Posted on August 19th, 2015 by Rachel
While doing background research for our current exhibit Cinema Judaica, I came across a surprising number of photos in our collections showing Hollywood stars in and around Baltimore. Most of these made obvious sense: people who owned homes nearby, or who were in town to raise funds for Israel Bonds or promote a film. One photo in particular was a little harder to parse, however: a publicity shot of Pearl White, silent movie star.
Pearl White, 1916. Donated by Richard Millhauser, JMM 1995.88.27
In the 1910s, Miss White (1889-1938) was the daredevil heroine of film serials with fabulous titles like “The Perils of Pauline” and “The Exploits of Elaine.” You know the film cliché of a distressed damsel tied to the railroad tracks, cowering from a mustachioed, black-hatted villain? Though this specific trope is more common in later cartoons and spoofs than it ever was during the silent era, the broader notion of action-packed, anything-goes filmmaking in the 1910s and ‘20s is thanks in part to Miss White – who was famous for doing her own stunts – and her endangered-heroine films, including the occasional stint on a railroad tie. Please enjoy this thrilling advertisement for “The Fatal Ring” (1917):
So many thrills! “The Fatal Ring” by Pathé Exchange (film) – Internet Archive. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
…But back to our collections, and the reasons Miss White appears in them. As best I can tell from published material, such as her autobiography, Miss White was not Jewish, nor was she from Maryland. What’s she doing in my archives?
With internet research, a field trip to the Enoch Pratt Free Library, and the assistance of intern Kaleigh, the question was easily solved. To start with, the back of our photograph is inscribed in pencil, “To Mr. David Millhauser – The man who got my life history – Sincerely, Pearl White – in Baltimore July 3 ‘16”.
Reverse of JMM 1995.88.27
David Millhauser (1892-1992) worked as a reporter for the Baltimore American. Bits and pieces in our collections indicate that he covered political and industrial news around the city. For example, here’s his U.S. Customs “Pass to Piers, Waterfront or Vessel” from 1918, listing his occupation as “newspaper reporter” and his employer as C.C. Fulton Co., the owner of the American.
Donated by Richard Millhauser. JMM 1991.133.1
Pearl White filmed a now-lost movie, “Mayblossom,” at Carrollton Hall (Howard County, Maryland) in 1916. On July 3rd of that year, she was photographed and interviewed at Baltimore’s Hotel Kernan by unnamed representatives of the Baltimore American; her photo appeared in the paper on July 4th, and a longer interview was published on July 9th.
“Popular Movie Actress Here. Miss Pearl White, the daring and popular Pathé star, who is in Baltimore to take the leading role in a picture to be staged here. The photograph was taken in front of the Hotel Kernan yesterday afternoon by a member of the Art Department of The American.” From The Baltimore American, July 4, 1916, accessed at the Enoch Pratt Free Library.
Though the July 9th article – which consists almost entirely of Miss White’s own words, detailing her poverty-stricken background, her adventurous career, and her refusal to divulge her age – is unattributed, the source interview on July 3rd coincides neatly with the date noted on the photo given to Millhauser; unless there was some other way he elicited her life story on a Monday in Baltimore, I presume that he was the American’s interviewer.
Was a chat with an actress something of a departure from Millhauser’s regular beat? Based on the cursory nature of the article’s descriptions – Miss White is noted simply as “wearing a big blue hat fastened under her chin with a rubber band” – I’m inclined to think this kind of gossipy publicity piece wasn’t really in the author’s line. We’ll have to do some more research in the American’s archives to find out for sure… but in the meantime, there is one more connection to be made with Baltimore’s movie history. In the 1910s David’s father Moses Millhauser owned the Elektra, a movie theater on North Gay Street in Baltimore. The whole family, including David, took part in the theater’s operation, from managing the lobby to providing voiceovers for the silent films on the screen. Perhaps this connection is what garnered Millhauser the assignment of interviewing one of the most popular movie stars of the day. Whatever the reason, thankfully he held on to the personalized photo for many years, until it eventually made its way to our archives – providing just a hint of adventure and glamour to those who stumble upon it.
The fanciful façade of Moses Millhauser’s Elektra Theater greets visitors to “Cinema Judaica”, open through September 6, 2015 at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Photo by Will Kirk.
A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.
Posted on January 31st, 2013 by Rachel
In just three weeks the Jewish Museum of Maryland will once again be hosting its annual Purim Pandemonium.
This year’s theme fuses nostalgia and fantasy:
Purim PROMdemonium: Prom on the Big Screen
Prom has become such an integral part of teenage life that movies about teenagers have been referencing it or focusing on it for decades. Now is your chance to either relive your prom, live a better prom, or recreate your favorite Hollywood Prom moments.
But what are those Hollywood moments?
We’re taking a very broad view of Prom here, whether it’s the delightfully 80s Pretty in Pink or the much less delightful Carrie, from horror to romantic comedy to drama there’s so much to choose from. We’re going to offer you a little costume inspiration here: movies about or including not only Prom but also homecoming. After all the homecoming dance also holds a special place in teenage memory and movie magic history.
Pretty in Pink
She’s All That
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Never Been Kissed
Prom Night (II, III, IV and the recent remake)
10 Things I Hate about you
Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion
Drive Me Crazy
Back to the Future
And don’t forget the numerous Prom and Homecoming dance episodes of your favorite TV shows – there’s more than you might think. See our pinterest board for more inspiration!
Saturday, February 23, 2013, 9pm-1am
15 Lloyd Street, Baltimore MD 21202
The Jewish Museum of Maryland at the Herbert Bearman Campus
Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door, and $15 each for groups of 10 or more.
Tickets can be purchased here or by contacting Jennifer Vess at firstname.lastname@example.org Remember, this is a 21 and over only event. Many thanks to our sponsors Changing Media and Naron Candies.