The disappearance of Claire Windsor – UPDATE
UPDATE: A reader from Claire Windsor’s birthplace has provided some additional information behind the story of Windsor’s disappearance:
“Greetings from Cawker City, Kansas; home town of Claire Windsor and the World’s Largest Ball of Twine! In later years, Claire confessed that Lois Weber had hatched the plan for Claire’s disappearance to get a little publicity for her upcoming film. Poor Chaplin was not let in on the secret and it spoiled Claire and Charlie’s personal relationship. Little Billy Windsor, Claire’s only son, learned well from the experience and later, in an effort to get his mother’s attenetion, fabricated a story that men had come to the front door of thier house and tried to kidnap him!
“Claire’s 30 hour dissapearance could have turned into career ending negative publicity if the police chief’s explanation of events had been believed. He had surmized that Claire had probably attended a ‘snow party’ and had lost her memory ! ! ! I guess even back then, drugs were a big problem in Hollywood. “
By Allan R. Ellenberger
Claire Windsor, a Kansas-born music student who came to Hollywood to seek her fortune, was pulled out of the ranks of extras by director Lois Weber, who was casting To Please One Woman (1920) and offered her a role. An immediate success, the blonde actress became one of the busiest and best-known performers in Hollywood.
In the summer of 1921, with only four films in release in the previous six months, Windsor was enjoying her new found success as a leading lady. On Tuesday, July 12, during filming of The Blot, also directed by Weber, Windsor took a deserved day off to go horseback riding in the Hollywood hills. Early that morning she rented a horse and headed alone through the Cahuenga Pass.
When Windsor did not turn up at home (1042 Third Avenue) that evening, family members called the Hollywood police, who employed an airplane to search the hills the following morning. A group of Boy Scouts who were camping in the hills also aided in the search as did many of her friends. Charlie Chaplin offered a reward leading to her location.
By eight o’clock on Wednesday evening, Windsor had been missing for 36 hours when Stella Dodge, who lived at the intersection of Highland and Cahuenga (now part of the Hollywood Freeway), heard moans outside her home. She investigated and found Windsor lying on the lawn underneath her window. Dodge helped Windsor into her house and called Dr. C.W. Cook and the Hollywood police. An ambulance arrived and took her to Angelus Hospital at 1925 S. Trinity Street (demolished). When found, she was wearing her riding habit, which was badly torn by thorns, and she still had on her riding gloves.
A thorough examination at the hospital revealed the only external injury was an abrasion on the back of her left ear and exposure and hunger due to her long isolation in the hills. Her nose was bleeding which suggested possible internal injuries. Her pulse was low and she was unable to speak until the following morning.
It was Dr. Cook’s opinion that Windsor was thrown from her horse, suffering an injury to the back of her head, and had wandered about in the Hollywood hills until she was found semiconscious. Chaplin and other film friends rushed to the hospital once it was learned she was found.
Of course, Windsor recuperated and continued a long career that spanned three decades, 50 silent films and seven talkies. Claire Windsor died at age 80 from a heart attack on October 23, 1972 at Good Samaritan Hospital. She is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale.