Happy Birthday Anita Page…

HAPPY ‘BELATED’ BIRTHDAY

Anita Page

 

 

“I must say that I enjoyed being a movie star, but I have never had to look back. My life has been happy, rewarding and fruitful. Today I still receive fan mail and applause from fans all over the world and it gives me a warm feeling to know that I am remembered after all these years. It has been a pleasant life… what more could I ask for?”

— Anita Page, 1994

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger 

 

“The King,” Clark Gable compared her to the beautiful Grace Kelly. Talk show host, Jack Paar spoke of her to his late night viewers as his “dream girl.” Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini, hounded the studios for years for a photograph of her, and Prince Ferdinand of Germany would not stop until she agreed to go out on a date with him.

           

Anita Page, the object of desire for all these men, (and more) was a bright star in the Hollywood heavens for more than seven years. Of that, five of those years were at the legendary Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer-Studios, where she appeared in twenty-one films. With numerous public appearances, and friendships with many of Hollywood’s most celebrated people, Page secured a career that is legendary in its own right.

  

RECOLLECTIONS OF A PAST BIRTHDAY

            

Yesterday, August 4, was the 98th birthday of Anita Page. I first met Anita in 1993 while researching my book, Ramon Novarro: A Biography of the Silent Film Idol. Anita costarred with Ramon Novarro in The Flying Fleet (1929) and was one of his last living co-stars, so naturally I was thrilled when she agreed to meet with me.

 

That same year, on her 83rd birthday, I was invited to join her family, friends and former costars at what was then called the St. James Hotel, on the renowned Sunset Strip. Once known as the Sunset Towers, it was at one time the home to countless Hollywood stars and executives, including Anita’s first husband, composer Nacio Herb Brown, who lived in the penthouse.

            

The guest list that evening looked like a Hollywood Who’s Who and included Cesar Romero, Milton Berle, Hugh Heffner, Margaret O’Brien, Betty Garrett and Mel Torme, to name a few. They all came to toast one of the last remaining silent film stars from that once great studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

 

Hugh Heffner, who is a silent film fan, recalled that Anita “fell down the stairs well,” referring to her bravura performance in the hit Our Dancing Daughters (1928), which put Anita on top.

            

Hefner, who has helped to preserve old films said, “Well, I think one of the things that are fascinating — because of the technology — things are being reproduced on laser and tape and there’s a kind of rediscovery. I suspect as we move into the next millennium, this last century will be seen as very special. It’s really the dividing point in which the magic of an era has been captured and saved and I suspect as we move forward, the past is going to look better and better.”

            

Betty Garrett, who costarred in such films as On The Town and My Sister Eileen, recalled going to the movies as a child with her mother and spoke about the way movies used to be. “I became a movie fan in those days,” Betty recalled. “I saw Anita’s films and adored her. We’re all longing for movies the way they used to be. I don’t know what there was about them that was so intriguing – maybe it was because it was a new industry. It was so exciting to see a movie in those days. It was magic.”

            

Cesar Romero told everyone gathered that, “Her legs are just as beautiful today as when she was a top MGM star!”

            

Anita’s husband of fifty-four years, Admiral Herschel House, died in 1991 but Anita told the packed room that evening that her beloved husband was there in spirit. “I thought I’d never, never get over it. And I never will,” Anita said. “But I appreciate the beautiful daughters he gave me.”

            

“Mother left the business for many, many years, but people didn’t forget,” her oldest daughter Sandra said. “She had a combination of sweetness and sensuality. It’s what Marilyn had and it’s what Harlow had. It seems to be quite a good combination. She has all different ages of people that love her and remember her. It’s been a complete resurgence, and she’s so happy about it.”

            

At that time, Anita had a resurgence of her popularity, making personal appearances at film festivals, and taking time to answer her mail from a new generation of fans. As Margaret O’Brien said that evening, “That’s the wonderful thing about Hollywood. You can always come back!”

  

EMAIL ME: hollywoodland23@aol.com

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One Response to “Happy Birthday Anita Page…”

  1. Melissa says:

    Such a charming tribute; thank you so much, Allan.

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