Ben Lyon

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Ben Lyon
Ben Lyon in I Cover the Waterfront.jpg
Born (1901-02-06)February 6, 1901
Atlanta, Georgia
Died March 22, 1979(1979-03-22) (aged 78)
near Honolulu, Hawaii
Resting place
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Bebe Daniels
(m.1930–1971; her death)
Marian Nixon
(m.1974–1979; his death)
Awards Hollywood Walk of Fame

Ben Lyon (February 6, 1901 – March 22, 1979) was an American film actor and a 20th Century Fox studio executive.


Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Lyon entered films in 1918 after a successful appearance on Broadway opposite Jeanne Eagels. He attracted attention in the highly successful film Flaming Youth (1923), and steadily developed into a leading man. He was most successfully paired with some of the leading actresses of the silent era including Pola Negri, Gloria Swanson, Colleen Moore, Barbara La Marr, Viola Dana, Anna Q. Nilsson, Mary Astor and Blanche Sweet.

His greatest success as an actor came in 1930 with the film Hell's Angels. The film was a major success and brought Jean Harlow to prominence, but Lyon's performance as an heroic World War I aviator was also highly regarded. For the next decade he was constantly in demand, but his popularity began to wane by the early 1940s.

With Gloria Swanson in Indiscreet

By the mid-1940s he was working for 20th Century Fox. In 1946 he met a young aspiring actress named Norma Jeane Dougherty. After his first meeting with her he stated that she was "Jean Harlow all over again". He organised a color screen test for the actress, renamed her, and finally signed her as Marilyn Monroe to her first studio contract.

In 1930 he married the actress Bebe Daniels. Together they were a notable couple in show business society, and sometimes acted together. Ben Lyon and Bebe Daniels settled in London during the Second World War and featured with the comedian Vic Oliver in the radio series Hi, Gang!, which ran from 1940 to 1949. Hi Gang was succeeded in 1950 by Life with the Lyons, which also featured their real life son Richard and daughter Barbara, and had a run on BBC and independent television from 1954 until 1960. When Daniels's health declined during the 1960s following a series of strokes, Lyon cared for her until her death in 1971.

He then married the actress Marian Nixon. Lyon and Nixon were vacationing together on the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise ship near Honolulu, Hawaii, when Lyon suffered a heart attack and died. Nixon died in 1983.

Lyon was one of the many people from Hollywood's silent film era who were interviewed for the documentary series Hollywood (1980). Ben Lyon has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contribution to motion pictures. He is interred in the Chapel Columbarium at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Selected filmography[edit]

External links[edit]