Bring Them Back from the Dead
(Make sure to see my updates for the latest information!)
My name is Minda Powers-Douglas, and I’m the founder of www.TheCemeteryClub.com and the author of three cemetery books. I write about cemeteries, give presentations about them (gravestone symbolism, history, art, etc.) and generally promote the importance of visiting our cemeteries before you take residence in one.
Did you know Florence Lawrence was the first movie star to be known by her name? For decades her grave was unmarked until actor Roddy McDowall had one placed.
For the past year I've been working on a very special cemetery book -- "Forever Silent: Silent Film Actresses and Their Graves."
Because it's about my life-long love of Hollywood as well as cemeteries, I'm more passionate about this book than any of my others (and that's saying something).
Help me "bring them back from the dead" and the brink of obscurity.
I'm asking you for help in bringing this book and these wonderful silent film stars to life.
What will your help do?
- bring awareness to film history that’s often neglected
- show people that our cemeteries are part of history
and are still relevant and important today
"The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power." - Mary Pickford
Because Hollywood is in California and I'm based in Illinois, I need to travel for this project.
The trip will be from Aug. 1 - Sept. 6. I've got meetings with important people I'm scheduling, and I'm planning on attending Cinecon, a conference focusing on silent films and the early transition-to-talkies films. This is an opportunity I just can't pass up.
What the funds will help with:
- Travel and hotel expenses
- Conference costs
- Non-public domain photos and other like necessary
Everyone deserves to be remembered.
That’s my philosophy and the reason why I was drawn to cemeteries in the first place. So many graves walked by or ignored, like so many of the “Who the heck is that?” stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
When I first had the idea to write this new book on Hollywood graves, I hadn’t realized how much the movies and moviemakers of the time had in common with old cemeteries (my favorites!). Unless the movie is well-known and understood to be important, it can slide back into obscurity. Just like a historical cemetery can disappear from neglect, a film can be “lost.” In 2013, a study by the Library of Congress reported that 75% of silent-era films are lost. This is no small number. “America’s Sweetheart” Mary Pickford “appeared in more than 40 movies in 1909” just for D.W. Griffith.
As a contributor, you will ...
You will be listed in the book's acknowledgements and on my website, as well as get shout-outs via social media!
Let's bring early film history back to life.
In "Going Postal," Terry Pratchett wrote: "Do you now know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?"
As well as the silent stars who have graves and markers, "Forever Silent" will also make note of those whose graves remain unmarked and those who have no graves at all. And there are far too many. Help me unbury the names of these important contributors to film history. Let's get their names spoken again.
Thanks to all of you taphophiles and cinephiles.
Due to your generosity, I was able to travel to Los Angeles at the end of August. It was a great trip and a partially lousy one at the same time. I was in a car accident my first day there and had bad concussion symptoms for the first few days. But still I persisted!
I met some wonderful people in person that I had only known on Facebook, and that was great. I also attended a film festival of silents and early talkies. It was fantastic. I finally saw Douglas Fairbanks on the big screen where he's supposed to be!
I was also able to get photos of a number of the graves I have on my list of silent ladies. I went to Hollywood Forever a couple times, Forest Lawn in Glendale and Holy Cross Cemetery. These were not the only cemeteries I'd wanted to visit, but due to the concussion, I wasn't up to more. Thanks to some friends, I was able to see Mary Pickford's grave again and get clear photos with no shadows. Of course, she being my inspiration and all, I teared up again. I'm not crying, you're crying! :)
For those who know me, you probably know I have anxiety and depression. They pretty much took over throughout the rest of the year and into this one. If you have a mental illness or know someone who does, you understand how debilitating they can be. For me, I got so low that I couldn't focus on my book or much else for a long time. That, in turn, made me more depressed. Fortunately I have amazing family and friends who have been helping me through it and telling me it's okay to take a break from the book or anything else in order to be well. So that's what I did.
Recently I was diagnosed with bipolar 2, and my doctor, therapist and I are working on a new treatment plan. The good news is that this may be why I've had such a hard time, because the treatment for B2 is different than for major depressive disorder. I am hopeful that I'm on the right track ... and I'm also happy to say that I'm starting to work on my book again! I promised my husband and my parents that I wouldn't push myself too hard, because I know where that can lead. To a whole bunch of not fun.
So that's what's been going on in my little world. I wanted to let you know because you've supported me and continue to do so. It means so very much to me. I'm a very fortunate person because of the people in my life.
I hope you are all doing well and that 2017 is treating you nicely.
Remember that, as Willy Wonka says (quoting poet Arthur O'Shaughnessy), "We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams." I hope your music is beautiful and that your dreams come true.
I'm still neck-deep in research and will be for a long time. But I'm focusing in on a few of the ladies so I can start working on setting up a sample chapter.
But research, research, research is the name of the game. I've got a pile of books I'm working through and a list of others to hunt down. On top of that, I've got a good number of interviews to do with film historians and fans.
Again, thank you for your support and for taking this journey with me. You guys are with me every step of the way!
So here's what happened on the trip:
• I landed at LAX, got a tiny rental car (didn't realize how tiny the thing would be) and headed directly for Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City. It's the resting place of Bela Lugosi, Rita Hayworth, Mack Sennett, John Candy, Larry Fine (Three Stooges), Ray Bolger (Cowardly Lion), Jack Haley (Tin Man), Jackie Coogan, Jimmy Durante, Bing Crosby and many more.
The silent actresses there include: Juanita Hansen, Evelyn Nesbit, Jean Acker Valentino, Mary Astor, Virginia McGhee, Bonita Granville, Zasu Pitts, Gypsy Abbott King and more.
• On my way to the hotel that evening, I was in a car accident. There was a hard impact, my car started spinning, and then I was facing the opposite direction. I was in shock the rest of the night; that's not a good feeling. It's quite awful. But no one was seriously hurt. Except that I was diagnosed two days later with a concussion. The car was totaled. But I walked away from it, and so did the others.
• Thursday I spent a couple hours at the Margaret Herrick Library, which is part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Yeah, I was at the Oscars library. It was cool. I wish I'd had more time there.
• I also went to the Guillermo del Toro show at LACMA, "At Home with Monsters." Fantastic. I remember that pretty clearly, but the first few days are a bit blurred. I just know that if you dig his movies and are a fan of horror and the bizarre, you should go see this show if it comes to an art museum near you.
I also went to my first screening at the Cinecon film festival that night. Saw part of "Looking for Trouble" with Spencer Tracy (not a silent) and "The Last Warning" with Laura LaPlante, which was cute.
• Friday I went to see an afternoon screening of "More Pay--Less Work" but couldn't focus on it at all and left early to find a walk-in clinic. Because I was in a lot of pain and falling asleep way too much, I was pretty sure I had a concussion. The Hollywood Walk-in Clinic was great and quick, and I was told that I indeed had a concussion.
The rest of that day was a total bust. I couldn't get a time set to meet people I was hoping to, I felt like garbage and was emotionally and physically drained. So I skipped the screening of "Ramona" I'd been looking forward to and headed out to stay with my friends in Altadena.
BTW, Altadena is a lovely area, and my friends, Dan and Julie, are the absolute BEST.
• Saturday morning I woke up feeling recharged (finally!) and headed back to Hollywood for Karie Bible's walking tour of "Hollywood Forever," which is, as far as I'm concerned, is THE must-see cemetery in L.A. The rest are fantastic, too, but Hollywood Forever is one of my all-time favorite cemeteries.
Karie's tour was awesome; I'd been trying to take it for years but the timing hadn't worked out. Take it when you can!
After that I met silent film blogger Jessica Wahl at Canter's, which was great. Banana chocolate chip pancakes and lunch with a person I feel like I've known forever was just what I needed. Plus, she's from Michigan and says "pop" instead of "soda."
Then I saw the screening of "A Million Dollar Bid" with Dolores Costello, and it was great.
Right after that I went to dinner with another person I'd only know via Facebook, Charles Epting. What a great guy! And he wears a straw boater hat, so you know he's all over the silent film era. Plus, he's young, so he can help carry the torch for silent film appreciation for his generation. Did I mention he's the editor and founder of "Silent Film Quarterly"? Well, he is, and it's a great magazine.
After dinner, we saw the screening of a short from 1930 called "Two Plus Fours" and "The King of Jazz" (also 1930), featuring Paul Whiteman and a cast of many talented singers, dancers and actors. Including Laura LaPlante and Bing Crosby and the rest of the Rhythm Boys. This film is PURE JOY. It was recently restored and debuted at the Academy (yeah, THAT Academy) two weeks earlier. It was a wonderful and dazzling movie. The colors, the sound, the music, the performances. If the chance presents itself, see it.
• I spent a good part of Sunday with multiple cemetery book author Mark Masek, Jayne Osborne and Jayne's friend Steve. We spent some quality time at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale ... and they were able to take me in to see Mary Pickford's grave again. I cried again, told her how much she inspires and means to me, and left her a note as a token.
Be aware that if you go on a day when a certain guard is working in the Great Mausoleum that he's a total punk and follows people around as if they're criminals out to steal famous people from their crypts. Needless to say, we didn't get to see very much (security is pretty tight there, but they usually respect people who are visiting family interred their as Jayne was, which should have given us an in--doesn't help that Michael Jackson is interred in the mausoleum's additional area across the way). We did see Jean Harlow's crypt and those of Red Skelton and Sid Grauman's family.
There is much more to tell, but it's late and I need to get some rest. Even almost two weeks later, I still feel pretty rough. Ups and downs. I don't recommend concussions. Skip them if at all possible.
Take care and be safe!
I'm leaving on my California trip tomorrow morning, and I'm so excited. Plus, this just in: I'll be doing research at the prestigious Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Margaret Herrick Library! This is a HUGE deal for me. I'm hoping to get into the Special Collections, so cross your fingers.
Thank you to everyone who has donated so to make this trip possible. It wouldn't have been possible without you. But there's till more to go.
Please spread the word and encourage others to contribute to help bring early film history back to life. These ladies deserve to be remembered and appreciated. No one deserves to be forgotten.