Today is the birthday of Ruth Roland (1892-1937). The daughter of a San Francisco theatre manager and a singer, she entered show business as a child actress in vaudeville billed as Baby Ruth. She was spotted for pictures by director Sidney Olcott, who put her in his 1908 adaptation of The Scarlet Letter. She was to become one of Kalem Studio’s lead actresses through 1914. Then she went over to Balboa Films and became a major Queen of the Serials, second only to Pearl White. Her last silent serial was The Masked Woman in 1927. She made a single talkie, Reno in 1930, and then returned to vaudeville for a time in the early 30s, where she trotted out her old singing skills and even did a Ted Lewis impersonation. She made one last low-budget Edgar Ulmer picture Nine to Nine in 1935. Her early death in 1937 was from cancer.
Here is a nice little montage of action scenes from her popular serials:
To find out more about the history of vaudeville, 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 for more about silent films please check out my new 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