Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Pictorama readers may know that after months of Covid inflicted waiting, I recently turned our 600 square feet upside down and had a wall of bookcases and cabinets installed. If you live in one smallish room, such a project is pretty much a total renovation of the space and requires packing up about 85% of your possessions and then redistributing them. Once I have completed the unpacking process I will treat you to a bit of a tour of the shelves – toys newly installed. While I had my moments of extreme concern (What have I done?) in the end I am pleased with the results.
One of the byproducts of this kind of adventure is things you had forgotten about turning up. We purchased this photo, now many years ago, as part of a series of buys on eBay as a photo morgue was being sold by piece. We stumbled on the sale a bit of a ways into it or we probably would have bought even more, but this was one of the earlier buys, purchased just for its weird beauty. We framed it up and I think it did a stint on the wall before a reconfiguration moved it to our own photo morgue that (until recently) lived on my desk.
This photo is a lovely still from a 1919 Vitagraph film called The Wolf, based on a play of the Canadian woods by Eugene Walter. (That information is typed on the back of the photo, revealed when I popped it out of its frame.) This play, which appears to have been first produced about 11 years prior to the film, was an early hit in the career of Mr. Walter. I share a few posters for contemporaneous productions which were readily available online.
Eugene Walter (1874-1941) was a Spanish-American War vet with playwright credits starting in 1901 and ending with screenplay credits stretching to 1936. The sweet spot of his career seems to be seeing his numerous plays turned in early silent films like this one. The brief biography I read makes me think he may have lived fast and died fairly young. He was an athletic sort of man’s man. Left his wife for a New York showgirl he ultimately marries after running off to Mexico.
I think we can assume that my photo shows the stars, Earle Williams and Jane Novak, highlighted by a well directed reflector to get some light on their faces. The speed of the film means the water fall has turned into something more static, like ice, and despite the fact that they are clearly in a real outdoor setting, there is a charming artificiality to this photo which attracts me. It is both a gorgeous natural location and an early film set. I have no idea where it was taken, but it makes me think of spots in upstate New York, or where New Jersey turns to Pennsylvania. The cinematographer on the film was a man named Max Dupont. (His career seems to come on record in the year of this film, 1919, with a heyday of the 1920’s. It ends abruptly in 1932 with the film Mr. Robinson Caruso.)
Kim increased the contrast in this image, bringing out the pails at their feet and showing a bit more information in the darks than you think the photo has from this print. The photo is printed on paper which has become a bit perilously thin over time, corners a bit nibbled. I suspect I framed it upon arrival to help preserve it.
The IMDB film database has a lobby card from this film and below is another, nicer one, from a Wiki database. Other than that I cannot find other stills from the film which appears to be either lost or at a minimum unavailable. You can see it was the same location as my photo.
Wall space is always at a premium here at Deitch Studio, but I would like to find a spot to get this one back up where we can enjoy it. I think this photo is a bit of a prize item and we are glad to have it see the light of day again.