15 March 2007

Hopalong and Pancho

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Recently, I posted some mystery photographs found in the Pancho Barnes Trust Estate Archive, featuring Pancho on the set of an unknown movie. Well, Carl Bennett, who is the editor of the very cool website www.silentera.com , took a look at the photos. His conclusion? The actor in the photo is Sessue Hayakawa, one of the most famous Japanese-American stars of the silent era. He frequently worked with famed directors Cecil B. Demille and King Vidor. Carl Bennett noted that the actress in the South Seas costume could actually be Vidor's wife, Florence. Hayakawa and Vidor made the following films together, and perhaps this still is from one of them: Hashimura Togo (1917), The Secret Game (1917), The Bravest Way (1918), The Hidden Pearls (1918), The Honor of His House (1918), The White Man's Law (1918).

In her lifetime, Pancho Barnes was affilated with a number of actors and actresses. She was good friends with director and actor Erich von Stroheim, flew with gleaming bright star Ramon Novarro, and once rescued Duncan Reynaldo ('The Cisco Kid') from the clutches of the U.S. Immigration Service. One actor she had a lifelong friendship with was William Boyd, better known to most as Hopalong Cassidy. Before he was Hopalong, however, Boyd tried hard to be a real leading man. One of his major roles was in "The Flying Fool", a cute cherry tomato of a picture. Boyd plays a brother who tries to protect his sibling from falling in love with a girl who he believes may be trying to take advantage of him. Of course, he ends up falling in love with her himself! The movie featured quite a bit of flying, and Pancho got a job working on it as a technical director.

The flying stunt crew on the movie included Frank Clarke, one of Pancho's good friends and quite simply one of the best stunt fliers of his generation. (In the photo at right, Clarke is the second from right, and Boyd appears to his right wearing the black sweater.) Pancho was apparently thrilled with the picture and her role in making it. When a banquet was held for the participants in the 1929 Powder Puff Derby all-women's air race in San Bernardino, "The Flying Fool" was shown as part of the evening's entertainment.