Thursday, February 7, 2013

Miss Anita Stewart

I need to take a break from fixing up older entries because it can be very time consuming and finicky and, yeah...need a break. So, what better way than to give my mind a workout and look at another beauty from the silent screen. Especially when said starlet was born 118 years ago today. So, let us meet the lovely Anita Stewart.

Anita Stewart was born Anna May Stewart on February 7, 1895 in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother's name was Marsha, and her father's name was William. She joined sister, Lucille, and brother, George.

While she was in high school, she began to get very interested in acting and it was around this age that she began work as an extra in various films at the Vitagraph studio. And as she got older, she became more recognizable and loved by the movie audiences.

Her first billed appearance was in 1911 in the film Prejudice of Pierre Marie. She was billed by her birth name at that time. She also appeared under the name 'Anita Stuart' at one point, but I am not sure if that was a choice on her part or an error on the film maker's part.  She started using the name 'Anita Stewart' around 1913.

One of her biggest hits was during her first year appearing on film which is quite extraordinary. She appeared in A Tale of Two Cities with such big names as Mabel Normand, Norma Talmadge, and John Bunny.

Anita finally left Vitagraph in 1918 and went to sign with the fairly new man in town, Louis B. Mayer. She did have some conditions though  to make her leave her home studio, she wanted her own production company. She got her way, which seems out of character for Mayer who was a bit of a control freak. There is also speculation that the real reason he got Anita was because he offered her an enormous amount of money...that sounds like the L.B. we know!

In the early 1920s she worked as the producer of some of her films including Rose o' the Sea in 1921 with Kate Lester. Her last silent film was in 1928's Sisters of Eve.

For some reason, Anita's talents didn't transfer well into the era of the talkies. The only talkie film she appeared in was a musical short in 1932 called The Hollywood Handicap (appropriate title, eh?). Alas, her glory days were behind her.

Anita Stewart passed away on May 4, 1961 in Los Angeles. Her sister, Lucille, found her unconcious at her home and called 911 to assist her in waking up Anita, but they were unsuccessful. It was later determined that she died of a heart attack.

She was interred at Forest Lawn in Glendale, California.

Anita was married twice. Her first marriage was in 1917 to a man named Rudolph Cameron, who was also an actor at Vitagraph. They two divorced in 1928. Her second marriage was to George Peabody Converse in 1929. They divorced in 1946. Neither marriage produced children.

Her sister, Lucille, was also an actress during the silent era. She was married to director Ralph Ince from 1921 to 1925. Their brother, George also worked as an actor, but after being confined to the bed after a drunken fight with then brother-in-law, Ralph Ince, his career went downhill. Anita helped take care of him until his death in 1945.

On April 14, 1941, Anita and her then husband, George Converse hosted the wedding of Jimmy Roosevelt, son of Franklin and Eleanor, to Romelle Schneider. Apparently the couple could not get married in a Catholic church because Jimmy Roosevelt had gone through a divorce the previous year.

"Dear Mr. Editor: Here I come with three good rousing cheers for Anita Stewart, Queen of the Movies, the best and most beautiful actress the screen possesses in my opinion...I have seen many very popular actresses, each very good in her own way, but give me Anita Stewart, my screen heroine, in preference to any of them. I will close wishing Anita the greatest success a movie fan can. I remain, Anita's Fifteen-year-old Admirer." ~~ The Toronto World - April 13, 1916 [this was from a number of letters written to the newspaper in response to their "World's Moving Picture Popularity Contest]



    1. Hi Eugene! I will see if I can dig up enough information on Lucille.