It is a bright, still morning on the well-kept grounds of the Bel-Air Country Club. We see the famous golf champion, Bobby Jones, moving over the fairway. A mysterious stranger trudges awkwardly a little behind him. Could it be Dr. Fu Manchu? Yes, it is he—the sinister Oriental villain of The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu, with his long, downward-sloping mustache and expression of inscrutable evil, though now he appears somewhat ill at ease because he is carrying a golf club instead of his opium pipe.
Bobby Jones leads the way to an undulating grassy area bordered by huge oak trees. Birds are singing. It looks like the beginning of a pretty good mystery movie. But Jones merely selects a golf club. It turns out that he is teaching Dr. Fu Manchu how to play golf, and in this episode he is demonstrating the right way to hold the club. Jones takes a flawless swing and the ball jets off into the sunny distance as though it were carrying an urgent message to the green. Dr. Fu Manchu looks unhappy.
Meanwhile, off in the woods a short distance away is one William Claude Dukinfield, better known as W. C. Fields. He has been attempting to improve his pathetic golf game while far from observation. Fields stares in astonishment at the flight of Jones's ball. "Land o' Goshen," he says. Sound films had only recently come in, and Hollywood moviemakers could not resist the opportunity to have actors speak lines of deep significance. Jones now sees Fields in the shrubbery and hurries toward him, greeting him with warmth, only to have Fields say he has decided to give up golf after watching Jones's drive.
"Oh, you can't do that, Bill," Jones says, and Fields, Dr. Fu Manchu and Jones sit down to talk it over. In a moment Fields begins to juggle golf balls. After he has three of them flying through the air he reverses their flight in a sort of syncopated pattern, meanwhile complaining that his golf game never improves.
September 22, 1968
"You do that pretty well," says Jones, staring at Fields in astonishment.
"Well, I've devoted a lot of time to it," says Fields, in his nasal drawl, which prompts Jones to suggest that devoting time to golf might improve his game. At last Fields takes a swing at a ball so that Jones can give him some pointers. He waggles one knee, jiggles the club in an agitated fashion, then suddenly crashes it downward as though driving a stake into the ground.
Fields looks crestfallen when the ball hops only a few feet away, and Dr. Fu Manchu smirks evilly. "The immediate cause of your troubles, Bill," Jones says in a kind and professional fashion, "is the way in which you swing the club through...."
All of this really happened, insofar as anything that happens in front of the cameras in Hollywood can be said to be real. For several months in 1931 and 1933 Bobby Jones was a familiar and popular figure in Hollywood, where he filmed 18 reels on the fundamentals of golf. These movies are now unobtainable—only one copy is known to exist—and almost forgotten, though they were perhaps the best motion-picture instructional ever made of any sport.
The films certainly had the most celebrated cast of any short subjects ever produced. Appearing in the 18 reels and playing inexpert golfers—an easy role for most of them—were Fields, who had recently starred in Tillie's Punctured Romance; Warner Oland, the Swedish-born star of the Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan movies; James Cagney, one of the new box-office attractions in Hollywood after the success of Sinner's Holiday; Edward G. Robinson, Cagney's main popularity rival because of Little Caesar; Loretta Young, 23 years old and a delightfully spontaneous girl noted for such features as Loose Ankles; Walter Huston, a distinguished actor on the legitimate stage; Leon Errol, the superb rubber-legged comic who had come West from the Ziegfeld Follies; Richard Barthelmess, Frank Craven, Louise Fazenda, Joan Blondell, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Richard Arlen, Claude Gillingwater, Joe E. Brown, Warren William, Guy Kibbee, Glenda Farrell, Charles Winninger, Evalyn Knapp, Zelma O'Neal, Huntley Gordon, William Davidson, Harold Goodwin, John Halliday and a large collection of since-forgotten child stars, butlers, show girls and cowboy actors who were merely extras and bit players in the superproduction that Hollywood made of the Bobby Jones golf instructionals. All of these stars worked in the Jones films for nothing. "We had a wonderful time," recalls Director George Marshall. "The top actors and actresses donated their time. Ail the stars were eager to take part. It was a privilege to have Jones work on their game."
"Did I enjoy it?" says Jones. "Hell yes. I'll never forget it. There was a story line in each episode, but we didn't have a script—they made it up as we went along. The plots wound up at the end of each 10-minute short, and there was a lot of horseplay and comedy, with the instructional business woven in."
Warner Bros., who produced the series, had its artists under contract, and in the first episodes they were the only ones to appear. But presently the stars of other studios began to get releases from their companies so that they could play golf with Jones, too.
The actors all took the sort of roles in the golf instructionals that moviegoers of the time were accustomed to seeing them play in their feature appearances: Cagney and Robinson were Chicago-gangster types inexplicably interested in golf; Oland as Fu Manchu looked like that untrustworthy Oriental somehow transported to a golf course; Walter Huston, who had recently starred in Abraham Lincoln and who in fact looked somewhat like Lincoln, took part in the lesson on the use of the niblick with an earnest and rather melancholy air, which led to the startling illusion that Honest Abe had been trying the game for a few score and 20 years without much success. Improvised, unstudied, casual, the episodes suggested in part the spur-of-the-moment lunacy of a Mack Sennett comedy. But only in part, for Jones's interesting demonstrations of how golf should be played, coupled with the expert performances of actors and actresses at the peak of their careers, resulted in smooth productions.
To understand how such a series could have come about, it is necessary to appreciate the role that Jones himself played in the American scene at the time. By 1931 he had become more like the hero of a Hollywood movie than any sports figure in memory. He was 29 years old, handsome and self-possessed. He was an extraordinary golfer, but also a popular idol and a living symbol of the ideal sportsman. He suggested the hero of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel—one of those high-spirited and engaging characters Fitzgerald liked to write about who knew everyone and went everywhere. When Jones reached New York after winning the British Open in 1926 the welcome given him was greater than that given General Pershing at the end of World War I. He was marched up Broadway amid rebel yells and flying confetti and ticker tape, with bands playing Glory, Glory to Old Georgia. "Nothing like yesterday's demonstration ever took place in the realm of sport," wrote one enthusiastic New York newspaperman the next day.
Senators joined in the praise of Jones, adding a certain class to the proceedings that Hollywood's image-conscious moviemakers often found lacking in their own publicity. Senator George of Georgia wound up a speech on Bobby's golfing triumphs by saying solemnly, "He has represented the very best in our life." Eminent public figures never said such things about movie stars lounging around their yachts and swimming pools. Moreover, Jones managed to retain his natural, matter-of-fact air, which was even more surprising in Hollywood's eyes. He retired near the end of 1930 after his wondrous Grand Slam: winning the British Open, British Amateur, U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur championships in the same year. He lived quietly with his wife and three children in Atlanta, where, as the son of a distinguished lawyer, his position would have been assured had he never won a golf match. He was practicing law and had recently argued his first case before a federal judge.
Hollywood decided it had to have Jones, and George Marshall, the reliable craftsman who could be depended on to come up with a picture no matter what the story or the cast, was dispatched to Atlanta to settle the details with Bobby. A thin, nervous, enthusiastic man, Marshall was well known for having made Mack Sennett comedies. Those were the days of serials like The Perils of Pauline, for which directors invented each sequence as they went along and contrived to have every episode end with such suspense that moviegoers had to go back the next week to see how it all turned out.
In this venture, Marshall had an advantage over other directors of the time—he could play golf. He was a low-handicapper at the Lakeside Golf Club (a three or an eight depending on which publicity release you read). Probably with The Perils of Pauline fresh in his mind, he visualized a series of short films that would be so compelling the moviegoer would have to come back next week to continue his golf lesson with Jones. Eventually, he hired O. B. Keeler, the Atlanta newspaperman, ghostwriter and golf authority who became Jones's Boswell, to narrate the series and provide for the end of each reel the stentorian announcement: "Watch for the next episode of Bobby Jones's How I Play Golf coming soon to your theater!"
An agreement was worked out with Jones calling for him to receive $101,000 for How I Play Golf (the money went into a trust fund for his children, with his father as trustee) and soon he boarded a train for the four-day trip to Los Angeles. He was ready for work almost immediately upon arrival, and early on the first Monday morning of his stay he appeared at Flintridge Country Club, along with the attendant celebrities, camera crews, electricians and George Marshall, who was overseeing all. Flintridge was used for most of the shooting because it was more remote and not so well known as Lakeside, and it was felt that less of a crowd would be likely to gather to bother Jones or make him self-conscious. But, as it turned out, Jones was probably the most assured man involved in the venture. Any difficulty that arose came not from movie fans gawking at stars, but from movie stars gawking at Jones.
The first episode was to deal with the putter. "Bobby's idea," remembers Marshall, "was to start with the putter and work up through the short irons to the long shots." Jones did not want the series to be a pretentious lecture on how golf should be played. It was he who chose the title—How I Play Golf—to avoid any notion that there was some one way to play or some formula to use. "While I am frying to explain the methods which I employ in playing various shots," he said in his summation for the series, "I do not mean to insist that these methods are the only ones, or even that they are the best. But I do think there are certain fundamentals which are the same for all golfers, and in making my explanations I have tried to separate these fundamentals from mannerisms that might be peculiar to my own individual style. The average golfer is not interested in winning championships. The chief benefits of the game for him must be recreation and the companionship of congenial friends. But I've always thought that if the game was worth playing at all it was worth making some effort to play correctly."
The first scene of the series began well. Jones was filmed on the practice tee. He made a few shots with his effortless swing and then said, "Well, I guess that's enough for today." He had a pleasant, unstrained voice and the stage presence of someone who had been accustomed for a long time to being in the public eye. "Jones's voice records perfectly," exulted Film Daily.
At this point in the film Jones was greeted by Tol'able David, otherwise Richard Barthelmess, in those days still a highly important Hollywood figure. The movie colony, awed by having the world's best golfer and a friend of the Prince of Wales with it, was trying to make Jones welcome by bringing forward its most distinguished members first. Barthelmess, who went directly into the movies while he was in his third year at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., was considered a man of the world, well educated and widely traveled. His frail features and his expression of stricken pathos made him a star in such early D. W, Griffith silent classics as Broken Blossoms and Way Down East, but it was Tol'able David, in which he played a wistful mountain boy, hair growing over his ears and trousers upheld by one suspender, that fixed his image in the minds of the American public and made him one of the most valuable of all film properties. Sound films did him no good, and he was now playing character parts—villains, as a rule, in a remarkable change from his previous embodiments of masculine virtue—though he was still a box-office attraction.
"Want some laughs?" Tol'able David says to Jones.
It appears that Joe E. Brown and Frank Craven are playing golf. They approach slowly, both uncommonly awkward, and hardly the congenial companions whose friendship could be called one of the virtues of the game. Brown is nattily attired in white knickers and checked socks; Craven wears an old hat, rumpled trousers and is smoking a pipe. Both were relative newcomers to Hollywood. Craven was type-cast as the homespun philosopher he later played for years in Our Town. He was a stage star and a playwright, and he could also play golf; in fact, one of his early stage successes was The Nineteenth Hole, which he wrote and in which he starred. As for Brown, he was a slapstick comedian with a wide mouth and highly mobile features whose ability to change his expression in an instant from elation to tearful self-pity made him an ideal choice to play the role of a golfer whose ball was generally in the rough. But being a former circus acrobat and professional baseball player, he was not as unathletic as he seemed.
With Jones and Barthelmess looking on, Brown yells at Craven, "Don't tell me how to hold my club!"
"I am not telling you how to hold your club," Craven says with dignity.
"If I take any lessons, we've got a pro here!"
"Will you please keep quiet," Craven says, with as much hauteur as his pipe and his awkward stance will permit, "until after I make this shot?"
And so it goes. Craven swings at the ball, and it lands near the cup. "If you fell in a crick you'd come out covered with goldfish!" says Brown, now beside himself. The camera just keeps on filming it all.
"Hah, hah, hah!" says Craven, laughing craftily. "He who laughs last laughs last."
The bickering of these two professional scene-stealers goes on so long that Jones begins to wonder if he will have a chance to give instruction in anything. Brown's ball is bunkered. He takes an awkward swing at the sand, and, to everyone's astonishment, the ball flies onto the green and rolls into the cup. It happened—no camera trickery—Brown really sank the bunker shot. This was one of the moments George Marshall had in mind when he said they had a lot of fun making the films. "Boy, what a shot!" cries Tol'able David, speaking not as an actor now but as a shocked golfer. The camera turns quickly to Jones, whose eyes have suddenly narrowed. "That makes the situation entirely different," he says thoughtfully, and to no great purpose.
At length the horseplay ends, Craven misses a short putt, Brown has won their game and, as everyone else starts for the clubhouse, Craven appeals to Jones for a putting lesson. This gives Jones a last-gasp opportunity, before the allotted 10 minutes is up, to make some concise comments about putting—324 words, to be exact—and to demonstrate what he means. They were well-chosen words, and even though the plot line had rather gotten out of hand because of Brown's remarkable shot, there was enough Jones instruction to satisfy the golfer in the movie audience.
When the film was actually shown it ended with a brief musical passage of a Charleston dance tune, played by an unidentified Chicago-type band, and Keeler's deep voice saying, "Watch for the next episode, The Short Approach Shot to the Green, in the Bobby Jones series, How I Play Golf, coming to your theater soon." If viewers did hurry back for the next episode they saw Charles Winninger, a short, irascible comedian who usually played businessman roles, neglecting his office to practice chip shots. He hits them worse and worse until he is finally rescued by Jones. The story in this case could be disregarded, and Jones's demonstration was largely in slow motion. "We burned up a couple of cameras trying that," Marshall recollects. "We didn't have the gear of today."
The third episode, The Niblick and Bunker Shots, opens in a mansion. The butler enters. "Yes, Wilson, what is it?" says a tall, stately lady in an evening dress.
"This is getting very discouraging," says the butler, "your husband two hours late for dinner every evening."
It turns out that the husband, Huntley Gordon, a distinguished actor usually cast as a diplomat, cannot get his ball out of a sand trap. Jones's part in this one consists largely of a slow-motion demonstration in which he plays six shots in a row out of the bunker and right to the pin.
Part four, or Niblick, Medium Irons and Long Irons, revolved around the troubles of Leon Errol, who refused to use a mashie niblick. Except for W. C. Fields (and Jones himself), Errol gave the best performance of any of the big theatrical names. Then 50, he was at the high point of his long career. His rubber-legs act, in which his knees invariably gave way at some critical moment—when he was a waiter carrying a tray through a crowd, or in some situation requiring great dignity—had made him world famous. In the Jones movie Errol's knees gave way just as he started to drive, but he did not belabor the act; it was merely another problem that added to his dismay. His main difficulty was trying to keep his ball from hitting a tree—the same tree. He obstinately refused to use a mashie niblick, but every time he hit with the club of his choice his ball struck the tree and bounced back at him. Jones finally rescued him by demonstrating the right use of the proper club. Jones swung easily and the ball went over the tree.
The next reel, The Medium Irons, was a departure from the format used up to this point. It involved a group of child actors, including Junior Coghlan and a 5-year-old named Georgie, who was known as the kid everybody would like to spank. Georgie strays away from the older boys to watch Jones practice. When the other youngsters find him, they all fire questions at Jones about the game. This provides Jones with an opportunity—rare in the reels thus far—to discuss golf without comedians interfering. Georgie, meanwhile, falls asleep, and the reel ends with a rather curious scene of Jones, looking like a genuine professional actor by this time, picking him up and carrying him to the clubhouse. "An exceptionally good reel," said Motion Picture Herald, noting that it was "additionally enjoyable for the kids."
But part six, The Big Irons, returned to slapstick. Guy Kibbee was the supporting star, a bald-headed comedian who usually portrayed a henpecked husband, for which there appeared to be a limitless supply of scripts. In his effort with Jones he is an employer who threatens to fire Hal Goodwin because Goodwin is wasting his time playing golf. Goodwin was a leading man at the time, a lanky, easygoing character, esteemed as one of the better golfers in Hollywood.
But Kibbee himself sneaks away from the office to practice. On the opposite side of a hill Goodwin is explaining to Jones that he is hooking his iron shots. He demonstrates, and the ball flies over the hill and hits his boss in the rear. "I'll report this to the greens committee," says Kibbee, unaware of where the ball has come from. Goodwin tries another shot. This one hits Kibbee just as he is bending over to tee up his ball. "You can't tell me somebody isn't doing that on purpose!" Kibbee exclaims indignantly, and rushes over the hill for a confrontation with his tormentor, only to find that his own employee is responsible.
Jones's demonstration of the right way to use a two-iron and his discussion of the swing are barely enough to keep Goodwin from being fired. And Jones is equally hard-pressed in the next part, The Spoon, Brassie and Driver, to prevent Zelma O'Neal from divorcing Warren William, the suave sophisticated troublemaker and home-wrecker, because he is neglecting her for golf.
Sometimes the stories that introduced those instructional were so interesting that everyone, including Jones, really acted in them. Number eight, The Brassie, was a case in point. It opens with a roadster speeding down a tree-lined road past a country club. A limousine pursues it. Motorcycle cops stop the roadster, which contains Loretta Young, who is eloping with Allen Lane, a curly-haired young leading man. Claude Gillingwater, a tall, thin, Louisiana-born actor featured in such Mary Pickford gems as Daddy Long Legs and Tess of the Storm Country, piles out of the limousine, determined to prevent his daughter from running away with Lane. Just then a golf ball flies through the open car window. Forgetting his domestic problems, Gillingwater rushes the entire party onto the golf course, where he finds Bobby Jones.
"Hello, Loretta," Jones says.
"You came close to putting a golf ball through Mr. Gillingwater's windshield," says Lane, in a transparent attempt to curry favor with his future father-in-law.
"I'm sorry," Jones says. "I hope I didn't hurt anyone."
Gillingwater is so impressed at meeting Jones that he asks if he can watch him practice. "I'd be delighted," Jones says. "Are you sure your car is safe? I might hook another one." Meanwhile, using sign language, Jones agrees with Loretta to keep Gillingwater occupied so the lovers can sneak away safely. As a result he has one of his longest uninterrupted discourses and his clearest demonstration of his own swing.
But such opportunities were rare. In the episode devoted to advice on how to practice, Jones had in the scene with him Evalyn Knapp, a tall, thin blonde, James Cagney, Donald Cook, another familiar figure in gangster movies, Joan Blondell and Louise Fazenda, a onetime Mack Sennett bathing beauty who had become a popular comedienne. As Jones began his demonstration of good practice technique, Louise arrived at the course, lugging her golf bag and giggling excitedly. There seems to be a misunderstanding and she cannot appreciate that Jones is supposed to be the one doing the practicing. She had somehow gotten the impression that the movie is to be of her practicing with Jones. She interrupts so often that at last Cagney and Cook, in the best movie tough-guy tradition, clamp their hands firmly over her mouth and drag her away. But even that does not discourage her, and at last, when Jones's lesson is over, she comes back and is permitted to try one shot in front of the camera. She takes a terrific swing in which she smacks the ball, leaps clear off the ground in her follow-through, makes a complete revolution in the air and winds up triumphantly with a pratfall to end the reel.
The nonsense and slapstick and fast ad-libbing of the stars sometimes jarred against Jones's serious feeling about golf. Even more, the byplay clashed with his desire to make golf interesting and intelligible to the average moviegoer. But his natural dignity and his mastery of the game made most of the story episodes seem so outlandish and irrelevant that they did not interfere with his essential message. The message was summed up in his words to the disconsolate Frank Craven: "The whole idea, it seems to me, is to do the thing in the simplest and most natural way."
Jones managed to work this concept into every reel. "Stand up, be comfortable," he said to Charles Winninger, who was crouching over the ball as though he intended to play marbles. "Get yourself in a comfortable position where you can swing easily," he said to Leon Errol. In his reel with the child stars, he told them, "I don't know a better way to start learning the game than to get a mashie like this, or a midiron, and start knocking the ball around until you get the feel of the clubs."
Jones was always candid, which proved interesting under the unrehearsed conditions. When Cagney asked him what difficulties he had with his own golf game, Jones said, "Well, with the medium irons and short irons, the trouble I have most often is failing to cock my wrists at the top of the backswing. I'm inclined sometimes to hang onto the club a little bit too tight, so I don't get that nice rhythm." And he demonstrated his own failings with the same detail he gave to everything else.
Naturalness and ease were the theme of his instruction, and he illustrated it in his manner as well as in his game. One episode revolved around a gag also unrehearsed. Joe E. Brown bet that he could beat Jones if he played Jones's ball and Jones played Brown's after the tee shots, because Brown was always in trouble off the tee and Jones, who never was, had little experience in getting out of trouble. In the succeeding scenes Jones had to hit out of deep gullies, off cliffs and from ponds and streams, but he still managed to get across his argument on the need for ease in golf. "The success of this shot," Jones calmly explained once, as he straddled a deep ditch on a sloping hillside to hit Brown's ball, "depends upon the player's ability to swing accurately from a strained position. I find this is a severe test of concentration and of one's ability to relax under stress."
Those words could have served as a commentary on Jones's entire experience in Hollywood. In effect there was a contest going on: Jones trying to explain and to demonstrate how much golf meant to him and its worthiness as an art and a sport; the stars being themselves. "Bobby Jones was one of the most impressive individuals I've ever known," says Joan Blondell. Unable to play golf, she regarded the Jones movie as a picnic, a release from the rigors of shooting schedules indoors. "I remember going out one day to shoot with Jones," she says. "It was a bright, sunny, warm day and the grass looked so inviting I lay down to rest. I fell asleep, and when I woke up, here was Jones hitting golf balls over me that landed just inches away. It was impressive."
Richard Arlen, then a celebrated heartthrob star who was renowned for his portrayal of a fighter pilot in Wings, was one of the few stars who played serious golf. "Paramount allowed me to go over and do this short because of the esteem they had for Bobby Jones," Arlen says. "It was a loan that wasn't often done in those days. It was probably the greatest two weeks I ever spent. One of the marvels of Jones's game was the way he putted very quickly. He always contended that your initial judgment was the best. He never looked over a green or paced around a ball."
The series was a star-studded social success, but there is some doubt that it was the financial bonanza Warners had anticipated. The initial episodes were shown to exhibitors at a convention in Atlantic City in April 1931. "The first Bobby Jones reel is a darb!" said Motion Picture Daily. "Corking!" said Film Daily. "Far and away the best thing in sports instruction on the screen." In all, the first series of 12 reels was shown in 6,000 movie houses, with the audience estimated at 20 to 30 million. A New York Times reviewer said Jones was a good actor: "Looking back on those Bobby Jones films and comparing them with other short sports pictures, one can readily rate them as among the best and most human. It is no wonder that they have been popular."
Warner Bros. signed Jones to a five-year option and filmed another set of six reels called How to Break 90. The corniness of some of the action in the first series embarrassed Jones, and in the next he was determined to talk about aspects of the swing, backswing, wrist action, the grip, left-arm control, impact and other fine points. "There was less horseplay in these," Jones remembers, "and they were more frankly instructional."
But Hollywood could never let well enough alone. By the time the second series was made in 1933 the emphasis was on striking pictorial effects. Sometimes Jones was dressed in gleaming white clothing to demonstrate his shots against a solid-black background. More often he was filmed in a strange half-black and half-white costume, so that his left arm and left side could be made to stand out against the black background, while his right side—the black side of his costume—so blended with the black background that it seemed to have disappeared.
It created a far-out, or off-Hollywood, effect, all right. In the old Creighton Hale serial, The Invisible Man, a mad scientist discovered a compound "a thousand times blacker than the blackest black" the effect of which was that anyone wearing it could not be seen at all. At times Jones's demonstrations of his golf swing looked as if someone had found Creighton Hale's invisible cloak in the prop room and used it for part of Jones's costume. The art-movie photography of How to Break 90 inspired humorist Robert Benchley, a good friend of Jones's, to write a movie parody of it entitled How to Break 90 in Croquet. Still, the 18 reels represented a fantastic achievement. They recorded the talent of a marvelous athletic performer at the peak of his career with a detail that could hardly have been captured in any other way.
The bottom dropped out of the movie-short business during the Depression, and Film Daily reported that shorts were in trouble, though the Bobby Jones series was going strong. Essentially the difficulty with How I Play Golf stemmed from Hollywood's mistaken notion of the habits of moviegoers. The episodes were intended to follow one another, but few fans went to the movies every week, or each time a new feature was shown. People might see reel one of Jones, and then reel six, missing the instructional sequence idea that was part of Jones's original intention. On the other hand, the entire set of 12 reels in one series and six in the other made too bulky a package for people interested only in golf, plus the fact that the comedy interludes were merely a distraction for them.
So the true achievement of the series was historical. The Hollywood folkways that were caught in the Bobby Jones films illuminated a side of the movie colony found nowhere else. The stars in their off-stage, relaxed moments appeared more often to be enjoying themselves in a production of some super home movie than to be living up to their roles as celebrities. And mixed up and contradictory as the instructional films were, they nevertheless documented with thoroughness how Jones thought golf should be played.
But, ironically, the films have not been preserved. Through the years of the Depression no one associated with the Warner Bros, distribution system bothered to take care of all those cans filled with old golf movies. The reels that were deposited in the Library of Congress for copyright purposes have vanished. Warner Bros, itself has no copies. George Marshall, who kept in touch with Jones and remained a good friend, has only a few stills from some of the reels. It seems that everyone concerned with the project assumed that someone else was keeping the material. The photographic museum, Eastman House, does not have a set, nor can one be found in any of the many movie libraries in Hollywood. No one even kept a record of the stars who appeared in the films.
In all probability all traces of the films would have disappeared had it not been that an Atlanta banker. Mills Lane, managed to buy a complete set years ago. He gave them to Jones, who in turn gave them to the Peachtree Golf Club in Atlanta. They are now in a safe deposit vault of the Trust Company of Georgia. Occasionally a reel or two is taken out—a matter about as easy to arrange as borrowing the Hope diamond from the Smithsonian Institution—and shown at some golf gathering. Without actually seeing them, it would be difficult to credit that they ever really existed. And even when seen, they have an unreal quality about them. As W. C. Fields remarked after watching Jones drive in reel No. 1 of How to Break 90, "I still don't believe it."