BORN- January 2, 1886-in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
DIED- December 28, 1938
DIED FROM-Suicide by ingesting ant poison
REAL NAME-Florence Annie Bridgwood
NICKNAMES-Baby Flo, The Child Wonder; Woman of a Thousand Faces, The Biograph Girl
MARRIED- 3 Times, the first to actor/director Harry Solter
TALENT-She was a noted Equestrian and is the inventor of the Car turn signal and Brake signal but she never got a patent for it so never got the credit. Her mom helped develop the windshield wiper and patented the windshield wiper fluid! A noted equestrian
KNOWN FOR- Being the first known Movie Star by name. (Mary Pickford was just known as Little Mary). Broncho Billy Anderson was already known and Max Linder was known by name (French comedian on par with Chaplin and whom Chaplin adored).
Her parents were in vaudeville with her mom being more famous than the father. When just a tyke, Florence was brought out on stage and could whistle like an expert by the time she was 5. She came to the States and to the epi-centre of movie making...New Jersey and started making films in, around, 2005. She worked in Brooklyn under Vitagraph and became a very early muse of DW Griffith (before Lilian Gish) under Biograph. Such was her beauty, emotive acting and just the amount of pictures she made that people wanted to know who the Biograph Girl was. Now, many actors at that time, didn't want to hurt their careers by being known as a "movie" which was a derogatory remark back in the day. She and her first husband saw that they could make more money and asked for more money plus recognition. Biograph, knowing that other actors would follow suit especially since the public clamoured to know the names (the male counterpart was King Baggot-don't ya love these names!), fired her and her husband. Carl Laemmle, the sly old goose of his newly formed IMP Company (became Universal Studios), lured her over to his studio and then placed an ad in the newspapers that she died in a streetcar accident. He then placed another ad blaming Biograph for giving this misinformation just for publicity and that she was very much alive and will produce her in St. Louis, MO. On March 25th, 1910, the film star was "born" as thousands of people lined the streets to see Ms. Lawrence. The President was there a week or so before and did not get the same amount of people as Flo did. With that, she became known and the rush was on as the movie stars asked for more money.
Sadly, in 2015, a fire broke out on a set and she was badly burned and injured her back trying to save someone else. The studio refused to pay her medical bills and her career all but fizzled. She had a cosmetic store, with her 2nd husband in the 1920s, but that went under in 1931 due to the great depression. She also lost almost all her money in the Stock Market Crash of 1929, her 2nd marriage crumbled that year and her beloved mom died. By the mid 1930s, she was in constant pain from an incurable bone disease. One of the nice things (always a catch but still nice), Louis B. Mayer offered contracts to many old silent film stars that were down on their luck to work as extras and she (as well as King Baggot) was one of many. Due to her constant pain and depression, she called up the studio to say she couldn't make it in and ate the poison. Such a shame for such a gifted woman both on screen and off.
1.THE GIRL & THE OUTLAW-1908
2. ANTONY & CLEOPATRA-1908
3. TURN OF THE SCREW-1908
4. MR. JONES AT THE BALL-1908
5. JONES & THE LADY BOOK AGENT-1909
6. MRS. JONES ENTERTAINS-1909
8. THE BROKEN OATH-1910
9. THE LITTLE REBEL-1911
10. THE SPENDER-1913 (THE YEAR MY DAD WAS BORN..WOWZA)
She did make some features but, by that time, she was not famous like she used to be so I decided to stick with her shorts and her famous time. Nice to showcase a very...very early film star.
Happy 2023 to you and my smooch pooch buddy Harley, dear friend!
I never heard of actress Florence Lawrence, the stage name taken by Florence Annie Bridgwood, and appreciate this opportunity to learn about her life and career. I see that she was born in your neck of the woods and died young by committing suicide using dreadful means.
By 1917, Flo's contemporary Lon Chaney was a prominent actor, and by 1923, he was known as “The Man of a Thousand Faces” for his ability to transform himself into any type of character. Florence Lawrence was apparently Lon's female counterpart, earning the nickname "Woman of a Thousand Faces."
Fascinating that Florence was the uncredited inventor of the car turn signal and brake signal and, with her mom, developed the windshield wiper and fluid.
I get that, through wise decision making and clever promotion, Florence became, essentially, the first movie star. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the studio screwed her and did not pay her medical bills after she was badly burned and suffered a back injury in a fire and attempted rescue on the set. It was only one of an awful string of setbacks for Florence, a downward spiral that led her to take her own life. Flo's is a tragic story indeed. Given her passion for the car and her aptitude for invention, she might have lived a longer, happier life pursuing a career in automotive technology and design.
I enjoyed learning about Florence Lawrence, the first big movie star. Thank you, dear friend BB. Have a happy Tuesday and I'll be back to see you tomorrow on song day!
I'm so glad you enjoyed finding out about her. I was always intrigued by this lady especially since she invented the brake signal and turn signal. It was very sad for her in the last years of her life. She deserved better and, yes only a 1/2 hour away from where I live. I need to find her birth home one day.Delete
Happy New Year! It's too bad she didn't get credit for her inventions, she sounds like quite a talented person. But her death by ant poisoning sounds brutal. This was an interesting read. Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
It was brutal. She must have hated herself so much...poor thing. Had a great New Yrs...did nothing, watched the ball drop.Delete
Flornce Lawrence is a great stage name. I feel bad that I didn't know anything about her before reading this.ReplyDelete
She is a forgotten gem that once was known all over the world. I'm glad you ce to visit and found put about herDelete
Fascinating choice Birgit!!ReplyDelete
I've seen a few of her films, like most silent stars many of hers are lost, and taking into consideration the limitations of the time she had a fine presence. Her end was indeed tragic.
I have also seen her tombstone and the inscription notes her both as "The Biograph Girl" and "The First Movie Star". Actually my visit to her grave has a macabre element (though touring a cemetery looking for famous people's grave markers is in itself a bit macabre). I was visiting friends in California, also movie fans, and we did a day of going to the various cemeteries-Forest Lawn, Holy Cross (both Rosalind Russell & Sharon Tate are there), Westwood Memorial and Hollywood Forever which is where Flo is-of the famous. Though it has now undergone an renovation at the time Hollywood Forever was more than a trifle rundown and not all the plots were well kept. Unfortunately that included Florence's which we finally located and ghoulishly (considering her method of leaving) when we did the stone was covered in ants!! Of course we took a picture.
Anyway that bit of eerieness aside I'm glad you chose someone who played such a major role in early film to shed a little light on.
It's do sad to hear how dilapidated this famous cemetery is. I'm glad they are renovating it. That is ghoulish and creepy that her to.bstone was veered in ants. Wow! I'm glad you like my choice. I always had a thing for her and others from this Era. I love to read about Florence La Badie, Lilian & Dorothy Gish Mae Busch, and a fav of mine, Viola Dana.Delete
One day, I will be able to get to Hollywood and be a complete tourist.
I like Florence La Badie (another sad story, though not the long sad slide of Miss Lawrence but a tragic accident similar to what befell Martha Mansfield. Promise cut down in their prime) and the Gish sisters. Those girls were masters of silent technique.Delete
I'm not very familiar with Viola Dana but I think I've seen her a time or two. My silent movie girlfriend is and always will be Clara Bow. She might have been mad as a hatter but she is incredibly vivid on screen
What a sad story, and a horrible way to die.ReplyDelete
It is very sad and she did choose a horrible way to die. I can’t help but think she must have really hated herself.Delete
Ah, someone I've never heard of. Very sad story. But fascinating, too. Early movies were definitely a different thing.ReplyDelete
It’s very sad and she was so famous over 110 yrs ago. I find the silent cinema very fascinating especially early cinema since film actors were discriminated against. They were not allowed into many hotels and were thought of very poorly. Think of the word “movie” was a derogatory remark.Delete