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18 August 2017

Miriam Jordan

Beautiful, British Miriam 'Mimi' Jordan (1904-1987) enjoyed a brief career in Hollywood as a leading lady during the early 1930s. Her best known films are Sherlock Holmes (1932) and I Loved You Wednesday (1933), but most of her work was confined to the stage.

Miriam Jordan
Big German card by Ross Verlag. Photo: 20th Century Fox.

Sherlock Holmes


Miriam Jordan, also known as Mimi Jordan, was born in 1904, in London, England, UK. She won a beauty contest while working as a typist in London and this facilitated her introduction to the stage.

Seeking fame and fortune in America, she was 'decoratively cast' in the musical comedy Three Cheers (1928) with Will Rogers at the Globe Theatre at Broadway. Her one scene consisted of walking down stairs, while modelling a fabulous gown.

In 1931, she made her real Broadway debut in the drama Cynara, written by H.M. Harwood and R.F. Gore-Brown.

Between 1932 and 1934, she appeared in a handful of Hollywood films for 20th Century Fox. She co-starred with fading star Warner Baxter in her film debut, the Science Fiction drama 6 Hours to Live (William Dieterle, 1932) and again in Dangerously Yours (Frank Tuttle, 1933).

In the enjoyable detective film Sherlock Holmes (William K. Howard, 1932), Miriam and co-star Clive Brook were effectively upstaged by character actor Ernest Torrence in the part of Holmes's arch-rival, Professor Moriarty.

Miriam's best moment was to be the romance I Loved You Wednesday (Henry King, William Cameron Menzies, 1933) in which she was billed fourth (after Warner Baxter again, Elissa Landi and Victor Jory) in the part of Cynthia Williams. Mordaunt Hall in The New York Times called the film "an unusually handsome and interesting picture" and Miriam "charming"and her performance "splendid".

However, after the romantic comedy Two Heads on a Pillow (William Nigh, 1934) opposite Neil Hamilton, her days as a leading lady were over. Jordan later only returned in a bit part in My Own True Love (Compton Bennett, 1948). On Broadway, she appeared in 1938 in a short-lived run of Michael Drops In.

Miriam Jordan passed away in 1987, in Great Worley, England, UK.


Scene with Miriam JordanClive Brook, Howard Leeds and Reginald Owen in Sherlock Holmes (1932). Source: (YouTube).

Sources: Mordaunt Hall (The New York Times), I.S. Mowis (IMDb), Wikipedia and IMDb.

17 August 2017

Naufragio (1916)

Italian child star Ermanno Roveri (1903-1968) played the lead in the silent melodrama Naufragio (Umberto Paradisi, 1916). Naufragio was part of a series of films based on the stories in Cuore (1886) by Edmondo De Amicis.

Ermanno Roveri in Naufragio (1916)
Italian postcard by Film Artistica Gloria, Torino (Turin), no. 3404. Printed by Uff. Rev. St. Terni, 16-5-17. Caption: He had the look of a boy who just came out of a big family misfortune.

Naufragio
Italian postcard by Film Artistica Floria, Torino (Turin), no. 3404. Printed by Uff. Rev. St. Terni, 16-5-17. Caption: Be cheerful, the Italian sailor cried to them, now a ballet starts!

Naufragio
Italian postcard by Film Artistica Floria, Torino (Turin), no. 3404. Printed by Uff. Rev. St. Terni, 16-5-17. Caption: Curled up against the vessel's mast, Mario and Giulietta stared at the sea with fixed eyes, as if senseless.

An Orphan on a Sinking Ship


Ermanno Roveri played the Sicilian orphan Mario, who is repatriated from Liverpool to Sicily. On the boat he meets Giulietta (played by Ermanno’s sister, Lavinia Roveri), who has to return to her parents in Naples.

During a tempest the boat sinks and Mario offers his seat in the lifeboat to Giulietta. Mario drowns on the sinking ship.

Naufragio was a production of Gloria, the film company in Turin that also produced the first films of diva Lyda Borelli. Gloria produced a series of films based on the stories in Cuore (1886) by Edmondo De Amicis.

Roveri acted in many of these films, including Dagli Appennini alle Ande, Naufragio, Il piccolo patriota padovano and Il piccolo scrivano fiorentino.

Ermanno Roveri thus was one of the stars of Gloria. In 1913-1914 he had become famous as Frugolino, one of the comic child actors of the Cines company in Rome.

In the 1930s and 1940s Ermanno played in a dozen Italian films. He would continue to work in the theatre and incidentally in cinema or on television till his death in 1968.

Naufragio
Italian postcard by Film Artistica Floria, Torino (Turin), no. 3404. Printed by Uff. Rev. St. Terni, 16-5-17. Caption: In the interior of the vessel a confusion started as well as fright, and an uproar of weeping and prayers.

Naufragio
Italian postcard by Film Artistica Floria, Torino (Turin), no. 3404. Printed by Uff. Rev. St. Terni, 16-5-17. Caption: They saw all around them persons frozen like statues, with eyes wide open and with blank stares, with the faces of corpses and madmen.

Naufragio
Italian postcard by Film Artistica Floria, Torino (Turin), no. 3404. Printed by Uff. Rev. St. Terni, 16-5-17. Caption: Goodbye, Mario!, she cried among her sobs with her arms extended towards him.

Sources: Vittorio Martinelli (Il Cinema Italiano 1916) and IMDb.

16 August 2017

Ernest Torrence

Big, burly Scottish-born character actor Ernest Torrence (1878-1933) appeared in many Hollywood films form 1916 on. A towering figure, he frequently played cold-eyed and imposing heavies, but played most of his bad guys with tongue firmly in cheek. Torrence’s films include including Tol'able David (1921) opposite Richard Barthelmess, Mantrap (1926) with Clara Bow, and Sherlock Holmes (1932) in one of his last roles as Holmes’s nemesis Professor Moriarty.

Ernest Torrence
British postcard in the Picturegoer series, London, no. 167.

Moronic, twitch-eyed thief


Ernest Thayson Torrance-Thompson was born in 1978 to Colonel Henry Torrence Thayson and Jessie (née Bryce) in Edinburgh, Scotland. His younger brother would be the actor David Torrence.

As a child, Ernest was an exceptional pianist and operatic baritone and he graduated from the Stuttgart Conservatory and Edinburgh Academy before earning a scholarship at London's Royal Academy of Music.

He toured with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in such productions as The Emerald Isle (1901) and The Talk of the Town (1905) before disarming vocal problems set in and he was forced to abandon this career path.

Sometime prior to 1900, he changed the spelling of Torrance to Torrence and dropped the name Thomson. Both Ernest and his brother David Torrence went to America, in March 1911, directly from Scotland prior to the First World War.

Focusing instead on a purely acting career, Ernest and his brother developed into experienced players on the Broadway New York stage. Ernest received significant acclaim with Modest Suzanne in 1912, and a prominent role in The Night Boat in 1920 brought him to the attention of the early Hollywood filmmakers.

Torrence played the moronic, twitch-eyed thief Luke Hatburn in Tol'able David (Henry King, 1921) opposite Richard Barthelmess and made his mark as a cinema villain. He settled into films for the rest of his career and life.

He played Colleen Moore’s abusive husband in Broken Chains (Alan Holubar, 1922). Torrence gave a sympathetic portrayal of a grizzled old codger in the acclaimed classic Western The Covered Wagon (James Cruze, 1923) and gained attention from his role as Clopin, king of the beggars opposite Lon Chaney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Wallace Worsley, 1923).

Ernest Torrence
British postcard in the Picturegoer series, London, no. 167a. Photo: Paramount.

Ernest Torrence
British autograph card.

One of the silent screen's finest arch villains


Ernest Torrence played an outrageous Captain Hook in Peter Pan (Herbert Brenon, 1924) opposite Betty Bronson as Peter Pan. Bob Eddwards at Find A Grave: “Walt Disney used Torrence as the model for Hook in his own 1953 animated version of Peter Pan.”

He played an Army General who escapes into the circus world and becomes a clown in The Side Show of Life (Herbert Brenon, 1924). In an offbeat bit of casting he paired up with Clara Bow in Mantrap (Victor Fleming, 1926), unusually as a gentle, bear-like backwoodsman in search of a wife.

He appeared in other silent film classics such as the epic The King of Kings (Cecil B. DeMille 1927) as Peter, and Steamboat Bill Jr. (Charles Reisner, 1928) as Buster Keaton's steamboat captain father.

During the course of his twelve-year film career, Ernest Torrence made 49 films, both silent and sound films. Torrence made the transition into sound films very well, starring in the Western Fighting Caravans (Otto Brower, David Burton, 1931) with Gary Cooper and Lily Damita.

He was able to play a notable nemesis, Dr. Moriarty, to Clive Brook's Sherlock in Sherlock Holmes (William K. Howard, 1932) in one of his last roles. Filming for I Cover the Waterfront (James Cruze, 1933), in which he starred as a New York smuggler opposite Ben Lyon and Claudette Colbert, had just been completed when he died suddenly on 15 May 1933.

He was only 54. While en route to Europe by ship, Torrence suffered an acute attack of gall stones and was rushed back to a New York hospital. He died of complications following surgery. Ernest Torrence was married to Elsie Reamer Bedbrook and he had one child, Ian Torrence.

Gary Brumburgh at IMDb: “He was the man you loved to hiss. This towering (6' 4"), highly imposing character star with cold, hollow, beady eyes and a huge, protruding snout would go on to become one of the silent screen's finest arch villains.”


Scene with Torrence and Clara Bow in Mantrap (Victor Fleming, 1926). Source: Jeff Alanson (YouTube).


Scene from Steamboat Bill Jr. (Charles Reisner, 1928). Source: Movies and Videos (YouTube).

Sources: Gary Brumburgh (IMDb), Bobb Edwards (Find A Grave), Hal Erickson (AllMovie), Silent Hollywood.com, Wikipedia and IMDb.