Silent Stars

Best known silent stars. Some continued into the talkie era, while others disappeared due to heavy accents, language barriers, and change in tastes of the audience.
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Gilbert M. 'Broncho Billy' Anderson
American actor-director-writer-producer Gilbert M. Anderson, father of the movie cowboy and the first Western star, was born Maxwell Henry Aronson in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. His parents, Esther (Ash) and Henry Aronson, were from New York. His father was from a German Jewish family, and his mother was the daughter of Russian Jewish parents...
“ Outlaw in "Great Train Robbery" 1903. Co-founder of Essany Film Company. ” - timpulley
Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle
Roscoe Arbuckle, one of nine children, was the baby of the family who weighed a reported 16 pounds at birth. Born in Smith Center, Kansas, on March 24, 1887, his family moved to California when he was a year old. At age eight he appeared on the stage. His first part was with the Webster-Brown Stock Company...
“ Gifted comic teamed often with Mabel Normand. Both suffered scandals which cost them their careers. ” - timpulley
Theda Bara
Actress, Cleopatra
According to the studio biography Theda Bara (anagram of "Arab Death") was born in the Sahara to a French artiste and his Egyptian concubine and possessed supernatural powers. In fact, her father was a Cincinnati tailor. By 1908 she appeared in Broadway's "The Devil" named Theodosia de Coppett...
“ Name was anagram for Arab Death. Actually named Theodosia Goodman from Cincinnati, OH. Known as a Vamp, or female vampire. ” - timpulley
Lionel Barrymore
Famed actor, composer, artist, author and director. His talents extended to the authoring of the novel "Mr. Cartonwine: A Moral Tale" as well as his autobiography. In 1944, he joined ASCAP, and composed "Russian Dances", "Partita", "Ballet Viennois", "The Woodman and the Elves", "Behind the Horizon"...
“ Oldest of the Barrymore family, oscar winner, MGM character actor up until his death in 1954. ” - timpulley
Ethel Barrymore
Ethel Barrymore was the second of three children seemingly destined for the actor's life of their parents Maurice and Georgiana. Maurice Barrymore had emigrated from England in 1875, and after graduating from Cambridge in law had shocked his family by becoming an actor. Georgiana Drew of Philadelphia acted in her parents' stage company...
“ First Lady of the American Stage and oscar winner. Real nameEthel Mae Blythe. Continued in film and TV up to her death in 1959. ” - timpulley
John Barrymore
American stage and screen actor whose rise to superstardom and subsequent decline is one of the legendary tragedies of Hollywood. A member of the most famous generation of the most famous theatrical family in America, he was also its most acclaimed star. His father was Maurice Blyth (or Blythe; family spellings vary)...
“ The Great Profile, youngest of the Barrymores. Starred with famous siblings in "Rasputin & The Empress." Grandfather of Drew Barrymore. ” - timpulley
Richard Barthelmess
Richard Barthelmess was born into a theatrical family in which his mother was an actress. While attending Trinity College in Connecticut, he began appearing in stage productions. While on vacation in 1916, a friend of his mother, actress Alla Nazimova, offered him a part in War Brides, and Richard never returned to college...
“ Known for rescuing Lillian Gish from the ice floe in Way Down East. Also starred in Broken Blossoms, Tol'able David. Nominated for Oscar in 1929 and conquered talkies with Dawn Patrol. Retired in 1942. ” - timpulley
“ Essanay Company star often teamed with Francis X Bushman and became known as King and Queen of Hollywood. Later the copule married, later to divorce. She preferred the stage and never showed off her singing voice on film. ” - timpulley
Billy Bevan
Billy Bevan's show-business career began in his native Australia, with the Pollard theatrical organization. The company had two theater troupes, one which toured Asia and the other traveling to North America. Bevan wound up in the latter, performing in skits and plays all over Canada and Alaska then down into the continental US...
“ Mustached comedian from Australia. Filmed two-reelers with Del Lord. Copied in talkies by several comic acts. Worked with Mack Sennett. Continued into talkies in The Invisible Man, worked into the 1940s. ” - timpulley
Clara Bow
Actress, Wings
Later to become the personification of the flaming Roaring Twenties, Clara Bow was born and brought up in near poverty in Brooklyn, New York. She won a photo beauty contest which started a movie career of some 56 feature films. Best known as the uninhibited flapper, she reached the top as the "It Girl" in 1927...
“ The "It" Girl, won a prize in a magazine that brought her to Hollywood. Poster girl of the Roaring Twenties and a very good actress. Starred in "Wings," the very first Best Picture Oscar winner. After making a few talkies, brought down by changing tastes and by scandal not of her making. Married Western Star Rex Bell, who became Lieutenant Governor of Nevada. ” - timpulley
Betty Bronson
Betty Bronson's discovery reads like a Hollywood dream. As a New Jersey teenage bit-player, she was rocketed from obscurity when she was chosen to play the part of Peter Pan in 1924's Peter Pan. She was hand-selected by author J.M. Barrie and beat several Hollywood superstars to the part, most notably Gloria Swanson and Mary Pickford...
“ Chosen by author Sir James M. Barrie personally to star as "Peter Pan" in the first film adaptation of his story. Also appeared as the Virgin Mary in the original "Ben-Hur." First talkie was "The Singing Fool" with Al Jolson. Married in 1932 and retired. ” - timpulley
Louise Brooks
Actress, Pandora's Box
Louise Brooks was one of the most fascinating personalities of Hollywood, always being compared with her most important characterization as protagonist: Lulu in Georg Wilhelm Pabst's Pandora's Box. Along with her beauty and talent she had an independent streak and refused to accept the restrictive role that women had in American society...
“ Icon of the silent screen known for her Dutch bob hair style.Married direcvtor A. Edward Sutherland. Star of Paramount Pictures and known for her brutal honesty on the lot.Starred in Pabst's "Pandora's Box," and the scandalous and censored "Diary of a Lost Girl." After a time in Europe, returned to Hollywood and co-starred in B pictures, including one with John Wayne. Retired in 1940 and worked in New York in an escort service briefly. Wrote book of film critiques, "Lulu in Hollywood" in 1982. ” - timpulley
John Bunny
When John Bunny died the New York Times stated, "The name John Bunny will always be linked to the movies." Little did movie fans of 1915 realize that he would be completely forgotten the next year and completely omitted from many books on silent movies 70-80 years later. Bunny was the ninth in a line of English sea captains and would be the first not to follow in that profession...
“ Very first American comedy film star. Worked for Vitagraph in 1910. Started in films in his 40s and did 160 short films in his career. Also did dramas, like "Vanity Fare," and "Pickwick Papers." He became a star and was the first to be treated as such, refusing to help stage hands move props and scenery. Co-starred with Flora Finch. Died in 1915. ” - timpulley
“ Matinee idol. Signed in 1911 to Essanay Pictures. Performed in romantic roles and known for his physique. Starred in Mayer's first hit, "The Great Secret." Thought single by his adoring fans, his wife of 16 years filed for divorce. The father of 5 then quickly remarried, causing his fans to leave in droves but returned to superstar stature with the film "Ben-Hur." Went bankrupt in 1929 stock market crash and then turned to radio, appearing in over 5000 broadcasts. Contiued in films until his death in 1966. ” - timpulley
Lon Chaney
Although his parents were deaf-mutes, Leonidas Chaney became an actor and also owner of a theatre company (together with his brother John). He made his debut at the movies in 1912, and his filmography is vast. Lon Chaney was especially famous for his horror parts in movies like e.g. Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame...
“ Man of a Thousand Faces. Son of deaf parents, known for completely losing himself in his roles, including films like "Phantom of the Opera," "Hunchbank of Notre Dame," "Tell It to the Marines," and "unholy Three." Known for his grotesque makeup. Father of Lon Chaney, Jr., star of "The Wolf Man" in the 1940s. Chaney made one talkie before his death in 1930 from lung cancer, which cost him his voice. ” - timpulley
Sydney Chaplin
Actor, Limelight
In choosing a professional acting career for himself, bon vivant Sydney Chaplin had to deal with the powerful and pervasive shadow of his famous father, the legendary Charles Chaplin, hovering over him every step of the way. While his older brother, actor Charles Chaplin Jr., buckled under the pressure and died of an alcohol-related illness at age 43...
“ At age 10 placed in a workhouse in England after his father died, a year later joined by younger brother Charlie. One of the most underrated comic actors. Acted as brother Charlie's manager. Starred in "Charley's Aunt" in 1925 and "The Better 'ole" in 1926 with Warner Brothers. Retired in 1928. ” - timpulley
Charles Chaplin
Writer, Modern Times
Considered to be one of the most pivotal stars of the early days of Hollywood, Charlie Chaplin lived an interesting life both in his films and behind the camera. He is most recognized as an icon of the silent film era, often associated with his popular character, the Little Tramp; the man with the toothbrush mustache, bowler hat, bamboo cane, and a funny walk...
“ "The Little Tramp." Joined the Keystone Company in 1914. Joined D. W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford to form United Artists Pictures. Classic films include "Gold Rush," "Modern Times," " City Lights," and "The Great Dictator." He was slow to come to talkies, making silent movies into the 1930s. Married to daughter of Eugene O'Neill. Also for a time married to film star Paulette Goddard. ” - timpulley
Charley Chase
While Charley Chase is far from being as famous as "The Big Three" (Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd) today, he's highly respected as one of the "greats" by fans of silent comedy. Chase (real name Charles Parrott) was born in Maryland, USA, in 1893. After a brief career in vaudeville...
“ Great comic, starated career in 1912 with Christie and Keystone studios. 1921 signed with Hal Roach, where he found great success as director and comedian. Worked frequently with director Leo McCarey. Co-starred with Laurel & Hardy in "Sons of the Desert," but known mostly for his hilarious two-reelers. Moved to Columbia Pictures with The Three Stooges, Buster Keaton, Del Lord, and other great comic stars. He became an alcoholic and died at age 46 in 1940 of a heart attack. ” - timpulley
Andy Clyde
Andy Clyde's more than 40-year film career started on the vaudeville stages and music halls in his native Scotland in the 1920s. He made his way to Hollywood and began as an extra in Mack Sennett comedies, but he was soon moved up to featured player, usually the sidekick or second banana to the lead...
“ Signed in 1921 to Mack Sennett. Seasoned vaudevillian and could play any role, best known and the whiskered old man. Did 142 two-reelers for Columbia Pictures and called his character by his own name. Later co-starred on "The Real McCoys" on TV with Walter Brennan. ” - timpulley
Chester Conklin
Iowa-born Chester Conklin was raised in a coal-mining area by a devoutly religious father who hoped that his son would go into the ministry. However, Chester got the performing bug one day when he gave a recitation at a community singing festival and won first prize. Knowing his father would never approve of his desire to become a comedian...
“ Signing with Keystone Studios in 1913, he had worked in vaudeville and even in the circus.Known for his Walrus style mustache. Left Keystone for Fox. Appeared in the drama "Greed," and in comedy "Modern Times" with Chaplin, as well as "The Great Dictator. Moved to the Motion Picture Country House in 1965 and died in 1971. ” - timpulley
Jackie Coogan
Actor, The Kid
Jackie Coogan was born into a family of vaudevillians where his father was a dancer and his mother had been a child star. On the stage by four, Jackie was touring at the age of five with his family in Los Angeles, California. While performing on the stage, he was spotted by Charles Chaplin, who then and there planned a movie in which he and Jackie would star...
“ Best known to more modern audiences as Uncle Fester of TV's "Addams Family" fame, Jackie started out as a child star, vaudeville by age 4 and the best known child star in the world by age 7. Began work with Charlie Chaplin 1919 at age 5. Superstar due to the hit "The Kid" in 1921 with Chaplin. Starred in "Oliver Twist" "Peck's Bad Boy," and many others.#1 Box Office star of 1924. In 1935 he leared that all of the $4 million he earned as a child star was all gone. The lawsuit against his mother and stepfather led to the passage of the Child Actor's Bill, known as the Coogan Law. Personal life including several marriages, including Betty Grable. He reunited with Chaplin in 1972 at an award ceremony. ” - timpulley
Joan Crawford
Joan Crawford was born Lucille Fay LeSueur on March 23, 1905, in San Antonio, Texas, to Anna Belle (Johnson) and Thomas E. LeSueur, a laundry laborer. By the time she was born, her parents had separated, and by the time she was a teenager, she'd had three stepfathers. It wasn't an easy life; Crawford worked a variety of menial jobs...
“ Wide-eyed ingenue in silent films. Dancer in her teens. Signed with MGM in 1925. Renamed Joan Crawford. Starred with Jackie Coogan and Harry Langdon at the start and chosen one of the WAMPAS babies that year.Co-Starred with Lon Chaney in "The Unknown." The Jazz Age film, "Our Dancing Daughters" made her a star in 1928. Rivaled Clara Bow in popularity. Married Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. at Pickfair. Career skyrocketed with sound. Won Oscar for "Mildred Pierce." ” - timpulley
Donald Crisp
Donald Crisp was born George William Crisp at the family home in Bow, London. Donald's parents were James Crisp and Elizabeth Crisp, his birth was registered by his mother on 4th September 1882. Donald's sisters were Elizabeth, Ann, Alice (known as Louisa) and Eliza and his brothers were James, John and Mark...
“ Joined Biograph Pictures in 1908. Starred as US Grant in "Birth of a Nation" with DW Griffith; the villain in 1919's "Broken Blossoms." Acted and directed in 1920s. Exclusive to acting by 1930. Appeared in "Mutiny on the Bounty," "Wuthering Heights," "Valley of Decision," "Lassie Come Home," "National Velvet," and the all-time classic "How Green Was My Valley." Moved to the Motion Picture Country Home and died in 1974. ” - timpulley
Karl Dane
Born Rasmus Karl Therkelsen Gottlieb in Copenhagen, Denmark, on October 12, 1886 the future Karl Dane had a rough childhood. His father was an alcoholic and spendthrift. At a young age his parents divorced. To escape his unhappy home he took a great interest in the arts, particularly puppeteering (something popular in Denmark at the time). Dane apprenticed as a machinist during his teenage years...
“ Danish actor came to US in 1916. With MGM in 1925 starring in blockbuster hit "The Big Parade." and in "Scarlet Letter" with Lillian Gish and "Son of the Shiek" with Valentino in 1926. His thick accent stopped his career with talkies. Committed suicide in 1934. ” - timpulley
Marion Davies
Actress, Show People
Marion Davies, born Marion Cecilea Douras on January 3, 1897, was one of the great comedic actresses of the silent era and into the 30's. She began as a chorus girl in New York, first in the pony follies and later in the Ziegfield Follies. Her stage name came when she and her family passed the Davies Insurance Building...
“ Known as mistress to William Randolph Hurst,(a 34 year age difference), she was an excellent comedienne in pictures. The screen's first screwball comedienne. While still in demand, she retired from Hollywood in 1937, turning down George Bernard Shaw's request that she appear in his "Pygmalion." ” - timpulley
“ DW Griffith protege after Lillian Gish. Starred in "Sally of the Sawdust." First appeared in movies in 1916 in a scene in "Intolerance." Married well and retired early. ” - timpulley
Marie Dressler
Once you saw her, you would not forget her. Despite her age and weight, she became one of the top box office draws of the sound era. She was 14 when she joined a theater group and she went on to work on stage and in light opera. By 1892, she was on Broadway and she later became a star comedienne on the vaudeville circuit...
“ Met Mack Sennett in 1902 when he was an aspiring singer. He was to cast her in "Tillie's Punctured Romance" in 1914, which she had starred in on Broadway. it also starred Mabel Normand and Charlie Chaplin. Continued to star in classic comedies throughout the silent era. Her star had dimmed in 1927 and she comtemplated suicide, but by 1930 she was in the talkie "Anna Christie" with Garbo. Dressler won the Oscar in 1930 for "Min & Bill." She remained extremely popular up to the time of her death by cancer in 1934. ” - timpulley
Douglas Fairbanks
Douglas Fairbanks was born Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman in Denver, Colorado, to Ella Adelaide (Marsh) and Hezekiah Charles Ullman, an attorney. His paternal grandparents were German Jewish immigrants, while his mother was from an Anglo family from the South. He was raised by his mother, who had separated from his father when he was five...
“ Lured th Hollywood from the Broadway stage by the Triangle Company in 1915. Known for his acrobatic and swashbuckler action films. During a WWI War Bond drive he met and fell in love with Mary Pickford. Co-founder with DW Griffith, Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford of United Artists Pictures. First president of the Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Star of "Mark of Zorro," "Three Musketeers," "Robin Hood," "Thief of Bagdad," "The Black Pirate," and "The Iron Mask." Made a few talkies and divorced Pickford in 1936. Died 1939 of a heart attack at age 56. ” - timpulley
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...
W.C. Fields
William Claude Dukenfield was the eldest of five children born to Cockney immigrant James Dukenfield and Philadelphia native Kate Felton. He went to school for four years, then quit to work with his father selling vegetables from a horse cart. At eleven, after many fights with his alcoholic father (who hit him on the head with a shovel)...
Greta Garbo
Actress, Ninotchka
Greta Garbo was born Greta Lovisa Gustafsson on September 18, 1905, in Stockholm, Sweden, to Anna Lovisa (Johansdotter), who worked at a jam factory, and Karl Alfred Gustafsson, a laborer. She was fourteen when her father died, which left the family destitute. Greta was forced to leave school and go to work in a department store...
John Gilbert
John Gilbert was born into a show-business family - his father was a comic with the Pringle Stock Company. By 1915 John was an extra with Thomas H. Ince's company and a lead player by 1917. In those days he was assistant director, actor or screenwriter. He also tried his hand at directing. By 1919 he was being noticed in films and getting better roles...
Dorothy Gish
Dorothy Gish was born into a broken family where her restless father James Lee Gish was frequently absent. Mary Robinson McConnell a.k.a. Mary Gish, her mother, had entered into acting to make money to support the family. As soon as Dorothy and her sister Lillian Gish were old enough, they became part of the act...
Lillian Gish
Lillian Diana Gish was born on October 14, 1893 in Springfield, Ohio. Her father James Lee Gish was an alcoholic who caroused around, was rarely at home and left the family to more or less to fend for themselves. To help make ends meet, Lillian, her sister Dorothy Gish and their mother Mary Gish a.k.a...
William Haines
Born in Staunton, Virginia, William Haines ran off to live life on his own terms while still in his teens, moving to New York City and becoming friends with such later Hollywood luminaries as designer Orry-Kelly and Cary Grant. His film career started slowly, but by the end of the silent era he was regularly named as the #1 male box-office draw...
Neil Hamilton
Actor, Batman
Neil Hamilton's show business career began when he secured a job as a shirt model in magazine ads. He became interested in acting and joined several stock companies. He got his first film role in 1918, but received his big break from D.W. Griffith in The White Rose. After performing in several more Griffith films...
Oliver Hardy
Although his parents were never in show business, as a young boy Oliver Hardy was a gifted singer and, by age eight, was performing with minstrel shows. In 1910 he ran a movie theatre, which he preferred to studying law. In 1913 he became a comedy actor with the Lubin Company in Florida and began appearing in a long series of shorts; his debut film was Outwitting Dad...
William S. Hart
A storybook hero, the original screen cowboy, ever forthright and honest, even when (as was often the case) he played a villain, William S. Hart lived for a while in the Dakota Territory, then worked as a postal clerk in New York City. In 1888 he began to study acting. In 1899 he created the role of Messala in "Ben-Hur"...
Jean Hersholt
Actor, Heidi
If ever there was a Great Dane in Hollywood it was Jean Hersholt - and one of its great hearts as well. He was from a well-known Danish stage and entertainment family that had toured throughout Europe performing with young Jean as an essential cast member. He graduated from the Copenhagen Art School...
Harry Houdini
The great American escape artist and magician Houdini (immortalized by a memorable performance by Tony Curtis in the eponymous 1953 film) was born Erich Weiss on March 24, 1874 in Budapest, Hungary, though he often gave his birthplace as Appleton, Wisconsin, where he was raised. One of five brothers and one daughter born to rabbi Samuel Weiss and his wife Cecilia...
Buster Keaton
Joseph Frank Keaton was born on October 4, 1895 in Piqua, Kansas, to Joe Keaton and Myra Keaton. Joe and Myra were Vaudevillian comedians with a popular, ever-changing variety act, giving Keaton an eclectic and interesting upbringing. In the earliest days on stage, they traveled with a medicine show that included family friend...
Harry Langdon
Langdon was 12 years old when he ran away to join the circus. Soon he was involved in medicine shows, circuses and Vaudeville where he spent the next 20 years developing an act called "Harry's New Car". With Vaudeville, he would play and perfect the act in town after tank town, year after year. By 1923...
Stan Laurel
Stan Laurel came from a theatrical family, his father was an actor and theatre manager, and he made his stage debut at the age of 16 at Pickard's Museum, Glasgow. He traveled with Fred Karno's vaudeville company to the United States in 1910 and again in 1913. While with that company he was Charles Chaplin's understudy...
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...
Harold Lloyd
Born in Buchard, Nebraska, USA to Elizabeth Fraser and 'J. Darcie 'Foxy' Lloyd' who fought constantly and soon divorced (at the time a rare event), Harold Clayton Lloyd was nominally educated in Denver and San Diego high schools and received his stage training at the School of Dramatic Art (San Diego)...
Marion Mack
Actress, The General
Many recognise Marion Mack as the beautiful but brainless heroine Annabelle Lee, of Buster Keaton's classic 'The General'. However, few realise that Marion was also a talented screenwriter who, with her husband, formed a successful production team. Born Joey Marion McReery, she began her career as a Mack Sennet Bathing Girl...
Antonio Moreno
A serious rival to Rudolph Valentino as the smouldering 'Latin Lover' type was black-haired Spanish-born Antonio Moreno. One of the most prominent screen stars of the 1920's, he was equally adept at romance, melodrama or comedy and appeared opposite most of the legendary movie queens of the era, from the Gish sisters to Greta Garbo, to Gloria Swanson and Mary Pickford...
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...
Ramon Novarro
Ramon Novarro was born José Ramón Gil Samaniego on February 6, 1899 in Durango, Mexico, to Leonor (Gavilan) and Dr. Mariano N. Samaniego Siqueiros, a prosperous dentist. Ramon and his family moved to Los Angeles in 1913, as refugees from the Mexican Revolution. After stints as a ballet dancer, piano teacher and singing waiter...
Olga Petrova
British born Olga Petrova was born Muriel Harding on 10th May 1884 in England. She first made her film debut in Russia playing the role of Sofja Andreevna in Yakov Protazanov's 'Departure of a Grand Old Man' in 1912, she arrived in America around 1913 to appear on vaudeville and in the dramatic Broadway theatres...
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...
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...
Jobyna Ralston
Actress, Wings
Curly-locked, cherubic knockabout comedienne of the silent cinema. Her mother, portrait photographer Mrs. Kemp Raulston, named her after her favorite actress, Jobyna Howland. She harbored ambitions for her daughter to achieve similar fame and trained her to that end. After a failed teenage marriage to a local farmer...
Wallace Reid
The son of writer-theater producer-director-actor Hal Reid, Wallace was on stage by the age of four in the act with his parents. He spent most of his early years, not on the stage, but in private schools where he excelled in music and athletics. In 1910, his father went to the Chicago studio of "Selig Polyscope Company" and Wallace decided that he wanted to be a cameraman...
Rin Tin Tin
The first 'Rin Tin Tin', who along with his heirs starred in numerous films and television series, was discovered during World War I, September 15, 1918, by US Air Corporal Lee Duncan and his battalion in Lorraine, France. At a bombed out dog kennel, Duncan found a mother Shepherd Dog and her scrawny litter of five pups...
Will Rogers
World-famous, widely popular American humorist of the vaudeville stage and of silent and sound films, Will Rogers graduated from military school, but his first real job was in the livestock business in Argentina, of all places. He transported pack animals across the South Atlantic from Buenos Aires to South Africa for use in the Boer War (1899-1902)...
Larry Semon
Slapstick comedian known for his charming, white-painted face and clownish smile, mugged his way to being a very highly paid and popular actor. His career was marred by personal problems, and his fortune was lost to high spending. By the time he died, he'd already been hospitalized for a nervous breakdown and was penniless. He was 39 years old.
Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett was born Michael Sinnott on January 17, 1880 in Danville, Quebec, Canada, to Irish immigrant farmers. When he was 17, his parents moved the family to East Berlin, Connecticut, and he became a laborer at American Iron Works, a job he continued when they moved to Northampton, Massachusetts...
Norma Shearer
Actress, The Women
She won a beauty contest at age fourteen. In 1920 her mother, Edith Shearer, took Norma and her sister Athole Shearer (Mrs. Howard Hawks) to New York. Ziegfeld rejected her for his "Follies," but she got work as an extra in several movies. She spent much money on eye doctor's services trying to correct her cross-eyed stare caused by a muscle weakness...
Erich von Stroheim
Erich von Stroheim was born Erich Oswald Stroheim in 1885, in Vienna, Austria, to Johanna (Bondy), from Prague, and Benno Stroheim, a hatmaker from Gliwice, Poland. His family was Jewish. After spending some time working in his father's hat factory, he emigrated to America around 1909. Working in various jobs he arrived in Hollywood in 1914 and got work in D.W...
Gloria Swanson
Actress, Sunset Blvd.
Gloria Swanson was born Gloria May Josephine Svensson in Chicago, Illinois. She was destined to be perhaps one of the biggest stars of the silent movie era. Her personality and antics in private definitely made her a favorite with America's movie-going public. Gloria certainly didn't intend on going into show business...
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...
Constance Talmadge
She was blonde; star sister Norma Talmadge was brunette. She was buoyant and a comedienne; Norma was introspective and a tragedienne. Nicknamed "Dutch" by her stage mother Peg as she looked like a cherubic Little Dutch Boy, silver screen star Constance Talmadge was one of silent pictures' most popular and enduring stars of romantic comedy...
Natalie Talmadge
Natalie Talmadge was the middle daughter of the original "stage mother", Margaret Talmadge (Peg). Her two sisters, Constance Talmadge (the comedienne) and Norma Talmadge (the tragedian) were also in the movies, and had their own production companies, bankrolled by Norma's husband in the 1920s, Joseph M. Schenck...
William Desmond Taylor
Director, Johanna Enlists
Born in Carlow, Ireland, William was the third child of British Army Major Deane-Tanner. Soon after, the family moved to Dublin. In his teens, he failed tests to enter the Army. Because of this, his father sent him to a reform school / working ranch in the American middle west. He later turned up in New York as an actor...
Ben Turpin
First of all, the cross-eyed comedian of silent days was not born that way. Supposedly his right eye slipped out of alignment while playing the role of the similarly afflicted Happy Hooligan in vaudeville and it never adjusted. Ironically, it was this disability that would enhance his comic value and make him a top name...
Rudolph Valentino
Hollywood's original Latin Lover, a term that was invented for Rudolph Valentino by Hollywood moguls. Alla Nazimova's friend,Natacha Rambova (nee Winifred Hudnut) became romantically involved with Rudy and they lived together in her bungalow, from 1921 (during the filming of Camille) until they eloped to Mexico 13 May...
Henry B. Walthall
Henry B. Walthall was a respected stage actor who became a favorite of pioneering film director D.W. Griffith. Born in 1878 in Alabama, Walthall embarked on a law career but quit law school in 1898 to enlist in the US Army in order to fight in the Spanish-American War. Returning from the war he decided to take up an acting career instead of the law...
Lois Weber
Director, Suspense
Lois Weber, who had been a street-corner evangelist before entering motion pictures in 1905, became the first American woman movie director of note, and a major one at that. Herbert Blaché, the husband of Frenchwoman Alice Guy, the first woman to direct a motion picture (and arguably, the first director of either gender to helm a fictional narrative film)...
Billy West
According the Motion Picture Studio Directory (1919 and 1921), Billy was educated in public schools in Chicago. After performing in vaudeville shows, he moved to Los Angeles, California in his early 20s to pursue a movie career and resided there until his death in 1975. He is buried at Forrest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Pearl White
Born on her father's farm in Green Ridge, Missouri, the youngest of five children. Moved with her family to Springfield, Missouri, where she grew up. Joined the Diemer Theatre Company during her second year of high school, and went on the road with a touring stock company at age 18, in 1907. Signed by the Powers Film Co...