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Hollywood Snapshots, 90 Years Ago

Hollywood Snapshots, 90 Years Ago

The National Film Preservation Board continues to post newly-restored silent films online from the cache of long-unseen titles held by the New Zealand Film Archive. One of the latest is Hollywood Snapshots (1922), a rudimentary travelogue that purports to show a farmer from the “sticks” taking a tour of Movieland. 

There are no credits to reveal who produced or shot this one-reel short, but it follows a familiar formula, hopping around town for glimpses of whatever screen personalities are willing to stop for a quick hello. Notably, most scenes take place just outside the studio gates, as when the farmer is turned away at the Pickford-Fairbanks compound, where the massive set for Douglas Fairbanks’ Robin Hood looms over all. Viola Dana is photographed having lunch through the plate glass window of the Armstrong & Carleton Café.

The nerviest move the producers make is to film a prizefight at the American Legion Stadium and tease that Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charles Ray “are sitting in the third row to the left. Try and find them.”

In the silent era, there were so many independent producers, and so many performers, that it couldn’t have been that difficult to find at least a handful who were willing to play along with a promotional short like this in exchange for a little “face time” onscreen.

When you think about it, not much has changed in the intervening years. Shows like Entertainment Tonight have entrée to many studios and sets, but some are closed off during production. Similarly, some stars are happy to chat with a camera crew on their way down a red carpet, while others can’t be bothered. A fairly recent wrinkle has some stars, or their publicists, actually notifying the paparazzi of their whereabouts ahead of time so they can capture “spontaneous” photos and video footage.

Still, Hollywood Snapshots (1922) is a fascinating time capsule, just one more nugget of American cinema history mined from the New Zealand Film Archive. I encourage you to check the National Film Preservation Board site often as they continue to post recently rescued shorts.

P.S. I chronicled one of the rarest Hollywood behind-the-scenes series, Republic Pictures’ Meet the Stars, in issue 13 of my Movie Crazy newsletter. You may be surprised to learn about appearances by everyone from Abbott and Costello to Anna May Wong. Copies are still available. Just click HERE.

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