Wonderful Wanda Wiley was a spirited, athletic silent film comedienne, whose charm and girl-next-door appeal made her the female equivalent of Harold Lloyd’s “All-American Boy” (sometimes she even wore glasses). Ever ready, she bravely rolled down stairways, dived on cement sidewalks, and jumped between moving automobiles (see further below), anything for a laugh, matching her male colleagues blow by blow. Despite her slapstick antics, Wanda also posed for glamor publicity stills, above – read more on Lantern Media.
Wanda made a series of wonderful silent short comedies for Century Studios at Universal between 1924-1927. While most of her films are sadly lost, thanks to silent film superheroes Ben Model, Steve Massa, and Joseph Blough, you can enjoy some of her work on YouTube. This post highlights Wanda’s captivating comedy A Thrilling Romance (1927), where she plays a struggling author. On their Silent Comedy Watch Party YouTube link HERE, you can enjoy Ben’s musical accompaniment for the film along with Steve’s discussion of Wanda’s career. Joseph’s YouTube link HERE presents a silent but more visually clear copy of the film.
A Thrilling Romance is great fun, and it was exciting to discover Wanda’s on-screen charms, a talented star I’d never heard of before (ad above). I highly encourage you to enjoy her film. But the movie is also a remarkable time-travel machine, offering so many views of early Hollywood that this first post will cover only rare, perhaps unique views along Vine Street, including the long lost Famous Players – Lasky Studio.
Hollywood fans may know the small barn where Cecil B. De Mille filmed The Squaw Man in 1914, and later relocated to serve as the Hollywood Heritage Museum, originally stood at the SE corner of Selma and Vine as part of the Famous Players – Lasky Studio. Click to enlarge – this 1921 aerial view above looks north – the Selma and Vine Lasky barn highlighted. But pay attention to the lower left corner of Sunset and Vine. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.
When Wanda, pictured here in 1927 paired with the 1921 aerial view, chases after a bag of stolen money, she runs down Vine with the rarely photographed SUNSET corner of the Famous Players studio behind her. (To be clear, Wanda was not working at this studio when filming beside it).
Click to enlarge – this 1924 aerial view at left is color-coded to Wanda’s 1927 view. At back in pink stands the Taft Building at Hollywood and Vine, built in 1923, the yellow spot marks the Sunset corner of Famous Players, and the star marks Wanda among the homes near 1415 Vine Street. HollywoodPhotographs.com.
Click to enlarge – a reverse view, circa 1918, of the Sunset and Vine corner of Famous Players, Wanda standing among the now lost early residences. USC Digital Library.
Click to enlarge, this time a 1919 aerial view of Famous Players, looking south down Vine, again matched with Wanda looking north. Marc Wanamaker – Bison Archives.
Above, a better view north of the Taft Building. USC Digital Library.
Above, these scenes filmed looking north reveal the staggered walls that once lined the west side of Vine between De Longpre and Leland Way. I am unable to locate any photos of these long lost homes.
Click to enlarge – a much closer view of the 1924 aerial photo looking north. Wanda and her hero taxi driver Earl McCarthy stand on the west side of Vine (star), with the white porch arches of 1415 Vine Street behind them.
As mentioned, despite her glamor and charm, Wanda was also a slapstick heroine. That’s her leaping between moving automobiles, heading south down Vine St.
Click to enlarge – vintage views of the Colehurst Apartments (left) and the St. George Court Apartments (above) appearing with Wanda. The Colehurst stands on the NE corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Vine, a short block from the former Buster Keaton Studios. Buster filmed at this Santa Monica and Vine intersection several times, but only before the Colehurst was built in 1924. LAPL – USC Digital Library.
Above, Wanda spills down the cement stairway of her apartment at 327 Beaudry Ave., dives on the sidewalk among many scenes filmed on Cahuenga, near Selma, the favorite Hollywood filming block for Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd, and even visits the frequently filmed cliffs overlooking Santa Monica Canyon. Details to follow in a later Wanda Wiley post – stay tuned.
Wanda Wiley becomes now the fourth fantastic silent film comedian brought to my attention for the first time by Ben Model. Aside from Wanda, I only became aware of the delightful Alice Howell comedies (Alice Howell Collection), the Doug MacLean light comedies (The Douglas MacLean Collection), and the pre-talkie films of Edward Everett Horton (Edward Everett Horton: 8 Silent Comedies), because Ben had first tirelessly assembled, restored, scored, and released these essential early films to home video. I’ve posted stories about these releases from Ben elsewhere on my blog.
It’s tragic Wanda has been almost completely forgotten, and that nearly all of her films are lost. But you can enjoy several of her films on Joseph Blough’s YouTube Channel, including Queen of Aces (1925) HERE, Won By Law (1925) HERE, and Jane’s Trouble (1926) HERE, as well as A Thrilling Romance posted below. I hope you’ll check my YouTube Channel as well.
Below, looking north up Vine toward Leland Way, close to where Wanda stands on Vine near the top of this post.