Actress. Known as the ‘It Girl,’ she is considered America’s first “Sex Symbol”. Born to poverty in Brooklyn, New York, she won a photo beauty contest that launched her film career in 1922. She was “discovered” while working at a Coney Island Hot Dog stand run by Nathan Handwerker, who would later find fame in his own right as the founder of Nathan’s Franks. The silent movie, “It” (1927), made her a household name (“It” refers to “sex appeal”). She often played a young, frisky, openly sensual, rebellious girl in many of her movies, yet this role probably defined the attitude of society at that time, and it made her a star. She was the definitive “Flapper” of the 1920s. Probably one of the more overworked and underpaid actresses in the industry, she made 58 films between 1922 and 1933. Unlike many Hollywood stars, she did not flaunt her wealth, but lived on par with the middle class, living in a small 7 room house in Beverely Hills. Her sexual liaisons and extremely public private life were legendary, and in 1928 she had a torrid affair with director Victor Fleming that made headlines continuously. In 1927, she had the female lead role in “Wings,” the first Oscar winning “Best Picture.” With the coming of sound movies in 1929, her thick Brooklyn accent lost her many fans, and her career waned. Adding to her problems were gambling debts, unpaid IRS taxes, embezzlement by her secretary, and several sensational public court battles involving divorce and alienation of affection between several husbands and wives. In 1931, she married film cowboy Rex Bell, and retired from making films in 1934. She became a doting mother of two boys, settling down and never making another movie. She died at age 60 of a heart attack, in Los Angeles, California. The marker on her crypt marker her birth year as 1907, but she was born in 1905.
- July, 29, 1905
- New York
- September, 27, 1965
- Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale)