Statue at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale California, 2011

Statue at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale California, 2011

Something a little different this week for my Lost & Found blog - I don't talk about it so often here, but when I'm not being a photographer, sometimes I'm spending my time researching a silent-era film producer / director / actor from New Zealand, by the name of Rupert Julian.

I stumbled across the story of Rupert some ten years ago (or more, come to think of it), when I was watching the 1943 Phantom of the Opera DVD with the alternate audio commentary track on - y'know, as you do. A historian by the name of Scott MacQueen was talking about the production, and just threw in as a minor aside that 'of course, the 1925 silent version of the Phantom was directed by the son of a New Zealand sheep farmer - but that's a whole 'nother story!’

Rupert Julian on the set of Phantom Of The Opera, circa 1924 (courtesy of the Bison Archive)

Rupert Julian on the set of Phantom Of The Opera, circa 1924 (courtesy of the Bison Archive)

Naturally - having lived in New Zealand myself for several years by then - I was intrigued, but when I googled his name, there really wasn't very much information. A birthdate (which, weirdly, was the same as mine), country of origin, and a list of films. So, I started to ask around, and nobody else seemed to know anything about him, either.

Before I knew it, I was spending time in libraries and archives, trying to find out why this guy was so obscure in his homeland - I mean, he seemed to be something of a Peter Jackson of his time, directing one of the silent era's most famous films, and yet he was almost invisible in history.

Long story short (you can read more about him on his own site, of course!), in 2011 I was in LA, coming home from a visit to family in Toronto, and stopped off for a few days to research him there. Wow - did I ever hit the motherlode that trip!

Before I knew it, I'd found his grave, I'd talked to silent film researchers around the world, I'd found photos of him, visited his old house, been given scans of an entire archive of images from his work, and - most amazing of all - actually MET someone who was in one of his films!

Chatting with Carla Laemmle at her home in Los Angeles, 2011

Chatting with Carla Laemmle at her home in Los Angeles, 2011

Carla Laemmle - yes, the niece of 'Uncle Carl' Laemmle, founder of Universal - was 102 at the time, but scarcely seemed it. She'd been in the corps de ballet of the original, 1925, Phantom of the Opera, which Rupert directed, and starring Lon Chaney. Sadly (from a research perspective), she didn't remember much about Rupert himself - I mean, fair enough, I don't remember all that much about things I did when I was 14, either! But she was delightful and charming, and full of tales of her life on the Universal lot in the Twenties and Thirties.

But back to today's image - Rupert (spoiler alert) died in 1943, was cremated and interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. I decided to visit him there one afternoon, only to discover he shares a wing with (amongst others) Michael Jackson, so there's a bit of security around entering the building; but if you have a plausible reason to be visiting someone else, it's okay.

The buildings, frankly, are amazing - but what caught my eye inside was the sun striking this one statue, positioned at the intersection of two large halls. It wasn't a particularly large work, as you can see in the second image below, but the light on it was quite lovely. 

Statue at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale California, 2011

Statue at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale California, 2011

I had my little Fuji X-100 with me, so I took just a couple of images and moved on with my search - Rupert wasn't far away, so, I paid my respects to him & his wife, Elsie Jane Wilson, and left to research more...it was quite a whirlwind trip, and I'm glad to have a few images like this to show for it - as well as the mountains of research!

Comment