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29 June 2016

Honored at Last: Keaton, Lloyd, Gish, Pickford, Barthelmess, Gaynor, Novarro

(See a note at the end about Gloria Swanson's bracelets)

The First Gala 1955

This is a photo essay about a gala occasion in 1955, when the George Eastman House, in Rochester, New York, held the first all-star gala and presentation of the George Eastman Awards. These awards for contributions to the art of film from 11915-1925, were among the first to honor the great artists of early motion pictures, including actors, directors, and cameramen. The occasion was prestigious, and everyone who could attended the ceremonies. West Coast dwellers were flown east to upper New York state and put up in an elegant hotel, as the actual ceremonies took a couple of days. There were hugely appreciated screenings of the works of the honorees in the large theater that is part of the George Eastman House complex, an awards ceremony, and a formal party afterwards. Here are some photos which give the general feeling of the occasion:

Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd share a joke

Buddy Rogers and Mary Pickford attend the gala

Mary Pickford accepts her award from Jesse Lasky as Lillian Gish observes

Honorees who attended in 1955 included Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Harold Lloyd, Mae Marsh, Richard Barthelmess, directors Marshall Neilan and Frank Borzage, cameramen Hal Rossen and Arthur Edson. Charlton Heston accepted the award for Cecil B. deMille. Norma Talmadge and Ronald Colman were unable to attend due to illness; Gloria Swanson and Charles Chaplin were out of the country.

The George Eastman Theater

Mary Pickford spoke at some length, with personal recollections and anecdotes about her fellow winners. And apparently everyone had a fine time; Buster Keaton mentioned the trip to Rochester in an interview later, saying, "They treated us marvelous there!"

The Second Gala - 1957

The next ceremony was held in 1957, citing film artists for their contributions to film from 1926-1930. Some of the same accomplished artists were, naturally, honored again. But before any of the planned events got underway, citizens of Rochester, New York might have had a little trouble believing their eyes. Because a plane load of Golden Age stars coming in from California was delayed by several hours, and when the reception committee finally met them at the airport it was two  o'clock in the morning. And none of them had had anything to eat since about 7 p.m. the previous day. A frantic search was undertaken for any restaurant that might be open at that hour in Rochester in October. They found one -- a White Castle.
Right to Left: James Card (film curator), Maurice Chevalier, Frank Borzage, and Ramon Novarro eat at White Castle

At 2 a.m.on a very chilly October night Maurice Chevalier stopped in a White Castle for a bite
I hope some unsuspecting citizens saw them, and have been wondering ever since!

Harold Lloyd was ready with a hand held camera when Chevalier and the ladies arrived for the luncheon!

Lloyd, Pickford, Gaynor, Gish, Chevalier

The occasion was even more elaborate and celebratory; on the schedule were a luncheon,  screenings, a festival dinner, and a more personal awards ceremony. The master of ceremonies was the great director Rouben Mamoulian, who had prepared something to say about each recipient; and each one in turn had prepared remarks.

Richard Barthelmess accepted both his own award, and one for his close friend Ronald Colman, who was too ill to attend, but sent a note saying, in part, "Congratulations. However, with John Barrymore, Emil Jannings, Leslie Howard, and John Gilbert having left us, it becomes increasingly simple for us to win one of these citations. All we have to do is merely stay alive."

Richard Barthelmess, Harold Lloyd, James Wong Howe, Arthur Edson, and William Daniels

The official group photo, above:
Front Row:  Peverell Marley, Harold Lloyd, Gloria Swanson, Lillian Gish, Janet Gaynor, Mary Pickford
Middle Row: Josef Von Sternberg, Arthur Edeson, Richard Barthelmess, James Wong Howe, Ramon Novarro, William Daniels
Back Row: Lee Garmes, Frank Borzage, Charles Rosher, Maurice Chevalier

Then off to the party:

They Had Faces Then 

These seems to have been lovely occasions for everyone -- people who had known each other so well and worked together every day met again for the first time in years. There were a lot of tears and laughs. What strikes me, on looking at the photo above, is how expressive these faces are, still!

NOTE 1: The signs in the window of the White Castle read, "Boston Style Bsked Beans, Piping Hot from the Big Pot! 15 cents", "Cheeseburger with Melted Cheese 30 cents", and "Hamburger 100% Pure Beef, 20 cents", followed by "Butterscotch Ice Cream."

NOTE 2: Gloria Swanson wore her famous Cartier diamond bracelets, which could be worn as two bracelets, one on each wrist, or doubled on one arm:

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