Divas

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1.
Alla Nazimova
Actress, Salomé
The grand, highly flamboyant Russian star Alla Nazimova of Hollywood silent films lived an equally grand, flamboyant life off-camera, though her legendary status has not held up as firmly as that of a Rudolph Valentino today. Alla Nazimova was born Miriam Edez Adelaida Leventon in 1879, in Yalta, Crimea...
 
2.
Norma Talmadge
Norma Talmadge was born on May 26, 1895, in Jersey City, New Jersey. The daughter of an unemployed alcoholic and his wife, Norma did not have the idyllic childhood that most of us yearn for. Her father left the family on Christmas Day and his wife and three daughters had to fend for themselves. Her mother...
 
3.
Geraldine Farrar
Actress, Carmen
Famed singer and author Geraldine Farrar was educated in public schools and then became a music student of Mrs. J.H. Long, Trabadello, Emma Thursby, Lilli Lehman and Graziani. Her 1901 debut was at the Royal Opera House in Berlin, in the role of Marguerite in "Faust". From 1906-22 she was a member of the Metropolitan Opera in New York...
 
6.
Francesca Bertini
Actress, 1900
Francesca Bertini was undoubtedly one of the first divas of cinema, a lady not only on screen but also in real life. She made her film debut in La dea del mare and after that producers fought for her services. In 1921 she married European nobleman and banker Alfred Cartier. She tried her hand at directing films as well as acting in them and turned out two well-received efforts...
 
7.
Asta Nielsen
Danish leading woman of German films who became one of the greatest stars of the silent era. A native of the Copenhagen suburb of Vesterbro, Nielsen was the daughter of a coppersmith and a washerwoman, both of whom died before Nielsen was fifteen. Her stage debut came as a child in the chorus of the...
 
8.
Lil Dagover
A prominent German film actress born on 30 September 1887 at Madiven, Java, the daughter of a forest ranger in the service of the Dutch authorities. Sent at the age of ten to Baden-Baden to study, she later entered the cinema thanks to her marriage in 1917 to the actor Fritz Dagover who was 25 years her senior...
 
9.
Pearl White
She met her first husband when they were touring together in the Trousdale Stock Company, a repertoire group. Her second husband was an actor and war hero. Her second husband was distraught over the dissolution of the marriage, and disappeared only weeks after the divorce. It was believed that he had committed suicide...
 
10.
Mary Pickford
Actress, Coquette
Mary Pickford was born Gladys Louise Smith in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to Elsie Charlotte (Hennessy) and John Charles Smith. She was of English and Irish descent. Pickford began in the theater at age seven. Then known as "Baby Gladys Smith", she toured with her family in a number of theater companies...
 
11.
Henny Porten
Actress, Anna Boleyn
Henny Porten was born January 7, 1890, in Magdeburg, Germany. She had one of the longest careers of any German actress and was highly sought after because of her wonderful thespian skills. Henny's career would stretch over six decades, from 1906 to 1955. Her first film was in Apachentanz, making her one of the earliest film actresses anywhere in the world...
 
12.
Mabel Normand
Mabel Normand was one of the comedy greats of early film. In an era when women are deemed 'not funny enough' it seems film history has forgotten her contributions. Her films debuted the Keystone Cops, Charlie Chaplin's tramp and the pie in the face gag. She co-starred with both Chaplin and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle in a series of shorts...
 
13.
Olive Thomas
Actress, The Flapper
Oliva R. Duffy was born on October 20, 1894, in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. Ollie, as she was known to family and friends, did not have much of a childhood. Life in industrial Pittsburgh was depressing and grim, with its smoky factories and hard living. Olive's father died while she was still young, forcing her to leave school to help earn her keep...
 
14.
Florence Lawrence
Florence Lawrence was the first film player whose name was used to promote her films and the studio (Independent Moving Pictures Company [IMP]) for which she worked. Before her, actors and actresses worked anonymously, partly out of fear that stage managers would refuse to hire them if they were found...
 
15.
Florence Turner
Actress, College
Widely publicized as "The Vitagraph Girl," dark-haired silent film actress Florence Turner was one of the screen's first celebrities to be called by the term "movie star." Born in New York City in 1885, she was pushed into the business at age 3 by an overzealous stage mother, performing on the vaudeville stage as Eugenie Florence...
 
16.
Florence Vidor
Houston-born-and-bred Florence Vidor was one of the great beauties of early Hollywood. But while her photogenic looks went a long way, audiences would not get to enjoy or really experience her voice as she abruptly left the silver screen after her first disastrous attempt at a talking picture. Born Florence Arto on July 23...
 
17.
Theda Bara
Actress, Cleopatra
Theda Bara was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, as Theodosia Goodman, on July 29, 1885. She was the daughter of a local tailor and his wife. As a teenager Theda was interested in the theatrical arts and once she finished high school, she dyed her blond hair black and went in pursuit of her dream. By 1908 she was in New York in search of roles...
 
18.
Alice Brady
Alice Brady was born in New York City on November 2, 1892. She was interested in the stage from childhood, as her father was famed Broadway producer William A. Brady. After a few stage productions, Alice was discovered by movie producers in New York, since this was the film capital at the time. Her first film was at the age of 22 when she starred in As Ye Sow...
 
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Fern Andra
Fern Andre's show-business career started as an aerialist with a troupe that toured the U.S. and Europe. In Vienna she became a student of famed director/teacher Max Reinhardt and appeared in several of his plays and films. She soon settled in Berlin, where she starred in several productions for UFA Studios...
 
23.
Miriam Cooper
Miriam Cooper was born to Julian Cooper and Margaret Stewart in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1891. The family was Roman Catholic, and the Coopers were fairly well-to-do. After the birth of five children in five years (one of whom died in infancy), Julian Cooper deserted his family and fled to Europe. Margaret Cooper raised Miriam and her siblings Nelson...
 
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Marguerite Clark
Marguerite Clark was born in Avondale, Ohio on February 22, 1883. Growing up on an Ohio farm didn't afford a lot of opportunities for a young lady. When she was still a youngster of 12, Marguerite was sent to a Catholic school in Cincinnati, Ohio to complete her education. It also gave her the chance to get off the farm and try her artistic talents...
 
29.
Pauline Curley
Actress, Love Apple
Coming from a theatrical family (her mother was an actress), Pauline Curley was an actress from the age of five, and toured the vaudeville circuit with her family. Her first known film role came in 1913, and although her movie career lasted 16 years, she never made the top, or even the middle, ranks of stardom...
 
30.
Viola Dana
Viola Dana (real name Virginia Flugrath) was born in Brooklyn, NY, on June 26, 1897. She was the middle sister of three sisters (the other two were Edna Flugrath and Shirley Mason). She made her film debut in 1914 in Molly the Drummer Boy. The following year she received top billing playing "Gladiola Bain" in Gladiola...
 
31.
Bebe Daniels
Actress, 42nd Street
Bebe Daniels already had toured as an actor by the age of four in a stage production of "Richard III". She had her first leading role at the age of seven and started her film career shortly after this in movies for Imperial, Pathe and others. At 14 she was already a film veteran, and was enlisted by Hal Roach to star as Harold Lloyd's leading lady in his "Lonesome Luke" shorts...
 
32.
Priscilla Dean
Her parents were both stage actors, so Priscilla Dean began her career as an infant in their productions. She made her film debut at age 14 in a series of one-reelers for Biograph and several other studios. In 1911 she was hired by Universal Pictures and soon gained popularity as the female lead in the comedy series of Eddie Lyons and Lee Moran...
 
33.
Clarine Seymour
Clarine Seymour born to Albert and Florence Seymour in Brooklyn, New York in 1898. Her father ran a ribbon manufacturing business, in 1917 her father became so ill that he had no choice but to close his successful business and so Clarine secured work through the Thanhouser Film Company, which was located in New Rochelle...
 
34.
Bessie Eyton
Born Bessie Harrison in Santa Barbara in 1890. Her father Edgar Thomas Harrison was a musician. Bessie starred in at least 200 melodrama, action westerns and crime films. In the 1910 she was visiting the Selig Film studios with a party of friends, when a director saw and liked her red hair because he said it would photograph a beautiful black...
 
35.
Louise Fazenda
When top silent screen comedienne Mabel Normand would gripe to Mack Sennett about making classier films, Sennett's retort would always be, "I'll send for Fazenda." This gawky, highly popular slapstick funny girl put in her time first in two-reelers and Universal's Joker Comedies from 1913 on, but unleashed her real gift for getting laughs when she joined Keystone Studios...
 
36.
Pauline Frederick
Pauline Frederick was born Pauline Beatrice Libby in Boston, Massachusetts on August 12, 1883. She was fascinated with show business from an early age and throughout her childhood, she was bred for a career in music. It has been said she had a terrific soprano voice, but Pauline also dabbled a bit in acting...
 
37.
Jetta Goudal
Although Dutch-born silent screen femme fatale Jetta Goudal (pronounced Zhett-eh Goo-doll) may be pretty much forgotten today, she was, in her glorious Hollywood heyday, a star rivaling that of Gloria Swanson and fellow vamps Barbara La Marr and Nita Naldi. The daughter of a Jewish orthodox diamond cutter in Amsterdam...
 
38.
Kathleen Kirkham
Starting her career in stock in Wisconsin, Kirkham trained in dramatic schools before acting on the screen. Kirkham often played the vamp in films and also played mother roles to women who were older than she was. She played several roles as the "woman you loved to hate," roles she could never overcome...
 
40.
Phyllis Haver
Actress, Chicago
Phyllis Haver was born Phyllis O'Haver on January 6, 1899, in Douglas, KS. 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 hired her to be one of his "Sennett Bathing Beauties". Between 1916-20 she appeared in more than 35 short films...
 
41.
Helen Holmes
Though the circumstances of Helen Holmes' birth are somewhat hazy (sources place it in either Chicago or Louisville, KY, in mid-June or early July of 1893), what isn't hazy is that she was, with Pearl White, the queen of the railroad serials of the mid-teens and early '20s. Holmes always played a strong-willed...
 
42.
Juanita Hansen
Juanita Hansen's career goes back to at least 1915, and she worked for D.W. Griffith before becoming one of Mack Sennett's "Bathing Beauties." Sennett was so struck by her beauty that he often featured her over the other girls, which caused some friction among them. That could well be the reason she left Sennett in 1918 for Universal...
 
43.
Leatrice Joy
Making her film debut as an extra in 1917, Leatrice Joy soon graduated to playing opposite comics Billy West and Oliver Hardy. Director Cecil B. DeMille took her under his wing and starred her in several of his films. Often playing career girls dressed in mannish suits, or sophisticated society girls...
 
45.
Ann Little
Unlike many serial heroines, Ann Little actually was a daughter of the West. Born in a small town near the foot of northern California's Mt. Shasta, she was raised on a ranch in the shadow of the great mountain. After graduating high school, she joined a traveling stock company, winding up in a play in San Francisco...
 
46.
Molly Malone
Actress, The Garage
Molly Malone was an actress who began during the early days of silent film. She was born in Wisconsin. She didn't get her first role in motion pictures until 1917, in The Pulse of Life, making her a late bloomer in the film industry. By then she was 29, several years older than most actresses just starting out...
 
48.
Dorothy Phillips
A former stage actress, Dorothy Phillips was married to actor/director/producer Allen Holubar. They were known as two of the screen's most prominent players--her the star, he the director/producer. Dorothy was well known in Hollywood as one of the most warm-hearted, approachable stars in the business...
 
49.
Edna Purviance
Actress, The Kid
Edna Purviance began working as a stenographer in San Francisco. Charles Chaplin invited her to join him at Essanay Studio in 1915, the year of her film debut in Chaplin's His Night Out. Over the next seven years she appeared as his leading lady in over 20 Chaplin films made by Essanay, Mutual, and First National...
 
50.
Mary Miles Minter
Mary Miles Minter was born on April's Fool Day in 1902, as Juliet Reilly, in Shreveport, Louisiana. Because her mother couldn't make it in show business, she began to live her dream through her daughter. By the time Mary was five years old, she had already appeared in a stage play. From that time forward...
 
52.
Alice Joyce
Alice Joyce, the film actress whose career stretched from the nickelodeon days into the sound era, was a natural actress, a true original. In an era that rewarded the unnatural in performance, Alice Joyce, with her understated performances, proved to be quite unlike most other silent-screen divas. She was born in Kansas City...
 
53.
Billie Burke
Billie Burke was born Mary William Ethelbert Appleton Burke on August 7, 1885 in Washington, D.C. Her father was the internationally famous clown, Billy Burke, and she would spend most of her early years touring Europe before the family settled in London. In 1903, she appeared on the stage as an actress and came to America in 1907 to star opposite John Drew in "My Wife"...
 
54.
Evelyn Nesbit
Ms. Nesbit, artists' model and chorus girl, was at the heart of what at the time was known as the Crime of the Century. Her abusive husband, Pittsburgh million-heir Harry Thaw, murdered 52-year old architect and socialite Stanford White (of the firm McKim, Mead, and White), who had taken advantage of...
 
55.
Mary Alden
A graduate of New York's Art Students League, Mary Alden appeared in Broadway plays and other legitimate theater for several years before entering films. Probably her most memorable part was as Lydia Brown, the mulatto housekeeper of the villain Stoneman, in D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation.
 
56.
Viola Allen
Viola Allen was born 1869 in Alabama and educated in Boston, Toronto and New York. She made her stage debut on July 4th, 1882. Since then she starred in many other stage plays. At the beginning of the 20th century she could also be seen in a lot of Shakespeare revivals. Viola Allen passed away 1948 in New York.
 
57.
May Allison
Born in Rising Fawn, GA (youngest of 5 children) Parents: Dr. John S. Allison and Nannie Virginia Wise Sisters: Maude, Verda, Zetta Brother: Herschel Mother Lived with her in California until her death. After Quirk's death, she met C. N. Osborne in NYC, they were married for over 40 years until his death in '82 and lived in Cleveland Ohio...
 
58.
Mary Anderson
Mary Anderson was born in Brooklyn, New York on June 28, 1897. She broke into films with C.O.D. in 1914 when she was just 17 years old. Unfortunately, she didn't get the roles she wanted as the competition for the parts were extremely fierce. Mary's career lasted until 1923, when she made her last appearance in Shell Shocked Sammy...
 
59.
Mignon Anderson
Mignon Anderson was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1892. Her father was a former vaudeville performer and opera singer who left the stage to go into the insurance business. Her mother, Hallie Howard, was also a former vaudeville performer. Mignon got her show-business start at a very early age--at six months old she appeared in a stage production as the infant daughter of the leading lady...
 
61.
Leah Baird
Leah Baird first made a name for herself in summer stock and traveling stock companies. After playing several leads in the William F. Brady troupe opposite Douglas Fairbanks Vitagraph signed her to a contract. Her peak years in film were from 1916-1918 at which time she was a very popular player. However...
 
62.
Mabel Ballin
Mabel Ballin entered the film business in 1917 when Hugo Ballin, her husband, was having little success with his painting career. She played quite a few leading roles at the World Film Co. and was a well-known and popular actress at the time. However, after World War I her career momentum slowed down, and she retired from the film business in 1925.
 
63.
Madge Kennedy
In 1906, Madge went to New York City to study at the Art Students League where she hoped to become an illustrator. This lasted until she appeared in a student musical, which led to a full time job in a traveling stock company. By 1912, Madge was a Broadway Star with the bedroom farce "Little Miss Brown"...
 
66.
Ouida Bergère
Diminutive red-headed actress, playwright and screenwriter. Her marriage to star actor Basil Rathbone was one of the most enduring in show business, lasting from 1926 until his death in 1967. The Rathbones were legendary in the 1930's for giving the most lavish Hollywood parties at their luxurious mansion in the Los Feliz Hills...
 
68.
Doris Kenyon
The daughter of a poet, Doris Kenyon made her stage and screen debuts in 1915. She was often cast as a pleasant heroine in many silent films. She co-starred with popular silent-era actors like Rudolph Valentino and her future husband Milton Sills. Due to her stage experience she made a smooth transition to sound films. She could still be seen on television in the mid-'60s.
 
70.
Sylvia Breamer
Sylvia Breamer was one of a flock of Australians who came to Hollywood in the early silent era. She had been a stage actress in her native Sydney for several years, and had played in several Australian productions of American stage plays, which met with great success. Hoping to capitalize on that success...
 
71.
Gladys Brockwell
Actress, 7th Heaven
The daughter of actress Billie Brockwell, Brockwell first appeared on the stage at the age of three. She made her screen debut in Philadelphia for the Lubin Company in 1913, later working with D.W. Griffith. Joining Fox Studios, Brockwell was one of the busiest actresses in town and easily made the transition to sound films...
 
73.
Edith Johnson
Edith Johnson's combination of luck and beauty ensured her a Hollywood career. The luck occurred because of her growing up in Rochester, New York, the home of the Eastman Kodak Co. Her beauty resulted in her being appointed by Kodak as "The Kodak Girl," with her face appearing in virtually all of the newspapers and magazines of the day in Kodak advertisements...
 
74.
Jane Novak
A soulful, fragile-looking blonde beauty, silent screen star Jane Novak was born in St. Louis, Missouri on January 12, 1896, and supposedly began her film career at age 17 when a director took to a photo of the young girl on the makeup table of her own aunt, the film star Anne Schaefer. From 1913 Jane appeared in a host of short films from the Vitagraph Company...
 
76.
June Caprice
Actress, Unknown 274
June Caprice was a character actress in the silent film era. She broke into film with Fox Film Corporation, where she was directed by Harry F. Millarde in eight productions. The two began a personal relationship, married, and had a daughter, June Millarde. During the 1920s she appeared on calendars for the Coca-Cola company...
 
77.
Zena Keefe
Actress, Shame
Zena Keefe was born in San Francisco, California, on June 26, 1896. The actress who was to make a total of 28 films started her career at the age of 16 when she played a bit part in The Hieroglyphic. After The Gamblers later that year, four years elapsed before she would appear onscreen again, in The Rail Rider...
 
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Ruth Chatterton
Actress, Dodsworth
Ruth Chatterton was born in New York City on Christmas Eve, 1893. Aspiring to be an actress early during her girlhood, she was active in various school productions. The result of her amateur stage plays left no doubt in her mind that acting was to be a way of life for her. While on a school vacation in Washington...
 
82.
Mia May
Mia May was a minor film actress in Germany who was born in 1884 with the birth name of Maria Pfleger. Her film career didn't start until she was 34 years old when she appeared in the production of HILDE WARREN UND DER TOD in 1917.
 
84.
Ethel Clayton
Silent-screen actress Ethel Clayton was a convent-educated girl from Champaign, IL, who sought work as a stage actress after finishing her education. She secured small parts here and there, but hit the big time when she went to work for the Frawley Organization, which had several touring stock companies...
 
86.
Ruth Clifford
Actress, Wagon Master
American actress, originally of leading roles, whose career lasted from silent days into the television era. A native of Rhode Island, she attended St. Mary's Seminary in Narragansett, Rhode Island, then, following her mother's death in 1911, came to Los Angeles as a teenager to live with her actress aunt...
 
87.
Marguerite Courtot
Little-known today but regarded in her time as one of the screen's great beauties, New Jersey-born Marguerite Courtot was sent in 1909, at age 12, to be educated in a European convent. By the time she returned to the US she had blossomed into such a beauty that she soon had a career as a top photographer's model; it didn't take long for offers from the film industry (much of which...
 
90.
Grace Cunard
A stage actress from her early teens, Grace Cunard made her Hollywood debut in 1910. She soon partnered with actor/director Francis Ford at Univeral, where they began turning out serials. The films' success led to Cunard's nickname of "The Serial Queen," and by 1916 she and Ford were ranked among the most popular stars in Hollywood...
 
91.
Grace Darmond
Canadian-born Grace Darmond first caught the acting bug while appearing in a school play, and as luck would have it was spotted there by the owner of the Selig Film Co., who put her under contract. She appeared in her first film in 1913 at 16 years of age, and by her 20th birthday was a star at Vitagraph...
 
92.
Vola Vale
Considered in her day to be one of the screen's great beauties, Vola Vale was born born Violet Smith in Buffalo, New York, and grew up in Rochester. As a youngster she appeared in amateur stage productions in Rochester, and at age 15 made her film debut under her real name (she didn't use Vola Vale until 1916)...
 
93.
Helen Gibson
Actress, The Wolverine
Helen Gibson was one of the earliest serial stars. In 1915 she took over the title role in The Hazards of Helen from Helen Holmes. Known for her athletic abilities and willingness to do dangerous but exciting stunts, she made the transition from serials to features easily. She was the second wife of cowboy star Hoot Gibson...
 
94.
Dorothy Davenport
The Davenport family was well known in theatrical circles. Her aunt, Fanny Davenport was considered one of the greatest stage actresses of her time and her father, Harry Davenport, was a Broadway star before later venturing into movies. Her mother, Alice Davenport, was a respected Broadway and film actress...
 
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Elsie Ferguson
Actress, Scarlet Pages
The great Broadway stage actress and silent film star Elsie Louise Ferguson was born on August 19, 1883 in New York City, the only child of prominent lawyer Hiram Benson Ferguson and his wife. Due to her father's wealth, hers was a privileged childhood, though she developed a penchant for socialism in her late thirties...
 
100.
Raquel Meller
Actress, Carmen
Raquel Meller was born in Tarazona,Zaragoza, Aragón (Spain) from a very poor family. Since her parents could not afford her education she was sent to live with an aunt who was a nun at a convent. At age 12 she came back to her parents who were then residing in Barcelona and shortly after began working as a seamstress in a shop that catered to show business personalities...