Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mae Giraci

And the kids keep coming!

Mae Georgia Giraci was born on January 22, 1910 in Los Angeles, California. She was the second daughter born to Santo Giraci, a barber, and his wife, Anna De Nubila. Older sister Alice Marie was born in 1908 and younger sister, Dorothy Marylouise was born in 1913. 

Mae was a tricky one to research because she went by about nine billion different names, and that was just when she was a child! In census records, magazines, and films she was sometimes credited as 'May Giraci,' and she even used the name 'Tina Rossi' for awhile. 

It was as 'May Giraci' that she made her screen debut in the 1916 short, The Crest of Von Endheim

Apparently, Mae was discovered in the cliche Hollywood manner. She reportedly was playing in her front yard one day when director Cecil B. DeMille spotted her and said she should be in pictures. She ended up appearing in films for both him and his brother, William. 

DeWolf Hopper Sr. with Mae in Casey at the Bat

Some of Mae's most notable films include the 1916 screen adaptation of Casey at Bat and the 1922 screen adaptation of Lorna Doone starring Madge Bellamy. She also shared the screen with such stars as Norma Talmadge, Gloria Swanson, Bessie Love, and Mabel Normand.

In 1920, Mae appeared in The Son of Tarzan, a role that won her much praise. However, during filming she was attacked by a small ape and multiple received cuts and scratches. Mean monkey!

She made her last film appearance in the controversial 1929 film The Godless Girl with Lina Basquette and Marie Prevost. Mae played the role of a student along with a few other silent film child actors like Buddy Messinger, Peaches Jackson, and Don Marion.

After she retired from acting, Mae returned to school and eventually graduated from Hollywood High School. In her high school yearbook it lists that she hoped to go to Columbia after graduation. 

Mae Giraci passed away on January 10, 2006 in Los Angeles, California.

She was buried with her family at the Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles.

An unidentified child actor and Mae in the film For Better, for Worse

Mae was only married once, to a man named Herman Platz. The couple married in 1931 and had three children: Ralph, Howard, and Carole. Ralph Platz actually appeared in a film in 1945 and worked as a stand-in or an extra in others. Mae reportedly signed him up for the Screen Actors Guild when he was 12 years old!

Mae's younger sister, Dorothy, also worked briefly as an actress. She appeared in two films, one in 1918 and the other in 1922. 

While filming a scene for 1916's Children of the Feud, Mae accidentally elbowed one of her costars, Robert Burns in the face giving him a black eye.

According to a film fan magazine, Mae used to love to read fairy tales. 

"May Giraci has made a reputation for herself ever since she did child-parts for Mr. Griffith. Her great adaptability has made her a featured child-artist in many screen successes, and she's very popular at Triangle Studios." ~~ Motion Picture Magazine - December 1918

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Clara Horton

Now, on to a child and teen star of the silent screen who I hope to pay a visit to soon...

Clara Marie Horton was born on July 29, 1904 in Brooklyn, New York. She was the only child born to Leroy Horton and Gertude Wilcox. The couple either divorced while Clara was still a child or Leroy passed away because he doesn't appear in any other census records with the family and Gertrude is listed as "single."

When Clara was still a child, she was lauded for her exceptional talents for ballet dancing. The little girl began touring the states in various shows displaying her dancing talents and eventually made her way overseas to Europe. However, it seems the years of touring and performing were taking it's toll on Clara's health, so Gertrude decided to take her daughter back to the U.S. for a rest.

Tired from touring and dancing? Let's try acting! As we know, during the early years of film making, the movie studios were on the east coast rather than the west coast, so Clara and her family were in the right place at the right time! 

Clara made her film debut in 1912's Because of Bobbie. The short was made at the Eclair studios, which would become Clara's home studio for many years. In fact, she became such a recognized and popular face that she earned the nickname "The Eclair Kid." Also, remember that this was during the time when film stars weren't credited on screen by name. 

During her years at Eclair, Clara shared the screen most of the time with Barbara Tennant, who Clara wanted to be like when she was older, and actor Lamar Johnstone. She frequently played herself or rather a character named 'Clara' in various shorts. Gertrude Horton meanwhile spent her time working in the wardrobe department at the studio. 

Clara once told a magazine that she preferred playing boy roles on screen because it allowed her to "get her face dirty." She stressed that it was only on screen that she liked playing a boy, and was very much a girl. She talked about how she did her own make-up and how she enjoyed sewing dresses for her many dolls.

Her best remembered film roles would probably be in 1917's Tom Sawyer and the 1918 follow-up, Huck and Tom. Clara played the role of Becky Thatcher, the sweetheart of Tom Sawyer, who was played by Jack Pickford. 

In 1919, Gertrude and Clara Horton filed a lawsuit against the film studios for breach of contract. The article describing the event doesn't say WHICH studio they sued, although it mentions that she was a popular actress with Triangle, so it may have been just them or the studios in general she worked with. In 1918, many studios closed due to the flu pandemic that killed around 20 million people, many of who were in the film community including Myrtle Gonzalez, Gaby Deslys, Harold Lockwood, Vera Kholodnaya, and True Boardman. Clara, and other actors who brought suit, claimed that they had been willing to come in to work and should have been paid what they were promised. I am not sure what the outcome of the case was, but judging by some of the other articles I read and their tone, it seems the actors may have won.

Her final film role was an uncredited part as a maid in 1942's Time to Kill.

In an interview conducted during the mid 1920's, Clara claimed that she left films at first because she was tired of living in a make believe world and was looking for something real. She got married and had a child and enjoyed a simple domestic life. Eventually, this began to bore her as well and she wanted to get back into acting. She reiterated that she was going to balance her home life and her movie career.

"Why am I returning to the screen? Listen, I'll tell you - because I want the money. That's a plain fact, so why not admit it?" ~~ Clara Horton to Picture Play magazine - October 1925

Clara Horton passed away on December 4, 1976 in Encino, California.

She was buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California. 

Clara was married twice. Her first husband was a promoter (for a 'corporation' according to census records) named Hyman Brand. The couple was married sometime in the 1920's and had a son, Donald in 1929. The pair eventually divorced and in 1943 she married Edwin Laufer and the couple remained married until her death. 

When Clara was in her early teens she had a pet monkey that she would walk on a leash and it would carry her vanity case on a chain around his neck. Sure.

"Blessed with a wonderful head of long golden curls, great blue eyes fringed by dark lashes, and a complexion the color of peaches, Clara forms a beautiful picture indeed on the screen." ~~ Motion Picture World - October 3, 1914

"And everybody's my friend at the studio! You should see the lovely parties they give me on my birthday!" ~~ Clara Horton to Motography magazine - March 21, 1914

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Leland and Dorothy Benham

Harry, Ethyle, Leland, and Dorothy Benham

We continue to push ahead with these kiddie silent film star siblings! And actually, I think this is the last in that group. I am thinking next will be Helen Badgley...or Frankie Darro...or Yale Boss...or Lillian Wade. Oh, so many to choose from! Anyway, keep an eye out for the next entry which will be sooner rather than later (if I can help it!)

Now, on to not just a brother and sister who acted in silent films, but a whole family! Thanhouser royalty!

Leland Fairfax Benham was born September 10, 1905 in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the first child born to actors Harry Benham and Ethyle Cooke. 

Harry and Ethyle were popular Thanhouser Studio stars who also had past experience on the stage acting and singing and in Ethyle's case, dancing. Judging from interviews the couple gave to movie magazines, I don't think they forced acting upon their children like so many other stage parents. I think because they spent so much of their time together on movie sets that bringing the kids along was just what the family did!

Ethyle Cooke and Leland Benham and Grace De Carlton
"Yes, we're all actors and we are a happy family...we're like a lot of kids together." ~~ Ethyle Cooke Benham to Motography magazine - September 19, 1914

James Cruze, Marguerite Snow, and Harry Benham
"Now you see why I left the regular stage. I'm distinctly a family man - my home and family are all the world. In this work I can settle down and enjoy life like any other home-lover." ~~ Harry Benham to Motography magazine - September 19, 1914

Helen Badgley and Leland
Leland made his film debut in the 1912 short Nursie and the Knight, starring Marguerite Snow and James Cruze. 

During his career Leland was paired most often with two other child stars, the "Thanhouser Kidlet," Helen Badgley and Marie Eline. He also appeared frequently with Thanhouser actresses Florence La Badie, Mignon Anderson, and Madeline and Marion Fairbanks ("The Fairbanks Twins"). 

Helen Badgley, Katherine Emmet, and Leland

The Benham family shared the screen together a number of times. It was usually Leland or his sister Dorothy who played the child of Harry or Ethyle's character on screen. Leland appeared with his mother in about 20 films! 

He was quite a popular child star at the time, both in the states and overseas. Leland once received a letter from a young boy in England who said he was a big fan and wanted to come to the U.S. and meet Leland. The boys became pen pals until one day the little boy, who supposedly was the son of an English millionaire, came to the U.S. for a visit and Leland took him around and showed him the sights. Can't imagine something like that happening nowadays with all the crazy stalkers out there. It was a simpler time...

Around 1915, Harry decided to leave Thanhouser Studio and took his family with him. They eventually ended up at Universal Studios, which is where Leland made his final film, 1916's Path of Happiness, with Violet Mersereau. 

Leland, Helen Badgley, and William H. Stevens

I don't really know anything about his life after the movies. I don't even know why the Benhams pulled their children out of the business. They did act on the stage for a time, however. Both Harry and Ethlye appeared in films after their children made their silver screen curtain call. Harry appeared in films up until the mid 1920's before going into the clothing business. I do know that Leland did eventually join the army and served in World War II. 

Leland Benham passed away on September 26, 1976 in Boynton Beach, Florida. I do not know where he is buried.

Leland's personal life is a bit mysterious as well. According to records it appears that Leland was married twice. His first marriage was to a woman named Irene Fernback in 1928. The couple had a daughter named Barbara Lillian in 1930. They apparently divorced because in the 1940 census record, Leland is married to a woman named Florence H. Benham. I am not sure how long they were married or if they ever had children. 

"She's four, Dorothy is, and I'm ten. Dorothy's been in pictures too, but not as much as I, cause I'm older. I've been in since I was six. I was in a picture with daddy first." ~~ Leland Benham in Motography magazine - September 19, 1914


Dorothy Lucille Benham was born on September 6, 1910 in Boston, Massachusetts. She was the youngest child born to Harry Benham and Ethyle Cooke. 

She made her film debut in 1912's The Wrecked Taxi, along with both of her parents and actress Florence La Badie. Dorothy it seems was a frequent costar of Florence's. 

Like her brother, Dorothy usually accompanied a family member in pictures. In her case, it was her mother who she appeared with in five pictures. Perhaps the reason behind this was because with a simple gesture from her mother, Dorothy could cry on cue. Pretty impressive for a two year old.

Her career was shorter than her brothers, probably because you can only be a cute toddler for so long. Her last film was 1917's The Weavers of Life, which was also Helen Hayes' screen debut. 

Like her brother, I don't really know anything about Dorothy's life after she retired from film making. According to magazine article from 1917, she was acting on the stage with her brother and also volunteered with the Red Cross. She married a farmer by the name of Jack Tutton, but I am not sure of the dates.

Dorothy Benham passed away on September 9, 1956 of Hodgkin's disease in Watertown, Wisconsin. 

She was buried at Hillside Cemetery in Palmyra, Wisconsin. 

During an interview with the Benham family by a film magazine, Ethyle and Leland told the interviewer that Dorothy loved mirrors, tea parties, baths, dancing, doorknobs, and of course acting, or "ack-ing" as Dorothy called it.

Dorothy and Marie Eline

"She's very proud of herself whenever she works in a picture." ~~ Ethyle Cooke in Motography magazine - September 19, 1914

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December Birthdays!

Here we are again! A new month means new birthdays to celebrate, and this one will be the last for the year 2015. 

Be on the lookout for my next entry which should hopefully be up in the next couple of days!

Helen Badgley ~ December 1, 1908

Lois Meredith ~ December 3, 1890

Lillian Russell ~ December 4, 1860

Vedah Bertram ~ December 4, 1891

Edna Payne ~ December 5, 1891

Grace Moore ~ December 5, 1898

Virginia Lee Corbin ~ December 5, 1910

William S. Hart ~ December 6, 1864

Kathryn McGuire ~ December 6, 1903

Molly Malone ~ December 7, 1888

Marcella Albani ~ December 7, 1899

Neva Gerber ~ December 8, 1891

Clarine Seymour ~ December 9, 1898

Carol Dempster ~ December 9, 1901

Rhea Mitchell ~ December 10, 1890

Vivienne Osborne ~ December 10, 1896

Gilbert Roland ~ December 11, 1905

Sally Eilers ~ December 11, 1908

Owen Moore ~ December 12, 1884

Buck Jones ~ December 12, 1891

Madeline Hurlock ~ December 12, 1899

Edna Marion ~ December 12, 1906

Thelma Hill ~ December 12, 1906

Katherine MacDonald ~ December 14, 1881

Mary Kornman ~ December 15, 1915

Max Linder ~ December 16, 1883

Stacia Napierkowska ~ December 16, 1886

Barbara Kent ~ December 16, 1907

Gladys Cooper ~ December 18, 1888

Mary Nolan ~ December 18, 1905

Pauline Curley ~ December 19, 1903

Winifred Bryson ~ December 20, 1892

Lissy Arna ~ December 20, 1900

Edith Taliaferro ~ December 21, 1893

Elinor Fair ~ December 21, 1903

Edna Goodrich ~ December 22, 1883

Frankie Darro ~ December 22, 1917

Ann Pennington ~ December 23, 1893

Mildred June ~ December 23, 1905

Octavia Handworth ~ December 24, 1887

Eugenie Besserer ~ December 25, 1868

Evelyn Nesbit ~ December 25, 1884

John Bowers ~ December 25, 1885

Marlene Dietrich ~ December 27, 1901

Davey Lee ~ December 29, 1924

Edna Flugrath ~ December 30, 1892

Frankie Lee ~ December 31, 1918

Virginia Davis ~ December 31, 1918