Monday, June 19, 2017

Ruby Blaine (1920s Starlet)

Ruby Blaine was born on August 27, 1903, in Hutchinson, Kansas. When she was a child her family moved to Colorado. She loved riding horses and competed in a rodeo when she was sixteen. After winning a beauty contest she moved to New York City to become an actress. Ruby made her film debut in the 1925 drama The Midnight Girl. Although her part was small she got positive reviews. Mutual Film Company announced she would star in the The Bobbed Hair Bandit but the film was never made. Producer D.W. Griffith cast Ruby in The Sorrow Of Satan and helped her get a contract at Paramount. For a brief time she was engaged to her agent Frank Orsatti.

Ruby appeared in the movies The Great Gatsby and Bitter Apples but she never became a major star. Many magazine writers said Ruby resembled actress Norma Shearer. She hoped that dying her hair blonde would help her career. In 1928 she began working at Hal Roach's studio. She appeared in three comedy shorts including Two Tars with Laurel and Hardy. Ruby made her last film at the age of twenty-five. She married stockbroker Irving Weinberg but they divorced in 1933. Irving would later marry actress Betty Compson. Ruby continued to live in Manhattan where she worked as a commercial model. She spent her later years out of the spotlight and eventually moved to White Plains, New York. She passed away in May of 1976 at the age of seventy-two.

Lili Damita (French Actress)

"Marriage is a career itself. It requires full-time. When I do fall in love the career must go." ~ Lili

Lili Damita was born Liliane Marie Madeleine Carré on July 10, 1904, in Blaye, France. As a child she studied ballet and attended school in several different countries. By the age of sixteen she was working as a professional model and dancer. In 1921 she won a beauty contest and was offered her first acting role. She appeared in more than a dozen silent films made in Europe. Lili married Hungarian director Michael Curtiz in 1925. They divorced just a year later. Producer Samuel Goldwyn saw Lili and offered her a part in the 1928 romantic adventure The Rescue. American audiences fell in love with the exotic beauty nicknamed "Tiger Lil". She appeared in a string of box office successes including The Cock-Eyed World and This Is The Night (she was often credited as Lily Damita). Despite her thick accent she was easily able to make the transition to talkies. Lili made headlines when she became engaged to Prince Ferdinand of Prussia but the couple never married. She was also bi-sexual and enjoyed several affairs with women. In 1935 Lili married actor Errol Flynn and decided to retire from the screen.

Her final role was in the 1938 French film Escadrille of Chance. Errol quickly became a superstar and Lili was now primarily known as his wife. The couple had a son, Sean, in 1940 but their marriage was tumultuous. Errol had many affairs and Lili divorced him in 1942. They would spend years fighting over custody and child support. Lili continued to stay out of the spotlight and focused on raising her son. In 1962 she married dairy farmer Allen R. Loomis and began living part-time in Iowa. Tragedy struck in 1970 when her son Sean went missing during a trip to Cambodia. Lili spent fourteen years and millions of dollars searching for him but he was never found. Sean Flynn was declared legally dead in 1984. By this time Lili was divorced from Allen and suffering from Alzheimer's disease. She died on March 21, 1994 in Palm Beach, Florida at the age of eighty-nine. Lili is buried at Oakland Cemetery in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The epitaph on her tombstone reads "She touched so many lives, brightened so many days."

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Judith Barrie (1930s Starlet)

Judith Barrie was born Catherine Barrie on August 6, 1907 in Sacramento, California. Her grandfather was a wealthy wheat merchant. She was a society debutante and was educated at a prestigious girls school in Berkeley. After graduating she became a successful artist's model and frequently posed for James Montgomery Flagg. In 1928 Judith married producer Edward Halperin who convinced her to try acting. She made her film debut in the 1930 drama Party Girl opposite Jeanette Loff.

The movie was produced by her husband and directed by her brother-in-law Victor Halperin. Although her performance got good reviews Judith's career went nowhere. She only appeared in three more films including the western Hidden Gold. In 1932 Edward filed for divorce. He claimed that Judith said she did not love him. After the divorce she moved to New York City to pursue a career on Broadway. Judith died on January 9, 1991 at the age of eighty-three.

 Judith and Jeanette Loff                                                              

Barbara La Marr (The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful)

"I don't get along so well with women but most men seem to find me reasonably entertaining." ~ Barbara

Barbara La Marr was born Reatha Dale Watson on July 28, 1896, in Yakima, Washington. She was adopted when she was a month old and her new family took her to California. At the age of fourteen Barbara was arrested for working as a burlesque dancer. The judge said she was "a girl who was too beautiful" (this would later become her nickname). In 1913 she married rancher Jack Lytell. Tragically he died of pneumonia just a few weeks after their wedding. She married Lawrence Converse in 1914 but it was annulled when she found out he already had a wife. Barbara moved to New York City and began writing screenplays for Fox. She married Phil Ainsworth, a dancer, in 1916. Barbara left him after he was jailed for writing bad checks. Her fourth marriage, to actor Ben Deeley, also ended in divorce. In 1920 she made her film debut in the drama Harriet And The Piper. She appeared in many hit movies including The Nut with Douglas Fairbanks and The Prisoner Of Zenda with Ramon Novarro. By 1922 Barbara was one of Hollywood's top stars and she was earning more than $6,000 a week.

Unfortunately her hard-partying lifestyle created more headlines than her films did. She had an ill-fated romance with John Gilbert and became addicted to morphine after injuring her ankle. There were also rumors that she had an eating disorder. In 1923 she married actor Jack Dougherty. Soon after the couple announced they had adopted a son. Barbara was now using cocaine and drinking heavily. She proudly told reporters that she only slept two hours a night. Her drug use hurt her career and she lost her contract with MGM. She signed with First National and made three movies in 1925. Barbara's health began to decline and she developed tuberculosis and nephritis. On January 30, 1926 she died at the young age of twenty-nine. Her final film, The Girl From Montmartre, was released the next day. Barbara was buried at Hollywood Forever cemetery. Thousands of fans attended her funeral. Years after her death it was revealed that she had secretly given birth to her "adopted" son in 1923. Barbara's close friend Zasu Pitts raised him.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Elsie Tarron (Bathing Beauty)

Elsie Tarron was born Elsie Maud Hamilton on September 30, 1903, in London, England. She was a beautiful teenager who loved to dance and dreamed of becoming an actress. Eventually she moved to Hollywood and started entering beauty contests. When she was nineteen Elsie was chosen to be one of Mack Sennett's bathing beauties. She posed for countless cheesecake photos along with other starlets including Thelma Hill and Cecille Evans. The girls became close friends and formed a club called "The Little Dippers". Elsie was chosen to be their President. In 1923 she began working as an extra in Mack Sennett's comedies. Over the next two years she appeared in more than a dozen short films. She even appeared on the cover of The National Police Gazette twice. Her parts gradually started getting bigger and she was given featured roles in The Lost Soul and High And Dizzy. She signed a contract with F.B.O. studios and starred in the 1927 western Cyclone On The Range. Unfortunately her success didn't last long and by 1929 she was back to playing bit parts.

 In her last movie, A Close Shave, she appeared briefly as a massage customer. She decided to retire and married actor Andy Clyde on September 23, 1932. They had worked together in many films including The Lion's Whiskers and A Taxi Scandal. The couple bought a large mansion nicknamed "Clyde Manor" where they grew their own strawberries. Elsie enjoyed being a housewife and spent a lot of time playing golf with her husband. In 1935 they had a son named John Allan Clyde. Tragically John died when he was just nine years old. Elsie and Andy remained together until his death on May 18, 1967. A few months later she married 73 year old actor George "Sloppy" Gray. She had worked with him at the Sennett studios and he had been one of her husbands closest friends. Sadly George passed away just four weeks after their wedding. Elsie continued to live quietly in Los Angeles where she shared an apartment with Ruth Hiatt, another Sennett bathing beauty. She passed away from natural causes on October 24, 1990 at the age of eighty-seven.

Elsie with Thelma Hill                                                                                          

Phyllis Haver (Silent Actress)

"In Hollywood we live like small-town folks. Early to bed early to rise and you make all the best pictures." ~ Phyllis

Phyllis Haver was born Phyllis O'Haver on January 6, 1899, in Douglas, Kansas. When she was a child her family moved to California. Young Phyllis got a job playing piano at a local movie theater. Producer Mack Sennett saw her and she was hired to be one of his bathing beauties. Between 1916 and 1920 Phyllis appeared in more than thirty-five short films. With her curvy figure and blonde hair she quickly became one of the most popular bathing beauties. Eventually she left Mack Sennett's compact and signed a contract with Cecil B. Demille. Phyllis costarred with Olive Borden in Fig Leaves and with Victor McLaglen in What Price Glory. She also won rave reviews for her performance as Roxie Hart in the 1927 film Chicago. In 1929 Phyllis married millionaire William Seeman.

Although she was at the peak of her career she decided to retire from acting. She and William moved into an eleven room penthouse in New York City. Phyllis said she loved being a wife and never wanted to return to Hollywood. Sadly after sixteen years of marriage she and William divorced. The couple had no children. As she grew older Phyllis became more reclusive. She lived in a large house in Connecticut and rarely had visitors. Her only companion was her longtime housekeeper. She reportedly made several suicide attempts and was devastated when her former boss Mack Sennett died. On November 19, 1960 sixty-one year old Phyllis took her own life with an overdose of barbiturates. She was found in her bed fully dressed and wearing make-up. Phyllis was buried at Grassy Hills cemetery in Falls Village, Connecticut.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Beth Darlington (1920s Starlet)

Beth Darlington was born Helen Hixson on March 19, 1904 in Kansas City, Missouri. After her parents separated Beth moved to Los Angeles with her mother. At the age of sixteen she started working at Mermaid Comedies. Beth made her film debut in The Lamplighters with Shirley Mason. In August of 1921 she won first prize in the annual Venice bathing suit parade. She was put under contract at Hal Roach's studio in 1923. Beth was Charley Chase's leading lady in many comedy shorts including Don't Forget and The Fraidy Cat. She was called one of the most beautiful girls in Hollywood. Beth was just over five feet tall, weighed 117 pounds, and had natural blonde hair.

Although she appeared in more than thirty films Beth never became a major star. Her last role was in the 1925 comedy Captain Suds. After she stopped making movies Beth stayed out of the spotlight. She eventually got married and started a new life as a housewife. Beth and her husband bought a home in Burbank. She stopped using her stage name and was now known as "Mrs. Helen Clarke". On January 6, 1951 she was traveling in Val Verde, Texas when she died suddenly from a coronary occlusion. She was only forty-six years old.