That’s a Wrap with the Christie Film Company, March 1921

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

This entry in the “That’s a Wrap” series highlighting film-related artifacts in the Homestead’s collection features (get it?) a press photograph from March 1921 taken at the Christie Film Company studio in Hollywood.

There was, apparently, a “golf bug” going around at the time and studio owner Al Christie, in the suit at the center, was with two other men, one of which at the left strikes a comic pose with a terrible grip on his club and a horrible stance for hitting a ball on a stage at the studio.

Al Christie Studios golf photo 1921

The gent on the right appears to be golf pro Roy Kober, who is mentioned in the caption on the reverse as a “pro” instructing Christie and two other men (although only the one posing is in the image) from the studio on the finer points of “the manly art.”  Kober, who was dressed in golf pants and is shown pointing at the fellow on the left, did play in the Southern California Open tournament at the Los Angeles Country Club the prior month.

As to the caption, it stated

Every director and half the actors in the Christie studio out in Los Angeles have been infected—by the golf bug.  Roy Kober is the “pro” who is instructing Al Christie, Bill Beaudine and Scott Sidney in the manly art which is sweeping America this year like a tidal wave.  Instead of calling for the actors to be “made up and on the set at nine”, the call has now gone out at least two days a week, “everybody at the first tee by 9 a.m.”

William Beaudine was an actor and director, who was assistant director for D.W. Griffith’s landmark films, Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916), worked for about a half-century in the industry, retiring in 1967 and dying three years afterward.  Scott Sidney was also an actor, mainly in vaudeville as well as in a few films, before he, too, turned to directing.  He was a minority owner in the Christie Film Company and perhaps that’s him in the awkward pose.  Sidney retired, but Charlie Chaplin’s brother Sydney, who achieved some renown as a comedian, lured him into directing a version of Charley’s Aunt in 1925.  Sidney died a few years later.

It was certainly the case that in the temperate climate of greater Los Angeles, golf became an enormously popular sport by the 1920s, with private clubs and public courses being completed throughout the region.  Locally, as noted in yesterday’s post, the Hacienda Golf Club was founded in 1920.  Walter P. Temple was a member of the recently created San Gabriel Country Club at about this time, as well.  Professional and amateur golf tourneys were getting more attention in the sports sections of local newspapers,  as well.

Al and Charles Christie, at the bottom, with their widowed mother and others from a Hollywood address in the 1920 census, with the brothers listed as “Motion Picture Proprietors.”

As for the Christie Film Company, it was the brainchild of the brother Al and Charles Christie, who hailed from London, Ontario, Canada.  Al got into the film business first, working from 1909 for the Centaur Film Company in Bayonne, New Jersey.  Two years later, he relocated to Hollywood to run Centaur’s subsidiary Nestor Film Company, which had Princess Mona Darkfeather (William and Nicolasa Workman’s granddaughter Josephine Workman) as one of its major stars.

Nestor, which opened the first studio in Hollywood, soon merged with Universal Film Company, a new firm started by Carl Laemmle.  Christie was tasked with running the comedy division of the new outfit and held the position for a few years.  In early 1916, he and his brother Charles created the Christie Film Company, which rented studio space from Universal at Hollywood Boulevard and Gower Street and initially made comedies for it.

In 1930, the Christies were living in a $300,000 home on Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills with their mother, family members and five servants.  Their next door neighbor was prominent actor Hobart Bosworth.  Within a few years, however, their film company went into receivership.

Soon, however, the Christies were making films for independent distribution.  They quickly found success in the burgeoning world of film comedy and were able to buy their own studio, adding to the stage space and enhancing production with a new lab.   While Al made the movies, Charles handled the business end.

Among the actors who started out with Christie were major comedians Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Harold Lloyd.  Actresses Marie Dressler and Marie Provost (also Canadians) also worked for the studio.  By 1922, Al and Charles Christie established a realty firm, as well.  By the end of decade, the Christies were also working with black performers. pioneering all-black cast films.

Yet, the crash of the stock market and the resulting Great Depression hit the Christies hard and the studio went into receivership in 1933.  Al continued to work sporadically in film until the late 1940s and died in 1951, while Charles transitioned into real estate and died four years after his brother.


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