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"The Devil's Claim," "When Dawn Came," and "Dinty"

The film The Bleeder was released under the title The Devil's Claim, and in it Colleen played Indira, a young Persian woman; a more exotic background for her character than usual, though she pulled it off. The film was produced by Hayworth Pictures Corporation, Sessue Hayakawa's own company, with its offices on the corner of Sunset and Hollywood Boulevard; after years of being shunted into stereotypical Asian roles, Sessue had formed his company to have control over his own material and productions. The film was released in early May, 1920. Just prior to its release, she has appeared as the blind girl Mary Harrison in When Dawn Came. Though, blind, she is given sight the hero, who has fallen in love with her. The film was a Hugh E. Dierker Photo Drama Production. Though technically working for Al Christie, he was more than happy to let her pursue her career.

Towards those ends, in the three months after The Devil’s Claim had been released, director Marshall Neilan had begun a campaign to get Al Christie to release Colleen and go to work for him. The handsome actor-turned-director had made a name working with Mary Pickford, directing her in several films including Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and The Little Princess in 1917, plus Stella Maris, Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley, M'Liss in 1918, and Daddy-Long-Legs in 1919. In 1920 he had formed Marshall Neilan Productions and made feature-length, most of them distributed through First National Pictures.

First National had started life in 1917 as First National Exhibitors' Circuit, an association of independent theater owners that expanded from mere exhibition to distribution of movies. In 1919 they reincorporated as Associated First National Pictures, Inc.


Marshall Neilan

At top, Colleen with Sessue Hayakawa in The Devil's Claim, and above, director of Dinty and The Lotus Eaters
“Mickey,” as he was known, decided he wanted to team Colleen with Wes Barry, the freckle-faced child star, in his production of Dinty. It was a good deal for Colleen, a high-profile production. Al Christie, who Colleen would later write had become sweet on her, told her it was the lucky break she was waiting for. He told her she should take the offer.

She did. However, Colleen had been hard at work for month, almost non-stop, as was pointed out by Grace Kingsley who wrote in the September 1920 Los Angeles Times that “Colleen can’t get a break.” Without missing a beat, another offer came her way: “Although she signed with Neilan and will begin work in a month, film director King Vidor decided nobody but Colleen would do as costar in his upcoming film opposite David Butler, prevailed upon Neilan to loan her out. …Miss Moore is going to work as a Vidor star beginning next week, instead of partying around with a certain handsome dark young man.”


Above: Colleen in Dinty.

In a few days Vidor’s company would leave for Big Bear, and then after that they were scheduled to leave for Canada. In what spare time she had, presumably while not out with the unnamed “handsome dark young man,” Colleen kept up her studies: French, Shakespeare, horseback riding, and she had plans to take up classic dance with Theodore Kosloff.

So Long Letty was released in October 1920, and while colleen appears tense in many scenes (almost afraid at some of the antics going on around her, although that could have been part of her characterization) her comic timing can be seen getting better. The film was adapted for an Oliver Moresco comedy/musical play that had been a hit a year or so earlier, the play itself an adaptation of a play just a few years earlier called Thy Neighbor’s Wife.A month and a half later Dinty was released to critical praise. Mickey Nielan was a fun man to be around; a happy-go-lucky Irishman with a tremendous sense of humor, quick wit, and appetite for partying that rivaled nearly anyone else’s. He was generous 
with the people who worked for him, quick to throw a party, and had absolutely no concept of how to save money. The cash flowed out of his pockets like they had holes in them. In spite of his faults, Colleen would always have a soft spot for him.

"Their Dressing Rooms"

Above, a clipping from Photoplay, November 1920, vol. 18, no. 6, page 74.