Hairpins and Dead Ends: A review by Diane MacIntyre

Hairpins and Dead Ends: The Perilous Journeys of 25 Actresses Through Early Hollywood
By Michael G. Ankerich

Reviewed by Diane MacIntyre.
This is companion book to his Dangerous Curves ‘a top Hollywood Heels– The Lives and Careers and Misfortunes of 14 Hard-Luck Girls of the Silent Screen. It’s not hard to imagine Hollywood as a treacherous goldfields that stretch beyond the horizon. The miners are minors who have no inkling of what being a screen star is or refuse to believe there is no gold for them.

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Edwina Booth’s quest for fame almost killed her

Yes, some will hit a vein, nuggets here and there. Some will find the finest gold sand and powder that slip through their fingers so rapidly and finally only fools gold. There is a price to pay for every bit. What Hollywood gives with one hand it takes away with the other. Rabidly, painfully even deadly.

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Alma Rubens: Going, going . . .


The victims are of their own making from a deep burning fire in their bellies to succeed where only a tiny fraction do-for a time.


Youth is everything. Actress Belle Bennett was willing to call her sons her “brothers” and made them live that way (They were never to refer to her as “Mother”) to give more of an illusion of youth. How far would you go to realize you dream?


Among the 25 their are some famous names-Belle Bennett, Edwina Booth, Virginia Lee Corbin, Marjorie Daw, Jetta Goudal, Mary MacLaren, Lottie Pickford, Alma Rubens, Barbara La Marr, and Alice Lake. Mr Ankerich fleshes out their life stories to bitter middles and ends.

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Belle Bennett


Most all the rest with names like Lila Chester, Lolita Lee and Mona Lisa – nary a flicker. But they all had that unquenchable fire to shine not burn.

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Margaret Gibson, never far from trouble

My eyes burn with tears as I write this. I do not have the deep desire but every one of their stories is molded to draw out my emotions, for their agonies and ultimate defeats.

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Barbara La Marr in tears

What were the misfortunes of betrayals, the casting couches and the ultimate rejection, that caused enormous exhaustion breakdowns and the darkest of depression? These face about every screen performer. I would like to ask them all-Was it all worth it?

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A sad ending for Helen Lee Worthing

But I leave it to you to decide.


You won’t know until you read how well Mr. Ankerich opens our eyes and minds to a subject that is still a big problem over 100 years later. Congratulations for another finely polished book with dozens of illustrations and footnotes. I hope you find it as compelling and shattering as I did.

(Photos for this blog were selected by Ankerich)

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Fontaine La Rue: Her story told in Hairpins and Dead Ends

Fontaine La Rue fascinated me for years, but she was elusive. I wanted to know what became of her and what her life was like before and after she left films. She was Dora Rogers, the Keystone Vamp, in the 1910s, and Fontaine La Rue in the 1920s. That I knew, but what became of her?

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Dora Rogers

I hit a number of dead ends. But, I was on the right track. Just before pulling out the old Ouija board from the attic and calling the spirit world, I did a blog on her, Fontaine La Rue, where are you?  Fontaine didn’t get in touch, but her family did!

You can now read her story in Hairpins and Dead Ends!

They adored their grandmother and great-grandmother and were eager to tell what they remembered about her. They filled in all the missing pieces and I provided some information they didn’t know.

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Fontaine La Rue

One thing I learned, Fontaine was short. Just over five feet. Fontaine La Rue, I concluded, was a small woman with a big name.

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She was also into the paranormal; she used a Ouija board. I located her big home in Hollywood, the one built with her “picture” money. I visited her final resting spot in Calvary Cemetery.

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Fontaine’s final resting place in Calvary Cemetery

As grateful as I am to her family for telling me about their mysterious relative, I have often wondered what would have happened had I dusted off my old Ouija board and tried to contact Fontaine myself?

Hairpins and Dead Ends — Barbara La Marr’s Early Years

I featured Barbara La Marr’s life and career in Dangerous Curves.  I came away convinced that her teen years were more interesting than any film she made in Hollywood in the 1920s. At least, those troubled years set Barbara on a course of self-destruction that would end her life in 1926.

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A teenage Barbara La Marr

When I began working on  Hairpins and Dead Ends, I knew the beautiful Barbara would make a reappearance. Unlike many sirens of the silent screen, Barbara was raised by two  seemingly stable parents and her siblings play an important part in her story. I spend a lot of time in her chapter piecing together her family tree and identifying those wild branches that seemed to have delved into blackmailing and extorting wealthy paramours.

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Reatha Watson (Barbara La Marr), left, and her wild and unruly half sister, Violet June (right)

Much of the chapter is constructed using Barbara’s diary from 1916 and Robert Carville’s unpublished account of his romance with the budding dancer.

You will come away feeling as though you were looking over La Marr’s shoulder as she fought with her family, abandoned sleep for the nightlife, battled tooth disease, took money from men in exchange for her company, and drank her way from one nightclub to another. I would recommend that you take a break — and a nap —  after you’ve finished this chapter.

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The first page of Barbara La Marr’s diary in her own handwriting

If you thought you knew everything about the “girl who was too beautiful,” get a copy of Hairpins and Dead Ends and find out the rest of the story.

 

The Hairpins and Dead Ends Address Book

Old Hollywood still exists, but you have to look for it. While researching Hairpins and Dead Ends, I spent a lot of time in the rat race that is Los Angeles 2017 trying to understand what it was like in, say, 1912 or 1926.

As a biographer, it is important for me to visit the homes and graves of those actresses I write about. It helps me to better understand my subjects.

What follows are some of the addresses where the actresses lived, loved and died.  I have been to most of these places and I want to share them with you.

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, visit these for yourself. Arm yourself with a trusty map or GPS and a copy of Hairpins and Dead Ends. If not, the addresses and photographs take you on a personal tour through old Hollywood, where Hairpins and Dead Ends takes place.

We’re on the Hollywood Freeway heading south. Take the next exit, Highland Avenue. That puts you in the heart of Hollywood. Have fun!

 

Note: The addresses are in the Los Angeles area, unless otherwise noted.

Belle Bennett

2132 N. Highland (1924)

6180 Temple Hill Drive (late 1920s)

Belle Bennett’s Temple Hill Drive home

 

Valhalla Cemetery (final resting place)

Belle Bennett’s marker at Valhalla

 

 

Edwina Booth

 

1133 Fremont Avenue (1927)

Edwin Booth lived in this S. Pasadena house in 1927 (1133 Freemont Avenue)

 

5047 W. 21st Street (April 1930)

1948 Fletcher Avenue

Edwina Booth’s 1948 Fletcher Avenue home in the 1930s

140 Linden Avenue (last home)

1847 14th Street (Santa Monica) Woodlawn Cemetery (final resting place)

 

Lila Chester

306 West 20th Street, New York City (1935)

118-32 202nd, New York City (last home)

Lila Chester’s last home

 

61-40 Mount Olivet Crescent, Middle Village, New York (Fresh Pond Crematory, final resting place)

Virginia Lee Corbin

5154 Franklin Avenue (1917 – 1918)

1755 Ivar Avenue

Virginia Lee Corbin lived at 1755 Ivar Avenue in Hollywood

2028 Beachwood Drive (1920s)

Virginia Lee Corbin’s Hollywood home in the 1920s (2028 Beachwood Drive)

 

Marjorie Daw

7733 Maie Avenue (1917)

Marjorie Daw lived at 7753 Maie Avenue in 1917

 

8091 ½ Sunset Blvd. (1924) with Eddie Sutherland

9550 Wilshire Blvd. (Beverly Wilshire Hotel) (1930)

910 Benedict Canyon Drive (1930s) with Myron Selznick (site)

964 Palisades Beach Road, Santa Monica (1930s)

Marjorie Daw’s beach house at 964 Palisades Beach Road, Santa Monica

 

7151 Little Harbor Drive, Huntington Beach, CA (last house)

17772 Beach Blvd. (Huntington InterCommunity Hospital) (death place)

 

Florence Deshon

6220 Delongpre Avenue (1920)

Florence Deshon lived here at 6224 De Longpre Avenue

Margaret Gibson

1337 5th Avenue (Santa Monica, 1915)

432 ½ Commercial Street (location of Margaret’s arrest, 1917)

432 1/2 Commercial Street, site of Margaret Gibson’s 1917 arrest

 

120 South Grand Avenue (1920)

2324 N. Beachwood Drive (1923)

525 North Gramercy Place (1930)

Margaret lived at 525 Gramercy Place in 1930

 

1434 Morningside Court (1937)

5161 Templeton (1942)

6135 Glen Oak (last residence, location of confession)

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6135 Glen Oak where Margaret Gibson confessed to the murder of William Desmond Taylor

 

Holy Cross Cemetery (final resting place)

Jetta Goudal

Ambassador Hotel (1920s) (site)

8320 Fountain Avenue (1930s)

875 Comstock Avenue (1972)

401 S. Burnside Avenue (1975)

1712 S. Glendale Avenue (Forest Lawn Great Mausoleum, Sanctuary of the Angels, Glendale) (final resting place)

Alice Lake

6624 ½ Hollywood Blvd. (1920) (site)

1622 Wilcox Avenue (1930)

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Alice Lake’s 1930 residence (Mark Twain hotel)

6767 Yucca Street (1935)

Alice Lake lived here in 1935 (6767 Yucca Street, Hollywood)

 

6015 Monterey Road (last residence)

Alice Lake’s final residence, 6015 Monterey Road

 

2415 South Western Avenue (place of death)

Valhalla Cemetery (North Hollywood)

 

Barbara La Marr

1329 ½ Figueroa Street (1913)

1507 W. Pico (Faust Apartments) (1914) with Lawrence Converse

1507 W. Pico Blvd.

 

2408 S. Grand Avenue (Rockwood Apartments) (1914)

2408 S. Grand Avenue

 

822 W. 12th Street, Medford, Oregon (parent’s home) (1916)

Medford, Oregon, home of Barbara La Marr’s parents

307 W. 98th Street (1916) with Robert Carville (New York City)

1234 Boston Avenue (death house)

404 Riverside Drive, NYC (1925)

6672 Whitley Terrace (1920s)

Hollywood Forever Cemetery (final resting place)

 

Fontaine La Rue

709 Ceres Avenue (1912)

1802 N. Van Ness Avenue (1920s)

Fontaine La Rue’s 1920s home at 1802 N. Van Ness Avenue in Hollywood

 

12722 Washington Blvd. (1930)

3803 W. 8th (1930s) with Wayne Hancock

318 W. 17th Street (1938) (site)

5439 Hollywood Blvd. (1940s – 60s)

1174 North Hobart (last home)

4201 Whittier Blvd. (Calvary Cemetery, final resting place)

M Rogers Hancock (Fontaine La Rue)

 

Lolita Lee

1382 N. Ridgewood Place (1927)

2100 N. 49th Street, Philadelphia (last residence)

Eglington Cemetery, Clarksboro, New Jersey (final resting place)

 

Mona Lisa

647 S. Grand Avenue (1907) (site)

145 South Beaudry (1909) (site)

1356 S. Bonnie Brae (1926)

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Mona Lisa lived in an apartment at

5101 Melrose Avenue (1932)

801 South Kingsley Drive (1940) (site)

5717 Camerford Avenue (1950)

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Mona Lisa lived at 5717 Camerford Avenue in 1950

10948 Morrison (North Hollywood) (death house)

Inglewood Park Cemetery (final resting place)

Katherine MacDonald

127 North Manhattan Place (1917) (site)

Corner of Pico and Georgia (her studio in 1921)

121 S. Rossmore (home of Katherine and mother Lillian)

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Katherine MacDonald built this house at 121 S. Rossmore in 1923

235 Hot Springs Road, Santa Barbara (1920s – 1956)

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Katherine MacDonald lived at 235 Hot Springs Road in Santa Barbara from the late 1920s to 1956

 

Mary MacLaren

6541 Hollywood Blvd. (1916)

6830 Whitley Terrace (1917)

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Mary McLaren lived at 6830 Whitley Terrace in 1917

127 North Manhattan Place (1917-1982) (site)

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Mary MacLaren (R) sits with a neighbor on the front porch of her dilapidated home at 127 N. Manhattan Place (about 1981)

975 North Virgil (last residence)

Forest Lawn (Glendale) (final resting place)

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Estrellita del Regil (the Lady in Black) weeps at the casket of Mary MacLaren at Forest Lawn in Glendale (1985)

 

Marion McDonald

2294 Alcyona Drive (1928-1930)

Marion McDonald lived in at 2294 Alcyona Drive high in the Hollywood Hills in the late 1920s

 

6561 Franklin Avenue (1940)

1443 W. 21st Street, Sunset Island, Miami Beach (last residence)

Woodlawn Cemetery, Miami, Florida (final resting place)

Evelyn Nelson

6231 Delongpre Avenue (death house – site only)

The house where Evelyn Nelson committed suicide is now a parking lot for Southern California Hospital

 

1831 West Washington Blvd. (Rosedale Cemetery, final resting place, unmarked)

Based on cemetery records, Evelyn Nelson rests in this unmarked grave at Rosedale Cemetery (Hollywood)

 

 

Lottie Pickford

56 Fremont Place (1920)

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Lottie lived in this mansion at 56 Fremont Place with sister Mary and mother Charlotte

1001 Elden Avenue

6622 Iris Drive (1928) (scene of party)

Lottie’s Christmas Eve party house (1928)

 

6524 ½ Franklin Avenue (1928)

1428 North Crescent Heights (1933)

577 Burlington Avenue (death house)

 

Alma Rubens

1834 El Cerrito Place (1926)

1475 Havenhurst (Andalusia Apartments) 1928 (location for Alma’s wild parties)

Alma Rubens lived here, 1475 Havenhurst Drive in 1928

 

Intersection of N. Wilton Place to Hollywood Blvd. and in direction of Van Ness (path of Alma’s escape when she learned she was returning to the sanitarium)

Alma Rubens escaped from her home on N. Wilton when she was being committed to a sanitarium. She fled down N. Wilton and up Hollywood Blvd toward Van Ness.

 

1745 N. Wilton Place (1929) (site)

112 N. Manhattan (death house)

Alma Rubens died at 112 North Manhattan Place, Hollywood

 

 

Jean Sothern

Upper Octorara Cemetery, Parkesburg, PA (final resting place)

 

Valeska Suratt

 

Albany Apartments, 51st Street and Broadway, New York City (1916)

 

Marie Walcamp

6051 Sunset Blvd. (1914)

6113 Salem Place (1916)

1042 Sanborn Avenue (1917-1918)

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Marie Walcamp lived at 1042 Sanborn Avenue in 1917 – 1918

1014 North Vermont, Los Angeles (1919-1920)

4320 Melbourne Avenue (1930)

Marie Walcamp lived here in 1930 (4320 Melbourne Avenue)

 

6116 Scenic Avenue (death house)

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Marie Walcamp died here at 6116 Scenic Avenue

Helen Lee Worthing

Ambassador Hotel (1926)

3439 W. 60th Street (1927)

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Helen Lee Worthing’s residence in 1927 (3439 W. 60th Street)

2171 Vista Del Mar (1929) with Dr. Eugene Nelson

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Helen Lee Worthing lived at 2171 Vista Del Mar in 1929

Intersection of Sunset and Portia Street (Helen found here passed out, 1946)

Helen Lee Worthing was found passed out at this intersection (Sunset and Portia) in 1946

1062 North Serrano Avenue (death house)

Inglewood Park Cemetery (final resting place)

 

 

 

 

 

Hairpins and Dead Ends: The Girl on the Cover

By Michael G. Ankerich

After the title Hairpins and Dead Ends came to me, there was only one photo destined to be the cover. Edwina Booth with her hair in pins.  Well, maybe they aren’t supposed to be hairpins, but you get the picture.

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Edwina survived a mysterious illness she contracted while on location in Africa for Trader Horn (1931). The beautiful blonde was never the same. She soon vanished from the screen and public view. Many believed she had succumbed to her disease. Comfortable in her seclusion, Edwina never came forward to prove them wrong.

She was one of the actresses I sought for an interview in the 1980s. It was impossible. She would speak to no one about her career and illness.

While researching Hairpins and Dead Ends, I contacted her cousins and nieces who told me the real story behind Edwina’s life, particularly her later years and marriages.

Edwina Booth is featured in Hairpins and Dead Ends.

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Billie Dove and the End of a Nagging Question

It was one subject I couldn’t bring up to Billie Dove.  What I wanted to ask was, “Billie, how old are you?”  Well, I would have never asked it in those exact words. But I wanted to clear up the question of her year of birth.  To a researcher determined to set the record straight, asking those questions is critical, especially when film reference books cannot agree on one date.

"To you, Lenore, from me."

“To you, Lenore (her fan club president), from me.”

One can use the tactic of bringing up the most sensitive questions until the end of the interview. That way, you have the story in case they hang up on you and show you the door the moment the question rolls off your lips.  But I couldn’t ask it then, either.

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Billie and husband Bob Kenaston

I didn’t have to.  Billie addressed the subject herself near the beginning of our first interview.

“I simply don’t believe that the number of years a person has lived is how old they are,” she said to me. “Two people, exactly the same age, can be entirely different.  It’s what you have absorbed that counts.”

Fair enough.

I kept digging. The film reference books were all over the board on the question. They had Billie being born from 1900 to 1904. Katz’s The Film Encyclopedia suggested 1900 as Billie’s year of birth.  Her fan club president told me 1900 was the date. Billie’s maid had found the birth certificate when going through some papers.

Dewitt Bodeen’s excellent career article on Billie for Films in Review suggested 1901. The 1920 U.S. Federal Census indicated 1903.

Billie and Michael

Billie and Michael

When The Sound of Silence, the book that included the lengthy interview I did with Billie went to press, I played it safe. I presented the possibilities as I had uncovered them and put the information out for the readers to decide.

When Billie died, the mystery was still unsolved. Her obits indicated 1900 and 1901. Her death certificate gave 1901. In her 1954 application for a Social Security Number, Billie gave 1903.

Billie’s words came back to haunt me, “Even my husbands didn’t know how old I was,” she once said.

Last week, I was delighted to hear from Paul Melzer through Facebook, a reader who has acquired Billie Dove’s driver’s license and birth certificate. With his permission, I am sharing them with you.

One more mystery solved. Researching for the facts becomes obsessive. See how much fun we have!

Anyway, Billie Dove, according to her birth certificate was born May 14, 1903. Now we know. Everyone breathe a sigh of relief. Slow exhale.

Billie's birth certificate

Billie’s birth certificate (Courtesy of Paul Melzer)

 

Take a look at her California driver’s license from 1979.

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