I admit that I’m a bit obsessed with Fontaine La Rue, the actress who started out in films in the mid-teens as Dora Rogers (Rodgers), a comedienne with Mack Sennett. In the late 1910s, she changed her name to Fontaine La Rue and moved from comedy to vamps, vixens, sirens, and sorceresses.
When I say obsessed, here’s the story. I want to include her in the book I’m currently working on, Hairpins and Dead Ends: The Perilous Journeys of 20 Actresses Through Early Hollywood, a companion volume to my 2010 Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels.
I have a folder full of pieces of the puzzle that made up Fontaine’s life, but I don’t have the missing pieces that complete the picture. She is one of those rare subjects for which I have solid information for the middle of her life. However, I don’t know whatever became of her. I don’t know (for sure) when or where she died. I don’t even know where and when she was born.
Fontaine La Rue, where are you?
The International Movie Database has dates for her birth and death. That’s all well and good, but lay down your cards. Show me the proof. As a meticulous researcher, I need to match those dates with birth certificates and death records.
I can find neither for this enchanting woman.
I have followed her rather successfully through the decades. There she is in the 1920 U.S. Census and numerous Los Angeles city directories. She called herself married to one Louis La Rue, but records and other pieces of information show she was living with a professor-turned-screen actor she’d been living with since the mid-1910s.
When she signed with Goldwyn in the early 1920s, she fills out a personnel profile, giving her parent’s names as Diego Monroy Bourbon Ferrar and Charlotte Bouchet. Her ambition in life is to educate her three children. Where did they come from?
She claimed decorating her home was her hobby, but her home life seemed a far cry from knitting afghans and hanging curtains. Somewhere in the ’20s, she was walking along her street in Hollywood when she was approached by a man dressed as a cop. He told her he was trying to arrest a man who was following her — that old story!! When she stepped into an orange grove with him, the man grabbed her around the neck and attempted to throw her to the ground. The whistle she carried in her handbag saved the day — and her neck!
By the early 1930s, she was living with a real estate broker from Iowa. He later returned to Iowa and died there in the late 1930s. Dead end. No one in his family will talk with me.
After Fontaine La Rue faded from the silver sheets in the late 1920s, a notice appeared in Variety that one Ruth Madonna Antonelli was splitting from her husband. Professionally, she was Fontaine La Rue, a dancer. Several death and marriage certificates later, I concluded there had been two professionals by the name of Fontaine La Rue. As disappointed as it was, this Fontaine La Rue was NOT the one I was looking for.
I’ve traced Ms. Rodgers/La Rue to 1946. After that, the trail goes cold. Dead end!
This old researcher believes there must be numerous dangerous curves in the life of this actress. I want to know her story.
So far, I’m stumped! What do I do?
I’m almost to the point of contacting the spirits. I realize there are problems with that idea. I can’t afford a psychic, I broke my crystal ball, I’m too chicken to have a seance, and my Ouija board is somewhere in the attic.
I also run the risk of getting dear Fontaine on the line and not being able to get rid of her. My life is too complex right now to have a spirit who played sorceresses and vixens hanging around the house and scaring my poodle puppies.
Finding Fontaine online and buried in a census report sounds like the way to go. I’ll keep trying.