Archive for the Silent Film Category

Baby Marie Osborne; Child Star Dead @ 99!

Posted in 20th century, Baby Marie Osborne, Bette Davis, Silent Film on November 18, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I stumbled upon this sad obituary yesterday, Helen Alice Myers known to legions of fans in the early 20th century as Baby Marie Osborne died on the 11th.

I of course was intrigued, the NYT article above does a much finer job then I am capable of, but Baby Marie Osborne was quite the celebrity, earning $1000.00 a week, she was a glamorous little girl.She was best known for role in  the 1916 film  Little Miss Sunshine, but I have had little luck unearthing any clips.

I frankly have had little luck unearthing very much at all. Loads on that OTHER Marie Osborne( the less said the better).

Helen Alice Myers

known as Baby Marie Osborne

b. November 5th 1911

d. November 11th 2010

age 99


Perhaps as a happy substitute I will enclose that OTHER child star, one who aged with less grace, Baby Jane , with the terrifying Bette Davis.

She scared the crap out of this young homo, I have now adapted to her spookiness.


Thank you Miss Myers, I WILL unearth some clips!

With that, Good Night ,

Babylon Baroque

Chung Ling Soo, the Marvelous Chinese Conjurer

Posted in 19th cent., 20th century, Chinoiserie, Chung Ling Foo, Koekkoek, Madame Pamita, Orientalist, Silent Film on November 17, 2010 by babylonbaroque

At the turn of the 20th century an exotic Chung Ling Soo was enchanting Western audiences with the  mysteries of the East.

Chung Ling Soo, with the lovely “slant eyed maiden” Suee Seen were a smash captivating crowds with smoke and mirrors.

But behind the veil of fame and mystery a different truth could be discovered.

For behind the Orientalist facade lurked William Ellsworth Robinson ( 1861-1918), the Asian beauty by his side?, his wife Dottie.

In May of 1900, William E. Robinson took up the persona of Chung Ling Soo, so sincere was he in maintaining this charade that apparently he never spoke in English again. At least not until his last words, but we’ll get to that…

Quite a ‘stache he had to sacrifice for chinoiserie splendor!

The decision to adopt the stage name Chung Ling Soo was quite deliberate.

At the time there was an actual Chinaman, a renown magician, Ching Ling Foo (1854-1922)


So great was the fame of Ching Ling Foo, the REAL Chinaman ( I know it is terribly confusing), that Thomas Edison felt the need to expose his trickery.

Perhaps part of Robinson/Chung Ling’s plan was to “coat-tail” on Ching’s genuine fame. I don’t know, but a rivalry was set across Europe.

Both seemed to benefit from the competition, Chung Ling Soo engaging in flashier and flashier acts.

One such act was a macabre twist on the Boxer Rebellion.



Johannes Hermanus Barend Koekkoek



The final performance of this bizarre trick would be at London’s Wood Green Empire, March 23rd 1918.

Something went terribly awry, instead of the trick giving the allusion of a gun shot, an actual bullet escape.

This ended Chung Ling Soo’s vow to not betray his true identity; his last words in his mother tongue:

“Oh my God. Something happened. Lower the curtain.”

A true showman to the end!

Much of the myth around Chung Ling Soo is difficult to verify, I was unable to gather info concerning Dottie the “slant eyed maiden” ( I can’t believe they got away with saying that!) for example. But I did stumble upon this silly clip narrated by the wonderful Boris Karloff, it’s great fun.

I hope you have enjoyed this post, my dear friend Madame Pamita, Sideshow Entertainer Extraordinaire suggested i might find Chung Ling Soo of interest.

She was correct.

Thank you Madame Pamita.


Pirate Jenny… I mean Madame Pamita.

Thank you, enjoy the week.

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque


Decadent Movement comes to L.A.

Posted in Aesthetic Movement, Aubrey Beardsley, Decadent Movement, Green Carnation, Gustave Moreau, Huysmans, Nazimova, Orientalist, Oscar Wilde, Silent Film on November 3, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I’m not speaking of some tawdry film set in the San Fernando Valley or a Palm Springs pool party ; I’m thinking of that infinitely more satisfying period in the 1890’s when  the line between beauty and perversity was fully explored, the Decadent Movement.



Thracian Girl Carrying the Head of Orpheus on His Lyre


Gustave Moreau


Musée d’Orsay


I was reminded of this delightful time by my friend Kim Cooper of LAVA Sunday Salon fame. Kim had thoughtfully sent along an email announcement that UCLA was putting together a lecture series devoted to the Decadent Movement and Aestheticism, of course I made reservations pronto.

Once I knew I had secured a seat, I felt free to share the info. I tend to be greedy.

It is a two day lecture, November 19th and 20th at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus, if you happen to be in L.A. please join me.

Of A Neophyte And How The Black Art Was Revealed Unto Him By The Fiend Asamuel


Aubrey Beardsley


We can’t really think of the Decadent movement without regarding Huysmans and his wonderfully perverse novels À rebours (Against the Grain, 1884) and my personal favorite Là-Bas (The Damned, 1891). À rebours chronicles the exploits of the wicked aesthete Jean Des Esseintes. It is a marvelous novel, beloved by Wilde and his set, I must revisit this novel.

Jean Des Essientes is said to be based on that dandy of dandies Robert de Montesquieu, a delightful portrait by Giovanni Boldini follows.

Joris-Karl Huysman was himself a bit of a dandy, I really admire this photo-portrait of Huysmans. I find it intriguing how a sacred object such as a crucifix can  appear sinister when in the company of this man. I want my next portrait to be in this pose.

Joris-Karl Huysmans

b. Feb. 5th 1848

d. May 12th 1907

Certain dark themes recur time and again within the Decadent Movement, Oedipus and the ghastly Sphynx, dark angels and swooning lamentations, Moreau’s Orpheus a good example. But no figure held the imagination so firmly as Salome . Wilde, Beardsley, Moreau, and Ricketts, along with many others, all tried to capture her dark allure.



Gustav Moreau



Charles Ricketts


The Toilet of Salome I, from Salome




Although not of the period it is difficult to not toss in the silent screen starlet Alla Nazimova and her iconic 1923 depiction of the wanton Salome.

As I intend to experience the lecture fully, I will re-read that silly little novel that caused such a sensation in ’94, Robert Hitchens, Green Carnation.

I hope to be a s precious as Esmé Amarinth, hope to see you there.

Have a pleasant evening,

Babylon Baroque

Häxan, bewitching, bewildering, perverse

Posted in 20th century, Benjamin Christensen, Black Arts, Häxan, Luis Ricardo Falero, Silent Film on October 28, 2010 by babylonbaroque

Departure of the Witches


Luis Ricardo Falero

b. 1851-d.1896


As the season of magic comes to an end, one last indulgence; the fantastic film of 1922, Häxan.

original poster

Loosely translated as The Witches, this film written and directed by Benjamin Christensen is spooky as hell, beautifully produced, referencing medieval illumination, conjuring Satan, lust, desire, transgression, ignorance, &  torture. What more could you wish for?

still from Häxan

still from film

Benjamin Christensen is best known for his role in Michael a groundbreaking gay themed film of 1924 in which he plays the long suffering sugar daddy Claude Zoret.

A post for another day.

Benjamin Christensen

b. 28th September 1879

d. 2nd April 1959

The Witches Sabbath

Luis Ricardo Falero

Häxan effectively conjures images of the tortures of Hell, so familiar to Medieval Christians. Christensen’s mechanized Hades, a wonder. Please make sure you look for it.

Satan is particularly compelling, seductive in the most horrifying way. When he convinces  the hot little vixen/amateur witch to forsake the bliss of her marital bed, he is most deliciously wicked.

Apparently playing for both teams, Satan offers temptation to a Brother of the Cloth.

Please have this image in mind when viewing the nun sequence, it is perfection. I love the nun sticking out her tongue to convention, patriarchy, the Holy Church, to God Himself.

I love how Satan lurks within the shadows in this clip, so terrifying.

It is a fascinating film, one I have not had the pleasure of seeing in its entirety. I plan to remedy that shortly.

Although Häxan is meant to be an interpretation of the Malleus Maleficarum, that charming 15th cent. How-to-Guide to get potential witches to spill the beans, confess their ( hopefully sexy) sins, and  bravely face the purifying flames of God. What I think its really about is the fear of…

With that, have a very spirited Halloween!

Babylon Baroque

Sarah Bernhardt, Dark Spirit

Posted in 19th cent., Memento Mori, Recquiscat in Pace, Sarah Bernhardt, Sculpture, Silent Film on October 27, 2010 by babylonbaroque

As October closes and I have less and less excuses to indulge my darker tastes, I thought it wise to end with Sarah.

Sarah had the great charm of not only being a lively sprite, indulging fully in what life presented to her; she also seemed to take great pleasure in darker delights.

Many may be familiar with her magnificent inkstand, fashioned in her likeness; a sphinx eager to devour the hearts of men, bearing upon her shoulder emblems of her craft, Tragedy & Comedy.


Self portrait as Sphinx

ca. 1880

artist: Sarah Bernhardt



Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Not only gifted on stage but  the studio as well, gotta love the gal.

That ostrich plume will just drive you mad.

As a boy I encountered this image of Sarah in her coffin. any devotee of the Divine One knows the image, but I never tire of it. Evidently neither did her public, it was wildly popular.

by Milandru

Sarah Bernhardt posing in her coffin

ca. 1880

albumen print cabinet card

Bibliothèque Nationale de France

I love the inclusion of her portrait bust , she is the artist of course.

Portrait Bust

ca. 1878 Sarah Bernhardt

Museé d’ Orsay


As an actress she of course excelled at Tragedy, here she is as the great Elizabeth encountering Essex, having had ordered his execution. You don’t get more dramatic then this, her hand wailing- I can totally relate …

ca. 1899

Sadly all the play acting came to an end, we only have bits of brittle film to remember her by.

At least she is eternal neighbors with Oscar.

And with that,

Babylon Baroque

A Trip to the Moon

Posted in 20th century, Apollo 11, Georges Melies, Silent Film on October 22, 2010 by babylonbaroque

In anticipation of the upcoming full moon, 10 hours or so from now GMT, I thought a continuation of Méliès was in order. His masterwork La Voyage dans la Lune a perfect theme.


It is an intensely charming film. I have heard that Thomas Edison bootlegged the film, denying Méliès proper compensation.

My sources are conflicted as I  had also heard Edison  bootlegged another  Méliès  film La Manoir du diable (source).

Whichever,shame on Mr. Edison.

A Trip To The Moon


Thank you Georges!

Georges Méliès

b. Dec. 8th 1861

d. Jan, 21st 1938

I thought it would be fun to contrast Méliès’ fanciful version of a trip to the moon to the actual drab reality.

Moon Landing July 20th 1969

Apollo 11 landing

Buzz Aldrin



For fascinating stills such as the following of La Voyage dans la Lune I suggest you follow this link.

I love this scene, the rocket ship soon to crash the aquatic calm. Like a giant aquarium.

Enjoy the full moon!

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque

Hobgoblins, Imps and Wizards, the magical world of Georges Melies

Posted in 19th cent., 20th century, Georges Melies, Silent Film on October 20, 2010 by babylonbaroque

I adore this season, I am given full indulgence in expressing my passion for hairy little devils, green imps, and dancing skeletons.

Clearly my beloved Georges Méliès shared this passion as his films are chock-a-block with frantic little monsters.

(unrelated but charming little fellow)

The following clip , the magical moment of la danse de feu, a little over a minute, is intensely charming.

La Danse de Feu

the Pillar of Fire


I know you are busy, but PLEASE take a moment and savor Méliè’s genius.

The Master

Georges Méliès

b. Dec. 8th 1861

d. Jan. 21st 1936

You have to love a fellow willing to photograph his beloved wife a la guillotine.

Jeanne d’Alcy



More devilish magic

La Diable Noir

The Black Imp


a little cinematic wizardry…

La Lune A Un Metre

The Astronomer’s Dream



Just wondrous!

The spooky munching moon is just too much.

I love the Diana character.

I’ll leave you with my own little hobgoblin.

Miss Daisy

Good Evening

Respectfully submitted,

Babylon Baroque