The Bloody Ends of the Theatrical Blood Women

Adele Blood (1886-1936) was a socialite and stage star whose finish was as spectacular as that in any melodrama. Three years later, a gun shot rang out again in a horrible echo of that theatrical tragedy, as her daughter exited in similar fashion.

Blood made her theatrical debut at San Francisco’s legendary California Theatre. While singing in a San Francisco church choir she fell in love with the minister, a young man named Edwards Davis, who subsequently shed his robes, eloped with Blood and formed a traveling stock company for them both to star in. According to the 1914 publication Who’s Who in Music and Drama, they were married in 1906 — the same year as the Great Earthquake and Fire. They toured vaudeville and legit theatre houses across the country, in such vehicles as Faust and The Picture of Dorian Gray. They apparently got traction; in 1908 Adele made the cover of the Dramatic Mirror:

In 1913 Blood debuted in an allegory play called Everywoman, which was enormously successful with audiences, and remains her best known credit, as she played in it on and off for several years. In 1914 she made her Broadway debut in Milady’s Boudoir with Henry Bergman, although the reviews were not good.

In 1914 Blood began divorce proceedings against Davis, making charges against him for adultery. He countercharged that she had had a relationship with Governor Earl Brewer of Mississippi. Their divorce became final in 1915.

In 1916, Blood starred in her first film The Devil’s Toy with Montagu Love and Madge Evans. Publicity from the time called her “The Most Beautiful Blonde on the American Stage”, and claimed that her luxuriant tresses reached almost to her knees and were insured for $50,000. She returned to Broadway later in the year to appear in the play Mile-a-Minute Kendall.

Blood retired for a time to pal around with the Utah “Silver Queen” Susanna Holmes (Susanna Branford Emery Holmes at the time). Holmes, invariably described as Blood’s sister-in-law, was one of the richest women in America, the widow of Albion Barnard Emery of the Silver King Mining Company. For several months Blood and Holmes steamed around the world as fashionable tourists, and it was reported in the press in 1917 that Blood was to inherit Holmes’s fortune, although that almost certainly would not have come to pass, and in any case didn’t because Blood predeceased Holmes.

In 1918 Blood returned to Broadway one last time to appear in He Didn’t Want to Do It with Ernest Torrence and Ned Sparks. Toward the end of the decade she was briefly married a British theatrical agent named Isaac Waddell Hope. The union yielded one offspring Dawn Blood Hope, born 1919.

In 1920 she, Blood appeared in her last movie The Riddle: Woman (1920) with Montagu Love and Geraldine Farrar. Beginning in 1922 she toured Asia with various theatrical productions and companies. In 1926 it was reported in the New York Times that she would marry Colonel R.W. Castle, a British officer serving in India. It was announced that pair would marry in Calcutta, although they appear not to have done so.

A decade later, Blood was 50 and little remembered in the U.S. Nevertheless she staked her remaining fortune of $40,000 on a new theatrical stock company that would star herself and her 17 year old daughter Dawn, who had become an actress in addition to being a gifted concert violinist. Slated for a run of six weeks in Bronxville, New York, the venture folded halfway through. The burden appears to have been too much for Blood. She shot herself in the head at her country home on the grounds of the Westchester Country Club. She died in the hospital a few hours later.

Worse, Dawn had been home with friends at the time. In the wake of this trauma, Dawn appears to have gone a bit wild. She moved to Hollywood and married a big bandleader named Jimmy Noel, who was a decade and a half her senior. Three years after her mother, Dawn too committed suicide by gunshot, in a tawdry scenario that has elements of non-stop partying, group sex, and nudism. The late Marilyn Slater of Looking for Mabel (RIP, dear lady) has all the details about Blood mother and daughter, including Dawn’s untimely demise. I’ll turn you over to her for the rest. 

To learn more about vaudeville history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on silent film please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.