Monday, June 26, 2017

Born Today June 26: Jeanne Eagels


Silent movie star Jeanne Eagels was born Eugenie Eagles in Kansas City, Missouri to a carpenter; despite that when she changed the spelling of her name she claimed that her father was a Spanish architect and that she was born in Boston.  In her home town, she attended a private catholic school and later a public school, but quit school just after her first communion to work in a department store.  She then started to appear in local plays in the area.  She left Kansas City when she was 15 years old having secured a gig with the Dubinsky Bros. traveling show, which toured in the Midwest.  She married one of the Dubinsky's while still a teenager.  She would often appear along side him on stage.  In 1911, she moved to New York and became a chorus girl, eventually joining the Ziegfeld Follies, becoming a Ziegfeld Girl.  There she had several actor coaches as well.  She also had a number of successes in plays there.  Many sources cite that she first appeared on a set for film acting in 1915 for a Thanhouser production released in 1916 (the film was The World And The Woman (1916)).  She actually made her film debut in 1913 in The Ace Of Hearts which was made for the Ryno Film Company.  She stayed with Thanhouser through 1917.  She subsequently made one film in 1918 for World Film and another in 1919, The Madonna Of The Slums, for the stage Women's War Relief Fund.  After this, she became ill (this may have been from the lose of a child from her first marriage--either the boy died or was given up for adoption).  She spent time convalescing in Europe, before returning to the stage on Broadway.  Throughout most of the 1920's Eagel's career was on the stage.  Things were at times tumultuous during her time on stage; she was increasingly turning to various forms of self-medication, starting with drink.  She would not return to film acting again until 1927 when she appeared in Man, Woman And Sin.  She planned to return to stage work in 1928, but she was banned from appearing on stage for 18 months because of her increasingly outrageous behavior while performing.  She instead returned to make two more films, both early talkies.  She appeared in The Letter and in Jealousy (her last performance in any vehicle), both were Paramount films and both were released in 1929.  Sometime in the mid-1920's she became a user of heroin, as a result she began to have various health related issues.  Back in New York, she underwent eye surgery, as she had other ailments at the time, such breathing issues, and it took longer than normal to recover in the hospital from the surgery.  In a follow up appointment on the 3rd of October, 1929, she--with her secretary assisting--arrived her doctor's office.  During the appointment, she began convulsing violently and died a short time later.  She was 39 years of age.  Three autopsies all concluded that she had over-dosed on her own, probably by accident.  Though some speculation surrounds whether doctors at hospital where her last appointment took place became confused as to whether she had been give a sedative and doubled or even tripled the sedative administered, there by causing an over-dose death.  Whatever the case, it was most certainly an accidental death.  She was given a funeral service in her adopted home town in New York and then shipped back to Kansas City, where she was given a second funeral and buried in Calvary Cemetery there.  Her mother put the correct spelling of her last name on her grave marker.

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