Tag Archives: Film History

Doris Kenyon’s North Country Connections


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A frequent visitor to Ausable Forks (and once a resident) Doris Kenyon starred in nearly fifty silent films, including 1924’s Monsieur Bocaire with living legend Rudolph Valentino, and 1925’s A Thief in Paradise with Ronald Colman. During her long career, she played opposite all the great stars of the day, among them Loretta Young, Spencer Tracy, Ralph Bellamy, John Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas, Robert Young, and Adolph Menjou. Her fame was such that newborn Doris Kappelhoff (in 1922) was named after Kenyon. Kappelhoff would gain great fame under her stage name, Doris Day.

One of the leading men in several of Kenyon’s movies became the leading man in her personal life. Milton Sills was a major star of the era, and he and Doris had performed together many times. In May 1926, Doris announced she had purchased her brother’s camp, and a few weeks later came an update—she and Milt Sills would soon marry … on the shores of Silver Lake!
The ceremony took place amidst the October splendor of the leaf color change, creating a sensational backdrop at the camp Doris called “Moose Missie.” They honeymooned through the Adirondacks (two days in a suite of rooms in Agora at the Lake Placid Club), plus Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone Park. Meanwhile, workmen were completing a beautiful mansion on their sixty-acre estate in Hollywood, California.
The wedding had been announced in May 1926, but was delayed until October due to Doris being ill. (Seven months after the ceremony, she gave birth to a son, Kenyon Clarence Sills.) Following the wedding and lengthy honeymoon, Doris took some time off from acting, but returned soon to star in several movies with her husband. In effect, they were the industry’s “power-couple” of the day, starring in movies and receiving constant media coverage.
In 1929, they passed the summer at Silver Lake, where Milton was recovering from illness. Doris spent several weeks at the camp, but she also did about a month of vaudeville performances before the two of them returned to making movies. And, upon special request, she served in August as a judge for the baby parade and pageant in Lake Placid’s summer carnival.

In 1929, Doris gave a concert performance in New York City, confirming that she still had a great singing voice. At the same time, unlike many other silent-film stars, she smoothly transitioned into the world of “talkies,” remaining one of Hollywood’s top stars.

In September 1930, tragedy struck Doris’ life. Shortly after playing tennis with his family, Milton Sills, 48, suddenly collapsed and died of a heart attack. Doris, just 33 at the time, was devastated by the loss, burying herself in work to help ease the pain.
She had been recognized in the past for other skills—writing, poetry, and as a pianist—but it was singing that Doris really missed. Plans had already been made for a return to regular concert performances, and after the death of Sills, Doris went on a world tour.
After many successful European shows, she returned to the United States with a renewed interest in her film career. Through the 1930s, Doris remained a major movie star, appearing in at least fourteen more films. She was also quite busy on the marital front. First came Syracuse real estate broker Arthur Hopkins in 1933, a union that lasted only a few months (annulled). Next, Doris was married to Albert Lasker in 1938 for a year (divorced). Finally, she married Bronislav Mlynarski in 1947 (that one lasted twenty-four years, ending with Mlynarski’s death in 1971).
Through the WW II years, Doris again supported the troops by singing with the USO. In the 1950s, she acted in television shows, sang on the radio, and performed two roles in radio soap operas. From silent films to the advent of television, she had done it all.
It was an incredible career spanning the Metropolitan Opera, stage, screen, vaudeville, concerts, radio, poetry, television, and writing. She was a success at everything she tried (even marriage, in the end). One of Hollywood’s lasting stars, Doris Kenyon passed away from heart trouble in September 1979, just a few days shy of her 82nd birthday.
Photos: Top―Poster from a Kenyon movie. Bottom―Doris Kenyon in A Thief in Paradise.
The Doris Kenyon story is one of 51 original North Country history pieces appearing in Adirondack Gold: 50+ New & True Stories You’re Sure to Love (352 pp.), a recent release by author Lawrence Gooley, owner of Bloated Toe Publishing.

Website Highlights Free New York Documentaries


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The popular website DocumentaryStorm.com is celebrating its 1st anniversary, and is recommending several documentaries available on the site about New York City for New York History readers. These documentaries that focus on a couple of seldom visited spaces in New York life, the sewer system and the fire department, along with one of New York City’s most visited places. DocumetaryStorm.com is dedicated to finding providing free, full-length documentaries from around the web.

The New York City Fire Museum

NYC’s Fire Department plays an indispensable role in keeping New York’s citizen’s safe. While September 11th, 2001 shone a very bright and hot media light on the department – rightfully highlighting their training and sacrifice – the department has a sordid and quite remarkable history dating back many centuries. For many decades the firefighters were all community volunteers. This documentary explores the department’s origins and traces the various incarnations, training, and equipment through the 1800′s to today. When was the first fire truck used? How were fires put out in the early 1800′s? What did the firemen used to wear to protect them against fire?

New York from the Underneath

This is a rare and unique glimpse into the sewer system that runs below New York City. Beautifully shot, captivating, and gritty, the documentary traces the underbelly of New York from the Bronx to Queens. Urban Historian Steve Duncan leads the journey through a maze of winding tunnels, man-made waterfalls, and local wildlife. The scars of history’s past is evident in the brickwork and drawings on the wall. We explore more than two centuries of urban planning: a generational patchwork. Half vision, half compromise. The city’s first enclosed sewer system is located on Canal Street and survives intact to this day. Duncan sleeps in the sewers by day and leads us on an entertaining 25 minute tour by day. New York City: like you’ve never seen her before.

The Empire State Building Shall Rise

Proving that the Great Depression was no match for New Yorkers; the Empire State Building continued to rise: past the height of the Eiffel Tower – which had been the tallest building in the world for decades. Past the height of the Chrysler Building – which had been the tallest building for barely a year. The Empire State would stand as the tallest building in the world for over 40 years. It is still the tallest building in New York, following September 11th, 2001. Remarkable historical footage of an American treasure.

New Contributor: Rabbit Goody, Textiles Expert


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Please join us in welcome our newest contributor here at New York History, Rabbit Goody. Goody is a nationally recognized textile historian who has served as a consultant to major museums, private collections, and the film industry. Her reproduction fabrics appear in many movies, including Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Master and Commander, Amistad, The Titanic, Cinderella Man, Polar Express, The Prestige, Transformers, and the new Indiana Jones movie.

Goody has extensive experience working as a consultant to museums including dating and identifying textiles in specific collections; making recommendations about ex­hibits, storage, and con­ser­vation; helping museum staff to develop appropriate and workable furnishing plans that include historically accurate soft furnishings, from carpet to loose covers to window treatments; and developing plans for textile rotation. She has worked with many living history sites to coordinate the use of historically accurate repro­ductions with original items in the museum’s collections.

Olana Partnership Elects New Trustee


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Richard Sharp, Chairman of The Olana Partnership, has announced the election of Joseph A. Pierson to the board of trustees.

“We are delighted that Joseph has joined our board. He brings to the Partnership a keen visual sense and creative eye, along with a track record of commitment to historic preservation,” said Chairman Sharp. “Joseph continues the tradition of his family’s longstanding support of Olana.”

Pierson is president of Cypress Films, Inc., a successful, independent, New York-based film, theater and television production company. Most recently, he produced and directed EvenHand, an independent feature film shot on location in San Antonio, Texas. Currently in pre-production is a filmed adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s A Suspension of Mercy and an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man for the Broadway stage.

Pierson majored in Studio Art at Middlebury College, graduating with departmental honors. He has an avid interest in historic preservation, serving as a member of the Director’s Council of the Historic House Trust of New York City, the Trustees’ Council of the Preservation League of New York State, and as chair of the Fort Tryon Park Trust. In addition, Mr. Pierson serves on the board of the Greenrock Corporation and as president of Abeyton Lodge, Inc.

In 1994, Pierson was elected a trustee of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. He is a member of the Fund’s Pocantico Center and nominating committees. He and his family have a local residence in Columbia County, New York.

“From the first time Joseph came for a visit to Olana, we could tell that he noticed and appreciated everything, and with his strong background in historic preservation, had insights that we knew would be of great value to us,” said Sara Griffen, President of The Olana Partnership. “The fact that his grandfather Nelson Rockefeller had been responsible for saving Olana from the auction block in the early 1960s made it all the more fitting that Joseph might join the board.”

Historic Saranac Lake to Hold Annual Meeting


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Historic Saranac Lake will hold its Annual Meeting on November 1 at 7:00 PM, in the John Black Room of the Saranac Laboratory Museum in Saranac Lake. The meeting will feature a presentation of historic films by Jim Griebsch, featuring newly digitized footage of the Trudeau Sanitorium in 1929. The Kollecker film footage is shown courtesy of the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free Library.

An independent film and video director, Jim has spent time digitizing, restoring and editing 16mm spools of film from the 1920’s through the early 60‘s which have been archived in the Saranac Lake Free Library’s Adirondack Room.

Born in Saranac Lake, Jim is an award winning producer, director and director of photography with numerous film, television and interactive credits to his name during his 40+ year career. He co-founded and owned Heliotrope Studios Ltd., in Cambridge, Mass. He worked on the feature film Cold River in Saranac Lake. His work has taken him around the world. Jim and his wife Carol have returned to Saranac Lake to live and as he continues to travel to Boston to work with MediaElectric Inc., on a variety of projects.

Jim Griebsch recently joined the Board of Directors of Historic Saranac Lake. In its 31st year, Historic Saranac Lake is an architectural preservation organization that captures and presents local history from its center at the Saranac Laboratory Museum.

The meeting is open to all members of Historic Saranac Lake and the public at large. Light refreshments will be served. For more information, please contact Historic Saranac Lake at (518) 891-4606.

Cayuga Museum Names Carriage House Theater


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The Cayuga Museum has announced the name of the carriage house theater currently undergoing restoration. When the theater re-opens in Spring 2012, it will be named Theater Mack in honor of the Maciulewicz family and their business, Mack Studios.

The Cayuga Museum has enjoyed a long association with Mack Studios. Casimir or Chuck Maciulewicz, founder of Mack Studios, was a long-time supporter and President of the Cayuga Museum Board of Trustees. Peter Maciulewicz, present owner and CEO of Mack Studios, has served on the Museum Board of Trustees for 12 years, and is currently President.

Mack Studios, now an internationally famed design company, has long donated all of the exhibit furniture and display work at the Cayuga Museum. Peter and Carol Maciulewicz have been the largest private donors to the carriage house restoration project. Since the Museum Board of Trustees decided to save the building in the 1990’s, the Museum has spent more close to $400,000 on rehabilitating the carriage house.

The carriage house, known for many years as the Cayuga Museum Annex, was a vital part of the cultural life of Auburn for decades. Installed through a collaboration between the Museum and the Auburn Community Players in 1941, the carriage house stage was home to plays, musicals, dance recitals, and more for more than 30 years. The company that is today the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse started in the carriage house in the 1960’s. The Cayuga Museum believes that the restored carriage house, Theater Mack, will once again become a vibrant community asset in Auburn.

“Carol and I are pleased to be able to help bring this project to fruition,” said Peter Mack. “We can remember coming to the carriage house for shows when we were kids. We are committed to seeing it brought back to life.”

Drivers on Washington Street will have noticed the vibrant exterior paint job that let passers-by know that something exciting was happening at the carriage house. The first phase of this renovation project, the restoration of the 1850 carriage doors, replacement of all 28 windows, and new stairways and exits was completed in 2010.

The Cayuga Museum will use Theater Mack for its own programming — lectures, slideshows, special events and more. The annual Theodore Case Film Festival, which has been held at both Cayuga Community College and the Auburn Public Theater, will come home to the Case property. And the Museum will rent Theater Mack to other organizations, creating revenue to support Museum operations. Theater Mack is one of the venues for the new Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival set to begin in Spring 2012.

Cayuga Museum Celebrating 75 Years


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2011 is the 75th Anniversary of the founding of the Cayuga Museum of History and Art. The Museum’s celebration kicks off with a gala dinner dance at the Holiday Inn in Auburn, NY on Saturday, May 7.

The Cayuga Museum opened its doors in the former Willard-Case Mansion on October 16, 1936. It was the culmination of a vision by founding director Walter Long, an art professor at Syracuse University, and representatives of many of the leading families of Auburn, to create a permanent home for the arts in Cayuga County.

The Museum was started with four divisions: Art, History, Industry and Children’s Activities. These four divisions have given rise to other great arts institutions in our community. The Merry-go-Round Playhouse started in the Children’s division of the Cayuga Museum; and the Art division was critical in the founding of the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center. Over the years, the Cayuga Museum has played a vital role in celebrating, preserving, and defining the history and culture of our area. Tens of thousands of people have visited the Museum exhibits; and thousands of families and businesses have donated objects to the Museum collection.

The Museum is coming full circle back to its earliest years, when the mansion’s carriage house was transformed into a community theater through a collaboration between the museum and the Community Players. Known then as the Cayuga Museum Annex, the theater was a popular venue for a variety of programs from the early 40’s through the early 70’s. Used primarily for storage for the past several decades, the carriage house is presently undergoing a major restoration that will return it to life. The second floor sound studio, where Theodore Case filmed some of the world’s first sound movies, will be open to the public for the first time. The main floor theater will be available for shows, concerts, and parties year ‘round, as well as being one of the venues of the summer Musical Theater Festival.

The Museum’s 75th Anniversary Dinner kicks off a celebration of this important milestone. The dinner will be May 7, at the Holiday Inn. Guests can dine on filet mignon, crab-stuffed sole or stuffed Portobello mushroom, and dance to the music of the Soul Traders. Tickets are $75 each and benefit the Museum’s operating fund.

This Fall, the Museum will host an exhibit on its own 75 years in the community, from the earliest discussions about creating a museum to the present, and showcasing treasures from the Museum collection. The Museum is asking the public to share their own memories or photographs of the Museum over the years. To reserve tickets to the dinner, or to share your memories, call the Museum at 253-8051.

Cayuga Museum Film Fest Seeks Entrants


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The 2011 Theodore Case Film Festival seeks entrants. Auburn’s only home-grown film festival honors the work of sound film pioneer Theodore Case and his Case Research Laboratory. Its mission is to further the experimental legacy of the Case Lab by promoting original visual media in Central New York. Festival organizers are actively seeking entries, spreading the word in movie houses, colleges, high schools and middle schools throughout Central New York. The work of area student and adult filmmakers will be screened at the Auburn Public Theater on June 10 and 11. The theater is on Genesee Street in downtown Auburn, the city which is proud to proclaim itself “The Birthplace of Talking Movies.”

Central New York residents are invited to submit their recent work (post January 2009) of thirty minutes or less. Entries should be on DVD. Entry forms may be picked up at the Cayuga Museum, 203 Genesee St., in Auburn, or downloaded from either the Theodore Case Film Festival’s website or the Museum’s website. Work in all genres is welcome and there is no entry fee. Deadline for entries is May 2, 2011.

Buffalo And Erie Offers B-Movie Series


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The Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society, in collaboration with the Buffalo B-Movie Series, announces “Movie Tuesdays,” a five-month schedule of Tuesday night screenings — a movie a month now through March of 2011.

B-Movie co-founder Scott Washburn brings his cinematic curatorial sensibilities and mind for mischief to the History Museum, which will host the film’s screenings in their 150-seat auditorium. Doors open at 7, films start at 7:30. Admission is $5 for BECHS members, $8 general.

Schedule

Tuesday, November 30, 2010: “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1933)
Directed by Juan Epstein. A brilliant silent interpretation of the Poe classic.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010: “Scrooge” (1933)
The first known film version of Charles Dickens’ beloved classic, starring Seymour Hicks.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011: “M, Eine stadt sucht einen moerder” (1934)
A Fritz Lang film. A child-killer is captured and tried by the city street people when the police fail to catch him. Starring Peter Lorre, in his first major film role.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011: “A Trip to the Moon” (1902) & “The House of Usher” (1928)
The only double-bill of the series. “A Trip to the Moon” (French: Le Voyage dans la lune) is a short, silent, science-fiction film by Georges Melies. “The House of Usher” is a Dadaist short version of Poe’s classic tale; a gorgeous, surrealist visual interpretation.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011: “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1920)
Director Robert Wiene brings us the first modern horror film. It’s gone on to influence a number of contemporary productions. A real classic!

About The Buffalo B-Movie Series

Since 2008, the Buffalo B-Movie Series has been screening the best of the worst (and sometimes the worst of the worst) films it can find, in a variety of locations. Its fans and audiences appreciate scripts that even infamously bad directors like John Waters and Ed Wood passed up. Some of the movies screened are so bad that they appear to possibly have had no script at all. (N.B. “The Creeping Terror” and “Manos — Hands of Fate.”) Or, in the case of “The Creeping Terror,” which lost its original dialogue –are entertaining by virtue of some of the most hilarious dubbing on the planet.

‘The Black Pirate’ Showing in Albany


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“The Black Pirate” (United States, 1926, 94 minutes, color, silent with live piano accompaniment provided by Mike Schiffer) will be shown on Friday, October 15 at 7:30 p.m. in the Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. Sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute, the screening is free and open to the public.

Starring the greatest of all swashbucklers, Douglas Fairbanks (who also wrote the script), “The Black Pirate” is widely hailed as one of the most spectacular action films of the silent era. Directed by Albert Parker, the film also pioneered the art of color with its use of “two-strip Technicolor.”

For additional information contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.