There were two Donald Crisps, born in the area where he drove a horse drawn cart to earn money as a boy. Once in Hollywood he claimed to be from Perthshire but the truth was that he had working class origins and was from the East End. There was the Crisp who was – according to John Carrdine’s son – a unassuming character actor with the second most screen credits to his name after Carradine Snr. (around 300 for crisp compared with 500+ for Carradine.) He was the connecting thread, from his time working alongside D W Griffith at the dawn of cinema on ‘Birth of a Nation’ in which he appears as General Ulysses S Grant (he’s also an extra in ‘Intolerance’), to the end of Hollywood’s golden age. He continued working after many of his contemporaries retired, not for the money but simply because he liked working in movies. Then there was the other Donald Crisp, who was Wall Street’s man inside the Hollywood system, who was on the board of Bank of America.
Bow Church could be linked on the map to the post-Brexit ‘Enola Holmes 2’, which draws strongly on the matchgirls’ strike for its plot. Many of the strikers were from around Bromley-by-Bow. A statue of the Prime Minister William Gladstone is outside the church, and was paid for by Theodore H Bryant of Bryant and May, the owners of the match factory depicted in the Enola Holmes film. Gladstone’s hands are regularly painted red by unnamed people in memory of the striker’s blood on the hands of Bryant, as well as those of the other politicians, factory and dock owners of East London. The last time Gladstone’s hands were scrubbed clean was before the 2012 Olympics. The next morning they were painted red again.
Needless to say Crisp appears in a film which features Gladstone, the underwhelming ‘Parnell’ starring Clark Gable. Montague Love is Gladstone, Crisp plays Irish Republican firebrand Michael Devitt. In the Spencer Tracy ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’, Crisp is the father of Jekyll’s intended.