Close Ups on Fade Outs: Frances Burnham

I’m starting a new series within this blog, Close Ups on Fade Outs. I love writing books about early Hollywood and sharing my experiences with you through this blog.  In all honesty, however, I have to say that the research into my work is what keeps me stimulated. In recent years, I have dedicated a lot of time to tracking down those early actresses who seem to have slipped away from film historians and enthusiasts.  They have disappeared into the dusty past.  There are questions marks where their death dates should be. What became of these ladies after their careers were over and where and how they spent their last days is what keeps me interested in what I do. Call it a fascination with necrology or an obsession with tying up the loose ends of someone’s life. Whatever it is, the yearning keeps me returning to dusty paths that lead back to the early days of filmmaking.  Come with me!

Frances Burnham

Born: April 19, 1895, Los Angeles, CA

Died: July 10, 1924, Monrovia, CA

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What became of actress Frances “Frankie” Burnham was a mystery for a long time. Her family could offer no help. They were even unsure what happened to Susie Burnham, her mother, who left her rural Missouri home and never returned.

Hollywood asked the same questions. Her opportunity for a big splash came when she landed the lead in Lorelei of the Sea (1917). Her reviews were mixed, but her big splash on the silver sheet turned out to be nothing more than a ripple. She vanished in 1919.

What became of Frankie Burnham?

Frances Burnham
Frances Burnham

The actress with golden hair and big bright eyes was born in Los Angeles on April 19, 1895, to Frank and Susanna (Carr) Burnham. The mysterious Frank Burnham came from either Massachusetts or Maine, no one knows at this point. Susanna, or Susie, hailed from Missouri. She lived there long enough to grow up and get out.

Susie spent the Gay Nineties wearing wedding dresses. Her first husband was Oscar Louis. This union produced Dean, born in Kansas in 1891. Susie made her way west and had a quickie marriage to Frank. Little Frances came into the world. In 1897, Susie became Mrs. Ernst Vogel and soon the mother of two more children, Ernest and Violet, born in 1899 and 1906.

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In 1915, about the time Frances was breaking into films, Susie was breaking in a new husband, Everette Scates. Frances had been in films a few years when she was tapped to play the lead with Tyrone Power Sr. in Lorelei of the Sea (1917).

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The cast and crew shot the film in Kalem’s old studio in Hollywood and in the islands off Santa Barbara.  Lorelei (Frances) lives by the sea. As a child, she was taken in by Paul (Power) and raised as his own daughter. The drama comes when Peitro (John Oaker) and Dorian (Jay Belasco), who washes up on shore, vie for Lorelei’s affections.

Reviews of Frances’s work as Lorelei were mixed. She was everything between a “poor excuse of a star” to carrying her role “with a true dramatic touch.”

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Frances had a leading role with George Walsh in On the Jump (1918), a World War I comedy. After a Western and two Lois Wilson films, Frances disappeared from the screen.

Frances Burnham
Frances Burnham


On July 10, 1920, Frances married Noble Sheldon, an Ohio hardware salesman.

The Noble Sheldons lived at this house at 4537 Prospect Avenue in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles.
The Noble Sheldons lived in this house at 4537 Prospect Avenue in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles.


In early 1924, Frances became ill with pulmonary tuberculosis. She went for treatment at Pottenger’s Sanatorium in Monrovia, where she died from the disease on July 10, 1924.  She was only 29 years old.

Frances Burnham rests at Forest Lawn (Glendale).

Pottenger Sanatorium
Pottenger Sanatorium


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2 responses to “Close Ups on Fade Outs: Frances Burnham”

  1. This is weird I was born and raised here in East Hollywood. This is not Los Feliz it is a few blocks north of here and yes it makes a big difference here. Los Feliz is much nicer and cost way more. I live 3 houses down and that house we have complained about that hoarder place for years .Thank goodness It has new owners for about 3 years now. However this sure explained a hell of a lot . That house was a nightmare for years and years. Its said that house was passed down since the 20’s I wish I knew because they had this back yard with shit piled to the sky.They had those self standing bathtubs with lion claws I remember very well because after a while they put a tarp up from everyone complaining about them being hoarders. The bottom of the tarp didn’t quite hit the ground so you could see about 3 to 4 inches down and I remember one of the tubs they had was against the fence and it was well it would have been nice but it got all messed up from the elements. When I say a lot of stuff I mean a time I was about 19 years old and I was walking through the alley I remember just stopping and it was at night and I was just looking it thinking ugh how dreary, grey, and very depressing place it was. I called it the Munsters house because even back then the yard was just covered with stuff. The only thing that stands out is the tubs. There was so much more than that I’m wondering if this stuff from when she lived there. Like I said the house was passed down since the 20’s. The older neighbors would say that when I was a kid. I lived about 4 blocks down as a kid but now just feet away.. it’s been the same people who live there and the last person finally sold it. But wow thanks kinda makes sense I see people flip their lids all day living certain lifestyles. I was born here it’s a gift to me as my home no dreams for me I have seen too many shattered dreams LOL thanks!

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