Vivian Martin was born in Sparta, Michigan and began her career as a child actress on the stage with comedian Lew Fields. Her early theatrical appearances included Stop Thief, Officer 666, The Only Son and with Richard Mansfield in Cyrano de Bergerac. A winsome and pretty blonde, Martin entered the motion pictures industry in 1914. With her then long hair she played the type of role similar to Lillian Gish. Her first role was in The Wishing Ring: An Idyll of Old England (1914) for the World Film Company, in which she played Sally, a parson’s daughter. Martin subsequently became a contract player for the Famous Players Film Company, where she achieved popularity as a “rival” to Mary Pickford. Among her other credits are The Third Kiss (1919), Her Official Fiancee (1919), The Innocent Adventuress (1919), and Louisiana (1919). She made forty-four movies in all, including some for the Fox Film Corporation. In the early 1920s Martin started her own production company and released her films through the Goldwyn Corporation. Her career entered into a downward spiral soon afterwards as a result of a lawsuit for payment of studio rentals. Although eventually settled out of court, the case did irreparable damage to her popularity.
In April 1921 Vivian Martin left movies and returned to the stage. Her theatrical revival began with a three-act comedy entitled First Night Out by Adelaide Matthews and Ann Nichols. Vivian Martin died in New York, New York in 1987, aged 93. Her obituary in the New York Times noted her philanthropy and association with the Professional Children’s School in New York. She contributed to the lives of young performers as both a friend and benefactress. At one time Martin was married to actor William Jefferson. Several of Martin’s early and rare films survive at the Library of Congress.
- July, 22, 1891
- Sparta, Michigan
- March, 16, 1987
- New York, New York