Monday, January 28, 2013

Miss Blanche Sweet

Another one of those cases where I thought I had written about Blanche Sweet but apparently was thinking about an alternate universe where I do everything in an organized, perfect manner. Oy vey!

Blanche Sweet was born Sarah Blanche Sweet on June 18, 1896 in Chicago, Illinois. From what I can find, it appears she was the only child of stage actors Gilbert and Cora Sweet. Now, I am not sure if something happened to her parents or if they were just constantly touring, but Blanche ended up being raised mostly by her grandmother whom she was named after, Blanche Alexander. Grandma wanted little Blanche to follow in the family footsteps and get into the acting business as well, so she put her on stage at only a few months old. She started touring with companies when she was four.

Around age 13, she signed with Biograph Studios and it only took a few months before she became a rival of Mary Pickford. The had quiet different screen personas though. While Mary was the typical Griffith heroine, demure and virginal, Blanche was gutsy and adventurous. Another rival of hers was Lillian Gish, who won the lead role in Birth of a Nation over Blanche. It was soon after this blow that she left Biograph and moved to Famous Players-Lasky...for way more money it should be noted.

The change in studios didn't hinder her career because she continued to be an audience favorite. And even better, the critics thought she was great too!

What did stall her career, like almost every silent actor's career, was the talkies. It wasn't that she had a bad voice, she had theatre training after all. But, times were changing and people's tastes were changing and they wanted to see new faces on the screen. Her last film appearance was in the 1930 movie, Show Girl in Hollywood with Alice White and Ford Sterling.

Blanche Sweet passed away on September 6, 1986 in New York City. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. They were also cultivated into a special area with soil that hold beautiful lilies.

Blanche was married twice. Her first husband was director/producer, Marshall Neilan. The two began an affair during the 1920s while he was married to actress, Gertrude Bambrick. When Gertrude found out about the affair, she filed for divorce from Neilan. Blanche and he married in 1922, but divorced in 1929 because he just could not stop cheating.

Her second marriage was to actor Raymond Hackett in 1935. The marriage lasted until his death in 1958. Neither marriage resulted in children.

After she retired from the screen in 1930, she did some performances on stage and for radio and even worked at a department store for a bit. During the 1960s, she worked with film historians in studying not only her work, but the silent film era in general.

When she was touring and staying at hotels, she would check in using the name "Daphne Wayne."

"...and, you know, I haven't the faintest idea how many silent films I made. I couldn't begin to count them." ~~ Blanche Sweet


  1. What a wonderful blog. I totally enjoyed your post on Vera Kholodnaya and made a link to your blog at mine, European Film Star Postcards. Keep up the good work and greetings from Amsterdam.

  2. I have her in my(notice how I say "my" I am very protective of this series)Hollywood series where james Mason narrates. If you get a chance you should try to find them but they are only on VHS. Due to numerous issues they can not transfer them to DVD. I will be first in line to buy them when they do! She is quite a strong lady

  3. Jessica,

    I just happened upon your site by accident, and I love it! I have always loved the glamorous "Old Hollywood" - not to mention I am also a "Death Hag." My husband and I always talk about how there must be so many old movie stars that were so famous in their day, but now long since forgotten. Now I get to read about them on your blog! You have the most incredible information and photos here. Very exciting! Thanks for putting this together. I am determined to read every profile.


  4. A happy accident it is, thanks Laura! I am so glad you were able to find me and my blog and that we share the same interests. Especially the Death Hag part, not many of us out there who aren't hiding in dark corners ;)
    I love being able to share this interest with other people because I love these old stars and their movies so much. So thank you a ton for stopping by!!

  5. And Birgit, you be protective!! :) It is a great series! Being able to watch these stars give interviews and hear them talk, it makes them seem not as mythical as they would seem in black and white film stills.
    I have the book "Hollywood" but if I can ever snag the movies around, I definitely will. The first time I had the chance to watch them was when I got them through work. Same way I got the Buster Keaton documentary series which had me glued to the couch for forever!

  6. GRRR! For some reason I can't reply directly to comments. Goofy site. But thank you all the way to Holland!!