Thursday, September 17, 2015

Born Today September 17: Dolores Costello AKA Goddess Of The Silent Screen


1903-1979

Born in 1903 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by 1909, she and her sister Helene, who was 3 years younger than her made their first film appearance in an early adaptation of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."  Interesting, a lot of sources on the film don't mention that their father Maurice was also in the film as Lysander.  It was probably because of their father that they became child actors at all, he was an actor and director in his own right (though the question marks come in as to whether he got where he was in Hollywood because of his daughters in the first place); Interesting, though,  Wikipedia page doesn't make any reference at all to her father's role in her's or her sister's acting careers.  Additionally curious to me because Dolores is the grandmother of Drew Barrymore.  So much is made of Drew's Barrymore family background in acting and movie making--almost nothing is ever made of her Costello ancestry on the same subject.  Even her Drew family ancestry, a well known theatrical family, is more a topic of conversation concerning her acting blood relations.  Dolores and her sister were contracted to the Vitagraph Film Company through the year 1915, possibly or probably arranged by their father.  Almost all of those films were shorts.  During that time, if my count is right she appeared in a staggering 33 films, many of them with her sister.  Their success together in film resulted in both appearing on Broadway.  After that contract ran out, she didn't appear in another film until 1923.  She went on to sign with Warner Brothers in the 1920's, which, is in part, how so was selected for a major starring role opposite John Barrymore, which how she met the man that would become Drew Barrymore's grandfather.  She became romantically involved with him probably  as a result of a later role that the pair starred opposite each other again in 1927, and they were married in 1928.  They went on to have two children together, Dolores Barrymore and John Drew Barrymore (father of Drew, and other children)--who went on to have a tumultuous career in Hollywood.  She quit acting in 1931 to devote time to her family, but resumed acting after her divorce from John Barrymore, but, all though she had ample speaking talent for the so-called "talkies" she quit acting permanently in the early 1940's, with her last role coming in Michael Curtiz's This Is The Army in 1943 (that film, as a matter of trivia also had Ronald Reagan in a role--it is currently on Amazon Prime, if anyone is interested).  Her need for having to quit acting were for reasons that don't often get talked or wrote about when it comes to early Hollywood.  Make up that was used on her during the silent years, especially when she was a child at Vitagraph ruined her complexion to the point that it was basically it could not be camouflaged.  So the rest of her life was spent in semi-seclusion due to Hollywood make-up ravaging.  She did, however, sucessfully manage an avocado farm in California.  One tragic thing that did occurr during the 1970's, her house was hit with a flash flood that destroyed most of her personal early Hollywood/John & Dolores Barrymore memoribilia, a true lose to the most talented family in acting and to history.  She passed away, suffering from emphysema on the first of March 1979.  She is interred at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles.  She certainly earned her nickname "Goddess of the Silent Screen!"

Dolores and Helene

The Career of The Goddess Of The Silent Screen


The Telephone (1910) (this was released as a split reel along with a the title A Day On The French Battleship "Justice")


The Geranium (1911) (the sister's father was also in this, along with Ralph Ince)




Some Good In All (1911) (Dolores was in this with her father minus Helene)


The Meeting Of The Ways (1912) (Maurice Costello also in this)

For The Honor Of The Family (1912) (their dad was also in this one)


Lulu's Doctor (1912) (another all family affair)


The Money Kings (1912) (yet another family affair, a note about IMDb here:  the poster they have posted for this really WRONG, laughingly so!  Most of these types of shorts didn't have full posters.)


Wanted...A Grandmother (1912) (another father daughter collaboration)


Her Grandchild (1912) (Dolores in the with her father, no sister)








The Hindoo Charm (1913) (Maurice Costello actually directed himself and his daughters here)


Fellow Voyages (1913) (Maurice Costello co-directed this with Eugene Mullin, with the family starring)

Some Streamer Scooping (1914) (now this really is a family affair, Maurice directing, daughters starring and joined by their mother Mae Costello)

Etta Of The Flootlights (1914) (Maurice co-directed his daughters and himself with Robert Gaillard)

Too Much Burglar (1914) (the same direction and cast here, except that the Gaillard is credited as "Robert Gaillord.")

The Evil Men Do (1915) (same exact credits here, complete with misspelled name)

The Heart Of Jim Brice (1915) (same credits as the last two films)

The Glimpses Of The Moon (1923) (full starring role for Maurice with just a bit part for Dolores.  Lost Film)







The Little Irish Girl (1926) (presumed lost film, there are some legitimate rumors that a copy may in the private collection, or stored someplace misnamed)


When A Man Loves (1927) (another role starring opposite John Barrymore, partial silent, sound effects and musical score by Vitaphone)

A Million Bid (1927) (partially lost film,  Michael Curtiz directed)

Old San Francisco (1927) (two version, one silent and one full mono sound with dialog by Mono, with sound effects and score by Western Electric Apparatus)



Tenderloin (1928) (partial silent, mono talking sequences by Vitaphone, lost film)

Glorious Betsy (1928) (two version one silent, mono sound version by Vitaphone)

Noah's Ark (1928) (Mono-Western Electric)

The Redeeming Sin (1929) (partial silent, the mono talking sequences by Western Electric, also a lost film)

Glad Rag Doll (1929) (also mono--Vitaphone Michael Curtiz directed, lost film)

Madonna Of Avenue A (1929) (another Michael Curtiz directed early talkie, sound by Vitaphone)

Hearts In Exile (1929) (another early talkie lost Michael Curtiz directed film)

The Show Of Shows (1929) (early musical, here she has a singing credit as well)

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