Studio snapshots, ’20s style   Leave a comment

Posted by vp19 on 2013.09.19 at 09:19
Current mood: nostalgicnostalgic

carole lombard fox 00c

A 16-year-old Carole Lombard, a newly-signed starlet with Fox, must have felt she had achieved a dream when she posed for this portrait in 1925. But much had passed since her “debut” four years earlier when, as Jane Peters, she’d had a small part in “A Perfect Crime”:

carole lombard a perfect crime 01b

The girl’s infatuation with movies only amplified in ensuing years — and as a Los Angeles resident, she fortunately was right in the midst of it. First at Virgil Junior High, then at Fairfax High School, Jane began planning and dreaming of future cinematic glory.

She probably read many of the era’s fan magazines, among them Motion Picture –– which from November 1923 through August 1924 ran a series of profiles of the various studios in what was collectively called “Hollywood.” These weren’t detailed descriptions of each place; instead, the series, written by a Sally Steele, was called “Vignettes Of The Studios.” She used her typewriter to paint word impressions of the distinctly different atmosphere around each place…places Jane Peters would frequent during 1924 as she sought work in the industry.

We’ve run photos of these studios during this period (; now, let’s get a contemporary account of these magic factories, sites most readers of Motion Picture –– far removed from Los Angeles — considered a far-off land.

We’ll start in the November 1923 issue with the Lasky studio (later more popularly known as Paramount, but before its relocation to Melrose Avenue):

motion picture vignettes of the studios 01a lasky november 1923

December 1923 takes us to the Ince studio on Washington Boulevard in Culver City…a venue the future Lombard would know well from working at Pathe in the late 1920s and Selznick International in the late 1930s:

motion picture vignettes of the studios 02aa ince december 1923
motion picture vignettes of the studios 02bb ince december 1923

As 1923 transitioned into 1924, the January issue profiled the Metro studio, which before the new year was out would merge with two other studios and pull up stakes:

motion picture vignettes of the studios 03a metro january 1924

February would find Steele in the Hollywood hills, visiting Universal:

motion picture vignettes of the studios 04a universal february 1924

The aforementioned Metro’s eventual destination was profiled in March — the Goldwyn studios in Culver City (although by now Samuel Goldwyn had nothing to do with the operation), the initial home of Ince and Triangle. Oh, and some guy named Louis B. Mayer would link his production company with Metro and Goldwyn before the year ended:

motion picture vignettes of the studios 05a goldwyn march 1924

Next up in April, Charlie Chaplin’s studio (though it didn’t look like one). Not long after this ran, 15-year-old Jane Peters came here and was interviewed by Chaplin for his leading lady role in “The Gold Rush”; she didn’t get the part, and legend has it he deemed her “too pretty” (

motion picture vignettes of the studios 06a chaplin april 1924

In May, Steele examined the Pickford-Fairbanks studio, where Jane unsuccessfully sought employment in 1924. The property was later owned by Samuel Goldwyn and leased to United Artists, and it was here that Lombard worked on what would be her final film, “To Be Or Not To Be”:

motion picture vignettes of the studios 07aa pickford-fairbanks may 1924
motion picture vignettes of the studios 07ba pickford-fairbanks may 1924

Carole’s first sustained studio home would be Fox, and Steele describes it in the June issue as a factory of sorts, with relatively little cinematic romance:

motion picture vignettes of the studios 08aa fox june 1924
motion picture vignettes of the studios 08ba fox june 1924

In July, Steele looked at Vitagraph, a studio that had seen better times. Jane Peters was hired by Vitagraph that summer and nothing much came of it…although it did persuade her to change her name, and she chose “Carol” in honor of a school friend (the “e,” and the “Lombard,” would arrive shortly thereafter):

motion picture vignettes of the studios 09a vitagraph july 1924

The series ended in August with Mack Sennett’s beloved comedy lot in Edendale. Lombard would later spend some time here, although most of her Sennett activity would come after Mack moved his outfit north to Studio City:

motion picture vignettes of the studios 10aa mack sennett august 1924
motion picture vignettes of the studios 10ba mack sennett august 1924

What’s interesting, in retrospect, are what studios weren’t profiled, studios that would play key roles in both the industry and Lombard’s work in it. There’s no mention of Columbia, then a Poverty Row outfit. Warners, which in a few years would shake up filmdom with its pioneering work in sound — first for music, then the spoken word — isn’t here; neither is Pathe, whose alliance with Sennett would aid Carole as she emerged from two-reelers. And in 1923 and ’24, “radio” was something you listened to (most likely on a crystal set) and wasn’t in the movie business…neither were Keith’s or Orpheum.

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Posted September 19, 2013 by vp19 in Uncategorized

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