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.


  1. Now that is a mystery! Amazing how many cover ups there are in good ole Hollywood. This smells of a coverup and I am only speculating, of course, but i wonder if he committed suicide since he had some "mental" issues(I hate to put it like that but I can't think of a more delicate way to say it). Image was great back then and for many people so maybe they were protecting her but whatever the reason, she should have been informed of what went on. Beautiful lady although it is hard for me to see Ms. Bankhead.

  2. Hi Jessica,
    I hope everything is going well. Here is article about Larry Semon and Dorothy Dwan 's wedding with photo:
    The article title is "A Wizard Weds" in Motion Picture Magazine on pg 129


    1. I'm doing great, Theresa, thank you!

      You know, I have never really understood the whole Dwan/Semon marriage. I mean, in that picture he looks like Golem! lol Oh well. They must have been in love.