I read silent movie title cards and letter insert shots faster than most people in the audience do. I have to, so I get the meat of the info before the audience does, so I can stay ahead of things. This gives me extra time to look at the periphery in a newspaper insert. It’s usually nothing of interest, but I got quite a surprise one time.
It may be that the items on either side of the main story being shown in an insert are grabbed arbitrarily by whoever in the graphics department was mocking up the headline and typesetting the fake story for the film’s plot. Anything that was handy or recently used. Usually what you see is the fictional headline and story and image stuck into a current newspaper page.
Image my surprise when this image hit the screen when I was preparing to play for Her Night of Romance (1924) starring Constance Talmadge:
Maybe it didn’t catch your eye. But take a look at the fellow on the left side of the page. You may think “Wait…I’ve seen that guy before.” Just like the cop played by Noah Young does in Safety Last (1923).
I paused the video screener when I hit this image, and pulled up the scene I was thinking of from Harold Lloyd’s infamous building climb thrill comedy. It was a match. It’s Bill Strother, who was known as “the human spider” and who plays Lloyd’s buddy and roommate.
It’s the same photo, in fact, that’s in the newspaper insert in Safety Last, as you can see from the frame grab above.
What fascinates me is how this happened, and I haven’t the faintest idea.
The Talmadge film was released 18 months after the Lloyd one. Was this supposed to be an inside joke? Maybe just for the guy who put this together? Of all the elements and photos that could have been used for the shot, why this photo? Was it just lying around and was the first thing grabbed out of a folder? Did Harold Lloyd spot this in the shot when he saw the film? Did Bill Strothers?
I’m sure whoever put this newspaper mockup together for the Connie Talmadge picture never figured anyone was going to spot this 90 years later.
Her Night of Romance and Her Sister From Paris starring Constance Talmadge were released on DVD in 2010 by Kino. The disc is out of print, but copies turn up on Amazon.