Bessie Love

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Bessie Love
Bessie Love Witzel.jpg
Bessie Love circa 1920
BornJuanita Horton
(1898-09-10)September 10, 1898
Midland, Texas, U.S.[1]
DiedApril 26, 1986(1986-04-26) (aged 87)
Hillingdon, London, England[2]
Years active1915–83
Height5 ft 0 in (1.52 m)[1]
Weight100 lb (45 kg)[1]
William Hawks
(m. 1929; div. 1936)
ChildrenPatricia (b. 1932)[3]

Bessie Love (born Juanita Horton, September 10, 1898 – April 26, 1986) was an American motion picture actress who achieved prominence mainly in the silent films and early talkies.[4] With a small frame and delicate features, she played innocent young girls, flappers, and wholesome leading ladies. Her performance in The Broadway Melody (1929) earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.[5]

Early life[edit]

Bessie Love was born in Midland, Texas.[1] She attended school in Midland until she was in the eighth grade,[citation needed] when her chiropractor father moved his family to Arizona, New Mexico, and then to Hollywood.[2]


The silent era[edit]

Bessie Love and Douglas Fairbanks in The Good Bad Man (1916), here listed under the title, Coyote o' The Rio Grande.

On actor Tom Mix's recommendation that she "get into pictures",[6] Love's mother sent her to Biograph Studios, where she met pioneering film director D.W. Griffith. Griffith, who introduced Bessie Love to films, also gave the actress her screen name. He gave her a small role in his film Intolerance (1916). Love dropped out of Los Angeles High School to pursue her film career, although she completed her diploma many years later.[7]

Her "first role of importance" was in The Flying Torpedo;[8] she later appeared opposite William S. Hart in The Aryan and with Douglas Fairbanks in The Good Bad Man, Reggie Mixes In, and The Mystery of the Leaping Fish (all 1916). In her early career, she was often compared to Mary Pickford,[9] even called "Our Mary" by D.W. Griffith.[10]

Advertisement, 1918
The Wishing Ring Man (1919)

Love took an active role in the management of her career, upgrading her representation to Gerald C. Duffy, the former editor of Picture-Play Magazine,[11] and publicizing herself by playing the ukulele and dancing for members of the military.[12] Even glowing reviews of her films criticized the venues in which they were shown, citing this as a reason she was not a more awarded actress.[13]

In 1922, Love was selected one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars.[14][15] In 1923, she starred in Human Wreckage with Dorothy Davenport and produced by Thomas Ince.

As her roles got larger, so did her popularity. Because of her performance in The King on Main Street (1925), Love is credited with being the first person to dance the Charleston on film,[16] popularizing it in the United States. Her technique was documented in instructional guides,[17] including a series of photographs by Edward Steichen.[18] She subsequently performed the dance the following year in The Song and Dance Man.[19]

She starred in The Lost World, a science fiction adventure based on the novel of the same name by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Three years later she starred in The Matinee Idol, a romantic comedy directed by a young Frank Capra.

The sound era and stage work[edit]

Love successfully transitioned to talkies, and in 1929 she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for The Broadway Melody. She appeared in several other early musicals, including The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929), (a film with an all-star cast, but one in which she had more scenes than most of the other stars) Chasing Rainbows (1930), Good News (1930), and They Learned About Women (1930).

However, by 1932, her American film career was in decline. She moved to England in 1935 and did stage work and occasional films there. Love briefly returned to the United States in 1936 to seek a divorce.[3][20]

During World War II in Britain, when Love found acting work hard to come by, she was the "continuity girl" on the film drama San Demetrio London (1943), an account of a ship badly damaged in the Atlantic but whose crew managed to bring her to port. She also worked for the American Red Cross.[21]

After the war, she resumed work on the stage and played small roles in films—often as an American tourist.[22] Stage work included such productions as Love in Idleness (1944)[23] and Born Yesterday (1947).[23][24][25] She wrote and performed in The Homecoming, a semiautobiographical play, which had its opening in Perth, Scotland in 1958.[26][27] Film work included The Barefoot Contessa (1954) with Humphrey Bogart, Ealing Studios' Nowhere to Go (1958), and The Greengage Summer (1961) starring Kenneth More.[28] She also played small roles in the James Bond thriller On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) and in Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971). In addition to playing the mother of Vanessa Redgrave's titular character in Isadora (1968), Love also served as dialect coach to the actress.[29]

In October 1963, Love was the subject of This Is Your Life, when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews in central London.[30]

Love appeared in John Osborne's play West of Suez,[31] and as "Aunt Pittypat" in a large-scale musical version of Gone With the Wind (1972). She also played Maud Cunard in the TV mini-series Edward & Mrs. Simpson in 1978. Her film work continued in the 1980s with roles in Ragtime (1981), Reds (1981), Lady Chatterley's Lover (1981), and—her final film—The Hunger (1983).

Personal life[edit]

Love married agent William Hawks (January 29, 1901 Neenah, Wisconsin – January 10, 1969 Santa Monica, California) at St. James Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California on December 27, 1929.[32] Mary Astor (William's sister-in-law), Carmel Myers, and Norma Shearer were among her bridesmaids; William's brother Howard Hawks and Irving Thalberg ushered. They then lived at the Havenhurst Apartments in Hollywood. They had a daughter, Patricia Hawks (February 19, 1932, Los Angeles, California),[3] who had some bit parts in movies in 1952. They divorced in 1936.[3]

Love was a Christian Scientist.[31] She died in London, England from natural causes on April 26, 1986.

Bessie Love in 1921


Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6777 Hollywood Blvd.

Love was periodically interviewed by film historians, and wrote a series of articles about her experiences for The Christian Science Monitor.[33] In 1977, Love published an autobiography based on these articles, entitled, From Hollywood with Love.[34]

She was interviewed in the television documentary series Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film (1980).[35]

For her contributions to the motion picture industry, Love has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6777 Hollywood Boulevard.[36]


Silent films: 1915–1928[edit]

Year Title Role Studio Notes
1916 Acquitted Helen Carter Triangle lost
1916 The Flying Torpedo Hulda Triangle lost
1916 The Aryan Mary Jane Garth Triangle extant
1916 The Good Bad Man Amy Triangle extant
1916 Reggie Mixes In Agnes Triangle extant
1916 The Mystery of the Leaping Fish The Little Fish Blower Triangle extant
1916 Stranded The Girl Triangle lost
1916 Intolerance The Bride Triangle extant
1916 Hell-to-Pay Austin Briar Rose Dawson Triangle lost
1916 A Sister of Six Prudence Triangle lost
1916 The Heiress at Coffee Dan's Waffles Triangle lost
1917 Nina, the Flower Girl Nina Triangle lost
1917 A Daughter of the Poor Rose Eastman Triangle lost
1917 Cheerful Givers Judy Triangle lost
1917 The Sawdust Ring Janet Magie Triangle extant
1917 Wee Lady Betty Wee Lady Betty Triangle lost
1917 Polly Ann Polly Ann Triangle lost
1918 The Great Adventure Rags Pathé extant[37]
1918 How Could You, Caroline? Caroline Rogers Pathé lost
1918 A Little Sister of Everybody Celeste Janvier Pathé lost
1918 The Dawn of Understanding Sue Prescott Vitagraph lost
1919 The Enchanted Barn Shirley Hollister Vitagraph lost
1919 Carolyn of the Corners Carolyn May Cameron Pathé lost
1919 The Wishing Ring Man Joy Havenith Vitagraph lost
1919 A Yankee Princess Patsy O'Reilly Vitagraph lost
1919 The Little Boss Peggy Winston (The Little Boss) Vitagraph lost
1919 Cupid Forecloses Geraldine Farleigh Vitagraph lost
1919 Over the Garden Wall Peggy Gordon Vitagraph lost
1919 A Fighting Colleen Alannah Malone Vitagraph lost
1920 The Midlanders Aurelie Lindstrom Federated Film Exchanges fragment found[38][39]
1920 Pegeen Pegeen O'Neill Vitagraph lost
1920 Bonnie May Bonnie May Federated Film Exchanges lost
1921 Penny of Top Hill Trail Penny Federated Film Exchanges lost
1921 The Honor of Ramirez (short)[40] Ramirez's Bride Pathé
1921 The Spirit of the Lake (short)[40] Pathé
1921 The Swamp Mary Robertson-Cole extant[41][42][43]
1921 The Sea Lion Blossom Nelson Associated Producers extant
1922 The Vermilion Pencil Hyacinth Robertson-Cole lost
1922 Forget Me Not Ann, The Girl Metro Pictures lost
1922 Bulldog Courage Gloria Phillips Clinton extant[44]
1922 The Village Blacksmith Rosemary Martin, the Daughter Fox lost[45]
1922 Deserted at the Altar Anna Moore (the country girl) Phil Goldstone extant[citation needed]
1923 The Adventures of Prince Courageous[46][47] Bernice Anchor
1923 Three Who Paid John Caspar/Virginia Cartwright Fox lost
1923 The Ghost Patrol Effie Kugler Universal lost
1923 The Purple Dawn Mui Far Aywon/State's Rights lost
1923 Mary of the Movies Herself Columbia/Robertson-Cole incomplete[48]
1923 Human Wreckage Mary Finnegan FBO lost
1923 The Eternal Three Hilda Gray Goldwyn lost
1923 St. Elmo Edna Earle Fox lost[49]
1923 Slave of Desire Pauline Gaudin Goldwyn extant[43][50][51]
1923 Gentle Julia Julia Fox lost
1924 Torment Marie Tourneur/Associated First National lost
1924 The Woman on the Jury Grace Pierce Associated First National lost
1924 Those Who Dance Veda Carney Ince/Associated First National lost
1924 The Silent Watcher Mary Roberts First National lost
1924 Dynamite Smith Violet Ince/Pathé lost
1924 Sundown Ellen Crawley First National lost
1924 Tongues of Flame Lahleet Paramount lost
1925 The Lost World Paula White First National extant
1925 Soul-Fire Teita First National extant
1925 A Son of His Father Nora Shea Paramount extant
1925 New Brooms Geraldine Marsh Paramount lost
1925 The King on Main Street Mary Young Paramount extant
1926 The Song and Dance Man Leola Lane Paramount extant[52][53][54]
1926 Lovey Mary Lovey Mary MGM incomplete[55]
1926 Meet the Prince Producers Distributing Corporation lost
1926 Young April Victoria Producers Distributing Corporation extant
1926 Going Crooked Marie Fox extant[56][57]
1927 The American Natural Vision Pictures never released theatrically[43]
1927 Rubber Tires Mary Ellen Stack Producers Distributing Corporation extant
1927 A Harp in Hock Nora Banks Pathé lost[58]
1927 Amateur Night (short) Uncredited Warner Brothers/Vitaphone
1927 Dress Parade Janet Cleghorne Pathé extant
1928 The Matinee Idol Ginger Bolivar Columbia extant
1928 Sally of the Scandals Sally Rand FBO extant[59]
1928 Anybody Here Seen Kelly? Mitzi Lavelle Universal lost[60]

Sound films: 1929–1983[edit]

Year Title Role Studio Notes
1929 The Broadway Melody Hank Mahoney MGM extant
1929 The Idle Rich Helen Thayer MGM extant
1929 The Hollywood Revue of 1929[61] Herself MGM extant
1929 The Girl in the Show Hattie Hartley MGM extant
1930 Chasing Rainbows[62] Carlie Seymour MGM extant
1930 They Learned About Women Mary Collins MGM extant
1930 Conspiracy Margaret Holt RKO extant
1930 Good News Dixie O'Day MGM missing Technicolor ending[63]
1930 See America Thirst Ellen Universal extant[64]
1931 Morals for Women Helen Huston Tiffany extant
1936 I Live Again Kathleen Vernon National Provincial Film Distributors-UK
1941 Atlantic Ferry (a.k.a. Sons of the Sea) Begonia Baggot Warner Brothers
1945 London Scrapbook[65] Spectator Short Films
1945 Journey Together Mrs. Mary McWilliams
1951 No Highway in the Sky Aircraft passenger (uncredited)
1951 The Magic Box Wedding group member
1954 The Weak and the Wicked[65] Prisoner
1954 The Barefoot Contessa Mrs. Eubanks
1954 Beau Brummell Maid (uncredited)
1955 Touch and Go Mrs. Baxter
1957 The Story of Esther Costello Matron in Art Gallery
1958 Next to No Time Becky Wiener
1958 Nowhere to Go Harriet P. Jefferson
1960 Too Young to Love Mrs. Busch
1961 The Greengage Summer[66] American tourist
1961 The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone Bunny
1963 The Wild Affair Marjorie's Mother
1963 Children of the Damned Mrs. Robbins, Mark's Grandmother
1964 I Think They Call Him John[66] Narrator Samaritan Films
1965 Promise Her Anything Pet Shop Customer
1966 The Poppy Is Also a Flower Uncredited
1967 Battle Beneath the Earth Matron
1967 I'll Never Forget What's'isname American tourist
1968 Isadora Mrs. Duncan
1969 On Her Majesty's Secret Service Baccarat Player (uncredited) Eon-Danilag Productions
1971 Sunday Bloody Sunday[67] Answering Service Lady
1971 Catlow Mrs. Frost
1974 Vampyres American Lady
1974 Mousey (a.k.a. Cat and Mouse)[67] Mrs. Richardson
1976 The Ritz Maurine
1977 Gulliver's Travels[67]
1978 Edward & Mrs. Simpson Maud Cunard television
1981 Reds Mrs. Partlow
1981 Ragtime Old T.O.C. Lady
1981 Lady Chatterley's Lover Flora
1983 The Hunger Lillybelle

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Stars of the Photoplay. Chicago: Photoplay magazine. 1924.
  2. ^ a b Folkart, Burt A. (29 April 1986). "Bessie Love, Silent Screen Actress Discovered in 1915, Dies at 87". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e Kidd, Charles (1986). Debrett Goes to Hollywood. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 67. ISBN 0312005881.
  4. ^ Obituary Variety, April 30, 1986.
  5. ^ "Oscar History: 1930a". Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  6. ^ Love 1977, p. 25
  7. ^ "Little Whisperings from Everywhere in Playerdom". Motion Picture Magazine. 18 (8): 104. September 1919.
  8. ^ "Bessie Love's Popularity Growing". The Moving Picture World: 1233. March 1, 1919.
  9. ^ Side 1980, p. 84
  10. ^ Side 1980, pp. 12–13
  11. ^ "Cinema Truth in Flashes". Photo-Play Journal: 46. February 1919.
  12. ^ "Hobnobbing with Bessie Love". Photo-Play Journal: 11, 56. February 1919.
  13. ^ Essex, Bert D. (April 1919). "The Silent Trend". Photo-Play Journal: 36.
  14. ^ "Wampas Baby Stars of 1922–1934 with Photos of Each Class". Immortal Ephemera. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  15. ^ Anderson, Chuck. "The WAMPAS Baby Stars". The Old Corral. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  16. ^ In The King on Main Street:
    • "Crimson Playgoer: The Metropolitan Opens its Doors to an Unlimited Public and a Very Fair Opening Attraction". The Harvard Crimson. October 21, 1925. Bessie Love too, who does a very jazzy version of the Charleston
    • "The King on Main Street". Theatre Magazine. January 1926. …it is memorable … for the fact that Bessie Love gives a perfect exhibition of the Charleston, proving that it can be danced with extreme grace and agility, and yet without a single hint of wriggling vulgarity. We hereby award Miss Love the palm as the greatest Charleston expert on the screen if not on the stage – which is by way of being a miracle, for ordinarily a film dance looks as silly as the capering of goats.
  17. ^ "Everybody's Doing It Now; Bessie Love Shows You How". Photoplay. October 1925.
  18. ^ Feeney, Mark (July 19, 2009). "Steichen: A man for all styles – Exhibits showcase breadth of his career". The Boston Globe.
  19. ^ In The Song and Dance Man:
    • "Newspaper Opinions". The Film Daily. 35 (30): 8. February 5, 1926. The picture is well worth viewing, however, if for no other reason than to watch Bessie Love dance the Charleston.
    • "Stage and Screen". The Cornell Daily Sun. XLVI (134): 4. 25 March 1926. Bessie Love is well cast as the girl – she surely can do the Charleston.
    • "George M. Cohan's "Song and Dance Man" Comes to State". Reading Times. Reading, Pennsylvania. March 22, 1926. p. 8. Bessie Love, the diminutive film favorite and the screen's foremost exponent of the 'Charleston,' is happily cast as the small time performer who eventually wins fame and for tune in the musical comedy field.
    • "Lincoln Way Theatre". The Gettysburg Times. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. August 31, 1926. p. 6. See Bessie Love, the screen's Charleston champ, strut her stuff!
  20. ^ "Bessie Love Back". Titusville Herald. 72 (90). Titusville, Pennsylvania. September 28, 1936. p. 1.
  21. ^ "Bessie Love". AllMovie Guide. Retrieved November 22, 2014.
  22. ^ "In Short". Billboard. 58 (47): 36. November 23, 1946.
  23. ^ a b Love 1977, p. 136
  24. ^ "London Garrick Theatre – Born Yesterday – Laurence Olivier". Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  25. ^ "'Born Yesterday' Hit In Glasgow Opening Before London Deb". Billboard. 58 (48): 4. November 30, 1946.
  26. ^ "Silent Film Star a Playwright". Tri-City Herald. Pasco, Washington. April 21, 1958. p. 2.
  27. ^ "Little Action in New Play". The Glasgow Herald. April 22, 1958. p. 3.
  28. ^ "Bessie Love – Silent and Sound Film Actress". Golden Silents. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  29. ^ Love 1977, p. 140
  30. ^ Bessie Love's appearance on This Is Your Life
  31. ^ a b Hollander, Zander (August 28, 1972). "Bessie Love—74 Years Young and Still Acting". The Dispatch. 91 (99). Lexington, NC. p. 21.
  32. ^ Love 1977, p. 125
  33. ^ The twenty-one articles were published over eighteen years:
  34. ^ Love 1977
  35. ^ Brownlow, Kevin; Gill, David (1980). "The Man With The Megaphone". Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film. Episode 10. Thames Video Production. Retrieved 1 September 2014.
  36. ^ Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved January 19, 2017
  37. ^ "The Great Adventure (1918)". BFI National Film and Television.
  38. ^ "The Midlanders / Bessie Love [motion picture]". Library of Congress – Performing Arts Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  39. ^ "Lost 35 mm Nitrate Film FOUND!". NitrateVille. January 18, 2014. Retrieved September 5, 2014.
  40. ^ a b Love 1977, p. 150
  41. ^ "The Swamp". Silent Era. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  42. ^ "The Swamp / Colin Campbell [motion picture]". Library of Congress – Performing Arts Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  43. ^ a b c The American Film Institute (1971). The American Film Institute catalog of motion pictures produced in the United States: Feature Films: 1921–1930. R.R. Bowker Co. OCLC 504274291.
  44. ^ "Bulldog Courage (1922)". British Film Institute.
  45. ^ "The Village Blacksmith". Silent Era. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  46. ^ Love 1977, pp. 82–83
  47. ^ Love 1977, p. 151
  48. ^ Kehr, Dave (June 7, 2010). "Trove of Long-Lost Silent Films Returns to America". The New York Times. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
  49. ^ "St. Elmo". Silent Era. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  50. ^ "Slave of Desire / George D Baker [motion picture]". Library of Congress – Performing Arts Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  51. ^ "Slave of Desire". Silent Era. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  52. ^ "The Song and Dance Man". Silent Era. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  53. ^ Andersen, Arne. "The Lost Films of Paramount Pictures". Lost Film Files. Archived from the original on August 22, 2015. Retrieved November 8, 2014.
  54. ^ "The Song and Dance Man / Herbert Brenon [motion picture]". Library of Congress – Performing Arts Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  55. ^ Lovey Mary / King Baggot
  56. ^ "Going Crooked". Silent Era. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  57. ^ "Going Crooked / George Melford [motion picture]". Library of Congress – Performing Arts Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  58. ^ Andersen, Arne. "The Lost Films of Pathé Exchange". Lost Film Files. Retrieved November 8, 2014.
  59. ^ "Sally of the Scandals / Lynn Shores [motion picture]". Library of Congress – Performing Arts Encyclopedia. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  60. ^ Andersen, Arne. "The Lost Films of Universal Studios". Lost Film Files. Archived from the original on May 20, 2011. Retrieved November 8, 2014.
  61. ^ Love 1977, p. 153
  62. ^ Dickstein, Martin (24 February 1930). "The Cinema Circuit". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
  63. ^ "GOOD NEWS color sequence". NitrateVille. May 17, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
  64. ^ Catalog of Holdings The American Film Institute Collection and The United Artists Collection at The Library of Congress by The American Film Institute (1978)
  65. ^ a b Love 1977, p. 154
  66. ^ a b Love 1977, p. 155
  67. ^ a b c Love 1977, p. 156
  • Love, Bessie (1977). From Hollywood with Love: An Autobiography of Bessie Love. London: Elm Tree Books. OCLC 734075937.
  • Side, Anthony (1980). The Kindergarten of the Movies: A History of the Fine Arts Company. Metuchen, NJ & London: The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-1358-0.

External links[edit]