Silent Film Stars

Bessie Eyton

HOW I BECAME A PHOTOPLAYER

By Bessie Eyton

October 1, 1916

I have been told that my entrance and my success in motion pictures were somewhat unusual for the reason I had no previous dramatic experience. As you know, a large majority of those prominent in the art of the silent drama were formerly players in the spoken drama. Very few players, I have been informed, have risen to prominence in screen work who were not previously experienced on the stage.

I never had any experience in dramatic work – not even amateur theatricals – before I began work as a photoplayer for the Selig Co. The way I started was unusual. My home is in Los Angeles, where the Selig Co., is located. I visited the Selig studios with a party of friends and purely for pleasure. I liked motion pictures on the screen, but at the time of my first visit to the studio, four years ago appearing in the movies was something entirely foreign to my thoughts.

 

Bessie Eyeton Motography Magazine Cover from 1913 (Bizarre Los Angeles)

When I visited the studio floor the producer espied me and said, “I like your type, it is one I sadly need in this picture.” More for mere sport than anything else I consented to take the minor role that was offered me. And I have worked for the Selig Co. ever since that time, and I hope to continue. What success I have achieved in the movies is due solely to hard work and willingness to heed instructions.

 

James Colin Campbell

The art of acting for motion pictures is not an easy art. There is no means of ascertaining from one day to another just what the character role or what action the director will call upon you to portray. I have enacted probably four or five hundred different character roles during my experience and these characters range form a leader in highest social circles to a Salvation Army girl. A motion picture actress must know how to ride, to shoot, to fence, to dance, and to motor, for there is no telling when one may be called upon to exemplify these and other accomplishments.

Many long hours are spent on “locations” so called. I have worked from early morning until late at night in just one or two scenes of a film play. One of the problems confronting motion picture actresses is appropriate dressing rooms when changes of costumes are necessary and there are no dwelling homes or other shelters near at hand. I solved this problem by arranging the interior of my automobile as a dressing room. The interior of my automobile contains a take-down dressing table: mirrors are arranged on the sides, and I have a specially devised drawer located under the front seat which contains cosmetics and other articles essential to the art of motion picture makeup.

I have never regretted my entrance into the movies despite the fact that it came about by mere chance. I take keen pleasure in knowing that I have won many admirers and friends, many of them I have never seen, it is true, but who, nevertheless, write me very kind and encouraging words.

It is true that opportunities to enter motion picture work are now rare.

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