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Leila Hyams Poster

Biography

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Overview (3)

Date of Birth 1 May 1905New York City, New York, USA
Date of Death 4 December 1977Bel-Air, Los Angeles, California, USA  (heart attack)
Height 5' 5" (1.65 m)

Mini Bio (2)

Leila Hyams was one of the top leading ladies of the early talkie pre-code years. She was a likable, pleasing actress with a charming presence. She had much spark, personality and charisma, and a touch of down-to-earthiness and naturalness that won over movie fans; they could relate to her. A versatile, excellent actress she was, able to conform to any role and maintain that special heartfelt sincerity she always displayed in her role. Freaks (1932) was her best-known movie, in which she played Venus and gave a compassionate performance. Her image on screen was beautiful but not conceited, not high and mighty, tough but sweet and she had sex appeal but always came across as a lady who managed to keep her innocence. Those were the qualities that carried her to fame and set her apart from the other leading ladies of early Hollywood.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Alicia T (MsLadySoul@aol.com)

Leila Hyams was born May 1, 1905, in New York City to vaudeville comedy performers John Hyams (1869-1940) and Leila McIntyre (1882-1953). Both her parents had careers in films, and can be seen together in The Housekeeper's Daughter (1939).

As soon as she could walk, Leila appeared onstage with her parents, and as a teenager she worked as a model and became well-known after appearing in a successful series of newspaper advertisements (she was the first person to model for Listerine mouthwash). This success led her to Hollywood, and she made her first film appearance in Sandra (1924) with Barbara La Marr. Her blonde hair, delicate features and innocent sex appeal led to a variety of supporting roles, where she was required to do very little but smile and look pretty. She proved herself capable of handling these parts, and she came to be taken seriously as an actress.

By 1928 she was appearing in starring roles, and achieved success in MGM's first talking film, Alias Jimmy Valentine (1928) opposite William Haines, Lionel Barrymore and Karl Dane. She was once described as "The Golden Girl" by an artist because of her perfect pink skin and blonde hair coloring and, according to a 1928 Photoplay Magazine article, she carried a small satin case suspended from her garter that contained an extra pair of stockings, in case the ones she was wearing were damaged.

Leila appeared in the popular murder mystery The Thirteenth Chair (1929), a role that offered her the chance to display her dramatic abilities as a murder suspect. The quality of her parts continued to improve, which included a role as Robert Montgomery's sister in the prison drama The Big House (1930), with Chester Morris and Wallace Beery, for which she again received positive reviews.

She is best remembered,though, for two early 1930s horror movies--as the wise-cracking, kind-hearted circus performer Venus in Tod Browning's controversial Freaks (1932) and the heroine in Island of Lost Souls (1932) with Charles Laughton and Bela Lugosi. Another memorable performance was as the good-natured saloon girl who teaches 'Roland Young (I)' (aqv) to play the drums in Ruggles of Red Gap (1935). One of Hyams' favorite hobbies was fishing, and she was the original choice to play Jane in Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), but she turned it down. The role was ultimately played in that film and several other Tarzan films by Maureen O'Sullivan.

Her last film was Yellow Dust (1936). After ten years and 50 films, Leila decided to concentrate on her personal life and retired from acting in 1936, continuing to remain a part of the Hollywood community. Apparently she was very shrewd about protecting her assets, putting a picture of herself on all her checks so they would be impossible to cash if they were stolen. She was married to agent Phil Berg for 50 years, from 1927 until her death.

Leila Hyams passed away from natural causes on December 4, 1977, in Bel-Air, CA at age 72.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: mgnylander@yahoo.com (qv's & corrections by A. Nonymous)

Spouse (1)

Phil Berg (5 November 1927 - 4 December 1977) (her death)

Trivia (3)

Daughter of actor John Hyams and actress Leila McIntyre.
Sparkling green-eyed blonde ingenue of American silent and early sound pictures, best known for her roles in the classic horror features Freaks (1932) and Island of Lost Souls (1932). Her career lasted little more than a decade.
She retired from film work in 1936, in order to concentrate on her marriage but still remained a big part of Hollywood society.

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