Blanchard Building, Symphony Hall, 233 S. Broadway, ca. 1921. A. M. Edelman, architect, 1899. From Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection. (See “Building Devoted to Music and Art,” Los Angeles Times, January 1, 1899, p. I-29 for a complete description and floor plans of this building built by Harris Newmark and leased to F. W. Blanchard).
Walker Auditorium Building, 730 S. Broadway, July 1946. Eisen and Son, architects, 1909. Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.
Morosco-Egan School of Dramatic Arts ad, Los Angeles Herald, October 9, 1909, p. 2.
Another prominent period performing arts school, the Morosco-Egan Institute of Dramatic Arts, was formed by Frank C. Egan and Majestic Theater Building lessee Oliver Morosco in 1909 after Egan’s recent arrival from from the east via Seattle. Egan advertised regularly (see above) and relentlessly promoted his dramatic productions and the achievements of his graduates in the local press. For example in a 1911 Times article Egan, who had by then bought out Morosco’s interest in the school, talked of the success of his students in Chicago and on Broadway and plans for his own traveling troupes. Of his school’s plans to focus on foreign drama he said,
“One’s drama education is not complete unless one knows the drama of the world. To be thoroughly acquainted with the drama of America and England, which, histrionically speaking, are one country, and not to know anything about thee great dramatic movements in Germany, the essentials of modern French plays and the comedy spirit in Italy, is like completing a common school education and omitting all knowledge whatsoever of geography.” (“To Send Out Own Companies: Frank Egan Considering New Production Venture,” Los Angeles Times, December 31, 1911, p. III-12. See also “Egan Returns With New Names,” Los Angeles Times, August 13, 1911, p. III-2).
Egan School ad. Los Angeles Times, December 31, 1911, p. III-5.
Likely attracted by Egan’s advertising of his drama faculty, the Zacseks also enrolled Anna and Stefan in acting classes there evidenced by a Los Angeles Herald article reporting on their performance of a scene from “If I Were King” in the school’s auditorium on the top floor of the Majestic Theater Building (see below) at the end of the 1910 school year. (“Egan Thespians Open Many Eyes at Recital,” Los Angeles Herald, June 24, 1910. p. 3). The busy Anna continued her piano classes at the Conservatory a block north on Broadway and performed in two ensemble pieces just four days after her and Stefan’s stage performance at the Egan School. (“Musical,” Los Angeles Herald, June 26, 1910, p. III-14). The Zacseks were
presciently positioning Anna for her early career in the movie business.
Hamburger Majestic Theater Building (left), 845 S. Broadway, Edelman and Barnett, architects, 1908. Hamburger’s Department Store (later May company) on right. Courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.
In an article discussing the success of the girl students from his school Egan said,
“Los Angeles has produced some mighty clever boys, but so far the ambitious girls are far in the lead. Many of them are going out in prominent positions in western organizations. Some of them are going straight to Broadway. “Young women that have been sent out from the Egan School during the past year are playing as far West as Honolulu and as far east as London. And in all instances they are Los Angeles girls.” (“Coming Here For Actors,” Los Angeles Times, March 24, 1912, p. III-20).
The next year Egan moved his school and expanded his operations with the addition of the Egan’s Little Theatre at 1324 S. Figueroa St. at Pico Blvd. After brief early success as a venue for drama, Egan’s theatre venture fell on hard economic times and was reconfigured to also enable the screening of silent movies. (“In the Theater Foyers,” Los Angeles Times, August 7, 1914, p. III-4).
By her late teens Anna began pursuing a Hollywood acting career in earnest. She visited the Majestic Studio in 1914-15, liked what she saw and soon became an extra. Her story as one of the more successful “extra girls” who parlayed her talents into progressively better roles was featured along with those of her D. W. Griffith-trained stablemates Mae Marsh, Seena Owens and Bessie Love in the December 1916 issue of Motion Picture Magazine (see below). The article described Anna, “She being of the foreign type, was given a place in with a mob of exotic looking supernumeraries. A few days later she was given a small part; as the days passed, her parts became better.”
Zeidman, Bennie, “The Extra Girl,” Motion Picture Magazine, December, 1916, pp. 45-48.
The Birth of a Nation, D. W. Griffith, 1915.
Anna’s first credited part was a leading role in the 1915 release “His Lesson” soon to be followed by eleven more films during her first year. In Griffith’s seminal “The Birth of a Nation,” released two weeks before the opening of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, Zacsek played the role of Laura Keene whose theatrical company was playing at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. on the night of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. After Booth, played by Raoul Walsh, leaped to the stage after shooting Lincoln in the back of the head (see above), Keene, played by Olga rushed up to the presidential box and cradled the wounded President’s head in her lap. In 1916 Griffith would also direct Zacsek in his next extravaganza “Intolerance” in which she played the part of Mary Magdelene, the original femme fatale, in the Judean portion of the film
Intolerance, D. W. Griffith, 1916.
Babylonian movie set for D. W. Griffith’s “Intolerance” at the Reliance-Majestic Studios (later Triangle-Fine Arts) site at the intersection of Hollywood and Sunset Blvds. (Author’s note: The set was one block east of , and easily visible from, Olive Hill, the site of Aline Barnsdall’s Hollyhock House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright with construction supervision by R. M. Schindler and Lloyd Wright.)
Zacsek reminisced (most likely through the words of a studio publicist) to a newspaper reporter in 1916 about how she was dubbed Olga Grey by Griffith and how she was tiring of being typecast as a “vamp.”
“In the first place, I was engaged while a mere spectator on the side lines one day by Mr. Griffith whom we were observing as he directed some scenes for “The Clansman.” When I told him my name he said, “Tut, tut! Impossible!”
As days passed I was continually cast in feature pictures and became accustomed to the work, I began to notice that my business was always to “vamp” to the total eclipse of my tender-hearted ambitions. I finally decided that this was not as it should be, and asked my director for a sympathetic part in the next production. “Impossible!” he snorted. “Heroines are always blonde. Vampires are dark. You are a vamp!” (“Olga Grey, the Griffith Vampire,” by Miss Anushka Zacsek: the Hungarian Ingenue, Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, July 8, 1916, p. 9).
Anushka Zacsek, screen name Olga Grey. Photographer unknown. “A Vamp With a Goulash Name,” Photoplay, Vol. XI, No. 3, February 1917, p. 73.
Triangle-Fine Arts Studio, 4516 Sunset Blvd., 1916. From Early Hollywood by Mark Wanamaker and Robert W. Nudelman, Arcadia, 2007, p. 34.
Reliance-Majestic Studios soon evolved into the Triangle-Fine Arts Film Company (see above) and was soliciting screenplays for it’s stable of young stars of which Olga Grey was prominently included. (See below for example).
“Fine Arts Film Company, 4500 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, Calif., is in the market for five-reel features, suitable for any of its stars: Douglas Fairbanks, Mae Marsh, Bobby Herron, Lillian Gish, Norma Talmadge, Wilfred Lucas, Fay Tinchner, Bessie Love, Olga Grey and Constance Talmadge. Often two or three of these players may appear in one picture; most of the feminine stars are ingenues, and stories in which the principal characters are young girls are therefore most desired. Stories must have underlying themes of considerable power.” (“The Literary Market,”The Editor, Oct 7,
1916, p. 338).
Grey, Olga, “How I Learnt [sic] to Act,” Motion Picture Magazine, December 1916, p. 69.
Ruth St. Denis, 1916. Edward Weston photograph from the Halsted Gallery courtesy of Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.
Besides her role in “Intolerance” Zacsek appeared in six other films in 1916, including the role of “Lady Agnes” in Macbeth. It was around the time of Zacsek’s appearance in “The Birth of a Nation” that Weston began photographing Ruth St. Denis (see above) and her dancers many of whom coincidentally appeared in the Babylonian dance sequences in Griffith’s “Intolerance” under St. Denis’s direction. Weston likely met St. Denis through the movie studio connections of Margrethe Mather (see below), Charlie Chaplin and costume and set designer George Hopkins (discussed later below) thus this may also be around the time that he met Zacsek. (See Stagestruck Filmmaker: D. W. Griffith and the American Theatre by David Mayer, University of Iowa Press, 2009, pp. 179-80 and Artful Lives: Edward Weston, Margrethe Mather, and the Bohemians of Los Angeles by Beth Gates Warren, Getty Publications, pp. 79-82 for more details).
Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston, Glendale, 1922. Photo by Imogen Cunningham. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.
On the marquee, “The Girl at Home” starring Vivian Martin, Jack Pickford and Olga Grey. Palace Theater, 30 Pine Ave., Long Beach, H. A. Anderson, architect, 1916. Photo by G. Haven Bishop, 1917. From the online Huntington Library exhibition “Form and Landscape: Southern California Edison and the California Los Angeles Basin, 1940-1990.”
Zacsek would appear in eleven additional films between 1917 and 1920 (see above for example), with a steady decline in the quantity and quality of roles likely exacerbated by factors such as aging, unwillingness to play the casting couch game and the post-war depression of 1920-21 which hit the industry hard. The ambitious Anna, seeing no future on the screen, began seeking other outlets for her acting talents and became involved in local theatrical troupes, possibly through introductions by her former teacher Frank Egan to groups such as the Drama League and the Los Angeles Civic Repertory Company where she soon became entwined within the circles of Reginald Pole (see below), Weston, and Margrethe Mather.
Reginald Pole, n.d. Photographer unknown. From I Shock Myself: The Autobiography of Beatrice Wood, edited by Lindsay Smith, Chronicle, 1985, p. 59.
Rupert Brooke, Fine Arts Building, Chicago, 1914. Eugene Hutchinson photo from The Little Review, June-July 1916, p. 33. Weston photographed Hutchinson in his Fine Arts Building studio in Chicago in 1916 through Margrethe Mather’s connections with Margaret Anderson whose Little Review offices were in the same building as was Maurice Browne’s Little Theatre. (See Warren, pp. 103-104).
Pole, co-founder of the Marlowe Dramatic Society with his close friend Rupert Brooke (see above) at Cambridge in 1907, had first arrived in Southern California from Tahiti in 1913 in search of a climate more suitable to his chronic asthmatic condition. Brooke had befriended countryman Maurice Browne and Arthur Davison Ficke along with Floyd Dell and numerous others in Browne’s Little Theatre circle while in Chicago in 1914 around the time architect R. M. Schindler arrived from Vienna seeking employment with Frank Lloyd Wright. Brooke, Browne and his wife Ellen Van Volkenburg continued to develop a very close bond while traveling to England together in the spring of 1914. Pole also happened to be visiting his family at this time and he and Brooke briefly reconnected before Rupert was off to the War. Brooke died an untimely, tragic death due to disease he contracted while on his way to Gallipoli. A few years later Pole would name his son with Helen Taggart in honor of Rupert. (For much more on the ill-fated Brooke see Red Wine of Youth: The Life of Rupert Brooke by Arthur Stringer, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 1948 and Recollections of Rupert Brooke by Maurice Browne, A. Greene, 1927).
The Little Review, November 1915. (Note articles on 1926 Kings Road lecturer and life-long friend of Pauline, Maurice Browne, “Portrait of Theodore Dreiser’ by Arthur Davison Ficke, ”Choleric Comments” by frequent contributor Alexander S. Kaun, later Kings Road tenant, Schindler client and portrait sitter for Weston compatriot Johan Hagemeyer, “John Cowper Powys on War” by later Paul Jordan-Smith collaborator Floyd Dell’s wife Margery Currey and a review of the Maurice Browne production of “Rupert Brooke’s ‘Lithuania‘ at the Little Theatre.” For much more on Browne, Kaun, Weston and the Schindlers see PGS. For much more on John Cowper Powys and Paul-Jordan-Smith in Los Angeles see “The Schindlers and the Westons and the Walt Whitman School“).
Sophie Pauline Gibling had just moved to Chicago and was living at Hull-House at the time the above issue of The Little Review hit the streets. Her future husband R. M. Schindler had also just returned from a six-week tour of the Panama-Pacific and Panama-California Expositions in San Francisco and San Diego, with stopovers in Los Angeles and Taos. (For more in Schindler’s tour see my “Schindlers in Carmel, 1924“). She quickly immersed herself within the bohemian social networks of the Chicago Little Theatre and The Little Review crowd evidenced by later events in Los Angeles, some of which are discussed later below. (See also my WWS for much more on Pauline’s formative years in Chicago). The Chicago dramatic labrynth of Maurice Browne and Aline Barnsdall and the literary and dramatic circles associated with The Little Review also intermingled with the Mather-Weston-Pole circles on the West Coast as I attempt to somewhat sort out below. Having been steeped in the cauldron of the Chicago Renaissance between 1914 and 1920 it was easy for the Schindlers to thrust themselves into the radical, avant-garde and bohemian orbits of Los Angeles immediately after their arrival in December of 1920.
The Desert Inn, Palm Springs, n.d. Photographer unknown. Courtesy UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library.
While in Tahiti in 1913 awaiting a planned rendezvous with Rupert Brooke, Reginald Pole was corresponding with Robert Louis Stevenson‘s widow Fanny who extolled the healthful virtues of Palm Springs where she was then convalescing at the Desert Inn and Sanitarium (see above). More or less evicted by the Royal Family after an affair with a Tahitian princess before Brooke’s arrival, Pole made his way from Tahiti to Los Angeles to Palm Springs where he connected with Fanny Stevenson at Nellie Coffman’s Desert Inn (see above). Thus began his lifelong love affair with the desert and association with Palm Springs. (Diaries of Anais Nin: Volume 5 (1947-1955), edited by Gunther Stuhlman, Harvest, 1974 pp. 26-7).
Cumnock School of Expression ad. Los Angeles Times, September 28, 1913, p. II-1.
Helen Taggart, date and photographer unknown. From Ancestry.com.
Pole had to make a living so after a period of recuperation in Palm Springs he began teaching drama and directing student plays at the Cumnock School of Expression (see above) in Los Angeles around 1914-15. (Author’s note: Martha Graham also graduated from Cumnock in 1916 and began her dance studies with Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn at the Denishawn School.) The Shakespearean thespian Pole met his future wife Helen Taggart (see above), daughter of a future client of Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr., aka Lloyd Wright
, either at the English Tudor-style Cumnock School where she had been a student or during rehearsals for performances of the Drama League and/or the Los Angeles Civic Repertory Company. Taggart’s first publicized appearance was for her part in “The Patriots” by Florence Haines-Reed staged May 1, 1915 by the CRC at the Gamut Club. (See below). (“Patriotism or Murder; Gamut Club Audience Applauds Strong Playlet by Local Woman Attacking the Theory of War,” Los Angeles Times, May 2, 1915, p. II-2).
In his review of the CRC Gamut Club productions in the California Outlook, then head of the USC School of Journalism Bruce Bliven
“If the company can continue to choose, mount and cast its plays as well as it did in these performances, its success is assured; not in a long time has anything been done, by amateurs or professionals, in this city which has been so artistically satisfying.” (Bliven, Bruce, “Good Plays by Good Amateurs,” California Outlook, May 22, 1915, pp. 9-10).
A week after Taggart’s Gamut Club appearance the Cumnock School staged a Vaudeville show and the Times review listed performances by her and Martha Graham (see below) who would begin studying with Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn after graduating from Cumnock the following year. (“Comedy Their Specialty; Dramatic Students Stage a Vaudeville Show,” Los Angeles Times, May 8, 1915, p. II-3. For much more on Graham see my “Schindlers-Westons-Kashevaroff-Cage“).
Martha Graham in her Denishawn debut as Priestess of Isis in A Dance Pageant of Greece, Egypt and India, 1915. From Martha Graham: A Dancer’s Life by Russell Freedman, Clarion Books, 1998, p. 30.
Original Al Malaikah Temple aka. Shrine Auditorium, 1907-1920, corrner of Royal St. and Jefferson Blvd., Jefferson Blvd. entrance, ca. 1915. Photographer unknown. Courtesy USC Digital Photo Collection.
Shortly after enrolling with Denishawn, Graham was drafted along with 100 other classmates to perform with Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn (see below) in an ancient civilazation-themed extravaganza at the Shrine Auditorium (see above) a week after the release of “Intolerance” and a month before rehearsals began for the inaugural performance of Aline Barnsdall’s Los Angeles Little Theatre discussed later below. St. Denis was featured in the roles of Queen of Ethiopia, God Isis, Persephone and Parvati. Thus it is possible that Graham could have also danced with the St. Denis troupe in the Babylonian sequence of “Intolerance” filmed just a month or two earlier, or at least witnessed or was inspired by the company being filmed. (“Dancing Pageant to Depict Egypt; Ancient Civilizattion As Spectacle’s Theme,” Los Angeles Times, September 14, 1916, p. II-2). (Author’s note: Graham refused to pose for Weston while his friend and patron Merle Armitage was preparing a book in her honor during 1935-6. Weston’s biographer Ben Maddow speculated that she may have been afraid that Weston would want to photograph her nude. Edward Weston: His Life, p. 210).
Ted Shawn Christmas card, 1915. Photograph by Edward Weston, 1915. Courtesy of New York Public Library Digital Gallery.
Two months later in another CRC production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” directed by Pole in Eagle Rock Park, Taggart played Hermia and Pole, besides directing, ironically played Demetrius presaging his soon-to-be marriage to Helen. This major outdoor spectacle staged for an evening audience of 10,000 in the natural amphitheater at the base of Eagle Rock also featured Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn’s fairy ballet and a giant orchestra. (“Enchantment Holds Sway: “Midsummer Dream” in Garden of Sycamores,” Los Angeles Times, July 10, 1915, p. II-6 and “Midsummer Night’s Dream at Eagle Rock, Santa Monica Bay Outlook, June 30 1915, p. 7. For much more on St. Denis and Shawn see my “Bertha Wardell Dances in Silence“).
Greek Theater, Pomona College, Claremont, ca. 1922. Myron Hunt, architect, 1914. Photographer unknown. From the Pomona Library Digital Images Collection.
In 1916 Pole landed the position of Pomona College drama director and produced student performances of Shakespeare and Greek drama in the campus’s recently completed Greek Theater (see above). (Ford, Sydney, “Opening of
Pomona College,” The Pacific, Oct 5, 1916, p. 6). The venue was a perfect fit for the Elizabethan-trained Pole whose uncle William Poel (see below) founded London’s Elizabethan Stage Society which held performances free of scenery and modern staging to simulate the theatrical conditions under which Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed. In late 1916, uncle William visited Reginald in Los Angeles, who was by then living with Helen, and was feted along with Aline Barnsdall’s Los Angeles Little Theatre director Richard Ordynski by the Drama League. Both Poel and Ordynski were questioned during interviews what they thought of Griffith’s “Intolerance” and both deferred to Griffith. (“Two are Honored by the Drama League,” Los Angeles Times, November 12, 1916, p. II-1 and “This Is Day for American Drama; Noted British Critic Here With Comment,” Los Angeles Times, November 6, 1916, p. II-5).
During 1916, the seemingly indefatigable Pole divided his time between Pomona College, Cumnock School and other various productions in and around Los Angeles. This year also marked the tricentennial of William Shakespeare’s death which was honored by Griffith’s earlier-mentioned production of “Macbeth” featuring Zacsek as Lady Agnes. During April and May there were numerous Shakespearean productions in and around Los Angeles including Reginald Pole starring in a scene from “Twelfth Night” staged by the Galpin Shakespeare Club at their Cumnock School headquarters and again playing the king in act five from “Richard the Second” at the Hollywood Woman’s Club (see below). (“In Remembrance of the Great English Bard,” Los Angeles Times, April 16, 1916, p. II-13).
Woman’s Club of Hollywood, 7078 Hollywood Blvd.between Sycamore Ave. and La Brea Ave. From “Woman’s Club of Hollywood,” Holly Leaves, July 1, 1922, p. 18. Photo by Viroque Baker, Schindler friend and soon-to-be photographer and client.
Inspired by the work of Maurice Browne and Ellen Van Volkenburg
at their Chicago Little Theatre, wealthy oil heiress Aline Barnsdall in 1915 begun discussing with Frank Lloyd Wright plans for a new, larger Chicago theater envisioned to be under their directorship. After summering in California and visiting the state’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco Barnsdall’s plans changed. She moved to San Francisco in 1916 and at first decided to open her theater there while Browne and Van Volkenburg opted to stay in Chicago. (For much more on Browne and Van Volkenburg see my “Pauline Gibling Schindler: Vagabond Agent for Modernism” and “Schindlers-Westons-Kashevaroff-Cage“). Coincidentally, Frank Lloyd Wright had also visited the Panama-California Exposition and its prominently displayed models and photos of Uxmal and Chichen Itza (see below) through he which he was likely imbued with Mayan inspiration for the later design of Barnsdall’s Olive Hill complex. (See for example Frank Lloyd Wright: The Lost Years, 1910-1922 by Anthony Alofsin, University of Chicago Press, 1993, p.225 and Frank Lloyd Wright: A Life by Ada Louise Huxtable, Penguin, 2004, p. 157).
Carlos Vierra, fresco of Chichen Itza, Panama-California Exposition, 1915. From Alofsin, p. 228. Originally in Art and Archaeology 2, 1915.
Hollyhock House, perspective view, Los Angeles, 1917-20. Alofsin, p. 236.
Model, “The Palace,” Uxmal, Panama-California Exposition, 1915. From Alofsin, p. 229. Originally in Art and Archaeology 2, 1915.
Mary Austin, front center, rehearsing the cast of “Fire” for a 1913 performance at Carmel’s Forest Theatre. Herbert Heron played the lead role of Evind, the fire bringer. George Sterling as Atla the hunter, upper right. From Old Carmel in Rare Photographs by L. S. Levin produced by Sharon Lawrence with Kathryn Prine, Carmel, 1995, p. 29.
While in San Francisco, Barnsdall wrote to erstwhile Carmel playwright and author Mary Austin about the possibilities of opening an outdoor theater there, likely having heard of her earlier exploits at the seaside village’s Forest Theater (see above for example). (For much Austin, Maurice Browne and the Forest Theater on this see my Schindlers-Westons-Kashevaroff-Cage hereinafter SWKC and PGS). Encouraged by what she heard Barnsdall visited Carmel in May and met with Forest Theater director Herbert Heron (see below) but soon responded to Austin that she needed a larger city for her vision to succeed. (Barnsdall Letters to Mary Hunter Austin, Mary Hunter Austin Collection, Huntington Library, cited in Friedman, pp. 34-37). Possibly lured by the burgeoning Hollywood scene, Barnsdall proceeded south to Los Angeles but not before enticing Heron to sign an eight-month, $50.00 per week contract to join her growing troupe upon the completion of his Forest Theatre summer season. (Letter from Herbert Heron to Will , Heron Papers, Harrison Memorial Library, Carmel).
Herbert Heron, director, Forest Theatre, Carmel.
Egan School of Music and Drama and Little Theatre, 1324 S. Figueroa St., 1914.
Through her Players Producing Company Barnsdall took out a six-month lease on Frank Egan’s earlier-mentioned Little Theatre (see above) and renamed it the Los Angeles Little Theatre and engaged Norman-Bel Geddes to design the sets and signed Richard Ordynski to a ten-week contract to direct the plays. (Miracle in the Evening by Norman Bel Geddes, Doubleday, New York, 1960, pp. 152-170 and Frank Lloyd Wright: Hollyhock House and Olive Hill by Kathryn Smith, Rizzoli, 1992, pp. 15-37). Also moving to Los Angeles to take part were some Ordynski recruits from New York including Irving Pichel and Gareth Hughes, and some alumni from Maurice Browne‘s Little Theatre in Chicago including Elaine Hyman, later stage name Kirah Markham, a former lover of Floyd Dell and Theodore Dreiser. Frayne Williams (see below), an old friend of Charlie Chaplin‘s from their Vaudeville days in England, also accompanied Ordynski to Los Angeles and soon hooked up with the Mather-Weston circle and reconnected with Chaplin. (Warren, p. 121).
Frayne Williams as Hamlet, 1918. Margrethe Mather photo. From Margrethe Mather & Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration by Beth Gates Warren, Norton, 2001, p. 49.
Kirah Markham in “Nju.” “Little Theater Opening Is To Be Feature of Week,” Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1916, p. III-1.
A May 1917 article in The Little Theatre Magazine summed up Barnsdall’s 10-week, seven-play season and outlined the roles played by Ordynski, Geddes, Kirah Markham, Frayne Williams, Herbert Heron, Irving Pichel and many others. Frayne Williams directed and played the lead role in “A Farewell Supper” by Arthur Schnitzler. Besides starring in Barnsdall’s opening production of Ossip Dymow‘s “Nju,” Markham (see above) had the lead role in Chicago playwright Oren Taft’s ”Conscience” which Barnsdall had staged the previous year in the Fine Arts Theater in Chicago also starring Markham, and the world premiere of D. H. Lawrence‘s “The Widowing of Mrs. Holyroyd,” both under Pichel’s direction. Former Carmel luminary George Sterling‘s translation of Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s version of “Everyman,” in collaboration with Ordynski, was the grand finale of Barnsdall’s season. (Dare, Ann, “The Little Theatre of Los Angeles, The Little Theatre Magazine, May 1917, p. 5. The Oilman’s Daughte: A Biography of Aline Barnsdall by Norman M. and Dorothy K. Karasick, Carleston Publishing, 1993, pp. 50-53, and Warren, p. 121). (Author’s note: For much more on D. H. Lawrence see my “Edward Weston and Mabel Dodge Luhan Remember D. H. Lawrence“).
Aline and Louise Aline “Sugartop” aka Betty Barnsdall ca. 1917. From Park2Park.
Barnsdall and the bisexual Ordynski had a brief, turbulent affair in November 1916 which resulted in Aline becoming pregnant. The couple had a falling out after Aline’s condition became known prompting Ordynsky to resign from the company after only two plays and apparently begin a relationship with George Hopkins. Barnsdall carried on with substitute directors Frayne Williams, Herbert Heron, and Irving Pichel who ably filled in for Ordynski for the season’s remaining four plays including Schnitztler’s “Anatol
” in which Williams played the leading role (see below).
Frayne Williams as Anatole, ca. 1920. Photo by Margrethe Mather. From Warren, p. 200. Courtesy J. Paul Getty Museum, 86.XM.721.3.
Likely after learning of Hopkins’ considerable costume and set designing skills, Ordynski came up with the idea to produce a modern day version of “Everyman” imitating his former colleague Max Reinhardt‘s earlier Berlin productions. (Kingsley, Grace, “‘Everyman’ To Be Presented in Up-To-Date Version,” Los Angeles Times, December 21, 1916, p. II-6). He also likely discussed his plans with Reginald Pole’s uncle William Poel during their mid-November reunion mentioned earlier above. Despite their acrimonious breakup, Ordynski was able to convince Barnsdall to finance his grandiloquent production and stage it at the 3,000 seat Trinity Auditorium (see above). After committing to finance Ordynski’s production Barnsdall was quoted, “Whatever is worth doing along this line is worth doing well. No expense should be spared to make the play as perfect as possible.” (“More Big Things May Follow,” Los Angeles Times, December 24, 1916, p. III-17).
George Hopkins, 1915. (see Warren, p. 79). Photo by Edward Weston. Johan Hagemeyer Collection. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.
The well-reviewed Barnsdall-Ordynski “Everyman” production starred a late recruit from New York, Gareth Hughes as Everyman, Kirah Markham as Everyman’s mother, Irving Pichel, and Frayne Williams. George Hopkins (see above) received much praise for his stage sets and costumes (see below). (“Ordynski “Everyman” Production at Trinity Promises to Unveil New Vista in Esthetics of the Stage – Brilliant is the Conception of Play,” Los Angeles Times, December 31, p. III-11). The production was undoubtedly followed with great interest by Reginald Pole. (“Othello to Have Production Here,” Los Angeles Times, January 22, 1920, p. II-9). Weston photographed Hopkins the year before and was also hired by him to photograph his creations modeled by dancers Maud Allan and Violet Romer (see two below) as well as Yvonne Sinnard, Katharane Edson, and Margaret Loomis, then dance students of Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. (For much more on Ordynski, Barnsdall and the Schindlers see my “Pauline Gibling Schindler: Vagabond Agent for Modernism” (PGS)).
“Modern In Its Art; Ordynski Everyman Production at Trinity Promises to Unveil New Vista in Esthetics of the Stage – Brilliant is the Conception of the Play,” Los Angeles Times, December 31, 1916, p. III-11.
Violet Romer (as a Peacock by a Pool), ca. 1916. Photography by Edward Weston at the Anita Baldwin McClaughrey estate “Anoakia. Costume likely by George Hopkins. From Warren, p. 80. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, 000.111.505.
Knowing of his father’s work for Barnsdall, especially for her theater, Lloyd Wright followed the progress of her Little Theatre productions, especially since he was also designing sets for Cecil B. De Mille
‘s and Frank A. Garbutt
‘s Paramount Pictures. (Gebhard, p. 22). He kept his father up to date on Barnsdall’s activities by letter. (See for example Women And the Making of the Modern House: A Social and Architectural History by Alice T. Friedman, note 26, p. 62). This most likely brought him into contact with Barnsdall’s set designers Geddes and Hopkins and he also soon became starstruck by the captivating Kirah Markham (see below). After an extremely brief courtship the couple got married sometime around October or November. The ambitious Markham was likely attracted to the connections Lloyd was privy to at Paramount and also later claimed she was seduced by the fame and architecture of his larger-than-life father. (Theodore Dreiser: Letters to Women; New Letters, Volume II edited by Thomas P. Riggio, University of Illinois Press, 2009, p. 119, note 2). Around the time Markham began rehearsals for “Everyman” she was already reporting back to Dreiser on the difficulties with her marriage. (Dreiser letter to Markham, December 14, 1916, Riggio “Letters,” pp. 118-19.
Kirah Markham, from the W. A. Swanberg Papers, Penn Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Markham first met Frank Lloyd Wright during his month-long December 1916-January 1917 stopover in Los Angeles on his way to Tokyo to begin work on the Imperial Hotel. While catching up with his son and consulting with Barnsdall on her theater and residence plans for which a site had not yet been selected, the elder Wright apparently found the time to design stage sets for a production of the Cherry Blossom Players under the artistic direction of future Schindlers friend and Weston-Mather intimate, Ramiel McGehee (see below).
Clarence McGehee portrait with announcement of upcoming Cherry Blossom Players productions, Los Angeles Times, December 31, 1916, p. II-10.
“Cherry Blossom Players to Give Performances Soon,” Los Angeles Times, January 14, 1917, p. III-19.
After a two-year association with Ruth St. Denis helping her develop her Japanese dance routines, Japanophile McGehee supported himself translating and lecturing on Chinese and Japanese topics and and producing and performing Japanese dance routines before a wide range of organizations and women’s clubs. By 1916 he had become involved with a Japanese theatrical troupe called the Cherry Blossom Players for which he directed drama and dance productions under his friend Norma Gould’s business manager and impresario Lyndon E. Behymer. His contagious enthusiasm for the Cherry Blossom Players likely helped him convince impresario Behymer that being able to advertise set designs by the noted architect and fellow Japanophile Frank Lloyd Wright would help in attracting a wider audience to their Japanese troupe’s performances at the Alexandria Hotel (see below) in January 1917. (For much more on McGehee and Ruth St. Denis see my “Bertha Wardell: Dances in Silence: Kings Road, Olive Hill and Carmel“). (Author’s note: There might be a possibility that the above Times report was inaccurate and the sets were instead designed by his son, Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. who by this time was designing stage sets for Paramount Pictures. If that was the case, Lloyd would undoubtedly have shown his father the sets while he was in town.).
Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St.,ca. 1920s. John Parkinson, architect, 1906, 1911 addition. From Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.
Chicago Examiner, May 17, 1911, p. 9.
The precocious Markham, then Elaine Hyman, studied drama at the Art Institute of Chicago ca. 1911-12 where she staged a play she had written, “The Master Painter.” (“Girl Art Students Show Dramatic Genius; Life Class Stages Tragesy and ‘Thriller’,” Chicago Examiner, May 17, 1911, p. 9). She soon appeared as Andromache (see below) in Maurice Browne‘s first staging of Euripedes‘ “The Trojan Women” at his Chicago Little Theatre in 1913 where she likely first drew Aline Barnsdall’s attention. It was also during this performance that Floyd Dell, then married to suffragist Margery Currey, became entranced with her and began an affair. Then in Chicago working on The Titan, the legendarily lecherous Theodore Dreiser who had accompanied Dell to the opening of “The Trojan Women,” was also mesmerized by Markham and was able to lure her affections away from Dell. Dreiser left for New York a few months later and was soon joined by Markham on occasion as her Little Theatre touring schedule permitted. (Author’s note: It was during this time that Paul Jordan-Smith, then in graduate school at the University of Chicago, became intertwined in the bohemian circles of Maurice Browne, Floyd Dell, John Cowper Powys and Arthur Davison Ficke thus he likely knew Markham as well. For more on this see my “WWS“).
Kirah Markham as Andromache in Euripedes’ “The Trojan Women,” at Maurice Browne’s Chicago Little Theatre, 1913. (Riggio, “Letters,” p. 81).
Theodore Dreiser in his Greenwich Village apartment at 165 W. 10th St. in the late 1910s. In Chicago Dell wrote influential reviews commending Dreiser’s early novels. Dreiser later praised Dell’s first novel, Moon-Calf. From Floyd Dell: The Life of an American Rebel by Douglas Clayton, Ivan R. Dee, 1994, p. 144. Courtesy Theodore Dreiser Papers, Penn Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Despite being utterly dismayed by being jilted by Markham and having by then left his wife Margery Currey, Dell visited Markham and Dreiser later that summer and became reconciled to the fact that she preferred the older, wiser, more established man. After also visiting Provincetown and finding the bohemian lifestyle much to his liking, Dell too decided to move to New York. The next year Markham moved in with Dreiser in Greenwich Village on a more or less permanent basis. She would soon be performing in plays written by Dell at Greenwich Village’s Liberal Club and the Provincetown Players in Cape Cod and later at their New York Playhouse until leaving Dreiser in the summer of 1916 to join Barnsdall’s Little Theatre troupe in Los Angeles.
Lloyd Wright, ca. 1920. From “The Blessing and the Curse” by Thomas S. Hines in Lloyd Wright: The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. edited by Alan Weintraub, Abrams, 1998, p. 14.
In an undated letter ca. 1916 Lloyd Wright reached out to his father with an invitation to visit him,
“so that I might show you what I am doing and so that we might have an outing together. I am now in shape to entertain rather than be entertained as previously. Have just become a member of the Sierra Madre Club and am slowly establishing myself in the life of this city. Have just written a little one-act sketch called ‘Manikin’ … with an opportunity for good dancing, music, and stage sets. My real work is progressing to a point where worry is finding little chance to play its part. … Pretty good considering that I started here without capital, name, or a very wide experience.” (LW to FLW, n.d. Frank Lloyd Wright Correspondence, Getty Research Institute. Also cited in Hines, p. 15).
Lloyd’s mention of his “Manikin” sketch possibly places him within the Mather-Weston circle as early as this period as Alfred Kreymborg, whose plays “Manikin and Minikin” was staged at the Hollywood Community Theatre in February of 1918 starring Lloyd’s and Reginald Pole’s lifelong friend Lawrence Tibbett and Carlotta Rydman. On the same bill Tibbett also played the lead role in Earnest Dowson’s “Pierrot of the Minute.” (Warnack, Henry Christeen, “Players Popular,” Los Angeles Times, February 22, 1918, p. II-3).
Kreymborg first visited Los Angeles in the summer of 1917 to read his poetry at the Friday Morning Club and promote his latest literary journal Others. (Troubadour: An Autobiography by Alfred Kreymborg, New York, 1925). During the trip he also visited Mather’s studio, likely at the suggestion of friend and former Little Review employee and contributor William Saphier. Saphier had a brief fling with, and had his portrait taken by Mather who also exhibited same a few months later. (Anderson, Antony, “Of Art and Artists,” Los Angeles Times, May 27, 1917. Also see Warren, p. 118. For much more on Kreymborg and Saphier see my “Bertha Wardell: Dances in Silence“).
Gaining ever more confidence with his Los Angeles surroundings and expanding dramatic circle Lloyd proposed to his father that they form a partnership and enjoy the finer things that the burgeoning city had to offer.
“I often wish that you might be able to free yourself from the various loads you seem to enjoy piling upon your back and that we two could enter the field together as father and son. I believe we could make them all sit up and enjoy us, and we’d have a glorious time doing it. Architecture, landscape architecture, the theater, and music with the various luxuries and interesting diversions that attach thereto. And do it in a gloriously fine way too. If I only had your sincere support in the matter, I could rip the very devil out of his hole.” (LW to FLW, Frank Lloyd Wright Correspondence, Getty Research Institute. Also cited in Hines, p. 15).
Although the two Wrights never established a permanent partnership, they would work together on a rather large number of projects between 1922 and 1924, some also with Schindler’s minor involvement, as Lloyd and RMS gradually developed totally independent careers after Wright returned to Taliesin
in early 1924.
While in Los Angeles in late 1916 to discuss ongoing plans with Aline Barnsdall for her theater and residence projects (Olive Hill would not be purchased until the summer of 1919), Frank Lloyd Wright met Lloyd’s new bride Kirah. In a letter sometime after his father sailed for Japan in mid-January 1917 Lloyd (see above) presciently described his wife as,
“… an independent. In spite of it, however, a wife. We have taken an old shack in an acre of acacia and [are] decorating the house on next to nothing. Kira is restless, ambitious and forceful, a good thing for us both. She is, however, prone to, or rather impressed by, the fact that the successful stage careers of today (the majority of them) are made by the ‘successees’ selling their bodies and their souls to the ‘successors.’ Perhaps she will get over it. I hope so.” (LW to FLW, n.d. Hines, p. 15).
Kirah soon shared her opinion of Barnsdall with her new father-in-law,
“[She] really has no actual conception of what she wants to do with a theatre at all. She has vague illuminated moments, but the flashes that come in are eternally slipping away on close contact she puts in power to execute them….And she wants so much to go on. Yet I scarcely believe I could endure the strain of a second season with her.” (Kirah Markham to FLW, February 7, 1917, FLW Archives, Taliesin West cited in Frank Lloyd Wright: Hollyhock House and Olive Hill by Kathryn Smith, Rizzoli, 1992, pp. 22-3).
Kirah and Lloyd visited the elder Wright at Taliesin in the late spring of 1918 after his recent return from Tokyo where he had begun work on the Imperial Hotel project. (Hines p. 16). The newlyweds spent six weeks at Taliesin and Chicago where Kirah possibly reconnected with Browne and Van Volkenburg about the time their Chicago Little Theatre in the Fine Arts Building was folding up its tent for good. She reported her impressions of the elder Wright in one of her frequent letters to Dreiser. (Letter from Dreiser to Markham, July 3, 1917, Riggio “Letters,” pp. 127-8). Markham eagerly wanted to continue back to Greenwich Village to be among her friends and have a better chance for work. As his young practice had yet to gather steam and still wishing to make the marriage work, Lloyd agreed to accompany her.
Once back in New York Kirah happily reconnected with Dell and Dreiser and the Washington Square Players, Provincetown Players and Playhouse crowds while Lloyd worked a series of day jobs including Standard Aircraft, Curtis Aircraft and the architectural firm of Rouse and Goldberg. (Lloyd Wright, Architect: 20th Century Architecture in an Organic Exhibition edited by David Gebhard and Harriette Von Breton, Art Galleries, University of California, Santa Barbara, 1971, pp. 22-23). In his spare time Lloyd designed stage sets for at least one of the Provincetown Players’ productions, “The String of the Samisen” (see playbill below).
“The Provincetown Players Fifth Season 1918-1919,” p. 3. From The Provincetown Players and the Playwright’s Theatre, 1915-1922 by Edna Kenton, McFarland, 2004, p. 92. Courtesy Scheaffer-O’Neill Collection at Connecticut College.
Dreiser wrote of his first get together with Markham after her return,
“Kirah calls up. Is at 7 Fifth Avenue. Wants me to come over. Go. She is downstairs when I get there. Haven’t seen her in over a year, when we lived together. Cries and hugs me. Tells me of her life in Los Angeles as star of Little Theatre. The attitude of [Richard] Ordynski the director toward her. Played two leading roles. Didn’t like her because she wasn’t his style of beauty. Now is Mrs. Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr. Character of her father-in-law, the architect. His opposition to her because he thought she wanted to return to me. Her father also in opposition-same reason. Wright’s great estate in Wisconsin. His mistress. Housekeeper steals letters and publishes them. He takes his discarded mistress back. Kirah wants me to meet her occasionally when she is with her husband and pretend not to have seen her before. I leave, agreeing to meet her somewhere soon.” (Riggio “Diaries,” pp. 170-1).
Markham remained in periodic contact with Dreiser but always without Lloyd. Oddly, she seemed uncomfortable introducing him to her former lover. They apparently did not socialize together as Dreiser’s December 6, 1917 diary entry mentioned awkwardly encountering Markham and Wright in a cafe and saying of him “He looks very interesting.” (Riggio “Diaries,” p. 230. Author’s note: Dreiser would formally meet Wright at his Taggart House in the summer of 1922 as discussed later herein.). As Dreiser’s frequent 1917-18 correspondence with Markham and diary entries indicate, the Wright-Markham marriage was indeed turbulent and fraught with separations brought on by Kirah’s growing boredom with Lloyd and lack of work. (Riggio “Letters,” and Theodore Dreiser: American Diaries, 1902-1926 edited by Thomas P. Riggio, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982).
From left, William E. Smith, R. M. Schindler, Arato Endo, Goichi Fujikura, and Julius Floto, consulting engineer on the Imperial Hotel, at Taliesin, spring 1918. From Frank Lloyd Wright: Hollyhock House and Olive Hill by Kathryn Smith, Rizzoli, 1992, p. 20.
Meanwhile, trying to find work with Lloyd’s father while working for Ottenheimer, Stern and Reichert since his 1914 arrival in Chicago from Vienna, R. M. Schindler was finally able to move into Taliesin (see above) in February 1918 and immediately began working on the Imperial Hotel and Barnsdall theater and residence projects. Schindler most certainly met Lloyd during his and Kirah’s lengthy spring 1918 Taliesin stopover while on there way to New York where they hoped to save their shaky marriage and establish careers. After FLW sailed for Japan that fall, Schindler and Will Smith moved into Wright’s Oak Park Studio. Soon afterwards, Schindler met Sophie Pauline Gibling (see below) and would marry her the following summer. Coincidentally and unbeknownst to him, by helping his father put together his famous Wasmuth Portfolio in Italy in 1909-10 (see below) which was published in Germany the following year, Lloyd played a small part in attracting R. M. Schindler (and later Richard Neutra) to America to work for their mutual idol. (For more on this see my “Chats“).
Nineteen-year-old Lloyd Wright at Villino Belvedere, Fiesole, Italy, 1910 where he was assisting his father on the drawings for the Wasmuth Portfolio. Photo by Taylor Wolley. From Frank Lloyd Wright: The Lost Years, 1910-1922, University of Chicago Press, 1993, p. 50.
Pauline Schindler ca. 1919.
Pauline Schindler at Taliesin, 1920.
“Olive Hill as Art-Theater Garden,” Los Angeles Examiner, July 6, 1919, p 5.
Homesick for California and with his marriage failing, Lloyd returned to Los Angeles, filed for divorce and became his father’s construction supervisor for Barnsdall’s compound (see drawing above) on her recently-purchased 36-acre Olive Hill site on the eastern edge of Hollywood. (Lawrence, Frieda, “Eminence to Become Rare Beauty Spot, Los Angeles Examiner, July 6, 1919, p 5). On his way to Tokyo in December 1919 FLW turned over the Olive Hill reins to Lloyd. An eager Schindler had written Wright on numerous occasions in early 1920 that he was more than ready to come to Los Angeles to work on the Barnsdall projects. FLW replied in a February 1920 letter that,
“I am provoked with Lloyd for wool-gathering again and leaving me entirely in the dark about everything. I am quite tired of maintaining a service that doesn’t enlighten me when I am unable to enlighten myself regarding my own affairs. I still look toward Los Angeles as a place in which I might turn your services to good account, but I know nothing, absolutely nothing of what is going on there. And therefore the matter is in abeyance at least until I can get on the ground myself and make up my mind on what to do.” (FLW, Tokyo to RMS, Oak Park, February 9, 1920, Getty Research Institute).
Model for Barnsdall Theater, Olive Hill, 1917-1920, unbuilt. From Alofsin, p. 244.
Barnsdall’s ongoing and ever angrier complaints to the senior Wright in Tokyo regarding Lloyd’s construction management difficulties on her project (see below) became too much for Frank to bear so in late 1920 he finally directed the ecstatic Schindler to move from Taliesin to Los Angeles to tactfully head up the project and try his best to mend fences with Barnsdall.
“New Residence Tract Opening,” Los Angeles Times, March 13, 1921, p. 4. Courtesy R. M. Schindler Papers, Architecture and Design Collections, UC-Santa Barbara Art, Architecture and Design Museum.
In hindsight, Wright mistakenly insisted that Schindler stay on far too long at Oak Park improving his compound into rentable units and finding tenants for same. He also likely wanted a presence at both Taliesin (Will Smith) and Oak Park in case additional work happened to materialize. It is my contention that if Wright had entrusted the Oak Park situation to Will Smith and brought Schindler out to Los Angeles much earlier, the Olive Hill work would not have gotten so out of control in regards to the hungry contractors feeding at the wealthy Barnsdall’s inheritance trough. (Frank Lloyd Wright Correspondence With R. M. Schindler, 1914-1922, Box 1, Folder 16).
Homer Laughlin Building, far right, 317 S. Broadway, John Parkinson, architect, 1897. Photo circa 1915 just prior to the opening of the Grand Central Market on the ground floor where RMS and LW would likely have often lunched. From Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.
Schindler’s and Lloyd Wright’s business office while working on Olive Hill was in the Homer Laughlin Building
(see above) at 317 S. Broadway in downtown Los Angeles. By the time they were working in the building the Grand Central Market
had opened on the ground floor providing them quick and easy access for midday sustenance. Pauline Schindler wrote of the cramped office conditions,
“At present RMS and Lloyd Wright(who is at least six feet tall), two draftsmen and an office boy are all crowded into two small office rooms, which are otherwise already overflowing with huge drafting tables and desks and on TOP of them, various stenographers coming in to bring rush copy of contracts, while burly contractors stand about looking crafty and expensive.” (Cited in Communities of Frank Lloyd Wright: Taliesin and Beyond by Myron A. Marty, Northern Illinois University Press, 2009, p. 71).
Letter envelope from Richard Neutra to R. M. Schindler, Taliesin to Laughlin Building, postmarked December 27, 1920. Courtesy R. M. Schindler Papers, Architecture and Design Collections, UC-Santa Barbara Art, Architecture and Design Museum.
It was here that Schindler’s fellow Adolf Loos disciple Richard Neutra’s mail arrived from a war-torn Europe imploring his help immigrating to the United States. Neutra would finally follow in Schindler’s footsteps at Taliesin in 1924-5 before finally making it to Los Angeles and Kings Road in March 1925. (For more on this see “Chats“).
Schindler was thrust into a difficult position of balancing the demands of a by then angry, disenchanted, wealthy client, greedy contractors and sub-contractors, and oversight of the activities of his employer’s moonlighting, and likely resentful, son. In response to a request from the elder Wright for a report on Lloyd after taking over supervision at Olive Hill, Schindler tactfully replied,
“Concerning Lloyd I shall not make any reports….his relation to the office is to[o] vague for me to set upon. I should think he could send you all news himself and save me the suspicion of spreading gossip.” (RMS (Los Angeles) to FLW (Tokyo), March 26, 1921, Getty Research Institute).
Firenze Gardens, 5218-5230 Sunset Blvd., William J. Dodd, architect. Landscape possibly by Lloyd Wright. Photographer unknown, ca. 1922. From Los Angeles Public Library photo collection.
While in Los Angeles during July 1921 on his way back to Japan, FLW stayed at the Firenze Gardens Apartments (see above) for a few weeks in July 1921 while checking on the status of his nearby Olive Hill projects and conferring with Barnsdall. (FLW pencil note to RMS, n.d.,ca. July 1921, from Frank Lloyd Wright Correspondence With R. M. Schindler 1914-1929, Special Collections Getty Research Institute). Firenze was designed by William J. Dodd, possibly known to the elder Wright from their Midwest days, for whom Lloyd had designed numerous landscaping projects beginning in 1916 including the landscaping for his personal estate in 1920 (see below) and possibly for Firenze Gardens as well.
Garden for Dodd Estate, Lloyd Wright, landscape architect, 1920. From Gebhard, p. 7.
Dodd was extremely well-connected with strong ties to the movie industry and local developers through his close friendship with fellow Los Angeles Athletic Club crony Frank A. Garbutt, wealthy scion of early Los Angeles pioneer and extensive land-owner Frank C. Garbutt. (For much on Garbutt see my “Playa del Rey: Speed Capital of the World, 1910-1913“). It was through Dodd that Lloyd met Garbutt, then a partner with Cecil B. De Mille with Paramount Pictures where for a period of over a year during 1916-18 Lloyd was in charge of their Set Design and Drafting Department. (Gebhard, p. p. 22). (Author’s note: Dodd had recently been appointed by the Governor to the State Board of Architecture replacing retiring F. L. Roehrig. “Architect Named; W. F. [sic] Dodd Appointed to State Board by Governor,” Los Angeles Times, October 24, 1919, P. II-11. See also my “Playa del Rey: Speed Capital of the World” for much more on Garbutt). Dodd was also known to Schindler through Lloyd evidenced by Wright asking Schindler to deliver his mail and update him on the status of contracts at Firenze Gardens, “the place that Dodd built.” (FLW pencil note to RMS, n.d. Frank Lloyd Wright Correspondence With R. M. Schindler 1914-1929, Special Collections Getty Research Institute).
A few weeks after FLW left for his final trip to Japan, at the same time Schindler was pleading for more funds Lloyd wrote his father in his “weekly report” that his “…drawing for Miss “B” is of course late” and that “Schindler frets at the time it consumes, and so it does, but it must be done.” He excitedly continued on about the great deal he got on a new $2,200, 1920 Buick Roadster
for only $1,500 and that he had found a new apartment closer to Olive Hill than the Hotel Lankershim (see below) which was “no cheaper than the Hotel but better.” Lloyd’s extravagant purchase must have somewhat irked Schindler as the project purse strings were seemingly under his control indicated by his comment that he “…put $450 in a joint account for Rudolph to draw upon that has lasted about three weeks, nor are any of these expenditures extravagant or unnecessary.” By comparison, Schindler had earlier written Wright that he was able to scrape enough money together to buy a used Chevrolet. (LW (Los Angeles) to FLW (Tokyo) ca. August 1921, Frank Lloyd Wright correspondence, 1900-1959, and Frank Lloyd Wright Correspondence With R. M. Schindler 1914-1929, Special Collections, Getty Research Institute).
Hotel Lankershim, southeast corner of Broadway and Seventh St., J. B. Lankershim, owner, R. B. Young, architect, 1904.
Los Angeles Athletic Club, 431 W. Seventh St., Parkinson and Bergstrom, architects, 1912. From the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.
Uplifters Club House, Rustic Canyon, Santa Monica William J. Dodd, architect, ca. 1922. From Santa Monica Library.
Lloyd and his father had apparently attended a social event which included Dodd and the Uplifters
, for whom Dodd was constructing a club house in Rustic Canyon in Santa Monica (see above), as intimated in his “weekly” report mailed to Tokyo shortly after Wright arrived in Japan in late August of 1921. He had also introduced his father to his by then very close friend from the Mather-Weston-Jordan-Smith circle, Reginald Pole, for whom he had designed numerous stage sets for his theatrical productions (see discussion later below). The Schindlers were also by the summer of 1921 firmly intertwined within the same social orbit, having met Weston through their involvement with the Walt Whitman School where Pauline was teaching Weston’s two oldest sons, Chandler and Brett. (For much more on this see my “The Schindlers and the Westons and the Walt Whitman School“).
It almost a certainty that Lloyd took his father, to the Pilgrimage Play Theatre to view a performance of Wetherill’s “Pilgrimage Play” starring Pole as Judas evidenced by his continuing “weekly report” comments that he had,
“…joined the L.A Athletic Club (see two above) through pressure from Dodd and the Uplifters!! (Same Uplifters). It is an expense that is heavy to bear just now but perhaps a wise one. Time will tell. Have started divorce proceedings. [Reginald] Poel sends his best and was sorry not to have seen you off. Expects to put on Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” at the Trinity Auditorium next month. (For much on the Uplifters, a group of prominent L.A. Athletic Club members including Dodd and Frank Garbutt, see “Uplifters on Way to Enter Bohemia,” Los Angeles Times, October 26, 1917, p. II-6 and “Uplifters Will Inspect Work on Clubhouse,” Los Angeles Times, August 21, 1921, p. II-6). (Author’s note: Garbutt’s father’s land development partner J. B. Lankershim also built the Hotel Lankershim).
He [Schindler] chafes in the (unintelligible) and has bewailed the fact that you forbade him to get in touch with Miss “B.” I have not been able to give him much assistance, hardly any in fact, between the landscape work which I am pushing rapidly along and the perspectives and sickness.” (LW to FLW (Tokyo) ca. late August 1921. Frank Lloyd Wright Correspondence, Getty Research Institute).
Another reason Lloyd may not have given Schindler much assistance is that throughout the period he was working on Olive Hill he was also moonlighting on projects for the Phoenix Country Club, Dodd’s personal estate, the Kenneth Preuss Estate, and Santa Monica High School during the hectic period Schindler was trying to wrap up construction activities and legal disputes on Barnsdall’s Hollyhock House and Residences A and B. (Gebhard, p. 98).
Frank Lloyd Wright, 1920. Photographer unknown. Published in Truth Against the World, Meehan, 1987, p. 20. Courtesy R. M. Schindler Papers, Architecture and Design Collections, UC-Santa Barbara Art, Architecture and Design Museum.
Coincidentally, Dodd was himself an amateur stage actor and performed with the Hollywood Community Theatre, a local group formed by Neely Dickson in 1917. Dickson received financial support from Cecil’s brother, William C. deMille
and Aline Barnsdall at the same time she was staging her earlier-mentioned productions at the Los Angeles Little Theatre. (“Fifth Production at Community Theater,” Los Angeles Times, March 11, 1918, p. II-8). After purchasing Olive Hill in 1919, Barnsdall generously offered the group a corner of her land for a new playhouse providing they could raise the money for construction but sadly, the project never came to fruition. (Warnack, Henry Christeen, “Hollywood Discovers the Community Theater,” Los Angeles Times, November 11, 1917, p. III-18 and “Plans of Hollywood Community Theater,” Los Angeles Times, August 10, 1919, p. III-29).
Kinema Theater, 642 S. Grand Ave., William J. Dodd, architect for the Kehrlein Brothers, Shirley C. Ward, builder, 1917. Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.
Dodd’s involvement with the Dickson troupe came just a few months after the grand opening of the Kinema Theater (see above) he designed for the Kehrlein Brothers. He likely had hopes for another theater commission knowing that Dickson had received financial backing from Barnsdall and William C. deMille to get her theater and troupe established. Activities related to the grand opening of the much-anticipated 1200-seat, $500,000 movie palace were followed closely by the local press. For example, a couple months before the opening, a lengthy piece appeared describing the special load testing performed to ensure the structural integrity of the auditorium. A load of 1,500,000 pounds in the form of 6,000 sacks of concrete to simulate a full house house was placed as seen below and the building passed structural inspection with flying colors. (“Gallery Stands A Severe Test,” Los Angeles Times, October 21, 1917, p. V-1).
The Kinema Theater opened to much fanfare on December 15, 1917 with the premiere of Cecil B. De Mille’s “The Woman God Forgot” (see below) starring Geraldine Farrar
and also a minor role for Olga Grey as an Aztec woman and future Lloyd Wright client by association, Ramon Navarro
, as an Aztec man. At the grand opening De Mille presided as master of ceremonies. Dodd made a “humorous talk about the trials of a poor architect in building a motion picture house which drew roars of laughter from the [invitation only] audience” in which almost certainly sat the head of Paramount’s stage set Design and Drafting Department, Lloyd Wright, his wife Kirah Markham and Anna Zacsek, aka Olga Grey. (Harleman, G. P., Opening of Kinema Theater; Brilliant Audience at Premier Presentation,” Moving Picture World, January 5, 1918, p. 65).
Movie Poster for “The Woman Who God Forgot,” 1917.
Alfred Kreymborg, 1920. Photo by Edward Weston. From Weston’s Westons: Portraits and Nudes by Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 1989, p. 123.
The Hollywood Community Theatre received much cross-pollination from the Provincetown Players during the time Lloyd and Kirah Markham were in New York performing and designing sets for same. Dickson staged plays written by Players regulars Eugene O’Neill, Susan Glaspell, George Cram “Jig” Cooke and Alfred Kreymborg (see above) whose “Manikin and Minikin” and “Lima Beans” were performed by Dickson’s Hollywood troupe in February 1918, possibly through the Markham-Wright West Coast connections. As previously mentioned, Lloyd’s sometime employer William J. Dodd also played a leading role in Lady Gregory‘s “Spreading the News” in the following production in March.
Kirah Markham from The Women of Provincetown, 1915-1922 by Cheryl Black, University of Alabama Press, 2002, p. 28.
Numerous plays by William C. deMille were performed and newcomers to the stage such as Lloyd’s close friend Lawrence Tibbett honed their chops before going on to bigger and better things. The indefatigable Dickson received much national and local publicity for her well-reviewed productions for which she not only designed the stage sets but the costumes as well. Sheldon Cheney‘s prestigious Theatre Arts Magazine gave Dickson a six-page spread in his July 1919 issue for example. (See: Beymer, William Gilmore, “Hollywood Community Theatre,” Theatre Arts, July 1919, pp. 172-8 and “Studio of the Theatre,” Holly Leaves, September 29, 1922, pp. 12-13. For much more on Kreymborg see my “Bertha Wardell: Dances In Silence“).
“A Christmas Pantomime” at the Chicago Little Theatre, photo by Eugene Hutchinson. The New Movement in the Theatre by Sheldon Cheney, Mitchell Kennerly, New York, 1914, p. 186.
Gleaning much subject matter from Maurice Browne and his Chicago Little Theatre (see above), Cheney had published The New Movement in the Theatre
in 1914. This book and Maurice Browne and his Little Theatre were Barnsdall’s original inspiration for her theatrical dreams. Excited during his late summer 1916 by the creative bustle he witnessed surrounding the formative period of Barnsdall’s Los Angeles Little Theatre, Ordynsky, Markham, and Geddes, Cheney announced that “he was leaving for Detroit to start a magazine that he would call Theatre Arts Magazine
.” (Miracle in the Evening by Norman-Bel Geddes, p. 160 cited in Friedman, note 42, p. 62).
Cheney surrounded himself with an excellent cast of contributing editors which included Maurice Browne from Chicago, Sam Hume from Berkeley and Los Angeles’s own Ruth St. Denis.
Joann Geddes birth announcement-Christmas card, December 1916, designed by Norman-Bel Geddes. Courtesy Carmel-by-the-Sea Harrison Memorial Library Herbert Heron Papers.
Norman-Bel Geddes with costume sketch for his “Divine Comedy,” ca. 1921. From Designing Modern America: Broadway to Main Street by Christopher Innes, Yale University Press, 2005, p. 26. Norman-Bel Geddes Collection, Courtesy of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center.
At the end of Barnsdall’s Little Theatre season Geddes stayed in Los Angeles with his wife and newborn daughter (see announcement above) in the hope that her theatrical dreams would bear fruit and in the meantime became artistic director for Ruth St. Denis and designed a dance theater for her and husband Ted Shawn. After a while New York beckoned and he never looked back to Los Angeles except for a brief interlude in 1924 when he returned to design sets for Cecil B. De Mille’s “Feet of Clay
” (see below) and his unbuilt Island Dance Theater and Restaurant.
That same summer Geddes also taught a class in stagecraft at the Hollywood Community Theater entitled “Modern Developments in Theatrical Production” which was attended by Schindler-Weston intimate Annita Delano and also possibly Barbara Morgan. (Annita Delano biography dated October 1924, from Archives of American Art, Annita Delano Papers, 1909-1975, microfilm roll 3000).
Delano and Morgan would later put to use their stagecraft skills learned from Geddes in student productions at UCLA and also at the Potboiler Art Theater from 1925 to 1929. (Daybooks of Edward Weston, Vol. II, California, pp. 60-61). (Author’s note: Pole, Gareth Hughes, Irving Pichel, and others would also perform at Sigurd Russell’s Potboiler Art Theatre and Russell took his troupe to Carmel for the inaugural 1924 season of Edward Kuster’s Theatre of the Golden Bough discussed elsewhere herein.).
(“Constructions of Gigantic Scenes for “Miracle” Under Way,” Los Angeles Times, January 23, 1927, p. III-23).
Geddes made another dramatic Los Angeles appearance in 1927 to oversee the conversion of the Shrine Auditorium into a Gothic cathedral for a four week run of the Broadway hit “The Miracle
” directed by Max Reinhardt. He also designed the costumes (see below for example) and special lighting which he customized for the Shrine performance. (Ibid).
While in town Geddes also designed the Festival Theatre for Reinhardt which never came to fruition.
Playbill for “The Miracle,” 1926. From flickr.
Like Barnsdall, recognizing genius when he saw it firsthand, Cheney published virtually everything Geddes produced in the way of stage set, theater and costume design during his 1916-21 Theatre Arts editorship as did his successors. For example in 1919 Cheney published Geddes’ article “The Theatre of the Future,” set designs from four plays and a lengthy feature article on Geddes by Bruce Bliven entitled “Norman-Bel Geddes: His Art and His Ideas” in the same issue as the previously-mentioned article on the Hollywood Community Theatre. (Theatre Arts Magazine, Vol. III, 1919).
Theatre Arts Magazine, Vol. III, No. 1, January 1919.
Besides editing and publishing Theatre Arts Magazine (see above), the prolific Cheney published numerous books on the theater, architecture and design including An Art Lover’s Guide to the [Panama-Pacific International] Exhibition in 1915 which was attended by Schindler, Barnsdall, the Wrights and exhibitor Weston, The Art Theater in 1917, The Open Air Theater in 1918 (sparked by an on-going “lively” correspondence with Barnsdall (Friedman, p. 52)), Modern Art and the Theater in 1921, and A Primer of Modern Art in 1924, prior to his 1930 publication of The New World Architecture (see below).
The New World Architecture by Sheldon Cheney, Tudor Publishing Co., New York, 1930. (From my collection).
The New World Architecture
featured much of the 1920s work of Frank Lloyd Wright and his son Lloyd, R. M. Schindler and his 1925-30 Kings Road tenant and sometime partner Richard Neutra. Published in 1930, this important publication preceded the seminal Museum of Modern Art’s The International Style: Architecture Since 1922
exhibition catalog by two years and also included work by almost all of the MOMA show participants thus Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock were not alone in recognizing the rapid shift from Beaux Arts architecture
to modern architecture throughout the 1920s. One of the earliest publication photos of Schindler’s Lovell Beach House in Cheney’s book (see below) was taken by Edward Weston on August 2, 1927. To this day Weston has been uncredited for his iconic Beach House images published all over the world. My discovery of the provenance of Weston’s Lovell House images in the Schindler Papers in the UC-Santa Barbara Architecture and Design Collections inspired my enthusiasm for this research effort.
Lovell Beach House, Newport Beach, R. M. Schindler, Architect. Edward Weston photo, August 2, 1927. From The New World Architecture by Sheldon Cheney, Tudor Publishing Co., New York, 1930, p. 235..
Tina Modotti in a still from “The Tiger’s Coat,” 1920.
Around the time the Schindlers were establishing themselves in Los Angeles and befriending Edward Weston and his two oldest sons at the Walt Whitman School
, Weston was striking up an affair with yet another aspiring actress, Tina Modotti
(see above and below). After a somewhat successful stage career in San Francisco Modotti and her lover Robo de Richey moved to Los Angeles in 1918 and by 1920 had become entwined within the Mather-Weston-McGehee-Deshon circle.
Edward Weston, Head of an Italian Girl [Tina Modotti], 1921. (Warren, Passionate Collaboration, p. 84).
Not long after beginning his affair with Modotti in early 1921, Weston wrote to Johan Hagemeyer, then in San Francisco,
“Life has been very full for me – perhaps too full for my own good – I not only have done some of the best things yet – but also have had an exquisite affair – what more could one wish – and yet through it all I am haunted by that one unsatisfied desire – perhaps if it is ever accomplished I shall be even more unsatisfied! The pictures I believe to be especially good are the one of Tina de Richey – a lovely Italian girl – Venetian…” (Edward Weston handwritten letter to Johan Hagemeyer, April 14, 1921, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Papers, Getty Research Institute).
After appearing in numerous bit parts and three credited roles between 1919 and 1922, like Florence Deshon, Anna Zacsek, and Helen Richardson (see below), Modotti soon tired of the Hollywood treadmill. In the summer of 1923 she opted to accompany Weston and his son Chandler to Mexico and learn the art of photography. (For much more on the Modotti-Weston relationship see my WWS and “Edward Weston Remembers Tina Modotti” and any of the numerous Modotti biographies.).
Helen Richardson and Theodore Dreiser at their rented bungalow at 1515 Detroit St. near Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, ca. 1921. Courtesy Theodore Dreiser Papers, Penn Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Coincidentally, in late 1919 Theodore Dreiser had also moved to Los Angeles with his latest lover, his youthful second cousin Helen Richardson (see above). The move was a plan to work incognito on numerous writing projects including various scenarios for movies, and his novels The Bulwark and An American Tragedy while Richardson was attempting to begin a career in the movies. After making her show business debut in Vaudeville in the Pacific Northwest in 1917, the highly ambitious Richardson, whose grandmother was a sister of Dreiser’s mother, made her way to New York in 1919 and looked up her famous relative. They quickly struck up an affair and when the ambitious Helen informed Dreiser of her plans to move to Hollywood to seek a career in the movies, he decided to tag along.
Helen Richardson, Hollywood, ca. 1921. Photograph by Evans. Courtesy Theodore Dreiser Papers, Penn Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Movie poster for “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” 1921.
Helen Richardson to the right of Ramon Novarro in “The Four Hosemen of the Apocalypse,” 1921. Courtesy Theodore Dreiser Papers, Penn Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Movie poster for “Robin Hood,” 1922.
Helen Richardson in Robin Hood, 1922 with set designs by Lloyd Wright. Courtesy Theodore Dreiser Papers, Penn Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
Despite Dreiser’s attempts at anonymity, he and Helen were eventually drawn into the periphery of the Weston-Mather-Deshon orbit when Deshon began corresponding with him in October 1920 in an attempt to further her career. Reluctant and still trying to stay incognito, Dreiser finally agreed to meet with Deshon on November 29 and wrote in his diary that he spent most of the day with her and that she told him all about her relationships with Eastman and Chaplin and gossiped about their idiosyncrasies. Dreiser surmised that Deshon’s reason for wanting to befriend him was that she craved another literary celebrity to help further her career. (Theodore Dreiser, American Diaries, 1902-1926 edited by Thomas P. Riggio, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982, pp.349-350). Over a few meetings with Deshon and some likely social interaction with her circle, Dreiser compiled enough information to write “Ernestine,” a semi-fictional sketch based upon the short unhappy career and suicide of Deshon, with some elements of Helen Richardson’s Hollywood experiences thrown in, which was included in his 1927 Gallery of Women.
Dreiser also wrote a shocking four part expose on the motion picture industry, “Hollywood: It’s Morals and Manners,” for the fan magazine Shadowland (see above for example) which appeared from from November 1921 to February 1922 during the period that Schindler’s Kings Road House and Lloyd Wright’s Taggart House were under construction. In it, the ultimate user of women ironically shares his observations on the seedier aspects of a young actress’s career and Hollywood’s “casting couch” game based upon Richardson’s and Deshon’s and their circle of friend’s experiences. Tragically, the last episode appeared the same month of Deshon’s suicide which makes one wonder if Florence had been following the Shadowland series.
After being in Los Angeles for almost three years without being discovered by the press, L.A. Times reporter Edith Millicent Ryan finally tracked Dreiser down for a lengthy interview shortly before his and Helen’s return to New York. Besides a scathing review of Los Angeles, Dreiser reiterated his thoughts on Hollywood and it’s artlessness. (“Cruel Words, Theodore Dreiser!,” Los Angeles Times, September 17, 1922, pp. II-13-15). A few days later Paul Bern, editor of the Goldwyn Scenario Department, penned a similarly lengthy rebuttal to Dreiser’s Hollywood critique and his casting couch accusations. (“Take That, Mr. Dreiser,” Los Angeles Times, September 22, 1922, p. II-4).
Floyd Dell ca. 1921. Photographer unknown. From Clayton, p. 144 via the Floyd Dell Papers, Newberry Library.
There is some evidence that there may have been social interaction between Dreiser and Richardson and the Weston-Modotti-Mather-Deshon circle evidenced by a letter from Weston to Johan Hagemeyer, by then in San Francisco, which discussed several visits by Dreiser to his studio during 1921. (Edward Weston Letter to Johan Hagemeyer, September 16, 1921. Cited in Warren, p. 233).
In the same letter, Weston mentioned that he and Mather had photographed Floyd Dell (see above) who was then in town with his wife, B. Marie Gage visiting her family in Pasadena. (Warren, p. 116)
. By this time the Schindlers were also socializing in the same circles as Pauline was teaching Weston’s sons Chandler and Cole at the Walt Whitman School in Boyle Heights. (For more see my WWS). (Author’s note: I have been unable to locate the Weston-Mather photo of Dell but per Weston’s bibliographer Paula Freedman, the image was exhibited at Frederick & Nelson Dept. Store in Seattle in 1921 and the MacDowell and Friday Morning Clubs in Los Angeles in 1922).
Gage had formerly been an assistant to Paul Jordan-Smith during his anti-war activities for the People’s Council of America for Peace and Democracy
, thus it is safe to assume that Dell and Gage got together with Jordan-Smith and Weston’s cousin Sarah and likely that they and Weston, Mather and Deshon and possibly the Schindlers all socialized together at some point. (For more details on this see my WWS).
This was also around the time that Dell and Jordan-Smith began collaborating on the translation of Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy
, the same book that Florence Deshon read on the train during her move to Los Angeles in 1919.
Marie Rankin Clarke ca. 1920. Photo by Edward Weston. From the Clarke Estate Collection, Santa Fe Springs City Library.
Marie Rankin Clarke ca. 1920. Photo by Edward Weston. From the Clarke Estate Collection, Santa Fe Springs City Library.
In the fall of 1917, a few months before Schindler began working for Wright, Frayne Williams (see above) met and befriended Paul Jordan-Smith, husband of Edward Weston’s cousin Sarah Bixby Smith. Williams was brought to Paul and Sarah’s home in Claremont by Mrs. Chauncey Clarke (see Weston photo above), soon-to-be one of the founding board members and patroness of the Hollywood Bowl along with Christine Wetherill Stevenson (see below), T. Perceval Gerson, Aline Barnsdall and others. The trio of Jordan-Smith, Williams and Reginald Pole would soon become became mutual life-long friends. (“Mrs. Chauncey Clarke, Founder of Bowl, Dies,” Los Angeles Times, October 31, 1948, p. II-22. See also The Road I Came by Paul Jordan-Smith, Caxton Printers, Caldwell, Idaho, 1960, p. 381 and WWS).
Christine Wetherill Stevenson at the Pilgrimage Play Theater, Cahuenga Pass, ca. 1921. Bernard Maybeck, architect, 1920. From Hollywoodbowl.com.
Clarke and Stevenson were also the land purchasers and major patronesses and trustees of the nearby Pilgrimage Play Theater (see above) (now the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre) in which Pole (see below) would be the given roles of Judas, Jesus Christ, and eventually the directorship of Stevenson’s popular annual summer pageant ”The Pilgrimage Play: The Life of Jesus Christ.” (For example see “Pilgrimage Play Cast Is In Making,” Los Angeles Times, June 17, 1923, p. I-15 in which Clarke is pictured along with the rest of the cast selection committee).
“The Pilgrimage Play” was ardent Theosophist Stevenson’s adaptation of Georgina Jones Walton’s dramatization of Sir Edwin Arnold’s mystical poem “The Light of Asia,” first performed at the Krotona Stadium in Beachwood Canyon in 1918. The performance featured Ruth St. Denis and her Denishawn Dancers including Martha Graham. (Warnack, Henry Christeen, “Drama: The Light of Asia,” Los Angeles Times, August 1, 1918, p. II-3). (Author’s note: Stevenson brought out her Theosophist protege Dane Rudhyar from Philadelphia in 1920 to write the music for “The Pilgrimage Play.” Like Pauline Schindler, a frequent contributor to The Musical Quarterly in the late 1910s, Rudhyar would become a regular feature in, and fellow contributing editor with Edward Weston for The Carmelite during Pauline Schindler’s 1928-29 editorship).
Of Pole’s enactment of Christ near the end of the 1925 season the Times reviewer said,
“Mr. Pole…seems unique in the satisfying quality of his interpretation. As his voice repeats phrase after phrase and parable after parable, the mind of the listener disappears from the little open air theater in the Hollywood Hills and is born again in Jerusalem at the time of Christ.” (“Pole Plays Christ Role,” Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1925, p. I-11).
Reginald Pole as Judas in the Pilgrimage Play, ca. 1920. Photographer unknown. From I Shock Myself, p. 67. (Author’s note: Pole would be promoted to the role of Christ for the 1925 and 1926 seasons.)
Architects of the Pan-Pacific International Exhibition, San Francisco, 1915. Bernard Maybeck, third top hat from the left. From the Bancroft Library, University of California.
Palace of Fine Arts, Bernard Maybeck, architect, Panama Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, September 1915. Photograph by R. M. Schindler. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Architecture and Design Collections, R. M. Schindler Papers.
Palace of Liberal Arts, W. B. Faville, architect, Panama Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, September 1915. Photograph by R. M. Schindler. Courtesy UC-Santa Barbara Architecture and Design Collections, R. M. Schindler Papers.
New Pilgrimage Play Theater under construction with Hollywood Bowl in the background, 1931. From the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.
The Official Guidebook of the Panama California Exposition San Diego 1915. Note bridge designed by Irving Gill lower left.
Schindler most likely visited the construction site of Gill’s Walter L. Dodge House (see above) on Kings Road which was under construction while he was in Los Angeles after visiting the San Diego Exposition in the fall of 1915. This is evidenced by the fact that Gill used his innovative tilt-slab construction technique (see article excerpt below) to construct the walls of the Dodge House and, after moving to Los Angeles in 1920, Schindler and his then partner/builder Clyde Chace would purchase some of Gill’s tilt-slab construction equipment (see two below) to build their own communal home on a lot purchased from Walter Dodge, in what seems more than a coincidence, just a block south at 835 N. Kings Road. (March, Lionel, ”Rudolph M. Schindler, Schindler House and How House,” GA 77, A.D.A. Edita, Tokyo, 1999, p. 3. For more on Schindler’s 1915 West Coast adventure see my “Edward Weston and Mabel Dodge Luhan Remember D. H. Lawrence” and for more on Gill see my “R. M. Schindler, Richard Neutra and Louis Sullivan’s Kindergarten Chats” and “Selected Publications of Esther McCoy“). (Author’s note: Dreiser moved to 1015 Kings Road in 1941 and became socially involved with the Schindlers, his erstwhile researcher Esther McCoy, and her husband Berkeley Tobey).
Irving Gill’s “A California House With Pre-Cast Walls,” in Concrete Houses: How They Were Built edited by Harvey Whipple, Concrete-Cement Age Publishing co., Detroit, 1920, pp. 161-2. Originally appeared in Concrete, May 1918, p. 197.
“As a House of Cards Is Made; Remarkable Home of Chicago Capitalist Is Completed,” Los Angeles Times, March 19, 1916, p. I-12.
Clyde Chace had worked for, and lived with, Gill in 1920-1 during construction of his Horatio West Court project where he learned the intricacies of tilt-slab construction. His wife Marian Da Camara Chace was a close friend of Pauline’s from Smith College and Chicago where they taught together at the progressive Ravinia Village School before the Schindlers, and shortly thereafter the Chaces, moved to Los Angeles.
Aerial view of West Hollywood, 1922. Note the Dodge House and recently completed Schindler House on Kings Road at the right center of the Spence Aerial Photography photo. From the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.
John Cowper Powys and Paul Jordan-Smith, at “Erewhon,” Claremont, 1918. Edward Weston photograph. Courtesy George Eastman House and Edward Weston Collection, Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.
Weston’s cousin Sarah Bixby Smith’s husband Paul Jordan-Smith accompanied his houseguest John Cowper Powys (see above) to Palm Springs for a week long visit with his fellow Cambridge alum Reginald Pole and Helen Taggart, his soon-to-be pregnant (with Rupert) wife in the spring of 1918. (The Road I Came, pp. 329-30). (For much more on Jordan-Smith, Powys, Weston and the Schindlers see WWS). By this time, possibly through the largess of Helen’s mother who owned various acreage in the Coachella Valley, Pole and Taggart had acquired an adobe cottage in Palm Springs where they would spend much time alleviating Reginald’s chronic asthmatic condition. After the birth of Rupert, Helen abandoned the stage and opened a millinery shop featuring her own creative designs (see ad below).
Helen Taggart Millinery ad, Los Angeles Times, February 22, 1920, p. III-33.
As mentioned earlier, Jordan-Smith and Pole became fast friends and often got together, many times with with Frayne Williams, at Paul and Sarah’s “Erewhon” to discuss the theater after Pole’s drama class rehearsals at Pomona College (see below) .
Bixby Smith Residence “Erewhon,” Claremont, front elevation. Eighth St. and Claremont Ave., Claremont, ca. 1918. Arthur B. Benton, architect, 1906. From Claremont Colleges Digital Library, Wheeler Scrapbook Collection, p. 214.
Reginald Pole as Othello, 1920, Margrethe Mather. From Margrethe Mather & Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration by Beth Gates Warren, Norton, 2001, p. 72.
In early 1920, a major production of Shakespeare’s “Othello”was staged at the 3,000-seat Trinity Auditorium under the auspices of William Andrews Clark, Jr.
for the benefit of the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles
. Under the direction of Reginald Pole, the cast included Pole as Othello (see above), Frayne Williams (see below) as Cassio, Lawrence Tibbett
as Iago, Florence Deshon and others while the sets were designed by Lloyd Wright. (The Road I Came, p. 380 and “Othello Benefit for Children’s Hospital,” Los Angeles Times, February 19, 1920, p. II-12).
Frayne Williams as Hamlet ca. 1918. Margrethe Mather photo. From Margrethe Mather & Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration by Beth Gates Warren, Norton, 2001, p. 48.
Beatrice Wood and Lawrence Tibbett, New York, ca. 1923. Photographer unknown. From I Shock Myself, p. 66.
After earlier starring as Crichton in Pole’s production of “The Admirable Crichton,” Paul Jordan-Smith was originally cast as Iago in “Othello” but a bad case of laryngitis brought substitute Lawrence Tibbett
(see above with Beatrice Wood) to the fore in his first major stage role. (The Road I Came, p. 380). (Author’s note: Lloyd Wright would in 1930 remodel a house for Tibbett at 933 Rexford Dr. in Beverly Hills and in 1949 design a house for Beatrice Wood in Ojai which was not built).
It was during this period that Pole, Tibbett and Lloyd Wright became very close friends. The Tibbetts (Lawrence and his two wives Grace and Jane) and Wrights corresponded quite frequently over the years and often got together on vacations. Lloyd also remodeled a house for the Tibbetts at 933 Rexford Dr. in Beverly Hills in 1930. (See correspondence and project files in the Lloyd Wright Papers at UCLA).
Pole attempted to sleep with Deshon while “Othello” was in production which caused a fit of angst when she reported the incident to her lover Max Eastman (see below). (Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin by Joyce Milton, Da Capo Press, 1998, pp. 168-9). In his autobiography Eastman related, “Although I was jealous to the point of “shaking from head to foot” about a certain stranger whose attention she spoke of, a creature (I still so think of him) called Reginald Pole…” (Love and Revolution: My Journey Through An Epoch by Max Eastman, Random House, New York, 1964, pp. 184-5).
Florence Deshon and Max Eastman, ca. 1920. Photo possibly by Margrethe Mather? From Love and Revolution: My Journey through an Epic by Max Eastman, Random House, New York, p. 368.
After the 1917 departure of Barnsdall to Seattle to give birth to her and Ordynski’s love-child, Frayne Williams found work at Universal Studios through the largesse of his old English pal Chaplin and mutual friend and Weston-Mather gathering habitue Elmer Ellsworth
. Quickly tiring of minor roles, Williams began lecturing at venues such as the Ebell and Friday Morning Clubs and performing in and directing plays at local venues. Evidencing Williams’ intimate relationship within the Weston-Mather circle, in January 1919 Edward first named his youngest son Frayne before, for unexplained reasons, changing his name to Cole more than a year later. (Warren, p. 152 and 1920 U.S. Census).
Seeking a college drama teaching position similar to Pole’s at Pomona, Williams was hired by friend Paul Jordan-Smith’s employer, the University of California Extension Division in Los Angeles
, to teach drama and history of the theater and in 1922 formed, and became the director of, its Literary Theatre
. (“Department of Lectures,” The Spokesman; University Extension Division, November 1922, pp. 84-5).
Under Frayne, the Literary Theatre performed at both the Ebell and Gamut Clubs and numerous other Southern California venues between 1922 and 1927. (“Open Literary Theater Here; Frayne Williams Will Have Charge of Project,” Los Angeles Times, October 15, 1922, p. III-29, various other Times articles and The Road I Came, p. 382).
Frayne Williams (From Whitaker, Alma, “Rival Starts Drama Feud,” Los Angeles Times, October 21, 1923, p. II-12).
Frayne’s Literary Theatre players, a mix of 40% professional actors and 60% Extension students from his classes in Dramatic Interpretation and Dramatic Construction and Production, staged their plays at their home, the renamed Fine Arts Theater in the Walker Auditorium Building, and took their shows on the road to numerous Southern California venues. The $2.00 annual subscription fee enabled the department to cover all expenses and even turn a small profit. L.A. Times drama critic Alma Whitaker reported on a rival group headed by France Goldwater, Wilhelmina Wilkes and Morgan Dickson, taking note of Frayne’s success and starting an all-professional troupe under the same name, using the same Fine Arts Theater and performing some of the same plays trying to steal Frayne’s troupe’s thunder. (Whitaker, Alma, “Rival Starts Drama Feud,” Los Angeles Times, October 21, 1923, p. II-12).
Florence Deshon, 1919. Photo by Margrethe Mather. From Margrethe Mather & Edward Weston: A Passionate Collaboration by Beth Gates Warren, Norton, 2001, p. 59.
Florence Deshon’s (see above) acting career paralleled Anna Zacsek’s in many ways. Both ambitious young women began in the movie business in 1915, Deshon in New York and Zacsek in Hollywood. Both were featured often early in their careers with roles tapering off for similar reasons as they aged and refused to play the “casting couch” game. Deshon was credited with appearing in 24 films
between 1915 and 1921 while Zacsek had 31 roles
between 1915 and 1920. Both then gravitated to the stage in attempts to lengthen and broaden their acting careers and to be taken more seriously for their talents. Besides collaborating with Pole in “Othello,” Deshon also became associated with the Wilkes Stock Company
and the Pasadena Playhouse in 1920-21 around the same time Zacsek began appearing in Ibsen dramas produced by Pole at the Egan Little Theatre. (York, Cal, “Plays and Players,” Photoplay, October, 1921, p. 80).
The ardent feminist Deshon first met Max Eastman at The Masses Ball on December 15, 1916 shortly before starring in the film version of Jaffrey
, a popular novel by William J. Locke
. Not long thereafter Eastman left his wife Ida Rauh
and son to pursue a relationship with her. Unfortunately, Deshon’s roles began tapering off due to her being blacklisted for refusing to stand for the national anthem at the New York premeire of Jaffrey
. Eastman came up with a plan to revive her career during a February 1919 trip to Los Angeles to raise funds for The Liberator
. Charlie Chaplin attended an Eastman lecture, as did Weston, Hagemeyer and Mather (Warren, p. 153)
and introduced himself backstage.
Charlie Chaplin and Max Eastman at the Chaplin Studio, Hollywood, 1919.
Chaplin invited Eastman to his studio the following day (see above) and the two quickly became friends. Eastman relayed to Chaplin Deshon’s blacklisting woes and apparently persuaded him to help her out. Always one to support a socialist cause, Chaplin arranged to have Sam Goldwyn offer Florence a contract. Deshon arrived in Los Angeles in July 1919. While on the train the intellectual Florence read Robert Burton
‘s The Anatomy of Melancholy
which Paul Jordan-Smith and Floyd Dell would soon begin collaboration upon for an all-English translation which was finally published in 1927. (See correspondence in the Paul Jordan-Smith Papers at UCLA).
Thus it would be interesting to know whether Dell possibly turned Deshon on to the book or Deshon mentioned it to Paul Jordan-Smith whom she likely met through Mather shortly after her arrival in Los Angeles. Eastman also asked Mather’s friends Elmer Ellsworth and Rob and Florence Wagner to look after Deshon. (Tramp, p. 164).
It is likely through them that Mather and Deshon soon became intimate friends not long after her arrival (see below).
Florence Deshon, 1921. Photo by Margrethe Mather. From A Passionate Collaboration, p. 93.
Betty Katz, 1920. Photograph by Edward Weston. Courtesy of Center for Creative Photography. ©1981 Arizona Board of Regents.
Tiring of not receiving a commitment from either Chaplin or Eastman, both of whom which she had aborted pregnancies, and the sexual hurdles she needed to traverse for meaningful movie roles, Deshon returned to New York in late 1921. In a letter to yet another of Weston’s (and possibly Mather’s) lovers, Betty Katz (see above), confidant Ramiel McGehee despairingly wrote of Mather’s and Deshon’s depressed states,
“…I had two short glimpses of Margrethe. Margrethe, the unchanging. I have done all I can – nothing further to offer, one way or another. She must work out her own destiny quite alone – no one can help her. A lotus in a mud-pond near an old, deserted temple.
Florence [Deshon] was to leave soon for New York – had given up stage work, and was to return east, planning hopefully to enter Columbia University. Feels that she lacks training for any special work, may take a literary course, and later try to write. She needs self-discipline most of all.” (Ramiel McGehee to Betty Katz, ca. October-November 1921, courtesy of Leslie Squyres, Center for Creative Photography. Also cited in Warren, p. 235).
Deshon, Florence, “A Great Art,” Motion Picture Magazine, Feb 1922, pp. 39-40, 100.
Having fallen into a state of depression soon after her return to New York Florence committed suicide in February 1922 about the time that her satire on the “art” of the movie business was published in Motion Picture Magazine (see above). (“Clews Sought in Death Case,” Los Angeles Times, February 6, 1922, p. II-1). Deshon’s suicide caused quite a stir in the Weston-Mather circle as soon-to-be Kings Road tenant Betty Katz (see front center below) frankly relayed the news of Deshon’s demise to by then close friend Pauline Schindler, “Florence Deshon did not commit suicide. It was an accident like everything else which came to her.” (Betty Katz letter to Pauline Schindler, ca. March 1922. Courtesy Schindler Family Collection cited in Warren, p. 244). Weston mentioned her passing in a letter to Johan Hagemeyer, “…I have been in a super-sensitive state with Florence’s death – and Robo’s – and Tina’s father and M[argrethe]‘s very low condition [over Deshon's death]…” (Edward Weston handwritten letter to Johan Hagemeyer, February, 1922, Beaumont and Nancy Newhall Papers, Getty Research Institute). (Author’s note: Robo was Tina Modotti’s lover who had preceded her and Weston to Mexico and died on February 9, 1922 just a few days after Deshon.)
Thanksgiving at the Schindler-Chace House, Kings Road, 1923. Betty Katz, front center facing camera. Continuing clockwise, Alexander R. Brandner, unidentified, Max Pons (obscured), Herman Sachs, Karl Howenstein, Edith Gutterson, Anton Martin Feller, E. Clare Schooler (lover of Dorothy Gibling), person partially obscured at right (unidentified). Photo likely by R. M. Schindler. From the UC-Santa Barbara Architecture and Design Collections, R. M. Schindler Papers. (I am indebted to architectural historian William Scott Blair, steward of the Feller Archive, for identifying Feller and sharing his tragic story with me and help in identifying some of the others in the photo.)
Not long after Deshon’s death, Dreiser and Richardson visited Helen Taggart Pole and son Rupert at the Taggart House (see above) on Sunday, April 30, 1922. The house’s architect, Lloyd Wright, was also in attendance at what was likely a house-warming party of sorts for the recently completed house. Finally meeting Wright for the first time after hearing of him only through Kirah Markham’s marital complaints, Dreiser wrote,
“Helen does not want to go to Helen Poles, because of the possible crowd but I finally persuade her to go. … At 5:30 we ride over to the Poles. Beautiful house, built by Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr., who is there. He is the man who married Kirah after I left her and from whom she secured a divorce. A fine fellow. Looks like Ed. A charming artistic point of view. We are shown the house. Dinner. The lights. Mrs. Poles little boy. Jack [John Cowper Powys] and his queer friends [Paul Jordan-Smith, Margrethe Mather, Edward Weston, Florence Deshon, the Schindlers, et al?]. We talk until ten, then motor home. I like Wright so much and wish I might see him again. (Dreiser Diaries, p. 385). (Author’s note: It was during Powys’ month-long April 1922 Los Angeles lecture tour that Tina Modotti prevailed upon him to pen the introduction to her Book of Robo, a compilation of her recently deceased husband’s writings.)
Helen Freeman, ca. 1920. (From I Shock Myself, p. 16).
Helen’s husband Reginald Pole was then in New York, first directing and starring in then an actress Beatrice Wood
‘s lifelong friend Helen Freeman
‘s “Great Way” (see below playbill). He then staged his and John Cowper Powys’ adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot” and soon began an affair with Wood. Wood, who had been appearing on the New York stage as early as 1915, also performed in leading roles with Freeman in both plays. (I Shock Myself, pp. 59-68 and “The Idiot Acted at Benefit,” New York Times, April 8, 1922).
“‘Great Way’ is Colorful; Helen Freeman Acts a Tempestuous Spanish Heroine at the Park,” New York Times, November 8, 1921
from John Cowper Powys, A Record of Achievement by Derek Langridge
The enterprising Pole likely put in a good word with Christine Wetherill Stevenson for Freeman to be selected for the new part of Mary Magdelene in the 1922 version of the Pilgrimage Play. Stevenson sequestered herself in Palm Springs to write the part while Pole was staging “The Idiot” at New York’s Little Theatre and his co-author Powys was visiting his wife, Lloyd Wright, Dreiser and Richardson in Los Angeles during his West Coast lecture tour. Pole and Freeman came to Los Angeles in late May to begin rehearsals for the six-week summer run of the Pilgrimage Play. (Schallert, Edwin, “Develop Theme of Magdelen,” Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1922, p. III-1 and “Pilgrimage Play: Helen Freeman to Portray Mary Magdelen,” Los Angeles Times, June 30, 1922, p. III-1).
“Erecting Home of Unusual Design in Foothill Tract,” Los Angeles Times, December 18, 1921, p. V-1.
Schindler, R. M., ”Who Will Save Hollywood,” Holly Leaves, November 3, 1922, p. 32. Courtesy of the UC-Santa Barbara, University Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, R. M. Schindler Collection. (Author’s note: The bottom photo is of the Martha Taggart Residence, mother of Reginald Pole’s wife Helen, designed by Lloyd Wright. Helen would divorce Reginald and marry Lloyd in 1926).
Evidenced by the above articles, R. M. Schindler likely followed the construction Wright’s Taggart House closely, and vice versa, as he and Clyde Chace were concurrently building their own house on Kings Road. Schindler used Wright’s Taggart House to illustrate his article on his concerns regarding the development of the Hollywood Hills (see above). The architects had much in common as their solo career’s were on parallel FLW-inspired paths. They traveled in the same social and artistic circles, sought some of the same clients and Wright was also an early habitue of the Schindler’s salons where he occasionally performed on his cello.
Frank Lloyd Wright apparently commandeered the Taggart House for a period the following year while he was trying to establish a West Coast office with son Lloyd. This was referenced in John Cowper Powys’ below letter to his brother Llewellyn written from the boutique Holly Hotel at 1754-1/4 N. Vermont Ave. a block away from Olive Hill, which also presaged that Pole’s marriage was failing and Helen’s replacement for him would be none other than his then best friend, Lloyd Wright. (I Shock Myself, pp. 63-4).
“I am very lucky to have found this room in this very small hotel just where I wanted to be. It was only after a very long hunt that I found it. Mr Lloyd Wright who is Helen Pole’s chief friend helped me to find it, motoring me round all this district in her ramshackle little car – an excellent young man, but speak of him not to Reginald! But alas! Helen Pole is still not convalescent from her bad attack of pleurisy and she is going down to her ‘adobe’ cottage at Palm Springs next week, so that I shall be alone – again – except for this admirable young architect who is known to Dreiser and also to our sister Marian. His father, the great architect Mr. Wright, is hiring Helen’s house or rather her mother’s house here, so they have to clear out now. But the appearance of his formidable father will set up the fortunes of Lloyd, I hope; for he is a nice youth and an honest.
Reginald’s little son [Rupert, seen earlier above] has become a fast friend of mine and always calls me ‘John Powys ‘. We are the greatest Rabelaisian cronies. God! he is a little rogue. But he’ll be gone too with his mother.” (Excerpt from letter from John Cowper Powys to Llewellyn Powys, January 10, 1923 from Letters of John Cowper Powys to His Brother Llewellyn, Vol. 1, edited and selected by Malcolm Elwin, Village Press, London, 1975, p. 313). (Author’s note: Lloyd Wright may have met Marian Powys when he visited New York in 1922 where he also met Beatrice Wood at a performance of Pole’s at the Provincetown Theater. See I Shock Myself, pp. 63-4).
Lloyd Wright “was known” to Dreiser via letters from Kirah Markham as early as 1916 and, as previously mentioned, formally met him along with Helen Taggart and guests in April of 1922 at Helen’s mother’s recently completed house which Lloyd designed. Lloyd possibly first met Powys’ sister Marian while living in New York with Kirah Markham. It is likely that Lloyd and Helen were spending much time at the Pole-Taggart ‘adobe’ cottage in Palm Springs where Lloyd met Pearl McCallum McManus
and landed the Oasis Hotel commission. (See below).
Architect Lloyd Wright, contractor Quinn Spalding, and Austin McManus watch as Pearl McCallum McManus turns over the first spade of dirt starting the construction of the Oasis Hotel, Palm Springs, 1923. From The McCallum Saga: The Story of the Founding of Palm Springa by Katherine Ainsworth, Palm Springs Desert Museum, 1973, p. 183.
Rendering for the Oasis Hotel, 125, S. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, Lloyd Wright, architect and landscape architect, 1923. From Weintraub, p. 239.
Lloyd Wright’s Oasis Hotel in Palm Springs, 1923 and Taggart House, Los Feliz, 1922. Will Connell photos from “The New World Architecture” by Sheldon Cheney, Tudor Publishing Co., 1930, p. 264.
In June 1923, Pole, then separated from Helen and living with Beatrice Wood in New York, broke the news to her, “You know, I think I should take a trip west and see my wife and son. … I really should go see her. Of course, my best friend, Lloyd Wright, lives nearby and if she wants advice she has him. But I would feel better if I went and saw her.” Beatrice hoped that Reginald, the love of her life, was going back to arrange for a divorce so that they could marry and received the joyful news two weeks later that Helen had fallen in love with Lloyd (see below) and that they were indeed divorcing. (I Shock Myself, pp. 63-4).
Lloyd Wright, Helen Taggart Wright and son Eric ca. 1933. From I Shock Myself: The Autobiography of Beatrice Wood edited by Lindsay Smith, Chronicle, 1988, p. 118.
Despite marrying his ex-wife Helen in 1926, Wright was able to remain friends with Pole due to their mutual love of his son Rupert and the theater. Thus it was likely through Pole’s connections with the Pilgrimage Playhouse and Hollywood Bowl patrons Gerson, Clarke and Wetherill that Wright was entrusted with the design of the stage sets for the September 1926 production of “Julius Caesar” at the Hollywood Bowl. (Gebhard, p. 26). A busy summer indeed for Pole as he had just finished his six-week run as Jesus Christ at the nearby Pilgrimage Playhouse, he was also named to direct Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” probably on the grandest scale it had ever been staged. Of Wright’s elaborate sets for the the massive extravaganza (see below) the Times reported,
“The entire stage and surrounding terrain of the Bowl will be used in the construction of the massive sets. The hills in the background will be blended with the stage settings to complete a series of remarkable backgrounds for the action of the drama…
The great set prepared for the event breaks up into several units including the Roman Forum, Caesar’s house, the orchard or garden of Brutus, the walls of Rome, the Senate house, a street in Rome, the tent of Brutus, the battlefield of Phillippi, etc.
It is so constructed that the action once started may be continuous without delays attendant upon the shifting of scenery. The great battle scene, employing 1000 men, which takes place in the canyon and on the hills in the rear of the Bowl stage, may seen by striking two units of the set, which is done while action is taking place on the terraces in front of the stage.” (“Bowl to Stage Tragedy on Magnificent Scale,” Los Angeles Times, September 5, 1926, p. II-1.).
Hollywood Bowl stage set for “Julius Caesar” designed by Lloyd Wright, 1926. Los Angeles Times, September 5, 1926, p. II-1.
The success of the “Julius Caesar” spectacle led to Wright’s commission to design the Bowl’s short-lived orchestra shells for both the 1927 and 1928 seasons (see above and below). The above 1927 shell was built of left over lumber from the stage sets he designed for the June production of “Robin Hood.” (“Bowl Show in Final Rehearsal,” Los Angeles Times, June 12, 1927, p. 19).
Tiring of family life Pole separated from Helen in 1921 and throughout the rest of the 1920s split his time between Los Angeles during the summer pageants at the Pilgrimage Play Theater and Hollywood Bowl and New York during the winter theater season while also lecturing on art, literature and philosophy at Harvard and Yale. As mentioned earlier, Pole met Beatrice Wood in New York in late 1921 while directing her in Helen Freeman’s adaptation of Horace Fish’s novel “Great Way.” Before meeting Pole, Wood had been close friends with art collectors Walter and Louise Arensberg and their artist circle of friends which included Marcel Duchamp with whom she had a romantic relationship in the late 1910s. The Arensbergs moved to Hollywood in 1921 around the time Pole first left Helen and moved to New York. It was through Pole that Wood also met his close friends Lawrence Tibbett when he first moved to New York at Pole’s urging and Lloyd Wright when he came to visit his friends.
It was during this period that Pole staged his and John Cowper Powys adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s “The Idiot” which was first staged in April 1922 at the Republic Theatre and the Little Theatre under Pole’s direction and with Pole and Estelle Winwood in the lead roles and Beatrice Wood in a supporting role. (“The Idiot Acted at Benefit,” New York Times, April 8, 1922). According to Wood the play was a great success and caught the attention of David Belasco and many others. (I Shock Myself, p. 62). The following month Pole performed with his and Powys’ mutual friends Maurice Browne and Ellen Van Volkenburg in their American premiere production of Swedish playwright August Strindberg‘s “Creditors” at the Greenwich Village Theatre. (“Strindberg in Greenwich Village,” American-Scandinavian Review, July 1922, p. 436. For more on Pole and Powys see my “The Schindlers and the Westons and the Walt Whitman School“).
Ellen Van Volkenburg “Mrs. Maurice Browne” from “Nye, Myra, “Women’s Work, Women’s Clubs,” Los Angeles Times, November 5, 1922, p. III-35.
Later that year Browne and Van Volkenburg (see above) made a stop in Los Angeles for a lecture-reading of “Medea” for the Friday Morning Club at the 1,300-seat Morosco Theater (see below). (Nye, Myra, “‘Medea’ Worthy Offering,” Los Angeles Times, October 22, 1922, p. III-38). While in town they almost certainly reconnected with Paul Jordan-Smith and his wife Sarah (Edward Weston’s cousin), a longtime member and future President of the Friday Morning Club, Reginald Pole and Frayne Williams and possibly the Schindlers as well. (For more on these interrelationships see my “SWWWS“). Browne and Van Volkenburg were on their way to San Francisco where they hoped, with the help of Charles Erskine Scott Wood and Sara Bard Field, to open another Little Theatre similar to the one they had so much success with in Chicago. (For much more on this see my “SWKC“). Browne made a brief foray back to Southern California in the summer of 1923 with an appearance at cast dinner for the American premiere production of Strindberg’s “Lucky Pehr.” (“To Found Athens of America,” Los Angeles Times, August 19, 1923, p. III-29).
Pole and Wood (see below) soon struck up a relationship and together discovered the works of Dr. Annie Besant and Charles Leadbetter while browsing in the Philosopher’s Bookshop which began a lifelong fascination with Theosophy. (I Shock Myself, p. 60).
Beatrice Wood and Reginald Pole, ca. 1925. (From I Shock Myself, p. 79).
In the summer of 1923 Pole invited Wood to come out to Los Angeles and join him for his Pilgrimage Play season, a pattern they would repeat the following summers until Wood, attracted by the presence of Krishnamurti in nearby Ojai, permanently move to Los Angeles in 1926. Wood soon introduced Pole to the Arensbergs who had been living in Aline Barnsdall’s Residence A on Olive Hill which Schindler and Lloyd Wright had just recently completed (see above). (“Diaries of Beatrice Wood” in Beatrice Wood: Career Woman – Drawings, Paintings, Vessels, and Objects by Elsa Longhauser and Lisa Melandri, Santa Monica Museum of Art, 2011, p. 93).
Louise Arensberg at Residence “A,” Olive Hill, ca. 1923. (From I Shock Myself, p. 68).
Wood quickly adapted to the Los Angeles scene and took up right where she had left off with the Arensbergs, Lawrence Tibbett and his wife Grace and befriending Lloyd and Helen [Taggart] Wright. Despite growing further apart by the end of 1926, Wood and Pole began attending lectures by Annie Besant and visiting the Theosophist community in Ojai. (I Shock Myself, p. 82). During 1926-7 Wood may have also crossed paths with another ardent Theosophist, Pauline Schindler, whose first stop after packing up her son and leaving husband Rudolph and Kings Road in August 1927 was also the fledgling Theosophist community in Ojai. (For much more on this see my Pauline Gibling Schindler: Vagabond Agent for Modernism).
Los Angeles Times, May 22, 1928, pp. 1-2.
Wood’s involvement with Theosophy deepened throughout 1927 and by 1928 Wood and Pole had become frequent contributors to The Star: An International Magazine, the official organ of the Order of the Star in the East. For the initial Ojai Star Camp in the spring of 1928 Pole and Wood produced the play “The Light of Asia” starring Pole, his by then wife Frances and Wood (see below). (“Krishnamurti Defines Star,” Los Angeles Times, May 27, 1928, p. II-6 and Crane, Helen R., “The Light of Asia,” The Star, August 1928, p. 38).
Reginald and Frances Pole and Beatrice Wood, ca. 1928. (I Shock Myself, p. 81).
Apparently sometime in 1919 Anna Zacsek (see above) was drawn into the Pole-Mather-Weston-Wright orbit as that was the year she posed both nude and clothed for Weston. Not long thereafter she began performing in plays directed by Pole at her early mentor Frank Egan’s Little Theatre and other venues. (See below for example).
Ad for Ibsen’s “When We Dead Awaken” at Egan’s Little Theater, Los Angeles Times, April 22, 1920, p. III-4).
In the Grace Kingsley’s Time
s theater column announcing a staging of Ibsen’s “When We Dead Awaken,” Olga Gray [Zacsek], “a protege of [Alla] Nazimova
,” and Reginald Poel are named as the lead roles and Lloyd Wright’s sets were singled out as requiring “…special attention because they embody changes of scene, and also the visualizing of a sunrise and sunset…” (Kingley, Grace, “Cinema and Stage News,” Los Angeles Times, April 18, 1920, p. III-11).
Later in the year Zacsek and Pole teamed up again for another Ibsen drama “Rosmersholm.” The play was again staged at Egan’s Little Theatre under Pole’s direction and with him in the lead role. The play also also featured Frayne Williams, Lawrence Tibbett, Bertha Fiske
and Max Pollock
. Times drama critic Edwin Schallert generally praised the show and offered this of individual performances,
“Mr. Poel conveys the impression of rampant asceticism with a vivid clearness in his portrayal of Rosmer. His personality blends very ideally with the role. Anna Zacsek’s repressed acting and her finely controlled emotional outburst at the end of the second act made for a really brilliant portrayal of Rebecca West.” (“Rosmersholm” Is Given At The Little Theatre,” Los Angeles Times, November 10, 1920, p. III-4).
Brack-Shops Magazine cover from “Saving a Loft Building,” Buildings and Building Management, February 1917, p. 17-19.
Likely in conjunction with the staging of “Rosmersholm,” [Anna] Olga Grey [Zacsek] spoke at a Drama League meeting in room 805 of the Brack-Shops Building
(see above). (Nye, Myra, “Women’s Work, Women’s Clubs; Drama League,” Los Angeles Times, November 11, 1920, p. II-11).
Later that month Grace Kingsley, Times
drama critic, wrote of Zacsek’s mentor Frank Egan’s opinion of her affinity for Ibsen roles,
“Without pausing to wrinkle even one moment over the question, Frank Egan made up his mind the very minute the curtain rang down, on “Romersholm,” on opening night, at the Little Theatre, that Anna Zacsek would do well in a series of Ibsen matinees in New York, and therefore, being a man of decision, he means at once to make arrangements to that end. So New York may look out for a highbrow invasion.
Miss Zacsek is the same brilliant young actress whom we used to know in pictures as Olga Gray. She always had a great desire to play Ibsen, even in the old days, in Triangle mellers [melodramas].
Ever since her first appearance in Ibsen plays a year or so ago, at the Little Theatre, she has shown unusual brilliancy and aptitude for such roles.” (Kingley, Grace, “Olga Gray As Was,” Los Angeles Times, November 26, 1920, p. III-4).
A couple days later, Olga Gray Sachel [Zacsek] “leading woman in Reginald Poel’s company” spoke on the aims of the drama at the Ebell Club
. (“Women’s Work and Women’s Clubs,” Los Angeles Times, November 28, 1920, p. III-35).
“‘Hedda Gabler’ Soon; Olga Gray Zacsek to Play Title Role,” Los Angeles Times, January 9, 1921, p. III-14).
Pole’s next Little Theatre production was Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler” with [Anna] Olga Gray Zacsek in the title role (see above). The play was the most successful from a box-office standpoint Egan had ever staged at his Little Theatre. In a later lengthy feature on Zacsek Grace Kingley reported that when the play’s opening seemed about to be postponed due to the sets not being ready Zacsek unceremoniously “bought a pot of paint, put on an old apron, and stayed up all night to help paint the scenery.” (Kingsley, Grace, Art Play Is In Rehearsal; Modernistic Production of “Monna Vanna”; Olga Grey Zacsek In Title Role,” Los Angeles Times, February 20, 1921, p. III-13). Edwin Schallert remarked on Zacsek’s performance,
“Hedda is not typically her metier as was the lady of intriguing purposes in “Rosmersholm,” although there was a steady gaining of performance in her portrayal. She showed a tendency at the opening to strain for emotional effect, not exactly suitable to the woman who, with all her determination to reach out to rule, was constantly held in check by her conventional bonds. … With the play’s progress Miss Zacsek made this part of her interpretation ever more convincing. Still, she did not differentiate quite sufficiently in the part from her previous Ibsen roles.” (Schallert, Edwin, “Hedda Gabler” Presented at Little Theatre,” Los Angeles Times, January 18, 1921, p. III-4).
“‘Monna Vanna’ Soon, Los Angeles Times, February 27, 1921, p. III-16.
By far Zacsek’s most well-received performance of the 1920-21 dramatic season was her portryal in the title role of “Monna Vanna
” (see above). After suffering the indignities of the fledgling movie business for the first five years of her acting career, this was a part she could clearly identify with if her, Margrethe Mather’s and Pauline Schindler’s idol Emma Goldman
‘s analysis of Maurice Maeterlinck
‘s intentions is any indication.
“In “Monna Vanna“ Maurice Maeterlinck gives a
wonderful picture of the new woman – not the new woman as portrayed in the
newspapers, but the new woman as a reborn, regenerated spirit; the woman who
has emancipated herself from her narrow outlook upon life, and detached herself
from the confines of the home; the woman, short, who has become race-conscious
and therefore understands that she is a unit in the great ocean of life, and
that she must take her place as an independent factor in order to rebuild and
remold life. In proportion as she learns to become race-conscious, does she
become a factor in the reconstruction of society, valuable to herself, to her
children, and to the race.” (The Social Significance of the Modern Drama by Emma Goldman, Badger, Boston, 1914, pp. 130-131).
Times drama critic Grace Kingsley lauded Frank Egan for bringing the play for the first time to Los Angeles and entrusting the renowned Hedwiga Reicher to direct. She described Zacsek as,
“…the dark-eyed volatile, fascinating young siren, who used to be Olga Grey in pictures, but who flashed suddenly meteor-like across our vision a few months ago at the Little Theatre, when she created a sensation in Ibsen’s “Rosmersholm,” and later as the heroine of “Hedda Gabler.” She has sort of a slender, Burne-Jones brunette beauty, has Miss Zacsek, that is oddly striking anywhere, and which is especially attractive on the stage. Having seen her you’ll not forget her. Her personality is vivid, but odd. Alive every minute, her brilliant black eyes miss nothing.”
Presciently describing the character traits that would bode well for her later career as an attorney, Kingsley continued,
“Miss Zacsek takes an active interest in everything, both in and out of her profession, believing all is fish in the way of equipment that comes to the actress’s net. … It wasn’t mere idle curiosity that prompted her, nor mere idle observation, for previously she had spent much time reading along medical and psychopathic lines believing that such knowledge is endlessly helpful insight into life. Up in San Francisco she went once and dwelt in Chinatown with a missionary woman friend for a fortnight, and another time she aided a detective in unraveling a crime mystery. While in New York a few years ago, she lived in Greenwich Village, absorbing atmosphere. But back of this young player’s seemingly meteoric success are several years of hard, grueling work and heart-breaking professional experiences. She had studied music and art, and fitted herself as a concert pianist, when curiosity led her one day, about six years ago, over to the Griffith studio, where D. W. Griffith was putting on “The Birth of a Nation.”
Kingsley briefly summed up Zacsek’s early movie career and continued with,
“…but she got the New York fever, went back there, met Nazimova, who kindly advised her, took her to dinner, lunch and the theater, and was a great and real source of inspiration to the little unknown western girl. But all of her hopes for the theatrical engagement she had longed for fell through, and when a picture engagement also failed, she became so disheartened that she came home and took a position as governess.”
Zacsek always maintained hope of returning to the stage and her chance came when Egan engaged Pole to stage some Ibsen plays at his Little Theatre and when he introduced her to him,
“…[Pole] at once believed in her, and it was in her first stage venture, Ibsen’s “When We Dead Awaken,” that she showed what her talent really was made of. Then she did “Rosmersholm” and “Hedda Gabler,” but it appears that “Monna Vanna” her brilliancy will find even more congenial atmosphere. Such great faith has Frank Egan in Miss Zacsek that he means to send that young woman to New York in a series of Ibsen matinees.” (Kingsley, Grace, Art Play Is In Rehearsal; Modernistic Production of “Monna Vanna”; Olga Grey Zacsek In Title Role,” Los Angeles Times, February 20, 1921, p. III-13).
Zacsek played the lead role in “The Jest” in San Francisco in May 1921 prompting Frank Egan to announce his plans produce it at his Little Theatre but the production never came to pass. (“Kingsley, Grace, “We’ll See ‘Jest’ Here; Egan to Produce It With Olga Zacsek Starred,” Los Angeles Times, June 18, 1921, p. III-1). In a preview of the 1921-22 dramatic season the Times reported that as part of impresario Frank Egan’s Little Theatre offerings included his plans
“…to bring Olga Gray Zacsek, who is now in Detroit working on a series of musical productions in conjunction with the New York Symphony Orchestra. Among other productions in which he will feature Miss Zacsek, Mr. Egan mentions “Thy Name Is Woman,” played last year at the Mason with Mary Nash, and “The Riddle Woman” by Charlotte E. Wells.” (“Art Theaters Active Here,” Los Angeles Times, October 23, 1921, p. III-13).
While Schindler and Lloyd Wright were busy building their Kings Road and Taggart Houses and a few weeks before Florence Deshon’s suicide in New York in early 1922, Frank Egan tapped his star pupil Zacsek to try her hand at directing. She was charged to put the all-black Momolu Players through their paces in local newspaper woman Eloise Bibb-Thompson‘s “Africanus” at the Walker Theatre. (“Colored Cast Stage Drama at Walker,” Los Angeles Times, January 22, 1922, p. III-28). Zacsek commissioned avant-garde cubist stage settings in the manner of Provincetown Players collaborators Arthur Hopkins and Robert Edmund Jones from local set designers Clyde Tracy and Harry Oliver and selected a jazz orchestra for accompaniment.
A Times report on the play quoted Egan, “I am giving the colored folk their first opportunity in this city to express themselves through the medium of the drama. We have had colored minstrels, musical comedies and the like, but never before to my knowledge has the negro of this city been given the chance to display his real dramatic ability in a big downtown theater to a mixed audience.” (“Colored Cast in “Africanus,”" Los Angeles Times, January 19, 1922, p. III-4). Egan also tried a unique seating arrangement reserving the first floor exclusively for colored people and the balcony for whites. He quickly had to integrate the seating when the initial arrangement met with strong disapproval from blacks. (“Seating Changes for Negro Play,” Los Angeles Times, January 23, 1922, p. I-14).
The play was held over due for a second week due to it’s popularity and novelty. (“‘Africanus” Stays,” Los Angeles Times, January 29, 1922, p. III-29). A review in NAACP publication The Crisis: A Record of the Darker Races read,
“Working with pliable material sensitive to color and rhythm, Olga Grey Zacsek, director, produced some interesting results with “Africanus.” There was nothing stiff nor ungraceful about the work of these Negro actors and actresses and the lilt of their musical voices was pleasing to the ear. The play is rich in Negro humor, some of it of a delicious order, and the audience was kept laughing most of the time. … In stage settings Miss Zacsek has struck a note entirely new to Los Angeles, following the lead of Arthur Hopkins and Robert Edmond Jones, disciples of Gordon Craig. Tracy and Oliver were the artists.” (“The Looking Glass,” The Crisis, April 1922, p. 275).
Zacsek spent the 1922-23 season in a still-war-torn Europe studying drama in Paris, Vienna and Budapest where she also performed in “Hedda Gabler,” “Anna Karenina” and “Judith of Bethulia” in her native Hungary. (“Portia Once Screen Star,” Los Angeles Times, June 10, 1935, p. I-1). Upon her return she shared with Grace Kingsley her future plans to appear in a series of classic dramas at Frank Egan’s Little Theatre before going to New York under Egan’s management to perform in “Monna Vanna” and “Hedda Gabler.” She also had hopes of interesting the powers that be and friends in New York of her plan of forming a subsidized national theater such as she observed first hand in Austria and Hungary. (Kingsley, Grace, “Subsidized Art Finds Apostle; Actress Advocates National Theater; Anna Zacsek Tells of Post-War Vienna,” Los Angeles Times, September 9, 1923, pp. III-21-2). Zacsek also likely shared news of Vienna with an eager Schindler the first time they socialized upon her return.
While Zacsek was in Europe, Reginald Pole was active on Broadway in two productions of “Hamlet” and one of “King Lear.” Pole played the ghost alongside the legendary John Barrymore as Hamlet and Tyrone Power, Sr. as the King of Denmark at the Sam H. Harris Theatre which ran from November 16, 1922 through February 1923. During November 1922 Edward Weston was in New York for a visitation with the high priest of photography, Alfred Stieglitz, thus it’s possible that he could have attended a performance. A year later Pole again appeared alongside Barrymore in “Hamlet,” this time at Norman-Bel Geddes’ patron Otto Kahn‘s Manhattan Opera House. (Miracle In The Evening by Norman Bel Geddes).
In March of 1923 Pole produced and directed “King Lear” at the Earl Carrol Theatre in which he played the title role, Kirah Markham played his daughter Regan, and Lawrence Tibbett played Edgar, Gloucester’s son and with Beatrice Wood undoubtedly in attendance. Coincidentally, this Lear production featuring Lloyd Wright’s two best friends, Pole and Tibbett, and his ex-wife Markham seemingly indicates that they all first met while Markham was performing at Aline Barnsdall’s Los Angeles Little Theatre in 1916-17. In her autobiography Wood mentions meeting Lloyd Wright at a performance of the Provincetown Players with whom Markham was also connected. (I Shock Myself, pp. 63-4). Markham performed at least five times on Broadway in the early 1920s including George Cram Cook‘s Provincetown Players production of “The Spring” at the Princess Theatre in September-October 1921 thus this is possibly the performance where Pole first introduced Wood to Wright.
Lovell Beach House, Newport Beach, R. M. Schindler, architect, 1926. Edward Weston photo, 08-02-1927. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.
While Edward Weston was spending most of mid-1923 to late 1926 in Mexico with Tina Modotti, Schindler and Lloyd Wright were establishing their solo careers and building some of their most iconic work. Besides the Kings Road House
and the Taggart House
and others, Schindler and Wright respectively completed in 1926 the Lovell Beach House
in Newport Beach and Sowden House
in Hollywood (see above and below).
Sowden House, Hollywood, 1926, Lloyd Wright, architect. Photo by Willard D. Morgan. (From “Glass Roof Lights House Without Windows” Popular Mechanics, July 1927, p. 25). (Author’s note: Morgan was the husband of Barbara Morgan who, along with Annita Delano mounted an exhibition of Weston’s work at UCLA shortly after his return from Mexico. For more on this see my “Foundations of Los Angeles Modernism“).
During this same period Zacsek was trying to establish herself on Broadway. She spent most of 1924-6 in New York where in December 1924 and January 1925 she performed in “Carnival
” with Elsie Ferguson
at the Cort Theatre
under the direction of Frank Reicher
, brother of the previously-mentioned Hedwiga Reicher. (“Echoes of Music Activities Here,” Los Angeles Times, February 1, 1925, p. 30).
In the spring of 1924 Schindler spent a few months in New York remodeling a commercial space and personal residence for his recent Hollywood client Helena Rubenstein
. It seems plausible that while he was in town he could have hooked up with Zacsek and/or Pole. In November 1925 Zacsek signed to appear in the supporting cast of Lionel Atwill
‘s production of “Deep in the Woods” but the play never materialized. (Kingsley, Grace, “Anna Zacsek Heard From,” Los Angeles Times, November 12, 1925, p. I-11).
The same month she was part of the ensemble of “Girofle-Girofla
” at Jolson’s 59th Street Theatre
Rendering for the Pasadena Community Theater, Elmer Grey, Grey Architect, 1924. Courtesy LAPL Photo Collection.
In the meantime Frayne Williams was directing his Los Angeles Literary Theatre troupe in Ibsen’s “John Gabriel Borkman
” at the Pasadena Community Playhouse in conjunction with the 1924 Drama League National Convention. The play followed a program of dance numbers under the direction of Weston and Schindler intimate Bertha Wardell and her partner Dorothy Lyndall. (“Clubs Hit In Drama Talk,” Los Angeles Times, May 31, 1924, p. I-2). (For much more on Wardell see my “Bertha Wardell: Dances in Silence: Kings Road, Olive Hill and Carmel“).
Also part of Convention festivities was the laying of the cornerstone for Gilmor Brown’s new Pasadena Community Theater designed by Elmer Grey (see above). Also mentioned as possibly performing during the convention besides Gilmor Brown’s Pasadena Community Players were Neely Dickson’s Hollywood Community Players and lecturers Sam Hume, Irving Pichel and Maurice Browne, then in Carmel where he was preparing for the grand opening of Edward Kuster’s Theatre of the Golden Bough (see below). (“League of Players To Meet Here,” Los Angeles Times, February 10, 1924, p. 30 and SWKC).
From left, Maurice Browne, Carol Aronovici, Hedwiga Reicher, Edward Kuster, Ruth Kuster, Betty Merle Horst and Paul Stevenson in front of the Theatre of the Golden Bough, Carmel, 1924. Courtesy Edward Kuster Papers, Harrison Memorial Library Collections. (Author’s note: The Schindlers likely met future partner (with Richard Neutra) Carol Aronovici while visiting Carmel during the summer of 1924. For more on this see The Schindlers in Carmel, 1924 ).
Brochure for “Summer School of the Art of the Theatre” conducted by Maurice Browne and Ellen Van Volkenburg at Edward Kuster’s Theatre of the Golden Bough, Carmel, 1924. Courtesy Edward Kuster Papers, Harrison Memorial Library Collections.
The restless Browne continued his vagabond ways and moved his center of operations to Los Angeles after his and Kuster’s successful 1924 season in Carmel. Around this time Browne had a stopover in Halcyon to spend some time with the pregnant Janson where he also read Jeffers’ recently published Tamar which prompted a letter of praise to the poet and his reply, “…That you should read “Tamar” through such a divine hazard, in the oasis by Santa Maria [Halcyon], is more luck than any writer deserves…“ (Letter from Jeffers to Browne, February 11, 1925, from The Selected Letters of Robinson Jeffers, 1897-1962 edited by Anne N. Ridgeway, Johns Hopkins Press, 1968, p. 33).
Announcement for performances of two of Browne’s plays. Los Angeles Times, December 14, 1924.
Upon settling in Los Angeles Browne produced the occasional play (see above) and for the next two years taught at USC. Hearing that he was in the city, former students came back one by one to work with him. (Browne, p. 286). Appalled by Browne’s squalid surroundings at USC, frequent Edward Weston portrait subject as early as 1916, Ruth St. Denis allowed him free use of her building and office while she was gone on a world tour. (Browne, p. 287). (For much more on Ruth St. Denis see my Bertha Wardell: Dances in Silence.)
Maurice Browne Theatre promotional fund-raising letter from Thomas H. Elson and G. G. Detzer to the Schindlers, August 24, 1925. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.
Despite Browne’s philandering ways, Van Volkenberg continued her professional relationship and they were soon back working together on projects such as an April, 1925 Maurice Browne Players performance at the Wilshire Ebell Theater of Browne’s “Mother of Gregory” first performed in Carmel the previous summer. (“Ebell Program for Month Out”, L.A. Times, April 23, 1925, p. I-7.) Throughout 1925 momentum began to build for construction of a little theater for Los Angeles to house the newly formed Maurice Browne Theatre Association. During the summer a consortium of sponsors began a $125,000 fund-raising campaign to finance the construction of a new theater and classrooms for the project. RMS couldn’t help but hope that the theater commission would come his way. (See above solicitation letter for example).
Maurice Browne Theatre Association season-ticket subscription form, 1926. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.
As one of the movers and shakers of the planning effort, Pauline organized an event at Kings Road to help promote the cause. She arranged for Browne to lecture on Hermann Keyserling, likely on the occasion of the recent publication of his The Travel Diary of a Philosopher. (Author’s note: Edward Weston often referenced Keyserling’s diary in his Daybooks). Possibly accompanied by Ellen Janson to the soiree, Browne recollected, “And Pauline Schindler, brilliant, warm-hearted, bitter-tongued, who was trying to create a salon amid Hollywood’s cultural slagheap, invited me to her home to lecture on Keyserling.” (Browne, p. 287). Pauline excitedly wrote her mother of the salon, “[the party]…is going to be huge. We have never had more than a hundred guests before … But this will be overflowing.” (PGS letter to her mother, [n.d.] circa October, 1925. Cited in Sweeney, p. 96).
A few months later Browne formally announced that Los Angeles would be the production headquarters for his Maurice Browne Theatre Association with offices to be located in the Transportation (aka Subway Terminal
) Building and that he would be joined by Van Volkenberg. (“Nationally Known Producer Chooses City as Production Headquarters for Little Plays”, Los Angeles Times, February 28, 1927, p. 23).
The following week another lengthy article reported on the specifics of the association’s planning efforts and the plays Browne currently had in rehearsal. The members of the Sponsors’ Committee were listed and included as chairman Thomas H. Elson, G. G. Detzer, Mrs. R. M. Schindler and others. (Little Theater Planned, Los Angeles Times, March 7, 1926, p. 21).
A banquet at the Men’s City Club a few nights later feted Browne and Van Volkenburg with numerous testimonial speeches and telegrams from around the country wishing the venture well. (“Announces Premiere Production,” Los Angeles Times, March 9, 1926, p. I-10). Browne reminisced,
“A great banquet was planned in my honour; every theatrical celebrity whom I knew in America and Europe was invited to attend as a guest of honour; an astonishingly large number sent messages of goodwill; some even accepted. The realtor danced round Ruth St. Denis’ office: “With these names behind us the theatre is as good as built.” It was all so splendiferous that I telegraphed Nellie Van to come to the banquet; she sat beside me; the speeches made us feel that we had not lived in vain. Finally our evening came to its end. As I was leaving, the chairwoman of the Publicity Committee unostentatiously handed me an envelope. ”A cheque on account,” I thought, “how charming:” and thanked her warmly. When I got home I opened the envelope. It contained the bill for printing, postage, stationery, telephone, telegrams, table decorations and dinner for the guests of honour. Grinning wrily, Nellie Van returned to Seattle. My students and I gave performances anywhere – schoolrooms, tents, barns - where a ten-dollar note could be earned toward paying that bill: dollar by dollar we paid it to the last cent. Then I spat savagely and straight into the streets of Los Angeles and, worn out by the interminable conflicts within myself, the interminable struggle to establish a theatre which mattered, the interminable inability to pay for it, said goodbye to my theatric dreams.” (Browne, p. 288).
Browne dejectedly left for San Francisco where he licked his wounds over the next nine months and during which time Browne and Janson were married. (“Maurice Browne and Seattle Girl Married,” Carmel Cymbal, March 9, 1927, p. 1). He reflected before returning alone “back to the womb” to England, ”After fifteen years’ continuous struggle I had failed in the theatre; I had failed as a husband twice; I had failed as a father.” Browne later recollected Pauline’s unflagging support, “Twenty-four years later, during my farewell visit to America, Pauline lent me the house [Kings Road]. There I forgathered again daily with these and other old friends. Pauline was battling against political, Grace against educational, Sophie against social stupidity.” (Browne, p. 287).
Shortly after Weston and his son Brett returned from Mexico in late 1926, Zacsek’s mentor Frank Egan summoned her back to Los Angeles to make one of his first and best disciples an equal partner in the formation of their ill-fated experimental “Actor’s Theater.” Their troupe was to perform at Egan’s Little Theatre but Egan’s untimely March 15, 1927 death nipped their lofty dreams in the bud. (“Portia Once a Screen Star,” Los Angeles Times, June 10, 1935, p. I-1). It was also around this time that Zacsek, then living in a nondescript house at 1488 Sunset Blvd. (see below), had Schindler prepare preliminary plans for a house for her mother Theresa on Sayre Lane near Sunset and Silver Lake Boulevards. (Drawer 46, folder 517, Schindler Collection, UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections).
Former Zacsek Residence, 1488 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. Built in 1923, archietct unknown. Courtesy Google Earth.
Belmont Theatre, 1st St. and Vermont Ave., 1926. L. A. Smith, architect. Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection.
Zacsek reconnected with Pole later that year and the pair joined the Sprague Repertoire Players for an early 1928 Belmont Theatre (see above) reprise of the Powys-Pole adaptation of “The Idiot” which Pole premiered in New York with Beatrice Wood in 1922. The new cast included Pole in the lead role and Boris Karloff, Pole’s wife Frances, Beatrice Wood and others (see playbill below). R. M. Schindler, recently separated from his wife Pauline who was then in Carmel with son Mark embarking on a journalism career with first, the Carmel Pine Cone and later The Carmelite, designed the stage sets. Schindler’s opinionated mother-in-law Sophie Gibling weighed in on his set designs with,
“Is your “Idiot” scenery to be for stage or movie? I read the book last summer, and found much in it to criticize, much to praise, and much food for thought. I could tell you exactly how to do the setting. When I read a book I am continuously painting new mental pictures.” (Sophie Gibling to RMS, n.d., ca. January 1928. UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection).
Playbill for “The Idiot” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky as adapted by Reginald Pole and John Cowper Powys, Belmont Theatre (see below), January 25th and 28th, 1928. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.
Los Angeles Times critic Marquis Busby thought the play was “Excellently acted and intelligently staged” and “one of the most interesting events of the winter stage season.” Of Pole, who was spending his first winter season in Southern California since 1920-21, he opined,
“Reginald Pole gives a remarkable performance as Myshkin, the frail Russian prince. Pole has a marvelously sensitive face, on which expressions are mirrored with perfect fidelity. There are times in “The Idiot” when he appears almost in an eerie fashion as the true Redeemer. His voice, as in the Pilgrimage Play with which he has been identified, is of youthful, sympathetic timbre.”
Busby thought Zacsek to be “a picturesque, interesting Natasya and the possessor of a splendid voice.” (Busby, Marquis, “”Idiot” is Intensely Powerful,” Los Angeles Times, January 26, 1928, I-11). Former lover Weston had a similarly favorable review as he wrote of Zacsek,
“Through Harriet [Freeman], – Ahna Zaesek [sic] sent me tickets to “The Idiot,” in which she and Reginald Pole took the leads. I thought Ahna [sic] showed a mature conception, compared to those Ibsen days of, I guess, ten years ago. Both she and Reginald were excellent, though the cast was weak in some parts.
After, Ahna joined us: Harriet, Sam and myself, to supper and an evening of dancing and reminiscing at the Freeman home. (The house is by Frank Lloyd Wright: a fine conception except for the insistent pattern on cement blocks which weakens by over-ornamentation.) Ahna can cook as well as act. Some of her idolaters should see her in kitchen array! I teased Ahna, remembering the day years ago when she posed in the nude: a modest virgin who insisted on covering herself at certain points with a towel after each negative, and quite hampering my way of seeing the critical moment.
Harriet dances well: if she were smaller – in bulk – she would be ideal for me. We danced many times to exquisite Spanish tangos.” (DaybooksII, January 29, 1928, p. 47).
Harriet Freeman, 1925. Photographer unknown. From Chusid, p. 138. University of Southern California Freeman House Archive © 2011.
As they did with Zacsek and numerous other women, Weston and Schindler also shared a romantic interest in Harriet Freeman (see above). Like Aline Barnsdall and John Storer, the Freeman’s would commission Schindler to design additions, renovations and furniture over the years for their Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes in Hollywood (see below for example). The last of four concrete block houses Wright designed during his brief 1923-4 stint in Los Angeles, the Freeman House was also a major stop on the salon-party circuit for the Schindler-Weston circles (see announcement for Schindler lecture two below for example). (For much more on the Freeman House and the Schindler-Weston circles see my “Foundations of Los Angeles Modernism“).
Freeman House, 1962 Glencoe Way, Hollywood, Frank Lloyd Wright, architect, 1924. Living room furniture by R. M. Schindler. Photo by Julius Shulman. From The Furniture of R. M. Schindler edited by Marla C. Berns, UC-Santa Barbara Art Museum, 1996, p. 100.
Announcement for R. M. Schindler Lecture on “Modern Architecture” at the Freeman House, 1962 Glencoe Way, Hollywood, September 29, [1928?].
After “The Idiot” wrapped, Pole retreated to his beloved Palm Springs where he devoted himself to completing his “life work,” a musical drama entitled “The Elfrith Idyll” which was conceived during his Cambridge days in collaboration with best friend Rupert Brooke. As an antidote for his months of concentration, Pole announced that he would present a series of matinee performances starting with Arnold Bennett‘s “The Great Adventure” and that future matinees would probably include some Ibsen dramas featuring Zacsek as the heroine. (“Reginald Pole Writes Music Drama; To Do Play Series,” Los Angeles Times, April 15, 1928, p. C-13).
“Monna Vanna” ad, Los Angeles Times, April 1928.
In the meantime, Zacsek’s next role was the lead in the Maeterlinck drama “Monna Vanna” in which she first appeared at the Egan Little Theatre in 1921. Of the play, which had a six-night run at the Trinity Auditorium (see ad above) under the auspices of the Los Angeles Opera and Drama Guild, the Times review read,
“The presentation which featured Olga Zacsek, was effective to the tiniest detail. The cast was an excellent one, and the costumes and the settings harmonized in a highly effective manner, the whole blending into a colorful tableaux. … As mentioned before, Olga Zacsek, in the role of the heroine, Monna Vanna, completely captured last night’s audience, not only with her histrionic ability, but with her charm and exceedingly lovely appearance. Boris Karloff gave a splendid characterization in the difficult role of Guido Collona, and William Stack shared honors with his interpretation of the Florentine general, Prinzivalle.” (Olga Zacsek Acts Lead in Guild Drama,” Los Angeles Times, April 24, 1928, p. I-11).
Ad for “For the Soul of Rafael” at the Trinity Auditorium, Los Angeles Times, May 1928.
Title page, For the Soul of Rafael by Marah Ellis Ryan, A. C. McClurg, Chicago, 1910.
Next out of the box for Zacsek was the leading role in the American stage debut of Hungarian countryman Lajos Biro‘s “Hotel Imperial” which had recently met with much success on the silver screen for Paramount Pictures starring Pola Negri (see above poster). Zacsek (see below) again appeared alongside Boris Karloff and William Stack, this time as part of the Sprague Repertoire Players at the Egan Theatre with Schindler again providing the stage sets (see playbill two below). Zacsek’s acting and Schindler’s sets were particularly singled out for praise.
“Honors go to Olga Zacsek for a poignantly lovely interpretation of the awkward inarticulate chamber maid. She has scenes of passionate fright and choking misery that are beautiful bits of emotionalism. … Settings by R. M. Schindler are strikingly contraposed arches and angles against black curtains. A most interesting effect of remoteness was achieved in the murder scene by placing the furnishings of a room on a small high platform. The fact that the bottoms of the tables and trays were visible gave the feeling of the fourth floor back with a clever simplicity of means.” (Miller, Llewellyn, “Olga Zacsek in Egan Play,” Los Angeles Record, May 24, 1928).
Olga Zacsek, “Repertoire Players Take a Bow,” Los Angeles Times, May 23, 1928, p. I-9.
“Hotel Imperial” Playbill, Sprague Repertoire Players, Egan Theatre, 1928. Courtesy UC Santa Barbara Art Museum, Architecture and Design Collections, Schindler Collection.
Attendance for “Hotel Imperial” did not meet expectations and Sydney Sprague decided to cut his losses by not paying Zacsek the $450 he owed her. Having to go through the process of suing Sprague in Municipal Court, winning a judgment, filing a lien on his property and then still not get paid was the last straw for Zacsek’s acting career prompting her to quit the footlights for the study of law at Loyola University.
“Ex-Actress In Court As Defendant,” Los Angeles Times, April 10, 1930, p. I-12).
While Zacsek was in law school Sprague’s wife Farah brought suit to quiet title to the property Zacsek had attached claiming that her husband had deeded it to her years earlier. (“Russian Actress Fights Suit of Producer’s Wife,” Los Angeles Times, April 7, 1930, p. I-6). Zacsek knew she had finally chosen a career in which she would have better control over her financial destiny when the judge ruled in her favor a few weeks later ruling that “the attachment must stand until Miss Zacsek is paid her $450.” (Portia Wins Wage Fight As Actress,” Los Angeles Times, May 12, 1930, p. I-1). Zacsek’s passage of the bar exam two years later was headlined along with her group photo in an article in the Los Angeles Times (see below).
“Fathers and Sons in Bar Ceremony,” Los Angeles Times, December 10, 1932, p. I-2.
Zacsek practiced in relative anonymity until 1935 when she was “unmasked” during her successful defense in a highly publicized murder trial in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Fletcher Bowron, soon to become the 35th Mayor of Los Angeles (see below). (“Portia Once a Screen Star; Trial Unmasks Olga Grey; Griffith Actress Finds More Drama at Bar Than in Films,” Los Angeles Times, June 10, 1935, pp. I-1, 8).
”Portia Once Screen Star: Trial Unmasks Olga Grey”, Los Angeles Times, Jun 10, 1935, pg.I-1, 8.
Zacsek Residence, 114 Ellen St., Playa del Rey, 1938. From R. M. Schindler by Judith Sheine, Gustavo Gili, 1998, p. 151.
Flush with money for the first time in her life, Zacsek commissioned Schindler to design a new house on the sand dunes of Playa del Rey in 1936. The striking home with commanding views of Santa Monica Bay (see above and below) was completed not long after the Schindler’s divorce proceedings began in earnest in late 1937. In a December 21, 1937 letter to her client Schindler Zacsek wrote, “I suggest that you have assembled your income and expenditures. Not that I desire to look into your private life, but, it is truly necessary if we are to muzzle Pauline.” There is also 1938 correspondence in the Schindler Archive at UCSB from Pauline’s attorney, Morris E. Cohn, regarding child support. Cohn, like Pauline, was an amateur composer, thus they were also probably longtime friends from happier times at Kings Road. (I am indebted to author Susan Morgan for the above UCSB Zacsek-RMS and Cohn-PGS correspndence from UCSB).