Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Theodore Le Berthon (1892-1960)-Part Five

As a journalist, activist, and contributor to Catholic magazines, Theodore Le Berthon shared  his father's crusading ways. He was educated in the Catholic schools of Los Angeles. At the time of his marriage in Los Angeles in 1917, he was editor of the Orange (California) Daily StarAs of 1919, he worked at the Strand Theater in San Francisco, which was then only two years old and part of Sid Grauman's chain of theaters. (The Strand Theater reopened in 2015 after years of disuse.) In an article from 1920, Le Berthon was described as a former newspaperman with the San Francisco Post and the Los Angeles Evening Herald, as an employee of the publicity office of Famous Players-Lasky, and after that in the publicity office for Grauman's theaters. The same article suggests that he had begun his career with the Imperial Theatre in San Francisco, which opened in 1912 and was sold by Grauman's in 1919. 

Bruno David Ussher, the author of that 1920 article in Pacific Coast Musical Review, wrote: "[Ted Le Berthon] is regarded as one of the most able men among his profession." Despite that or maybe because of it, he resigned his position with Grauman's theaters in September 1920 in support of musical conductor Arthur Kay, who stepped down because of artistic differences with Sid Grauman. Le Berthon was in good company: organist Jesse Crawford resigned with him, also in support of Kay. (1, 2) 

After leaving the employ of Sid Grauman, Ted Le Berthon did publicity work for King Vidor and the Balaban & Katz theaters. In about 1921-1922, he served as editor of The Photodramatist. According to The Internet Movie Database, he wrote the titles for Arizona Wildcat (1927) starring Tom Mix. His connections to the movie business landed him interviews with Lupe Velez, Evelyn Brent, Charlie Chaplin, and other movie stars. His only story for Weird Tales, "Demons of the Film Colony" (Oct. 1932), came from his witnessing the first meeting between Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi at Universal City in March 1932. "For ten years," Le Berthon wrote in his introduction to the tale, "I have been writing about the activities of the motion picture colony for what are known as the 'fan' magazines." "Demons of the Film Colony" reads like a story from a movie fan magazine except for the macabre twist at the end. That twist seemed specially made for the Weird Tales crowd.  

I wonder now whether Theodore Le Berthon and Farnsworth Wright (1888-1940) knew or were acquainted with each other. Born in the same city four years apart, they were both journalists and publicity men. Both were also part of the cultural scene in San Francisco, even if Wright had vacated his home state in about 1920. As editor of Weird Tales, Wright seems to have recruited writers from California, perhaps in two groups, a San Francisco group and a Los Angeles group. Le Berthon called both cities home. In any event, you can read "Demons of the Film Colony," see photographs of the meeting between Karloff and Lugosi, and read the story behind the story at Vampire Over London: The Bela Lugosi Blog by Andy Brooks, April 7, 2015, here. Le Berthon's story has been reprinted several times since its initial publication in Weird Tales.

To be continued . . .

Notes
(1) Composer, conductor, and musical director Arthur Kay (1881-1969) went on to work in movies, including on Westerns, adventure films, and at least two titles based on comic strips, Tailspin Tommy (1934) and Dick Tracy (1937). Jesse Crawford (1895-1962), the "Poet of the Organ," is more well remembered. He played at the Chicago World's Fair in 1934, the same venue where Barbara Rockefeller was crowned Miss Lithuania. In later years, he made a number of records which you can sometimes still find at the secondhand store. 
(2) You can read the full story in "Arthur Key Resigns from Grauman's in Los Angeles" by Bruno David Ussher, Pacific Coast Musical Review, Sept. 25, 1920, p. 4, here.

"Demons of the Film Colony" by Theodore Le Berthon was reprinted in The Frankenscience Monster, edited by Forrest J Ackerman (Ace, 1969). The cover art is signed, but it's too small for me to read.

It appeared again in The Frankenstein Omnibus, edited by Peter Haining and published in 1994.

And previously in The Frankenstein File (1977), also from Haining. I don't know who created the cover art. Being an artist, I'm biased, but I like an art cover more than a photo cover.

Text and captions copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley

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