Seena Owen (November 14, 1894 – August 15, 1966) was a Danish-American silent film actress.
November 14, 1894
Spokane, Washington, U.S.
|Died||August 15, 1966
Hollywood, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||George Walsh (1916-1924; divorced); 1 child|
Born Signe Auen at Spokane, Washington, the youngest of three children raised by Jens Christensen and Karen (née Sorensen) Auen. Her father and mother came from Denmark in the late 1880s and settled in Minnesota where they married in 1888. Within a short period of time they relocated to Portland and then Spokane, where her father became proprietor of the Columbia Pharmacy.
In her youth Owen was enrolled at Brunot Hall, an Episcopalian girl's school in Spokane, founded by Bishop Lemuel H. Wells. She was also educated in Copenhagen. Her life as the daughter of an affluent business owner changed in her late teens when the family business failed and it became necessary to seek employment. She received her early inspiration to act while a student at the Pauline Dunstan Belden School of Elocution in Spokane before appearing in a stock production in San Francisco playing the part of a maid for $5 a week. Soon after she went to Hollywood to work as a film extra, and had the good fortune to run into actor-director Marshall Neilan, then a Hollywood "boy wonder" whom Owen had known in Spokane. Through Neilan she was hired by the Kalem Company, an early motion picture studio, at $15 a week.
Her first important film was A Yankee From the West (1915) under the name Signe Auen at the age of 21. She was later convinced to change her name and settled on Seena Owen, the phonetic spelling of her real name. In 1916 she performed in D. W. Griffith's Intolerance. The same year she married George Walsh whom she had met on the set of Intolerance. The marriage lasted until their divorce in 1924. A regular player for the rest of the silent era, Owen appeared in films such as Maurice Tourneur's Victory in 1919 where she was photographed to great effect by Tourneur's cameraman, Rene Guissart. Victory, long lost, was recently[when?] found in 35mm print in Europe and can be seen on DVD. In 1920, she appeared in "The Gift Supreme" with Lon Chaney, who appeared with her in Victory. All but one reel of The Gift Supreme is lost. She co-starred with Gloria Swanson and Walter Byron in the ill-fated Queen Kelly (1928), as the mad Queen who whips Swanson in one scene.
With the arrival of sound in movies, Owen's weak voice became a problem and forced her to retire from the silver screen in 1933. After her retirement, she worked on a number of films in the 1930s/40s as a screenwriter including two starring Dorothy Lamour: Aloma of the South Seas and Rainbow Island, both in 1941. The former was written in part with her sister, Lillie Hayward, a successful Hollywood screenwriter.
- Queen Kelly (1929)
- The Blue Danube (1928)
- The Flame of the Yukon (1926)
- The Great Well (1924)
- Unseeing Eyes (1923)
- The Face in the Fog (1922)(*extant; Library of Congress)
- Back Pay (1922) (Extant; Library of Congress)
- The Woman God Changed (1921)(*extant;Library of Congress)
- The Life Line (1919)
- Riders of Vengeance (1919)
- Victory (1919) with Lon Chaney, Sr. and Wallace Beery
- Intolerance (1916)
- Little Marie (1915)
- The Highbinders (1915)
- An Image of the Past (1915)
- The Lamb (1915)
- US Census records 1900
- The Era Druggists' Directory, 1905
- Silent players: a Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses by Anthony Slide (2002), pg. 439
- Photoplay: the aristocrat of motion picture magazines (Volume 11) by Ruth Waterbury (1917), pg. 89
- The Spokesman Review (Spokane, WA) by Jim Kershner, February 11, 2007
- The Olean Evening Herald, October 16, 1918, pg. 7
- The Amarillo Globe, November 14, 1930, pg. 9
- An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Women in early American films, 1895-1930, by Denise Lowe (2005), pg. 419
- The New York Times April 19, 1966, pg. 33
- Joseph P. Kennedy Presents: His Hollywood Years by Cari Beauchamp (2010), pg. 286
- The Daily Review (Hayward, California), August 17, 1966
- The New York Times, April 19, 1966 pg. 33
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