Silent Film 101 - Actresses

Brand new to silents? Wondering where to start? This section has quick, bite-size info on films, performers, directors, etc.

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Silent Film 101 - Actresses

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In this thread are small blurbs of the various female performers of the silent era, from leading leading ladies to character actors, ingenues to vamps. There will be a separate post for each actress, listed here in the OP alphabetically for easy navigation. The key films listed in each post are comprised of extant, easily accessable films. This and the actors thread are going to be long term projects. Stay tuned!


List of actresses:


Renée Adorée
Josephine Baker
Vilma Banky
Theda Bara
Madge Bellamy
Betty Blythe
Clara Bow
Kathryn Boyd
Betty Bronson
Louise Brooks
Betty Compson
Viola Dana
Bebe Daniels
Marion Davies
Billie Dove
Louise Fazenda
Greta Garbo
Janet Gaynor
Lillian Gish
Dorothy Gish
Louise Glaum
Corinne Griffith
Phyllis Haver
Alice Howell
Alice Joyce
Florence La Badie
Florence Lawrence
Lila Lee
Bessie Love
Mae Marsh
Beatriz Michelena
Mary Miles Minter
Colleen Moore
Mae Murray
Pola Negri
Mabel Normand
Ossi Oswalda
Mary Pickford
ZaSu Pitts
Marie Prevost
Edna Purviance
Esther Ralston
Jobyna Ralston
Redwing (Lillian St. Cyr)
Dolores del Rìo
Clarine Seymour
Edith Storey
Valeska Suratt
Gloria Swanson
Norma Talmadge
Constance Talmadge
Natalie Talmadge
Alice Terry
Olive Thomas
Lupe Vélez
Pearl White
Alice White
Wanda Wiley
Anna May Wong
Clara Kimball Young
"Some people travel through life making friends wherever they go, while others — just travel through life." ~ Go West (1925)

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Re: Silent Film 101 - Actresses

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Betty Bronson
1906 - 1971

After starting her career at 16 with bit parts, Betty Bronson received her big break the next year at 17 when she was personally selected by J.M. Barrie to play the title role in Peter Pan (1924), directed by Herbert Brenon. It remains her best known performance.

Key films:

Peter Pan (1924)
Are Parents People? (1925)
A Kiss For Cinderella (1925)
Ben-Hur (1925)
The Singing Fool (1928) [part-talkie]
"Some people travel through life making friends wherever they go, while others — just travel through life." ~ Go West (1925)

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Re: Silent Film 101 - Actresses

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Kathryn Boyd
? - ?

Kathryn Boyd was an actress at Norman Studios, known for producing films with all-black casts in the 1920s. She is known to have acted in two films, The Flying Ace (1926) and the lost Black Gold (1928). She may have been married to leading man Laurence Criner; other than that, not much else is known of her life.

Key films:

The Flying Ace (1926)
"Some people travel through life making friends wherever they go, while others — just travel through life." ~ Go West (1925)

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Re: Silent Film 101 - Actresses

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Louise Brooks
1906 - 1985

Louise Brooks' film career started in 1925 after she signed with Paramount, where she mostly acted in light comedies. Before acting, she'd danced with the Denishawn troupe and performed on Broadway in George White's Scandals and the Ziegfeld Follies. She played the lead in Beggars of Life (1928), considered her best American film. In 1929, she left Paramount and went to Germany, where she acted in two films directed by G. W. Pabst: Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl. While in Europe, she appeared in her sound debut, though since it was in French her dialogue was dubbed: Prix de Beauté/Miss Europe, released in 1930. She returned to Hollywood the next year, but she had been informally blacklisted after refusing to return to America to dub her lines for the sound version of The Canary Murder Case (1929); her career was essentially over.

Key films:

It's the Old Army Game (1926)
The Show-Off (1926)
Love 'Em and Leave 'Em (1926)
A Girl in Every Port (1928)
Beggars of Life (1928)
The Canary Murder Case (1929) [filmed as a silent, later dubbed for sound; silent versions exist]
Pandora's Box (1929)
Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)
Prix de Beauté/Miss Europe (1930) [talkie; silent versions exist]
"Some people travel through life making friends wherever they go, while others — just travel through life." ~ Go West (1925)

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Re: Silent Film 101 - Actresses

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Mary Pickford
1892 - 1979

Canadian-born Mary Pickford began her screen career at Biograph in 1909, appearing in many of the short films D.W. Griffith filmed for the company. After leaving Biograph in late 1910, she signed with IMP (Independent Motion Picture Company) and later Majestic before returning to Biograph in early 1912. In 1913, after a brief return to the stage, she signed with Famous Players Film Company, where she would make her first features. She stayed until 1918; starting in 1916, she produced films for the Artcraft division of Paramount Pictures (which began handling the distribution of her Famous Players films in 1914). Afterwards, she signed with First National and stayed for about a year. In 1919, she, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith formed United Artists; it was under this label that she would release the rest of her silent output in the 1920s. In her career, Mary - who became known for her ingénue and "little girl" roles after films such as The Poor Little Rich Girl and Pollyanna - earned nicknames such as America's Sweetheart and the Girl with the Curls. She became so associated with her trademark golden locks that when she bobbed her hair in 1928 it became national news. But Mary's spunky and independent characters were no pushovers, and off the screen she was a shrewd and savvy woman known for her business acumen.

Key films:

Biograph:
To Save Her Soul (1909)
All On Account of the Milk (1910)
Ramona (1910)
What the Daisy Said (1910)
Willful Peggy (1910)
The Italian Barber (1911)
*this last film was released after she left Biograph.

IMP:
Artful Kate (1911)
Sweet Memories (1911)

Majestic:
Little Red Riding Hood (1911)
*this is her only Majestic film known to survive. A fragment can be seen
here
.

Biograph (after returning in 1911):
The Female of the Species (1912)
Friends (1912)
The New York Hat (1912)

Famous Players:
Tess of the Storm Country (1914)
Cinderella (1914)
Fanchon the Cricket (1915)

-Famous Players films released under Artcraft-
The Poor Little Rich Girl (1917)
A Little Princess (1917)
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917)
A Little Princess (1917)
Stella Maris (1918)

First National:
Daddy-Long-Legs (1919)
Heart o' the Hills (1919)

United Artists:
Pollyanna (1920)
Suds (1920)
Through the Back Door (1921)
Little Lord Fauntleroy (1921)
Tess of the Storm Country (1922)
Rosita (1923)
Little Annie Rooney (1925)
Sparrows (1926)
My Best Girl (1927)
"Some people travel through life making friends wherever they go, while others — just travel through life." ~ Go West (1925)

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Re: Silent Film 101 - Actresses

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Clara Bow
1905 - 1965

Clara Bow got her start with a bit part, gained after winning a fan magazine acting contest at 16. She signed with Preferred Pictures in 1923, where she would spend the next couple years churning out films, often being loaned out to other studios. In late 1925, Preferred Pictures filed for bankruptcy, and its executive joined Paramount Pictures, taking Clara with. Reasonably popular before the move, her fame increased as Paramount cast her in a string of films that capitalized on her sex appeal, the most notable of these being Mantrap. In 1927, Clara was launched into super stardom with the film It; she earned the nickname of 'the It Girl' and was one of the most popular actresses on the screen. She was able to make a successful (albeit not entirely smooth) transition to talkies in 1929, though she left Paramount two years later amid highly publicized scandals. After a comeback with two films for Fox, she retired permanently in 1933.

Key Films:

Down to the Sea in Ships (1922)
Black Oxen (1923)
My Lady of Whims (1925)
The Plastic Age (1925)
Kid Boots (1926)
Dancing Mothers (1926)
Mantrap (1926)
It (1927)
Children of Divorce (1927)
Wings (1927)
Hula (1927)
Get Your Man (1927) [incomplete]
The Wild Party (1929) [talkie debut]
Call Her Savage (1932) [talkie]
"Some people travel through life making friends wherever they go, while others — just travel through life." ~ Go West (1925)

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