Tuesday, February 10, 2009

So - who was this guy, Romaine Fielding?

So - who was this guy, Romaine Fielding?
  • a) The most popular film actor in America.
  • b) A film pioneer, who built the first collapsible stage and the first lighting system for night cinematography.
  • c) The director of the longest, most expensive film ever made
How about all of the above. If the year were 1913, that would be the answer to today's little quiz.

It seems that my post the other day caught the attention of at least one reader.

David Lindblom dashed off a note and e-mailed it to me. It was my second connection with a documentary film maker in the last few months.

Hello Ron,

I read this morning your blog entry on the film "Rich Slave" and it is full of fascinating information on Romaine Fielding about whom I am researching a documentary film. Can you possibly share with me your source for Fielding's military service and WWI war involvement.
Little did I know that Fielding's activities between 1917 and the mid 20's are, to at least some degree, a mystery.

Because of David's e-mail, I did a little Internet research.

Fielding's story is indeed fascinating.

A genealogy site supplied this detailed, "Just the Facts" rundown of one Willam Grant Blandin
WILLIAM GRANT BLANDIN was born on 22 May 1868 in Mitchell Co., IA.

He married Icylene L. Richards, daughter of Joseph Richards and Elmiray (--?--), circa 1891.

He married Florene Mabel VanValkenburg, daughter of Noah C. VanValkenburg and Anna B. Layman, on 30 Jul 1907.

He married Niomi Mary Lillian Sachs, daughter of William P. Sachs and Florence Buchanan, on 2 Dec 1918 in Anniston, AL.

He died on 15 Dec 1927 in Los Angeles, Los Angeles Co., CA, at age 59. He was buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, Los Angeles Co., CA; plot: Masonic (section M), L-182.

On 1891 his name was legally changed to ROYAL A. BLANDIN. His name was legally changed to ROMANZO A. BLANDIN. His name was legally changed to ROMAINE FIELDING. He appeared on the census of 1 Jun 1900 in Fall River Township, Wilson Co., KS; age 32. He lived in Klondike Region, AK; After death of William T. Blandin.
Following a "Looking for Mabel Normand" link, I learned more. Fielding, as he was known to movie goers, began his film career at the age of 43. According to the site, he performed in 73 films (only 8 of which were done after 1920), was screenwriter(or co-writer) for 28 productions, and director (or one assumes co-director) on 68 films. He was also a principle in the Lubin Film Company, created by one of the true pioneers of the motion picture industry - Siegmund Lubin. Sporting the slogan "Clear as a Bell" Lubin's films were known for their quality and clarity, and the company built a film empire consisting of numerous theaters and nickelodeons and satellite studios around the country.

In 1914, an explosion and fire destroyed the negatives for Lubin productions. World War I impacted foreign distribution of films and cut off a large source of revenue for the company. On September 1, 1917, Lubin Film closed its doors forever.

Fielding continued to work, starring in "The Desert Rat", a 1917 production credited to Bison Motion Pictures, and directing "For the Freedom of the World", a war drama for S&M Film Company, and "Moral Courage", " "The Crimson Dove" and "Youth" for Peerless Productions all in 1917 according to information on found in the Internet Movie Database.

Then, Fielding disappears from sight until 1920. He returned as part of the cast for "A Woman's Man" for Screencraft Productions, followed by "The Rich Slave", discussed in my earlier posting.

For 15 years, a lead to this question stood filed in my basement.

On December 15, 1927, according to the New York Times, he died, caused by infection following the extraction of a tooth.

The LA Times obit
abstract states:
A screen come-back which had every promise of retrieving the fame and fortune which were his in the pioneer days of motion pictures was halted yesterday with the sudden death of Romaine Fielding...
Linblom wonders
Was there ever a connection between the Keatons and Fielding?

Are there letters and or scrapbooks saved by the families Fielding may have interacted with in and around the Lakes Region?
"Everywhere he went he made a big impression on locals" states Linblom. "He relied heavily on his charisma to make things happen."

Anyone like a good mystery?

1 comment:

Looking-for-Mabel said...

Romaine Fielding is one of my guilty pleasures, he has nothing to do with Mabel Normand but I just love the letters he wrote to his fans… I posted some more material about him with a few articles that were written about his sojourn in New Mexico, it is a long post but I wanted to share what I found about him with you… so I included, a John Armijo article; a Robert Nott article; a Linda Kowall Woal article and a few that were written while Romaine was still around…here is a link to the new material the 2007 post is in Off Topic…. http://looking-for-mabel.webs.com/romainefielding2011.htm