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Norma Shearer


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Norma Shearer was the best. She's been discussed in many other forums here, but I'm more than happy to discuss her again. She wasn't the greatest actress in Hollywood, but she was damn good, and appeared in many fine films, many times under the guidance of her brilliant studio - executive husband, Irving Thalberg. I think she was great in "The Women," as well as "Idiot's Delight," "Riptide," "Let Us Be Gay," "The Divorcee," and an oft-forgotten gem called "Strange Interlude," in which Clark Gable also gave a very good performance.

 

I don't know what it was about this incredible lady, but she has that star quality that just draws you to her. She wasn't conventionally beautiful, and yet she was one of the most gorgeous women in Hollywood. She had an incredible smile, it just radiated across the screen. Norma Shearer is one of the all time greatest film stars, and its a shame that she isn't remembered too much today by mainstream society. But I'm glad that some of the folks on here know of her, and enjoy her work.

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You said it all so well, MovieJoe! I am also a Shearer fan. In fact, as I sat typing, I was rather hard pressed to name even one of her films I didn't enjoy. My all time favorite is probably THE DIVORCEE, but I liked all the ones you named.

 

And let's not forget to sing the praises of Ms. Shearer's silent films too. I always enjoy her work in THE STUDENT PRINCE everytime I see it. She looks so fresh and young and Ramon Novarro is a perfect romantic lead for her in this one. I would dearly love to see more of Norma's silents.

 

Does anyone attribute her success to the fact that she was married to Irving Thalberg? My own personal feeling is although she had the boss and his insightful hand guiding her career, her own talent kept her on top.

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Shearer to me is one of the hidden gems. When I first started discovering classic films in the 80's it was next to impossible to see a Norma Shearer flick. And I always read what a saapy, bad actress she was in film books of the era. The first time I saw The Divorcee I was blown away by how great she was. It wasn't that she was the best actress in the world but that she had such presence and that she picked excellent films. In some ways Shearer was so obviously ahead of her time because her flicks still resonate on topics that are of great interest today. I love A Free Soul, The Divorcee, Altered states all of which have been mentioned. That said I also have a great fondness for Smilin Through. It's kind of a light weight Shearer but it's still absolutely great.

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To Alix1929 - Personally, I don't feel that Irving Thalberg's guidance of her career is the only reason why Norma was successful. She obviously had beauty and talent, and she was actually quite a success before Thalberg entered her life. Before she married him, she co-starred with Lon Chaney in a great silent classic called "He Who Gets Slapped." And I agree that it's a shame that we cannot see more of her silents. Turner owns all of them, and yet they are rarely shown. Hopefully TCM will dust off some of her silents on her birthday which is August 10, and let us enjoy more of this incredible lady.

 

For any of you that don't know it - A fantastic biography was written about her by Gavin Lambert around 1990, and it is simply titled "Norma Shearer." Check your library or used bookstore to find a copy of this great account of her life. He writes it very informatively, even giving accounts of his own personal encounters with Norma in the late 70's, when she was practically a recluse. I highly recommend this book - not only to Shearer fans, but to anyone who enjoys reading about Hollywood's Golden Age.

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Hey Bedford ya sure you're not from Pottersville? :) Every Christmas I get a ton of requests from my family to to my annual "George Bailey reams out Uncle Billy" routine. I do a wicked Jimmy Stewart. I really like "the Women." Much superior to that 50's re-make with June Alison and Joan Collins. Name escapes me for the moment...does anybody recall it?

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Yes, Norma got the same bad rap as Marion Davies as having a career that was the result of a powerful lover. In Davis case It was William Randolph Hearst. IMHO the rep was earned by the later but NOT by the former.

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  • 6 months later...

I just LOVE Norma Shearer--the bad thing is, I did not really appreciate her or really know of her until after her death in 1983.

Thank goodness I bought Gavin Lambert's great biography on her when it was first published. This is a great book and after reading it, this is when I started to find her films and became a fan of hers.

I loved her as "Marie Antoinette" (she should have won the Oscar for this one, as the ending shot of her going to the guillotine was shocking. Never before did I see a glamourous actress make herself look so ugly) and also in "The Women", and "Escape".

The sad part of it was, was that just as she stopped making films, her looks were really outstanding. Also, I wish that she had done at least one color film.

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  • 5 weeks later...

She appeared in an early bi-color technicolor sequence as Juliet opposite John Gilbert's Romeo...in the All Star...1929 "The Hollywood Revue"....

 

I like very much Norma Shearer, especially in Riptide, The Women, Marie Antoinette, A Free Soul, The Divorc?e.... but I'd like to see her in 1925's "Tower of Lies" and 1926 "The Devil's Circus"...havent caught those ones on TCM..

 

Also wanna state, that Marion Davies was an excellent comedienne (Not So Dumb, Show People, Blondie of the Follies, The Patsy).....I think...Mr. Hearst, wanting her to be a dramatic star of elevated period dramas (i've read that in many books).... in reality he destroyed her career, ultimately...

 

 

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Has anyone ever seen any older photos of Norma Shearer? In the Lambert book I saw one from the early 1950s, but I don't think there were any more recent. Anyone see any from the 1970s? The oldest photo of Irene Dunne I've seen (or should I say most recent?) is when she was at the Kennedy Center Honors in the mid 1980s.

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  • 1 year later...

I've always thought that Glenn Close resembled Norma Shearer. I think that it's the close set eyes and strong jaw line. However Norma's face if softer and more feminine than Ms. Close's.

 

- Madge

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Norma Shearer was radiantly beautiful in my opinion. I don't know what it was about her, perhaps her smile, that made her just breathtaking on screen. And she's not typically beautiful in the general sense. She's no Jean Harlow, or Ava Gardner, or Lana Turner, who were all considered beautiful in a very sexy way. But she just shined on screen.

 

And for anyone who wants to see her at the peak of her early 30's success, check out "The Divorcee" tonight. I haven't seen it in awhile, and I'm looking forward to watching it tonight. It's a steamy story, even by today's standards, and she's very good in it.

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I love THE DIVORCEE, Moviejoe! It is possibly Norma Shearer's finest work. You mention her 'beauty,' stating she's no Jean Harlow or Lana Turner, but I personally find Shearer to be sexier than both! Ava Gardner, well that's another story.....To each his own. I agree with you that she really shined onscreen, and was rather breathtaking. I also found Joan Crawford to be extremely lovely in her early films, but many just remember the 'Mommie Dearest' persona. Anyway, It was great to have a whole day of Norma's films, and to receive those excellent Pre-Code's, although I've already seen them a bunch.

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I'm glad you're a big fan of Norma's too Keith.

 

She was incredibly beautiful. I was reminded of just how radiant she was when I watched "The Divorcee" last night. And she really deserved the Oscar for it, since she runs the gamut of emotions from giddy young girl in love, to devoted wife, to scorned woman, to woman of the world, and then comes full circle as a woman who's lived, and who realizes that she wants her husband back, and he wants her as well. Basically they both feel remorseful for their indiscretions. It's really an excellent story, and could still be done today since it's so modern. In fact it's actually shocking that MGM was able to get away with having Shearer sleep with Robert Montgomery while still married to Chester Morris, and she did it in revenge no less! Even for a Pre-Code that's steamy stuff. Personally I'm so used to seeing classic films where the sex is so glossed over and not even mentioned, that I'm still surprised when I see some of these Pre-Codes.

 

And "A Free Soul" was great too. I watched some of it before going to sleep, and I was surprised at how good the print looked. Did anyone else notice this? It looks like it was restored, maybe for release onto DVD as part of a Clark Gable DVD set, which I'm sure will be forthcoming from Warners. Let's hope so anyway. And Shearer was just as sexy in this movie.

 

Thanks TCM for showcasing Norma for us, and for showing "The Divorcee" during primetime!

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Norma Shearer was an amazing actress, and the irony I wasn't familiar with any of her films, or her till I found TCM. The first film I saw of hers was when she played Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and a few years ago I saw The Women for the first time. Yesterday I saw her in Marie Anntonette and she moved me to tears at the end when she stood by the guillotine flashing back. She was a great actress.

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I absolutely LOVE Norma's pre-Codes. I enjoy THE DIVORCEE, and think Norma was not only extremely attractive but acted well.

 

I also like the chemistry with she & Gable in A FREE SOUL. "Come on...put 'em around me." Wow, it just doesn't get sexier than that!

 

 

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