decision to turn down the role of Doña Sol, the mistress opposite screen idol
Rudolph Valentino, in Blood and Sand (1922)
in order to appear in The Prisoner of
Zenda (1922) was a risky one. Director
Rex Ingram, in casting her in the supporting role of Antoinette De Mauban in The Prisoner of Zenda, a story of ruses
and doomed love affairs, was testing her acting abilities for a leading role as
an evil seductress in his upcoming thriller, Trifling Women (formerly Black
Orchids; 1922), slated to begin production after The Prisoner of Zenda.
Realizing that her performance in The
Prisoner of Zenda would either validate or refute Ingram’s faith in her,
Barbara was determined to achieve film stardom.
Even alongside a distinguished cast including Lewis Stone, Alice Terry, and Ramon Novarro, Barbara shone in the role of Antoinette, an adventuress who helps vanquish a coup by betraying her traitorous lover. Period critics, enraptured by her whole-souled acting and beauty, declared that she alone was worth the film’s admission price. Long before The Prisoner of Zenda reached theaters, however, Ingram finalized his decision to star Barbara in Trifling Women—a film Barbara later credited with securing her launch to worldwide fame.
Hailed in its day as a sensational triumph and one of Ingram’s best, The Prisoner of Zenda—and Barbara’s acclaimed performance as Antoinette—may be viewed for free online here.
(Photo above: Barbara as Antoinette De Mauban in The Prisoner of Zenda.)
Thank you to film journalist and historian Phil Hall for interviewing me about Barbara La Marr and my book, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood, on his podcast, The Online Movie Show with Phil Hall. I had a great time discussing Barbara’s accomplished careers as a stock company actress, dancer, vaudevillian, storywriter for the Fox Film Corporation, and silent film actress; her turbulent early years as “the notorious Reatha Watson”; and more. The podcast may be accessed here.
Barbara is pictured below as she appeared in The Shooting of Dan McGrew (1924), a film said to have been at least partially adapted by her from Robert William Service’s poem of the same name. Barbara portrayed “the lady that’s known as Lou,” a dancer who falls prey to a cunning gambler (Lew Cody) while trying to make a better life for herself, her husband (Percy Marmont), and her son (Philippe De Lacy). Oozing with sex appeal, Barbara’s heated, heartfelt performance was deemed a success by several critics upon the film’s release—though Film Daily warned that her “near-nakedness” would likely prompt scrupulous censors in certain areas to ban the film.
(This photo is among the many in my collection that weren’t included with the seventy-six allowed in my biography, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood . There will be more photos to come.)
The Shooting of Dan McGrew (1924)
I’m very excited to be appearing as Barbara La Marr in my self-authored, one-woman performance about her life; lecturing about her; and signing copies of my biography, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood (University Press of Kentucky, 2017), at the historic Shakespeare Club villa in Pasadena, California, on Friday, October 19, 2018. This event, hosted by the Pasadena Museum of History, will also feature live jazz by the John Reynolds Trio, appetizers, and hooch aplenty. Period dress is encouraged, and all flappers, sheiks, gangsters, and molls are welcome—but no Prohibition agents, please!
To get the scoop and purchase tickets, click here.
(L to R) Barbara La Marr; me (Sherri Snyder) as Barbara; my Barbara La Marr biography.
Sincere thanks to Tammy Ayer of the Yakima Herald for interviewing me about silent screen siren and Yakima, Washington, native Barbara La Marr and my biography, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood. The article may be viewed here.
The dead do tell tales—at least, Barbara La Marr does.
Join me, Sherri Snyder, at Hollywood Forever in Los Angeles on Saturday, October 13 as I don my seamed stockings and paint on my bee-stung lips to once again portray silent screen vamp Barbara La Marr in the one-woman performance piece I wrote about her astounding life. My performance is the finale to the Los Angeles Art Deco Society’s 35th Hollywood Forever Cemetery Walking Tour.
Visit the gravesites of early Hollywood stars, movie moguls, and pioneers as performers and historians “dig up the dirt” on Hollywood’s history—and several of its scandals.
Also featured on the tour are the stories of those who mapped Hollywood—including Col. Griffith J. Griffith and Hollywood founder Harvey Wilcox—and others who put Hollywood on the map: silent film swashbuckler Douglas Fairbanks, heartthrob Rudolph Valentino, actress and William Randolph Hearst mistress Marion Davies, filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille, slain director William Desmond Taylor, and over twenty other legendary Los Angelenos.
Signed copies of my biography, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood (University Press of Kentucky, 2017), will be on hand.
For additional details and to purchase tickets, click here. Tickets sold out last year!
(L to R) Barbara La Marr on the cover of Motion Picture Classic magazine; me as Barbara; my Barbara biography.