Restored – THE DEVIL (1920) – Mr. A’s First Film!

I have been learning my way around new digital video programs and have been able to refresh and restore some films that needed help. At the top of the list is Mr. A’s very first film, THE DEVIL, which until it was posted two years ago had been almost entirely unseen since its original release in 1920-21. Grateful for this significant event, we were aware of some shortcomings: the film speed was too fast, the image was rather faded, the opening titles were out of order, the the climatic ending was chopped up and way too abrupt. At the time there was little I could do to remedy these challenges but I’m pleased to unveil a better looking and sounding (music) version. I’ve beefed up the ending a little but I think Mr. A might approve. Please let me know what you think.

The director and the star of THE DEVIL (respectively):
Arliss in devil

A little bit of imaginative promotion by a theater owner:
The Devil _Theater Display 1921

Original lobby cards with hero Edmund Lowe, who later became a major film star in the 1930s:
The Devil003 copy_edited-Final

The Devil002

The Devil LC 1

and now the motion picture itself!

Published in: on February 19, 2016 at 11:31 PM  Leave a Comment  

Arliss Alert! – THE GREEN GODDESS (1930) – on TCM Thurs. Feb. 4 @8AM

THE GREEN GODDESS was Mr. A’s first talkie and was produced during the summer of 1929. At his suggestion, TGG was withheld from release until Mr. A’s second talkie, DISRAELI, had been released first, in October 1929. Mr. A felt that DISRAELI was the better of the two films, an opinion generally shared by most film reviewers of the day. That said, THE GREEN GODDESS is a highly enjoyable film and is quite topical to the 21st century with its story of eastern intrigue, jealousy, and terrorism. George Arliss was nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award together with DISRAELI. It marks the only time in Academy history that an actor competed against himself in two separate films. The voting selected DISRAELI alone, meaning of course, that Mr. A won out against himself. But he also won over other nominees including Ronald Colman and Maurice Chevalier.

THE GREEN GODDESS is wonderful entertainment with Mr. A as the slinkiest of villains. His closing line alone is worth the price of admission!

Green 1930 larger

GG3A Final

GG1A Final

GG2 Final



Published in: on January 31, 2016 at 11:44 PM  Comments (1)  

Happy 2016 and Best Wishes for the Year

2016 Arliss Calendar Final

Published in: on January 1, 2016 at 9:25 PM  Comments (1)  

Wishing You the Best of Seasons Greetings!

Arliss Christmas and friends Final

Published in: on December 24, 2015 at 2:27 PM  Leave a Comment  

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2016 from Mr. A

Arliss Christmas 1 copy jpg

Published in: on December 11, 2015 at 7:56 PM  Comments (1)  
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New George Arliss Book – Just Published!

The Arliss Archives is pleased to announce Volume 5 in our series:
Arliss Reader_edited-1
Among the most fragile items in the Arliss Archives are the faded and crumbling pages of film souvenir booklets and weekly movie magazines from the 1930s. These 80+ year old pieces of memorabilia capture the excitement of their times and still echo their marketing strategies of why you really, even in the depths of the Great Depression, need to see this particular motion picture. By scanning and digitally restoring this material it is now preserved for future generations long after the original documents will have crumbled away. All images are reproduced in their original black and white, color tints, or full color. This fifth volume in The ARLISS ARCHIVES series is a worthy addition to the previous four.

A GEORGE ARLISS PHOTOPLAY READER is available through Amazon in two editions: paperback in a huge 8.5×11 inches, and as a Kindle ebook. For more information just click this link:

Published in: on September 9, 2015 at 6:04 PM  Leave a Comment  

Happy 4th of July 2015

George Arliss and Alan Mowbray – as Hamilton and Washington – are joined this year by Rin Tin Tin and Marion Davies:

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Maude T. Howell – Mr. A’s Shadow

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Women executives were rare at American film studios during the 1930s. One exception was Maude T. Howell who worked as a screen writer, associate director and associate producer at Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Pictures from 1929 to 1935. She then crossed the Atlantic to work at Gaumont-British Pictures in London through 1937. Maude’s assigned motion picture productions had one thing in common: they were all George Arliss films. A graduate of Stanford University (Class of 1911), Maude worked in high school and community dramatics in Los Angeles. She became an assistant stage manager for a Detroit stock company and later was hired in a similar position for the New York production of THE GREEN GODDESS in 1921, which starred Mr. A. When the stage manager suddenly became ill, Maude took his place and thereby became the first woman stage manager in New York theater history. Mr. A in his memoirs recalled her skill and efficiency in this very demanding job. Photographs of Ms. Howell are as scarce as the proverbial hen’s teeth so following are among the rarest images in the Arliss Archives.
March 1923
This backstage photo dates from March 1923 and is likely during the run of THE GREEN GODDESS.

When Mr. A went into making “talkies” he brought Maude Howell along to be his eyes and ears in the myriad details of film-making.
Arl and Friends
Taking a break from filming OLD ENGLISH in 1930, Maude Howell joins Mr. A and theater legends Otis Skinner (standing behind Mr. A), and Wilton Lackaye, seated next to him. The man standing on the right is Winthrop Ames who produced Mr. A’s plays from 1920 through 1928. Standing on the left is film director Alfred E. Green.

hamilton on Set
Maude Howell also contributed to the scripts of the Arliss films, often uncredited. So did Mr. A. Here they are on the set of ALEXANDER HAMILTON (1931) with director John Adolfi.

The production crew of CARDINAL RICHELIEU (1935) with Maude Howell seated at extreme right. To her left is Maureen O’Sullivan while Mr. A looks on approvingly at the film’s director, Rowland V. Lee.

The main credits of RICHELIEU prominently disclose who provided the script.

His Lordship 001
On the set of the British film, HIS LORDSHIP (1937), a comedy of foreign intrigue where Mr. A plays twin brothers. Here he is costumed as the pompous one. Director Herbert Mason is on the left.

Queen Mary attended the London premiere of DR. SYN (1937), which turned out to be Mr. A’s final film. However, he would consider offers to play Disraeli in SUEZ (1938) and to star in THE PIED PIPER (1942), among other proposals. Alan Whittaker is dressed identically to Mr. A because he is his stand-in.

Maude Howell evidently returned to America following the completion of DR. SYN. Presumably, she resumed her career in theater production. Little more seems to be known about her except that she died in 1964 in New Orleans at the age of 77. Please contact me if you have any info about this special lady.

The Legendary Arliss-Zanuck Contract for 20th Century Pictures

Recently, the Arliss Archives acquired a rare item: an original copy of the April 1933 contract between Darryl Zanuck and George Arliss. This copy contains original signatures, and initials where terms were changed. Mr. A’s Warner Bros. contract had just expired with the completion of VOLTAIRE (1933). With Warners production chief Zanuck quitting and moving to the newly formed 20th Century Pictures (later 20th Century-Fox), Mr. A decided to follow him, hence this contract. Even today, it is uncommon to see the written agreements between film artists and the studios so this contract gives us a rare behind-the-scenes look. Here is a page-by-page review of this historic document.

Page One – Dated April 27, 1933, the contract calls for two films, which turned out to be THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD and THE LAST GENTLEMAN, both released in 1934. Mr. A was to be compensated at the rate of $80,000 per film, which in 1933 was equal to over $1.4 million in today’s money:
Arliss 20th Cent Contract 1

Page Two – Mr. A would receive $10,000 when filming begins on each of the two films, and the remaining $70,000 upon completion of each film or upon the expiration of seven weeks since filming began. This means that the filming schedule was intended to last seven weeks, a fairly fast time frame for a major motion picture even today. Mr. A is permitted to work for other studios upon the completion of the second film but no picture made by another studio may be exhibited to the public until after the expiration of six months following the completion of the second film:
Arliss 20th Cent Contract 2

Page Three – The fabled “rehearsal clause” that was the envy of every star and director. Mr. A was permitted to rehearse the cast for each film for twelve days prior to filming. In fact, the cast would enact the entire script as if it were a play before a select audience of studio executives and staff. Audience reaction would uncover dull stretches and poorly-written scenes that would be revised and rewritten prior to filming. The reference to an assistant is Maude T. Howell, who was one of the very few women behind the cameras in Hollywood during the 1930s. She worked on all of Mr. A’s films. Another provision that would have inspired envy is the limited hours of the workday – 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM. This meant that when Mr. A went home so did everybody else on the picture:
Arliss 20th Cent Contract 3

Page Four – Mr. A is given story approval and may select the character he wants to play in the story. He may refuse to enact any character aspects that he feels are unsuitable to his reputation.
Arliss 20th Cent Contract 4

Page Five – The language crossed out and initialed by Mssrs. A and Z seemed to have been designed by studio lawyers to protect the producer. Apparently, Zanuck was willing to forgo these protections based on his longtime working relationship with Mr. A. The clauses requiring a stuntman to “double” for the actor, and for the actor to furnish his own wardrobe for modern dress films, were standard:
Arliss 20th Cent Contract 5

Page Six – This clause proves that Mr. A never required that he be billed as “Mr.” George Arliss. Neither this agreement nor his earlier Warner Bros. contract mandated that the “Mr.” appellation be used:
Arliss 20th Cent Contract 6

Page Seven – Standard clauses permitting the studio to use the actor’s image and voice recordings to publicize the films. Also clarifies that the actor has no ownership interest in the films:
Arliss 20th Cent Contract 7

Page Eight – Paragraph 15 beginning on the previous page contains standard contingencies in the event of the actor’s illness or injury preventing his working on the film. After five weeks of the disability, the studio may cancel the agreement but the actor isn’t required to return any compensation paid to that point:
Arliss 20th Cent Contract 8

Page Nine – Paragraph 17 beginning on the previous page contains the standard “Force Majeure” clause stating that performance may be excused when an event beyond the control of either party disrupts the performance of the contract. It is interesting that the typical reference to an “act of God” has been crossed out. Should additional weeks of filming be required beyond the seven weeks provided, then Mr. A would receive additional compensation on a pro-rata basis of $11,428.57 per week. The cap of an additional four weeks maximum is meant to protect the actor:
Arliss 20th Cent Contract 9

Page Ten – The studio agrees to pay travel expenses between New York and Los Angeles for Mr. A and “one other person,” i.e., his wife Florence, and also to pay $2,000 for their round-trip voyage between New York and London, where Mr. A resided. While living in Los Angeles during the production of the two films, and during the time between the first and second films, Mr. A’s living expenses would be paid by the studio in the amount of $350 per week:
Arliss 20th Cent Contract 10

Page Eleven – The studio would pay the traveling expenses between New York and Los Angeles of Mr. A’s dresser, i.e., his valet Jenner, and compensate such dresser at the rate of $40.00 per week during the production of the two films. A “suitable automobile” and chauffeur will be provided for Mr. A’s exclusive use during the production of the films. The studio agrees to indemnify Mr. A against any claims of copyright infringement, which may be a reference to the copyright difficulties that Mr. A encountered at Warners during the production of ALEXANDER HAMILTON in 1931:
Arliss 20th Cent Contract 11

Page Twelve – Paragraph 23 beginning on the previous page contains standard provisions for the selection of a judicial forum (California) and for arbitration procedures in the event of a dispute between the parties:
Arliss 20th Cent Contract 12

Page Thirteen – The final paragraph in the contract, numbered 24, is unusual. The agreement is in the nature of a personal contract between Mssrs. A and Z, and that Zanuck has the right to assign it to a corporation yet to be formed, but likely to be called “Twentieth Century Pictures” or something similar. For all practical purposes, Mr. A signed this contract with a film producer who was not affiliated with any movie studio, but to whom Mr. A gave the right to assign to a studio that, at the moment, did not exist. Such was the level of trust between Mssrs. A and Z that eventually resulted in the creation of two classic films. While not apparent from this document itself, a third film was eventually agreed upon, CARDINAL RICHELIEU (1935):
Arliss 20th Cent Contract 13

Darryl Zanuck and George Arliss review the signatures of celebrity well-wishers for their first collaboration, THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD (1934):
Arl Zanuck_Final
Arl Zanuck_edited-2

Published in: on February 3, 2015 at 8:14 PM  Comments (1)  

New on DVD! THE MAN WHO PLAYED GOD (1932) with Bette Davis

I’m a little late on this but Warner Archive recently issued the sixth official studio DVD release of Classic Arliss. This time it’s Mr. A’s blockbuster, THE MAN WHO PLAYED GOD:
Man god Poster

Mr. A arranged for Warner Bros. to hire a young unknown actress named Bette Davis to play the role of his fiancee in the film. This proved to be Bette’s breakthrough film:

George Arliss plays wealthy concert pianist Montgomery Royale who seems to have it all:
Man God1 copy_Final

Royale is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is injured by a bomb in a terrorist attack (yes, even then). The blast destroys his hearing and he can no longer hear his own music. His life ruined, he becomes so depressed that he attempts suicide:
Man God003

Royale learns lip-reading, which turns out to be a mixed blessing. He goes from believing that God has abandoned him to the realization that he has become God’s instrument to help the less fortunate:
Man God005a_Final_edited-1

But through lip-reading he learns that his fiancee loves another man. Royale asks himself, “I wonder what God would do in a case like this?” This strangely inspiring film still moves viewers over 80 years later. A true classic:
Man God004a_Final

Mr A later performed a live radio broadcast of this story that was heard around the world. To hear this historic broadcast, please click on “Radio” in the right hand column, and then click on THE MAN WHO PLAYED GOD.
Arliss God

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