Elsie Albert: Nell from North Caldwell

November 20 appears a major day for silent movie star birthdays: in addition to Reginald Denny, Rod La Rocque and Grace Darmond, we have this early one, even more swallowed up by time: Elsie Albert (1888-1981).

Albert was a star of cinema’s early years — the names of motion picture actors had only begin to be revealed to the public a year or two before she launched her screen career in 1910. The New Jersey native started out playing a girl detective named Nell Pierce in a series of mysteries produced by the Yankee Film Company in the vein of the Pearl White serials. After this she worked a lot at Solax and at the Rex studio, which was one of the ones that were merged to form Universal. Albert starred in nearly 50 films over an eight year period. In many of them, her character’s name was “Elsie”, as though she herself were having the adventures, a common trope at the time. Many of her films were adaptations of fairy tales, such as Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, The Sleeping Beauty, Golden Locks and the Three Bears, The Heart of a Princess, and Alladin and His Wonderful Lamp, all 1913, and another version of Snow White in 1917. Many of these were directed by Harry C. Matthews, who became her husband. They both semed to have retired from movies when Rex became part of Universal in 1917, though both returned to make one last independely-produced film called Welcome Children in 1921. Alberts’ niece was a child actress named Baby Earl Gorman, also in films.

For more on silent film please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.