Category Archives: New Photos

A Very Sad Announcement: Donald Michael Gallery (July 29,* 1922 – October 11, 2014)

It is with profound sorrow that I report the passing of Donald Michael Gallery, a consummate gentleman, a beautiful soul, and a dear friend.  Don was also known as Marvin Carville La Marr, Barbara’s son.  His name was changed in 1926, after his mother’s tragic death from tuberculosis and his subsequent adoption by actress ZaSu Pitts and her husband, Tom Gallery.

I was informed of his passing Sunday morning by his lovely, loving wife, Patricia. He had been sleeping peacefully when it happened.  She had been by his side.  She told me that it had occurred Saturday afternoon around 1:15 Pacific Time, while I was standing near Barbara’s crypt in Hollywood Forever’s Cathedral Mausoleum, performing my annual show about her.  (The show is a one-woman performance piece that I wrote about her life; in addition, per Don’s request, I have also been writing her biography.)

Don led a happy, full, and fascinating life of ninety-two years.  I am eternally grateful for the wonderful friendship we shared for seven of those years.  Although he resided in Puerto Vallarta, we kept in constant contact.  One could never grow tired of hearing his stories or simply listening to him talk.  His distinctive charm, reminiscent of a bygone era, always made me smile.  His exuberant spirit drew others to him.  His positive attitude, even to the end, was an inspiration.

Around the middle of this past summer, our telephone calls became difficult for me.  It was not because his speech, affected by stroke-induced dementia, was becoming harder to understand.  Rather, I did not want to face the reality of what was happening to my friend.  “Don’t forget about me,” he said at the end of one of our calls a few weeks ago, indicating that he wanted me to continue calling him once a week, as he had asked me to do.  He was napping when I called on Friday, October 10  and Patricia said she would let him know that I had called.  I didn’t want him thinking I had forgotten.  Although I had no idea at the time that he would pass the next day (no one did), among my first thoughts after learning of his passing was that I did not get to say goodbye.

Some say there are no accidents.  I like to imagine that he somehow chose the day and time of his passing.  Perhaps it was his way of saying good-bye.  At the very least, I like to believe it was his way of conveying that he is now with the adoring mother he wanted so much to know in this life.

Don, I could never forget you.  Thank you for the gift of being who you are, for the joy you brought others, for entrusting me with your mother’s story, and for being one of my best friends.  I was proud to be your “surrogate mother,” as you liked to joke.  While I regret that you will not be able to read my completed biography on Barbara, I am thankful that you were able to enjoy much of it—especially those chapters that mattered most to you, those involving the two of you.  I am happy that they brought you the peace they did and the assurance of Barbara’s deep love for you, her only child.

I am in the process of writing a tribute to Don and will post it here on the blog very soon.

My heart goes out to his beautiful wife and family, and to all who are saddened by the passing of this great man.

May peace be with you all.

Bless you, Donald Michael Gallery (July 29,* 1922 – October 11, 2014).

The image on the left was taken the moment after Don and I came face to face for the first time, right after he had seen me perform as his mother for the first time (this was the 2007 Pasadena Playhouse/Pasadena Museum of History “Channeling Hollywood” production; the year before I began doing my annual Hollywood Forever show about Barbara).

*It should be noted that, due to the secrecy surrounding Donald’s birth and that Barbara staged his adoption—presenting him to the world as her adopted son to avoid a career-damning scandal—, his birthday cannot be determined from available records and was unknown even to him.  A gap in Barbara’s work schedule at Metro Pictures indicates that it occurred sometime between the end of June and mid-July 1922.  ZaSu Pitts, Barbara’s close friend, nonspecifically placed the date around the end of June.  Complicating matters is the seeming nonexistence of an official birth certificate for Donald.  Decades later, in order to enlist in the United States Army Air Corps, he requested a birth certificate from Hope Cottage—the orphanage where his staged adoption took place—with perplexing results; he received three different birth certificates from the orphanage, all with conflicting dates and months, and all guaranteed to be correct at various times.  On one, his birthday is documented as being the same day as Barbara’s, July 28 (but in 1922, not 1896).  He ultimately decided to celebrate his birthday on July 29, a date recorded on another of the certificates.   ZaSu, as a busy actress raising both Donald and her biological daughter, always celebrated her children’s birthdays with a party on the same day—the date of her daughter’s birth—in April.  (For more information, see my related blog post, “Farewell to a Gentleman: A Tribute to Donald Michael Gallery.”)

Newly Added Photographs and a Few Words from Barbara…

As I continue working away on Barbara’s biography (and have therefore temporarily placed blog entries on hold until I have finished), I wanted to honor her birthday in some way.  Please enjoy these newly added photographs, along with some quotes from Miss La Marr herself.

 

Once, when queried about her five marriages and myriad love affairs, Barbara responded, “One loves to live only because one lives to love." Once, when queried about her five marriages and myriad love affairs, Barbara responded, “One loves to live only because one lives to love.”

Barbara's desire to fully embrace life and her tendency to live primarily in the moment often precluded her incisive intellect and sense of reason. “I cannot afford the luxury of regret or remorse," she declared. (Photograph by Russell Ball.) Barbara’s desire to fully embrace life, and her tendency to live primarily in the moment, often undermined her sense of reason.  “I cannot afford the luxury of regret or remorse,” she declared.  (Photograph by Russell Ball.)

One of Barbara's cherished ambitions was, as she put it, “to be a great tragedienne and wield a dagger.” (Photograph by Milton Brown, circa 1921-22.) One of Barbara’s cherished ambitions was, as she put it, “to be a great tragedienne and wield a dagger.”  (Photograph by Milton Brown, circa 1921-22.)

Barbara first became known to filmgoers through her portrayals of adventuresses and vamps---mysterious, wicked women highly adept at manipulating men. Initially, she did not mind such typecasting. “Part of the joy in being a woman,” she teased, “is to exercise fascinations on the male.” (Photograph by Milton Brown. Barbara is wearing one of her costumes from The Prisoner of Zenda [1922]). Barbara first became known to filmgoers through her portrayals of adventuresses and vamps—mysterious, wicked women highly adept at manipulating men.  Initially, she didn’t mind such typecasting.  “Part of the joy in being a woman,” she teased, “is to exercise fascinations on the male.”  (Photograph by Milton Brown.  Barbara is wearing one of her costumes from The Prisoner of Zenda [1922]).

Contrary to Barbara's vamp image were her tender heart, considerate nature, and strong work ethic. She was well-liked by directors, film crews, and fellow actors alike. Ramon Novarro, her co-star in three films, credited her with being his favorite person to work with. Barbara insisted, "Artistic temperament is bunk." (Photograph taken on the set of Thy Name is Woman [1924]. Pictured with Barbara are [left to right] director Fred Niblo and co-stars Wallace MacDonald, Ramon Novarro, and William V. Mong.)Contrary to Barbara’s vamp image were her tender heart, considerate nature, and strong work ethic.  She was well-liked by directors, film crews, and fellow actors alike.  Ramon Novarro, her co-star in three films, credited her with being his favorite person to work with.  Barbara insisted, “Artistic temperament is bunk.”  (Photograph taken on the set of Thy Name Is Woman [1924].  Pictured with Barbara are [left to right] director Fred Niblo and co-stars Wallace MacDonald, Ramon Novarro, and William V. Mong.)

Barbara eventually sought to shed her image as one of the screen's leading temptresses. Yet, despite having won critical and public acclaim for the sympathetic, "human" characters she played in several films, she was continually steered into what she had come to regard as non-dimensional vamp roles. Such roles had cinched her stardom, but ultimately destroyed her career as the public tired of vamps. Plagued by weakening health, Barbara determined to prove herself and resurrect her career. "I'm down, but not licked," she contended just before her final film went into production. "The pageant they put me into almost snuffed me out, but I'm fighting for a chance to forget those idiotic pearl headdresses and feather fans...I hold the opinion that [acting] is something an actress should do." (Film poster for The Girl from Montmartre, released the day after Barbara's death in 1926.) Barbara eventually sought to shed her image as one of the screen’s leading temptresses.  Yet, despite having won acclaim for the sympathetic, “human” characters she played in several films, she was continually steered into what she came to regard as non-dimensional vamp roles.  Such roles had cinched her stardom, but ultimately destroyed her career as the public tired of vamps.  Plagued by weakening health, Barbara determined to prove herself and resurrect her career.  “I’m down, but not licked,” she contended just before her final film went into production.  “The pageant they put me into almost snuffed me out, but I’m fighting for a chance to forget those idiotic pearl headdresses and feather fans…I hold the opinion that [acting] is something an actress should do.”  (Film poster for The Girl from Montmartre, released the day after Barbara’s death in 1926.)

As she neared the end of her life, Barbara grew disillusioned with love, but never stopped craving it. "...I've always been in love, in love with the great ideal of love itself," she stated, "---something that too many men and women experience, something that makes us go on seeking through personalities and the years. The world calls us fickle, but that isn't true. We are merely the idealists of love, who search and very rarely find that for which we look." (Photograph by Lyman Pollard, circa early 1923.) As she neared the end of her brief life of twenty-nine years, Barbara grew disillusioned with love, but never stopped craving it.  “I’ve always been in love, in love with the great ideal of love itself,” she stated, “—something that too many men and women experience, something that makes us go on seeking through personalities and the years.  The world calls us fickle, but that isn’t true.  We are merely the idealists of love, who search and very rarely find that for which we look.” (Photograph by Lyman Pollard, circa early 1923.)

Throughout the trials and heartbreak that often characterized her life, Barbara's underlying spirit shone through at various times. "I would not change my life," she averred, adding that her experiences had made her who she is. Throughout the trials and heartbreak that often characterized her life, Barbara’s underlying spirit often shone through.  “I would not change my life,” she averred, adding that her experiences had made her who she is.  (Photograph by Witzel.)

 

Happy Birthday, Barbara!

Barbara La Marr
July 28, 1896 – January 30, 1926

 

 

New Photographs Added

Although blog entries are temporarily on hold as I work to complete Barbara’s biography, I did not want the anniversary of her passing to go by without some sort of tribute.  Please enjoy the film stills, portraits, and lobby card below, all newly added to the galleries.

Barbara La Marr (July 28, 1896 – January 30, 1926)

White Moth post card

The White Moth (1924)

Barbara and Wallace MacDonald+in+Thy+Name+is+Woman+on+donkey

With Wallace MacDonald in Thy Name Is Woman (1924)

In her Whitley Heights home, circa early spring 1924

Arabian Love Herschel Mayall and John Gilbert

With Herschel Mayall (center) and John Gilbert in Arabian Love (1922)

In one of her costumes from Trifling Women (1922)

Souls for Sale (1923) (Barbara is in the center.)

Barbara+Smiling

Photo by Alfred Cheney Johnston

Barbara pic by Witzel

Barbara headshot

 

Blog Entries Will Return…

As I complete my Barbara La Marr biography (refer to the Book Updates section for more information), blog entries are temporarily on hold.  Rest assured, however, that they will be back!  Many exciting things are happening behind the scenes and there is much I am looking forward to sharing (including many more images of the lovely and talented Miss La Marr).

For now, I leave you with the striking portraiture of Herold Rodney Eaton Phyfe (better known as Hal Phyfe).  Phyfe utilized his background in sculpting and painting to produce sketches for magazines and film studios throughout the 1920s.  His renderings, often done in pastels, melded his dramatic flair with his ability to capture the subtle intricacies of his subjects’ personas.  “If the eyes have ‘it’,” he believed, “everything else will be forgotten in their vivid, compelling attraction.  Eyes create individuality, they are the spokesman for the soul, the character, the mind.”

An image of Barbara from a promotional brochure for her 1924 film Sandra.

An image of Barbara from a promotional brochure for her 1924 film Sandra.

Photoplay cover featuring Barbara, January 1924.

Notes:

“If the eyes have ‘it’,”: Shields, David S., “Hal Phyfe,” http://broadway.cas.sc.edu/content/hal-phyfe