Sunday, April 25, 2010

Mr. Rudolph Valentino

Oh Rudy! I had known about him for quite some time before I actually got around to watching him on film. About 3 years ago, my family moved out of our house and we were going through stuff in the attic and came across some of my grandmother's stuff. My grandmother was born in 1907 so she was around during the boom of silent film. We found in her possessions sheet music from films with Shirley Temple, Dolores Costello, and Rudolph Valentino (And also one that was published in 1912 about the Titanic disaster). I wish she were still alive today so we could talk about silent film and her childhood, but she passed away 5 years before I was born.

Anyway, I have had the the opportunity to visit Rudy's grave at least 5 times and every time I am there, I still feel in awe of where I am standing. I was standing in front of the screen's greatest lover. I have left him kisses many times as well. I am excited to visit him again in May when I head back to California.

He was born Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaello Pierre Filiburt Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguolla on May 6, 1895 in Castellaneta, Italy. His parents were Giovanni and Marie Guglielmi (His father died when he was 11 and his mother died in 1919). He had an older brother, Alberto, and a younger sister Maria.

As a child, Rudy was quite spoiled, mostly by his mother. He went back and forth between Paris and Italy until he finally left for the United States in 1913 at age 18.

While living in New York City, he soon began to run out of money and had to find ways to support himself. He waited tables for awhile and eventually got a job as a taxi dancer. While working this job he found himself embroiled in a scandal involving an older woman and her husband. Blanca de Saulles was a frequent customer of Rudy's. Whether or not they were anything but dancing partners is unknown, but either way, they were good friends. When Blanca decided to divorce her husband, Rudy was by her side. Both sides fired allegations of infidelity, but neither had any merit. Blanca's husband even had him arrested, but thankfully he only spent a few days in jail. Right before the trial, Blanca shot and killed her husband after arguing about custody over their son. Rudy soon fled to the U.S. to avoid further scandal.

He soon was travelling between San Francisco to Los Angeles acting in various stage shows and eventually going back to dancing for awhile. He moved to Sunset Boulevard and began pursuing a career in film. He made his debut on screen as an extra in 1917's Alimony.

Because of his "exotic" looks, he was cast as villain roles. He was not very happy with being pigeon-holed, so he pushed harder for more solid roles.

In 1921 he appeared in the smash hit Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. The problem was that the studio heads didn't really see Rudy as a star so they continued to place him in B movies.

He really found his niche when he starred in The Sheik in 1921. It led to other big films such as Beyond the Rocks with Gloria Swanson and Blood and Sand with Nita Naldi.

Like most actors then and now, he soon became unhappy with his financial situation and his studio. So, he went on strike. The problem was his lawsuit was met with a counter suit from Famous Players because Rudy owed THEM money. He didn't back down and neither did the studio. When they saw that other studios were shopping around for options for Rudy, they extended his contract making it impossible for him to work.

Unable to find work on screen, he had to find another venture in order to earn money. One thing he did was to sponsor beauty pageants. One was actually filmed and there clips available of it online to watch (I am not 100% sure if the full film is available on VHS or DVD).

Under a new contract, Rudy finally returned to the screen in 1924. The film was not a success and the fancy period costumes just made the film appear a little to outlandish.

He appeared in a few more films until he returned to the image the public wanted to see...the image he hated, the sheik. He began shooting the film in early 1926 even with his health failing him. Rudy needed the money to pay off his mounting debts, so he continued to film.

On August 15, 1926, he collapsed in New York City and was shown to be suffering from appendicitis and gastric ulcers. He had surgery to correct the problem, and although the surgery went well, Rudy himself wasn't feeling at all better. Six days later he developed pleurisy in his left lung, but two days later he was awake and talking to doctors. Sadly, he soon lapsed into a coma.

Rudolph Valentino passed away on August 23, 1926 at the age of 31.

Because he passed away in New York, Rudy had two funerals. The first was held at the Frank Campbell Funeral Home on August 24th. And man oh man, I am sure that was a sight in itself! Thousands of people lined the streets, windows were smashed, riots ensued. There have been rumors over the years that people actually committed suicide after hearing of his death, but they are just rumors. The one odd publicity stunt was a man showing up dressed as a Fascist guard, who was supposed to have been sent by Mussolini. No. Also, there were rumors that the body laid out was not Valentino, but a decoy. Again, false.

A second funeral was held in Beverly Hills. Because Rudy never made any plans for his burial, he was loaned a crypt by a friend (June Mathis...I will get to her later...). It was supposed to just be temporary until a lavish shrine was built for him, but it never came about. He is still in the same crypt at Hollywood Forever some 80 years later.

Vilma Banky and Valentino

The Latin Lover was married twice...and to two reported lesbians...which is just fantastic. His first marriage was to actress Jean Acker in 1919. She regretted the marriage right after apparently because she locked him out of their suite (Which...I am sorry...locking Rudolph Valentino out?! I don't think so!). They remained married for two years though, and eventually divorced in 1921. With as much as she acted like she disliked Rudy, Jean went on to be billed as "Mrs. Valentino." They eventually reconciled and were friends until he passed away.

Second was Natacha Rambova. She was a good friend (and perhaps lover) of Alla Nazimova. They married in 1922 which resulted in Rudy's arrest for bigamy. He had not been divorced from Jean Acker for over a year as California law required. His friends eventually posted bail. Rudy and Natacha waited and waited and were finally legally married in 1923.

Natacha was not very popular among those close to Rudy. She was quite controlling and was eventually banned from his movie sets when she tried to put in her two cents about everything. The two also wore matching "slave" bracelets. They eventually divorced in 1925.

Valentino and Natacha Rambova

At the time of his death, he was involved with Pola Negri. Pola stated that they were even engaged, but apparently that was news to everyone else. She made a huge scene at his funeral, fainting every five seconds, throwing herself on his coffin, crying hysterically...etc. Apparently his last words were about her.

June Mathis has been credited as the one who discovered Valentino. She had seen him in earlier films and pushed for him to be cast in Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The two had a long lasting friendship. He looked to her a mother figure. They had a falling out after Natacha Rambova interfered into their friendship. She wanted to have complete control over Rudy, not June. They reconciled after the Rambova divorce. She died a year after Rudy at age 38 of a heart attack. Instead of moving Rudy, she was placed in the crypt next to him.

Even now, there has been dispute about whether or not Rudy was gay. It was rumored that he was involved with his past roommates Paul Ivano and Douglas Gerrad, although Ivano denied this.

How about "The Lady in Black"? Throughout the years, a woman dressed all in black arrives at his tomb with roses on the anniversary of his death. The original Lady was a woman by the name of Ditra Flame. The rumor was that when Ditra was a little girl and sick in the hospital, Rudy came and visited her. He reported told her that she would outlive him and that she should come visit and talk with him after he died because he didn't want to be alone (This is her story, it hasn't, to my knowledge, ever been verified). She died in 1984, and her headstone names her as "The Lady in Black."

There is another woman who claims to be the original Lady, Marion Benda. She was a former Ziegfeld girl who claimed that she had a relationship with Rudy and even had a child by him. Another is Estrellita del Regil, a woman who began coming by his grave in the 1970s and stopping in the 90s. She said her mother was long lost love of Rudy's. The third is Vicki Callahan, who was merely a fan of his. She took over the role willingly.

In 1923, Rudy recorded a song called "Kashmiri Love Song." It is the only recording of his voice. It's pretty cool to hear actually. He had a deep voice and a thick accent. He also published a book of poems that same year called "Daydreams."

Like many silent film stars, he had his own beautiful mansion named "Falcon Lair." There is a really cool documentary called "Valentino" that offers a virtual tour of the mansion as it would have looked when Rudy lived there. It's a really cool documentary, check it out!

The Chicago Tribune blamed the new effeminate nature of American men on Valentino, calling him a "powder puff." This pissed him off royally and he challenged the reporter to a boxing match. Another journal reporter from New York volunteered to fight in place of the anonymous Tribune writer...and lost.

"I really believe I was happier when I slept on a park bench in Central Park than during all the years of the 'perfect lover' stuff." ~ Rudolph Valentino

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Miss Dorothy Sebastian

Now, for the woman I am uber-jealous of. Dorothy Sebastian. She had an affair with Buster Keaton...SO jealous!!!! I can't hate her for it though. She was a funny lady, ever see the film Spite Marriage? It's great! It's very funny and Dorothy holds her own very well next to Buster. Also, her film, Our Dancing Daughters with fellow flappers Joan Crawford and Anita Page was great as well. I wish (like so many other silent ladies and gentlemen) that she would be remembered more because she was a lovely lady.

Dorothy Sebastian was born Dorothy Stella Sabiston April 26, 1903 in Birmingham, Alabama. Her parents were Lawrence and Stella Sabiston. She had two sisters, Elizabeth and Mary. And one brother, Robert (Sister Mary died in 1938 due to injuries sustained in a fire. Brother Robert was killed during WWI).

She loved to dance growing up and was aiming for stardom in the entertainment field. But, like most parents, hers did not approve of her goals. So, she ran away at age 15 and went to New York.

It has been reported that Dorothy was a Ziegfeld Girl after pictures of her taken by Ziegfeld photographer, Alfred Cheney Johnston came to light. She may or may not have been in the Follies, but she was in George White's Scandals in 1924. One of her fellow ensemble members was Louise Brooks.

She soon made her way to Hollywood and signed with MGM. She appeared in two films with pals Anita Page and Joan Crawford, Our Dancing Daughters and Our Blushing Brides.

Soon after, Dorothy went into retirement from films. She returned in 1935, but found that her parts got smaller and smaller.

Dorothy Sebastian died on April 5, 1957 of colon cancer.

She was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Dorothy was married three times, first to Al Stafford in 1920. It has been rumored that the two had a daughter together, but this has never been confirmed. The couple divorced in 1924. Her second marriage was to actor William Boyd in 1930. They eloped to Las Vegas and the marriage was actually the reason for her early retirement. But, the marriage, like the retirement didn't last, and the couple divorced in 1936. Her third and final marriage was to Herman Shapiro in 1946. Dorothy and Shapiro remained married until her death.

The Sebastian/Keaton affair lasted for quite a few years (Again. Jealous). Buster was in the midst of a rough marriage to Natale Talmadge (*hiss*) and he fell for Dorothy because she was the complete opposite of his nagging, frigid wife. One of the best stories about the affair was when Dorothy discovered that Buster was taking a trip to Florida with another woman. So, she followed and booked the room next to them. She proceeded to make as much noise as she possibly could, banging pots and pans, banging on the walls...anything to bother the couple. It wasn't until he returned to Hollywood that he found out who in fact the noisy neighbor was. He wasn't mad, in fact, he loved it and liked her even more! The two became even closer until Buster met his third and final wife, Eleanor Norris. Instead of just breaking up with her and hurting her feelings, he and Eleanor decided instead to set her up with another man. Apparently it worked...but must not have been for too long because nothing ever came of the relationship.

The sad part about their relationship was that by the time Dorothy died, Buster had completely forgotten about her, even though she only lived a few miles away (I don't think this is entirely true...I don't think he could just forget about her. I think it was just that they drifted apart like people do).

Dorothy and Buster Keaton

In 1938, Dorothy was arrested for drunk driving. She had just left Buster's house and was busted by the police. She was fined $75 and a 30 day suspended jail sentence.

Dorothy was known around Hollywood for not being able to handle her alcohol very well...and for that matter, Buster couldn't either. But, Dorothy earned the nicknames "Slam Bang Sebastian," "Slambastian," or just "Slam."

She was good friends with Joan Crawford, Anita Page, Renee Adoree, and Alice Terry.

"I absolutely refuse to be disappointed in anything. It hurts too much. Instead, I get prepared ahead of time and so am ready to meet whatever comes." ~ Dorothy Sebastian

Friday, April 23, 2010

Miss Edna Purviance

Continuing with the theme of Chaplin's ex wives...we move along to Edna Purviance (Not an ex wife, but an ex girlfriend). I loved Penelope Ann Miller's portrayal of Edna in Chaplin. She acted just the way I thought Edna was when she was alive. Even in her pictures, she had a playful look in her eyes. I have seen her in a scene of a Chaplin film, I believe it was Burlesque on Carmen, and she just looked so lively and beautiful. She seemed to be one of those ladies you wanted to hang out with...go to a speakeasy or something. 

Edna Purviance was born Olga Edna Purviance on October 21, 1895 in Paradise Valley, Nevada to parents Louis and Madison Purviance. Her parents divorced when she was seven, and her mother later remarried a plumber named Robert Nurnberger.

In 1913, she left home and attended a college in San Francisco. It was here, three years later that she met Charlie Chaplin. He was working on a film and was looking for a leading lady. One of his associates mentioned seeing Edna in a cafe and thought Charlie should take a look at her. She got the part.

Edna ended up appearing in 33 of Chaplin's films, including 1921's The Kid with Jackie Coogan.

She retired from film in 1927. She didn't have to find another means of support because Chaplin kept her on his payroll until she died.

Edna and Charlie Chaplin

Edna Purviance passed away on January 11, 1958 of cancer.

She was interred at Grand View Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California.

Edna does not have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but there is a petition for her to get one.

Although she and Chaplin were romantically involved for a number of years, they never married. Instead, in 1938, she married an airplane pilot named John Squire. Unfortunately, Squire passed away in 1945 (Apparently some silent home movies were found of the husband and wife, showing them at home, at work, etc).

She was one of William Desmond Taylor's neighbors at the time of his murder in 1922.

Charlie Chaplin and Edna

"Edna Purviance is a mystery woman. An enigma. Less is known about her, both in Hollywood and among the fans, than is known about any other woman of prominence in pictures. Her career has been startlingly unusual. Her personality, her life, remains as baffling as ever." ~ Adela Rogers St. Johns

** 10/23/10 ** In the 1910 Census, Edna is listed with her mother and her stepfather. Her name though is listed as being "Edna O." Purviance, so I am not sure if her birth name was in fact Olga or if it was Edna. Also, her mother's name is not listed as Madison but rather as Louise.

Robert Nurnberger was a plumber and also had a lodging house. According to this Census he had five lodgers at the time.

Miss Mildred Harris

Last night I watched the movie Chaplin. I love that movie! I am not a huge Chaplin fan...which should be obvious with how much I go on about loving Buster Keaton. I plan on writing an entry about Chaplin, but that is a big undertaking, so I am holding off on it. I will discuss my relationship with him in that blog. But, again, I love the bio-film. The icing on the cake is that it stars Robert Downey Jr., whom I love.

But, I am gonna write a bit about Mildred Harris. She was a pretty little thing that became more famous for her marriage at the age of 17 to one of Hollywood's biggest stars than she was for her acting career. I am gonna spotlight her a bit here though, we go!

Mildred Harris was born on November 29, 1901 in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

She made her first screen appearance at age 12 in a Western short. In 1914, she appeared in shorts that were part of the Oz series.

In 1916, she appeared as a harem girl in D.W. Griffith's epic Intolerance. Her role in this caused her career to rise steadily until she became a leading lady in film during the 1920s. She played opposite such leading men of the day as Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Lionel Barrymore, and Owen and Tom Moore.

When talkies came about, Mildred, like so many other silent stars could not keep their career momentum going. She toured in stage, comedy, and burlesque shows before returning to the screen in 1936 to appear with the Three Stooges in Movie Maniacs.

She appeared in a few more films during the 1940s, making her last film appearance in Having a Wonderful Crime, which was released posthumously.

Mildred Harris died quite unexpectedly on June 20, 1944 of pneumonia. She was 42 years old.

She was interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

When Mildred met Charlie Chaplin, she was only 17 years old. They dated for awhile, and she eventually became pregnant by him (some say she faked the pregnancy). She did give birth to a baby boy in 1919, but the baby only lived for three days. The couple fought constantly and eventually separated a few months after the death of their child. Mildred tried to pretend to friends and the public that the marriage was fine, but she filed for divorce in 1920 citing mental cruelty. He called her out as well, saying that she had had countless affairs. He wouldn't name any names, but one of her affairs was rumored to be Alla Nazimova.

After her divorce from Chaplin, she became involved in another highly public affair with the Prince of Wales. The two were only together for about a year. And it was actually Mildred who introduced the Prince to his future wife Wallis Simpson.

In 1924, Mildred married Everett Terrence McGovern and the two had one son, Everett Terrence Jr. They divorced in 1929 after she claimed that he had abandoned her. Her final marriage was to William Fleckenstein in 1934, and they remained married until her death.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mr. John Gilbert

Ooh la la! John Gilbert! It's so sad that he is forgotten by film fans now. He was quite debonair and a sex symbol who rivaled Valentino. I adored him in Flesh and the Devil and in Queen Christina, both with Greta Garbo. In the latter, the talkie, he was great! People lambasted him for his "high pitched" voice, but I didn't notice it. I thought they were both great showcases of his talents.

Like I said before, it's a shame that his career has been stowed away in Hollywood's past. I am sure if people saw him now, they would think he was as great now as he was then.

John Gilbert was born John Cecil Pringle on July 10, 1895 in Logan, Utah. John was born into an acting family, but that was about the last thing they had in common because he was often abused and neglected growing up.

He moved to Hollywood as a teenager where he acted in films and also wrote and directed them. In 1921, he signed with Fox studios and began being cast as a romantic leading man. It wasn't until 1924, when he signed with MGM, that he became a star (now sporting his trademark mustache).

Some of his most famous films included: He Who Gets Slapped with Norma Shearer, The Merry Widow with Mae Murray, and The Big Parade with Renee Adoree. The Big Parade was the second highest grossing silent film ever made. It was his role in this film that sent his career soaring even higher (I hope someday soon that The Big Parade is released on DVD!).

John then appeared in three films with Greta Garbo. Flesh and the Devil in 1926, Love in 1927, and A Woman of Affairs in 1928 (I think I have seen Love, but I am not 100% on that). Garbo and Gilbert's relationship will be covered later on...keep reading, no worries. :)

John and Greta Garbo

His career decline began long before the talkies came around. The cause of his problem stemmed from his frequent arguments with MGM head Louis B. Mayer. The two would often clash on everything from social, creative, and financial matters. The hatred came to a head when Mayer allegedly made a crude remark about Greta Garbo (John's lover) and John attacked Mayer.

John's career could have been saved if Irving Thalberg had lived. The two were good friends and close allies and he would have kept John's career going, but he passed away due to a heart condition at age 37.

His first talkie appearance was in His Glorious Night, where his voice was actually sounded much higher than it really was (This audio mishap was rumored to have been the work of Louis B. Mayer in retaliation for the beating he took from John). He made a few more films where it was said that audiences laughed at his voice and his over the top love scenes.

He made his last screen appearance in 1934's The Captain Hates the Sea.

John Gilbert passed away on January 9, 1936 at age 40. Years of alcoholism had damaged his health severely, and he eventually died of a heart attack.

He was interred at Forest Lawn in Glendale.

Hollywood's sexy leading man was married four times. First to Olivia Burwell from 1918 to 1922. Next was to actress Leatrice Joy in 1923. The two had one daughter, Leatrice, but eventually divorced in 1925. His third marriage was to another actress, Ina Claire in 1929, but they only stayed married until 1931. His last and final marriage was to yet another actress, Virginia Bruce. They were married from 1932 until 1934 and had one daughter, Susan Ann.

John and Greta Garbo

On top of his multiple marriages, he also had affairs with some pretty big stars of the era, most notably, Greta Garbo. The two met during the shooting of their film Flesh and the Devil in 1926. After that, the two began a tumultuous, passionate, and public affair. They were in fact going to get married...twice, but Garbo got cold feet both times and left him standing at the altar.

John also was involved with Marlene Dietrich. They were dating towards the end of his life (Guess he had a thing for foreign dames).

"John Gilbert was beautiful." ~ Maria Riva, daughter of Marlene Dietrich

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Miss Lillian Gish

Lillian Gish is another one of those stars that could have a blog all to herself. While I do like Lillian and appreciate her role in the early days of film, she is not in my top ten of silent film actresses. I like the flappers, the vamps, and she was just sweet, innocent, Lillian. I give her all the recognition and praise that she deserves though...and it is a lot...over 75 years worth of film making.

Lillian Gish was born Lillian Diana Gish on October 14, 1893 in Springfield, Ohio. Her mother Mary began to work as a stage actress after her husband James left the family. Lillian and her younger sister Dorothy eventually joined their mother on stage when they were old enough.

Childhood friend Mary Pickford introduced the Gish sisters to director D.W. Griffith. She lied and said her age was 19 when she was really only 16 years old.

She made her first screen appearance in a short for Griffith. She went on to star in his most acclaimed films: Birth of a Nation, Intolerance, Broken Blossoms, Way Down East, and Orphans of the Storm.

After all her film appearances, she was nicknamed "The First Lady of the Silent Screen."

She was released from her MGM contract in 1928 and began to direct. She only directed one film though, Remodeling Her Husband. She realized though that she preferred to be in front of the camera rather than behind, and that was the end of her career as a director.

When the talkies came about, she followed in her sister's footsteps and returned to the stage. Her proudest role was playing a "lewd Ophelia" in a production of Hamlet.

When Lillian returned to the screen, she returned in a big way. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1946's Duel in the Sun. She made a few more films, and was even considered to play a few roles in Gone with the Wind.

As she got older, she became one of the best advocates for the preservation of silent films. She gave speeches and had screenings of films and hosted a PBS series about silent film.

Lillian finally got the award she deserved in 1971 when she was given a Special Academy Award for all that she has given to the film industry. And in 1984, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Her last film role was in The Whales of August when she was 93 years old. She was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to Cher (Good lord...).

Lillian Gish passed away on February 27, 1993 in New York City. She was 99 years old. She was interred next to her sister Dorothy.

She left her estate to friend Helen Hayes...but Helen died just eighteen days after Lillian.

Lillian never married and never had children. Rumors that started all the way back to the silent era have circulated that she was involved with D.W. Griffith. But, all they are is rumors, they were never confirmed. She did have a few relationships here and there, but nothing too serious.

She was close friends with Mary Pickford and Helen Hayes (Mary didn't like being alone with Lillian. Her mother had told her that "the good die young," so Mary always thought that Lillian would drop dead at any moment).

Actor John Gilbert was enamored with her, and used to intentionally mess up love scenes so they would have to be re-shot over and over again (Hey...gotta give the man credit. I would do the same thing if I was doing a scene with him!).

While filming Way Down East, she had to lay on an ice floe for hours dragging her hand in freezing cold water for hours. This constant exposure to the cold permanently damaged nerves in her wrist.

"I've never been in style, so I can't go out of style." ~ Lillian Gish

Miss Dorothy Gish

Just like I did with the Talmadge sisters, I will do with the Gish sisters. I am starting with Dorothy first because, well, she isn't as big of a project as Lillian. And also because she doesn't get as much credit as her more famous sister. So, she gets her own chance to shine!

I had first read about her Hollywood Babylon and the first thing I remember reading was that it was rumored that her and Lillian were lovers. Ri-dic-u-lous. While Lillian played more dramatic roles, Dorothy played a few more comedic roles, although she did appear in dramas with her sister.

Dorothy Gish was born Dorothy Elizabeth Gish on March 11, 1898 in Dayton, Ohio. Her mother Mary was the one left in charge of supporting her two daughters after her husband James left the family. Mary acted on the stage and eventually when the girls were old enough, the joined her in the act.

The girls were childhood friends of Mary Pickford, and it was her who introduced the Gish sisters to director D.W. Griffith. They began making films in 1912 for Biograph Studios.

Dorothy appeared in more than a 100 shorts, and finally found her niche as a comic actress in 1918's Hearts of the World.

Surprisingly, even though she worked under Griffith, she did not appear in either of his two big epics, Intolerance or Birth of a Nation. Instead she worked on films for other studios. Sadly, most of the films she made during the 1918-1920 time period are lost.

Dorothy only made one talkie at first, 1930's Wolves. She decided to instead return to the theater. She appeared on stage with her sister in 1939's Life With Father. The Gish sisters along with Mary Pickford were going to appear in a film version of the play, but it never materialized.

With the coming of television, she decided to try that out. Dorothy was bouncing between the different mediums of tv, stage, and film because she was having a tough time figuring out which was the best for her. She made five more movies, including Our Hearts Were Young and Gay (1944) and Centennial Summer (1946). Her last film appearance was in 1963.

Dorothy Gish passed away on June 4, 1968 from bronchial pneumonia in Rapallo, Italy.

She was interred at Saint Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in New York City. Lillian was laid to rest beside her when she died in 1993.

Dorothy was married once, to actor James Rennie. They were married in 1920 in a dual ceremony with Constance Talmadge and her first husband John Piagoglou. They never had children and divorced in 1935.
The Gish sisters are related on their mother's side to former President Zachary Taylor.

Lillian and Dorothy Gish

"I wanted to be a tragedienne. I only wanted sad parts. When mother read the press notices when I was on the road, saying I was 'comedienne,' tears rolled down my cheeks. I thought comedians had to have black on their faces or red beards." ~ Dorothy Gish

Monday, April 19, 2010

Miss May McAvoy

So, I had a request from one of my readers to do a blog on May McAvoy (If you would like to request a star, just let me know on here or on Facebook for those who are my friends on there). I usually just think of stars at that moment and go from there, so requests would be groovy!

I know I have seen May in a movie before, and I cannot for the life of me remember what one it was. I am thinking it was either in The Jazz Singer or in an old Newsreel. Either way, I have seen her picture numerous times and what is intriguing about her is her eyes. She had these eyes that just pierced you from her black and white photo. She was in two pretty big pictures of the silent era (well, Jazz Singer was one of the first talkies). But, like so many others, she is overshadowed by Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, and other big stars of that era.

May McAvoy was born September 8, 1899 in New York City, New York. Her family was well off and actually owned a stable where the Waldorf-Astoria hotel now stands.

She made her film debut in 1917 in a film called Hate. She appeared in a few more films before she starred in one of the biggest productions of the silent era, 1925's Ben-Hur with Ramon Novarro.
Her career almost came to an end in 1923 after Cecil B. DeMille stopped her film offers after she refused to do a film that required partial nudity. May eventually bought out her contract and freelanced.

Two years later, in 1927 she appeared with Al Jolson in the part talkie film The Jazz Singer. She did not have a speaking role in that film, but she did speak in a few talkies later on.

There was a rumor that May had quit Hollywood when talkies came about due to a speech impediment, but clearly this was false because she did appear in a handful of talkies. She made her last film in 1957.

May and Ramon Novarro

May McAvoy passed away on April 26, 1984 of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California.
She was interred at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

May was only married once, to the treasurer of United Artists, Maurice Cleary. They were married from 1929 until his death in 1973. They had one son named Patrick. It was Cleary who actually preferred that she not work.

She was only 4'11'' tall and weighed only 89 pounds! She was a lil thing!