JUNE CAPRICE : SILENT FILM STAR : FOX’S PICK TO COMPETE WITH MARY PICKFORD

June Caprice started life named Helen Elizabeth Lawson. She was born in 1895 in Arlington, Massachusetts. June was a silent film actress. She attended school in Boston. Her acting career began on the stage. In 1916, she signed with the Fox Film Corporation to make films. William Fox had been searching for an actress to compete with Mary Pickford. Caprice had won a Boston Mary Pickford look-a-like contest. When he discovered Caprice, he boldly predicted that she would become the best known female on the screen within the upcoming six months. A press release introducing her to film fandom, stated that she was seventeen years of age. In fact, she was about twenty years old at the time. Caprice made her screen debut in a move entitled “Caprice of the Mountains” (1916). A film critic, writing in the New York Times described her as “young, pretty, graceful, petite, with an eloquence of gesture that augurs a bright future in the movies”. Her first film provided her with her stage name, “June Caprice”. June became quite popular. She received a lot of attention from fan magazines and was one of Fox’s most profitable stars toward the end of the 1910’s. She made sixteen films while with Fox. Her director for half of the movies was Harry F. Millarde. The pair began a relationship and eventually married. Caprice also worked at one time for Pathe studios. She left the film industry to begin a family and in 1922 she gave birth to a daughter. Caprice’s career took a downturn after World War I. The sweet, pure and innocent look lost popularity and was replaced by the jazz age flapper look. She later returned to working on stage and modelling. In 1931, her husband died at the young age of 46. Five years later, Caprice had a fatal heart attack while in Los Angeles. At the time, she also was suffering with cancer. She was just 40 years old at the time of her death. Caprice’s daughter was only aged 14 when she was orphaned. She was raised by her grandparents on Long Island, New York. She became a “cover girl” and actress. She used the name Toni Seven. Her photo and brief biography can be found elsewhere in the Cabinet Card Gallery. Seven inherited three million dollars from her family. The IMDb credits June Caprice with 22 film appearances between 1916 and 1921. This vintage real photo postcard was published by Pictures Ltd which was located in London, England. It was published with the perimission of the Fox Film Co. The card is part of a series (no.12) labelled “Pictures” Portrait Gallery. This vintage postcard is in very good condition (see scans).

 

Buy this Vintage Real Photo Postcard (includes shipping within the US) #3201

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SALLY PHIPPS: RISQUE PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG, PRETTY AND REBELLIOUS FILM STAR (1927), AND AN ADDITIONAL PHOTO PORTRAIT OF MISS PHIPPS

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POSTCARD 1   (SOLD)

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POSTCARD 1  (SOLD)

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POSTCARD 2

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POSTCARD 2

These vintage real photo postcards feature American actress, Sally Phipps (1911-1978). She was born in Oakland, California. Her father was a magician and her mother was a colorist in a photography studio. Her father left the family when she was age four, and Sally went to live with a foster family. Her foster parents both worked in the film industry. Sally appeared in her first film, at age three. It was called “Broncho Billy and the Baby” (1914). There were two more films in the series the following year. Prior to her debut in the movies, she had won several “Beautiful Baby ” contests. She was rediscovered by director Frank Borzage while still in high school. At age 15, in 1926, she began using the name “Sally Phipps”. She became a Fox film star and appeared in over twenty films before the arrival of 1929. In 1927, she was selected as one of thirteen “Wampas Baby Stars”. The organization was very successful at identifying future stars. Among their “finds” was Clara Bow and Joan Crawford. As a result of becoming a Wampas star, her photograph appeared in many film magazines. She often was dressed in silk and fur. Her first starring role was in the film “Love Makes ‘Em Wild” (1927). Her last appearance in a Fox film was 1929, despite her five year contract with the studio that she signed in 1927. In 1931, Phipps appeared in a Broadway production by Kaufman & Hart called “Once in a Lifetime”). Looking at Phipps career, it is evident that she played many “vamp” roles. A New York Times (2008) article described her as “a comic sexpot whose innocently naughty antics were the very embodiment of flaming youth.”.     The article also described her off screen flapper lifestyle stating that she smoked, tangoed, dated older men, and rode around Hollywood in a flashy car.  Like many young stars, Phipps had difficulty handling her success. Some of her difficulty was seen in her defiant personality. She frequently displayed a lack of dedication to her acting. She also overspent and built up large debts. She sued her parents when they tried to control her spending. This legal action is thought to have resulted in enough negative publicity to hurt her career. At age 18, with two years left in her Fox contract, she took off for New York and the stage. Fox was ok with her skipping out on the contract. They were basically done with her. Phipps was married twice. Her husband was Benedict Gimbel Jr, heir to the department store, Gimbels. They married in 1931 and divorced in 1935. After her divorce, she found herself living in a one room apartment in New York City, and making twenty-five dollars a week as a secretary. She developed an interest in theosophy and Eastern religions and lived in India for a short time. Later, Miss Phipps married Alfred M. Harned, a New York musician. She had met him at a seance. The couple had two children. She and her family moved to Hawaii and Phipps had a mental breakdown. She and her husband separated and the kids stayed with their father. For awhile she kept in contact with her children. In a short time, she abandoned them. She did not see her son for seventeen years.  Phipps appeared in two Broadway shows during her careeer. Her filmography includes 24 appearances in movies between 1915 and 1931. Like many early film stars, her rapid rise to stardom was followed by a quick dive into obscurity. According to the date written on the reverse of postcard 1, this portrait of Miss Phipps was taken in 1927. She was only 15 or 16 years of age at the time. It seems a bit creepy to me that teenage girls could be so sexualized by movie studios. The postcard was published by Iris Verlag and is part of a series (no. 913). The postcard photo includes the logo of “Fox Film”, indicating she was under contract with the studio at the time the postcard was published.                  Postcard 2 features a smiling Miss Phipps doing calligraphy. The writing is either Japanese, or Chinese. The postcard was published by Ross Verlag as part of a series (no. 4492/1). This postcard, like the first, has a logo for Fox Films, one of this actress’s film studios holding her contract. This postcard once resided in an album. It is in very good condition.

Buy this original Real Photo Postcard (includes shipping within the US) #2590b (POSTCARD 2)

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PHIPPS 2

POSTCARD 1

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POSTCARD 2

SEXUAL CHEMISTRY IN FILM: VIRGINIA VALLI AND GEORGE O’BRIEN (RPPC)

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Can sexual chemistry be photographed? This fantastic vintage real photo postcard provides evidence that the answer is yes. This image captures early film stars George O’Brien and Virginia Valli in an emotionally charged scene in an unknown movie. The pair starred together in at least two silent movies produced by Fox. The films were “Paid to Love” (1927) and “Eastside Westside” (1927). Virginia Valli (1898-1968) was an American stage and film actress. Her early acting experience was with a Milwaukee based stage troupe. Her film career started in the silent film era and ended in the early stages of the talkies (1930’s). She has 65 credits on the IMDB web site. She began her film work with Essanay Studios in her hometown of Chicago in 1916. By the mid 1920’s, she was an established star at Universal Studios. She was the star of  King Vidor’s “Wild Oranges” (1924). Most of her films were produced in the mid 1920’s and include Alfred Hitchcock’s first feature movie, “The Pleasure Garden” (1925). Her first sound picture was in 1929. She left the movie business in 1931 due to her high salary command and declining appeal to audiences. She moved to Palm Springs, California with her second husband, actor Charles Farrell. She was very much part of the social scene there. She died in Palm Springs at age seventy. George O’Brien (1899-1985) was an American actor popular during the silent film era as well as the early talkies era of the 1930’s. He is remembered most for his role in Murnau’s 1927 film “Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans”. He had an active film career which is evident by the fact that the IMDB web site gives him 85 credits. O’Brien was born in San Francisco and his father at one time, was the city’s chief of police.  During World War I, O’Brien was in the US Navy and served on a submarine chaser. He worked as a stretcher bearer for wounded Marines and was decorated for his bravery. Following the war, O’Brien became the light-heavyweight champion of the Pacific Fleet. After completing is service, O’Brien was in his early twenties and he went to Hollywood to seek work as a cameraman. He did find employment in the field and helped film for Tom Mix and Buck Jones. He then entered acting by playing bit parts and by being a stuntman. His first starring role was in “The Man Who Came Back” (1927) where he played opposite Doroth Mackaill. He then appeared in “Iron Horse” by famed director John Ford in which his counterpart was Madge Bellamy. The film was a great success and the experience forged a colloborative relationship with Ford that resulted in O’Brien appearing in nine more of the directors films. He spent much of the 1920’s as a leading man in action and adventure type roles. During the 20’s he received the nickname “the torso” because of his excellent physique. With the arrival of sound, O’Brien appeared predominately in Westerns during the 1930’s and he was considered a major draw. With the arrival of World War II, O’Brien re-enlisted in the US Navy and served as a beachmaster in the Pacific theater. He was decorated several times and when he was discharged he had attained the rank of commander. He later joined the Naval Reserve where he served as a captain. O’Brien’s last leading role was in a film that included the Three Stooges. According to his obituary,  O’Brien was buried at sea courtesy of the US Navy. This real photo postcard was published by Iris Verlag and made in Germany. The postcard is part of a series (no. 5121) and credits Fox Film.
ADDENDUM: After viewing this image, a visitor contacted me to claim that the beautiful woman in this photograph is not Virginia Valli, but instead, it is June Collyer (1906-1968). I was unable to locate information or relevant comparison images to definitively confirm that it is Collyer that is in the photograph, but I did find a film publicity photo identical to the postcard image above. The description of that photo indicates that the pictured woman is Collyer. Collyer was born in New York City and as a society girl was chosen by Allan Dwan (Director, Producer, Screen Writer) to her first starring role in “East Side, West Side. She did eleven silent films and made a successful transition to talkies. In 1928 she was he was one of the thirteen girls selected as “WAMPAS BABY STARS”. In 1930 she appeared in “The Three Sisters” and “Sweet Kitty Bellairs”. From 1930 through 1936 she starred in nineteen films. She took a sabbatical from acting in the 1940’s and did television acting during the 1950’s. June was the sister of radio actor/announcer Bud Collyer (1908-1969). He became a major game show star hosting such programs as “Beat the Clock” and “To Tell the Truth”. June Collyer was married to actor Stu Erwin. In conclusion, I am unsure whether the beautiful woman in this image is Miss Valli or Miss Collyer. It is an answerable question if someone is willing to do the requisite research.

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