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Director Noel Mason Smith



(Courtesy of Rae Malneritch)

Above is director Noel Mason Smith on location circa late 1920s.

Special thanks to Rae Malneritch, great niece of Noel Mason Smith, for sharing information and photos.


Noel Mason Smith (1895 - 1955) began his Hollywood career around 1912. Over the next 40 years, he worked as a director, writer, assistant director and even did some second unit directing.

Rae Malneritch provides some family history:

Noel Smith's first wife was silent screen comedian Louise Fazenda (1895 - 1962), and their marriage lasted from 1917 - 1926. A year or two after their divorce, Fazenda tied the knot with producer Hal B. Wallis. Around 1930, Noel married Adeline Louise Paulson (and Rae is still searching for a marriage license or other confirmation on that 1930 date).

Rae also mentions: "Noel had no children with either wife ... that is why my grandmother ended up with her sister's photos ... then me."

Hans Wollstein adds some info about Smith's early film work:

In 1920, Smith resided at 1355 N. Alvarado Street. Alvarado was apparently a haven for film folks - William Desmond Taylor lived (and died) on S. Alvarado, as did Edna Purviance and others. According to Smith himself (i.e. the 1930 Blue Book), he began in films in 1912. And he was certainly well-known already when he directed Jimmy Aubrey (and Oliver Hardy) in Vitagraph comedies in 1919.

In silents, Noel Mason Smith worked at several studios and production companies and his credits include comedies with Larry Semon at Chadwick Pictures and Jimmy Aubrey at Vitagraph. He also directed many "canine adventures" featuring german shepherds Rin-Tin-Tin, Klondike, and Silverstreak.

(From Old Corral collection)

Above - a vending/exhibit card of Dick Foran during his Warners western series. Foran did a dozen oaters for Warners which were released in 1935 - 1937. Noel Mason Smith directed five of the twelve.


In the 1930s, he was on Warners' payroll and involved with new singing cowboy Dick Foran.

Let's take a step back for a moment and recap Warners / First National and their on again / off again involvement in doing B western programmers. Ken Maynard had been First National's leading range rider during 1920s silents. And Warners had used ample stock footage from Maynard's adventures when they brought John Wayne to the screen in a half dozen oaters that were released in 1932 - 1933. The studio decided to try again with a B western series, and Dick Foran was selected as their new - and melodious - range rider.

There were a dozen Foran "singing cowboy" westerns, six for the 1935 - 1936 season and another half-dozen for 1936 - 1937. Six directors were involved. Helming one each were D. Ross Lederman, Louis King, Frank McDonald and Bobby Connolly. B. Reeves "Breezy" Eason directed three. And Noel Mason Smith was in charge of five: TRAILIN' WEST (Warners, 1936), CALIFORNIA MAIL (Warners, 1936), GUNS OF THE PECOS (Warners, 1937), CHEROKEE STRIP (Warners, 1937) and BLAZING SIXES (Warners, 1937). Though not known as a "B-western director", Noel Smith did a solid, respectable job on these five. In his review of TRAILIN' WEST (Warners, 1936), Boyd Magers wrote: "Extremely well directed with a flair for excitement, speed and movement by Noel Smith, such as the scene where Dick edges his horse, Smoke, narrowly over a fallen tree resting atop a dangerously deep chasm."

Smith also got involved in a chapterplay - he and Ray Taylor were co-directers of GANG BUSTERS (Universal, 1942). And for those into trivia, Smith helmed SECRET SERVICE OF THE AIR (Warners, 1939) and CODE OF THE SECRET SERVICE (Warners, 1939), both of which starred former President Ronald Reagan (portraying "Lieutenant 'Brass' Bancroft"). And he re-united with Foran for the comedy / mystery PRIVATE DETECTIVE (Warners, 1939).

Some speculation: Hal Wallis was at at Warners in the 1930s and 1940s doing producing chores on films with Bogart, Flynn, Edward G. Robinson, Bette Davis, Ronald Reagan, and many others (including Dick Foran). Apparently, there was no ill will between Wallis and Noel Smith regarding Smith's divorce from Louise Fazenda and her marriage to Wallis. If there were issues between those two - or three if you count Fazenda - I doubt if Smith would have been employed at Warners.

Noel Mason Smith passed away on September 20, 1955 at the Motion Picture Home and Hospital, Woodland Hills, Los Angeles County, California. His wife Adeline Louise Paulson Smith (1904 - 1952) passed away on December 31, 1952. They are interred together at Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, California.

  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Noel Mason Smith, Hal B. Wallis, and Louise Fazenda:

Noel Mason Smith (1895 - 1955): https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0809467/
Louise Fazenda (1895 - 1962): https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0269771/
Hal B. Wallis (1899 - 1986): https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0909259/

Find A Grave has Noel Mason Smith (1895 - 1955) and wife Adeline Louise Paulson (1904 - 1952) interred at Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, Los Angeles County, California: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/138621979/noel-mason-smith




Noel Mason Smith directed many silent comedies including the Jimmy Aubrey series for Vitagraph. Oliver 'Babe' Hardy was featured, years before he teamed up with Stan Laurel. Above is from an October, 1919 issue of Motion Picture News available at the Internet Archive.



Above bio on Noel Mason Smith from from the 1929 Motion Picture News Blue Book, available at the Internet Archive.



(Courtesy of Rae Malneritch)

Filming is being done on an unidentified film - director Noel Mason Smith is sitting on the left with his arms on his knees overseeing the action. Atop the rocks on the far right is a crew member holding a light reflector. Top center is a german shepherd and possibly the dog's trainer. Smith helmed several silent canine adventures.

The dog at the top center may be the original Rin-Tin-Tin in CLASH OF THE WOLVES (Warners, 1925).

Or it may be Silverstreak in FANGS OF JUSTICE (Samuel Bischoff, 1926), CROSS BREED (Samuel Bischoff, 1927), THE SNARL OF HATE (Samuel Bischoff, 1927), WHERE TRAILS BEGIN (Samuel Bischoff, 1927), or FANGS OF FATE (Samuel Bischoff, 1928).

Or Klondike the dog in The LAW'S LASH (Pathe, 1928) or MARLIE THE KILLER (Pathe, 1928).

Crop/blowup below.



(Courtesy of Rae Malneritch)




(Courtesy of Rae Malneritch)

More behind the scenes on an unidentified canine adventure - director Noel Mason Smith is on the left. The crew member in the center is tinkering with a light reflector.



(Courtesy of Rae Malneritch)

On the right side of the camera is Noel Smith, and the other faces are unidentified. The dog may be Klondike and this cast and crew shot might be from The LAW'S LASH (Pathe, 1928), which had a Northwest Mounted Police theme.



(Courtesy of Rae Malneritch)

More behind the scenes photos on an unidentified film - director Noel Mason Smith is on the left with the megaphone.

Below is a crop/blowup from the above image and it shows several familiar faces - kneeling is big, burly Richard "Dick" Alexander and the gal is silent and sound heroine Blanche Mehaffey (sometimes billed as Janet Morgan). Based on Alexander and Mahaffey being in the cast, this still is probably from MARLIE THE KILLER (Pathe, 1928). If MARLIE, the pooch is Klondike.

A few years later, Smith directed another film with Mehaffey, the lost / missing DANCING DYNAMITE (1931) which starred Richard Talmadge.




(Courtesy of Rae Malneritch)




(Courtesy of Rae Malneritch)

On the left is actor Tom Brower (with a long coat) facing director Noel Mason Smith on the right (with hat and waist length jacket). Les Adams was able to add some details to this photo - it is still from the set of Dick Foran's CHEROKEE STRIP (Warners, 1937) where Edmund Cobb plays a character named "Link Carter" (note the name on the wooden sign).


Nope - that's not Trigger in the background of the above image from CHEROKEE STRIP (Warners, 1937).

It's singing cowboy Dick Foran's palomino "Smoke" or "Smokey". Click HERE for Foran, Linda Perry and Smoke (Smoky) in a scene from LAND BEYOND THE LAW (Warners, 1937).



(Courtesy of Tom Bupp)
 

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Left - the sleeping Tommy Bupp with Dick Foran in CHEROKEE STRIP (Warners, 1937). In this, Foran crooned a tune titled "My Little Buckaroo" to Bupp ... and the song became a hit.



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