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Record Group Number: 900000
Series/Collection Number: M82- 62
Creator: Bletcher, Billy, 1894-1979
Title, Dates: Billy Bletcher's Vim Southern Studio motion picture photographs, 1915-1917.
Amount: 44 photographs
Medium Included: photographs
Organization/Arrangement: Unarranged.
Terms Governing Use:
Biographical/Historical:     William "Billy" Bletcher, an early film star, appeared in over two-hundred and fifty-one films between 1915 and 1966.  He was known for his deep, baritone voice.  Bletcher married fellow silent film star Arlyn Roberts (1893-1992) who also continued to appear in films until 1951.  Bletcher often portrayed "Spanky's" dad in the 'Our Gang' comedies of the 30s.  William Bletcher died on January 5, 1979.  His wife, Arlyn Roberts died on July 3, 1992.  The husband and wife team met while working for the Vim Comedy Company in Jacksonville, Florida between 1915-1917.  They also worked with silent movie film actress, Ethel Marie Burton (Palmer), who stared in thirty-two motion picture films between 1915 and 1917.  She also worked for the Vim Southern Studio located at 740-750 Riverside Drive.  Burton, Bletcher and Roberts stared with popular actors like Oliver "Babe" Hardy.  Ethel Burton was married to silent film star Arvid E. Gillstrom for a few years and later remarried becoming Ethel Burton Palmer. 

    Florida's sunny climate, political support, and cheap real estate and labor made Jacksonville, Florida a major center for motion picture film production during the early years of silent films.  As Jacksonville Mayor, J.E. T. Bowden (1915-1917) set out to restore business confidence in Jacksonville after a recessionary slump and encouraged movie investment in the city.  In 1916, more than 16,000 theaters were established in the country.  Movie companies in California threatened to move unless censorship ordinances were rescinded.  At the same time New York zoning laws forced out movie companies.  Bowden extended an open invitation "to the moving picture fraternity of this country" to inspect North Florida.  Between 1915 and 1917, Movie companies thrived in Jacksonville's hospitable climate until the mood changed and local and state political pressure forced the industry out of the state.

    New studios like the Vim Comedy Company, which employed Ethel Burton, typified the short-lived expansionist studios of the mid-teen movie boom.  Vim employed many intriguing personalities and made 156 one-reelers in 1916.  Founded in late 1915 by Louis Curstein and Mark Dintenfass, Vim produced the comedy series "Pokes and Jabbs" staring Bob Burns ("Pokes") and Walter Stull (Jabbs") and Ethel Burton often appeared in this series in various female characters. 

    Vim also created the a series of comedies staring Oliver "Babe" Hardy with Billy Ruge in thirty five slapstick films titled "Pump and Runt," which also occasionally stared Ethel Burton in 1916.  Other regulars with Vim included Harry Meyers and Rosemary Thebe, who specialized in domestic comedies, plus talented performers such as Kate Price, Billy Bletcher, and his wife Arline Roberts.  Including casts, directors, camera "knights of the crank," crew, and administrative personnel, the Vim Southern Studio in Jacksonville employed nearly 50 people plus extras in 1916, with a regular weekly payroll of approximately $3,800. 

    Oliver Hardy discovered that Burstein and Dintenfass were both stealing money from the payroll, which hurt the actors and crew.  For payment, Burstein secretly gave employees cash in an envelope each week.  Hardy eventually found the payroll list and discovered that Burstein was charging Dintenfass more for payroll than the cast was actually receiving.  This caused Vim to cease production in 1917.  Burstein and Dintenfass were involved in legal battles for several years, however, Burstein stayed in Jacksonville and made Billy West comedies (similar to Charley Chapman) under his new King Bee brand, which also employed Ethel Burton.
Summary:     This collection contains photographs collected by William "Billy" Bletcher of movies in production in Jacksonville, Orlando, and New York City by the Vim Southern Studio.  The majority of the photographs feature Ethel Burton in the comedy series "Pokes and Jabbs."  The collection also contains group photographs of various early movie stars including: Oliver Hardy, Pearl Shepherd, Walter Stull, Bobby Burns, Kate Price, Edna Reynolds, Pearl Bailey, Budd Ross, Harry Meyers, Rosemary Thebe, Arvid E. Gillstrom, Halle Cohen, and Harry Naughton.  The majority are promotional scene photographs.  In addition, this collection contains two reviews of movies staring Ethel Burton.
Finding Aids: Searchable index to selected images available on the Florida Photographic Collection web site at
Additional Physical Form:
Reproduction Note:
Location of Originals/Duplicates:
Associated Materials:
Language Notes:
Ownership/Custodial History:
Publication Note: Selected images published on the Florida Photographic Collection web site at
General Note: Florida Photographic Collection Number P1982-61.
Electronic Records Access:
Subject Access Fields: Burton, Ethel Marie.
Bletcher, Billy, 1894-1979.
Hardy, Oliver, 1892-1957.
Motion picture industry Florida.
Women Florida
Photographs. aat
Jacksonville (Fla.)
Orlando (Fla.)
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