Friday, May 21, 2010

Anita Garvin

I was just reading The Silent Movie Blog and saw a recently posted production still of Anita Garvin with "Wheezer" Hutchins from Our Gang.  Anita started as a Ziegfeld Girl and appeared in 93 films from 1924 to 1940. 

My favorite role of hers was in the 1927 Laurel and Hardy silent, The Battle of the Century.  (Amazon has it on a DVD collection at The Lost Films of Laurel & Hardy: The Complete Collection, Vol. 9.)  The movie is basically a gigantic pie fight.  Every possible situation for getting hit by a pie was used, and I have been told that the entire day's baking from the pie supplier was used just for this film.  Near the end of the film, Anita has the misfortune to slip on a banana peel, landing her backside right in a pie that was on the sidewalk.  She gets up, and as she walks away from the camera, she lifts her leg and gives it a shake.  It must have been quite a shot to make.  As I remember, her dress flipped up when she went down, so the pie got her bottom under the dress. 

I had the pleasure of spending some time with Anita and her husband, Red Stanley.  Back in the 1980s, Anita was invited to several Sons of the Desert functions, including the 1986 international convention in Valley Forge, PA.  We all spoke with her at length, and she was always ready with stories about the film industry.

She told us that she was doing a silent part with Cecil B. DeMille.  The only C. B. DeMille movie she was in was in 1929 called Dynamite.  Anita told us that she played a waif, but I have never seen this one.  In one scene she was standing in the snow and DeMille told her to cry.  She didn't know how to cry on cue.  DeMille instructed the cameraman to keep rolling, and he walked up to Anita.  He looked her straight in the eye and said, "Cool as a cucumber."  At that moment, Anita KNEW her acting career was over, and she started crying!  She said the tears were rolling and just wouldn't stop!  C.B. got his shot, and everyone was happy in the end.

Anita stopped acting after 1940 and she was eventually tracked down by film buffs only to become popular again.  She passed away in 1994.  I will treasure my memory of meeting her.  I may have some pics at home.  When I get some time, I will dig them out, scan them, and try to post them here.

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