Monday, October 23, 2006

ponjola: a romance of the african veldt

Vintage Ad #70 - Ponjola

Plot summary, via the New York Times. Murder, gender-bending, South Africa, booze and romance...what more could you want in a movie? I love the descriptions used for the characters, be it "Love-a-little Loochia" or "his cool debonaire ways and fearless, insolent tongue".

Anna Q. Nilsson (Desmond, 1888-1974) was a star throughout the teens and 20s. She briefly retired with the coming of sound, then returned to play uncredited bit roles, mostly in musicals, through the 40s and 50s. Her last movie appearance was in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). The Q? It stood for Quirentia, the saint of the day she was born.

James Kirkwood (Druro, 1875-1963) had both acted and directed in the teens, the latter mostly with Mary Pickford. His acting career ended with The Search for Bridey Murphy (1956). His son, James Kirkwood Jr, won a Tony for co-writing the book for A Chorus Line.

Tully Marshall (Blauhimel, 1864-1943) made his screen debut at 50, after a long stage career. Specialized in nasty characters early on. Final credit: Hitler's Madman (1943).

First National was a major studio for its short existence. Formed in 1917 as a theatre chain by owners as an attempt to fight Paramount's increasing stranglehold on film bookings. The company quickly gained prominence when Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford signed on to produce films for them (though sour experiences with FN management soon led them to form United Artists). A large studio was built in Burbank in the mid-20s...which soon became the home for the company that purchased FN in 1928, the rapidly-rising Warner Bros. The First National name lived on for the next few decades, due to legal requirements and tax loopholes (Casablanca was a WB-FN picture).

As for the other pictures listed: Flaming Youth was one of the first movies to revolve around flappers - only one reel exists today. Anna Christie was the first film version of Eugene O'Neill's play, eclipsed by the 1930 version that launched Greta Garbo's sound career. It was also one of the last films produced by Thomas Ince before his mysterious death on William Randolph Hearst's yacht in 1924.

Source: Photoplay, November 1923 

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