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Betty Blythe

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posted by Truus, Bob & Jan too! alias Truus, Bob & Jan too! on Saturday 4th of July 2020 09:45:20 AM

French postcard by Cinémagazine-Edition, Paris, no. 218. American silent film actress Betty Blythe (1893-1972) was a brunette, buxom matinee idol. She capitalised on the 'roaring 1920s' infatuation with exotic screen sirens to achieve a brief period of stardom. Betty was notorious as one of the first actresses to appear (semi-)nude on screen in The Queen of Sheba (1922). Over the course of her career, she acted in 63 silent and 56 sound films. Betty Blythe was born as Elizabeth Blythe Slaughter in 1893 in Los Angeles. She attended Westlake School for Girls and the University of Southern California. She had already shortened her name to Betty Blythe when she and three other women posed for a photoshoot of the newest swim fashion for women, a bathing suit. Prior to then, women were expected to wear stockings with full dresses or skirts into the water. I.S. Mowis at IMDb about her notoriety: "It wasn't that Betty couldn't act, as well - in fact, she had studied art in Paris and at USC and had appeared on stage in a number of traditional plays like 'So Long Letty' in both London and New York." She worked in vaudeville as the 'California Nightingale' singing songs such as 'Love Tales from Hoffman'. In 1915, she had an unbilled part in Bella Donna (Edwin S. Porter, Hugh Ford, 1915) with Pauline Frederick, for Famous Players Film Company. In 1918, she joined a roommate on a visit to the Vitagraph Studio in Brooklyn and found immediate employment when one of the directors needed a leading lady for A Game With Fate (Paul Scardon, 1918). Two years later, she wound up in Hollywood, was signed by Fox Studios as a replacement for Theda Bara. She became the protégé of J. Gordon Edwards, the grandfather of Blake Edwards of 'Pink Panther' fame. She was eventually cast as the star of one of the most lavishly produced films of the decade, The Queen of Sheba (J. Gordon Edwards, 1921). Betty later recalled that she was given 28 costumes to wear, all of which would have fitted comfortably into a shoebox. Alas, only a few stills of the movie survive, a fate shared by most of her other silent films. Betty Blythe's career was put on hold when J. Gordon Edwards quarrelled with Fox and left the studio. For a while, she freelanced, playing leads in films for lesser studios. She did have a couple of hits in England with Chu-Chin-Chow (Herbert Wilcox, 1923) and She (Leander De Cordova, G.B. Samuelson, 1925). She was also seen to good advantage in less revealing films like Nomads of the North (1920) with Lon Chaney and In Hollywood with Potash and Perlmutter (1924), produced by Samuel Goldwyn. In addition, she did theatrical work, which helped her to smoothly make the transition from silent to talking pictures. By that time, however, public tastes had changed and Betty had aged sufficiently to be classified as a character actress. To her credit, she persisted and appeared in support in many an A-grade production. In 1960, she was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1708 Vine Street. Her last film appearance was a small role in the ballroom scene of My Fair Lady (George Cukor, 1964). Blythe was married to film director Paul Scardon from 1919 until his death in 1954. She reportedly made $3,500,000 when she sold a section of land that is now part of the Sunset Strip. She lost her fortune in the 1929 stock market crash. In 1972, she died of a heart attack in Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, at the age of 78. She was interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Sources: I.S. Mowis (IMDb), Wikipedia, and IMDb. And, please check out our blog European Film Star Postcards.

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  • Published 08.12.22
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