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.