Mildred Harris

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Mildred Harris
MildredPrivatecolletion2.jpg
Harris, c. 1918-20
Born (1901-11-29)November 29, 1901
Cheyenne, Wyoming, U.S.
Died July 20, 1944(1944-07-20) (aged 42)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1912–1944
Spouse(s) Charlie Chaplin
(1918–1920)[1] 1 son (died as infant)
Everett Terrence McGovern
(1924–1929) 1 son
William P. Fleckenstein
(1934–1944)

Mildred Harris (November 29, 1901 – July 20, 1944) was a leading American film actress during the early part of 20th century.[2] She was also the first wife of Charlie Chaplin. Harris began her career in the film industry as a popular child actress at age 11. At the age of 15, she was cast as a harem girl in D. W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916). She appeared as a leading lady through the 1920s but her career slowed with the advent of the "talkies". She was critically praised for No, No Nanette in 1930, had a few bit parts in the early 1940s, and made her last appearance in the posthumously released Having Wonderful Crime of 1945.

Early life[edit]

Mildred Harris was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the daughter of Harry Harris, a telegraph operator, and Anna Parsons Foote. Harris made her first screen appearance at the age of 11 in the 1912 Francis Ford and Thomas H. Ince-directed Western short The Post Telegrapher. She followed the film with various juvenile roles, often appearing opposite child actor Paul Willis. In 1914, she was hired by The Oz Film Manufacturing Company to portray Fluff in The Magic Cloak of Oz and Button-Bright in His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz. In 1916, at the age of 15, she appeared full frontal nude as a harem girl in Griffith's epic Intolerance.

Harris in Fool's Paradise (1921) with John Davidson (l) and Conrad Nagel (r)

Career[edit]

In the 1920s Harris transitioned from child actress to leading lady roles opposite leading men such as Conrad Nagel, Milton Sills, Lionel Barrymore, Rod La Rocque and the Moore brothers, Owen and Tom. She appeared in Frank Capra's 1928 silent drama The Power of the Press with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Jobyna Ralston.

She found the transition to the "talkies" difficult and her career slowed dramatically. She performed in vaudeville and burlesque, and, at one point, toured with comedian Phil Silvers. She was critically praised for her performance in the 1930 film adaptation of the Broadway musical No, No Nanette. In the 1936 Three Stooges comedy Movie Maniacs, she portrayed a temperamental and demanding film starlet who, while receiving a pedicure, is startled by stooge Curly Howard striking a match on the sole of her foot.

Harris continued to work in film in the early 1940s, largely through the kindness of her former director, Cecil B. DeMille, who cast her in bit parts in 1942's Reap the Wild Wind (starring Paulette Goddard, who, like Harris, was once married to Charlie Chaplin), and 1944's The Story of Dr. Wassell. Her last film appearance was in the posthumously-released 1945 film Having A Wonderful Crime.

Personal life[edit]

Mildred Harris c. 1920.

The 16-year old Harris met actor Charlie Chaplin in mid-1918, dated, and came to believe she was pregnant by him, but the pregnancy was found to be a false alarm. They privately married on October 23, 1918 in Los Angeles, California. She subsequently did become pregnant.[3] The couple quarreled about her contract with Louis B. Mayer and her career. Chaplin felt she was not his intellectual equal, and after their child died in July 1919, only three days old,[4][5] they separated in the autumn of 1919.

Chaplin moved to the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Harris tried to keep up appearances, believing a happy marriage was possible, but in 1920 she filed for divorce based on mental cruelty. Chaplin accused her of infidelity, and though he would not name her lover publicly, Alla Nazimova was suspected.[6] Harris denied rumors Chaplin had been physically violent, and divorce was granted in November 1920 with Harris receiving $100,000 in settlement and some community property.[1]

In 1924, Harris married Everett Terrence McGovern. The union lasted until November 26, 1929, when Harris filed for divorce in Los Angeles, California, on grounds of desertion. The couple had one son, Everett Terrence McGovern, Jr., in 1925. In 1934, she married the former football player William P. Fleckenstein in Asheville, North Carolina.[7]

Death[edit]

The couple remained married until Harris' death on July 20, 1944, of pneumonia following a major abdominal operation. She had been ill for three weeks.[2] She was buried in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

Legacy[edit]

Harris has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6307 Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. In 1992, she was portrayed by Milla Jovovich in the biographical film Chaplin.

Filmography[edit]

Year Film Role Notes
1912 The Post Telegrapher
The Triumph of Right Their Little Daughter
His Nemesis
The Frontier Child A Frontier Child
His Squaw
His Sense of Duty
1913 A Shadow of the Past
The Wheels of Destiny
The Miser
The Drummer of the 8th
A Child of War
A True Believer
The Seal of Silence
Granddad Mildred
Borrowed Gold
1914 Romance of Sunshine Alley
O Mimi San
The Courtship of O San
Wolves of the Underworld
The Colonel's Orderly
The Social Ghost Ethel
Shadows of the Past
A Frontier Mother
The Sheriff of Bisbee
Shorty and the Fortune Teller
When America Was Young
Mildred's Doll Mildred
The Magic Cloak of Oz Princess Margaret 'Fluff' of Noland
His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz Button-Bright, who is lost and doesn't care
Jimmy Mary
1915 The Lone Cowboy
The Warrens of Virginia Betty Warren
Enoch Arden A Child (uncredited)
The Little Matchmaker Mildred
The Little Soldier Man Mildred
The Absentee Innocence
A Rightful Theft
The Old Batch First Adopted Daughter
The Choir Boys
The Little Lumberjack
The Indian Trapper's Vindication Dorothy King - their Daughter
1916 Hoodoo Ann Goldie survives; Library of Congress
Intolerance Favorite of the Harem (uncredited), survives; many
The Old Folks at Home Marjorie survives
The Matrimaniac (uncredited), survives; Library of Congress, others
The Americano Stenographer survives; Library of Congress, others
1917 The Bad Boy Mary lost
A Love Sublime Eurydice lost
An Old Fashioned Young Man lost
Time Locks and Diamonds Lolita Mendoza lost
Golden Rule Kate Olive - Kate's sister survives; Library of Congress
The Cold Deck Alice Leigh lost
The Price of a Good Time Linnie lost
1918 The Doctor and the Woman Sidney Page lost
Cupid by Proxy Jane Stewart lost
For Husbands Only Toni Wilde lost
Borrowed Clothes Mary Kirk lost
1919 When a Girl Loves Bess lost
Home Millicent Rankin lost
Forbidden 'Maddie' Irvin lost
1920 Old Dad Daphne Bretton lost
The Inferior Sex Allisa Randall lost (as Mildred Harris Chaplin)
Polly of the Storm Country Polly lost (as Mildred Harris Chaplin)
The Woman in His House Hilda lost (as Mildred Harris Chaplin)
1921 Habit Irene Fletcher lost
A Prince There Was Katherine Woods lost
Fool's Paradise Rosa Duchene survives; Library of Congress
1922 The First Woman The Girl lost
1923 The Fog Madelaine Theddon  ?survives
The Daring Years Susie LaMotte lost
1924 The Shadow of the East Gillian Locke lost
By Divine Right The Girl lost
Traffic in Hearts Alice Hamilton lost
One Law for the Woman Polly Barnes lost
In Fast Company Barbara Belden lost
Unmarried Wives Princess Sonya lost
Stepping Lively Evelyn Pendroy, the girl lost
The Desert Hawk Marie Nicholls lost
1925 Easy Money Blanche Amory survives;Library of Congress
Flaming Love Chita lost
Beyond the Border Molly Smith survives
The Dressmaker from Paris Joan McGregor lost (per Lost Film Files)
Super Speed Claire Knight survives; Library of Congress
Private Affairs Amy Lufkin lost
My Neighbor's Wife Inventor's Wife lost
A Man of Iron Claire Bowdoin lost
The Fighting Cub lost
The Unknown Lover Gale Norman lost
Soiled Pet Darling lost
1926 Mama Behave Lolita Chase, Charlie's Wife survives
The Isle of Retribution Lenore Hardenworth lost
The Self Starter lost
Dangerous Traffic Helen Leonard survives
The Wolf Hunters lost
The Mystery Club Mrs. Kate Vandeerveer lost (per Lost Film Files: Universal Pictures)
Cruise of the Jasper B Agatha Fairhaven survives; Library of Congress
1927 The Show Girl Maizie Udell survives; Library of Congress, UCLA Film and Television
One Hour of Love Gwen lost (per Lost Film Files: Tiffany)
Husband Hunters Cynthia Kane lost (per Lost Film Files: Tiffany)
Wandering Girls Maxine lost (per Lost Film Files: Columbia Pictures)
Wolves of the Air Marceline Manning lost
Burning Gold lost
She's My Baby Claire Daltour lost
Rose of the Bowery lost
The Swell-Head Kitty lost (per Lost Film Files: Columbia Pictures)
Sumuru Helen Graham survives; Library of Congress
Out of the Past Dora Prentiss lost
The Adventurous Soul Miriam Martin survives; Library of Congress
1928 The Last Lap
Hearts of Men Alice Weston
The Heart of a Follies Girl Florine
Lingerie Mary
The Speed Classic Sheila Van Hauten
Melody of Love Madelon
The Power of the Press Marie Weston survives
1929 Side Street Bunny survives
Sea Fury
1930 No, No, Nanette Betty
The Melody Man Martha
Ranch House Blues
1935 Lady Tubbs Society Woman (uncredited)
The quiero con locura
Never Too Late Mary Lloyd Hartley
1936 Movie Maniacs Leading Lady
Great Guy Bit Role (uncredited)
1942 Reap the Wild Wind Dancing Lady (uncredited)
Holiday Inn Woman (uncredited)
(unconfirmed)
1943 Sweet Rosie O'Grady Minor role uncredited
1944 The Story of Dr. Wassell Dutch nurse (uncredited)
Fun Time Tillie (uincredited)
Hail the Conquering Hero Wife of Marine Colonel (uncredited)
1945 Having a Wonderful Crime Guest (uncredited)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Charles J. Maland. 1991. Chaplin and American Culture: The Evolution of a Star Image. Princeton University Press. pp.43-44.
  2. ^ a b Associated Press (July 21, 1944). "Mildred Harris Dies In West". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 2012-11-25. "... actress in the silent film days, and first wife of Comedian charles Spencer Chaplin , died yesterday of pneumonia which followed a major abdominal operation....." 
  3. ^ Robinson, David (1986 [First published 1985]). Chaplin: His Life and Art. London: Paladin. ISBN 0-586-08544-0. 
  4. ^ The child was buried in the Inglewood Park Cemetery under a headstone with the inscription The Little Mouse.Beneath Los Angeles- Norman Spencer Chaplin at www.beneathlosangeles.com
  5. ^ Charlie Chaplin's Wives at www.ednapurviance.org
  6. ^ McLellan, Diana. 2000. The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood London: Robson Books. 1-86105-381-9. p.28
  7. ^ Mason City Globe Gazette , March 19, 1934,p. 18, Mason City Globe Gazette online on Newspaperarchive.com

External links[edit]