"A Visit to Movieland" reprinted from The Forum magazine, January 1920. This is the 9th of 9 parts. Written by "The Forum's Correspondent."
How Movieland Amuses Itself:
When one considers that there are ex-bartenders, milk-wagon drivers, telephone girls, manicurists, stenographers, chauffeurs and lawyers out in Movieland taking anywhere from $250 to $1,000 a week out of the movies, and that many of them simply throw away their money on motors, clothes and jewelry, it becomes clear why Los Angeles' prosperity has been so boomed by the studios. Of course, the money does not drain through the hands of all the stars. One hears in Movieland that Charlie Chaplin once said that he could not afford a luxury until he had a million dollars; and there is nothing loud or extravagant about the funny man today. And there are stars who have done good with their money, very decently concealing it from their press agents. It took considerable "digging" for me to run down the trail of Mary Pickford's charities in Los Angeles--a big children's asylum. At the foot of each bed was a woolen bathrobe and a pair of slippers--a gift from Mary, who is ever visiting the asylum giving pleasure to the little tots.
When you come to know Movieland you know that many of the stars are to be found on Tuesday nights at Vernon and on Saturday nights at Venice--both brief motor-runs from Los Angeles. The prize-fights draw them to Vernon and you see Fairbanks, Fatty Arbuckle, and all the great, and near-great, sitting around the ring, wagering hundreds, thousands, on the chances of pugilists of whose ability they knew nothing--nor care. And on Saturday nights in Venice, at the "Ship," a cafe built to suggest the interior of a ship's salon, a place of tables, waxed floor for jazzing, and liquid refreshment brought in packages, one saw many of the stars--never mind who--so gay and carefree and careless, as to make the puritanical heart cease in its beat. And if one knew where, and the proper night, there was always a cycle of "bungalow parties" going on in Hollywood where Movieland lives--very, very late and very, very wild parties where very few of the great and very many of the almost-great played.
But as it was impressed upon me, the magnitude of Movieland, the enormous sums of money involved, the strain the manufacturing of "fake emotions" eight--even ten--hours a day makes upon actors and actresses, the big responsibilities of a director--will the product, into the making of which thousands of dollars are poured, sell or not? And one thought that it was a hard, exacting game, whose competition is so intense that the weak are bound to fall; and that some day many persons will wake up to find that their day is done and to reflect that in picture-making, today, too much play does not mix particularly well with work. For their are signs in Movieland of the stars and the big directors of today, many of them, slipping, and of new and virile youths surging up to the top.