As part of the press for a film called Little Old New York, someone had the bright idea to make (the very very interesting, if you like gossip) actress Marion Davies put on something REAL SERIOUS and SEVERE and trudge over to Trinity Church in New York and hang a memorial wreath on the final resting place of Robert Fulton, the inventor/engineer who invented the steamship — or, more accurately, hold it up in front of Fulton’s memorial and look sort of vaguely sad about it. (There is a steamship launch in the movie so this isn’t as random as it might have been, but it is still very weird.) Fulton, FYI, also invented the submarine AND torpedoes, and was apparently at one point — per his Wiki — caught up in “canal mania!” Whomst amongst us hasn’t been overtaken with mania for a canal?
He obviously died of consumption because what else are you going to die of in the early 19th century? Wikipedia says, “He had been walking home on the frozen Hudson River when one of his friends, Addis Emmet, fell through the ice. In the attempt to rescue his friend, Fulton got soaked with icy water. He is believed to have contracted pneumonia. When he got home, his sickness worsened. He was diagnosed with consumption and died at 49 years old,” and I’d like to point out — as an enthusiast of old timey wasting diseases — that although this implies the two are connected, pneumonia and consumption are not the same thing! Consumption is TB. So I am only guessing that he had low-level TB anyway and then when he got pneumonia, his lungs gave up the ghost. That is a shame!
Anyway, this is a loony thing to make your star do, and this was an already troubled production. Wiki — again, my best friend for half-assed research on stuff — tell us that “This lavish historical drama was filmed in New York City and directed by Sidney Olcott. Hearst [William Randolph; the producer and famously Marion’s lover] had an exact replica of Fulton’s Clermont built and staged the famous river race on the Hudson in January. On February 18, 1923, a fire swept through the Cosmopolitan Studio, basically destroying the studio and all its contents. The film’s negatives were saved (it was about two-thirds completed), and production began anew at several other local studios. All of the sets and costumes had to be re-created.” That gives me massive anxiety just to think about! However, if this was an offering to the gods, it worked. The movie was a hit. Maybe more actors need to try this.
(Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)