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:
* 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.
* 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.
* 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 Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc. For more on show biz history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.