Sunday, March 31, 2013

Miss Louise Fazenda

I could have sworn I did an entry on Louise Fazenda before, but apparently I was wrong. Sometimes I think if I mention an actor or actress in an entry once, my brain thinks I already wrote about them. I even had a list of people I have covered and I am not sure where exactly I put that! I am just falling apart at the seams here!

Anyway, on with the show!

Louise Fazenda was born on June 17, 1895 in Lafayette, Indiana. She was the only child born to Joseph, a grocer, and his wife, Nellie. When she was still a child her family packed up and moved out to California where Louise attended school at a convent. 

Before breaking into films, Louise cut her teeth first on stage, as well as taking on various jobs to help pay her way in the world. 

Finally, in 1913, Louise made her screen debut in a comedy short called The Romance of the Utah Pioneers. For the next 1-2 years she appeared in a gazillion films, mostly comedy shorts, before she was signed by Mack Sennett and his famous Keystone Studio. 

Her most popular films with Keystone were the ones where she dressed as a country bumpkin with a multiple pigtails sticking out of her head. A lot of these films were going to be given to another Keystone comedienne, Mabel Normand, but she turned them down, wanting "classier roles." In fact, Mack Sennett used to threaten her saying, "I'll send for Fazenda!" when Mabel began complaining about the films given to her. 

Eventually, Louise had to cut ties with Keystone and Mack Sennett because he would not meet her asking price. She began to appear in feature comedic films and was still just as popular as ever. One of the films she made was in 1928, Tillie's Punctured Romance, with W.C. Fields and Chester Conklin. Even though the title is the same, it is not a remake of the earlier version with Charlie Chaplin and Mabel Normand. And unlike the previous version, Louise's version is considered lost. 

Some of her other notable film appearances include: No, No, Nanette (1930), Alice in Wonderland (1930), and The Old Maid (1939). She made a smooth transition into talkies and was a popular character actress during the 1930s, but she didn't appear in anymore films after 1939. 

Louise Fazenda passed away on April 27, 1962 in Beverly Hills.

She was buried at the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California. 

Louise was married twice. Her first husband was director Noel Smith, whom she married in 1917. The couple divorced in 1926. Her second marriage was to producer Hal B. Wallis in 1927. The couple had a son, Brent in 1933 and remained married until Louise's death. Apparently Wallis was nicknamed "The Prisoner of Fazenda" around the Warner Bros. Studio. I don't think it was meant to be derogatory, but who knows. 

In December of 1930, Louise along with a number of other stars, lost her home in Malibu Beach to a fire. The exact cause of the fire is unknown, other than that there was an explosion at one home that spread.

After she retired from films, Louise and Wallis built up quite an impressive art collection. In 1989, after both of their deaths, the collection was auctioned off and earned around $20 million. Hello!

Louise was one hell of a caring person. In 1954, she read about a woman who died in a car accident and she stepped in to help pay for the medical bills of the woman's daughter who was injured in the accident. She helped a college student with his student loans after his wife became pregnant, and she helped feed and care for children at the UCLA Medical Center. What an amazing lady.

Aside from art collecting and help others, she also enjoyed playing the piano, swimming, hiking, and reading books on psychology and also foreign language texts. 

Even though Louise and Mabel Normand were rivals for film roles, it isn't known for sure if the two really didn't like each other or if they were in fact friends. Louise attended the dedication of a studio in Mabel's name after her death from tuberculosis, but she didn't make any comments about her former screen rival.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Miss Virginia Pearson

Another reader suggestion! What is interesting about Virginia Pearson is that she was a popular screen vamp during the silent era, but when you look at her, you don't get that impression. At least I don't. In fact, I see more of a motherly figure! I want my screen vamps surrounded by skeletons, toting pet snakes, and tell tales of being born under the shadow of the Sphinx! Even if it was all BS created by the studio publicity department, it is still fun to picture people reading and believing it. 

Virginia Pearson was born Virginia Belle Pearson on March 7, 1886 in Anchorage, Kentucky. She was the eldest child born to Joseph, a railroad clerk, and Alice Pearson. Her brother, Harvey, was born 11 years later.

Oh, she was a girl after my own heart! When she was old enough to get a job, she worked at a library. Sorry, that tickled my little librarian self to read that. This was also the time she began acting on stage and traveling along the east coast.

Technically her film debut was in 1910, but since there isn't much information out there about this short film, we will say that her debut was in the 1914 film, The Stain. The film wasn't a huge blockbuster at the time but it is well known today for being one of only four of Theda Bara's pictures still in existence. She is only an extra in the film, but still, it is part of her work that still survives.

During the next few years she appeared in a number of films, including another one that later had importance years and years after it was released. The Red Kimona was a film produced by Dorothy Davenport, the widow of screen idol, Wallace Reid. Davenport began making pictures to warn the public of the dark, seedy side of life, the part of life that claimed her husband two years before this film was made. Along with Virginia, the picture also featured Priscilla Bonner and Tyrone Power Sr.

That same year (1925) Virginia appeared in two popular titles, The Wizard of Oz and The Phantom of the Opera. When the latter was restored it was also re-edited to where Virginia wasn't playing the part of Carlotta, but instead was billed as "Carlotta'a Mother." I do not know how or what they did to make that happen exactly.

Although Virginia wasn't a huge star, she was well known for her vamp image as I mentioned earlier. She was in fact nicknamed "The Screen's Heretic" and was seen as another Theda, another Valeska Suratt, mostly to scare the other vamps into obeying their studios.

After spending many, many years with the Fox Studios, Virginia decided to sever ties and start her own production company. Unfortunately, it was not a smart move and after four years, she had to declare bankruptcy.

Having lost all her money in to now defunct production company and having burned her bridges with her home studio, Virginia found herself living in a small hotel room and having to accept minor roles in films. Her last film role was in 1932, and she wasn't even given credit.

Virginia Pearson passed away on June 6, 1958 in Hollywood.

She was buried in an unmarked grave at the Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery. Hopefully one day we can get her the proper headstone that she deserves.

Virginia was married once, to actor Sheldon Lewis, although I am not 100% sure when exactly they were married. I am thinking it was sometime around 1915-16, but like I said, no real idea. I do know that Sheldon was the partner of Virginia in her failed production company and that four years after they declared bankruptcy, the couple was divorced. The marriage did not produce children. Virginia and Sheldon did end up buried in the same cemetery though, both in unmarked graves, but I am not sure if they are near each other.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Miss Dagmar Godowsky

This next lady is someone whose movies I am not totally familiar with. Dagmar Godowsky is a name I have heard before in my readings of silent film books and articles and also in pictures I have seen, but I haven't watched her in movies (as far as I know). Something about the name Dagmar makes me think of the Blondie character, Dagwood. That and the 1950 pin up girl with the same name.

But let us have some fun and learn more about her together (awwww!) One of my reader's suggested her to me, so that makes the job even more fun! I aim to please :)

Dagmar Godowsky was born Mercedes Dagmar Godowsky November 24, 1897 in Chicago, Illinois. She was the second child born to famed composer, Leopold Godowsky and his wife Frederica. Her sister, Vanita, was six years older, and her brother, Leopold Jr. was a year younger.

She made her screen debut in the film The Red Lantern along with Alla Nazimova and Noah Beery in 1919. Interesting side note, this film was also the film debut of Anna May Wong.

That year and the years following, she shared the screen with Rudolph Valentino, Sessue Hayakawa, Lon Chaney, Corinne Griffith, Marie Prevost, and Antonio Moreno. Not bad!

Dagmar wasn't a huge star during the silent days, but she was a popular character actress. One of her most well known film appearances was in 1924's A Sainted Devil with Valentino.

Her last film appearance was in 1926. She never appeared in a talking picture.

Dagmar Godowsky passed away on February 13, 1975 in New York City.

She was buried at the Mount Hope Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.

Dagmar was married twice, well, kind of. In 1921, she wed actor Frank Mayo in Tijuana. Unfortunately, Frankie boy was already married to another actress named Anna Luther. One day, Dagmar came home and found the two together and the truth was revealed. She sued Frank for divorce and the marriage was annulled in 1928. I really should do an entry about Anna Luther because she had quite a few dealings with the courts during her lifetime. Yowza!

Her second marriage wasn't so great either. She married a man named James Sloane for about a day. After the ceremony he put his arm around her and asked her, "Who do you belong to now?" What a jackass! She filed for divorce right quick after that!

She may have been unlucky in marriage, but according to her own words, she was not unlucky in love. In 1958, she published an autobiography where she named Rudolph Valentino, Enrico Caruso, Charlie Chaplin, and Igor Stravinsky (to name a few) as former lovers. Go big or go home, baby!

Dagmar's young brother, Leopold had a bit of a fame streak in him as well. He worked as a scientist for Eastman Kodak and is credited with inventing Kodachrome film. Leopold was also married to Frances Gershwin, sister of Ira and George Gershwin. She was a cutie too!

"I hissed my way through a hundred interviews, [and my] eyes were supposedly so wicked that men lost their souls if they looked directly into them." ~~ Dagmar Godowsky

Friday, March 8, 2013

Miss Dorothy Dwan

If you combine Clara Bow, Shirley Temple, and Betty Boop, you would get Dorothy Dwan...well, in my opinion that is. Dorothy is perhaps more well known for marriage to silent screen comedian, Larry Semon, rather than her own film career, but she was oh so adorable in her own right and was one of the first to play Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, so she deserves a mention.

Dorothy Dwan was born Dorothy Bell Ilgenfritz (got that?) on April 26, 1906 in Sedalia, Missouri. She was the only child born to Charles and Nancy Ilgenfritz.

Her family eventually made their way to Pennsylvania where Dorothy went to school. Now, how she got her start in films, I do not know, but I do know that she began appearing in films during the 1920s.

Dorothy's first film was 1922's The Silent Vow with a bunch of people's names I don't recognize. Her next film appearance was two years later in an uncredited role, but alongside such big names as Bessie Love, Blanche Sweet, Lucille Ricksen, and Warner Baxter.

In the year 1925, Dorothy became Dorothy, from Oz that is. Her co-stars in this film included Oliver Hardy as the Tin Man (or Woodsman) and Larry Semon as the Scarecrow. The film was popular, but there was a problem with distribution that caused the film not to be shown in as many theatres as it should have been. The theatres had booked the film and were ready to go, but the company the film was made through had juts declared bankruptcy, so a lot were left empty handed.

She made her last screen appearance in 1930 in the film The Fighting Legion. 

Dorothy Dwan passed away on March 17, 1981 in Ventura, California. I do not know where she is buried.

Little Miss Dorothy was married three times. Her first marriage was to a man named Fred Buckels, but I am not sure when. I do know that they did in fact divorce, but again, not sure of the date. Her second marriage was in 1925, to film comedian Larry Semon. The two met while filming The Wizard of Oz and married right before the film was released. The marriage was a happy one, even Larry's mental state was on the decline. I have read that the two had a daughter together named Virginia, but in Dorothy's bios, it only lists her son from her last marriage, so I don't really know the truth on that. Sadly, Larry passed away in October of 1928 from pneumonia after only being married to Dorothy for three years. There was a bit of mystery surrounding his death, and some people even thought it was a hoax! For one thing, Dorothy never got to see her husband's body because it was quickly whisked away to be cremated. The funeral was very, very private and no one knows what happened to Semon's ashes. Dorothy would state until her death that she still had no idea what really happened to her husband or how he really died. Ugh, just awful. Can you imagine?

Dorothy and Larry Semon

Dorothy's third and final marriage was to an oil company executive named Paul Boggs Jr in 1930. The two had a son named Paul in 1931, but unfortunately they divorced in 1935.

In the middle of filming a picture with Tom Mix in 1927, Dorothy's stunt double, Ethel Hall, was killed on set when the boat she was in capsized into the river and she struck her head on a rock. She died on the way to the hospital.  

Director Allan Dwan is not a relative of Dorothy's. Dorothy took his last name as her stage name because she admired his work. 

In her spare time, she enjoyed speed boating, golf, swimming, and listening to music. 

A 1931 article in the Milwaukee Journal compared Dorothy's looks to those of Tallulah Bankhead. I guess I can see it...

She was good friends with Gloria Swanson.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Miss Marie Walcamp

We are taking a bit of a sad detour and discuss the life and career of Marie Walcamp. I used to get her and Florence Lawrence mixed up because they were both early silent film stars who looked quite a lot alike, and both ended their own lives. For me, looking at pictures of these stars and seeing them on film, they seem like perfect and beautiful people from another era. It seems almost unbelievable to think of them has having real problems and such terrible inner demons that would drive them to suicide. But, alas. I have said it once before, and I am saying it again, I am here to make sure these amazing people are never forgotten even though they left the screen years and years ago.

Marie Walcamp was born on July 27, 1894 in Dennison, Ohio to Arnold and Mary Walcamp. She joined brother, Harry, who was 13 years older.

Marie started getting the itch to perform while still in school, so she left school to head out to New York to pursue an acting career. She made her first film appearance in 1913 in the film The Werewolf.

She stayed off the screen for two years and reappeared again in 1915. The following year she appeared in four more films and as the years progressed, she kept appearing in more and more until she had over 100 films on her resume.

One of her most famous films was in the 1916 anti-abortion film, Where Are My Children? The film also stared Tyrone Power Sr. This is one of the few of Marie's films that is not considered lost.

In 1918, Marie stared in the film The Lion's Claws. In the film, she had to battle a lion, and apparently not enough safety precautions were taken because the lion suddenly lashed out at Marie. She wore the scars from the incident for the rest of her life.

Her last film appearance was in 1927. From what I can gather, her declining career was not her fault but rather the studios who just didn't put her into any roles.

On November 17, 1936, Marie Walcamp decided to end her own life by taking an overdose of medication. She was only 42 years old. She was cremated and her ashes were given to her family.

Marie was married once, to actor Harland Tucker in 1920. They remained married until her death. They never had children.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Miss Mary Brian

One of my favorite movies from the silent era is 1924's Peter Pan. The amazing cast included Betty Bronson, Esther Ralston, Anna May Wong, Ernest Torrance, and as Wendy Darling, Mary Brian. She looked the part of the sweet and demure older sister and mother figure in Neverland. This movie is definitely one to put on your must see list.

Mary Brian was born Louise Byrdie Dantzler (has a nice ring, doesn't it?) on February 17, 1906 in Corsicana, Texas. She was the second child born to Taurrence and Louise Dantzler. Brother, Taurrence Jr. was three years older than Mary.

A month after her birth, Mary's father died. As a result, her mother took the kids to Dallas to live with her parents. The family stayed there until the early 1920s when they moved out to California.

Mary's first ambitions were towards illustrating, but her goal took a backseat when she caught a big break while appearing in a beauty contest. One of the judges was movie star Esther Ralston, the woman who would later go on to play her mother in Peter Pan. Mary didn't win the contest, but she was singled out by Esther who wanted the 16 year old Mary to be tested for the role of Wendy Darling.

While almost every young screen starlet of the day was tested for the part of Wendy Darling, the director was really wanting an unknown, so it all seemed to be a case of fate when Mary walked in to his door. Mary got the role, a new stage name, two years subtracted from her age (18 sounded too old for the role), and a film contract.

In 1926, Mary was named a WAMPAS Baby Star along with such beauties as Joan Crawford, Janet Gaynor, and Mary Astor.

Her film career at first was a lot like Mary Pickford's in that even though she kept getting older, her film roles were that of a young innocent girl. Sadly, most of these films are considered lost.

Unlike many of her silent star friends, Mary transitioned into the talkies pretty effortlessly. Although she didn't become a huge star, it wasn't like her career completely bombed either. Case in point, her first talking picture was The Virginian in 1929 with Gary Cooper. Can't beat having him as a co-star!

In 1932, her long term contract with Paramount ended, and instead of signing with a new studio, she decided to go unsigned and just do whatever pictures she felt the strongest about. She also began appearing on stage.

When she was done with working in films, she moved on to the fairly new medium of television, playing a mother role in the series Meet Corliss Archer. She also went back to painting, her first love.

Mary Brian passed away on December 30, 2002 in Del Mar, California.

She was buried at Forest Lawn in Hollywood Hills.

Mary was married twice. Her first husband was a magazine illustrator named Jon Whitcomb who she married in 1941...for six weeks. I don't know what happened between them but it must have been bad and it must of been quick. In fact, her friends didn't even know what happened because she never talked about it. She was quoted in a Florida newspaper a few days before her marriage saying, "I'm so excited I can hardly talk! I don't even know who will perform the ceremony!"

Her second marriage was much happier and lasted much longer. In 1947, she married the film editor George Tomasini and they remained married until his death in 1964. Neither marriage produced children.

Mary also had some pretty famous boyfriends during her days in Hollywood. She briefly dated Jack Pickford and was even engaged to Cary Grant and Dick Powell (at different times, of course).

During WWII, she went overseas to entertain the troops.

She remained close friends with her Peter Pan co-stars, Betty Bronson and Esther Ralston for the rest of their lives. She was also good friends with her husband's frequent collaborator, Alfred Hitchcock.

"Getting into pictures was hard enough. But that was easy compared with living down Wendy. People spoke of me as that 'little girl.' But the years have remedied the fault, and Hollywood at last realizes that I am grown up. Talking pictures had much to do with the changed impression." ~~ Mary Brian, Reading Eagle - July 19, 1930

Friday, March 1, 2013

Miss Hope Hampton

When I think of Hope Hampton, I picture pearls, furs, diamonds, and just all out glamour. Part of that could be her name, it just sounds like the name of a fabulous, rich woman.  I also just read a quote from movie star Hope Emerson, talking about how she sometimes got confused with two other actresses, Faye Emerson and Hope Hampton. Hope Emerson was known for her comedic quips like this, "If I had their looks and Hope's money, I'd be leading a Technicolor life for love, instead of working in a Technicolor picture for dough." (This quote is from the book I am currently reading called Femme Noir: Bad Girls of Film by Karen Burroughs Hannsberry. It is a really good book so far, filled with mini biographies. I am currently in the middle of Rita Hayworth's).

Hope Hampton was born Mae Elizabeth Hampton on February 19, 1897 in Houston, Texas (although I have also read Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was her birthplace).

I can't find anything about her early life, which is really annoying to me. I do know that she got her start in the motion picture industry after winning a beauty contest in Philadelphia. It was after this win that she began appearing as an extra in films. Technically, her first film was one called Woman in 1918 with a bunch of people whose names I don't recognize. But, her first time credited on screen was in 1920's A Modern Salome with Agnes Ayres.

Most screen actresses at that time were given a special nickname, and they were usually positive. But, Hope earned the nickname "Hopeless Hampton" because a lot of people thought that she couldn't act. That didn't seem to matter though, considering who she was married to at the time...

Hope met director Jules Brulatour early in her career, and it was a match made in heaven. Not only did she find the man to complete her personal life, he also helped with her professional life. She appeared in several of Brulatour's films, so it doesn't seem like her acting, or lack thereof, was that big a deal.

Brulatour was an infamous player (yes, I am using that word). He had previously had a pretty public affair with another silent film star, Dorothy Gibson, who was actually more famous for being a Titanic survivor than a screen star. Brulatour's wife filed for divorce after finding out that her husband was cheating, and eventually, he married his mistress. The marriage didn't last though and he was soon divorced for the second time. However, he was still legally married to Gibson when he began romancing Hope.

When Brulatour's divorce from Dorothy Gibson was finalized, he and Hope were finally able to get married on August 22, 1923. It seems that his third time was a charm because they remained married until his death in 1946.  Apparently there are rumors that the relationship produced a child around 1920, but the paternity of the child, or what happened to it, was never publicly confirmed.

With the coming of talking pictures, it seems as though Hope had had enough of the movies, so she decided to retire. A few years later she did appear in one talkie, that was of course directed by Jules Brulatour, The Road to Reno (1938).

Hope's idea of retirement was not to sit and home and relax. Instead, she decided to turn her talents to the opera. She apparently toured with the Met in various operas, but apparently the archives are lacking documentation of this. (Second hand info, I haven't looked).

Along with opera career, she also seemed to be quite the social butterfly. Her friends and neighbors called her "Duchess of Park Avenue" because she was always out and about at various social events.

Hope Hampton passed away on January 23, 1982 in New York City. I have no idea where she is buried unfortunately. I don't even know where Brulatour is buried!

Some say that Hope was the model for Susan Alexander in Citizen Kane. But, this is just like the Norma Desmond/Sunset Blvd. argument, where there are various people who the characters are rumored to be modeled after.

Her favorite color seems to have been blue since most of clothes (rumored to have over 5000 dresses) were some shade of blue.

She loved to go out dancing later in life, and was even voted "Miss Twist" of 1962 at the Peppermint  Lounge in New York. Go Hope!

There apparently was once a strange incidence at the Brulatour home late one night in 1939. An intruder broke into the home and then shot Brulatour. He was only wounded, but he refused to identify the person who had almost killed him, even going as far as saying that he had accidentally shot the head...and then got rid of the gun...Yeah, you can guess why the police were more than just a little suspicious of his story.

After her husband's death, Hope had her own crime drama of her own, first when some of her jewelry and furs were stolen from her home. When questioned about who could have possibly broken in, her response was, "I know they're not married and are lone operators because they left dozens of nylon stockings they would have taken for their girls." I love that quote.

Her second bit of crime drama was in August of 1960 when her butler, Charles Mourey, was found shot to death on the side of the road in Miami. I don't know if the murder was ever solved, but it looks like they started off the investigation in some good ole fashioned bigotry style according to an article in the Miami News: "Although they have questioned hundreds of homosexuals and individuals who prey on homosexuals..." Oh, good lord. They also call him a "dapper French butler," in the first sentence of the article. Really cunning. Interesting to note too is that Mr. Mourey had also worked for General George Patton during the war.

"Glamour is finished. I don't want my picture in the papers next to a girl with jeans on." ~~ Hope Hampton

Hope is one of the actresses to appear in this AMAZING color film clip from Kodak in 1922.