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Moving Picture Exhibitors' Association.

Photoplay (Volume 36 – 37 (Jul. - Dec. 1929)) online

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122



Photoplay Magazine — Advertising Section




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More hard woik for the new type of Hollywood extra. Rehearsing
the girls in the *'Say It With a Big Brass Band'* number of Metro-
Goldwyn-Mayer's ^'Hollywood Revue of 1929*'



The Passing of the Extra Girl



[ CONTINUED FROM PACE 31 |



attractive extras who ever wore a pair of false
eyelashes.

"I got out just as sound effects came in and
I'm out for good," she said. "There was noth-
ing more for me, since I couldn't sing, nor
dance, nor make a noise like a duck. So I
went to secretarial school and here I am."

ASM.'^RT young saleswoman at the Russell
Shop on Ilollj^vood Boulevard, ^^■ho asks
sweetly, "What can I do for you, Madame?"
turned out to be one Ouida Willis, an exotic,
vampish extra.

In Beverly Hills, at Dan Jones Realty Com-
pany, I discovered Natalie Napp who used to
work in pictures four or live days a iveek. She
is Jones' secretary.

At Howard Greer's smart "maison" is a
clever little person employed as a shopper She
is Dorothy Irving, one of the old extra guard.

These are the lucky girls. These are the
clever girls who saw the crash coming and got
out of tlie industry into good, steady jobs.

One girl had a good break when she was em-
ployed to advertise a new make of automobile
by riding around in one of the snappy models.
Now she's selUng cars and doing nicely.

It is the t)pe of picture most adaptable to
the talking device that has brought about the
change. The new school admits only spec-
tacular musical shows and intimate drama. In
neither of these can the ten-doUar-a-day
"dress" extra be used. INIob scenes will al-
ways be. And the crook pictures need char-
acter tiTJes, but such work pays only S5. The
mob talent is different from the dress extra.

When Hollywood turned audible, Central
Casting began to recast. Notices were posted
at all the studios that anyone qualified for
talldng work was to re-register immediately.
The new appUcation blanks have spaces for
such accomplisliments as singing, dancing,
foreign languages spoken, animal noises made,
sound imitations, whistling, etc.

Marian !Mel, in charge of women at Central,
is concerned with the situation. "There was
a time when a type could be used in various



ways," she said. " For instance, if a girl looked
distinctly Latin we could cast her as an Italian
fisherman's daughter or a French maid or may-
be a harem beauty.

"But now the Italian fisherman's daughter
must speak a few words of Italian. The French
maid must sing a little song in French and the
harem girl must be able to do a Nautch dance.

"It isn't beauty that counts half as much as
the ability to sing and dance and make noises.

"We have all sorts of strange registrations.
One man can make a sound like a wolf's howl.
Now the company could get a real wolf, but
it's better to have a man because he will howl
when he's told. Wolves are not so accommo-
dating.

"One man registered with us speaks Lettish.
We have dozens who know Arabian and we
have all the.dialects of all the various countries.

"Y\ TE'RE casting for voices rather than

** faces now. I did an unheard of thing
the other day. I sent a blonde girl out to a
studio to play a French maid. But she was
French and could speak the language and that
was all that counted. It's an entirely new
business."

The modern tj'pe of extra is better off than
her predecessor. \\'hen a girl has been trained
for a dance number another can't be substi-
tuted at a moment's notice. So the dancers
and singers are put under contract for the entire
picture. These girls receive about S60 a week
when they're working and about $30 wlien
they're rehearsing. 'This is an improvement
o\'er the chorus girl conditions in New '\'ork
where they rehearse for nothing and sometimes
work on a show for six weeks that only lasts on
Broadway for two.

The girls used in the Fox Follies are under a
yearly contract. They work hard while they
work, but they often have several weeks layoff
with pay.

How are these good jobs obtained? What
are the new requirements? Here's what the
modern extra must be :

She must have a pretty face.



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Photoplay Magazine — Advertising Section



123



She must have a pretty figure.

She must be able to dance.

And to sing.

She must be young.

And have personahty.

And excellent health.

Hordes of chorus directors have been brought
on from New York to train the girls. These
are the new moguls. These are the men whose
favor must be courted.

Sammy Lee, once a director for Ziegfeld,
now training the girls for the M.-G.-M. Revue
of Revues, goes about his work in a business-
like fashion.

"I gather together several hundreds of girls,"
he said, "and begin by picking them for face,
figure and personality. This weeds out a lot
of them. Then I have them walk across the
stage one at a time. That shows me whether
or not they have grace. Many are dropped
even after this simple test.

" Next I have the pianist play bars of music
in different tempos. The girls walk to this and
the time changes as they walk. This betrays
their sense of rhythm. Finally I begin with
ACB steps. If they can learn an easy routine
in an hour I think they have good possibilities.

I HAVE never knowingly overworked a girl,
but the hours are long and the work is hard
and it takes a strong, healthy kid to stand up
under the strain. Each girl who works in the
chorus must be a specialty dancer.

" And how they've lied to me! I suppose the
poor things need the work. But they've told
me how good they are, in how many shows
they've danced and I've found that they
didn't know march from waltz time.

"There is a new crop, of course. The only
extra girls who can be used now are the ones
who can dance. But many times the girls from
the ballet schools have much to unlearn before
they can do jazz steps."

Maitland Rice, who did the casting for the
Fox Follies, gathered five hundred girls together
and chose fifty from the group. Every possible
source was exhausted. They were found in the
dancing schools, on the stages and in the
cabarets.

In order to test their quaUfications, Rice
sent them first to Fanchon (of Fanchon and
Marco) where they were tried out in dancing
numbers. Next they were given individual
voice tests. Each one sang a bar or two of
some popular melody. After all this the real
work began.



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124



Photoplay Magazine — Advertising Section




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About the only thing that the old extra can
do in the new medium is to be a show girl.
This requires only beauty and grace. But
there are so few show girls needed. The girls
who get the real work are the little dancers.
And there can be no faking. They must know
how to dance.



The chorus girls are young and spritely and
cute and much better off financially than the
old e.xtra girl.

So farewell to the beauties of the silent films.
The extra girl is still in Holly^vood but she is
now your saleslady or your nursemaid or your
waitress !



WHAT EVERY EXTRA SHOULD KNOW

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ARE YOU A SIGHT READER?..

SOUND IMITATIONS: Animals, birds, noises, whistle, etc



WH.\T L.\NGUAGES DO YOU SPE.\K?

WH.\T DI.\LECTS DO YOU SPEAK?.._

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Photoplay Magazine — Advertising Section



125



An Old Fashioned Girl



I CONTINUED FROM PAGE 47 ]



He promised her that they would have
another good story for her soon. Her next
picture, however, turned out to be a Jonah.
Three different directors worked on it. It was
in the cutting room for weeks and then finally
shelved.

Lorna was farmed out to a quickie company
who wanted someone \vith a name to play an
old-fashioned girl in a Civil War picture. It
was a cheap picture, cheaply made, and it did
her more harm than good.

MONTHS of idleness followed. Of course
she received her salary just the same, for
she had a contract. But now the contract had
almost e.xpired and there had been no mention
of taking up the option. Lorna had already
seen the WTiting on the wall.

A year ago it would not have worried her.
Some other company would have been glad to
sign her up; or she could have been sure of
plenty of work as a free-lance. But she had
been off the screen for months. Her name was
not worth so much now. With everybody
having gone suddenly crazy over the talkies,
and with producers signing up celebrated stage
stars, she knew that unless she did something
immediately she was absolutely finished. She
had not saved anything. Her salary had not
been as much as .people thought. Perhaps she
had been a little e.xtravagant, but being a star
is an expensive business.

Her restless fingers fastened and unfastened
the jade clasp on her purse. "Just one good
picture would bring me back," she reflected.
"If only Thornburg will let me play the lead in
'Lady Blackbird." "

It was in anticipation of this that she had
dressed so carefully for the interview. There
indeed was a role which would put Lorna Lane
on top of the heap again. If only she could
somehow convince Thornburg that she could
play it!

Each time the buzzer sounded she looked up
ex-pectantly. Finally the boy at the desk
nodded to her.

".\11 right, Miss Lane. He'll see you now."

She tried to get hold of herself as she hurried
down the corridor toward Thornburg's office.
It was ridiculous to feel so shaky and nervous.
Thornburg had always been decent to her. He
had invested a lot of money in her, building up
her name. Surely he couldn't be so unbusi-
nesslike as to throw that away without giving
her another chance.

"Hello, Lorna," he said casually. "Pardon
me while I sign these letters."

A YEAR, even six months ago, he would have
crossed the room to take her in his arms and
give her a light, impersonal kiss. She remem-
bered that he used to send her a huge basket of
flowers every week with a little card on which
he had scribbled ; " Old-fashioned flowers to the
sweetest flower of all." But that was when she
was making money for the company and her
fan mail was climbing e\-ery week.

Thornburg signed a sheaf of letters and made
two telephone calls. Finally he leaned back in
his chair and looked across the desk at Lorna.

"Who are you doubling for?" he asked.

"The leopard's changing her spots," Lorna
replied with a little forced laugh.

" Don't like it. Not your type." He reached
for a cigarette and inserted it in a carved ivory
holder.

"But, Bernie dear, I'm so sick of being a
tvpc." Unconsciously the red mouth pouted
a'fter the manner of " the Girl in the Crinoline."

"Sorry, Lorna, but I can't see you as any-
thing but an old-fashioned girl with ruffles and
picture hats. The public, as you certainly
ought to know, feels the same way about it."

"They've never had a chance to see me in
anything else. You've hung me with hoop



skirts and curls and rubber-stamped me your
old-fashioned girl. You've never given me a
chance to show you whether I can really act or
not."

Thornburg inhaled his cigarette and said
nothing. The business of handling stars was an
old story to him. They always thought they
knew more than the producer.

"Listen, Bernie." Lorna drew her chair
closer to his desk. "I've made money for
Supreme. You know that."

"Well, the last pictures haven't grossed so
much."

"That was because they wished weak stories
on me. You know and I know that it would
take just one good story to bring me back."

Thornburg was drawing little squares on a
pad of paper, seemingly more interested in that
than in what Lorna was saying.

"pLE.ASE, Bernie, give me a break. I deserve
■L it. Let me play the lead in 'Lady Black-
bird.' "

"What?" Thornburg burst out laughmg.
"Lorna, you're kidding."

"I never was more serious in my life."

"Then all I can say is that you must have
gone cuckoo. Why, that calls for a girl with
nerve and daring. What a nice razzing I'd get
if I ever put you in such a role."

"Just because I've always played Pollyannas
is no reason why I can't play anything else.
Use your imagination, Bernie."

"My imagination!" he echoed. "Say, it
would be just as easy for me to imagine Mary
Pickford playing Lady Macbeth as you playing
Lady Blackbird."

"But suppose I was a hit. Think what a
feather that would be in your cap. All I'm
asking is a chance to show you what I can do.
I'll even make a test if you say so. Please,
Bernie."

If Thornburg caught that note of desperation
in her voice he gave no sign.

"Forget it, Lorna," he said with finality.
"We've practically set on the girl for 'Lady
Blackbird.' "

The telephone jingled and he lifted the re-
ceiver off the hook.

"Hello, heUo. All right, send him in. And
say. Miss Jones, check up on that print of 'The
Tiger Lily.' Tell Eddie I want to run it at my
house tonight about nine o'clock."

THORNBURG rose. Lorna knew that it
was useless to try to prolong the interview.
His attitude told her plainer than words that
her option would not be taken up.

"Well, so long, Bernie." She managed to
smile gamely.

And there it might have ended had not
Lorna, hurrying out of Thornburg's ofiice, en-
countered Jerry Conway, who was just entering.

Now, as everybody who reads the fan mag-
azines knows, Lorna and Jerry were very much
engaged at one time. But that was when
Lorna's name was first twinkling in electric
lights and Jerry's was still unknown. After a
few months of fever heat, the engagement had
ended. But for Lorna, at least, the memory
had lingered on, becoming more potent when
she saw Jerry skyrocketing to popularity and
her own fame dimming out.

"Lorna, darling," he greeted her. "How arc
you? Haven't seen you for ages."

She might have reminded him that this was
entirely his own fault. She had swallowed her
pride to telephone hi? house several times. But
of course she did not tell him this. Instead, she
lied sweetly. "I've been frightfully busy." It
was the old-fashioned girl who was talking now.
"What have you been doing, Jerry?" She
looked up at him from under plaintive lashes,
hoping to see again in Jerry's eyes the flame
which had once burned there.




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126



Photoplay Magazine — Advertising Section




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"Just finished my first talkie. They say it's
a knockout."

It seemed to Lorna that his smile was even
more mnning than she remembered it. Per-
haps because it was such a contrast to the deep-
set blue eyes in which there was always a hint
of sadness.

"Thornburg's just sent for me for a marvel-
ous part. A sort of taming-of-the-shrew story,
he says. I tame the shrew." That humorous
tmnkle which every feminine fan knows, crept
into Jerry Conway's eyes.

"V\ /HAT a break for the shrew." Lorna put



Online LibraryMoving Picture Exhibitors' AssociationPhotoplay (Volume 36 – 37 (Jul. - Dec. 1929)) → online text (page 43 of 145)