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Anita Page, Star of the Silent Era

Published: 9/6/2012

Anita Page, one of the first movie stars, died four years ago today. Obit-Mag remembered her unconventional career. Originally published September 2008 on Obit-Mag.com.

Anita Page was billed as “the girl with the most beautiful face in Hollywood.” She was one of the last silent film stars, whose luminescent countenance and silken blond hair briefly brightened screens during the last throes of the silent film era and the emergence of the talkies. Page died on Saturday, September 6. She was 98.



 This is an undated file photo silent screen star Anita Page. Page, an MGM actress who appeared in films with Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford and Buster Keaton during the transition from silent movies to talkies, has died. She was 98. Page died in her sleep early Saturday morning Sept. 6, 2008 at her home in Los Angeles, said actor Randal Malone, her longtime friend and companion. (AP Photo/Hurrell - MGM, FILE)

This is an undated file photo silent screen star Anita Page. Page, an MGM actress who appeared in films with Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford and Buster Keaton during the transition from silent movies to talkies, has died. She was 98. Page died in her sleep early Saturday morning Sept. 6, 2008 at her home in Los Angeles, said actor Randal Malone, her longtime friend and companion. (AP Photo/Hurrell - MGM, FILE)

 

 

Her career was as short as it was scintillating, spanning less then a decade, but producing a memorable series of films with Joan Crawford beginning with the 1928 gem, Our Dancing Daughters. Page and Crawford played dueling socialites whose revelries sparked a romantic rivalry. The enmity of their characters spilled into Page and Crawford’s off-screen relationship and signaled the waning of Anita Page’s star.

She could have broken through in The Broadway Melody, the first Hollywood musical after sound was introduced to film. The reception of her role was lukewarm, and she is better known for being the object of matinee idol Charles King’s affection in the song, “You Were Meant for Me,” than for any singularity of her own performance.

After a run of supporting comedic parts in a few less-than-average Buster Keaton movies, MGM, the studio to which she was contracted, leant her out to smaller studios for a run of second-rate productions that more or less ruined her career.

Page would later claim that her unwillingness to play the Hollywood game with studio executives contributed to the demise of her career. According to Adam Bernstein’s obit in the Washington Post:

Ms. Page always attributed her lack of work to poorly timed salary requests and her refusal to sleep with top executives at her home studio.

Of MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer, she once said: “He told me, 'I can make you the biggest star in the world in three pictures,' and he snapped his fingers like that. 'I could also kill Garbo in three pictures,' and he snapped his fingers.

"But I said, 'Mr. Mayer, I am already a star.' He said, 'I could make you bigger, we could handle things discreetly,' but I told him I didn't play that way."


Page had her share of suitors, including Clark Gable and a marriage proposal from Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini. And she did find love during her screen days with songwriter, Nacio Herb Brown. That marriage ended after a year. She later settled down with a Naval officer in 1937. The two were married until his death in 1991.
 

 

 

 

 

Surprisingly, Page took up work again in 1996 and has appeared in a few cut-rate thrillers like Sunset After Dark and Witchcraft XI: Sisters of the Blood. The film Frankenstein Rising, is currently in post-production.

Page’s career, which started at the cusp of the first great transition for film and intermittently spanned over eight decades, was strange, and ultimately somewhat of a disappointment. But for a short period of time, she was the talk of the town. And with her passing, one of the last stars of the silent era has set.

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