Silent Film Stars

A portrait of Clara

Clara

Clara Bow was born and raised in poverty in Brooklyn, New York. Her mentally ill mother tried to slit Clara's throat when she attempted to enter the film industry! It was her appearance as a plucky shop girl in the film 'It' that brought her global fame and the nickname "The It Girl". Bow came to personify the Roaring Twenties and is described as its leading sex symbol. At the apex of her stardom, she received more than 45,000 fan letters in a single month. She married at the age of 26 and retired from the film world at the age of 28. She was a doting mother of her two sons. Haunted by a mental imbalance she was confined to a sanitarium from time to time.

A portrait of May

May

May MacAvoy appeared as Esther in the 1925 version of Ben Hur. She retired from acting when she married the treasurer of United Artists but returned to the screen after her divorce to play minor roles in the 1940s & 50s. Her final role was in the 1959 version of Ben Hur playing a woman in the crowd.

A portrait of Lupe

Lupe

It's the Mexican Spitfire, Lupe Velez. After a colourful life and career she committed suicide aged 36 in 1944. Urban legend has it that she staged the suicide so that she would appear beautiful on her bed when found. However the pills she took reacted badly with her spicy last meal and she rushed into the bathroom. She tripped and fell headlong into the toilet and that's how she was found the next morning! This story was recounted in the US sitcom Frasier.

Portrait of Marie Prevost

Marie

Based on a 1920s film star, Marie Prevost. Her career flourished in the early & mid 1920s, after which she went into a decline. She died of alcoholism aged 38.

A portrait of Helene

Helene

Helene. A watercolour portrait based on 1920s film star Helene Chadwick. She died aged 42, the indirect result of stumbling over a chair.

A portrait of Mary

Mary

Mary Philbin, 1920's film star. She played opposite Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera. Despite a couple of engagements, she never married. She lived to the ripe old age of 90.

A portrait of Lillian

Lillian

Another star of the silent screen and talkies, Lillian Gish. Her career spanned 76 years and she made her last film in 1988. She died aged 99.

A portrait of Jeanette

Jeanette

Yet another film star of yester year, Jeanette Loff. She died of ammonia poisoning aged 35.

A portrait of Joan

Joan

Believe it or not this is Joan Crawford in 1928. She began her career as a dancer in the chorus line on Broadway.

A portrait of Olive

Olive

This is Olive Borden. At the height of her career in 1927 she was earning $1500 per week. She died aged 41 at her place of work, the Sunshine Mission, a home for destitute women located in the skidrow section of Los Angeles.

Three men with a wine bottle, seated and talking

Down and Out

Painted in acrylics as opposed to my usual watercolour, this is based on a scene from the Swedish film "Thy Soul Shall Bear Witness". This was prohibition propaganda and is said to have made a great impression in foreign countries.