Anita Page Tribute…

A TRIBUTE

Anita Page – You were meant for me

 

 

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger 

 

Anita Page, the last great silent film star from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, would have celebrated her 100th birthday yesterday. Some argue whether she was a star, an actress or leading lady —  to me she was all of the above and more. Anita was the first real actress that I had a chance to know personally.

 

 

 

Me and Anita at USC (Michael Schwibs photo)

 

SOME MEMORIES AND PHOTOS

 

I first met Anita Page in 1993 when I was researching my biography on Ramon Novarro, whom she costarred with in the 1929 film, The Flying Fleet. Her husband had passed away two years earlier, so to keep busy she came out of retirement and began appearing at film festivals and other functions.

 

At the time she was living in a retirement center in Burbank. Her good friend, actor Randal Malone, set up the interview. Anita was very sweet and accommodating to my questions. She had suffered a stroke after her husbands death which affected her short term memory. Her long-term memory was still intact, however she sometimes forgot that she had told a story and would repeat it. Other than being a little frail, that was the only noticeable evidence from her stroke.

 

Only once during the interview did she hesitate repeating information about Novarro. It was about his height. Evidently Novarro was not tall – probably about 5’8” – so he sometimes wore lifts in his shoes depending on his costar. Novarro wanted Anita to appear in the film with him, but the studio felt she was too tall and wanted to use Josephine Dunn instead.

 

Novarro told the executives, “I can always wear lifts in my shoes. Besides, I did a film with Joan Crawford and she’s as tall as Miss Page.” As we know Anita got the job, however, she thought the information about his height might be embarrassing so she asked that I turn off my tape recorder before she would tell the story – which of course I did.

 

I became friends with Anita and Randal that day and over the ensuing years was invited to their homes and to events where Anita was appearing. I also began interviewing her over a period of a year for a proposed book on her career. Whether it was at a noisy restaurant, her home or some other venue, I showed up with a tape recorder and we talked about early Hollywood. During that time she relayed stories about her films and the famous people she worked with and knew.

 

I completed a rough draft of what was to be the text for a coffee table book, but sadly it never came to fruition. I did, however, donate a copy of the unedited manuscript to the Margaret Herrick Library under the title, “Anita Page: You Were Meant For Me,” so future film historians will have access to her stories. The title is from the song by Nacio Herb Brown, her short-lived husband, who wrote it for Broadway Melody (1929) and dedicated it to her.

 

 

Anita with her parents (above), Maude and Marino Pomares. Mrs. Pomares died from cancer at her Manhattan Beach home in May 1943. A few years later her father remarried and he passed away in 1951. They are buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City. Anita also had a younger brother, Marino, Jr. who died in 1960 from a brain tumor. He was 36.

 

 Anita was Clark Gable’s first leading lady in The Easiest Way (1931)

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Above is a Los Angeles Examiner photo announcing Anita’s first arrival in California on December 7, 1927. She was a protégé of Harry K. Thaw who brought her and another starlet, Susan Hughes to California to make films. While Thaw’s plans failed, Anita (who was known then as Anita Rivers) decided to stay in Hollywood and try to make it on her own. Thaw returned to New York, as did Susan Hughes, who gave up show business.

  

 

 Josephine Dunn, Joan Crawford and Anita Page in Our Moderm Maidens (1929)

 

  

 Anita and me sitting on the steps outside her first Hollywood apartment (Randal Malone photo)

 

When I first interviewed Anita, she talked about her first Hollywood apartment that she shared with her mother. It intrigued me so I went about trying to find it using the phone book. Sure enough, there was a listing for Mrs. Marino Pomares in the 1928 directory – 7566 ½ De Longpre Avenue. Randal and I took Anita to the address for a photo shoot. Unfortunately the tenants were not home so we didn’t get a chance to look inside.

 

 Bessie Love and Anita from Broadway Melody (1929)

 

 

Actress Glenn Close as Norma Desmond and Anita Page (Michale Schwibs photo)

 

When Sunset Boulevard, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical came to Los Angeles, Anita received an invitation to attend. A real silent film actress meets a fictional silent film actress — what great publicity! Randal graciously asked me to attend along with his friend Michael Schwibs. The four of us had the best seats in the house – fourth row center – all compliments of the theatre. The play was breathtaking and the performances top rate. Afterward we went backstage to personally meet the star of production, Glenn Close who played Norma Desmond. Ms Close was still in costume and in character and had a brief conversation with Anita. It was a great experience and Ms Close kindly signed my program. What a night.

  

 

 Reportedly, at one point, Anita received more fan mail than any other actor at MGM except for Garbo

 

 

 

Anita Page

  August 4, 1910 – September 6, 2008

 

___________________________________

 

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21 Responses to “Anita Page Tribute…”

  1. Melissa says:

    This is simply beautiful, Allan. Thank you so much for sharing this very special lady with us. I am so sorry to see her leave us; much sympathies upon the loss of your dear friend.

  2. Allison Berntsen says:

    May she rest in peace.

  3. Vera says:

    dear Allan,

    I was very sad to hear about Anit’as death and my sympathy goes to Randal, her friends and her family!
    I made a documentary about Randal and Anita recently that shows his love for Anita and what a wonderful actress she was, it was a most memorable experience and I was fortunate to have met her and to have had the oppertunity to get a taste of the Hollywood Glamour of the Golden days!

  4. Harry Martin says:

    What a wonderful, wonderful read — thanks so much for sharing the personal stories. I saw Anita on several documentaries, and was always so pleased that she was still up and around, and full of such interesting tales.

    Thanks again — you did a *wonderful* job.

  5. Brett A. says:

    really sweet story and relationship. Too bad the book never happened.

  6. Patrick says:

    How sweet! I love Anita.

  7. Tracy says:

    Thank you so much.

  8. w.k. mccauley says:

    Informative and moving. Great, as always.

  9. Jayne Osborne says:

    You are such a gifted researcher and writer Allan! Thank you for always posting stories that are are a pleasure to read.

  10. Bob Hedin says:

    Allan

    My sympathy to you on the loss of your friend Anita Page. I applaud you for your story, pictures and your work to keep her life and stories available for generations of fans. BRAVO ALLAN! I so admire your contributions.

    Bob

  11. Christine Davis says:

    I always enjoy your stories so much, Allan! This one was extra-special. Ms. Page stayed beautiful until the end, didn’t she? True Hollywood royalty. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  12. Sure hope the Anita Page memoir gets published…George Clooney seem to know who she was..maybe he can do a quick foreward or quote!!

  13. Eric says:

    A very interesting story. Do you think you could put your Anita Page book online for fans of Anita and old movies to read? If not maybe you could try to get it published again seeing as she’s gathered quite a lot of new fans over the recent years!

  14. Allan Ellenberger says:

    Thanks Eric. Thats something I can look into.

  15. B. Rene says:

    Thanks for putting this up! You are so blessed to have known her! She is one of my fave actresses, but I never sent her a letter, thinking it might be a bother to her in her old age. I found out after her death she was answering fan mail up till her death practically. It is one of my biggest regrets: never writing to her. She was so amazing! And I really really wish your book on her gets a chance to be available to everyone! I know I would definitely buy a copy!

  16. w.k. mccauley says:

    Great to see this again. I can’t believe it’s been a year. You know I’m a big fan of all your “behind the scens” posts (as well as all the others, of course.)

  17. d.w. says:

    I love your story Allan.
    You are a very talented writer…
    Thank you as always for sharing your words and stories with us all….

  18. Landman says:

    Wow! What a great Story, for a great Lady. She indeed had you as a Dear friend. Thank you Allan.

  19. Barry says:

    You should recheck that photo presumably showing Dorothy Sebastian–I don’t think that’s her. Just check on Google/Images to see the real Sebastian.

    Otherwise, great article!
    ___________________________
    Thank you for the catch.

  20. Dear Allan,
    I just stumbled upon your article while researching my family. Marino Pomares was my father, Anita my aunt. Much of what you wrote is familiar to me, but I am so interested in reading your manuscript! Is there a chance that I might have a copy, either electronic or hard copy? It would mean a great deal to me.
    Sincerely,
    Kimberly Pomares Nolte
    __________________________________
    Hi Kimberly, of course I will see what form I have it in and let you know. Thank you.

  21. Sharon Berg says:

    Allan,
    I stumbled across this article while looking for information on Kimberly Pomares! I do that every couple of years in hopes to reconnect. We lived across the street from each other in Hermosa Beach, when we were quite young.

    Her Dad passed while we lived in Hermosa, it was the saddest thing I had ever experienced. Because of reading your article, I found out we were only 5 yrs old, and her Dad was just 36. The family moved to Palos Verdes (seemingly) shortly thereafter. It’s been over 50 yrs since then, and I still think of the family fondly.

    Please pass my email on to Kimberly, if what you have is still valid. I am also interested in reading your research electronically.
    Thanks,
    Sharon

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