books The Captain and Kit

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OVER 200 IMAGES! The Captain is Harry Handly Caldwell, first and foremost a navy man and, of least importance, my cousin. Kit, the love of Harry’s life, is Katharine Clark Prosser Hilliker Caldwell; a woman of many names and even more beauty and talent. This is a true story in three parts; the Captain, Kit, and the Captain and Kit.

At fourteen Harry entered the naval academy at Annapolis and six successful years later he became an ensign. His early shipboard assignments took him to Alaska’s Bering Sea in search of fur seal poachers. Then to the Far China Station during the Sino-Japanese War aboard a ship that would temporarily become the only naval land fort in the world. From an obscure assignment on the Great Lakes, Harry was handpicked by then Commodore George Dewey as Dewey’s flag secretary, though not before political maneuvering involving the President of the United States. Ensign Caldwell was with Dewey at the historic naval battle at Manila Bay in the Philippines. He was by the admiral’s side on his triumphant return to the U. S. and the best man at his wedding. Lt. Caldwell was the first captain of the navy’s very first submersible, the U. S. S. Holland, SS-1. With the technical help of his friend, Thomas Edison, he, nearly single handedly, proved to a doubting U. S. Congress that submarines would become an invaluable asset in the future of naval warfare. During World War I, Lt. Commander Caldwell was the captain of the ship that tended the five-mile long submarine net protecting the lower New York harbor and the Verrazano narrows net protecting the inner harbor.

Kit never knew her father and barely remembered her mother who died when she was seven. Kit’s stepfather was James Prosser, a dapper well-spoken man who had dubious ties to the medical profession. The so-called doctor, Prosser took Kit on a 14-year odyssey across the country and back before she gained her independence and lived across the bay in Oakland from earthquake ravaged San Francisco. Making her early mark in journalism at the San Francisco Call, she and her first husband, Douglas "Bill" Hilliker, moved to New York. There, Kit soon earned a wide reputation in the motion picture industry editing and writing titles for silent films and, where she met and married the Captain. In the 1920’s, the Captain and Kit became the film industry’s premiere editors and titlers. They worked on over a hundred films including epics such as Ben Hur, a Tale of the Christ, and the first Oscar winners, Seventh Heaven, and Sunrise, a Song of Two Humans. They worked closely with early movie moguls Louie B. Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn, Adolph Zukor, and William Fox. Directors Frank Borzage, Raoul Walsh, F. W. Murnau, and arguably the best Hollywood director ever, their friend for life, John ‘Jack’ Ford. The advent of talkies combined with the great stock market crash in 1929, tested the resourcefulness of the dynamic duo. The Captain and Kit had to deal with the threadbare years of the 30’s while nurturing their only child toward adulthood.

The story is a thrilling action adventure, a look through the eyes of insiders at Hollywood in the "roaring twenties", and a poignant love story; something for everyone.