Thursday, September 10, 2015

Born Today September 10: Bessie Love

Bessie Love 1898-1986

Born Juanita Horton in Midland TX to a Anglo cowboy father and (I believe) a Tejana mother, the family first moved to Arizona and finally to Hollywood, where her mother actually sent her to Biograph Studios' location, then barely an outpost of the New York based studio company, to recommend herself to be in films because the family needed money.  Apparently her father's new chosen profession of chiropractor wasn't going very well!   It seems, that because her father was a former cowboy who got to know actor Tom Mix, Hollywood's very first famous movie cowboy (at the time he was way more influential and John Wayne would ever become).  Mix saw Juanita and told her mother that she should be in films, so off to Biograph she went and at just the right time, as directorial giant D. W. Griffith had made the move west to Hollywood from Fort Lee, N.J.  She met Griffith and he agreed that she would be good for motion pictures despite that she was still in high school.  He name, on the other hand, he didn't think was star material, so it was his idea to change it to "Bessie Love."  Her first film credit comes in 1915, but that has a HUGE question mark over it (I will get to below).  Certainly she actually did appear on the screen for the first time for real in 1916 after 7 acting jobs, at least three of which her name appears on the poster--one as an equal star--Griffith gave her a small role in his epic Intolerance.  At that point she dropped out of Los Angeles High School to pursue full time stardom (incidentally, she did complete the degree years later).  Apparently possessed of a rather strong spirit, she almost immediately took an active role in her career, rare for female actors of the time, never mind one who was not even and adult.  She promoted herself with live performances supporting military audiences (apparently some these involved a ukulele) and actively sought her own representation, finding a representative in Gerald C. Duffy who had been an editor of Picture-Play Magazine.  In 1929, on January 29, she married William Hawks, brother a director Howard Hawks, on his birthday.  Together they had a daughter in 1932, who, of course, also got into pictures.  They divorced in 1936.  She went on to work in talkies, so again, here is another untrained star from the silent era, who made a very successful transition into speaking role (one of the only women that I can think of that had a long career, who is still relatively unknown).  She worked for the Red Cross during the Second World War.  At some point she moved to London, England, where she passed away on the 26 April 1986 at the age of 87.  One of the things that really puzzles me personally, is that people regarded her later in life as the old lady that you talked to about silent era Hollywood, despite that she did work consistently almost up to the time of her death and in no small films either.  She was in three films alone in 1981:  Lady Chatterley's LoverRagtime, and Reds.  Oddly for such a horror buff like me, her very last role came in 1983 in one of my favorite vampire films The Hunger, starring David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon, directed by Tony Scott (RIP!), brother of Ridley.  Besides, she's my kind of lady, she stood all of 5 feet tall--well, like me!  She is interred in a niche with a plaque at the Breakspear Crematorium in Ruislip, Greater London, England.

Her Silent Era Work:

Georgia Pearce (1915) (Okay, this is truly a strange one!  This is a title that no one can even find evidence that it was even made.  Some people list it as a hoax; I do not think it is.  It seems like a project that was planned and never filmed--there are a number of films that fall into a category of "unfinished" and do not belong to the "partially lost" category.  Because the title has such a long history of being listed for the three actresses involved--I believe it must be some sort of aborted production.  Either that, or it's a film that's been lost so long, like since 1917 or 1918 that no one has any clue that it ever really existed in the first place.  It's "wierd" and probably deserves it's own post.)

Acquitted (1916) (this one we know she was in!)

The Flying Torpedo (1916) (appears to the first film on which her name appears on the poster.  Also one of the first, if not the first, film to be set in the future....1921.)

Reggie Mixes In (1916) (Her first real starring role, opposite Douglas Fairbanks.)

The Mystery Of Leaping Fish (1916) (also with Fairbanks)

The Heiress At Coffee Dan's (1916) (Her first top billed role)

Wee Lady Betty (1917) (a haunted house drama)

The Great Adventure (1918) (Directed by Alice Guy, considered to be the world's very first female directors.)

The Midlanders (1920) (one of the first films co-directed by a man and a woman._

Mary Of The Movies (1923) (this is supposed to by the oldest surviving Columbia Pictures feature film.)

Human Wreckage (1923) (lost film)

Sundown (1924) (lost film, and makes me particularly sad, because it was released on the same day as what would many years later become my birthday--plus it's a western--my Dad would have loved it!  ;-()

The Lost World (1925) (a giant in the silent science fiction film world.  It was a major influence on the very young Ray Harryhausen--king of stop motion animation!!  It was hand tinted and also theme color toned, but was also shown in black and white as well.  If this had been a sound film, Bessie Love, and not Fay Ray, would have been the original scream queen!)

Lovey Mary (1926) (lost film)

Amateur Night (1927) (there is some dispute or debate as to whether she should be credited in this short film.)

The Matinee Idol (1928) (formerly lost film, directed by Frank Capra)

The Broadway Melody (1929) (Silent with a mono soundtrack by Western Electric one of the only musicals to have ever won the Best Picture Oscar--it is partially (slightly) lost)

The Idle Rich (1929) (early talkie, directed by William C. DeMille, sound by Western Electric)

The Girl In The Show (1929) (early talkie, sound by Western Electric)

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