Some brief tribute today to silent movie star Lillian Walker (Lillian Wolke, 1887-1975).
Brooklyn native Walker was an artists’ model and chorus girl in the Follies of 1910 when Stuart Blackton hired her for Vitagraph. She appeared in over 150 films for the studio between 1911 and 1917, often playing artist’s models and chorus girls, funnily enough, in such films as The Show Girl (1911), By Way of Mrs. Browning (1911), The Diamond Brooch (1912), and Cutey and the Chorus Girls (1913). “Cutey” was Wally Van; by 1915, Walker was regularly cast opposite him in comedies playing a character named “Dimples” foregrounding one of her most fetching attributes. By this time, she had become one of Vitagraph’s biggests stars (in fact her character names in many pictures starting around 1914, were often “Lily” or “Lillian”, a sign that she was popular enough with audiences to be presented as having her OWN adventures, as opposed to those of a fictional character). She also starred in something called the “Miss Tomboy” series — very much against type, I should think!
In 1917, Walker left Vitagraph, ostensibly to make her own pictures with her pown production company, a risky move that was usually regretted by most of the stars who tried it. The Embarrassnent of Riches (1918) is the only film known to have come out under her own aegis. Dimples the Diplomat (1917) was her last film for Vitagraph. She was in about a dozen features for a variety of studios between 1918 and 1922, including a 1921 adaptation of Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance starring Fay Compton.
Following a dry spell, Walker returned to Broadway to appear in The Mating Season and The Banshee, both in 1927. In 1929, she had a good part in her first talkie, a short called Pusher-in-the-Face written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, directed by Robert Florey (the same year he made The Cocoanuts) and featuring Lester Allen, Estelle Taylor, Raymond Hitchcock, and Reginald Owen. Her performance must not have made a very favorable impression. In a 1932 newsreel, she was presented as a struggling “former screen star” now trying to make a go of it on a small farm! In 1934 she had a supporting part in a low-budget exploitation picture called Enlighten Thy Daughter. I know it was an Exploitation Picture not just because of the title, but because that was literally the name of the studio — Exploitation Pictures! Later that year she had a small role in the Broadway play Mother Lode with Melvyn Douglas and Beulah Bondi. That appears to be last major credit. By the time of her death four decades later, Walker was living in Trinidad.
For more on silent film and classic comedy read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.
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