On February 5, 1919, four of Hollywood’s biggest names bonded together to form United Artists.
Charles Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith incorporated on this day in order to have more creative control over their pictures.
When news got out of their plans, a prominent studio executive is said to have remarked, “The inmates are taking over the asylum.”
Charlie Chaplin, as you probably know, is one of the funniest actors of all time. His best-loved character was the Little Tramp. Some of his greatest movies include The Kid, The Gold Rush, City Lights and Modern Times. Even when I see still photos of Chaplin, he can make me laugh out loud. But all of his films were filled with heart.
Mary Pickford was America’s Sweetheart. Her petite frame, peaches-and cream-complexion and long curls allowed her to play youthful characters for most of her career. Her roles were always that of the underdog fighting against injustice. I recommend Stella Maris (she plays two characters), Daddy-Long-Legs, Tess of the Storm Country, Sparrows and Little Lord Fauntleroy, in which she plays the male title character and his mother. She also has a lovely cocktail named after her.
Douglas Fairbanks was the original swashbuckling hero. Dashing and athletic, he melted the hearts of women worldwide but married Mary Pickford. He also performed most of his own stunts. I recommend The Mark of Zorro, The Three Musketeers, Robin Hood and The Thief of Bagdad. He was also one of the founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
D. W. Griffith was one of the most important film directors in movie history. Before Griffith, movies were basically filmed plays with the camera unmoving and keeping a distant long shot. Griffith invented film language by experimenting with techniques such as the medium shot and close up, he used flashbacks and crosscutting and had enough confidence to know the viewers would be able to still follow the story. He directed over 500 films, mostly shorts, but some of the greatest full-length features of his time. I recommend Judith of Bethulia, The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, Broken Blossoms, The Idol Dancer, Way Down East and Orphans of the Storm.
Ah, they don’t make them like they used to.