Lotus Thompson

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Lotus Thompson as featured in the Sunday Times newspaper in 1923.

Lotus Thompson (1906–1963) was an Australian actress of silent and sound films. She was born in Charters Towers, Queensland on 26 August 1906.[1] Her film career began in 1921 and ended in 1949. Along the way, she appeared in thirty-five motion pictures.

As a child, the Australian youth showed talent in school and church theatricals. Thompson was considered a beautiful girl as a youth. When she was fifteen her admirers entered her in a beauty contest. She was awarded first prize by a unanimous vote of the judges. One of the judges was a young artist. He was asked his reason for selecting her. He remarked that he chose her not so much for the beauty of her eyes, head, or lovely complexion. Instead, he admired her legs most, as they were "the sort of limbs a Diana or Venus must have had at her age".[2] The contest won for her the title as the most beautiful girl in Australia.

Her mother was encouraged to let her sign with a stock company as soon as her school days ended. Her film debut was in the 1921 Australian film Know Thy Child. Mother and daughter set out for Hollywood, arriving in San Francisco on the 25th of March 1924.[3] Lotus was picked by a director from Paramount Pictures from among a crowd of applicants.

A still from Lotus Thompson's debut film 'Know Thy Child' (1921). Lotus can be seen on the right, sitting next to co-star Vera James.

On the afternoon of 1 February 1925, she attempted to disfigure her legs for life. She burned herself from the hips down with a preparation she thought was nitric acid. She had bought the acid at a drug store the previous evening. She told the clerk there she wanted to remove some warts. Her reason for marring herself had to do with her inability to secure roles other than parts in comedy and as a chorus girl. Her ambition was to play drama, which she had done in her native country. In America, each director was the same in his remarks to Lotus, "Your legs are too marvelous to ignore. You must show your legs. Here, jump into this bathing suit."[citation needed] In the aftermath, she was satisfied that directors and the movie public would never want to look at her legs again.

Her mother and a girlfriend were eating when they heard Lotus screaming in the bathroom. The actress was rushed to the Ferry-Dickey-Cass private hospital by two Los Angeles Police Department detectives. The attending physician believed the vial used by Lotus did not contain nitric acid. Instead, it had the reaction of catharides, which if used in enough quantity, would cause disfigurement. If it were indeed nitric acid, the doctor said that he considered it a weak solution. The degree of disfigurement would be known in a few days.

The day after, Miss Thompson received a bit of welcome news. Rudolph Valentino sent her a telegram promising her a part in his next film. He remarked about her irrational action, "I know nothing of your work, but anyone who has the courage to do as dramatic and insane a thing as you have done must have temperament and feeling." Unfortunately, she did not have a chance to act with Valentino. He died the following year on 23 August 1926. However her rash act was carried in newspapers worldwide, and she received offers of bit roles from various casting directors. One of these was film executive Harry Rapf, who visited the young woman at her home as she was convalescing. He told her that she would have the opportunity to play in serious dramatic roles as soon as her legs healed.

In August 1926, Lotus had a supporting role in The New Champion, which dealt with a young blacksmith who had boxing ambitions.[4] She was a leading lady opposite Fred Humes in The Yellow Back (1926). An August 1933 Los Angeles Times article made reference to Thompson among a list of actors who accepted $10 to $15 a day for bit roles in films.[5] The piece noted that it was no reflection on the "former greats" that they accepted small roles. Instead it was noted that they always did their assignments well and "they keep the movie ball rolling." It was mentioned that the road back is a "tough one" and current stars may be out in a year or two.

Lotus Thompson died in Burbank, California on 19 May 1963.[6]

Partial filmography[edit]


  • Galveston, Texas Daily News, 20 March 1927, Page 17.
  • Lincoln, Nebraska Star, Lotus Thompson Is Now Assured A Serious Role, 3 February 1925, Page 1.
  • Los Angeles Times, Girl Drenches Legs With Acid, 2 February 1925, Page A1.
  • Los Angeles Times, Acid Girl's Wish May Come True, 3 February 1925, A10.
  • Syracuse, New York Herald, Just Couldn't Bear Her Own Shapely Beauty, Sunday, 8 March 1925, Magazine Section.
  1. ^ Birth Certificate for Lotus May Thompson, 26 August 1904, QLD Page No. 25950, Reg. No. 006815, Queensland Births, Deaths and Marriages.
  2. ^ Rothwell-Smith, Paul. Silent Films! the Performers (2011) ISBN 9781907540325.
  3. ^ California Passenger and Crew List, Lotus Thompson, 25 March 1924, M1410:182.
  4. ^ Los Angeles Times, New Champion Now Showing at Hippodrome, 1 August 1926, Page C21.
  5. ^ Los Angeles Times, Ex Favorites Pocket Pride To Get Work, 20 August 1933, Page A1.
  6. ^ California Death Index 1940-1997, Lotus Thompson, Los Angeles California, 19 May 1963.