Posted in 1910s, 1920s, Movies, Silent film

Rex Ingram

This is edited and greatly expanded from an entry in my “Too Young, Too Soon” series on my old Angelfire page, written around 2005.

Rex Ingram (né Reginald Ingram Montgomery Hitchcock) (15 January 1892-21 July 1950) was born in Dublin and attended St. Columba’s College. His father was a rector for the Church of Ireland in Kinnitty, County Offaly.

Rex immigrated to the U.S. in 1911 to study sculpture at Yale’s art school. He also wrote for The Yale Record, the school’s humour magazine. Yale gave him a BFA in 1921 for his film work, the first time film had been recognised by academia as a legit fine art.

He began acting in 1913, then turned to directing, producing, writing, and set design. His first turn at directing was 1914’s one-reeler The Symphony of Souls. He directed his first feature in 1916, The Great Problem.

In 1917, Rex married actor Doris Pawn. They divorced three years later.

Rex worked for several studios before moving to Metro in 1920, where he was put under June Mathis’s supervision. Many believe they were a couple. Their relationship, whatever its true nature, became more distant when June’s new protégé Rudy Valentino started eclipsing Rex’s star.

Rex and Alice Terry (pictured above) snuck off the set of The Prisoner of Zenda on 5 November 1921 to elope. They saw three films the next day, a Sunday, and were back to work as normal on Monday. After the film wrapped, they honeymooned in San Francisco.

Alice frequently starred in her husband’s films, always wearing a blonde wig. These films include The Conquering Power, The Prisoner of Zenda, Mare Nostrum, Scaramouche, The Garden of Allah, and The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Other films Rex directed include Ben Hur (the 1925 original with sexy Ramón Novarro), Black Orchids, The Magician, Where the Pavement Ends, and The Three Passions.

Rex wasn’t keen on most American writers, and so worked with source material from authors like Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, Anthony Hope, Honoré de Balzac, W. Somerset Maugham, and Rafael Sabatini.

He hated the infamous Louis B. Mayer so much, he refused to credit him on the opening credits of his films. They instead said “Metro-Goldwyn presents…”

Rex also caused problems with the powers that be with his penchant for telling grand, epic stories which frequently went over budget (similar to his good friend Erich von Stroheim). He and Alice moved to Nice in 1923, where they built their own studio.

During Rex’s time in France, he mentored future director Michael Powell, who credited him as a giant influence. In particular, the young Michael was profoundly inspired by Rex’s frequent themes of surrealism, mysticism, dreams, illusion, and magic.

Directors David Lean and Dore Schary also lauded Rex as a major influence on both them and the motion picture industry.

Rex only made one talkie, Baroud (1932). He opted against converting his studio for sound, choosing instead to go back to L.A. to rekindle his passion for sculpture. He also did a lot of writing in his retirement years.

Though he planned to film a biography of Haitian leader Tousssaint Louverture, this never came to pass.

Rex converted to Islam in 1933, having become interested in the faith in 1927.

Rex died of a cerebral haemmorhage at age 58. He had no children.

Posted in Movies, Silent film

Lois Weber

If you’re here for the Dust It Off Bloghop, please scroll down!

Words on Paper

Thursdays in the Blog Me MAYbe blogfest have the theme “May I tell you something about someone else?” I decided to go with one of the people I spotlighted on my old “Too Young, Too Soon” series on my old Angelfire page. Baruch Hashem, I seem to have saved all the pages while my pages were still cached in the immediate aftermath of that whole fiasco with that pathological nutcase and her sycophantic friends.

Lois Weber lived from 13 June 1881 till 13 November 1939, dying at 58 years old. From the mid-Teens to the early Twenties, she was the most popular, successful, well-regarded film director in America.

During the early decades of cinema, there were many women in positions of power, success, prestige, and immense popularity—actors, directors, screenwriters, scenarists, title card writers, producers, etc. Lois made films her way, even though many people in her era regarded many of these subjects as strictly taboo or offensive to polite, decent, normal, civilised society. She covered the whole gamut—prostitution, promiscuity, poverty, domestic abuse, homosexuality, birth control, abortion, the gap between the haves and have-nots, racism, sexism, child abuse, capital punishment, feminism, you name it.

She owned her own company, as well as discovering a number of great actors. Lois was also the very first woman to direct a full-length feature, The Merchant of Venice, in 1914.

Sadly, after her heyday, for decades she went ignored, her praises unsung. First, because the types of hard-hitting issues films she was making fell out of favour after the early Twenties. People began to prefer lightweight fare about jazz babies and their necking parties, not heavy-duty stuff about issues like domestic abuse and the evils of capitalism.

The second, more major reason was precisely because she was a woman. Women ruled Hollywood until about the Forties, but suddenly all of that began changing, and people’s lists of their favourite actors began to be composed of mostly men. Previously, the huge majority of actors on such lists were women. Institutionalised sexism pushed women to the back burner, and suddenly there were no longer as many female directors, producers, and screenwriters.

And in addition, all of the great groundbreaking techniques she’d discovered and put to use first, such as putting a camera on wheels, were suddenly attributed to people such as D.W. Griffith. That man never even thought about doing some of these things till after she’d done them, yet today people swear by him as though he were this great innovative director who did all of this stuff first. He copied it off of a woman and took credit where credit was most severely not due!

Thankfully, when more women began entering Film Studies courses at colleges and universities after women’s lib came along, they began looking for female role models, and found a wealth of them in the early filming industry, Lois among them. Lois never made a film unless she agreed with the issue or thoughts being presented. She was true to herself and her principles, even though that may have turned some people off, either because they thought the topic wasn’t one for polite society or women or because they found the tone preachy.

Some people have suggested she went into decline because she divorced her husband Phillips Smalley in 1922, the man with whom she’d run her studio. The old sexist belief that a woman can’t really be that great all on her own and has to have a big strong man standing behind her doing the stuff she’s taking credit for. However, Lois continued to direct and write on her own terms after the divorce, even with diminished success, whereas Phillips never found success again, at any level. Now who’s riding whose coattails to success?