Thursday, September 1, 2016

Katherine Grant

Here it is! On Saturday, me and a small group of fellow silent film fans got together at Katherine's grave site to honor her. Please ignore the dead grass (it is California after all) and focus on how great the headstone turned out. I am very honored to have been a part of this project and look forward to many more in the future.

Speaking of...

At the event I let everyone know that our next headstone projects will be for Lita Grey and May McAvoy. Lita only needs a cenotaph considering she was cremated and her ashes scattered, so that one shouldn't be as difficult as an actual headstone. I am currently looking into the cemetery rules and regulations for non-family members purchasing headstones and reaching out to next of kin. I will keep you informed!

Yours truly with Katherine!

September Birthdays!

New month means new stars!
Check out the silent stars who were born in September? Anyone share your birthday?

RIGHT after this I will be posting the picture of Katherine Grant's headstone in place, so keep an eye out!


Betty Blythe ~ September 1, 1893

Marilyn Miller ~ September 1, 1898

Richard Arlen ~ September 1, 1899

Louise Glaum ~ September 4, 1888

Arline Pretty ~ September 5, 1885

Irene Fenwick ~ September 5, 1887

Doris Kenyon ~ September 5, 1897

Clara Kimball Young ~ September 6, 1890

Beatrice Dominguez ~ September 6, 1897

Dorothy Gulliver ~ September 6, 1908

Merna Kennedy ~ September 7, 1908

May McAvoy ~ September 8, 1899

Marguerite Snow ~ September 9, 1889

Tsuru Aoki ~ September 9, 1892

Pauline Garon ~ September 9, 1901

Al St. John ~ September 10, 1893

Adele Astaire ~ September 10, 1896

Bessie Love ~ September 10, 1898

Asta Nielsen ~ September 11, 1881

Alice Lake ~ September 12, 1895

Billie Ritchie ~ September 14, 1878

Fay Wray ~ September 15, 1907

Edith Roberts ~ September 17, 1899

Esther Ralston ~ September 17, 1902

Dolores Costello ~ September 17, 1903

Greta Garbo ~ September 18, 1905

Ben Turpin ~ September 19, 1869

Leland Benham ~ September 20, 1905

John Bunny ~ September 21, 1863

Dorothy Dalton ~ September 22, 1893

Julia Faye ~ September 24, 1893

Antonio Moreno ~ September 26, 1887

Gladys Brockwell ~ September 26, 1894

Alice Hollister ~ September 28, 1886

Myrtle Gonzalez ~ September 28, 1891

Ruth Stonehouse ~ September 28, 1892

Billy Bevan ~ September 28, 1887

Lil Dagover ~ September 30, 1887

Valda Valkyrien ~ September 30, 1895

Renee Adoree ~ September 30, 1898

Elsie Tarron ~ September 30, 1903

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Katherine Grant Headstone Unveiling

Hello, hello, hello!

I have been on vacation otherwise I would have posted this sooner, but better late than never, right?

Anyway, I wanted to let everyone know that the official unveiling of Katherine Grant's headstone will take place Saturday, August 27th at 1:00 pm and should last to about 4:00 or so. The ceremony will take place at Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles (I will provide the address and grave location below.)

At the ceremony there will be a special edition of the Silent Film Quarterly dedicated to Katherine Grant available and it will also include information about future headstone projects. The next project will hopefully be announced the same day as well. We just gotta pin it down between our two top choices!

If you are unable to attend, no worries! You will definitely be there in spirit! Many of our donors can't be there due to being outside of the state, but the love and support will be felt, believe me! I also have a good friend who is making a slide show that will include pictures of the ceremony and the headstone for those who are unable to attend. That will be posted next week as soon as I get the pictures to her. 

If you ARE able to attend, here is the info you will need to know:

Evergreen Cemetery
204 N. Evergreen Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90033

Katherine is buried in Section E of the cemetery. I am horrible at giving directions, but I will say that when you enter the cemetery, keep to the right and follow the road and you will run into Section E. The sections are all marked in black and white on the curb so keep an eye out for that. I am sure you will see a couple cars lined up as well where we will be gathering. The cemetery isn't in the best part of town, nor is it the best kept (much to my annoyance) but it is one of the oldest in the city and has some really beautiful headstones to look at.

If you have any questions or need more information, feel free to leave a comment below or e-mail me. I hope to see you there!

* The three pictures you see here were sent to me by Katherine's great niece, Kelly. They are just absolutely gorgeous!*
ALSO! I mentioned in the last entry (I think) about taking my blog to the airwaves by creating a Silence is Platinum podcast. This is still very much in the works. I was having the hardest time trying to nail down a topic for the first episode, so I conducted a survey on Facebook and it looks like the winner was the series I had titled, "No Talkies: silent stars who never made a talkie." I did a series of these last year and it was pretty popular due to my highlighting stars that weren't as well known (I sound like I am tooting my own horn, promise I'm not!) So, as soon as we get that all nailed down, I will post the information on where to find it.

One more thing before I take my bow, I have a lovely friend and kindred spirit in silent film and cemeteries who is working on a book about that very subject. She doesn't live in California, however, and is working on getting out here to conduct more research for said book. I have included the link to her GoFundMe page HERE.. Every little bit helps! I am so excited for this book, I wish I could donate millions!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ernie "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison

'Sunshine Sammy' Morrison, Mickey Daniels, Mary Kornman, Joe Cobb, Jackie Condon, Allen 'Farina' Hoskins

I was on a documentary kick a few days ago and watched one on Youtube called, "Our Gang: Inside the Clubhouse." Is it the best made documentary out there? No. Is it still worth watching? I think so. While it is dated and not very well made, you do have a chance to hear behind the scenes stories from Our Gang members like Dorothy DeBorba, Tommy Bond, and the subject of this entry, Ernie "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison. 

One of the things I really enjoyed about the documentary was hearing the stories from the actors themselves and how glad I was that they had (for the most part) fond memories of their days as Little Rascals. While some of them were too young to remember all of their experiences, they do remember that they really liked their teacher on the lot and that they all really loved director, Robert McGowan, or 'Uncle Bob', as they called him. 

I think it is worth checking out and if you wish to, check it out here. For now, let's focus on Our Gang member and the first black child star, "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison. I want to add a little disclaimer to this entry because I feel it is necessary. I am going to include some quotes taken from movie magazines of the time and the way that Ernie is often described is not politically correct by any means. However, we must keep in mind the time period and take that into consideration when reading the quotes. Ernie and other black child stars of Our Gang talk about this in the above mentioned documentary and how they were never made to feel different or ostracized on set. They and the other cast members and crew were 'color blind' and they were actually ahead of their time having white and black children playing together on screen. So, please keep these things in mind while proceeding with the entry. 

"Sunshine Sammy" was born either Frederic Ernest Morrison or Ernest Frederick Morrison (the first is what is marked on his headstone, while the latter is from census records) on December 20, 1912 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was the oldest child and only son born to Joseph Ernest Morrison, a grocer and later actor, and his wife, Louise Lewis. Ernie was later joined by three younger sisters, Florence, Vera, and Dorothy. (there was reportedly another sister, but I couldn't find her on census records) His sisters would sometimes have bit roles in pictures too.

Ernie got his start in films through a friend of his father who worked in the industry as a producer. One day the producer friend asked Joseph Morrison if he could bring his son by the studio. Apparently the original child actor hired would not stop crying and they had pretty much given up trying to console him. Joseph brought in his young son and the producer and director were impressed at how well behaved he was. It was this positive disposition that garnered Ernie his nickname, "Sunshine." His father would later add "Sammy" to the moniker. 

Ernie's film debut was 1916's The Soul of a Child

From top: Wesley Barry, Ernie, Florence Morrison, and Gordon Griffith

From 1917 to 1922, Ernie's career was mainly in shorts that paired him with another popular child star of the silent era, Baby Marie Osborne. He also appeared in Harold Lloyd shorts and later with another comedian of the day, Snub Pollard and a now forgotten comedic leading lady of the day, Marie Mosquini. While appearing in these shorts he used the name "Sunshine Sambo."

In 1921, Ernie was offered his own comedy series, but unfortunately it only lasted one episode. However, it was shortly after that he was offered the chance to appear in a new series being created by Hal Roach to be called Hal Roach's Rascals. He may not have been the one and only star of the series, but he sure stood out! 

Ernie made his Our Gang/Hal Roach's Rascals debut in the 1922 short, One Terrible Day, which was actually the debut for most of the original members. In the first few shorts, his character's name was 'Booker T. Bacon.'

Hal Roach, Ernie, and Joseph Morrison

During the two years he appeared as an Our Gang member he used various names on screen including Booker T. Bacon, Sorghum, Ernie, Sammy, and Sunshine Sammy. 

As it happens with all child stars, eventually the cute little boy grew up and he made his final Our Gang picture in 1924 at the ripe old age of twelve. 

After leaving films, Ernie appeared on the vaudeville stage, the apparent 'go-to' for many of the former Our Gang kids. He would return to the screen in the 1940s, appearing with another group, The Dead End/East Side Kids. Ernie played a character named 'Scruno.' 

Leo Gorcey, Ernie, Bobby Jordan, Billy Benedict, and Bobby Stone

Like many young men of the time, Ernie was drafted into the army to serve in World War II. After serving his country by entertaining the troops overseas, he was asked if he wanted to return to the screen with a new gang called The Bowery Boys. Ernie declined the offer.

Greenwich Village (1944) starring Carmen Miranda would be his final screen appearance. He did appear on television once in a 1974 episode of Good Times playing a messenger. 

After retiring from performing, Ernie found work in the aircraft industry and that is where he worked for almost 20 years.

Ernie passed away on July 24, 1989 from cancer in Lynwood, California. 

He was interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California. 

There isn't a lot of information on Ernie's personal life as far as romantic relationships. I did find a newspaper article from 1936 that talks about what might have been his only marriage. Ernie met Harlem chorus girl, Annette McAbee, while he was working on the vaudeville stage. The couple would eventually marry around 1934 and would separate and eventually divorce around 1936. Annette would later tell the press that she still loved Ernie, but that the family dynamics made the marriage strained almost from the start. According to her, Joseph Morrison wasn't too happy to have someone coming into his son's life and taking his attention away from his stage career. The strain between father and son eventually led to Ernie dropping him as manager. Annette reportedly got along well with Louise Morrison (or Louise Robinson, as the Morrisons had divorced in 1933) and frequently corresponded with her. I should note however that while the two wrote often, they never met. What a situation this was!

Ernie and Harold Lloyd

"Who doesn't know 'Sunshine Sammy,' the funny little darkie of the Hal Roach comedies? Millions have laughed at him, exhibitors have commented upon his popularity with their audiences, though he wasn't starred, - just a wide-grinning little coon, loose jointed, full of pep, a 'pip' of a 'feeder' to the comedy stars he supported. Now he is starred in one two-reel comedy, made the way Hal Roach knows how to make 'em." -- Exhibitor's Herald, December 1921