THOSE TROUBLESOME CHILD PLAYERS
Making the Movies by Ernest A. Dench
New York, The Macmillan company, published 1915 (now in the Public Domain)
Children comprise a proportion of the audiences at the motion picture theaters and it is only fair that plays should be specially produced for them. Several of the film companies have stock companies comprising children. Although these are competent to act they cannot do so effectively unless under the charge of a grown up director.
Speak to the average director on the subject and he will tell you that he would rather put on the hardest subject he has ever tackled rather than attempt to direct a troupe of children. And there's a reason!
Temperamental to a degree, the youngsters have to be coaxed and bribed with such peace offerings as candy, to carry out his instructions. These rewards for good work help a little, but not to the extent he would like.
The other day I heard that two little girls played in the same production. One whom we will call Alice had to pretend to be the child of a wealthy family. Her comrade whom we will call Hazel was forced to be a child or the tenements and wear rags for clothes. When Hazel saw Alice in such lovely toggery she sulked and refused to act with Alice unluess she could wear an equally attractive costume. The director could not grant what she wished, so Hazel left the studio crying and the director had to get another child to take her place.
The director instructs his tender charges somewhat in this manner: "Look here, Billy, in this game your playmate is going to cheat you and you will find him out. As he will not own up to it, you prepare to fight him, but he runs away like the coward he is."
Motion picture acting does not offer an excuse for the children playing hookey, for they act out of school hours.
Most of the child players obtain their positions through influence. The Costello children, for instance, can play the game of make believe as well as can their fond papa, Maurice Costello, and they never make him angry by looking at the camera.
Leland Benham, who is often seen in Thanhouser Pictures in company with both of his parents, Harry Benham and Ethel Cooke Benham, can well be proud of himself. He loves nothing better than acting in their company, for a photoplay sometimes allows him to play jokes on them.
Kathie Fischer, that dainty little girl who used to come on the screen when a Beauty film was shown, nearly always has Marguerite Fischer as her companion. She is Kathie's aunt, and they both get a lot of fun out of playing together.
If you were to ask Bobby Connelly what he best liked doing in photoplays, he would declare he best liked being sick or ill. For a healthy boy such as he is this a strange choice, as you will agree. He also likes having to cry. When he has to weep his mother tells him a very sad story which impresses him so much that tears roll down his cheeks. After that he is put in the scene and allowed to cry himself out.
You might believe that Bobby thinks about motion pictures all the livelong day. As a matter of fact his beauty sleep is not spoiled, for he forgets his acting when his work in one film for the day is over.
All the child stars receive quantities of mail from their youthful admirers, but what they do not like are letters of the kind that begin with "Dearie" and are full of silly gush.
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