The promising life and career of Christine Maple (Christine Raphael, 1912-1947) was cut short by episodes of bad behavior ostensibly stemming from mental illness, though whether her unhappiness was the result of nature or nurture can only be a matter of conjecture. She became a sex object at rather a young age.
Born in Belle-Plaine, Kansas, Maple moved to Los Angeles with her mother and stepfather and began competing in beauty pageants. She was so striking that her career took off immediately. She was only 18 years old when she played Charley Chase’s wife in the comedy short Fifty Million Husbands (1930). That same year, she was one of the Goldwyn Girls in Eddie Cantor’s Whoopie!
Next came a chorus part in the Broadway show Smiles (1930-31) starring Fred and Adele Astaire, featuring Bob Hope, and produced by Flo Ziegfeld. She made such an impression that she given specialty numbers in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1931, which became her most notorious turn, for in one of the numbers she appeared completely nude.
Then came the comedy short The Naggers at the Dentist’s (1931) with Jack Norworth, followed by a walk-on in Good Sport (1931) and the short Then Came the Yawn (1932) in which she co-starred with Jack Haley.
Over the next few years she made more headlines offscreen than on. She had affairs with violinist Enric Madriguera, plastic surgeon Morton Berson, and millionaire Martino De Alzaga Unzue. She was arrested for making a ruckus on a Switzerland train in 1933; and had a public spat with a cab driver in 1935. That year she was sent to a sanitarium to recover from a “nervous breakdown”.
In 1936 she signed with Republic and her career seemed to be back on track again, if only in B movies. She appeared in the westerns The Big Show with Gene Autry, Roarin’ Lead with the Three Mesquiteers, and the crime thrillers Beware of Ladies and A Man Betrayed, all in 1936.
This apparently led nowhere. In 1938 she toured with an Australian production of The Women, but had to quit due to illness. In 1943 came another hospitalization for nervous breakdown. After this she moved to Buck’s County, Pennsylvania where she worked in a department store. In 1947 she ended it all by hanging herself (the death certificate can be seen here). She was not yet 35 years of age. More details can be found at her IMDB bio.
To learn more about show biz history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.