On the Brief Co-Stardom of Anita Page

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A nod today to MGM star Anita Page (Anita Pomares, 1910-2008).

Fair hair notwithstanding Page was actually a Latina, of Salvadoran origin. She grew up in Flushing, Queens and, based on a submitted photo, got screen tested for Paramount at the Kaufman Astoria studio. This led to a screen test with MGM and a contract with the latter studio, which lasted until 1933. Her career bridged the last years of silents and the earliest years of talkies.

While she appeared in over three dozen movies, a few will be of especial interest to our readers:

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* Our Dancing Daughters (1928): Page, Joan Crawford and Dorothy Sebastian play a trio of wayward flapper friends, each of whom gets into varying degrees of trouble. Page gets to play the really nasty one — but she pays for it in the end. The film was a hit and boosted the careers of all three of its co-stars. Interestingly, both Page and Sebastian would later co-star with Buster Keaton; and Crawford had earlier co-starred with Harry Langdon. 

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* Broadway Melody (1929): One of the very first Hollywood musicals and an absolute must-see for lovers of show biz and vaudeville history. Page and Bessie Love play a vaudeville sister act, who of course get separated by career and romance. The film was another smash, and won the Best Picture Oscar.

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* Free and Easy (1930) and Sidewalks of New York (1931). These are the films in which she co-stars with Keaton. In the first she plays a country girl who comes to Hollywood to be a star, accompanied by her mother and her bumbling admirer (Keaton). In the second, she plays a poor girl who converts millionaire Keaton to a life of philanthropy.

For some reason, by 1933 Page (who at one point got more fan mail than any other star at MGM) had lost popularity, and she was let out of her contract. She married MGM songwriter Nacio Herb Brown the following year (he’d written songs for several of her movies) but they broke up within months. In 1937 she retired for good and settled down to marry a naval officer. In the 1990s she re-emerged from retirement to take parts in several low budget horror movies. Ain’t that always the way?

Now check it out! Here she is being interviewed during her twilight comeback in 1993:

For more on early film history don’t miss my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc. For more on show biz historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

 

3 comments

  1. In regard to your post on Walter Lambert, as a family member of his, I and other family members are disgusted at Walter being used for LBGT purposes without permission. You do not know how Walter would have thought about this issue. But he was a family man with children, and you have no right to commandeer him or anyone else for LBGT purposes, without knowing how they would have thought on this issue. Please remove all LBGT references to him.

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    • I was about to honor your request, but I had a second thought on the subject, which is “Go screw yourself”. Do you know who are the biggest fans of drag performance here, there or anywhere? Gay people! Those are the people most likely to be interested in your relative’s work, and I am delighted if they or anybody else read my blog. Frankly I don’t care if he was gay, straight or bounced up and down the street in a pinwheel hat riding a pogo stick!

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  2. Fascinating woman. From what I understand, she couldn’t stand Joan Crawford and in the early ’30s fell out of favor with Louis B. Mayer.

    Another notable film of Anita’s was “The Easiest Way” (1931), in which she has a supporting role to star Constance Bennett. Her husband in the movie is played by a pre-stardom Clark Gable.

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