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