Category Archives: Barbara’s Film Acting Career

Tune in to Turner Classic Movies Tonight, September 9 (September 10 for those on EST), to watch Barbara La Marr in The Prisoner of Zenda (1922)!

Directed by Rex Ingram, The Prisoner of Zenda, a gripping tale of deceptions and ill-fated love affairs, was deemed a “sensational and instant triumph” and “Ingram’s best” by Moving Picture World, and near perfection by the Philadelphia Inquirer after its release.  Barbara, appearing in the film in the supporting role of a cast-off woman who helps defeat a coup by betraying her deceitful lover, likewise garnered praise.  Period trades commended her heartfelt performance, proclaiming her one of the screen’s most beautiful women and an actress of exceptional ability, and declaring that she alone was worth the admission price.  Also featured in the film are the acclaimed performances of Lewis Stone, Alice Terry, and Ramon Novarro.

The Prisoner of Zenda airs at 12:30 a.m. EST.  (To view the TCM schedule, click here.)

Ramon Novarro and Barbara La Marr in The Prisoner of Zenda (1922).

Film Matters Interview

When I was recently interviewed about Barbara La Marr and my biography, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood, for Film Matters Magazine, my interviewer, Lily Frame, kindly told me, “To say I had the time of my life reading this book is truly an understatement.”  Lily’s review of Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood will run in an upcoming print issue of Film Matters.  My interview, meanwhile, is featured on the Film Matters website.

View Barbara in The Three Musketeers (1921)

Those who were unable to attend my performance as and lecture on Barbara La Marr; the signing of my biography, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood; and the screening of The Three Musketeers (1921), starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr., Marguerite De La Motte, Nigel De Brulier, Barbara La Marr, and Adolphe Menjou, on March 24 at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre may view The Three Musketeers for free online (see link below).

When The Three Musketeers premiered in New York City in August 1921, it was hailed by critics as “a thrilling, gripping, unadulterated success”; “the greatest achievement since the birth of the motion picture industry”; and, “in the words of D’Artagnan”—the film’s gallant hero played by Douglas Fairbanks—, “Marvelous.”  House records were shattered worldwide as crowds stormed theaters, literally fighting their way to box office windows and necessitating calls for police protection.

The Three Musketeers marked the end of Barbara’s time in the shadows of obscurity as an actress.  The thought both exhilarated and frightened her.  While still employed as a storywriter at Fox in 1920, Barbara first met Fairbanks on the set of his film The Mark of Zorro, after Marguerite De La Motte—Barbara’s friend and Fairbanks’s leading lady in that film and The Three Musketeers—invited her to accompany her to work one day.  Barbara’s beauty, charisma, and talent so impressed Fairbanks that he gave her a small part as a tempestuous gangster’s moll in his film The Nut (1921), then offered her the much-coveted role of the iniquitous spy Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers, a film which was already anticipated to be an international sensation.  Fearful of being recognized as notorious Reatha Watson on the big screen, and the subsequent exposure of her infamous past, Barbara nonetheless accepted the role.  She became disheartened, however, when vaudevillian and film actor Ben Deely, her husband at that time, and various others close to her discouraged her from pursuing an acting career, instead advising her to stick with writing.  Fairbanks refused to hear of it.  When filming for The Three Musketeers concluded, Fairbanks made a prediction. “You are going to be one of the biggest girls on the screen,” he told Barbara.  “Wait and see.”

Indeed, critics applauded Barbara’s supporting performance in The Three Musketeers, declaring her “dazzling,” a “fiery” actress, and worthy of stardom.  More film offers rolled in for Barbara, and within two years she was an established star.  At the height of her fame, she credited the encouragement she received from Fairbanks and director Fred Niblo on the set of The Three Musketeers with preventing her from quitting and fueling her determination to succeed as an actress.

*** Watch Barbara in The Three Musketeers here.

Bridgeport Times and Evening Farmer, November 2, 1921, image of Barbara as Milady de Winter in The Three Musketeers.

(To learn more about the films Barbara wrote and appeared in, visit the Filmography section of this site.)

 

NOTES:

“a thrilling, gripping, unadulterated success”: “‘Three Musketeers’ Has Greatest Reception Ever Accorded a Film,” Moving Picture World, September 10, 1921, 190.

“the greatest achievement”: “Praise ‘Three Musketeers,'” Motion Picture News, September 17, 1921, 1514.

“in the words of D’Artagnan”: “In the Words of D’Artagnan—Marvelous!!,” Wid’s Daily, September 4, 1921, 2.

“You are going to be one of the biggest”: La Marr, Barbara, “The True Story of My Life,” Movie Weekly, January 24, 1925, pg. 20.

“dazzling”: “Girl of ‘Too Much Beauty’ Wins Fame,” Salt Lake Telegram, October 23, 1921.

“fiery”: untitled photo caption, Picture Play Magazine, March 1922, pg. 42.

Barbara La Marr: Beyond the Legend

Legendary silent screen goddess Barbara La Marr was known as much for her laudable career as for her infamy.  Her tempestuous life, the scandalous headlines she generated, and her sultry screen image are only part of the story, however.  Learn more in my guest article, “Barbara La Marr: Beyond the Legend,” on Midnight Palace, a website devoted to classic film culture.  (NOTE: Due to technical difficulties on the Midnight Palace site, I have temporarily removed the link; until the link is up and running again, feel free to read the article I wrote for Classic Movie Hub, “Barbara La Marr: Life on Her Own Terms.”)

(Read Barbara’s complete story in my newly released biography, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood, available on the University Press of Kentucky website, on Amazon, and from other booksellers.)

Barbara La Marr Featured on a Postage Stamp!

A newly released set of six postage stamps, created for the Isle of Man Post Office in honor of celebrated British novelist Hall Caine, features Barbara La Marr, Pola Negri, Anny Ondra, Richard Dix, Conrad Nagel, and Norman Kerry—silent film stars who appeared in adaptations of Caine’s esteemed works!

Barbara La Marr’s stamp commemorates her starring role in The Eternal City (1923), a film based upon Caine’s bestselling 1901 novel of the same name.  As the author of Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood, I was honored to have been asked to provide photos for Barbara’s stamp, one of which (a portrait, not an image from the film) was chosen.

View and learn more about this exquisite collection of stamps here and here.

 

 

Barbara La Marr: Life on Her Own Terms

Classic Movie Hub invited me to contribute a guest blog for their website.  In my post, “Barbara La Marr: Life on Her Own Terms,” I discuss Barbara’s commendable talents and her unbending determination to succeed in life, despite myriad obstacles and frequent association with scandal.  Read it here.

(There are still opportunities to WIN a copy of my newly released biography, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood, courtesy of the University Press of Kentucky and Classic Movie Hub!  Get the details here.)