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"The Busher," "The Wilderness Trail," 1919 and Christie Comedies

Once again the simple country boy would be fighting for the heart of the wholesome Colleen. The film was the
Egg Crate Wallop. (Charles Ray, as Jim Kelly, in photo to left, is at the left of the image, end of the counter; Colleen as Kitty Haskell is in the center.) The year 1919 would be a busy one for Colleen. She was in a raft of films released that year, including The Busher, released in May, The Wilderness Trail released on July 19th, The Man in the Moonlight, released on July 28, The Egg Crate Wallop in September and Common Property in October.It was reported that Colleen would support Charles Ray in an upcoming boxing film. Charles Ray was a popular film comedian, often cast as the simple country boy. The audiences couldn't get enough of him.

Colleen worked with western star Tom Mix on the Fox film The Wilderness Trail in Flagstaff, Arizona, again, the damsel in distress. Mix had taken a liking to Colleen’s mother while Colleen had taken a liking 
 o the star herself. Two months after The Busher, The Wilderness Trail was released and followed two weeks later by The Man in the Moonlight from Universal. Finally The Egg Crate Wallop with Charles Ray was released, another H. Ince Productions-Famous Players Lasky-American picture.

Between The Man in the Moonlight and The Egg Crate Wallop, in August during her first break in nearly half a year, the August 17th Los Angeles Times reported in “Just Can’t Vacation” that “two long-term contracts have been submitted to her (Colleen), both attractive, and she will sign one in the next few days.” The two companies vying for her attention were not mentioned in the article, but possibly they were the Christie Film Company and Mack Sennett. Both companies produced comedies, and in Silent Star that she had decided to try and get some comedy experience.

Sennett was the king of comedy in those days, cranking them out like a factory, slapstick stuff that appealed to the masses. His bathing beauties did not hurt the draw much either. If she wanted to work for Sennett, she would have to put in a stretch as a bathing beauty. Christie Comedies were more high-brow. She did not think of herself as eye-candy, and she wrote that when her grandmother found out she'd have to parade around on film in a bathing suit, she laid down the law. Of the two, Colleen settled for Christie Film Company. She was in front of the camera before the end of the year.

"The Busher"

Above Colleen in The Busher.

Christie Comedies

It was while she was making Christie comedies that Colleen would begin to develop the comic timing that would later become her hallmark. While editing has always been important for the overall pacing of films, the timing of the actor is still vital. Even when she was simply the foil for the featured comedians (especially in Her Bridal Nightmare), a shot could still be ruined by a reaction that did not come at the correct moment, or did not seem genuine.

The Christie Studio

Corner of Gower and Sunset, with Sunset Boulevard in the foreground and Gower Street at right, photo by Witzel. From Los Angeles Public Library. http://catalog1.lapl.org/cgi-bin/cw_cgi?fullRecord+17032+968+20936+2+0
The studio was owned and run by brothers Charles and Al, both Canadians who had come south to make their fortunes in the fledgling film industry of California. Charles Christie was the business administrator of their film company while Al was the creative end, writing directing. Working at David Horsley's Centaur Film Company, Al Christie cut his chops turning out single-reeler Mutt and Jeff films, one a week. By 1916 they had done well enough to establish their own production company and with his brother specialized in short comedies and feature length films. Colleen had gone to Charles and explained that she needed comic training. Never one to turn away an obviously talented young actress, they reached a verbal agreement for a salary of $200 a week, plus the right to make films outside the company, keeping any salary she made over $200 a week for herself. When she worked for Al Christie, she got her first really big breaks.

The first two films for Christie to be released were A Roman Scandal, and Her Bridal Nightmare, released at the end of January. The day after Her Bridal Nightmare was released the Chicago Daily Tribune reported: “Colleen Moore, "the cunning youngster," will play opposite Sessue Hayakawa in his coming release The Bleeder.”The next film for Christie, His Nibs, paired her with Charles “Chic” Sales. It was an Exceptional Pictures production released by the "His Nibs" Syndicate and in the film comedian Chic Sales played multiple roles: Theo. Bender, Wally "His Nibs" Craw, Mr. Percifer, Elmer Bender and several others.
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