Many thanks to Stephanie Nolasco and Fox News for the opportunity to discuss Barbara La Marr and my biography, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood. The write-up may be viewed here.
On this day, May 5, in 1923, tall, handsome, red-headed actor and stuntman Jack Daugherty arrived at the Whitley Heights home of screen siren Barbara La Marr for a dinner date and received one of the shocks of his life. “You’re going to be married tonight,” Barbara informed him when she greeted him at the door. Her declaration rendered him virtually speechless; “Huh!” he exclaimed. Jack later confessed to being so “insane about Barbara” after meeting her through their respective film work in 1921 that “I couldn’t even think of the [films] I was doing—and was desperately trying to marshal up enough courage to propose.”
True to Barbara’s word, she and Jack were wed the evening of May 5 in Ventura, California, at the officiating reverend’s home. A Los Angeles Times reporter, somehow learning of their sudden, secret elopement, was in attendance alongside Barbara’s mother and brother, and writer, director, and producer Paul Bern (Barbara’s friend and Jack’s best man). “At noon today,” Barbara proclaimed to the reporter, “I had no more idea of marrying [Jack] than—well—than of marrying you. Then—well—I just decided.”
Barbara would soon speak to other reporters of the considerable heartbreak, scandal, and scathing publicity she had endured while searching for her ideal man—including serial relationships and marriages, a bigamous marriage, and the bitter dissolution of her affair with homosexual actor William Haines three days before her marriage to Jack. Reminded by one newsman of her oft-repeated avowal that she would never marry again, Barbara declared, “Any woman who says she won’t marry again is just a plain fool—of course she will, when something like Jack’s adorable hair strikes her.”
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.
(To learn more about the films Barbara wrote and appeared in, visit the Filmography section of this site.)
“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.
Join me, Sherri Snyder, for an afternoon of legendary silent screen siren Barbara La Marr and swashbuckling adventure at the Egyptian Theatre on Saturday, March 24. I will be portraying Barbara in a self-authored performance piece, then lecturing about her, spotlighting her tragically short, oftentimes scandalous life, notable career, and impact upon cinematic history. I will also sign copies of my recently released book, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood. A screening of the 1921 box office sensation The Three Musketeers, starring Douglas Fairbanks, Marguerite De La Motte, Barbara La Marr, Nigel De Brulier, and Adolphe Menjou, will follow. Click here for details and tickets.
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.
(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.)
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.
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.)