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FACING DOWN THE RULERS OF WALL STREET A HUNDRED YEARS AGO. THEY ARE BACK.

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Sunday, March 02, 2014

HAVING FAITH Part Eight CALGARY

I suppose he was the most famous heterosexual in the world. Originally trained as a dancer, he went into films because he'd been black balled on stage after having an affair with a rich producer's wife. He was now earning $10,000 a week ($120,000 a week today) as a film actor Rich, handsome, and single again after a bitter divorce, the 31 year old year old went into a New York City hospital early in August of 1926 to have his appendix removed, and two weeks later he died from an infection. Over 100,000 fans attended his funeral in Manhattan, and they gave him another one in Los Angeles. His corpse was temporarily slipped into a borrowed vault in a Hollywood mausoleum, but he's been there ever since, under his stage name, Rudolph Valentino.
Hooray for Hollywood
That screwy ballyhooey Hollywood”
At a time when the average movie ticket cost a dime, one of the first films to gross over $1 million was Valentino's 1920 “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”. This year of 1926, the most popular film was Harold Lloyd's “For Heaven's Sake”. It had cost $150,000 to make (under $2 million today), and would gross over $2,600,000 (over $300 million today). With that kind of profit margin, the movie industry was growing up fast, and almost 90% of all films made in America were being shot in Hollywood. And it was here that a revolution was about to occur.
Where any office boy or young mechanic can be a panic
With just a good looking pan”
It was being birthed on Sunset Boulevard in the center of Hollywood, by Harry, Albert and Sam Warner (above). The investment house of Goldman Sachs had financed the growth of their studio, allowing them to branch out the year before into radio, with KFWB. But in 1926 Warner Brother's went $333,000 (over $4 million) into debt , to invest in an experimental short film called “A Plantation Act”, staring Broadway musical star, Al Jolsen. Eldest brother Harry thought it was a mistake, saying, “Nobody wants to hear actors talk.” But the final 89 minute film, released in 1927 as “The Jazz Singer” had only a little over 2 minutes of sound, cost less than half a million dollars to make, and sold almost $6 million in tickets. And between those two earth shaking events, the death of the biggest silent film star, and the death of silent films, almost as if the second act in a great drama, was the preliminary hearing for Aimee Semple McPherson. And like all second acts, this one had an unsatisfying curtain.
And any shop girl can be a top girl 
If she pleases a tired businessman.”
It was only a matter of time before the unstable Lorraine Wiseman-Sielaff cracked. District Attorney Asa Keyes was hoping she would hold together long enough to convict Amiee, her mother and Kenneth Ormiston. Keeping her charged along with the conspirators she was testifying against was a way of keeping her under control. But it didn't work. Shortly after the hearing, Lorraine gave a newspaper interview in which she tweeked her story. It was not much of a change. Under oath she identified the man who had approached her with the $5,000 offer to lie for Sister Aimee as a mysterious “Mr. Martin”. But now she named him as Jack Wooley, working for his uncle, attorney and L.A. power broker, Roland Rich Wooley.
Hooray for Hollywood,
Where you're terrific if you're even good.”
Her story was, in all important aspects, the same as it had been under oath. And she was far from the only witness who placed Aimee and Kenneth Ormiston together in Carmel during the first week after her kidnapping. But for some reason, whenever Keyes was asked about the shift, he grew increasingly doubtful about the coming trial. On Wednesday, 29 December, he called the case “muddled”. The next day he insisted, “I will not drop this case.” He then accurately called the change “more of an elaboration” than a change. But after a weekend of thinking, on Monday 3 January of 1927, he began to shift himself, saying he would “take all the time necessary to make up my mind.”
Where anyone at all from Shirley Temple to Aimee Semple
Is equally understood”
A week later he had made up his mind. “Without (the testimony of Lorraine Wiseman-Sielaff) proof of the alleged conspiracy is now impossible.” And that was the end of it. It was the ultimate anti-climax.
It was over. Wrote the Hearst Herald American, after 3,500 pages of testimony and half a million dollars ($3 million in 2014), all that was achieved was that “the McPherson sensation has sold millions of newspapers, generated fat fees for lawyers, stirred up religious antagonism...(and) advertised Los Angeles in a ridiculous way."
Go out and try your luck, you might be Donald Duck
Hooray for Hollywood.”
Within a week of Keye's decision, Aimee announced an 80 day evangelical trip, which the press immediately dubbed the “Vindication Tour”. Mildred Kennedy did not want her to go, but Aimee insisted, so her mother joined her on the tour. Also joining the church were new faces, hired to handle the press, people like Mae Walden (above left). She was not a fundamentalist, used make up and wore appealing clothes. And gradually, during the tour, Sister Aimee did so too (above center). The evangelist returned to a church in open rebellion, an uprising fermented by her mother.
Hooray for Hollywood
That phoney super-Coney Hollywood.”\
To remove Aimee from a position of power before she bankrupted the place, “Sister Minnie” set up a vote of “no confidence” by the temple's board of directors. But she miscalculated, and Aimee won the vote. Gldwyn Nichols, the choir director held a press conference to announce she was resigning from the Angelus Temple. Her justification was “Aimee's surrender to worldliness--her wardrobe of fancy gowns and short skirts, jewelry, furs, her new infatuation with cosmetics and bobbed hair, all specifically condemned by the Scriptures” The entire 300 member choir went with her. As did Mrs. Mildred Kennedy. Voted off the board, she left with a typically Christian thought for Aimee. “My daughter is like a fish on the beach when it comes to handling money,” she told the press.. “I don't believe if you put an add in the newspapers you could find anybody dumber when it comes to business. All they got to do is let her have her way for a year, and she'll bankrupt the place, mark my words.”
They come from Chillicothes and Paducas with their bazookas
To get their names up in lights.”
 
Mrs. Kennedy's scolding advice was replaced by more positive voices, urging new investments, a condominium tower (above), a cemetery.  And within a year Mildred's warnings were proven correct. The Four Square Gospel Church was almost bankrupt. Mildred came back for awhile, left again and returned again when the stock market crashed. But the fights were escalating, until Aimee finally punched her mother in the face, breaking her nose. In 1927, in exchange for a $200,000 settlement, Mrs. Mildred Kennedy officially resigned from the board of the Angelus Temple she had helped to build.
All armed with photos from local rotos
With their hair in ribbon and legs in tights”
In 1927, Dorthy Parker reviewed Aimee's autobiography. “Well, Aimee Semple McPherson has written a book..It is the story of her life, and it is called "In the Service of the King", which title is perhaps a bit dangerously suggestive of a romantic novel. It may be that this autobiography is set down in sincerity, frankness and simple effort. It may be, too, that the Statue of Liberty is situated in Lake Ontario.”
Hooray for Hollywood
You may be homely in your neighborhood
But if you think that you can be an actor, see Mr. Factor
He'll make a monkey look good
Within a half an hour you'll look like Tyrone Power
Hooray for Hollywood!”
Music by Richard A. Whiting.
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer 1937
- 30 -

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