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Silent Players

Silent Players: A Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses

Anthony Slide
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 464
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  • Book Info
    Silent Players
    Book Description:

    " From his unique perspective of friendship with many of the actors and actresses about whom he writes, silent film historian Anthony Slide creates vivid portraits of the careers and often eccentric lives of 100 players from the American silent film industry. He profiles the era's shining stars such as Lillian Gish and Blanche Sweet; leading men including William Bakewell and Robert Harron; gifted leading ladies such as Laura La Plante and Alice Terry; ingénues like Mary Astor and Mary Brian; and even Hollywood's most famous extra, Bess Flowers. Although each original essay is accompanied by significant documentation and an extensive bibliography, Silent Players is not simply a reference book or encyclopedic recitation of facts culled from the pages of fan magazines and trade periodicals. It contains a series of insightful portraits of the characters who symbolize an original and pioneering era in motion history and explores their unique talents and extraordinary private lives. Slide offers a potentially revisionist view of many of the stars he profiles, repudiating the status of some and restoring to fame others who have slipped from view. He personally interviewed many of his subjects and knew several of them intimately, putting him in a distinctive position to tell their true stories.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-2708-8
    Subjects: History, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. A Personal Odyssey
    (pp. xv-1)

    Silent film, the truth at sixteen frames per second, has dominated much of my adult life. It has brought me happiness through the individuals I have met as a result of my interest, and it has also resulted in endless frustration in regard to both the lack of interest in the genre and the combined efforts of many who debase it through distribution of misinformation, arrogant and often worthless opinions, and shoddy presentation. The silent film we see on screen today is not what was viewed by an audience contemporary to the film. No matter how fine, dedicated, or caring...

  6. Mignon Anderson
    (pp. 3-5)

    She was a sad little creature, one might almost say pathetic, as unworldly as many of the ingenues she had played at the Thanhouser Company in the early teens. She lived in a small apartment, almost across the street from Warner Bros., a studio that had not existed when she was a leading lady. The world scared and confused her, and she was genuinely shocked that she was living next door to a young man and a woman who were not married to each other.

    One of her leading men at Thanhouser had been James Cruze, who went on to...

  7. Mary Astor
    (pp. 7-9)

    It would be foolish to claim that Mary Astor was a great silent star. She was certainly a pretty ingénue, but there was little substance to her performances. Only with the coming of sound and her own maturation as a woman did she develop a dignity and strength to her characterizations. After 1930, whether she played heroine or villainess, Astor asserted her presence and commanded attention.

    In her silent films, Astor has much the same innocuous quality as Mary Philbin, and, curiously, both women were dominated by their fathers. Mary was a member of the informal social club that called...

  8. William Bakewell
    (pp. 11-13)

    Billy Bakewell, as everyone called him, was one of the few actors and actresses from the silent era to have been born in Hollywood—on May 2, 1908. He was a star-struck teenager who frequented the studios, watching production and seeking work as an extra. In January 1928, Central Casting listed him as one of the 29 extras who had graduated to featured roles on screen, and he was making $75 a week. (Sue Carol, Sally Eilers, James Murray, and David Rollins were also mentioned.)

    Billy never lost his fascination with the film industry, and even after retiring from films...

  9. Lina Basquette
    (pp. 15-17)

    There can be few autobiographies as outrageous as Lina Basquette’sLina: DeMille’s Godless Girl,almost every page of which consists of remembered conversations dealing in large and intimate part with her sex life, the early death of her first husband, and, most entertaining of all, her attempted rape by Adolf Hitler, Norma Desmond did not have such a life! The book contains exaggeration and curious inconsistencies, if not downright lies, but it is all so entertaining that nobody should care. In a way, the autobiography’s title reveals all–Basquette made only one film for which she is vaguely remembered, and...

  10. Madge Bellamy
    (pp. 19-21)

    Louise Dresser isThe Goose Woman,a sort of rural bag lady, in the 1925 Universal film, Her real life equivalent was Madge Bellamy (Hillsboro, Texas, June 30, 1899-Upland. California, January 24, 1990), who lived her final years in Ontario, California, in semi-rural squalor, her attire and her surroundings equally distressed. Everything about Madge Bellamy was a mess, With her below-the-shoulder wig of golden curls, she looked as if she was understudying Bette Davis inWhat Ever Happened to Baby Jane?Even her autobiography,A Darling of the Twenties: Madge Bellamy,is rather a hodgepodge, with an appendix of correspondence,...

  11. Constance Binney
    (pp. 23-25)

    Back in the 1970s, there was an aging film buff in Washington, D.C., by the name of Tom Fullbright. For somewhat obvious reasons, including a penchant for aging actresses (very much a gay trait), he had the nickname of “Fruity” Fullbright. Tom came up with the notion of presenting “Rosemary Awards” to individuals from the silent era who were largely forgotten at the time-and back then film buffs were less determined in their desire to honor any actress of the past, no matter how trivial the career or how minimal the performance. I had something of a reputation as a...

  12. Priscilla Bonner
    (pp. 27-33)

    Priscilla Bonner’s forte was playing the innocent, virginal heroine. “I was in rags a lot of the time and it was always raining. I was dragged through rainstorms and it was snowing and people were abusing me. That was my screen life,” she once commented. In real life, she was a shrewd businesswoman with a keen interest in money. On a road trip to San Francisco, she pointed out the oilrigs off the coast of Santa Barbara ugly and offensive to most passersby, but to her, an investor, a potential source of revenue. She was very good at entertaining friends...

  13. Hobart Bosworth
    (pp. 35-37)

    Hobart Bosworth brought a sense of strength and nobility to the screen. He was a pioneering actor who seemed to continue on forever, as virile and capable in roles of the 1930s as he appeared two decades previous. Bosworth was the Dean of the Screen, and as such he symbolized old Hollywood, “I remember him so well as a young boy,” said Charles “Buddy” Rogers, who played his son inMy Best Girl(1927). “We had a bridle path in Beverly Hills, and he had this big white stallion. My first memory of glamour Hollywood was to see him and...

  14. Evelyn Brent
    (pp. 39-41)

    The majority of silent film players never took themselves too seriously, but few were willing to spare the time to view what they considered to be their worst screen appearance. An exception was Evelyn Brent, who sat down and watched with obvious amusement (and a few quite salty comments) her 1922 British featureTrapped by the Mormons,Between 1920 and 1923. Brent made thirteen films in Europe, ten in England, two in the Netherlands, and one in Spain. The last,The Spanish Jade,co-starring Marc MacDermott, was directed by John Robertson and Tom Geraghty for famous Players-Lasky and is the...

  15. Mary Brian
    (pp. 43-49)

    Mary Brian is the greatest of the screen ingénues from the silent and early sound era. She is a competent, intelligent, and compliant actress who exudes a natural charm and personality. There is never anything forced or artificial about her performances, no matter if the storylines are not always believable. Because she appears to have faith in what is transpiring on screen, so do we, the audience, believe. It is rather like the line inPeter Pan,in which Mary made her debut, when the audience is asked if they believe in fairies. Of course, we do, and so do...

  16. Gladys Brockwell
    (pp. 51-53)

    Both physically and emotionally, Gladys Brockwell (Brooklyn, New York, September 26, 1894-Los Angeles, July 2, 1929) was an outstanding presence on screen. There was a majesty to her leading roles with William Fox from 1916 to 1920, and her performances mask the cheapness of productions ranging in cost from $25,000 to $30,000. Born Gladys Lindeman, the actress had adopted her mother’s maiden name when she embarked on a lengthy stage career—a leading lady at age fourteen with her own company at seventeen—prior to her 1913 entry into films with Lubin.

    The thirty-three feature films in which Brockwell starred...

  17. Kate Bruce
    (pp. 55-57)

    A number of actresses gained fame for their characterizations as mothers in silent film. Mary Maurice was a pioneer with the Vitagraph Company. In the 1920s. Mary Carr was made up above her years to portray mothers. most notably the central character inOver the Hill to the Poorhouse(1920). Vera Gordon was the stereotypical Jewish mother inHumoresque(1920) and, later, in the “Cohens and Kellys” series of feature films (1928-1930). Then, of course. Belle Bennett played the tragicStella Dallas(1925), watching her daughter’s wedding through a window. But the mother of all mothers is Kate Bruce (1858...

  18. John Bunny
    (pp. 59-61)

    John Bunny was the first internationally recognized film comedian. He was also the most famous fat comedian of his day, at a time when fat meant cute and cuddly rather than obese and unattractive. There had been earlier fat comedians, most notably John Cumpson at American Biograph, featured in the 1908–1909 Jones family series, and there would be later ones, such as Roscoe “fatty” Arbuckle, whose fame became infamy and whose obesity only added to the public horror and outrage when he was accused of rapemurder.

    John Bunny was as innocuous as his predecessors, but he was no Roscoe...

  19. Ruth Clifford
    (pp. 63-67)

    Ruth Clifford enjoyed two very distinct film careers, the first as a silent star and the second, in later years, as a member of John Ford’s stock company. Her innocent, slightly worried looks coupled with a pretty, natural beauty made her an ideal silent ingénue. Ruth’s primary credentials for membership in the John Ford stock company were an Irish accent and Irish ancestry. The Irish connection was a little weak in that she was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, on February 17, 1900, and both her parents were born in England. “Mine is not an Irish accent–I’m accused of...

  20. Elmer Clifton
    (pp. 69-71)

    Elmer Clifton has never received the recognition he deserves as a director. Active as both a director and screenwriter up until his death in Los Angeles on October 15, 1949, Clifton was reliable, efficient, speedy, and creative, despite the films seldom being worthy of much effort. He had the immense good fortune to learn the craft of filmmaking from D.W. Griffith and, also, to be featured in two very disparate roles in the director’s masterworks.The Birth of a Nation(1915) andIntolerance(1916).

    Born on one of the islands in the St. Lawrence River on March 15, 1890, Clifton...

  21. Miriam Cooper
    (pp. 73-77)

    Miriam Cooper has never received the attention lavished on other D.W Griffith actresses, and yet she provides one of the most modern and naturalistic of silent film performances inIntolerance(1916). Only Mae Marsh is her equal in the film, but the styles are too different to be worthy of comparison, As the friendless One. Cooper is driven to murder her lover, the Musketeer of the Slums (Walter Long). After the killing, she is so stricken with guilt and revulsion that she actually bites her lower lip and draws blood, This is method acting carried to its ultimate level! Griffith...

  22. Pauline Curley
    (pp. 79-81)

    Pauline Curley always had a childlike appearance even after she had graduated from child star to leading lady. Her screen career ran from the start of the silent feature film era in 1915 until its end in 1928, and yet few of her films are remembered today, and she remains a relatively unknown performer. Prior to her film career. Pauline Curley had been on stage from the age of seven, touring the US, and Canada in vaudeville and playing a remarkable 159 performances in a long-forgotten Broadway melodrama,Polygamy,which opened in December 1914. Born in Holyoke. Massachusetts, on December...

  23. Viola Dana
    (pp. 83-87)

    There is a much-praised sequence in the 1980Hollywoodtelevision series. in which Viola Dana tells of the crash that killed her lover, stunt pilot Ormer Locklear, during the filming ofThe Skywaymanin Los Angeles on August 20, 1920. As she recounts the moment that the plane hit the ground, the camera moves in for a close-up of her face. Dana’s eyes brimming with tears. There is an immediacy to the moment, exemplary of fine documentary filmmaking, write the critics. Nobody bothers to consider that Viola Dana is a great actress, that she is playing a role and that...

  24. Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon
    (pp. 89-95)

    Both were American silent stars, but Bebe Daniels and Ben Lyon also hold a unique place in the history of British entertainment. They were the only major U.S. stars to sit out World War Two and the blitz in London and the only American performers to have starred in long-running BBC radio shows. from 1940 to 1942, Bebe and Ben were heard onHi Gang!,which was also revived as a postwar series in 1949. They devised and wrote the comedy-variety series and also starred in a 1942 film version. Bebe Daniels also provided the script for the situation comedy...

  25. Philippe De Lacy
    (pp. 97-99)

    After the death of Barbara La Marr, Philippe De Lacy (who was sometimes billed as Philippe De Lacey) and his adopted mother moved into her home, leading at least one fan magazine writer to note that “The boy who is too beautiful” now occupied the same address as had “The Girl who was too beautiful.” While one might question La Marr’s right to the title-Corinne Griffith easily surpasses her—there is no doubt that De Lacy is deserving of his title. Was there ever a more beautiful boy on screen, and was there ever a child star with such a...

  26. Carol Dempster
    (pp. 101-103)

    Neither audiences nor her colleagues liked Carol Dempster very much. “I never cared for her,” said Lois Wilson. “She had sharp features, you know, and I always used to say she was as sharp offscreen as she was on, She was working at the Paramount, Long Island, studios, and I was working there with Bebe Daniels. Bebe would say, ‘Do you get on with that Carol?’ And I’d say, ‘No,’ and she’d say, ‘Same here’” The sole reason for Carol Dempster’s career was D.W. Griffith, her mentor and, in all probability, her lover. “He [Griffith] was mad at me for...

  27. Dorothy Devore
    (pp. 105-107)

    Petite and pretty and with a very homespun American charm. Dorothy Devore was one of the major second-league screen comediennes. She had neither the personality nor the commercial appeal of Mabel Normand, but as the leading female star of the Al Christie comedy company, her films had a guaranteed audience.

    Born Anna Inez Williams in Fort Worth, Texas, on June 22, 1899, Dorothy Devore began her professional career as a singer at Al Levy’s Café in Los Angeles at the age of fourteen, at which time she changed her name, and in 1918, she was signed to a contract by...

  28. Richard Dix
    (pp. 109-111)

    With his footballer’s build, the square-jawed Richard Dix (St. Paul, Minnesota, July 18, 1893-at sea, September 20, 1949) is very much a man’s man, standing apart from the Latin lovers and the seemingly effeminate leading men who make up the roster of male silent stars, The hulking francis X. Bushman saw Dix on stage in Montreal and recommended him for screen work after noting how much the actor looked like him. Dix does have an undeniable screen presence. Jane Wyatt was an unlikely Western heroine opposite Dix inBuckskin FrontierandThe Kansan,both released in 1943, distressed as much...

  29. Billie Dove
    (pp. 113-115)

    Billie Dove’s last film,Blondie of the Follies,released by MGM in August 1932, is an example of art imitating life. Like her screen character. Dove had been a showgirl and dancer in theZiegfeld Follies(in 1917 and 1918), as had the star ofBlondie of the Follies,Marion Davies. (Of course, they were both looking a bit long in the tooth by this time.) And just as their screen personae have sugar daddies, so did Dove and Davies. The latter, of course, was the mistress of William Randolph Hearst. Billie Dove was the wife of director Irvin Willat,...

  30. Claire DuBrey
    (pp. 117-119)

    Claire DuBrey was not an easy woman to know. She was outspoken, arrogant, and unwilling to listen to others. Her career was long and basically undistinguished, but, as she grew older, she saw herself as one of the last pioneers of the cinema. She was born in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, on August 31, 1892, and died, almost 101 years later, on August 1, 1993. Thus, she could claim—quite legitimately—to be the oldest living actress of the silent era. As such, she was determined to offer her opinion, wanted or not, on anything related to the era. She did...

  31. Virginia Brown Faire
    (pp. 121-125)

    Leisure World is an upscale senior citizen retirement community close to the California resort town of Laguna Beach. It was also for many years the home of Tinker Bell or, to be more precise, the actress who played J.M. Barrie’s fairy creation in the original 1924 screen adaptation ofPeter Pan,Virginia Brown Faire. Since the 1920s, she, Priscilla Bonner, and Mary Brian had been good friends, and, happily, the friendship of Robert Gitt and I with Priscilla and Mary was extended to include Ginnie. For a while in the mid-through late I 970s it became a routine for the...

  32. Bess Flowers
    (pp. 127-129)

    The number of Hollywood extras is probably in the hundreds of thousands. As early as November 1934.Photoplayreported some 17,541 individuals registered as extras with Central Casting. Among the number of small part and bit players available at that time were former stars, including Monte Blue, Betty Blythe, Mae Marsh, and Dorothy Phillips. and silent directors. including Francis Ford. Frank Reicher and George Melford. One-time stars might become extras. but the only extra ever to be accorded the celebrity and fame of stardom is Bess Flowers.

    A statuesque beauty of silent films, with the coming of sound, Bess Flowers...

  33. Howard Gaye
    (pp. 131-133)

    Crucial roles inThe Birth of a Nation(1915) andIntolerance(1916) are played by a statuesque actor who has never received any recognition in his lifetime or since. The actor is an Englishman. Howard Gaye (Hitchin, Hertforshire, May 23. 1878-London. December 26. 1955), and the characters he created on screen are General Robert E. Lee and Christ. Not a bad combination.

    Gaye was a well-educated young man whose father co-owned London’s Gaiety Theatre. He had been a newspaper reporter in England and decided to visit America in 1912. While staying at the Hollywood Hotel, he was introduced to actor...

  34. Lillian Gish
    (pp. 135-139)

    There is a title that describes Lillian Gish’s title character inRomola(1925) as “learned of books but of the world untaught.” That probably provides the shortest, and best, word portrait of Lillian Gish as seen on screen and as she exists in the public psyche. She certainly loved books, and her apartment was crowded with titles, many first editions signed by their famous authors. The Gish characters were generally ethereal, unworldly and unsuspecting of the evils of society, of which they were often made abruptly and dangerously aware. Be it the mulatto Silas Lynch inThe Birth of a...

  35. Dagmar Godowsky
    (pp. 141-143)

    With her jet black hair drawn tightly to the nape of the neck, Dagmar Godowsky had an exotic look, ideally suited to Spanish roles—or even pseudo-Chinese or Javanese. She was heavily reliant on makeup for her image on screen in the 1920s and throughout her life, but makeup could not conceal the effects of a love for good food. In later years, she did not weigh a ton, as she claimed, but she was certainly not the svelte actress who had portrayed Dona Florencia opposite Rudolph Valentino inThe Sainted Devil(1924).

    When I met her in London in...

  36. Jetta Goudal
    (pp. 145-151)

    “Get the boy some cheese, Daddy.” The boy is me, Daddy is the former silent art director Harold Grieve, and the speaker is his wife Jetta Goudal. The date is July 6, 1974, and the temperamental silent star is seated in a wheelchair and wearing a black veil. Despite the wheelchair, Jetta is every bit as domineering as she was on the set in the 1920s. She has just read my comments on her inThe Griffith Actressesand announced that she should spank me. Based on the manner in which she addresses Harold Grieve. I have every reason to...

  37. Ethel Grandin
    (pp. 153-157)

    In the mid-to late 1970s, a routine developed, with Robert Gitt and I screening films in the library at the Motion Picture Country House for Herb Sterne and for another resident. Ethel Grandin. I don’t know quite how Ethel became involved, but she was relatively lonely and enjoyed the opportunity to talk, perhaps to have dinner, and then to look at films, including some of her own. She had no close friends at the facility, and as the years progressed, she lost the ability to speak. The problem was more psychological than physical, and it was if she had literally...

  38. Ralph Graves
    (pp. 159-161)

    Ralph Graves’s goofy face and grin did not exactly match his muscular, boxer’s body. On screen, his clothes never seemed quite to fit. He was a likeable character but not a great actor. He never seemed to know what to do with his hands. As he admitted, “I was no actor,” and so perhaps the progression to writing, directing, and producing was natural, a career change that coincided with the end of the silent era.

    In old age, Graves had a healthy contempt for a society that could relegate a great man such as D.W. Griffith to the gutter and...

  39. Gilda Gray
    (pp. 163-165)

    “That was a very interesting picture,” said Percy Marmont, discussingAloma of theSouth Seas. “The snag was it had the shimmy dancer Gilda Gray. She was the star of the picture in the same way that they would make a star of Rex, the king of wild horses, or Rin Tin Tin. She was a dancer. and she was well known all over America, so they starred her in pictures, and in support they gave her Warner Baxter, William Powell, me, and another old film star. Harry Morey. We all supported Gilda Gray.”

    Percy Marmont’s comment is a little...

  40. Corinne Griffith
    (pp. 167-171)

    Silent stardom and beauty are often linked, at least in regard to female performers. (Although both Ramon Novarro and Rudolph Valentino might both be considered top contenders in the beauty stakes if one is to adopt a pansexual approach.) Barbara LaMarr is described as the actress who was too beautiful. Renée Adorée is also promoted as a major screen beauty. And the early deaths of both actresses help to sway the emotional vote among silent film enthusiasts. Both are a little too Rubinesque for my liking. Adorée in particular always seems to have a weight problem, and both seem overreliant...

  41. Robert Harron
    (pp. 173-177)

    Audiences in the teens watched Robert Harron grow and mature from a teenage boy into an appealing young man. Ultimately, they also watched him die. Harron was an actor associated with only one director. D.W. Griffith, an actor of whom no unkind word was spoken, and an actor responsible for two of the greatest male performances on silent film. “A darling boy” is the expression both Miriam Cooper and Blanche Sweet used to describe him to me.

    Born in New York on April 24, 1893. Robert Emmett Harron was the second oldest of nine children, a son of poor Irish-American....

  42. William S. Hart
    (pp. 179-183)

    William Surrey Hart (Newburgh, New York, December 6, 1865–Los Angeles. June 23, 1946) was already a major stage actor when he entered films in 1914 with the two-reel shortHis Hour of Manhood.He had originated the role of Messala inBen-Hurin 1899 and played Cash Hawkins in the original 1905 production ofThe Squaw Man.Hart’s screen characterizations were always well-considered, serious types. He lacked and rejected the flamboyance of Tom Mix or the comic antics of Hoot Gibson. No cowboy dressed like these two or had as much fun as they did. It is odd that...

  43. Alice Howell
    (pp. 185-187)

    When I first met George Stevens Jr. at the American Film Institute. I was aware of his father’s contribution to cinema as a major director, but I did not realize there was another, more unusual, family connection through George Junior’s mother. Yvonne Stevens, who married George Senior in 1930, was the daughter of one of the most entertaining, unusual and underrated of silent screen comediennes. Alice Howell. A former vaudevillian. Alice Howell was born Alice Clark in New York on May 20, 1886, and took her stage name from a vaudeville act. Howell and Howell, that she and her husband....

  44. Alice Joyce
    (pp. 189-191)

    Gracious and charming the way young matrons should be in silent films, with a reserve that is not condescending but rather indicative of good breeding and good manners. Alice Joyce (Kansas City, Missouri. October 1, 1890-Los Angeles. October 9, 1955) was also a pioneering actress. She was a New York hotel switchboard operator when she joined the Kalem Company in 1911, after twice being rejected by D.W. Griffith. Asked to explain her placid disposition, she would joke that it was because Griffith remarked that she reminded him of a cow. Joyce was often partnered with Carlyle Blackwell or Tom Moore...

  45. Madge Kennedy
    (pp. 193-197)

    It was hardly unusual to come across former silent stars in Los Angeles. It was more uncommon to find former stage performers retired in the city. It was virtually unique to encounter someone who had not only been a great silent star but an equally prominent performer on the Broadway stage, but Madge Kennedy was such an actress. Now living in a small apartment in a rundown, largely immigrant neighborhood of the city a few blocks north of the Ambassador Hotel, which was also showing its age and soon to close, was an actress who should have been a major...

  46. Doris Kenyon
    (pp. 199-201)

    An intelligent, well-educated actress, Doris Kenyon had little time for reminiscing about her career as a silent star. In fact, she had no recollection of her work in silent films. She was happy to look through her scrapbooks and report on what she found therein, but when it came to any personal commentary, there was little she chose to recall. “I have put all my films to one side, and forgotten about them.” she told me in 1977. Doris was happier remembering her first husband. Milton Sills (1882-1930), with whom she had co-starred in her first released film.The Rack...

  47. J. Warren Kerrigan
    (pp. 203-207)

    It is perhaps difficult to understand just how popular was J. (Jack) Warren Kerrigan and how much he fell out of favor at the height of his career. Harold Lloyd was an extra at Universal when Kerrigan was the studio star: “Kerrigan was a tremendous figure in those days. He was a wonderful individual big handsome, had a Roman-type nose. I think he would be good today with the appearance he had. He was certainly the star of that lot. “Kerrigan had an open, round-face, a good physique hazel eyes and black hair, and he attracted female audiences. When the...

  48. Laura La Plante
    (pp. 209-213)

    The natural down-home beauty of Laura La Plante was matched by an easy-going charm and personality. Her characterizations were generally whole-some and refreshingly light, a welcome relief from the exoticism of other leading ladies of the 1920s.

    Following a divorce, Laura’s mother moved her and her sister from St. Louis, where the actress was born on November 1, 1904, to California. In the summer of 1920, Laura was sent to stay with her aunt in Los Angeles and obtained work with the Christie Comedy Company: “I was living about a block-and-a-half away from the studio, and someone suggested that 1...

  49. The Legends
    (pp. 215-219)
    Lon Chaney, Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Buster Keaton and Rudolph Valentino

    Fame may last somewhat longer than Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes, but it seldom lasts a lifetime. Film buffs. students and yes even a few scholars may recall actors and actresses of the silent screen who were once household names but even those members of the audience who are still living would be hard-pressed to identify many of them. To be a star, it was once necessary to have one’s name billed above the title, in theory to be more important than the film itself. To be a legend, it is necessary to be remembered only by one’s last name, and...

  50. Harold Lloyd
    (pp. 221-223)

    There are some images that are indelible. As I write, the May 28, 2001, issue ofThe New Yorkerhas just appeared, and on its cover is a sketch by Barry Blitt, showing Harold Lloyd hanging from a modern clock face surrounded by New York skyscrapers, with the title “Safety Last, Again.” With Chaplin, it is the tramp costume, with Keaton the porkpie hat that are the tokens of their trade. Harold Lloyd has his trademark props of the glasses and straw hat, but it is the shot of him desperately hanging on to the clock face, high above a...

  51. Babe London
    (pp. 225-227)

    In the 1923 Christie comedy,Kiddin Kate,the hapless bridegroom arrives expecting that his mail order bride is Dorothy Devore but is shocked to discover that he is to marry overweight Babe London, looking totally unappealing in a oversize woolen sweater, a dress that is too short, and ankle-length socks. It’s a typically degrading role for Babe London, but one with which the actress must, presumably, have felt comfortable. At the height of her career, Babe London had boasted a weight of 255 pounds, and in one of her earliest screen appearances, in Chaplin’sA Day’s Pleasure(1919), she is...

  52. Bessie Love
    (pp. 229-231)

    For an apt and early description or Bessie Love, one should turn to a self-published 1926 monograph,Who’s Whose in Hollywood: A Sorta Saga of Screenland,by B.W. Sayres (either a pseudonym or an anagram): “Lillian Gish with a Charleston complex... No sex appeal, but a lotta loose and lovely legs.” It is not exactly a positive image or the actress, but there is much truth here. Bessie Love does have some or the ethereal quality or Lillian Gish, hence her start with D.W. Griffith. Thanks to her performance inThe Broadway Melody(1929) and other early sound musicals, she...

  53. Dorothy Mackaill
    (pp. 233-235)

    Hull or, to be more precise, Kingston upon Hull, is a grim seaport on England’s West Yorkshire Coast. Dorothy Mackaill was born there on March 4, 1903. I began my working life there as a local government employee, in 1960. I have no particularly happy memories of the place. only the overwhelming, pervasive smell of fish hanging over the city day after day. Aside from Mackaill, the only celebrities that Hull has produced are flyer Amy Johnson (the British equivalent of Amelia Earhart) and poet Philip Larkin, who was librarian at the University of Hull. I am sure the city...

  54. Mary MacLaren
    (pp. 237-239)

    It might well be a Hollywood novel. There were two sisters. The younger, Katherine MacDonald (Pittsburgh, December 14, 1891-Santa Barbara, July 4, 1956) was not a great actress but a noted screen beauty. She died in luxury with a villa in the affluent Montecito suburb of Santa Barbara. She entered films in 1918, using the influence of her sister, Mary, who had changed her last name to MacLaren. Katherine MacDonald was renowed for her good looks, billed as “The American Beauty,” and supposedly was the mistress of Woodrow Wilson. She dominated the career of her more talented sibling, forcing an...

  55. Percy Marmont
    (pp. 241-245)

    Watching Percy Marmont as the personification of the English gentleman on screen in more than thirty British films from 1928 through 1968—typified by his role as the Chief Constable father of Nova Pilbeam in Hitchcock’sYoung and Innocent/The Girl Was Young(1937)—it is difficult to imagine him as a silent star. Yet there he is in some fifty American features from 1918 through the end of the silent era. He always wore a dyspeptic and anguished look. as if he was not really enjoying himself. InMantrap(1926), he picked up his leading lady. Clara Bow, and suffered...

  56. Mae Marsh
    (pp. 247-249)

    When Mae Marsh died at her longtime home in Hermosa Beach, California, on February 13, 1968, Pauline Kael reminded us in one the finest modern tributes to silent film ever published inThe New Yorker(February 24, 1968), “She is our dream not of heavenly beauty, like Gish, but of earthly beauty, and sunlight makes her youth more entrancing. She looks as if she could be a happy, sensual, ordinary woman. The tragedies that befall her are accidents that could happen to any of us, for she has never wanted more than common pleasures.... the girl who twists her hands...

  57. James Morrison
    (pp. 251-253)

    Winsome, boyish James Morrison was the perennial silent screen juvenile, a leading member of the Vitagraph Company from 1911 through 1916, who returned to the company as a freelance player in later years. He was small in stature, good-looking in a boy-next-door fashion and was so passive in his performances that he also seemed to blend in with the scenery. Watching him act, one can well understand why he described silent film playing as “the thought behind the action.” It is what we, the audience. do not see that matters, not the performance itself.

    Born in Mattoon, Illinois, on November...

  58. Jack Mulhall
    (pp. 255-257)

    If you wanted to chat with Jack about his career, he was usually to be found, ready to entertain fans, at the Screen Actors Guild. There he told me that the secret for acting in silent films he found not from watching one of the great names of the screen but rather from House Peters and Lewis Stone: “Spacing-that’s everything in life–spacing. If you space your life right, you’ll be all right.” Like House Peters, he was not a famous name in film history, but like Lewis Stone, he was a reliable and affable leading man who ultimately outlasted...

  59. Mae Murray
    (pp. 259-261)

    “I don’t believe Mae Murray was temperamental.” said Blanche Sweet. “I’ve never known a harder worker than she was. She could work any hour any day to accomplish something that she thought was right. Not that Mae was a great actress but she was a beautiful person beautiful body danced lovely and gave a fine performance inThe Merry Widow[1925].” That is one contemporary’s opinion, but, aside from agreeing with the description of Mae Murray as not a great actress one is hard pressed to acknowledge she has much to recommend her to modern audiences. She doesn’t act–she...

  60. Conrad Nagel
    (pp. 263-265)

    Conrad Nagel (Keokuk, Iowa, March 16, 1897–New York, February 24, 1970) was president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1932 to 1933 and received a special Oscar at the twelth Academy Awards presentation for “outstanding services to the industry.” He probably deserves more praise for his work founding the Academy and as a spokesman for Actors’ Equity than as an actor, for he was a decidedly bland performer, so innocuous as to almost blend in with the sets on many of his features. In a forty-year film career that began in 1919 withLittle Women...

  61. Nita Naldi
    (pp. 267-269)

    Nobody played Nita Naldi better than Nita Naldi. She lived the outrageous vamp character that she had become on screen. With her high cheekbones, jet black hair, strong nose, large, piercing eyes, and a sensual mouth that cried out for the bee-stung lips effect of Mae Murray, she was the screen personification of a wicked woman. She was wildly melodramatic, loving every minute of it as she vamped Rudolph Valentino inBlood and Sand.Off screen, her behavior was equally outrageous. and Kathryn Perry recalled that Naldi and Lilyan Tashman were discovered enjoying sex together in the ladies room at...

  62. Mabel Normand
    (pp. 271-273)

    Mabel Normand. The name has a distinctive and euphonious quality to it. a pleasing ring summoning forth an attractive presence. One immediately thinks of later cinematic beauties-of Marilyn Monroe-whose images are symbolic of both beauty and an undercurrent of fun. At the same time. there is a sense of lower-class unpretentiousness. almost a cheapness. to the name of Mabel. It evokes images of a back street urchin with a hint of tomfoolery. a working girl that knows the score. Mabel Normand. The name provides a complete definition of the woman. It is beauty. It is humor. And ultimately. just like...

  63. Jane Novak
    (pp. 275-279)

    Blonde, blue-eyed Jane Novak was a starstruck teenager who became a star almost overnight at a time when stardom was a commodity neither really known nor understood. Born in St. Louis on January 12, 1896, to parents of Hungarian ancestry–her father actually came from Prague–Novak arrived in Los Angeles in the summer of 1913 at the suggestion of her aunt, Anne Schaefer, who had been with the Vitagraph Company since 1909 and was at the time its principal Western leading lady. Schaefer had a photograph of her niece in her dressing room, and it had caught the eye...

  64. George O’Brien
    (pp. 281-283)

    With his good looks, outgoing personality, and athletic credentials, George O’Brien (San Francisco, April 19, 1900-Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. September 4, 1985) was a natural for Westerns, a genre in which almost all of his sound career was spent. He became a star in John Ford’s semi-WesternThe Iron Horse(1924) and ended his career as a character actor in two Ford Westerns,Fort Apache(1948) andShe Wore a Yellow Ribbon(1949). At the same time, O’Brien was able to immerse himself so totally in the character of the husband in Murnau’sSunrise: A Song of Two Humans(1927), becoming...

  65. Gertrude Olmstead
    (pp. 285-287)

    Lunch in the early 1970s with Jetta Goudal’s husband, Harold Grieve, was always a pleasant experience. The meal would generally be held by the swimming pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel—presumably in the hope that Harold might spy a few attractive young men in the water—and followed by a visit to Gertrude Olmstead (whose name is sometimes erroneously written as Olmsted). Gertie lived in a large Beverly Hills home, only one-story but still a mansion by most standards, and resembled a plump and jovial housewife. She was relaxed and had no illusions about the worth of her career....

  66. Seena Owen
    (pp. 289-291)

    “Do you remember Seena Owen inIntolerancewith those long eyelashes?” asks Margery Wilson, who plays Brown Eyes in the Griffith feature. Who could forget Seena Owen, not only inIntolerancebut also at the end of her acting career inQueen Kelly?She is as memorable as her name and one of the great exotic character beauties of the screen, a natural blonde goddess. One contemporary critic may have described her as “a vigorous, athletic, clear-skinned and clear-eyed baby Viking,” but she is no cold Scandinavian beauty. There is strong passion in her screen performances. “I’m not particularly eager...

  67. Jean Paige
    (pp. 293-295)

    Some actresses marry their leading men, some their directors. NormaShearer married Irving Thalberg, the head of production at MGM. Jean Paige worked for only one company, Vitagraph, and she married the head of the studio, becoming the only silent screen performer to make such a major transition. It could not have happened to a sweeter, less pretentious actress. The Vitagraph Company was always family-like, and Jean Paige became its young mother.

    Born Lucille Beatrice O’Hair in Paris, Illinois, on July 3, 1895, Jean Paige’s background does not hint at a film career. Her family was deeply religious and had no...

  68. Kathryn Perry
    (pp. 297-299)

    A visit to the Motion Picture Country House in the 1970s was never complete without a social call on Kathryn Perry, who was a longtime resident of the Lodge out there. She had aged from a sophisticated brunette to a gray-haired old lady with risqué sense of humor. She was no longer “The Most Beautiful Girl in New York,” as she had been named in 1921, but she was obviously someone who still enjoyed life and was not willing easily to slip easily into senility. She had been married only once, to actor Owen Moore, who had previously been the...

  69. Olga Petrova
    (pp. 301-305)

    Olga Petrova was a major performer on stage, onscreen, and in vaudeville; she also wrote plays and advice columns. She was an extraordinarily strong and determined female who seized upon the entertainment industry as a means not only to wealth but also for the propagandization of her beliefs. She was patrician, stubborn, self-centered, and eccentric. In the history of American popular culture of the twentieth century, Olga Petrova is quite unique, but because her films are not known to exist, her plays and writings long out of print, she is virtually forgotten. “You have never seen a film in which...

  70. Mary Philbin
    (pp. 307-309)

    One silent star noted as a recluse was Mary Philbin (Chicago, July 16, 1903–Huntington Beach, California, May 7, 1993), who had lived in the same house on Fairfax Avenue since the early 1920s. If she was out working in the garden, film buffs might stop and ask for an autograph, but she did not grant interviews and did not attend screenings of her films. It was, therefore, a major and delightful surprise when, on April 24, 1989, she suddenly arrived at our house, in the company of Carla (Rebecca) Laemmle, the niece of Universal founder Carl. Robert Gitt and...

  71. Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks
    (pp. 311-315)

    They were the king and queen of Hollywood, more beloved and respected by their peers and their fans than most constitutional monarchs. Neither had the virginal qualities expected of royalty when they married in 1920 and moved into the royal residence of Pickfair. Both had been previously married and divorced, she to actor Owen Moore and he to socialite Beth Sully. It would be wrong to claim that either Pickford or Fairbanks was a great actor, but both were great personalities with followings unprecedented in the history of popular entertainment. For at least a decade—the 1920s—Mary Pickford and...

  72. Arline Pretty
    (pp. 317-319)

    Blanche Sweet is a real name, perfect for a silent film star, and so is Arline Pretty, which sounds too good to be true. (What was appropriate for silent films did not work later, and in the 1950s British film star Violet Pretty changed her name to Anne Heywood.)

    Arline Pretty (Philadelphia, September 5, 1885–Los Angeles, April 14, 1978) was educated in Washington, D.C., where she was a member of the Columbia Players. She wanted to be a Broadway star but instead was lured to Tampa, Florida, to appear in local films aimed at promoting the city as a...

  73. Esther Ralston
    (pp. 321-323)

    Paramount’s 1924 release of the first and only live-action screen adaptation ofPeter Panconfirmed the prominence of Betty Bronson as Peter Pan, and made stars of Mary Brian as Wendy, Virginia Brown faire as Tinker Bell, and Esther Ralston as Mrs. Darling. It seems somehow appropriate that Tinker Belrs creator should enjoy old age in wealthy Leisure World. the California equivalent of Never Never Land for senior citizens, while Mrs. Darling ended her days in a trailer park in Ventura, California. Admittedly, it was an upscale trailer park, where one of Esther’s brothers also lived, but it was still...

  74. Charles Ray
    (pp. 325-327)

    Charles Ray has little to commend him to modern audiences. His round-faced boyish looks lack charm, and his characterizations of small-town or rural American youths whose naiveté and lack of sophistication never prevent their winning in the end do not ring true. In many respects, he is similar in style to Harry Langdon, playing under-age and under-intelligent types, except that for Ray the roles are dramatic and for Langdon they are supposedly comic. There is a further similarity between the two men. Both failed to realize their limitations as performers and overextended themselves by taking arrogant charge of their careers....

  75. Wallace Reid
    (pp. 329-331)

    Long before Ramon Novarro and Rudolph Valentino. Wallace Reid was the screen’s first matineé idol. and unlike his successors he was very much an American hero. Reid began a series of films dealing with fast cars withThe Roaring Road(1919). in which he is an automobile salesman who wins the Santa Monica Road Race. InThe Firefly of France(1918). Reid is an American aviator in france who captures German spies. InHawthorne of the USA(1919), he is an American who brings democracy to a fictional European country. His roles may have required that he occasionally play non-Americans,...

  76. Billie Rhodes
    (pp. 333-335)

    When I first came to Los Angeles in 1971, one of the first actresses I contacted was Billie Rhodes. I had seen a number of Christie comedy shorts in which she had appeared in the late teens, and was impressed by her charm and her light comedic style. In 1915,Picture-Playdescribed her as “one of our best little laugh-provokers.” I don’t know that her characters ever generated much actual laughter, but she did make audiences smile as much if not more so than Mabel Normand, and had she had a mentor such as Mack Sennett rather than the distinctly...

  77. Charles “Buddy” Rogers
    (pp. 337-339)

    A leading man of some 38 feature films, including three in the United Kingdom. Buddy Rogers never overcame the “pretty boy” label, a label that was even more damning when coupled with the title “Mr. Mary Pickford.” Buddy was the perennial college boy—even in old age with silver hair, he had the look of someone who might have been a regular at a fraternity reunion. At the start of his career, he had been considered for the roles subsequently played, respectively, by Charles Farrell and Ronald Colman inOld Ironsides(1926) andBeau Geste(1926), and rejected for both...

  78. Clarine Seymour
    (pp. 341-343)

    Nineteen-twenty was a bad year for both D.W. Griffith and for American filmgoers. That year saw the deaths of two of the director’s brightest young stars, Robert Harron and Clarine Seymour, both of whom might have had brilliant careers ahead of them. Clarine Seymour had the makings of a flapper—before the flapper came into existence—and she had a natural, saucy quality that made her an appealing light comedienne. Her curly black hair was just ready for the bob of the new decade, and her eyes were two of the most bewitching on screen. Clarine Seymour was a blend...

  79. Lowell Sherman
    (pp. 345-347)

    Broadway (1923) and a Russian who lusts after both mother Belle Bennett and daughter Lois Moran inThe Reckless Lady(1926). His actions as a German spy in Convoy (1927) force Dorothy Mackaill into prostitution, and inThe Divine Woman(1928), he steals Garbo away from Lars Hanson.

    Off screen, Lowell Sherman was as much a philanderer as he was on it. The actor was present with Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle at the rape/killing of Virginia Rappe in San Francisco in September 1921. If published reports are to be believed, the comedian told Sherman, “If you want to have an orgy,...

  80. Pauline Starke
    (pp. 349-351)

    Sitting with her husband, George Sherwood, in a small Santa Monica, California, apartment, Pauline Starke tries to answer my questions. She is no longer the freckle-faced kid who appealed to D.W. Griffith as a potential leading lady. She looks old. This is September 1975, and sheisold. She looks not merely emaciated but positively desiccated. One feels almost uncomfortable trying to coax a response from a woman whose replies are monosyllabic at best. Most of the past she does not, or chooses not, to remember.

    Silent cinema is a vague but happy memory: “It was like a big family,...

  81. Gloria Swanson
    (pp. 353-355)

    To the majority of Americans, Gloria Swanson as Norma Desmond inSunset Blvd.(1950) is the archetypal silent film star, deranged, out-of-touch with reality, clinging desperately to the past, and wearing makeup that even Theda Bara might have rejected as over the top. If anything, for all its entertainment value.Sunset Blvd.does a disservice both to silent players and to Gloria Swanson. Just as Norma Desmond is not your typical silent star, so Gloria Swanson is not Norma Desmond.

    Gloria Swanson (Chicago, March 27, 1897–New York. April 4, 1983) was not a one-dimensional player. Even inSunset Blvd.,...

  82. Blanche Sweet
    (pp. 357-367)

    Blanche Sweet was the first silent star whom I got to know well, someone with whom I remained close throughout her life. My correspondence file on her contains over seventy items, dating from 1969 until shortly before her death, in New York, on September 6, 1986. The first letter enclosed a handwritten essay on her and D.W. Griffith’s first feature,Judith of Bethulia,which I published that same year inThe Silent Picture.She angrily denounced my original title for my second book.The Griffith Girls—“It sounds like a trained line of high kickers ...surely we deserve better than...

  83. Constance Talmage
    (pp. 369-371)

    Of the three Talmadge sisters, Norma was the great dramatic star and Constance (Brooklyn, New York, April 19, 1900–Los Angeles. November 23, 1973) the great light comedienne. The third sister, Natalie (1899-1969) was married to Buster Keaton at the height of his career and that was probably sufficient in and of itself. Constance Talmadge was barely sixteen years old and had been on screen in inconsequential films for only a couple of years when D.W. Griffith cast her as The Mountain Girl in the Babylonian story inIntolerance(1916). The visual humor and, above all, the pacing is remarkable. As...

  84. Norma Talmage
    (pp. 373-375)

    While there are dramatic performances in individual silent films that stand out—most notably Mae Marsh and Miriam Cooper inIntolerance—there is only actress whose entire silent career is exemplary of the best in dramatic performance. That performer is Norma Talmadge, each one of whose characterizations is unique and created with a dramatic force unlike that found in any other actress. “With Norma Talmadge every part is a separate and distinct creation,” wrote Adela Rogers St. Johns in 1926. “And when you see her upon the screen, you never see Norma Talmadge. You, as an audience, know absolutely nothing...

  85. Alice Terry
    (pp. 377-383)

    Two leading ladies of the silent screen who were married to their directors were Enid Bennett (Mrs. Fred Niblo) and Alice Terry (Mrs. Rex Ingram). Both, it was suggested were nothing blondes with influential meal tickets, and while the comment might be partially true of End Bennett, whose biggest role was as Maid Marian in the 1922 Douglas Fairbanks vehicle.Robin Hood,which was not directed by her husband, it is far from an accurate description of Alice Terry.

    The problem Alice had at the height of her career was that she was the wife of Rex Ingram, and she...

  86. Florence Turner
    (pp. 385-387)

    It is odd that the first two pioneering actresses of the silent screen should both have been named Florence. Florence or Flo—what an old-fashioned name, inappropriate for Florence Lawrence (1890–1938), who had a youthful charm when she entered films at the American Biograph Company in 1908, but most apt for her rival, Florence Turner, who always had an aura of age and maturity. She is not a great beauty, although there is a hint of Latin loveliness there. The face is too easily molded, too easily misshapen for comic effect. It is Turner’s adaptability and talent for impersonation...

  87. The Vamps
    (pp. 389-393)
    Theda Bara, Louise Glaum, Kitty Gordon, Olga Grey, Alice Hollister and Valeska Suratt

    The vamp was a character unique to silent films. neither heroine nor villainess. She was a predatory female, whose behavior was so distinctly lacking in eroticism that she was positively asexual. Many actresses might spend time vamping the leading man, but only a handful gained distinction at the art and craft. Their popularity was sustained not through any acting talent, but rather because of the manner of their performance. The vamp, or more accurately vampire, owes her existence to a painting. “The Vampire.” by the Victorian artist. Sir Edward Burne-Jones. and to an 1897 verse of the same title by...

  88. George Walsh
    (pp. 395-399)

    Pomona is a small, dusty community east of Los Angeles. It is not exactly a glamorous spot for a movie star, but here I am in June 1972 at the ranchstyle home of leading man George Walsh. Perhaps “ranch” is too grand a description for the one-story home and single field that appear to comprise the Walsh homestead. In the house is a large, slobbering dog. In the field is an equally large, slobbering horse. George Walsh looks as aged as his animals, but he is friendly and happy to talk of the past. He is as proud of his...

  89. Henry B. Walthall
    (pp. 401-405)

    There is no other player from the silent era so closely associated with one screen role than Henry B. Walthall. For better or worse, he will always be the “little colonel” ofThe Birth of a Nation,the epitome of the Southern gentleman and to some, the symbol of Southern racism. Everything that Walthall accomplished prior toThe Birth of a Nationmight be considered training for that film, and nothing he did later could possibly compare to that one single performance. Even his personality would seem to mirror that of the character he portrayed. In her autobiography. Lillian Gish...

  90. Kathlyn Williams
    (pp. 407-409)

    The leading lady with the Chicago-based pioneering film producer, the Selig Polyscope Company. Kathlyn Williams progressed with ease to the portrayal of mature women of the 1920s, and always impresses with her low-key performances. She was not a great beauty, but she had strong, attractive and enquiring features. Colonel William N. Selig, founder of the company that bore his name, also maintained a menagerie of wild animals available for his productions and for rental to other producers, and even when surrounded by an elephant, a lion, a chimpanzee or other animals from the Selig Zoo. Kathlyn Williams never lost her...

  91. Lois Wilson
    (pp. 411-413)

    Hollywood basically wasted Lois Wilson’s talents. She was a pretty, not a beautiful star, and producers tended to cast her to type, completely ignoring the fact that she could act–very well–in a number of characterizations. As she would so often complain to me, any actress could have played many of her most prominent roles. Of James Cruze’s production ofThe Covered Wagon(1923), in which she plays Molly Wingate, “I’m very happy to have appeared in that. It was a great picture, but I think anyone that photographed well and knew anything about silent pictures, I think a...

  92. Margery Wilson
    (pp. 415-419)

    Margery Wilson was a multi-talented individual. To label her a silent star is a gross misnomer. She was also a film director, a writer, a radio broadcaster, and a personal counselor on self-improvement and on charm. A D.W. Grififth discovery, she had some of the ethereal presence of Lillian Gish, mixed with a healthy dose of earthy reality. In old age, the resemblance between her and Lillian was quite startling. I was with her at Los Angeles International Airport, returning from a program at Pacific film Archive in Berkeley, and a stranger came up and asked Margery if she was...

  93. Claire Windsor
    (pp. 421-423)

    There is an enigmatic quality to her features, the suggestion of a passion raging just under the surface. Claire Windsor was beautiful, but never strikingly so until she got older. Then, she became an acknowledged aging beauty–rather like Fannie Ward had been in an earlier age. Lois Weber discovered her, and Windsor’s best work is in the five feature films produced and directed by Lois Weber between 1920 and 1921:To Please One Woman(1920),What’s Worth While?(1921),Too Wise Wives(1921),The Blot(1921), andWhat Do Men Want?(1921).

    Each of the films deals with the...

  94. Fay Wray
    (pp. 425-428)

    Fay Wray has the good fortune or, more accurately, the misfortune to be associated with only one film. Thanks to her role as leading lady to an ape inKing Kong(1933), she is assured of a permanent place in film history. At the same time, the role and the film do a disservice to a performer who may not have been a great actress, but who had many prominent parts to her career. She screamed as well as she does inKing Kongin Michael Curtiz’sThe Mystery of the Wax Museum(1933). The makers ofKing Kong, Meriam...

  95. Index
    (pp. 429-440)