Lina Basquette

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Lina Basquette
Lina Basquette 1917.jpg
in 1917
Born Lena Copeland Baskette
(1907-04-19)April 19, 1907
San Mateo, California, U.S.
Died September 30, 1994(1994-09-30) (aged 87)
Wheeling, West Virginia, U.S.
Cause of death
Nationality American
Other names Lena Baskette
Lena Basquette
Occupation Actress, dog trainer and breeder, writer
Years active 1916–1994

Sam Warner (m. 1925; wid. 1927)
Peverell Marley (m. 1929; div. 1930)
Ray Hallam (m. 1931; wid. 1931)
Theodore Hayes (m. 1931; div. 1932)
Theodore Hayes (m. 1934; div. 1935)
Henry Mollison (m. 1937; div. 1944)
Warner Gilmore (m. 1947; div. 1950)

Frank Mancuso (m. 1959–94)
Children 2
Relatives Marge Champion (half sister)

Lina Basquette (April 19, 1907 – September 30, 1994) was an American actress noted for her 75 year career in entertainment that began during the silent film era and her tumultuous personal life.[1]

After she retired from acting, Basquette became a noted dog breeder and wrote several books on the topic.

Early years[edit]

Basquette was born Lena Copeland Baskette to drugstore owner Frank Baskette and his wife Gladys Baskette (née Rosenberg) in San Mateo, California. She began dancing as a child and, at the age of seven, was spotted dancing to a record in her father's store by a RCA Victor representative. The representative hired her to advertise Victrolas at the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition. Basquette later began studying ballet.[2][3]

Basquette secured her first film contract at the age of nine in 1916 with Universal Studios for the silent film series, Lena Baskette Featurettes.[1][3] Shortly after signing with Universal, Frank Baskette committed suicide. Basquette later blamed her father's death on her mother's desire for fame and fortune. Within a year, Gladys Baskette married dance director Ernest Belcher. Basquette's younger half-sister Marge Champion, who would later become a dancer and choreographer, was born in 1919.[4]


Early success[edit]

In 1923, Basquette and her mother traveled to New York City where Basquette auditioned for John Murray Anderson. Anderson urged her to change the spelling of her surname from "Baskette" to "Basquette". Producer Charles Dillingham also changed the spelling of her first name from "Lena" to "Lina" stating, "Lena is a cook, Lina is an artiste."[4] Before she could sign with Anderson, Florenz Ziegfeld cast her in his Ziegfeld Follies where she became a featured dancer. The Follies producers officially dubbed her "America's Prima Ballerina." She also gained noticed from Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova who wanted to mentor Basquette. Gladys Baskette decided that a career as a ballerina would not yield enough money and turned Pavolva's offer down. Basquette later said that, "I dreamed of being in a ballet company and it broke my heart."[4] By 1925, she was appearing in two Ziegfeld productions simultaneously. It was in one of these productions, Louie the 14th, that she was spotted by film producer and co-founder of Warner Bros. studio Sam Warner. Warner instantly fell in love with her and proposed marriage. Basquette initially did not want to marry Warner as he was considerably older than her but her mother insisted that she accept Warner's proposal believing that Warner was wealthy (at the time, Warner Bros. was losing money).[4]

Basquette and Warner were married in July 1925. After the marriage, Basquette grew to love and respect Warner and the couple had a daughter, Lita, in 1926. Warner died suddenly on October 5, 1927, the day before the opening of the highly anticipated Warner Bros. film The Jazz Singer, which he had been working on tirelessly. Basquette was devastated by his death and would spend the ensuing years battling Warner's family over money and custody of the couple's daughter.[4] She returned to work in 1928 appearing in four films. That same year, she was named one of thirteen WAMPAS Baby Stars. The following year, she appeared in The Younger Generation, directed by Frank Capra.[5]

In 1929, she starred in the partially sound film The Godless Girl, directed by Cecil B. DeMille, arguably the role for which she was best remembered. In the film, Basquette plays the title character Judith, who is based on Queen Silver, a child prodigy and socialist orator. Judith is the leader of a high school atheist society who forces members to renounce The Bible while placing a hand on the head of a live monkey. In the film's climactic scene, DeMille insisted on realism while filming the reformatory going up in flames. During the filming of the scene, Basquette's eyelashes and eyebrows were burned.[6] The Godless Girl was not a box office success in the United States but did well in Austria and Germany. Basquette later recalled that she received a fan letter from Adolf Hitler (whose name she did not recognize) in which he said she was his favorite movie star.[4]


After appearing in The Godless Girl, Basquette's popularity began to decline due in part to her being unofficially blacklisted in Hollywood over her legal battles with the Warner family.[4] She made the successful transition to sound films and appeared in some Western films in the 1930s.[7] In January 1937, Basquette was offered a contract with the Universum Film AG studio in Germany. After arriving in Germany, she was driven to Berchtesgaden and met Adolf Hitler, Rudolf Hess, and Joseph Goebbels. She later claimed that Hitler made a pass at her and she kicked him in the groin.[4] When this failed to deter him, Basquette told Hitler that her grandfather was Jewish. She left Germany the following day.[8]

As her career in films continued to decline, Basquette returned to dancing and performed in nightclubs and on the vaudeville circuit.[9] In 1939, Basquette and her fifth husband, English actor Henry Mollison, appeared onstage together in Idiot's Delight, which toured in the United States, Australia and New Zealand.[10] After appearing in 1943's A Night for Crime, Basquette retired from films.[7]

Later years[edit]

On August 9, 1943, Basquette was raped and robbed in Burbank, California, after she gave a ride to 22-year old Army Private George Paul Rimke. Basquette later testified that after picking Rimke up, he forced her into the backseat and raped her. Rimke denied the charges but was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison on August 26, 1943.[11][12]

In 1947, Basquette used money from a trust fund left to her by her first husband, Sam Warner, and purchased a farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In 1950, she and her sixth husband Warner Gilmore opened Honey Hollow Kennels and began breeding and showing Great Danes. Basquette went on to become the single biggest winner of Great Dane dog shows and was known as a noted dog breeder. She also wrote several books on the subject of dog breeding. She retired from dog handling in 1983. Basquette moved to Wheeling, West Virginia, after her retirement but continued to judge dog shows for the American Kennel Club and also wrote a monthly column for Kennel Review.[3][7][2]

Renewed interest in Basquette's films was sparked after a profile of her was written for The New Yorker in 1989. This led to screening of her films at the National Gallery of Art and the Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles. Basquette released her autobiography Lina: DeMille's Godless Girl, in 1991. That same year Basquette was cast first film in 48 years, an independent production titled Paradise Park. She played a grandmother who dreamed God was coming to grant a wish to residents of an Appalachian trailer park. The film also stars Porter Wagoner and Johnny Paycheck.[13] It would be her final film role.

Personal life[edit]

Marriages and children[edit]

Basquette's first marriage was to film producer and co-founder of Warner Bros. studio Sam Warner. The two were married on July 4, 1925, despite Warner's family's disapproval that Basquette was not Jewish. They had a daughter, Lita (named after Charlie Chaplin's wife Lita Grey) in October 1926.[14] After suffering severe headaches and a sinus infection that was aggravated by several abscessed teeth, Warner was admitted to California Lutheran Hospital in September 1927. Doctors discovered that he had developed a mastoid infection that was spreading to his brain. After four surgeries to remove the infection, Warner slipped into a coma. He died of pneumonia caused by sinusitis and epidural and subdural abscesses on October 5, 1927.[15][16]

In January 1929, Basquette married cinematographer Peverell Marley.[17] Shortly after the marriage, Harry Warner, Sam Warner's older brother, asked Basquette give up custody of her daughter, Lita. Harry Warner was concerned that Lita would be raised in the Roman Catholic faith that Basquette was raised instead of the Jewish faith (according to Basquette, she and Sam Warner agreed to raise any female children they had as Catholic and any male children as Jewish). Harry Warner and his wife offered Basquette large amounts of money to relinquish custody but she refused.[4] She finally relented after Harry Warner promised her that Lita would receive a $300,000 trust fund.[3] On March 30, 1930, Harry Warner and his wife were awarded legal custody of Lita.[18] Basquette quickly regretted her decision and attempted to regain custody of her daughter.[4]

In August 1930, Basquette left Marley in the hopes that she would regain custody of Lita. When custody was denied, she attempted suicide by drinking poison shortly after a party at her home on August 13. She was saved when a guest heard her screams.[19] Marley and Basquette were divorced in September 1930.[17] Basquette was never financially stable enough to regain custody of her daughter as the Warner family launched several legal suits against her to win back Sam Warner's share of Warner Bros. studio.[3] She would only see Lita on two occasions over the next twenty years: in 1935, when Harry Warner and his family moved to Los Angeles, and when Lita married Dr. Nathan Hiatt in 1947.[20] Basquette and her daughter reconnected in 1977 when Basquette backed a lawsuit that Lita brought against her uncle Jack Warner's estate.[3]

Basquette's third marriage was to actor Ray Hallam in 1931. He died of leukemia three weeks after they were married.[20] On October 31, 1931, she married Theodore Hayes, the former trainer of world heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey. After discovering that Hayes was still married to another woman, Basquette was granted a Mexican divorce on September 10, 1932.[21] In her autobiography, Basquette admitted that, while she and Hayes were separated, she had an affair with Jack Dempsey. Dempsey ended the affair in July 1932 after which Basquette attempted suicide for a second time. She and Hayes eventually reconciled and were remarried in 1934.[22] They had a son, Edward Alvin Hayes, in April 1934 and divorced in December 1935.[23][24]

In April 1937, Basquette married British actor Henry Mollison in London.[25] They separated in 1940 and divorced in October 1944.[9] In 1947, she married Warner Gilmore, the general manager of the St. Moritz Hotel. They divorced in 1951.[7] Basquette's final marriage was to artist Frank Mancuso. They married in 1959 and separated that same year but were never legally divorced.[7]


On September 30, 1994, Basquette died of lymphoma at her home in Wheeling, West Virginia, at the age of 87.[2] She was survived by her half sister Marge Champion, two children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.[1]

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Lina Basquette has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 1529 Vine Street.[26]


Short subject
Year Title Role Notes
1916 Juvenile Dancer
1916 The Dumb Girl of Portici Child Uncredited
1916 Brother Jim Margie Marsh Credited as Lena Basquette
1916 The Grip of Crime Credited as Lena Basquette
1916 Shoes Undetermined role Uncredited
1916 The Human Cactus Credited as Lena Basquette
1916 The Caravan Credited as Lena Basquette
1917 Polly Put the Kettle On Nellie Vance
1917 His Wife's Relatives
1917 The Gates of Doom Agatha as a child
1917 The Star Witness Credited as Lena Basquette
1917 A Dream of Egypt Credited as Lena Basquette
1917 A Romany Rose Credited as Lena Basquette
1917 A Prince for a Day Credited as Lena Basquette
1917 Little Mariana's Triumph Credited as Lena Basquette
1919 The Weaker Vessel Jessie
Year Title Role Notes
1922 Penrod Uncredited
1927 Ranger of the North Felice MacLean
1927 Serenade The Dancer
1928 The Noose Dot
1928 Wheel of Chance Ada Berkowitz
1928 Celebrity Jane
1928 Show Folks Rita Carey
1929 The Godless Girl Judy Craig - The Girl
1929 Come Across Mary Houston
1929 The Younger Generation Birdie Goldfish
1930 The Dude Wrangler Helen Dane Alternative title: Feminine Touch
1931 Goldie Constantina
1931 Pleasure Helen
1931 Arizona Terror Katherine "Kay" Moore
1931 Hard Hombre Senora Martini
1931 Morals for Women Claudia Alternative titles: Big City Interlude
Farewell Party
1931 Trapped Girl Reporter Alternative title: The Shadow #2: Trapped
1931 Mounted Fury Nanette LeStrange
1932 Arm of the Law Zelma Shaw, a Dancer
1932 The Midnight Lady Mona Alternative title: Dream Mother
1932 Hello Trouble Janet Kenyon
1932 The Phantom Express Betty
1934 The Chump
1936 The Final Hour Belle
1937 Souls at Sea Brunette in Saloon Uncredited
1937 Ebb Tide Attwater's Servant
1938 The Buccaneer Roxanne Uncredited
1938 Rose of the Rio Grande Anita
1938 Four Men and a Prayer Ah-Nee
1942 Who Calls
1943 A Night for Crime Mona
1991 Paradise Park Nada Alternative title: Heroes of the Heart


  1. ^ a b c "Lina Basquette, Silent-Film Star And Dog Breeder, Is Dead at 87". The New York Times. October 6, 1994. Retrieved September 8, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c Oliver, Myrna (October 5, 1994). "Lina Basquette; Star of Silent Movies". Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Thomas, Kevin (August 23, 1991). "Lina Basquette: Her Life Is Screenplay Material Movies". The Los Angeles Times. p. 16. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Brownlow, Kevin (October 8, 1994). "Obituary: Lina Basquette". Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  5. ^ Liebman, Roy (2000). The Wampas Baby Stars: A Biographical Dictionary, 1922-1934. McFarland. p. 23. ISBN 0-786-40756-5. 
  6. ^ "Lina Basquette, silent screen star, dies at the age of 87". The Telegraph. October 6, 1994. pp. A–7. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Smith, Linell (April 22, 1991). "She's 84, doggone stylish and a rare breed". Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  8. ^ Slide, Anthony (2002). Silent Players: A Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses. University Press of Kentucky. p. 16. ISBN 0-813-12249-X. 
  9. ^ a b "Divorce in Prospect for Lina Basquette". The Milwaukee Journal. October 26, 1944. p. 2. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Star of Stage and Screen For "Idiot's Delight"". The Sydney Morning Herald. January 19, 1939. p. 4. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Clear Courtoom In Basquette Rape Case". The Lewiston Daily Sun. August 26, 1943. p. 2. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Army Private Convicted On Actress' Story". The Milwaukee Journal. August 26, 1943. p. 1. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Poverty tale has upbeat message". The Press-Courier. January 28, 1992. p. 2. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  14. ^ Eyman, Scott (1997). The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution 1926-1930. Simon and Schuster. p. 98. ISBN 1-439-10428-X. 
  15. ^ Eyman 1997 pp.137-138
  16. ^ "Sam Warner, Noted Film Magnate Dies". Berkeley Daily Gazette. October 5, 1927. p. 1. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  17. ^ a b "Lina Basquette Divorced By Her Second Husband". The Lewiston Daily Sun. September 11, 1930. p. 13. Retrieved May 27, 2013. 
  18. ^ Eyman 1997 p.361
  19. ^ "Star Regrets Suicide Trial". The Pittsburgh Press. August 14, 1930. p. 10. Retrieved May 27, 2013. 
  20. ^ a b Warner Sperling, Cass; Millner, Cork; Warner, Jack (1994). Hollywood Be Thy Name: The Warner Brothers Story. Prima Pub. p. 265. ISBN 1-559-58343-6. 
  21. ^ "Lina Basquette Is Divorced From Business Agent." Zanesville Signal. September 11, 1932, Page 1.
  22. ^ Formanek, Ray, Jr. (September 29, 1991). "Great-grandmother returns to her career roots". Toledo Blade. pp. G–5. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Son Born To Lina Basquette Hayes". Lewiston Morning Tribune. May 4, 1934. p. 6. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Ted Hayes, Former Dempsey Trainer, Sued for Divorce". The Windsor Daily Star. December 12, 1935. p. 1. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Lina Basquette and Henry Mollison Married". Ottawa Citizen. June 19, 1937. p. 1. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  26. ^ "Hollywood Star Walk". Retrieved May 28, 2013. 

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