Sunday, June 2, 2013

Miss Myrtle Gonzalez

A lovely lady with a loving smile. I can't help but put her into the same niche as Beatrice Dominguez, another silent film actress of Hispanic decent who died young.

Myrtle Gonzalez was born on September 28, 1891 in Los Angeles, California. Her father, Manuel, was a grocer, and her mother, Lillian, once performed as an opera singer. She had a younger sister named Stella and a younger brother named Manuel Jr. 

It became apparent when she was still a child that Myrtle had inherited her mother's lovely soprano singing voice. She started out singing in church and at local charity events and appeared in a play or two around town. 

Myrtle didn't have to go very far to the movie studios since they had just recently located to California. She made her film debut in a 1913 short called The Yellow Streak. The film interestingly enough also featured a young actress named Margaret Gibson (who sometimes went by the name Patricia Palmer). Margaret wasn't a big star, but she did make the headlines when she died in 1964 by confessing to the murder of William Desmond Taylor. There isn't any surviving evidence or record to back up her claim, but there is also nothing to NOT back up the confession. Pretty interesting.

Sorry for the detour there. Back to Myrtle! For the next year, she appeared in quite a few shorts before appearing in her first feature film, Captain Alvarez, which also starred William Desmond Taylor and Edith Storey. 

All together, Myrtle appeared in 80 films, playing gutsy heroine roles who thrived in the outdoors. She made her last film appearance in 1917.

Myrtle Gonzalez passed away on October 22, 1918 at age 27 in Los Angeles. She had become one of the many, many victims of the Spanish flu pandemic. She also apparently had been born with a weak heart, and that wouldn't have helped the matter much if that was the case.

She was buried in the Gonzalez family plot at the Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Myrtle may have lived a short life, but she managed to put a lot of life into her short stay. For instance, she was married twice and had a son. Her first husband was an actor named James Parks Jones. The couple had one son in 1911 named James Park Jones Jr. I am not sure when they were married or when they divorced. Her second marriage was in 1917 to actor/director, Allen Watt. It was soon after they married that Myrtle decided to give up her screen career, but it was also around the time that she started to get sick. The couple remained married until her death. Her son passed away in 1970 and is supposedly buried in the same cemetery as his mother.

Myrtle should really be remembered more because she is regarded as the first Latin/Hispanic actress in Hollywood.

A film magazine writer gave her the nickname of "The Virgin White Lily of the Screen." 

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