Today is the birthday of Lila Lee (Augusta Wilhelmena Fredericka Appel, 1901-1973). Billed as “Cutie Cuddles”, she got her start performing in Gus Edwards’ kiddie act in vaudeville with Eddie Cantor, Georgie Jessel, Georgie Price and others. When she reached age 17, Jesse Lasky drafted her for films in The Cruise of the Make-Believe. She was a major star of the silent and early sound era. Notable films included Blood and Sand with Rudolph Valentino (1922), the talkie version of Tod Browning’s The Unholy Three (1930) and the first sound version of The Gorilla (1930) directed by Bryan Foy.
By 1937 her Hollywood career had petered out and she returned to the stage for several years. In the 50s she found some work in television. Her last role was in the 1967 film Cottonpickin’ Chickenpickers starring country singer Del Reeves.
To find out more about the history of vaudeville and performers like Lila Lee, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold, and also check out my newer book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc