At The Flickers
News from the Russian front, the continued turmoil of the draft (only 8 Bloomington men called up were ready for service so far, with about an equal number of rejects and applied for exemptions among the remaining 70), and the arrival of local volunteers at their encampment still dominated the news of the day, along with the funeral of a local stone cutter crushed by a block of limestone. If you wanted to escape the war, local tragedy or just late summer in Indiana, the local movie theaters could provide some respite if you had the nickel or the dime needed for a ticket.
Not that escaping the war was entirely possible, even or, perhaps, especially at the movies. The Harris-Grand was presenting The Star-Spangled Banner: A Story of Life in the Marine Corps, produced by Thomas Edison. The Princess Theater (whose white facade and blue/purple logo at 206 N. Walnut is still beloved by Bloomingtonians despite the fact that no movie has been show there since the early 1980s) was doing even more for the war effort putting on a special screening of Bridges Burned ,(a wartime romance from the U.K., featuring, strangely enough, pregnancy outside wedlock) with the proceeds going to Bloomington’s volunteers in the army, Company F.
More distracting fare was available however. Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew (an uncle and aunt of the famous Barrymore acting family) were starring in the light sitcom-like short before the feature at the Princess. William Franey, who would continue to play comedic western roles until the mid-1930s including, alongside John Wayne, was serving up the comedy on the Harris-Grand bill. Franey sometimes played blackface roles as well and I do not know which kind of role He Had ‘Em Buffaloed was. It could have been either or both. Cleo Madison, who often directed, produced or co-wrote her pictures (though not in this case) starred in The Web, Tuesday’s feature at the Harris-Grand providing a different kind of distraction. If that wasn’t enough. The Harris-Grand also had a live vaudeville act, The Sullivans, described as a “Western Novelty.”
I could not find sources to view any of the films presented in Bloomington on August 7, 1917. Ninety percent or more of all silent films are lost, and even if they are extant, being in the Public Domain does not mean that the owner of the physical copy of the work is required to provide the public access to it. For a small taste of what was on show in Bloomington this week in 1917 I recommend this other Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew comedy here, this other Thomas Edison produced movie that is actually about the Star Spangled Banner, and this scene of Cleo Madison from Eleanor’s Catch.