Sex (1920) and The Wet Parade (1932)

Sex (3)     Wet Parade (9)

Sex (1920) and The Wet Parade (1932) 

When I was at Cinevent in Columbus, Ohio this past May, there were many, many dealers selling loads of great, need-to-covet, DVDs. One of the vendors was selling rare, silent films for around $20 a piece but it was hard to rationalize buying one for that price when I could sometimes buy up to four or five for the same amount.  But my kind friend Hanna, who went with me for the weekend, treated me to SEX!  And I thought it was great!

As it turns out, this film is available in full on YouTube, but seeing it on a larger screen with a group of people is a lot more fun. What always makes these early films so extraordinary is their testament to the fact that young people, certainly in the 1920s, were just as inventive and interested in sex, drinking, risqué behaviour and artistic pushing-of-the-envelope as anyone was in the 1960s, 1980s and I suppose now.

Louise Glaum, whom I never heard of before viewing this film, so I have included a biography of her from Wikipedia, which may or may not be totally factual, was a contemporary of the most famous vamp of that period, Theda Bara. It was interesting to read about the difference between the two, at least in this film and Bara’s earlier and more famous (and one of her few surviving) films A Fool There Was (1915).  Glaum’s character becomes an “ordinary” woman when she settles down and her allure to her husband fades.  This is probably what happens when one person is in love with the image and glamor of the other, and when the real-life personality becomes familiar, the infatuation fades rather than love growing between the two.

What is interesting from a perspective some 94 years later is how so unlike a vamp Louse Glaum appears to be. She’s not what would be considered typically attractive and her seduction scenes aren’t particularly alluring.  But it’s possible to understand that her lifestyle in the film would have been considered on the wild side compared to the general publics’.  The men are still typical—two men in two different but identical situations asking their spouse why they are spying on them when they are the ones in the wrong.

My favourite scene, especially because of the décor, is when a group of them are dining and partying in the cabaret. The walls make it appear they are in a cavern and the serving staff are dressed in very odd outfits.

But in the end, the moral of the story really is, if you can dish it out, you have to be able to take it.


September 20, 2014

SEX (1920)

Sex (2)

J. Parker Read Jr. Productions. Directed by Fred Niblo. Writer: C. Gardner Sullivan. Cinematography by Charles J. Stumar. Art Direction by W.L. Heywood.  Film editing by Ralph Dixon.  Music by David Drazin.  Released:  April 4, 1921.  87 minutes.

Louise Glaum…………………………………………………. Adrienne Renault
Irving Cummings…………………………………………………. Dave Wallace
Peggy Pearce………………………………………………… Daisy Henderson
Myrtle Stedman………………………………………………….. Mrs. Overman
William Conklin…………………………………………………. Philip Overman
Jean Murat…………………………………………………………….. Minor Role

Theda Bara’s only real competitor for the title of premiere vamp is almost entirely forgotten today. Louise Glaum, like her sister femme fatale Bara, is shrouded in mystery. Her real name and even her date of death are listed differently in various sources (as examples, see Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database—although the Wikipedia entry seems more credible). Again, like Bara the mystery is deepened by the fact that so few of her films are available.

Glaum was movie pioneer Thomas H. Ince’s answer to Theda Bara. He cast her in dozens of films from 1914 until 1921, often playing a vamp. He hung names on her like “Spider Woman” and “Tiger Woman” to enhance her exotic allure. In the Three Musketeers (1916), she was a saloon girl (read: prostitute) who seduced the pure minister and precipitated the holocaust at the end of the movie.

But the film which garnered the most recognition for Glaum, undoubtedly because of its controversial title, was Sex (1920).  Produced by Ince through a subsidiary company headed by J. Parker Read, Jr. (both were later sued by Glaum for withholding monies owed), the film typified a style of filmmaking Hollywood directors and writers like Cecil B. DeMille were refining—that of a salacious story wrapped safely (if thinly) in a Judeo-Christian wrapper.

Louise Glaum

Louise Glaum

Directed by Fred Niblo, who would helm several notable femme fatale films of the 1920s—including Blood and Sand with Nita Naldi and The Temptress with Greta Garbo–and written by C. Gardener Sullivan, the scenarist behind Glaum’s earlier femme fatale hit Hell’s Hinges, the film presents a vamp on the verge of domestication. We first glimpse chorus girl Adrienne Renault (Glaum) descending from the rafters of theater in revealing spiderweb dress as she lies on a gossamer web.  Calling to her male victim, a dancer dressed in an equally exotic costume, he tries to resist but cannot. In the audience, among the drooling businessmen, is Philip Overman (William Conklin), Adrienne’s very rich and very married patron.

Backstage, Adrienne delivers a sermon on her philosophy of love in life to Peggy/Daisy (Viola Barry), {I notice this role has been credited to Viola Barry in a number of spots on the internet, but as far as my research went, she is a totally different actress and the role is played by Peggy Pearce. – Caren} the corn-fed innocent stumbling her way through the decadent life of the chorus girl. She takes her under her wing and saves are from drunken lotharios by infusing her with a sense of her own worth. She in fact mentors her: teaching her to look for stability and wealth, to develop a style in a diva-like attitude. Little does she know that her mentee will ultimately be her undoing and precipitate the central irony of the movie.

The dramatic centerpiece of the movie is the discovery by Overman’s wife (Myrtle Stedmen) of her husband’s love nest. She visits Adrienne, contentedly lounging about in lingerie in her luxurious apartment, with the intention of retrieving her husband. Adrienne, of course, hold her ground, telling the wife that she’s lost her man and now she possesses him. While they are arguing, the husband enters with flowers for his mistress. Humiliated, Mrs. Overman leaves both the apartment and her husband.

Irving Cummings

Irving Cummings

But Adrienne, unlike most of the Bara’s femme fatales, has a yearning for domesticity. In this, the writers add a very human layer to the character. Seeing that Overman will never marry her {that is incorrect – Caren}, she marries rich playboy Dave Wallace (played by actor/director Irving Cummings], hoping to change his ways.   She is unable to and soon he takes up with Adrienne’s former protégé, Daisy.

Toward the end of the film, the filmmakers construct a powerful scene that mirrors the earlier humiliation of Mrs. Overman. Wallace has rented Adrienne’s old apartment for his new mistress Daisy. Adrienne, dressed in a conservative black outfit resembling the clothes Mrs. Overman wore when visiting her, confronts Daisy.   Dressed in lingerie like Adrienne had worn in the earlier scene, she throws Adrienne’s philosophy back in her face (reprised in a flashback to the backstage scene}.

Peggy Pearce

Peggy Pearce

Fulfilling the role of the femme fatale, Adrienne of course does not take this humiliation quite as passively is Mrs. Overman did. She grabs a letter opener and threatens Daisy but loses her nerve. When Wallace enters the apartment to greet his mistress, the irony is complete. Adrienne disappears from the scene, appropriately sailing away on a Blue Star liner in a blue-tinted night, alone and forlorn. Unlike Bara at the end of A Fool There Was, who was victorious over her foolish lover, the vamp here has received her comeuppance. The Christian Victorian values of early-twentieth-century America are safe, at least for the moment.

Femme Fatale: Cinema’s Most Unforgettable Lethal Ladies by Dominique Mainon and James Ursini (2009)

Although Theda Bara is now the best-known exemplar of this erotic predatory figure of feminimity, this year it was instead, in the words of Photoplay columnist Herbert Howe, “Louise Glaum, another vamp making the world safe for sin” (Lowry).  Glaum (1894-1970), unlike Nazimova, was born in America, in Baltimore, and began her early acting career in a Los Angeles stock theater performance of the aptly titled Why Girls Leave Home.  Her screen debut in an unknown film for American Pathé occurred while she was still a teenager, but her vamping potential first became evident in Thomas Ince’s Hell’s Hinges (1916), where at the age of twenty-one, playing the barmaid Dolly, her character gets the Reverend Robert (Jack Standing) drunk, seduces him, and then ruins him by letting the townspeople discover him in her bed. Hinges was a western vehicle for Ince’s upright cowboy star William S. Hart, but the vamp, smoking, with feet exposed and lips so red, is a figure more typically defined by the environs of the big city.  The instrument that would give Glaum her vampire crown would take place in just such an urban locale, on similar stages in New York City, the same city where Edith May had first realized her dreams and her newfound theatrical fame.  The film, in which Glaum would “give to the screen one of the most perfect vampire characterizations,” would be the bluntly titled Sex, a seven-reel “special feature” directed by Fred Niblo and produced by J. Parker Read Jr. at Ince Studios in Hollywood-adjacent Culver City (Fox and Silver).  The photoplay of Sex, penned by C. Gardern Sullivan, Ince’s highly respected writer and studio script supervisor, tells the story of Adrienne Renault (Glaum), queen of the Midnight Follies at the Frivolity Theater, a character described in the Monessen Daily Independent as “a dazzling, alluring home wrecker…who never had a qualm of conscious about taking another’s husband” (“Sex”).

Myrtle Stedman

As the film’s story begins, Adrienne’s current conquest is Phillip Overman (William Conklin), a self-satisfied baron of business who sits in his luxurious private box, simultaneously savoring champagne and his lover’s performance of the “Spider Dance.” The opening theatrical number is set within a faerie-like woodland and begins with Glaum’s dramatic entrance, dressed as a black widow spider.  In her first moment, she appears floating above the Frivolity stage, clad in a translucent cloak of webs wrapped cloak-like around a body-hugging shimmering black sheath.  Literally in the spotlight, she descends slowly to the stage’s forest floor, a sequence intercut with images of the theater audience’s wild adulation.  The newspaper’s reviewer aptly critiques the odd performance of Adrienne’s arachnid-like movements that follow her earthly touchdown,  Deeming Glaum “strangely beautiful,” the writer, nonetheless, notes that she “was never made to be a dancer, and it seems that she realizes this fact herself” (“Sex”).  Contrasted with this crowded scene of a group of men adoring a dangerous female is another of Mrs, Overman (Myrtle Stedman) “spending the evening alone…as usual” in her cavernous and empty manor.  When Mrs. Overman learns of Adrienne’s hold on her husband through a private detective she has hired, she pleads to the vamp’s sense of “fair play” to free her man from her powerfully erotic grasp.  Adrienne, of course, refuses.  Meanwhile, young chorine Daisy Henderson (Peggy Pierce), a fictional version of Edith May recently removed from rural life, “still dazed by the fact she is now a member of the Frivolity beauty squad,” is shocked by the Machiavellian behavior of her new colleague.  But Adrienne, in a sequence of wild bacchanalia and table dancing, instructs the new small town ingénue in the ways of handling married men.  Adrienne, however, soon ends up casting Overman aside when she falls for self-effacing but “rich as sin” Pittsburgh industrialist David Wallace (Irving Cummings).  She is caught, according to the film’s intertitles, in “a web of love [that] aroused within her the instinct of the nest-builder.”  In the fourth reel Adrienne marries Wallace and withdraws from her former theatrical life, taking on the role of dutiful, if extravagantly attired, wife.  Unfortunately for Adrienne, she schooled Daisy a bit too well in the vampire’s art, and she soon learns that her new husband is having an affair of his own, with the once innocent village maiden, now herself the reigning queen of Broadway.  In the penultimate scene of the film, Adrienne goes begging to Daisy, like Mrs. Overman not so long ago had done to her, pleading for her own husband’s release.  But Daisy, in a dramatic two-shot that draws the two women’s faces into a single close-up, rejects Adrienne’s desperate appeal, repeating back to her the very philosophy Adrienne had taught her in the first reel.  Despondent and alone, Adrienne boards a ship bound for Europe, only to find the Overmans on a second honeymoon, now happily reunited.  As the sun sets into the sea, and the film reaches its unusually unhappy conclusion, the lesson of the vamp’s life is made explicit in a final intertitle: “The standards of morality eternally demand that the  naked soul of Sex be stripped of its falsehoods—which can only be atoned for through bitter tears.”


Although Sex would have its national premiere in the spring, on 11 April, at the Fabian Garden Theatre in Paterson, New Jersey, it would not reach Monessen’s Star Theater until more than six months later, arriving with a new and lengthier title, Sex Crushed to Earth.  This oddly prosaic designation was a courtesy, or rather a requirement, of the Pennsylvania State Board of Motion Picture Censors.  The title change, necessary for exhibition of the movie anywhere in the state, was in addition to a number of unknown alterations and deletions to the film itself required by the censors.   The Pennsylvania Board, notorious as one of the most severe of the various motion picture censor groups around the country, proscribed the film’s new title with the intention of clarifying the pedagogical nature of its narrative, to make clear the lesson learned concerning the immorality of Adrienne’s onscreen life.  Additionally, by adding the depressive phrase “Crushed to Earth,” the censors hoped to remove any exploitive “prurient” possibility the original title might have allowed for exhibitors promoting the film.  If the potential sexual deviance of the vamp figure was modified and downplayed by the censor for its Pennsylvania exhibition, W. Roy McShaffrey, the owner of the Star, could still promote the film “as the most ‘lavish’ picture to appear in Monessen,” as well as reminding his audience of the existing star text of Glaum as an object of erotic desire.  In the ads and notices in the newspaper leading up to the Star’s three-day exhibition of the film, primary attention is given to the wardrobe, particularly the twenty-four “gorgeous gowns” worn by Glaum and promoted by McShaffrey as costing $500,000 (Adv. For Sex).

McShaffrey, who had first begun his career as a showman putting on traveling tent shows around the region, had recently reopened and enlarged the Star Theater after a fire the previous year severely damaged the building, increasing its now-upholstered seating to just under a thousand, including a new 300-seat balcony. To create an exhibition environment to match the excessive spectacle of the movie itself, McShaffrey chose to promote Sex Crushed to Earth with an “out of the ordinary” display both on and around the theater’s exterior and inside the playhouse, “decorating the lobby for the occasion with cut flowers and plants…and building a special stage setting…with a gorgeous display of chrysanthemums arranged by M. Irwin Flower store” (“Gorgeous”).  Despite any potential disruptions to the narrative or promotional limitations caused by the censors’ required changes, the film was a “smash” in Monessen and did good business for McShaffrey’s Star, which would go on to exhibit at least two other Louise Glaum pictures this year.

American Cinema of the 1920s: Themes and Variations article by Michael Aronson, book edited by Lucy Fischer, (2009)

Sex (4)

Sex is a 1920 American silent drama film directed by Fred Niblo, written by C. Gardner Sullivan, produced by J. Parker Read, and starring Louise Glaum. On its surface, the film was a morality story on the evils of marital infidelity. However, the film’s producer, J. Parker Read, had made a series of pictures on sex themes. The release of Sex, with its provocative title and explicit scenes of seduction and debauchery, made it the subject of controversy among censors and commentators.

One of the unusual elements in the filming of Sex was the use of three cameras. One camera was used to produce the negative from which prints were to be made for use in the United States, and a second was used to be used for foreign prints. The third camera was “placed at an angle different from either of the others” and “was used in the expectation that a unique angle might provide a more interesting view of the dramatic action.

The film was a box office hit and received extensive coverage in the newspapers in 1920. A Massachusetts newspaper gave the film the following review:

“‘Sex,’ the wonderplay of the season … is startling, even bold in spots, but very, very nice. The picture has undeniable virtues and just as undeniable vices but they belong to the characters in the piece for ‘Sex’ has a ‘soul.’ … A problem, beautifully presented and cleverly analyzed that leaves us with a sense of the infinite at the end — which is distinctly unusual — and which is entirely free from the sticky-sweet sentimentality of too many photoplays is the theme of sex. … The art of the producer, applied with lavish, yet discriminating hand and the talents of the star make ‘Sex’ superlative entertainment and food for thought.”

Sex (10)

Spider Woman

A Pennsylvania newspaper wrote: “We have heard a great deal in the past year about ‘pictures with a soul’ but we never quite got the significance of the ‘soul-picture’ until we saw ‘Sex’ with Louise Glaum as the star.” A Chicago newspaper called it “a lesson to thousands of frivolous creatures who fool themselves into believing that youth lasts forever, that pleasure is life’s chief object and that one can violate the laws that regulate our domestic lives and get away with it.”

Glaum’s performance as the “vampish” Renault drew extensive coverage. One reviewer called it “one of the most perfect vampire characterizations” ever given in a motion picture. Another review called Renault “a dazzling, alluring home wrecker … who never had a qualm of conscience about taking another’s husband.”

When the film was screened in 2004, Los Angeles Times film critic, Kevin Thomas, wrote: “Six years before Mae West dared to call her play ‘Sex,’ Thomas Ince produced and Fred Niblo directed a 1920 film called ‘Sex,’ starring pioneering screen vamp Louise Glaum as a New York cabaret star, the mistress of a married man. What gives the film its edge is that in truth she is simply a blunt, honest woman who doesn’t realize her own vulnerability.

Peggy Pearce and Louise Glaum

Peggy Pearce and Louise Glaum

The film’s title and subject matter were the subject of controversy in some locations. Playing off of the film’s provocative title, newspaper advertising (see example above) urged readers to “SEE SEX SEE SEX SEE SEX.”

The Pennsylvania State Board of Motion Picture Censors refused to allow the film to be shown in Pennsylvania under its provocative title. To appease the censors, the film was distributed in Pennsylvania under the title Sex Crushed to Earth.

In Hagerstown, Maryland, the theater owner defended his showing of the film by pointing to its “social import”:

“Of all the social problems that beset the world that of ‘Sex’ is indubitably the greatest. The ‘mystery’ of the sex equation has given rise to innumerable pruderies and pruriencies but Manager Thropp of the Colonial Theatre has come out flatly with the pronouncement that he has booked ‘Sex’ … because of its vast social import.”

The film was a box office success, and the Los Angeles Times reported that it had led to a war being declared in some quarters against “sex pictures.” Echoing the response of Sex producer, J. Parker Read, the Times in February 1921 wrote:

“Sex has an important part in life either for evil or good, and it is the producers’ privilege to show the error of the former and the virtue of the latter. Anybody who would wish to ban sex pictures from the screen, would be simply eliminating a highly important, if not the most important phase of life from the pictures. Thus did J. Parker Read, impresario of sensational sex films, outline his attitude toward the present agitation against pictures on sex themes.”

Sex by Wikipedia

Louise Glaum and Peggy Pearce

Louise Glaum and Peggy Pearce

Louise Glaum (September 4, 1888 – November 25, 1970) was an American actress. Known for her role as a femme fatale in silent era motion picture dramas, she was credited with giving one of the best characterizations of a vamp in her early career.

Glaum began her acting career on the stage in Los Angeles, her hometown, in 1907. After a few years, she went on the road with a touring company and performed as an ingenue in the play Why Girls Leave Home. She stayed on in Chicago, where she appeared in a number of productions. After returning to Los Angeles in 1911 because of the death of her younger sister, Glaum found acting work at a movie studio. She appeared in over 110 movies from 1912 to 1925, her debut being in When the Heart Calls.

After starring in Greater Than Love (1921), she retired from the screen and moved to New York. In 1925, she sued for money owed her for movie work amounting to $103,000. The suit was ultimately dismissed by the court due to technicalities. Glaum made a final movie appearance in 1925. Under contract with Associated Exhibitors, she starred as the conniving other woman opposite Lionel Barrymore in a drama directed by Henri Diamant-Berger titled Fifty-Fifty.

For over three years, Glaum headlined on the vaudeville circuit in dramatic playtest. She presented a play in which she starred, Trial Marriage, in Los Angeles in 1928. Continuing to act on the stage, she opened and appeared in her own theatre in Los Angeles in the mid-1930s and became a drama instructor. Glaum was active in music clubs over the following decades. She served as president of the Matinee Musical Club for many years and was also state president of the California Federation of Music Clubs.

Sex (9)


She was born near Baltimore, Maryland, the third of four daughters of John W. Glaum (July 9, 1856–July 7, 1934) and Lena Katherine Kuhn (December 30, 1863–July 1, 1946). Her sisters were Hattie Helen “Phyllis” Glaum (September 7, 1884–February 4, 1941); Lena K. Glaum (December 22, 1887–January 15, 1971); and Margaret Olive Glaum (October 11, 1896–June 18, 1911).

Her father was born as Johannes Wilhelm Glaum in Germany, emigrated with his family to the U.S. in 1869, and lived in Indiana, then Prince George’s County, Maryland, while her mother was born in New York to German-born parents. John and Lena Glaum and family moved to Southern California in the late 1890s, and lived in Pasadena for several years before moving into Los Angeles. Louise attended Berendo School on South Berendo Street in Pico Heights.

Glaum began her acting career in stock stage productions. She was in the cast of Crucifixus, a Passion play, which opened on November 12, 1907, at the Gamut Auditorium, 1044 South Hope Street, in Los Angeles, before a good-sized audience. In early June 1908, she appeared in the Owen Davis play How Baxter Butted In, a melodramatic comedy, at the Los Angeles Theatre on Spring Street. The cast included Lulu Warrenton and a number of others. Glaum then toured as an ingénue with a road show in Why Girls Leave Home. She earned $25 a week and furnished her own gowns, which she made herself. After reaching Chicago, she played ingénues in the Imperial Stock Company there for a year and a half, appearing in The Lion and the Mouse and The Squaw Man, among other plays. While performing in a summer stock engagement in Toledo, she created the ingénue role in Officer 666. Its playwright, Augustin MacHugh, her theatre director in Toledo, tried it out there before Broadway ever saw the successful farce.

Upon the death of her younger sister, Margaret, in June 1911, Glaum resigned and returned home to Los Angeles. On July 29, the Los Angeles Times read, “Louise Glaum, ingénue, who made her professional start here a few years ago, is at home on a short visit. Of late she has been playing in Chicago.”

Her mother wanted her to remain, but the desire to return to the stage possessed her. She compromised, however; while acting as the ingénue in a local theatre company, she began making the rounds of the movie studios.

Sex - William Conklin and Louise Glaum


Glaum made her movie debut playing the ingénue role as Mary Gordon, the rancher’s daughter, in the Al Christie directed short western/comedy When the Heart Calls (1912) at Nestor Studios, the first studio actually located in Hollywood. She acted in straight comedy, never doing slapstick, from the start, and played leads exclusively. She starred in the title role of the Broncho Motion Picture Company’s two-reel drama The Quakeress (1913) opposite Charles Ray and the ill-fated William Desmond Taylor. The year Glaum arrived, Nestor was merged with the Universal Film Company. A large number of episodes in the Universal Ike series of one-reel comedies are among her body of work in 1914.

Signing with Thomas Ince, her first role as a “vamp,” and first starring role in the new five-reel features, was as Mademoiselle Poppea in The Toast of Death (1915) opposite Harry Keenan and Herschel Mayall. It was directed by Thomas Ince at his Inceville Studio in Topanga Canyon. That same year, she appeared in the role as cabaret star Kitty Molloy in The Iron Strain, the first American film adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, a modern version in which she starred opposite Dustin Farnum, Enid Markey, and Charles K. French.

Glaum played Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers (1916). She appeared in six westerns opposite William S. Hart, including her roles as Dolly in Hell’s Hinges (1916), Trixie in The Aryan (1916) and Poppy in The Return of Draw Egan (1916). She played Leila Aradella in The Wolf Woman (1916); and Marie Chaumontel in the war drama Somewhere in France (1916) opposite Howard C. Hickman.

On February 20, 1916, she and director Harry J. Edwards (October 11, 1887–May 26, 1952) were married. They were divorced on March 17, 1919.

Glaum played the role as Lola Montrose in the drama A Strange Transgressor (1917). Then, totally opposite to dramatic type, she starred in the title role as a gun slinging heroine, the female equivalent to Bill Hart, in the Triangle Company’s western Golden Rule Kate (1917).

She played Mary Thorne in the drama The Goddess of Lost Lake (1918), which she also co-produced through her own production company, the Louise Glaum Organization. It is the story of a young woman who is a quarter Native American and decides to pretend she is a full-blooded Indian princess when she visits her father’s rustic cabin after completing college in the East.

William Conklin not looking too happy, with Louise Glaum

William Conklin not looking too happy, with Louise Glaum

Glaum then began working with J. Parker Read Jr. Productions, which she later described as J. Parker Read, Jr.’s unit as a subsidiary producing company for Thomas Ince. She signed a four-year contract, with a salary starting at $2000 a week and increasing to $4000, and some of the features she starred in for that company were as Mignon in Sahara (1919), a big financial success that was written especially for the star by C. Gardner Sullivan, with the production supervised by Allan Dwan; and the dual roles as Princess Sonia and as her daughter, Sonia, in the crime/thriller The Lone Wolf’s Daughter (1919).

She played the roles as Adrienne Renault in the provocatively titled Sex (1920), the story of a New York cabaret star who uses her sex appeal to end a marriage then leaves her lover for a wealthier prospect only to have her selfish way of life come back to haunt her; and the title role in The Leopard Woman (1920), a secret agent adventure set in Africa. She then played the role as Natalie Storm in a romance/drama titled Love (1920).

Glaum was maintaining her own household in Los Angeles, when the 1920 census was enumerated, with a married couple, housekeeper and caretaker, and a gardener. After starring in the role as Grace Merrill in the drama Greater Than Love (1921), directed by Fred Niblo, she retired from the screen and moved to New York.

On March 16, 1925, she filed suit in the Supreme Court of New York against producer J. Parker Read, Jr., for $103,000 and asked for an attachment against money owed him by various film distributors in New York City. The complaint stated she was starred in several pictures under Read’s direction, and on December 23, 1921, he made a promissory note to her for the money, payable in four installments. Nothing was paid, however, and in the Fall of 1923, according to Glaum, he went to Paris without paying her. According to her attorney, Read’s departure took the form of a flight and he had disguised himself as a stoker on a ship.

She then sued the estate of Thomas H. Ince, Read’s partner, stating that Read was insolvent and asking for the $103,000 plus $290,000 for breach of contract. The Appellate Division, however, decided that she could not prosecute a suit in the state against the executors under the will of Ince on the grounds that the New York courts had no jurisdiction over the executors, who were appointed in California, in which state Ince was a resident at the time he died in November 1924. She then filed suit in California, but a copy of the contract was not attached. By the time that arrived, the time had elapsed in which she was legally entitled to make a claim against the Ince estate and the court dismissed the suit on technicalities.

She made one screen comeback. Signing a contract with Associated Exhibitors, she played the role as Nina Olmstead, the conniving other woman, in the Henri Diamant-Berger directed drama Fifty-Fifty (1925) opposite Hope Hampton and Lionel Barrymore.

Louise Glaum with Irving Cummings declaring his love

Louise Glaum with Irving Cummings declaring his love


Glaum stayed away from Los Angeles for over three years as she headlined on the big-time vaudeville circuit in the East. She did a tour of Loew’s Theatres in two dramatic playlets. One of them was The Sins of Julia Boyd by Paul Girard Smith. The other was The Web, which Glaum wrote herself. She was the only character in the one person show, putting over the argument of the piece chiefly by a telephone conversation.

On January 19, 1926, Glaum and movie theater owner Zachary M. Harris (January 22, 1878–March 5, 1964) were married in New York City.

When she returned to Los Angeles, with her husband and business manager, Zack Harris, to visit her family and friends, they decided to stage the play Trial Marriage at the Egan Theatre, 1320 South Figueroa Street, with Glaum in the starring role. When asked by a reporter for the Times whether she would be doing any picture work, she said she had not thought of it, but acknowledged that she was interested in talking pictures.

On November 16, 1928, Glaum opened in Trial Marriage, the story of a woman who wants to test the suitability of her prospective mate and herself to each other without the benefit of wedlock before they make it permanent. Although she received good reviews, the play did not fare so well.

She and Harris lived at 2282 Cambridge Street in Los Angeles, in 1930. Glaum continued to act on the stage and also became a drama instructor, opening and appearing in her own theatre in Los Angeles in the mid-1930s.

Aboard Ship

Louise Glaum, Walter Conklin and Mrtyle Stedman Aboard Ship


On January 6, 1935, Glaum announced in the Los Angeles Times the opening of the Louise Glaum Little Theatre of Union Square, which was inside a remodeled and redecorated movie theater with a seating capacity of 400 located at 1122 West 24th Street near Hoover in the West Adams District. The stated purpose was to provide drama with enlivening moments by way of scheduled plays of moment and actual integrity. Several New York plays were considered, and the intention was to present original manuscripts with motion picture possibilities, as well as tried plays from around the world. Both professionals and students were to be cast in productions, as well as some of the featured players of the past.” Classes for students wanting to join the Union Square Players, and “learn by practical experience,” began on January 21.

The little theatre generated a great deal of interest among local playwrights inasmuch as Glaum had received some 15 plays by January 27. One of the most intriguing was Eulalia Andreas’s A Friendly Divorce, which went into rehearsal with Johnstone White directing. Noted stars were lured to perform. In March 1935, Glaum and Betty Blythe, another star of the silent screen, starred in Angel Cake, which was written by Ansella Hunter, who had three plays staged by the Shuberts.

In May, the Union Square Players presented the comedy Ask Herbert, which was written by Katherine Kavanaugh and declared in the Los Angeles Times to be “a riot of laughs” and “a fast-paced farce of Broadway caliber.” Among the cast that Glaum assembled was Herbert Vigran, who went to New York and made his debut on Broadway later that year.

In 1936, Glaum joined the Matinee Musical Club. A drama department was introduced as an innovation to the club and Glaum was appointed the director. Plans for three one-act plays to be presented in November at the club were discussed by the department members on August 7, at the department chairman’s home in Beverly Hills. She presented three one-act plays for the club on November 17, 1937, in the Creative Arts Center at 4950 Franklin Avenue in Hollywood.

In late September 1939, Glaum took over a theatre at 11th Street and Broadway in Downtown Los Angeles, designating it the “Louise Glaum’s Happy Hollow.” Opening on Wednesday night, September 27, in the rural play Aaron Slick From Pumpkin Creek, which had a continuous run for three months in Long Beach, specialties were offered between the acts.

Another rural play with specialties was presented at the Happy Hollow Playhouse on January 11, 1940, for the Matinee Musical Club, which had a Gay Nineties party at the theatre.

In September 1952, Glaum reopened the Beaux Arts Theatre, at the corner of West 8th Street and Beacon Avenue in Westlake, as the Louise Glaum Playhouse, which was generally referred to as the Louise Glaum Beaux Arts Theatre. The initial attraction, which she produced, staged and directed, was a comedy farce titled O.K. By Me, which was written by Sheldon Sheppard. The play concluded a seven-week run on November 22.

All Alone

All Alone


Glaum was also a busy clubwoman over the last three decades of her life. She served as president of the Matinee Musical Club for many years and also as state president of the California Federation of Music Clubs.

Louise Glaum died at age 82 of pneumonia in Los Angeles. Her funeral service was held at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, November 28, 1970, at Pierce Brothers Mortuary, 720 West Washington Boulevard. She is interred in Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery, along with her second husband, Zachary Harris, and others of her family. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her work in motion pictures at 6834 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood.

Louise Glaum by Wikipedia

Sex (1)

To See SEX (1920) in Full, Click on the Above Image


Just like abortion, one of our contemporary issues, in the prohibition period of 1920-1933 you chose either to be “Wet” or “Dry”. American humorist Will Rogers, who I am growing more to love with each film of his that I watch, joked about southern prohibitionists: “The South is dry and will vote dry. That is, everybody sober enough to stagger to the polls.”

When I first saw this film, I was quite taken with the aspect that the studio was brave enough to make a film out of the novel by controversial writer Upton Sinclair. Mind you, I’ve never read this one, but in my youth I did read The Jungle and certainly remember he was thought-provoking even if my sheltered life was quite different from his characters’.

This film portrays more evils than good and what I mean by that is we first see the devastation of alcoholism on the lives of individuals and their families. Prohibition seems to be the answer to some of their loved-ones prayers.  But of course it isn’t because if a junkie can’t find his regular fix, he has to find a substitute.  It’s a rare duck who can go “cold turkey”.  And this leads to greed by the people taking advantage of this great need and then even more ruin to the alcoholics and their families.  In this film depiction, there is quite enough catastrophe to go around for all involved.

Jimmy Durante is in this film and to me he comes out of left field. Known as a comedian from the vaudeville era, he had his own style and shtick.  Although he plays the straight role of a prohibition agent, he does so in his trademark comedic way: fast talking, comic disguises and “Ha-cha-cha-chah”.  It’s interesting that he is cast on the anti-alcohol side of things, yet is slightly ridiculous.  Is there a hidden meaning by the studio in this statement?

A piece of propaganda that the government and pro-prohibitionist pushed during its campaign in the war years leading up to prohibition was that instead of using these grains to make alcohol, they would be better served to make food to send to the boys overseas. This piece of history was a surprise to me as I don’t remember hearing this before.  I did a history project on the 1920s way back in grade 13, so maybe I knew that then, but certainly have no recollection. So how much food was sent from America at that time, and how much of that would have been baked goods?

I like that this film was made just before the end of prohibition by a community that thumbed their noses at it—there was always free-flowing booze in Hollywood, and certainly for wealthy citizens all over America, they would have had their own poison-free stock.

Although there is a larger cast of black actors in the scenes that take place in the South, with only one black representative in the scenes in the North where the bulk of the story takes place, you still get an idea what life was like for black folk in early years of the 20th century.

Keep your eyes open for Max Davidson’s small, straight role as bootleg peddler Mr. Schwartz. And expect to be enthralled by an almost unrecognizable Walter Huston in his portrayal of Pow Tarleton.

So enjoy this snapshot of history and the real question—the unresolved conclusion of how to help alcoholics become free of their addiction.


Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Directed by Victor Fleming.  Novel by Upton Sinclair.  Adapted by John Lee Mahin.  Produced by Hunt Stromberg.  Cinematography by George Barnes.  Film editing by Anne Bauchens.  Costume Design by Adrian.  Music by William Axt.  Art Direction by Cedric Gibbons.  Sound by Douglas Shearer.  Released:  March 26, 1932.  118 minutes.

Dorothy Jordan…………………………………………………….. Maggie May
Lewis Stone……………………………………………………… Roger Chilcote
Neil Hamilton……………………………………………….. Roger Chilcote, Jr.
Emma Dunn……………………………………………………….. Mrs. Chilcote
Robert Young……………………………………………………….. Kip Tarleton
Walter Huston……………………………………………………… Pow Tarleton
Jimmy Durante……………………………………………………… Abe Shilling
Wallace Ford………………………………………………………….. Jerry Tyler
Myrna Loy………………………………………………………… Eileen Pinchon
Joan Marsh………………………………………………….. Evelyn Fessenden
John Miljan………………………………………………………. Major Doleshal

The futility of war was by no means the only serious issue dealt with on screen in the ‘30s. The phase “socially conscious,” usually associated with plays and novels, could be applied with equal justice to a surprising number of films, considering the Production Code, the power of the New York offices, the general fear of offending anyone and the public’s overwhelming preference for escapist fare, the wonder is not that more outspoken films were not made but that any were made at all.

Robert Young, Walter Huston and Neil Hamilton

Robert Young, Walter Huston and Neil Hamilton

MGM’s The Wet Parade (1932), based on an Upton Sinclair novel, was an ambitious film over two hours long, which so thoroughly explored both the dangers of drink and the evils of Prohibition that it ended up taking no side.  The cast was listed in two parts, “The Parade in the South” and “The Parade in the North.”  In the South in 1915 we meet the Chilcote family, Roger (Lewis Stone), a courtly aristocrat but a hopeless drunk, who after a two-day binge kills himself in a pigpen, to the shock of his wife (Emma Dunn), his son Roger Jr. (Neil Hamilton), who goes to New York to become a writer, and his daughter Maggie May (Dorothy Jordan).

In New York young Roger stays at a small residential hotel run by hard-working Mrs. Tarleton (Clara Blandick) and her son (Robert Young), while Mr. Tarleton (Walter Huston) spends his time talking big in saloons. The 1916 Wilson-Hughes election, the declaration of war and the advent of Prohibition are all accurately depicted.  Tarlton must now pay exorbitant prices even for phony whiskey.  When his wife breaks a bottle, in a drunken rage he kills her and is sentenced to life.

Dorothy Jordan, Robert Young and Walter Huston

Dorothy Jordan, Robert Young and Walter Huston

Meanwhile Maggie May has come North and married Kip, who become a dry agent, working with his comical friend Abe (Jimmy Durante). Roger Chilcote, Jr., a successful playwright, is involved with Eileen (Myrna Loy), an entertainer, who deserts him when he goes blind from rotgut liquor.  In the climax Kip is kidnaped by bootleggers and saved from death by Abe at the cost of his own life.  Even the dry agents themselves speak of the hopeless futility of their task and note how Prohibition has actually increased drinking.

From Scarface to Scarlett: American Films in the 1930s by Roger Dooley (1979)

Robert Young and Dorothy Jordan

Robert Young and Dorothy Jordan

With regards to D. W. Griffiths The Struggle (1931) and Victor Flemings The Wet Parade (1932), adapted from the Upton Sinclair novel.  Both films attempted a realistic portrayal of alcoholism in the face of growing concern over the social consequences of prohibition—a central issue in the 1932 election.   Despite its sermonizing tone, The Struggle presents an intimate story of a working-class alcoholic trying to hold his life together. The Wet Parade bends Sinclair’s novel into a sensationalist, anti-prohibition polemic in which characters are killed, blinded, and driven insane by toxic bootlegged liquor. The only other significant pre-war example not connected with prohibition was A Star is Born (1937), in which a movie star recedes into alcoholism and ultimately commits suicide as a result of his flagging career. In all three circumstances, the alcoholic becomes the center of narrative focus, and yet the lived logic of alcoholism still remained inscrutable.  Only The Wet Parade contains any subjective shots, employed in unremarkable fashion to represent the character’s descent into insanity.  But in none of these films do alcoholics themselves seize the gavel of narrative authority. They remain largely objects rather than subjects of concern. See Peter Roffman and Jim Purdy, The Hollywood Social Problem Film: Madness Despair and Politics from the Depression to the Fifties.

Intimate Elsewheres: Altered States of Consciousness in Post WWII American Cinema, a dissertation by Kevin B. Fisher

Jimmy Durante and Robert Young

Jimmy Durante and Robert Young

Many a bottle of whisky is imbibed or smashed during the screening of the pictorial version of Upton Sinclair’s novel, “The Wet Parade,” which came to the Rialto yesterday. This story of the ravages of John Barleycorn goes from the wet age to this year of grace—leaving the old devil Drink where he is now.

In the opening interlude there is the suicide of a Southern aristocrat, whose body is found in a pig-sty. After prohibition comes, a drunkard kills his wife, a young man is blinded by poisoned alcohol and a prohibition agent, impersonated by Jimmy Durante, is killed by a gangster’s bullet.

Its bickerings and scenes in barrooms of men with unquenchable thirsts are bound to recall the old classic, “Ten Nights in a Barroom.” After listening to the melodramatic incidents it is quite a relief to hear Mr. Durante’s characteristic brand of humor. This picture, however, is endowed with several excellent performances, notably those given by Lewis Stone and Walter Huston. Both impersonate drunkards.

Neil Hamilton and Myrna Loy

Neil Hamilton and Myrna Loy

“The Wet Parade” runs for something like two hours, and while many of its scenes are undoubtedly interesting, it seems much too long. It attempts to tell of virtually everything in wet times and the present-day speakeasy, including references to capitalists who are willing to risk money in backing bootleggers. Some of it rings true, but it seems as though the inebriates were handpicked cases. The head of the prohibition agents admits that he has little sympathy with the dry cause, although he is obviously honorable.

Abe, played by Mr. Durante, characterizes youngsters drinking as “a lot of peach-fuzz chins getting drunk at high noon. You never saw that before prohibition.”

Abe’s colleague avers that the prohibition agents do not seem to be checking things much, and Abe replies: “Did you ever hear about the guy who tried to take a shower under Niagara Falls?”

Bootleg Poison

Bootleg Poison

Possibly one of the best episodes is that revealing the making of intoxicating drinks in this city. There is the printing of labels of all sorts, the pouring of denatured alcohol into barrels, the filling of bottles, the corking machine, sticking labels on bottles, clamping the tinfoil over the corks, the stamping of “Canada” on gunnysacks, wetting the sacks, passing them through salt; and then, after they are filled with a dozen bottles, they are sewn up and ready for the unfortunate consumer. Certainly this is enough to make many fight shy of bootlegged whisky.

The early stages show Roger Chilcote and his family in their Southern abode. Chilcote is in the habit of staggering down to dinner after pending hours at various bars. Mr. Stone acts this part admirably. Chilcote is usually polite, but he dislikes any invasion of his privacy when taking an extra nip. In the end he is supposed to cut his throat, an act that follows on the heels of a gambling game and two days in a saloon.

When the story turns to New York here is a prototype of Chilcote—in he matter of a man who is a drunkard—in Pow Tarleton, whose wife and son manage a small hotel. Tarleton steals money, begs and threatens others with violence in order to satisfy his desire for whisky. Mr. Huston also gives an excellent performance in this rôle. A good deal of footage is given over to the Presidential campaigns of Woodrow Wilson and Charles Evans Hughes. There are election speeches, one being made by Tarleton, and for a while the Democratic camp is a picture of woe because of the presumed election of Hughes. Subsequently California turns the tide and Wilson is elected and the Democrats go about shouting: “Four years more—we’ll stay out of the war.”

Prohibition Agents Making a Raid

Prohibition Agents Making a Raid

After several cleverly photographed scenes comes the intimation of prohibition and finally the passage of the Volstead act. There are flashes of persons lined up to buy whisky and gin and others of the tenants of the Tarleton Hotel bringing in their bottles and cases. In the cabarets half a dozen men parade with mourning bands on their arms and straw hats amid riotous scenes.

Tarleton, after swallowing some bootleg whisky, is seen by his wife, capitally played by Clara Blandick. Because she smashes the bottle, Tarleton attacks her and kills her. He is sentenced to prison for life. Tarleton’s son, Kip, acted by Robert Young in a sterling fashion, is in love with Maggie May, Chilcote’s daughter. The romance between these two is quite appealing. Kip becomes a prohibition agent, going around with Abe, and in a penultimate episode he is “taken for a ride” by gangsters and rescued by his colleague.

Neil Hamilton is another who deserves credit for his work here as Chilcote’s son who becomes blind through drinking bad whisky. John Miljan, Myrna Loy, Joan Marsh, and Clarence Muse are among those who serve this picture well.

Myrna as Eileen Pinchon

Myrna as Eileen Pinchon

The New York Times Review by Mordaunt Hall., April 22, 1932

Blogs written by other film enthusiasts:

Miss Liberty’s Guide to Film: Movies for the Libertarian Millennium

Hal C.F. Astell at APOCALYPSE LATER on April 7, 2007

Samuel Wilson at MONDO 70: A Wild World of Cinema on December 29, 2011

Lindsey TMP at THE MOTION PICTURES on January 19, 2014

Joining me for the evening was Ronda, Chris, Sandy, Shaun, Allison, Stan, Allen, Calvin, Andrea, Rolf, Hanna, Arny, Andrea and David.


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