An archive of articles on the silent era of world cinema.
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WHEN you see “Blazing Love,” the William Fox feature, presenting Virginia Pearson, a tiny little mite of a girl with remarkable eyes will catch and hold your attention.
This youngster is Miriam Battista, who was born in New York on July 14, 1912, and therefore has just passed her fourth birthday. Miriam of the wonderful eyes is the grand-daughter of an archbishop. Her father, Raphael Battista, was born in Oliveto Citra, Italy, in the very shadow of the Olivetan monastery, and was related to many of the famous personalities of that neighborhood. Her mother, Clara Rufolo, is a Neapolitan who was educated in the convent of Regina Coeli, taught school for three years, and is related to many old Neapolitan families of noble blood.
This youngster, her two little brothers and the parents of the three are in many respects typical of the vast army of Italians who are being absorbed into the fabric of American life and boiled down into a uniform stock in the great melting pot.
If you follow the fortunes of the Battistas before Miriam came, and since, you will find them living and working hard in various parts of New Jersey, in Waterbury, Conn., in Brooklyn, in Staten Island and in various parts of New York City. You will see them come to join the father who had gone overseas from Italy ahead of them; rise from humble lodgings to better lodgings, and finally make the whitest and loveliest of little homes for themselves under the direction of an energetic mother.
And then you, the great public, out in the near and far parts of the world, suddenly see this youngster simultaneously through the medium of motion pictures. She first appeared with Jack Barrymore in a Famous Player’s [sic] production; she worked in pictures with Lillian Tucker and Hazel Dawn, and her rich, dark and unusual eyes attracted such attention that she was picked to play the baby part with Virginia Pearson in “Blazing Love.” If you ask little Miriam what she will be when she grows up, she will answer: “I don’t want to get big, so my mother won’t grow old.” Then she will add: “I don’t mind if my brothers will get big, for they will help my father.” Before long you doubtless will see little Miss Battista working in other pictures.
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Kittens Reichert is six and a half years old. She comes nearer to being an actual motion picture star than any other child of her age, or anywhere near it, now known in screenland.
As a glance at her photograph will reveal, if you have for the moment forgotten how she looked on the screen, this little girl who earns a great big salary every week in the years is remarkably beautiful.
She is the only girl we ever heard of who went for the entire first year of her life without a name.
Her parents decided that it might not be a bad idea to have her christened by the name they liked best.
Therefore, “Kittens” it is; not as a nickname or pet name, but an honest to goodness name for all time.
Little Miss Reichert first stepped into picture fame with William Fox.
She knows of nothing that could possibly interest her so much as acting with William Farnum, Dorothy Bernard or Theda Bara, and she has acted with all of them in parts that were not subordinated very much because of her age.
Kittens, in addition to being a player of winsomeness and charm, is skilled in the technical side of picture-making; an unusual type of knowledge that a child would not be expected to have. She can “make-up” perfectly, and requires the assistance of no other person.
During the scene in which she does not appear she will stand on the sidelines in the studio close to Director Vincent, Director Apfel or Director Davis, and, with one eye aslant, will study the make-up of some new player doing his first “bit” in a picture. And before you know it she has cuddled up close to the director and tipped him off to a careless or inexperienced bit of make-up which might, in the rush, bet by and into the picture, necessitating a retake later on.
Mother Reichert, of course, attends this young lady at the studio regularly for purposes of guardianship and education. Miss Kittens goes to the studio with her school bag, pencils, slate and sponge just as other young ladies of her age go into second grade division of the public schools.
Between scenes this youngster does all of the things in educational life that any child is called upon to do.
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Jane and Katherine Lee, the two kiddies who play important parts in “A Daughter of the Gods,” are shining examples of just what genius a child may posess and still remain just a child.
These two children Jane, only four, and Katherine, just six have ability that is absolutely staggering to the average person. Jane has been pronounced a most marvelous child actress. She is fearless, she has an elfin comprehension of “stunts” that is amazing and a true dramatic sense.
Katherine profits, of course, by her two years additional experience. She is an uncanny mimic, a comedienne of the first rank, and goes through her work with the matter-of-fact calm of a seasoned thespian.
In spite of all this these children romp like little Indians when they’re at play. They have the same worship of dolls and futile little games that a child who has never heard of a theatre possesses.
Jane and Katherine Lee are loved, not because they are unusual children, but because they are natural children, with a store of little charms and ways of showing affection. Mrs. Lee has said that the secret of her success in keeping the children unspoiled is that at home she deliberately counteracts any effect that might prove harmful to the beautiful, simple characters they have.
Mrs. Lee has inbred in them an infinite pity for those who have less of this world’s goods than they have.
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The World Film Corporation has a little star in its fold who has rapidly been forging into prominence. Baby Lorna is only three and a half years old, but she is known the length of Broadway as the cutest baby in the big city, and whether she goes into a store, an office building or just walks along the street, Baby Lorna is sure to create a sensation.
You see, she has already worked, or played, through at least a dozen big feature productions. She has been starred with Julia Dean in “The Ransom,” with Margarita Fischer in “The Dragon,” played a very important role with Jane Grey in “The Surrender,” and was the child in the Bruce McRae-Gerda Holmes picture, “The Chain Invisible.”
She can talk, dance, sing, play the piano and violin, cry, play doll and play dead with equal ease and grace. She doesn’t have to be pinched when the director calls for a stream of tears to roll down her chubby little cheeks, for she is emotional, dramatically emotional, and feels her roles as deeply as do the grownup stars. Besides her great work in motion pictures, she appeared at several all-star benefit performances at the leading New York theatres during the past season. Her greatest triumph on the speaking stage was at the New York Hippodrome, where she recited an appealing and appropriate poem at the Newsboys’ benefit before an audience of over 10,000, the New York papers considering her the biggest hit of the evening. In real life she is known as Lorna Volare, but to the profession she is just “Baby Lorna.”
This article originally appeared in Moving Picture Stories, July 28, 1916, Volume VIII, Number 187, pages 26-27.