Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Born Today May 24: Muriel Ostriche


Silent film actress Muriel Ostriche (full name Muriel Henrietta Ostriche) was born on this day in in New York City.  From childhood she had planned on becoming a schoolteacher, but all of that changed when she was stopped on the street by director Christy Cabanne, who asked her to screen test for the American Biograph Co. (the studio that D. W. Griffith worked for).  Passing the test, she was hired by Biograph as an extra. The first film that she was in was indeed directed by Griffith.  A Tale Of The Wilderness, which came out in 1912, was one of his signature short westerns.  The first film that she received a named credit for was her very next film with Biograph; A Blot On The 'Scutcheon'  (1912) was a short melodrama also directed by Griffith.  To make ends meet, she started modelling for advertisements for the Moxie soft drink company.  After leaving Biograph, director Étienne Arnaud became her mentor, helping her hone her acting skills.  He elevated her from extra to supporting and a few starring roles in some of his films. A good example would be The Holy City (1912), a 20 minute bible epic in which she played Rebecca.  She kind of bounced around from one studio to another before finally settling at Thanhouser--where she starred in some her most notable roles.  Her first film for them was Miss Mischief (1913).  As her star rose, she developed a love for fancy restaurants.  One in particular was a dance club, where she found a young handsome immigrant actor from Italy struggling to find roles, so he supplemented his income by dancing.  A young Rudolph Valentino would often be her dance partner, with no one having the slightest clue that he would become the superstar of the 1920's that he did.  By the late 1910's her star was beginning to fade a bit.  She starred in a series "Betty" films in 1920; they were co-produced by her own company Muriel Ostriche Productions that she had founded.  The last film that she appeared in was in 1921 with The Shadow.  She then retired completely from acting.  Not only did her entire career occur within the silent era, she also never went to Hollywood, with all of her films being made in the original studio systems in Fort Lee, NJ and NYC.  She was one of the last movie stars of that old system.  She would go on to raise 4 children.  She died at the ripe old age of 92 on the 3rd of May 1989 in St. Petersburg Fla after some sort of short illness--just weeks shy of 93rd birthday.  She was buried in her native New York in the Flushing Cemetery in Queens under her married name of Copp.  

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