Letters to the Editor - Brickbats and Bouquets from Hollywood Fan Magazines #1

Silent films were never silent and neither we're the fans.  Of the movie magazines, starting with Photoplay and Motion Picture, the readers (and presumably filmgoers) had an avenue to air their brickbats and bouquets.  Many a filmgoer was a more astute critic than those of the magazines.  Many letters are sweet, some are acerbic and some are just plain fun.  Others are heartwarming and also some are sad.  Readers were not shy to let the editors know who was and who was not in favor.  They also complained about their fellow letter writers.  If a film stunk, they did not hesitate to let people know it.  (This was also true of the film trade rags, we'll get to some of them, soon) 

Here are two letters to start us off from 1920.

First we have a young man who was an impatient Douglas Fairbanks fan. 

Friend Editor.—
I have been reading your magazines for many months, and like all human people, I really enjoy them. The Letters to the Editor are especially interesting to me. In fact, they are the first thing's I turn to. It so happens that I am new in this town and. therefore, lonesome and friendless, so if some of your readers would write to me, why, they would be doing much to cheer me up. I am eighteen years of age and work in the daytime and you, perhaps, can imagine my joy if I should come home some night, tired and weary, to find a note from some fellow reader waiting for me.
Don’t you think Doug Fairbanks is beginning to show some signs of life lately? His latest, "Till the Clouds Roll By," sure was great and the only complaint I have to make about this universal laugh-creator is that there is not enough of his work upon the screen. Why doesn't he make more pictures and quit stalling? When he was under the Artcraft banner we saw a lot of him, but now that he is on his own he has slowed down too much. Well. I have now said my say, so I'll give someone else a chance. Here's wishing you and your three magazines the best of luck. May you enjoy it as only one as worthy as you can.
Very truly yours,
Stanley G. Lehigh.
59 Fremont Street, Bloomfield, N. J.

Let's hope that young Stanley made some good friends.  In newspapers, and magazines of the day, people's addresses were used in reporting (especially fun when in NY and LA they were reporting on a gruesome murder).  Simpler times!  Google maps shows that Stanley's home is still standing in Bloomfield, NJ.  Such a beauty, it is, too!

Regarding his question of Fairbanks slowing down productions, he was working on The Mark of Zorro which would be released in December 1920 to great acclaim. Fairbanks would never release films at the rate of his earlier "dress suit" comedies of the 1916-1919 period.

Sidney Lust's Leader Theater in Washington, D.C.
Now playing: Douglas Fairbanks in "The Mark of Zorro."
(Image from Shorpy)

* * *

Not all letters complained about the movies or the stars.  It's nice to see that some readers really cared and had some consideration for the fragile egos of the players.  She realized that good, bad or indifferent, they were doing their very best.  I am sure celebrities today would really appreciate this understanding attitude.  Much nicer than the mocking and snark of twitter and the comments section of instagram. 

Dear Editor:—
I have enjoyed very much reading the letters from "film fans" and I often feel like smiling at the way in which they criticize the players. My ! Don’t the stars get enough criticism among themselves without the public's venturing forth to find one of the players who try so hard to please us in every way, and then going into detail over every minor fault. None of us are perfect and the film folks are just as human as we are.
It is certainly no enjoyment for them to toil unceasingly day after day for us and then to be criticized. What is the matter? I think as much of the dear little extras as I do of the stars. God bless them! We often see the faults in others which we cannot see in ourselves. Or if we do see them, we are too vain to acknowledge them. The actors and actresses strive to do the impossible. They strive to please everybody. Do we ? I know that we do not. We think of ourselves only. I would be glad to hear from fans.
Wishing the Magazine more of the success which it daily receives, I remain,
Lorraine Naaman,
211 Des Moines Ave., Salina, Kansas

I hope that if any of the stars actually read the Letters to the Editor section of the fan magazines, they took a little heart that there was at least one fan who would stand up for them, no matter what.  Google Maps reveals Loraine's house is still standing in Salina, Kansas.

Letters to the Editor will be a continuing series on this blog.


Popular Posts