Actress (and mainstay of the 1940's scandal sheets) Madge Bellamy (birth name Margaret Derden Philpott) was born on this day in Hillsboro, Texas; she spent her earliest years in San Antonio, eventually growing up in Brownwood, Texas. Her stage aspirations started when she was just a child and her parents allowed her to take dancing lessons as early as age 6, she made her stage debut at the age of 9 as a dancer in a local operatic production. When she was a teen, the family relocated again; this time out of state to Denver, Colorado. There she acted in local theater as a teen, and married at the age of 18 or 19, his last name was Bellamy (though she later claimed in an autobiography that the marriage had not happened and her agent suggested the name--public records say otherwise--though the marriage year of 1919 may not be correct, her divorce petition is). Realizing this was a mistake and badly wanting to pursue an acting career in New York City, she decided to file (eventually) for divorce and left (reportedly before her high school graduation). She found work on Broadway as a dancer, was noticed by a local theatrical agent, signed by him and began looking for work as an actual actress. She get a huge break, when she replaced Helen Hays in a major role in a Broadway production of Dear Brutus, she later acted on the stage in Washington D.C. She quickly found her way into film and made her motion picture debut in 1920 in The Riddle: Woman in a named role. She was then signed to a a multi year contract at Triangle Film (Thomas Ince's newly formed venture), and her second film appearance became her first film for them: The Cup of Life in 1921. Her most well known film while working for Ince was certainly 1922's Lorna Doone in which she starred with John Bowers and was directed by Maurice Tourneur (though her appearance in Hail the Woman in 1921 is also a milestone). Over the next couple of years she made a number of films with Ince affiliated productions, none of them really stand out. Her next big contract came with Fox Films, and her first film with them is actually one for the history books: John Ford's The Iron Horse. Not only did she appear in the film (released in October of 1924), she took the top female bill opposite George O'Brien. She didn't appear in another major production for them for a whole year. In the meantime, she appeared in a few minor films of importance, notably: Secrets of the Night a later Herbert Blaché film with James Kirkwood & Zusu Pitts, The Dancers another film featuring (as mustachioed) O'Brien and directed by Emmett J. Flynn, and the Edward Laemmle melodrama The Men in Blue. In 1925, she again appeared in a John Ford film Lightnin'; a rare comedy for him starring Jay Hunt. Though she began to run into difficulty with studio executives who wanted to have full say in how she was placed in films (she was later found to have a fiery temper...but I have to say, I can hardly blame her here, despite that she had an affair with at least one of them). They wanted her to take roles in big films, but she had gotten a taste for the lighter side of acting: not too much effort required--a lot of fun to be had (possibly egged on by her appearance in another Emmett Flynn film set in the modern "jazz age" Wings of Youth). This is not to say that she was not in some fine Fox films, they were just not the big budget films execs had tried to push her into. Films like Lazybones, The Golden Strain and Very Confidential had/have a lot to recommend them. The first film with sound that she appeared in was one that actually featured talking sequences, bit rare for its 1928 release--Mother Knows Best--which is believed--though never confirmed--lost in the 1937 Fox Fire. Her next film, Fugitives (1929)--also believed lost--was film with synched music sequences only. Her last film in the 1920's, was made for Universal utilizing the Western Electric Sound System for the full sound experience, had her starring opposite Robert Ellis in Tonight at Twelve, which was released in September of 1929. She did not show up in another film until 1932, but if you are a classic horror film nut like me, it was quite the reappearance. Bellamy starred as the object of desire in White Zombie, which not only famously starred Bela Lugosi, but also Robert Frazer, with whom she almost shared a birthday. She only appeared in ten more films during the entire decade, after which she only acted in one other film in her lifetime. Notable, because in-between her last appearance in the 1936 Peter Lorre film Crack-Up in an uncredited role and her appearance as Mrs. Yeager in the Canadian Mountie drama Northwest Trail, released in November of 1945, she made headlines like she had never made before. In January 1943 she fired a small hand-gun three times as her former lover, a wealthy lumber executive, in San Francisco. They had indeed been having an affair for over five years, but he broke things off with her and subsequently married a younger model. She was given a six-month suspended sentence and a year's probation on gun possession charges. But...she was not done with him...no; later in 1943 she sued him for divorce in the state of Nevada, basically claiming common-law marriage; though the suit was summarily dismissed--he did eventually give her an undisclosed amount in settlement to end her complaints against him. After her appearance in the 1945 Action Pictures release, she briefly returned to the stage in 1946, after which she retired from show business altogether. She then took up writing, none of which, except for her autobiography (which contained a lot a dubious personal details) was ever published--and that was published posthumously. She also owned some real estate holdings. In later life, she was known to attend screenings of White Zombie after the film had gained cult horror status. Suffering from heart failure, she died at the age of 90 on the 24th of January in 1990. She was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.
In Lorna Doone 1922