July 26, 2010

See Your Favorite Star in ___________!

Mary Pickford In Paramount Pictures (c. 1915-16)
Buster Keaton Comedies (c. 1921-26)
Closely related to slides used to promote individual screen personalities are those that generically advertise an upcoming film starring a specific performer.  These slides advertised that a film featuring the star was coming soon, but it was up to the exhibitor to fill in the title.

Presumably these slides were effective only for the biggest stars who would draw an audience regardless of the vehicle.  Perhaps this format also provided flexibility to exhibitors who may not have had an advertising slide on hand for a specific title.
Portrait by Moody Studios (1915)

Keaton publicity photo (1921)

The examples here are for Mary Pickford appearing in Paramount Pictures produced by Famous Players, and Buster Keaton in Joe Schenck productions distributed by Metro Pictures.  By looking at when Keaton and Pickford released films with these associations, it is possible to assign time frames of 1921-26 to the Keaton slide and 1913-16 to Pickford.

In attempting to further narrow these time frames I tracked down the original photos on which the slides were based.  The Keaton image is a publicity shot from General Photographic Agency dated August 6, 1921.  Unfortunately this was of little help in narrowing the time frame for the slide.  The Pickford image however originates from a 1915 portrait which, meaning that the slide could only have been produced and relevant in the years 1915 and 1916.


  1. Hmmmm... Why 1923 on the Keaton? Didn't he start with Metro doing the distribution on the shorts in 20? Obviously it couldn't be 1920 if the publicity portrait was taken in '21. Or did Metro only take up distribution once he moved to features?
    I'll have to ask some of the experts at the Damfinos!

  2. Looking at his filmography in IMDB (admittedly not always the most authoritative source), the first Keaton film distributed by Metro was "Three Ages" in 1923. Immediately prior to that looks like First National. Of course I'd be delighted to have clarification from experts in all things Keaton.

  3. Ha! Check out the poster for "The Goat" -- or, for that matter, the glass slide! METRO PICTURES is prominently featured: proof that glass slides can provide forensic evidence that IMDB cannot refute!

  4. Ahah! Right you are, I missed that. Metro also distributed a run of seven shorts in 1920-21, beginning with "Convict 13" (27 Oct 1920) through "The Goat" (15 May 1921). After that, First National picks up distribution with "The Paleface" (Jan 1922) through "The Love Nest (March 1923), then it's back to Metro after that with Buster moves to features with "Three Age" (24 Sept 1923).

    The date attributed to the publicity shot is 6 August 1921, three months after the release of "The Goat" which was his last Metro short. Having said that, Keaton's shorts continued in circulation and it's not unreasonable to expect that the slide was made the promote the shorts.

    Given all this, I'm going to update the post to reflect that the slide could be as early as 1921.


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