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Dear Silent Hall of Fame Users:

    You have come to this website, because you like silent films and silent movie stars.  There are many places like this.  But unlike other sites, here at Silent Hall of Fame you can make a real difference.  You can help us show for the first time many films featuring your favorite silent stars that have not been seen in generations.  This will bring their names back into the public discourse.  But you can do much more than that: you can help your favorite silent stars receive belated recognition and glory.

    Until now there has never been an organization with the purpose to place a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for movie personalities from a century ago.  Silent Hall of Fame is this historic organization.  Silent Hall of Fame is the only organization of its kind.  We will make history and we invite you to become a part of history by sponsoring a silent movie star for the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  All contributions are tax deductible.

   Please use this button for a one-time donation. Use the button on the right-hand side for a recurring donation.

 

Rare Gems on DVD

Our users have spoken, and we have listened. You want to see rare and hard to find films, and we have created for you the Silent Gems Collection, available on eBay. This DVD collection includes rare and for the first time available films with our stars, as well as other silent masterpieces. These are high quality films that are hard to find anywhere else. Please click on this link to see the collection: Silent Gems Collection

Important Update:

You don't have to leave our website in order to obtain the films from our Silent Gems Collection. These gems are now available to our users as a reward for donation. For details click here.

 Out Yonder 1919The Woman God Forgot 1917That Model from Paris 1926For Better for Worse 1919Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall 1924

 

OUR DOCUMENTARY

    We are proud to present to all silent film lovers our multiple award-winning documentary! In March 2015 it won the distinction "Award of Merit" at the San Francisco Film Awards. In May it won the Silver Award at the 2015 International Independent Film Awards. In September 2015 it won the Award of Recognition at the Accolade Global Film Competition. Of equal merit is the inclusion of the documentary in the Official Selection of the San Jose International Short Film Festival in October 2015. In December the documentary won the extremely prestigious Diamond Award at the 2015 California Film Awards. The amazing run of recognition for our documentary continued in 2016. In February it was included in the Official Selection of the Buffalo Niagara International Film Festival.

 San Francisco Film Awards newInternational Independent Film Awards newAccolade Global Film Competition Award newSan Jose International Short Film Festival newCalifornia Film Awards small new


Helen and Jack left Kalem in 1915 for unknown reasons. Both spent a few months working for Universal Pictures, which inexplicably assigned Helen to scenario writing and never did begin the serial they had promised her, and had Jack directing short one-reel non-serials. A few months later Helen and Jack left Universal and formed Signal Film Corporation, specializing in railroad pictures. They immediately set to work filming The Girl and The Game; its first episode was released on December 13, 1915. Released in 1916 were Judith of the Cumberlands, The Diamond Runners (written and filmed during a Hawaiian vacation), and the 15-episode Lass of the Lumberlands, filmed in various California locations including Mendocino, Arcata, Yosemite, and the gold rush town of Sonora.

That year, newspapers reported that Helen had adopted a baby. She told movie magazines that, for a scene in Lass of the Lumberlands, she’d borrowed a baby from an orphanage and fell in love with it. Helen’s granddaughters, however, were told that the baby was the daughter of J.P. McGowan and his housekeeper, and that Helen agreed to raise the child as her own. The truth may never be known, since adoption records are sealed in California. In any event, Dorothy Holmes McGowan was born on December 17, 1915 and Helen raised her.

In 1917 Helen and Jack made the serials The Railroad Raiders and The Lost Express. In September, the California State Fair held a Helen Holmes Day, staging a train wreck in her honor. Before a crowd of thousands, Helen jumped from one of the trains into an automobile; “a few seconds later, the two trains were a mass of twisted steel and iron.”

Also in 1917 Helen somehow found the time to buy a ranch in Utah, attend stock auctions, and register a brand. The stock included chickens, horses, cows, pigs and goats. She told Photoplay she hoped to be a cattle queen someday. It’s not known whatever became of this ranch.

The break-up of Helen and Jack was reported in the June 2, 1918 L.A. Times with the memorable headline “Helen Holmes principal in a domestic smash-up.” At about the same time Mutual Film Corporation, which had financially backed Signal and distributed its films, collapsed. Signal went with it.

These two events greatly impacted Helen’s career. She made no films in 1918 and only one in 1919. She formed Helen Holmes Productions in 1920 but released only two movies. Finally, in 1921, she began making movies again, appearing in films with William Desmond, Hoot Gibson, and Jack Hoxie as well as reuniting with Jack McGowan. They made several pictures beginning in 1921, including the 1923 shipwreck drama, Stormy Seas. Meanwhile, continuing her lifelong affection for dogs, she raised Irish terriers and trained them for the movies. She and one of her terriers appeared in the Hoot Gibson movie Forty Horse Hawkins.

At some point Helen and Jack briefly reunited as a couple, but by 1925 they had separated for good. In March 1925 Helen married stuntman Lloyd Saunders in Fort Worth, Texas, two weeks after meeting him.

But Helen and Jack’s professional alliance endured. They made five features that year, including Webs of Steel.

Author Lynne Kirby, writing of the different roles for women in movies in the 1920s, cited the “Helen” character as the most vivid example of the transformation from independence and athleticism to daintiness, dependence on men, and the subsidiary role of inactive daughter or pining sweetheart. And in fact many of Helen’s movies from the 20s are startling when compared with Hazards. However, Webs of Steel is one of the more unusual films of the era - the Helen in this movie is the Helen of old: strong, intelligent, courageous and far from passive.

In 1926, Helen, Lloyd Saunders, and Dorothy moved to Sonora, California. The 1930 census finds them in a ranch west of town, and in May Lloyd appeared as a roper in the local rodeo. But their ranch failed during the Depression and in about 1932 Helen and Lloyd returned to Hollywood. Doro stayed in Sonora to finish high school and “boarded out” with a local family.

The newspapers of the late 1930s talked of Helen’s attempted comeback after a ten-year retirement. She had a part in Poppy with W.C. Fields and bit parts, many uncredited, in other movies. She made occasional public appearances to promote the movie industry and was elected president of the Riding and Stunt Girls of the Screen in August 1938. Helen Gibson was the treasurer.

Helen never made a fortune in the movies. In the late 1940s she operated a small antique business from her home, which she was only able to keep by signing it over to the Motion Picture Relief Fund in a life estate. Lloyd Saunders died in 1946. A few years later it was reported that Helen was very ill. She had suffered lung problems all her life and had had pneumonia at least four times between 1914 and 1924.

Helen died on July 8, 1950. The newspapers announced the death as due to heart attack, but the death certificate listed the cause as pulmonary tuberculosis.

J.P. McGowan had gone on to direct and act in hundreds of films, mostly B westerns, and served as Executive Director of the Screen Director’s Guild from 1938 to 1950. He died in March 1952 and was survived by his second wife, Kaye, and his daughter Doro.

Doro had graduated from Sonora Union High School in June 1933 and a few months later married Leland “Scotty” Burns, whose family had been in the area since the gold rush. They had two daughters. In the late 1930s Doro moved to Los Angeles, hoping to break into movies, and did get some uncredited parts as an extra. She married twice more, the third time for love, and died in 1966 at the age of 50.


Click to enlarge

Selected Filmography

  • (29) A Railroader's Bravery
  • (30) The Human Chain
  • (31) The Pay Train - Hidden Gem
  • (32) Near Eternity
  • (33) In Danger's Path - Hidden Gem
  • (34) The Midnight Limited
  • (35) A Wild Ride
  • (36) A Deed of Daring
  • (37) The Girl on the Engine
  • (38) The Fate of #1
  • (39) The Substitute Fireman
  • (40) The Limited's Peril
  • (41) A Perilous Chance
  • (42) Train Order #45
  • (43) The Broken Rail
  • (44) Nerves of Steel
  • (45) A Girl's Grit
  • (46) A Matter of Seconds
  • (47) The Runaway Boxcar
  • (48) The Water Tank Plot
  • When Rogues Fall Out (1915) - Free Movie
  • The Girl and the Game (1915) - 15 Episodes
  • Whispering Smith (1916)
  • Judith of the Cumberlands (1916)
  • The Diamond Runners (1916)
  • The Manager of the B & A (1916)
  • Lass of the Lumberlands (1916) - 15 Episodes
  • The Railroad Raiders (1917) - 15 Chapters
  • The Lost Express (1917) - 15 Chapters
  • The Fatal Fortune (1919) - 15 Episodes
  • Stormy Seas (1923)
  • Fighting Fury (1924)
  • Outwitted (1925)
  • Barriers of the Law (1925)
  • Duped (1925)
  • Blood and Steel (1925)
  • Mistaken Orders (1926)
  • Webs of Steel (1925)
  • The Open Switch (1926) - Hidden Gem
  • The Lost Express (1926) - Free Movie
  • Perils of the Rail (1926)
  • Crossed Signals (1926) - Free Movie

Helen-Holmes-in-The-Escape-on-the-Fast-Freight-1915-11

   Helen Holmes in "The Escape on the Fast Freight" (1915)

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