Sunday, December 15, 2013

Miss Dorothy Gulliver

Dorothy Gulliver is an actress that I knew very little about. Actually, make that I knew nothing about her. I had seen a picture of her somewhere and thought she was very interesting looking, and come to find out, she was a WAMPAS Baby Star! So, here is the lowdown on Dorothy.

Dorothy Gulliver was born Dorothy Kathleen Gulliver on September 6, 1908 in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was the third of six children born to Fred and Nellie Gulliver. I believe Fred made a living driving a truck and later had his own limousine service. Dorothy had two older brothers, Rodney and Alfred, and her younger siblings consisted of two sisters named Margaret, Olive, and Ethel, and a brother named Victor.

Like quite a few actresses out there, Dorothy got her break into the movie business after winning a beauty contest in her home state of Utah. The contest just happened to be sponsored by Universal Pictures who was offering a screen test to the lovely lady who won. Dorothy so impressed the men behind the camera that she was offered a movie contract.

She made her film debut in the 1926 short, The Winking Idol. Sounds like a great name for a Douglas Fairbanks or Errol Flynn biography.

Dorothy never became a huge star, but she did become a familiar face in the background of the more than 100 films she appeared in. She was also well known for a few bathing suit cheesecake photos she posed for that appeared in movie magazines.

She was part of a film serial called The Collegians that ran for 45 episodes. Dorothy played a character named June Maxwell and the premise of the series was that the audience would follow the same group of friends and faculty through their four years in college. The other actors who appeared in every episode were George J. Lewis, Hayden Stevenson, Eddie Phillips, and Churchill Ross.

In 1928, she was named a WAMPAS Baby Star along with Lupe Velez, Sue Carol, and Lina Basquette.

Also, like another WAMPAS Baby Star, Marion Aye, Dorothy appeared in quite a few Westerns, usually with Jack Hoxie.

During her later years, Dorothy's film roles become so small that she was only credited as "snack stand clerk," "salesgirl," or "New York theatregoer." I did read somewhere that she was involved in some kind of accident in the 1930s that caused her to take a hiatus from her career, but I don't know anymore information than that.

The final film she appeared in was 1976's Won Ton Ton: the Dog who Saved Hollywood. Her role in the film was "Old woman on bus" and even though the part was tiny, Dorothy would later vehemently deny that she was ever in the film. Can't say I blame her.

Dorothy Gulliver passed away on May 23, 1997 in Valley Center, California. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered.

Dorothy was married twice, but I am not sure about the dates. Her first husband was assistant director Jack Proctor and her second husband was publicist William De Vite (or De Vito) around 1926.

In 1929, an article was published in the San Jose News announcing that Harold Lloyd had found a new leading lady in Dorothy Gulliver. "My leading lady in this film will get the best break a girl has ever had in one of my pictures. That is why I have been so particular about choosing a girl. I wanted to be sure I had one who would meet with all of the requirements. I believe I have found that in Miss Gulliver" said Harold. It appears though that the movie either was never released or was never made because I haven't found any information about the two having starred in a movie together. Sad, really.

"They were all such fine actors, but I admit I was amazed when this actress asked, 'What is my motivation for going to the phone?'" ~~ Dorothy Gulliver to the Los Angeles Times when asked about Method actors.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Miss Marion Aye

So, I am going to be unofficially-officially covering some of the young ladies that were Mack Sennett Bathing Beauties and also some of the ladies who were voted WAMPAS Baby Stars. There is a lot of overlap, so it works out great. I got inspired while doing research on Marvel Rea and looking at all of the pictures of the Bathing Beauties on the beach. I just adore them!

Let us begin with the letter 'A' with Miss Marion Aye! (No, this will not be done in alphabetical order, it just worked out that way. Don't you just love it when that happens?)

Marion Aye was born Maryon Eloise Aye on April 5, 1903 in Chicago Illinois. She was billed either as 'Marion' or 'Maryon' but I believe her birth name to be the latter because that is how it is spelled on her headstone.

Marion was the oldest child and only daughter born to James, a lawyer, and Eloise Aye. Her brother, James Jr. was born four years after her.

Apparently, Marion was discovered by Mack Sennett himself one day while hanging out on the beach. He liked the way she looked in a bathing suit...which, I am sure is the same line he fed to all his beauties. But, hey, if it ain't broke...

She made her film debut in the 1919 short, Hearts and Flowers which starred Louise Fazenda and Ford Sterling.

Marion, Bert Lytell, and Virginia Browne Faire

A few years later in 1922, she was named a WAMPAS Baby Star along with Lila Lee, Bessie Love, and Colleen Moore.

That same year she begin appearing with cowboy actor Bob Reeves in an 18 piece Western short series.

During her career, which lasted for seven years and had her in around 20 films, she acted alongside such big names as Larry Semon, Stan Laurel, Hobart Bosworth, Claire Windsor, Blanche Sweet, George O'Brien, and Billie Dove.

She made her last film, Irene, in 1926. She retired soon after and was pretty much forgotten by Hollywood.

Marion Aye passed away on July 10, 1951 in Culver City, California. Eleven days earlier, she had ingested some type of poison and was found semi-conscious in her hotel room and was taken to the hospital where she later died. Unfortunately, this was one of many suicide attempts that Marion tried. Her first known attempt was in 1935.

She was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. She is buried next to her mother who died only five months before Marion.

After his daughter's death, James Aye spoke out saying that Marion had been upset after losing a role for a television show. I am sure her mother's death also was a contributing factor.

Marion was reportedly married three times, but the details are a little fuzzy. Her first husband was Sherman William Plaskett. She was only 15 years old at the time, but she lied and said she was 18 so that they could get married. Sadly, Plaskett died a year later.

Marion is second from right
Her second husband was press agent Harry Wilson. I am not sure when they married, but they did divorce in 1924. According to the September 1924 issue of Variety, Marion had requested $50 a week in alimony from Wilson and also a little extra so that she could hire a new press agent. The judge denied the motion, saying that she was working and making more than that in a week so it was unnecessary. He did however tell her that if her income ever fell below the requested amount that Wilson could have to cover the difference. Man oh man...

Her third and finally husband was a comedian named Ross Forrester. The two were married in 1936 and were still married when Marion passed away. Forrester would later tell reporters that he always thought she was joking when she talked about killing herself. 

One really interesting fact about Marion is that she was the first movie star to sign a studio contract with a 'morality clause.' It was reported in a bunch of different magazines at the time and went on to become kind of a joke during the golden years of Hollywood since most, if not all of stars were not cookie cutter angels.

"Give me a non-professional husband! Nothing is so wearing as too much of the same thing, and I believe an actor or director would give one no rest from shop talk. Besides, a man outside the studio is far more apt to remain the lover, for to him you can preserve the glamour of the screen. Nothing destroys his illusion of you, for he is unlike the man inside who knows all about illusions!" ~~ Marion Aye, Motion Picture Magazine, 1926

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Miss Lila Lee

Lila Lee is a name like so many others, that seems to be forgotten with time. It is surprising that she is hardly remembered today because she was a perfect embodiment of the cute flapper that is still idolized from the Roaring Twenties.

But, the silent films fans out there remember her name, which should count for something! And now, here is her story.

Lila Lee was born Augusta Wilhelmena Fredericka Appel on July 25, 1901 in Union Hill, New Jersey. She was the second daughter born to Charles/Carl (I've read both), and Augusta Appel. She had a sister, Paula/Pauline/Margaret (again, I've read a few different versions) who was a year older.

When she was still a child, the Appels moved to New York. Her parents noticed early on that their youngest daughter had a lot of energy and they wanted to find a place where she could put that energy into good use. So, they decided to get her involved in theatre. While performing on stage, the cute little girl earned the nickname, "Cuddles," which stuck with her for the rest of her life. The audience adored the little girl and soon she was working under the well known vaudevillian, Gus Edwards. Edwards soon because Lila's personal manager.

She reportedly got her big break in films by being spotted by Jesse Lasky himself. In 1918, she made her film debut in, The Cruise of the Make-Believes. Lasky clearly had a lot of faith in his new find because he started running advertisements in magazines lauding her praises and announcing her as the next big thing. In fact, one reason that Lila was signed so quickly was because the studio was looking to replace their biggest star, Gloria Swanson who had become temperamental and too high maintenance.

Lila had the chance to appear in some popular pictures early in her career and appear alongside some pretty big stars. In 1919, she appeared in Male and Female with her supposed rival, Gloria Swanson (the two actually became friends). In 1921, she was featured alongside Roscoe Arbuckle in Gasoline Gus, and the following year had her in the film she is probably the most known for nowadays, Blood and Sand, which starred Rudolph Valentino.

Her career was looking as promising as ever! Lila was even named a WAMPAS Baby Star of 1922 along with Patsy Ruth Miller, Bessie Love, and Colleen Moore.

In 1928, she took a brief break from making films to concentrate on caring for her young son. "For a while I had to stay home constantly because of my baby, Jimmy. He is old enough now so that I can leave home with his nurse while I work. I am going to work hard. I want to enjoy the happiness that can only come from success." ~~ Lila Lee to the San Jose News - December 22, 1928

Then, the inevitable happened - the talkies came to Hollywood! Lila faired better than a lot of her fellow actors and actually had a fine voice for the new medium. What happened with her career is that she made some bad career choices when it came to films. That coupled with a bout of tuberculosis and rumored alcoholism did not help matters.

On top of her film roles, Lila also appeared in various stage productions as well as some soap operas when tv became the craze. Unfortunately, she didn't make a splash in either category.

Her last film was 1967's Cottonpickin' Chickenpickers. She played a character by the name of Viola Zickafoose. If you can't tell by the title and her character's name, the film was not a success.

Lila Lee passed away on November 13, 1973 in Saranac Lake, New York after suffering a stroke.

She was buried at the Brookdale Cemetery in Elyria, Ohio. I am not sure why she was buried here, but I would be interested to know for sure.

Lila was married three times. Her first husband was actor James Kirkwood, who she married in 1923. They had a son, James Jr. the following year. The couple had problems from the beginning. Lila's mother was against the marriage because of the age difference between the couple (Kirkwood was 26 years older than Lila). After a few years, the tension became enough where Lila left him, and the public knew all about it. When questioned by reporters on the state of his marriage, Kirkwood stated that even though his wife had left him, they had no plans of divorce and he was confident that she would return to him. Well, it is good to keep your hopes high, but sadly it was to no avail. Kirkwood filed for divorce in 1931 on the grounds of desertion. HE was granted custody of their son.  

Her next husband was a broker named Jack Peine, who she was married to for a year (1934-1935). Her third and final husband was also a broker. She married John Murphy in 1944, but they divorced five years later.

In between husbands two and three, Lila was involved in a scandal when her then fiancĂ©, Reid Russell, was found dead from a gunshot wound while the pair were on vacation at a friend's cottage in Manhattan Beach. Lila's son, James Jr. was with the couple at the time and he was actually the one who found Russell's body lying in a hammock. According to a few newspapers at the time, a suicide note was found, but I am not sure if that was ever confirmed because I have read reports that the case could still either be homicide or suicide.

A less scandalous incident she was involved in took place in 1926 while performing on stage in London. Apparently, stage star May Moore Duprez refused to say the word "hell" that was part of a song she was performing. The audience praised her decision after the show with a standing ovation and flowers. The producer of the revue meanwhile was not at all amused and threatened to break her contract. When asked about the incident, Lila, who was working as Ms. Duprez's understudy, replied, "I see no objection to the word." (The Evening Independent - August 30, 1926). Gotta love that spunk!

"To lose whatever standing I have today would be a loss greater than the loss of my stardom. I've built my career thru constant study. It is me and I am it." ~~ Lila Lee, Motion Picture Magazine - February 1923

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mr. John Bowers

A friend of mine who does a lot of local history research mentioned a silent film actor she came across named John Bowers. Now, this is a name I was only slightly familiar with and I knew him for his legacy and not his film career. John is supposedly one of the inspirations for the character of Norman Maine in the film A Star is Born. He had such an interesting life, career, and legacy that he is worth looking into more, so, here we are!

John Bowers was born John Edward Bowersox on December 25, 1885 in Garrett, Indiana. He was the third child born to George, a railroad engineer, and Ida Bowersox. Older brother Bruce was born ten years earlier, but sadly passed away in 1890 at age 15 in a train crash. John also had an older sister named Gertrude, and a younger sister who was born in 1891 but died when she was still a child (I can't find her name in any records). 

While attending a business college in Indiana, John got interested in acting. He eventually joined up with an acting company and made his way to New York where he began appearing in various Broadway productions. 

The films came calling next! John made his film debut in the 1914 short, The Baited Trap, for the IMP Company. 

Corinne Griffith, John, and Hobart Bosworth

During his film career, which consisted of over 90 films in a span of 17 years, he had the privilege of sharing screen time with such stars as Lon Chaney (in three films), Mary Pickford, Clara Bow, and Mary Miles Minter. His most frequent female costars were June Elvidge, Alice Brady, and Colleen Moore.

Aside from A Star is Born, the thing John Bowers is remembered for is costarring with his future wife, Marguerite De La Motte. The two made 12 films together in a span of just four years: What a Wife Learned (1923), Desire (1923), Richard the Lion-Hearted (1923), When a Man's a Man (1924), Those Who Dare (1924), Off the Highway (1925), Daughters Who Pay (1925), The People vs. Nancy Preston (1925), Flattery (1925), Hearts and Fists (1926), Pals in Paradise (1926), and Ragtime (1927). 

It only took a few films before his star began to rise to heights of stardom. Fans enjoyed his looks as well as his dramatic acting abilities. But, then the inevitable happened, the talkies came around. John only appeared in three talkies, and like a lot of silent stars, it just wasn't working. 

He made his last film appearance in 1931's Mounted Fury, with Lina Basquette and Blanche Mehaffey. 

John Bowers passed away on November 17, 1936 in Santa Monica, California. John had sailed to Santa Catalina island, to the home of director Henry Hathaway. He heard that Hathaway was directing a new movie and he wanted to try and get a part. Hathaway told him that the film didn't require a lot of actors and that if he wanted a bigger role, he would have to contact the studio. Pissed off, John's parting words to Hathaway were, "You'll have a real life sea picture. I'm going to jump overboard!" The boat he had rented was found floating abandoned in the ocean, and his body washed up on shore the next day. 

John's suicide didn't surprise a lot of people. In fact, he was once quoted as saying that he wanted to end his life in a 'heroic matter' and 'sail away into the sunset.' Well, he did just that.

He was cremated and the location of his ashes is unknown.

As I mentioned before, John was married to actress Marguerite De La Motte. They married in 1924 and some reports state that they remained married until his death, while others state that they were separated a few years before his death. Either way, the two were the Brad and Angelina of the silent days, a famous onscreen couple that took their romance off the silver screen. 

There isn't a lot out there about what kind of person John was off the screen as far as personality. What is known is that he was an aviator and at one point wanted to open his own flying school. He loved yachting, which is kinda interesting considering he died out on the water. On the negative side, it appears that John's dark side did rear it's head in a public way in 1930. In July of that year, he was arrested for being drunk and abusive to police officers. The cops were called by neighbors complaining about gunshots and when they arrived, they found John sitting in the back of his car with a gun. He told newspaper reporters, "Those cops just got mad because I told them all police were rotten shots. I told them I could shoot better upside down than they could standing up. I don't know why that made them mad but it did and they bundled me into jail." He later went on to say that he was not drunk and that the police would not give him a sobriety test to prove it. He got into more trouble months later after he failed to appear in court for the charges. Clearly, something was going on there...

"If movie fans think a motion picture actor's life is a bed of roses, they have another 'think' coming." ~~ John Bowers to the Hartford Courant - July 22, 1923

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Miss Thelma Hill

I had a reader ask me to do an entry about Thelma Hill and I had her on my list but I got caught up in the previous series and AHHHHHH!!

But, have no fear! I have gotten a few reader requests and if I don't get to them right away, please know that as soon as I get a request, I make a note of it. So, on a little sticky note on my computer I have a list of people to cover and I will get to them! Scout's honor!

Thelma Hill was born Thelma Floy Hillerman on December 12, 1906 in Emporia, Kansas. She was the only child born to Clifford, a conductor (for music, not trains) and Gussie Hillerman. Census records once again get a little confusing because in both a 1905 and a 1910 record, Gussie is listed as 'widowed' but Clifford Hillerman didn't pass away until 1914. I did briefly read in some newspaper articles from the time that the couple divorced in 1909, but that still doesn't explain why she is listed as 'widowed.' Maybe she was still smarting from him deserting her. Can't blame her!

When she was in her teens, Thelma and her mother moved to California. They moved near a film studio and one day she was discovered by Mack Sennett himself! He liked what he saw, but not enough to put her into starring roles right off the bat. She started out as extras in his pictures and sometimes got to play a bit part. Eventually she was hired to work as a double for Mabel Normand. 

Her first film was a 1924 short called Picking Peaches, which is said to be the first film to feature the Mack Sennett Bathing Beauties. The other beauties in the film were Evelyn Francisco, Elsie Tarron, Gladys Tennyson, Dorothy Dorr, Cecille Evans, and Marceline Day (to name a few). 

Being one of the Bathing Beauties is what Thelma is most known for nowadays. She was one of the first of the Beauties to branch out and have a screen career on her own. If she wasn't billed using her real name, people would recognize Thelma by nickname given to her, the "Mah Jongg Bathing Girl," because of a Mah Jongg bathing suit she was frequently photographed in. She had another nickname, "Pee-Wee," but this was mostly between friends and on set. Why Pee-Wee? Probably because Thelma was a little thing, she was only 5'1''.

Her film career lasted for 10 years and in that span Thelma appeared in over 100 films. Besides being a Bathing Beauty, Thelma also starred in the screen adaptation of the comic strip "Toots and Casper." The serial lasted from 1927 til 1929 with Thelma as Toots and Bud Duncan as Casper.

Then the talkies came to town! Thelma did appear in a few films and was quoted in a film magazine during this time, saying: 

                 "I'm all enthused over what the next two years may bring me. I was scared
              to death the first time I faced the microphone, but I have made three talkies
                   now and feel just as much at home as I did when we had only cameras to face. 
                   I am taking dancing lessons now, too, and if I ever get sufficient courage I am
                   going to take singing lessons as I think both will be necessary with sound films
                   now in vogue."

But, it seemed that her flair for slapstick comedy belonged in the silent era and was not what movie audiences were wanting now. 

She made her last screen appearance in the 1934 short, Mixed Nuts. 

Thelma Hill passed away on May 11, 1938 in Culver City, California. Her career at a standstill had made her depressed and so she begun to drink excessively. Her alcohol intake took a toll on her health quickly and she eventually had to be checked into a sanitarium. It was here that she died, officially from a cerebral hemorrhage but it was exacerbated by malnutrition and cirrhosis of the liver due to her hard drinking. She was only 31 years old, poor girl.

Her ashes were interred at Forest Lawn in Glendale, in a scary looking closet room I might add.

Thelma was married once, to actor John Sinclair. The two married in 1934 and were still married when she died four years later. Sinclair, also a heavy drinker, died in 1945 of cirrhosis of the liver. Before she wed Sinclair, she was engaged to director St. Elmo Boyce, who unfortunately also became an alcoholic when his career began to wain. He ended up committing suicide in 1930.

A story ran in the June 14, 1929 issue of the San Jose News that Thelma got her break in films because she spilled soup on Roscoe Arbuckle. It stated that when she was 13 years old and working with her mother in a cafe, that she had to waitress tables because they were extra busy. A movie was shooting nearby, so a lot of the film folks were coming by to eat and one of those folks was Arbuckle. Apparently, Thelma was clumsy and spilled a bowl of soup on Arbuckle's lap and somehow she ended up in pictures. That is the only place I read of that being how she got her start, so don't take it as the gospel truth. 

Marion Davies and Thelma

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Miss Ethel Grandin

Ethel Grandin was born on March 3, 1894 in New York City. She was the youngest child and only daughter born to Edward, a coal salesman, and his wife, Julia. She had three older brothers named Edward, Howell, and George. 

Ethel made her stage debut at age six! She spent a lot of her childhood traveling around the country with various theatre troupes, and one of her frequent costars on the road was another young girl named Gladys Smith, who would later change her name to Mary Pickford. Not a bad way to start!

When she was seventeen, she went looking for film work at the Biograph studio. She was meeting with D.W. Griffith when he lifted up her skirt so that he could 'inspect her legs.' Well, Ethel was horrified by his gumption and left his office immediately. The casting couch is nothing new it seems...

Even though this incident turned her stomach, it didn't stop her from continuing to pursue a screen career. She next went to the IMP Studios to see Carl Laemmle. She had a much better experience there and was signed up! The pot was sweetened even more because her old friend and travelling buddy, Mary Pickford was working with the studio already and was known as "The IMP Girl" to movie audiences. 

Ethel made her film debut in the 1911 short, Dorothy's Family. She would frequently appear in shorts with Mary, until Mary went to another studio and Ethel took over her role and became the new "IMP Girl." 

One of Ethel's films became quite famous and quite notorious. In 1913 she appeared in the film, Traffic in Souls. This film is considered the first to show the selling of sex and marked the beginning of the so called 'sexplotation' genre.

Her career consisted of quite a few breaks. She would leave for awhile, and come back and do more films, and then go away again. The first time she did this it was because her brother, George, who also worked for a bit as an actor, died in 1916. Her next break could have been to concentrate on her marriage and her son and her last break became permanent when she retired from filming all together.

In 1922 she made her last screen appearance in A Tailor-Made Man. 

After her film career was over, Ethel worked for awhile selling cosmetics. She remained pretty strong and healthy up until her eighties when she lost the ability to speak. 

Ethel Grandin passed away on September 28, 1988 in Woodland Hills, California. 

She was interred at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood. 

Ethel was married once, to director and visual artist Ray Smallwood. They were married in 1912 and remained married until his death in 1964. They had a son named Arthur in 1913. When Ray was in failing health later in life, the couple moved into the Motion Picture Country House so he could be better cared for. After he died Ethel decided to stay there and soon became neighbors with another lovely film star, Mary Astor. 

Even after her career ended, Ethel would still receive tons of fan mail and she enjoyed answering every letter herself. 

"...Nature has gifted Miss Grandin with the requisites necessary to screen success and I am certain, after reviewing a number of these pictures, she will prove more popular than ever in the series we are about to release." ~~ Producer George Kleine to Motion Picture World in the July 13, 1915 issue, when asked about Ethel appearing in films for the General Film Company.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Miss Marvel Rea

So, this young lady is someone that kinda haunts my thoughts when I look through my pictures or think about who to write about next. She was a beautiful girl and even though she is almost completely forgotten today, back in the early 1910s and 1920s, she was a popular fixture in Keystone films. I would like to believe that Marvel Rea would have continued appearing in films until she retired later in life, but sadly, life dealt her a terrible blow that she just couldn't keep coping with.

Marvel Rea was born Marvel Luciel Rea on November 9, 1901 in Ainsworth, Nebraska. She was third child born to John, a farmer, and his wife, Nellie. She had an older sister named Eva, an older brother, Thomas, and a younger brother, Clyde.

John Rea seems to be a bit of a mystery. I am not sure if he passed away or if he and Nellie divorced. I cannot find any information on his death or even a grave, but I did find Nellie's and she was buried under the name 'Nellie Rea Blalock.' Poor Nellie ended up outliving all four of her children. Her eldest daughter, Eva, died in 1936, from what I am not sure. Thomas Rea worked in Hollywood like his sister Marvel, but chose to work behind the camera as a cinematographer. He died of a heart attack in 1957. Youngest child, Clyde passed away in 1943. Nellie Thurman Rea Blalock didn't pass away until 1964. How awful to out live all of your children.

In 1910 the Rea family moved to California and in 1917 she joined up with Mack Sennett and the Keystone Studio. She made her film debut that year in the short, Her Nature Dance. 

Marvel was an adorable blonde and was a perfect choice to become one of Mack Sennett's Bathing Beauties. The girls wore scandalous (for the day) bathing suits and frolicked on the beach for comedy shorts and for promotional ads for the studio. The Beauties weren't often named in film credits, but a lot of them did become stars in their own rights like Marie Prevost and Gloria Swanson. Gloria would later claim that she was NOT one of his beauties, but I've seen the pictures and she was frolicking with the girls. Marvel frequently appeared in shorts with fellow Beauties Juanita Hansen, Vera Steadman, Phyllis Haver, Laura La Varnie, Harriet Hammond, and Myrtle Lind. I just love them!

From top to bottom: Phyllis Haver, Vera Steadman, Marvel, Beulah Sunshine, Myrtle Lind, and Vera Reynolds

Marvel's film career only lasted from 1917 until 1921 and contained almost thirty films. When she wasn't acting as a Bathing Beauty, she was appearing alongside Ford Sterling in his comic shorts. 

On September 2, 1936, Marvel was walking down the road when three men drove up next to her and asked if they could give her a lift home. She told them no, and kept walking. The men then grabbed her and threw her into the back of their van and sped off to an eucalyptus grove on Compton Avenue in Los Angeles. They then assaulted her and beat her with glass bottles before leaving her semiconscious on the ground. She woke up a few hours later and somehow was able to get help. The details about how she got to the police and got home are a little confusing so I am leaving that part out. The police were able to find the men, brothers Elmwood and Homer Gidney Harvey Zike, and take them into custody. 

The trials to convict the men were a circus. They at first denied having anything to do with the kidnapping and the jury and judge were starting to lean in their direction. Eventually they were sentenced to serve up to fifty years in prison, but because of some BS technicality, they were released after only serving three years. Gotta love the justice system.

Marvel Rea passed away on June 17, 1937 after ingesting ant poison. It seems that the kidnap, assault, and eventual release of her attackers may have been too much for her to handle. Can't say I blame her, poor thing. 

She was buried at Pacific Crest Cemetery in Redondo Beach, California next to her older sister. 

Her suicide seems to have been something she had been thinking about because according to her great nephew Stephen Rea, Marvel had made a suicide pact with her younger brother, Clyde. Now, I am not sure if this pact was made right before she killed herself or if this was weeks/years beforehand. Well, as we know, Marvel went through with the pact, and Clyde simply passed out drunk. Man oh man...

Marvel was married twice (although I have heard maybe three times, the second husband was supposedly a violinist). Her first husband was a banker named named Henry Page Wells. The two were married in October of 1918, and were separated a few weeks later. I read in an article that Marvel claimed two weeks after their wedding, Wells "stood her on her head." I have absolutely no idea what this means, but I am assuming it is a way of saying that he hit her. The pair didn't officially divorce until 1922, when Marvel accused him of spending all of his money on drugs.

Her second marriage was to Edwin J. Wilkinson in 1936. Edwin's sister, Dorothy was married to Marvel's brother, Tom. Even though they were still married when Marvel died, she is buried under her maiden name of 'Rea.'

Marvel, Ford Sterling, and Alice Maison

Neither of her marriages produced children but according to great nephew Stephen, she was pregnant at one point and suffered a miscarriage after filming a scene where she was in a cage with a gorilla. I would love to know the whole story here because this just sounds bizarre. Bizarre or not, apparently this accident made it so she could have children. 

A film magazine from 1917 ran a profile of Marvel singing her praises. They had her at 5'2'' with a weight that was 'sculpturally correct.' (Hmmmmm....) Her eyes were hazel, and her hair was 'the color of sunshine and champagne.' It also stated that she enjoyed surfing, a new fad on the beach. Love it. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

No Talkies VIII

Well, here we are. We have come to the end of our series about the silent film stars who passed away before they were able to make a try for the talkies. So, let's a man who was good friends with the one and only Nazimova and a man who was teamed with Dorothy Gibson, the actress who survived the sinking of The Titanic, in a few films. 


Rex Cherryman was born Rexford Raymond Cherryman on October 30, 1896 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was the second child and only son born to Esmond and Myrtle Cherryman. His sister, Edna Gladys (she usually went by Gladys) was five years older.

It gets a little confusing when it comes to the relationship between Rex's parents. In one census record, Myrtle Cherryman is listed as 'widowed' and in another one, ten years later, she is listed as 'divorced.' So, either Esmond Cherryman died and came back to life just to be divorced by his wife, or there was a mistake made on a record. I haven't found a census record where Esmond is listed as being married to Myrtle or living with his children. I did find one from 1910 that showed he was living in Idaho and working as a watchman for a steamboat company. He was listed as 'single' in this record. Esmond died in 1944. 

Dramatics was already present in the Cherryman household before Rex was born. Myrtle loved appearing on the stage when she was a child in her town's local productions and when she was older, she worked as a music editor and composer. 

Rex attended the University of Michigan (GO BLUE!) and while there he met another student named Esther Lamb. The two fell in love and were married in 1918. They had a son, Rexford Cherryman Jr. in 1925. And sadly, Rex Jr. died only a few months ago on July 25th. According to Rex, the marriage was a mistake but the two remained on friendly terms. 

Like his mother, he loved the theatre and really enjoyed performing in front of a live audience. His stage resume involves more appearances than his film resume which consisted of only five films.

He made his film debut in 1919's In for Thirty Days with May Allison. Not a bad way to start!

Elinor Oliver, Nazimova, Patsy Ruth Miller, and Rex

His next film was 1920's Madame Peacock starring Alla Nazimova. Nazimova picked Rex out herself to star alongside her. The two soon became good friends and she chose him again as her costar in Camille the following year. The success of the film (which of course was helped by it's other star, Rudolph Valentino) helped put Rex into the public's eye and got them talking about him. 

In 1923, he made his next film, Sunshine Trail which wasn't really a stellar followup to his previous film. He didn't make another film until 1928, which would end up being his last screen appearance. 

Rex Cherryman passed away on August 10, 1928 in Le Havre, France. He had fallen ill while sailing from the U.S. to Paris and it later developed into septic poisoning. He was 31 years old.

He was interred at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California.

Rex remained married to Esther until his death, legally that is. Unfortunately, Rex was unfaithful to her at least once, and it was with a woman who would later become a big movie star. In the early 1920s while performing in a production in San Francisco, Rex met fellow actor Barbara Stanwyck (although, at that time she was still using her birth name, Ruby Stevens). They two met again a few years later in 1926 when they were both appearing in the same play and it was either that year or the following that the two began an affair. Barbara wasn't married at the time, but Rex certainly was! It was Barbara who was there when Rex left to sail to France and was understandably shocked and devastated when he died a few days later. Esther Cherryman knew about the affair by now and she was ready to file for divorce from Rex. Interestingly enough though, when she died over 70 years later, she was interred in the same niche as her husband. 

Barbara Stanwyck and Rex

Here is a interesting/eerie story involving Rex that I wanted to share. In 1927, Rex was appearing in the stage production The Trial of Mary Dugan. He was only with the production for a few weeks when he fell ill and was replaced by another young actor, Robert Williams. The day after Rex died, Robert spoke to a New York reporter saying, "I'm not going to let this be a jinx to me. I'm not superstitious. If a man is going to get a stardom, he's going to get there and death can't stop him." These words were going to come back and haunt him soon. In 1931, Robert was one lucky man, he was starring alongside Jean Harlow in the film, Platinum Blonde and reviews were saying this was his gateway to stardom! Sadly, four days after the film was released, he passed away from appendicitis. Superstitious now?

"It was my first chance at dramatic acting and everything enchanted me. Rex was handsome and young and had a great talent and good humor...I adored him." ~~ Barbara Stanwyck


Lamar Johnstone was born Edward Lamar Johnstone on March 15, 1884 in Fairfax, Virginia.

I couldn't find any information about his family or his early life. I apologize.

He made his film debut in a 1912 short, Keeping an Eye on Father. 

During his career, he appeared mostly in films for the Selig and Eclair Studios and was often paired with Dorothy Gibson, the silent film actress who survived the sinking of the Titanic. Along with Dorothy, he frequently shared the screen with Muriel Ostriche, Francelia Billington, Stella LeSaint, Alec B. Francis, Barbara Tennant, Julia Stuart, and Will E. Shearer.

Tyrone Power Sr. on the far left. Lamar is the man in the glasses in the middle and in the inset. I am not sure who the woman and the other man are. Possibly Louis Fitzroy and Lucille King.

Not only was Lamar an actor, but he also had a chance to direct a few of his films in the 1913-1915 period. He also did his own stunts. In the 1916 film, Secret of the Submarine, Lamar had the chance to fly himself and his costar, Juanita Hansen in an airplane. You couldn't pay me enough for that!

His last film appearance was in an Olive Thomas film, The Spite Bride. It was released four months after his death.

Lamar Johnstone passed away on May 21, 1919 in Palm Springs, California. His coworkers recalled that he was in good health and spirits when he went to bed that night. His body was found the next morning in bed. The cause of death was listed as heart disease. He was 35 years old.

He was buried in the Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles. 

Dropping dead from heart disease at 35 was pretty surprising. Especially considering that Lamar was in pretty good physical condition. He enjoyed boxing in his spare time and was said to be pretty good at it. 

Lamar and Edith Johnson

I couldn't find any information on a marriage except that he is mentioned in an article as leaving a widow behind. I also found his WWI draft card that listed his nearest relative as being an 'Adeline Johnstone.' It didn't list the relationship, but I am thinking that she was his wife.