Saturday, November 29, 2014

Bathing Beauties VI

Claire Anderson was born Claire Mathes/Mathis on May 8, 1895 in Detroit, Michigan. Her stage name comes from her marriage to a man named Harry Anderson who she eventually divorced in 1926. I do not know if she ever remarried.
 Her movie career lasted from 1914 until 1925 and she appeared in over 70 films, which is quite a feat! She is supposedly one of the original Bathing Beauties and also worked as a double for Blanche Sweet on at least one film. 
One of the things a lot of the Bathing Beauties seem to have in common is involvement in at least one accident in their lives and Claire is no exception. In 1917 she was involved in a car accident, but thankfully she walked away with only bruises and was able to return to work after a week.
Claire Anderson passed away on March 23, 1964 in Venice, California. I do not know where she is buried. 


Madeline Hurlock was born on December 12, 1897 in Federalsburg, Maryland. She was the eldest child born to John Hurlock, an engineer, and his wife, Sallie. Her younger brother, Houston was born two years later.
Madeline's career began on the stages of New York and she eventually made it to Broadway. It was reportedly here that she was spotted by Mack Sennett who offered her a contract. She made her first film in 1923 and was given lots of acting advice from a former Bathing Beauty, Gloria Swanson who later became a close friend. Madeline had a short career, only lasting for five years but in that short amount of time she appeared in over 50 films and shorts. When not playing a Bathing Beauty, she was cast in vamp roles which unfortunately became a rut she got typecasted in. This vamp portrayal wasn't all bad in the beginning. In fact, it helped her in being named a WAMPAS Baby Star of 1925. The charm eventually wore off though and Madeline was yearning to be given a wider range of characters to portray and telling her friend, actress Ruth Taylor that she wanted to be a great dramatic actress. Instead, she was cast alongside silent comics Harry Langdon and Ben Turpin.
Madeline was married three times. Her first husband was Army captain John Sterling McGovern who she married around 1917 and eventually divorced in 1924. Her second husband was playwright Marc Connelly who she married in 1930 and divorced five years later. Her third and final marriage was to writer Robert E. Sherwood from 1935 until his death in 1955. 
Madeline Hurlock passed away on April 4, 1989 in New York City. She is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. 


Molly McGowan was born on September 30, 1907 in Chicago, Illinois. She was the youngest child born to Dorrell McGowan and Roxana Buckbee. Her older siblings, Roxy, Dorrell, and Stuart would also eventually work in the film business. Eldest sister Eleanora was the only one it appears to have shied away from Hollywood.
Molly is only credited as appearing in two films in as many years. Talk about one of the lesser known of the lesser knowns!
Molly passed away on January 17, 1963 in North Hollywood, California. I do not know where she is buried or anything else of her life after she left the film industry.


Roxy (sometimes Roxana) McGowan was born March 15, 1897 in Chicago, Illinois. She was the second oldest of five born to Dorrell McGowan and Roxana Buckbee. Elder sister Eleanora did not join the film industry but her younger sister, Molly briefly worked as an actress and her two younger brothers Stuart and Dorrell both worked as film producers. 
  Like her sister Molly, Roxy's career was only two years long. However, Roxy fit 25 film credits into that short time span. 
Roxy was married twice. Her first marriage was to director Albert Ray from 1919 until 1929. Her second marriage was to another director named John M. Stahl from 1931 until his death in 1950. 
Roxy passed away on November 22, 1976 in Santa Monica, California. She is buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bathing Beauties V

Elinor Field (birth name spelling "Eleanor") was born on January 4, 1902 in Plymouth, Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, I don't know the name of her father, but I do know that her mother's name was Katherine and that Elinor was the youngest child with five older siblings (Mary, Charlie, Eugene, Margaret, and Katherine).
Elinor appeared frequently in school and local plays and this is where she was discovered by Mutual Film Corporation president, James M. Sheldon. She made her film debut in 1917 and went on to appear in 70 films until her final screen appearance in 1934.
Elinor passed away on February 24, 1998 in Chestertown, Maryland. I do not know where she is buried.


Harriet Hammond was born Harriet Jane Hammond on October 20, 1900 in Bay City, Michigan. She was the eldest child born to Harry, who worked in real estate, and Edith Hammond. Her younger brother John was born two years after her. While she was still a child, the family moved to California where Harriet continued her schooling and also began taking lessons in piano and swimming. For awhile, Harriet's main career goal was to be a concert pianist, but eventually the six hours a day practicing began taking it's toll physically and mentally.
Harriet eventually decided on a career in films and made her debut in 1918. Her film career lasted until 1930 with 46 films/shorts under her belt. She had a major career setback in 1923 when she was injured in an on set explosion. While filming a scene where an explosion was to take place, the dynamite prematurely exploded and sent Harriet flying backwards into an iron rail, injuring her back. Her physical injuries weren't too severe and eventually healed, but she was understandably shell shocked, so shell shocked in fact that she had to take time off from working in order to recuperate in bed at her mother's house. She eventually returned to work but she had lost her career momentum and since she never really took her career seriously, she bowed out. Harriet once even told a reporter that she had never seen her films and couldn't even remember the names of them!
Harriet passed away on September 23, 1991 in Valley Center, California. At the time of her death she was married to man named Drake, but that is all the information I have on that.
"Being a professional beauty has its disadvantages as well as its pearls. For instance, if you are fortunate enough to be able to capitalize on your looks and figure you instantly incur the jealously of your less-lovely sisters, who comfort themselves with the thought that you're perfectly brainless and that, because you'll consent to exploit your shapely lines in Grecian drape or a Mack Sennett bathing suit, you're not exactly - well, modest." ~~ Harriet Hammond (Picture-Play Magazine - September 1921)


Vera Reynolds was born November 25, 1899 in Richmond, Virginia. She first entered films in 1917 and worked in over 70 features before eventually retiring in 1932. She did have the honor of being named a WAMPAS Baby Star of 1926 along with stars like Janet Gaynor and Joan Crawford. Around 1927, Vera appeared in the headlines and it wasn't for any starring role in a new picture. It was reported that she had purposely taken poison and was found unconscious on her bathroom floor and had to be rushed to the hospital. She later told reporters that the case was blown way out of proportion and that she actually just had a bad case of indigestion and that she would never take her own life. So, I am not sure where the truth lies on this one, but there ya go.
Vera was married twice. I am not sure of the date they married, but her first husband was a comedian named Earl Montgomery. They would eventually divorce in 1926. Her second husband was actor Robert Ellis who she married in 1926. There is some weird convoluted story about how their marriage wasn't legal until years later and this angered Vera enough to where she took Ellis to court and then eventually they remarried and stayed married until she died. It is seriously too confusing to even begin to wrap my head around it.
Vera Reynolds passed away on April 22, 1962 in Los Angeles. She is buried at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood. 


Gladys Tennyson was born Gladys Elizabeth Borum on November 2, 1894 in Texas (I believe in San Angelo). She was the second and youngest child born to James Borum, a dry goods merchant, and his wife Mattie (they would eventually divorce around 1910). Her brother, Willie was four years older than her. 
She made her film debut in 1916 and appeared in around 37 films/shorts until she retired in 1925. She actually had a mini retirement when she got married, but the couple eventually divorced and much to her fans relief, she returned to films. Said marriage was to director Chester M. Bennett whom she wed in 1917. The marriage was apparently rocky, causing Gladys to threaten divorce at least once before she actually filed in 1924. The couple did have one child, a son named Chester Jr, but I am not sure of the year. Her second husband was actor Earle Foxe whom she married in 1926. The couple did not have any children, but Foxe would eventually adopt her son, Chester Jr. Gladys and Foxe remained married until his death in 1973.
Gladys Tennyson passed away on April 27, 1983 in Yuba City, California. She is buried in Chico Cemetery in Chico, California.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bathing Beauties IV

Lillian Knight was born Lillian Unold on March 23, 1883 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Lillian's film career began when she rang up a friend who was putting on a fashion show for Cecil DeMille and asked if she could appear in it. Her friend invited her down and gave Lillian a bathing suit that 25 of the other girls just couldn't seem to fit into. In a Cinderella-esque plot twist, Lillian put the suit on and it fit her perfectly! Soon after the fashion show, Lillian was given a movie contract and appeared in her first film in 1914. She had a pretty short career, lasting a little over 10 years with only about 16 film credits. 
Lillian passed away on May 16, 1946 in Pomona, California. I am not sure where she is buried. 


Thelma Parr was born Betty Selby on October 19, 1906 in Grant's Pass, Oregon. I don't know anything about her early life or her family unfortunately. 
Thelma's film career lasted from 1925 until 1930 and in that short period of time she managed to appear in around 35 films. Sadly, her career was cut short when she was injured in a car accident that left her face, mostly her mouth, severely scarred. 
I do know that she was married twice, her first marriage being to banjo player William Goman from 1925 until 1930. Her second husband was a man named Emmanuel Titelman who she was married to from 1933 until his death in 1966. She and Titelman had two daughters.
Thelma passed away on February 13, 2000 in San Clemente, California. Unfortunately, I don't know where she is buried.


Vera Steadman was born on June 23, 1900 in Monterey, California. She was the second child born to Montague Steadman, a farmer, and his wife, Frances Gregg. She had an older brother, Montague Jr. who later had a career in Hollywood working as a cameraman. Vera's film career lasted from 1915 until 1938 with over 120 films, and although she did appear in a few talkies, it was only in bit roles. 
In 1926, Vera was riding in a car driven by Al Christie along with Hughlina Marion, mother of actress and friend Marie Prevost when the car swerved and overturned. Christie suffered minor cuts and bruises whereas Hughlina died from a broken spine. Vera was somewhere in the middle, suffering from a broken back and two broken legs, leading doctors to believe that she would either die in surgery or end up being crippled for the rest of her life. Vera managed to beat the odds! After spending six months being bedridden, she slowly but surely got back to walking around on her own. Doctors believed that Vera's strong athletic talents (she was an excellent swimmer) and her competitive drive were instrumental in helping her succeed. 
Vera was married twice, first to actor and violinist Jack Taylor in 1920. The couple had twin daughters, Marie (after friend Marie Prevost) and Frances in 1921. Sadly, Frances passed away at only six weeks old. Her second marriage was to former jockey, Joseph Milton Flynn in 1948, but I am not sure how long they were married. She also briefly dated actor Buster Collier.  
Vera passed away on December 14, 1966 in Long Beach, California. She was buried at Forest Lawn in Long Beach. 


Elsie Tarron was born Elsie Maud Tarron on September 3, 1903 in London, England, United Kingdom. Her career lasted from 1923 until 1929 with about 60 films crammed into that little bit of time. 
Elsie passed away on October 24, 1990 in Los Angeles. I believe she is buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale but I am not 100% sure.
She was married once, to actor Andy Clyde from 1932 until his death in 1967. The couple had a son named John Allan in 1935, but sadly he passed away at the young age of nine. Unfortunately, I don't know what happened to him.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bathing Beauties III

Dorothy Dorr was born Dorothy Evelyn Wilkinson on October 4, 1897 in St. Louis, Missouri. I don't know anything about her family history or her personal life during and after her Hollywood days. I do know that she started off in shows on Broadway before she went to Hollywood. Her film career last from 1921 until 1925 with 14 movie credits to her name. Dorothy passed away on September 5, 1987 in St. Louis. I do not know where she is buried. 


Cecile/Cecille/Cecilia Evans was born May 7, 1902 in Oxford, Kansas. All I know about her family history is that her mother's maiden name was Furnas and that Cecile had a younger sister named Aletha who she lived with after her film career. 
When she was 15 years old, she came to Hollywood with her Uncle Bill and on a dare entered a bathing beauty contest being sponsored by Sid Grauman (yes, THAT Sid Grauman). Cecile ended up winning first place and her prizes included $100 and a two-week contract with Mack Sennett. She would end up becoming one of the first girls to be named a Mack Sennett Bathing Beauty. Her career lasted way beyond two weeks, spanning from 1915 until 1928 and having around 28 films under her belt. I did read somewhere that it wasn't just Mack that helped her in her career but that she also had a lot of help from Paul Bern! Paul certainly used his Hollywood clout on many a silent film starlet. Later in her career it was Cecile who was helping out other actresses. She was partly responsible for getting famed fan dancer Sally Rand her first big break into films.

Mack noticed right off that Ceci (her nickname among friends) had the best set of legs among his bevy of beauties and often used her legs in close ups for other girls! She eventually got her best assets insured and earned the nickname, "The Girl with the $100,000 Legs." By doing this, Ceci became the first Hollywood actor to insure a body part...sorry, Betty Grable! After insuring her gams, whenever she was out in public she wore a platinum and diamond anklet to briefly 'blind' anyone who may be checking her out. This outgoing flapper attitude got the best of her on at least one occasion when she was arrested for speeding and spent two days in jail. Apparently, a number of Hollywood studio heads tried to get her bailed out, but Ceci didn't seem to mind! She thought the experience was great for a memoir she planned to write.
Ceci eventually left Hollywood to concentrate more on her personal life. During an interview she did with the Daily Independent Journal in 1960 she said, "I was never too serious about an acting career." Around the same time she retired she married manufacturer, William Pierce Graham, brother of cosmetics maven, Eve Arden. I am not sure of the marriage dates, but I believe they did remain married until Graham's death. The couple moved to Marin, California, a place that she had always wanted to live, and that is where years later she would pass away on November 11, 1960. 
"As I walked into the Sennett Studios all I could think of was that I might meet Mabel Normand. Of course I did meet her, she took every new girl under her wing, especially if the girl was a little shy which I was in those days. She taught me how you had to kid right back with Ben Turpin or any of them, and when I went to play a part with Douglas Fairbanks Sr in 'The Thief of Baghdad' she saw me through that, too. She was the guiding genius of every girl who worked for Sennett." -- Cecille Evans (Milwaukee Sentinel - December 12, 1948)


Mildred June was born on December 23, 1903 in St. Louis, Missouri. She was the only child born to Maurice June, a salesman, and Martha June Knight Foster. When she was still a child, the family moved to California where on top of her regular schooling, Mildred took dancing lessons and frequently appeared in school plays. 
Mildred's film career lasted from 1919 until 1927 and consisted of a little over 50 film credits. Most of her film roles were bit parts and Bathing Beauty roles, but she does have the distinction of having written and starred in her own short, 1927's Crazy to Act, which also featured Oliver Hardy. 
She was reportedly to have been married twice, first to a dentist named Herbert Edward Capps  from 1922 until 1927. Her second husband was a man named Bud Sheehan who she married in 1930 and it seems that he died a few years later.
Mildred June passed away on June 19, 1940 due to cirrhosis of the liver after a history of alcoholism. She was interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in the same niche as her mother. There is another name attached to the niche, Arthur Foster who was only a few years older than Mildred and died the same year she did. I couldn't find any info on her having a brother, so I would be interested to know who he is exactly. 


Mary Mayberry was born on March 29, 1909 in New York City, New York. 
What I know about Mary is that her career lasted from 1926 until 1930 with around 30 film roles. I can't seem to find a death date for her, so it could be that she is still alive, but I'm doubting this. I believe it is more likely that she just disappeared from the limelight and lived a quiet life off the radar. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Bathing Beauties II

Phyllis Haver
I am so geeked that these Bathing Beauties entries are gaining a lot of interest! Your readiness to read these are making me want to crank them out faster!

And, please, if you have more information on these ladies, don't hesitate to let me know!

Gonda Durand was born on July 28, 1896 in Louisville, Kentucky. I don't know much about her other than her career lasted about two years with 24 films playing minor roles as a Bathing Beauty. Around 1917, she married actor Bob Kortman (known for appearing alongside William S. Hart) and they were still married as of 1930, but not sure what happened after that. Gonda passed away on August 16, 1960 in San Bernardino, California. Unfortunately, I don't know where she is buried. 


Betty Francisco was born Elizabeth Bartman on September 26, 1900 in Little Rock, Arkansas. She was the second daughter born to Mary Isabell Francisco and I believe her father's name was John Bartman, who worked as a cooper. She had an older sister Marguerite and four years later had a younger sister, Evelyn. The girls later adopted mother Mary's maiden name as their stage name.

Betty and Evelyn

Betty usually isn't mentioned as being a Bathing Beauty because she was more well known in Hollywood for appearing in dramatic films. However, I am including her in this because she did pose for Bathing Beauty pictures in magazines and did appear in one film, 1929's Long Pants with Harry Langdon as said character. She was named a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1923 and was also reportedly a Ziegfeld Follies girl, but I can't find any more information on that.
In 1930 she married a man named Fred Spradling, but I am not sure how long they were married. When she passed away on November 25, 1950 in El Cerrito, California, she was interred at Forest Lawn in Glendale under the name "Elizabeth Spradling." Fred's husband is not included on the niche marker, but she does share the same niche as her mother and older sister. 


Evelyn Francisco was born Evelyn Bartman on August 13, 1904 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Evelyn's older sister Betty was already working in Hollywood and introduced her younger sister to a casting director one day and BAM! Evelyn was in the movies! Eldest sister Marguerite acted very briefly, having only one movie credit to her name.
Evelyn's career lasted about six years with about 26 films, mostly in light comedies as a Bathing Beauty.  

Marguerite, Betty, and Evelyn

Evelyn passed away on January 27, 1963 in Corona, California. She was interred at Forest Lawn in Glendale under the name "Evelyn B. Stearns" in the Stearns family niche. Judging only by this, I believe her second husband to have been Francis A. Stearns. Her first husband was a man named Samuel Bernheim, but I am not sure of the actual wedding date. The couple remained married until Bernheim's death in 1934. 


Myrtle Lind was born Myrtle Seltmann on September 2, 1898 in Mankato, Minnesota. All I can find about her family history is that her mother's name was Elizabeth Seltmann and that Myrtle was probably the only child. Unfortunately, I cannot find any information on her father's identity. 
Myrtle's Hollywood career lasted from 1919 until 1922, appearing in around 30 films. Most of her roles consisted of being a Bathing Beauty-esque character with a few "Wife" roles thrown in. 
She was reportedly married twice, first to a broker named Frank A. Gessell. Myrtle and Gessell were only married for a few months when she discovered that he was carrying on an affair with his first wife. She promptly filed for divorce. There is a floating rumor that she was at one time married to Jean P. Getty but that the marriage was annulled around 1917. Their names were linked together around that time, but there is also reports that the Myrtle Lind in question was just another woman with the same name.
Our Myrtle Lind passed away on October 12, 1993. I unfortunately don't know where is buried. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bathing Beauties

Marie Prevost

As I have said many times before, I love the Mack Sennett Bathing Beauties. They are lovely gals who represent the simpler and more endearing times that was silent film and comedy. These aren't girls walking around with their tops off and have huge fake boobs, no, these are fancy free flappers! 

There are some well known actresses that started out as Bathing Beauties and went on to have their own stellar career in silents and beyond (for some). Famous Beauties include Gloria Swanson, Marie Prevost, Phyllis Haver, and Carole Lombard. But, for this entries, I want to focus on the girls that maybe only appeared in a few silent comedies and then faded into celluloid history. I want to highlight the lesser known gals who we can still view in the hundreds of pictures available from the silent days. 

Now, these entries are going to be done in groups in separate entries...if that makes sense. Finding information on these girls can be difficult, but I will give you as much info as I can find! If YOU have additional information on the girls, please don't hesitate to let me know!

Let us begin!

Andre Bayley (billed as "Andre Bailey") was born Andre Temple Bayley on January 26, 1903 in Alabama. She was the eldest child born to Eugene, a claims investigator for a rail road company, and his wife Julia. She had two younger brothers named Owen and Caldwell who were born two and three years after her, respectively. 
Judging by the census records I viewed, I believe her father died when she was still a child because he is not listed as living with the family in 1920 and her mother is listed as "WIDOWED." 
In 1923, Andre was one of twelve unknown actresses in Hollywood selected by Paramount Studios to be given contracts and made over into glamorous starlets. It seems that this wasn't a very well thought out idea because I didn't recognize any names besides Andre's in the list of the girls chosen. Some of the girls appeared in a few pictures here and there, but none of them became the up and coming star they were hoping to be. Andre's career lasted only for about two years and consisted of around 16 films, mostly in a minor a Bathing Beauty! 
I don't know anything about her personal life or what happened after she left Hollywood, or even why she left. All I know is that she passed away on February 1, 1984 and is buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale near her mother and her brothers. 


Meet Margaret Cloud! All I know about her is that she was chosen to be a Bathing Beauty in 1923 by Mack Sennett himself along with Elsie Tarron and Cecile Evans.
Her career lasted for about five years with 15 film credits, mostly in a minor role of a Bathing Beauty.
 I think she was sometimes credited as "Peggy" because I have seen some pictures of Bathing Beauties with that name, and as far as I can tell they are one in the same. 


Alice Maison was born on February 20, 1900 in Detroit, Michigan to Minnie Clark Maison. I cannot find a name of a father in any census records which leads me to believe he either deserted soon after Minnie became pregnant or that he passed away. I did however find out that Alice had an older sister named Carol. It's the little things...
Alice was one of the original Bathing Beauties, earning her first film role in 1917 as "Dancing Girl." Like her fellow Beauties, her career lasted only a few years with roles consisting of being screen eye candy. 
Her real talents were highlighted on the stage where she was a fairly well known dancer. She trained from a young age with famed instructor, Ernest Belcher (actress Lina Basquette's stepfather). In fact, one of her earliest dance partners was a young Rudolph Valentino! She later toured with fellow dancer, Charles Stuart, who would end up being her second husband (only real proof of this is her name being "Alice Stuart" on the 1940 census record and she reportedly is buried under that name). Her first husband was producer Elmer C. Floyd who she married in 1919, and, if you believe the rumors, the two had only known each other for a day. However, I don't believe this to be true because from what I have read the two met and worked together and he was helping her in her career. This obviously took longer than 24 hours. Alice ended up filing for divorce after only six months of marriage due to Elmer's numerous infidelities. 
Alice passed away on February 9, 1976 and is buried in Forest Lawn in Hollywood Hills. 


Alatia Marton was born Alatia Lee Marton on September 15, 1894 in Dallas, Texas. She was the only child of Harry Marton and Clara Davis.
While working as a telephone operator, Alatia got her big break after she won a "Beauty and Brains" contest held by Photoplay Magazine and the World Film Corporation. The winning girls were whisked away to New York and Hollywood where they were promised to be made into glamorous movie stars!
"I feel very highly complimented at being chosen a winner, and assure you I will let nothing stand in the way of my taking advantage of this great opportunity," Alatia told Photoplay magazine in August of 1916.
 But, again, doesn't look like the contest panned out the way the studios hoped because none of the 13 or so girls chosen really made a huge splash on the screen. Alatia was at one point offered a role as leading lady to Douglas Fairbanks, but the film she was currently working on had yet to be finished, so the role went to another actress. What could have been...
All in all, she had a film career that lasted almost a year and appeared in only about eight films. In 1918, she married a man named Marcus Plowman, quit Hollywood and moved back to Dallas. The couple had daughter named Alatia Jane in 1919 and they remained married until his death in 1944. Alatia herself passed away on June 4, 1972 and is buried next to her husband in Greenwood Cemetery in Dallas. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Public Service Announcement to "Anonymous"

One of the great things about having to approve comments on my blog is that I can choose which ones to publish and engage with. Thankfully, about 99% of the comments left are very nice thank yous, additional information, or questions for me that I always enjoy replying to. I love being able to talk to fellow silent film fans since they seem to be few and far between in the "real" world. 

HOWEVER, I do every once in awhile get a snarky comment from people using the "Anonymous" name tag because they are too scared to use their real name and have an actual conversation about the entry in question. I never claim to know everything about silent film stars, but I know how to do research and dig up as much as I can about someone that was famous 80+ years ago. I am all for having a constructive conversation about disagreements or discrepancies about a star or even about what I wrote, but if you write it under "Anonymous" and do so in a deliberately mean way, no.

I had this lovely comment left on my entry about Elmer Clifton: 

"Elmer Clifton was gay, Jessica, so accept it and get over it. You try and make it sound as if he were some straight stud who enjoyed playing the field and had lots of female sex partners. You're mistaken. It was well known in gay Hollywood (then and now) that he was gay and this is why he never married."

Lovely, right? So, please let me respond to this charming person front and center.


Show me some proof. I have not seen a shred of evidence that Elmer was gay. If he was, then fine, but show me the proof. Anything. Until then, you have no basis in calling me out, especially in a way that makes it sound like I am pining for Elmer every day and refuse to accept that he could have been gay. And, I don't know many people who have ever even heard of him, so I think it is intriguing that people in 'gay Hollywood' nowadays would OBVIOUSLY know he was gay. 
Also, next time you feel like calling me out for my apparent inability to accept a silent, good looking actor was gay, use your real name and e-mail me like an adult instead of acting like a bitchy teenager. 

Thank you, and I look forward to NOT hearing from you again.



So, let us forget this ugly business and continue on to our mission of remembering silent film stars. I am currently digging up some information on Mack Sennett Bathing Beauties because I just adore them. Stay tuned for the first installment of that!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Merna Kennedy

I don't know what I was researching or looking at that made me come across Merna Kennedy. I could have SWORN that I did an entry on her a few years ago and was pretty surprised to find out that I had not. I must have fantasy blog entries in my brain that I think are the real thing.

So, let's shine the spotlight on Merna!

Merna Kennedy was born Maude Kahler on September 7, 1908 in Kankakee, Illinois. 

AND right from the get-go we have some disputes about birth names and birthplaces. From everything I have read, Merna was born "Maude," but in the 1910 census, she is listed as "Merna." So, my guess is that Merna is either a middle name or a nickname. Easy enough explanation there. Now, as far as her birthplace, in a 1926 article in Screenland magazine it was listed that Manteno, Illinois was her actual place of birth but Kankakee (and another Illinois city) were wanting the honor of being Merna's birthplace. Manteno and Kankakee are only 16 minutes apart, so it really is just splitting hairs.

Merna was the second child born to John, who I believe was a butcher (it was hard to read the census record), and his wife Maud. Her older brother, Merle, nicknamed "Bud," was born four years before Merna. 

At age seven, Merna appeared on the vaudeville stage for the first time. Her mother had wanted to be an actress when she was younger, but her devoutly religious parents forbid it. So, she put all that drive into making sure her children, mainly her daughter, were on stage in front of an audience. Pretty soon Merna and Bud were touring vaudeville with a comedy and dance act. 

At age nine, Merna met a little girl in her dance class name Lita. The two soon became friends, as did their mothers. These friendships lasted for years, all the way to Hollywood when Lita became Lita Grey Chaplin after marrying Charlie Chaplin at age sixteen. It was Lita who gave Merna her big break in Hollywood. 

Chaplin was looking to cast his leading lady in his upcoming film, The Circus. Lita had been the leading lady to her husband, but she had two sons to take care of now and wasn't going to be appearing on the screen anytime soon. So, she had the bright idea of putting her good friend Merna up for the part, but she had to be careful about how to approach the subject to Chaplin. One night, Lita invited Merna out to dinner with her and Charlie so that he could get a look at her and make it seem like the idea for casting Merna was his idea all along. And so, The Circus became Merna Kennedy's film debut! Not a bad way to start!

After her big break, Merna had quite a few more movie roles and people seemed excited about the lady Chaplin had picked for his film. While Merna did appear in a few good flicks during her career, she couldn't really match the fame she garnered appearing next to Chaplin. She did have the distinction of appearing in Universal Studio's first talking picture, 1929's Broadway. The film is also notable for the few Technicolor sequences it contains. 

Her last film was 1934's I Like It That Way which starred Gloria Stuart. She chose to retire to focus on her personal life, having just gotten married.

Merna Kennedy passed away on December 20, 1944 due to a myocardial infarction (heart attack). She was only 36 years old.

She was buried at the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California. She is buried with her older brother, Bud, but I am not sure who died first since the headstone does not contain any dates. 

Merna was married twice. Her first husband was famous director/choreographer, Busby Berkeley who she married in 1934. The marriage was doomed to failure considering the couple was always under the watchful eye of Berkeley's mother, Gertrude. Her opinion was quite important to her son and she could very well be the reason behind Busby being married four times. (I've also heard six!) Merna eventually filed for divorce in 1935 citing mental cruelty.

Her second husband was Master Sergeant Forrest Brayton who she married sometime in 1944. I am not sure of the exact date, but from what I read it was very close to when she died in December. 

Merna's other relationships included Hell's Angels actor James Hall who she was engaged to for a period of time. Her most famous beau would be the man who gave her her big break, Charlie Chaplin. The two reportedly had an affair during the filming of The Circus, something that Mrs. Lita Grey Chaplin used against Charlie when she filed for divorce. Not a great way to treat your best girlfriend, Miss Merna. If this is all true that is...

According to a movie magazine of the time Merna was a green eyed, red haired, 100 lbs. tomboy who was not a fan of flappers and hated being called one. 

"Miss Kennedy is a very clever girl." ~~ Charlie Chaplin

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Jeanne Eagels

Jeanne Eagels was born Eugenia Eagles on June 26, 1890 in Kansas City, Missouri. She was the second of six children born to Edward, a carpenter, and his wife Julia Sullivan. She had an older sister Edna, younger sister Helen, and three younger brothers: Leo (died in infancy), George, and Paul (or Daniel). 

In 1910, Edward Eagles passed away and Julia was left in charge of her large brood. Jeanne was forced to start working soon after her first communion to help support her family. I also read that in 1920 George was sent to live with his eldest sister and her husband and Paul went to live with an aunt. I am guessing this was to help alleviate financial stress.

When she was 11 years old, she appeared on stage for the first time. It was only a few years later that she would be gracing the silver screen.

She made her film debut in 1913 in a short called The Ace of Hearts

Jeanne's career in the movies wasn't long lasting, but she made a considerable splash. She appeared in around twelve films all together, and at least three of the films are considered lost. 

The film that Jeanne is most remembered for today is 1929's The Letter. Jeanne gave quite an incredible performance and was recognized for it by the Academy. Unfortunately, it would be a posthumous award nomination, the first time that had ever happened. The film was remade in 1940 starring Bette Davis.

Shortly before she appeared in the film, Jeanne had been banned from appearing on stage for 18 months by the Actors Unity due to her failure to show up for rehearsals and performances. She could tour with vaudeville and make movies, but not appear on the "legitimate" stage. 

The OTHER reason Jeanne is still remembered today is for her performance in the 1922 stage production of Rain, playing Sadie Thompson. She toured with the production until 1926 when she (literally) bowed out. Her performance as Sadie Thompson is heralded as one of the best, with Gloria Swanson's silent film version coming in second. 

Her last film appearance was in Jealously, which unfortunately is considered lost.

Jeanne Eagels passed away on October 3, 1929 in a New York City hospital. She was 39 years old.

Now, to the mystery that is the death of Jeanne Eagels. There were many causes of death given from heroin overdose, to alcohol related issues, to suicide. It is likely that we will never know what exactly happened to Jeanne but here are some clues that could possible lead us to right conclusion. 

Three weeks before her death Jeanne had surgery on her eyes. It was listed that she had ulcers on her eyes that were caused by the dreaded Klieg lights used on movie sets at that time. There were rumors that she killed herself soon after surgery, but this is not the case. In fact, the surgery was successful and Jeanne was doing fine days after and was not giving any reason for anyone to assume that she was depressed or suicidal. It wasn't until she went to visit the hospital for an appointment that that she became ill, having convulsions while talking to the doctor.

Dr. Thomas Gonzales, the man who performed Jeanne's autopsy told the Lewiston Evening Journal, "It's the same old story, nothing unusual. Miss Eagels died not of alcoholism but from alcoholic psychosis. She had been acting strangely for three of four days but had not taken a drink in two days." To counteract that, the same day an article appeared in the Cornell Daily Sun saying, "Chemical analysis today showed that Jeanne Eagels...died of an overdose of a drug taken to induce sleep and thus free the actress temporarily from hallucinations due to alcoholic psychosis." This was quoted from a toxicologist named Alexander O. Gettler. He said that although there was alcohol in her system, there was not enough to cause her death.

Good friend Clifton Webb didn't believe Jeanne died of anything alcohol or drug related. "The point is: Jeanne Eagels never drank a lot. She couldn't drink a lot. One drink and she'd be off." 

Like I stated before, we will probably never know what happened to Jeanne Eagels. All we know is that a talented and tragic actress was taken too soon. She had a lot more talent to share with the world and it is unfortunate that she couldn't be around long enough to share it. 

When the autopsy and tests were concluded, a funeral was held at the famed Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel in New York City. Her body was then shipped back to Kansas City where another funeral was held and she was finally laid to rest in Calvary Cemetery.


Now, on to Jeanne's personal life... 

Her first husband was actor Morris Dubinsky, but the years of the marriage are unclear. It was presumably when she was still a teen and touring with his family's theatre company, the Dubinsky Brothers Theatre Company that is! It is rumored that they had a son named Morris Jr. and that they gave him up for adoption so that he could be raised in a better environment than a different venue each night. There really is no more information on their marriage or their son which is aggravating, but there we have it. 

Her second husband was Edward Harris "Ted" Coy, a former Yale football player turned stockbroker. Ted and Jeanne were married in 1925 and they seemed like a picture perfect match on the outside, the athlete and the movie star! However, in 1928 Jeanne filed for divorce claiming that Ted physically assaulted her and at one point even broke her jaw. He was reportedly a bit of a drunk and was fed up enough with the marriage and the trial that he didn't put up a fight. Ted remarried soon after the divorce but he ended up passing away only six years after Jeanne due to heart complications. 

Besides her marriages, Jeanne had some other pretty high profile love interests. While working together on the film Man, Woman, and Sin, she reportedly had an affair with John Gilbert. John later went on to say that Jeanne was one of the most temperamental actresses he had ever worked with and that she seemed to be fundamentally on another level than everyone else. Must have been one interesting relationship!

Jeanne also had a relationship with famed conductor Arthur Fiedler. I am not sure when the relationship took place but Fiedler did later say that Jeanne was the great love of his life. She was also engaged for a second to wealthy heir Whitney Warren Jr., but his father cut off the engagement almost immediately. Her other romantic links include producer David Belasco and the Prince of Wales, but these are just rumored dalliances. 

One of her closest relationships was with actor Clifton Webb, who she called "Cliffy." (He called her "Mrs. Dubinsky," her name from her first marriage, a name she hated) Clifton was most probably gay but he did have a very close relationship with Jeanne that almost led to a walk down the aisle. In his book Sitting Pretty, Clifton recalled, "I came uncomfortably close to being married on two occasions. One woman I fell in love with was Jeanne Eagels, the famous actress. She and I had discussed marriage in 1921 and were ready to take the final step." What stopped the couple? Well, Clifton's ever present mother Mabelle stepped in and told her son that he shouldn't rush into anything as big and important as marriage. 

Clifton took his mother's advice, but he and Jeanne remained as close as ever. "The great thing about Jeanne was our intense love for one another. We were too much alike...She had that husky kind of voice combined with her cock-eyed sense of humor...She defied convention. She defied the mold. She created her own mold," Clifton reminisced in his book. After her death, he recalled seeing Jeanne's body lying in state and remarking how awful a job the mortuary had done with dressing and making up her face. Mother Mabelle dutifully went to work on Jeanne's hair, fixing it in a way that better suited the girl that they knew and loved. 

In 1957 the "biopic" Jeanne Eagels was released starring Kim Novak. The movie is just ridiculous and not accurate at all, so don't bother seeing it if you are looking for the hard facts on Jeanne.

"I'm the greatest actress in the world and the greatest failure. And nobody gives a damn." ~~ Jeanne Eagels