Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Party attitude hair make up quick tips 1920s-30s

Quick Party Tips from the 1920s, 1930s
Make your next party successful and low-stress
Guest List, Attitude, Beauty

Do you have a party coming up? Are you the host/hostess or a guest? Maybe
New Year's Eve Party 1917
you're into vintage beauty, the retro look, whether it's pinup beauty, 1940s fashion, 1930s Hollywood glamor or the 1920s Great Gatsby Flapper look. Is it for just one event or is it your lifestyle year-round? 

Back then like today, it was as much a matter of scheduling and our mindset as it is today. The following pieces of advice, quotes and paraphrases are taken from articles from the style and beauty sections of 1920s-30s film magazines. 

It seems as if there are fewer guides, ideas and rules now but judging by the morning after a party, the 'what not to wear' and 'walk of shame' columns, the lists of what is 'age appropriate,' we realize that there will always be rules out there. We can find help or inspiration in those that move us.

The guest list 
Sylvia Sidney, James Cagney
Blood on the Stone
Have to invite someone you don't like? The boss, the in-laws, the...?

"Sometimes bores are simply unavoidable, and if such a dilemma faced me I'd obviate it by gathering all my bores in one basket and sequestering them at one table, for instance or see to it that they were seated together. 

"The result? Each would believe himself to be the one brilliant member of the party, so they'd all have fun and be subtly flattered besides."
-- Sylvia Sidney 1936

The best personal announcements and invitations will get attention, be saved, remembered and attract guests to actually attend your event. Will you be funny, traditional, choose that old Hollywood theme, add photos?

 Don't skip a party because you think you might want to leave early! Devise a clever get-away plan. Actor Ned Sparks used his bulldog, Betsy as an excuse when he wanted to take off from a dull party, or even if he wanted to refuse the invitation altogether. 

"Oh I don't know what Betsy will think of me I was out last night," Ned will say when he wants to decline an invitation. Or when he wants to leave a party early he will explain, "Don't know what Betsy will say to me, I'm so late!" Not everyone knew just who Betsy was, but it didn't seem to matter.

In the 1933 Alice in Wonderland with Charlotte Henry, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper and W. C. Fields and Edward Everett Horton Ned Sparks was
The Caterpillar.
Billie Burke de-stresses before the party
Gloria's Romance 1916
Pump up your party attitude 
Before we consider hair, make-up or clothes "here is a personality point worth more than a big bouquet of orchids or an ermine wrap. This is the business of getting yourself into a party mood. Work up the spirit of expectancy. 

"Deliberately plan to enjoy yourself, no matter what and see that others enjoy themselves. This is practically a failure proof plan for a lovely evening. Though you may secretly long to walk off with the handsomest man of the evening and be the whole pivot of attention submerge it in the idea of a good time for all and see what happens."

One article proclaimed, "If you don't have a good time it's your own fault. Join in games even if you know you're a dub at them and laugh at your own mistakes but don't make any more than you can help. If it's an informal party offer to help your hostess serve if you know her well, but don't use it as an excuse to show off your housewifely skill to prospective husbands. Men see through that sort of thing."

New Gadgets Developed for Cocktail Hour 1935 Universal Newsreel; Offer them a cool adult beverage

"You perhaps think about yourself a great deal and in time that leads to under valuation. But don't communicate that viewpoint to others. It's fatal to popularity. If you find yourself growing self conscious jerk your thoughts away quickly and ask your partner something about himself.

"A good way to overcome shyness is to seek out other bashful men and women and try to put them at ease."

It was on a season of The Next Food Network Star, that I first heard someone use the term, resting bitch face.  
It's along the same lines of the old standby, "If you're having such a good time why don't you tell your face?"

Joan Crawford 1927
Your facial manners

A 1930s article by Joan Crawford talked about facial manners, how to be aware of how our expressions and the way dwelling on something can be bad in more ways than one.

Joan Crawford was very conscientious in studying her own face on the screen. Too often we rely on make-up to accent our faces and make them come alive. ... Most bad facial manners are unconscious of course.

"I will wager that if you will glance at your face in any passing mirror you will hurriedly change your expression to a pleasanter one! 

"Here are the commonest bad facial manners. Frowning, squinting, screwing up any part of the face are not only ugly in themselves but leave unlovely lines in their wake. Sulking is bad manners, social as well as facial and will spoil the loveliest face.

"Pouting distorts the mouth.  Watch for these things yourself in your mirror. Don't copy the little grimaces of your friends. .... 

"Be careful of the thoughts you think. As sure as you're alive they will be written on your face. And you can't cheat at this. Your social manners may be perfect. You may say pleasant things to your hostess while thinking what a dull time you had. But you cannot think hard, cross thoughts over a long period of time and not keep a record of them in your face."

Bebe Daniels in the bath 1920

Beauty for a party 

Bette Davis sprays
eau du Cologne onto
her hair
"No matter how elaborate or informal a party is it's always loads of fun for the girl who knows how to pretty up for it

"The wall-flowers at any party are the ones who didn't take the trouble to make themselves extra-attractive for the big occasion. Don't be like that!"

(Pretty up! This reminds me of Barney's saying Suit up! on How I Met Your Mother.)

"Be smart with your party preparations and you'll be a sensation not a wall-flower. Accent your eyes so they won't fade out wearily under the electric lights."

Vintage style updo tutorial
"Tint your cheeks with a new rouge.
Besame Vintage-Inspired

"Treat your eyes before you make them up, removing any bloodshot traces.

"Flatter yourself with a facial before starting to make-up.

"Most girls use a scent of some kind if only a mild sachet powder rubbed right on the skin. 

"Perfume your whole body by sloshing a perfumed cologne over yourself or by patting it on with a square of cotton after you step from the tub."

Actress Constance Bennett prepares for an evening out in the 1930s

Marie Wilson Up-do Hairstyles
"Slenderize your fingers by wearing your nails long? Over foundation of colorless polish wear a coat of salon-type polish to harmonize or contrast with your gown making your nails sparkle like jewels.

"Curl the ends of your hair and pile them high on your head for one of those pre-war coiffures.

"Pin those high-piled curls in place with springy bobby pins, choose some that will hold their shape and are practically invisible once they're in place.

"If you wear your hair nice and straight like Bette Davis with the ends only slightly fluffed have you ever tried eau du Cologne to make them curl? Bette finds it works beautifully when sprayed on. 

"Ida Lupino does a patch-up job on unruly curls by setting her hair with cologne. She dampens her hair with cologne and rolls it up into a pin curl. It will dry in a few moments.

Art Deco Hair:
Hairstyles from the 1920s-1930s (Vintage Living)

5 Star Customer Rating

What will you wear??

If you sew cleverly, you can make a gown that might have come straight from a Hollywood designer then you don't need any advice about party clothes. But cheap materials and amateur dressmaking show up more quickly in formal clothes than in everyday garments. ... Wear something appropriate to the event and something that represents you. 

Tallulah Bankhead Feather Headdress
Ziegfeld Follies Girl Photo Pinup Cheney Johnston
Art Deco

"And I beg you don't choose party clothes for their practicality ... A dashing becoming gown, good grooming and poise are your best introductions to strangers. 

"At a big affair it is a good thing to be identified as 'the girl in the red dress,' or 'that stunning blonde in the black and white.' The main thing is to be noticed and remembered favorably. Names are sometimes forgotten at first meetings but visual impressions remain."

A fashion show at a chic nightclub 1933

"Even if your escort isn't exactly the Prince Charming of your dreams pretend he is for that evening and it will make you both happier. Let him think he is helping to provide a wonderful time for you. That will encourage him to do his utmost to make it so. There aren't any rules for having a good time at parties or anywhere else."

Find some great music from the era.

Have a good time at your party! Fats Waller - Ain't Misbehavin' - Stormy Weather (1943)

What do you think of the advice dolled out to the ladies in the 1920s and 30s? Then, as now columnists and pundits disagreed and trends changed.

Related pages of interest:

Group games for parties, holidays for young people and adults

Hollywood hosts, hostesses party, decor menu 1930s

Dressing Male Stars of the 1930s and 1940s

Sources include articles, interviews, snippets from magazines:
Hollywood September 1938
New Movie Magazine July 1924
Photoplay December 1930
Screenland March 1935, November 1938

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Celebrate the holidays classic movie clips

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree
with Classic Movies

Georges Méliès: The Christmas Angel (1904)

Santa shows up early with My Favorite Wife, Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Gail Patrick; Celebrate nontraditional Christmas movies

Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in Desk Set

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Wishes Golden Age Hollywood Stars Seasons Greetings

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

1938 Holiday Greetings from Carole Lombard, Cecil B. DeMille, Gary Cooper, Ginger Rogers, Will Hay, Stanley Lupino, George Formby

 "Season's Greetings from The Thin Man and Family"
aka Nick and Nora Charles, Nick Jr and Asta
William Powell and Myrna Loy

MGM Stars wishing you a Merry Christmas 1921:
Bert Lytell, Viola Dana, May Allison, Alice Lake, Ina Claire, Buster Keaton

1923, silent movie star,  actress Shirley Mason's audio greeting Christmas in Hollywood

1924 Paramount Stars wish you a Merry Christmas. 
Left to right: Lois Wilson, Noah Beery, Lillian Rich, Vera Reynolds, Rod LaRocque, Betty Compson, Ernest Torrence, Jane Winton, Raymond Hatton, Mary Brian, Agnes Ayres, Betty Bronson, Constance Bennett and Esther Ralston. 
"They are all busy at the West Coast Studios."

Joan Crawford audio/radio Christmas message

Christmas Card featuring Katharine Hepburn in Little Women
Every good wish for 1921 from Silent film star Harrison Ford

Christmas Parade of Stars 1960 

Best Wishes from Houdini
Yuletide Greetings from
Harold Lloyd

Santa George Burns and Gracie Allen

Merry Christmas from Douglas Fairbanks 1919

Christmas clips with a song

A Christmas Lullaby by Cary Grant

Merry Christmas from John Wayne and Bob Hope 1976

The stars speak for charities at Christmastime:

Clark Gable for Christmas Seals:

Doris Day - Christmas Message for Toys for Tots 1954

Jack Webb for Christmas Seals

James Coburn for Christmas Seals

Joan Crawford for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Greetings from Will H. Hays  1924

"Greetings! With a proper feeling of gratification for what has been accomplished during the year now drawing to a close, but with much greater feeling of gratitude to the public which has made our accomplishments possible by its encouragement and support, the motion picture industry looks forward hopefully to the beginning of another year of opportunity to serve you. 

"During the twelve months now ending more really fine motion pictures have been produced and exhibited than ever before in the history of this form of entertainment. Of that fact we are proud. The success of 1924, however is but the urge for larger accomplishments in 1925.

"To all the men and women of the industry who have given their sincerest efforts to this great service of providing the public with its most popular form of entertainment, I offer my thanks and my most genuine good wishes that their Christmas may be happy and their New Year be one of attainment and the rewards that attainment brings."
Will H. Hays (above)

Related Pages of Interest: 

Watch favorite old holiday-themed television episodes

A Christmas Wish: Kermit the Frog and John Denver

Charles Boyer receives The Gift at Christmas, parents and grown children

Harrison Ford, Strong, Silent Movie Star

Five child photography tips 

Dirty Business, Film Censorship in the early days of cinema 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Retro Christmas episodes color 1960s-70s more

Christmas Episodes in Color
Favorite old TV Shows, Specials

Nostalgic television from the 1960s and 70s and even some old time radio we can listen to played along with the yule log. Includes Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed in the radio version of It's a Wonderful Life. Play while you cook or wrap those last minute presents.

Phyllis with Cloris Leachman 1976

Family Affair, An Early Christmas; Eve Plumb guest star

Julia starring Diahann Carroll

The Jeffersons, The Christmas Wedding

French & Saunders Christmas Carol,
Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders 1994

BBC 1994 - With Richard Briers, Geraldine McEwan & Kathy Burke

Daniel Boone season 14 Christmas Story

Doris Day Two Family Christmas

Donny and Marie Osmond Christmas Special, 1979 

Watch the Yule Log and listen to 
It's a Wonderful Life the old radio show
with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed

Remember what Dean Martin says, It's a Marshmallow World

Related Pages of Interest:

Retro TV Music, Jingles, Songs The Monkees, Old shows musical moments

Classic TV Christmas Suspense/Drama, Quiz Shows of the Past

Early TV Christmas Memories Honeymooners, 1950s-1960s, comedies

Festive sounds-songs classic television

Holiday shows: music
Yes, we need a little Christmas

Music, jingles, stories and a little gold lame. The late show, the 1960s, 70s, fan-made tributes and more. Trimming the Christmas tree, carols festivities.

Charlie Chaplin - Stop the cavalry - For Christmas

The Monkees Christmas Show
Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Michael Nesmith

Lucy's 12 Days of Christmas (Lucille Ball, Gale Gordon)

You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, Boris Karloff

Season's Greetings from Tarzan,Tonto Frankenstein Saturday Night Live
Tonto (played by Jon Lovitz) and Tarzan (played by Kevin Nealon),
Frankenstein (played by Phil Hartman)

Mary Tyler Moore Show 12 Days of Christmas

Sanford and Son; Christmas Song, Redd Foxx

Dark Shadows; The 12 Pains at Christmas

All I Want For Christmas is You :: Star Trek Mashup

The Vinnie Barbarino Song, John Travolta on Welcome Back Kotter,
Fifty-something seconds of gold lame festive-ness

Norelco NOELco Santa sledding Christmas commercial 1970s

Vincent Price reads A Christmas Carol

Twas the Dark Knight Before Christmas... Batman

Christmas Alphabet - Karen Carpenter and Kristy McNichol

We Need a Little Christmas, Angela Lansbury

Happy New Year and Happy Holidays to everyone

Related Pages of Interest:

Classic Christmas Memories: 1950s-60s tv shows

Holiday Themed Drama/Suspense and Quiz Shows

Retro TV Christmas Drama Suspense Quiz Shows

Retro TV Memories
Drama Suspense, Quiz Shows

In the spirit of the season, please enjoy the nostalgia.

Twilight Zone 1960 Art Carney fulfills a wish to become Santa,
The Night of the Meek

Racket Squad Christmas Caper

Dragnet The Big .22 Rifle for Christmas

Dragnet The Big Little Jesus

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Back for Christmas

1956, John Williams and Isobel Elsom
Herbert Marshall played the lead role in an old time radio version

I've Got A Secret People's names spell out holiday greeting I've got a secret 12/23/1959

What's My Line Christmas Episode December 1955

What's My Line?
The writer of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, can you pick out the right person? Can Fred Allen?

1950s computer; this programmer can play Christmas carols on a computer!

You Asked For It! All this and balloon animals.

1957 The Queen's Speech, Queen Elizabeth's First Televised Broadcast:
The Christmas Broadcas. Her reign began in 1952, her coronation was in June 1953.

Classic TV Christmas memories : Christmas TV Episodes

                          Retro Christmas Episodes
             Bringing Holiday Memories Back to Life

Here are some fun, memorable video clips of classic TV Christmas moments for
your viewing pleasure. It can seem like some of these characters are old friends.

Holiday TV shows can remind us of where we were, how old we were, who we were with when we first watched that episode. The characters are old familiar faces that we see on television as we're getting ready to visit our own friends and family for the season.

Christmas television shows can be a lot of fun. Each year, TV shows try to come up with new ideas for holiday shows, but the same pretty much ingredients always work for Christmas gatherings, just like in real life.

Think about all the fun, and not so fun, holiday office parties. Are you looking forward to or dreading this year's get-together with family, the in-laws? Going to make the best of a Christmas in a new town? Find feel-good memories you didn't know you remembered.

Let me know your favorite holiday TV memories. We're always updating this page, changing and adding similar videos. Due to some technical fluctuations, the page is being relocated here to the blog. Thanks and Happy Holidays. As always thank the good folks who upload these videos with comments and Likes. Videos are apt to change or be removed.
Image from Public Domain Pictures

Here are some 1950s-1960s comedies, specials, children's shows....

The Honeymooners

Jackie Gleason, Audrey Meadows, Art Carney, Joyce Randolph

The Jack Benny Program

Jack Benny Program 1957 The Jack Benny Program: Christmas Shopping...
Do you work here? No, I'm just standing behind this counter because I lost my pants....

Mr. Ed Sings Christmas Carols  
Of Course, of course

Love that Bob! Robert Cummings, Ann B. Davis is Schultzy

The Judy Garland Christmas Show 1963
Judy Garland Christmas Special 1963, with her children and much more. Her children appear and perform. 17-yr-old Liza Minnelli dances sings w/Tracy Everett. She talks about "older dancers" Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly. Mel Torme and Jack Jones appear. Lorna Luft and Joseph Luft sing, too.

The Beverly Hillbillies Christmas

Kukla, Fran and Ollie Christmas is a Time, trimming their tree, Fran Allison

Betty White A Date With the Angels, 1957

Petticoat Junction Christmas

Related Pages of Interest:

Retro Christmas TV Episodes in Color, 1960s-1970s, It's a Wonderful Life radio show, Yule Log, with Jimmy Stewart & Donna Reed

Classic Television Holiday Music, The Monkees Christmas Show, Dark Shadows, Mary Tyler Moore Show, Christmas story read by Vincent Price, Kristy MacNichol, Karen Carpenter, Charlie Chaplin, Angela Lansbury and that's not all :)

Holidays of Drama and Suspense, Retro Christmas Quiz Shows Dragnet, Alfred Hitchcock, I've Got a Secret, What's My Line

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Put up the wreath listen to A Christmas Carol 1939

Put a wreath on it this time of year

Here are a few stars of Hollywood's Golden Age wreaths putting up their wreaths, or otherwise making use of the wreath motif in celebrating for the holiday season.

Finally listen to the 1939 radio show A Christmas Carol featuring Lionel Barrymore and Orson Welles.
Rosalind Russell places a wreath on the front door of
her first new home 1938

Blanche Sweet is thinking of you
Christmas 1920

The Seven Deadly Sins, a 1917 film featured HB Warner, Jessie Stevens, George LeGuere, Shirley Mason, Anna Murdock, Charlotte Walker, Nance O'Neil and Guido Colucci. Christmas week they changed their ad to show the stars as part of a holiday wreath.

Jackie Coogan wishes everyone a very Merry Christmas. He was a hugely popular child star. This photo came out in 1926. He'd been in The Kid with Charles Chaplin in 1921. 

In 1927 he was working with the likes of Claire Windsor, Maurice Costello and Harry Carey.  In 1964 of course, he'd be Uncle Fester Frump on The Addams Family.

Gwen Lee can be seen in Laugh Clown Laugh, Diamond Handcuffs, Mannequin, His Secretary and many other pre-code films. Here she is in 1928 perched inside a Christmas wreath. There was never a shortage of cute girls dressed up extra-pretty in special costumes at holiday-time. 

1914 Christmas Greetings from Essanay Studios: Francis X Bushman, Smiling Billy Mason, Victor Potel, GMA Anderson, Irene Warfield Ruth Hennessy, Evelyn Selbie, Frederick Church, True Boardman, Lillian Drew, Bryant Washburn and Wallace Beery. 

They haven't featured Charlie Chaplin or Broncho Billy. Chaplin joined Essanay after leaving Mack Sennett's Keystone Studios.

A 1923 Christmastime trade magazine feature shows photos from a Charles Chaplin short film, The Pilgrim. "The Tramp is an escaped convict who is mistaken as a pastor in a small town church." Not a holiday theme but they've livened up the images with yuletide graphics.

Lew Ayres had to have a good looking door in 1932
I'm sure after years of playing Dr. Kildare, he would be listening
to Lionel Barrymore reading A Christmas Carol on the radio

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fake Snow Bringing winter to silent movies

Snow Scenes in Early Movies
Making snow blizzards in Hollywood California

There's nothing like the real thing, snow-stuff

When the weather outside is frightfully gorgeous in California, the location man -- usually a man in the teens and twenties -- was sent to find the snow. The producer sent scouts to look for the snow. We're not talking Snow White or Frozen.... Well, really we kind of are, but we're not.

Chaplin employed a group of men
to make their way to the top
of a mountain to film
The Gold Rush
This was often dangerous, time consuming and expensive. People were injured, some lost their lives in accidents procuring places to shoot winter scenes and in the process of shooting scenes. Cast and crew members were stranded during unexpected storms and avalanches.

When Charlie Chaplin made The Gold Rush in 1924, he worked high in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. 

An exact replica of the famous Chilkoot Pass, the gateway to the Alaska gold fields of 1898 was duplicated, built on a mountainside. To make a pass a pathway thousands of feet long was cut through the snows of the far northern boundaries. 

Charles Chaplin gets snowy in the 1920s

1916 Motion Picture magazine illo
The Goat, The Script and The Silk Slippers
One ad for Back to God's Country displayed a row of illustrations of animals,

"Never a film like this - An absolute novelty, so different. Sixteen different kinds of animal actors." 

There were special children's matinees. In towns where the film was playing, there were contests for children to draw the different animals or to write essays about them as a stunt to win tickets to see the show.

Abel Gance knew no English, Ivy Close, the British artiste in the cast is unable to speak a word of French. A new language was invented half English and half French. Communication troubles extended beyond mere words. The cast included animal actors. A goat of the highest credentials was a part of the ensemble.

"The goat commenced his screen career by eating several pages of the scenario of the picture in which he was to appear.  Suspicion became certainty when Ivy Close found him supping off one her satin slippers. But the goat, being an excellent actor had to be humored like the other players."

Antonio Moreno faces an 'ice flow'
actually filmed in a swimming pool
For the serial House of Hate with Pearl White
Real Alpine scenes are to be found in Abel Gance's picture The Wheel for the famous French producer ascended Mont Blanc. They faced real peril from snowstorms and avalanches and Ivy Close leading lady nearly lost her life through a 200-foot fall down a mountain. 

Actress Nell Shipman did many films that had snow scenes

Actress Nell Shipman did a series of films that took place in cold climates and she had a series of mishaps. While making Back to God’s Country in 1919, Ronald Byron who had been selected to play the leading male role died from exposure when the picture was barely begun.

Bert Van Tuyle served as a production manager. He fell into the icy water of Northern Idaho where they were shooting, sustained frostbite in his foot that turned gangrenous. Reports of the time said his foot had to be amputated, but more recent reports suggest that a few toes were lost.

Lillian Gish is Anna, adrift on the ice in Way Down East
We recently watched Way Down East with some friends, a movie party where we streamed it over Amazon Prime.  We included a meal while the film was on.

Way Down East 1920
"One cameraman was especially active. His name was Allen and we would see him jumping from cake to cake, always trying to get as close as possible to me, to show that no one was doubling for me. Once or twice he fell in camera and all but he was safely fished out. Then I made a suggestion which has caused me considerable suffering since. 

"I thought it would be more realistic if I dipped my hand in the icy water and let it lie there while the camera took a closeup  and a long shot of my hand. If you have ever put your your hand in ice water -- well, don't! Ice water feels just like a burning flame. When I took my hand out of the water I found it was cramped and stiff and ever since I have suffered from painful rheumatism in the palm of my hand and the fingers." 
-- Lillian Gish talking about the making of the famous ice floe scene in Way Down East

"Once I managed to get myself lost in a blizzard and wandered about for an hour til the search party found me with my toes frozen. They were so crippled by this experience that I can't move them today." -- Leatrice Joy

Charles Chaplin in The Gold Rush 1925
One of the most unusual stories, aka:
Aaaah, Mister press agent, play me a violin

Note: The fact that the group was stranded in their car was well documented. The entirety of this story is not completely positively certain, though. We should ask Mr. Chaplin who ate his shoe, laces, sole and all about this. 

Being stranded apparently occurred while the team was working on God's Country and the Woman, the 1916 film in their successful franchise.

"'And when the last bean and the last prune had been eaten they took the strings from the violin and made soup out of them!' 

"If you don't believe it they'll show you the stringless fiddle. What's it all about? Why only a thrilling press agent story about a Vitagraph company being snowbound in the San Bernardino mountains during the filming of some snow stuff. 

Snowblind, 1921. So cold that the oil in the cameras froze.
Costars Mary Alden, Russell Simpson and Pauline Starke
"The heroine of the story, Nell Shipman, the leading man, William Duncan, Rollin Sturgeon the director, Iguchi the Japanese cook all vouch for the truth of the story. How did they escape death by starvation? The press agent had to stop and gasp for breath here but our private opinion is that until they could walk down the hill the vast mile or two separating them from civilization the material of the violin itself served as board."
--Photoplay 1916 

Not only did people risk their lives but innumerable small technical problems
Nell Shipman;
The Silent Screen &
My Talking Heart
An Autobiography
arose when working in the cold and snow.  
While making Way Down East, D.W. Griffith's cameras actually froze, according to star, Lillian Gish.

While making The Covered Wagon "Lois Wilson and Warren Kerrigan found their greasepaint frozen hard in their makeup boxes while outside the electricians discovered that Jack Frost had been interfering with the works." Not a single engine would work.

Several articles and notes mentioned film companies that headed for Truckee, California to find snow. The town is in the vicinity of Lake Tahoe. Residents of San Jose and the San Francisco bay area may head to this region in wintertime to ski.

Theater lobbies went all out to promote movies.
For the 1923 film Call of the Wild, The Majestic Theatre in Portland, OR
created a 3-D snow scene to give the audience a real experience along with the show

Tricking Nature, Fake Snow

"'How cold! How cold the world!' sobs the heroine, clutching her nameless child to her bosom and the sarcastic laugh of the villain is cut short by a voice off that hisses, 'Mind your cigar, you fool! You're setting the snow on fire!'"

Since many films requiring snow were released at holiday-time they were often made in the summer. Finding snow for making the movies was that much harder. One special effects director spoke of coming to the set in the 1940s to find wildlife eating the artificial snow. 

For instance Christmas in Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan and Sydney Greenstreet was filmed May-July 1944. It contained many "snow" scenes. How did they make fake snow in the old days?

How did they make snow in the 1920s?

Insta-Snow Jar
If a film producer is forced to fake a snow scene he does the thing in style. For one winter exterior filmed in California under blazing summer sunshine over forty tons of salt were employed. 

White pine sawdust is often used in the summer to resemble snow and glass icicles help the illusion. 

The snow may be "manufactured out of some small scraps of paper and a few tons of salt. It looks real."

If the snow is needed in only a few scenes salt and paper thrown down from above and churned around in the air by means of a wind machine make an excellent substitute.  

One of the earliest movies about life in Hollywood and making movies, Souls for Sale, contains a scene showing exactly how this is done.

Souls for Sale stars Frank Mayo, Richard Dix, Mae Busch, Barbara LaMarr, Lew Cody and Eleanor Boardman. The film includes cameos of director Erich von Stroheim and a non-Tramp Charlie Chaplin and snippets of directors Fred Niblo and Marshall Neilan. 

For The Gold Rush, some scenes of great magnitude are also built at the Chaplin Studios in Hollywood. A reproduction of the main section of Nome in 1898 was erected there with a background of the mountains. 

The 1922 silent film, Beyond the Rocks with Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino is reputed to have used at least some fake snow for its scenes in the French Alps. Even in the early days of movies, reviewers were not always able to suspend their disbelief.

"The frozen north is a treacherous ally as perilous as it is fascinating and it is small wonder that many producers prefer the imitation to the real thing and content themselves with snow storms safely manufactured in the studio and with quickly congealing paraffin poured on the water to simulate a freeze-up. 

Gloria Swanson
Beyond the Rocks
"The dramatic Alpine scenes in Beyond the Rocks for instance are just artificial as the frankly artificial snow ballet in A Fool's Paradise and -- between ourselves -- they look it!

"It is often better and cheaper to fake a snow scene in this way for the real stuff is generally too uncertain to rely on. One company a short time ago wen to Truckee to film some Alaskan scene and waited three weeks for the required snow. 

"Eventually they went home disappointed and had to fake the scene at the studio. Afterward they heard that the evening after they left the mountains in the area came down in a regular blizzard!"

Corn Flakes:
The most common stand-in for snow in the early decades of film-making was white-coated or bleached cornflakes, sometimes mixed with shaved gypsum. It produced so much audible crunching and crackling when actors walked across it that dialog was often over-dubbed afterwards.

Cotton Wool
"Shooting snow stuff in the neighbourhood of Truckee California for a picture entitled Big Game. Snow stuff the real thing and not studio salt or cotton wool. You'll find this picture cool and refreshing now that summer is here." The star, May Allison, is an excellent cook and when on location provides many delicacies for the members of her company.  
-- Picturegoer 1921

Gypsum was probably the main mineral used in making fake snow in the early days. It's said to have contributed to the death of actor Lon Chaney. In 1929 he came down with pneumonia. He was later diagnosed with lung cancer. While Mr. Chaney was a smoker, another contributing cause may have been his inhaling the crushed gypsum used in the fake snow in some of his films including Nomads of the North (see link below). Chaney was in his mid-forties when he died.

Several re-takes for Way Down East were filmed in the summertime in 90 degree temperatures. Richard Barthelmess sweltered in his bearskin coat, they said, all the players in their wintry garb their sufferings were far more real than the screen sorrows of the heroine.  
MBT Lighting SM100DMX Flurry Snow Machine 
A few companies make snow-making machines for instant snow that are available to the public, MBT is one of them. I see that regardless of manufacturer customers sometimes think the machines are loud.They're used for weddings, birthdays, proms and other parties, photo shoots, plays, videos and other performances. They also make fog machines and bubble machines. 

For Crafts, there are recipes calling for glitter, mica even Ivory Snow
and you can buy spray on and other things.
** Mashed potato flakes can work for big and small applications, they're safe for kids and most pets.

It's a Wonderful Life James Stewart, 1946
Frank Capra creates a Wonderful New Snow with RKO

Fake snow was upgraded once again in for the 1946 classic film, It's a Wonderful Life thanks to RKO studio’s special effects wizard, Russell Shearman, director Frank Capra who also happened to be an engineer. Helpful was the availability of some post-WWII technology.

The crew used a mixture of foamite, the material used in fire extinguishers, sugar and water, some accounts claim it included soap flakes. Six thousand gallons was pumped at high pressure through a wind machine. The new pseudo-snow "clung convincingly to clothing and created picture-perfect footprints, while generating nothing like the sound of trod-upon breakfast cereal."

Marty Martin, Jack Lannon, Russell Shearman and the RKO Special Effects Department received a Class III citation aka a Class III Scientific or Technical Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for "developing a new method of simulating falling snow on motion picture sets." 

Falling snow in movies today is made from foam-paper.  What are your favorite movies with snow scenes? For some reason, a more current movie that comes to mind for me is Groundhog Day. And I remember the snow in The Godfather which is a favorite film. 

I'm curious about old vs new methods of animating snow. We have an artist in the family who was painting ice and snow, water and bubbles, melting ice cream and Popsicles... Interesting project.

Hawaiian Shaved Ice and
Snow Cone Machine Party Package

A best seller; snow ball maker?

Winter, snowy shorts, serials and feature-length films of the era:

Strongheart, the early dog actor owned by writer and producer Jane Murfin was a hero in several winter-themed films. Some are considered lost and others are difficult to find. Strongheart and Rin Tin Tin were in similar films, they were both huge stars and both have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

After his death, books were written about Strongheart and his legacy, some dealing with communication with animals.
  • The Awful Truth (1925)  Agnes Ayres, Warner Baxter, Winifred Bryson
  • Blind Husbands (1919) Directed by Erich von Stroheim. Sam De Grasse, Francelia Billington, Erich von Stroheim appears as Lieutenant Eric Von Steuben 
  • Call of the Wild (1923) jack Marshall; from Jack London book of the same name
  • The Chechahcos (1924)  William Dills, Albert Van Antwerp, Eva Gordon
  • The City of masks (1920) Robert Warwick, Lois Wilson, Theodore Kosloff    
  • The Girl from God's Country (1921)  Nell Shipman, Edmund Burns, Al W. Filson (Nell Shipman is Neeka Le Mort aka Neeka of the Northlands / Marion Carslake). This film preceded Back to God's Country
  • God's Country and The Woman (1916) Directed by Rollin S. Sturgeon, William Duncan, Nell Shipman, George Holt
  • The Golden Snare (1921) Lewis Stone, Wallace Beery, Melbourne MacDowell  
  • The Great White Trail (1917)  Doris Kenyon, Paul Gordon, Thomas Holding
  • The House of Hate (1918) Serial  Pearl White, Antonio Moreno, Peggy Shanor, Helene Chadwick
  • Hazel Kirke (1916)  Pearl White, Allan Murnane, Riley Hatch
  • I pagliacci (1923) Adelqui Migliar, Lillian Hall-Davis, Campbell Gullan
  • Nomads of the North / The Shock Lon Chaney, Lewis Stone, Melbourne MacDowell
  • Out of the Silent North (1922) Barbara Bedford, Frank Mayo, Frank Leigh
  • Snowblind (1921)  Mary Alden, Russell Simpson, Pauline Starke
  • Snowdrift (1923) Irene Rich, Dorothy Manners, Buck Jones
  • The Snowshoe Trail (1922) Jane Novak, Roy Stewart
  • Tracked in the Snow Country (1925)  Rin Tin Tin, June Marlowe, David Butler
  • Tyrant Fear (1918)  Dorothy Dalton, Thurston Hall, Melbourne MacDowell
  • The Wheel / La Roue (1923) Directed by Abel Gance. Ivy Close, Severin-Mars. Ivy Close, leading lady nearly lost her life through a 200-foot fall down a mountain
  • Wolves of the North (1921) Herbert Heyes, Percy Challenger, Eva Novak The film "contains a wonderful avalanche scene, This effect which purports to be an Alaskan snow-slide was staged in the Yosemite National Park, hundreds of tons of snow and rocks being precipitated down a mountainside whilst busy cameras filmed the scene.

Links to Films and Related Pages of Interest

Nell Shipman Movie Collection DVD Sets

A Good Cry-Off Camera Musicians Help Silent Film Actors Bring Tears Your Director tells you to Cry! Lillian Gish talks more about her role in Way Down East, also video of her being interviewed by Joan Rivers on The Tonight Show 1983

10 Great Stunt Women of the early Silent Movies Real bullets flying by, hanging onto the wheels of trains, whoa Nellie :: More about the work of D.W. Griffith, Lillian Gish in Way Down East

Animals on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: Strongheart, Rin Tin Tin, Character Costumes : Muppets, Godzilla [Currently being revised]

Cocktail Recipes, Drinks named for early Film Stars, Favorites, Ideas for serving : Round ice cube molds

Cinema as Weather: Stylistic Screens and Atmospheric Change: Stylistic Screens and Atmospheric Change (Routledge Advances in Film Studies) From description: "How do cinematic portrayals of the weather reflect and affect our experience of the world? While weatherly predictability and surprise can impact our daily experience, the history of cinema attests to the stylistic and narrative significance of snow, rain, wind, sunshine, clouds, and skies. Through analysis of films ranging from The Wizard of Oz to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, from Citizen Kane to In the Mood for Love, Kristi McKim calls our attention to the ways that we read our atmospheres both within and beyond the movies." 
Kindle, e-book or paper, available to rent. 

For researchers, makers of documentaries, indie, feature films
* The Advances in Film Studies series of books is very interesting and covers a broad range of topics such as Japanese Horror Films, religion in film, fatherhood in film, The Woman's Film of the 1940s and many more. Most available in ebook form.

Pictures & Picturegoer December 1921, 1924
Photoplay October 1924
Screenland September, November 1924
Life Magazine 1946