|2216 and 2222 Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans, LA|
What I heard from one of our neighbors, though, is that John Miljan used to live in the green house next door to our inn. Yes, that green house. I don't have any proof, mind you. I'm only repeating what I hear on the street, the N'awlins grapevine, if you will.
Remember, nobody who lives in New Orleans calls it N'awlins. I only did that for your benefit, dear reader. Don't try to pull that stunt while you're here. It will show you're a tourist, a rube from the sticks. It will be like wearing Mardi Gras beads when it isn't Mardi Gras season. It's an invitation for pickpockets to strike up a further conversation and pinch your wallet without you suspecting.
Who was John Miljan? He was an actor who appeared in a total of 201 films. Some of them were real box office gold. Nobody remembers him now.
He appeared in "The Devil's Circus," which was a big hit in 1926. It played at the Bell Theatre on the corner of Bell and North Dorgenois Streets, just three blocks from our house. The Bell Theater burned down a long time ago. We are getting a new movie theater in our neighborhood, but that one is going to be on North Broad Avenue, about a fifteen minute walk from our house vs. five minutes. Still, it's always nice to have a movie theater in your neighborhood. How many other places can say that? Most people have to drive a half hour or more to see a movie on the big screen. Especially if you live in Wewoka, OK.
[Special note: The City of Wewoka has a new website since we last checked in with them. The new website looks very nice at the top of the screen. Then you scroll down.]
In case you don't remember The Devil's Circus, we include the first third of the film below. I think it was shot in New Orleans. It's certainly the kind of story that happens in New Orleans every day.
Your humble narrator enjoys watching silent movies. Your attention span may vary, of course. If you like jangly piano music, you're going to love this soundtrack.
I think John Miljan played the fat man who appears at 3:13 in this clip. From what I understand, after talking to the neighbors, he wasn't in the best of health at the time.
From what I can gather, John Miljan lived at 2222 Esplanade Avenue, in the green house. He died in 1960, in California, long before Frau Schmitt and your humble narrator moved to New Orleans, so we don't know anything first hand. There isn't a plaque in front of the house to commemorate his residence the way there is at the Degas House a block away. The Degas House has two historic markers on the sidewalk talking about the French Impressionist painter Edgar Degas. Maybe you've heard of him. We don't have anything but innuendo and legend about somebody who may or may not have lived next door that nobody remembers today. Sometimes, that's enough. Sometimes, that's better.
Nobody in the neighborhood even remembers John Miljan's name. All they know is that a great actor once lived in that house and that he was in The Devil's Circus, Footloose Widows, and The Amateur Gentleman, all films released in 1926. It was a very good year.
The Amateur Gentleman. I would like to see that one. Maybe I could learn something.
Buffa's, a 24-hour bar and restaurant on Esplanade Avenue, often shows silent movies on Thursday nights. Frau Schmitt and I often go to see them, have one of the best bloody marys in the city, and enjoy a little convivial conversation amongst other people who live in New Orleans year round.
I was talking to Lenore, who lives on the block behind our house, and she told me, "That actor who lived in the green house really chewed up the scenery in The Devil's Circus. He ate it up and spit it out." That's why I think John Miljan played the fat man. He stole the show.
You never know what you'll find in New Orleans. It really is a devil's circus. It isn't all naughty, though. You'll stumble across plenty of things that will warm your heart, make you happy to be alive, and raise your eyes up to the clouds. It's that kind of a city.
À votre santé,
La Belle Esplanade bed and breakfast.