 x great grandmother, Fanny Brereton, was literate in an age when even women from privileged backgrounds could not read or write. Who educated her? A clue is provided by this Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices’ Indentures, 26 March 1807, which reveals that her father, James Richard Brereton, was an educated man and an apprentice to William Vandenbergh, a citizen and cutler of London. Also, in terms of family history, it’s interesting to note the continental connection.
I’m exploring the life and career of Virginia Cherrill, the person who, along with Charlie Chaplin, delivered the “Greatest single piece of acting ever committed to celluloid.”
In 1933, Virginia Cherrill played Virginia, a support character in Fast Workers, aka Rivets, a drama that starred John Gilbert. The critics hated the movie. Harrison Reports, a New York film-review service, stated that Fast Workers was, “Mediocre! The action is slow, the talk dirty and suggestive, and the behavior of the characters vile. Unsuitable for children, adolescents, and for Sundays.”
Virginia’s acting career was not going anywhere. However, she was travelling. On 25 August 1933, in Los Angeles, Virginia boarded the Matson Lines passenger liner SS Lurline, pictured approaching Pier 10 at Honolulu in the 1930s, and arrived in Honolulu on 31 August 1933.
Virginia was also sailing in another sense, into the life of Archie Leach, aka Cary Grant…
The latest results from the Third Round of our Mastodon Movie poll.
Sunset Boulevard 60% v 40% The Thin Man
2001: A Space Odyssey 60% v 40% The Great Escape
Psycho 46% v 54% Double Indemnity
Rear Window 56% v 44% The Maltese Falcon
Citizen Kane 63% v 37% Some Like it Hot
Dr Strangelove 74% v 26% His Girl Friday
Vertigo 48% v 52% 2001: A Space Odyssey
My article about Fay Wray appears on page 35 of the Seaside News
When you publish a book, in this case Operation Jedburgh, you are never sure what readers will think of it, so it’s always a relief when the first review comes through.
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 36 occasions.