Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand

Last week I found an article on the internet written by Robert Nott for the Santa Fe – New Mexican, (Pasatiempo) the article stimulated me to look again at this remarkably talented early filmmaker, Romaine Fielding.  For years I have exchanged research material with Bill Turner, the Arizona historian and John Armijo of the New Mexico Film Board, both who have a passion for the story of Romaine.   

The focus of article was a small town called Las Vegas, NM where Tom Mix as well as Romaine Fielding made silent movies, in the teens.  In an article in the Day Book, published in Chicago, dated May 19, 1913 it indicated that Romaine Fielding was the director of the Lubin western stock company at Prescott Arizona however by March 3, 1914 when Gertrude Price was traveling through what she refers to as the old-fashioned little town of Las Vegas, New Mexico she stopped to interview Romaine.  He was in the process of making “The Golden God” also released as “The Horror of War” set in the future depicting the struggle between capital and labor in 1950. This movie is referred to in a letter written to George Wilson in Slough, England dated April 21, 1914.  Romaine took Gertrude out to see the airship which he had fitted up as a 1950 war vehicle.  He also introduced her to Eleanor Mason his private secretary, who played the lead in many his pictures.

 Romaine is credited in about 10 movies in 1914, directing, acting and writing there may have been more but the Lubin Studio burned and Romaine’s movies were lost. The New Mexico film broad have a number of production still photos on their website, from the Walle Landenberger collection.  A descendant of the actor Jess Robinson, who worked with Romaine during his time in New Mexico.  Although the movies are gone over 900 historic buildings in and around Las Vegas, New Mexico are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Plaza Hotel, “The Belle of the Southwest” from 1882, which is still standing was used by Romaine during his sojourn; on the brick façade is the faded name “Hotel Romaine.”

 

 

At a visit to the Margaret Herrick Library, in Beverly Hills, where I found the fan letter, which I posted in 2007 it was there that I located a folder of information regarding Romaine Fielding’s son also named Romaine Fielding, a fascinating man in his own right.  He described himself as “the poor man’s Armand Hammer” because of his dealings with the Soviet Union.  He was an international entrepreneur providing Moscow with the first self-service laundry back in 1958 when the relationship between the two countries were strained and separated by an iron curtain. For over 30 years he worked on creating business contacts between the countries, he spoke fluent Russian and frequently travel back and forth; as a gesture of good will the Soviet Union allowed his Soviet wife to emigrate to the US in 1986.  Romaine Fielding, Jr. was born in 1920, his father died when he was just 7 years old, I have a feeling that his father would have been very proud of him.  Romaine Fielding, Jr. passed away in February 1988 at the time he was living in Thousand Oaks, California (his daughter is one of my Face Book friends).

Marilyn Slater

Looking for Mabel

March 11, 2011

Additional information on Romaine Fielding is found in yet another response to a ‘fan letter’ from ROMAINE FIELDING, written to George Wilson in Slough, England dated April 21, 1914.  I have added a copy of the 2 page typed letter at the end of this post. 

"My dear Mr. Wilson: I have received your very kind and interesting letter of April 6th, and glad that you liked the plays you mentioned so much. I did try my level best to please my many friends when producing these pictures, and I have heard pleasing remarks from a great many sources, and yours coming from far-away England , came very welcome, I assure you. If I ever come to England, I shall be very sure to look you up, so that I can express to you in words, my deep appreciation of your kindness to me. Friendship to me is one of the very finest things in the world, and I hope to merit a continuance of yours all thru my life. 'THE FIGHTING BLOOD', my first production in Galveston was released in this country on April 1st, and no doubt will be very shortly released in your country. If you are interested in Army and Navy pictures, this will no doubt appeal to you, as in it are combined both the U. S. Troops and the U.S. Revenue Service, and there is a General Court Martial scene in it, in which none by genuine U.S. Army Officers of the highest rank participate. I am sure you will like it. Get after the manager of your Theatre to get it for you. 'THE GOLDEN GOD', which has been so extensively advertised here and throughout your country, will also be shortly released under the title of 'THE HORROR OF WAR', in five reels, and this is a picture that your Theatre will do well to book, as I know that it will be well received, and will draw large crowds. I have also just completed a four reel comedy entitled 'THE BATTLE OF GETTYSGOAT'. This is a novel departure from the usual run of comedies, as the producers heretofore have contented themselves with running but one and two-reel comedies. The play is a very good one, and deals with the adventures of two young boys, one weighing 350 pounds and the other 375 pounds, who after being spanked by their 'PA', decided to leave the parental roof, and enlist in the Mexican Army. They do, and their trials and tribulations are depicted in the reels that ensue, at the hands of 'THE INTERCHANGEABLE SPY', myself. There is a laugh in it from beginning to end, besides there being some very legitimate scenes, making the play as a whole more of a Comedy-Drama than an absolute comedy. As soon as I know the release date on same, shall advise you, so that you can be on the watch out for it in England. The weather here has been awful for the past six weeks, and as the sun is shining brightly now for the past three days, I am hustling and working very hard trying to catch up for lost time. It took me ten weeks to complete the above picture, 'THE BATTLE OF GETTYSGOAT', when I should have finished it in four weeks. Just think of the time that I lost. Well, kind friend, there is nothing else of much importance, so I will close for this time, extending to you my very best wishes for your success and prosperity, I beg to remain, as ever, Your sincere friend,". Autograph postscript: "Am sending under separate cover, photo, which I trust you will like."

 

the Day Book, published in Chicago, dated May 19, 1913

HIS MIND ACTS LIKE MAGIC IT SAVES HIM, TOO


Romaine Fielding. Romaine Fielding, director of the Lubin western stock company at Prescott, Arizona, is noted for having quick "thinking box!" His mind works just as quickly in an emergency-as it does when he sits down to write a picture play.
Fielding is a wonderful horseman.

A while ago Fielding was invited to help rope a steer at a roundup. He agreed. There was too much slack on the rope he used and the steer got Fielding's horse into a corner. There seemed to be no escape, but the quick "thinking box" of the "movie" actor came to his rescue. He raised himself to a standing position on his horse and leaped off on the neck of the steer, grabbing its horns and throwing it as it came for the horse.

During Fielding's stage career he traveled from "Uncle Tom's Cabin" to Shakespeare with as much ease, apparently, as he rides a bucking broncho. Haven't you seen him riding as if life depended on it, in the "movies?"

A WISH TO; TALK TO ROMAINE FIELDING OPENS DOOR TO HIS WORKROOM - March 03, 1914
By- Gertrude M. Price.

There's heaps of convenience in one of those stop-anywhere-you-please railway tickets. And so I found it to be when someone let slip the remark that Romaine Fielding was sojourning for a short time in the old-fashioned little town of Las Vegas New Mexico.  "Anybody know where Romaine Fielding lives?" I asked at the depot hotel. "The 'movie' actor?" half –a dozen voices queried in the same breath. ''Yes, that's who I mean," I answered. "Sure. Go up to the sanitarium in old Las Vegas. He owns the whole place now," was the rejoinder. I haven't any credentials, Mr. Fielding," I said "as we met in his sanctum sanctorum.” Don’t care if you haven't. If you like me and want to see me and want to talk to me, I don't care if you are a hob carrier. Come in. Sit down. Make yourself at home." He was just finishing up that big feature picture which depicts labor and capital as it might be in 1950. He took me up onto the hills back of the town and showed me the army of men he was using in some of the scenes; and the airship which he had fitted up with a cannon at the rear of it, as a 1950 war vehicle. And now about Romaine Fielding himself. He is director, manager and often star player in one of Lubin's most popular companies. He has entire charge of the company and may move anywhere throughout the country at his own discretion, picking suitable locations for the unique feature pictures for which he is so noted. He writes all his own scenarios, working into the wee hours of the morning often, so that he can take advantage of weather or location, or carry out some certain plan in mind.

He doesn't know what fatigue means and he expects his co-workers to have the same ignorance of that term. I was interested to learn that Romaine Fielding's idea in writing and .producing pictures is to teach, elevate or inspire his audiences. There is no slap-stick comedy put on by his players. And in most of his subjects there seems to be either a poetic theme or a mystical vein. "Before you leave," he said, "I want you to be acquainted with Miss Mason. She is not only my private secretary, but plays the leads in many; of my pictures. She doesn't know what it means to be tired out. She can work 24 hours straight." Romaine Fielding has a very definite philosophy of life which, when given briefly, amounts to this: Do your best. Work hard. Smile. Try to create the kind of product that will help others. Be kind. Never speak against any one. Never be idle.

GIRL WHO CAN TURN HAND TO ANYTHING MAY SUCCEED
“The ability to turn your hand to anything is nearly sure to lead to success, if perseverance is coupled with it This is the belief which Eleanor Mason has proved not, without its wisdom in her climb upward in the moving picture world. She began by being private secretary of Director Romaine Fielding of the Lubin company. Then he discovered she had many ideas which he could incorporate in his scenarios. She began offering suggestions. One day Fielding needed someone to play an important feminine part. His lead had left him unexpectedly. Miss Mason shall have the part,"
he said. She took it. She played it well. Now you often see her in leading roles.

 

INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT SCREEN MAN
Romaine Fielding

June 25, 1914 The Day Book

Here are some interesting facts about your favorite, Romaine Fielding. He is managing director, Lubin Western company and was born in Corsica. At the age of three he came to the United States, where he has spent the rest of his life, except for intervals of travel. He spent his early years in Kentucky. Then he went to Minnesota, where he attended the University of Minnesota. He took to the stage and played in legitimate drama for twenty years; then took up photoplay acting. During the summer months, while acting, he took a course and graduated in medicine from the Columbian University in New York.

 

  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

updated March 24, 2011

 

 

FILM HISTORY 1995