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Hollywood Glamor Girls; the Beginning to the 1940s.

Updated on April 28, 2014

Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance

Edna, Courtland Dines, and Mabel Normand

Edna and Her Mother in Later Life

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Edna Purviance. Chaplin's Leading Lady

Edna Purviance was glamor girl from 1915-1918, when Hollywood was still a baby, who is seldom credited with being a glamor girl. The reason being that she was the leading lady of Charlie Chaplin. Most of the comics would have a female to regularly appear in their films. Harold Lloyd had his wife, Mildred Davis, play his leading lady and Buster Keaton would have a regular female foil for a few movies before moving on to another. But Charlie Chaplin was looking for a face that could impress audiences. A woman who Americans could look at and say, "I don't blame you for loving her Charlie." Edna Purviance was gorgeous, a natural beauty who was born October 1, 1895 and in 1915 was living in San Francisco while working as a secretary. By a sheer stroke of luck Edna was spotted in a cafe by one of Charlie Chaplin's associates. Edna was a stunning young natural beauty with exquisite features and when Chaplin saw her he was entranced, however, he thought she seemed too serious to be in comedies. He later learned that Edna was depressed by the break up of a romance. It was hard to believe that a girl this beautiful could be dumped or rejected by someone but Edna was so wrapped up in her misery that even making a movie with the famous Charlie Chaplin could not cheer her up. After finishing the picture, however, she had fallen in love with Chaplin and the two were soon inseparable.

Edna was now becoming an animated and lively actress and living a life of luxury. Her life had completely turned around but one thing hung over Edna and that was the fact that Charlie was not making any moves to marry her. She had an awkward breakup in San Francisco and now she was feeling the discomfort that her relationship was not really progressing. Chaplin was very liberal and did not treat women as well as other men of the time did. Charlie did not have a moral code when it came to women and believed that he owed nothing to any woman. He had beautiful women chasing him and Edna was left to feeling insecure. In his autobiography Chaplin described Edna as possessive and said that when they were at parties together and pretty girls would circle around him Edna would have "feinting" spells. Basically, she would pretend that she had feinted so that Charlie would have to drop the girls he was talking to and come to her aid. He eventually tired of the manipulative tactics by Edna to get control over her promiscuous lover and he got a teenaged Mildred Harris pregnant. Mildred was only 14 at the time but Charlie was pressured to marry the girl. Edna was devastated, angry and hurt. She never really recovered. Two years later after Charlie divorced the girl Edna hoped he would rekindle his relationship with her but he moved on to other women and then quickly found himself in hot water with another pregnant teenager on his hands. This time Charlie would go through the wringer as his new 16 year old bride and her family took advantage of him. But, Edna was wounded by Charlie once more and began dating Courtland Dines, an entrepreneur who had recently become a millionaire in the oil business.

Edna was still shaky emotionally, and she was smoking and drinking regularly but she had a man of wealth who could take her out on his yacht. She was trying to move on and build her movie career without Chaplin in the shadows. But in 1923 Edna had been spending some time with another movie actress who was the queen of comedy in the teens and 20s, Mabel Normand. Mabel and Edna has some things in common. They were both scorned women, Mabel was tormented by Mack Sennett and Edna by Chaplin, they were also both starring in major comedies of the time, so the women would get together on weekends with Courtland Dines for drinks and lighthearted fun.

On New Year's day 1924 Mabel was dropped off by her chauffeur at Dines apartment to meetup with him and Edna for the day. The facts have never been cleared up but at some point Mabel's chauffeur got into an argument with Dines and shot him twice, wounding him badly. When news hit the front page of the incident and the stories of Edna and Mabel were repeatedly changed. They had conflicting stories and then each of them changed her story. Dines eventually dropped the charges and made a full recovery but the public turned strongly against Mabel Normand and Edna Purviance and their careers were over. It seemed that the women were either covering something up or that they were too drunk at the time of the incident to recall what happened. Edna drifted into obscurity and never made another movie.


Barbara La Marr

The Beginning

Actresses of the1940s have a certain mystique and intrigues us to this day. Hedy Lamarr is one of the most beautiful of all the 1940s actresses and how her persona began is quite an interesting story.

In the 1920s Barbara La Marr was the toast of Hollywood. She had her name in local newspapers since 1914, and by the 1920s she represented 1920s fashion for women. She was nicknamed "the girl who is too beautiful."

During her short life, Barbara La Marr married five times, and boasted of sleeping for 5 hours at the most, with the rationalization that one should not waste what little live they have on sleep. Perhaps a premonition that she herself did not have long to live it up.

Barbara La Marr was a party girl who stayed up all night and wanted to life life to the fullest. La Marr died at the age of 29 from complications of tuberculosis and nephritis, however, there were wild rumors circulating Hollywood about her death. Two of the most popular rumors were over dieting and drug addiction. Some believe that she had a drug problem and that was what lead to the tuberculosis. The early death and mystique surrounding it put Barbara La Marr forever in the category of "Hollywood Immortals."


Hedy Lamarr

Louis B Mayor of MGM finally found a woman beautiful enough to be worthy of the name La Marr (changed the spelling to Lamarr) She had jet black hair and skin as white as snow, and in the glam age of Hollywood, lips as read as blood. The effect was utterly breathtaking. Hedy was from Vienna, and christened, Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler. Her father was a wealthy bank director and her mother was a concert pianist who abandoned her career to lavish attention on her daughter. Hedy lived a life of luxury, living in a large Estate, traveling to Switzerland, Ireland and having private tutors, ballet lessons, piano lessons, and was sent to the finest private schools and topped it all off in finishing school.

In 1929 she broke into American films and persuaded her parents to let her go to Berlin to study at Max Reinhardt's famous theater school. She did a couple of plays, more film work, and then came the movie which would bring her notoriety for years to come, Ecstasy, 1933. They movie was quite risque, featuring a long scene in which Hedy runs nude through a forest and then goes for a swim. Shortly after the movie was made, Hedy married one of Europe's richest men, Austrian munitiions maker Fritz mandl. As Madame Mandel, Hedy had a position to maintain and her husband tried desperately to buy up all the copies of Ecstasy and destroy the film. He failed but, Hedy now had servants, a fleet of cars and a palace to call her own, in 1937 she had a Paris divorce.

It was during this time that Hedy arranged an appointment with Louis B Mayer, who was in Europe searching for talent to bring back to Hollywood. Althought Hedy's exquisite appearance opened doors for her, she had to fight for roles in Hollywood like every other actress. Hedy was an instant sensation, and widely photographed from the late 30's to the mid 40's.

Suddenly, during the mid 40's, the exotic European stars were out of vogue, and the cute, and somewhat less sophisticated actresses such as Marilyn Monroe, were gaining favor. Hedy continued to make movies in the 50's, but she was clearly passed her prime. In 1958 Hedy played a mother to Jane Powell in The Female Animal, and Jane recalled in her autobiography that Heady resented her greatly, and was hardly civil towards her. It turned out to be her last movie.

Autobiography

Being born with a silver spoon, and marrying wealth, along with her instant fame had made Hedy an incurable spendthrift. She dropped thousands as though there were no tomorrow, and life was becoming very realistic for the very first time.

Hedy spent money lavishly and although her career was declining, she was out of control with her spending. It was this dilemma that lead her to publish an autobiography called Ecstasy and Me, revealing many intimate details about herself and Hollywood. Unhappy with it, she later attempted to get an injunction against the book and sued her collaborators. She passed away in 2000. She had a numerous facelifts in an effort to hold onto her glamorous image.

Stunning Hedy Lamarr in Color

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    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      @ fpherj48-You are so right.

      @Patriette- Hello, she certainly was beautiful, but not much else.

      @Angela- The studios were brilliant when it came to presenting the perfect image. I absolutely admire her beauty and style, she just had the problem that many stars do when they discover that they are not number one anymore.

      Thank you all for your support. I like writing on this topic..

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 5 years ago from Central Texas

      When I was a child (the days of movie magazines) Hedy was one of my idols. The movie studios presented their stars in a favorable light -- always -- so it was no wonder the woman was idolized by lots of little girls. Thanks for bringing "days gone by" to mind -- enjoyed reading about Hedy's strange, real life. Best/Sis

    • Patriette profile image

      Patriette 5 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I loved the movie, Come Live With Me, costarring Jimmy Stewart. Yes, she had timeless beauty, but seemingly lived a life not very inspiring nor worthy of being copied. Interesting article, though. Voted up and interesting.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Exquisite beauty and massive wealth, hedy surely had. Sadly, she was quite simply, NOT A NICE PERSON. Envious, greedy, ego-centric, snobbish, frivolous and deceitful.........beauty and money don't cover for these flaws.