Obit…Anita Page


Anita Page, Silent-Film Siren, Dies at 98 






Anita Page, one of the last surviving stars of the silent screen and a popular Hollywood siren before her surprisingly early — and seemingly permanent — retirement in the 1930s, died on Saturday. She was 98.


Randal Malone, her friend and longtime companion, told The Associated Press that she died at her home in Los Angeles.


Ms. Page was still a teenager when she left New York for California. She appeared in small, uncredited roles in several silent films, making her screen debut as an extra in A Kiss for Cinderella (1925), based on the fairy tale. Soon she was offered a contract by MGM. A petite, sexy blonde, Ms. Page was the ideal love interest, whether playing the girl next door or a flirtatious flapper out to conquer the opposite sex.


She became a star when she appeared with Joan Crawford in the Jazz Age silent drama Our Dancing Daughters (1928), in which they competed for the love of a millionaire (Johnny Mack Brown). Ms. Crawford was the loser until the film’s melodramatic end, when a drunken Ms. Page tumbled down a stairway to her death.


The film was a smash hit, and Ms. Page began receiving sacks of fan mail, including, she said, a spate of marriage proposals from none other than Mussolini.


Ms. Page made two more movies with Ms. Crawford, Our Modern Maidens (1929) and Our Blushing Brides (1930), neither of which matched the success of their first. She also appeared opposite Lon Chaney in While the City Sleeps (1928) and Ramon Novarro in The Flying Fleet (1929).


By then the age of silent films was at an end, and Ms. Page, along with other stars of the silent era, faced the challenge of making a successful transition to the talkies. Her chance came with The Broadway Melody (1929), which MGM billed as an “All-Talking, All-Singing, All-Dancing” picture. Ms. Page and her co-star Bessie Love played sisters with a vaudeville act who leave the Midwest with hopes of success on Broadway.


The film won the Academy Award for best picture, the first talkie to achieve that honor.


Ms. Page was born Anita Pomares on Aug. 4, 1910, in Flushing, Queens, one of two children of an electrical engineer and a homemaker. She broke into films after graduating from Washington Irving High School, taking small parts in independent films in New York before heading to Hollywood and signing with MGM. (“She is that rarest and most interesting type of beauty,” a studio publicity release said in 1932. “A Spanish blonde.”)


In 1934 she married the composer Nacio Herb Brown, whose tune “You Were Meant for Me,” from The Broadway Melody, had become Ms. Page’s signature song. The marriage ended in divorce a year later.


In 1937 she married Herschel A. House, who died in 1991. They had two daughters, Sandra and Linda.


In the early 1930s Ms. Page found an unlikely co-star in Buster Keaton and appeared opposite that deadpan clown in Free and Easy (1930) and Sidewalks of New York (1931). That same year she played the wife of a struggling laundryman (Clark Gable) in The Easiest Way.


When her contract expired in 1933, Ms. Page was feeling pressured by MGM. Denied a pay raise, she promptly announced her retirement. She was 23.


After one more appearance, in the British-made Hitch Hike to Heaven (1936), about the struggles of a touring repertory company, she took a 60-year vacation from moviemaking.


Ms. Page came out of retirement to appear in a little-noticed 1996 film, Sunset After Dark, which also featured another Hollywood veteran, the former child star Margaret O’Brien. Ms. Page went on to play small roles in low-budget horror films, including The Crawling Brain (2002). It was a world — and a lifetime — away from Our Dancing Daughters.



I will be posting a personal remembrance of Anita Page on Tuesday.



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