Dell in 1931
|Born||Claudia Dell Smith
January 10, 1910
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
|Died||September 5, 1977
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Film, stage actress|
|Spouse(s)||Phillip G. Offin (1928-1930, divorced)
Edward Silton (1934-1947) (divorced)
Daniel Emmett (1947-?)
Dell's birth name was Claudia Dell Smith. She was born in San Antonio, Texas, on January 10, 1910. She attended school in San Antonio and Mexico. Dell was blonde and blue-eyed, with a porcelain face. Her height was 5'5". In Bette Davis' 1962 autobiography The Lonely Life, she makes a passing reference to "Little Claudia Dell", an actress from the 1930s and early '40s, "whose image," Bette remarks, "was used as Columbia Pictures' signature for years."
Dell's aunt Mary Dell was an actress in vaudeville. Her niece desired to go on the stage from an early age. Claudia's first experience as an entertainer was playing her violin for soldiers at Kelly Field during World War I. She visited New York with Mary at age 14 and yearned to remain there.
After completing her education at home, Dell returned to New York and became an understudy to Irene Delroy in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1927. She studied acting in New York City at the Academy and singing at the Juilliard School. Soon she was sent to London to play the lead in a musical comedy, Mary Mary. The play's run lasted one year. While in England, scouts from Warner Brothers noticed her and asked her to come to Hollywood. She returned to New York along with her aunt following a tour of southern Europe. Claudia became homesick, rejected leads offered her in two stage productions and moved to Los Angeles, California, where her family was living.
Dell made her screen debut following an interlude of three months after coming west. She was given a contract by Warner Bros. to star in a number of musical pictures. She played the title role in a lavish Technicolor musical film, Sweet Kitty Bellairs (1930). Her next role was in another important musical, co-starring with Al Jolson in Big Boy (1930). Unfortunately, late in 1930, due to the beginning of the Great Depression, the public had grown weary of musicals. Warner Brothers, however, had already begun to film two other musicals (which would be released in 1931) in which Dell was given a leading role. The first of these was another lavish Technicolor production entitled Fifty Million Frenchmen. In the second film, Sit Tight (1931), she played the love interest of Paul Gregory, another musical star. Ironically, both pictures had their musical sequences cut before release. Warner Bros. dropped her option in 1931 (along with most of its other musical stars) and Claudia (having become associated with musicals) was relegated to Poverty Row productions.
Dell bounced back at Universal Pictures in the first of four westerns, Destry Rides Again (1932), which starred cowboy actor Tom Mix. In 1935 she played the heroine in a very low-quality serial, The Lost City. Other 1930s films in which she appeared included Algiers (1938) and We're in the Legion Now! (1936). By the close of the 1930s she was reduced to playing minor roles, and the 1940s continued her career decline. She was cast in low-budget productions like Black Magic (1944), a Charlie Chan series movie. Also in 1944 she was in "Meeting At Midnight", another Charlie Chan series movie. She had a part in Call of the Jungle (1944), a jungle "adventure" from Poverty Row studio Monogram Pictures that showcased stripper Ann Corio.
After her film career faltered, Dell was under contract for five years with RKO Howard Hughes organization and did many Lux Radio Theater programs for Cecil B. DeMille and Orson Welles. She had her own television show in New York, Leave It to the Girls.
In the early 1970s Dell had a syndicated radio program that aired in the Midwest called The Claudia Dell Show. She wrote a syndicated column for eight years and in 1973 completed a collaboration with English author Helga Moray. This was for a television script which was considered for the Theater of the Week program.
Dell and Phillip G. Offin married when she was 17. She obtained a divorce from him two years later, in 1930. On December 29, 1934, Dell married theatrical agent Edward Silton. She gave her age as 22. The couple honeymooned at the Palm Springs, California, desert resort and also in Europe. They were later divorced. She married retired chewing gum manufacturer Daniel Emmett in 1947.
She worked as a receptionist in a beauty shop in Hollywood and made appearances in early television dramas. In 1973 she became the student director of the John Robert Powers School of Charm and Modeling in Sherman Oaks, California, and Woodland Hills Promenade. Previously, she had worked 12 years as director of the John Robert Powers School in Beverly Hills, California. Claudia commented about her new position, "There is no better work than being able to be associated with a school which helps mold young people for the future and one that gives a whole new dimension to a woman's life."
Dell died in Los Angeles in 1977.
- Sweet Kitty Bellaire (1930)
- Big Boy (1930)
- Set Tight (1931)
- Bachelor Apartment (1931)
- Fifty Million Frenchmen (1931)
- Confessions of a Co-Ed (1931)
- Leftover Ladies (1931)
- Sporting Chance (1931)
- Midnight Warning (1932)
- Destry Rides Again (1932)
- Scandal for Sale (1932)
- Hearts of Humanity (1932)
- Guilty or Not Guilty (1932)
- The Midnight Lady (1933)
- Big Bluff (1933)
- Woman Condemned (1934)
- Cleopatra (1934)
- The Woman Who Dared (1934)
- The Lost City (serial, 1935)
- The Trail's End (1935)
- Midnight Phantom (1935)
- Lady in Scarlet (1935)
- Yellow Cargo (1936)
- We're in the Legion Now! (1936)
- Ghost Patrol (1936)
- A Bride for Henry (1937)
- Boots of Destiny (1937)
- Algiers (1938)
- Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)
- Juarez and Maximilian (1939)
- Spotlight Serenade (1943)
- Black Magic (1944)
- Meeting at Midnight (1944)
- Call of the Jungle (1944)
This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2010) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
- Room, Adrian (2010). Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins, 5th ed. McFarland. p. 139. ISBN 9780786457632. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
- "Claudia Dell, Follies Girl, Wins a Divorce". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. New York, Brooklyn. Associated Press. June 10, 1930. p. 2. Retrieved January 17, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Young Movie Actress and Theatrical Agent United". The San Bernardino County Sun. California, San Bernardino. United Press. December 30, 1934. p. 4. Retrieved January 17, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Claudia Dell Weds". The Bridgeport Post. Connecticut, Bridgeport. Associated Press. December 15, 1947. p. 19. Retrieved January 17, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- Port Arthur, Texas News, Texas Girl Is Latest Find, Sunday, September 21, 1930, Page Nine.
- Port Arthur News, Claudia Dell Weds Theatrical Agent, Sunday, December 30, 1934, Page 2.
- Van Nuys, California The News, Today's Personality Is...Claudia Dell, Thursday, November 15, 1973. Page 5-C.
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