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Hollywood Arrival and "The Bad Boy"

When Kathleen’s train arrived in Los Angeles in November of 1916, she stepped off the train as 14 year-old convent student turned aspiring actress named Colleen Moore. Her uncle Walter had warned her before the trip that Hollywood was a land of strange creatures called “press agents,” whose job it is to spin fanciful tales about her background. He warned her not to believe them, but she wrote that he eventually became so enamored of spinning his fabricated tale for her that he came to believe it himself.

Colleen, as she was now professionally known, and her grandmother and mother, were met at the station by Mrs. Brown, whose son Karl would later write Adventures with D. W. Griffith (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973). Mrs. Brown, her son Karl wrote, was a cross between official greeter and enforcement officer, whose job it was to make sure there was no hanky-panky on the lot.

Colleen and her grandmother moved into a bungalow on Fountain Street, a few short blocks from the Babylon sets of Intolerance, which had been left to decay. A young director named King Vidor wrote that he had managed to sneak his way onto the set and watch Griffith at work, in search of inspiration. She would walk to the studios in the mornings with Carmel Meyers. 

The Bad Boy

Colleen's new contract was with Triangle Fine Arts, but already the studio was in trouble; Birth of a Nation had been a resounding success, but criticism that the film was racist was stinging to Griffith. He set out to produce his own answer to the critics. Griffith sank a fortune into Intolerance, and made very little back. Although Triangle had little to do with the production of the film, the fate of Intolerance seemed to spill over onto the studio. Intolerance was a big, complicated film, more akin to an art experiment in its editing than anything the public was used to at the time. Legal problems kept Griffith out of California and away from the studio, and in March he and Lillian Gish sail off to England to make Hearts of the World. Though supposedly "discovered" by Griffith, she would not actually meet him until after working for the studio.

The Bad Boy
was her first film at Triangle Fine Arts; she played Ruth, a sophisticated city girl. Mildred Harris, soon to be Mrs. Charles Chaplin, was the leading lady. Some of the film, maybe Colleen's part, was shot in Sawtelle, a small town between Hollywood and the ocean, at the Soldier’s Home, a complex of red-roofed, double-storied buildings with ornate copulas and open galleries that were reminiscent of old Southern mansions. It was the perfect location for a film set in the south. Released on February 18th, it featured Robert Harron (who had been in Intolerance and Birth of a Nation), Richard Cummings, Josephine Crowell, and Mildred Harris (who would later become Charles Chaplin’s first wife). Two months later it was followed by An Old Fashioned Young Man, again with Robert Harron.