Publicity photo of Darmond from Stars of the Photoplay (1916)
November 20, 1893
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
|Died||October 8, 1963
Los Angeles, California
|Spouse(s)||Henry J. Matson (1926)
Randolph Jennings (1928-?)
|Partner(s)||Jean Acker (1918-?)|
Grace Darmond was born Grace Glionna in Toronto on November 20, 1893. Her parents were James Glionna, a U.S.-born musician who had lived in Canada since 1877, and Alice Glionna, an Ontario native.
Darmond was active onscreen between 1914 and 1927. She starred in the first Technicolor film, The Gulf Between (1917), with actor Niles Welch. The film premiered on September 13 in Boston and on September 21 at the Aeolian Hall in New York City. However, when the film went into limited release in early 1918 on a tour of Eastern U. S. cities, it was a critical and commercial failure. The early Technicolor process ("System 1") was an additive color process which required a special projector, and which suffered from "fringing" and "haloing" of colors.
Darmond was pretty, slender, and starred in many notable films of the period, but never was able to break through as a leading actress in big budget films. Most of her roles were in support of bigger names of the time, and most of her starring roles were smaller, lesser known films. She appeared in Below the Surface (1920), in which she starred with Hobart Bosworth and Lloyd Hughes, and that same year she played in A Dangerous Adventure, produced and directed by Warner Brothers. This led to her being cast alongside Boris Karloff in the mystery thriller The Hope Diamond Mystery (1921). In the July edition of Motion Picture Magazine, she was featured in an article by Joan Tully entitled "Mantled With Shyness (A Word Portrait of Grace Darmond)".
Darmond was reportedly a lesbian. Although performing in a substantial number of films over roughly 13 years, she was known in Hollywood's inner circle as the lesbian lover to actress Jean Acker, the first wife of actor Rudolph Valentino. She was also associated, as many struggling actresses of the day were, with the actress Alla Nazimova, who was the former lover to Acker, although it has never been verified that Nazimova and Darmond were ever linked romantically. She and Acker attended parties at Nazimova's Garden of Allah, an imposing house named punningly after a Robert Smythe Hichens play Nazimova had appeared in.
She and Jean Acker met in 1918, and became lovers shortly thereafter. Acker met relatively unknown actor Valentino only a few months later, at a party at Nazimova's home. She and Valentino began dating, but reportedly never had sexual relations. They married in 1919, but on their wedding night, Acker fled the house and ran to Darmond's home, stating that it was her that she loved. The marriage is alleged to have never been consummated, and Acker filed for a legal separation in 1921, and later filed charges of bigamy against Valentino when he married designer Natacha Rambova in Mexico later on before his divorce from Acker was finalized.
Darmond and Acker reportedly remained lovers through most of the 1920s. Her last most notable film was Wide Open (1927), starring Lionel Belmore and Dick Grace. When the advent of talkies came about, Darmond, like so many actresses and actors from the silent film era, was not able to make a successful transition. She ended her acting career, and for the most part disappeared from the public eye until her death in 1963.
Grace M. Darmond aged 26(sic), a native of Canada currently residing at Hollywood married Randolph P. Jennings aged 50, a native of New Jersey currently residing at Beverly Hills, on January 22, 1928. The marriage was solemnized in Hollywood by a Congregational Minister called James H. Lash, and witnessed by Lillian Willat (the legal married name of the actress Billie Dove) and Robert Fairbanks (possibly Robert Payne Ullman who was known professionally as Robert Fairbanks the brother of the actor Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman, known professionally as Douglas Fairbanks). This places the probable venue of the wedding at 7065 Hollywood Boulevard, which was the site of the Hollywood Congregational Church in the 1920s, a James Hamilton Lash being the minister there.
Darmond evidently lied about her age to her fiancé and the county clerk as she would have been at least 29 at the time the marriage license was issued. There is an issue about whether she was born on Nov 20, 1893 or Nov 20, 1898 but she could not possibly have been born as late as 1901. She clearly continued this subterfuge with her husband into their marriage, as she is listed as his wife, Grace D Jennings aged 28, on the 1930 census, which also reveals that the couple resided at 712 N Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, California and that they had a butler called Chris W Tandoc.
- A Pair of Stockings (1914)
- The Estrangement (1914)
- When the Clock Went Wrong (1914)
- Making Good with Her Family (1914)
- An Egyptian Princess (1914)
- The Lure of the Ladies (1914)
- Your Girl and Mine: A Woman Suffrage Play (1914)
- The Quarry (1915)
- The Millionaire Baby (1915)
- A Texas Steer (1915)
- The House of a Thousand Candles (1915)
- The Leaving of Lawrence (1915)
- A Black Sheep (1915)
- The Black Orchid (1916)
- Her Dream of Life (1916)
- A Social Deception (1916)
- The Shielding Shadow (1916)
- The Gulf Between (1917)
- What Every Woman Wants (1919)
- The Valley of the Giants (1919)
- The Hawk's Trail (1919)
- Below the Surface (1920)
- The Invisible Divorce (1920)
- So Long Letty (1920)
- The Hope Diamond Mystery (1921)
- The Gaiety Girl (1924)
- The Marriage Clause (1926)
- 1901 Census of Canada, 118 Toronto West, Ontario, page 6.
- National Cowboy Museum website
- Ankerich, Michael G. Dangerous Curves Atop Hollywood Heels: The Lives, Careers and Misfortunes of 14 Hard-Luck Girls of the Silent Screen. BearManor Media, 2010.
- 1901 Census of Canada, 118 Toronto West, Ontario, page 6.
- UKOnline entry
- Grapevine Video website
- SilentEra entry
- Serials Squadron website
- Sunrises Silents website
- The Old Dyke website Archived August 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- State of California Marriage License No.690, Book 775, Page 86, issued Jan 21, 1928 & the Certificate of Marriage, State of California, County of Los Angeles (both documents found on MyHeritage.Com)
- Fifteenth Census of The United States: 1930, Beverly Hills City (part), Los Angeles, California. Enumeration District 19 – 821, sheet 12a, lines 18,19,20. Enumerated April 12, 1930 by Edna B. Reeder ( found on MyHeritage.com)
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