Category Archives: Barbara’s Film Acting Career

Cinema Chat Barbara La Marr Interview


Happy Birthday Anniversary to the one and only Barbara La Marr (July 28, 1896 – January 30, 1926)! Though Barbara passed away at age twenty-nine from tuberculosis and nephritis, it was said that she lived many lives in one.

Thank you to David Heath, host of Cinema Chat, for having me on his podcast to 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.



Tune in to Turner Classic Movies on Sunday, March 31 (April 1 for those on EST) to watch Barbara La Marr in SOULS FOR SALE (1923)

Written and directed by Rupert Hughes (uncle of business tycoon, film producer, and aviator Howard Hughes), Souls for Sale gave 1920s film fans a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the motion picture industry.  Shots of stars’ hillside homes, aerial footage of Hollywood studios, and appearances by a few dozen of filmdom’s finest are interspersed throughout the story of a young newlywed, Remember (“Mem”) Steddon (Eleanor Boardman), on the run from her no-good husband, Owen Scudder (Lew Cody)—a man who marries, insures, and murders women.  Determined to become an actress, Mem ventures to Hollywood.

Barbara La Marr appears in the supporting role of Leva Lemaire, a vampy actress who, though despised as the screen’s leading homewrecker, is actually kindhearted.  Rupert Hughes admitted to casting Barbara in the role because he believed Leva’s benevolence to be a direct reflection of Barbara’s nature. His instincts proved accurate.  “There isn’t a girl in the picture business who is kinder to all the extra girls than Barbara La Marr,” he noted while working with her on Souls for Sale.  “She practically lets them help themselves from her wardrobe and she does other equally kind things all the time.”

Souls for Sale opened in April 1923 to widespread critical acclaim.  Variety and Moving Picture World, summarizing the general sentiments, respectively declared: “Rupert Hughes as a director has topped everything he ever did, even as an author, in this picture” and “[the film] grips your attention and holds your interest intensely from the first scene until the final fade-out.”

Souls for Sale airs on Turner Classic Movies at 9:15 p.m. PST on March 31/12:15 a.m. EST on April 1.  To view the TCM schedule, click here.

(Photo above: Barbara La Marr in Souls for Sale.)

Souls for Sale Cast: Eleanor Boardman, Richard Dix, Frank Mayo, Barbara La Marr, Lew Cody, Mae Busch, Arthur Hoyt, David Imboden, Roy Atwell, William Orlamond, Forrest Robinson, Edith Yorke, Dale Fuller, Snitz Edwards, Jack Richardson, Aileen Pringle, Eve Southern, May Milloy, Sylvia Ashton, Margaret Bourne, Fred Kelsey, Jed Prouty, Yale Boss, William Haines, George Morgan, Auld Thomas, Leo Willis, Walter Perry, Sam Damen, R. H. Johnson, Rush Hughes, L. J. O’Connor, and Charles Murphy. Celebrity appearances by Hugo Ballin, Mabel Ballin, T. Roy Barnes, Barbara Bedford, Hobart Bosworth, Charles Chaplin, Chester Conklin, William H. Crane, Elliott Dexter, Robert Edeson, Claude Gillingwater, Dagmar Godowsky, Raymond Griffith, Elaine Hammerstein, Jean Haskell, K. C. B. (a.k.a. Kenneth C. Beaton), Alice Lake, Bessie Love, June Mathis, Patsy Ruth Miller, Marshall Neilan, Fred Niblo, Anna Q. Nilsson, ZaSu Pitts, John Sainpolis, Milton Sills, Anita Stewart, Erich von Stroheim, Blanche Sweet, Florence Vidor, King Vidor, Johnny Walker, George Walsh, Kathlyn Williams, and Claire Windsor.

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).

Film Matters Interview

When I was recently interviewed about Barbara La Marr and my biography, Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood, for Film Matters Magazine, my interviewer, Lily Frame, kindly told me, “To say I had the time of my life reading this book is truly an understatement.”  Lily’s review of Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood will run in an upcoming print issue of Film Matters.  My interview, meanwhile, is featured on the Film Matters website.