Today is the birthday of Florence Turner (1885-1946).
New York native Turner began acting onstage at the age of three, and was a relatively elderly 22 when she went to work for Vitagraph in 1907. That year she became one of the studio’s, indeed, one of the medium’s, first stars, although she was initially billed only as “The Vitagraph Girl”: mascot, brand, and star all at the same time. Such was her popularity that by 1910 she was able to leverage the publicizing of her real name to the audience, one of the first two stars (along with Florence Lawrence) to do so. In 1913 she and actor/ director Lawrence Trimble (manager/handler of “The Vitagraph Dog”) moved to England. There Lawrence acted, directed and wrote motion pictures, and appeared with Trimble in music halls. In 1916 she concentrated in entertaining troops during WWI. She returned to films in 1920, and returned to the U,S. permanently, no longer a top box office draw. She continued to get decent, though not starring, roles through the end of the silent era (it was she who played the Mother in Buster Keaton’s College) but by the time of talkies she was an extra and bit player. All told, she appeared in over 160 films over the course of her career.
Here she is at her height however, as Viola in Vitagraph’s 1910 prestige production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (it’s only 12 1/2 minutes long):
For more on silent film don’t miss 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
To learn about vaudeville and music hall, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.