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November 23, 1898|
Sherman, Texas, U.S.
|Died||July 28, 1984
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Cullen Tate (1923-1928; divorced); 1 daughter
William S. Holman (1929-1930; divorced)
Bess Flowers (November 23, 1898 – July 28, 1984) was an American actress best known for her work as an extra in hundreds of films. By some counts considered the most prolific actress in the history of Hollywood, she was known as "The Queen of the Hollywood Extras," appearing in more than 350 feature films and numerous comedy shorts in her 41-year career.
Born in Sherman, Texas, Flowers' film debut came in 1923, when she appeared in Hollywood. She made three films that year, and then began working extensively. Many of her appearances are uncredited, as she generally played non-speaking roles.
By the 1930s, Flowers was in constant demand. Her appearances ranged from Alfred Hitchcock and John Ford thrillers to comedic roles alongside of Charley Chase, the Three Stooges, Leon Errol, Edgar Kennedy, and Laurel and Hardy.
She appeared in the following five films which won the Academy Award for Best Picture: It Happened One Night, You Can't Take it with You, All About Eve, The Greatest Show on Earth, and Around the World in Eighty Days. In each of these movies, Flowers was uncredited. Including these five movies, she had appeared in twenty-three Best Picture nominees in total, making her the record holder for most appearances in films nominated for the award. Her last movie was Good Neighbor Sam in 1964.
Flowers's acting career was not confined to feature films. She was also seen in many episodic American TV series, such as I Love Lucy, notably in episodes, "Lucy Is Enceinte" (1952), "Ethel's Birthday" (1955), and "Lucy's Night in Town" (1957), where she is usually seen as a theatre patron.
Outside her acting career, in 1945, Flowers helped to found the Screen Extras Guild (active: 1946-1992, then merged with the Screen Actors Guild), where she served as one of its first vice-presidents and recording secretaries.
Flowers was first married on September 2, 1923, in Ventura County, California, to Cullen Tate (1894–1947), an assistant to Cecil B. DeMille. They were divorced in 1928 in Los Angeles. Her second marriage took place on August 5, 1929, in Los Angeles, to William S. Holman (1895–1962). They were divorced in 1930 in Los Angeles. She and Tate had one child, Patricia E. Tate (January 29, 1924 – August 1, 1972).
Flowers died on July 28, 1984, at age 85 in the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital:129 in Woodland Hills, California. She was cremated and her ashes interred at the Chapel of the Pines Crematory (Los Angeles).
- Hollywood (1923)
- Old Ironsides (1926)
- Show People (1928)
- We Faw Down (1928)
- The Saturday Night Kid (1929)
- Strangers May Kiss (1931)
- A Free Soul (1931)
- Monkey Business (1931) as wife of man dressed as Indian at party
- One Exciting Adventure (1934)
- It Happened One Night (1934)
- Forgotten Faces (1936)
- The Awful Truth (1937)
- Nothing Sacred (1937)
- Holiday (1938)
- You Can't Take It With You (1938)
- Midnight (1939)
- Rose of Washington Square (1939)
- Ninotchka (1939)
- The Roaring Twenties (1939) as a nightclub patron
- A Plumbing We Will Go (1940)
- Meet John Doe (1941)
- Ziegfeld Girl (1941)
- I Married an Angel (1942)
- Now, Voyager (1942)
- I Married a Witch (1942)
- Springtime in the Rockies (1942)
- Tahiti Honey (1943)
- Double Indemnity (1944) as Norton Secretary.
- The Woman in the Window (1944)
- Hollywood Canteen (1944)
- A Song for Miss Julie (1945)
- The Affairs of Susan (1945)
- Mildred Pierce (1945)
- The Blue Dahlia (1946)
- Notorious (1946)
- The Big Sleep (1946)
- Cass Timberlane (1947)
- The Bride Goes Wild (1948)
- The Big Clock (1948)
- The Noose Hangs High (1948)
- A Date with Judy (1948)
- Neptune's Daughter (1949)
- The Great Gatsby (1949)
- Mighty Joe Young (1949)
- Young Man with a Horn (1950)
- No Man of Her Own (1950)
- The Damned Don't Cry (1950)
- Father of the Bride (1950)
- Born to Be Bad (1950)
- All About Eve (1950)
- Lullaby of Broadway (1951)
- Angel Face (1952)
- Murder Without Tears (1953)
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
- The Band Wagon (1953)
- The Robe (1953)
- Torch Song (1953)
- Calamity Jane (1953)
- Easy to Love (1953)
- Dial M for Murder (1954)
- Rear Window (1954)
- A Star Is Born (1954)
- White Christmas (1954)
- To Catch a Thief (1955)
- Guys and Dolls (1955)
- I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955)
- Never Say Goodbye (1956)
- Anything Goes (1956)
- The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)
- Designing Woman (1957)
- Jailhouse Rock (1957)
- Witness for the Prosecution (1957) - courtroom spectator
- Vertigo (1958)
- Houseboat (1958)
- Imitation of Life (1959)
- North by Northwest (1959) - Hotel Lounge Patron (uncredited)
- The Absent-Minded Professor (1961)
- Return to Peyton Place (1961)
- Blue Hawaii (1961)
- Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)
- The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
- Good Neighbor Sam (1964)
- 7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)
- Bess Flowers at the Internet Movie Database
- An appreciation by Joe McElhaney
- Bess Flowers at Virtual History
- Slide, Anthony. Hollywood Unknowns: A History of Extras, Bit Players, and Stand-Ins. Univ. Press of Mississippi. pp. 152–153. ISBN 9781617034749. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
- Feinberg, Scott. "20 Feet From Movie Stardom: The Overlooked Story of Hollywood's Greatest Extra". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media LLC. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
- Slide, Anthony. 2010.Silent Players: a Biographical and Autobiographical Study of 100 Silent Film Actors and Actresses. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. p. 103. ISBN 9780813127088.
- Tevis, Robert E. (Fall 2016). "Send Me ... Bess Flowers". Films of the Golden Age (86): 88–93.
- Scott, Tony (2001). The Stars of Hollywood Forever. Lulu.com. ISBN 9781312916975. Retrieved 30 November 2016.