Sunday, August 23, 2015
Grace Eline was born Frances Grace Eline on August 12, 1898 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
She was the eldest child born to Charles Eline, who worked selling farming equipment, and his wife, Frances Grace Yerick Eline. Sister, Anna Marie was born four years later.
Acting was already in the girls' life from an early age in the form of their mother who was a costume designer for various stage productions, and later for films. She would also work as an actress in short films with her daughters and created costumes for various films including two Cecil B. DeMille epics, The Ten Commandments (1923) and King of Kings (1927).
Grace made her screen debut in a 1910 adaptation of Uncle Tom's Cabin playing Topsy, with her younger sister Marie playing Eva.
Both Eline girls were signed with the Thanhouser Studios. Compared to her younger sister, who became the more popular of the two (on screen, at least) Grace had a very brief film career, only four film shorts. Her second film was a 1912 screen adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby, which also featured her mother and sister. The third film was 1914's Turkey Trot with Thanhouser stars, Florence La Badie and Mignon Anderson.
Grace's final film appearance was in 1914's Percy's First Holiday with Muriel Ostriche.
At age sixteen, Grace decided to take her acting talents to the stage. She also learned that she could make a lot more money acting and touring on stage as opposed to what Thanhouser was willing to pay her. All the way through the 1920s and 30s, she was praised for her wonderful comedic talent, no matter who her touring partner was. Around 1923, she was touring with Joe Weston in a highly popular comedic act. The following year, Grace contracted pneumonia and the duo had to cancel their future shows indefinitely while she recovered at her home in New York City. Thankfully, Grace did recover and was able to go back to touring with Weston until she eventually broke up the act to tour with Al Jolson.
During the 1930s, Grace and Marie were touring as The Eline Sisters. In 1932, Marie fell ill while recovering from injuries sustained from falling on stage. It was thought she would bounce back immediately from the fall, until magazines and newspapers were reporting that doctors and nurses were caring for her around the clock at her home. Grace knew her sister would be out of commission for a long time, so she teamed up with another performer named Richard Lane and created a touring comedy act with him.
Sadly, her career came to an abrupt halt when she was involved in an automobile accident that left her with her arms and legs crushed. Doctors were very skeptical that she would ever walk again, but Grace said that was the biggest joke she had ever heard and she "laughed herself right on her feet again!"
Grace Eline passed away on August 19, 1991 in Miami, Florida. Unfortunately, I do not know where she is buried.
I only have scant information in regards to Grace's personal life and marriages. She was reportedly married four times. Her first husband had the surname of 'Cosgriff' and that marriage resulted in the birth of Grace's only child, a son named Robert. Her second marriage was to a man with the surname of 'Waldheim,' and her third to a man by the name of 'Bornstein.' Her fourth and final marriage was to Albert Arkin, and that marriage ended in tragedy when Arkin was killed in a plane crash.
Later in life, Grace found a new hobby in ceramic lamp making and created the company, Lucia Arkin Lamp and Decor Company. I am not sure why, but she had decided to change her name to 'Lucia' after she retired from performing.
She and her sister were little things. According to a magazine interview, Grace was only about 5 feet 1 inch tall!
"Miss Grace Eline makes 99% of the nutty comediennes look foolish. She is production material and a regular performer who can do a lot and do it well." ~~ Variety, December 1924
Marie Eline was born Anna Marie Eline on February 27, 1902 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Marie made her film debut at 7 years old in the 1910 short, A Twenty-Nine Cent Robbery, with her mother Frances (under the name Mrs. Grace Eline) playing the role of, well...her mother! That same year she also appeared in the first screen adaptation of Jane Eyre, playing Jane as a child.
During the earlier days of film making, actors were not given on screen credit and because of this, Marie was simply known as "The Thanhouser Kid" since that is the studio where she (and her sister) were employed.
|Dorothy Benham and Marie in The Law of Humanity|
Marie's film career was a lot more substantial than her older sister's, consisting of over 120 films from 1910 until 1919. During that time, she appeared in quite a few film adaptations of classic novels such as: The Old Curiosity Shop, Silas Marner, Lorna Doone (all released in 1911), and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1912). She also appeared in not one, but TWO film adaptations of Uncle Tom's Cabin. The first was in 1910 in which she played the role of Eva, with her sister Grace playing Topsy, and the second was in 1914 where she again played the part of Eva.
|Sam Lucas and Marie in the 1914 version of Uncle Tom's Cabin|
As with most child actors, as Marie grew older, her popularity with audiences waned. The studio issued a statement to the press saying that Marie would no longer be referred to as "The Thanhouser Kid" but rather by her given name, Marie Eline.
Marie made her last screen appearance in 1919's Two Dollars, Please.
And, now, she was 17 years old with her film career behind her. When she was around eleven she had appeared in a few stage productions and she decided to try her hand at that again. She toured for a time with her sister Grace as The Eline Sisters and also as The Original Thanhouser Kids. It seems that Grace had more success on stage while Marie found more success on screen, just going by reviews and advertisements I found.
Marie Eline passed away on January 3, 1981 in Longview, Washington.
She was buried at Longview Memorial Park and Mausoleum in Longview, Washington.
Marie was married twice. Her first marriage was in 1922 to a man named Milton Blasier Jr. The union produced a daughter, Mary in 1924. According to an interview in 1988, Mary commented that her father was very abusive towards Marie and ended with her filing for a protection order against him and a divorce.
In 1932, Marie secretly married fellow vaudevillian Joe Reems. I am not sure why it was kept secret, but it eventually was revealed a year later in the press. I am not sure what became of the marriage.
Marie, like her sister, also changed her name upon retiring from stage and screen. For years she went by the name 'Anne Carlisle.' And, also like her sister, Marie was only around 4'7'' tall.
|Marie and Fan Bourke in The Loser Wins (Marie played a boy)|
"Here's the little girl who does all the stunts with me. Her name is Marie Eline, and she's the bravest little girl in the country." ~~ actor William Russell to The Motion Picture Story Magazine in March 1913.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
I had the opportunity to visit the grave of this lovely actress a few weeks ago. Her grave marker has a lovely picture collage of her life on it and I knew I had to do some digging and find out more about this silent film child star, Miss Vondell Darr.
Vondell Darr was born Vondell Dorothy Frances Darr on April 18, 1919 in Los Angeles.
She was the only child born to Ralph Warren Darr and his wife, Homa Dupree Darr. Ralph seems to have jumped from job to job, working as a driver around 1920 and then going to work as a clerk in a department store around 1930. Between 1930 and 1940, he and Homa divorced, and he went back to his home state of Texas where he eventually passed away in 1945.
Vondell got her start in films the way most people hope to, by getting discovered by a big time director. Homa Darr shared a mutual friend with director James Cruze and one day the two met, along with little Vondell. Cruze thought the little girl adorable and just had to put her into his new picture, The City Never Sleeps. And so, 1924 was the year Vondell Darr broke in film!
Later that same year (according to IMDB) Vondell appeared in Peter Pan, which starred Betty Bronson and Mary Brian. I've seen this film, mind you, it was years ago, but I need to go back and visit it to see if I can spot Vondell.
|Bert Lytell, Lois Wilson, and Vondell in On Trial|
In 1928, she appeared in On Trial, an early talkie for Warner Brothers. The film is considered lost after the negatives were reportedly destroyed in 1948, but a soundtrack still survives in archive. When it was released, the film was panned due to its choppy sound levels and the actors inability to cope with the boom mic. This film is noteworthy, however, because Vondell's role in it made her the first child actor to appear in a talking picture.
Vondell took a break from acting in 1929 so she could return to school. Whether this was her choice or her parents, I'm not sure. Vondell was enrolled at the Holmby School for Girls until she transferred to Beverly Hills High School where she graduated from around 1937. After high school she went to UCLA where she graduated in 1941. I am not sure what her degree was in. All I can find about her non-acting career was gourmet cooking and later a housewife.
In 1938, she decided to go back to Hollywood. One of her good friends at that time was Mickey Rooney, who she appeared with 1938's Strike Up the Band, Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever (1939), and Men of Boys Town (1941).
Her final film appearance was in The Chocolate Soldier, starring Nelson Eddy, in 1941.
|Wallace Beery and Vondell|
Vondell Darr passed away on September 10, 2012 in Los Angeles.
She was buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale.
Vondell was married once, to her high school sweetheart, Fred C. Wilson in 1941. The couple had a very happy marriage that produced three daughters, Sharon (who sadly predeceased both her parents) Marlene, and Rhonda. Fred passed away in 2006, and Vondell is buried beside him.
After retiring from films, Vondell enjoyed cooking, painting, entertaining at home and playing bridge with friends. Her family and friends called her 'Vonnie.'
Reportedly, she was natural redhead. I can't find whether she had her hair dyed or wore a wig.
|Bert Lytell, Vondell, Pauline Frederick, and Lois Wilson in On Trial|
"I'm not an electrician's daughter but I know watts-watt about Vondell Darr!" ~~ Screenland, August 1930