Texas Guinan’s lasting fame derives from her reign as New York City’s Prohibition-era “queen of the nightclubs,” who greeted patrons with the famous cry, “Hello, sucker!” This is the persona displayed in Incendiary Blonde (1945), the flashy Hollywood biopic about Guinan starring Betty Hutton, and by Guinan playing herself in a few early Talkies, including the now-lost Queen of the Night Clubs (1929). But Guinan, born in Waco, Texas, obviously the source of her nickname, first achieved national prominence in the ostensibly masculine domain of the silent film Western, where she was promoted as the “female William S. Hart.” “Texas Guinan to Typify West” promised an early ad campaign for a series of her films, and, playing a tough “gun woman” rather than a timid schoolmarm in need of rescue, Guinan tailored her defiantly unglamorous image as a rowdy cowgirl who tames men as easily as horses. Moreover, her success as a performer allowed her to assume off-screen control of her career, first as the department head of the unit producing her films at Bull’s Eye/Reelcraft in 1919, and most significantly in 1921 by forming Texas Guinan Productions, her own independent company, to make The Code of the West (1921) and Texas of the Mounted (1921), her final silent films before her successful reinvention as a night club hostess. Some evidence suggests that the company may have produced additional films. According to her biographer Louise Berliner, Guinan was an innovative and energetic producer, choosing to cast each film rather than employ a stock company, helping to inaugurate states-rights distribution of her films, and supervising the publicity campaigns (including staging live skits before screenings) for her new company.
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