Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays!

I just wanted to sneak in here real quick and wish all my readers out there a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! And here are some of our favorite silent film ladies to help spread some holiday cheer...

Clara Bow

Clara Bow

Clara Bow

Clara Bow

Clara Bow

Nancy Carroll

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford

Anita Page

Anita Page

Anita Page

Anita Page

Dorothy Sebastian

Dorothy Sebastian

Dorothy Sebastian

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Miss Claire Windsor

Seems like we are staying at the beginning of the alphabet! I don't know about you, but I like the name "Claire Windsor" just sounds so beautiful and elegant.

Claire Windsor was born Clara Viola Cronk (NOT so beautiful and elegant) on April 14, 1892 in Marvin, Kansas. She was the youngest child of George and Rosella Cronk, and younger sister of Nellie.

She spent most of her childhood in Kansas, but when she was around 14 years old, she and her family moved to Washington so she could attend a more prestigious school. "Ola" which is what Claire was called, began acting in various stage productions and was considered quite the belle of Washington society.

Claire had a brief marriage (which I will get to later) and when things went bad, she moved to California to join her recently retired parents. She of course needed a job, and at the advice of a friend, she went to the movie studios nearby to look for work. 

At first, she only had bit roles or worked as an extra, until one day she was spotted by director, Lois Weber, who signed Claire right up for a contract! Man, I wish lucky breaks like this happened more, to me!

She made her movie debut in a 1920 work by Lois Weber titled To Please One Woman. Unfortunately, the film was not successful, but that did not deter Weber or Clair. Instead of putting her into quality films, she instead chose to have Claire get her picture taken with the one and only Charlie Chaplin.

Being seen with Chaplin gave her a much needed boost because she was named a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1922 along with Colleen Moore, Bessie Love, and Lila Lee. This was actually the first WAMPAS selection as the company had just formed. The next year, she signed with Goldwyn. It was also the same year that she changed her stage name to Claire Windsor.

It seems that her new name reflected what became her screen persona. She began being cast as the rich, high society, 5th Avenue princess. Her clothes on and off the screen were also applauded by her fans and she was seen as quite the fashion plate.

In 1924, Claire became one of the first stars to sign with the brand new MGM Studios. One of the first films she made there was The Dixie Handicap. Heard of it? Yeah, I hadn't either.

When it came time for her to debut in her first talkie, she was just as nervous as everyone else in the movie business. In her case, it may have been a sense of foreboding as well because she did not make any substantial films during this period. Her last onscreen appearance was in 1945.

She became involved in various activities after she retired from the screen, including touring for a bit with Al Jolson. She would act on her own in various plays and also took up painting as a hobby.

Claire Windsor passed away on October 24, 1972 in Los Angeles.

She was buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California.

Claire married twice. Her first husband was David Bowes who she married in secret in 1914. They were supposed to get married a month later, but just couldn't wait it seems! They had a son, David Bowes Jr. in 1916 but separated soon after. The pair finally divorced in 1920. Her second husband was to actor Bert Lytell in 1925. They divorced two years later.

Apparently Claire was the Grace Kelly of her time in that she tended to have affairs with her male co-stars. Claire's most famous affair was with Charles "Buddy" Rogers around 1920. It is rumored that she also had an affair with her photo buddy, Charlie Chaplin.

Sometimes Claire's sex drive got the best of her. On more than one occasion she had affairs with married men. One such incident led to her being brought into divorce proceedings of a man named Alfred Read and his wife, Marion. She had her personal love letters read out loud in court, even after she stated that he had told her that he was getting a divorce from his wife. "After the first kiss, I was not resentful. He told me he wanted to marry me after my vaudeville tour. He told me he would have a divorce by that time" Claire told the jury. The jury came back with a verdict stating that Claire owed Marion Read $75,000 since she was the cause of her divorce. "I probably haven't got even 75 cents, let alone $75,000. And I won't work to make more money just to pay her. I don't know where those jurors got the idea I had so much money" Claire told reporters outside of the courthouse.

Another court case she was involved in was between Margie Finley and Phillip Plant. From what I can read from this 1932 newspaper article, Marie was suing Plant for refusal to marry her after he was shipwrecked with Claire earlier that year. You really can't make this stuff up.

Claire had dinner with William Desmond Taylor the night before he was found shot in his home. One of the many, many theories as to what happened that night claimed that Taylor could have been killed by a jealous lover of Claires that saw her leaving the director's home. Doesn't hold much water, but people will talk. Claire did tell detectives that she thought that Tayor's killer was his valet, Edward Sands because Taylor had spoken about being so angry at him for stealing that he could kill him.

In 1943, she officially changed her name to Claire Windsor.

Her son, nicknamed Billy, appeared in a few silent shorts and films when he was a child.

When she was younger, she had at first set her hopes on being a singer. But, she suffered a terrible injury while ice skating and somehow ended up injuring her larynx. Not sure how this changed her voice, but...there you have it.

An article in the Lawrence Journal-World newspaper talking about her death stated that she was actually discovered by director, Alan Dwan.

She used to advertise for Golden Peacock Bleach Creme which would help turn your skin milky white. Good Lord, can you imagine??

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Miss Betty Blythe

Betty Blythe was born Elizabeth Blythe Slaughter on September 1, 1893 in Los Angeles, California. I can't seem to find her father's name in census records, so I am assuming that he died before Betty was born or shortly after. I did find that her mother's name was Kate and that she had an older sister named Abigail. One census record lists another daughter's name, but I cannot for the life of me read what it says. From what I can tell, Abigail must have been much older because she was listed as the head of the household and seems to have been taking care of her mother and sister.

She first got into acting by appearing on stage in various shows. While part of these troupes she was able to tour not only the US, but also Europe. She eventually ended up in New York, when one day she and a roommate of hers went to visit the Vitagraph Studios. It just so happened that a director on set that day needed a leading lady for his film, and he signed Betty right up! She wasn't there long before she was sent packing back to California to work for Fox Studios.

Fox Studios was interested in Betty because they wanted a "new" Theda Bara. So, of course to compete with the big girl vamps, Betty had to go without a few items of clothing. She was also one of the first actresses to appear nude onscreen (the first is considered to be Nell Shipman).

One of her most popular films at the time was 1921's The Queen of Sheba. Sadly, the film is considered lost and all we have from it are a few production stills, but what we can see is that Betty was pretty much just draped in sheer shawls as a costumed. She did have a few scenes where she was completely topless, but those scenes only appeared in the European releases of the film.

That was her biggest hit during her career, and the only way to go from the top was to the bottom unfortunately.

She was allowed to appear in a few films that didn't require her to show so much skin. In fact, she got to appear with the master himself, Lon Chaney in the 1920 film, Nomads of the North. Interesting production note, while filming a scene involving a forest fire, Lon and Betty were both burned by a fire that popped up in one of their escape paths. They managed to make it to safety by running through a tunnel that had been built for such an emergency but production had to be stopped for almost two weeks while the actors recovered.

Betty continued to appear in films in lesser and lesser roles until she was appearing in uncredited roles. Her last film appearance was in My Fair Lady in a crowd scene.

Betty Blythe passed away on April 7, 1972 in Woodland Hills, California.

She was buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California.

Betty was only married once, to movie director Paul Scardon in 1919. They remained married until his death in 1954. They did not have any children.

Betty almost did remarry in 1967. She announced that she was going to marry Manuel de Encio, who worked for the Warner Brothers Studio. I am not sure what happened between them, but they never made it down the aisle.

She was earning $1 million during the peak of her career.

In 1935, Betty was called in as a witness during the divorce trial of actor Charles Ray and his wife, Clara. Betty was siding with Clara saying that she was with her on the many nights that Charles was away having an affair with a woman named Beverly. They also produced a bunch of love letters that they had found written by Beverly where she calls him, "Charlie Dear" and "Dodo." Charming.

During her later years, Betty made quite the comment on the actresses of the day. "It's too bad that they are dog-faced. They have pug noses and square faces, just like dogs. They may be good actors and have rugged qualities, but I always look for beauty in actors. I think they should be pleasant to look at, the way they were in the silent days. We had them ten. Men like Ramon Novarro, whom I discovered for films. And Ronald Colman, who was an extra in one of my pictures." I guess she wasn't one to hold her tongue! And I have never heard anything about the "discovering" of Ramon by Betty, but hey...who knows.

"A director is the only man besides your husband who can tell you how much of your clothes to take off." ~~ Betty Blythe

"I had 28 costumes in [Queen of Sheba], and if I'd worn them all at once I couldn't have kept warm." ~~ Betty Blythe

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Miss Corinne Griffith

Corinne Griffith. Silent film actress. Some consider her one of (if not THE) most beautiful girl on the silent film screen. 

Went off the deep end later in life?

Read on and see!

Corinne Griffith was born Corinne Mae Griffin on November 21, 1894 in Texarkana, Texas. She was the only child of John, a Methodist minister, and Ambolina Griffin.

Her family moved from Texas to Illinois to Louisiana during her childhood, but she gained her education at a religious school in New Orleans.

She was a popular girl in New Orleans society and won first prize in a beauty contest, which is where a Hollywood studio director first laid eyes on her and offered her a contract, with the consent of her parents first of course.

In 1916, she joined the famous Vitagraph Studio, making her film debut in The High Cost of Living. Awhile later, she moved to First National Studios where she really hit her stride and became one of the studio's most bankable stars. Her first starring role was in the 1928 film, The Garden of Eden.

The year was 1929, and Hollywood decided that those working in front of the camera or behind it deserved some recognition, and lo, the Academy Awards were born. Corinne received a nomination the following year for her role in the film, The Divine Lady, which also featured the incredible Marie Dressler. Alas, she did not win. Instead, the award went to Mary Pickford.

When the talkies burst into the Hollywood scene, Corinne was one of the stars whose voice did not register well on film. Her first talking film, Lilies of the Field, failed at the box office. Critics also wrote that she talked very nasally.

After a bad talkie debut, she only appeared in three more films, and one of them was made overseas in Europe. None of the films were anything spectacular and did nothing for her career.

She made her last film appearance in 1962's Paradise Alley, which had a very marginal release.

Although she did not do well in talking pictures, she did not descend into poverty. Quite the opposite actually. After she quit acting, she turned her focus to writing and wrote over 10 books, two of which were best sellers. She used her life as inspiration for most of them, and one of the books, Papa's Delicate Condition, was made into a film in 1963 starring Jackie Gleason.

Also, like other stars of the time, she made good investments in real estate that helped to net her a pretty penny or two.

Corinne Griffith passed away on July 13, 1979 in Santa Monica, California. She was cremated, and her ashes were scattered at sea.

Corinne was married four times. Her first husband was actor Webster Campbell from 1920 to 1923. Her second husband was producer Walter Morosco from 1924 to 1934. Her third husband was George Preston Marshall, the owner of the Washington Redskins. They were married from 1936 to 1958.

And here is where it gets goofy. In 1966, Corinne married actor Danny Scholl, and then filed for divorce a few years later. While in divorce court Corinne testified that she was in fact the younger sister of Corinne Griffith and that the real Corinne died. A couple of her friends even went to court and said that they had no idea what she was talking about and that she was in fact the real Corinne Griffith, it would not shake her. Up until her death, according to some sources, she was still claiming to be the sister of the real actress. Wow.

The "real" Corinne (or is it the fake one?) while married to George Preston Marshall, wrote the Washington Redskins fight song, "Hail to the Redskins." The song is still used, although its lyrics have been changed to ones that are considered less offensive to Native Americans.

Corinne was a member of the Christian Science religion.

When she died, she was worth around $150 million. Hello! Sadly, in 1966, Corinne was robbed of over $100,000 worth of jewelry when robbers broke into her house with guns. One man held two of her maids hostage downstairs, while another forced Corinne to unlock her jewelry box. Thankfully, no one was injured. Almost sounds like what happened with Ramon Novarro, doesn't it? Ugh...some people are just evil.

Once she was cast in a film, she devoted herself completely to it. Sometimes she would work 10 hours a day and even through the night. She also wanted to be in on the behind the scenes workings as well as editing.

She was seen by her friends as very demure and prim because she would not smoke or swear and disapproved of others doing so around her. She was even nicknamed, "The Orchid Lady."

"There is only one beautiful woman in the movies. That is Corinne Griffith. The rest of us are just types." ~~ Gloria Swanson

Please check out this wonderful source Corinne Griffith

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Miss Dolores del Rio

I apologize for being so neglectful to my blog lately. I went to see The Monkees twice in November and then went back home to Michigan to visit all within the span of a week. I drove everywhere and I was a wee bit tired. I also have a new job and a new schedule so a little bit of an adjustment was needed. But, I am back now, so here we go!

Dolores del Rio was born Maria de los Dolores Asunsolo Lopez-Negrete on August 3, 1905 in Durango, Mexico. Got all that?

She was born to Jesus Leonardo Asunsolo Jacques, who worked as a bank director, and Antonia Lopez-Negrete. They were members of the high class until the Mexican Revolution when they lost all their assets. It was around this time that Dolores began dreaming of becoming an actress. She wanted to go back to living the high life and figured that was the best route to take.

Besides acting, she also enjoyed dancing, especially ballet. While studying dancing, she would earn money by dancing for the rich families of the Mexican aristocracy.

A few years later, Dolores moved to Mexico City where she was discovered by director, Edwin Carewe. He was so entranced by her that he whisked her off to Hollywood, to the disdain of her family who felt (like most did at that time) that acting was work for lower class people.

In 1925, she made her debut in the film Joanna, starring Dorothy Mackaill. Because of her exotic looks, she was cast in a vamp role. Unfortunately, her part in the film was only about 5 minutes long and she was billed as "Dorothy Del Rio" in the credits. Carewe told her not to worry, and that he planned on making her a star.

How did Carewe plan on making her a star? He began promoting her as the female Valentino, which was not something Dolores was thrilled about. But, like it or not, most female stars who had an exotic look or were from another country were cast in vamp/overtly sexual roles. It was either take the film roles, work for poverty row studios, or don't work at all.

In 1926, she was named a WAMPAS Baby Star along with Joan Crawford, Mary Astor, and Janet Gaynor. It was after this nomination that people really began to see her as the beauty she really was.

What is interesting to note is that while she began earning top billing in her pictures, she could barely speak English. She would move her lips phonetically to try and match what the title cards were saying in order to make her acting appear more real to the audience.

In 1927, Dolores was cast in the film The Loves of Carmen. The first version, made 10 years earlier had starred Theda Bara in the title role, but the director, Raoul Walsh decided to try it with a leading lady who was actually of Latin descent. You don't say?! He was so excited at having her in the film that he commissioned a painting of her dressed in character and used it to promote the film.

After such a high profile film, her career took a bit of a dip when the studios just wanted to capitalize on her name and throw her into any picture. Thankfully, the following year, she had another career boost.

United Artists signed Dolores up and she appeared in the film Ramona, and also recorded the theme song for the movie. The film did have a synchronized score, but it is/was not considered a talkie.

Speaking of talkies, Dolores was just as nervous as her fellow actors about the new technology. In March of 1928, the studio asked her over to Mary Pickford's home (along with other big names) so that they could speak on a radio show and give the audiences a taste of what they sounded like. Dolores ended up singing, which was a great treat for everyone.

United Artists was getting a little fed up with the partnership between Dolores and Edwin Carewe. They felt that he was used her as a stepping stone and they wanted to be in charge of her career. UA finally convinced Dolores to cut ties with the famed director which took a great weight off her shoulders. Needless to say, Carewe was PISSED. He demanded that she pay him a huge amount of money to compensate for his losses. He then decided to go even further below the belt and cast one of Dolores's main rivals, Lupe Velez in his newest picture.

Dolores took all this madness in stride and simply continued focusing on her own career. In 1930, she appeared in the film The Bad One, with Edmund Lowe and Boris Karloff.

Dolores took a year long break from working, but it was not her choice to do so. It was said that she suffered a kidney infection, but there were whispers around town that she had suffered a nervous breakdown from all the stress caused by the Carewe ordeal. Either way, the break caused her United Artists contract to run out.

In 1933,  alongside Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (in their first pairing), she appeared in Flying Down to Rio. Supposedly this film is the first that showed a woman wearing a two piece bathing suit.

She appeared in another remake in 1934. This time it was Madame DuBarry, and it had the misfortune or being torn apart by the Hays office. The film was edited so much that it came out almost nothing like the original story. The audiences didn't like, and neither did the people involved in the making of the film.

As the '30s progressed, her box office appeal began to wain. The heads of the studios preferred leading ladies like Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer, not Latina actresses. There was "good" exotic, like Greta Garbo, and "bad" exotic, which became Dolores del Rio.

Around 1930, she moved back to Mexico and made a few films down there. And it was in her home country that she received another career boost. They loved her! In fact, she stayed there making film for quite a few years before returning to Hollywood in 1960.

Her returning role was in a film opposite Elvis Presley. Elvis greeted her with flowers and said he knew exactly who she was and said it was an honor to work with her. Dolores soon began to look at him as a son and was very affectionate with him.

Eventually, her screen appeal did began to wain again. She decided to switch mediums and go into theatre and then into television. Her last appearance on tv was in an episode of Marcus Welby, M.D. Her last film role was in 1978.

Dolores del Rio passed away on April 11, 1973 from liver disease in Newport Beach, California. Interestingly enough, that same day she was asked to appear at the next Academy Awards Ceremony.

She was buried at the Panteon de Dolores Cemetery in Mexico City, Mexico. In 2005, her ashes were moved to the Rotonda de las Personas Ilustres. She has a HUGE headstone.

Dolores was married three times. Her first husband was Jaime Martinez del Rio, the son of a wealthy Mexican family. She was only 16 years old when they met and was 18 years younger than him! But, they fell in love, and married and spent their early years together in Europe. Unlike her own family, Jaime was thrilled about Dolores going to Hollywood, but for his own reasons. He thought that he could escape his boring life and get work as a script writer. He did not deal well with her success in Hollywood. A close source to the couple said, "In Mexico City she had been Jaime del Rio's wife. In Hollywood, Jaime became Dolores del Rio's husband. The situation was intolerable for both of them. Two events that happened in succession helped to end the marriage once and for all. Dolores suffered a miscarriage and was told that she could not have children. Then, rumors began circulating that Dolores was having an affair with her mentor, Edwin Carewe. The rumors were never proven as true. The couple separated and a few months later, Dolores received word that Jaime had died of blood poisoning in Germany. Apparently people thought that he must have really died by his own hand, but it has never been fully proven. According to a 1928 newspaper article, by his bedside was a letter that was sent by Dolores that simply said, "I love you."

Her second marriage was to Cedric Gibbons from 1930 until 1940. The couple met at a party at Hearst Castle and had a lot of mutual friends in the Hollywood community. Their divorce was caused by her affair with Orson Welles. The affair with Welles lasted two years and was very intense. He later called her the great love of his life. Apparently that feeling dissipated a bit because while on vacation in Brazil, he slept around with a bunch of woman. Dolores heard about it somehow and sent him a letter breaking off the affair. He never answered.

Her third and final marriage was to Lewis Riley, an American businessman. They married in 1959 and remained married until her death in 1983.

Along with her marriages and affair with Welles, she also briefly dated Errol Flynn and writer, Erich Maria Remarque. It was also rumored that she was part of Hollywood's "Sewing Circle," AKA a group of famous Hollywood lesbians. She was said to have had flings with Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo. Again, there is no real proof, but it has been noted that both Dietrich and Garbo made comments on how beautiful they thought Dolores was.

Her family may not have approved of her career aspirations at first, but it seems as though the acting bug was very present in her lineage. She is the second cousin of Ramon Novarro, and was cousin to another actress named Andrea Palma.

In 1934, Dolores became part of the very beginnings of the "Red Scare" that began to sweep the nation. Apparently she attended a movie screening that was rumored to have been worked on by Josef Stalin and of course, tongues started wagging. It came back to haunt her in the 1950s when she was denied permission to work again in the US because of her "communist sympathies."

Dolores supposedly had fierce rivalries with two other Latin actresses of the day, Lupe Velez (who didn't have a rivalry with her?) and Maria Felix. Maria was a guest on a number of occasions to parties held at Dolores's home after she married Lewis Riley, and later said that they were in fact friends but were just different in their personalities. Lupe on the other hand, well, can we expect anything less of our "Mexican Spitfire"? Apparently, Dolores was scared to death of meeting with Lupe because she was known to be quite an aggressive person. Lupe tried to call her out and egg her on by mocking her in public. Tsk, tsk ladies...

She was good friends with Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Eva Peron, and Marlene Dietrich.

During her later years in the sixties and seventies, Dolores worked as a crusader for actor's rights in Mexico. In 1974, she founded the Asociacion Nacional de Actores and served as president for a number of years.

She had some crazy rumors during her day about what she did to maintain her beauty. It was said that she ate mostly orchid petals and slept 16 hours a day.

Her image is part of a statue on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (which, for some reason I had never heard of or seen) along with Mae West, Anna May Wong, and Dorothy Dandridge called "Four Ladies of Hollywood."

"Take care of your inner, spiritual beauty. That will reflect in your face." ~~ Dolores del Rio

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Miss Carol Dempster

When I think about Carol Dempster, I think about the girl that no one liked. Which, that isn't exactly true, but Lillian Gish didn't like her...and that is saying something.

Carol Dempster was born in Duluth, Minnesota on December 9, 1901. Her father's name was John, and her mother's name was Carrie. Carol also joined an older brother named Howard. (There is also an older sister named Ethel and an older brother named Dan listed in the 1900 census but are not listed in the 1920 census. So, I am not sure if they passed away or were old enough to get married and move away).

When she was just 15 years old, Carol appeared on screen for the first time in 1916's Intolerance. It was also the beginning of the relationship/partnership that she had with famed director D.W. Griffith.

Carol quickly became a favorite of Griffith's, both on screen and on. This did not sit well with the other "Griffith girls," Lillian and Dorothy Gish, Mae Marsh, and Miriam Cooper. They felt that the way Carol acted was somehow mocking the way they acting. Oh, cat fight!

Her most famous role that she was actually billed for was in Isn't Life Wonderful in 1924. The film was not a big success when it first came out, but it is now considered one of Griffith's best works.

She had a pretty good run in the silents. She didn't make a huge splash like her rival Lillian Gish, but she did appear alongside such big names as John Barrymore, William Powell, and W.C. Fields.

All but two of her almost 20 films were directed by D.W. Griffith. One of her non-Griffith works was 1922's version of Sherlock Holmes.

Carol book ended her film career, and by that I mean she started with a Griffith film and she ended with a Griffith film. Her last screen appearance was in 1926's The Sorrows of Satan with Adolphe Menjou and Lya De Putti.

Carol Dempster passed away on February 1, 1991 in La Jolla, California.

She was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Gledale, California.

Carol was married once, to banker Edwin Larson in 1929. They never had children and remained married until his death in 1978.

Perhaps what she is more famous for now is her affair with D.W. Griffith. He first saw her when she was a dancer for the Ruth St. Denis Dancing School.  He soon provided her with dancing and acting lessons to help groom his latest find for the big screen. Apparently, he once asked her to marry him, but she refused. There was quite a big age difference, but that didn't seem to be a problem. D.W. was borderline obsessed with her. The romance must have fizzled in the mid 1920s because she retired from films and then got married. Oh! Did I mention that he was already married when this affair happened? Yeah...

According to an old film magazine from 1920, Carol enjoyed driving her car, all kinds of sports, and riding horses.

She must have enjoyed speeding in said car because in a 1928 news article, it is written that Carole was involved in a car accident that left her hospitalized with deep cuts. They were saying that it may prevent her from being in films again. Guess they were right.

"I just never think about my days in pictures. I am always surprised that anyone remembers me. It was so long ago. So many of my movies were so sad. Maybe my fans would like to know that in real life Carol Dempster had a happy ending." ~~ Carol Dempster