Chapter VII


Making the Movies by Ernest A. Dench
New York, The Macmillan company, published 1915 (now in the Public Domain)

pp. 27-32

Movie stars do not carry on their work without great risk of personal injury, inasmuch as they are called upon to do all sorts of seemingly impossible feats, so that sensational incidents may be produced for the entertainment of movie fans.

Take for instance, Mary Fuller, Universal's charming heroine. Some time ago she had to ride a horse -- not on the tame stable variety, but a real bucking broncho hired from a circus in order obtain the right effect for a picture. The animal raced away at full speed; then it suddenly stopped -- a habit with bronchos. Miss Fuller escaped with only a sprained back.


Marc McDermott, of Edison, well recollects the time he was acting in England. While playing in "The Young Squire's Love Story," on the banks of the Thames, near Wallingford, he was set off to be carried over a weir with the river flooded. Naturally, he was safeguarded by men stationed on the bank, out of the camera's focus and well equipped with ropes and lines, to rescue him should an accident occur. The accident did occur. McDermott was swept over the fall; it seemed to him quite as great as Niagara -- so he said afterward. For with him, a strong and experienced swimmer, there was an afterwards.


Then there is Miss Blanche Sweet, now with the Lasky Company. One daring deed she undertook occurred in a film where she had to be transferred from the saddle of one galloping horse to that of another. This feat Miss Sweet completed successfully, but not without suffering many bruises and a sprained wrist.

At another time she drove a large pair-horse prairie schooner over some of the roughest country there is to be found in America. When the ride was at an end the palms of her hands were one mass of cuts, on account of the rough reins and the strong pulling of the horses.


Another popular player is Henry Walthall. On one occasion he participated in a production made up as a sneak-thief, when he was called upon to smash the window of a real jeweller's and dash off with a handful of rings. The street selected was a quiet one, and the director gathered together a throng of spectators amongst his supers. However, as soon as the window was broken and the cry of "Stop thief" had been raised amongst the spectators, it attracted people to the scene. Down the street ran Henry Walthall, with a mob of about fifty pursuing him, no thinking, of course, that this was a pre-arranged robbery. When thoroughly run out, Mr. Walthall found himself surrounded by an angry crowd, which had now increased to a hundred. Luckily the timely advent of the persuasive director saved the awkward situation.


On one occasion Miss Mabel Normand, Keystone's pretty comedienne, was nearly a victim of a tragedy. It took place while she was working in a scene on the beach. Miss Normand, as the heroine, was lashed securely to a rock which jutted out, the ocean waves touching her. As the actual filming of the scene was being proceeded with a huge breaker rolled in, causing the actress to be swept away among the rocks on the beach. Miss Normand was bruised and unconscious when rescued from her perilous position.


It was on the brink of a yawning chasm that Broncho Billy, of Essanay fame, fought a hand-to-hand encounter with Frederick Church, the villain, in a Western production. The play called for a swift break while both were on the edge of the precipice, where they spring aside for a breather and then grapple with each other again. G.M. Anderson, with his back to the chasm, gave the signal for the rest spell. As the players sprang aside, Church was horrified to witness our hero stumble, fall heavily, and disappear over the precipice. With his body spread out, Church peeped over the edge and relieved to find Broncho Billy, as large as life, hanging from the branch of a projecting tree stump. A rope was promptly secured, and Broncho Billy quickly removed to safety. He was in an exhausted condition, his hands being cut all over. The Essanay "star" confesses that it was the narrowest escape of his life.


Suffragettes do not find things exactly to their liking in America. Two former Kalemites, Miss Ruth Roland and Miss Marian Sais, figured prominently in a Kalem drama sometime ago. In accordance with their parts, these two players were attired in men's clothes. When they appeared in the open street in these "togs" they created quite a sensation. "They're going to break windows," called out one spectator. "Duck'em," shouted another. As the situation was getting critical, the two players ran for all they were worth -- so did the others. Out came Ruth's property pistol, and with the assistance of Marian the fusillade was maintained and the pursuers held off until both reached the Kalem studio. It is likely that the inhabitants of this Californian town used discretion after this mistake.

Making the Movies - Contents ... Back to Chapter VI ... On to Chapter VIII

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