Eleanor Boardman: The Face in “The Crowd”

The few who remember the name Eleanor Boardman (1898-1991) today know her chiefly for being King Vidor’s second wife and for starring in his 1928 masterpiece The Crowd.

Boardman’s screen career was very brief, lasting less than a decade, fewer than three dozen films. In fact she has nearly as many interesting credits outside cinema than in it. She started out as an artist’s model, and was apparently the one John R. Neill used for the character of Betsy Bobbin in L. Frank Baum’s book Tik-Tok of Oz (1914):

She was apparently for a time also the Eastman Kodak Girl in print adverts. She was in the chorus of a couple of Edgar Selwyn musicals, which led naturally to a contract with Goldwyn (co-founded by Selwyn). her first film was The Strangers Banquet (1922) with Hobart Bosworth, Claire Windsor, Rockliffe Fellowes, and Ford Sterling. She was also in the 1923 version of Vanity Fair, before her first starring picture Souls for Sale, working with Vidor for the first time in Three Wise Fools, and being named a WAMPAS Baby Star, all in the same year. She and Vidor were married in 1926, with Marion Davies as witness. Tell It to the Marines (1926) with Lon Chaney was another one of her silents. Her smattering of talkies included Flood (1931) with Monte Blue, and Cecil B. DeMille’s 1931 remake of The Squaw Man.

Boardman and Vidor divorced in 1933. By that time she had two daughters to raise, so she effectively dropped out of pictures, although she did return for one Spanish film, The Three Cornered Hat in 1935. In 1940 she married Argentine-French screenwriter-director Harry D’Abbadie D’Arrast, dividing time between the U.S. and Europe until his death in 1968.

For more on the history of silent film please see Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube