Movies at Christmas provided smiles and laughs and other merriment.

For many families in Stark County, going to a movie or a play during the holidays is a Christmas tradition.

In Canton, films were a silent tradition in 1919. "Talkies" wouldn't be introduced in the city for about another decade.

And the films shown in Canton theaters 100 years ago rarely offered a holiday theme. But they did have elements that appealed to holiday moviegoers.

The Sunday Repository felt confident in reporting that "Christmas Spirit Pervades Theaters" in Canton, according to a headline in the newspaper on Sunday Dec. 14, 1919.

"There's a laugh or a smile in nearly every Canton theatrical offering this week, either on stage or screen, as is befitting the approaching season of Christmas merriment," according to the article that followed. "Managers have steered clear of tragedies, problem plays or similar heavy productions and the week is filled with genuine entertainment."

As was the nature of silent films in their day, movie lines were "spoken" by words appearing on the screen. Audio that accompanied the screenings often was provided by musicians in "pits" in front of those assembled in the theater.

The movie "Everywoman," for example, which was playing the Grand Opera House, featured a "Complete Symphony Orchestra," conducted by James Sutton, that offered a "specially composed music score accompaniment timed and wonderfully synchronized to every scene."

Serious themes

That film, "Everywoman," presented by Jesse Lasky and starring Violet Heming and Theodore Roberts, showed that not every movie playing in Canton at the holidays was family fare. The movie, following Heming's character "in her quest for love," focused on "the loves, sins, temptations of a modern woman's life -- a drama that sways the senses with its sensuous beauty, and stirs every human emotion with its tremendous power to reach the very soul."

A newspaper advertisement promised that "Everywoman" was "positively the very last word in screen achievement -- one that leaves upon the mind of the spectator an impression that will remain throughout the years of his life."

Matinee tickets were 25 cents and 35 cents. Evening showings cost buyers of the best seats up to 50 cents.

Other movies

Lesser films with popular stars were screened in Canton during the days before Christmas.

At the Liberty Theater, Charlie Chaplin starred in "The Bank," Mary Pickford could be seen in Captain Kidd Jr., John Barrymore appeared in "On the Quiet," and Norma Talmadge was in "Probation Wife."

Barrymore also was starring in "The Man From Mexico" at the Valentine Theater.

Charles Ray appeared in "The Busher" at the Orpheum.

June Elvidge starred with leading man Earl Metcalf in "The Woman of Lies" at the Lyceum Theater. An added attraction was "Tootsies and Tomales," a Vitagraph comedy with James Aubrey. Tickets were 22 cents.

The Alhambra Theatre was showing Pauline Frederick in "The Loves of Letty," along with a Snub Pollard comedy and the weekly newsreel. It was a way to be informed a century ago, since it wasn't yet possible to watch TV's nightly network news.

"Three men sought her love," explained an ad for "The Loves of Letty" in the Repository. "One a moneyed barbarian; one, an unprincipled nobleman -- a defiler of woman; and the other a struggler like herself, but a man worthy of the name."

And, Katherine MacDonald -- "America's Most Beautiful Woman," an ad for her movie said -- starred in "The Thunderbolt," showing at Canton's Strand. The movie proved that "No Man is a Match For a Clever Woman Who Loves."

Stage shows

Live holiday entertainment in Canton was highlighted by a stage show that starred Ed Wynn.

"Ed Wynn's Carnival, one of the biggest theatrical productions ever booked for this city, has been secured for three performances at the Grand Opera House, New Year's Eve, New Year's afternoon and (New Year's) evening," an article in the Repository told the newspaper's entertainment seekers. "This will be the first time that a show of such magnitude has been booked for Canton so soon after it left New York City and the guarantee given the company to be the largest ever promised any production here."

Wynn's New Year's show starred several personalities well-known in their day, including Lillian Fitzgerald, Edna Whistler, Gladdis Lee, and Ida Gerber. It was a new production, a representative of the Grand said, "giving the city its first chance to see a big production in its first season," reported the Repository.

"We decided to bring Ed Wynn's Carnival here even if the expense was enormous," said the Grand spokesman. "The guarantee is so high that in a theater the limited size of the Grand it will be almost impossible to make any profit on the production but we shall be contented if we come out without loss and are able to give Canton the biggest show it has ever seen."