Category Archives: Vitaphone

How my past life self (probably) earned her living!

Its fair to say that when you see movie casting lists nowadays, they are so lengthy, they probably include the girl who made the coffee for the actor who appeared for 15 seconds, without saying a line! Fine, that might be a slight exaggeration, but not much! Seriously, some of the credits last nearly as long as the movies do!

However, back in the silent movie days, and the first few years of the 30’s, unless you were a star, your name never appeared on the screen. So, in other words, a Laurel and Hardy film, most times, they were the only 2 credited! Of course, as with Jean Harlow, if one of the bit part actresses made it later, they might (but not always) get added to the cast at some point! But yes, even Myrna Loy, for example, has parts that she never got credits for, even after she made it!

So, if you never made it beyond the general acting, or dancing corp back then, no one, but you, and your friends knew you were in a movie! Didnt mean you couldnt earn a decent living, just that you couldnt earn a credit on Movie Databases!

All of which makes tracing the movie history of my past life self, Clara Johnson, somewhat complex! Its fair to say from what I know, that she acted, and danced in minor roles for at least 10 years (she arrived in LA in ’25, but first evidence I’ve guaranteed of her as an actress is ’28, but probably before that. Last evidence is an uncredited, but named role in ’37, after which she disappeared again, but given that by then, she was 32, I suspect she may have married, and retired, or maybe she was teaching dancing in town?)

But a few things happened around the turn of that decade. The introduction of sound movies brought about a series of musicals, mainly involving a lot of chorus line dancers. Then a few years after that, the first real testing of colour movies came about, and a lot of short, test movies were made, often involving singing, and a lot of dancing. Yes, a lot like this one!

Yes, check the credits, 4 people! Even though IMDB has a few more mentioned, there are a LOT of dancers who arent mentioned even then. And given that though I suspect there were plenty of dancers fighting for roles, its safe to assume Clara was among them! So the likelihood is, somewhere in here is Clara, at the grand age of 28, doing her stuff! Which one, who knows? A few look about the right age, but which one is her? Only wish I knew! I’m hoping that next May, in LA, I might be able to discover more, and in September, in New England, maybe I can be regressed again, and she can give up a lot more secrets! I also wonder if her daughter, who would probably be in her 70’s now, is still alive? I dont know, she had her somewhere between ’38, and ’52, but I have no more details than that. But yes, hunch says it wasnt that long after she married, for sure!

But if anyone, anywhere, knows more details about Clara, and her family, I’d love to know!