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March 30, 2019 – “Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood” Performance, Lecture, and Book Signing Event in Cave Creek, Arizona

Silent screen actress Barbara La Marr was a legend in her time, leading an astounding life described by newspapers of the day as “a wilder story than she ever helped to film.”  Join me, Sherri Snyder, on Saturday, March 30, 2019, at the Desert Foothills Library, 38443 North Schoolhouse Road, Cave Creek, Arizona 85331, as I portray Barbara in a self-authored performance piece, then lecture about her, detailing her oftentimes scandalous life from her humble beginnings to her tragic death at age twenty-nine in 1926.  Barbara’s banishment from Los Angeles at age seventeen for being “too beautiful”; her notable careers as a dancer, a vaudevillian, a screenwriter, and an actress; her impact upon cinematic history; and her fierce determination to forge her own destiny amid the constant threat of losing it all to scandal and, ultimately, death will be spotlighted.  I will also answer questions about Barbara and sign copies of my book, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood.  The event, beginning at 11 a.m. and roughly an hour and a half long, is being held in the library’s Jones/Coates lecture hall and is FREE to attend.  Attendees are advised to call 480-488-2286 or click here to reserve seats, as this is an encore presentation and seats may fill up again.   

(Photo above: [L to R] Barbara La Marr; me [Sherri Snyder] as Barbara; my Barbara La Marr biography.)

Saluting Barbara on the Anniversary of Her Passing

After collapsing in a coma on the set of her final film, The Girl from Montmartre (1926), silent screen star Barbara La Marr, suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis, was forced into isolation in Altadena, California, by her doctor in October 1925.  As the months passed, Barbara often worried that those in the outside world had forgotten her.

They hadn’t.  Following her death at age twenty-nine on January 30, 1926, while she lay in state for four days in a Los Angeles chapel, an estimated 120,000 mourners—other Hollywood stars and friends who had worked with or known her intimately, fans who had worshipped her luminous image on film screens, and folks who had been touched by her kindness and unyielding generosity—filed past her golden velvet bier, paying their respects with tears and floral offerings. 

Among the flowers engulfing her bier and filling the chapel to overflowing was a single red rose, tucked beneath her hand by a twelve-year-old girl.  “To my Beautiful Lady,” the accompanying note read, “whom I have longed to meet in this life and whom I look forward to ‘knowing’ when my time is over here.  May my life be as lovely and unselfish as yours has been.”  The girl’s rose, considered by Barbara’s father to be the greatest tribute, was buried with Barbara.  

(Photo above: Barbara La Marr, 1924)

Barbara La Marr in THE PRISONER OF ZENDA (1922) Free Online

Barbara’s 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.)

My Barbara La Marr Interview on The Online Movie Show with Phil Hall

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.

“The Lady That’s Known as Lou”

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 [2017].  There will be more photos to come.)

The Shooting of Dan McGrew (1924)

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).

Happy Birthday to the Lovely Barbara La Marr (July 28, 1896 – January 30, 1926)!

“The girl who was too beautiful,” “the world’s wickedest vamp,” “immoral woman”…  Barbara La Marr wore many labels throughout her short, oftentimes scandalous life and meteoric career as one of the silent screen’s brightest stars.  Yet 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, Barbara’s friend and costar in three of her films, saw beyond what he termed the “glittering, enchanting personality” Barbara erected around herself; he found in her a sincerity, humility, and “kindness that made her lovable.”  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.”  Indeed, Barbara’s generosity knew no bounds; she routinely donated large sums to charities, allowed struggling artists to live with her until they found steady work, and bestowed lavish gifts upon friends and co-workers.  Reporters and columnists, expecting Barbara to behave in person as her impious screen characters would, were pleasantly surprised when meeting her for the first time, encountering instead a charming, “regular girl” who “radiates good fellowship.”  Directors, her castmates, and film crew members consistently spoke of what a joy she was to work with.  A film critic, praising Barbara’s performance in her final film, The Girl from Montmartre (1926), noted that the picture depicts Barbara in her real nature, “a whole-souled and loving girl.”  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.”

Barbara in one of her Prisoner of Zenda costumes, 1922.

(To learn more about Barbara, check out my biography, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood, recently published by the University Press of Kentucky and also available on Amazon, from Barnes & Noble, and elsewhere.)

Notes:

“glittering, enchanting personality”: Ramon Novarro, “Ramon Novarro Tells of His Screen Loves,” Movie Weekly, April 25, 1925, 5.

“[Barbara] was as lovely”: Terry quoted in Jimmy Bangley, “The Legendary Barbara La Marr,” Classic Images, May 1996, 17.

“regular girl”: Regina Cannon, “‘My Private Life’s My Own Affair,’ Declares Barbara La Marr,” Movie Weekly, May 31, 1924, 3.

“a whole-souled and loving girl”: New York Graphic quoted in “Newspaper Opinions,” Film Daily, February 28, 1926, 197.

“of the mind and spirit”: Goldbeck quoted in Adela Rogers St. Johns, “The Life Story of Barbara La Marr,” Liberty Magazine, December 15, 1928, 67.