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Before They Had Names


GordonCole
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In my early days of being interested in the history of films I remember reading about Florence Lawrence, who was not originally credited on screen but simply known as the Biograph Girl by the public. Being born in the late 1800's she was in show business with family but saw the future of films and began appearing in them by the early 1900's, around 1906 while appearing for the Vitagraph Company. 
 

When the Edison film establishment was looking for a female with equestrienne skills, Florence was asked to appear in The Girl and the Outlaw, and was successful as a new face for that establishment but still without a credit. When IMP wanted her to appear in one of their enterprises, they did a clever promotion implying she had possibly died in a streetcar incident but then was miraculously resurrected just in time to be in their film, The Broken Oath in around 1909, and finally Florence was known under her real name to the public. I could go into major details about all these points but you can just as easily read her bio on the internet, so I shall desist. I just find the early days of film with production companies controlling the fame and power of such people an interesting topic, just as it was also for people like Little Mary and others like Florence. The powers that be, knew that fame would increase the demands for pay probably by such film luminaries so wanted to keep them as anonymous indentured servants with all money to be made only at the top echelon.

Sadly Florence had many ups and downs both in her personal life and financial ones by the late teens and by the early 1920's, her star had mostly lost its lustre. By the 1930's, Mayer at MGM would often show appreciation for the early silent stars by giving them bit parts or as extras and Florence continued to work for them intermittently till her death. This minor kindness by Mayer towards earlier film pioneers was akin to Chaplin continuing to keep his old co-star Edna Purviance on his payroll many years after her career had been derailed, in films like Limelight and so on.

If you have knowledge of a career of a silent star whose fame rose before they had a name on the film credits, feel free to share.

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24 minutes ago, CinemaInternational said:

Mary Pickford was once referred to as the girl with the golden girls, before she became billed by name.

Now how in heck could that be? Mary died in '79 and that sitcom didn't even premiere until '85!

And so there was no way she ever could have appeared with Betty White et al on that show.

(...oh...wait...maybe you meant Mary was known as "The Girl with the Golden CURLS" here, huh...sorry...never mind then, CI) ;)

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On 1/11/2019 at 2:04 PM, GordonCole said:

By the 1930's, Mayer at MGM would often show appreciation for the early silent stars by giving them bit parts or as extras and Florence continued to work for them intermittently till her death. This minor kindness by Mayer towards earlier film pioneers was akin to Chaplin continuing to keep his old co-star Edna Purviance on his payroll many years after her career had been derailed, in films like Limelight and so on.

"Mayer"? "Chaplin"?

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