November 13, 2011

Play Ball with Doraldina!

Coming attraction slide for The Untamed Woman (1920)
The wonderful, the fabulous, the exotic DORALDINA!  Born in 1888, San Franciso native, Doraldina (nee Dora Sanders)  found fame performing the hula on the stage in The Road to Mandalay and Frivolities of 1920.  Publicized in today's featured slide as "The World's Dancing Sensation," Doraldina wrote, produced, and starred in The Woman Untamed a melodrama featuring herself as a lovely castaway believed to be a goddess by the local natives.  The feature led to a contract with Metro, with whom she starred in Passion Fruit (1921) which was filmed on location at Monterey, CA.  In Passion Fruit Doraldina starred as the daughter of a South Seas plantation owner desired by a ruthless overseer.

Movie Mirror magazine cover (1920)
According to Who's Who on the Screen (1920),

"Doraldina, one of the newest of Metro stars, though given a splendid opportunity to display her histrionic talents as an actress, will, nevertheless, retain in her pictures the familiar Hawaiian setting with which her legion of admirers have come to associate her. Beginning her career as a manicurist in a San Francisco hotel, Doraldina's rise to fame and stardom comes as a fitting climax to a career during which she put forth every effort to please a discriminating public. Studying the dancing art first in New York, and then in Barcelona, Spain, she returned to New York where her career an dancer, actress, and screen star made of her a national figure. Her first Metro production is "Passion Fruit."

"Histrionic talents" indeed.

The AFI Catalog credits Doraldina with three screen roles:
  • The Naulahka (1918) in which she plays Sitahbai, an exotic dancer from India.
  • The Woman Untamed (1920) which (unsurprisingly) contained many scenes of her performing.
  • Passion Fruit (1921) in which includes no mention of dancing in the synopsis.
While it is not clear whether any of Doraldina's features have survived, her motion picture legacy has not been completely obliterated - at least as far as sports fans are concerned.

On April 2, 1918 she was the featured attraction at the 1918 opening day celebration for the Oakland Oaks baseball team of the Pacific Coast League.  The Oaks opened their home season against the cross-bay rival San Francisco Seals and Doraldina threw out the ceremonial first pitch for the game.

As you can see, she was the hit of the day.

Play Ball!

November 4, 2011

Seeing Double with Eva Novak

Coming attraction slide for The Smart Sex (1921)

You don't need a fine eye to spot the similarities between these slides for two different Eva Novak features, Up in Mary's Attic (1920) and The Smart Sex (1921).  While it is not uncommon to see the same portrait of a star or director reproduced in advertisements for different films (esp. D.W. Griffith and C.B DeMille), this is the first time I've come across re-use of a character in costume.  

Coming attraction slide for Up in Mary's Attic (1920)
It doesn't take a great deal of detective work to figure out that the photo in question originated from The Smart Sex.  Comparing the synopses from the two films makes differentiation a trivial affair.  In The Smart Sex, Novak plays Rose, a stranded showgirl who participates in a local amateur show and wins the prize. After the performance she meets a wealthy young man who buys her supper, gets her an accommodation on a farm adjoining his father's estate, and turns farmhand to win her love. 

Poster for Up in Mary's Attic
Meanwhile, Up in Mary's Attic, Eva plays Mary who risks losing her inheritance if she marries without the approval of her guardian and therefore must keep her marriage to athletic instructor Jack Langdon a secret. This is complicated by the presence of the couple's baby (!) whom Mary has hidden in the school attic.

Does the slide image depict Rose the showgirl, or Mary the girl with a baby and a secret marriage?   

What seems odd about all this is... well, there are a couple of things.  First, Up in Mary's Attic was released first (July 1920), and yet is advertised by a photo from a film released more than a year later (The Smart Sex premiered in April 1921).  How could an image from a 1921 film make its way backward in time to advertise a film released in 1920?  

Second, the image in question has absolutely nothing to do with the plot, the characters, or even the genre of Up in Mary's Attic.  Even if the chronology made sense, you've got to ask yourself "what were they thinking?"  

Obviously the poster is a much more suitable advertisement, though it does make me smile to think about patrons attending a show expecting showgirls and instead getting a hidden (though legitimate!) baby instead.  Imagine the disappointment!

From The Smart Sex
In the end, I think the slide manufacturer must be the one to blame for the mix-up.  It can't be the production companies or the distributors because they were different for each title.  Up in Mary's Attic was produced by Ascher Productions and distributed by Fine Arts Pictures, Inc., while The Smart Sex was produced and distributed by Universal Film Manufacturing Company.  

My theory is that Up in Mary's Attic was making a second round in distribution some time after it's initial release.  The Unique Slide Company (717 Seventh Ave, N.Y.) who manufactured the slide received an order for slides to advertise Mary's Attic, and simply re-purposed an existing design for The Smart Sex by changing the title and the names of the stars at the bottom of the slide.  What's the difference?  They're both Eva Novak pictures aren't they?

The only way to confirm this would be to find a similarly designed slide for The Smart Sex.  Who knows?  Maybe we'll turn one up some day...