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 (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.
Though silent screen star Barbara La Marr and her father, newspaperman and writer William Watson, had their differences—he initially disapproved of her film acting aspirations; clashed with her free-spirited nature; and endured her turbulent, oftentimes scandalous life—, they loved each other very much. When Barbara was allegedly kidnapped at age sixteen by her estranged half-sister, William told the press he would spend every cent he had to find her. He was by her side when she wrote stories for the Fox Film Corporation in 1920, typing her manuscripts as she dictated them to him. And, when Barbara, plagued by incipient pulmonary tuberculosis and nearing her life’s end, struggled to complete her final film, The Girl from Montmartre (1926), William accompanied her to work at the studio to support and watch over her.
(Photo above: Barbara La Marr and her father, William Watson, arrive at United Studios in 1925 during the filming of The Girl from Montmartre.)
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 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.)
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.”