Madge Bellamy

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Madge Bellamy
Born Margaret Derden Philpott
(1899-06-30)June 30, 1899
Hillsboro, Texas, U.S.
Died January 24, 1990(1990-01-24) (aged 90)
Upland, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1918–1945
Spouse(s) Logan Metcalf (1928) (divorced)

Madge Bellamy (June 30, 1899 – January 24, 1990) was an American film actress who was a popular leading lady in the 1920s and early 1930s. Her career declined in the sound era, and ended following a romantic scandal in the 1940s.

Early life[edit]

Madge Bellamy was born in Hillsboro, Texas in 1899 as Margaret Derden Philpott to William Bledsoe Philpott (1864-19??), a professor of English and Annie Margaret Derden (1880–1960). The family was of English and Irish heritage. Her father was an 1884 graduate of Texas A&M University. Besides teaching English, he taught history and languages, and he also edited many scholarly works. Her parents were married on June 22, 1898 in Hillsboro, Hill County, Texas.

Madge Bellamy was raised in San Antonio, Texas until she was 6 years old, and the family later moved to Brownwood, Texas, where her father taught at the local college. When she was 10 years old, the Philpotts moved to Denver, Colorado. Bellamy became interested in acting even as a young girl, and she soon appeared in several plays.

She ran away to New York City at age 17, and she was soon working as an actress and dancer on Broadway. In 1918, she played the lead role in Pollyanna on Broadway and in the touring show. She appeared in Dear Brutus, Dream Girl, and Peg O' My Heart on Broadway. In November 1920, she signed an exclusive contract with Thomas H. Ince's newly formed Triangle film company to appear in the film called Passing Thru, which was released in the fall of 1921.


Bellamy made her film debut in 1920. After 4 years with Famous Players her contract was picked up by Fox Film Corporation. Her best known films include Love Never Dies (1921), Lorna Doone (1922), and The Iron Horse (1924).

Bellamy made a successful transition to sound film in 1928 with the hit Mother Knows Best, but after a dispute with Fox in 1929 she left the studio and could not find work again until 1932 when she began appearing in B movies. She may be best known for the 1932 film White Zombie, in which she starred opposite Bela Lugosi. Her only marriage was brief and childless.

Scandal and decline[edit]

In San Francisco in 1943, Bellamy was accused of assault with a deadly weapon for shooting (or shooting at) her wealthy lover, Stanwood Murphy. The incident generated much publicity and effectively ended her already fading career. The facts of the case remain somewhat cloudy. Shortly after the shooting, Bellamy was quoted as saying, "I only winged him, which is what I meant to do. Believe me, I'm a crack shot".[1] Some show business references state outright that she shot him. But her defense attorney, the legendary Jake Ehrlich, contended the actress never hit Murphy despite firing several shots at him at close range, and Ehrlich described that as proof that Bellamy had merely intended to scare her lover.[citation needed]

Bellamy acknowledged having an affair with the married Murphy, a scandalous admission at the time. But attorney Ehrlich characterized her as a wronged woman. He said she had always refused any gifts or support from her rich lover, relying instead on Murphy's promise to marry her once he was divorced. When Murphy married someone else, Ehrlich said, the humiliated actress set out to teach him a lesson. Amid all the claims and counter-claims, the publicity-shy Murphy soon stopped cooperating with investigators. The charge against Bellamy was eventually dropped.[citation needed]

Bellamy made her last screen appearance in Northwest Trail in 1945. She lived in poverty for much of her post-screen life, worked selling tools in a shop and was unsuccessful in her attempts at becoming a published novelist. In the 1980s, however, she sold her property during the California real estate boom and by her account made more money than she had during her years in films.[citation needed]


Madge Bellamy died of heart failure in Upland, California, aged 90. Her autobiography, A Darling of the Twenties, was published shortly after her death.



  • The Riddle:Woman (1920)
  • The Cup of Life (1921)
  • Passing Through (1921)
  • Blind Hearts (1921)
  • Love Never Dies (1921)
  • The Call of the North (1921)
  • Hail the Woman (1921)
  • Lorna Doone (1922)
  • The Hottentot (1922)
  • Garrison's Finish (1923)
  • Are You a Failure? (1923)
  • Soul of the Beast (1923)
  • No More Women (1924)
  • Do It Now (1924)
  • The White Sin (1924)
  • Love's Whirpool (1924)
  • His Forgotten Wife (1924)
  • Love and Glory (1924)
  • The Iron Horse (1924)
  • Secrets of the Night (1924)
  • On the Stroke of Three (1924)
  • A Fool and His Money (1925 ColumbiaPictures)(*lost)
  • The Dancers (1925 Fox)(*extant)
  • The Parasite (1925 BP Schulberg/PreferredPictures)
  • The Restless Sex (1925 Phil Goldstone/Truart Film Co.)
  • Wings of Youth (1925 Fox)(*lost)
  • The Man in Blue (1925 Universal)
  • Lightnin' (1925 Fox)(*extant)
  • Havoc (1925 Fox)
  • Thunder Mountain (1925 Fox)(*lost)
  • Lazybones (1925 Fox)(*extant; on DVD Frank Borzage series)
  • The Golden Strain (1925 Fox)
  • The Dixie Merchant (1926 Fox)(*lost)
  • Sandy (1926 Fox)(*extant; Museum of Modern Art)
  • Black Paradise (1926 Fox)
  • Summer Bachelors (1926 Fox)
  • Bertha, the Sewing Machine Girl (1926 Fox)(*lost)
  • Ankles Preferred (1927 Fox)(*extant; Museum of Modern Art)
  • The Telephone Girl (1927 Paramount)(*lost)
  • Colleen (1927 Fox)
  • Very Confidential (1927 Fox)(*lost)
  • Silk Legs (1927 Fox) (*lost)
  • Soft Living (1928 Fox)(*extant; Museum of Modern Art)
  • The Play Girl (1928 Fox)(*lost)



  1. ^ Dindle, Peter; The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia; page 191; McFarland and Company, 2001; ISBN 0-7864-0859-6
  • 1900 United States Federal Census, Brazos, Texas, June 18, 1900, Enumeration District 13, Sheet 9A
  • Dallas Morning News, "Madge Bellamy, Screen Star, Is Texas Girl", April 25, 1925, p. 6
  • The Columbus Enquirer Sun, "Madge Bellamy Today "Passing Thru" Rialto: Charming Actress is Leading Woman For Douglas MacLean's New Screen Personality", April 9, 1921

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