Not long before her passing at age twenty-nine on January 30, 1926, Barbara La Marr, one of Hollywood’s most infamous, misunderstood screen sirens, asked writer Jim Tully, a friend of hers, “Some day, Jim, will you write about me—and tell them that I wasn’t everything I played on the screen?” To those who loved Barbara, she was far more than the debauched women she played, her demons, and the shocking headlines she spawned. Ramon Novarro, famed Latin lover of the silent screen and Barbara’s friend and costar in three of her films, found in her a sincerity, humility, and “kindness that made her lovable.” Actress Alice Terry, Barbara’s Prisoner of Zenda (1922) costar, affirmed, “[Barbara] was as lovely in her personality as she was in her ravishing looks…She was very big-hearted and generous and loved to please people.” Writer Willis Goldbeck was said to believe Barbara’s virtues to be “of the mind and spirit,” and that her weaknesses were “all of the flesh.”
This interesting piece was sent to me by cartoonist Bruce Yurgil after he discovered it in The Funnies #11, a 1937 comic book that features newspaper strips. (The piece originally ran in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on December 21, 1935.)
While the number of times Barbara read the Bible is not readily known, she was deeply religious. She received some of her childhood education in convents. As an adult, her religious inclinations ran the gamut from Catholicism to Christian Science, and it was said that her fervent interest in spirituality led her to explore the Koran, Confucianism, Buddhism, and the philosophical writings of Rabindranath Tagore in addition to the Bible. Highly intelligent, Barbara proclaimed that she “read omnivorously” and preferred books to any other type of company. Since she furthermore considered becoming a nun at different times in her life, she likely knew the Bible well enough to speak with some authority on it.
Barbara La Marr considered writer, director, and producer Paul Bern among her closest friends and confidants. Deeply in love with Barbara, Paul assisted her with her career, sought to protect her during her oftentimes turbulent love affairs, and helped her with her medical and funeral expenses after she contracted pulmonary tuberculosis and nephritis. “No one is really poor who can boast the friendship of Paul Bern,” Barbara stated before her passing.
In an encore appearance on David A. Health’s Cinema Chat podcast (beginning shortly after 51:00), I discuss Barbara and Paul’s relationship. The first part of the podcast features Laura Riebman, Paul’s great-niece, discussing Paul’s influential role in early Hollywood, his marriage to platinum bombshell Jean Harlow, the impact his sensational death had upon her family, and her efforts to commemorate Paul’s professional achievements with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. The podcast may be accessed here.
(My Barbara La Marr Cinema Chat podcast may be found here. I discuss Barbara’s turbulent teenage years; her many matrimonial ventures; her accomplished careers as a stock theater actress, dancer, vaudevillian, and Fox Film Corporation story writer; her ascension to worldwide fame as one of the silent screen’s leading actresses; and more.)
Barbara (on right) and Doris Pawn, her costar in The Hero (1923), decorate a Christmas tree for children in a photo published in the December 5, 1924, issue of Picture Show magazine.
Thank you to Kevin John Charbeneau for sharing this photo with me.
Many thanks to Dixie Laite, a wonderful writer and mayor at Dametown, for reading my book and spotlighting Barbara in Dametown’s Hall of Dame. Dixie writes, “Get ahold of Sherri Snyder’s definitive biography, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood. Sherri has the intelligence, insight and sensitivity to get Barbara’s complexity.” Dixie’s Barbara La Marr post may be read here. Be sure to check out Dixie’s many other fascinating posts as well!
Silent screen actress Barbara La Marr, known as the “too beautiful” girl, was a legend in her time, leading an astounding, oftentimes scandalous life described by newspapers of the day as “a wilder story than she ever helped to film.” Join me, Sherri Snyder, at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Sunday, October 13 as I once again don my seamed stockings and paint on my bee-stung lips to portray Barbara in a one-woman performance piece that I wrote about her. Barbara’s banishment from Los Angeles at age seventeen for being “too beautiful”; her notable careers as an actress, a dancer, a vaudevillian, and a screenwriter; her death at age twenty-nine in 1926; and more will be spotlighted.
My performance is part of the Los Angeles Art Deco Society’s 36th Hollywood Forever Cemetery tour. Also featured on the tour are the stories—told by performers and historians—of silent screen god Rudolph Valentino, action hero Douglas Fairbanks Sr., actress and William Randolph Hearst mistress Marion Davies, filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille, slain director William Desmond Taylor, and over twenty other early Hollywood stars, movie moguls, and pioneers interred at Hollywood Forever. For ticket information and additional details, click here. This event typically sells out.
In addition to performing as Barbara on the tour for many years, this is my third year producing the tour since Frank Cooper, the man who created and ran it for thirty-three years, handed me the reins.
I will be at the Cinecon Classic Film Festival on Saturday, August 31 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., signing copies of my biography, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood. Book signings, part of the festival’s Memorabilia Show, will be located in the third floor meeting area at Lowes Hollywood Hotel (1755 North Highland Avenue, Los Angeles 90028). Information on the festival’s film screenings and other events may be found here. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone.