Archives for category: silent movies

Our diarist and her Mama sewed so much for the coming baby, and themselves, that their eyes ached!  It must have invigorating, to say the least, to leave their stuffy rooms for the cold streets of downtown Missoula in search of food, friends, and after-Christmas sales.

“Sat. Jan. 21.

I emb. most all day for a.m.

Mama cut out a few new garments in p.m.  I went down stairs and looked for emb. patterns part of p.m.  Mama felt so bum & her head ached so much we layed down a little while then went down town for an airing.

Mrs Muckler & Virginia also Mrs. Nelson & Esther called in Evening.

My Dr. came also but late.  I had toast & soft egg for B. a little rice, potator & venison cooked fine together for dinner & Oatmeal for supper.

Alway milk to drink.”

Missoula probably seemed like a big town to her, but it numbered only 12,688 souls in 1920 (two years before).  Even today we haven’t hit the 67,000 mark yet.  Image

This shot facing north along the Higgins Bridge shows the city ran on steam heat–note the smokestacks.  The riverbanks, now Caras Park, were weedy lots that probably flooded every spring–the Corps of Engineers hadn’t built the levees yet.  The beloved Wilma Theatre, where our diarist may have gone to see a silent movie, shows its familiar pale beige side, and telephone line spaghetti is much in evidence.

See the streetcar?  Missoula pioneered the one-man operated trolley (first in the U.S.!)  I could swear that the narrow walkways on either side haven’t changed: there is still only room enough for two (not very chubby) people to squeeze past each other.  But it keeps us Missoulians friendly.

To travel back in time and hear a bit of city life in the 1920s, check out this wonderful audio project featured on  Yes, New York was a little bit bigger — but it gives you the feel.

Sexy 1920s Kimono modelled by Louise Brooks

When I was little I wanted to look just like silent screen star Louise Brooks, the “Kansas Cleopatra.” Isn’t she just the ‘bees knees’ in this kimono? I wonder if Mama had this glamor shot in mind when designing her own handmade version.

Photo from a neat blog on antique fashion, check it out:

Heart-throb Herbert Rawlins: 1920s Leading Man of the Silent Era

Have you ever heard of this movie star? Me neither. But maybe he made our diarist’s heart beat a little faster that cold night of January 11, 1922.

I like picturing her in the dark theatre (perhaps the Empress or the Wilma (both on Higgins St., you can still watch movies in the Wilma today)– holding her cowboy husband’s hand and munching popcorn.

Well, our diary writer is quite busy over the next few days, walking miles (pregnant and all) in search of a nice apartment to have her baby.  She is also spending some time with her husband Jay before he heads back to the ranch.  Mama is considerately staying with friends to give them some ‘alone time.’  Including a movie date!

“Tue. Jan. 10      1922

We went and looked at some rooms & then had breakfast. Went from there up to Nelsons & there J. & Mr. Nelson took a scout around looking for housekeeping rooms. Had dinner there then Mr. N Jay Mom & I about walked our shoes down looking for rooms. The men found in a.m. Went out to Randalls about 6:30 & stayed all night.

Not such a bright day but melting some.

Wed. Jan. 11.

Jay took the trunk & bedding down in a:m: & Mama & I just set around & visited with the Randalls until about five we loaded ourselves up & took possession of our new rooms. Jay & I went to the show in the evening ‘Cheated Hearts’ and Mr. & Mrs. Nelson came up & Mama went home with them & spent the night.”

Cheated Hearts was a silent movie made the previous year (yep, it took awhile for new releases to ride the train out here to Montana movie theaters) starring Herbert Rawlinson.  The plot is classic, corny silent movie-era, below synopsis is courtesy of with commentary inserted by me:

Protagonist Barry Gordon (Rawlinson) has inherited a love of drink from his father. Because of this, he gives up his girl, Muriel Beekman to his brother, Tom, and goes to Paris. (Kinda like handing over your favorite dog, eh?)   But then he finds out that brother Tom is missing in Morocco, so he goes to search for him.  Muriel and her father are in Morocco too of course, and she tells Barry she always loved him best (again with the dog analogy). So they wed, and Barry discovers that his brother is being held for ransom. Barry offers up all his money, and himself, for his brother’s release, and is accepted. A native girl, however (thank goodness for those Native Girls!) helps him to escape and although he gets lost in the desert, he is eventually able to return to Muriel. Somewhere along the way, apparently, he has conquered his taste for booze, so everyone lives happily ever after.