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Publicity photo of Rubens from Stars of the Photoplay (1924)
February 19, 1897|
San Francisco, California, U.S.
|Died||January 22, 1931
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Spouse(s)||Franklyn Farnum (m. 1918; div. 1919)
Daniel Carson Goodman (m. 1923; div. 1925)
Ricardo Cortez (m. 1926–31)
Alma Rubens (February 19, 1897 – January 22, 1931) was an American film actress and stage performer.
Rubens began her career in the mid 1910s. She quickly rose to stardom in 1916 after appearing opposite Douglas Fairbanks in The Half Breed. For the remainder of the decade, she appeared in supporting roles in comedies and drama. In the 1920s, Rubens developed a drug addiction which eventually ended her career. She died of pneumonia shortly after being arrested on narcotics charge in January 1931.
She was born Alma Genevieve Reubens to John B. and Theresa (née Hayes) Rueben in San Francisco, California. Her father was of French descent and her mother was of Irish heritage. She had an older sister, Hazel. She was raised in the Roman Catholic faith and attended Sacred Heart Convent in San Francisco. Some biographies erroneously state that her birth name was Genevieve Driscoll. The name was in fact a pseudonym that she later used in a non-professional capacity, as Genevieve was her middle name and Driscoll was her maternal grandmother's maiden name.
Her first stage opportunity came when a chorus girl in a musical comedy theater troupe became ill. Rubens was chosen to take her place and joined the troupe as a regular performer. There she met Franklyn Farnum who was also a member. He later convinced Rubens to leave the troupe and try her hand at film acting.
Her breakthrough performance was in 1916 in the movie Reggie Mixes In. She made six more films in that same year. In 1917 she starred in The Firefly of Tough Luck, which was a big success. She gained fame when she became Douglas Fairbanks's leading lady in The Half Breed (1916), and supported Fairbanks and Bessie Love in the cocaine comedy The Mystery of the Leaping Fish later that same year. In 1918, Alma announced that she was changing the spelling of her last name of Rueben to "Rubens" because it caused too much confusion in the movie industry and in publications. She later told Photoplay magazine, "As a matter of fact my name is not the same [spelling] as the painter's. It's either Reubens or Ruebens-I forget which. I never could spell it. Couldn't remember where the 'e' came. So I let it go Rubens."
In 1920, she completed The World and His Wife, opposite Montague Love which further solidified her popularity. In 1924, she starred in The Price She Paid and Cytherea. Around this time, Rubens developed an addiction to morphine. As a result, she temporarily retired from the screen in 1926.
Drug abuse and career decline
Rubens' drug addiction worsened when she returned to California in 1928. In a serialized autobiography that was published in newspapers in 1931, Rubens admitted that she became an addict after a New York physician administered morphine during an illness. A few months later, she was prescribed morphine tablets for another ailment. Rubens confessed she was taking them for every real or imaginary illness. As a result of her drug addiction, Ruben's career ended almost as quickly as it began. One of her final roles was as Julie in the 1929 part-talkie film version of Show Boat—her next-to-last film and one of her few sound films. The sound track for the portion in which she spoke, however, has apparently been lost.
William Randolph Hearst, who had produced several of her earlier films, helped support her at Marion Davies's request. But because of her addiction, she was in and out of mental institutions. In February 1929, Rubens' addiction became publicly known when she attempted to stab a physician who was taking her to a sanitarium for treatment. She was ordered to undergo treatment at the Spadra facility shortly thereafter. She later made an escape despite being under the watch of four nurses and two male guards. She was then admitted to a sanatorium in Pasadena but left after ten days. On May 15, 1929, her husband and mother had her committed to Patton State Hospital for treatment after she resumed her drug habit.
Rubens was released from the Patton State Hospital in December 1929. She made her first public appearance since her release on January 30, 1930 in role in a play produced at the Writer's Club in Hollywood. Her performance was well-liked by the audience and she received eight curtain calls. After the show, Rubens gave an interview to the United Press stating that she was cured of her addiction. During the interview, she said that she began injecting narcotics after suffering from a "minor aliment" in 1923. She also described her descent into drug abuse and her experiences at the sanatoriums. Rubens then traveled to New York and announced a theatrical and screen comeback. She made an appearance on stage with her husband while there, but returned to Los Angeles the same month. She was there less than two weeks when she was arrested by Federal officers in San Diego, California, on a narcotics charge. Rubens claimed she was a victim of a frame-up, and physicians attested to her statements that she was not taking drugs. She was later released on bail, and appeared for a preliminary hearing the second week of January 1931.
Rubens married three times. Her first marriage was to actor Franklyn Farnum, nearly twenty years her senior, in June 1918. The couple were married secretly and separated about two months later. According to Rubens' divorce petition, Farnum physically abused her and once dislocated her jaw. Their divorce was finalized in December 1919. In November 1923, she married Dr. Daniel Carson Goodman, an author and film producer. The marriage was brief and a suit for divorce was filed in January 1925.
During the next two years, she made several films for the Fox Film Corporation. When her contract expired, she went to Europe with actor Ricardo Cortez and married him in February 1926. At the time of her death, Rubens was suing Cortez for divorce. Cortez claimed he had not been notified of his wife's death, and later remarked that he had not seen her for several months and was unaware that she was seriously ill.
Shortly after her release from jail, Rubens contracted a cold that quickly developed into pneumonia. She fell into a coma at the Los Angeles home of her friend, Dr. Charles J. Pflueger. She died on January 22, 1931 at the age of 33 having never regained consciousness. A funeral service was held on January 24 at the Little Church of the Flowers at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale. Her body was then shipped to Fresno where a second service was held at the Christian Science Church on January 26. She was interred in Ararat Massis Armenian Cemetery in Fresno.
|1915||Banzai||Mirami - Daughter of a Samurai||Short film|
|1914||Narcotic Spectre||Short film|
|1914||The Gangsters and the Girl||Molly||Short film|
|1915||The Birth of a Nation||Belle of 1861||Uncredited|
|1915||The Lorelei Madonna||Alma - the Lorelei Madonna||Short film
Credited as Alma Ruben
|1915||Peer Gynt||Bit Role||Uncredited|
|1915||A Woman's Wiles||Lucile Bergere - a Parisian Model||Credited as Alma Ruben|
|1916||Reggie Mixes In||Lemona Reighley|
|1916||The Mystery of the Leaping Fish||Gang Leader's Female Accomplice||Short film
|1916||Judith of the Cumberlands||Alternative title: The Moonshine Menace|
|1916||Intolerance||Girl at the Marriage Market||Uncredited|
|1916||The Children Pay||Editha, their stepmother|
|1916||The Americano||Juana de Castalar|
|1917||Truthful Tolliver||Grace Burton|
|1917||A Woman's Awakening||Cousin Kate||Credited as Alma Rueben|
|1917||An Old Fashioned Young Man|
|1917||Master of His Home||Millicent Drake||Credited as Alma Ruben|
|1917||The Cold Deck||Coralie|
|1917||The Firefly of Tough Luck||Firefly|
|1917||The Regenerates||Catherine Ten Eyck||Credited as Alma Reuben|
|1917||The Gown of Destiny||Natalie Drew|
|1918||I Love You||Felice|
|1918||The Answer||Lorraine Van Allen|
|1918||The Love Brokers||Charlotte Carter|
|1918||The Painted Lily||Mary Fanjoy|
|1918||The Ghost Flower||Giulia|
|1919||Restless Souls||Marion Gregory|
|1919||Diane of the Green Van||Diane Westfall|
|1919||A Man's Country||Kate Carewe|
|1920||Humoresque||Gina Berg (formerly Minnie Ginsberg)|
|1920||The World and His Wife||Teodora|
|1920||Thoughtless Women||Annie Marnet|
|1922||Find the Woman||Sophie Carey|
|1922||The Valley of Silent Men||Marette Radison|
|1923||Enemies of Women||Alicia|
|1923||Under the Red Robe||Renee de Cocheforet|
|1924||Week End Husbands||Barbara Belden|
|1924||The Rejected Woman||Diane Du Prez|
|1924||The Price She Paid||Mildred Gower|
|1924||Gerald Cranston's Lady||Hermione, Lady Gerald Cranston|
|1924||Is Love Everything?||Virginia Carter|
|1925||She Wolves||Germaine D'Artois|
|1925||A Woman's Faith||Nerée Caron|
|1925||The Winding Stair||Marguerite|
|1925||East Lynne||Lady Isabel|
|1926||The Gilded Butterfly||Linda Haverhill|
|1926||Marriage License?||Wanda Heriot|
|1927||One Increasing Purpose||Uncredited|
|1927||Heart of Salome||Helene|
|1928||The Masks of the Devil||Countess Zellner|
|1929||She Goes to War||Rosie|
- Gary Don, Rhodes; Webb, Alexander (2006). Alma Rubens, Silent Snowbird: Her Complete 1931 Memoir, with a New Biography and Filmography. p. 3. ISBN 0-7864-2413-3.
- Rhodes 2006, p.26
- "Rise to Fame in Films Was Meteoric for Alma". The Milwaukee Sentinel. February 16, 1929. p. 4. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
- Rhodes 2006, p.11
- "Death Ends Career of Alma Rubens, Actress". Berkeley Daily Gazette. January 21, 1931. p. 2. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
- "My Life Story by Alma Rubens". Rochester Evening Journal. March 4, 1931. p. 10. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
- Hennessey, Duane (May 17, 1929). "Film Star Goes To Insane Ward For Drug Cure". The Pittsburgh Press. p. 29. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
- "Alma Ruben Tells Story Of Drug Cure". The Border Cities Star. January 30, 1930. p. 16. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
- Rhodes 2006, p.4
- "FRIENDS PAY HOMAGE AT RUBENS BIER". The Los Angeles Times. January 23, 1931. pp. FRIENDS PAY HOMAGE AT RUBENS BIER.
- "Final Rites Held For Alma Rubens". Berkeley Daily Gazette. January 26, 1931. p. 9. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
- "Hollywood Star Walk". latimes.com. Retrieved February 12, 2013.
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