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??


  1. All these women are beautiful but their makeup is so similar I can't tell them apart. Unless they created a separate look like Swanson or pickford they are totally interchangeable. Even Corrine Griffith who was supposedly the most beautiful silent star is now unnoticeable. Perhaps that is why they are.forgotten? Their clothes are divine and I would love to know what happened to them. Who bought them after they died? Why did so few have families? Who had all Corrine Griffiths money? She was an only child so she was the end of the line. Why were so many cremated? Ah so many unanswered questions.

    1. Hello Bambino!
      Those are a lot of questions you have there, and a lot of them, I just don't know the answer too. A lot of the time when these stars died, they were all but forgotten so their deaths went unnoticed. People just didn't care, and that sucks for those of us around now who want to know!

    2. Greetings from Cawker City, Kansas; home town of silent movie actress Claire Windsor and the World's Largest Ball of Twine! On Christmas Eve, our local museum launched a website to share our Claire Windsor collection. We are constantly adding new information, but the bulk of the collection is up. Please take a look and tell us what you think

    3. Oh that is great! Thank you so much! I will definitely check out the website.
      And the largest ball of twine, what a claim to fame! lol