Francelia Billington (Francelia Billington)

Francelia  Billington

Actress, Cinematographer. Blonde, slender star of silent films. Born and raised on a ranch near Dallas, Texas, she entered films in 1912 with the Kalem Company and was quickly promoted to leads after the departure of their star, Alice Joyce. Her expertise in horse riding made her a natural for westerns though she was versatile enough to handle comedies and costume dramas. Billington had been a photography buff from childhood, and such was the informality of moviemaking in those days that she was enlisted as a camera operator for dozens of short films, making her one of the earliest female cinematographers. She once told Photoplay magazine that she found cranking a camera more rewarding than acting, though she would not be allowed to practice this craft after leaving Kalem in 1915. After a brief stint at Majestic Pictures Billington moved to Universal and won raves for her performance as an American wife on the loose in Europe in Erich von Stroheim’s “Blind Husbands” (1919); she also made two films with director Rex Ingram, “The Day She Paid” (1919) and “Hearts Are Trumps” (1920). In 1920 she married cowboy star Lester Cuneo, who formed his own production company and cast her as his leading lady in 11 western melodramas. These were initially well received, but as their popularity waned so did the marriage. The couple split in 1925 and Cuneo committed suicide the following year, two days after the divorce became final. By then Billington was being written off as a “star of yesterday” and after 1927 she made only one screen appearance, a small role in the talkie “The Mounted Stranger” (1930). She died of tuberculosis at 39 in Glendale, California. Only four of her 130 films are known to exist.

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  • February, 01, 1895
  • USA
  • Texas


  • November, 24, 1934
  • USA
  • California


  • Calvary Cemetery
  • California
  • USA

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