Thursday Thirteen #19
I love Silent Film. Let’s just get that out in the open right away. I have a picture of Rudolph Valentino at my desk and everything. So, it was only a matter of time before I did a Thursday Thirteen on the topic. If you’ve never had a chance to see one yourself, here are some actors you may wish to look for.
13 Silent Film Actors/A Bit More than 13 Facts:
1. Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926) – Born “Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaelo Pierre Filibert di Valentina d’Antonguolla Guglielmi” and often remembered as “The Great Lover,” Valentino was only thirty-one when he died. Legend has it that a mysterious Lady in Black still brings flowers to his grave each year on the anniversary of his death. Rumor has it that the current lady in black is not the original, but her identity (or identities) have never been conclusively determined. (For some of the stories of Women in Black, check out Cemeteryguide.com.)
2. Clara Bow (1904-1965) – Clara Gordon Bow is these days best remembered as “the It Girl” (“It” in this case being a euphemism for sex appeal.) “It” was also the name of the film that shot her to stardom.
3. John Barrymore (1882-1942) – Sometimes referred to as “the Great Profile,” John entered the family acting business reluctantly. He actually wanted to be an artist and studied art in England to achieve that goal. At one point he was a cartoonist for the New York Evening Journal.
4. Laura La Plante (1904-1996) – Laura’s first film job came when she was about fourteen. She played a bridesmaid. She is one of the actors who made the transition to the Talkies without much trouble. The Cat and the Canary is a Silent Film she appeared in that contains some incredible camera work.
5. Tom Mix (1880-1940) – Thomas Hezikiah Mix (or Thomas Edwin Mix, depending upon who you believe) is one of the most famous of the silent film Cowboys. He is remembered for doing his own stunts, his lavish lifestyle, and the somewhat embroidered story of his past.
6. Colleen Moore (1902?-1988) – Born “Kathleen Morrison,” her name was changed by her uncle who felt that “Colleen Moore” would fit better on a marquee. Unlike many of her contemporaries, she actually had a happy childhood. She is particularly well remembered for her doll house. (She even wrote a book about it. The Doll House that is.)
7. Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977) – Charles Spencer Chaplin is best remembered for his Little Tramp character. He filmed “The Tramp” and fourteen other short films for the Essanay Film Company, which was located in Niles, California (Niles is now part of Fremont.) Chaplin was born in London, England. He was also Eugene O’Neill’s son-in-law.
8. Lillian Gish (1893?-1993) – Lillian, sometimes known as the “Iron Horse of Hollywood,” was not the fragile creature that she appeared on-screen. She joined a traveling acting company at the age of four to help support her family after her father left. Mary Pickford eventually introduced her, and her sister Dorothy, to D. W. Griffith. The rest is cinematic history.
9. Douglas Fairbanks (1883-1939) – Douglas Elton Ulman (also known as Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.) wanted to be an actor from a young age. During his first marriage (her name was Anna Beth Sully) he ended up working for the Buchannan Soap Company for six months. Yes, the company was owned by his father-in-law.
10. Mary Pickford (1893-1979) – “Gladys Mary Smith,” better known as “America’s Sweetheart,” was one of the first Movie Megastars ever. She began acting at the age of five to help support her family after the death of her father. During her honeymoon in Europe after marrying Douglas Fairbanks, they were mobbed by fans wherever they went.
11. Buster Keaton (1895-1966) – Joseph Frank Keaton, better known to his fans as “The Great Stone Face,” was already appearing on stage with his parents at the tender age of nine months. Keaton fought in WWI, serving with the 40th Infantry in France. Later in his career, he also appeared in a film with the Beach Party crew called Pajama Party.
12. Theda Bara (1892?-1955) – Theodosia Goodman’s on-screen character was that of a “vamp,” “a wicked woman of exotic sexual appeal who lures men into her web only to ruin them.” Much of her image and purported biography were created by the studio.
13. Lon Chaney (1883-1930) – Truly Alonzo “Lon” Chaney was the “Man of a Thousand Faces” that people called him. He was born to hearing impaired parents, and spent time pantomiming stories for his family as a child. His entrance into the Talkies was cut short by his death from cancer.