Thursday, September 29, 2011

Miss Gladys Brockwell

I guess we will stick with the theme of "tragic" girls of the silent screen and see about Gladys Brockwell. She was a lovely lady who had her life tragically cut short in a car accident, much like fellow actress, Florence Labadie. But unlike Florence, Gladys had a chance to make it to the talkies before her death.

Gladys Brockwell was born Gladys Lindeman on September 26, 1893 in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother, Billie, was a former show girl and sometimes film actress, and she pushed Gladys on stage at an early age.

She made her film debut in 1913, and began using the stage name of Gladys Brockwell. She appeared in various shorts over on the East Coast before moving over to California where the action was starting to relocate.

Gladys appeared in the 1923 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Lon Chaney. I had to include that because I am going to see the film later in October at the Redford Theatre. I didn't know she was in it, and so I am even more geeked now to see it! Yayyyy!!!

Gladys never got to reach the stardom heights of other actresses like Pickford or Gish, but she appeared in a good amount of films. But, but by the middle of the 1920s when flappers and vamps were the big draw, Gladys was 30 something, and studios weren't interested in a girl who was "past her prime." Good to know the same asinine mindset isn't a new thing in Hollywood!

Now, she did make it in the business long enough to appear in talkies, and she actually did a good job in them...according to critics both then and now. Warner Brothers liked what they saw AND heard and they were lining up scripts for Gladys to look over.

Sadly, on June 27, 1929 Gladys was involved in a car accident while driving with her friend, Thomas Brennan. Gladys was crushed underneath the car, but miraculously didn't die at the scene. She died a few days on July 2nd of peritonitis. She was 35 years old. She was cremated, but not sure if she was interred at a cemetery of if a family member was given her ashes.

Thomas Brennan claimed he had gotten something stuck in his eye which blinded him, hence the crash. He did sustain injuries, but he survived the accident.

Her last film, The Drake Case was released after her death in September of 1929.

Gladys was apparently married twice. First to director, Robert Broadwell and second to yet another director, Harry Edwards in 1918. The marriage was annulled the next year in 1919.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Miss Agnes Ayres

It surprises me sometimes when I come across a personality I haven't covered, especially someone I have visited at the cemetery. Case in point: Agnes Ayres.

I just got the coolest book ever from Amazon. It's called Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels: The Lives, Careers, and Misfortunes of 14 Hard Luck Girls of the Silent Screen by Michael G. Ankerich. And what is really amazing about this book is that it covers some of my favorite, but lesser known actresses like Olive Borden, Martha Mansfield, Barbara La Marr, and even Lucille Ricksen. I am really diggin' the book right now, I am up to the part about Grace Darmond. It has so much info about these girls, I highly recommend it.

Anyways, I was reading the first chapter on Agnes Ayres and I realized that I have visited her resting place (niche, if you will) twice but hadn't done an entry about her. And of course watched and loved her in the Sheik movies with Valentino. She had a hard time dealing with Hollywood, but she was able to be strong through it...for the most part.

Agnes Ayres was born Agnes Eyre Henkel on April 4, 1892 in Carbondale, Illinois. She joined her father, Solon, mother, Emma, and brother Solon Jr. Her father died when she was still a child.

Agnes made her first screen appearance in 1914 as an extra in a scene for Essanay Studios. She really caught the acting bug after that, and moved to New York City with her mother to work in the movies.

Lucky girl she was, she was spotted by actress Alice Joyce who thought Agnes looked like her (we can kinda see it). Alice asked that Agnes be given the part of her sister in a 1917 film, and she slowly began to rise on the stardom staircase.

It wasn't her appearance in the film that helped make her a name, but rather another person who spotted her. This time, the spy was Paramount Studio head Jesse Lasky and he was interested in her for more than just her acting abilities. He helped to get her a starring role in one of Cecile B. DeMille films, 1920's Held the Enemy, a civil war film.

Her biggest break came in 1921, when she appeared in The Sheik with the man himself, Rudolph Valentino. Although the two never had a romance off screen, they did become good friends.

Agnes followed up that great film role with more great film roles. She appeared in Forbidden Fruit in 1921 with another screen idol, Wally Reid, and DeMille's Ten Commandments in 1923. But as fast as her star had risen, it began to fall almost as quick when her relationship with Lasky soured. Go figure.

She did appear in The Son of the Sheik in 1926 as a favor to her friend, Valentino. She reprised her previous role as Diana.

She appeared briefly in a few films later in life, but her last credited role was in 1929. She had lost her money in the stock market crash and was looking for work to try and get her money back, but she couldn't earn what she used to anymore. She finally retired from film and stage in 1937 after failing at a real comback.

Agnes Ayres passed away on Christmas Day, 1940 at her home of a cerebral hemmorhage. She was 48 years old. She had been in a sanatorium briefly before her death and had been in ill health since.

She was cremated and interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The lighting the room where she was placed isn't aces. I had to use my cell phone as a light to find her niche in the corner of the room. So, keep that in mind if you ever visit.

Agnes was married twice. Her first husband was Captain Frank Schuker, whom she married during WWI (I don't know the exact date). She divorced him in 1921, and shortly after began her affair with Lasky. The affair with him eventually ended when she realized that even though he wasn't happily married to his wife, he was not going to divorce her. Her second and last marriage was to a Mexican diplomat named Manuel Reachi in 1924. They divorced three years later, and Agnes was quoted as saying, "Latin men make excellent lovers, not husbands." They did have a daughter together named, Maria, who had the lucky distinction of having Valentino and Pola Negri as god-parents.

Agnes truly adored her friend Valentino. He was godfather to her daughter, and she named her dog Tino after him. While she was touring the country speaking about her life in the movies, she always would talk about him and say that there will never be another Valentino. So true.

She used to share a dressing room with Gloria Swanson during her early acting days.

She was a victim of the "too fat" stigma from studio heads, even when she brought in photographic proof that she hadn't gained any weight. Stupid men.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Miss Lina Basquette

Lina Basquette is one of those stars that is just too adorable to not be mentioned when talking about silent film actresses. She was an actress starting as a child until she was an adult and was also a dancer. She, like Clara Bow and Alice White is one of those girls that you look at and see the embodiment of the 1920s flapper.

Lina Basquette was born Lena Copeland Baskette on April 19, 1907 in San Mateo, California. Her father Frank died when she was still a child, and her mother Gladys married a dance director named Ernest Belcher. It was during her childhood that she and her half sister Marge got into the dancing and acting business.

When she was nine years old, she was signed to Universal Studios and made a series of films called the Lena Baskette Featurettes (they really went crazy with the title, eh?).

In 1923, she joined the Ziegfeld Follies and was dubbed by them as "America's Prima Ballerina." And five years later, she was named a WAMPAS Baby Star alongside Sue Carol, Ruth Taylor, and Lupe Velez. This of course led to more film roles, including a role in a Frank Capra film in 1929.

Her most famous film appearance was in 1929's Godless Girl. A movie I would love to get a hold of! She was mostly known for this appearance, hence why she named her autobiography: DeMille's Godless Girl.

She appeared in more movies throughout the 1930s and 40s but nothing that helped to bring her to stardom. Her last screen appearance was in 1991 in the film Paradise Park.

Lina Basquette passed away on September 30, 1994 from cancer at her home in Wheeling, West Virginia. She was cremated.

Now this could be another entry in itself, the many marriages of Lena Basquette. I have seen some places that she was only married twice, others say seven, but it seems the agreed number is nine! Her first husband was one of the Warner Brothers, Sam, in 1925. She was only 18, he was in his late thirties. The couple was only married for two years when Sam died of a cerebral hemorrhage. They had a daughter named Lita who was born in 1926.

Her second marriage was to cinematographer J. Peverell Marley (who later married actress Linda Darnell) in 1929. They were only married for about a year. Third was actor Ray Hallam in 1931, but he also left her a widow when he died later that year. I don't know how he died or even what kind of actor he was. I am thinking he was a stage actor because he isn't listed on imdb.

Her next two marriages were to the same person. She had to re-marry Theodore Hayes after their first marriage was annulled due to his divorce from his first wife not being complete. Their marriage only lasted another year after the second marriage. They had a son together named Edwin. Her next husband was another actor named Henry Mollison and I have read that they were also married twice, but I don't know the circumstances of this.

Lina's last two marriages to Warner Gilmore and Frank Mancuso also ended in divorce.

She also had affairs with Nelson Eddy, opera singer Lawrence Tibbett, and fighter Jack Dempsey. Her fourth/fifth husband, Theodore Hayes was Dempsey's trainer. Lina and Dempsey actually had their affair after Lina found out that Theodore was still considered married.

In 1930, Lina attempted suicide. She was feeling stressed and depressed following the death of her first husband, Sam Warner, and the legal troubles that followed. When it seemed that Lina was not being the best parent to her daughter, Sam Warner's older brother, Harry filed for custody of Lita. And since Lina was not financially or emotionally capable of caring for her, Harry won. It would be almost 30 years before mother and daughter saw each other again. And after that, they only saw each other one more time. Lita eventually married a doctor in the late 1940s and I am not sure if she is still alive or has passed away. Same goes for her son, Edwin.

Another low point for Lina was in 1943 when she was raped by an AWOL soldier who had trespassed on her property. There was another big trial that Lina had to endure but she got justice this time. The a-hole who raped her got 20 years in prison. I am not sure what the Army soldier's name was, I can't seem to find it anywhere.

Lita found an outlet later in life in breeding Great Danes and also becoming a rather famous dog show judge.

She was Adolph Hitler's favorite actress, and was even invited to come to Germany and make movies for the Third Reich. Lina declined the offer.

She was good friends with Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, and Clara Bow and was frequently seen out and about partying with them. Now that is a party that I would want to be a part of! A night out on the town with four fabulous flappers! Oh man oh man, too much fun.