Michael G. Ankerich: The SVM Interview

I was delighted to be interviewed for the February/March issue of Southern Views Magazine (SVM). For those of you who may not have access to the publication, I am providing some of what we discussed in this blog.

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You have been writing books about American silent film and early twentieth century actors and actresses for the last couple of decades now. What made you decide to write about this period and genre?

I was fascinated by the silent film era as a teenager and it was pure curiosity that prompted me to focus on that era. I simply wanted to know more. This was in the mid-1910s, a long time before the Internet. The curiosity I had led me to a dead end where I realized that the information I was looking for was still unwritten. I delved into my own research and, eventually, I wanted to share what I had learned and discovered.

During your investigations for the books you wrote, did you have the opportunity to meet personally with any of the actors or actresses, and if so who were they, what kind of unique treasures and memorabilia did they share with you?

When I began my research, there were a number of the actors and actresses still alive from that period, the 1910s and 1920s. My first objective was to make contact with those who had been there and worked at the period. I spent the next 15 years or so traveling back and forth to the West Coast and interviewing those fascinating individuals and recording their memories before the passage of time took away their stories.

Those interviews became the basis for my first two books: Broken Silence: Conversations With 23 Silent Film Stars (1993) and Broken Silence: Conversations With 16 Film and Stage Personalities Who Made the Transition from Silents to Talkies (1998).

They were quite generous in sharing their portraits and movie stills with me for the books.

Hard to believe that Muriel Ostriche started her career in films in 1911, a hundred years ago!

Hard to believe that Muriel Ostriche started her career in films in 1912.

I interviewed Muriel Ostriche, whose career in films began around 1912. I interviewed Maxine Elliott Hicks, who made her first film in 1914 and was still making films when I talked with her in 1990. I talked with some (Ethlyne Clair, Mary Brian, Anita Page, and Hugh Allen come to mind) who had not spoken that extensively about their careers since their retirement.

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. talked about working in the shadow of his famous father (Doug Sr) and his relationships with Mary Pickford, his stepmother, and Joan Crawford, his first wife.

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Billie Dove

Billie Dove, once referred to as the Elizabeth Taylor of the 1920s, vowed over the phone that she would not answer questions about her romance with and engagement to millionaire Howard Hughes, but by the end of our conversation, she had invited me out to her home in Palm Springs to tell me the fascinating details of their relationship.  

While they were silent film stars, they were anything but silent when I talked with them. Their stories would make you laugh, cry and gasp!

One of your masterpieces is Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels: The Lives, Careers, and Misfortunes of 14 Hard-Luck Girls of the Silent Screen. What made you write this book?

Dangerous Curves was a departure from my first two books, in that the stories were not based on interviews with the subjects but on research, archives, and family interviews. I selected the subjects not because I was expert on them, but because I wanted to know more.

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Eve Southern

I choose 14 actresses from that era who had relatively difficult experiences in their careers. I traced their precarious routes through fame and uncovered how some of the top actresses of the day were used, abused, and discarded.

Many who read my books like Dangerous Curves best. It has certainly opened up new avenues for me. It led to several speaking engagements and my television debut on a Lifetime Movie Network series, The Ghost Inside My Child, in 2014.Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 5.37.34 PM
One of your latest works is based on the biography of silent film actress Mae Murray. Why her and what does she mean to you?

First of all, Mae Murray was everything a movie queen in the days of silent films was expected to be: extravagant, vain, eccentric, egotistical, and temperamental.

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She was a biographer’s dream. There was much of her life I knew, some I thought I knew, and areas I didn’t know at all.

Mae’s life was truly a rags-to-riches and back-to-rags story. She escaped a childhood marred by poverty and alcoholism, divorced her family, and was reborn as a Ziegfeld Follies showgirl in the mid-1910s. In Hollywood, she became a huge movie star, but at the height of her fame, walked out on her $7,500-a-week film contract.

Mae and her prince, David Mdivani.

Mae and her prince, David Mdivani.

 

She married one of the “marrying Mdivani” princes who turned out to be a phony. She fled to Paris, became a mother, and returned to Hollywood only to be blackballed by her enemies. By the time Mae divorced her prince, her $3 million fortune was little more than pennies. Exhausted after countless legal battles and one-night stands on the road in vaudeville, she slept on park benches in New York’s Central Park. For the rest of her life, this poor woman fought poverty but continued to live in a fantasy world where time had not passed her by.

So, as you can see, her life read like a movie script, but it was real life for Mae Murray. I could not have asked for a better subject!

 Is there one particular silent film star that you are more fond of and why?

I am infatuated with Greta Garbo as an actress and screen personality. Her beauty is breathtaking. After spending more than two years researching her life and career, I also developed a genuine fondness for Mae Murray, if for no other reason than her will to survive. Lon Chaney, a master of disguises, is also up there on my list.

Thanks, Eric Rebetti!

Mae waving goodbye to her fans

Are there any classic films that you like to watch over and over?

Although she wasn’t from the silent film era, Bette Davis is my favorite film actress of all time. I can watch Now, Voyager and All About Eve over and over. Any Bette Davis film, for that matter!

How does the artistic value of a silent, classic film culture compare to the artistic value of today’s film culture?

Lillian Gish, the first lady of the silent screen and an advocate for silent film preservation until her death, said it best. Silent films were the marriage of film to classical music. It was during this era that films spoke a universal language, meaning they were done with action and music, not words. Part of the message is lost when a film’s plot depends on words and has to be translated into the language of every country where it is shown.

Silent films are generally misunderstood today because the clips people see are poor quality prints projected at the wrong speed. It is extremely unfortunate because the jerky motion and speed of projection give the impression that all silent films were bad slapstick.

Are you currently planning and working on any future projects or books?

I’m in the middle of writing my new book, Hairpins and Dead Ends: The Perilous Journeys of 20 Actresses Through Early Hollywood. It’s a companion volume to Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels. I have several other book ideas floating around, including a spiritual autobiography. There’s also a speaking engagement and book signing in the works for Los Angeles later in the year. So things are percolating right along!

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Remembering Valentino, making new friends

The highlight of my recent Hollywood adventure had to be the annual Valentino Memorial Service, an event that pays tribute to the life of Rudolph Valentino on the anniversary of his death,  August 23, 1926.  Not only was I there this year, I also had the honor of speaking about the friendship of Valentino and Mae Murray, who is the subject of my most recent book.

I had a reserved seat right up front. Incidentally, Valentino's "autograph" was made by a stamp that once belong to Valentino. He used it to stamp photographs. It is now in Tracy Terhune's awesome collection.

I had a reserved seat right up front. Incidentally, Valentino’s “autograph” was made by a stamp that once belong to Valentino himself. He used it to “autograph” photographs. It is now in Tracy Terhune’s awesome collection.

On my first trip to Hollywood way back in 1986, the first thing I had to see was not Universal Studios, the footprints in the cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, or even the Hollywood Sign. It was the tomb of Rudolph Valentino.  Since then, no trip to Hollywood has been complete until I have visited Hollywood Memorial Cemetery, now Hollywood Forever.

In a lot of ways, the event was like a reunion. I met many friends that I had only corresponded with through Facebook and email. I also made scores of new buddies.

Chris Cipollini took this Polaroid photo during the service.  The more I look at it, the more I think Chris captured a ghost or two

Chris Cipollini took this Polaroid photo during the service. The more I look at it, the more I think Chris captured a ghost or two

I enjoyed meeting and talking with actor Christopher Riordan, who is just as handsome and charming today as he was in television and films going back to the 1950s. He’s still active today in television and is working on his memoirs. 

Christopher and Michael after the service

Christopher and Michael after the service

Christopher in a GQ layout

Christopher in a GQ layout

Sharon Evans and Rick Rogers sang Sheik of Araby

Sharon Evans and Rick Rogers sang Sheik of Araby

Chris Cipollini read his own piety

Chris Cipollini read his own piety

Michael Espinoza and Bracha Loren brought the house down with their Argentine Tango

Michael Espinoza and Bracha Loren brought the house down with their Argentine Tango

For those of you who didn’t make the service this year, I am providing a transcript of my remarks (in italics).  I intermingled a number of readings from Mae Murray: The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips.

For those who didn’t get to the service this year, mark your calendar for next year! It’s a must!

The program

The program

I bring you greetings from all the Valentino fans in Georgia. It is an honor for me to be with you.

I’ve been coming to LA for almost 30 years doing research and interviews for my books. On each of these trips, I’ve visited Valentino’s crypt. Sometimes twice or more in one visit. So I have lost count of the number of times I have been here.

My very first visit to Valentino's tomb. This was the trip that I interviewed Dorothy Revier. But first, I had to see Rudy's tomb.

My very first visit to Valentino’s tomb. This was the trip that I interviewed Dorothy Revier. But, first, I had to see Rudy’s tomb.

Another visit from several years ago

Another visit from several years ago

Today is different, of course. It’s usually just me, Rudy, Barbara (La Marr), William Desmond Taylor, and a few others hanging and floating around.  I can usually hear my footsteps echoing down the corridor. Today, the room is full and I am a little nervous.

I want to talk briefly about Valentino’s friendship with Mae Murray, who is the subject of my new book.  

Their friendship was a unique one. It lasted from the day they met until his death in 1926. About 13 years.  Longer than any of Mae’s four marriages.

They met while they were both dancers in New York.

(From Mae Murray: The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips)

“It was while out with Olive Thomas at the Knickerbocker one afternoon that a young Italian caught Mae’s eye. She pointed him out to Olive.  ‘Damn beautiful, isn’t he?’ Olive said.

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Valentino

 ‘He was a magnificently built man and his disposition was as delightful as his physique,’ Mae remembered. ‘Just to see his expressive hand lying on the back of a chair was art. Rudy and I had a unique understanding. We were attracted to each other from that first afternoon. Call it sex if you will, but more correctly, call it a dancing friendship, which is why our bond lasted.’

Their paths went in different directions when Mae came to California to make films in 1916.

Mae used to take credit for discovering Valentino for the movies when they worked together in The Delicious Little Devil and The Big Little Person. He was, however, already working in films when they became reacquainted.

She had always been attracted to Valentino. She especially liked the Latin lover type. She urged him, on the set of The Delicious Little Devil, to take charge of his magnetism. 

(From Mae Murray: The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips)

‘Because magnetism is like a light,’ Mae told him. ‘Some people have a 60-watt bulb. Some have 150 watts. You have a full one hundred and fifty. Never doubt it.’

In the fall of 1924, two monumental events happened in Mae’s life. She was awarded the starring role in The Merry Widow and she divorced Robert Z. Leonard, her husband, director, and business partner.

After the filming wrapped on The Merry Widow in May 1925, Mae took a walk on the wild side. She was back and forth to Europe and was rather reckless in her personal life. Perhaps it was inevitable that her friendship with Valentino exploded into passion. The press hinted at marriage. Their responses are telling.

(From Mae Murray: The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips)

‘Marry again? Absurd!’ he said. ‘While I am what you might call domesticated, I have observed that a man in my profession is happier when he is single. I have no present intention of marrying Miss Mae Murray or any other woman.’

Mae was a little more cryptic. ‘Everybody just loves Rudy.’ ‘Do you?’ a reporter asked. ‘Ah — you see — I think he’s wonderful. Of course, I have to admit that marriage is possible. Tomorrow, who knows what might happen. Rudolph and I are very old friends. We knew each other before we went on the screen–when we were both dancers.  Why we’re childhood friends. Sweethearts?  Well — ‘

Somewhere along the way, Mae, as her nephew so eloquently put it, ‘got knocked up’ and slipped away to Paris to give birth to a son. She returned alone to the States, an unwed mother, a major Hollywood star, a gullible, vulnerable woman, desperate for love and attention.

You know the story. Prince David Mdivani stepped in to fill the void — and his pockets. He became her fourth husband.

Rudy and Pola Negri (L and R) were best man and maid of honor at Mae's marriage to David Mdivani

Rudy and Pola Negri (L and R) were best man and maid of honor at Mae’s marriage to David Mdivani

The day she said, ‘I do,’ Valentino invited the bridal party to his Falcon Lair estate. The two rode together to the church. On the way, Rudy leaned over to Mae. ‘Do you really want to do this?’ he asked.

With Pola (Negri) as maid of honor and Rudy as best man, Mae became Hollywood royalty.

Only two months later, Hollywood lost its greatest lover. Mae said she had lost her soulmate. 

‘Rudy Valentino has become an immortal,’ she later told a radio interviewer. ‘While many didn’t see him or know him, they, through the years, have felt him because he was a true mystic. I don’t mean a sanctimonious mystic, but a force. With us, it was an even deeper quality because I think I have a little mysticism in me, too.

Rudolph Valentino and Mae Murray, fall of 1925.

Rudolph Valentino and Mae Murray, fall of 1925

Mae blamed her friend’s death on his professional ups and downs and his torrid personal life. ‘You can be hurt so deeply in life, she said in 1960. ‘He, like me, had a few enemies who wanted to destroy him, and he was super sensitive, just like John Gilbert. I thank God that what happened to me didn’t take my life. It was a hard fight, but it didn’t take my life.’

I believe Mae was at Valentino’s funeral, but I wonder whether she came here to mourn his loss over the years. She had connections here. Both her brothers are here, but she attended neither funeral.  That is, however, another story for another day.

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After the memorial, we all drove over the hill to Tracy’s home in North Hollywood. Here’s a peek into the afternoon festivities.

Caroline Rupprecht, Michael, and Rebecca Eash get acquainted while sitting on Valentino's sofa

Caroline Rupprecht, Michael, and Rebecca Eash get acquainted while sitting on Valentino’s sofa

Chris Cipollini poses in  Valentino's chair and with his shirt

Chris Cipollini poses in Valentino’s chair and with his shirt

Here I am with Jeremy Terhune, Tracy Terhune, and Frank Labrador

Here I am with Jeremy Terhune, Tracy Terhune, and Frank Labrador

If you haven’t already, check out Tracy’s book, Valentino Forever: The History of the Valentino Memorial Service.

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Tracy and everyone involved in this great event, thanks for a lovely time and for the fitting tribute to the life of Rudolph Valentino.

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Mae Murray Biographer, Michael G. Ankerich, to Speak at Valentino Memorial Service this Friday, August 23

I’m making my way cross country tomorrow morning.  Not the crack of dawn, friends, but the butt-crack of dawn.  I will arrive in LA in time to speak at the annual Valentino Memorial, set for Friday, August 23, at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, in Hollywood, at noon.

I will talk briefly about Rudy’s friendship with Mae Murray, a close relationship that lasted over 10 years.

Although I have been coming to Valentino’s crypt for almost 30 years, this is my first memorial. Hope to see you there.

Rudolph Valentino and Mae Murray, fall of 1925.

Rudolph Valentino and Mae Murray, fall of 1925.

 

Mae Murray biographer to speak at Valentino Memorial, sign books at Book Soup

By Michael G. Ankerich

My friends in Los Angeles and surrounding environs, mark your calendars for these dates: Friday, August 23, and Saturday, August 24. I want to meet you!

While I am in LA doing research for my new book, Hairpins and Dead Ends: The Perilous Journeys of 20 Actresses Through Early Hollywood, I am making appearances at two events.

I am delighted to have been asked to speak at the annual Valentino Memorial, set for Friday, August 23, at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, in Hollywood. I will talk briefly about Rudy’s friendship with Mae Murray, a close relationship that lasted over 10 years.

Rudolph Valentino and Mae Murray, fall of 1925.

Rudolph Valentino and Mae Murray, fall of 1925.

In preparation for the release of my latest book, Mae Murray: The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips, I posted an interview on YouTube that Mae did in 1960. In this segment, she talks at length about Rudy.  Check it out here!

I have visited Rudy’s crypt countless times over the decades, but this is my first time attending the annual memorial. I’m looking forward to being there.

The next day, Saturday, August 24, at 4 p.m., I am signing my Mae Murray biography, Mae Murray: The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips, at Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood.  I would love to meet you!

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Recap – 

  • Friday, August 23, 2013 – Valentino Memorial
  • Saturday, August 24, 2013, at 4 p.m. – Book signing at Book Soup

More details to come about these events!

Journeys in Classic Film reviews Mae Murray: The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips

I am always elated and very appreciative when reviewers of my work take the time to ponder the message I am trying to get across in my writing. Journeys in Classic Film, in their review of my latest book, Mae Murray: The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips, does just that.

For me, the greatest compliment a writer can receive is summed up in Kristen’s (the author’s) thoughts about my introduction. She writes, “The introduction by author Michael Ankerich is heartfelt, genuine, and is aware that by the end of his research he had to present a biography, warts and all.” 

Heartfelt, genuine, and objective!

I remember sitting at Mae’s gravesite during the writing of Mae Murray: The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips and talking to her about the approach I was taking in telling her story. It would be neither a whitewash or a hatchet job.

“Mae, my story about your life won’t always be flattering, but it will be fair.”

Maybe I was talking to the grass and a bronze marker that afternoon, but it helped me clear the cobwebs and get on with telling the story.

Thanks, Kristen and Journeys in Classic Film.

Read Kristen’s review here.

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Interview with Mae Murray Biographer Michael G. Ankerich

It is always a please to talk with Immortal Ephemera and Cliff Aliperti.  He recently talked with me about Mae Murray: The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips.  After you read the interview, check out this site.  It’s one of the best!

 Interview with Mae Murray biographer Michael G. Ankerich

 

Introduction: Meet Michael G. Ankerich 

Michael G AnkerichOver the past few years Michael G. Ankerich has become one of my favorite people in the community of film writers and historians. I first came into contact with Michael after posting a video review of hisDangerous Curves atop Hollywood HeelsOur first interview sprang from correspondence at that time. The last question I asked Michael was about what he was working on next. A biography of Mae Murray, he told me.

And now it’s here!

Mae Murray: The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips was published late in 2012. Like Dangerous Curves it is both meticulously researched and opens up new territory via interviews with surviving family members of its subject. That’s all tied together by Michael’s engaging writing style making The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips not only informative but a darn good read. You’ll breeze through the first time but there’s plenty to send you back for a more careful second reading.

Mae Murray circa 1917 Kromo Gravure Trading CardThe hardcover volume from the University Press of Kentucky numbers 376 pages plus a foreward by Kevin Brownlow. It includes several rare photographs and reproductions of Mae Murray collectibles.

Michael G. Ankerich has previously publishedtwo volumes comprised of his interviews with silent and early talkie stars, Broken Silence: Conversations with 23 Silent Film Stars andThe Sound of Silence: Conversations with 16 Film and Stage Personalities. Those two books were originally published in the 1990s and most of the subjects have since passed away.

In many cases Michael provides the only written record about these stars. The press relied upon his work in The Sound of Silence when Barbara Kent died in 2011.

Michael also co-authored Joyce Compton’s memoirs, The Real Joyce Compton: Behind the Dumb Blonde Movie Image, and prior to his Mae Murray biography wrote the aforementioned Dangerous Curves atop Hollywood Heels, a collection of biographies covering “The Lives, Careers and Misfortunes of 14 Hard-Luck Girls of the Silent Screen.”

Mae Murray 1923 Neilsons Trading CardLike the Mae Murray book Michael did not have access to the subjects covered inside Dangerous Curves. The 14 pieces within are very similar in style to the new Mae Murray biography, just shorter. If you’ve enjoyed one I highly recommend the other, though all of Michael’s books come with my highest recommendation.

You’ll find more information about Michael G. Ankerich on his website plus I also suggest visiting his blog,Close-ups and Long Shots. Michael regularly blogs about early and obscure film stars from that space where he posts original research and incredible photos.

Connect directly with Michael through his Facebook Page.

And now, on to the questions.

Question: Your previous books include three volumes of shorter biographies and interviews plus the longer Joyce Compton book. Compton was somebody you had access to prior to her death in 1997 which makes Mae Murray: The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips something a little different for you.

How challenging was it to tackle a subject like Mae Murray, who’s been gone so long, in an expanded book format?

Michael G. Ankerich: The Mae Murray bio was much different from the Joyce Compton book. I worked with Joyce on The Real Joyce Compton: Behind the Blonde Movie Image. It was written as a memoir, whereas the Mae Murray book is a biography.

Tackling Mae Murray as a biographical subject was not as challenging as it might seem. She had a long life, and she received a lot of press in her day. The challenge came from uncovering parts of her life that she concealed and never wanted brought to light.

Mae Murray 1920s era 5x7 Fan Photo

Question: At what point did you decide Mae Murray needed her own book? Were you in contact with Mae’s son, Daniel Michael Cunning, before that point or did you seek him out after making the decision?

Michael G. Ankerich: I made the decision to do a full-length book on Mae after making contact with and getting cooperation from her nephew, the son of Mae’s brother, William. I can’t over emphasize the importance of his contribution. He was able to put together the period in her life that had always been shrouded in mystery: her birth, family, and childhood.

I had lots of clues, but Bob (her nephew) provided details that completed the picture. From there, I was able to secure the birth certificates for Mae and her brothers, as well as the death certificate for her father.

Bob provided the background for Mae’s immediate family that Mae’s own son, Koran (Daniel), didn’t know. Daniel had no idea that his mother had brothers until my interview with him. Mae gave him no information about her life.

Mae Murray 1925 BAT Tobacco CardQuestion: Was it very difficult to gain Daniel Michael Cunning’s participation?

Michael G. Ankerich: Yes, it was rather difficult to pin down Mae’s son to an interview about his mother.

I had been interested in his experiences for a number of years and had written him out of curiosity. My letters had gone unanswered. When I decided to write a full-length biography, I reached out to one of Daniel’s daughters, who put me in touch with her father and urged him, I think, to answer my inquiries.

His reluctance goes back 70 years to the early 1940s when he was thrust into the media spotlight and put in the middle of a custody dispute between his mother, father, and the family caring for him.

Not surprising, since those difficult days, Daniel has harbored a dislike for the press.

Question: Which part of Mae Murray’s career wound up most fascinating to you in the end? Her early stage career, her time as a huge film star, or post-movie fame and fizzle?

Michael G. Ankerich: The period from about 1925 to 1928 was a roller coaster ride for Mae.

She was at the top of her ride in 1925 with the success of The Merry Widow, but soon found herself in a free fall professionally. She divorced Robert Z. Leonard, gave birth to her son in Paris, found herself a prince, signed and cancelled a contract with Germany’s UFA studios, left and returned to M-G-M, and started a vaudeville act.

I suppose my favorite period to research was from the 1940s to her death in 1965. There were people still alive who remembered her and were able to help me bring her later life into perspective.

Question: Were you able to view all of Mae Murray’s surviving films and did you have a favorite of the bunch?

Michael G. Ankerich: I viewed every available Mae Murray film I could set my eyes on. A Mormon MaidThe Delicious Little Devil, and The Merry Widow were my favorites because they gave Mae a chance to show the spectrum of her talent: drama, comedy, and dance.

Fortunately, more and more of her films are being discovered.

John Gilbert and Mae Murray in The Merry Widow

Mae Murray and John Gilbert in The Merry Widow (1925), from Photoplay, July 1925.

Question: Did Mae’s most famous hit, The Merry Widow, provide any special inspiration while you worked?

Michael G. Ankerich: Mae’s performance in The Merry Widow is stunning, and viewing the film while researching the development of the scenario and the battles fought on the set was particularly helpful.

Of course, it’s Mae at her best: those glorious close ups, her furs and negligees, and the chemistry she obviously had with John Gilbert.

Question: For those who only know the Mae Murray legend, typically beginning and ending with those Bee-Stung Lips, can you give a better idea of just how big a star she was during her peak years?

Mae Murray 1920s Motion Picture Magazine Paper Premium Photo

Michael G. Ankerich: It’s rather tricky to gauge someone’s star power, not having been among the movie-going audience in the 1920s. How does one define stardom?

I suppose we could look at her weekly salary of $7,500 to get a clue. Also, her image was used on collective spoons and hand mirrors and to advertise products that appealed to her fans.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of her popularity was her box office appeal. Her films consistently made money, lots of money, for the studio.

Mae Murray 1910s Kinema Theater Advertising CardQuestion: Mae Murray can be seen in a few talkies but her final films were released in 1931. Despite Louis B. Mayer’s interference do you believe Mae Murray could have overcome her own ego and continued a film career in supporting and character roles over the next decade or so?

Michael G. Ankerich: I can see no reason why Mae could not have continued in character roles for the next decade or so. She had the offers, but she wouldn’t allow herself to mature before the movie camera and her fans. The offers to play mothers and matrons were considered insults. Mae certainly could have made life easier for herself had she had someone in her life like another Robert Z. Leonard to keep her grounded. She didn’t. It was easier to sleep on park benches than to play a woman of a certain age on the big screen.

Question: Now that your work is done do you come away liking Mae Murray more or less than you had when you began?

Michael G. Ankerich: It is impossible to live with a personality like Mae Murray for two or more years and come away disliking her or wishing I had never heard her name. It is also impossible to fully know another person’s motivations, insecurities, and those other interesting traits that make us human.

I will say that I came away thoroughly disappointed, even angry, at the way Mae withheld information that every child has a God-given right to know as a member of the human race: parentage, birth date and birth place.

It’s one thing to disown and deny siblings, but it’s another thing to bring another human being into the world and provide them with so little information about their identity.

Mae Murray July 1916 Photoplay

Mae Murray dances in Photoplay, July 1916

Question: What’s next?

Michael G. Ankerich: Several ideas are materializing.

I am working on Hairpins and Dead Ends: the Perilous Journeys of 20 Actresses Through Early Hollywood, a companion volume to Dangerous Curves.

I am revisiting the truly sad story of Barbara La Marr, focusing on her childhood, family, and early professional years. Those early years set the stage for what became the downward spiral that eventually took her life.

As with Dangerous Curves, I am attempting to make contact with relatives and friends of my subjects to get their perspectives and gather some of their family photos and stories.

Barbara La Marry 1920s Cerveza Polar Cuban Premium

Barbara La Marr pictured on a 1920s era Cuban beer premium issued issued by Compania Cervecera Internacional, S.A. with a product called Cerveza Polar (Clara Especial)

Question: Can you talk about some of the other actresses you are profiling in Hairpins and Dead Ends?

Michael G. Ankerich: Let’s see, there’s Belle Bennett, Katherine MacDonald, Corliss Palmer, Mary Miles Minter, Jetta Goudal, Valeska Suratt, and a number of others.

While I selfishly selected actresses that I wanted to know more about, I think readers will also be drawn in and captivated by these dazzling personalities.

Thank you once more to Michael G. Ankerich.

You can check out an earlier interview with Michael about his Mae Murray biography at Film Threat and read a review of the book by Matthew Kennedy at the Bright Lights Film Journal.

Once more don’t forget to connect with Michael G. Ankerich at Facebook and be sure to read (I really mean subscribe!) to his blog.

And be sure to pick up Mae Murray: The Girl with the Bee-Stung Lips (and thanks for using my Amazon affiliate link to do so!).

Michael also pointed me to the following group of videos that he posted to YouTube. They capture a rare 1960 radio interview with Mae Murray.