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Bess Flowers: Know The Name? You Know the Face!


TomJH
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We've all seen her, though not everyone may know her name. She was known as "the Queen of the Hollywood Extras," appearing, according to Wiki, in over 700 movies over a 41 year career, beginning in 1923 (her first appearance, ironically, in a film called Hollywood, about a young girl wanting to find fame and fortune in the film capital).

 

fov4g4367rf4fr1_zpsebe4b531.jpg

 

Bess Flowers has the record of having appeared in more Best Picture Oscar winners than any other person. There were five - It Happened One Night, You Can't Take It With You, All About Eve, Greatest Show on Earth and Around the World in 80 Days.

 

Most of the time Bess Flowers was unbilled and only on occasion did she have dialogue. She became what was called a "dress extra." She was smart enough to make the decision to buy her outfits from the studios. Therefore, afterward, whenever a studio wanted to hire an extra dressed to the teeth in fashionable attire or whatever, they knew they could hire Flowers and not pay extra for her outfit.

 

(At the end of her life, when she lived at the Motion Picture County House, Bess had a huge storage area for her immense wardrobe).

 

A tall, elegant lady, Bess was a Texas girl, born in 1898. One of her first Hollywood roles of 1923 was in Chaplin's A Woman of Paris. In a high society party scene Flowers was a near nude model (at least there were rumours to that effect). When she first started in Hollywood extras had no union and most were paid $3 a day along with a box lunch. By 1945 Flowers helped to found the Screen Actors Guild, which fought for better pay and working conditions for extras. She would serve as a vice president and recording secretary.

 

During the '50s and early '60s Bess would also do more than her fair share of television work, her final film appearance in 1964's Good Neighbour Sam. Flowers died in 1984 but she must have been pleased by the die hard film buffs who spotted her in films, some even knowing her name. She once told a film historian, "I wanted to be an individual always, never one of the horde."

 

wefawdownlaurelswife_zps272f678d.gif

 

1928's We Faw Down, as Stan Laurel's wife

 

3119334471_1_9_vH9hrhCR1_zps5907ab5e.jpg

 

Sharing donuts with Charley Chase

 

Tassels_in_the_Air_net1_zpsbc5aac3e.jpg

 

A society patron with the Stooges in Tassels in the Air

 

5821-17181_zps2bf57b49.jpg

 

Unbilled passing by Bogie and Bacall in The Big Sleep (or is it Dark Passage?)

 

58e47dce-edf6-4fe1-85ee-8c8f54c25b3c_zps

 

Magic Town (1947), as the mayor's secretary

 

a00b40ea-7e03-4d86-b2c2-62e3067ca359_zps

 

All About Eve (1950), where Bess had a line of dialogue, "I'm so happy for you, Eve."

 

BessFlowersinTheFly19581balletpatron_zps

 

The Fly (1958), as a ballet patron 

 

NbyNWhotelloungepatron_zps6280eb6c.jpg

 

North by Northwest (1959), as a hotel lounge patron

 

 

 

SO HAS ANYONE SPOTTED BESS LATELY?

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We've all seen her, though not everyone may know her name. She was known as "the Queen of the Hollywood Extras," appearing, according to Wiki, in over 700 movies over a 41 year career, beginning in 1923 (her first appearance, ironically, in a film called Hollywood, about a young girl wanting to find fame and fortune in the film capital).

 

fov4g4367rf4fr1_zpsebe4b531.jpg

 

Bess Flowers has the record of having appeared in more Best Picture Oscar winners than any other person. There were five - It Happened One Night, You Can't Take It With You, All About Eve, Greatest Show on Earth and Around the World in 80 Days.

 

 

Being a huge fan of the Stooges, oh yeah. I know Bess. Interesting stuff you posted there.

 

Most of the time Bess Flowers was unbilled and only on occasion did she have dialogue. She became what was called a "dress extra." She was smart enough to make the decision to buy her outfits from the studios. Therefore, afterward, whenever a studio wanted to hire an extra dressed to the teeth in fashionable attire or whatever, they knew they could hire Flowers and not pay extra for her outfit.

 

(At the end of her life, when she lived at the Motion Picture County House, Bess had a huge storage area for her immense wardrobe).

 

A tall, elegant lady, Bess was a Texas girl, born in 1898. One of her first Hollywood roles of 1923 was in Chaplin's A Woman of Paris. In a high society party scene Flowers was a near nude model (at least there were rumours to that effect). When she first started in Hollywood extras had no union and most were paid $3 a day along with a box lunch. By 1945 Flowers helped to found the Screen Actors Guild, which fought for better pay and working conditions for extras. She would serve as a vice president and recording secretary.

 

During the '50s and early '60s Bess would also do more than her fair share of television work, her final film appearance in 1964's Good Neighbour Sam. Flowers died in 1984 but she must have been pleased by the die hard film buffs who spotted her in films, some even knowing her name. She once told a film historian, "I wanted to be an individual always, never one of the horde."

 

wefawdownlaurelswife_zps272f678d.gif

 

1928's We Faw Down, as Stan Laurel's wife

 

3119334471_1_9_vH9hrhCR1_zps5907ab5e.jpg

 

Sharing donuts with Charley Chase

 

Tassels_in_the_Air_net1_zpsbc5aac3e.jpg

 

A society patron with the Stooges in Tassels in the Air

 

5821-17181_zps2bf57b49.jpg

 

Unbilled passing by Bogie and Bacall in The Big Sleep (or is it Dark Passage?)

 

58e47dce-edf6-4fe1-85ee-8c8f54c25b3c_zps

 

Magic Town (1947), as the mayor's secretary

 

a00b40ea-7e03-4d86-b2c2-62e3067ca359_zps

 

All About Eve (1950), where Bess had a line of dialogue, "I'm so happy for you, Eve."

 

BessFlowersinTheFly19581balletpatron_zps

 

The Fly (1958), as a ballet patron 

 

NbyNWhotelloungepatron_zps6280eb6c.jpg

 

North by Northwest (1959), as a hotel lounge patron

 

 

 

SO HAS ANYONE SPOTTED BESS LATELY?

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SO HAS ANYONE SPOTTED BESS LATELY?

 

Nope, sorry Tom, can't say that I have. In fact, I can't even remember the last time I spotted A "Bess", as that name has seemed to have fallen out of favor, hasn't it! ;)

 

(...btw...AS USUAL, I love readin' these write-ups of yours around here...nice job again!) 

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Bess had supporting parts in many short subjects while being mostly a dress extra in features. In later years, Bess was often seen side-by-side the king of the dress extras Major Sam Harris.  They would either be at a dinner table or dancing.  They even appeared together in at least one episode of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW (I think Spec O'Donnell was also in that one!).

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Bess had supporting parts in many short subjects while being mostly a dress extra in features. In later years, Bess was often seen side-by-side the king of the dress extras Major Sam Harris.  They would either be at a dinner table or dancing.  They even appeared together in at least one episode of THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW (I think Spec O'Donnell was also in that one!).

 

Thanks, Ray. I had never heard of Major Sam Harris. Assuming others hadn't either, here's a pix of him:

 

images4_zps608a0101.jpg

 

Unfortunately, I could not find any images of Harris and Bess Flowers together.

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