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The Extra Girl” review by William K Everson, was written as part of the Theodore Huff Memorial Film Society, which was formed by Huff and a few other movie lovers. It was after Huff died in 1954 that the Society added the Memorial to its name. 

William K. Everson was a fasinating individual and I had to stop myself from going on a tangent.  I have added an article about him in the note section at the end of this page and the wonderful obituary written by Kevin Brownlow. his good friend.  Everson’s papers were donated to the New York University. 

Program: Theodore Huff Memorial Film Society

Date: January 19, 1970

Located at: William K. Everson Archive, New York University, Department of Cinema Studies

THE EXTRA GIRL (Mack Sennett-Pathe, 1923, rel: 1924)

Directed by F. Richard Jones; Produced and written by Mack Sennett; Camera: Homer Scott; Art Direction; S.D. Barns; 6 reels With Mabel Normand, Ralph Graves, George Nichols, Vernon Dent, Anna Hernandez, Mary Mason, Max Davidson, Louise Carver, Ramsey Wallace, William Desmond, Carl Stockdale, Harry Gribbon, Billy Bevan, Andre Beranger, Teddy.

Very few of the silent Sennett features have survived today; we have “Tillie’s Punctures Romance” and “Mickey” from the teens and “The Extra Girl” and “Down on the Farm”  from the 20s, with the best of them “Small Town Idol” represented only by a 2-reel outdown and isolated reels.  “The Extra Girl” lacks the charm and solid story-construction of “Mickey”, but it’s an enjoyable frolic, and since it pre-dates “Ella Cinders”, “Show People”, “Stage Struck” and most of the other small-town-girl-becomes-star movies of the mid and late 20s, one can forgive it for not being as good as they were.

The main trouble with “the Extra Girl” is its rather sloppy construction; with plenty of time to do everything properly, it still neglects to explain characters and motivations, the key character of the villain for example is suddenly just dumped into the movie without any establishing footage at all.  Some of this slipshod quality may be due to a missing scene or two; when the original negative for this film was unearthed approximately twelve years ago, it was beginning to decompose and a relatively minor amount of footage was unprintable and had to be deleted.  That may account for the unexplained scene of Ralph Graves appearing with a blanket around his coat-less shoulders. (Without the build-up to the scene, it now looks as though the scene might even be out of order; that it should perhaps follow the scene where Graves subdues the lion with a water-hose, but that actually isn’t the case).  However, one can’t attribute all of the film’s careless editing to missing scenes due to hypo; its current length matched the release length by all but about 90 seconds.  (Incidentally, it has never been shown at the Huff before, a 16mm print not being available until now; but we did show a 35mm print at the MMA’s Saturday morning series about 12 years ago, so a few veteran Huffians may have seen it on that occasion).

It does have charm and it does have good comedy sequences, but somehow it doesn’t hang together as it should – though it may work a great deal better with an audience.  It’s certainly neither top Normand (though personally, I have never been that fond of her, and feel that Constance Talmadge was a far superior comedienne) nor top f. Richard Jones, but it’s an amusing and thoroughly entertaining film.  It’s oddly prophetic too that the rather disorganized movie studio should be named Golden State Productions – later the name of one of American International’s subsidiary production outfits!

Pathe advertised the film thus: “Just 100% of what an audience picture should comprise – pathos, art, romance, human interest, comedy, thrills, suspense – and the sweetest kind of a love story”.  “Film Daily” however, was a little more objective in its review:  “Another picture based on studio life, with a corking thrill in it.  Has some first-rate comedy situations, but at times suffers from padding, Mabel Normand, always dependable, gets away with a lot of good stuff and puts her part over well….however, there is not enough actual work for the star to do, and she is given too many close-ups and unimportant bits of business ….Box office angles:  you may have to figure on a recent Hollywood sensation in selling this, but you should be able to overcome this … the film is good popular stuff”.  The NY Daily News rated it the Best Film of the Month and Louella Parsons reported “Funny enough to tempt Mona Lisa to break out into loud laughter”.  It was a big money-maker; booked into Los Angeles for a four week run, it was held over for eight, and everywhere else, top business was recorded too.

Sennett’s own comments on the film in his autobiography are singularly unreliable; among other things he implies that the Harry Langdon shorts (1924 on) and the W. C. Fields shorts (1933) were being made simultaneously!  Incidentally, among all the obvious stars (Lloyd, Chaplin, Mae Marsh) whose photographers are scattered around in dressing room scenes, it’s nice to see Johnny Hines pinned up too.

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Sennett Production #110 photos








Candid photos


William Thomas Sherman on The Extra Girl

William Thomas Sherman in Mabel Normand Source Book” discusses the film in an essay…”Bolstered by Suzanna’s success, Sennett's next slated vehicle for her was “The Extra Girl”. The story was one, later made somewhat popular by Colleen Moore and Marion Davies, about a small town girl who goes to Hollywood and doesn't make good. It gives a semi-candid, behind-the-scenes glimpse at the day to day life and workings of a movie studio, and which Sennett thought was something needed to help alleviate public worries and concerns about the industry and its people. Directed, once again, by the usually reliable F. Richard Jones, the film is most remembered for a both droll and exciting scene in which Mabel leads a real lion by a rope around some movie sets, thinking it’s only Teddy the dog dressed up.

 “The Extra Girl” as a whole works very well, and, at least in a few moments early on, Mabel’s miming is genuinely exquisite. Yet for the most part her energy is lacking, and the effects of the anguish and trauma she’d been suffering are again all too evident.   There is at times a discernible air of sadness about her that gives the film a somewhat tragic quality not warranted at all by the script. In this paradoxical way, the film is as unexpectedly moving as it is also casually entertaining.

 Things went well upon “The Extra Girl's” release on November 9, 1923; and it was promisingly successful with theater-goers, garnering success in the Christmas season. Mabel, in April of 1924 went on a nation-wide movie theater circuit promoting “The Extra Girl”. “The Extra Girl” ended up doing excellent business. “The Extra Girl” was initially meant as a vehicle for Phyllis Haver, not Mabel, which Mabel, albeit in a friendly way, resented. Though her reaction was to be expected, given the change that had befallen her it is not hard to see why Sennett, at this juncture, should have had a difficult time finding suitable parts for her. 

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William has made his wonderful book available was a download (edition #6) at the MABEL NORMAND HOME PAGE, and the home page has tons of other great Mabel material.


Newspaper articles:

April 21, 1923, Camera!,      Miss Normand to Play “Extra Girl

            Mabel Normand, inimitable comedienne of the cinema, is one of the busiest stars of the day. And she has plenty of work to look forward to, for while she is at present being photographed in the title role of “The Extra Girl”, plans are already being formulated to launch into a big production of “Mary Anne,” immediately upon the completion of the present vehicle. Both stories are from the pen of Mack Sennett and ideally suited to Miss Normand's individuality.

            In her present vehicle, “The Extra Girl,” Miss Normand will enjoy ample opportunity to further demonstrate her wistful charm, with one of the best all-star casts ever assembled, including such artists as Ralph Graves in the male lead, George Nichols, Dot Farley, Anna Hernandez and Vernon Dent.

            F. Richard Jones, supervising director of Mack Sennett productions selected William A. Seiter to direct this latest classic. Homer Scott, well known as one of the best photographers in the profession, and an expert on lighting effects, is in charge of the cameras, cranking first camera himself, as he did with previous Mack Sennett productions starring Mabel Normand.

            Work is continuing on the filming of the interior scenes in the home of “The Extra Girl,” a setting of which has been declared a marvel of realism, and which took four weeks until completely constructed in every detail. Phyllis Haver had started in this picture, but according to a report, a disagreement brought about the substitution of Miss Normand.










April 22, 1923 New York Morning Telegraph, 

Mabel Normand Chosen: Will Take Phyllis Haver's Part in “The Extra Girl”

Hollywood, April 21--Announcement was made today that Mabel Normand is to play the title role in “The Extra Girl," which Mack Sennett is now producing. This settles a much discussed question, as Phyllis Haver, who was promoted to stardom by Sennett for this production, resigned her association with the producer last week.  Rumor has it that there was a disagreement over the story. Then it was said that Winifred Bryson would play the role, but there was apparently some hitch in that play, too, for today comes the news of Miss Normand's acceptance of the part.  She will play “The Extra Girl” immediately and later star in "Mary Ann."

 “The Extra Girl” begins an extended run at the Mission Theatre in Los Angeles, in early September, after which it will be distrib­uted nationally.

 July 1923, Capt. Billy's Whiz Bang,

Mabel Normand must have renewed her hold on Mack Sennett.  When Mabel recently returned from Europe she managed to kick up such a didoe that the Phyllis Haver-Mack Sennett love affair was broken off. Phyllis disappeared from the lot, and Mabel was given the lead in “The Extra Girl” in spite of the fact that Phyllis already had done two weeks' work in the picture.



July 7, 1923, Camera!

There appears to be a well grounded suspicion in the minds of those identified with the production of Mack Sennett's next feature offering to the classics of the screen, that in “The Extra Girl,” Mabel Normand's new starring vehicle, a new Miss Normand will be seen.

Heretofore Miss Normand has adhered pretty closely to the portrayals of light dramatic and comedy roles. She is known the world over as a comedienne and will probably stay in that classification for all time to come. Despite this, however, the irresistible personality of this little screen favorite will force itself still deeper in the affections of her admirers, when “The Extra Girl” is given to the screen, owing to the fact that she is demonstrating in this new picture her right to be classed among the foremost emotional actresses of the cinema.

In one of the longest scenes shot of “The Extra Girl,” Miss Normand shows a dual character which even her most enthusiastic admirers would doubt she was capable of expressing. For several minutes the Normand we all know so well, lively, gay and mischievous, is before us, but almost at the snapping of a finger her buoyancy gives way to an expression of utter despair, when she hears the words that tell of the financial ruin of her parents, and to which she has been an unsuspecting accomplice.

F. Richard Jones, directing “The Extra Girl,” claims for Mack Sennett's little star that “regardless of what the producer, the star, or he himself will essay to do in the future, this present production and Mabel Normand's work in it will remain always as a monument to her inimitable versatility.”

Mabel Normand in “The Extra Girl” continues to play to large audiences at the Mission Theater. Tomorrow will mark the third week of the current engagement, which is a world premiere showing.

Dec. 26, 1923,  Chicago Daily News,

Carl Sandburg (yes that Carl Sandburg)

The new Mabel Normand picture, “The Extra Girl”, which is opening its run at the Orpheum Theater, has one recommendation to start with, and that is that they took their time with it. Miss Normand is not one of those who comes in a new release every two or three months.

The story of “The Extra Girl” is a good deal like those of Miss Normand’s previous pictures. There is a harum-scarum girl around whose life centers a lot of money lost and won, and a bright young man everybody knows is the one who ought to marry her, and a lot of puzzling as to whether in the windup he did win her.

Mack Sennett, the producer, names himself as the author of the story. He aimed at writing what he calls “sure fire stuff.” It is all there in this regard. The plain, honest home folks, the good looking daughter, the quarrel as to whether she shall marry a successful businessman or a handsome industrious young man whose prospects are not at all that they might be, the ladder up the side of her house to her room, the escapes and pursuits up and down that ladder, the flight, the forgiveness, the loss of the hard-earned savings and earnings of the plain, honest home folks, the detection and pursuit of the dastard robber.

As to this robber, we must pause. He is a Sennett masterstroke. He seems for all the world to be the bright, energetic, enterprising, sagacious, straightforward young American. His face is his fortune. Anybody would hand him money on his showing the maps of the places where the oil wells are gushing. Yet, after all, he is what he is. We are surprised. It tricks us as life does. And Mr. Sennett knows it and intended it so.

As for Mabel Normand, this is the best acting she has done. There are moments in it when she rises to great pantomimic art, and the revelation of a personality that has tone color, ranges, shadings. No other woman in the movies has so vivid a feeling for the comic mixed with a serious and striking personal loveliness. Her greater work is ahead of her. The important thing is that her work constantly hits a wider gamut.

George Nichols and Anna Hernandez play pa and ma. Ralph Graves has the role of the young man who should marry the heroine. William Desmond and Carl Stockdale are other members of a well-chosen cast. Direction was by F. Richard Jones.


What the Critics Say.

Mr. G. A. Atkinson in The “Daily Express”

“Mabel Normand is at her best in the intensely human, albeit comical, adventures of “The Extra Girl”....Miss Normand is re­garded by the cinema public with an affection which would aston­ish those who think that film plays are things written in the sand.”


The “Evening Standard”

             “The Extra Girl”, which has just been privately shown in London, is A FILM COMEDY OUT OF THE RUT. The generally unforced humor is mingled with a Charles Chaplin-like wistfulness, the simple story flows naturally and without absurd improbabilities, and what is most to the point there is consistently good acting. The escape of a lion in a cinema studio is the thrill in one of the most genuinely human films I have seen for a long time.”

 The “Film Renter”

 “This is a picture that exhibitors can safely book, for it is suitable for any and every kind of audience. It possesses great comedy, excellent drama, and real pathos. “The Extra Girl” is a showman's picture.”

 The “Cinema”

 “Few patrons have forgotten Mabel Normand, and SHE HAS NEVER DONE BETTER WORK THAN THIS. There are moments when the audience is practically hypnotized into laughter! And every exhibitor knows there is nothing like laughter to swell the box-office receipts.”

 The “Bioscope”

 “Mabel Normand's Performance -- The Best Thing She Has Ever Done -- is a triumph of natural, spontaneous drollery....It has scarcely a single incident which is not touched with originality...“The Extra Girl” is a picture which we have no hesitation in recommending as an almost certain winner for any type of house.”

Associated Exhibitor News

Mabel Normand, under a new Mack Sennett contract, will hereafter make at least two and never more than three feature film each year. Each one, it is stipulated, must cost 350,000 to 500,000

For a while it looked as if she were spoiled  --  were being given her head too much, perhaps  --  but in this picture she is the old Mabel again.

Miss Normand looks very pretty at times and other times seems white and worn. She does some very credible acting in the serious scenes, and, of course, carries the comedy end of the role splendidly.

Film smashed theatre records for attendance at Mission Theatre. Booked for four weeks, it ran eight. Thousands had to be turned away at Central Theatre, Broadway

 Dec. 1, 1924 from Movie Times, no.179,

(The following ad translated from Japanese)

            The Temporary Maid “The Extra Girl”

            This film was widely acclaimed in Tokyo.


October 4, 1930, Liberty,    

Part Five -- Lightning Strikes Twice (Mabel’s story)

“Nappy had tried exactly six girls in the role before he sent for me. They were Priscilla Bonner, Sigrid Holmquist, Evelyn Brent, Betty Francisco, Virginia Browne Fair, and Phyllis Haver, all excellent actresses, but not just fitted for the role “The Extra Girl” required. Sennett had written it himself.

            “Again George Nichols was my father. Anna Hernandez was the mother, and Ralph Graves had the part of my bold and dashing hero.

            “In “The Extra Girl”, Dick directed for me and once more he was responsible for my being hurt. The play called for a lion, and Dick and I went out to the famous animal farm where wild beasts are trained for the movies. The man pointed out a couple of lions, but they looked moth-eaten and feeble minded to me. I kept looking around till I found Duke, a magnificent young ani­mal. The trainer shook his head, saying that Duke was a terror, too young and not sufficiently educated for picture duty.

            “But I insisted that Dick hire Duke, because we were going to use a double for the beast most of the time, dressing Teddy, Sennett's famous great Dane, in a lion's skin, and because I felt the lion tamer ought to earn his money by making his charge behave around the studio.

            “I was a seamstress and slavey in the early part of the picture, and I had to associate a lot with the lion.

            “One day Dick was taking a scene of the trainer leading Duke across the set. Duke seemed so docile that Dick conceived the snappy idea of having me lead him around. We had a great argument about it, but I gave in. Dick was to get a pitchfork and crouch near the camera tripod while I was to take hold of the rope and lead Duke toward him. Joe Bordeau, who once was Fatty Arbuckle's chauffeur, and was now one of our property men, had another pitchfork and stood on the other side of the camera. It was agreed that under no circumstances was I to look back at the lion, but was to watch Dick's face and when he motioned to me, if anything happened, to leap toward him -- and he would leap toward the onrushing lion!

            “I took the rope from the trainer, who had a club, and put it over my shoulder and started dragging the lion toward the camera. He followed as peacefully as a big cat slithering toward a bowl of milk. When I got close enough, Dick whispered, ‘Cut,’ and the scene ended. But Dick wasn't satisfied. He wouldn't be!     

            “‘Mabel,’ he said, ‘the lion's going great and so are you. So we'll do it again, but this time we'll put the camera on a trav­eling platform and you can follow us all around the set. Joe and I will walk backward beside the camera and see you don't get hurt. Wait till we rearrange the props for a running shot.’

            “We had another argument, but Dick pointed at the lazy-eyed, snout-licking brute and finally persuaded me that all was well.

            “When we were all set I got the rope again and began to follow the camera around the studio. Everything probably would have gone all right, but Dick, walking backward with the pitch­fork poised, had to stumble over a box and fall on his shoulder blades. The sudden movement and the clatter startled Duke, and to my horror I felt the slack in the rope taken up and there I was tugging at a crouching lion I didn't dare look back at!

            “But I could see in Dick's face what was happening as he scrambled to his feet and everybody on the set started running for ladders and behind scenery -- and I never want to see another face like Dick's as he screamed to me to jump and lunge forward with his fork.

            “Before I could drop the rope and move, I felt the lion's hot breath just below the small of my back and heard him cough. That terrible breath was as hot as a furnace blast. I let out one wild whoop and bounded forward like a wounded deer. Just as I hit the floor, all sprawled out near the camera platform, I felt the lion's great claws tearing at the most prominent curves of my body! Then I fainted.

            “When I came to, a bit later, everybody was standing looking down at me, laughing, and making no effort at all to pick me up. I was furious, and more so when Dick, the big bromide, explained that instead of the lion's tearing the bottom out of my skirt, it was the tines of the pitchfork which he had stuck into me when he missed the confounded lion. The lion, Dick went on, had crouched the moment he saw him fall, his eyes turned green, his tail began to lash, and he fastened those narrow eyes on the part of my body where he'd have to bite deepest before reaching any bones! The trainer had leapt out with his club and clouted Duke back of the ear, and they had led him to his cage.

            “The Extra Girl” was finished and ready for release just before Christmas, 1923. I had been feeling quite ill during the latter part of the picture and resolved to go to a hospital for an operation immediately after the holidays. Those festive days passed pleasantly and excitingly enough, and I received many beautiful presents.


information about William K Everson


In the April 1973 issue of The New York Herald, a short-lived weekly newspaper.

The police had been staking out the third floor apartment on West 79th Street for several months. The constant flow of men in and out at all hours of the night had brought New York’s finest to one conclusion: this was a house of ill-repute — obviously!

One night, when two out-of-town businessmen wearily exited the building in the wee hours of the morning, the police accosted them. Under pressure, the men finally broke down and confessed: “We was only watching some old movies, Honest.”

And you know, they were telling the truth. For that third floor apartment was not a cathouse, but merely the residence of one William K. Everson, film historian, teacher and film collector par excellence.

Whether the above tale is true or not is besides the point, for it does tell much about Bill Everson’s character. His obsessive devotion to film and film history; his willingness, even his eagerness to share both his knowledge and his collection of 16mm prints (about 4,000 features, plus selected short subjects), has made him a sort of unofficial guru of New York’s community of film scholars.

The author of many popular books — The Western (with George Fenin), The Bad Guys, The Films of Laurel and Hardy etc. — he also runs the film program at the New School and the now legendary Theodore Huff Memorial Film Society. He teaches at the School of Visual Arts and is a professor at New York University. Everson is constantly loaning his films out for exhibition and aiding film archives with their programming. Right now He’s helping Rochester’s Eastman House with a British retrospective.

Born in Yeogil, in Somerset (”The center of the English cream cheese industry”), his father was an inspector in the aerospace industry. His mother an ex-teacher. From as far back as he can remember, Everson was always interested in movies. When his father took him along to an aerodrome, he would just jump into a handy plane and “read movie books all day long.”

His father thought this behavior somewhat abnormal, “Which I may have been,” Everson notes. And felt that his only child would never amount to anything.

Although he passed his elevens’ exam, Everson found secondary school too competitive. And when he was only 14, with his father’s blessing, he took a job in the British film industry as a publicity writer. This was during World War II and there was a manpower shortage. Besides, Everson passed himself off as being nearly 16. Around this time he also did some film criticism for a local paper. “They were the most opinionated things you ever saw. I shudder when I think back on them now. I was holding forth like Andrew Sarris in the Village Voice.”

In late 1950, realizing that there was little future for him in England, he came to the U.S.

In New York he landed a temporary job with a small producer-distributor who was, Everson claims, “an absolute nut.”

After that he landed a publicity job with the international division of Monogram Pictures (before it became Allied Artists). In 1955, like many other budding film historians of the day, he went to work for producer Paul Killiam. First working on the tail end of a 15-minute Movie Museum TV series, he then moved on to help develop and write the Silents Please show.

In the meantime, he became active in an informal film society that had been started by others, including Theodore Huff, the film historian who wrote the definitive book on Chaplin. It met once a month and specialized in silents and early talkies. Everson also began his film collection with the $90 purchase of Mal St. Clair’s delightful comedy, Are Parents People? (1925). (To buy it, he saved his money by going on a diet of peanut butter and bread.)

The film society, which had a membership of 20-30 lost its access to its original, free screening rooms and was forced to expand. Over a period of months it changed its locale often, once even screening (appropriately) in a psychiatric institution. In 1954, Ted Huff died and the society was named after him. But when a lawsuit for illegally showing Ecstacy (the Hedy Lamarr skin flick) forced the society to close down. The founding members were wary of trying to continue after the suit was settled, so Everson took charge and has been running it ever since.

But now, after 20 years, the Huff Society is in danger of closing up shop, or, as seems more likely, going back to the once a month screenings of earlier days (it currently screens weekly). Everson has just found the Huff too much of a burden. He also feels that it is not needed as much as it once was, seeing how the number of revival houses have proliferated. The last program before the fatal decision is made will feature Johnnie Walker in Captain Fly By Night (1923), directed by William K. Howard. (Everson’s real name is Keith William Everson and was changed around in honor of Mr. Howard.)

Everson characterizes the society’s hard core following as consisting of the serious film students, who will see almost anything from a masterpiece to an obscure footnote to film history. And a group which he loosely terms “losers.” These are the escapists “who sort of look back on the period in which they were themselves fairly happy and optimistic. It had been the best period of their lives. And they seem to relive that period through the films of that time.”

Among the visitors to the Huff there have been such varied personae as filmmakers Stanley Kubrick and Radley Metzger, as well as every film historian in the area. Plus an assortment of old time film stars and directors who drop in to see their films.

Everson’s own opinions are not what would be considered to be in the main stream of critical thought. His taste is heavily weighted by an affection for the sentimental, for Westerns and for Musicals, all which is common among British critics. He also harbors a special liking for action-packed “B” films. If he had been born earlier, Everson confesses, he might have enjoyed working on such films during the 1930’s, when one could operate with considerable freedom within certain limits. However, he has no ambitions to make a personal statement.

Even as a child, he admits, he always had a liking for older movies. And unless it’s a film by a director he likes (e.g., John Ford or Hitchcock) Everson only sees new films he knows his students will surely see — like A Clockwork Orange.

“Of the new directors, I’m very fond of Truffaut because he veers more towards the older style of filmmaking. I just don’t like directors such as Godard who are totally self-indulgent [, who] don’t care whether they are using film as well as they should. They expect the audience to understand their films without giving them clues to work at.”

Today’s movie critics, he finds shockingly ignorant of film history. “They don’t seem to realize that almost anything in film builds on something that came 20 or 30 years before. In some cases it might be a tremendous improvement. In other cases it might be quite a letdown.”

Asked whether he had any pet peeves, Everson comments that there is a total lack of fun in moviegoing today. Theater personnel such as ushers and ticket sellers lack courtesy. Projection is often sloppy and the management does nothing to correct it. And the audiences, he adds, “are so attuned to watching films on TV at home, they behave the same way.” As he feels much of the enjoyment of going out to the movies is in the pleasure of being catered to, there just isn’t much fun left.

No wonder Bill Everson prefers his apartment on 79th Street — police surveillance and all.


OBITUARY : William K. Everson

Independent, The (London) ,  Apr 16, 1996   by Kevin Brownlow

He was also the world's greatest film collector. Unlike so many of the breed, he was not secretive; he was extraordinarily generous. And generosity sums up the man's character; if he recognised in you some enthusiasm for films, he would give whatever you needed, whether it be his time, his knowledge of the films themselves. When I first went to New York, in 1964, to research my book The Parade's Gone By . . ., I knew hardly anybody in the city apart from Everson. He was as busy as he always was, and should have told me to return when he had some free time. Instead, he invited me at midnight and stayed up, showing me unique copies of silent films, until the early hours. This went on for three weeks. He also gave me introductions to stars and directors I wanted to meet - thanks to him, I met Lillian Gish. He answered all my questions, and by so doing gave me a groundwork in early cinema I could have got from no one else. Everson had an extraordinary ability to convey enthusiasm. He was a gifted writer, and his programme notes were so vivid they made you long to see the film. Yet if you couldn't get to the show, he made you feel so familiar with the style and atmostphere of the film you could have passed an exam on the subject. I remember his description of Maurice Tourner's 1922 Lorna Doone; it was so poetic and so thrilling I instantly invested in a copy of the film. It was not as poetic as Everson, alas, but it sparked a love affair with Tourneur, which was eventually requited when I discovered the glories of his earlier films. Many of these were shown to me by Everson himself, and he introduced me to a collector who had been a cameraman in the silent era. Don Malkames had installed a camera in his home capable of showing obscure gauges like 28mm - and one stunningly tinted 28mm print was the Tourneur production of Trilby (1915). Later, when a 16mm dupe was struck from it, Everson sent me one, downplaying his generosity by pretending it was "surplus to requirements". Bill Everson was born in England. His name was Keith William Everson, but he loved the work of American director William K. Howard and switched his name to match. He was taken to the cinema when he was about a year old - to see Al Jolson in The Singing Fool (1928), ironically - but he could not be expected to remember the event. The first film he was consicious of seeing was what he called "a perfectly dreadful British film" called The Maid of the Mountains (1932), an operetta. From that point on, he had a distinct recollection of what he saw, because going to the cinema during the Depression was very much of an event. It wasn't until he saw John Ford's The Whole Town's Talking (1935) that he became conscious of dialogue. "From that point on I was really hooked." Everson had been collecting film magazines even before he could read them - in fact, he learned to read by picking his way through the articles on his favourite players. He was top boy at school, until he won a scholarship to Isleworth Country School - a school which took only scholarship boys. "And of course it was during the war and the classes I liked - English and history - were always being cancelled because of bombing raids and the classes I hated - geography and physics - were never interrupted." He used to subscribe to trade papers, and in one he saw an ad for a company in Wardour Street which wanted a publicity man. "I didn't think there was any chance of my getting the job - I was 13, going on 14 - but I felt it would be good experience just to go up to London to see what it was all about." He knew that if they asked him questions about films he could answer - and he got the job. "They realised they could pay me peanuts." He gloried in the experience, even though he made a lot of mistakes, and he worked happily until the army caught up with him in 1947. He was posted to Germany - another boon, because he had just read Siegfried Kracauer's book on German film history. "Censorship then was very strong and anything with violence was taken out so they were reissuing a lot of the quieter German films from the 1930s, and German versions of American films like The Big Trail (1930), which I never thought I'd see, so it was a great education." When he was demobbed, his two closest friends, Alex and Richard Gordon, had emigrated to the United States. Feeling there was no hope of advancement in the England of the austerity years, he decided to join them. After a period as relief manager for a chain of news theatres (the Monseigneurs), he left for New York - where he quickly found a job with Monogram (later Allied Artists). He was delighted to discover that movie companies were transferring thousands of their old films to 16mm for the television market, and bootleg prints could be acquired by collectors. This was a risky business - and in later years downright dangerous - but several companies had good reason to be grateful. For Bill Everson rescued prints of titles which they had destroyed. In the post-war period, the only people who retained any respect for silent films were elderly fans. The new generation regarded them as hilarious - and a TV producer called Paul Killiam marketed a series called Movie Museum, which showed old films with a jokey narration. He employed Bill Everson as adviser, and Everson gently but firmly taught him the error of his ways. He had acquired a great respect for the silent era (as he acquired more and more silent films), and soon Killiam, having moderated his tone, became the pioneer of the serious presentation of silent films on television. Everson started the Theo-dore Huff Film Society with friends Huff, Seymour Stern and Herman Weinberg. When Huff died, he added the word "Memorial" - but by then he was running it on his own. It was a society that showed the rarest films - often in a double bill with a recognised classic. Everson's programme notes became world-famous (and let us hope that some enterprising publisher will bring them out). In 1959, MGM's Ben-Hur received rave reviews and Everson felt that they were not deserved - so he showed the 1925 version at the Huff. Rival collector Raymond Rohauer, experiencing a little trouble himself over a lawsuit from MGM, told the FBI what Everson was doing and they confronted him after the performance. They seized the print, and Everson spent the next few days squirrelling other hot titles around New York. Lillian Gish had to intervene on his behalf. In the 1970s, the FBI instituted a "witch hunt" among film collectors, but by then Everson was too highly respected to be touched. Archives came to depend on him - he would not only loan rare prints for copying or showing, but he would travel the world presenting the films he loved. I was astounded to meet him at an airport weighed down by three times as many cans of films as any human could be expected to carry. He had the uncanny knack of finding lost films. It would be no exaggeration to say that single-handedly, he transformed the attitude of American film enthusiasts towards early cinema. He was scornful of archives who let his favourite films rot - but it was curious how he always managed to sneak a beautiful 16mm print before its negative finally disappeared. His name appeared on scores of documentaries about cinema history (particularly those by David Gill and myself) because his advice was as essential as access to his collection. His books ranged from picturebooks like The Films of Laurel and Hardy (1967) to the amazingly detailed American Silent Film (1978). And now it can be told. There is one book which has been consistently available for more than 30 years - Classics of the Silent Screen (1959) by Joe Franklin, the New York talk-show host. Inside the cover is a minute credit; research assistant William K. Everson. You can tell that he really wrote the entire thing by the enthusiasm, the knowledge, and the frequent use of words emphasised in italics. No one else ever wrote quite like that. He was a lucky man. He spent his life doing what he enjoyed most. But how few such people transform the lives of others? If his generosity will be sorely missed, at least he has made an indelible mark on the cultural history of his time. He had been in a great deal of pain with his cancer - but he was a true stoic and he managed to teach two classes a week right up to the end of March. There will be no funeral, but a memorial service will be held at New York University. I shall think of William K. Everson fondly as the young man who went without food to afford $90 for a print of Are Parents People? - a 1925 comedy with Betty Bronson. He fell in love with the screen image of Miss Bronson, tracked her down to her home in Pasadena and a firm friendship developed. He brought her to the Museum of Modern Art to introduce her classic Peter Pan (1924). She decided she would like to act again - so Everson, through his contacts at Allied Artists, secured her a good supporting role in Sam Fuller's The Naked Kiss (1965) and this led to further work with Frank Capra, Disney and even a long-running television soap opera. There are hundreds of other acts of kindness we will never know about. But the name of William Everson is now better known to film history than the director who inspired him to change it. William Keith Everson, film historian, film collector, film teacher: born Yeovil, Somerset 8 April 1929; married twice (one son, one daughter); died New York City 14 April 1996.

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You can buy the DVD of The Extra Girl from Malnor Films here is a link John Everton created the DVD using the same film that was the Paul Killiam’s version.