On This Day – January 28th

Eastern directorsToday we celebrate the birthdays of four men who were instrumental in shaping the history of Eastern European cinema.

Pyotr Chardynin (1872–1934)

One of Russia’s film pioneers, Chardynin was born in Simbirsk, Russian Empire on January 28th (Julian calendar), February 10th (Gregorian calendar). He started out as an actor on the stage, then moved on to films and finally to directing. He directed over 100 silent films. By the time the talkies arrived, Chardynin had been banned from directing by the Soviet regime. He died in the Ukraine on 14 August, 1934 of liver cancer.

Aleqsandre Tsutsunava (1881–1955)

Born in Likhauri, Georgia, Russian Empire (now Georgia) in 1881, Tsutsunava  was a well-known theater director. He directed the first Georgian, full-length feature film in 1909 called, ‘Berikaoba Keenoba’. The 1916 film, ‘Qristine’, also directed by Tsutsunava, is often credited as being the first feature film from Georgia . He continued directing until 1928. I’m not sure what happened after that. Perhaps with the advent of sound, he returned to the theater. Although sound took longer to come to Russia, so I really don’t know why the last film he is credited with came out in 1928. He died on 25 October, 1955 in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Zaqaria Berishvili (1887–1965)

Born in 1887, Berishvili was a film director and actor. He acted in the theater from 1905 until 1921, when he took part in the organization of the film section of the People’s Commissariat for Education in Georgia.  He played small roles in silent films throughout the mid-1920s. He directed his first film in 1926. He made the transition to sound and directed a few talkies in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1946 he focused his efforts on dubbing foreign films into Georgian. He was the Honored Artist of Georgia, SSR  in 1945 and then again in 1961. He died on May 9, 1965.

Eugen Illés (1877–1951) – no photo available

Also credited as Jenõ Illés, he was born in Debrecen, Hungary. He got a degree in Liberal Arts in Budapest, then in Mechanical Engineering in Berlin. By 1911 he was the lead director of the Berlin branch of Pathé. His 1918 film, ‘Mania: The History of a Cigarette Factory Worker’ starring Pola Negri was thought to be destroyed, when it turned up in a Czech movie collection in 2011. The Polish completely restored it and took the film on a world tour. Because of his ties to his native Hungary, he was also able to facilitate the distribution of Hungarian films in Germany. He returned to Hungary to produce nine films between 1915 and 1917. He came back to Germany during WWI and shot hours of documentary film. He returned to Hungary in 1919. He died in Budapest on 17 October, 1951.

On This Day – January 21st

Lido Manetti aka Arnold Kent

Lido Manetti was born in Florence, Italy on this day in 1899. He began acting on the stage and then went on to star in Italian silent films.  He was scouted by a rep from Universal and came to the United States in 1925. He made a couple of films for Universal and then signed a contract with Paramount. While at Paramount, he took on the stage name Arnold Kent in order to not sound so foreign. His career was picking up and he was acting alongside some of the biggest names in Hollywood: Clara Bow, Pola Negri, Florence Vidor, Louise Brooks and Norma Talmadge. Alas, his rise to fame was to be short lived.

On Saturday, September 29, 1928, Lido was walking down a Hollywood street when he was struck by a car driven by an extra. He died from his injuries at the young age of 29. At the time of his death, he had been shooting The Four Feathers with Richard Arlen and Fay Wray. His scenes had to be reshot with William Powell taking over the part. A tragic ending to a very promising life and career.

Lido Manzetti duo

On This Day – January 20th

Aileen Manning

Aileen Manning was born Aileen Casey on this day in Boulder, Colorado in 1886 to Robert Casey and Eliza Edgar. She only had one sibling, Leota, who died before Aileen was born at the age of 1 year 8 months.

In 1900, Aileen and her mother were living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She married around 1905. I can’t find any information about this marriage. By 1919, she and her mother were living in Los Angeles.  Her father had passed away and Aileen was divorced.

Aileen began acting in films in the late teens. Her paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Manning. I suspect this is where she got her stage name, a name she would officially keep for the rest of her life. Although she appeared in a number of films, her career never really took off. She was always cast in a supporting role, never the lead. She made a few talkies, but retired from the screen in 1931.

The 1930 US Census has Aileen living alone in Los Angeles and widowed. I don’t know if this is a mistake or if she married again and he passed away. There is little to no biographical information about her out there (at least that I can find).

By 1935, Aileen moved back to Colorado. She still listed her occupation as that of actress.  The 1940 census shows her living as a lodger in Colorado Springs and divorced.

She died on March 25, 1946 in Los Angeles. She was 60 years old.

On This Day – January 19th

Natacha Rambova

Born Winifred Shaughnessy (later legally changed to Winifred Hudnut) on this day in 1897, Natacha Rambova was famous as a silent film costume and set designer. She also dabbled in acting, writing and producing. However, she is most famous for being heartthrob Rudolph Valentino’s second wife. She passed away in Pasadena of a heart attack on June 5, 1966 at the age of 69.

On This Day – January 18th

Oliver Hardy  and Wally Reid

Today marks the anniversary of two history changing events; a joyful beginning and a tragic end.

On this in 1892, Oliver Hardy, the larger half of the legendary comedy duo of Laurel & Hardy, was born.

Today also marks the end of a life which began with so much promise. On this day in 1923, one of the original matinee idols, Wallace Reid, died from complications due to morphine and alcohol addiction. He was only 31 years old.