Stella Adams: Stalwart at Christie

Stella Adams (1883-1961) appeared in over 150 films, most notably as star, co-star or featured player in comedies produced by the Nestor and Christie studios.

A native of Sherman, Texas, Adams went to New York at age 17 and got into the chorus of the Broadway show Miss Prinnt starring Marie Dressler. The show played a year, after which she landed a speaking role in The Mocking Bird (1902-03), followed by a chorus part in The Rogers Brothers in Paris (1904). In 1909 she was cast in her first film, Selig’s In the Sultan’s Power, alongside Hobart Bosworth and Frank Montgomery. She was fourth billed in this film, one of the first to be shot in its entirety in Los Angeles. She remained on the coast to star in a musical burlesque called A Stubborn Cinderella in 1910.

The Lady Barber of Roaring Gulch (1912) with Louise Glaum and Eddie Lyons began Adams’ long relationship with Al Christie, which started at Nestor. Through mid-1917 she featured in dozens of comedy shorts for the director/producer, with the likes of Lyons, Lee Moran, Neal Burns, Betty Compson, Eugenie and Victoria Forde, and others. Occasionally she would act in dramas as well.

In July 1917 Adams married press agent James Whittendale and moved with him to Chicago, where she acted in live theatre for almost a decade. In 1926 she returned to Hollywood to pick up right where she left off with Christie, in the 1926 comedy short Uppercuts with Jack Duffy. In this phase of her career she cut capers in comedies through 1931, alongside co-stars like Duffy, Burns, Jimmie Adams, Chester Conklin, Ford Sterling, June Maccloy, and others. During this period (1927-28) she also co-starred with Harry Long in a dozen Keeping Up with the Joneses shorts, based on the comic strip, and produced by the Stern Brothers.

Starting in 1932 Adams became a supporting player in features, usually pretty far down in the billing. Two of her better known films from the period include The Vampire Bat and Sing Sinner Sing, both 1933. By the middle of the decade, she was strictly in extra. Her last feature was Theodora Goes Wild (1936).

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