Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Just a little village history - what's in a picture

We take lots of pictures now that we aren't developing film and, being a generation of instant gratification - well its snap it now and it is on Facebook in a minute or less. Old black and whites, the staple of the Brownie Camera from youth produce really magical "snaps" and these treasures are everywhere for the looking.
While rummaging around in the Stirling Historical Societies collection at the Floyd Memorial Library we found this photo of our local movie theater.  In an attempt to label it right, it needed a date or some way to place it in time.  Well the Metro was the Metro for decades so the name was of no help. However, on the far right of the picture there are three "billboard" panels and the one on the far right of the three announces the movie "The Forgotten Law". Aha. The picture dates from November or so of 1922. Bingo.

The Forgotten Law (plot unknown) starred a fellow name Milton Sills.  Sills was from Chicago and wealthy AND smart. Before he caught the limelight he taught at the University of Chicago but was lured away by a touring stage company and eventually Broadway and on to silent movies.  This 1922 production was one of his early movie appearances and in his brief but highly regarded career he was some pumpkins although how someone gets critical acclaim as an actor in a silent film melodrama - well its like watching the soap operas without the sound  - at least to me.

There was a era when lives like this could happen although so remote given the nature and demands of our times.  It seems we all had a college acquittance who literally packed up his bag and his Royal typewriter and moved to New York City to become a writer; silly because you could write from your basement for that matter and no sense living in a La Boehme melodrama if you didn't have to but he went and probably did ok.
So here is this Milton Sills who walks away from a wealthy "swells" life and the prestige of being a professor at what was then and is now a superb University to get in front of a crowd and then a camera and actually do it.

You can see his star on the Hollywood walk of fame and you might wonder who the heck he was. Now you know. He was the guy starring in the film playing at the Metro that had a printed billboard up in front of the theater in November, 1922 - 90 years ago give or take. Oh - the GPS for the Star is 34.101747, -118.326453. He's buried in Chicago.
He died playing tennis with his wife in Santa Barbara.

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