Monday, September 8, 2014

Lucille Ricksen

Alright, this is going to be a nice, renewing experience for me. It has been about four years since I wrote my first entry on Lucille Ricksen, and a lot has changed in that time. I have learned how to research more efficiently and thoroughly and I have found information that was not available at that time, like where Lucille was buried for instance. So, here we have more information so that others out there who hear Lucille's name or see her picture can learn more about who she was in the short amount of time she was on this earth.

DISCLAIMER: This is the only part of the entry where I will mention the television show The Ghost Within My Child and the episode where there was mention of Lucille. My views on that horror show are not pleasant and I would rather Lucille be remembered as a beautiful and sweet film star, rather than supposedly being in the body of someone else in this century continuing the cycle of being paraded out by adults. 

That being said, let us begin the story.

Lucille Ricksen was born Ingeborg Myrtle Elisabeth Erickson on August 22, 1910 in Chicago, Illinois. She was the youngest child and only daughter of Samuel, a buyer for a clothing house, and Ingeborg Erickson. 

Older brother, Marshall, was born in 1907. Marshall too appeared in a few silent shorts in the early twenties, but it wasn't really his bag. 

Lucille had the face of an angel and her mother knew it and knew that photographers and artists would enjoy having little Lucille pose for them. She helped earn money for her family while working as a child model, but quickly it became apparent that people were wanting Lucille to look and act older than she really was. There is a rather disturbing photograph of her around the age of five, nude, with a sheer cloth draped over her. I'm not posting it here because it weirds me out. 

Lucille during her Edgar series days

Her first onscreen acting job was in the 1920 short, Edgar and the Teacher's Pet, which was part of the Adventures and Emotions of Edgar Pomeroy series. There were around twelve installments in the series with Lucille playing the role of Edgar's friend with a head full of blonde ringlet curls. 

One of her next features was in 1922's The Married Flapper which starred Marie Prevost. The following year had her appearing in Dorothy Davenport's (aka Mrs. Wallace Reid) film about the pain of drug addiction, Human Wreckage. 

In 1924, she was named a WAMPAS Baby Star along with her friend Dorothy Mackaill and Clara Bow. This year also had her sharing the screen with Louise Fazenda and Sydney Chaplin in The Galloping Fish and then with Jack Pickford in The Hill Billy.

Now, keep in mind that around this time Lucille was only around 14 years old. On one end of the spectrum, she was playing adult roles like that of a character's fiance in 1924's Vanity's Price. However, in the film The Denial (filmed in 1924, released early in 1925) Lucille plays the young daughter of Claire Windsor. So, while some wanted to see Lucille as the child she was, others were pushing to make her a leading lady before she was even a teenager! Welcome to Hollywood, I guess.

It was while filming The Galloping Fish that Lucille was first beginning to get sick. She tried to keep at her usual pace but eventually she had a total collapse. Her mother told newspapers that she had a nervous breakdown and just needed time to rest, and rest she did. For months Lucille lay in her bed, her illness eventually becoming tuberculosis.

Her mother, Ingeborg, kept a constant bedside vigil for her daughter, caring for her night and day. Sadly, in late February of 1925, Ingeborg collapsed on top of her daughter in bed and died, the victim of a heart attack. If there was even a sliver of hope of Lucille getting better, it pretty much disappeared with the death of her mother. 

Lucille held on for a few weeks, with actress Lois Wilson (who Lucille called her "older sister") taking over the bedside vigil left vacant by Ingeborg's death. Other Hollywood friends came to visit her as well, May McAvoy, Mildred Davis Lloyd, Margaret Livingston, Pauline Garon, and Paul Bern. The latter was helping the family pay for round the clock nurses as well as all other medical expenses. 

Sadly, on March 13, 1925, Lucille Ricksen passed away. She was only 14 years old. 

She was cremated and her ashes were put in an urn along with her mother's ashes and placed in a niche at Forest Lawn Glendale. 

At the time of her death, her father, Samuel had been in and out of the picture. I have read that he and Ingeborg had been divorced but also have read that his ashes are also with his daughter and wife's at Forest Lawn. I do know that he popped back around after his daughter's death to help determine the fate of his son, Marshall. While Lucille lay dying, she and her brother asked their film friends Conrad Nagel and Rupert Hughes to be their legal guardians. Samuel was not happy with this arrangement and fought them on it, eventually telling the courts that Hughes was a blasphemous atheist and was not the kind of person that should be raising a child. Hughes countered with the claim that Lucille and Marshall had begged them to be their guardians to protect them from their father, a revelation that shocked Samuel. Eventually, joint guardianship was granted to Nagel and Hughes. They helped support Marshall Ricksen, who later become an attorney and the father of twin boys, one named Rupert in honor of his guardian. Samuel Erickson passed away in April of 1928. 

Dorothy Mackaill and Lucille

Like many Hollywood deaths, there are rumors and scandal tied to the story of Lucille and her early death. Her death certificate says cause of death was tuberculosis but some believe she died because of a botched abortion, or pernicious anemia. I read about the last one in an article published in the September 1926 edition of Motion Picture Magazine. This same article also listed Lucille's birth date as September 2, 1907, so...that should show how reliable it is. The truth is, we will never know what happened with Lucille. All we do know is that this was one very worn out young lady.

Speaking of ridiculous things written about Lucille, I found this little excerpt about her written in the book Irving Thalberg: Boy Wonder to Producer Prince by Mark Vieira: "He [Paul Bern] paid the hospital bills and funeral expenses of tubercular teenaged actress Lucille Ricksen (after her sister committed suicide)." I have NO idea where this information came from, but, yeah....very incorrect. 

"To be a leading woman at sixteen is something of which to be proud. Yet Lucille Ricksen who has attained that eminence, hasn't been heard to brag. She has a fascinating wink, has Lucille, and also has the honor of being a WAMPAS 'baby star' for this year." ~~ Photoplay, May 1924

"They never say or do anything worth while. I do have such good times playing with the folks here." ~~ Lucille Ricksen, when asked why she doesn't have many friends her own age. Picture Play Magazine, October 1923.


  1. Well done, Jessica!!

    Anne in Colorado

  2. What a poor girl and why am i not surprised about a photo of her in a revealing way. Whether is was 100 years ago or today there are still perverts out there and why would the parents let that happen but again...parents are not always the best. I wonder why her mom would not bring her to the Dr right away? Or did she? Others died of TB (Renee Adoree) so it could be that but it does seem a little mysterious to me. She seems like such a sweet girl

    1. Well, she did have medical treatment but considering how long ago it was and how worn out she was, perhaps there was just no saving her, especially after her mother died.
      And I completely forgot that Renee also died of TB! Good connection there!

  3. My mother was first cousin to Lucille and Marshall their mother, ingeborg, was my grandfather's sister. Her mother's maiden was nielsen, I was told stories of lucille since I was a young girl, I even have family pictures of the nielsen family when they stayed with a dr on a farm in indiana before the family moved to chicago

    1. Oh, that’s amazing!! I’d love to see and hear stories if you wouldn’t mind sharing!