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Alice Joyce Poster

Biography

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Overview (4)

Date of Birth 1 October 1890Kansas City, Missouri, USA
Date of Death 9 October 1955Hollywood, California, USA  (heart disease)
Nickname The Madonna of the Screen
Height 5' 7" (1.7 m)

Mini Bio (2)

Having worked as a telephone operator at age 13 and a fashion model afterwards, Alice Joyce joined the Kalem film company at 20, making her debut in The Deacon's Daughter (1910), and achieved popularity as a charming, proper leading lady in many shorts. After Vitagraph bought out Kalem, Joyce began appearing in the company's features, and her career soared. She was so popular as an ingénue that she was still playing those parts into her late 20s, but eventually she switched to older, more mature roles. She played Clara Bow's mother in Bow's wildly popular film Dancing Mothers (1926). After retiring from the screen, she married director Clarence Brown.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: frankfob2@yahoo.com

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 quiet unlike most other silent screen divas.

She was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on October 1, 1890, to John Joyce, a smelter worker, and his wife Vallie Olive Joyce, a seamstress. The family, which included younger brother Frank, broke up due to her parents' separation when she was still young. Eventually, Alice dropped out of school and went to work as a telephone operator at the age of 13, modeling on the side in the summer when business was slow. Due to her striking looks, Joyce became one of the top models for commercial artists in Kansas City.

Many manikins already were employed by the new moving picture industry, and Joyce was determined to be one of them. She obtained a try-out at Biograph Studios, but she was rejected by D.W. Griffith, who felt she was too bovine. While his rejection was painful, in later years, she took great joy in recounting the anecdote. Continuing her dual career with Ma Bell and modeling, her big break came in 1910, when a photographer recommended her to the Kalem Co., a charter member along with Biograph of Thomas Alva Edison's Motion Picture Patents Co., a trust that tried to eliminate smaller studios by controlling technology and distribution through the General Film Co. She was hired as part of the stock company of Kalem's east coast unit. Most of her early films are lost, but she claimed her first film was The Engineer's Sweetheart (1910), though that likely was her fifth film, but her first important movie role. Alice Joyce's actual debut probably was in The Deacon's Daughter (1910).

Her earliest surviving movie is Her Indian Mother (1910), for which critics singled her out for praise for portraying the offspring of a white Hudson Bay Co. factor who purchases his wife, the woman who will become her mother, from a First Nations tribe. The "New York Dramatic Mirror" review of the film of December 21, 1910, said, "The acting was very good, that of the halfbreed daughter deserving special mention." She was a natural for a role of a Navitve American due to her height and dark hair, and an on-screen persona that was centered by a personal gravity that gave her great presence on screen. Her demeanor was reserved, and she projected an unforced dignity. Quiet and serene, Alice Joyce seemed more mature than her years. Cast in several Native American parts early in her career, her natural dignity and the inner strength she radiated helped her pull off these roles

Kalem eventually sent her to its Glendale, California, unit, which specialized in making westerns and movies set in Spanish California and revolutionary Mexico. She appeared in countless movies made by the unit over the next two years, often as the heroine rescued from danger by the hero. This was her apprenticeship in film, and she learned how to act in front of the camera while making one film a week, appearing in a wide variety of roles, both as a lead and as a supporting player.

Kalem was one of the first companies to break the movie industry taboo of not naming its photoplay performers, and it began to feature Alice Joyce in its publicity and advertising. By April 1911, she was already being cited by name in reviews, and she soon became well-known. Returning to New York in the summer of 1912, Joyce was now a popular screen favorite and Kalem's biggest star. She even appeared as herself in Rube Marquard Wins (1912), a two-reeler featuring the future baseball Hall of Famer, who had set a major league record with 19 straight wins that year for the pennant-winning New York Giants.

By moving East, Alice Joyce had effectively abandoned the action genre for more genteel film productions, and she relished the opportunity to play a broad range of characters, from poor street chanteuse to princess. Her star waxed, and she won the title of the most popular movie actress in a 1913 poll. Due to her surging stardom, Kalem began featuring her in two- and three-reel "feature" films starting in late 1913. Kalem launched the two-reel "Alice Joyce Series" in the middle of 1914, releasing a new film of hers every two weeks. Joyce also starred in two of Kalem's four-reel special productions that year.

The leading man for many of her movies in this period was Tom Moore, one of a famous family of Irish actors. Tom's brother Matt had a huge hit with the white-slavery-themed melodrama Traffic in Souls (1913), which proved to be the first American feature film that was a genuine blockbuster. His other brother, Owen, was secretly married to "America's Sweetheart," Toronto-born Mary Pickford. Eventually, the two fell in love and were married on May 11, 1914, while on location for The Girl and the Stowaway (1914) in Jacksonville, Florida. (The "New York Dramatic Mirror" critic, in his October 7, 1914, review of the film, called Joyce and Moore "that ever dependable pair.") At the same time that Kalem launched the "Alice Joyce Series," the studio transferred Moore to another film unit to co-star with Marguerite Courtot, while Guy Coombs was made Joyce's new leading man.

She quit the studio and the movie business after the release of her last Kalem film on April 14, 1915. For almost two years, she was a wife and mother, giving birth to her daughter Alice Mary Moore. But being out of work made her restless and morose at home, and she was used to being self-supporting; returning to the screen, she went back to work in a changed industry. Meanwhile, her marriage with Moore was floundering, and he was not even mentioned in a 1917 Photoplay article on Joyce and her daughter. Seemingly, they divorced by 1918, though they remained friends and devoted parents to their child. Joyce married married James B. Regan, Jr., the millionaire scion of the Knickerbocker Hotel owner.

Feature films had pushed one- and two-reelers out of the marketplace as nickelodeons were replaced by converted vaudeville houses and bespoke movie cathedrals. Kalem had gone out of business as feature film production and distribution were now too costly, which meant Tom Moore moved over to the Arrow Film Co. Joyce signed a contract with Vitagraph, which had bought Kalem's assets and employed some of her Kalem colleagues.

She was a major acquisition for Vitagraph, who had already lost its biggest star, Clara Kimball Young, to producer Lewis J. Selznick, and their budding superstar Norma Talmadge to Joseph M. Schenck. Joyce immediately was put into two of J. Stuart Blackton's movies, Whom the Gods Destroy (1916), a near-contemporaneous tale of the Easter Rebellion in Ireland, and the patriotic potboiler Womanhood, the Glory of the Nation (1917), a sequel to his The Battle Cry of Peace (1915), an adaptation of Hudson Maxim's book "Defenseless America" that featured the wholesale slaughter of innocent New Yorkers attending a peace rally by Germanic-looking artillery gunners.

In Whom the Gods Destroy (1916), she played the axis of a love triangle between a British officer and an Irish revolutionary. The "New York Dramatic Mirror" critic wrote, "Alice Joyce gives the character of Mary O'Neil all the wistful charm of an Irish aristocrat, torn by the sufferings of her country, with a world of pathos in her great dark eyes." In her "Womanhood," Joyce is betrothed to marry a Ruritarian prince, not knowing he is an officer in the foreign army that has just invaded the United States, laid New York City to waste, and killed her mother and sister. The "Dramatic Mirror" cited her "sympatheic portrayal" of the outraged American fiancée turned spy.

While Joyce appeared in many different character types for Vitagraph, typically playing women whose innate qualities and self-sacrifice saved the day after a sticky situation, although she did appear some light comedies, too. She developed a niche for herself as a seduced woman who secretly has a child, but neglects to tell her husband about it. Her biggest hit was the film version of Bayard Veiller's vastly popular stage-melodrama Within the Law (1917), in which she played Mary Turner, a young shop-girl who is unjustly convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison. In prison, she studies the law and comes to the conclusion that there are many ways to break the law, de facto, while simultaneously remaining within the letter of the law, de jure. Upon her release, she does everything possible to cause suffering for the man who wronged her, taking care to stray no further than the extremes of the law allow, while eventually evolving into a criminal mastermind as a consigliere to a gang.

After bagging her millionaire, Joyce announced that she was cutting back the number of movies she would appear in, in order to ensure a higher standard of quality. Her husband's wealth afforded her the opportunity to be choosy for the first time in her acting career, and reportedly, she enjoyed turning down unsuitable parts. After moving to feature film production, the financially troubled Vitagraph had been unable to maintain the quality of its output, and it increasingly resorted to hackneyed plots that padded out their films to feature lengths. By the time Joyce finished her Vitagraph contract in 1921, reviewers were complaining about the company's product.

Joyce took this time to go on sabbatical with her new husband, and they traveled to Europe. During her time off, her second child, Margaret (Peggy) Regan, was born. When she decided to return to the screen two years later, she decided not to sign a contract with another studio. Managed by her brother Frank, a vaudeville and hotel impresario, she would free-lance successfully for the rest of her career in motion pictures. Her special presence and and bearing, which had been part of her screen image from the beginning, kept her in demand by producers and directors looking for that type for their films.

The fan magazines welcomed the absent star back when she appeared in The Green Goddess (1923) opposite the great stage actor George Arliss. Her next film, The Passionate Adventure (1924), which was directed by Graham Cutts, was made in England from a screenplay co-written by a young filmmaker named Alfred Hitchcock, who also served as art director on the film. The movie co-starred Victor McLaglen and Marjorie Daw, the wife of Myron Selznick, David O. Selznick's kid brother, who later became famous as an agent. It was the last film distributed by his father's Lewis J. Selznick Enterprises. (When she retired from the screen, her brother Frank Joyce partnered with Myron Selznick to create one of Hollywood's most powerful talent agencies, Joyce-Selznick Ltd. Unfortunately, Frank died prematurely in 1935.)

Director Herbert Brenon cast Joyce in many of his movies, as her class and intelligent demeanor on-screen created audience sympathy for the unconventional, proto-feminist women she played in his The Little French Girl (1925) and Dancing Mothers (1926). She also played a proto-feminist in The Home Maker (1925), a drama about a strong, independent women. Again, Joyce created sympathy with the audience, which was vital in the 1920s so they wouldn't reject the character and the movie if played by a stronger, more abrasive actress. A "strong" actress, such as embodied by Bette Davis in the 1930s and 1940s, likely would have been rejected by Roaring Twenties audiences as unfeminine and threatening. The casting of Alice Joyce in these potentially controversial roles of women who rejected the "normalcy" of the Harding-Coolidge age was an inspired casting choice.

Joyce also appeared in sympathetic parts in Brenon's Beau Geste (1926), and Sorrell and Son (1927). Henry King cast her as the good stepmother in Stella Dallas (1925). James Cruze cast her against type in Mannequin (1926) as a frivolous woman whose baby is kidnapped, and she was a fairy princess who rescues W.C. Fields in So's Your Old Man (1926).

Some critics, used to the telegraphic, declamatory style that was more like elocution than what we now consider acting, were dismayed by her subdued acting style. As a silent screen stylist, Alice Joyce appeared gracious and charming, but she was unusual in that era of florid performances in that she was undemonstrative. Joyce seldom smiled on-screen, and unlike the broad theatrics of many silent stars that at its worst, devolved into gurning, she rarely contorted her face. It was an unusual technique for the times, and would seem to be a handicap for a silent film actress, but she made her natural demeanor work for her, covering up any deficiencies with well-calculated business, such as covering her face and turning away from the camera when her character was required to undergo a break down accompanied by a crying jag

In the movies, a Joyce character coped with the bad turn of events that were inevitable in movie melodramas by conveying a tense or worried expression. Her fits of tears or temperament were short and sweet, and it underscored the projected inner strength of her characters that proved a pictorial precursor of feminism. Her technique was effective, but her acting genius relied on her expressive eyes and the graceful stylings of her hands. She seems more modern than contemporaries like Norma Talmadge, her opposite in style who used animated expressions in line with her "hot-cha" screen persona. Alice Jouce was the first of the "more is less" school of film acting that would become dominant after the first generation of talking pictures, when under-players like Spencer Tracy and Humphrey Bogart became more appreciated, and such over-the-top performers as John Barrymore seemed more and more passé.

While she had her share of starring roles as the 'Twenties continued to roar, increasingly she began to play supporting roles in ensemble casts in better pictures, while as a headliner, her star began to drift towards low- budget films. By the end of the 1920s, as she drew closer to her 40th birthday, she faced the reckoning many an aging Hollywood actress has faced since: she was no longer considered a box office draw, and she was too old for the ingénue roles that have always been a staple of cinema. Joyce could have made a continuing career as a character actress, but any future in films was rendered finis by a new technological development: the "talking picture" had arrived.

She headlined her first talkie, Alexander Korda's The Squall (1929) for First National, which co-starred Loretta Young, Myrna Loy, and Zasu Pitts. Although Korda would become a major movie impresario, and Young and Loy would become box office superstars while Pitts would continue on with her career as an outstanding character actress, everyone floundered in The Squall (1929). As the most vulnerable, the fallout was most terrible for Joyce, who had a soft and unassuming voice and delivered her lines mostly in monotone.

She acquitted herself much better in her next three talkies, which proved to be her last three films. She learned to speak for the recording devices in a much more expressive style, but she never mastered acting in sound pictures. Of her last three movies, only the remade, talkie version of The Green Goddess (1930), in which she recreated her original role opposite Arliss, was a hit.

In her later films, she had become typed as a mother, usually playing the parent of grown-up children, appearing as characters that were older than herself. Alice Joyce was rare for the silent era in that she was public about her family life. Motherhood was part of her public image, and her own children frequently were featured in fan magazine articles and photographs. Still beautiful, she was a veteran performer with 20 years in pictures who had been playing mother, thus acquiring an older image that belied her actual 40 years.

The careers of many silent stars were waning due to the new technology. Alice Joyce quit the movie industry while still very nearly on top. Her fan magazine interviews reveal a paradoxically shy but pragmatic woman, with a realistic assessment of her abilities as an actress, who held modern ideas about the value of women's financial freedom.

She launched herself on the vaudeville circuit with ex-husband Tom Moore in 1932, and later that year, she filed for divorce from James Regan. In 1933, she married Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer director Clarence Brown, a six-time Oscar nominee who was a bulwark of the studio. She spent much of her time with her teenage daughters, (Alice Moore, her daughter by ex-husband Tom, had a minor film career in the 1930s), and she liked to travel in the beginning of her retirement, but a heart ailment restricted her movement.

Her earlier films for Kalem and Vitagraph companies are mostly lost; indeed, only one of her Vitagraph films still exists, a single negative locked up in a French archive.

Joyce divorced Brown in 1945, and she lived quietly, seldom making the rounds of Hollywood social events. She was hospitalized for a serious liver ailment in 1954 and died of heart disease on October 5, 1955, at the age of 65, a few months after Tom Moore had passed away. She was buried at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery located adjacent to the San Fernando Mission Rey de Espana in Mission Hill, California.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (3)

Clarence Brown (1933 - 1945) (divorced)
James B. Regan (1920 - 1932) (divorced) (1 child)
Tom Moore (1914 - 1920) (divorced) (1 child)

Trivia (6)

Mother of actress Alice Moore.
Sister-in-law of Owen Moore and Matt Moore.
Sister of Frank Coleman Joyce, who was partnered with Myron Selznick, and owned and ran the first LA talent agency, Joyce-Selznick, Ltd.
Aunt of film editor John Joyce.
Mother of Margaret "Peggy" Regan Harris
Sister-in-law of Joe Moore.

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