Before there were cell phones and instant messaging, before there was Twitter and Facebook, there was only the mailbox. It was through that little box that I kept in touch with friends who lived in other parts of the country and world. One of the best parts of the holiday season was going to the mailbox every afternoon in December to see if there were cheerful greetings coming my way. I loved to see the card they chose, the greetings they selected, the familiar handwriting.
After I interviewed someone for my books or for my column in Classic Images, I wanted to stay in touch. That included Christmas cards. As the years passed, I received fewer and fewer holiday greetings from my silent film buddies. Sadly, there weren’t any cards in my mailbox this year from those who made their livings before the movie cameras in the 1910s and 20s. I suppose that my last Christmas greeting from someone in that era came from Dorothy Janis, who died a couple of years ago.
I make it a practice every year to pull out my files and look through the cards from years passed. It fills me with nostalgia, but also a bit of sadness, realizing that the era that feel I connected to has passed into history.
I want to show you some of my favorites. Oh! I saved a few surprises for the end.
One of my favorite Esther Ralston photos.
I didn’t have much correspondence with Muriel Ostriche after our interview in 1988 for my book, Broken Silence. She died in 1989.
I made a trip to Memphis, Tennessee, in 1991, to spend the afternoon with Hugh Allan. What an interview! What a guy!
Read my interview with Pauline Curley in The Sound of Silence. Like Muriel, her career started in 1911!
This was one of Pauline’s favorite portraits.
You may remember I told you about the gorgeous Ethlyne Clair in a previous post (https://michaelgankerich.wordpress.com/2011/12/04/a-soon-to-be-groom-checks-out-past-hollywood-ceremonies/). I recounted her wedding to Ernest Westmore and the fiasco that happened on the steps of the church when the happy couple emerged from the ceremony only to find his previous wife and their child begging for money.
Ethlyne loved sending holiday greetings. She had a unique signature. The little curl at the bottom of her signature was an expression of love, she said.
The ravishing Ethlyne Clair, who got her start in a Barbara La Marr film, hated playing in Westerns near the end of her career. Her idea of being a film star was playing the vamp. “I thought I was above all that (serials and Westerns). I wanted to do more than ride horses through the desert.” Want to know about her run-in with Louise Brooks? Check out Broken Silence. Her story is there.
Okay, I promised you a surprise at the end. Here it is, courtesy of Benjie Wood, perhaps the most avid Olive Borden fan there is. He treasures this 1927 Christmas card from the lady herself.
I would be remiss if I didn’t offer holiday cheer from the Sheik himself, Rudolph Valentino.
Finally, I close with holiday greetings from Charlie and me. The Santa hats aren’t photoshopped. We took them thousands of miles in a suitcase just to put them on at the opportune moment. I couldn’t wait to get to the Sphinx to see the shadow where Theda Bara was born. Then, I happened to remember Eve Golden’s book that said Theda was no more born in the shadow of the Sphinx than I was!
Anyway, I wish all of you the best holiday season ever and a year filled with peace, love, happiness, and prosperity.