Saturday, October 21, 2017

Born Today October 21: Edna Purviance


Actress of the silent era, Olga Edna Purviance, who went by Edna as a performer, was born on this day in Paradise, Nevada. At the time of her birth, her father was a wine supplier to local mines.  When she was three, her parents purchased a hotel in Lovelock, Nevada, but her parents soon divorced and her mother remarried.  Growing up, she learned piano and was quite talented on the instrument.  In 1913, she moved in with her older married sister in San Francisco and started attending business college there.  It just so happened, that at the age of 15, just after she started working as a secretary, she was noticed at a local cafe by an associate of Charlie Chaplin.  Chaplin was working on his film A Night Out (1915) not far from the city, and was in need of a leading lady for the film.  He arranged a meeting with her, and despite some reservations, he cast her in the role of the Headwaiter's Wife anyway.  The two became romantically involved and she was his muse, so to speak, for the next two years, and became a lifelong member of his greater orbit.  She starred in quite a large number of his classic work at Essanay studios and went with him when he gradually started work in his own line of production; in this capacity, she was featured a great number of his non-Essanay classics--these included works at Mutual and National.  The films included the likes of The Vagabond (1916), Easy Street (1917) The Immigrant (1917) and The Adventurer (1917) just to name a few.  In all she appeared in more than 30 Chaplin films, even films such as The Kid in 1921 after their romance was over.  She was the star of Chaplin's A Woman Of Paris: A Drama of Fate in 1923.  The film, however was what we call the perverbial flop, and this went a long way in ending her popularity as an actress.  She was seen as being so closely associated with Chaplin that studios made the assumption that the public would not accept her as a star on her own.  After Woman Of Paris, she would appear in just two more major films in her acting career:  A Woman Of The Sea aka The Sea Gull; a Chaplin production that was directed by Josef von Sternberg and never released (the film is now presumed lost) was made in 1926.  Her last major film appearance during her active career was Education Of A Prince in 1927; the film was really her only starring role outside of the Chaplin production universe.  She then retired and in 1938 married a professional commercial pilot (though they never had any children).  She did appear in two uncredited roles much later on--both of the films were Chaplin films.  Her role as Mrs. Parker his 1952  Limelight being her last time in front of the camera. Purviance died from throat cancer on either the 11th or 13th of January in the Motion Picture Country Hospital in Hollywood.  She was interred at Grand View Memorial Park in Glendale, CA.  

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