Silver King! The horse with a personality!
“Get him alive!”
“Mary Pickford was married to one man and in love with another, but she still had an eye for a handsome face. In her position as their honorary colonel, she reviewed the troops of the 143rd Field Artillery and…spotted a six-foot-two, blue-eyed, sandy-haired fullback whose chiseled features stood out even in a crowd of good-looking men. She was careful to position herself next to him for the team picture.
Mary returned to Camp Kearney with Frances [Marion] a few weeks later to finalize the arrangements for the 143rd’s appearance in Johanna Enlists. The two women toured the base hospital because Mary’s ‘find’ from the previous visit was recovering from a broken leg. Frances had to agree that Fred Thomson was something to look at and…stayed behind to talk with the handsome patient…
…as Fred and Frances spent the afternoon talking, they realized they had met their respective match. He was well-read and a musician and mathematician by avocation with a breadth of knowledge she had rarely encountered - certainly never in someone so good-looking. [Fred was also a “world champion athlete,” chaplain of his division, and wrote regular articles about “the virtues of clean living.”]
‘No one had written more satirically about ‘love at first sight’ than I,’ Frances admitted, but that night she told Mary it had happened to her. She knew that if she had penned such a scene it would have been discarded as too far-fetched, but the truth was that the experienced and sophisticated writer had fallen in love with a straitlaced, God-fearing Boy Scout.”
~Excerpt from Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood by Cari Beauchamp
There is a smaller version of this photo here upon which is written:
“BILL PICKETT, famous cowboy negro, first man bulldogger, also used his teeth bulldogging instead of hands on horns method used by cowboys today.”
(Yep, his teeth. He would bite the steer on the nose and lip. For real.)
Today is the birthday of Bill Pickett, the first African-American to be inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame, the first African-American cowboy star, and the originator of “bulldogging,” a type of steer wrestling. (IMDb)
Pickett also appeared in two silent films for the Norman Film Manufacturing Company: The Bull-Dogger (1921) and The Crimson Skull (1922). (Norman Studios was a Jacksonville, Florida-based company which produced a string of films using only African-American actors - unfortunately, only one of the films they made in the ’10s and ’20s, The Flying Ace, survives today).
Upon his death in 1932, Pickett’s friend Will Rogers said on his radio program: “Bill Pickett never had an enemy, even the steers wouldn’t hurt old Bill.” In 1994, the US Postal Service issued a stamp with his portrait as part of its “Legends of the West” series. He remains an important figure in the history of the American West, African-American history, and in the history of rodeo.
“William S. Hart stars as Careless Carmody, a good-hearted soul who is given the job as sheriff in a tiny frontier town in Arizona by city slicker Wesley Prentice (Bert Sprotte). When Prentice swindles Carmody’s sweetheart Ruth (Seena Owen) as well, he must track down the low life and bring him to justice.”
“Mix play a cowboy millionaire who accidentally breaks a glass vessel believed to contain a poison, which is thought to have infected him, of which only one man has the antidote and that man is halfway across the globe. He will die if he doesn’t get the remedy within 30 days!”
Tangled Trails, 1921
IMDb: “Corporal Jack Borden, of the Northwest Mounted Police, trails the man who killed his partner to New York City. The killer is an unscrupulous promoter who is selling worthless stock in a gold mine. Borden, with the help of Blanche Hall, locates the man in a Bowery dive, but he escapes and Borden tracks him back to Canada. Along the way, he discovers that Blanche and his sweetheart, Milly, are long-separated sisters and brings about a reconciliation.”
My Own Pal, 1926
(Left: William S. Hart, Right: Buster Keaton in The Frozen North)
“[Up next is] a violent, depraved, all together riotous little number from 1922 called The Frozen North. Keaton, the master of deadpan, “The Great Stone Face,” set out to parody the other popular stone face of the silent era, the Western star William S. Hart. I think he picked up as no one else did the psychotic vibe in Hart’s persona, and the result is delirious, free-associative, and amazingly violent, with sick jokes unlike any in the Keaton repertoire, on the way to one of the few surprise endings of its time that’s not an irritant.”
New York Magazine film critic David Edelstein introducing Keaton’s The Frozen North on TCM
(Is the guy in the lower left brandishing a…puppy? A lion cub?)
Fred Thomson, silent Western star and husband of screenwriter Frances Marion, portrait by Jack Freulich
(image via Films Muets)