Monday, September 1, 2014

Rex Ingram on Miami film studio: We got no cooperation on Passion Vine

Miami Daily Metropolis, March 22, 1923

By Jane Feehan

“Next movie will tax all Miami facilities for scenes and props,” the Aug, 22, 1922 Miami Daily Metropolis headline claimed.

The picture, Passion Vine, set in the South Pacific and directed by Rex Ingram (1892-1950), would include a live shark attack, a palm-tree-lined beach, and jungle waterfalls for the climatic final scene. Props would also include musical instruments, an assortment of odd articles and a collection of “natives.” The natives were provided by Seminole Willie Willie. The Indians, said Miami Studios, Inc. principle John Brunton, held a highly developed dramatic instinct, weeping realistically and enacting mob scenes with a singular expertise.

The story rang enthusiastic for the budding movie industry in Hialeah, a Miami suburb. Dublin-born Ingram was considered “one of the world’s best, if not the best, directors in the world.” To have him make a picture with wife and popular leading lady Alice Terry (1899-1987) at the Hialeah studio was a promising sign of things to come.

A news story nearly four months later did not wax as enthusiastic. On Dec. 1, Ingram, as he was to leave with his crew to film the valley scene in Cuba instead of Puerto Rico, complained that he should have visited Miami first himself, instead of sending a representative.  

Ingram told the reporter that the picture cost $125,000 over budget and that they should have wrapped it up three weeks earlier. Rains dogged the production. “I didn’t know I was coming to Miami in the middle of the hurricane season.”  He also groused about the lack of studio equipment, poor laboratory work and incompetent assistants.  

“We got no cooperation at Hialeah,” said Ingram. “Workers did not take to pictures seriously.” Some were told to stay late to finish painting the set one night and instead left at 5 to see a picture show; he and his crew had to find brushes and complete the work themselves.

Ingram did not leave without thanking Brunton, whose hands, the director said, were tied because of the lack of capital. He heaped praise on those who provided their beach-side houses and pools for some of the scenes and thanked Captain Thompson for rounding up a few sharks for the drama.

The movie, based on John Russell’s novel, Passion Vine, is also known as Where the Pavement Ends. The film is lost. The picture, with its “cast of 1000s” opened in Miami at the Fairfax in March, 1923. Before making the Passion Vine, Director Ingram considered Black Orchids, and Trifling Women to be his best works.

Ingram opened a studio in France in 1923 where, perhaps, he found more cooperation, dryer weather and better equipment. He left the movie industry a year or two later after a failed picture he made in Morocco and returned to Los Angeles where he sculpted and wrote.  Hialeah dropped out of the picture making scene not long afterward.

For more on the Hialeah studio, see my other blog at:

Palm Beach Post, April 10, 1922
Miami Daily Metropolis, Aug. 22, 1922
Miami Daily Metropolis, Dec. 1, 1922
Miami Daily Metrolpolis March 22, 1923

 Tags: Miami history, Hialeah history, Miami film industry, film researcher, Jane Feehan 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Frontier hotel Peacock Inn and the Mother of Coconut Grove

Peacock Inn circa 1900

By Jane Feehan

Joining the pantheon of South Florida pioneers that includes Julia Tuttle, Henry Flagler and Frank Stranahan are Charles and Isabella Peacock of England. The two were encouraged to come to the area by Charles’ brother Jack, keeper of the House of Refuge near what is now Miami Beach.

The Peacocks, who operated a meat business, left England in 1875 to come to the wilds of Florida with their three boys, Charles, Alfred and Harry. They made their way via New York and Key West to Fort Dallas at the mouth of the Miami River, an outpost that pre-dated the “Magic City.”

“We conducted a trading post and exchanged merchandise and commodities with the Indians who brought in gopher skins, plumes, corn and pumpkins,” recalled Harry Peacock in 1917 (Metropolis, July 27, 1917). “Besides trading, we also manufactured starch from komtie [coontie] selling that in Key West.”
After seven years the family built an inn at Jack’s Bight (named for Jack Peacock) in Coconut Grove. Built with “beach combed wood” the hotel opened in 1882 or 1883. The only hotel on the mainland between Key West and Lake Worth then, the Bayview House, as they named it, quickly attracted visitors. At times they were unable to accommodate all who wanted to stay. Rates were $1.50 a day, $7-9 a week or $30-$35 a month.

The inn housed a post office and courthouse and served as focal point of the growing community. According to the Miami News (Jan. 8, 1964), its visitors included President Grover Cleveland, actor Joseph Jefferson, playwright Henry Guy Carlton, author Kirk Munroe and Arthur Haigh of distillery fame who eventually bought Cat Cay. During the 1890s, railroad magnate Henry Flagler stayed there; by that time it was known as the Peacock Inn. There were five houses in the area when the Peacocks opened their hotel. Observing Isabella’s connection with the growing settlement, hotel guest Flagler nicknamed her the “Mother of Coconut Grove.” She served as “doctor, judge, minister and friend to the community.”

Life in the settlement seemed to suit pioneer Isabella. She mastered the art of cooking frontier style, serving stewed venison, boiled Seminole squash, corn pone, turtle fry, roast wild hog and turkey. She helped found the Church of the Union Chapel where Henry Ward Beecher’s nephew once preached and where she held the first Sunday school class in South Florida.
Peacock Park

Aging and infirm, Charles Peacock sold the hotel in 1902 to G.F. Schneider of Philadelphia who converted it into a school.  Charles Peacock died in 1905; Isabella in 1917. The Peacock Inn was torn down in 1926, its site purchased by the City of Miami in 1934. Established as the Coconut Grove Bayfront Park, the site was renamed in honor of the Peacocks in 1973.  Isabella and Charles picked a beautiful location for their inn; it’s one of the toughest spots in town to get a parking place today.

Metropolis, July 31, 1902
Metropolis, July 27, 1917
Miami News, March 6, 1958

Palm Beach Post, Jan. 8, 1964

Tags: Peacock Inn, Miami history, Isabella Peacock, Charles Peacock

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fighting polio with a ban on visitors from Fort Lauderdale, DDT spray and ...

By Jane Feehan

With world news abuzz about polio cases appearing recently in Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan, it might be interesting to revisit the polio epidemic in the 1940s and 1950s in Fort Lauderdale. Below are bits and pieces that appeared in newspapers of those decades.

In 1946, North Carolina banned visitors from Fort Lauderdale for a few weeks out of fear hundreds of children visiting summer camps from the city would bring the polio virus with them. It had been a normal year for polio cases in North Carolina with about 19 cases reported. The ban had an economic impact on rail travel.

·   In 1946, sanitation workers sprayed DDT in alleys and garbage cans behind restaurants in Fort Lauderdale. Garbage trucks were followed by trucks with the deadly spray. Workers complained of sores and other skin problems after they were exposed daily to DDT.  The Fort Lauderdale Caterers Association announced plans to underwrite spraying of the entire city.  

·   Polio cases with fatalities declined in 1949 in Fort Lauderdale, and rose in 1952 with a total of 77 cases.

·  But the city, as Florida, was hit hard in 1953 and 1954. About 57,000 and 36,000 cases were reported respectively nation-wide, making those years among the worst of polio epidemics in the U.S. since it first appeared in 1894 in this country.

·  An outbreak occurred in northwest Fort Lauderdale in 1954 with 65 cases. About 2,000 mothers and children lined up at the public health building to receive gamma globulin immunizations. More than 200 were turned away when they ran out of supplies. Fort Lauderdale reported a total of 95 cases that year. The Salk vaccine was made available later in 1954 and was successful in qwelling the epidemic in Florida and across of the nation.

·   A D-Day vet, Robert Q. “Whitey" Garrigus, Jr., who survived the Normandy invasion in 1944 as part of the 507th parachute regiment and subsequently spent one year in a German prison camp, fell victim to bulbar polio in Fort Lauderdale. The former Miami High football star died July 5, 1954 at Variety Children’s hospital after being stricken by the disease at his home at 1500 NW 11 Place.

·  After Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine was developed and used successfully at schools during the 1954 epidemic, cases dropped dramatically in Fort Lauderdale and across the nation.

·  The last U.S. case occurring naturally, i.e., not via the vaccine, was in 1979. A case was reported in Fort Lauderdale in 1996 that may have resulted from the vaccine.   

·  Rotary Club International has embraced the mission of wiping out polio around the globe. According to its website, the last case of wild poliovirus in the Americas occurred in 1991, and by 1994, the Western Hemisphere became polio-free.

Miami News, June 16, 1946
Miami News, Jan. 11, 1949
Miami News, Oct. 13, 1952
St. Petersburg Times, July 2, 1954
Miami News, July 6, 1954
Miami News, July 18, 1954
Palm Beach Post, May 14, 1955
Ocala Star Banner May 15, 1955
Palm Beach Post, May 9, 1970
Fort Lauderdale Daily News, July 3, 1996

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Bookies, wiretappers and organized crime in Fort Lauderdale 1922

By Jane Feehan

Boom times beckoned many to Fort Lauderdale in the 1920s, including organized criminal types.

In 1922, a well-dressed group of men rented the Oliver home downtown with more than sand and surf in their plans.The visitors, who drove fancy cars, displayed expensive golf bags and threw big tips around, didn’t extend social invitations to locals to their rented quarters, raising suspicions. But would-be gamblers had little need for invitations. They beat a path to the rented Oliver home, hoping to leave with winnings from off-track betting. The well-heeled gang promised sure wins; they had wiretapped telephones at horse tracks.   

Their elaborate scheme didn’t really include wiretapping; it was a ruse that eventually sent the unsuspecting to New Orleans by train with a gang member to pick up big winnings at their “headquarters.” The gang member would disappear en-route, leaving the gambler with nothing but a train ride.  Victims, engaged in illegal gambling, didn’t bother reporting their misfortune to the police.

Nevertheless, word got around about bookies and wiretapping and a government raid on February 19, 1922, netted 13.  Bail was posted and the men (all had given fictitious names), were set free. That was the end of the first organized crime foray into Fort Lauderdale.

Miami News, Mar. 3, 1922
The following month, Gov. Carey Hardee appointed Paul C. Bryan as Broward’s new sheriff.  Bryan delivered a warning to criminals: those who came to Broward County would come to grief. “No wiretappers shall operate here.”

Hello Miami.

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"Florida history" on this blog)

1. Weidling, Philip J. , Burghard, August. Checkered Sunshine. Gainesville: University of Florida Press (1966).
2. Fort Lauderdale Herald, Feb. 20, Feb. 22, 1922
3. Miami News, March 3, 1922.

Tags: Florida in the 1920s, Fort Lauderdale in the 1920s,  organized crime in South Florida, Fort Lauderdale history, Sheriff Paul Ryan, film research

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Those 1960s Fort Lauderdale Night Spots

Live entertainment reigned in Fort Lauderdale restaurants and clubs of the 1960s. Below is a list of hot spots, some with the entertainers they regularly showcased. A few, such as Woody Woodbury, were more familiar to people than the venues they appeared at.  Andy Bartha’s Dixieland Band was a big draw at several places in Fort Lauderdale and Pompano. There were other clubs and restaurants, but these places were landmarks.

Bahama Hotel – Woody Woodbury – See more about Woody at:

Bahia Cabana - off A1A (still there) featured lounge music

Beach Club Hotel - A1A and Oakland Park Boulevard

Captain Al Starts Showboat Belle at A1A and 36th Street

Cellar Bar on Federal Highway

Charcoal Pit – Federal and Sunrise Boulevard – Living Room Lounge

Chateau Madrid – Kennan Building – Federal and Oakland Park

Colonial Lounge – Federal Highway – any drink 48 cents

Dante’s Restaurant – Federal Highway

Fazio’s House of Prime Ribs – Federal Highway

Forum Restaurant – A1A and Las Olas – also featured lounge music at night

Gaslight Inn – State road 7 near Broward Boulevard

Heilman’s  - at one time featured duo Roger Fenton and Faye Cantrell who played drums wearing long white gloves.

Jolly Roger Hotel featured the Punchinellos.

Lamplighter – McNab Road in Pompano – Piano by Mr. Pinky

Le Dome of the Four Seasons – off Las Olas, west side of Intracoastal. Four Seasons condo still there

Mai Kai Restaurant – Polynesian revue. Still operating.

Marlin Beach Hotel on A1A showcased “Flip” Phillips

Mark 2100 - 1900 N. A1A with its Patio Bar nearly on the sand at the beach

Mousetrap – 2960 N. Federal Highway featured Pat Brown, Ed Hunt, Peggy Martin

Pier Top Lounge at Pier 66 – opened in 1965

Round Table Restaurant at Oakland Park and Federal – lounge with live music and jukeboxes with accompanying movies/videos – ahead of its time.

Rum House at the Galt Ocean Mile Hotel

Sea Shore Resort – A1A north of Sunrise featured Danny Bridge and the        Tunesmen at the Tapis Lounge

Statler Hilton Hotel on the Galt Mile

Tale O’ the Tiger – N. Federal Highway – featured Jay Wray

Tea House of the Tokyo Moon – Seabreeze Boulevard – live music

TJ's Lounge on Commercial Boulevard - jazz

Yankee Clipper featured a Polynesian Revue with Hal Aloma’s B and
       Today, home of world acclaimed mermaid show at the Wreck Bar (swimming pool with portal         windows to the bar)

Tags: Fort Lauderdale history, Fort Lauderdale in the 1960s, Fort Lauderdale entertainment history

Friday, April 4, 2014

Dooley's coffin nails - building ships for WWII in Broward County

Fort Lauderdale beach today

By Jane Feehan

Thousands of military trained in South Florida in preparation for World War II but training was only one aspect of Broward County’s contribution to the war effort. On Labor Day, Sept. 7, 1942 Dooley’s Basin and Dry Dock (later Broward Marine) launched three war craft, the largest mass launching of such vessels in Florida at the time. 

A 110-foot sub chaser (P-710) and two 104-foot rescue craft (P-150) slid into the New River in Dania. The sub chaser was to be outfitted with guns and armaments and the rescue boats with hospital facilities before deployment.

The boats were christened with bottles of wine by an employee and the wives of two other employees—one of whom had four sons serving in the war. In accord with the federal government’s War Production Board wishes, there was no other observance of Labor Day. It was back to work for the company’s 300 plus employees.

The company’s president, Paul Dooley, said the vessels were another nail in the coffin of the enemy; he hoped there would be many more. By war’s end another sub chaser and 95 other rescue boats were produced by Dooley’s shipyard. The nation built 124,000 ships of all types during World War II. (America’s ramped-up production of military weapons and aircraft during World War II was remarkable. According to historian Stephen E. Ambrose, the U.S. produced 800 military airplanes in 1939. By 1942, it was producing 4,000 a month; at the end of 1943, the monthly count was up to 8,000.)

Dooley’s Basin and Dry Dock was recognized by the American Legion for its hiring of vets after the war. However, business did not fare well for long. Military contracts came to an end and Dooley’s government contract for pre-fabricated houses fell through in 1945. More than half its employees were laid off. The company was purchased in 1948 by Frank Denison and was then known as Broward Marine, once the county’s largest employer.

Miami News, Sept. 7, 1942
Miami News, Feb. 13, 1945
Miami News, Sept. 19,1945
Ambrose, Stephen E. D-Day June 6, 1945. New York: Simon & Schuster (1994)

Tags: Broward County history, Broward County in World War II, Broward County shipbuilding in WWII, Broward County in the 1940s

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mackey Airlines, its colorful founder ... and Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale

By Jane Feehan

Fort Lauderdale’s Mackey Airlines played a leading role in the South Florida aviation scene from 1946 when it was established, to 1967 when it merged with Eastern Airlines.  Founder Joseph Creighton Mackey started up four airlines, including Mackey International that operated 1969-1981. His career included a colorful past that proves as interesting as that of his companies.

Convair CV-240 - one type flown by Mackey Air
Mackey (1909-1982) was known as a circus barnstormer or aerial stuntman before he served in the USAF during World War II, reaching rank of colonel. Before the U.S. entered the fighting, Mackey was recruited as a ferry pilot for the Canadian war effort. In 1941 he was pilot and sole survivor of an air crash in Newfoundland. Three died on their way to England Feb. 21, including 49-year-old Dr. Sir Frederick Grant Banting who co-discovered insulin as a treatment for diabetes.

In 1943, Colonel Mackey served as commander of the First Foreign Transport Group that flew for the Fireball Express, touted then as the world’s longest, fastest air freight line. Mackey and crew operated four-engine giant C-54 transport planes from Miami to India.  Fireball Express told Miami News reporters that they made the 28,000-mile round trip in “as quickly as six days, 10 hours and 15 minutes.” One year after the freight line started, it logged nearly 7,000,000 miles with only two fatalities.

After the war, Mackey returned to Fort Lauderdale where he had lived on Sunset Drive since 1937. He launched Mackey Airlines in 1946 with routes from Fort Lauderdale, Miami and West Palm Beach to the Caribbean and Cuba.  His Fort Lauderdale-based air carrier became one of only three in the U.S., including Pan Am, to earn a government certification as an International Airline.

After Eastern Airlines bought Mackey routes in 1967 for $19 million, the colonel started up Mackey International. Its Fort Lauderdale headquarters was bombed in 1977 by a Cuban exile group who objected to Mackey’s vice president meeting with the Cuban government to re-establish air routes. As a result, the airline withdrew from negotiations.

Joseph Mackey was inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame six months before he died at his Flamingo Road home near Davie in 1982. Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.

For a post about Fort Lauderdale's first aviatorMerle Fogg,  see:

Miami News, Feb. 15, 1982
Miami News, Nov. 12, 1944
Miami News, Feb. 25, 1941
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Tags: Fort Lauderdale aviators, Fort Lauderdale history, Florida airlines, Joseph Creighton Mackey, Mackey Airlines, film researcher