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Barbara LaMarr’s Birthday…

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Jul 28th, 2008
2008
Jul 28

“The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful”

Barbara LaMarr

TRIBUTE

 

 

 

Today would be the 112th birthday of the silent screen beauty, Barbara LaMarr. To celebrate, I am reprinting a portion of a tribute to the actress written by Jimmy Bangley, who was a huge LaMarr fan and admirer.

 

Celebrated around the world as “The Girl Who Is Too Beautiful,” this goddess of film was much more than a mere screen beauty. Possessing a razor sharp intelligence, a keen sense of humor, and a wise understanding of human nature, Miss LaMarr was also a successful scenarist of the silent screen. Beauty was just one weapon in her arsenal of talents.

  

Child actress at the tender age of seven years, little Reatha Dale Watson (as Barbara was then called) had a tremendous impact on her turn-of-the-century theater audiences as she played in stock companies up and down the West Coast for over six years.

 

Her loving rapport with the audience never faded. She experienced the same jubilation again with an adoring audience as she seductively danced to filled nightclubs, theaters, and vaudeville houses in her next incarnation as a hoofer on the road. Her natural grace would be exploited to its fullest as a screen actress, but as a young dancer of 14 years LaMarr made a truly stunning impression.

 

  

 

 

 

 LaMarr’s Whitley Heights house interior (photo 2)  

 

 

  

Exterior and rear of house (photot 3)

 

(click on images to enlarge)

 

Walking hand in hand with Barbara’s successful career as child actress and dancer was Barbara the writer, beginning with her short stories in newspapers (her foster father, William Watson, was himself a noted newspaper writer and editor). LaMarr branched out as film and theater critic, magazine contributor, and lastly film scenarist. She “doctored” numerous screenplays and wrote (and co-wrote) at least eight movies that we know about today.

 

In 1913 and 1914 LaMarr filmed some quickie westerns in Arizona. She is also said to have filmed dancing shorts in New York City, Chicago, and in Los Angeles, with such diverse partners as Rudolph Valentino and Clifton Webb. None of this film footage can be found today, at least not yet. What we do know is that by 1920 Louis B. Mayer and Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. with wife Mary Pickford “discovered” Barbara LaMarr and set her delicate little feet on the path to screen stardom.

 

With her gorgeous, exotic looks, her bright personality, her native intelligence, and her inborn grace of form and movement, Barbara was propelled to stardom. She became filmdom’s most beautiful and celebrated vamp. This icon of the art deco era also became a much appreciated and critically acclaimed actress. She received rave reviews in such box office hits as The Three Musketeers (1921), The Prisoner of Zenda (1922), The Eternal City (1923), Strangers of the Night (1923), Thy Name Is Woman, The Shooting of Dan McGrew, both released in 1924, and pleased international audiences with her beauty and charisma in such fluff as The White Moth, Sandra, and The White Monkey (which, by the way, flopped in the United States).

 

 

Barbara La Marr’s home at 6672 Whitley Terrace, as it looked a few years ago. Jimmy Bangley, doing his LaMarr impersonation, is standing at photo number 3 in the 1920s version above.  

 

Barbara once made this telling statement about her film work, “Each characterization I create chips a little piece from my very soul.” She did, indeed, work very hard. She also played very hard. She lived on her emotions and on the very edge of her nerves.

 

She was generous to a fault and was known in the industry as a “soft touch.” LaMarr could always be counted on to help a friend when he or she was down and out, both emotionally and financially. Friends, relations, directors, producers, and fellow actors realized Barbara had trouble saying no. Many in her circle took advantage of her. She seemed to understand, and placidly accept this facet of her personality.

 

- Gratefully, Jimmy Bangley

February 1999

 

NOTE: Barbara LaMarr’s four bedroom, 2 bath home at 6672 Whitley Terrace was recently sold in February 2008 for $1,250,000.

 

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H. J. Whitley

Posted by Allan Ellenberger on Jun 20th, 2008
2008
Jun 20

HOLLYWOOD PIONEERS

H. J. Whitley

 

 

 Father of Hollywood

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Hobart Johnstone Whitley was born in Toronto, Canada on October 7, 1847, of Scotish-English parentage. As a child he moved to Flint, Michigan, where he was educated in the public schools and later at Toronto Business College.

 

Whitley engaged in banking and land development in Kansas City and Minneapolis, establishing banks and townsites along the Northern Pacific Railroad, and for a time managed the H. J. Whitley Land and Mortgage Company. He platted the towns and built brick and stone business buildings in Oklahoma City, El Reno, Chickasha, Enid, Medfore, and other cities on the Rock Island Railroad.

 

In 1887 he married Margaret Virginia Ross and had two children, Grace Virginia and Ross Emmet. Because of bad health, Whitley came to California in 1893 and the following year established the H. J. Whitley Jewelry Store, for many years the largest in the city. In 1900 he bought the Hurd property north of Hollywood Boulevard, between Wilcox and Whitley, south of Yucca Street, which he later subdivided into what became known as Whitley Home Tract. As a result of the success of this subdivision, one of the first in Hollywood, Whitley became known as the “Father of Hollywood.”

 

In 1905, Whitley and a group of Los Angeles investors undertook the development of 47,000 acres in the San Joaquin Valley and carried through a similar project involving nearly 50,000 acres in the San Fernando Valley.

 

 

 

Whitley continued his activities in Southern California property until 1922, when he completed the development of Whitley Heights, which was one of the first hillside subdivisions in Hollywood. The opening of the tract in 1920 was the scene of a public barbeque, with city officials and business men of the city as guests. Whitley Heights would become the first celebrity neighborhood and home to such film stars as Francis X. Bushman, Eugene O’Brien, Barbara La Marr and Rudolph Valentino.

 

In addition to his real estate development, Whitley was one of the founders of the Home Savings Bank and was identified with the organization of the First National Bank of Hollywood, the First National Bank of Van Nuys and State banks in Canoga Park, Reseda and Corcoran.

 

On June 3, 1931, while staying as a guest of his son at the Whitley Park Country Club in Van Nuys, H. J. Whitley died in his sleep at the age of 83. Whitley was survived by his wife Margaret, his daughter Grace, son Ross and three grandchildren. Funeral services were conducted at the Strother Funeral Chapel at 6240 Hollywood Boulevard with interment at Hollywood Cemetery.

 

 H. J. Whitley’s cremation niche at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

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